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The limitation of human knowledge: faith and the empirical method in John Wesley's medical holism

By Deborah Madden


In his medical and scientific works John Wesley provided an interpretation of the universe that was structured, though not pre-ordained, by God. The empirical method he adopted was measured in terms of efficacy and judged according to rationalistic standards. Its practical success, however, was used by Wesley to underpin his vocation of practical piety, which developed out of a holistic view of nature inspired by the spiritualism of Primitive Christianity. Accordingly, the providential ordering of Man and nature meant that safeguarding physical health became a spiritual act, though Wesley separated the discourse of religion and terminology of medicine. This distinction was essential because it ensured intellectual integrity whilst leaving a protective space for religious faith. He made this move on the one hand but saw no contradiction in bringing the discourses of religion and medicine together to serve his mission. For Wesley, social and personal improvement did not rely exclusively on enlightened thinking or religious faith. Rather it depended on showing how rationalism and faith could display separate strengths within an overall framework of holism

Topics: BL
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2006
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