A new edition of EGSC Dean Lee Cheek’s introduction to the theology of the Wesleyan tradition has just been published. The Wesley Studies Society has republished a revised version of this highly popular monograph, Confronting Modernity: Towards a Wesleyan Theology of Ministry (2014). Cheek’s book offers a theology of ministry and work based upon the insights of historic Christianity and the tradition fostered by John and Charles Wesley. The study seeks to define and explicate a theology of ministry as an attempt to understand God working in the world as part of a persistent dialectical enterprise, grounded in a desire to participate in the ancient conversation between God and the people of God, and to facilitate sharing among the People of God. It is faith seeking understanding, which requires an intellectual appreciation of God, namely, reflective theology. At the center of this activity is faith, which makes the enterprise possible. The foundational element in this worldview is a transcendent God, the creator of heaven and earth. The pursuit of this appreciation must involve a comprehensive view of reality. It must concern itself with life before human existence, the interaction of the creations of God and ultimate heavenly union with God.
According to Cheek, “God has given the children of God apperceptive qualities so that we might come closer to the divine reality within our lives on the earth. At the center of our gift is Jesus Christ, the insight of salvation. Christ is the determinative norm for life. Christ allows us to see the reality of self-giving or what Paul Achtemier has described this as the "self-limitation" of Christ that should be assumed by all of our Lord's disciples. For Wesley, the created world is the theater of God's glory. Christ's life is a historic fact, making us historic people.”
In the monograph Cheek argues that we understand this history via a number of means; the witness of scripture allows us to share in the insight of those assembled at the feet of Christ, as well as their spiritual patrimony. Theology enables a more thorough understanding of God in the here and now, as the attempt is made to connect theos and logos; history tells us of the provisional fulfillment of Christ in the Old Testament and the history of Christ itself in the New Testament, augmented by accounts of the saints who have kept the message alive for succeeding generations. The pedagogical enterprise is an effort to understand God's self-gift, and it possesses personal and historic dimensions. These characteristics of the divine imperative are most easily and completely accessible via Scripture and the teaching of the Church. Cheek suggests that any attempt to accurately portray the situation of the Church is exasperated when it is done only through the lens of contemporary culture, without an appreciation of the claims of classical Christianity, or what is often described as "post-critical orthodoxy."
On a yearly basis, the Wesley Studies Society distributes the monograph to hundreds of Methodist seminarians in the Southeast. The book is available from all major book outlets and was recently praised by the greatest living Wesley scholar, Thomas C. Oden, in Volume 3 of his magisterial John Wesley's Teachings (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).
H. Lee Cheek, Jr., is Dean of Social Sciences and Professor of Political Science at East Georgia State College. His many books include Political Philosophy and Cultural Renewal, Order and Legitimacy, Calhoun and Popular Rule, and Calhoun: Selected Writings and Speeches, among others. Dr. Cheek is a United Methodist minister (Western North Carolina Conference) and a former U.S. Army chaplain.