The Wesleyan View of Fallen Humanity (Part II) by Thomas Schreiner

By April 23, 2011Prevenient Grace

Dr. Thomas Schreiner

Dr. Thomas Schreiner

It is notable that John Wesley would agree with the preceding diagnosis. He writes,

I believe that Adam, before his fall, had such freedom of will, that he might choose either good or evil; but that, since the fall, no child of man has a natural power to choose anything that is truly good. Yet I know (and who does not?) that man has still freedom of will in things of indifferent nature.[3]

Human beings since the fall are so enmeshed in the power of sin that apart from divine grace they cannot choose what is spiritually good.[4] This point is often acknowledged by Wesley scholars.[5] Harald Lindstrom rightly remarks that ”Wesley maintains that natural man is totally corrupt.”[6]  He is ”sinful through and through, has no knowledge of God and no power to turn to him of his own free will.”[7]  Robert V. Rakestraw says that in Wesley’s theology ”men and women are born in sin and unable in themselves to make the least move toward God.”[8]  Colin W. Williams affirms the same point: ”Because of original sin, the natural man is ’dead to God’ and unable to move toward God or respond to him.”[9]  Leo G. Cox says, ”By nature man receives nothing that is good. … He is free but free only to do evil and to follow on in the way of sin.”[10]  Wesley did not believe that the will of fallen humanity was free. He says, ”Such is the freedom of the will; free only to evil; free to ’drink iniquity like water;’ to wander farther and farther from the living God, and do more ’despite to the Spirit of grace!’”[11]  The Wesleyan analysis of the human condition does not differ fundamentally from the Calvinistic one.[12]  Indeed, in 1745 John Wesley said that his theology was ”within a hair’s breadth” of Calvinism:

  1. In ascribing all good to the free grace of God.
  2. In denying all natural free-will, and all power antecedent to grace. And,
  3. In excluding all merit from man; even for what he has or does by the grace of God.”[13] Wesley’s analysis of the human condition and his bold proclamation of divine grace should warm the heart of any evangelical Calvinist.

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