March 25, 2012
Back in 2002 I had an e-mail exchange with Peter Pike, known as “CalvinDude”. He posted the first exchange on his site, thecalvinist.com, which is now defunct; but the exchange has been reposted.
This is the sixth round of letters between Mr. Pike and I.
Note that this part of the exchange doesn’t appear at the link given above.
—– Original Message —–
To: <Christopher Adams>
Sent: Wednesday, November 27, 2002 2:54 PM
Subject: Re: Child of Satan?
Oh, I’m a liar now….
<<< Nice try, but the distinction is *knowledge*. >>>
BUT you *ALSO* wrote:
<<< I have NEVER said that salvation was dependent on knowledge. >>>
[CA] Finally!! Very good, Mr Pike!! You finally provided something that looks like PROOF for your accusations!! After at least 5 letters to me, you finally provide a QUOTE that seems relevant to your argument!
Congratulations are in order!
Of course you neglected to mention that the first quote you selected was from an entirely different context than the second quote. Here’s the context of the first quote:
[CA 11/27/02] <<Nice try, but the distinction is *knowledge*. If there is someone I speak peace to, who speaks peace to the unregenerate, then I don’t *know* about it. If someone is telling me they don’t speak peace when they really do, I’m not responsible for judging that.>>
Now here’s the context of the second quote:
[CA 11/23/02] <<I have NEVER said that salvation was dependent on knowledge. Nowhere is this idea to be found on the OTC website. You have made this accusation several times, several times I have asked for proof, yet you continue to simply make accusations. I have already pointed out an article that answers this accusation: http://www.outsidethecamp.org/doctregen.htm>>
So the context of the first quote was *judgement*, while the context of the second was the *grounds* of salvation, specifically whether it was dependent on doctrinal regeneration (see the article I linked to).
[PP] But I digress.
<<< [CA] Fine, you can take all the offense you want. But you are still not responding to what I said. I said you are speaking peace to lost people. ***THAT*** is why I say you are lost, and therefore unregenerate. >>>
And *THAT* makes my salvation dependent upon an action I do, not on the grace of God.
[CA] Not at all. It is the *evidence* that you are lost.
[PP] <<< [CA] Nice try, but the distinction is *knowledge*. If there is someone I speak peace to, who speaks peace to the unregenerate, then I don’t *know* about it. If someone is telling me they don’t speak peace when they really do, I’m not responsible for judging that. >>>
But why should it affect your salvation either way?
<<< YOU on the other hand, KNOWINGLY speak peace to a group of people who strip God of his rightful glory in the Gospel. You realize they do this, yet you continue to speak peace to them. >>>
No, I knowingly speak peace to a group of people who RIGHTLY UNDERSTAND that the only way they can be saved is because of the grace of God.
[CA] Yet your website says this:
[PP] <<Arminianism itself is a man-based theology that strips God of His right to be “God” and elevates man above what man should be.>>
[CA] THIS is a “right understanding” that “the only way they can be saved is because of the grace of God.” ?!?!
[PP] That they are not *RATIONAL* in why they accept the basic truths of God–that those truths, in fact, CONTRADICT their beliefs *IF* they actually logically carried them out–
[CA] This is precisely why I asked this in my first post to you (11/12/02):
<<5. Where does the Bible teach a difference between a man and his theology? How do you interpret Prov 23:7?>> I notice you still haven’t answered that one.
[PP] does not contradict the fact that they *DO* hold to the sufficient truth.
[CA] Believing that the atoning sacrifice was intended for everyone who is now in Hell is sufficient truth??
[PP] Answer this: Why would an Arminian *EVER* say, “Christ took my sins on the cross, AND THAT SAVED ME”? Yet when you look at the average Arminian, they *DO* believe that it was the imputation of our sins onto Christ that saved them.
[CA] Then what, to them, is the reason some people go to Hell?
[PP] There is no reason for them to hold this view, and when I point out that there is a contradiction, they do *NOT* abandon Christ as the atonining sacrifice.
[CA] Really? Do they also STOP believing that Christ died for everyone who goes to Hell? If not then they have NOT believed that salvation is “of the Lord.” They STILL believe that salvation is dependent on MAN.
[PP] If you study human psychology, you will know that the best way to decieve someone is to offer something that SEEMS like the truth. This is, undoubtedly, what Arminianism proper does–that is, Pelagianism. The average Arminian, however, realizes that he CANNOT accept the full ramifications of his Arminianism. Why do you think that Norm Geisler writes against Clark Pinnock when, from a strictly logical point of view he should *AGREE* with everything Pinnock says? Why do you think Charles Wesley could write, “And Can It Be”? How could Keith Green, an obvious Arminian in his songs, also write, “You [God] Put This Love In My Heart”? None of this makes any sense outside of the realization that they implicitly knew/know the truth of God and they will not abandon it. And the truth of God comes *ONLY* by the Spirit of God.
[CA] I don’t know enough about Geisler. But consider this quote from Wesley:
<<Though there are some expressions in my brother’s Hymns which I do not use …; yet I am fully satisfied, that …. there is no jot of Calvinism therein; that not one hymn, not one verse of an hymn, maintains either unconditional election, or infallible perseverance.>(Works, v.10, p.426, Remarks On Mr. Hill’s ‘Farrago Double Distilled’; Mar. 14, 1773)
[CA] One of Wesley’s hymns contained the following lines:
“From all eternity with love
Unchangeable thou hast me view’d.”
When this passage was pointed out to him, Wesley commented <<I believe this is true on the supposition of faith foreseen, not otherwise.>(Works, v.10, p.383, Remarks On Mr. Hills Review; Sept. 9, 1772)
Would you still say that he “knew … the truth of God and [would] not abandon it.” ?
[PP] Why do I say Arminians are saved? Because they believe the Gospel. They believe other things that are not the Gospel, but they *DO* believe the Gospel.
This is where we differ, Mr. Adams. You believe saving faith must be in all the intricate outworkings of the Gospel, whereas I believe saving faith is a faith in *JUST* the Gospel.
[CA] This is a false dichotomy. Suppose someone believes that Jesus is not God, but still believes in imputation, predestination, etc. Can we overlook his denial of the deity of Christ with the excuse that he “doesn’t have to believe in all the intricate outworkings of the Gospel”? Of course not. The Gospel DEMANDS that Christ be God as well as man. The person who denies the deity of Jesus Christ has denied a doctrine ESSENTIAL to the Gospel. It is my duty to JUDGE HIM LOST.
Arminians teach that the blood of Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of all
the people who are in Hell. They DENY that his blood is what makes the difference between their going to heaven and going to Hell. The efficacy of Christ’s blood is JUST AS ESSENTIAL to the Gospel as his deity.
[PP] As way of analogy–I have faith that turning my key in the ignition will start my car. You say that “real” faith is when I know that the engine runs because gasoline is pumped into a chamber where the spark plug ignites it, etc. But I simply turn my wrist and my car runs.
[CA] Your analogy is incomplete, since the car is not capable of changing your thinking. The car has not expressly declared that it wants you to understand how it works. God HAS declared that he wills to be glorified by his people. Why doesn’t he do this in the case of Arminians if (as you say) they are regenerate?
[PP] How simple is the Gospel? Why, it is EXTREMELY simple! So simple in fact that the Old Testament believers, who had no comprehension of Jesus, and only a dim understanding of the Messiah’s work, understood it. Read Hebrews 11–it is by *FAITH* that Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain. Read Genesis 15–it is by *FAITH* that Abraham believed, and God imputed it to him as righteousness.
I simply ask–are these individuals saved? They certainly are. I further ask–by what means were they saved? By the same means *WE* are. Salvation has *ALWAYS* been by grace through faith. Faith in what? Well, the faith Abraham had was sufficient. The faith Cain had was sufficient. The faith that Rahab had was sufficient. Why would we be required to have a zillion tons more information the *MUST* be believed in order to be saved?
What you are missing is the simple fact that while the mystery of salvation has been explained to us, salvation does not require the explanation in order to actually save.
Isaiah 45: (24) He shall say, Only in Jehovah do I have righteousness and strength; to Him he comes; and they are ashamed, all who are angry with Him.
This is what Abraham believed. This is what I believe. Is this what ARMINIANS believe? NO. They believe that their “decision for Christ” is what entitles them to God’s favor.
[PP] <<< A few premises:
A. All saved people believe the Gospel (Mk 16:16, Rom 1:16).
B. All who do not believe the Gospel are lost (Isa 45:20, Rom 10:3).
C. The Gospel gives all the glory to God. (Isa 45:24, Rom 3:21-26)
Combining A and C, we get: D. All saved people (give all the glory to
Combining B and C, we get: E. All who do not (give all the glory to God) are lost. >>>
You *OBVIOUSLY* do not know what the Gospel is then. You are equating the Gospel with “giving all the glory to God.” But you are *WRONG*. While that is what the Gospel *DOES*, that is not what the Gospel *IS*.
I said “The Gospel gives all the glory to God”
You say: “that is what the Gospel *DOES*, that is not what the Gospel *IS*.”
Are you agreeing with me?
[PP] In fact, I would do this:
A. All saved people believed the Gospel.
B. Abraham was saved.
:. Abraham believed the Gospel.
C. The Gospel was not fully revealed to Abraham
D. Abraham was still saved.
:. A full understanding of all the Gospel is not necessary for salvation.
<<< Two more premises:
F. Arminians do not give all the glory to God (note: you stated this on
your website) >>>
Yes, and I further state that *YOU* do not give all the glory to God. You admitted as much when you admitted you sin.
[CA] I give ALL the glory to God for my JUSTIFICATION. Who does the Arminian give glory to? HIMSELF — BASED ON HIS OWN DECISIONS. These two views are POLAR OPPOSITES.
[PP] <<< G. All who speak peace to those who are lost, are themselves lost (Jer 8:11, 2 Jn 11) >>>
Even if they give all the glory to God? Suppose I give God all the glory, and yet say that He has also saved Arminians–does this destroy the fact that I give God all the glory for my salvation? Not at all. They are two separate issues!
[CA] Then what does Jer 8:11, and 2 Jn 11 mean?
[PP] <<< Combining E and F, we get: E. All who do not (give all the glory to God) are lost. >>>
So you admit you are lost. It spares me the trouble of pointing it out.
<<< F. Arminians do not give all the glory to God. >>>
Neither does Christopher Adams. Nor any human being on the planet for that matter.
<<< H. Therefore, Arminians are lost. >>>
And therefore, so is Christopher Adams.
<<< Combining H and G, we get: I. All who speak peace to (Arminians) are themselves lost. >>>
And also, all those who speak peace to *ANYONE* who does not give all the glory to God is also lost.
<<< Now, noting that Peter Pike speaks peace to Arminians we declare him lost, unregenerate, a child of Satan, based on (I.) above. >>>
And noting that Christopher Adams speaks peace to others who sin, such as the folks at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly.
<<< I am *not* talking about any old sin. I *AM* talking about the sin of not believing the GOSPEL. This is the sin Arminians commit, and I DON’T. >>>
But inconsistent Arminians *DO* believe the Gospel. They believe it, and they believe things that *SHOULD* contradict it–but they do not abandon the Gospel. WHY? Because they *DO* believe it!
[CA] A “man-based theology that strips God of His right to be “God” and elevates man above what man should be”, is not inconsistency, it is HATRED of God and his glory.
[PP] <<< But wait a minute. Do you really mean to say that God sent Pharaoh to Hell, just because Pharaoh’s theology wasn’t 100% accurate? Just because he didn’t give all the glory to God? Just because he tried to reserve some glory for himself? Do you really mean a person’s knowledge of God has to be perfect in order for him to go to heaven? I thought you said salvation was dependent on what Christ did for that person, not on what they believe? What are you trying to say here, Mr. Pike? >>>
First, that you are rude. Secondly, you are obfuscating the issue because I disproved your point! God’s glorification has *NOTHING WHATSOEVER* to do with what ANYONE believes!
[CA] This is astounding. Have you any familiarity with Scripture at all? Sorry, Mr Pike, but I can’t just take your word for it. Give me the word of God:
Psalms 50: (15) And call on Me in the day of distress, and I will save you; and you shall glorify *Me*.
