Methodists and Catholics have enjoyed almost forty years of ecumenical dialogue. From the beginning of these conversations, both sides were pleased to discover a certain spiritual kinship: sanctification lay at the heart of both their soteriologies. However, in spite of this harmony of wills with respect to the goal of the Christian life, the doctrine of Christian perfection or "perfect love", as Wesley preferred to call it, has not been the subject of sustained ecumenical inquiry. In light of the continuing need for ecumenical rapprochement, this dissertation studies the doctrine of perfection as taught by John Wesley and Thomas Aquinas. A close reading of the chief texts by these two theologians, in critical conversation with their respective interpretive traditions, yields important ecumenical insights. First, this dissertation underscores the centrality of the concept of perfection for both Aquinas's and Wesley's theologies. Perfection is the organizational principle of the Summa Theologiae and Wesley's missiological imperative. Moreover in their exposition of this doctrine, both Wesley and Aquinas emphasize some of the same common elements: the importance of beatitude, the centrality of love, the universality of the call to perfection, the importance of the life of the virtues and the social character of holiness. Second, in light of these convergences, this dissertation proposes that the respective theological approaches of Aquinas and Wesley are largely complementary. Aquinas offers Methodists the speculative theological principles that Wesley considered to fall outside "practical divinity" and hence never developed. Wesley offers Catholics another practitioner of perfection next to the likes of St. John of the Cross who applies the speculative theology of Thomas Aquinas in a practical way, a way leading not up Mount Carmel to a life of contemplation but down the plain to a life of action. Finally, perhaps the most important conclusion of this dissertation is the claim that a generous reception of the teaching of Aquinas and Wesley on perfection offers the Church catholic a grammar of holiness which empowers the practice of a "kneeling ecumenism" that both affirms and recognizes the ecclesial significance of sanctity.
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