Friday, November 01, 2013

John Wesley -- heretic or hero?


Historic Baptists and fundamentalists who obtain their history mainly from sanitized and hagiographical Protestant sources often have a very inaccurate view of the theology of John Wesley. The following post should serve as a corrective, and will bring up some of the facts often left out of the sanitized and hagiographical accounts.

1.) Wesley was an Arminian – he believed saints could lose their salvation.

For example, he said:  “"I believe a saint may fall away; that one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.” (pg. 81,Works, vol. 6).

This heresy of his is so well known that I will not provide further documentation of it.

2.) Wesley believed in the continuation of the sign gifts, preparing the way for Pentecostalism.

The Wesley brothers abandoned the dominant Protestant cessationism to adopt a continuationist doctrine, a view in which they were followed by the Methodist movement, and which explains much of the fanaticism that came to characterize  much of Methodism. Wesley said:  “[I]f the Quakers [who were strong continuationists] hold the same perceptible inspiration with me, I am glad” (“Letter to ‘John Smith,’ March 25, 1747;  elec. acc. Wesley Center Online:  Wesley’s Letters, 1747, http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/wesleys-letters-1747/. Compare pg. 43, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Dayton).  Thus, nineteenth-century Methodists, writing to defend continuationism, noted:  “[W]e dare to maintain that many of the phenomena of the Pentecostal times have been continued, are common, and ought to be expected in every age. . . . [Cessationist] censors are exceedingly severe, [unjustly so, upon] the habitual reference made by the . . . teachers to the direct influence of the Holy Spirit . . . [as] a revealer as well as an interpreter of truth . . . speak[ing] to us not only by the written Word, but also by visions, or feelings, or aspirations, or impressions, independent of the Word;  and extending even to what is sometimes claimed as a physical consciousness . . . [as by continuationist antecedent] Dr. Upham” (pg. 106, “The Brighton Convention Its Opponents.” London Quarterly Review, October 1875).  Indeed, “much in Pentecostal teaching is a legacy from Anglicanism . . . through the mediation of Wesley” (pg. 185, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger).

3.) Wesley loved medieval Roman Catholic mysticism, and developed his doctrine of perfectionism in connection with it.

Roman Catholic mysticism was key to the development of the perfectionism and continuationism of John Wesley.  “John Wesley . . . says that he began his teaching on Perfection in 1725 . . . [although he] was not converted [on his own testimony] until 1738 . . . [h]ow did he come to teach it?  His father and mother . . . had both been interested in . . . Roman Catholic mystical teaching . . . and had read a great deal of it. . . . John Wesley had read [in addition to other Romanist mystics such as] . . . Tauler . . . Thomas à Kempis . . .[and the] ‘Protestant mystic . . . [who] wrote a book on Perfection . . . William Law,’ but he was influenced “in particular [by]. . . Madame Guyon . . . [and] the Roman Catholic Archbishop Fénelon,” although the Romanist mystic “Marquis or Baron de Renty” was probably Wesley’s single “favorite author,” eclipsing even Guyon and Fénelon (pgs. 307-308, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors, Lloyd-Jones).  Thus, Wesley could speak of “that excellent man, the Marquis de Renty” although he knew the Catholic was infected with “many touches of superstition, and some of idolatry, in worshipping saints, the Virgin Mary in particular” (cf. Sermon 72, series 2, Sermon 133, series 4, Sermons, on Several Occasionsand to which reference is made in the trust-deeds of the Methodist Chapels, as constituting, with Mr. Wesley’s notes on the New Testament, the standard doctrines of the Methodist connexion, John Wesley.  Orig. pub. 4 vol, 1771. Elec. acc. Logos Bible Software).  Wesley was also profoundly influenced by the ascetic, Romanist, and Eastern Orthodox “monastic piety of the fourth-century ‘desert fathers’” during his time in the “Holy Club” at Oxford University.  “[T]he consideration of Macarius the Egyptian and Ephraem Syrus and their descriptions of “ perfection” (teleiosis) as the goal (skopos) of the Christian in this life” were influential in “shaping . . . Wesley’s . . . doctrine of Christian perfection . . . John Wesley . . . was . . . in touch with Gregory of Nyssa, the greatest of all the Eastern [Catholic] teachers of the quest for perfection. Thus, in his early days, [Wesley] drank deep of this Byzantine tradition of spirituality at its source and assimilated its concept of devotion as the way and perfection as the goal of the Christian life. . . . The devotional works . . . of two Latin [Roman Catholic] traditions of mystical spirituality . . . [and] the traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy-Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Macarius of Egypt, and others . . . introduced [important] factors of . . . [Wesley’s] understanding of perfection. . . . Wesley . . . was inclined to go beyond logical subsequence [in justification and sanctification] to experiential subsequence because of the deep influence of the Eastern Fathers on him in terms of the relation of perfection to process and goal.”  (pgs. 93-97, “‘Dialogue’ Within a Tradition:  John Welsey and Gregory of Nyssa Discuss Christian Perfection,” John G. Merritt.  Wesleyan Theological Journal 22:2 (Fall, 1987) 92-117).  Thus, Wesley received his idea of Christians entering into perfection or a second-blessing from Catholic mysticism, and transferred his two-stage notions into the Higher Life movement and into Pentecostalism.  “John Wesley . . . under the influence of Catholic works of edification, distinguished between the ordinary believer and those who were ‘sanctified’ or ‘baptized with the Spirit.’ . . . This view was adopted . . . by the evangelists and theologians of the American Holiness movement . . . such as Asa Mahan and C. G. Finney . . . [and] the early Pentecostal movement” (pgs. 21, 322, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger).  Along with perfectionism, Wesley (as already mentioned above) also adopted the ancient and medieval Catholic continuationism (cf. pgs. 44-45, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Dayton) that provided such key support in the apologetic for image worship in the iconoclastic controversy and at other times, as well as Catholic worship of the saints themselves, transubstantiation, and other idolatries, since the marvels which were so often performed by the graven images of and relics culled from the saints, transubstantiated bread, and so on, validated such Catholic beliefs in a way that Scripture certainly could not (cf. pgs. 135ff., Counterfeit Miracles, Warfield).