Isaiah 43: (21) The people that I formed for Myself shall recount *My* praise.
Isaiah 48: (11) For My sake, for My sake, I will act; for how is it defiled? And I will not give *My glory* to another.
Ezekiel 36: (38) Like a holy flock, like the flock of Jerusalem in her appointed feasts, so the wasted cities shall be filled with flocks of men. And they shall *know* that I am Jehovah.
Matthew 13: (11) And answering, He said to them, Because it has been given to you to *know* the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but it has not been given to those.
John 8: (32) And you will *know the truth*, and the truth will set you free.
Romans 6: (17) But thanks be to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from the heart the form of *doctrine* to which you were delivered.
Romans 9: (23) and that He make *known* the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before prepared for glory,
1 John 5: (20) And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given to us an *understanding* that we may know the true One, and we are in the true One, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and the life everlasting.
Furthermore, look at what God says is MISSING from those who don’t believe the Gospel:
Isaiah 45: (20) Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, escaped ones of the nations; the ones who set up the wood of their carved image, and the ones who pray to a god who cannot save; they *know* nothing.
Matthew 13: (11) And answering, He said to them, Because it has been given to you to *know* the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but *it has not been given to those*.
Romans 10: (3) For being *ignorant of the righteousness of God*, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God.
In each case, the person opposed to God’s glory was missing some KNOWLEDGE.
[PP] Pharaoh hated and despised God. Arminians do not. Pharaoh was consistent in his false beliefs. Arminians are not. Pharaoh couldn’t care less what God wanted. Arminians do.
God does not give equally to all people, even believers. To him who has been given much, much will be demanded; but from him who has been given little, only a little will be asked.
<<< SO WHAT??? No matter what you profess to believe, you also believe a person can be saved believing the OPPOSITE of the Gospel. This shows that you place NO SAVING VALUE on the Gospel. >>>
*NO I DON’T*. They are saved because they believe the *GOSPEL*. They also have other beliefs that sometimes *ARE* opposite of the Gospel, but the fact remains that they believe the GOSPEL regardless! It is *THAT* that saves them, not their false beliefs.
<<< If you changed from believing Calvinism, to believing Arminianism, you would still consider yourself saved. Correct? If so, then it shows that you do not believe that it is necessary to believe the Gospel in order to be saved. >>>
1) This shows that you equate Calvinism with the Gospel, which is what I said all along even though you whined and complained [CA- And then you call ME rude.] and said:
And now, I’m asking you again, for proof of your accusations:
“Your statements make an understanding of Reformed Doctrine a prerequisite for salvation. That is, unless one understands total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints EXACTLY as YOU understand these points, that person is damned.”
Well, what more do you need for proof?
[CA] Alright, I will rephrase the question:
If you went from a theology that claims to give God his rightful due, to a theology that “is a man-based theology that strips God of His right to be “God” and elevates man above what man should be”, would you still consider yourself saved?
[PP] 2) Would I be saved as an Arminian? Well, I started out that way. My salvation has always been dependent on Christ, not on me.
[CA] And if you believed that Christ tried, but *failed*, to atone for everyone in the world, and what really made the difference was your *decision*, would you still say that your “salvation has always been dependent on Christ, not on me.”?
For more information, please see:
December 4, 2011
Appendix A: John Wesley’s Vicious Attacks On Augustus Toplady
For those who believe I am too harsh in saying that Wesley made “vicious attatcks” on Augustus Toplady, consider the following incidents. (Please note that this appendix is not intended as an endorsement of either Augustus Toplady or James Hervey; it is only intended to illustrate a specific instance of the conflict between the two of them and John Wesley. For more discussion on the spiritual state of Augustus Toplady, see here.)
In 1769, Augustus Toplady published his translation of Jerome Zanchius’ Absolute Predestination. Consequently, we find among Wesley’s collected letters the following, addressed to Walter Sellon, and dated December 30, 1769:
And pray add a word or two to Mr. Toplady, not only with regard to Zanchius, but his slander on the Church of England. …. He does certainly believe himself to be the greatest genius in England. (13:44)
Apparently Sellon was contemplating a reply to Toplady on a number of issues. But the final form was not entirely decided upon. Wesley’s next letter to Sellon, dated February 21, 1770, reads:
Do not make too much haste. Give everything the last touch. It will be enough if the papers meet me at Manchester before the end of March. I believe it will be the best way to bestow a distinct pamphlet on Mr. Toplady. Surely wisdom will die with him! I believe we can easily get his other tract, which it would be well to sift to the very foundation, in order to stop the mouth of that vain boaster. (13:45)
Apparently, something was brewing. Now, considering the opposition between Wesley and Toplady, one would have certainly expected Wesley to make an attempt at refuting a book entitled Absolute Predestination. But what came next was beyond belief. In March of 1770, a tract was quietly circulated among the Wesleyan Methodists, bearing the title The Doctrine Of Absolute Predestination Stated And Asserted By The Reverend Mr. A— T—.(14:190) Notice that the initials in the title of this tract are not Wesley’s, but those of Augustus Toplady. The “Advertisement” reads:
It is granted that the ensuing tract is, in good measure, a translation. Nevertheless, considering the unparalleled modesty and self-diffidence of the young translator, and the tenderness wherewith he treats his opponents, it may well pass for an original.
1. When all the transactions of providence and grace are wound up in the last day, he (Christ) will then properly sit as judge, and openly publish, and solemnly ratify, if I may so say, his everlasting decrees, by receiving the elect, body and soul into glory: and by passing sentence on the non-elect (not for having done what they could not help, but) for their wilful ignorance of divine things and their obstinate unbelief; for their omissions of moral duty, and for their repeated iniquities and transgressions; Doctrine Of Absolute Predestination
2.In the last day Christ will sit as Judge and openly publish and solemnly ratify his everlasting decrees, by receiving the elect into glory, and by passing sentence on the non-elect (not for having done what they could not help, but) for their wilful ignorance of divine things and their obstinate unbelief; for their omissions of moral duty, and for their repeated iniquities and transgressions which they could not help. Wesley’s Abridgement, p.9
The final paragraph of this abridgement reads:
The sum of all is this: One in twenty (suppose) of mankind are elected; nineteen in twenty are reprobated. The elect shall be saved, do what they will: the reprobate shall be damned, do what they can. Reader, believe this, or be damned. Witness my hand, A– T–.
Again, the initials are those of Augustus Toplady, but the name of John Wesley or Walter Sellon does not appear anywhere within it. This despicable tactic is, if anything, worse than plagiarism or rumor-mongering. It is putting words into Toplady’s mouth, words that he certainly would never have uttered himself. Toplady wrote a scathing reply, dated March 26, 1770, entitled A Letter To The Rev. Mr. John Wesley Relative To His Pretended Abridgement Of Zanchius On Predestination2.
Whether my view of the doctrine itself be, in fact, right or wrong is no part of the present enquiry: the question is, have you quoted me fairly? Blush, Mr. Wesley, if you are capable of blushing. For once publicly acknowledge yourself to have acted criminally: unless, to use your own words on another occasion, “shame and you have shook hands and parted.”
In almost any other case, a similar forgery would transmit the criminal to Virginia or Maryland, if not to Tyburn. If such an opponent can be deemed an honest man, where shall we find a knave? –What would you think of me, were I infamous enough to abridge any treatise of yours, sprinkle it with interpolations, and conclude it thus: Reader, buy this book, or be damned, Witness my hand, John Wesley? 3
You have obliquely given me a sneering lecture upon “modesty, self-diffidence,and tenderness” to opponents: and it must be owned, that the lesson comes with a peculiar grace and quite in character from you. The words sound well: but, like many other prescribers, you say and do not. Go now, sir, and dazzle the credulous with your mock victory over the supposed reprobation of “nineteen in twenty.” Go on to chalk hideous figures on your wainscot; and enjoy the glorious triumph of battering your knuckles in fighting them. But father no more of your hideous figures on me. Do not dress up scare-crows of your own, and then affect to run away from them as mine. I do not expect to be treated by Mr. John Wesley with the candour of a gentleman, or the meekness of a Christian; but I wish him, for his reputation’s sake, to write and act with the honesty of a heathen. 4
In January of 1771, the letter was republished with an introduction that contained the following:
Nine months are now elapsed since the first publication of this letter; in all which time Mr. W. has neither apologized for the misdemeanor which occasioned his hearing from me in this public manner, nor attempted to answer the charges entered against him. Judging, probably, that the former would be too condescending in one who has erected himself into the leader of a sect, and that the latter would prove rather too difficult a task, and involve him in a subsequent train of fresh detections, he has prudently omitted both. …. The reason is obvious. Mr. W. is a red-hot Arminian: and the sagacious doctors can discern, with half an eye, that Arminianism lies within a bowshot of Socinianism and Deism. 5
In March of 1771, Wesley published a revision of his collected works, with a Preface that contained the following incredible statement:
In revising what I had wrote on so many various subjects and occasions, and for so long a course of years, I found cause for not only literal or verbal corrections, but frequently for correcting the sense also. I am the more concerned to do this, because none but myself has a right to do it. (1:iii, Preface To The Third Edition)
In August of 1771, Wesley finally responded to Toplady’s Letter with a tract entitled The Consequence Proved, which began with these words:
Mr. Toplady, a young, bold man, lately published a pamphlet, an extract from which was soon after printed, concluding with these words:– “The sum of all is this: One in twenty, suppose, of mankind are elected; nineteen in twenty are reprobated. The elect shall be saved, do what they will: The reprobate shall be damned, do what they can.” A great outcry has been raised on that account, as though this was not a fair state of the case; and it has been vehemently affirmed, that no such consequence follows from the doctrine of absolute predestination.
I calmly affirm, it is a fair state of the case; this consequence does naturally and necessarily follow from the doctrine of absolute predestination as here stated and defended by bold Mr. Augustus Toplady. (10:370, The Consequence Proved)
Several points should be made about these paragraphs. Notice first, that Wesley made no attempt to deny his involvement in the production of this pamphlet. Secondly, observe that in his quote of the final paragraph, Wesley has entirely omitted the phrases “Reader, believe this or be damned”, and “Witness my hand, A– T–.” Thirdly, notice that he has entirely sidestepped the issue of whether he had a right to abridge Toplady’s translation of Zanchius. Toplady had never insisted that “this was not a fair state of the case.” Rather, he had said, “Whether my view of the doctrine itself be, in fact, right or wrong is no part of the present enquiry: the question is, have you quoted me fairly?” And lastly, let us also notice that it happens to be gloriously true that “The elect shall be saved, do what they will:” while “The reprobate shall be damned, do what they can.” The elect shall be saved no matter how worthless and defiled their good works are, while the reprobate shall certainly be damned, no matter how much they sin (for that is all they can do). This, of course, isn’t quite what Wesley had in mind.
Presumably, Wesley meant that a belief in predestination naturally produces a fatalistic Antinomianism, causing people who fancy themselves elect to live dissolute lives, believing that it makes no difference to their election. Further, he apparently meant that a belief in predestination discourages those who fancy themselves reprobate from repentance. There is also the unspoken charge that Toplady thought he knew the number of the elect and the number of the reprobate. Then Wesley went on to say that, on the basis of Calvinism, sin could not exist, and God could not judge the world:
Mr. Toplady says, “God has a positive will to destroy the reprobate for their sins.” (Chap. 1) For their sins! How can that be? I positively assert, that (on this scheme) they have no sins at all. They never had; they can have none. For it cannot be a sin in a spark to rise, or in a stone to fall. And the spark of the stone is not more necessarily determined either to rise or to fall, than the man is to sin …. God himself did “predestinate them to fill up the measure of their iniquities;” …. So, “God decreed the Jews to be the crucifiers of Christ, and Judas to betray him.” (Chap. 4.) Whose fault was it then? You plainly say, It was not his fault, but God’s. For what was Judas, or ten thousand reprobates besides? Could they resist his decree? (10:372, The Consequence Proved)
How then can the Judge of all the earth consign them to everlasting fire, for what was in effect his own act and deed? I apprehend, then, this is no fallacious objection, byt a solid and weighty one; and defy any man living, who asserts the unconditional decree of reprobation or preterition (just the same in effect,) to reconcile this with the scriptural doctrine fo 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, The Consequence Proved)
These accusations are serious, and shall be dealt with in turn.
