Issue 1, Spring 2001, Volume 19
In his well known sermon "Free Grace," John Wesley said that the "grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is FREE IN ALL, AND FREE FOR ALL" [Works, 7:373]. In this sermon he responded directly to the Calvinist teachers of the day that taught that Gods loving grace is not free for all but irresistibly forced on only some the elect. Wesley believed that the Scriptures did not support such a teaching.
Just as in Wesleys day, Calvinists today teach that Gods grace is not free for all but forced on only some. Some of my Calvinist brothers would object to me using the word "force" to describe the irresistible working of Gods grace on the hearts of the elect. Yet, it seem to me that I am justified in using such a word since Calvinists use the equivalent of it in their writings. This will become clearer as one moves through the article.
Calvinists typically appeal to the irresistible grace of God from John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." Reformed theologian R.C. Sproul says that this verse "teaches at least this much: It is not within fallen mans natural ability to come to Christ on his own, without some kind of divine assistance" [Chosen by God, p. 68]. Wesley can be seen to be in complete agreement with Sprouls statement when he writes, "Natural free-will, in the present state of mankind, I do not understand; I only assert, that there is a measure of free-will supernaturally restored to every man, together with that supernatural light which enlightens every man that cometh into the world" [Works, 10:229-30].
Wesley taught that divine assistance was absolutely necessary for any person to come to Christ in faith. This gracious assistance comes before or prevenient to any movement of man towards God. Mankind is unable to make the slightest move towards Christ in his fallen condition without God first taking the loving and redemptive initiative.
The disagreement between Calvinists and Arminians would be over the meaning of the word draw in John 6:44; whether this divine drawing or assistance is irresistible or resistible, and whether it extends to all people as John 12:32 suggests, or just to some people. We need to keep in mind that there is a huge difference between being irresistibly compelled or forced to believe in Christ and being graciously enabled to believe.
Sprouls position is obvious from his following words: "Kittels Theological Dictionary of the New Testament defines it [draw] to mean to compel by irresistible superiority. Linguistically and lexicographically, the word means to compel " [Chosen by God, p. 69; Grace Unknown, p. 153]. He goes on argue for this meaning by appealing to two additional texts: James 2:6 and Acts 16:19. He points out that both of these texts translate the Greek word helkuo as "drag" and therefore John 6:44 cannot mean woo or lovingly persuade as some Arminians argue [p. 70].
Another Reformed theologian Loraine Boettner would be in agreement with Sproul as seen in how he inserts the following words in John 6:44: "No man can come unto me except the Father that sent me draw [literally, drags] him" [The Reformed Faith, p. 11].
Calvinist Robert W. Yarbrough sets forth the same argument that Sproul does but in more detail. He writes,
"Draw" in 6:44 translates the Greek helkuo. Outside John it appears in the New Testament only at Acts 16:19: "they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace. . . . " Johns Gospel uses the word to speak of persons being drawn to Christ (12:32), a sword being drawn (18:10), and a net full of fish being hauled or dragged to shore (21:6,11). The related form helko appears in Acts 21:30 ("they dragged him from the temple") and James 2:6 ("Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court"). It is hard to avoid the impression that John 6:44 refers to a "forceful attraction" in bringing sinners to the Son ["Divine Election in the Gospel of John," in Still Sovereign, p. 50, fn. 10].
There are a couple of problems with both Yarbroughs and Sprouls approach to understanding draw in John 6:44. First, their procedure of looking at helkuo is an example of a word-study fallacy known as "word-loading." This occurs when a person takes a meaning of a word in one context and then seeks to apply that same meaning into a different context. They both do this when they appeal to the use of helkuo in James 2:6, Acts 16:19 and other places, as justification for understanding John 6:44 as meaning drag or force.
