A Conversation with My Favorite Wesleyan Theologian
John Starke at the Gospel Coalition has a great interview with Fred Sanders.
John’s experience is similar to mine:
I’ve been reading Fred Sanders’s blog for a long time, and when his book, The Deep Things of God, came out, I was eager to read it. He’s a good writer, he loves and quotes the Puritans, he’s a reasonable thinker, and he knows how to do careful exegesis.
He’s also a Wesleyan.
I don’t mean to declare that so menacingly. But the first time I learned Sanders—associate professor at the Torrey Honors Institute of Biola University—was a Wesleyan, I was a bit surprised. It’s not that Wesleyans and Arminians can’t be careful interpreters and reasonable thinkers—I just don’t often resonate with their writings and conclusions quite the way I do with Sanders’.
And so, I had to know: For a guy who loves, quotes, and depends upon Calvin and Calvinists, why isn’t Fred Sanders a Calvinist? We corresponded, and he explained the one thing he wished Calvinists would stop accusing Wesleyans of doing and why Wesleyanism is only the opposite of Calvinism in a very small thought-world.
It’s a fascinating conversation. They don’t necessarily get into these things, but one of the reasons I think I resonate so much with Fred is that he doesn’t seem to think Calvinism is the enemy, he doesn’t whine about his victim status as an Arminian within evangelicalism, and he seems to delight in our common ground.
Fred explains that he would sign up to be in the Wesleyans Who Love Calvin club, why he appreciates the Wesleyan tradition, and what keeps him from becoming a Calvinist. John also asks him to complete these sentences:
- You haven’t really considered Wesleyanism unless you’ve read . . .
- If you think Arminianism is semi-Pelagian, then . . .
- The one thing I wish Calvinists would stop accusing Wesleyans of is . . .
- Sure, Calvinists have J. I. Packer, but Wesleyans have . . .
Here’s just one interesting excerpt:
The Reformed tradition keeps producing good leaders who have a seriousness and responsibility about them. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s as if they’re the grown ups, at least in American Protestantism. They may be tempted to abuse power (and that’s very bad), but at least they are comfortable with the responsible exercise of power, which is not something it’s easy to say about the Wesleyan tradition. Wesleyans are great at shaking things up, at being the powerful protest voice, at activating and empowering the marginalized. But Arminians don’t run things well. I sometimes think the healthiest state of affairs for an interdenominational coalition like evangelicalism would be if the Calvinists ran things and the Wesleyans were a very strong loyal opposition.
You can read the whole thing here.
Fred’s book Wesley on the Christian Life will be published next year in the series Theologians on the Christian Life, edited by Steve Nichols and me. And for those Calvinists who don’t think we should appreciate and learn from Wesley, read Fred’s post, “Calvinists Who Love Wesley” (Spurgeon was first in line).