It is noteworthy that John Wesley, while preaching Methodist perfectionism, “never claimed the experience for himself.  He was a very honest man.  He taught this perfectionism but he would never say that it was true of himself.”  Indeed, for “many years he had great difficulty of producing any examples of it,” although at one point “he felt he could produce 30 such people;  but only one of the 30 seemed to persist—the others fell away” (pg. 311, The Puritans:  Their Origins and Successors, D. M. Lloyd-Jones).  

4.) Wesley held erroneous views on the assurance of salvation.

 “Wesley and Fletcher” held to a doctrinal error of an improper “immediate enjoyment of personal assurance” (pg. 180, The Doctrine of Justification, James Buchanan).  Early in his ministry, “John Wesley summed up his thoughts on this subject in a letter written in January, 1740:  ‘I never yet knew one soul thus saved without what you call the faith of assurance; I mean a sure confidence that by the merits of Christ he was reconciled to the favour of God’ [pg. 200, Wesley’s Standard Sermons].  Thus the cognition that saving grace had worked in a life was seen as the final means to ascertain if saving grace had indeed been present. The implications of this teaching, taken by itself, seem to lead to a condition in which superficial self-analysis (‘yes, I’ve got the witness’) results in spirituality while the kind of doubt which assailed such people as Luther and even at times John Wesley himself results in a loss of the hope of salvation” (pg. 171, “John Wesley and the Doctrine of Assurance,” Mark A. Noll.  Bibliotheca Sacra 132:526 (April 1975).  However, by 1755 Wesley had moderated his position slightly, so that one could be shaken in his assurance without losing his salvation, although a total lack of assurance was still only compatible with a lost estate:  “I know that I am accepted: And yet that knowledge is sometimes shaken, though not destroyed, by doubt or fear. If that knowledge were destroyed, or wholly withdrawn, I could not then say I had Christian faith. To me it appears the same thing, to say, ‘I know God has accepted me’; or, ‘I have a sure trust that God has accepted me.’ . . . [Nonetheless,] justifying faith cannot be a conviction that I am justified. . . . But still I believe the proper Christian faith, which purifies the heart, implies such a conviction” (pgs. 452-453, Letter DXXXII, July 25, 1755, in The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, vol 12, 3rd. ed, with the last corrections of the author.  London:  John Mason, 1830).  Furthermore, Wesley affirmed that objective marks cannot be elaborated to distinguish between the witness of the Spirit to one’s regenerated state and self-delusion;  “this kind of defense based on intuition . . . raised the specter of enthusiasm for some of Wesley’s critics” (pg. 174, ibid.).  In this doctrine of assurance Wesley’s view was similar to that of Jacob Arminius:  “Arminius thought that no one would be a true Christian who did not have a present assurance of present salvation. He wrote:  ‘Since God promises eternal life to all who believe in Christ, it is impossible for him who believes, and who knows that he believes, to doubt of his own salvation, unless he doubts of this willingness of God.’” (pgs. 164-165, “John Wesley and the Doctrine of Assurance,” Noll, citing pg. 348, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation, Carl Bangs.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1971.  Compare The Doctrine of Assurance, with Special Reference to John Wesley, Arthur S. Yates.  London:  Epworth, 1952).

Wesleyan confusion about conversion and assurance appeared in various preachers influenced by his theology;  thus, for example, Welsh holiness evangelist Seth Joshua wrote:  “[People] are entering into full assurance of faith coupled with a baptism of the Holy Ghost. . . . I also think that those seeking assurance may be fairly counted as converts” (pg. 122, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan, citing Mr. Joshua’s diary.  Of course, some people who think that they are in need of assurance truly are unconverted, but such clarity appears to be lacking in Mr. Joshua’s comments.  Spirit baptism has nothing to do with obtaining assurance in the Bible.).  Methodist confusion on assurance passed over into the Pentecostal movement, which taught that assurance was of the essence of saving faith:  “If God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you your sins, you know it.  And if you do not know it better than you know anything in this world, you are still in your sins.  When you go down in the atonement, in the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, you are accepted.  And if you are accepted, and He has given you a clean heart and sanctified your soul, you know it.  And if you do not know it, the work is not done” (pg. 2, The Apostolic Faith I:2 (Los Angeles, October 1906), reprinted on pg. 6, Like As of Fire:  Newspapers from the Azusa Street World Wide Revival:  A Reprint of “The Apostolic Faith” (1906-1908), coll. Fred T. Corum & Rachel A. Sizelove).

Scripture teaches that all believers can have assurance of salvation, but that assurance that one has personally passed from death to life is not of the essence of saving faith (cf. 1 John & London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, 18:1-4).

5.) Wesley rejected the imputation of Christ's righteousness in justification.

