Jun

25

2012

John Starke|10:00 PM CT

You're a Calvinist, Right?

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.

A good many Calvinists grew up in the Reformed tradition, but many of us became Calvinists later in life, when we had to make our faith our own and make sense of what the Bible says for ourselves. How did you become a Wesleyan? What about the tradition attracts you?

I grew up as a free-range evangelical, in pentecostal and baptistic churches of various kinds. But I actually got saved as a teenager when a revival broke out in the youth group at the local United Methodist church. I got an MDiv at Asbury Theological Seminary, a great interdenominational school with definite Methodist roots. So my conversion and my early theological training were in Wesley territory.

Nevertheless, for three reasons, it took me a while to warm up to Wesleyan theology. First, it's just not all that obvious that there is any such thing as Wesleyan theology. I say that as somebody who loves systematic theology, who really enjoys reading treatises on doctrine. The Wesleyan tradition just isn't famous for its systematic theologians. There are some exceptions worth naming (such as W. B. Pope and Thomas Watson), but the fact is that if you make a list of top five or ten theologians, Wesleyans don't make the list. They barely make the top twenty-five list. My list, at least, is dominated (after the patristic and medieval periods) by Reformed and Roman Catholic thinkers of various kinds, who not only do great work, but have also successfully "branded" their style of theology so you can recognize it.

And second, there's the problem of liberalism: the Wesleyan theological traditions have not done a good job of resisting the liberal impulse. Pretty early on in their history, Arminians made common cause with Socinians, lost their grip on all the hard doctrines, and became unusable for a conservative evangelical like me. My supreme theological commitments are to the Trinity and the gospel, so the old Arminian dalliance with anti-trinitarians and atonement revisionists (and later, I would add, to denials of verbal inspiration) is very distasteful to me.

And third, the United Methodist Church is one of those American mainline denominations that isn't very hospitable to conservative evangelicals. There are some good congregations, of course, but the national scene is ugly. I saw right away that it would be hard for me to join that denomination. The Free Methodists do better, and there are plenty of smaller Wesleyan denominations to choose from. But overall, the "where do I go to church" question is a real problem for conservative evangelicals who are Wesleyan.

For these reasons, it took me some time to come around to see the Wesleyan-Arminian theological perspective as something worth claiming. But I eventually did so. The sermons of John Wesley and the hymns of Charles Wesley were major factors for me. These are simply excellent, and gradually they drew me to the conviction that these Wesley brothers must have had a grasp of something important if they could keep producing things like that. The Wesleys teach a form of evangelical Protestantism that goes straight to the heart and changes lives. That's what drew me in to the Wesleyan way of thinking.

Would you include Thomas Oden in that list of exceptions worth naming?

Yes, God bless Thomas Oden for his joyful rediscovery of orthodoxy and his massive retrieval project. His theology is by design not very distinctive, not easily recognized as "his."

Recently you had a fun post, "Calvinists Who Love Wesley." From what I know of you, I'm tempted to call you a "Wesleyan who loves Calvin." Is that fair? What about the Calvinist and Reformed tradition do you find compelling? Where is it strongest?

Definitely sign me up for the "Wesleyans who love Calvin" club. I teach excerpts from The Institutes every year, and I've worked through the whole book cover to cover five times (three with students in seminar). There is no better way to learn the craft of theology than to work through The Institutes. Calvin shows his work: he always lets you know what he's after, what he's afraid of, and why he's doing things. He brings you along with him, and requires an active and responsive reader who is willing to make costly decisions all along the way. He never just lists a series of truths in the "Ten True Facts About Angels" style; he is always asking, at every point, "What can we be saying the gospel itself while teaching on every subject in theology?" He called The Institutes little, and really believed it: his commentaries of course dwarf it; his Job commentary alone equals its page count. He wrote a systematic theology that succeeds in pushing the readers out to Scripture itself, where they have to deal with the living God, not Calvin. The first time I read The Institutes I was in seminary, and he talked me into infant baptism with his testament-spanning arguments. The third time I read The Institutes I was a new professor, and he talked me out of infant baptism in spite of himself, because of the weakness of his argument. I don't think I ever leave a Calvin experience unchanged.

Turning from Calvin to the Calvinists, I'd also be willing to host the meetings for a "Wesleyans who love Calvinists" club. I'm going to ignore the left wing of the Reformed tradition here (it's not just the Wesleyan tradition that has generated its share of liberals), and focus on the side of the tradition that is either evangelical or within hailing distance of conservative evangelicalism.

The Reformed tradition has produced a whole series of great theologians. On my very short list would be Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Ursinus and Olevianus (that is, the Heidelberg Catechism in particular, but also Ursinus's exposition of it), and Karl Barth (I said "within hailing distance"). But many more are waiting in the wings; Calvinism has a deep bench.

There are probably a lot of reasons why so many good theologians come from this tradition. But the most important is surely that the Reformed have excelled at getting the central message of Scripture right. They emphasize the glory of God, and trace all of God's ways back to that ultimate horizon in one way or another. I think that has been a beacon that has drawn a lot of the most faithful and creative theological minds to that tradition. On a related note, I think Ephesians is the key text for the Reformed tradition at large. Not that Ephesians trumps any other book in the canon, but Calvinists have long known that in that letter, Paul stands tip-toe on the highest point of the revelation and insight given to the apostles, and gives a panoramic overview of all God's ways. I don't just mean the occurrence of words like election and predestination in chapter 1, I mean the vast sweep of God's purposes in the recapitulatory economy (1:10), and how it makes known his eternal character as Father, Son, and Spirit. Calvinists from Thomas Goodwin to John Webster get this. If I were to start a theological Ephesians fan club, more Calvinists would show up than anyone else.

Finally, 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.

What kept you from making the leap to Calvinism?

Well, I do consider it a kind of leap, and the place to leap off of would be Romans 9. I have felt the attraction of that reading. You would have to run all the way to the end of Paul's line of argument there about the election of Israel and their role in salvation history, which in context are all historical arguments, and then decide that it applies to individual people, to all individual people, from before creation. That is, the exegetical key to the Calvinist view is that the overall drift of Paul's argument demands that the theological points involved should be transposed into a higher order. I don't mean that's how all Calvinists get to their conclusions, I mean that's where I would make the case if I were persuaded of the Calvinist view of election. Without Romans 9 as a key jumping-off point, it seems to me that the rest of Scripture furnishes the vocabulary used in Calvinistic predestination (Exodus! Ephesians!), but not the necessary argument and demonstration. I'm perfectly comfortable with using a key text or two as guidance in interpreting the rest of Scripture: that's the kind of hermeneutical procedure that makes me a Trinitarian (with the highest possible level of certainty and commitment) and a premillenialist (with a considerably lower level of certainty and commitment). But I'm just not persuaded that Romans 9 is the place to make one of those transcendental leaps; or that it means what Calvinists take it to mean.

