Would you like to pick up where you left off?
Back to Blog

Conjunctive Theologian

April 26, 2023

As I have gotten older I have been more committed to paying attention to my health. Maybe you have had the same insight. One area of my health to which I am paying more attention is my blood pressure. This need to do so has been slowly “dawning” on me with some subtle symptoms and just the fact that age has some effect on one’s blood pressure

So, I purchase a blood pressure cuff for home monitoring. The blood pressure cuff measures both the systolic and diastolic readings of blood pressure. The systolic measurement is to gauge the pressure in the arteries when the heart is pumping blood and the diastolic measurement is to gauge the pressure on the arteries when the heart at rest.

Both systolic and diastolic measurements need to be considered when determining if blood pressures are within the range of normal. It would be a serious error to think that one can pay attention to only one of the readings and ignore the other.

Similar to the fact that one has to account for BOTH features of blood pressure when assessing health, there are truths in the Scripture where one has to account for BOTH features if one is to account for the teaching of The Scriptures. This means that one cannot limit the truth to “either/or” but to a “both/and” understanding. This is not to suggest that there is no single truth in Scripture but that the truth in Scripture is often a matter of complexity or fullness if one is to be faithful to the rich fullness of understanding.

In my readings of John Wesley over the years, and my reading of Wesleyan scholars (Ken Collins, Randy Maddox, Thomas C. Oden, Albert Outler, etc), I am convinced that Wesley possessed a great capacity to keep many matters revealed in Scripture in their fullness or tension; tension is the term to use when want a simply answer to complex matters. For instance, we believe that God is sovereign and that there is some measure of freedom human beings possess that accounts for responsibility. Both truths are in Scripture and have to be accounted. Some move to an either/or position on this matter because to keep both notions in dynamic tension is too difficult.

The tension to which I am referring is the tension of the “both/and” not the “either/or.” Wesley’s analytical mind “saw” the full scope of the Bible as a Conjunctive Theologian (Ken Collins’ word) and the Christian life. He knew that one must consult all of Scripture to have a correct and adequate understanding of The Christian Life, God’s Nature and any other matter related to the great work of God.

The Conjunctive Nature of The Christian Life

As one studies the New Testament there is a feature of the Bible that reveals a “both/and” nature of important topics. This revelation has to do with understanding the nature of Christian experience as Conjunctive or “co-joining” what appear to be two different aspects.

I have listed some of the “conjunctive” topics seen in the New Testament

Worship in Spirit AND in Truth (John 1:24)

Abide In Jesus AND Jesus Abides In Us (John 15:4)

Work out your salvation AND it is God working in Us (Philippians 2:12-13)

Not Saved By Works AND Saved For Good Works (Ephesians 2:8-10)

God as Good AND Severe (Romans 11:22))

No Longer Live AND Live by Faith (Gal. 2:20)

Holy AND Human (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Faith AND Works (James 2:20)

No Earning in Christian Life AND yet Effort is enjoined (II Peter 1:2-9)

Grace AND Truth (John 1:16-17)

As one can see this list of passages from the New Testament it reveals that the conjunctive nature of the Christian life is “threaded” throughout The New Testament. It is this conjunctive feature that at times is unaccounted for and the reason for extremes in teaching and living or at least a partial understanding of the truth of The Gospel.

So, have your considered that the New Testament features this conjunctive nature of the Christian Life? Have you accounted for both features or have you “settled” on one feature? How would recognizing the conjunctive nature of Christian existence affect your view of the Christian life and experience?

We will continue to consider some of the details of these matters of conjunctive truth in future blog posts.