John Wesley also rejected the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in justification, writing:  “Does ‘the righteousness of God’ ever mean . . . ‘the merits of Christ?’ . . . I believe not once in all the Scripture.  . . . It often means, and particularly in the Epistle to the Romans, ‘God’s method of justifying sinners.’ . . . ‘The righteousness of God’ signifies, the righteousness which the God-man wrought out[?]  No. . . .  It signifies ‘God’s method of justifying sinners.’” (pg. 217, Aspasio Vindicated, and the Scripture Doctrine of Imputed Righteousness Defended, in Eleven Letters from Mr. Hervey to Mr. Wesley, in Answer to that Gentleman’s Remarks on Theron and Aspasio, W. Hervey.  Glasgo:  J. & M. Robertson, 1762;  & pg. 137, Eleven Letters from the Late Rev. Mr. Hervey , to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, Containing an Answer to that Gentleman’s Remarks on Thereon and Aspasio, W. Hervey.  2nd ed.  London:  J. & F. & C. Rivinot, 1789. cf. pg. 497, The Doctrine of Justification, James Buchanan.  Carlisle, PA:  Banner of Truth, 1997 (orig. pub. 1867)).  “Many Wesleyan Methodists, following the example of their founder, have . . . keenly opposed . . . the doctrine . . . of [Christ’s] imputed righteousness” (pg. 500, The Doctrine of Justification, Buchanan).  Thus, “Wesley could not resist assimilating justification into sanctification—the latter being his preeminent and enduring interest. The . . . notion that the believer is simul justus et peccator (at once both righteous and a sinner) Wesley firmly rejected. Many Arminians [including Wesley] further assert that faith is not merely the instrument of justification but the ground on which justification rests. Thus Wesley wrote that ‘any righteousness created by the act of justification is real because of the ethical or moral dimension of faith’” (pg. 353, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation, Bruce Demarest).  Thus, Wesley wrote:  “Least of all does justification imply that God is deceived in those whom he justifies; that he thinks them to be what, in fact, they are not; that he accounts them to be otherwise than they are. It does by no means imply that God . . . esteems us better than we really are, or believes us righteous when we are unrighteous. Surely no. . . . Neither can it ever consist with his unerring wisdom to think that I am innocent, to judge that I am righteous or holy, because another is so. He can no more, in this manner, confound me with Christ, than with David or Abraham. . . . [S]uch a notion of justification is neither reconcilable to reason nor Scripture” (pg. 47, The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, vol. 1.  New York:  Emory & Waugh, 1831—note that “reason” is mentioned before “Scripture” as a reason to oppose the Biblical doctrine of justification.)

6.) Wesley believed in the damnable heresy of baptismal regeneration.

The Wesley brothers and the Methodist denomination retained the Anglican belief in baptismal regeneration when they left the English state-church to start their own religion.  Commenting on John 3:5, Wesley affirmed, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit—Except he experience that great inward change by the Spirit, and be baptized (wherever baptism can be had) as the outward sign and means of it [he cannot enter into the kingdom of God].”  Commenting on Acts 22:16, he wrote:  “Baptism administered to real penitents, is both a means and seal of pardon.  Nor did God ordinarily in the primitive Church bestow this on any, unless through this means.”  On both texts John Wesley clearly affirmed that baptism is the means of the new birth.  He also declared, “It is certain our Church supposes that all who are baptized in their infancy are at the same time born again;  and it is allowed that the whole office for the baptism of infants proceeds upon this supposition” (Wesley, sermon, The New Birth).  In his Doctrinal Tracts (pg. 246, 251) he wrote, “What are the benefits . . . we receive by baptism, is the next point to be considered. And the first of these is the washing away of original sin, by the application of Christ’s death. . . . the merits of Christ’s life and death, are applied to us in baptism. . . . infants are . . . proper subjects of baptism, seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved unless [sin] be washed away in baptism. Infants need to be washed from original sin. Therefore they are proper subjects for baptism.” (cited in chapter 9, The Evils of Infant Baptism, Robert Boyt C. Howell, accessed in the Fundamental Baptist CD-Rom Library, Oak Harbor, WA: Way of Life Literature, 2003).  John’s brother, the Methodist hymn-writer Charles Wesley, wrote against the Baptists, “Partisans of a narrow sect/ Your cruelty confess/ Nor still inhumanly reject/ Whom Jesus would embrace./ Your little ones preclude them not/ From the baptismal flood brought/ But let them now to Christ be saved/ And join the Church of God.” (Charles Wesley’s Journal, 18 October 1756, 2:128).  The Wesleys only called adults already baptized as infants to conversion because of their heretical Arminian theology.  Since they rejected the Biblical truth that once one is saved, he is always saved (Romans 8:28-39), they held that one who was regenerated in infant baptism could fall away and become a child of the devil again, at which time he would need a second new birth.


Before making Wesley into a hero of the faith, historic Baptists and fundamentalists should make sure that their churches know that Wesley believed in Arminianism, in the continuation of the sign gifts (helping to prepare the way for Pentecostalism), in Catholic mysticism, in perfectionism, in a false view of the assurance of salvation, in a false doctrine of justification by becoming inwardly holy, and in baptismal regeneration.

This article has also been posted here.


-TDR

28 comments:

Gary Webb said...

Did Charles Wesley hold to these same beliefs? He seems sound in his hymn-writing. Maybe I have not paid careful enough attention.

Jim Peet said...

Hope you are OK with this. We used on Sharper Iron here

Thanks Jim Peet

Huw Thomas said...

He ''seemed' sound in his hymn writing just as heretics 'sound' right in they're preaching.