Secondly, while Yarbrough does not cite from any reference work to support his conclusions, Sproul at least cites one, Kittels Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT). After investigating "Big" Kittels definition for myself, I was surprised to find that it did not agree with Sprouls definition of draw. Albrecht Oepke comments that in Johns usage of helkuo "force or magic may be discounted, but not the supernatural element" [TDNT, 2:503]. Yet for Sproul s definition to hold up, Johns usage must mean to compel or force. When I turned to find out what "Little" Kittel (the one-volume abridged edition of Kittels massive ten volume work) had to say on "draw," I was shocked at what it had to say in comparison to Sprouls dogmatic assertions. Here is the entire comment as translated and abridged by Geoffrey Bromiley:
The basic meaning is "to draw," "tug," or, in the case of persons, "compel." It may be used for "to draw" to a place by magic, for demons being "drawn" to animal life, or for the inner influencing of the will (Plato). The Semitic world has the concept of an irresistible drawing to God (cf. 1 Sam. 10:5; 19:19ff.; Jer. 29:26; Hos. 9:7). In the OT helkein denotes a powerful impulse, as in Cant. 1:4, which is obscure but expresses the force of love. This is the point in the two important passages in Jn. 6:44; 12:32. There is no thought here of force or magic. The term figuratively expresses the supernatural power of the love of God or Christ which goes out to all (12:32) but without which no one can come (6:44). The apparent contradiction shows that both the election and the universality of grace must be taken seriously; the compulsion is not automatic [p. 227].
What The compulsion is not automatic But this is exactly what Sproul and other Calvinists argue that helkuo means in John 6:44 God literally and irresistibly compels, drags, or forces the elect to come to Christ. Yes, helkuo can literally mean drag, compel, or force in certain contexts (John 18:10; 21:6,11; Acts 16:19; 21:30; and James 2:6), but it is not the lexical meaning for the context of John 6:44, nor for that manner, John 12:32. Sproul confidently states that "linguistically and lexicographically, the word means to compel," but where is the citation of all the lexical evidence to support this statement
The Lexical Meaning for the Word "Draw" in John 6:44 and 12:32
I have surveyed every available Lexicon, Exegetical Dictionary, and Greek-English Dictionary, that I could find in bookstores, Seminaries, and College libraries available to me. Here is a sampling of the evidence:
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, says helkuo is used figuratively "of the pull on mans inner life. . . . draw, attract J 6:44" [Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, p. 251].
The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, states that helkuo is used metaphorically "to draw mentally and morally, John 6:44; 12:32" [William Mounce, p. 180].
The Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament has, "met., to draw, i.e. to attract, Joh. xii. 32. Cf. Joh. vi. 44" [W.J. Hickie, p. 13].
The Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament by Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller says, "figuratively, of a strong pull in the mental or moral life draw, attract (JN 6.44)" [p. 144].
Calvinist Spiros Zodhiates, in his Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, says, "Helkuo is used of Jesus on the cross drawing by His love, not force (Jn. 6:44; 12:32)" [New Testament Lexical Aids, p. 1831].
I could cite at least eight more reference works but it is unnecessary because not a single one of them defines draw in John 6:44 as "compel or force." Clearly, R.C. Sproul has not done his homework. Without warrant or justification, he has appealed to a single source that does not even support his Calvinist conclusions. He has, knowingly or unknowingly, ignored the overwhelming lexical evidence that militates against his reformed theology. To further compound his error, he has committed a basic word study fallacy in attempts to bolster his dogmatic assertions. It is surprising to find a philosopher and theologian of his caliber committing such obvious errors in his work. Calvinism relies heavily upon this erroneous understanding of draw to support their doctrines of predestination and irresistible grace. Yet, they are left without any lexical justification for their view.
Let us review the last few comments on the word draw from "little" Kittel:
There is no thought here of force or magic. The term figuratively expresses the supernatural power of the love of God or Christ which goes out to all (12:32) but without which no one can come (6:44). The apparent contradiction shows that both the election and the universality of grace must be taken seriously; the compulsion is not automatic.
What is rather ironic in all of this discussion is that the above definition coincides beautifully with the Wesleyan-Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace a doctrine that R.C. Sproul denies that the Bible teaches [pp. 123-125]. Wesleyan-Arminians believe that divine grace works in the hearts and wills of every person to elicit a faith response or as Thomas Oden states so well, "Gods love enables precisely that response in the sinner which Gods holiness demands: trust in Gods own self-giving" [The Transforming Power of Grace, p. 45].
