Final Examination of SunAe Lee-Koo
For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
April 15, 2011 at 10:00a.m., Caldwell Room 331
Rev. James A. Wiseman, O.S.B., S.T.D.
Humility as a Key Component of John Wesley’s Understanding of a Christian’s Spiritual Development
Because the life of John Wesley cannot be explained without reference to a series of theological controversies, it has been natural for Wesley scholars to study his understanding of spiritual development in terms of theological issues. For this reason, interpretations of Wesley’s sermons have dealt with many important theological topics, but the role of humility as applicable to a Christian’s journey of holiness has been largely ignored. The major purpose of this dissertation is to fill this lacuna by exploring the idea of humility as a crucial element in Wesley’s understanding of the entire process of spiritual restoration of the imago Dei.
To see humility as a lens through which Wesley’s teaching about spiritual development can be understood involves broadening our understanding of humility in its various aspects, self-knowledge in particular. Humility begins in the awareness of one’s spiritual status as being created according to the imago Dei. However, this image was lost by original sin and we are now on a journey of restoring it.
The dissertation accordingly examines what Wesley’s sermons say about humility as one journeys with the aid of different kinds of grace: (a) the prevenient grace that leads persons humbly to admit their need for divine help; (b) the convincing grace of repentance, which Wesley sometimes elucidates through the parable of the Prodigal Son; (c) the justifying grace by which one’s now-acknowledged sins are pardoned and one is reconciled with God and so becomes a Christian; and (d) the sanctifying grace that not only leads one toward the goal of entire sanctification but is also accompanied by humility since even the justified are still weighed down by an inbred inclination toward evil.
In sum, humility in the journey of restoration of the imago Dei is identified with self-knowledge before God, with repentance in humble confession of one’s sinfulness and helplessness, and with dependence on the Spirit’s help as one continues the journey toward the fullness of the imago Dei. This journey in company with the Holy Spirit is one of restoring the imago Dei by imitating the love of God, shown in the mind that was in Christ, for he who revealed God’s love in humility becomes our model for humbly loving both God and neighbor. With “a single eye” fixed on God, a Christian journeys in the footsteps of Christ toward the goal of entire sanctification.