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Religion Library: Methodist

Sacred Narratives

Written by: Ted Vial

Methodists, following Wesley, differ from Lutherans and Presbyterians (or, at least, Luther and Zwingli and Calvin) on several key matters.For Methodists, God's justifying (forgiving) grace is available to all humans, and it is theirs if they (under the influence of prevenient grace) accept it.That means that one can choose not to accept this justifying grace—it is resistible.For the reformers, God's offer of grace is an offer one cannot refuse.

Further, for Wesley and the Methodists, if you do not strive to make progress in living a life of Christian perfection, that is, if you are not working to become sanctified or holy (again with God's help), you can put your salvation at risk.Backsliders will not enter heaven; the saved are not necessarily given the gift of perseverance.

Christians who accept justifying grace and continue toward sanctification in this life escape the fires of wrath, glorifying God for eternity in heaven.The role of the individual in accepting grace, and the pursuit of perfection, have led other Protestants to accuse Methodists of being Arminians.Arminius, a Dutch theologian, had argued that unless humans have enough free will to accept or reject God's grace, God would inevitably be the author of sin (if humans cannot choose not to sin, they are not really responsible for sin).This was a charge Wesley embraced.For a time he edited a Methodist magazine called "The Arminian".

Study Questions:
     1.    What did Protestant reformers believe about the relationship between God and grace? How was Wesley's view different?
     2.    What are Wesley's three types of graces? How is each enacted?
     3.    Is there a relationship between grace and individual action? Explain.


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