Gods prevenient or assisting grace is morally drawing all people to Himself (John 12:32). This gracious working of God does not compel or force anyone to believe but enables all to respond to Gods commands to turn away from sin in repentance, and towards the Savior Jesus Christ in faith. Thus, with all the strength of Calvinism, salvation can be ascribed completely to God, but without denying genuine human responsibility that Calvinism does.
What is also ironic is that Wesleys understanding of "draw" in his Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament is fully in agreement with the lexical evidence that we have already witnessed. He says of John 6:44: "No man can believe in Christ , unless God give him power. He draws us first by good desires, not by compulsion, not by laying the will under any necessity; but by the strong and sweet, yet still resistable, motions of His heavenly grace" [pp. 328-329].
I would like to note that several times in Wesleys teachings we see him dispelling this notion that God uses irresistible grace to force or compel people to believe in Christ. I would like to first mention those instances in Wesleys Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament and then those in his Works.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-25, "If any man be willing to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Wesley replied to these words with. . . "None is forced; but if any will be a Christian, it must be on these terms. Let him deny himself, and take up his cross A rule that can never be too much observed" [Explanatory Notes, p. 83]. At the end of the Parable of the Great Banquet in Lukes gospel Jesus said, "And the master said to the slave, Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (14:23). To this Wesley replied, "Compel them to come in With all the violence of love, and the force of Gods Word. Such compulsion, and such only, in matters of religion, was used by Christ and His disciples" [Explanatory Notes, p. 258]. Pauls argument found in Acts 17:24-28, that God has revealed Himself through His creation and providential care so that people "would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him," is interpreted by Wesley as meaning: "The way is open; God is ready to be found; but He will lay no force upon man" [Explanatory Notes, p. 465]. When Paul defended himself before King Agrippa in Acts chapter twenty-six he said these words, "Consequently, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision [of Christ on the road to Damascus]" (vs. 19). Wesley commented, "I was not disobedient I did obey; I used that power (Gal. i. 16). So that even this grace whereby St. Paul was influenced was not irresistible" [Explanatory Notes, p. 501]. In response to the familiar words found in 1 Timothy 2:3-4 Wesley says, ". . . willeth all men to be saved. It is strange that any whom He has actually saved should doubt the universality of His grace! Who willeth seriously all men--Not a part only, much less the smallest part. To be saved--Eternally. This is treated of, verses 5-6. And, in order thereto, to come They are not compelled. To the knowledge of the truth Which brings salvation" [Explanatory Notes, pp. 774-775]. In Revelation chapter two Jesus says that he gives a false prophetess in the Church of Thyatira "time to repent" yet, "she does not want to repent of her immorality" (vs. 21). Wesley s notes read, "And I gave her time to repent So great is the power of Christ! But she will not repent So, though repentance is the gift of God, man may refuse it; God will not compel" [Explanatory Notes, p. 948].
In the sermon, "The General Spread of the Gospel," Wesley responds to a gentlemen concerning the idea that God acts irresistibly upon the souls of men. He writes,
You know how God wrought in your own soul, when he first enabled you to say, "The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." He did not take away your understanding; but enlightened and strengthened it. He did not destroy any of your affections; rather they were more vigorous than before. Least of all did he take away your liberty; your power of choosing good or evil: He did not force you; but, being assisted by his grace, you, like Mary, chose the better part. Just so has he assisted five in one house to make that happy choice; fifty or five hundred in one city; and many thousands in a nation; without depriving any of them of that liberty which is essential to a moral agent [Works, 6:280].
In Wesleys sermon "On the Wedding Garment," taken from Matthew 22, he concludes his message by saying:
The God of love is willing to save all the souls that he has made. This he has proclaimed to them in his word, together with the terms of salvation, revealed by the Son of his love, who gave his own life that they that believe in him might have everlasting life. And for these he has prepared a kingdom, from the foundation of the world. But he will not force them to accept it; he leaves them in the hands of their own counsel; he saith, "Behold, I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: Choose life, that ye may live." [Works, 7:317].