Colin Maxwell said...

hi Thomas,

Where does this leave men like Spurgeon etc., who (having distanced themselves from his Arminianism) said of him:

"Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines that he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitfield and John Wesley" (p. 176).

Does comments like this push Spurgeon (and Whitefield and anyone who basically endorses Wesley) into the heretic camp?

Regards,

Kent Brandenburg said...

Colin and anyone else from anywhere else reading, because we've been linked to:

Is it right? I haven't heard anyone say Thomas is wrong. Where is he wrong? Is he wrong about Wesley?

Over at SharperIron,

There was some name calling, ad hominem, etc. about us, taking personal shots, some of which were just false, is this correct here? Is Thomas wrong? Wouldn't it be good to know?

And Dave Banhardt, DCBii,

We believe there are always true churches, based on Matthew 16:18. I've asked men who criticize "Trail of Blood" the same question, and they say, "Yes," meaning that I don't know how that they differ than us at all. Do you believe in a total apostasy? That's something the Mormons and the JWs believe in. Do you believe that justification is a reformed doctrine, or did justification doctrine stay preserved through history? Interested in your answers, after reading your smear. Really looking forward to it. Maybe I'll find we're less crazy than you'd like to make us seem.

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing for the SI crowd coming over -- I was curious as to where Thomas said anything about singing a Wesley hymn. Could you point me to that? I think it's great he went to credible sources and read, studied, looked, found out. Others haven't and could be helped. Is that provincial and condescending? Wow. And who really thinks that the authors here are "cut off from the larger conversation." That deserves a big laugh. Welcome to our conversation -- it doesn't all go one direct, left, or does it? Come on, gentlemen. And if Wesley is the source for false views of salvation and sanctification and many went to eternal punishment for that, isn't that a serious issue? Or is that condescending?

KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor Webb,

I have not investigated whether Charles believed differently from John – I have no reason to think that he did, however. You may note in the post above that Charles condemned the Baptists as a cruel sect that prevented their children from being saved by not giving them infant baptism.

That does not mean that every hymn written by Charles Wesley was doctrinally erroneous, of course. Some of them are fine. But we should be careful, and we would do well to be familiar to a far higher extent with the inspired Psalms than been with the hymns of Charles Wesley, even though some of them may be good.

Dear Jim,

That is fine.

Dear Colin,

Spurgeon was not a heretic simply because he did not, it seems, understand very well the heresies of John Wesley. He would have inherited if he had endorsed them.

I do not know enough about how much Whitfield understood Wesley's theology to comment. However, as an Anglican, Whitfield would have been a part of a denomination with some relatively orthodox people and many unorthodox people.

I have no reason to disagree with Spurgeon's declaration that Wesley lived in upright and moral life.

KJB1611 said...

Based on Pastor Brandenburg's comment, which I read after I wrote my own comment above, it appears that my post has generated discussion at some other location. That is fine with me; I simply mention this because I do not know where this other location is, and I don't have time right now to find out and worry about it.

Dave Barnhart said...

Pastor Brandenburg,

First, since you called what I wrote on SI a "smear," I'm curious to know where I got you wrong. Although I was writing informally, and not citing anything in particular, I was endeavoring to be careful to represent you accurately, and not argue against a straw man, even if I disagree with you.

Second, since you know I don't hold to "local church only," I do in fact believe that the *universal* church, which you do not accept, has not had the gates of hell prevail against it. Since I believe that church encompasses saints through the ages, I believe there have always been men who have been true in their faithfulness to God to the best of their ability. That does not mean that they were perfect or held every tenet of God's word perfectly, either in belief or deed. Further, just as happened in Israel in the OT, God's Word has always remained true, even if it was for a time set aside or lost by most of those in the religious establishment. So yes, I can believe God's church has been in existence since its beginning, without believing there has been an unbroken line of churches that have always remained completely pure, without even a hint of the slightest heresy. Those who remained true may have been just a remnant, and not all from a particular local church. Along those same lines, justification has been a doctrine since it was established by God, even if not everyone through time has held its truth perfectly.

Finally, I don't find you crazy. I disagree, and I find you inconsistent. I won't go into details, as we have discussed it before, but for one example, your stated belief in everythingism, but refusal to separate from everyone who holds a different belief on any point, no matter how small, for me means that even if you claim to hold that doctrine, your actions speak completely differently. I know you have an explanation for that, but I have never found it convincing.

And as regards arguments against the men who have worked on the text of scripture, it's one thing to have an argument against the base text, but completely another to argue against some men because of their associations and beliefs, but accept others in spite of associations and beliefs that are just as wrong, if wrong in a different way. Certainly the Anglicans who were behind the KJV were at least as wrong as John Wesley (who came out of them), and yet you believed God used them, as I do as well. If he can use them, he can use John Wesley, and in spite of his faults (which Thomas may have been completely accurate on -- I didn't try to fact check every piece of evidence presented), I believe God used him every bit as much as the men behind the KJV. A warning about wrong doctrine is appropriate, but without God's knowledge, we cannot see his faults, and necessarily draw any useful conclusion about his state before God, any more than we could with men like Samson and Lot, without what was said about them later in the OT.

KJB1611 said...

Pardon the typo– I am using a dictation program. The sentence above, "He would have inherited if he had endorsed them," should have read "He would have been one if he had endorsed them."

Kent Brandenburg said...

Dave,

It's true that I want you to be careful in representing us, and Thomas was very careful above, with incredible amounts of citation, very unlike the broad type of statements in an SI thread. No examples were given for some fairly harsh characterizations at SI, which is filled with irony. We are very careful with pointing out Wesley's doctrinal issues, and yet they are very sloppy with pointing out ours. Isn't most of this online discussion about differences with other people---isn't most of the linked articles at SI?

