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Not Much of a Leap

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Written by Basil on 06/21/2004 7:51 PM. Filed under:

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Update: Dawn corrected me about Erich’s blog. It has been corrected below.

Update 2: Dawn has a blog, too. Her blog and Erich’s both have been added to the ever-growing pile in the right column.

I should not be astonished anymore to find Asbury College alumni popping up in Orthodox settings, yet this one somehow amazed me. Joel Klepac was always happy. Happy, happy, happy. I could never tell if it was true joy — which is different from happiness — or that shallow mask evangelicals wear, sort of a Jesus-freak version of a stiff upper lip. I finally visited In Communion, the website of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and I find that he has an article entitled, “Eucharist and the Dying Poor,” front and center in their spring issue.

I also recently found Notes from Underground, the blog of Erich Lippman. Erich was a classmate in several philosophy classes under Dr. Michael Peterson, and the president of the student body.

Asbury College is a Christian liberal arts college, positioned in the Wesleyan Holiness religious tradition. The Priest David Rucker, priest-in-charge at St. Athanasius Orthodox Church in nearby Nicholasville, KY, is fond of saying, “It is not much of a leap from Wesleyan Christianity to Orthodoxy.” Indeed, of all the forms of Western Christianity, Wesleyans have the fewest things to renounce in the Orthodox service of reception.

As many of you know, most of the contra mundum bloggers at St. Athanasius are Asbury alumni. Fr. David, quoted above, is himself an alumnus of both the college and Asbury Theological Seminary.

So, who else is out there? Blog or no, leave a comment and shout out that you’re Asburian and Orthodox!

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11 Responses to “Not Much of a Leap”

  1. James Says:

    I don’t mean to question anyone’s faith or sincerity, but though I have heard those words about Wesleyan Christianity float from Fr. David’s lips I always wondered about them. How can a red-headed stepchild version of Anglicanism (I cleaned it up for you) be the closest of all non-Orthodox expressions of Christianity to Orthodoxy?

  2. basil Says:

    James, I sympathize with your statement in one sense; I left Wesleyan Christianity for Anglicanism myself on my way to Orthodoxy. However, Wesleyanism is far from a red-headed stepchild. In fact, John Wesley’s intentions were for his “Methodism” to be a renewal movement within the Church of England. If he had his way, we would have spoken of a Methodist Renewal or a Methodist Movement in the same way we speak of the Oxford Movement. However, the establishment of the colonies as a separate, sovereign state forced his hand and led to the creation of a separate Methodist Church, which is the mother of all forms of Wesleyanism that have followed. Once again, the essentially schismatic nature of Protestantism — or, more properly, post-Reformation, non-Roman Western Christianity — rears its head. Wesleyan theology is, of course, thoroughly Anglican — and it shows its bloodline when it struggles with exactly the same issues as Anglican bodies. Indeed, true Wesleyans argue that Wesleyanism is more Anglican than modern-day Anglicanism. However, Anglicanism has always had elements which were far more comfortable leaning towards Calvinism than any Wesleyan could possibly be. I once had an Episcopal priest directly extol John Calvin’s writings to me. With its absolute emphasis on an unlimited atonement, free will, resistible grace, and absolute sovereignty limited by God’s endowing man with freedom, Wesleyanism is actually closer to Orthodoxy than Anglicanism, for the very reason that Anglicanism by design allows a much more open interpretation of core doctrine.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    From Dr. Lyle Dabney’s paper “Discovering Our Self: Initial Reflections on the Challenge of Wesleyan Theology Today”: (Dr. Dabney is a Methodist theologian at Marquette)
    In his book, Responsible Grace, Randy Maddox argues that Wesley’s theology is not to be interpreted as an example of either the Catholic or the Protestant theological impulse, but rather as a new appropriation of Patristic and Eastern theological traditions….the Eastern tradition has emphasized the provisional nature of human life as created in grace rather than emphasize the sin and fall of humanity and has stressed that human life is created for its ‘perfection’ or ‘divinization’ in grace through Christ and in the Spirit. Maddox interprets Wesley’s theology as reflecting that Eastern understanding and thus as characterized by a dynamic and positive anthropology by virtue of the grace of God in creation; a theology that takes human sin with real seriousness but God’s redemptive grace with even greater seriousness still…The transformation, the ‘perfection’ of that positive anthropology in the grace of creation by God’s grace in redemption is, therefore, the focus of Wesley’s theologizing.

    I commented to Karl Thienes once that Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection reminded me of theosis. Not comparable exactly, of course, but perhaps this Wesleyan emphasis on sanctification is a meeting point between us and the Orthodox.

  4. basil Says:

    Jennifer, you should read Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality. You would be very interested in the connections between the Wesleys and Orthodox theology and spirituality.

  5. Dawn Says:

    Hi Basil! I graduated from Asbury and am Orthodox, along with my husband, Erich Lippman. Just wanted to let you know that his blog isn’t Novae Militiae, though. It’s at

    I remember meeting you briefly (through Erich) while at Asbury. Hopefully we’ll make it down to St. Athanasius someday. I’ve really been enjoying all of your blogs!

  6. Erich Says:

    Howdy from Moscow! I can’t stay away from blogging, I suppose, even when it cost me money! Anyway, yes, I’ve often thought of Wesleyanism and Orthodoxy. Strangely enough, I always noticed a tendency toward deism in myself while I was at Asbury, which was confirmed by both Kevin Zent and Cathy Schmutz. I think Calvinists have no such tendency, but it seems to be imbedded in the logic of Wesleyanism somewhere. I would say that Wesleyanism does tend to make you ask the right questions to get to Orthodoxy, but it’s a huge leap nonetheless, and I think I’ll never be quite up to the title of “Orthodox” simply because the psychology and general mindset are so different than the inherent Protestantism imbedded in my brain.

  7. Erich Says:

    I always wondered how Mike Peterson avoided becoming Orthodox despite the fact that all his students were. I told him once that he should take the hint, but I think he didn’t.

  8. basil Says:

    Erich: LOL.

    My hunch is that many academics are very comfortable with the license that they have to be creative mavericks, both intellectually and spiritually. I see much of the Orthodox world-view integrating with what I learned philosophically and theologically at Asbury, except for the need to submit oneself totally to the authority of the Church. To see the reality of what I’m saying, imagine any professor, “one step away from Orthodoxy” intellectually, going to confession and being told, “Well, you need to stop doing X,” or, “You need to do Y,” where X is something they’ve been doing their entire career, and Y is something that would run counter to the self-centered hubris we all battle.

    There are many professors at Asbury who are, indeed, “one step away from Orthodoxy,” and I suspect that this may be one of the things holding them back. Only God knows the intent of their heart. Plus, I have a forest of trees growing out of my eyes, so I’m not much help with the splinters in theirs.

  9. Erich Says:

    Yes, I suspect there are professional considerations as well. Cliff Davis, after all, became Orthodox and subsequently lost his job. I forget the charges, but I had the feeling at the time that they were a trump. He was Orthodox and very visible about it, which I think they didn’t like. What are the chances for an Orthodox professor at Asbury if they aren’t tenured? Say hello to one-year contracts!

  10. Tabitha Says:

    When I was an instructor at Asbury, I was warned by a coworker to keep my Orthodoxy under my hat.

  11. Erich Says:

    Yes, perhaps Catholic schools are the job option for the future. They’ll let anyone teach there as long as they profess Christianity, which I think is nice. Although the propaganda can occasionally be heavy from what I hear, it seems to be a good alternative to the Evangelical school job, where you have to tow a strict party line just to get the job to begin with.