The charge of Antinomianism is one that has been leveled against salvation by the grace of God even since the days of Paul the Apostle (Rom 3:8). Modern predestinarians would do well not to panic when such an accusation arises, let alone concede the argument; instead they should take a lesson from Paul:
Rom 3:31 Then do we make law of no effect through faith? Let it not be! But we establish the law (emph. mine – CA).
The doctrine of predestination doesn’t encourage lawlessness, it makes obedience to the law possible! A belief in the doctrine of predestination allows a saint to seek to please God out of gratitude for what he has already done in the person of Jesus Christ, and confidence that God himself will complete the work, all based on the certainty of eternal election. Just as it gives Christians assurance that our efforts in evangelism will be successful (no matter what the outward appearance), so it provides for us a basis for true repentance, obedience, and good works.
We have already seen that Wesley’s Perfectionism produces Antinomianism. But the foundation of Perfectionism is the Arminian doctrine of Free Will. The following quote, cited by Augustus Toplady, shows us the that the true foundation of Antinomianism is, not Unconditional Election, but Free Will:
“This … was the refuge and χρεσφφυδετοον of that grand propagator of Arminianism, Mr. Thompson [one of the translators of the 1611 KJV — CA]. When he was in a fit of intemperance, if any one reminded him of the wrath of God threatened against such courses, he would answer, I am a child of the devil to-day; but I have free-will; and to morrow I will make myself a child of God.” Hickman’s Animadv. on Heylin, p.91, and 227.
Free-Will, in exalting Man above God, is the very essence of Antinomianism, and careless living. It encourages independence from God, and therefore causes Man to sit in judgement over God, reject any Scripture which Man doesn’t happen to like, speak peace to those who also believe in Free Will, and persecute those who don’t.
Toplady responded to The Consequence Proved with a public letter entitled More Work For Mr. John Wesley:
The point of enquiry, then is, Whether the elect themselves can be ultimately saved without being previously sanctified by inherent grace, and, (if adult) without evidencing that sanctification (according as ability and opportunity are given), by walking in the way of God’s commandments. …. The elect could no more be saved without personal holiness than they could be saved without personal existence. And why? because God’s own decree secures the means as well as the end, and accomplishes the end by the means. The same gratuitous predestination which ordained the existence of the elect as men ordained their purification as saints: and they were ordained to both, in order to their being finally and completely saved in Jesus Christ with eternal glory. …. God resolved that Hezekiah should live fifteen years longer than Hezekiah expected. Hezekiah might therefore, according to Mr. Wesley’s plan have argued thus: “God has promised me fifteen years of life to come. Ergo, Live I shall, do what I will: die I shall not, do what I can. I will therefore neither eat, drink, nor sleep. Nay, I will tie a millstone round my neck and throw myself headlong into the sea, from the highest precipice I can find.” I answer, No. For it was as much comprised in God’s decree that Hezekiah should eat, drink, and sleep, during those fifteen years; and that he should not jump into the sea with a millstone about his neck; as that fifteen years should be added to his life. 6
In response to the charge that “the reprobate shall be damned, do what they can”, Toplady wrote:
… John offers a query: “Can they avoid it” [i.e. can the reprobate avoid punishment] “by any thing they do?” Let me also put a query to the querist: can you prove that any one of them ever did what he could to avoid it? If this cannot be proved, it does not follow that “the reprobate shall be damned, do what they can.”7
Wesley was proceeding from the assumption that Man has a Free Will, and can repent any time he feels like it. But these verses teach otherwise:
John 1:13 who were born not of bloods, nor of [the] will of [the] flesh, nor of [the] will of man, but [were born] of God. [emph. mine — CA]
Acts 5:31 This One God [has] exalted [as] a Ruler and Savior to His right [hand], to give to Israel repentance and remission of sins. [emph. mine — CA]
Philippians 1:29 because it was granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf. [emph. mine — CA]
That God does not give justifying faith to all is no excuse for those who continue in sin. No one is discouraged from repentance on the basis of their reprobation, just as no one is called to repentance on the basis of their election. Both of these assertions are really caricatures of biblical predestination. They are both false because, just as we must not approach the Father through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, so we must not approach the Father through the electing work of the Father himself. Rather, we are called to approach the Father through the atoning work of the Son.(Jn 14:6) No sinner should ever be discouraged from seeking the Lord for fear he might not be elect. Let that sinner look to the Crucifixion, not Election, to be saved. (Jn 12:32)
We have already examined the accusation that Predestination eliminates the accountability of Man. But here, Wesley asserts further that there can be no Final Judgment. Toplady responds:
For absolute predestination is the very thing that renders the future judgment certain: God hath appointed [εστησεν , hath fixed] a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained [ωρισεν , decreed:] Acts xvii. 31. –Nay, says Mr. John, “It requires more pains than all the men upon earth and all the devils in hell will ever be able to take:” viz. to reconcile the doctrine of reprobation with the doctrine of a judgment day. Be not quite so fiery, meek Mr. John. It might perhaps be for your interest … to find that reprobates cannot be judged. But feed not yourself with such delusive hope. I have already shewn that even the most flagrant sinners sin voluntarily, notwithstanding the inevitable accomplishment of God’s effective and permissive decrees. Now they who sin voluntarily are accountable: and accountable sinners are judicable: and if judicable, they are punishable. 8
Lastly there is the desperate accusation that Toplady could determine the number of elect and the number of reprobate all by himself. In his A Letter To The Rev. Mr. John Wesley ,Toplady had already written:
Let me likewise ask you when or where I ever presumed to ascertain the number of God’s elect? Point out the treatise and the page, wherein I assert that only “One in twenty of mankind are elected.” The book of life is not in your keeping, nor in mine. The Lord, and the Lord only, knoweth them that are his. He alone who telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names, calleth also his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out, first from a state of sin into a state of grace, and then into the state of glory. Yet, … it is but too certain that in the Scriptures are such awful passages as these: Broad is the way and wide is the gate which leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: while on the other hand, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few therebe that find it”. — “Many are called, but few chosen.” –“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” — “There is a remnant, according to the election ofgrace”. Declarations of this tremendous import, instead of furnishing you with fuel for contention, and setting you on a presumptuous and fruitless calculation of the number that shall be saved or lost, should rather bring you on your knees before God, with your hand upon your breast and this cry in your lips: “Search me, O Lord, and try me; prove me also and examine my thoughts. Shew me to which class I belong. Give me solid proof that my name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, by making it clear to me that I am in the faith.9
Now he adds:
In his printed letter to the late truly reverend and amiable Mr. Hervey, he charged that incomparable man, and the Calvinistic party in general, with holding the reprobation of “nine out of ten (See Wesley’s Preservative, p.235). In March 1770, we were charged with holding as above, that “nineteen in twenty are reprobated (See Wesley’s pretended Abridgment of Zanchius, p. 12.).” In February 1771, we were charged with holding the reprobation of “forty-nine out of fifty (See a Scurrilous Letter, signed John Wesley, in Lloyd’s Evening Post, for Friday, March 1, 1771.).” And now, about five months after, the glass is sunk 30 degrees lower, and in “The Consequence Proved” stands again at “nineteen out of twenty.” Next spring I suppose it will rise to ninety-nine out of a hundred.10
No predestinarian (so far as I am aware) has ever attempted to calculate the exact number of the elect; or the reprobate either, for that matter. This is simply a straw-man. Yet Wesley was so enamored with this straw-predestinarian that he wrote, in reference to the “The Gospel Magazine” (edited by Wm. Gadsby):
[It] intended to show, that God is not loving to every man; that his mercy is not over all his works; and, consequently, that Christ did not die for all, but for one in ten, for the elect only.
This comfortable doctrine, the sum of which, is, God before the foundation of the world, absolutely and irrevocably decreed, that “some men shall be saved, do what they will; and the rest damned, do what they can.” (14:279, General Preface to The Arminian Magazine: …1778-1791)
In 1778, Wesley published A Letter To The Rev. Mr. Thomas Maxfield, dated February 14. It ended with the following astounding question:
Bitterness and wrath, yea, low, base, virulent invective, both Mr. Richard and Mr. Rowland Hill (as well as Mr. Toplady) have poured out upon me, in great abundance. But where have I, in one single instance, returned them railing for railing? (11:483)
Later in 1778, Augustus Toplady became severely ill, and did not expect to live long. At this time, a rumor circulated that he had died in a delirium, recanting his Calvinism, and requesting to see John Wesley. On Sunday, June 14, to the great surprise of his congregation, Toplady appeared, ascended the pulpit, and was able to speak a few words. His testimony was printed a week later, under the title The Rev. Mr. Toplady’s Dying Avowal of his Religious Sentiments.
“Whereas, some time since, a wicked, scandalous and false report was diffused in various parts of this kingdom, by the followers of Mr. John Wesley; purporting, that I have changed some of my religious sentiments, especially such of them as relate more immediately to the doctrines of grace, I thought it my indispensible duty, on the Sunday after I received this information, which was the 13th of June last, publicly to declare myself … Now, I do publicly aver, that I have not, nor ever had, any such intention or desire; and that I most sincerely hope my last hours will be much better employed than in conversing with such a man. To which I added “so certain am I, of all that I have ever written, that were I sitting up in my dying bed with a pen and ink in my hand, and all the religious and controversial writings I ever published (more especially those relating to Mr. John Wesley, and the Arminian controversy), whether respecting facts or doctrines, could at once be displayed to my view,I should not strike out a single line relative to him or them.11
He went on to say:
Toplady died August 11th, 1778. Very soon after this a second rumor was circulated that he had “died in black despair, uttering the most horrible blasphemies;”. Richard Hill wrote a public letter to Wesley:
Nay, it was even positively alleged, that you told Mr. Thomas Robinson of Hilderthorpe, near Bridlington, in Yorkshire, and the Rev. Mr. Greaves, curate to Mr. Fletcher of Madeley, that the account published concerning Mr. Toplady’s death was a gross imposition on the public; for that he died in black despair, uttering the most horrible blasphemies; and that none of his friends were permitted to see him. …. Now, sir, as many living, respectable witnesses can testify that Mr. Toplady departed this life in full triumph of faith, … you are earnestly requested, for the satisfaction of your friends, thus publicly to assure the world, that you never advanced any thing of this sort to Mr. Robinson, Mr. Greaves, or to any other person; or else that you will produce your authority for your assertions; 13
A few months later, this letter was republished with a second letter to the same effect, and a list of names of people who had been present with Toplady at the time of his death. They were all “willing to testify upon oath, if required, that all the particulars published to the world in the late Memoirs, relative to the illness and death of the late Rev. Augustus Montague Toplady are strictly true;” This list included Toplady’s doctor and nurse. Here was a golden opportunity for Wesley to publicly clear himself from the charge of violating the Ninth Commandment, yet he never seems to have answered these letters.
November 13, 2011
VII. Eschatology – The Doctrine of the Last Things
As with baptism, and other matters of church government, the Christian Confession of Faith does not have much to say about the doctrine of the end times. This is another matter where Christians can disagree, because this doctrine has little bearing on the doctrine of the Gospel. Here is what the Confession does have to say on the matter:
Jesus Christ will return from Heaven as He promised, the dead will be resurrected, and the whole world will be judged, all at God’s appointed time. [Psa 96:13; Dan 7:9-14; 12:1-2; Mat 16:27; 25:31-46; Mar 4:22; 13:24-27; Joh 5:28-29; Act 1:11; 17:31; 24:15; 1Co 15:23-25; 2Co 5:10; 1Th 4:15-17; 2Th 1:7-10; 2Ti 4:1; Heb 9:27-28; 2Pe 3:10-12; Rev 1:7-8; 20:11-13]1
The Confession then goes on to summarize the biblical teaching about Heaven and Hell.
