A GUEST EDITORIAL BY DAVID L. MCKENNADavid L. McKenna is president of Asbury Theological Seminary, a multidenominational Wesleyan seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Our twentieth-century Western world is turning upside-down. John Naisbitt, author of the best-selling Megatrends, explains it as a time of transition between the dying Age of Industry and the dawning Age of Information.

As high technology and instant communication become our new wealth and power, repercussions jar the culture created by an economy based on heavy industry. And new information lays siege to traditional values and institutions. But Naisbitt turns these threats into “megatrends” that are inevitable when a culture is caught between worlds.

John Wesley would feel right at home. Eighteenth-century England, like twentieth-century America, hung suspended in a time of parenthesis. Under the stress of social revolution, the Age of Agriculture was giving way to the Age of Industry. Technology led the way with the new steam engine. Economics shifted from farm to factory. Political parties bitterly divided over the military protection of British commerce. Church-state issues flared as the divine right of kings was challenged. The family suffered at the center of the storm, breaking under the stress. Meanwhile, the church remained paralyzed without the theology or spirit to respond.

Into this time of parenthesis God sent John Wesley to give stability by means of spiritual revival that resulted in social reform. Historians such as Bernard Semmell still credit Wesley and the movement called Methodism for saving England from the revolution that almost mortally wounded France just across the channel.

Clearly there are remarkable parallels between eighteenth-century England and twentieth-century America. If that is true, does John Wesley have a word for us today? If we read his journal and other works with an ear tuned to the twentieth century, perhaps we can imagine his crisp counsel to us in our time of parenthesis.

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