How did you smear us? It is specific things you said, although I would give you credit that it could have been worse. I've written whole posts saying that Baptists didn't disagree with everything in the reformation. They would point out their differences, but they agreed with much (surely over 50%) of their doctrine. We regularly argue certain points of the Westminster Confession here.

You say we make "claims" about Luther, Calvin, Wesley, when everything that we know of is quoted in its context. Thomas took a course from Trueman at Westminster and he asked if Calvin believed in baptismal regeneration, and Trueman said, "Of course!" You good with that?!?

You should look to see how many Westcott and Hort posts I've written here in hundreds of posts. Zero. I couldn't even find a post I made reference to Westcott and Hort. So where did you get that? Even in TSKT, we say almost nothing about W and H. I can't think of one place off the top of my head. So that came from where? And where have I supported the theology of the KJV translators. I argue that they make an accurate translation, because they were good with biblical languages. I'm a biblical language major, so I could check their work myself. A lot of people think they did a good job. It's the underlying text where we argue, as if you didn't know.

We have a higher degree of respect for Spurgeon over Wesley. I have a higher degree of respect for the view of sanctification of Warfield over Chafer. I've written a lot about that, but I don't like Warfield's twisting of the WC on preservation.

You really do skew us all over the place.

Do you really think we wouldn't point out the error of Samson, but not talk about how God used him?

Thomas wasn't broad brushing Wesley. He pointed out specific errors. Were they errors or not? Were they dangerous? Could they be condemnatory?

You really don't know what difference we see between Spurgeon and Wesley? Spurgeon wasn't a hyper-Calvinist. And I've explained how that Calvinism isn't a deal-breaker for someone to be a member of our church. You would say that doesn't fit into my everythingism, but it fits fine with it.

You're wrong on a lot. And in every case, I'm published here on what you're wrong about. It seems you just wanted us to look bad to that crowd. At least be truthful.

Bobby said...

Dave,

Reading your post at SI was incredible to me. Kent is being kind, IMO to use the term "smear."

I saw there too, that one Mr. Bean has gone to the level of even purporting to discern and judge Thomas' motives in writing this article.

Why no one seems interested in actually dealing with how JW's theology impacts the Gospel is curious.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Mr. Barnhart,

You stated that the theology of the KJV translators was worse than that of Wesley. Could you please provide me with clear documentation that the translators believed in baptismal regeneration? Thanks.

Is baptismal regeneration a false gospel that falls under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9?

George Calvas said...

kjb1611 wrote:

"Is baptismal regeneration a false gospel that falls under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9?"

IF they teach it like Catholicism (with all the rest of their biblical lies), then it is cursed, for they preach another Jesus, and their baptism just gets you wet. Also, they baptize babies who never confessed anything.

What about the Church of Christ? They certainly "cross the line", but are they cursed? Do they truly preach and teach biblical salvation, yet have a mistaken understanding of baptism?


From a Church of Christ site:

In other words, does ignorance of the full significance of one’s immersion invalidate it and require the person to submit to “rebaptism”? Second, are there Christians who have not been immersed? Are all those who live lives of faith in Christ but who, through ignorance or honest misunderstanding have never been immersed, condemned to eternal damnation?

Campbell’s answer to the first question was clear. If a person had been baptized upon a simple confession of faith in Jesus Christ, he or she was a citizen of God’s kingdom. The only thing that could justify someone’s rebaptism was if the candidate confessed that he or she did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, at the time of the first immersion.

Campbell certainly believed that it was in baptism that one’s sins were forgiven. Yet this knowledge at the time of one’s baptism was not an essential component of the necessary faith. Trust in a person, not comprehension of a list of facts, was the essential. Perfect knowledge of all that is effected in the act of baptism was not a prerequisite for its validity. Otherwise Paul would have re-immersed the Roman, Galatian and Corinthian Christians since he had to explain to all of these groups the very meaning of baptism.


Would I be separated from those above?

No.

Would I separate from what I know about the church of Christ?

Probably

Would I call the above statement a false gospel, knowing that it came from a Church of Christ website?

No.

Sometimes, it is never that easy.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,

You ask me to clarify if I think that Thomas in right in his assessment of John Wesley.

[i] Thomas covered a lot of ground in one post. I don’t know how long it took him to put together his case, but it will take a lot longer for anyone to answer him line by line. Few have time to do so.

[ii] Since I do not agree with Wesley in his Arminian views, in relation to most of the matters raised, I do not intend to suss it all out.

[iii] I fear that the original question that I asked will be lost. If Thomas is absolutely right in the matter of baptismal regeneration then (I ask again) where does that leave the likes of Spurgeon and any one else who ever said that this man essentially preached the gospel? If Wesley preached a false gospel, then those like Spurgeon endorse the false gospel they recognised him as preaching. Not only Spurgeon, but a host of others like HA Ironside etc. I tried to pursue this matter with you a few months ago when it was John Calvin accused of Baptismal Regeneration. If it is fine to say that a false gospeller preached the true gospel, then maybe we should start visiting JW or Mormon websites a bit more. As I say, I fear that the original question that I asked will be lost.

