Revelation and Reason: Wesleyan Responses to Eighteenth Century Rationalism

Arthur Skevington Wood, The Wesley Fellowship, 103pp, £1.50, ISBN 0 951633228.

This book is the published form of the series of Didsbury Lectures given by A. Skevington Wood in 1987, a series that began at the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester in 1979, and has attracted biblical scholars, theologians and Church historians of international reputation. Dr Wood carefully researches a part of early Methodist apologetic theology that has not received very much attention. John Wesley made a trenchant reply to the writings of the most eminent Socinian of his day, Dr John Taylor. The term ‘Socinian’ refers to what is now called ‘Unitarian’, the teaching that denies the deity of Christ, and goes on to deny the personality of the Holy Spirit and His work in regeneration. Wesley’s 1757 reply to Taylor, entitled ‘The Doctrine of Original Sin according to Scripture, Reason and Experience’, was the longest treatise he ever wrote. Dr Wood carefully discusses the origins of this debate and outlines Wesley’s long reply. In the second half of the book he deals with how two other early Methodists, John Fletcher and Joseph Benson, supported Wesley by writing against the teachings of other exponents of Unitarianism, notably Dr Joseph Priestly. With its 322 references, this is a fine example of Dr Skevington Wood’s biblical and historical scholarship. At £1.50 to call this notable treatise a bargain is a gross understatement!