Aug

29

2013

Justin Taylor|11:01 am CT

A Book Both Arminians and Calvinists Recommend You Read

Some encouraging words about Fred Sanders’s new book, Wesley on the Christian Life: A Heart Renewed in Love:

“As Fred Sanders shows us in this accurate and edifying life and thought of Wesley, we all have much to learn from this godly evangelical founder. I pray that God will use this book to awaken his people again, filling us with his Spirit and renewing our hearts in love. I plan to use it with my students in both seminaries and churches. It is a great place for Christians to acquaint themselves with one of the most important leaders in all of church history.”
Douglas A. Sweeney, Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“As usual, Fred Sanders brings out treasures of his research without making us do all the digging ourselves. Though respectful of John Wesley, I’ve never been what you’d call a fan. But that’s exactly why a book like this is so worthwhile. Challenging caricatures, Sanders offers a welcoming portrait of Wesley that is too even-handed and well substantiated to be his own fabrication. If the purpose of this series is to display the resources of the past for the present, then Wesley on the Christian Life is a home run.”
Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; author, Pilgrim Theology

“One of the symptoms of the contemporary malaise of the Methodist movement is a growing disconnect with the actual life and teachings of our beloved founder, John Wesley. Fred Sanders has given us a wonderful gift in this practical introduction to the life and thought of Wesley. Sanders shows us that Wesley’s thought cannot be summarized in terms of doctrinal distinctives, but is fully understood in the sanctifying winds of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace and a transformed heart. I recommend this book to all those ‘restless and Reformed’ brothers and sisters who need to understand this part of the church, as well as all those pastors and laity across the country who are longing for a guide to reintroduce Wesley to ‘the people called Methodist.’”
Timothy C. Tennent, President and Professor of World Christianity, Asbury Theological Seminary

“Whether one is an admirer or a critic, all must concede that the life and thought of John Wesley have had a decisive effect on later evangelical Protestantism. Yet few of us know much about his understanding of the Christian life beyond the rather vague terms often applied to his thought, Arminianism and perfectionism. Thus, even a hard-hearted Calvinist like myself feels a debt of gratitude to Fred Sanders for this delightful, readable, learned, accessible, and sympathetic treatment of the Methodist patriarch’s thinking on what it means to live as a Christian. A most lovely addition to a very fine series.”
Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary

“Readers are in for a treat here. Lively and thoughtful, appreciative but not uncritical, this book shows compellingly why even those who would not call themselves Wesleyan have a great deal to benefit from John Wesley.”
Michael Reeves, Theologian-at-Large, Wales Evangelical School of Theology

Calvinistic Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon was unavailable to write the foreword to Sanders’s book, but in his lecture, “The Two Wesleys” (delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Dec. 6, 1861), he said the following:

To ultra-Calvinists his name is as abhorrent as the name of the Pope to a Protestant: you have only to speak of Wesley, and every imaginable evil is conjured up before their eyes, and no doom is thought to be sufficiently horrible for such an arch-heretic as he was. I verily believe that there are some who would be glad to rake up his bones from the tomb and burn them, as they did the bones of Wycliffe of old—men who go so high in doctrine, and withal add so much bitterness and uncharitableness to it, that they cannot imagine that a man can fear God at all unless he believes precisely as they do.

But he also had little patience for the Wesley fanboys:

Unless you can give him constant adulation, unless you are prepared to affirm that he had no faults, and that he had every virtue, even impossible virtues, you cannot possibly satisfy his admirers.

Spurgeon had a different posture toward Wesley: critical appreciation.

I am afraid that most of us are half asleep, and those that are a little awake have not begun to feel. It will be time for us to find fault with John and Charles Wesley, not when we discover their mistakes, but when we have cured our own. When we shall have more piety than they, more fire, more grace, more burning love, more intense unselfishness, then, and not till then, may we begin to find fault and criticize.

I think he would like Sanders’s book.

For more information and to sample some of the book, go here.

10 Comments

  1. Oh, I saw the title of the post and thought it would be the Bible.

    I think both Calvinists and Arminians still wold both recommend the Bible.

  2. I notice that Spurgeon himself did not wait for his own perfection to criticize “ultra-Calvinists”. There’s nothing really all that “vague” about the five points of Arminianism. Though Wesley had a love-hate relationship with the doctrine of imputation, he was very clear about teaching an universal but ineffective atonement, one conditioned on the resistance of the sinner.