Without some kind of platform like that, I can't launch the Calvinist rocket. Election and predestination are awesome, revealed realities of salvation, but the Calvinist construals and constructions of them generate a web of doctrinal inferences that clash with other biblical truths. I can't do limited atonement or irresistible grace, to pluck at two of the most vulnerable petals of the tulip. I can't affirm the perseverance of the saints as part of the predestinarian package, though I could re-state the core concern as something like the irreversibility of salvation, and (perhaps being a bad Wesleyan) affirm that.

That isn't a full critique of Calvinism, but I'm responding to the question autobiographically rather than systematically. This is why I didn't make the leap.

Finish these sentences:

You haven't really considered Wesleyanism unless you've read . . .

1. John Wesley's Standard Sermons. The first 14 are the most important to read as a set, though all 52 are classic. This is where you get to see Wesley putting first things first, emphasizing the most important elements of his message. God changed the world through this instrument.

2. William Burt Pope's Compendium of Christian Theology, or at least his Higher Catechism of Theology. Pope was a conservative British Methodist of the 19th century. I think he is one of the finest theological minds in Protestant history, sadly neglected.

3. I should probably recommend a controversial book that addresses the five points, though that's not my favorite genre. Jerry Walls and Joe Dongell's Why I Am Not a Calvinist is a pretty good presentation of the position.

If you think Arminianism is semi-Pelagian, then . . .

You need a more flexible vocabulary of heresiology. John Wesley's longest treatise was on original sin, and he affirmed it, right down to the bondage of the will. He put a sermon on the subject into his Standard Sermons. The Wesleyan emphasis on sinners being enabled to respond to the gospel has nothing to do with a high view of human abilities, and everything to do with an optimism of grace and a trust in the Holy Spirit's prevenient work.

Perhaps anti-Wesleyans do this because they are hoping to make the error of Arminianism more obvious by exaggerating it into its supposedly logical conclusion. But if you think Arminianism is an error, you should just call it "the heresy of Arminianism." If you have to exaggerate its flaws to make it seem terrible, you probably shouldn't.

It may also be that some anti-Wesleyans are tempted to characterize Wesleyans by their worst exemplars. There have indeed been Pelagians and semi- demi- hemi- Pelagians in the Wesleyan tradition. I don't know any other way to interpret Charles Finney. But it's a basic rule of fair discourse that you should meet your opponent's views at their strongest and most central, not their weakest and most peripheral. Calvinism has generated its fair share of antinomians, determinists, theocrats, anti-evangelicals, and formalists. Anti-Calvinists shouldn't attack on that front, but at the places where the tradition is strongest.

The one thing I wish Calvinists would stop accusing Wesleyans of is . . .

Being anthropocentric in their soteriology. Caring more about human free will than God's glory.

I also wish Calvinists would resist the urge to think of Wesleyanism as the secret to Reformed self-definition. I don't mind sharpening a position by contrast, but Calvinists need a better foil than Wesleyanism. Only if you live in a very small thought-world is Wesleyanism the opposite of Calvinism. A more instructive opposite for Calvinism probably ought to be Roman Catholicism, if we're going back to origins. About 200 years ago, I believe the Reformed in Europe still thought of Lutherans as their opposites. I would think today's evangelical Calvinists would think of liberals as their opposites. But if you think "there are two kinds of people, Calvinists and Wesleyans," you're on a false trail; your devil is too small (to paraphrase J. B. Phillips). That will lead you to pick fights with other conservative, evangelical, Protestant Christians who really are on your side of the net in the game that counts.

Sure, Calvinists have J. I. Packer, but Wesleyans have . . .

Robert E. Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism and more recently The Heart of the Gospel: The Theology behind the Master Plan of Evangelism. This is a one-volume, popular-level introduction to Christian doctrine that is systematically oriented to evangelism in every doctrine. Sound good? It is.

I could also pile up a lot of influential non-theologians here (C. S. Lewis, Billy Graham, Bill Bright), but I'm assuming your question was probing for a theological communicator of Packer's stature.

But it's hard to beat J. I. Packer in any theological camp. He once called Wesley an inconsistent Calvinist. That's a cute and feisty way of affirming the common ground we share. I like to think of Packer as an inconsistent Wesleyan. He won't read this, will he?

John Starke is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and lead pastor of All Souls Church in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. You can follow him on Twitter.

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  • Colby E. Kinser

    Dr. Sanders is like a museum curator who improves the lighting on masterpiece paintings, but is also able to make going to the museum fun (figuratively, and as it turns out, literally). Great article.

  • Keith Marriner

    I was surprised to find out that Sanders is Wesleyan. I really enjoy much of his writing. I also think Calvinist would do well to actually read Wesley for themselves. If they did, many of the caricatures of the man and his beliefs would fall to the wayside.

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  • David

    It's beneficial to get a brother's contrary perspective. This is the content of any good coalition.

    J.I. Packer is wonderful in Wesleyan history and laying out clearly the environmental challenges Wesley faced (i.e., strong anti-calvinistic convictions of his mother and father) that hindered him from taking the full leap into professed Calvinism. Packer's article "Arminianisms" is very helpful.

    As cliche as it may be to call Wesley a second rate Calvinist; history is clear. Calvinists admire Wesley because he was, as he admitted, one doctrine away from becoming a Calvinist. Wesley was Calvinistic in his evangelism, which is why he was so successful. Limited atonement, which is--in my opinion--the easiest of the T.U.L.I.P to defend, was a severe stumbling block for Wesley's parents. For Wesley's parents, the idea of limited atonement was anathema. Their disdain was so vehement that it deeply affected the Wesley brothers toward conformity. Wesley's adherence to Arminianism is not due to careful exegesis, which is clear from Wesley's interpolated doctrine of prevenient grace (something I am surprised Sanders would agree with and yet criticize a clear, Reformed exegesis of Romans 9. There are many other scriptures that support the individual vein of interpretation, including--ironically--the very section Paul references in Romans 9 i.e., Jacob and Esau)

    It is clear from what I have read that Wesley, a Godly man who never went all the way in his theological training, took the offense of his parents on the one doctrine of limited atonement. Wesley was a Calvinist apart from this discrepancy, and his similarities served him well. His close proximity to the doctrines of Grace was the reason for his success, and the reason for his inclusion on "the list".

