John Wesley On Free Will

John Wesley On Free Will

Steve Wright

HT602ON Historical Theology 2

November 17, 2014


Doctrine is critical because what you believe will determine how you live. Therefore, the doctrine of free will is one of essential importance as it is connected to and regards the study of soteriology. One of the greatest gifts given to humanity is the ability to choose God or to reject God. God has invested humanity with the ability to choose. Many remarkable theologians through history have spoken on the doctrine of free will but John Wesley most captivates me. I intend to show that Wesley believed in a preventative grace that restored free will in a way that didn’t dilute God’s sovereignty.

In this research paper I resolve to capture the heart of Wesley’s understanding of the doctrine of free will and its connection to the study of soteriology. Not every doctrine relating to free will shall be considered but only those that are critical to a healthy understanding of free will as Wesley embraced it. According to Steinmetz, the responsibility of the Christian historian “is to enable the voices of Christians from distant ages to be heard again by a church that may have forgotten them and desperately needs to hear them again.”[1] Therefore, one of my working goals in this paper is to present the voice of John Wesley and his belief as it relates to free will in a way that embraces the historical context in which Wesley found himself and to bring Wesley’s unaltered voice forward. “Going native” is critical but that is not the end of the task Steinmetz projects. “Interpreters must interpret. They must explain to their readers in language and categories their readers can understand what they have learned from studying the writings and artifacts of an alien place and time.”[2]

Multiplied doctrines could be addressed in order to come to a more comprehensive understanding of Wesley’s free-will theology, but space will only allow us to recognize a few. First, we will frame a brief historical context of Wesley’s life and take a cursory look at Wesley’s understanding of free will. Second, we will contemplate the love of God, and its connection to free will. Third, we will reflect on how God created us in his image and how being created in that image affirms free will. Fourth, we will ponder Wesley’s idea that the sovereignty of God is not diminished by the doctrine of free will. Fifth, we will turn and survey God’s preventive grace before a final revisiting of Wesley’s belief in free will theology, along with concluding remarks. Please note, the aforementioned doctrines are closely linked and could be evaluated in any order without diminishing one against another.

Historical Context

John Wesley perpetually remains an impressive theological influence among present-day Christ-followers and theologians. In the year 1703, John Wesley was born, and he lived until the age of eight-eight. He became an ordained Anglican priest in 1728 and was a product of Oxford education. He had a zeal for God, and his preaching was a sure sign of his passion that theology was of immeasurable importance but not at the expense of not living out one’s faith. While John was at Oxford, along with his brother Charles, they together formed a group that studied and lived the scriptures. It was at Oxford that those who observed how they lived their faith in a consistent manner among them gave them the name Methodists.

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