I was just thinking this morning about how Methodists and Roman Catholics both think that Christians can achieve moral perfection. They aren’t Pelagians, because they think that God is a necessary part of this. But with a little nudge of God’s grace to get you started, you can become morally perfect through one’s own striving. The Roman Catholics even think you can become more than 100% perfect. They say you can accumulate so much merit that you can give away some of it for other people to use.
I think a good way to describe this perfectionist heresy is that it changes the old saying about genius a bit, to say:
“Moral Perfection is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
The Last Methodist President
by Mark Tooley:
More evenhandedly was an analysis of Bush’s political theology delivered in 2007 at a Methodist symposium at Oxford, England by SMU theologian Billy Abraham, an Irish Methodist and theologian in residence at Bush’s home church in Dallas. Amid the denunciations by other Methodists of Bush’s supposed fundamentalism and imperialism, Abraham described Bush as a “moderate, even liberal, evangelical shaped by the spiritual warmth, the ad hoc social activism, the reserved moralism, the friendly fellowship, the wariness of alcohol, and the theological fuzziness of United Methodism in Texas.”
According to Abraham, Bush theologically “knows and believes the internal soteriological logic of creation, fall and redemption as parsed by contemporary evangelicalism” in America. As a conventional and pragmatic proponent of American civil religion, Bush believed that “life in American fits God’s design for humanity better than its rivals.” The Iraq War and democracy promotion, according to Abraham, allowed Bush to “take American civil religion to the Middle East and then onward into the Muslim world.”
Bush’s autobiography is titled after Methodist hymn writer Charles Wesley’s song’ “A Charge to Keep I Have,” which is also the title of a painting that Bush kept in the Oval Office of an early Methodist circuit riding preacher. “Bush’s compassionate conservatism draws heavily on the kind of revivalism that was common in Methodism in North America in the late 19th century,” Abraham noted. And Bush’s brand of American civil religion “harks back to a longstanding embrace of a similar vision” by many Methodist leaders in the 19th century. Abraham did not cite the Methodist delegation that listened to McKinley’s Philippines confession, but no doubt they fit the type.
Supposedly, when President McKinley was pressed to describe his political philosophy, he insisted he was “just” a Methodist. Bush potentially could similarly respond.