    This is the catch 22 of a coalition. I'm not sure if the comparison made in this interview is helpful. In the case of Sanders and Wesley, their good fruit speaks for itself. The labels, or absence of labels, will make Calvinists less likely to read Sanders, where if the comparison had not been made, no Calvinist would have been the wiser; as in Starke's case.

    • http://www.thefuerstshallbelast.wordpress.com Tom1st

      You (or Packer?) attribute Wesley's entire theological musings on Calvinism to the single causal factor of his parental upbringing?

      No doubt our upbringings are significant in the shaping of our theology, but the line of reasoning that relies on a single, sociological factor is flawed in it's over-simplicity and reductionism. For these reasons, I reject your assertion...as would Wesley, I suspect.

      As a Wesleyan, myself (and therefore someone who had to read a lot of Wesley in seminary), his problems with Calvinism went well beyond Limited Atonement. After reading Wesley on this matter, read Wesleyan historians like Ken Collins. That'll give you a better perspective than Packer, who is neither a Wesley-scholar...nor an objective person when it comes to this subject.

      Disagree with Wesley, by all means (I do, in many places), but at least don't oversimplify his reasoning. He was too brilliant for such things to reduce his theology to his parental biases.

      • David

        Thanks for the response. I understand what you are saying, I was just going to the bottom line. I don't think any pride can be oversimplified. Edwards rightly says that "Limited atonement is the last bastion of human pride." Wesley's other disagreements all stemmed from the one flawed, humanistic understanding of God's Sovereignty in mercy and justice. It is a common error, even for the most brilliant of minds because it's not strictly an error of insufficient knowledge or reasoning skills but is primarily a shortcoming (human natural tendency) of a Pastoral disposition.

        There is no doubt about Wesley's brilliance and perseverance, but too many try to have their cake and eat it to when it comes to Wesley. His issues with Calvinism were/are the same as every other Arminian, and the root of those issues are always the same, no matter how brilliant or fruitful. Again, Wesley's fruit and historical legacy is the Arminian exception BECAUSE he was one doctrine away from Calvinism.

        Grace and peace.

        • http://www.thefuerstshallbelast.wordpress.com Tom1st

          I suppose we just disagree on the nature of Wesley's pride. But, hey, that's because I'm burdened by the same 'humanistic' 'pride', as I'm not a Calvinist.

          I see nothing prideful about saying that my salvation is solely and completely rooted in Christ's work on the cross, God's plans in predestination and election, and his work in my sanctification.

          And I say all of that as a flaming Arminian...just as Dr. Sanders does. Just was Wesley did.

          Just know, though, brother, that when you are talking to an Arminian, and you say our theology is 'humanistic' and 'prideful', you may have perfectly good intentions, but you're shutting down conversation because it sounds rude. (Again, I'm not accusing you of intentionally being rude, I'm just saying, when I read those words, I can't help but feel belittled...just being honest.)

          Cheers to you. Thank you for the thoughtful disagreement. I'm grateful to still call you brother...even though I (and Wesley) are at least 5 (tulip) doctrines away from Calvinism. :)

          • David

            I don't want to get into a cliched debate in the comment section, so this will be my final response and you may have the last word, which you attempted with your previous comment. ;)

            I was once a "flaming" Arminian myself, I guess you could even say I was "militant". It was a very difficult transition out of Arminianism, with a lot of anger toward my leaders and a lot left in the wake that God has dealt with. Yet, the wake has also produced waves of joy and awe that was inherently impossible with Arminianism. The irony in the transition is that on the other side of the last bastion of human pride, limited atonement, is often a whole new valley of religious pride, always revealing itself in the name of "righteous anger". Some of the anger is justified, most of it is not helpful.

            I do not intend to be condescending, but I do intend to extend the whole truth. Just because my accusation is offensive to you does not mean it isn't true, and there is no way to say it with greater tact. It was true for me, that's the only way I can say such things with certitude. The words that Spurgeon and Edwards say about Arminians are truly cringe-worthy. Perhaps it's because I don't understand the full extent of the dangers of Arminianism (notice I did NOT say "heresy") that I don't go down their road. That, and I don't have their credibility. Yet, although I too hold you to be a brother in Christ, it does not change the inherent dangers lurking in Arminianism. Dangers that must be made aware.

            You wrote, "I see nothing prideful about saying that my salvation is solely and completely rooted in Christ's work on the cross, God's plans in predestination and election, and his work in my sanctification."

            There is nothing prideful in this remark until you go backwards, start at prevenient grace and go further past your statement to the logical conclusion in comparison to those who, although possessing the same grace you do, never receive Christ.

            It's the same dilemma of salvation by works that Wesley could not escape no matter how much he tried, and he tried! If the reality that separates you from the one who dies apart from Christ, while both under the umbrella of prevenient grace, is not Christ's action to change one's heart, mind and will against their own natural God-hating will then the reality that separates your choices is an autonomous and good quality of your own condition. THIS is pride's zenith and ironically limits the atonement far more than the Calvinistic doctrine. Further, it is the adjective "unconditional" before "election" in Calvinism that protects the Calvinist from making the same mistake, and protects them from similar accusations. The accusation that "unconditional" still must at some level be "conditional" and thus election is a point of pride for the Calvinist is only a logical conclusion of the Arminian because of the starting place, conscious or unconscious, of their own soteriology.

            So just know that when I bring up "humanistic" and "pride" in the context of Arminians I do so without a hint of careless, loveless arrogance or flippancy in my subtext.

            Yes, thank you for your thoughtful disagreement and I too am grateful to call you brother. Grace and peace.

    • http://www.mattoreilly.net Matt O’Reilly

      David, interesting that you find so-called limited atonement to be the most defensible of the the five points when that is the precise point over which there is debate among those who consider themselves in the Calvinist strain. Note, for example, the debate between John Piper (pro limited atonement) and Bruce Ware (contra limited atonement). It seems the title of "easiest to defend" would go to those on which people from different streams agree. For example, that Calvinists and Classical Arminians agree on total depravity seems to suggest increased defensibility and orthodoxy of the doctrine.