All for whom Jesus Christ did not die will live eternally in the pit of Hell and will be eternally tormented for their sins. Souls who are tormented in the next life will never suffer enough to even begin to pay for as much as one sin. Scripture rejects the lie that souls in Hell cease to exist or cease to be tormented, as this is a denial that offending the infinitely holy God is an infinite crime deserving of an infinite punishment. Scripture also rejects the lie of Purgatory as well as the lie that those who perish denying the doctrines of the gospel will finally accept them in heaven. [Deu 32:22,41; Psa 9:17; Pro 27:20; Isa 33:14; Dan 12:2; Mat 3:12; 5:22; 7:21-23; 10:28; 11:22-24; 13:41-42; 25:30,46; Mar 9:42-48; Luk 16:23-24,26; Joh 3:36; 10:11,26; 12:48; Rom 2:5-9; 6:23; Gal 3:10; 2Th 1:5-9; Heb 10:26-27; 2Pe 3:7; Jud 6-7; Rev 14:9-11; 19:2-3; 20:14-15]
All for whom Jesus Christ died will live eternally in Heaven in perfect fellowship with God, as He promised them. The final state of the Church will be eternal glory with her King and Husband. He will wipe every tear from her eyes and will entirely remove all indwelling sin from her. She will worship Him in the presence of His visible glory for all eternity. [Psa 49:15; 116:8; Isa 25:8; Dan 12:2; Mat 19:29; 25:34,46; Luk 18:29-30; Joh 3:15-16; 3:36; 4:14; 6:40,47, 54; 10:28; 14:2-3; 17:2-3; Rom 2:7; 6:22-23; 8:30; 1Co 15:53-54; Gal 6:8; Phi 3:20-21; Col 3:4; Tit 1:2; 2:13; 3:7; 1Pe 1:4; 2Pe 3:13; 1Jo 2:25,28; 3:2; Rev 14:1-5; 21:2-4,22-27; 22:1-5]2
It must be admitted that Wesley had a sound view of Heaven and Hell3. And despite believing in an intermediate state for departed souls4, he rejected the doctrine of purgatory (ie. that departed souls can atone for sin in the next life by their suffering5).
But at this point there is a major discrepancy in Wesley’s thinking. It has already been shown that he believed that the saints were not preserved from falling away in this present life by God. So how does it happen that they are then preserved from falling away when they are in Heaven? After all, to use Wesley’s own words:
Were human liberty taken away, men would be as incapable of virtue as stones. Therefore, (with reverence [sic] be it spoken,) the Almighty himself cannot do this thing. (6:318, Sermon 67 On Divine Providence)
So, according to Wesley’s principles, if God took away their liberty, men could not be virtuous even in Heaven. And if their liberty remains, then is it possible for a person to sin in Heaven? If yes, then what happens to that person when he sins? Is he sent immediately and irrevocably to Hell?
But if not, then what becomes of the person’s all-important liberty? Is it taken away? Is it then possible for him to do anything virtuous (in Wesley’s terms)?
And what of those who are in Hell? Is their liberty taken away? If yes, then the full force of Wesley’s arguments against predestination come down against him:
Men are as free in believing or not believing as if he [God] did not know it at all. Indeed, if man were not free, he could not be held accountable …. (6:227, Sermon 58 On Predestination)
As he has called us to holiness, he is undoubtedly willing as well as able, to work this holiness in us. For he cannot mock his helpless creatures, calling us to receive what he never intends to give. (6:416, Sermon 76 On Perfection)
But what if the person’s all-important liberty is not taken away in Hell? What if someone in Hell sincerely repents and believes the Gospel he had scorned in life
The God of love is willing to save all the souls that he has made. This he has proclaimed to them in his word, together with the terms of salvation revealed by the Son of his love, who gave his own life that they that believe in him might have everlasting life. And for these he has prepared a kingdom from the foundation of the world. But he will not force them to accept of it; he leaves them in the hands of their own counsel; (7:317, Sermon 120 The Wedding Garment, Mar. 26 1790)
Wesley might answer that noone in Hell will sincerely repent. But how can he know that? Of all the millions and millions of souls in Hell, might there not at least be a few that sincerely repented? If nothing in this life could convince a man to sincerely repent of his sins, surely the fires of Hell would do the trick. And after all, doesn’t God (according to Wesley) love them and long for their salvation? How can he leave them screaming in the torments of Hell, when he so desperately wants to save them?
The very thought of this eternal chaos, souls in Hell making themselves fit for Heaven, and souls in Heaven making themselves fit for Hell, ought to convince us, once and for all, of the folly of placing Man’s need to be saved above God’s need to be glorified. It is God who preserves his elect from falling away from him, and it is God who hardens the reprobate in their sins. It is God who is glorified in the salvation of his people, and it is God who is glorified in the damnation of his enemies.
The Judgement Day & Future Life
Some of Wesley’s views regarding the afterlife can only be described as silly. For instance, he held that the day of judgement would last a thousand years, if not many thousands:
And from this very expression [2 Pet 3:8], some of the ancient Fathers drew the inference, that what is commonly called the day of judgment would be indeed a thousand years: And it seems they did not go beyond the truth; nay probably they did not come up to it. For if we consider the number of persons who are to be judged, and of actions which are to be inquired into, it does not appear, that a thousand years will suffice for the transactions of that day; so that it may not improbably comprise several thousand years. (5:174, Sermon 15 The Great Assize)
Even more bizarre is the view that there would be an afterlife for animals. In his sermon The General Deliverance, he begins by speculating about the condition of animals before the Fall, then goes on to describe the effect of the Fall upon their condition:
If the Creator and Father of every living thing is rich in mercy towards all; if he does not overlook or despise any of the works of his own hands; if he wills even the meanest of them to be happy, according to their degree; how comes it to pass, that such a complication of evils oppresses, yea overwhelms them? …. And as a loving obedience to God was the perfection of man, so a loving obedience to man was the perfection of brutes. And as long as they continued in this, they were happy after their kind; happy in the right state and the right use of their respective faculties. Yea, and so long they had some shadowy resemblance of even moral goodness. For they had gratitude to man for benefits received, and a reverence for him. They had likewise a kind of benevolence to each other. …. Perhaps insects and worms had then as much understanding as the most intelligent brutes have now. …. As man is deprived of his perfection, his loving obedience to God; so brutes are deprived of their perfection, their loving obedience to man.” (6:242-6, Sermon 60 The General Deliverance, emph. in orig.).
Then, he further speculates about the effect of the resurrection on the “brute creation”:
But will “the creature,” will even the brute creation, always remain in this deplorable condition? …. As a recompence for what they once suffered, while under the “bondage of corruption,” when God has “renewed the face of the earth,” and their corruptible body has put on incorruption, thy shall enjoy happiness suited to their state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end. But though I doubt not that the Father of All has a tender regard for even his lowest creatures, and that, in consequince of this, he will make them large amends for all they suffer while under their present bondage; …. May I be permitted to mention here a conjecture concerning the brute creation? What if it should then please the all-wise, all-greacious Creator to raise them higher in the scale of beings? What, if it should please him, when he makes us “equal to angels,” to make them what we are now, — creatures capable of God; capable of knowing and loving and enjoying the Author of their being? …. something better remains after death for these poor creatures also;” (6:248-51 , Sermon 60 The General Deliverance)
But Wesley did not hold these views merely for comic relief. He is in fact tying up some loose ends of his theology. As we have seen, Wesley had a wicked and idolatrous view of God. He worshiped a God after his own image. As such, Wesley’s “God” was responsible to treat all people the way Wesley himself was responsible to treat them — with fairness and equality. Therefore, Wesley’s “God” could not be allowed to simply divide the whole world into two classes and summarily pass sentence on half of them (Mt 25:32-3); he was responsible to try them all separately, and hear each case individually.
Further, Wesley’s “God” was not allowed to simply do as he will with the creatures he has made. He is even responsible to treat the animals fairly. In regard to the doctrine of Animal Resurrection, Wesley went on to say:
May it not answer another end; namely, furnish us with a full answer to a plausible objection against the justice of God, in suffering numberless creatures that never had sinned to be so severely punished? (6:251 , Sermon 60 The General Deliverance, emph. mine)
Notice the word “plausible”! How is it possible that there could be a plausible objection to the justice of God?!?! Only if Wesley’s God is not the God of Holy Scripture!!
Isa 45:6-7 …that they may know from the rising of the sun, and to the sunset, that [there is] none besides Me; I [am] Jehovah, and there is none else; forming light, and creating darkness; making peace, and creating evil.
Rom 9:20-21 Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the [One] forming [it], Why did You make me like this? Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, …?
Whatever God does is just, by virtue of the fact that it is God who does it. There is no such thing as a “plausible objection” against the justice of God, because this presupposes that there is a standard of right and wrong, independent, and even superior, to God himself. But on the contrary, the will of God is itself the standard of right and wrong. Wesley’s view of God was, therefore, utterly blasphemous.
1Christian Confession of FaithVII.A.; http://www.outsidethecamp.org/ccfvii.htm
2Christian Confession of FaithVII..B & C.; http://www.outsidethecamp.org/ccfvii.htm
3See 5:181, Sermon 15, The Great Assize; 6:193, Sermon 54, On Eternity; 7:323, Sermon 121, Human Life A Dream; Notes Rev 21:4, in loc; also 7:247, Sermon 112, Dives And Lazarus; Notes Luke 16:25, in loc.
November 6, 2011
VI. Ecclesiology – The Doctrine of the Church
Before getting into Wesley’s view of the doctrine of the Church, let’s look at what the Christian Confession of Faith has to say about it:
The Church is an entity created by God by the power of the gospel with Jesus Christ as her head and husband, to the praise of the glory of His grace. Wherever the true Church is found, the true gospel is always found. [Psa 2:6; 46:4-5; 48:1-2,11-13; 50:2; 99:2; 102:13-21; 111:1; 118:22; Isa 2:3; 28:16; 33:5-6; 35:8-10; 52:7; 62:12; Mat 16:18; Act 20:28; Rom 12:4-5; 1Co 12:24,27; Eph 1:6,13; 2:20-22; 5:23-32; Col 1:18; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1; 1Ti 3:15; Tit 1:9; 2:15; Jam 1:21; Rev 21:12]
It is the duty of believers to assemble for worship and fellowship. [Mat 18:20; Act 2:42; Heb 10:24-25]
worship in the assembly must be conducted decently and in order, in spirit and truth, according to the commands of Scripture. [2Ch 29:30; Psa 22:22; 35:18; 89:7; 107:31-32; 149:1; Joh 4:23-24; 1Co 11:1-12:31; 14:33-40; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; 1Ti 2:1-2,8-12]1
In this section, the Confession says that the Church is created by God through the power of the Gospel. Presumably there will always be members of churches who do not truly believe the Gospel, but in every true church the Gospel will be present. Without the Gospel there is no church.
Then the Confession goes on to describe the duty of church members to “assemble for worship and fellowship”. Here the Confession refers to the following verses:
Act 2: (42) And they were continuing steadfastly in the doctrine of the apostles, and in fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Heb 10: (24) And let us consider one another, to incitement of love and of good works, (25) not forsaking the assembling together of ourselves, as [is the] custom of some, but exhorting, and by so much more as you see the Day drawing near.
For believers, the value of worship and fellowship is that it strengthens them in the “doctrine of the apostles” and incites them to “love and good works”. Believer’s need to hear the regular preaching of the Gospel, and they need each other’s encouragement to remain strong in the faith.
Next, the Confession teaches that the worship of the Church should be conducted “decently and in order” (1Co 14:40). Confusion in the worship of God would not lead to encouragement of the people of God, but only to more confusion (1Co 14:33).
Notice, lastly, that the Confession is not here concerned with the specifics of worship, but only with the fact that worship and fellowship are commanded by Scripture. Although the specifics of worship can certainly be deduced from Scripture, this is a matter over which Christians can disagree. Therefore, the Confession is not dogmatic about the issue. This may come as a surprise to some, that the Confession allows for disagreement between Christians on any issue, but it must be remembered that the worship of God, as important as it is, is not on the same level of importance as, for example, the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ. True Christians cannot disagree on whether Jesus is God in the flesh, but they can disagree on the specifics of how God is to be worshiped.
