a puritan's blog

O God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs…

This is all my Calvinism…

In an interesting and peaceful encounter with John Wesley (Arminian), Charles Simeon, an avowed Calvinist, before drawing a weapon to dual, as is the case with many Calvinists and Arminians, asks some pointed questions as to draw out the sword of the Spirit in the matter.  What is beneficial to assert is two things: the battle lines between both camps are hostile and, unity in essentials are necessary for the white flag to be waved: we must drop our swords to pick up the flag of surrender or by the sword we will die!   

Let’s look at this brief encounter (It is found here  and  here )

Simeon:  Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Wesley:  Yes, I do indeed.

Simeon:  And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Wesley:  Yes, solely through Christ.

Simeon:  But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

Wesley:  No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Simeon:  Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

Wesley:  No.

Simeon:  What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

Wesley:  Yes, altogether.

Simeon:  And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Wesley:  Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Simeon:  Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree. (Moule, 79f)

John Wesley wrote in another spot concerning Calvinism saying, “The sum of all this is: 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” (Works, Vol. 10, p 370).

D. Philip Veitch says this: “Arminianism/Wesleyanism is, at base, anti-God. I speak of the theological system, not the poor folks lacking discernment about it. For those ingesting the Catechism of the 1979 BCP, this will be hard news, since that isn’t even Arminian. It’s institutionalized, constitutionalized, and establishmentarian Pelagianism.”

Iain Boyd says pointedly, “I think the point to draw from Simeon’s interaction with Wesley is that you can feel deeply your need for redemption and have a poor theology. On the other hand you can check the box for all five points of calvinism, and still not feel deeply indebted to the free grace of God in the cross. As a Calvinist, I’m often convicted that many of my Arminian brothers show the truth of doctrines in their lives that I only show through my teaching. It is shameful to me to think that Wesley did much more for the church in his day (bad theology and all) than I will in my entire life time simply because he loved Jesus very deeply.”

In conclusion: “Simeon (himself a Calvinist) had little sympathy for uncharitable Calvinists. In a sermon on Romans 9:16, he said, ‘Many there are who cannot see these truths [the doctrines of God’s sovereignty], who yet are in a state truly pleasing to God; yea many, at whose feet the best of us may be glad to be found in heaven. It is a great evil, when these doctrines are made a ground of separation one from another, and when the advocates of different systems anathematize each other. . . . In reference to truths which are involved in so much obscurity as those which relate to the sovereignty of God mutual kindness and concession are far better than vehement argumentation and uncharitable discussion (Horae Homileticae, Vol. 15, p. 357).’”

For a complete view of how complementary these differing doctrines are I refer you to a sermon given by Keith Daniel called The Tightrope Walker.

Can there be a Complementarian view on these things?  Talk to me…

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