      • http://www.thefuerstshallbelast.wordpress.com Tom1st

        Well said, Matt.

      • David

        I guess that's why "in my opinion" fails to convince. Thanks for the response.

    • Andrew T

      I disagree. Wesley went exactly as far as the bible allowed him. He did this in good faith, and some would argue needn't apologize for not being a Calvinist.

    • http://evangelicalarminians.org/ Arminian

      I mentioned this later in the thread, but figured I should also mention it here, since I believe you comment erroneously concerning Wesley here.

      Wesley was solidly Arminian. You really seem to have your facts mixed up about him. It would probably do you good to read some Wesley on the issue. A great essay by him on the issue of Calvinism is his "Predestination Calmly Considered" (http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=Wesley-PREDESTINATION-CALMLY-CONSIDERED). Based on Scripture, he was rightly and staunchly opposed to determinism, unconditional election, irresistible grace, limited atonement, and inevitable perseverance of the saints.

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  • Travis Graham

    Interesting, I love The Deeper Things and am actually reading it for a second time within a year as I help teach a class at my church. I have always wondered where a conservative, theologically sound Wesleyan would go. We Presbyterians have multiple conservative denominations to choose from outside of the PC(USA) but I have never come across a true, conservative Wesleyan denominations. Is the Free Methodist church the only choice?

    • Rich

      The Free Methodists are a good choice, as is the Wesleyan denomination, and the Nazarenes tend to be very good as well. The UMC has many faithful local churches, though as a denomination, we could really use your prayers.

  • Jennifer

    This was so awesome! I've always wanted to read something like this! I love hearing that we're on the same team because I feel like theres alot of pressure to associate yourself one way or the other and that might be true but there are also alot of things to consider first. It's not as easy as smart people over here, dumb emotional people over here. Haha that's probably not a common thought but it's something i've struggled with. Anyway great article!

  • Chris

    Yes, this was so very edifying! Thank you for giving us the opportunity to hear a loving, respectiful conversation on these doctrines. May all who engage these issues follow you example!

  • http://www.arrowheadbiblecollege.org Tom Miller

    Thank you - this was well done and enjoyable. I, a Calvinist who works in a Wesleyan denomination, was encourage as I strive to maintain a proper doctrinal staunchness and friendships with "opposite" views.

  • Jon

    That is a very nice article, and one that I can share with in that I am a "Calvinist" at a Free Methodist seminary, and I do like Wesley quite a bit. The professor that I GA for (and have an enormous amount of respect for) is a (Free Methodist) Wesleyan who loves Calvin.

    The only thing that I wish were brought out a bit would be the variety within Calvinism itself. There is a HUGE range of interpretations of Romans 9 within the Calvinist camps. Furthermore, I deplore the TULIP acronym (cf. Ten Myths about Calvinism by Kenneth Stewart), and my views on limited atonement are a bit akin to Danny Akin's at Southern (I prefer Shedd's unlimited atonement / particular redemption).

    In any case, that's not to disregard the very encouraging tone of the article, which I appreciate very much.

  • http://marcmullins.wordpress.com Marc Mullins

    Great Article.

    I grew up in a conservative congregation of the UMC, and come from a long lineage of Methodist preachers who are all named John or Wesley, but here I am a bonafide, by conviction, Baptist with reformed leanings, but like the gentlemen said, I have no bone to pick with my Wesleyan brothers or Arminian brothers...because I have a greater cause which is to share the true Gospel with the lost, and rebuke the liberals! I heard the President of Free Will Baptist College in TN speak at SBTS for a forum during T4G and frankly he anchored his arguments in more scripture than most of our "reformed" celebrity pastor types...for that I was greatful and he earned my respect for sure.

  • Jacques

    An excellent article! And thanks David for your comment in particular.. :)

    Just in case anyone gets curious: The Thomas Watson mentioned in the article isn't the Puritan brother, but another: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_J._Watson

  • http://www.bortucene.com Erol

    Thanks for the blog post. I have come out of a Wesleyan background into a Presbyterian & Reformed Faith and practice.

    Dr. Sanders (or any Wesleyan reading this), is there any response to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, in your theological tradition? I am reading this book right now, and wonder how one can be convinced of universal atonement after reading and thinking through Owen's arguments and exegesis in this work. I hope more "4 Pointers" read this important work "for" Calvinism.

  • david carlson

    Election and predestination are awesome, revealed realities of salvation, but the Calvinist construals and constructions of them generate a web of doctrinal inferences that clash with other biblical truths.

    Exactly. Perfect, concise summation

  • Dana

    I'm not sure I understood all he was saying about Romans 9, but in light of his comments it would be very interesting (and fun? maybe) to read his review of John Piper's Justification of God on Romans 9. Ask him to do one!

    • Tim Wilcoxson

      I second Dana's idea of asking Fred Sander's to do a review of Justification of God by Piper. It could be quite helpful!

    • David

      I think he just did, no? With the Arminian interpretation of Romans 9, there isn't much to say besides what he said in this interview.

    • http://www.mattoreilly.net Matt O’Reilly

      Dana, the idea (briefly put) is that Romans 9 is about God's election of the nation of Israel for the particular vocation in history of being the people through whom the Messiah would come with the result that the nations (or Gentiles) would be incorporated into the people of God. So, it's not about the unconditional election of individuals to salvation or reprobation; it is about the election of Isreal for a particular historical vocation.

      And much, much more could be said from the Arminian perspective. In face, the most detailed exegesis of Romans 9 is being written by an Evangelical Arminian. Brian Abasciano has completed two of three projected volumes on Romans 9.
      Vol. 1: http://tinyurl.com/abasciano1
      Vol. 2: http://tinyurl.com/abasciano2

      • http://evangelicalarminians.org/ Arminian

        It should be noted that these works take a corporate election unto salvation position (not election unto vocation) and interact extensively with Piper.

        • http://www.mattoreilly.net Matt O’Reilly

          Thanks for clarifying. I shifted gears in the second paragraph and didn't sufficiently indicate that I wasn't making a claim about the arguments in these two books.

      • David

        I'm not looking to get into any debate, but the point must be made.