We have already discussed Wesley’s deficient view of sin. Corresponding to this, Wesley had a thoroughly inadequate view of personal accountability, and church discipline. As the Methodists increased in numbers, he organized them into ‘Societies’, and instructed them to “meet once a week, at the least.” (8:272-3, Rules Of The Band Societies, Dec. 25, 1738) His theory of personal accountability seemed to be that continual public confession of sin would discourage further sin. This was heavily promoted among the Methodists by Wesley’s ‘Band Societies.’
4. To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt, since our last meeting. …. 6. To desire some person among us to speak his own state,and then to ask the rest, in order, as many searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.
Some of the questions proposed to every one before he is admitted …. 5. Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you? 6. Do you desire to be told of all your faults? …. 9. Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you? …. Any of the preceding questions may be asked as often as occasion occurs; the four following at every meeting: — 1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting? 2. What temptations have you met with? (8:272-3, Rules Of The Band Societies, Dec. 25, 1738)
This practice is not only unbiblical, it is anti-biblical (Pro 11:13; Mt 6:5-6, 16-18; Eph 5:3). Rather than strengthening his people against sin in a biblical way, Wesley chose a way that seems right to a man … but in reality is only pleasing to the flesh, by giving the flesh an opportunity to boast of its sins, all with an appearance of humility and spirituality. Again, Wesley could not see the deceitfulness of sin, because he had a deficient view of the true nature of sin. He equated sin with immorality; but the two are not equal. Sin includes immorality, but it also includes religious pride, and self-righteousness (Lk 18:11, Rom 2:21, Jude 4). All the warnings in the world won’t dissuade the flesh from committing these sins. In fact, hanging them out for all the world to see, only encourages the flesh to more such sin. Correctly, Augustus Toplady labeled the Band Societies “that gossiping club.” This is clearly a violation of the command to conduct the worship of God “decently and in order” (1Co 14:40).
As with the doctrine of worship, the Confession is silent on the mode of baptism. This is another issue where Christians can disagree. It is not so fundamental to the Gospel as, say, the Incarnation. What Christians cannot disagree on, of course, is the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which we have already examined as part of Wesley’s view of the nature of Man.
But it seems that Wesley, although professing to be a paedo-baptist, re-baptized more than one adult. In his Letter To The Rev. Mr. John Wesley, Augustus Toplady offers the following:
I could point out by name more that one who have undergone from his hand a reiteration of that sacred ceremony [baptism-CA]. …. Mrs. L.S. now living in Southwark, was baptized in a bathing-tub, in a cellar, by Mr. John Wesley; who at the time, held her down so very long under water, while he deliberately pronounced the words of the administration, that some friends of her’s who were present screamed out, thinking she was actually drowned: and she herself was so far gone, that she began to grow insensible, and was lifted out of the water but just time enough to save her life. — Yet this is the man who, in the writings which he has published to the world, professes to hold infant baptism, and that by sprinkling, not by immersion.
This story was repeated by Richard Hill, in his Review Of All The Doctrines Taught By Mr. Wesley. In his reply, Wesley denied any knowledge of the incident:
[Hill:] “When Mr. W. baptized Mrs. L.S., he held her so long under water, that her friends screamed out, thinking she had been drowned.”
[Wesley:] When? Where? I never heard of it before. (10:394, Remarks On Mr. Hills ‘Review’;Sept. 9, 1772)
But when Richard Hill repeated the story in his Farrago Double Distilled, Wesley replied:
As to the story of half drowning Mrs. L.S., let her aver it to my face, and I shall say more. (10:437, Remarks On Mr. Hill’s ‘Farrago Double Distilled’, Mar. 14, 1773)
Although still not admitting to the incident, Wesley is not as adamant in his denial as before. Then Toplady published a short article entitled A Word Concerning The Bathing-Tub Baptism:
Mr. John Wesley, having thought it convenient, in his remarks on Mr. Hill, to pretend absolute ignorance of the above mentioned operation, which he performed on Mrs. L.S. …; and the party herself, from whose own lips I had the account, having given me leave to publish her name on the occasion …; Be it known, that the person, who was the subject of ‘that blest bathing-bout’ is Mrs. Lydia Sheppard, now living in the borough of Southwark.
After this follows a more detailed account of the ‘blest bathing-bout’. Apparently Wesley never made a reply to this article, so it is impossible to ascertain his reasons for re-baptizing Lydia Sheppard. Did he believe that her original baptism had not regenerated her? Why did he immerse her, rather than sprinkle her as the Anglican Church would have required?
More than the actual re-baptism, what is interesting about this episode is the way Wesley handled the publication of it. First, he flatly denied any knowledge of it. Then when confronted with the facts, he hedged somewhat in his denial. Then, when confronted with more facts, he had no response. This is very revealing, and strongly implies that Wesley was lying in his first denial of the incident, but was too proud to confess the truth when he was finally caught in his lie.
The Christian Confession of Faith is also silent on the topic of church government. Here again, this topic is one on which Christians can disagree, because it is not a doctrine that is fundamental to the Gospel. For this reason, I do not wish to critique the Episcopalian method of church government that Wesley first adhered to, nor the Connectionalism which he later founded. But on at least one occasion, Wesley flagrantly violated the model of church government he himself confessed to believe in.
Wesley was never ordained as a bishop in the Church of England. This meant that he did not have the authority to ordain ministers for his “Methodist Societies”. Apparently he desperately wanted to do so, because in A Letter To The Rev. Mr. John Wesley &c, Augustus Toplady gives us an account of how Wesley urged a man named Erasmus (who claimed to be a bishop, of all things, of the Greek Orthodox Church) to ordain some of the Methodist preachers. And in An Old Fox Tarred And Feathered, Toplady examines Wesley’s Calm Address To Our American Colonies, (11:80-90) and produces thirty-one paragraphs that are almost word for word transcriptions of a similar pamphlet by Dr. Samuel Johnson, entitled Taxation No Tyranny. As both of these pamphlets strongly condemned the American Revolution, Toplady surmises that Wesley’s motive for this plagiarism is the possibility of being named a bishop in America, after the end of the war (assuming that the British would win; the idea that the Americans might win was unthinkable in 1775).
That Wesley had such a low view of church authority and personal accountability should not surprise us, considering how low was his view of sin. If the sin nature is so weak that it may be eliminated from a man altogether, even while he is in the body, then compromising with sin isn’t such a big danger. Using less-than-honest methods is justifiable when noble goals are in view. Again, Wesley could not see the deceitfulness of sin, because he simply had a deficient view of the true nature of sin.
1Christian Confession of FaithVI.A-C.; http://www.outsidethecamp.org/ccfvi.htm
September 4, 2011
II. Theology Proper – The Doctrine of God
We have seen that Wesley’s Man-centered theology allowed for instruction from God outside of the Bible. Now it is time to examine how this Man-centered theology affected Wesley’s view of the most important subjects in the Bible.
First and foremost, the Bible is God’s revelation of himself to his people. The righteousness and glory of God is the very heart of the gospel (Isa 45:21, Rom 1:17). He shows his glory to his people, revealing to them that he is “a just God and a Savior.” The truth that he guides us into is an understanding of “the true [One] … his Son Jesus Christ.” (I Jn 5:20) This true knowledge of the true God is foundational to a true understanding of the Gospel. Here is what the Christian Confession of Faith has to say about the knowledge of himself that God reveals to his people:
God is an infinite being and therefore impossible for finite beings to
fully comprehend. [1Ki 8:27; Job 9:10; Isa 40:28; 46:9; Joh 1:3; Act
17:24-25; Rom 11:33-36]
However, God is not unknowable. He has purposed to glorify Himself
among His people by imparting the fear of God to them; that is, causing them
to understand His infinite glory, divine nature, and perfect attributes
through the Scriptures. God does not give a knowledge of Himself to some of
His regenerate people while withholding that knowledge from the rest, for
this would mean that God causes some of His regenerate people to attribute
their salvation to themselves, which can never be. [Exo 20:2-6; Psa 40:3;
50:15; Pro 1:7; 2:5; 9:10; Isa 29:23; 38:19; 43:1-13,21; 45:20-25; Mat
13:11-12,16; Joh 8:32; 16:8-11; 17:3,6-7; Rom 6:17-18; 9:23-26; 10:2-4; 2Co
4:3-6; Eph 1:17-19; Phi 3:8; Col 1:4-6; 1Jo 5:20]1
From these two sections we see that although God is infinite, “and therefore impossible for finite beings to fully comprehend,” he has chosen to reveal himself to his people for his own glory, and that this knowledge is common to all of his people. There may be degrees of understanding among God’s people, and they may or may not be able to articulate that knowledge which God has revealed; but they are never completely without a saving knowledge of “His infinite glory, divine nature, and perfect attributes”.
The Sovereignty of God
The Confession goes on to summarize the Bible’s teaching about God and his attributes:
God absolutely controls all actions and events; nothing at all happens
by chance or merely by His permission. All actions and events happen because
of His sovereign decree, including the sins of men and angels. Contrary to
the aspersions of the enemies of God, this doctrine does not attribute sin
to God; instead, it provides great comfort for believers. [Gen 50:20; Exo
4:21; 7:3; 9:12; Deu 2:30; 32:39; Jos 11:20; 1Sa 2:6-8,25; 2Sa 17:14; 2Ch
10:15; 11:4; 25:20; 36:22; Job 12:14-25; 23:13-14; 26:7-12; Psa 105:25;115:3; 135:5-7; Pro16:4,33; 21:1; Isa 40:23-26; 42:9; 43:13; 45:6-7;
46:9-11; Jer 18:6; 52:3; Eze 17:24; Hab 1:6,12; Joh 19:11; Act 2:23;
4:27-28; Eph 1:11; Rev 17:17]2
God is in full control of every event in his created world, including the thoughts and sinful actions of men (Pro 21:1, Act 4:27-28, Rev 17:17). This is the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, and it forms the basis of faith in the Gospel:
Because God sovereignly orders all things, He is able to keep all His
promises. Because God is a God of truth, He is faithful to keep all His
promises. [Deu 7:8-10; Jos 21:44-45; 23:14; 2Sa 23:3-5; Psa 89:24-37;
132:11; Isa 45:23; 46:9-11; 54:9-10; Jer 33:20-21,25-26; Act 13:32-33; Rom
15:8-9; 2Co 1:19-20; 1Th 5:24; Tit 1:1-3; Heb 6:13-20; 2Pe 3:9-13]3
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God is indispensable to the Gospel, because it assures the believer that God has the power to infallibly keep all of his promises. This is the true source of comfort and security for a believer, because it assures him that his final salvation is not dependent on his own varying decisions and imperfect obedience to the Law of God, but on God’s perfect ability to keep every single one of his promises (Jos 21:45, Jer 33:20, Eph 1:11).
But even though the sovereignty of God is indispensable to the Gospel, Wesley was more than willing to dispense with it. As we shall see, Wesley’s “Gospel” simply did not exist for the glory of God, but for the convenience of Man: Man was sick, Man needed some help, and God obligingly came to the rescue. Wesley attempted to make salvation dependent on the decisions of Man by removing the sure foundation of God’s sovereignty from the Gospel. Naturally, a God who is sovereign over all of his creation is totally incompatible with such a Man-centered “Gospel”, so another foundation had to be found. The new foundation that Wesley turned to as a replacement for the sovereignty of God, was human responsibility. Notice how, in the following quotes, Wesley cannot just jettison the doctrine of the sovereignty of God — he has to do so under the cover of magnifying the responsibility of Man:
The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility
It is worth noting here that the responsibility of Man is not destroyed by the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. So far from being destroyed by the sovereignty of God, the responsibility of Man is actually based on the sovereignty of God! This is explicitly taught by the Christian Confession of Faith:
Yet all men are responsible to obey the commands of God, because God, as the sovereign King of creation, has the right to command obedience from His creatures, regardless of their ability to obey. [Deu 10:16; Mat 12:13; Mat 28:18; Joh 11:43; Act 17:30-31; Rom 2:12-16; 2Th 1:8]4
The Scriptures teach that God is not only in full and absolute control of the universe, but that he is also infinitely holy, infinitely righteous, and infinitely good. Therefore God is himself the standard of right and wrong, and whatever he commands his creatures to do, they are morally obligated to obey. This is how God could command the Israelites to slaughter the Philistines (men, women, and children), without a violation of the 6th Commandment (Exo 20:13, Deu 7:2, 1Sa 15:13).
