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Wesley, Aquinas, and Christian Perfection

An Ecumenical Dialogue

Edgardo A. Colón-Emeric

Publication Year: 2009

Employing fresh, innovative readings, Edgardo Colon-Emeric examines and underscores the centrality of the concept of perfection for the theologies of Thomas Aquinas and John Wesley—and finds them, surprisingly, largely complementary.

Utilizing the image of a “kneeling ecumenism,” he offers a practical account of how ecumenical conversations can move forward. At a time when many Methodists struggle to understand Catholicism and many Catholics know little of Wesley and Methodism, this stimulating work provides the church as a whole a communal grammar of holiness, in demonstrating how the theologies of perfection of Aquinas and Wesley have significant messages for both groups.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Front cover

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Title page


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pp. v-vi

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pp. 8-10

Methodists and Catholics have been engaged in joint bilateral dialogues for over forty years.1 From the beginning of these conversations, the participants were pleased to discover an eminent degree of spiritual kinship. the universal call to holiness announced by Lumen Gentium2 echoed Wesley’s insistence that all Christians, not just the clergy, are to “go on to...

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1. Wesley on Christian Perfection

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pp. 11-40

The doctrine of Christian perfection is not simply one among others for Wesley. As we saw in the introduction, the Methodist house is built of various structural elements (the porch of repentance, the door of justification), but the house itself is constituted by holiness. The doctrine of perfection occupies a center stage in Wesley’s theology because perfection is the goal of the Christian life. ...

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2. Wesley on the Way to Christian Perfection

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pp. 41-68

As we saw in the last chapter, Christian perfection consists in freedom from sin and perfection in love. The freedom falls short of the perfect freedom of non-posse peccare. The love falls short of the perfect act of love possible for a beatified mind and glorified body. In other words, Christian perfection falls short of heavenly perfection. ...

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3. Aquinas on Christian Perfection

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pp. 69-98

With this rich quote, we leave behind the simplicity of the Methodist house of doctrine and enter into the vast cathedral of Thomas’ theology. This transition requires that we not only switch metaphors but that we allow the semantic range of the concept of perfection to stretch beyond Wesley’s normal bounds. Wesley’s chief interest lay in Christian perfection, ...

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4. Aquinas on the Way to Christian Perfection

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pp. 99-124

In the previous chapter we considered how humans are perfect insofar as God made them in his own image. The perfectio prima of the human is a gift that is consummated by a second gift, the gift of grace, which perfects the operations of the will and the intellect so that the human actually knows and loves God. ...

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5. Dialogue on the Beatitudes

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pp. 125-148

We began our study of Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection by considering the house-like structure of his theology. The Methodist house of religion is no English manor but a simple dwelling with a porch, a door, and an interior. The porch of this house is repentance; the door to this house is faith; the inside of the house is holiness itself.1 ...

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6. Dialogue on Christian Perfection

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pp. 149-182

Throughout this book I have compared Aquinas and Wesley by employing the metaphors of house and cathedral. The metaphor of the house might be perceived as condescending to Methodists, but such is not my intention. Rather, I employ these metaphors for two reasons. First, these metaphors offer a way to compare theologies that otherwise might seem incommensurable. ...

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7. Prospects for Christian Perfection

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pp. 183-204

In a relatively recent reflection “On the Ecumenical Situation,”1 the then Cardinal Ratzinger contrasted two modes of ecumenism. The classical model of dialogical (or consensus) ecumenism attempted “to perceive how positions that are apparently opposed may be compatible at a deeper level and, in doing so, of course, to exclude everything that derives only from certain cultural developments.”2 ...


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pp. 205-208


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pp. 209-274


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pp. 275-288

Index of Selected Names

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pp. 289-290

Index of Subjects

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pp. 291-293

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781602585164
E-ISBN-10: 1602585164
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602582118
Print-ISBN-10: 1602582114

Page Count: 330
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 707041306
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Wesley, Aquinas, and Christian Perfection

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Subject Headings

  • Perfection -- Religious aspects -- Methodist Church -- Comparative studies.
  • Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274. Summa theologica.
  • Perfection -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church -- Comparative studies.
  • Catholic Church -- Relations -- Methodist Church.
  • Wesley, John, 1703-1791.
  • Methodist Church -- Relations -- Catholic Church.
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