        I'm confused about the confusion. A group is made up of individuals and those individuals who are foreknown, by God, who are not included in the group (Israel) are still, allowed entry into the world, a.k.a. created, by Him.

        The semantics are excruciating. Paul points to individual and unconditional love and hatred on God's part directly in the chapter supposedly talking about groups of people. Yes, those groups that are made up of individuals came from two separate individuals who were individually hated and loved (Jacob and Esau). I don't see how the distinction tweaks or refutes unconditional election. "Not all Israel is of Israel" because not everyone who is part of the group has been individually chosen. When God separates the wheat and the chaff the one thing they will all have in common is they are part of a group that has "chosen" God. The reality that will separate them however is God's unconditional choice of the individual.

        Grace and peace.

        • http://evangelicalarminians.org/ Arminian

          You really should read the material. You can get at the issue of election in a more concentrated way by these 2 articles:

          Brian J. Abasciano, "Corporate Election in Romans 9: A Reply to Thomas Schreiner" (http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Corporate-Election-in-Romans-9:A-Reply-to-Thomas-Schreiner), which Schreiner responded to. And then here is what amounts to a reply to Schreiner's response here:

          Brian J. Abasciano, "Clearing Up Misconceptions about Corporate Election", Ashland Theological Journal 41 (2009) 59-90 (http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Clearing-Up-Misconceptions-about-Corporate-Election)

          But to see how the perspective works in detailed exegesis of Romans 9, you should read the actual exegesis in the books. At least the first one can basically be read for free in the dissertation.

          Oh, and for a basic primer on the view of corporate election with further resources linked at the end, see http://evangelicalarminians.org/A-Concise-Summary-of-the-Corporate-View-of-Election-and-Predestination.

          God bless!

          • David

            I will certainly read it. I just wish Arminians had the credibility and depth of content that the Reformers do. It's Olsen and Abasciano... and I can't think of anyone else with equal credibility who are professedly Arminian. This is in comparison to hundreds of classic Reformed works. (Again, I hold Wesley ... and Olsen really, to be inconsistent Calvinists as opposed to true semi-pelagians).

            This is only my experience, but any book I've read that isn't professedly Reformed or Calvinistic; or at least inherently Calvinistic in its subtext ends up being deeply flawed theologically (i.e., Watchman Nee, Andrew Murray, etc.) Even when I was a militant Arminian, I primarily read Calvinists. (Reading Dave Hunt sent me into reading exclusively Reformed books.)

            The extreme imbalance of the content scales was one detail that gave me ears to hear what the Calvinists were saying during my Arminian days. I just came to the conclusion that it's little ole me and NO ONE on the Arminian historical side against all these great men and either they are wrong and I, an uneducated youth with no Arminian legacy support, am right or I'm missing something... turns out I was missing something.

            • David

              *Olson.

            • http://evangelicalarminians.org/ Arminian

              Are you kidding? What about I. Howard Marshall, Doug Stuart, Gordon Fee, Scott McKnight, David Baker, William W. Klein
              Grant Osborne, David A. deSilva, Bill T. Arnold, John Oswalt
              Ben Witherington III, Thomas Oden, C.S. Lewis, Craig Keener,
              Jack Cottrell, Timothy Tennent, just to name some modern scholars? Marhall is one of the most highly respected NT scholars and exegetes in the world. Distinguished Calvinist scholar Douglas Moo calls him the dean of evangelical NT scholars and praises his NT theology book, despite disagreeing with him sharply on some point undoubtedly.

              It seems like you need more exposure. It's too bad you missed this in your Arminian days. Perhaps it would have saved you from going down a (IMO) less biblical path.

              BTW, Wesley was solidly Arminian. You really seem to have your facts mixed up about him. It would probably do you good to read some Wesley on the issue. A great essay by him on the issue of Calvinism is his "Predestination Calmly Considered" (http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=Wesley-PREDESTINATION-CALMLY-CONSIDERED).

            • David

              Anyone pre-Finney?

              The only names I recognized were Gordon Fee and, obviously, C.S. Lewis. I will give you Fee, but I would be hesitant to list Lewis. He is a valuable in terms of philosophy but not entirely credible theologically. In 'Mere Christianity' he even dances around universalism, if not supporting it outright. 'C.S. Lewis On Scripture' is a fascinating read. This book points out that Lewis had the opinion that because the contemporary critics and interpreters of his own works were wrong he could not trust the Scholars and theologians that created any theological system out of Ancient Biblical texts. He was not Arminian professedly.

            • http://evangelicalarminians.org/ Arminian

              You have confirmed my point that you need more exposure. If you don't recognize the name that one of the most respected Calvinist scholars and commentators of our day calls the dean of evangelical NT scholars, then you probably should not be complaining that Arminians scholars do not have credibility and depth of content. It is probably more that you lack exposure.

              You asked, "Anyone pre-Finney?"

              Really? How about Wesley for one? The early church fathers. Really, as Thomas Oden has shown, the ecumenical consensus of the Christian tradition.

            • David

              Of course... anyone besides Wesley, who was an inconsistent Calvinist. Even Wesley wasn't truly Arminian. I'm looking for Pre-Finney Arminians, NOT Wesley... historical or contemporary, who came to theological conclusions apart from a defense of their system of theology. My point earlier was that when an Arminian leaves the defense of their system to write about Biblical truths then it becomes harder to defend their system because the logical conclusions of their system are exposed in a context other than academic. That, in my opinion, is why there is a dearth of such credible and lasting material. The synergists who attempted this (i.e., Murray, Nee, Finney, etc.) had tremendous errors in their writings that are dangerous and in some cases heretical. I'm not being flippant, I'm actually asking... as an Arminian I searched high and low with no success and so the system itself weakened to a point of disintegration.

            • http://evangelicalarminians.org/ Arminian

              First, you ignored the fact that I pointed to tons of pre-Finney believers who were Arminian in theology.

              Second, your comments about Wesley are special pleading. Wesley was truly Arminian. It is illegitimate to reject his own writings and claims about his theology in favor of you just wanting him to not be Arminian. You exclude his explicit writing on the subject!? He argued forcefully against Calvinism and for Arminianism on the basis of scripture. I already pointed you to one excellent example: Wesley essay, "Predestination Calmly Considered" (http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=Wesley-PREDESTINATION-CALMLY-CONSIDERED).