Was Wesley a Baptismal Regeneration preacher or did he employ the distinctly Protestant (and indeed Biblical) method of sometimes attributing to the sign what belonged, in reality, to the thing signified? Such use of language only serves to demonstrate the close relationship between the two. A good example of this is when the Lord Jesus Himself did so, taking the bread & stating, 'This is my body.' i.e. (as we all interpret) “This represents my body.’ But He didn’t say that. He employed the other way of stating the same truth. If John Wesley believed in Baptismal Regeneration for using this kind of wording, then we would have to accuse Ananias of the same crime when he told Paul to arise and be baptised, washing away thy sins (Acts 22:16)

For myself, I am prepared to give Wesley the benefit of any doubt on this one. I do so for the following reasons:

[i] The reason given above i.e. how his language is to be consistently interpreted.

[ii] Although Wesley admitted that the COE ”supposed” that the baptized were regenerate (which Iain Murray in his book on Wesley interpreted as meaning that “a decisive change” affected the child), yet he still preached to baptized Anglicans and called them to evangelical repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, arguing that to do otherwise is to leave them to be damned in Hell. Even in the sermon Thomas referenced on the New Birth (Sermon 46) Wesley sought to persuade both the profligate and, the uprightly morally baptised person of their need of the New Birth.

[iii] The language of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Savoy (Congregationalist) Confessions uses language similar to that of Wesley. Two of the men Thomas quote against Wesley subscribed to these Confessions i.e. Lloyd Jones (Congregationalist) and Buchanan (Presbyterian). You really would need to accuse these men also of the same charge. Plus, of course, Anglicans like JC Ryle who taught concerning the Prayer Book compilers: “They knew God might of His sovereign mercy give grace to any child before, in or at, or by the act of baptism.” (Knots Untied)

[iv] The great Evangelical men (and women) who continued to work with Wesley. I am unaware where Whitefield (another Anglican) or any of the other Revival preachers disagreed with him over his Baptism views.

[v] His later Fundamentalist admirers from all ages since. Surely it is time (this is the second time attention has been drawn to this) to call them out too if they endorsed the ministry of preachers of “a damnable heresy.”

I leave it there. Thanks for reading

Regards to you both,

P/s For the record, HA Ironside also denied that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to sinners, denying that the Bible ever taught this.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Colin,

It is, in my view, entirely unreasonable to assume that someone who is misinformed is a heretic because he does not know that a third party holds to a false gospel. You stated:

If Wesley preached a false gospel, then those like Spurgeon endorse the false gospel they recognized him as preaching.

The incorrect assumption in your statement here is evident. The reason that those who are not heretics can endorse someone like Wesley is specifically because they did not “recognize” that he preached a false gospel. If they knew that he believed in baptismal regeneration and they still endorsed his gospel, the situation would be radically different.

Furthermore, Acts 22:16 does not help your case – please see my book Heaven Only for the Baptized? at faithsaves.net for detailed exposition of the verse.

I think we should give Wesley the ability to clearly state what he actually believes. Simply reading the evidence I provided above gives strong reasons to believe he accepted baptismal regeneration. You can also read the article in the Wesleyan Theological Journal I referenced. It is not necessary to torture Wesley's language to get him to deny the doctrine he was advocating. Furthermore, I already explained why he preached the necessity of conversion to those who were baptized and were supposedly regenerated in infancy – they can lose their salvation by not doing enough good works, or by being moral but not really Christian, and would then need to be regenerated again.

You are correct that the Westminster Confession of Faith leaves room for baptismal regeneration, and the study of the Westminster assembly will reveal that some, but not all, of those there believe in baptismal regeneration. The Federal Vision people have a case in Reformed history for their sacramental heresy.

If you read what Ryle has to do to Anglican theological authorities to avoid baptismal regeneration you will also understand what is involved in the torture of language. I'm thankful that he denied the false doctrine, but if he treated the Bible the way he treated Anglican sources, he would have been an Origen of allegorical interpretation.

Watchman said...

Would you declare that Wesley is burning in the fires of Hell today? Or would you state that he is in Heaven having now learned the truth about the places in which he was in doctrinal error?

Dave Barnhart said...

KJB1611, you can easily look up the sermons of Lancelot Andrewes, just one of the KJV translators, where he expounds on baptism, and makes it clear that "we had rotted away in our sins without baptism," among other such statements. Those words are from him, but many others have written on him and concluded, as Thomas did about Wesley, that Andrewes clearly believed in baptismal regeneration.

To the others here, my point is not to say that because of Andrewes' beliefs the KJV translators' work is in vain. Others have said it much better than I have, but it's often easy to make someone's words say something about their beliefs that they did not mean to say. In addition, even if facts are meticulously checked (and I have no doubt that they were for this article), they still may paint only one side when there may be other writings that state differently.

Pastor Brandenburg asked if I was OK with Calvin's baptismal regeneration beliefs, but I have read at least one testimony from him where he places his faith in his salvation in Christ alone, with no mention of baptism. Better scholars than me might conclude that either Wesley or Calvin believed in Baptismal regeneration, but that still might not be the whole story.

Dave Barnhart said...

Pastor Brandenburg,

As to your contention about Wescott and Hort, they are mentioned several times in Thou Shalt Keep Them, though mostly in the footnotes. However, the chapter by Pastor Gary Webb mentions their methods being unacceptable, and bolsters this with a statement that they denied the doctrine of inspiration because of their position on inerrancy in the original manuscripts. I have also heard him speak on the Bible version issue, and also make similar statements that their work is unreliable because of their other beliefs.

Now, to be accurate, he is a commenter here rather than a regular poster, but if I do remember accurately, you and he are still in fellowship. I respect him highly as a pastor, but on the KJV issue, we most definitely disagree. I understand that his positions may not be exactly the same as yours, but unless you say differently, I consider both of you to be in the same "camp."

