John Wesley (ca. 1766) by Nathaniel Hone, oil on canvas, 49 1/2 x 39 1/4, National Portrait Gallery, London
Am I a Christian? I have been asking myself this question today. It’s not that I’ve done anything particularly bad. Nor am I struggling with my faith. I’ve been reading John Wesley, the eighteenth-century founder of Methodism. A Moravian pastor once asked him, Do you know Jesus Christ? Wesley was a clergyman and a missionary, yet he was shaken by the question. Although he answered in the affirmative, he feared his words “were in vain.”
In fundamentalist Christian circles, certainty is the hallmark of true faith. I remember one Baptist layman asking an evangelism prospect, “How sure are you that you’re going to Heaven—50, 75, or 100 percent?” The right answer was 100. Anything less meant you weren’t saved. At least that’s what he believed.
But true faith does not preclude healthy introspection, or even doubt. St. Paul told the Christians at Corinth, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:2). Being willing to question your faith and entertain doubts is a sign of humility, not unbelief. That’s something I appreciate about Wesley. He honestly examined his heart and life. He was willing to ask himself, Am I a Christian? Are you?