Christian Perfection

William J. Abraham

in The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199696116
Published online January 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Christian Perfection


This article argues that John Wesley's doctrine of Christian perfection is at best a dead letter and at worst a source of political delusion among contemporary Methodists. Beyond vague platitudes and rhetorical flourishes, the doctrine of Christian perfection is no longer operative. What is at issue is the unravelling of the very core of the tradition. On the one hand, the breakaway groups that came into existence a century ago to preserve it, most notably the Church of the Nazarene, are now in the process of abandoning it. On the other hand, one of the leading contemporary Methodist theologians has turned to the self-avowed terrorist, Vladimir Lenin, for updating the doctrine of Christian perfection as reworked in terms of political liberation. Something has gone seriously wrong at the very heart of Methodist doctrine; if the patient is not already dead, it will take strong medicine to effect a cure.

Keywords: Methodism; Methodists; John Wesley; Christian perfection; Vladimir Lenin

Article.  7619 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity

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