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Baptism and Justification: A Methodist Understanding

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The association of the Methodists with the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was a significant ecumenical event. The Methodist Statement that allowed this agreement, though, does not include a description of the connection between baptism and justification. This paper examines John Wesley's understandings of baptism and justification to suggest a way that they may be held together in Methodist theology. The Methodist practice of infant baptism stands in tension with an understanding of justification built on the model of adult conversion experience, and this tension is found in Wesley's own work. It is possible, though, to find in the way Wesley engaged certain questions some indications of how baptism and justification may be both connected and distinguished in order to display a flexible understanding of God's ongoing work in human life.


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