Wesley on Christianity

by Richard on September 19, 2008

Further to Kim’s quote from Kirkegaard, here’s a related quote from the blessed Mr Wesley

“Does it not seem (and yet this cannot be) that Christianity, true scriptural Christianity, has a tendency, in process of time, to undermine and destroy itself? For wherever true Christianity spreads, it must cause diligence and frugality, which, in the natural course of things, must beget riches! and riches naturally beget pride, love of the world, and every temper that is destructive of Christianity. Now, if there be no way to prevent this, Christianity is inconsistent with itself, and, of consequence, cannot stand, cannot continue long among any people; since, wherever it generally prevails, it saps its own foundation.”
Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity, John Wesley, 1789

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


dh 09.19.08 at 9:34 pm

Well to what extent do we “beget riches”? Scripture doesn’t say that having riches is wrong it is the placement of riches above God that is wrong. Jesus doesn’t say it is impossible for the rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven. He says that it is hard as a camel through the eye of the neddle (eye of the needle is a small opening in the wall of the city not a needle we use to mend clothes). I therefore don’t believe that Christianity is “inconsistent with itself”. Christianity is looking for the proper balance of helping the poor and being productive in His Kingdom and all that entails.

Christianity attempts to destroy itself when we teach “amother gospel than the one preached to you” (aka false doctrine and false teaching and all the relativstic notions outside the Gospel of Christ.)


Kim 09.19.08 at 11:30 pm

DH, I love your special-pleading exegesis of the eye-in-the-needle saying (Mark 10:25). In my teaching I will certainly use it as the perfect example of an ideologically-driven - and therefore idolatrous - reading of Holy Scripture. And how ironic, given your exegetical song-and-dance about seraphic feet, that on this occasion you refuse to take the impossiblity of rich folk entering the kingdom of God - literally!

For your instruction, on Mark 10:25:

“A humourous example of the impossible… Procrustean attempts to reduce the camel to a rope (reading kamilon for kamelon) or to enlarge the needle’s eye into a postern gate need not be taken seriously.”
(C. E. B. Cranfield)

“The fact that such minimising interpretations have been thought up is itself an eloquent comment on the passage!”
(D. E. Nineham)

“Mark’s wry joke about the camel and the needle … has received ingenuous ‘mainpulation at the hands of bourgeois conscience-tranquilizing exegetes’ (José Miranda). The famous medieval assertion that the ‘eye of the needle’ referred to a certain small gate in ancient Jerusalem through which camels could only enter on their knees (!) is only one of the more obvious ways devised to rob this metaphor of its class-critical power. The proposition is plainly an impossible one. [Kenneth] Bailey points out that the Babylonian Talmud records a similar hyperbole - an elephant going through the eye of a needle - and comments that ‘the elephant was the largest animal in Mesopotamia and the camel the largest in Palestine’ … Mark’s stinging sarcasm is perhaps more recognizable in F. Beuchner’s contemporary paraphrase: for wealthy North Americans it is harder to enter the kingdom ‘than for Nelson Rockefeller to get through the night deposit slot of the First National City Bank.’”
(Ched Myers)


Beth 09.19.08 at 11:42 pm

It’s simple, isn’t it? If frugality begets riches, we just have more to give to charity.


dh 09.22.08 at 5:32 pm

The fact remains there were many a “rich person” in the NT that happened to be very devoted Christians and followers of Jesus. The fact remains that it DOES NOT take away from the metaphor that is in fact that it is very very hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Wasn’t Abraham, King David, etc. all men mentioned as men of Faith in Hebrews rich? I just don’t believe the passage is saying, as implied indirectly by your response, that these men are not in the “Kingdom of Heaven” just because they happened to be rich.

Also, the passage says “hard to enter” not “impossible to enter”. So I AM taking the passage literally. The fact that there was an “eye of the needle” that required kneeling to enter and is not a Medieval deviation confirms the original passage saying “hard”. How can one say that “hard” is equal to “impossible”? I don’t buy the logic.

Beth, I really liked your response. We all need to do more for Christ in the areas of our giving and help of poor people whether it be phsically or Spiriually poor.

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