Shocking Beliefs of John Wesley

Shocking Beliefs of John Wesley March 20, 2019


What follows is an excerpt from Frank Viola’s new book – ReGrace: What the Shocking Beliefs of the Great Christians Can Teach Us Today. The endnotes which contain first-hand sources are not included in the excerpt.


1) Some of the so-called shocking beliefs that I cover in ReGrace are beliefs that I myself agree with. Others I find abhorrent.

Consequently, just because a shocking belief is listed doesn’t reveal how I personally feel about it.

It simply means that many evangelical Christians will find the belief to be shocking (at worst) or peculiar (at best).

Therefore, to those of you who are inclined to finish this book and proudly throw your chest out saying, “Good grief, I wasn’t shocked by any of those beliefs!” remember three things:

You missed the point of the book; each person I feature had people who believed they were heretics during their day; and every one of them still have people raking them over the coals because of their viewpoints.

2) While I disagree with a number of beliefs that each person I feature held, I have respect for each of them. In fact, I cannot tie the laces of their shoes.

Each individual was remarkable in his own right. I realize this means that people who don’t like Calvin, Lewis, Wesley, Augustine, and so forth will be turned off by that statement.

And some may misuse this book as a frontal attack on each person it covers, completely missing the boat on those chapters and the intent of this volume.

Finally, remember, the point of this book is NOT to highlight what our spiritual forefathers believed. It’s simply that they all had imperfect views. For that reason, let’s have more grace and civility whenever we disagree with each other over theology and politics.

The book explains practically how to disagree – even strongly – in a Christlike manner without getting down in the mud and engaging in fleshly, carnal behavior over a diverging viewpoint held by a fellow Christian.

For if the “heroes” of the faith didn’t possess immaculate perception, than the same is true for every child of God today – including you.

Read Excerpt Now

The Shocking Beliefs of John Wesley

I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.

~ Oswald Chambers

John Wesley was remarkable. In his effort to preach the gospel, he is estimated to have traveled between 225,000 and 250,000 miles mainly on horseback. He preached over 40,000 sermons. Standing at only five feet three and weighing between 125 and 128 pounds, Wesley left an indelible mark on church history.1

Perhaps his most enduring contribution is that he gave us experiential salvation—a salvation experience that moved past the frontal lobe.

As is the case with all who have the hand of God on them, Wesley faced unbelievable opposition from every quarter. He amassed a boatload of enemies. Even members of his own family caused him grief in his ministry.2

Yet despite the continuous onslaught against his ministry, God’s protection was on him. Wesley’s legacy has impacted hundreds of thousands of Christians in every generation, including our own.


Nevertheless, Wesley—like every other servant of God—had feet of clay. And he also held to some strange beliefs. Here are some of them.

1) Wesley believed that church buildings should separate men and women.

Wesley believed that religious buildings should “be parted in the middle by a rail running all along, to divide the men from the women.”6

2) Wesley believed in ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. 

Wesley believed there was a ghost known as “Old Jeffrey” in the Epworth parsonage where he grew up. Wesley actually believed the “ghost” was a demon or a messenger of Satan, sent to afflict his father for his rash promise of leaving the family.7

3) Like Augustine before him, Wesley believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother.

The difference, of course, is that Augustine was Catholic while Wesley was not. In his “Letter to a Roman Catholic,” Wesley stated,

I believe that he [Jesus] was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.8

The above is a short excerpt from ReGrace with the endnotes removed. There’s much more on Wesley and his views in the book.

To order the book, go to ReGrace: What the Shocking Beliefs of the Great Christians Can Teach Us Today.

Here is the Back Cover Description:

The church is tired of seeing Christians act ungraciously toward one another when they disagree. Social media has added to the carnage. Christians routinely block each other on Facebook because of doctrinal disagreements. The world watches the blood-letting, and the Christian witness is tarnished.

But what if every Christian discovered that their favorite teacher in church history had blind spots and held to some false–and even shocking–views?

Bestselling author Frank Viola argues that this simple awareness will soften Christians when they interact with each other in the face of theological disagreements.

In ReGrace, he uncovers some of the shocking beliefs held by faith giants like C.S. Lewis, Luther, Calvin, Moody, Spurgeon, Wesley, Graham, and Augustine–not to downgrade or dismiss them, but to show that even “the greats” in church history didn’t get everything right.

Knowing that the heroes of our faith sometimes got it wrong will empower us to treat our fellow Christians with grace rather than disdain whenever we disagree over theology.

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