    But of course if Wesley found it necessary to slander and misquote Hervey, it was all in the interest of morality. As we all know, if history is properly “balanced”, then that history must be accurate.

  3. Mark,

    In the book, I spend 15 pages on Wesley’s doctrine of justification by the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, using Standard Sermon 20 (“The Lord Our Righteousness”)as the key text, and the unfortunate controversy w/Hervey as the crucial background information.

    Though I’m advocating Wesley’s view, I hasten to point out how kindly he spoke of Hervey’s work in the places where his advocacy would do the most good: “I cannot express this better than in Mr. Hervey’s words, worthy to be wrote in letters of gold.” And W notes of H, “A man of peace here proposes terms of accommodation to all the contending parties. We desire no better: we accept the terms; we subscribe to them with heart and hand.”

    I give this issue a whole chapter (ch. 5 in Wesley on the Christian Life) even though I know that to many readers it will be the dullest chapter of the book, involving as it does some careful technical distinctions in the theology of justification, an 18th-century controversy long forgotten by most, and requiring the citation of book with unlikely titles like “Theron and Aspasio.” But the doctrine of imputation is vital, and Wesley teaches it powerfully, largely because of the corrective influence of Hervey.

    Peace,

    Fred

  4. Wesley: It is well known that Mr. William Law absolutely and
    zealously denied the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, as
    zealously as Robert Barclay, who scruples not to say, “Imputed
    righteousness! – imputed nonsense!” The body of the people known by
    the name of Quakers espouse the same sentiment. Nay, the generality of those who profess themselves members of the Church of England are either totally ignorant of the matter, and know nothing about imputed righteousness, or deny this and justification by faith together, as destructive of good works.. But will any one dare to affirm that all such Mystics are void of all Christian experience? – that, consequently, they are “without hope, without God in the world?” (5:238-243)

    Wesley: “The doctrine of predestination is not of God, because it makes void the ordinance of God; and God is not divided against himself directly tends to destroy holiness which is the end of
    all the ordinances of God. This doctrine tends to destroy the comfort of religion, the happiness of Christianity… This uncomfortable doctrine directly tends to destroy our zeal for good works. … What would an infidel desire more? It overturns God’s justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. … This is the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree of predestination! And here I fix my foot. (7:384)

    Wesley: Q. 74. What is the direct antidote to the doctrine of heart-holiness? A. Calvinism: All the devices of Satan, for these
    fifty years, have done far less toward stopping this work of God, than that single doctrine… Be diligent to prevent them, and to guard these tender minds against the predestinarian poison. (8:336)

    Wesley: “I defy any man living, who asserts the unconditional decree of reprobation, to reconcile this with the scriptural doctrine of a future judgment. I say again, I defy any man on earth to show, how, on this scheme, God can “judge the world in righteousness.” (10:374)

  5. Tom Nettles, “John Wesley’s Contention with Calvinism: Interactions Then and Now,” in The Grace of God and The Bondage of the Will, volume 2, editors Schreiner and Ware

    Packer: ‘Misrepresentation from (Wesley) who over fifty years had had many Calvinistic friends and abundant opportunity to read Calvinistic books, argues a degree of prejudice and closed mindedness which is almost pathological’.

    • Look who’s talking. Packer shows the same “degree of prejudice and closed mindedness which is almost pathological” in his Introduction to the Owen’s book ‘The Death of Death in the Death of Christ’ when writes about Arminianism. Moreover, he is unfair and proves to know very little about what he is talking.

  6. [...] I will venture to say that most Christians don’t know how God saved them. I don’t mean how God paid for their sins, but how he brought them to faith. That means many Christians miss out on the benefits of knowing this. There are at least six benefits which I’ll mention at the end. A Book Both Arminians and Calvinists Recommend You Read – Justin Taylor [...]

  7. Mark are you a typical Calvinist? If so then Calvinism is mean-spirited, ugly and small. I want nothing to do with it.

    • To Mark and all who read this blog – I’m sorry for the tone of my first comment. I ask that you would forgive me. Thanks and God bless you.

      • No, Dan, Mark is not a typical Calvinist. Thank you for your second comment. May the Lord bless you as you study His precious Word. Blessings.

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