              I have found what you say about Arminians actually to be true of Calvinists. I have remarked several times in the past to others how Calvinist exegetes so often say things that are inconsistent with Calvinism and supportive of Arminianism when explicating the meaning of Scripture. Their guard is down becaquse the topic is not Calvinism vs. Arminianism, and they're trying to apprehend what a passage is actually saying, and voila, Arminianism comes shining through. But that does not make them really Arminian at heart. They are Calvinists trying to determine what a passage of Scripture is saying, and not really thinking about their Calvinism, they say things that undermine it because Scripture undermines Calvinism.

              You say you could not find biblically strong Arminians. But it has become clear that you simply lacked exposure. You admitted to not knowing a bunch of distinguished Arminian scholars, and as I pointed out, one even being acknowledged as one of the most respected and prominent evangelical scholars of our time. I think it's time that you face that Wesley was indeed Arminian, as he claimed(!), and that you lack exposure to Arminian scholarship.

            • David

              Well, Wesley was not truly Arminian because of his 'Prevenient Grace' interpolation. He was less Pelagian than a true Arminian.

              Some examples in your third paragraph would be helpful. One of the problems I find with Arminians who come to your conclusion about inconsistent Calvinism is that, because Arminianism attempts to resolve all tensions they miss when Calvinists are purposely allowing for tensions. It's Calvinism that says, "we don't have it all figured out, but this is clearly what the Bible says". It's Armianism that says "This can't be true about what I believe to be true about God's love so let me invent a doctrine to release this tension... [Insert Prevenient Grace here]" It's humanistic at it's core.

              I will concede that I am not exposed to the contemporary Arminian theologians, and I missed the historical ones (Pre-Finney) you pointed out. Could you again? What I was looking for was any Arminian writings that are credible and have a lasting legacy that are not primarily a defense of their system of theology. Again, it's not a direct challenge, but more of a concession of my lack of exposure and the failure of my own attempts to find such works when I was an Arminian.

      • David

        FYI, you can get Abasciano's dissertation in PDF format free here

  • Bob

    I respect a lot of Wesley's work, and I have many Free Methodist friends. It was the biggest church in my hometown of McPherson, KS. I consider them brothers and sisters.

    That said, I must vehemently disagree with one point of this article, that election in the Calvinist strain contorts Scripture. I think Scripture is quite clear that we are dead in sin, and the ordo salutis is also very clear that election comes prior to a REAL SAVING WORK of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts.

    In the Wesleyan scheme, the fantasy of prevenient grace comes in to allow people to still choose despite the fact we are dead in sin and God has predestined his elect. I call it a fantasy because it is. There is nothing in Scripture, nothing, to support that doctrine that God somehow lifted the burden of the fall through prevenient grace allowing us to now choose God with wills loosed from the chains of sin. It is a made-up doctrine designed to get rid of the fatal flaws in the Arminian system.

    Sorry, but I will stick with the Biblical doctrine of Calvinist election that is rooted in a NEVER-FAILING work of God.

    There are huge, huge differences between Wesleyanism and Calvinism.

  • Lane

    I agree with what you said, except for last line. I agree with what I believe is the central aim of the article, that while different Weslyans and Calvins are on the *same* team.

  • Bob

    Oh, I don't disagree. I just thought the article was brushing over those major differences. I don't see the differences as worth not working together etc. They are on the same team despite differing views about salvation etc.

    • Lane

      It was probably the second "huge", that distressed me =)

  • Scott

    Great read. I attended church with Fred and was a part of his small group. I was happy to see some of Fred's dry humor come through the interview. Interestingly the church we attended is where I learned of the security provided by a Calvinist view. I enjoyed hearing his point on this matter and it left me with plenty to consider regarding Calvinism. I thought of this matter as a closed case and it was settled in my mind. I will enjoy considering some of his points as I work out my salvation.

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  • http://www.mattoreilly.net Matt O’Reilly

    Indeed.

    • Lamar Carnes

      I can't express all of my thoughts in such a short venue on the article reflecting a persons views on Calvinism. What I will say he knows and others also, but I say this because what the words mean are powerful and meaningful even though well known. First, Calvinism is a "nickname" to shorten a very heavy system of theological thought rather than having to write volumne's of books on the subject or hours of lectures. But, as folks still seem to think John Calvin is the originator of the Doctrines of Grace. Not so! The Synod of Dort (remember) gave an answer to the 5 points of Arminius, called the TULIP accronym. This was prior to Calvin. Also, Luther was a TULIP guy before TULIP was written. Of course, you can go through the writings of the old Church fathers and find TULIP everywhere. Read Steve Lawsons new book Pillars of Grace on this issue. This traces all of them prior to Augustine up to the Reformation age. I have had trouble with John Wesley (Not Charles he was in the camp) for many years because he did not seem to believe in the essentials of the Gospel of Grace relating to substitutionary atonement and the total fall of man needing such. Some other doctrines bothered me also. He was really a strange man sort of kin to Charles Finney on some issues. But running like blood in the veins the reformed doctrines of grace are so fully and clearly revealed in the word of God no one can get around them at all without destroying the message of grace. A few verses seem to trouble some, but that only means one is not interpreting them in light of the over all 99% of clear verses. Translation from Greek is a hard thing to say the least and sometimes I have noted translations make a mess of it all because of our English limitations. I came from legalistic church backgrounds and by reading the word faithfully and meditating upon it and going back to my initital moment of redemption I knew only God called me for I was NOT looking for Him at all, and when He did I certainly had no desire to NOT come! I came willingly upon the drawing of the Holy Spirit and not fighting against it at all. And that is the way true new birth or born again people react to the work of the Spirit in their hearts giving them the ability to believe and express faith and repent of sins.

      • Quartermaster

        Many would point to your argument as being experiential rather than biblical. I would state that the fact you came up in an environment that pointed you to scripture in the first place was an act of prevenience in itself.

        To many use the so called doctrines of grace as an attempt at ending an argument, not realizing they are simply leaving unfinished business hanging in the air. Fred Sanders is on the button when he says "Election and predestination are awesome, revealed realities of salvation, but the Calvinist construals and constructions of them generate a web of doctrinal inferences that clash with other biblical truths." The Calvinist construals of those doctrines owe far more to 1st and 2nd century Gnosticism than they do to scripture. Irrenaeus dealt with many of these issuse in "Against Heresies" which he wrote after he became Bishop of Lyons. He was a student of Polycarp, who was a student of the Apostle John. Like it or not, Calvinist soteriology is a construct of Augustine who drank deeply of Mannichaeism and Neoplatonist thought.

