A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Party Colleges Are Not a New Thing: John Wesley at Oxford University

John Wesley began his studies at Oxford University in 1720. He was a member of Christ's Church College. He graduated with a B.A. in 1724. He would stay and receive an M.A. in Divinity being ordained in 1728.

Wesley's relationship with Oxford after his studies became a love/hate affair. He very much loved the university setting, but lamented what he saw as the University's indifference to religion. He was elected as a Fellow of Lincoln College in 1726 and stayed there until 1735 when he went to Georgia on a mission to the Native Americans living there.

During his studies Wesley became disillusioned with the lack of spiritual discipline at Oxford. But after his conversion in May of 1738, Wesley's disenchantment would grow exponentially. As the Methodist movement grew Wesley realized that if religious fervor were to come to Oxford, it would have to happen through the people of the town, not the University.

The event that would seal his break with Oxford happened in August of 1744. Wesley preached a biting sermon at St. Mary's College strongly asserting that the vices condemned in the Bible were the general context of the University community. After the sermon, Wesley wrote in his diary, "I preached, I suppose, for the last time at St. Mary's. Be it so, I am now clear of the blood of these men. I have delivered my own soul."

After the St. Mary's sermon, Wesley's visits to Oxford University were very infrequent; and even though he was quite saddened by the lack of religious interest there, he maintained a fond affection for the place throughout his life. Wesley the scholar and Wesley the reformer were both formed in the context of the Oxford University he cherished and found woefully wanting.

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