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Religion Library: Methodist

Ultimate Reality and Divine Beings

Written by: Ted Vial

Modern suggestions about the identity of Jesus include: Jesus as a great moral teacher who reconciles humans with God by example; Jesus as a manifestation of divine love and acceptance; or Jesus as a process of transformation in which we can all participate as we open ourselves out from self-centeredness to service to the greater creation.

In addition to God and Jesus Christ, John Wesley believed in supernatural beings called angels.He argued that non- and pre-Christian societies had some awareness of these beings (he mentions the "demon" that advises the Greek philosopher Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.).But scripture reveals more information about the existence and nature of these beings.These beings have no body, or, if they have one, it is more like flame than flesh and blood.They possess sight, understanding, wisdom, holiness, and strength that are something like these characteristics in humans, but so far surpassing them that they are incomprehensible to humans.They especially have the power to affect human bodies, causing pain or relief.Good angels work to counteract the efforts of bad angels.They cure, protect us from evil, and in general undertake the work of God's care for humans, both the saved and the unsaved.This care occurs in ways that we may not see, or recognize as such.

Today, many Methodists retain traditional beliefs in angels.For many, angels seem either uncomfortably pre-modern, or simply have no relevance to their belief system.Still others have a belief in angels but, perhaps without being aware of it, instill them with qualities more in line with New Age religious movements than with those of traditional Christianity.

Study Questions:
     1.    How do Methodist's understand God's nature?
     2.    Why is Jesus important to the Methodist connection to God?
     3.    How did Wesley understand angels? Are they still recognized today?


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