Since the sovereignty of God is the true basis for the responsibility of Man, anything that magnifies the sovereignty of God actually magnifies the responsibility of Man. Conversely, anything that degrades the sovereignty of God actually diminishes the responsibility of Man. It is a supreme irony of John Wesley’s theology that in seeking to exalt the responsibility of Man, he actually succeeded in undermining it, because he undermined the critical doctrine of the sovereignty of God in its pursuit (Jer 2:13). Not only did this have the effect of actually diminishing the responsibility of Man, it also became necessary for Wesley to teach that God is under definite moral obligations when dealing with his erring creatures:
Wesley believed that a doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty over the world would make it morally impossible for God to judge the world. For Wesley, this argument proceeded naturally from his belief that the foundation of the Gospel was human responsibility, and anything that supplanted that foundation (such as the sovereignty of God), would tend to detract from human responsibility, and consequently God’s justice and judgment of the world.
The only possible way God’s sovereignty would make it impossible for him to judge the world is if God somehow had a higher moral order imposed upon him. But the only way that could be possible is if a being higher than God had imposed such a moral order upon him; and then God would be unfit to be God, and unfit for worship. Indeed, the true object of worship ought to be that supposed higher being!
An argument similar to Wesley’s was raised against the Apostle Paul. Notice how he refutes it:
Rom 3: (5) But if our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God, what shall we say? [Is] God unrighteous who lays on wrath? I speak according to man. (6) Let it not be! Otherwise, how will God judge the world? (7) For if in my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I yet judged as a sinner? (8) And not (as we are wrongly accused, and as some report us to say), Let us do bad things so that good things may come, [the] judgment of whom is just.
Paul was accused of destroying human responsibility, because he preached salvation by grace apart from works. Ironically that accusation, like the one raised by Wesley, was cloaked in a seeming concern that exalting the sovereignty of God too much would undermine the responsibility of Man. I have already shown that the foundation of the Gospel is divine sovereignty, not human responsibility. Here, the Apostle shows us that not only is the sovereignty of God vital to the Gospel, but it is also vital to the responsibility of Man, and consequently, God’s ability to judge the world. Paul says that those who accused him of undermining Man’s responsibility were justly condemned (v 8), because they were preaching a “God” who is unrighteous (v. 5), and therefore could not judge the world (v. 6). Contrary to Wesley’s claim that God could not judge the world if he were sovereign over it, it is actually the truth that God cannot judge the world unless he is sovereign over it!
Notice how the objection that was raised against Paul cannot be raised against Wesley. Noone could ever accuse Wesley of over-emphasizing the glory of God, or undermining the responsibility of man. He was too busy exalting the responsibility of man over the glory of God, contrary to the example of the Apostle! In fact, as we shall see, Wesley will go on to raise this very same objection to the doctrine of unconditional election.
A “Gospel” which depends on a God who is not sovereign is uncertain, doubtful, and prone to failure; and the “Gospel” that Wesley proclaimed depended on a “God” who was not sovereign. Indeed, his “Gospel” depended on making Man sovereign over God, forcing God to wait patiently on the decree of Almighty Man to let God save him. Wesley’s “Gospel” was thus as uncertain, doubtful, and as prone to failure as the whims and decisions of Man.
Predestination: The Covenant
The doctrine that God is in sovereign control of all things in his creation, including the sinful thoughts and actions of men, implies that God has determined in advance who will be saved, and who will not be saved. And indeed, this is precisely what Scripture teaches, as summarized by the Christian Confession of Faith. However, it is important to note that predestination is not taught in the Bible as merely an abstract display of God’s power, but as a means for securing the salvation of the people whom God loves. This love which God has for his people, especially as they are considered as being under the authority of Jesus Christ, is expressed in the form of a covenant; first, a covenant made with Jesus himself, and second, a covenant made with God’s elect people under Jesus’ authority:
In eternity past, God the Father covenanted with God the Son, Jesus
Christ, to glorify Himself by saving a particular, elect people, and those
only, from the guilt and defilement of sin, by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. [Psa 89:19-37; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11-12; Luk 22:29; Joh 6:37-40; 10:29; 17:2,9; Gal 3:16-18; 2Ti 1:9]5
In covenanting with Jesus Christ, God the Father covenanted with all
the elect in Jesus Christ, to be their God and to reveal His divine love,
mercy, grace, and wisdom to them by saving them through the work of Jesus
Christ their Redeemer. [Gen 13:14-16; 17:4-8,19; Deu 4:35; 7:9; 2Sa 23:5;
Psa 65:4; 67:2; 105:8-10; 111:9; 132:11; Isa 43:10-12; 55:3-4; 61:6-9; Mat
13:11; Mat 24:22,24,31; Mar 13:20,22,27; Luk 1:68-75; 18:7; Joh 17:2-3; Act
13:48; Rom 8:28-30,33; 9:11-16,23; 11:26-27; Eph 1:4-14; Col 3:12; 2Th 2:13; 2Ti 2:10; Tit 1:1; Heb 6:13-14; 8:6-12; 1Pe 1:1; 2:9]6
This covenant, made with a specific set of people, who alone are the objects of God’s love, obviously destroys any notion of God hastening to the aid of all Mankind, then passively waiting for the result, longing for them to be “persuaded” to believe his Gospel. Wesley’s response to this doctrine, however, was not to refute it, but simply to ridicule it:
The questions Wesley has raised, above, are fully answered by the Scripture references printed to the right of his quote, as well as the Scripture references cited by the Confession, above.
Predestination: God’s Love for the World
Without a theory of particular, covenantal love as a foundation for the proclamation of the Gospel, Wesley substituted in its place a doctrine of universal love, and a universal salvific will in God:
The last two quotes, above, are especially important here, because they are taken from Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament, and refer to two verses that have traditionally been used to support a theory of God’s universal salvific will.
First is John 3:16, which reads “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone believing into Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Christian Confession of Faith explains these words as referring to “all men without distinction”, not “all men without exception”7
Wesley explains the words “all men” as referring to God’s love for “all men under heaven; even those that despise his love, and will for that cause finally perish”; that is, all men without exception. But the context does not support Wesley’s interpretation, because Jesus is there speaking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee (v. 1). At that time, the question being debated by the Rabbis was not whether all human beings without exception were the objects of God’s love, but whether any of the Gentiles were so loved by God. Most of the Rabbis were of the opinion that the Messiah’s mission would be to judge and destroy the nations of “the world”8. Jesus’ teaching that God’s love extended beyond the borders of Israel, to the nations of “the world”, likely came as a severe shock to this “teacher of Israel” (v.10). Indeed, so great was the hatred of the Jews for this doctrine that it became the occasion of the first persecution of Jesus by the Jews (Luk 4:25-28); but Paul asserts that this very doctrine is the “mystery of Christ” (Eph 3:4-6).
Notice how the word “world” is used in the following verses:
Luk 12: (30) For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need these things.
Joh 12: (19) Then the Pharisees said to themselves, Observe that you gain nothing. Behold, the world has gone after Him.
1Jo 5: (19) We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the evil.
In each of these verses, the word “world” cannot mean “all men without exception”. Clearly the only meaning that can be given in each verse is “all men without distinction”.
Similarly, 1Ti 2:4, which reads “who desires all men to be saved and to come to a full knowledge of truth.” Wesley explains the words “all men” as referring to God’s desire to save all men without exception, “Not a part only, much less the smallest part.”
Again, the Christian Confession of Faith explains these words as referring to “all men without distinction”, not “all men without exception”9. And again, the context shows what Paul means by the phrase “all men” in verse 1: “I exhort [that] petitions, prayers, supplications, [and] thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men….” Surely, Paul is not commanding that “petitions, prayers, supplications, [and] thanksgivings” be made on behalf of all men without exception, but on behalf of all men without distinction. This command would be especially relevant in a time when Christians were severely persecuted by the “kings and all the ones being in high position” (v. 2). The temptation for these Christians to refuse to pray for the rulers and magistrates who were persecuting them must have been strong. Therefore, Paul is commanding Christians to pray for all men without distinction (kings and commoners, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, etc.) because God has his elect scattered among all men without distinction.
Predestination: Unconditional Election
The doctrine of eternal, unconditional predestination clearly removes the preconditions of salvation from the hands of Man and places them exclusively in the hands of God. Knowing this, John Wesley passionately hated eternal predestination, and exchanged it for a theory of indeterminate, conditional election, and an indeterminate decree:
Wesley’s theory of an indeterminate decree sets forth a God who, before time began, looked forward through history, and saw who would believe and who would not. He then “predestined” those who would believe to eternal life, and those who would not to eternal death. This ingenious theory has a certain attraction to it, because it seems to make use of the scriptural doctrine of God’s foreknowledge. But note that the actual agent of salvation in this scheme is the sinner, not God. The absurdity of this theory can be set forth with a few simple illustrations.
First, consider the case of the Apostle Peter. It is certainly true that before time began, God could look down through history and see that Peter would one day believe the Gospel, and be eternally saved. Now I ask you, could Peter have avoided believing the Gospel, and going to heaven? If the Arminian answers, “Yes, Peter could surely have avoided believing the Gospel, and going to heaven, if he had so desired,” then I ask you, what was it that God foresaw about Peter? If God foresaw that Peter would be regenerated and finally glorified, then Peter must eventually become regenerated and finally glorified. Peter could not avoid being eternally saved, or else God’s foreknowledge is a meaningless term. The Arminian is caught in a bind, because if God foreknew that Peter would be regenerated and finally glorified, then it is impossible that Peter could be eternally lost.
Next, consider the case of Judas. Just as with Peter, it is certainly true that before time began, God could look down through history and see that Judas would betray Christ, and be eternally lost. Now I ask you, could Judas have avoided betraying Christ, and being eternally lost? If the Arminian answers, “Yes, Judas could surely have believed the Gospel, and gone to heaven, if he had so desired,” then I ask you, what was it that God foresaw about Judas? If God foresaw that Judas would betray Christ, and be eternally lost, then Judas must eventually betray Christ, and be eternally lost. Judas could not avoid being eternally lost, or else God’s foreknowledge is a meaningless term. The Arminian is caught in a bind, because if God foreknew that Judas would betray Christ, and be eternally lost, then it is impossible that Judas could be eternally saved. If one admits to the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge, then the doctrine of eternal, unconditional election is virtually a forgone conclusion.
Now consider the case of Pharaoh’s dream, from chapter 41 of the book of Genesis.
Genesis 41: (1) And it happened at the end of two years of days, Pharaoh was dreaming. And, lo, he was standing by the River. (2) And, behold! Seven cows [were] going up from the River, beautiful of appearance and fat of flesh; and they were feeding in the reeds. (3) And, behold, seven other cows [were] going up after them from the River, evil of appearance and lean of flesh. And they were standing beside the cows on the lip of the River. (4) And the evil-appearing and lean-fleshed cows were eating the seven cows of beautiful and fat appearance. And Pharaoh awoke.
In this dream, Pharaoh was made to view events that would take place over the next 14 years. Joseph interpreted this dream to mean that Egypt was about to endure seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine (v. 29-31).
Now suppose that Pharaoh actually tried to assert that he himself had in fact decreed that there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine to come on Egypt. Could this assertion possibly be taken seriously? Any idiot can see that Pharaoh did not have the slightest role in determining which of the coming years would be years of plenty and which of the years would be years of famine. Pharaoh was entirely a passive observer, merely receiving information that had already been determined in advance by someone else. Yet this is precisely the role that is given to God by the Wesleyan theory of an indeterminate decree. This theory so fully removes God from his sovereignty over creation that he is reduced to being a mere spectator over events which he dare not orchestrate, lest (forsooth!) he infringe upon the critically important free-will of Man.
Here again, Wesley’s arguments against the doctrine of unconditional election were voiced against the Paul the Apostle:
Rom 9: (19) You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?
But how does the Apostle answer the objection? Not, as per Wesley, by insisting on the vital role of free-will in the salvation of man, but by insisting on the vital role of the sovereignty of God in the salvation of man:
Rom 9: (20) Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the [One] forming [it], Why did You make me like this?
