Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Quotable Wesley

I thought the idea of a Wesley quotes book was a good idea - and it still might be - but I hadn't really considered the implications of such a thing.

I like John Wesley, but he's a complicated guy. He's not a systematic theologian. He changed some of his views over the course of his life, some of them more than once. A compendium of Wesley quotes could very well contradict itself.

There's also a lot of places where Wesley's writings are readily available. The NNU Wesley Center provides a lot of text online, not as searchable as a book like this one, The Quotable Wesley, edited by Dave Armstrong, but not intimidating either.

A book of Wesley quotes would have to heavily curated or it would be unwieldily voluminous. I have to admit, I'm not super excited about a book curated by someone whose bio begins, "Dave Armstrong is a prolific author who has been defending Christianity since 1981." I'm not one who believes Christianity needs to be defended and part of the reason I like John Wesley so much is because he doesn't seem to think so either.

So what I have to say about the book is tempered by the unknown. I know Wesley said and did some crazy things (check out his experiments with electric shock treatments as a cure-all), but I can't be sure whether the quotes included were selected because they frame a particular narrative of Wesley or are the pretty representative.

I'm not sure I have the depth of knowledge to truly know.

I was surprised by some of the things Wesley says (there's one particular quote about the death of children that mirrors almost exactly the quote Reformed hero John Piper was so roundly criticized for making a few months ago), but I was expecting that. Some of the quotes selected are taken almost wholly from other quotes, also included. Wesley repeated himself a lot; that's to be expected.

I'm still torn as to why, with the vast array of online abilities and Wesley's place in the public domain, that this book is really necessary. It certainly makes finding specific quotes quite easy. It's got a lot of the real famous ones that people like to quote. It's a fun read - even just straight through. I enjoyed the book. It would make a fantastic gift (especially for the pastor who has enough crosses on the wall), a great conversation piece on the coffee table and maybe, if you're nerdy enough, quality bathroom reading.

I'm just not sure this book contributes anything new. It's more likely a luxury. A well done (the cover art, design and layout are specifically pleasing) luxury, but please know that going in.

1 comment:

Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks for the review!