Although there are many characteristics that Wesleyan theology shares with orthodox Christian beliefs, there remain some truths and teachings that are unique to John Wesley himself. In an attempt to identify and define those distinct qualities, MACU School of Ministry Chair and Professor Dr. Cliff Sanders recently wrote and published his second book, The Optimism of Grace.
Sanders said the book was born out of post-sermon discussions with leadership at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City. He began to wonder what it meant to truly be of Wesleyan descent and what the distinctive characteristics of that looked like — so he set out to define it.
After fleshing out the idea with MACU President Dr. John Fozard, Sanders took a partial sabbatical to write his first draft. His rough copy was reviewed by an editor and then polished by his longtime friend and fellow MACU ministry professor, Dr. Wendell Sutton.
The end result, Sanders said, is an attempt to put together a series of Wesley’s distinct teachings, including the transformative powers of God’s Grace.
“Wesley is not optimistic about human nature,” Sanders said, “but he is optimistic that grace can literally transform your life. Transformation of a person is the essence of his theology. It’s not just ‘I’ll try harder’ or ‘I’ll discipline myself,’ but a true transformation by the Grace of God, not just for forgiveness, but for empowered living.”
Sanders said it’s a core theme Wesley tried to get ahold of and even recover in his lifetime.
“Anglican Christianity had dissolved into just church attendance or cultural Christianity that didn’t change lives. He saw this as a revival. It’s the real key to Wesleyan theology.”
To write The Optimism of Grace, Sanders used 87 sources, researching material from world-recognized Wesleyan scholars. He said he owes the completion of the book to many of them, including Randy L. Maddox of Duke University and the late Albert Outler and Thomas C. Oden.
He said he is confident The Optimism of Grace will help scholars, students, practitioners and anyone interested in Wesley’s teachings garner a better understanding of his distinctive ideas and theories.
You can buy your copy of The Optimism of Grace by visiting the MACU bookstore on campus or online at the MACU Bookstore, or by stopping by the Crossings Community Church bookstore. In the future, a digital edition will be available on Amazon.