This very objection to Paul’s doctrine demonstrates how wrong Wesley was about the nature of predestination. Not only can this objection not be raised against Wesley’s doctrine of an indeterminate decree, but Wesley himself raises it against the doctrine of unconditional election. We have already seen that Wesley’s arguments against unconditional election depend on the premise that God cannot hold people accountable if God has already determined whether they will go to Heaven or Hell. After all, who resists his will?
At this point, it will be instructive to examine in detail a sermon which Wesley preached and printed on the topic of predestination. The sermon is called “Free Grace” (7:373, Sermon 128), and it is famous in Calvinistic circles because George Whitefield responded to this sermon with A Letter from George Whitefield to the Rev Mr. John Wesley In Answer to Mr. Wesley’s Sermon entitled: “Free Grace” 10, that has been reprinted many times. Whitefield’s letter will also be examined in some detail here.
But while many Calvinists have read Whitefield’s Answer, comparatively few have seen Wesley’s actual sermon. For the sake of comparison, I will place quotes from Wesley’s sermon and Whitefield’s response in parallel columns. Notice that in these quotes, Wesley makes the accusation that the doctrine of Election destroys: (1) Preaching; (2) Holiness, Love, & Meekness; (3) Comfort; (4) Good Works; (5) the doctrine of Revelation.
Whitefield’s response here is exactly right. Wesley thinks he has put forth a logical dilemma that invalidates the doctrine of predestination from the very beginning: the elect will be saved whether they hear the preaching of the Gospel or not, and the non-elect will be damned whether they hear the preaching of the Gospel or not. But Whitefield demonstrates a third alternative which is that God, in his sovereignty, has decreed that the elect will be saved by the means of preaching (Rom 10:9). Thus, the preaching of the Gospel is as crucial to the salvation of the elect as the rising sun, or the falling rain, is to the growing plants: God could have caused plants to grow without either sun or rain, but has instead decreed that the sun and rain will be the instruments through which plant growth will occur. In the same way, God has decreed that the preaching of the Gospel will be the instrument through which the elect will hear and believe the Gospel.
Here, Wesley tries to apply his ‘logical dilemma’ to the Christian’s striving for holiness: it is of no need to the elect, because they will inevitably be saved, with or without it; and it is of no need to the non-elect, because they will inevitably be lost, with or without it. But again, Whitefield puts forth a third alternative which is that striving for holiness may well be the means by which God brings his blessings to a Christian.
This time, however, Whitefield’s answer to Wesley’s ‘dilemma’ is not quite so appropriate as was his previous answer. The truth is that a Christian does not merely strive for holiness from the bare possibility that God will bless him, but out of love and thankfulness for what God has already accomplished on his behalf, and for what God has promised to do in the future. (And we have seen that those things which God has promised can only absolutely come about if God is absolutely sovereign over the universe.) This teaching is put forth in the Christian Confession of Faith:
The function of God’s law is to show forth God’s perfect standard of righteousness that His people may … strive to obey Him out of love, thankfulness, and a desire to glorify Him. [Exo 20:20; Deu 6:1-9; Deu 6:10-19; Deu 6:20-25; Deu 8:1-10; Deu 8:11-18; Deu 10:12-13; Deu 13:4; Jos 1:8; Jos 23:6; 1Sa 15:22; Psa 1:2; Psa 119:2; Psa 119:4-6; Psa 119:10-11; Psa 119:16; Psa 119:55; Psa 119:60; Psa 119:72; Psa 119:77; Psa 119:97; Psa 119:109; Psa 119:112; Psa 119:129; Psa 119:166-168; Ecc 12:13; Mat 22:37-40; Joh 14:15; Joh 14:21; Rom 6:1-2; Rom 6:11-13; 1Co 6:20; Eph 5:15-21; Heb 12:28-29]11
This section of the Confession is discussing the relationship of the Christian to the Law. Among other things, the Law is a guide for Christians, to show them what is pleasing to God, and what is not pleasing to him. What is of importance here is that the motive that prompts a Christian to obey God is “love, thankfulness, and a desire to glorify Him.” This love, thankfulness, and desire to glorify Him is a result of the sure and certain work that Jesus Christ has done on behalf of the Christian’s soul; and that sure-ness and certainty is grounded in the absolute sovereignty of God.12 As with human responsibility, a Christian’s striving for holiness is not destroyed by the sovereignty of God, it is based on the sovereignty of God!
It is appropriate to note here that Wesley, in applying his ‘logical dilemma’ about predestination to a Christian’s striving for holiness, merely speaks in generalities. He does not provide any specific names of predestinarians who use predestination as an excuse for their sin in this way. But in a later exchange with Augustus Toplady on the same topic, Wesley received a specific example of an Arminian who definitely used free-will as an excuse for his sin:
“This … was the refuge and [Greek – kresfudeton] of that grand propagator of Arminianism, Mr. Thompson. When he was in a fit of intemperance, if any one reminded him of the wrath of God threatened against such courses, he would answer, I am a child of the devil to-day; but I have free-will; and to morrow I will make myself a child of God.” Hickman’s Animadv. on Heylin, p.91, and 227.13
Unlike Wesley, Toplady does not give vague and nameless accusations against the doctrine of free-will. Instead, he presents us with a specific person (who, incidentally was Andrew Thompson, one of the translators of the 1611 King James Bible) who deliberately planned how to use free-will as an excuse for his sin.
Whitefield is surely correct in saying that a doctrine should not be judged “entirely from the practice of some that profess to hold” it. So, for example, it is not fair to judge Christianity on the basis of the Crusades or the Salem witch trials, both of which can be condemned by Christians on the basis of Matthew 5:43-44. Both the Crusaders and the witch-hunters were doing things that Jesus forbade, so they cannot be used as proof that the rest of his teachings were false. Similarly, someone who believes in predestination, yet lives in open sin, can be condemned by his own doctrine, in that God has sovereignly commanded that his people flee from sin, and pursue holiness. The fact that God has predestined even the sins of his own people does not exonerate them from their sins, any more than it exonerated the sins of Herod, Pilate, Judas, or anyone else connected with the execution of Jesus Christ. Their sins were predetermined (Act 4:27-28), but they were still responsible for their sins.
I have been in contact with a number of people who professed a belief in predestination, but were very careless about sin. It should be noted, however, that none of these people used predestination as an excuse for their sin; they were simply unconcerned with it, indicating that they did not really understand the significance of the doctrines they professed to hold. Nor did they understand the connection that the Bible makes between predestination and holiness (the verses that Whitefield referred to – 2 Thess. 2:13 and Col 3:12-13 – are good examples). By its very nature, predestination condemns anyone who would seek to use it as an excuse for their sin.
But the doctrine of free-will does not escape so easily when an Arminian lives in open sin. Mr. Thompson’s behavior goes well beyond the case of someone who lives in a manner contrary to the values he professes to hold. He deliberately planned how to use free-will as an excuse for his sin. Certainly, most Arminians would be disgusted at the reasoning of Mr. Thompson. But the conclusion that he arrived at is a perfectly logical deduction from the doctrine of free-will. If I have the power within myself to make myself a child of God, then I can exercise that power whenever I please. Why not enjoy your sin for as long as you can? Why not ‘live like the devil Monday through Saturday’, as long as you get yourself ‘cleaned up’ on Sunday?
An Arminian might well argue that a person never knows when he will die, so he should be careful to avoid sin, pursue holiness, and repent of any known sin. But this argument does not resolve the basic problem that Arminianism has, which Mr. Thompson so craftily exploited for the purpose of excusing his sin. The problem is that free-will makes Man the determining factor in his own salvation. Free-will allows Man to take a little more time to enjoy his sin before becoming a child of God, if that is what Man wants. Free-will allows Man to experiment with being a child of God, and then go back to being a child of the devil, if Man decides against being a child of God. Free-will allows Man to vacillate between being a child of God and a child of the devil a thousand times a day, if it suits Man’s pleasure. Free-will thus makes an absolute mockery of the sovereignty of God in salvation. With Man so obviously in control of his own eternal destiny, would anyone believe that God has any sovereignty whatsoever in the salvation of his people?
Furthermore, the Arminian argument that “a person never knows when he will die, so he should be careful to avoid sin, pursue holiness, and repent of any known sin”, only serves to highlight another fundamental problem with free-will, which is that if a person, at the moment of his death, fails to “avoid sin, pursue holiness, and repent of any known sin” then he would be lost forever! This consideration ought to terrify anyone who seriously contemplates the infinite holiness and majesty of God, and the perfect hatred he has for sin. It ought to cause a serious Arminian to spend every waking hour trying to remember and repent of every known sin, never knowing if he has failed to avoid or repent of some sin that might finally condemn him to hell. Thus, the assurance, comfort, and security of the Gospel, which is made absolutely certain by divine predestination, is utterly dissolved by the doctrine of free-will.
This leads into Wesley’s next argument against Predestination:
Here again, Whitefield’s answer to Wesley is appropriate, but it still doesn’t cover the full argument that Wesley is making. Wesley could not himself know from experience whether the doctrine of election promotes or undermines Christian happiness and comfort. To a Christian however, the doctrine of election provides great comfort and happiness, because it assures him that God has predetermined all of his trials, all of his successes, all of his failures, all of his good works, and all of his sins. The doctrine of election assures a Christian that all of his efforts at evangelism will ultimately accomplish the will of God, whether that will is for a given person to be saved, or for him to be hardened. And election assures a Christian that God will not, cannot, abandon him, forsake him, or otherwise fail to bring him to final glory. And unlike the Arminian, a Christian need never fear that he has failed to repent of all his sins, or that he might revert to a lost state before his death, and so be eternally lost, because God has predestined even the repentance and perseverance of his elect people. This is taught in the Christian Confession of Faith:
When God saves a person, He preserves that person from ever returning to a state of lostness and from ever being punished in hell. [Psa 31:23; Psa 37:24; Psa 37:28; Psa 55:22; Psa 66:9; Psa 121:3-8; Pro 2:7-8; Jer 32:39-40; Joh 6:40; Joh 10:28-29; Rom 8:30-39; Eph 1:13-14; Phi 1:6; 2Th 3:3; 2Ti 1:12; 2Ti 4:18; 1Pe 1:3-5; Jud 1:24]14
But Wesley’s argument approaches the question from the perspective of the unsaved. Does the unsaved person need to fear that he might be reprobate?
Not at all. Before a person comes to believe the Gospel, it is simply impossible to know if he is elect or reprobate. That distinction is known only to God, and he has not chosen to reveal it to us. This doctrine is also taught in the Christian Confession of Faith:
The exact number of the elect is known only to God Himself; it cannot be increased or diminished. The elect of God are scattered among every tribe, nation, and language on earth. [Deu 29:29; Joh 6:37-39; Joh 10:14; Joh 17:9, 2Ti 2:19; Rev 7:9]15
A person who wants to know whether he is elect or reprobate before he will believe the Gospel is enquiring about the wrong thing. He must first believe the Gospel, and then, and only then, will he know that he is one of God’s elect. A soul, even an elect soul, is not saved by believing in the predestinating work of God the Father, but in the propitiating work of God the Son. But once a soul has truly come to believe in the propitiating work of God the Son, then the assurance, comfort, and security of the predestinating work of God the Father is his by right.
Now, Wesley might well deride this assurance, comfort, and security as merely “a notion, a speculative belief, a bare opinion” but a doctrine, any doctrine, is far more definite and infallible than any feelings a person might have. Feelings change with a person’s attitudes, emotions, and circumstances, but doctrines do not. This is why the Christian Confession of Faith explicitly grounds the assurance of salvation, not on feelings, emotions, or any kind of sentimentality, but exclusively on the doctrine of the Gospel:
God gives every believer assurance of salvation. The believer’s assurance does not lie in his obedience to the law, his continued repentance, or anything else but in the sure and certain promise of God through the work of Jesus Christ alone received by faith. [2Sa 23:5; Psa 5:11; Psa 9:10; Psa 32:10; Psa 34:22; Psa 62:1-2; Psa 62:5-7; Psa 64:10; Psa 125:1; Psa 130:7-8; Psa 147:11; Isa 26:3; Isa 32:17; Jer 17:7-8; Nah 1:7; Rom 5:1; Rom 8:15-16; Rom 8:33-39; Rom 9:33; 2Co 1:18-22; Eph 3:12; Phi 1:6; Col 2:2; 1Th 1:5; 2Ti 1:12; Heb 6:11; Heb 6:16-19; Heb 10:22; Heb 11:1; Rev 5:9]16
Contrary to what Wesley believed, a Christian does not derive his happiness from “a feeling possession of God in [his] heart”, but from the doctrine of the Gospel, and its necessary implication, eternal predestination.