In "Predestination Calmly Considered," Wesley argues that Gods free and assisting grace is far more in line with the wisdom and plan of God to save sinners than through irresistible grace. He says,
how gloriously does the manifold wisdom of God appear in the whole economy of mans salvation! Being willing that all men should be saved, yet not willing to force them thereto; willing that all men should be saved, yet not as trees or stones, but as men, as reasonable creatures, endued with understanding to discern what is good, and liberty either to accept or refuse it" [Works, 10:232].
Wesley goes on to say that God accomplishes this wise plan by enlightening mens understanding concerning good and evil and by convicting them of his sin when they violate their God given conscience. He adds that God also "gently moves their will, he draws and woos them, as it were, to walk in the light" [Works, 10:232-33]. God, in his wisdom, proceeds in this way "to save man, as man; to set life and death before him, and then persuade (not force) him to choose life" [Works, 10:233]. With God graciously moving is this way men are held responsible for their response to His loving grace. Since God has taken these gracious initiatives toward fallen man to redeem him, Wesley said God could rightly reply, " What could I have done for you (consistent with my eternal purpose, not to force you) which I have not done " [Works, 10:233]
This is indeed a wise and marvelous plan by a sovereign God to save sinners. Wesley has explained well that a sovereign God does not "force one into everlasting glory," and another "into everlasting burnings" for such an action would be entirely inconsistent with the character of God our righteous and just Governor ["Thoughts Upon Gods Sovereignty," Works 10:362-363].
To be an Arminian is to be as Wesley has said a lover of free grace. All people partake of Gods free and enabling grace. Therefore, God can justly grant eternal life or eternal death depending on how people use their grace enabled freedom. Calvinism do not have the word "draw" from John 6:44 to use in their favor to teach their doctrines of predestination and irresistible grace. On the other hand, Wesleyan-Arminians have the lexical evidence in their favor to teach that the "grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is FREE IN ALL, AND FREE FOR ALL." Let us, in the power of Gods Spirit, powerfully proclaim this biblical truth in our churches today.
Joseph D. McPherson
It should never be forgotten that the third person of the triune God is involved in the whole scheme of man's salvation. The following references from John Fletcher's writings remind us that a miraculous and powerful work of the Holy Ghost is involved in the new birth of every penitent who believes wholeheartedly in Christ Jesus. Notice that each passage or paragraph below is taken from different parts of Fletcher's written works but continue the same theme.
"And O! what will thy believing, enlarged heart experience 'in that day of God's power,' and thy spiritual birth! Christ, 'the true light of the world, the eternal life of men, coming suddenly to his temple,' and filling it with the light of his countenance, and the power of his resurrection! Christ 'shedding abroad in thy' ravished 'soul, the love of thy heavenly Father,' thy bitterest enemies, and all mankind! In a word, 'the Holy Ghost given unto thee!' Or, 'Christ dwelling in thy heart by faith,'" John 1:4; 1 John 5:12; Romans 8:15; 5:5; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 1:13; 3:17 [Works, 3:335].
"But the immediate worker of regeneration is the Spirit of God, which our blessed Lord obtained for us by the merits of his death. In this respect true Christians are said by Christ to be born of the Spirit; and St. Paul calls regeneration 'the renewing of the Holy Ghost'" [Works, 4:136].
"Yes, you shall be baptized by the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins, and justified freely by faith" [Works, 4:115].
"That they [the 120 at Pentecost and Cornelius together with his household] should be baptized with the Holy Ghost and spiritual fire, was not extraordinary, since it is the common blessing which can alone make a man a Christian, or confirm him in the faith" [Works, 4:287].
"[The three thousand on the day of Pentecost] received the gift of the Holy Ghost, whose office it is to manifest the Son" [Works, 4:305].
"Christ receiveth sinners; he undertaketh their whole concern; he giveth not only repentance, but remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. He creates them anew: his love first makes the bride, and then he delights in her" [Works, 4:258].