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  • Jordan Jolly

    "You would have to run all the way to the end of Paul's line of argument there about the election of Israel and their role in salvation history, which in context are all historical arguments, and then decide that it applies to individual people, to all individual people, from before creation." - Sanders

    Why wouldn't you? Abraham, Jacob, Esau, and especially Pharaoh... they were all individuals.

  • http://www.nashpublications.com Gregg Nash

    Calvinism is just Augustinian theology revived. Because John Calvin was a Catholic priest his predestination came from Augustine of Hippo. Both of these men had Christians killed who did not conform with their beliefs. Augustine made up scripture to complain to the Emperor to use the sword against the "Donatists" and John Calvin had Michael Servitus burned at the stake. Augustine is the first to publish theology on predestination and John Calvin revived. Because Augustine believed babies should be baptized as soon as they were born for salvation, he plainly teaches baptismal regeneration and his theology shows he was not saved by simply trusting Christ. I am not a Calvinist. I am not a Protestant. The New Testament does not allow for a church that is backed by the state but rather a separation of church and state. The Catholic church is the great whore of Revelation 17 and the churches that came out of her are whore churches because their theology teaches that the power of the church comes from the sword of the state and not Christ. I am a Baptist and my heritage is from a people who never hunted down any one because of what they believed. We preach and persuade but we do not persecute.

    • Rob Gibson

      Wow! You seem angry and bitter ... and also to have forgotten the whole matter of slavery within Baptist life (I'm a Baptist too, but Baptist aren't perfect friend, just redeemed by the blood, like ALL other believers in Jesus Christ). Bless you and may His gracious face shine upon you!

      I think this article was great and a testimony to gracious dialogue among brothers of different theological leanings - but united in Christ.

    • http://imperfectfornow.blogspot.com/ Mackman

      I was going to comment on one particular piece of your post, but then I realized the entire thing was just poorly argued bile (and I use "bile" purposefully: It looks like you just vomited hate onto your keyboard). When you make a statement like, "Calvinism is just Augustinian theology revived," you really do need to back it up: And not with random parallels that don't really resemble each other, but with actual doctrinal statements (and btw, infant baptism doesn't equal Calvinism).

      As for your straight-up condemnation of the Catholic Church (and all churches that come from it which would, by the way, include pretty much every denomination on the planet)... it's both funny and sad. So... first, you assume that the power of the church comes from the state, not from Christ.

      Where do you get that from? If anything, it's the other way around. Even when there were Catholic-ruled countries, it was because the state got its power from God: And who better to steward that power than the church? I'm not saying they were correct: But to completely switch it around and say that the Catholics believe that their power comes from earthly authority rather than heavenly authority is so poorly thought-out as to border on... well, I just won't finish that thought. The Pope is called the Vicar of Christ, exactly BECAUSE that is where Catholicism believes his authority springs from.

      The Catholic Church messed up. People have done evil things under the banner of the Church, some because they thought they were doing right and others because they knew they were doing evil. That's all true. But if I had to choose between Catholicism and your hateful, incoherent, poorly-argued vitriol, I'd choose Catholicism 100% of the time.

      Not Catholic, btw. Just tired of protestants (and you ARE a protestant, whatever you may say) bashing it without thought.

    • Craig

      Gregg --

      Sounds like you've been reading too much Dave Hunt.
      Notice the difference in both rhetoric and substance with Fred Sanders, by way of comparison.

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  • james

    Do all (most) Wesleyans embrace Christian Perfectionism? I've recently encountered some young men who hold to this position and I, quite frankly, was surprised by it.

  • http://dbciowa.org Tucker Else

    A wonderful interview. Though, as a Calvinist, I disagree with Pastor Sanders' theology, I am thankful that this is what the conversation can look like. Well done! Blessings in Christ, TE

  • Andrew T

    No arguments, Calvin was an excellent theologian.

    Still, Calvinism is diminished by Augustinian influence. Augustine was a terrible theologian (perhaps because he could never read Hebrew nor Greek). His bad theology results in a terrible influence become Calvin's weakness.

  • Clayton

    Wait, Thomas Watson a Wesleyan? Here's a quote from him clearly indicating otherwise: "Why then do the Arminians seem to talk of a moral persuasion, that God in the conversion of a sinner only morally persuades and no more; sets his promises before men to allure them to good, and his threatenings to deter them from evil; and that is all he does? But surely moral persuasions alone are insufficient to the effectual call. How can the bare proposal of promises and threatenings convert a soul? This amounts not to a new creation, or that power which raised Christ from the dead. God not only persuades, but enables (Ezek. 36:27). If God, in conversion, should only morally persuade, that is, set good and evil before men, then he does not put forth so much power in saving men as the devil does in destroying them. Satan not only propounds tempting objects to men, but concurs with his temptations: therefore he is said to 'work in the children of disobedience' (Eph. 2:2). The Greek word, to work, signifies imperii vim, Camerarius, the power Satan has in carrying men to sin. And shall not God's power in converting be greater than Satan's power in seducing? The effectual call is mighty and powerful. God puts forth a divine energy, nay, a kind of omnipotence; it is such a powerful call, that the will of man has no power effectually to resist."

  • Craig

    Lamar,

    The Synod of Dort took place more than 50 years AFTER Calvin's death.

  • Nevin

    If only we could have a 'true' Gospel Coalition that would welcome and include men like Sanders...

    • Kent Henderson

      Amen!

    • http://thegospelcoalition.org John Starke

      Nevin, I'm not sure what you mean by "welcome" but Fred has written for The Gospel Coalition on several occasions.

  • LA

    "That will lead you to pick fights with other conservative, evangelical, Protestant Christians who really are on your side of the net in the game that counts." - AMEN

    It is so encouraging to see dialogue between Christians with differences in theology that is kind and respectful, as in the article. However, this is such a rarity, as seen in the comments, that it breaks my heart to see the Body so wrapped up in this issue. We argue because we are so caught up in the "truth" of how we interpret a few parts of scripture (which amazingly brilliant and godly people have been debating for centuries), and yet the second greatest commandment is left far behind. I am all for a healthy debate, but this hot-button topic has left more hurt in it's wake than healing for the Body.