Here again, Whitefield’s answer is on the right track, but it doesn’t adequately respond to Wesley’s argument, which is essentially that Calvinists cannot feel any love for the “evil and unthankful”, and so cannot do any good deeds toward them. Whitefield here presents his own personal experience with the doctrine of predestination. He has already wondered aloud how Wesley can know that a belief in predestination destroys the “comfort of religion”. The same question could be presented here: how can Wesley know that predestinarians have less love for the lost than those who believe in free-will, since he never believed in predestination himself?
But a more direct answer to this argument is that Christians do not do good works from a love to the people involved, but from a love to God. This argument has already been proven, above, in answer to Wesley’s charge that the doctrine of election “has a manifest tendency to destroy holiness in general”. So far from destroying “holiness in general” the doctrine of election inspires a Christian to good works from “love, thankfulness, and a desire to glorify” God.17
Whitefield’s answer to Wesley’s final accusation is as appropriate as was his answer to Wesley’s first accusation. Wesley thinks he has put forth a logical dilemma that finally invalidates the doctrine of predestination: the elect will be saved whether the Gospel is revealed to them from the Scriptures, or not; and the non-elect will be damned whether the Gospel is revealed to them or not. But again, Whitefield demonstrates a third alternative which is that God, in his sovereignty, has decreed that the elect will be saved by the means of the revelation of the Gospel from the Scriptures. Thus, the revelation of the Gospel is as crucial to the salvation of the elect as the rising sun, or the falling rain, is to the growing plants: God could have caused plants to grow without either sun or rain, but has instead decreed that the sun and rain will be the instruments through which plant growth will occur. In the same way, God has decreed that the revelation of the Gospel from the Scriptures will be another instrument (besides preaching) through which the elect will come to believe the Gospel.
The Doctrine of Reprobation
So far, despite the fact that Whitefield approached Wesley as his brother in Christ, Whitefield’s letter has been logical and biblical in refuting Wesley’s accusations against Election. But, there is one important area where Whitefield was not quite as logical. The fact is that Wesley’s sermon doesn’t begin with an examination of the doctrine of Election, but with an examination of the doctrine of Reprobation:
But methinks I hear one say, “This [reprobation] is not the predestination which I hold: I hold only the election of grace. What I believe is no more than this …. the rest of mankind God leaves to themselves: So they follow the imaginations of their own hearts, which are only evil continually, and, waxing worse and worse, are at length justly punished with everlasting destruction.” Is this all the predestination which you hold? Consider; perhaps this is not all. Do not you believe God ordained them to this very thing? If so, you believe the whole decree. … I would ask one or two questions: Are any who are not thus elected saved? or were any, from the foundation of the world? Is it possible any man should be saved unless he be thus elected? If you say, “No”, you are but where you was [sic]; you are not got one hair’s breadth farther; you still believe, that, in consequence of an unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, the greater part of mankind abide in death, without any possibility of redemption; inasmuch as none can save them but God and he will not save them. You believe he hath absolutely decreed not to save them; and what is this, but decreeing to damn them? It is, in effect, neither more nor less; it comes to the same thing; (7:374-5, Sermon 128 Free Grace)
Wesley began his sermon with a discussion of Reprobation because he knew very well how strongly the flesh hates this doctrine. It is the one doctrine which is most disagreeable to the carnal mind. It was disagreeable to Wesley’s carnal mind because it most effectively dethroned his idolatrous god — the one who loves everyone equally, and wishes that everyone could be saved. In its place, Reprobation enthrones the Lord God Almighty — the Potter who has every right to do with his creatures as he alone sees fit. It is no coincidence that the Arminians at the Synod of Dordt began with the same tactic, or that many modern Arminians make use of it. To the carnal mind, this is the weak spot in the “armor” of Predestination. Historically, of course, most Calvinists have tried to duck around this “nasty implication” of Election, by pleading a Passive Reprobation. Whitefield himself replied to this part of Wesley’s sermon:
I frankly acknowledge: I believe the doctrine of reprobation, in this view, that … the rest of mankind, after the fall of Adam, being justly left of God to continue in sin, will at last suffer that eternal death which is its proper wages.
But this reply fails to answer Wesley’s accusation, “You believe he hath absolutely decreed not to save them; and what is this, but decreeing to damn them? It is, in effect, neither more nor less; it comes to the same thing;”. If Active Reprobation is rejected because it seems to make God a tyrant, is Passive Reprobation a proper substitute? The answer of course, is that God cannot be a tyrant, no matter what he does. Whatever he does is just, by virtue of the fact that it is God doing it. If he determines to cause a certain people to choose death over life, he is perfectly just in doing so. Active Reprobation should not be so easily dismissed.
Let the following Scripture verses decide if there is such a thing as Active Reprobation:
Exo 9: (12) And Jehovah hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, as Jehovah had said to Moses.
Psa 105: (25) He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants.
Rom 9: (18) So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy, And to whom He desires He hardens.
Rev 17: (17) For God gave into their hearts to do His mind, and to act in one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Obviously the Bible does not teach, as Whitefield and other tolerant Calvinists would have it, that men harden themselves. In these verses, the Bible teaches that God actively hardens the hearts of the reprobate, and actively causes them to hate his Gospel, and persecute his people, for the purpose of glorifying his justice in damning their souls to Hell. And this is the teaching of the Christian Confession of Faith:
God actively causes the reprobate to hate His glory, persecute His people, and oppose His gospel, that He may justly punish them. [Exo 7:3; 9:12; Jos 11:20; 1Sa 2:25; Psa 105:25; Rom 9:18; Rev 17:17]
God does not have any love toward the reprobate or any desire to save them, for God does not show love at the expense of His justice. The good things that God gives to them in this life lead only to their destruction, increasing their guilt for their thanklessness to God. Jesus Christ did not die for the reprobate in any sense, and they do not benefit in any sense from His death. …. [Psa 2:4-5; 5:5-6; 11:5; 73:11-12; 92:7; Pro 3:32-33; 11:20; 12:2; 16:4-5; 17:15; Joh 3:16; 15:22; 17:9; Rom 9:13; 1Ti 2:4; 1Pe 2:8; 1Jo 2:2; 4:10]18
That the doctrine of Reprobation should fill us with fear and trembling is readily granted. It should make us fall before our Maker in the most profound humiliation. That we should not preach on it more often than we preach on Election is also granted. Reprobation must always be subservient to Election; it causes the elect to be thankful that they are not of the number of the reprobate. And, contrary to Wesley’s assertion that we cannot help thinking of any particular man as a reprobate, we can only conclude that someone was reprobate when they have died in unbelief. So long as a person is alive, there is always a possibility that God will regenerate him in the future, no matter how hardened he may be currently. However, by no means should we make attempts to soften the Bible’s testimony about the Sovereignty of God, simply because Arminians don’t like it.
We should also notice that the argument Wesley used to attack Passive Reprobation is the very same argument that is used today by those predestinarians who uphold Active Reprobation: Passive Reprobation is inconsistent and illogical. Regrettably, too many Moderate Calvinists rejoice in inconsistency, and delight in “paradox”, apparently in an attempt to make Calvinism more attractive to Arminians. They should take a lesson from Wesley and realize that in pleading “paradox” they succeed in fooling only themselves. Wesley saw right through such equivocation.
Did Wesley Believe The Truth?
But there is yet another aspect of Wesley’s sermon which we never seem to hear about. Towards the end of his reply, Whitefield says, “I purposely omit making any further particular remarks on the several last pages of your sermon.” The pages he refers to are eye-opening.
For, Seventhly, it is a doctrine full of blasphemy; of such blasphemy as I should dread to mention, but the honour of our gracious God, and the cause of his truth, will not suffer me to be silent. In the cause of God, then, and from a sincere concern for the glory of his great name I will mention a few of the horrible blasphemies contained in this horrible doctrine. …. This premised, let it be observed, that this doctrine represents our blessed Lord, “Jesus Christ the righteous,” “the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth,” as an hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. … 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. Here I join issue with every assertor of it. You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, and more unjust. …. This is the blasphemy for which (however I love the persons who assert it) I abhor the doctrine of predestination,…. He forceth us to be damned; for we cannot resist his will. [cf Rom 9:19-20 — CA] ….” O how would the enemy of God and man rejoice to hear these things were so! …. Sing, O hell, and rejoice, ye that are under the earth! For God, even the mighty God, hath spoken, and devoted to death thousands of souls, from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof! Here, O death, is thy sting! Here, O grave, is thy victory! Nations yet unborn, or ever they have done good or evil, are doomed [cf. Rom 9:11 — CA] never to see the light of life, but thou shalt gnaw upon them for ever and ever! Let all those morning stars sing together, who fell with Lucifer, son of the morning! Let all the sons of hell shout for joy! (7:381-4, Sermon 128 Free Grace, emph. in original)
These quotes should settle forever the Moderate Calvinist objection that “Arminians are Calvinists when they are on their knees”; the implication being that Arminians secretly believe Predestination, though they won’t admit it. Do these quotes give the impression that Wesley secretly believed Predestination, but just couldn’t quite admit it? Can anything be clearer than that Wesley was one of “those not believing the truth, but who have delighted in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess 2:12)?
Obviously Wesley had a thoroughly deficient view of the glory of God; he believed that God was in heaven, looking helplessly down on the world and wishing he could do something about it, if only people would let him. This is not the true and living God of the Bible; this is not even a sincere misunderstanding of the Bible. This is a demonic lie, an idolatrous monster pawning itself off as Almighty God. This is a lie of Satan; albeit not one that proclaims itself to be a lie of Satan, but one that disguises itself as an angel of light. Yet for that very reason, it is all the more insidious.
In the previous chapter, we saw how the Bible condemns false teaching about God and his work as idolatry. There, I defined idolatry as “attributing a characteristic to God that he doesn’t possess, or not attributing to him a characteristic that he does possess.” Idolatry is not merely carving an idol and bowing down to it. Almost anything can be an idol, including a person or even an idea. For example, the Roman Catholic conception of Mary is idolatrous, because she is seen as necessary to intercede on our behalf with Jesus. But on the contrary, only Jesus can intercede for us, because not only is he the one who has partaken of our flesh and blood (Heb 2:14), but he is also the one who is the “express image” of God (Heb 1:3). Therefore, he alone is worthy to be our intercessor (Job 9:33, Heb 2:17). To say that God accepts the intercession of Mary is to attribute a characteristic to God that he doesn’t possess — the willingness to accept the prayers and intercessions of a mere human, based on that person’s own merits. Another example of idolatry is the Arian view of Jesus taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have refused to attribute to Christ the nature of God. Does it really matter if they name their idol “Jesus”? Of course not! It’s still an idol!
For the same reason, I label the Wesleyan jesus an idol. Wesley’s conception of God was far removed from the God of the Bible. And the differences were not merely trivial, or the result of a “sincere misunderstanding”. The “God” in whom Wesley trusted, and the “Jesus” whom he preached, were the polar opposites of the God and Jesus of the Bible. Wesley’s “Gospel” was not based on such a sure foundation as the sovereignty of God, and therefore, it was the polar opposite of the Gospel of the Bible.
1Christian Confession of Faith II.A.1-2; www.outsidethecamp.org/ccfii.htm
8For details of this controversy, see John Gill, Exposition of the Entire Bible in Joh 3:16, and John Lightfoot, A Commentary of the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, in Joh 3:17
12See Christian Confession of Faith, II.C.3 and II.C.4.; www.outsidethecamp.org/ccfii.htm
13Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, VA , 1987) p. 579