I.          Brief History

A.                Early in 17th century, hot debate within Reformed church in Holland.

1.                  Question was whether God decreed, before creation and fall, that some be saved and others lost.

2.                  Group led by Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), soon known as Arminians, objected to the 5 points of Calvinism.

B.                 Five Points of Calvinism

1.                  Total Depravity

a.                   Agrees with Lutheranism.

b.                  First parents fell from original righteousness and communion with God by sin, became dead in sin and wholly defiled.

2.                  Unconditional Election

a.                   Before creation, God elected some to everlasting life, to the praise of His grace.

b.                  Before creation, left rest in condemnation and finally consigned them to everlasting punishment, to the praise of His justice.

c.                   Some Calvinists reject this.

3.                  Limited Atonement

a.                   Suffering and death of Christ sufficed to redeem world, but God never intended His Passion to save the world.

b.                  Therefore, Jesus redeemed only the elect.

4.                  Irresistible Grace

a.                   Distinguished between “outward” word and the “inner” word.

b.                  Irresistible call of divine grace.

5.                  Perseverance of the Saints.

a.                   Elect can not lose Him altogether.

b.                  Elect can lose the exercise of faith but not faith itself.

C.                Arminians countered with Five Points of their own (“the Remonstrance”)

1.                  God from all eternity predestinated to eternal life those whom He foresaw would remain steadfast in faith unto their end.

2.                  Christ died for all mankind, not simply for the elect.

3.                  Man co-operates in his conversion by free will.

4.                  Man may resist divine grace.

5.                  Man may fall from divine grace.

6.                  Discussion Points

a.                   Nos. 2,4, 5 are in accord with Scripture.

b.                  Mt 23:37; Jn 3:16; Ac 7:51; 1Co 10:12; 2Co 5:14,15; Gal 5:4; 2Pe 2:1

c.                   Nos. 1 and 3 contrary to Scripture.

d.                  Ro 3:22-24; 8:28-30.

e.                   Eph 1:3-6; 2:8,9.

D.                Arminianism

1.                  Condemned by the Synod of Dort (1618-1619).

2.                  Were persecuted by civil powers.

3.                  Never formed a separate denomination.

4.                  Yet spread rapidly.

5.                  Introduced into Anglican Church through Archbishop Wm. Laud (1573-1645)

6.                  Century later, shaped the theology of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.


II.            Representative Arminian Reformed Churches

A.        All Methodist bodies which trace their origin directly or indirectly to the Wesleyan revival of 18 th century.

B.            The large number of Holiness bodies which originated in 20th century.

C.        Several bodies related to Methodism in doctrine and practice, though of independent origin, e.g.

1.                  The United Brethren.

2.                  The Evangelical Association.

D.            The Salvation Army and kindred organizations.

E.                 Mennonites and the General Baptists hold many similar views, but antedate Arminianism and have different theological emphases.


III.       History of Methodism

A.                Origin owed to ardent zeal of

1.                  John and Charles Wesley (1703-1791; 1708-1788).

2.                  George Whitefield (1714-1770) and others.

B.                 Saddened by low ebb of spiritual life in the Anglican Church at the time.

1.                  “Dead formalism”.

2.                  Tremendous social and economic upheavals at that time.

3.                  New rich separated from the poor and under privileged.

C.                Group met at Oxford University in 1729 as the Holy Club.

1.                  Because of their methodical habits of study and worship, were nicknamed “Methodists” by fellow students.

2.                  Engaged in not only methodical Bible study and prayer, but also in acts of charity.

D.                John Wesley

1.                  Unlike Luther or Calvin, was not a theologian.

2.                  Was “the counselor of anxious souls” (Mayer, p. 284)

3.                  Sought answer to “What must I do to be saved?”

a.                   Luther’s answer: doctrine of justification by grace, through faith.

b.                  Calvin’s answer: directed the searching soul to the sovereign God.

c.                   Wesley, however, directed the restless heart to its own experience of Christian perfection.

4.                  Basic differences between Luther, Calvin and Wesley:

a.                   In Lutheranism, the Christian is viewed as the justified sinner.

b.                  In Calvinism, the Christian is viewed as the obedient servant.

c.                   In Methodism, the Christian is viewed as the perfect man.

5.                  Wesley’s theological development reached its climax in the “doctrine of perfection”.

a.                   Wesley’s first steps here can be traced to strict training received from his highly gifted mother (she has been called “the mother of Methodism”)

(1)               Theologian in her own right.

(2)               Lived by a clearly defined “method” of prescribed rules for conduct.

b.                  Three authors with great impact.

(1)               Jeremy Taylor’s Holy Living and Holy Dying.