    I look at the world around me - Christians struggling with sickness, death, divorce and all sorts of heartache; non-Christians fighting against, and yet desperately desiring, the peace that only Christ can bring - and I see more time at church spent on learning doctrine than how to love on and help a hurting world. Sure, I want to hear what the "experts" have to say about matters of doctrine, and study of the history of our faith is important, but at the end of the day, JUST GIVE ME JESUS!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson Roger E. Olson

    With all due respect to friend Fred, I just want to say that I think he over emphasizes early Arminian dalliances with heresies. One might interpret him as saying that nearly all Arminians turned toward liberalism. Then he goes on to applaud the Wesleys. In fact, however, there were many "Arminians of the heart" (as opposed to "Arminians of the head") between Arminius and the Wesleys and afterwards. And, as he rightly notes in the interview, many Reformed theologians also became liberal without jumping to Arminianism first. Schleiermacher is an example. If I may be so bold, I suggest that my book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (IVP) is the definitive answer (because of its ample quotations from Arminian theologians) to the accusation that Arminianism is semi-Pelagianism.

  • Rose

    I really appreciated this article. Occasionally I find I even NEED the encouragement of articles like this as an Arminian in a generation when Arminianism is looked down upon by those in the know.
    In 1 Cor 3:21,22 I have found a passage that resonates with me. "All things belong to you, whether John MacArthur or R.C.Sproul or Fred Sanders or...." Or something like that. :)

    • http://evangelicalarminians.org/ Arminian

      You should consider joining the Society of Evangelical Arminians.

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  • Brian Hammonds

    Good interview, John...very insightful stuff!

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  • Kevin Hester

    Readers interested in a non-Wesleyan version of evangelical Arminianism might find the following works helpful.

    F. Leroy Forlines, The Quest for Truth, (Nashville, 2001); and Classical Arminianism, (Nashville, 2011).

    Another good work is Robert E. Picirilli, Grace, Faith, and Free Will, (Nashville, 2002).

    • Chris Talbot

      Yes! Excellent recommendations.

  • Jason

    "the United Methodist Church is one of those American mainline denominations that isn't very hospitable to conservative evangelicals. There are some good congregations, of course, but the national scene is ugly. I saw right away that it would be hard for me to join that denomination"

    pretty much sums up why I had to leave...

  • http://www.davidmohler.com David Mohler

    Loved this article. Well said.

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  • Greg Teegarden

    The best thing I like about this article is not the defining differences between the two major theology's, but rather Fred Sander's Wesleyan like attitude of finding points of agreement. John Wesley never argued. I think he invented the slogan, "if you can't say something nice, then don't say nothing at all," which was obviously made popular by that often pernicious rabbit (Thumper).

  • http://swesleymcgranor.wordpress.com S. Wesley Mcgranor

    I would not rationalize nor answer to criticism based on Pelagianism; because he was correct, whether one likes it or not. A non-believer can do good works and walk, and talk simply by being creation. Original sin, has been atoned for. Yet even before Christ, man was not altogether totally depraved. A bondage of the will, is one that is not free in Christ.

    Pelagius influenced Augustine. Have you not read On the Spirit and the Letter?

  • http://swesleymcgranor.wordpress.com S. Wesley Mcgranor

    Further more, not even Palegius the great seemingly undermined one, did not espouse that man did not need Christ's salvation.

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  • bill

    If you have not come to the conclusion that calvinism and Arminianism are the same thing you have not reached 1st base.

  • Jacques

    Yah Bill, they're both theological terms. ;)

    • bill

      Well actually they are theological systems created by men. They both flow from the same place the mind of John Calvin and his disciple Jacobis Arminius. Arminius loved John Calvin and taught in his school until the day he died. The systems are much closer than you think.

  • Lamar Carnes

    It is troubling indeed if a person can't understand the difference which is so huge between a Doctrines of Grace position and John Wesley's teachings, troubling indeed. The divide between the scriptural doctrines on the issues is so different and so clearly different I would say anyone who can't see that is blinded for sure. Words given by God in the word are not words given to just use and twist to one's own personal desires. Either they mean what they say or they don't! Trying to put all into one pot to make things seem more unified and acceptable will not work. Neither did God give us such instructions but rather to oppose such and turn from such activity.

  • https://www.facebook.com/swesley.mcgranor S. Wesley Mcgranor

    Grace from God--not as an invention of man--is a hard one to peg; considering an individuals claim to such--as they would like to have, or not.
    The difference in such theology is a matter of how that grace came. It does not reduce the differing positions to relativism, but the complexity of god to man, and man to God.

  • kenneth

    The discussions are quite refreshing,seeing we consider each other as
    brothers.What I want to ad is that in my opinion it is not the amount of scholars on either side that is important,but the caliber of devotion to our Lord.Men like Andrew Murray and Charles Finney are of such caliber that when you read them you fall on your knees and you worship the Lord and you are challenged to love Him more. For me that is the confirmation of the Holy Spirit on their writings.They may be mistaken some aspects but I thank God that He looks at the heart.Beware of "these people worship me with their mouth..."
    In his love and together for His glory,Kenneth Thijm

  • http://www.keyword-power.com Lamar Carnes

    If Charles Finney is a brother in Christ I am not saved! And I can tell you that is just not so on my side! The man didn't believe the core doctrines of the Gospel at all. He denied the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ' blood atonement and you may not understand it at first I know in terms of the theological implications, but you won't deny it either and certainly after reading the Bible you know it teaches that totally and would never deny it. Finney did and is not saved nor was ever saved by God's free grace and if you think that is to hard and not loving and kind, I say with Paul let any who preach another Gospel be considered anathema!! I am not better than Paul nor worse! Both of us are saved by Grace through FAith in that blood atonement, Imputed righteousness is a must for us or we are not saved and to deny that after being taught what it is reflects an apostate, a heretic and a lost person without the Holy Spirit!

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  • Chris Talbot

    It thrills me to see this! While I consider myself a classical/reformed Arminian (see F. Leroy Forlines "Classical Armianism"), honest and gracious conversations like this are immensely helpful. I've appreciated TGC's inclusion of an article and review by J. Matthew Pinson over the past year and hope that there may be a place for him, and others like, at the table soon.

  • Michael

    SOVEREIGNTY vs. FREEWILL OF MAN as Jesus taught it: http://greatprincemichael.com/HTVSG.htm