Thursday, December 11, 2008

re: Anne Lamott's "Mess" and John Wesley's "Perfection"

here is 6 days growth. my son said this morning, "your beard is pinching me!"

i have received some comments regarding my last post which included an excerpt from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. The comments centered around Lamott's observations re: perfectionism being the voice of the oppressor, the Wesleyan theological term "Christian Perfection", and the United Methodist understanding that we are moving on to "perfection." i don't think that by sharing Lamott's observations i have called Wesley's theology into question or compromised my own understanding of "Christian Perfection." as i understand Wesley, his move towards "perfection", or the acquisition of "sanctification" (though Wesley seems to believe that this could be a fleeting acquisition at best) is a process or journey made by one through grace alone and that one who achieves "perfection" is not in the state permanently and therefore is still in danger of sin and in need of prayer. i believe that Wesley and Lamott would agree more than they disagree on the matter of "perfection" b/c both seem to have a problem with the reader of their work supposing that one can reach a state of physical or spiritual perfection where one is no longer in need of anything, where one can do no wrong. they both also share that the process and journey of life is a messy one, only managable for us through the grace of God and not by our own achievements. that is just my take on Lamott and Wesley. you can disagree if you wish. i certainly wasn't attempting to dissuade any of you out there away from seeking "Christian Perfection". in fact, i will be asked sometime in my life if i am doing all that i can to attain this state. my answer will be then as it is each and every day, "i am, with God's help."


praying postmodern said...

Perfection is going to mean something much more Wesleyan in the post-modern age than it did in the past. Much more to John's taking than Lamott's and probably more Wesleyan than most of the 250 years or so since he left this earth.

Jason said...

I agree with what you are taking about. I do not think one is compromised when talking about the other. Rather I am still unsure if people are confused with moving toward perfection and perfectionism. I think culture has made the two interchangeable and thus we do not know how to talk about or express perfection in the UMC tradition because we assume it means perfectionism or perfectionist. Could it be agreed that to move toward perfection we have to be messy? Or is that contrary to sanctification?

postmodernpilgrim said...

i think that both comments reflect a great deal of truth. in re: to prayingpostmodern, i believe most mainline protestants already hold a very Wesleyan point of view that faith is a process in which one's understanding and devotion deepens over time.

in re: to jason, i agree with the fact that one is not mutually exclusive of the other and that often the term "perfection" is used loose and fast, with very little paid to the way in which Wesley and UMC is using it. i think that a messy journey does not negate sanctification. Wesley himself had a messy journey (that whole Sophie Hopkey episode and his flight from Georgia back to the UK, etc.) and so i would hope that when he himself used the term he was not excluding the messiness that ensues when one embarks upon the deepening process of faith through the love and grace of God. on the other hand, one's journey does not have to be messy in order to validate it, one could have a relatively ordered, uncluttered journey towards sanctification as well.

postmodernpilgrim said...
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