II. The Triune God of Love

Section II: The Triune God of Love

The Wesleyan tradition is deeply rooted within historic Christianity, including its teachings about the nature and character of God. In his writings, John Wesley explicitly affirms the classic attributes (or, as he sometimes puts it, the “perfections”) of God.6  God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God is almighty Creator of the universe, perfect in love, justice, and mercy; holy and sovereign over all things. With the Wesleys, the Wesleyan tradition embraces all that is affirmed about God in the classic creeds of the Church (namely, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Definition).7

This is not to say that Wesleyans have viewed God in exactly the same way that all other Christian traditions have. Where differences occur they are often subtle, usually simple differences in emphasis, but nevertheless with significant ramifications, especially when considering matters of sin, salvation, and Christian holiness. Wesleyan theologians speak of these differences in terms of how one affirms both the sovereignty and love of God. Theologians in some traditions emphasize God’s sovereignty and understand God’s love in light of God’s sovereignty. Wesleyans, on the other hand, tend to emphasize God’s love, and understand God’s sovereignty in light of divine love. An example of this is expressed in differing views of the atonement. Many Christians who emphasize divine sovereignty also believe that Christ died only for those whom God has preordained to be saved. In contrast, Wesleyans believe that in love Christ died for all people, and that all have the opportunity to respond in grace to God’s offer of salvation.

Together with all orthodox Christians, Wesleyans also affirm, in accordance with the Nicene Creed, that God is Trinity, a communion of three distinct persons who share one divine essence and exist in unity and loving interdependence. The doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to Wesleyan theology for illuminating the love that binds each person of the Trinity in an eternally existing interrelationship of love.  All life and creation, redemption and reconciliation take place within the context of this Trinitarian drama of love.8

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6. See John Wesley’s sermon “The Unity of the Divine Being.”
7. John Wesley, as an Anglican, also embraced the Athanasian Creed, however, this is not officially affirmed by the Church of the Nazarene. See Appendix A for the actual wording of the Apostles, Nicene, and Chalcedonian statements.
8. See the Nicene Creed in Appendix A. Traditional Trinitarian language seeks to connect who God is with how God lovingly acts: the Father creates and redeems through the Son by the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.  The early Church writers understood the metaphorical nature and limits of such gendered language. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the chief formulators of Nicene orthodoxy wrote, “No one can adequately grasp the terms pertaining to God. For example, "mother," is mentioned in the Song instead of "father." Both terms mean the same, because there is neither male nor female in God. For how can anything transitory like this be attributed to God? But when we are one in Christ, we are divested of the signs of this difference along with our old [sinful nature]. Therefore, every name equally indicates God's ineffable nature; neither can ‘male’ nor ‘female’ defile God's pure nature.” Cf. Gregory of Nyssa, “Homilies on the Song of Songs 7” in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, ed. J. Robert Wright (InterVarsity Press, 2005).