I understand that the major argument both of you use on the KJV is the text itself. However, that doesn't negate the fact that quite often translators and textual critics in the critical text camp are held up as being unreliable because of other beliefs they have, sometimes by those in your camp. My point was only that sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Dave,

Did we write anything that disclaimed W and H because of their beliefs? I just don't make that argument ever, which is why bringing that into a comment about Wesley is very strange. I have written how much here on the text and KJV issue and yet don't mention W and H. That would seem odd if it was such a big deal to me. That's a typical D. A. Waite argument, but how much do I mention him here either? I don't remember what we have about Westcott and Hort in our footnotes, but I would be amazed if I mentioned them in mine.

There is a huge difference between a warning about someone's theology, well, because of his theology, than to like how men translated words. I think someone's theology can affect a translation, but that isn't even why we support the KJV here. I've made very little about how great their theology is here. Have I written one thing about that here? Do you know what I write here? I write the historic and biblical position, which would be what?

I don't hardly mention Spurgeon, but anyone would know I agree with Spurgeon's views way more than Wesley's. He believes in eternal security, Dave. There's a lot to respect about Spurgeon, so we respect a lot about him, more than Wesley.

We still haven't said whether what Thomas wrote is true. Still waiting on that. If he did believe what Thomas says, your thoughts? You haven't proven that wrong.

Colin Maxwell said...

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

**********
Hi Thomas,

Your argument re: Spurgeon endorsing Wesley in ignorance is a non starter. Spurgeon was one of the widest read men in English evangelicalism at the time and actually lectured on John and Charles Wesley (beside me as I type).

In this sympathetic lecture, CHS wrote:

“As for John Wesley’s doctrine, I have not an atom of sympathy with him, except so far as he preached the gospel of Christ. Now, the essential doctrine of the Gospel is justification by faith [Quotes Romans 5:1] That (emphasis his) he did preach; and although on one occasion, as I shall have to show you in his life, there was a sad error in respect to this fundamental doctrine; yet he and his followers did, and do, as faithfully preach this truth as any denomination of Christians under Heaven.”

“The greatest errors, I think, of Wesley’s doctrine were, first of all, the doctrine of sinless perfection

His preaching was constantly against the doctrine of final perseverance…”

Spurgeon was well aware (not ignorant) of Wesley’s doctrinal deficiencies, but still basically endorsed him as a gospel preacher. So much so, that (as above) he rhetorically named him as a possible candidate for apostleship, even while detesting many of his doctrines :

Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.

Other Welsy admirers, like Ironside etc., were also well read. The collective stupidity argument seldom works and it doesn’t work here.

Regards,

KJB1611 said...

Dear Watchman,

"[T]there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:7-10)

Dear Dave,

I have not investigated the theology of Lancelot Andrewes enough to comment on him either positively or negatively.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Colin,

While a "Spurgeon taught it, so I know, for his writings tell me so" position appears to me to be not a little weak itself, could you please point out where Spurgeon said something like: "Wesley believed in baptismal regeneration, but what he said was still a true gospel" or "Wesley did not really believe in baptismal regeneration, even though various passages in his writings look like it, and those passages really mean…"

I'm not willing to torture the words of Wesley simply because Spurgeon believed something different about Wesley than what the words of the man himself plainly say.

Perhaps you can take up my conclusion with the gentleman who wrote the article in the Wesleyan Theological Journal who agreed with me.

By the way, if we really were consistent with the idea that somebody has to know he has attained a higher level of spirituality then a third party before he can criticize anything about that third party's theology, we could never obey the Bible's commands to expose and rebuke false teachers and false teaching – nor, for that matter, could anybody take issue with my post without first knowing my heart in a manner that only the omniscient God knows it.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Thomas,

Thank you for your patience with me on this matter. I must say, though, that I found your request somewhat strange. You ask me to find you, where CHS might have said something to the effect:

"Wesley believed in baptismal regeneration, but what he said was still a true gospel"

I think both of us know that CHS, who rightly fought Baptismal Regenerationists, would never equate BR as being consistent with the true gospel.

CHS had no qualms exposing Wesley when on one occasion he departed from the doctrine of justification by faith. It is strange indeed that being prepared to expose several errors of a favourite subject, that he should stop short of one that really mattered i.e. Baptismal Regeneration.

You ask me also to find you a passage to the effect:

"Wesley did not really believe in baptismal regeneration, even though various passages in his writings look like it, and those passages really mean…"

I cannot do so which in itself is significant. Working on the assumption that he never uttered words like these, the silence suggests either:

1) CHS was amazingly ignorant of Wesley’s writings and doctrinal position.
2) CHS knew Wesley’s position (BR according to you) and ignored it.
3) CHS knew Wesley’s position (BR according to you) and wanted to hide it.
4) CHS did not believe that Wesley was a BR and felt no need to refute it.

In a sense, CHS accused the whole of the Church of England of having the BR teaching in their catechism. His famous sermon (#543) left no stone unturned:

I am not aware that any Protestant Church in England teaches the doctrine of baptismal regeneration except one, and that happens to be the corporation which with none too much humility calls itself the Church of England.

But even then, he directed his ire towards the growing Pusseyite wing of that church., whom he lambasted in the strongest of language:

I pray you never rest upon this wretched and rotten foundation, this deceitful invention of antichrist.

