Friday, August 28, 2009

A Simple Distinctive

With the many discussions I have had, some enlightening and others divisive, regarding the distinctive differences we have as Arminians with our Calvinist brethren, I have struggled for the simple statement. Books have been written and tempers raised in trying to craft an understanding of these differences. I have lingered over election and predestination as the defining differences however I am moved to consider something else for now… I like old books. There is something treasured in a lot of them and I am especially drawn to 19th century writings, produced from a time when books were the medium of any significance. The 19th century produced a rich heritage of Wesleyan writings and in browsing through a few of them earlier, I came across this passage. It is taken from M.L. Scudder's American Methodism first published in 1867. The Wesley Center for Applied Theology has been gracious in providing several holiness works for research and enlightenment. This is one of them and I think the distinctives offered are right on the money.

The one controlling doctrine that gives distinctiveness to Methodism is, that the work of salvation by Christ depends on the enlightening, renewing, and sanctifying in-workings of the Holy Spirit; and hence, that the individual is saved, and saved only, as he becomes the subject of this work of the Spirit. In connection with this, it teaches also, that the atonement of Christ hath provided that every man may receive this Spirit, and become the subject of its sanctification.

Romanism asserts that sin can only be destroyed by the fires of purgatory. Calvinism and Lutheranism teach that it remains in the believer till death. Methodism asserts that the grace of Christ can "sanctify wholly," "here and now."

These distinctive doctrines that we have ascribed to Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Wesleyanism are not only true in their application to the churches that take their tenets from the men who give them names, but they can each be directly traced to the personal experience of the great Reformers themselves. Calvin sought for "subjection to the will of God," and taught his followers to seek more for submission to, than for reception of, the grace of God. Luther's struggle was for forgiveness of sin; but, with his interpretation, it was more "a work done for him than done in him," and his followers hold rather to "justification pro forma than pro spiritu." Wesley sought and gained a higher state, -- a religious consciousness that the " blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin:" he taught his followers that they were to know an inward, as well as outward holiness. - American Methodism, M.L. Scudder, S. S. Scranton & Co., Hartford, Connecticut, 1867, p.31