(2)               Medieval Imitatio Christi.

(3)               Wm. Law’s Christian Perfection.

c.                   “Holy Club” failed to give him the peace he sought.

(1)               Went to Georgia to observe rites of pagan Indians.

(2)               Made contact with the Moravians, who convinced him that it was possible to obtain holiness and perfection.

(3)               Antinomian views of Moravians were contrary to Wesley’s entire training, but he was urged to pray for the experience of peace and joy.

(4)               Aldersgate Street experience.

(a)                May 24, 1738, at exactly 8:45 p.m.

(b)               As he listened to reading of Luther’s Preface to the Epistle of Romans.

(c)                He was “converted” (difficult to define).

(d)               He already considered himself Christian.

(e)                “I felt my heart strangely warmed”.

(5)               Now he felt assured of the necessary faith and strength to lead a life of holiness.

(a)                Did not mean he claimed perfection for himself.

(b)               Seems to have considered himself as no longer subject to voluntary sins.

(c)                Therefore, able to free himself from God’s wrath by a life of holiness in service of Christ and the world.

(6)               Heart of his experience – and his theology – was the subjective conviction that he now possessed a constant and intensive love of Christ.

6.                  “Subjectivism”

a.                   A distinctive characteristic.

b.                  He continued to use regularly the “means of grace”, but to these added prayer and discipline.

c.                   Lutheranism: assurance based on the objective character of the means of grace apart from any personal and subjective feeling.

d.                  Wesley: assurance rested on his intense religious experience rather than the objective promises of God.

e.                   Anglican church: worship primarily a corporate activity which had become completely ritualistic and formalistic.

f.                    Wesley’s religious experience was individualistic.

7.                  Endeavored to persuade others.

a.                   Was excluded from the Established church.

b.                  Resorted to other means.

(1)               Open air preaching.

(2)               Protracted watch meetings.

(3)               Organized converts in societies under tutorship of lay preachers.

c.                   1744, John Wesley organized the Annual Conference.

d.                  Not until 1784, did he choose a self-perpetuating conference of 100 men to govern as a separate body in England.

e.                   1784, ordained Thomas Coke and sent him to U.S. to superintend Methodists jointly with Francis Asbury (sent years before).

(1)               Methodist Church of America organized in Baltimore, Dec 24, 1784.

(2)               Asbury, elected and ordained Superintendent by Coke.

(3)               1787, Asbury and Coke took the title bishop.

8.                  Misc.

a.                   John traveled at least 225,000 miles.

b.                  John preached over 40,000 sermons.

c.                   Charles wrote estimated 6000 hymns.

d.                  Spread rapidly with U.S. frontier.


IV.       The Doctrinal Standards of Methodism

A.                Wesleys accepted the Scriptures, the canonical books of Old Testament and New Testament, as containing all things necessary to salvation.

B.                 Nevertheless, to the Scriptures, they added:

1.                  Reason.

2.                  The teachings of the ancient church.

3.                  (In Lesson 11, we will see that “subjective experience” is added within their Formal Principle.)

C.            The Twenty-Five Articles of Religion

1.                  Prepared in 1784.

2.                  For the American Methodists.

3.                  Based on

a.                   The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church.

b. And, a “Sunday Service” from the Book of Common Prayer.

D.            Wesley’s Sermons and Notes on the New Testament

1.                  Usually accepted as a doctrinal standard.

2.                  Culling provides the distinctive creed of Methodism.

E.            The Book of Discipline

1.                  Must study to properly evaluate Methodism.

2.                  Contains the ethical and practical rules of life considered essential for membership.

3.                  Rules are so prominent in church’s life that may called a church with a discipline rather than a doctrinal platform.

F.            Were more interested in deeds than in creeds.

1.                  Wesley sought a reformation of life, not of doctrine.

2.                  Was averse to all theological discussions which emphasized doctrine at the expense of Christian life.

3.                  “I will not quarrel with you about any mere opinion” (quoted in F.E. Mayer, p. 288)

4.                  Wesley and his adherents believe that the genius of Methodism is its ability to make dogma completely subordinate to life.

5.                  Bishop Rowe: “To put it epigrammatically, the distinguishing doctrine of Methodism is that it has no distinguishing doctrine.” (quoted, F.E. Mayer p. 289).

6.                  But, it really does have a doctrinal system, and Methodists indeed have definite doctrinal convictions (evident in the fundamentalist – modernistic controversy: centered on publications used and training of ministers).

G.            Discussion Points

1.                  Creeds express what Christians believe.

2.                  Faith and obedience: cause and effect.

3.                  Jn 8:31,32; 15:4-8.

4.                  Php 1:9-11.




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