Methodism and the Miraculous :

John Wesley's Idea of the Supernatural and the Identification of Methodists in the Eighteenth-Century
Robert Webster

 

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For many years in eighteenth-century historiography John Wesley’s belief in the supernatural was viewed to be out of touch with the age in which he lived. In this ground-breaking book, Methodism and the Miraculous: John Wesley’s Idea of the Supernatural and the Identification of Methodists in the Eighteenth Century, Robert Webster argues that not only did Wesley embrace a belief in supernatural manifestations but constructed a detailed “rhetoric of the supernatural” which informed and formed the self-identification of Methodists living out their faith during this part of intellectual history. With a provocative analysis of dreams, visions, exorcisms, and supernatural healings this book shows how Wesley and the Methodists understood a belief in supernatural to be a vital component of their own self-identification as believers in the Age of Reason.

 

 

Historians have been divided on whether to regard Wesley's Methodism as a modernizing and 'enlightened' or traditional and reactionary movement but Wesley's fascination with the supernatural has often led to him being dismissed as credulous and out of tune with the rationality of his age. Recent scholarship, however, has shown that the Enlightenment, especially in England, was far from being uniformly rationalistic and anti-Christian. Dr Webster's excellent study offers the first comprehensive analysis of Wesley's attitude to the supernatural in the light of current scholarship and how 'a rhetoric of the supernatural' helped to shape the self-understanding of Methodist faith and work. In doing so he shows how Wesley was much closer to mainstream English intellectual attitudes than has often been supposed and helps to justify Wesley's claim to be a man of “reason and religion joined.

-Henry D. Rack, University of Manchester

 

About the Author:

Robert Webster is Visiting Assistant Professor of Methodist Studies in The School of Theology at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee and an ordained elder in the Methodist Church. He holds advanced theological degrees from Vanderbilt University (M.Div.); The University of the South (M.A.); and Oxford University (D. Phil.). Professor Webster is widely published in the area of eighteenth-century Methodism.

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