CHS however continued: "But," I hear many good people exclaim, "there are many good clergymen in the Church who do not believe in baptismal regeneration." To this my answer is prompt. Why then do they belong to a Church which teaches that doctrine in the plainest terms? I am told that many in the Church of England preach against her own teaching. I know they do, and herein I rejoice in their enlightenment, but I question, gravely question their morality.

CHS never ceased to enthusiastically endorse men like Wesley and esp. Whitefield and Ryle, as true preachers of the gospel. Evidently, he did not believe that they held to BR.

In his #543 sermon, CHS did not name any of the “many good clergymen in the COE who do not believe in BR." Apart from the term “Pussyite” he named no offenders either and so his silence again is explainable. It is significant that he positively invoked the names of Knox and Luther in the fight back.


I think, Thomas (and by extension Kent, who is ult. responsible for the postings on his site) that you should just come clean and denounce CHS and a whole host of other respected men like Whitefield (who worked with Wesley and split with him over #Calvinism – not any supposed BR) Ironside, Tozer etc., as vile compromisers, if not apostates. Your collective stupidity of some of the most read men in the Christian church argument is as thin a sheet that was every asked to cover a body on a cold and frosty night.

Earlier on, in response to another, you quoted Galatians 1:8-9 when asked if you thought Wesley was in Hell. Why not just say: “I believe that Wesley in in Hell because he preached a false gospel and incurred the anathema of Galatians 1:8-9) Then we can go from there to those who endorsed him.

Regards,

Colin Maxwell said...

I sent the reply below about 2 days ago. I assume it got lost somewhere in the system:

Hi Thomas,

Thank you for your patience with me on this matter. I must say, though, that I found your request somewhat strange. You ask me to find you, where CHS might have said something to the effect:

"Wesley believed in baptismal regeneration, but what he said was still a true gospel"

I think both of us know that CHS, who rightly fought Baptismal Regenerationists, would never equate BR as being consistent with the true gospel.

CHS had no qualms exposing Wesley when on one occasion he departed from the doctrine of justification by faith. It is strange indeed that being prepared to expose several errors of a favourite subject, that he should stop short of one that really mattered i.e. Baptismal Regeneration.

You ask me also to find you a passage to the effect:

"Wesley did not really believe in baptismal regeneration, even though various passages in his writings look like it, and those passages really mean…"

I cannot do so which in itself is significant. Working on the assumption that he never uttered words like these, the silence suggests either:

1) CHS was amazingly ignorant of Wesley’s writings and doctrinal position.
2) CHS knew Wesley’s position (BR according to you) and ignored it.
3) CHS knew Wesley’s position (BR according to you) and wanted to hide it.
4) CHS did not believe that Wesley was a BR and felt no need to refute it.

In a sense, CHS accused the whole of the Church of England of having the BR teaching in their catechism. His famous sermon (#543) left no stone unturned:

I am not aware that any Protestant Church in England teaches the doctrine of baptismal regeneration except one, and that happens to be the corporation which with none too much humility calls itself the Church of England.

But even then, he directed his ire towards the growing Pusseyite wing of that church., whom he lambasted in the strongest of language:

I pray you never rest upon this wretched and rotten foundation, this deceitful invention of antichrist.

CHS however continued: "But," I hear many good people exclaim, "there are many good clergymen in the Church who do not believe in baptismal regeneration." To this my answer is prompt. Why then do they belong to a Church which teaches that doctrine in the plainest terms? I am told that many in the Church of England preach against her own teaching. I know they do, and herein I rejoice in their enlightenment, but I question, gravely question their morality.

CHS never ceased to enthusiastically endorse men like Wesley and esp. Whitefield and Ryle, as true preachers of the gospel. Evidently, he did not believe that they held to BR.

In his #543 sermon, CHS did not name any of the “many good clergymen in the COE who do not believe in BR." Apart from the term “Pussyite” he named no offenders either and so his silence again is explainable. It is significant that he positively invoked the names of Knox and Luther in the fight back.


I think, Thomas (and by extension Kent, who is ult. responsible for the postings on his site) that you should just come clean and denounce CHS and a whole host of other respected men like Whitefield (who worked with Wesley and split with him over #Calvinism – not any supposed BR) Ironside, Tozer etc., as vile compromisers, if not apostates. Your collective stupidity of some of the most read men in the Christian church argument is as thin a sheet that was every asked to cover a body on a cold and frosty night.

Earlier on, in response to another, you quoted Galatians 1:8-9 when asked if you thought Wesley was in Hell. Why not just say: “I believe that Wesley in in Hell because he preached a false gospel and incurred the anathema of Galatians 1:8-9) Then we can go from there to those who endorsed him.

Regards,

KJB1611 said...

Dear Colin,

It seems very strange to me to try to discuss whether Wesley believed in baptismal regeneration by ignoring what he actually said and putting an extensive quotes from somebody else, namely, Spurgeon. If you wish to get your doctrine of what Wesley believed from Spurgeon, I suppose you can do so. I will get my doctrine of what Wesley believed from Wesley. Again, I would encourage you to take the issue up with the Wesleyan Theological Journal and tell the Wesley scholars there that they do not know what Wesley believed, and prove your assertions with Charles Spurgeon without ever quoting Wesley.

It seems to me like this line of argument has come to an end. If you wish to make further arguments about Wesley's beliefs from Spurgeon, feel free to do so, but it is very likely that I will not make another response.

Thanks for commenting.

Colin Maxwell said...

For some reason, my reply is not being uploaded here :o(

KJB1611 said...

I have now linked this article here:

http://faithsaves.net/john-wesley-hero-heretic/