The Apostle Paul reminds us that "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13). Both early Methodists and early Wesleyan Methodists were convinced that just as it took a great work of God's Spirit to cleanse the soul from all inbred sin in entire sanctification, so also must the Holy Ghost's mighty power be the means of bringing a dead soul to life in the new birth. They saw in the New Testament a holistic view of the Holy Ghost's work in the human heart, beginning with justification and regeneration and continuing unto entire sanctification. Further increases in holiness were then to be sought throughout life as one lived in the Spirit. Such is God's unique work of salvation in this Holy Ghost dispensation.
John Wesley observed that "to say, 'this man is an Arminian,' has the same effect on many hearers, as to say, 'This is a mad dog'" [Works, 10:358]. Richard Watson wrote that Arminius is accused of introducing corruptions into the Christian church, which he probably never thought of and which certainly have no place in his works [Theological Dictionary, p. 41].
Christopher Ness in An Antidote Against Arminianism, first published in 1700, called Arminianism "the last and greatest monster of the man of sin, the elixir of Anti-Christianism; the mystery of the mystery of iniquity, the spawn of Popery, and the varnished offspring of the old Pelagians."
In his commentary on Romans, Richard Haldane wrote, "It is hatred to the sovereignty of God that influences the Arminian."
Robert C. Harbach wrote, "Arminianism is that rejected error which has become the most insidiously devised heresy ever to lay claim to biblical support." Harbach complained that Calvinists are the most hated people in the universe because they alone stand for the truth. In contrast, he defines Arminianism as everything he rejected, including Universalism, Romanism, and Pelagianism.
Louis Berkhof frequently lumped Arminians and heretics, such as Pelagius or Socinian, together without distinguishing the beliefs of the Arminian position. This amounts to guilt by association. Grant Osborne wrote,
One of the tragedies of our current situation in evangelicalism is the emotive code-words or labels which we attach to certain positions and which enable us to automatically reject the totality of that position on the basis of the label. One of the worse of these code-words is semi-Pelagian which means automatically that the position is a-biblical, and that the data within need not be studied further. To many strong Calvinists any Wesleyan-Arminian position is automatically semi-Pelagian.
Arminius is sometimes blamed for almost leading the Reformation off course. Carl Bangs characterized this view as, "Calvinism came in, Arminius nearly ruined it, and the Synod of Dort restored it."
First, let us look at the man who has been so maligned and then look at his teachings which have been misrepresented. Jacob Hermansz was a Dutch theologian of the late sixteenth century. We know him by his Latin name, Jacobus Arminius. In 1582 James Arminius arrived in Geneva to study under Calvin's son-in-law, and successor, Theodore Beza. Beza had made the Calvinistic position more rigid and had taught supralapsarianism that the decrees of election and damnation came prior to the decree to create man.
The fact is that the early Dutch reformers were not Calvinists when they overthrew Catholicism in 1566. When James Arminius was installed as pastor in Amsterdam in 1587, Calvinism was not in control. Arminius had the reputation of being a brilliant preacher, a gifted Bible exegete, and a humble and dedicated Christian. His expositional preaching drew large crowds.
As the city was opened to trade, new merchants arrived bringing in Calvinism and only toward the end of his fifteen year tenure as pastor did Calvinism become strong enough to create problems for Arminius.
Two ministers from Delft had debated Dirck Coornhert, a Catholic humanist, and as a result felt it was necessary to modify Beza's rigid position. In 1589 they published a book which did so. As a former student of Beza, Arminius was asked to defend his teacher, although there is no evidence to suggest that Arminius had ever accepted the position of Beza. There had always been a diversity of opinion among Dutch theologians. However, the influx of Calvinistic teaching was growing.
Arminius faced a crisis of conscience and he responded with integrity. He concluded that supralapsarianism made God the author of sin. No one could refute his scholarship, but preachers began to openly attack him from the pulpit. His words were twisted out of context and his enemies tried to destroy his influence.
In 1603 Arminius moved to Leiden to become professor of theology at the university. He was considered the greatest scholar of his day and taught until his death in 1609. He was the first ever to receive the Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Leiden. Even at Leiden he was under attack from the Calvinist, Francis Gomarus. Finally, Arminius asked for a public hearing, but he died before the synod convened. He was about 49 when he died, and his death was probably hastened by the stress he was under.
After his death, 42 of his followers wrote their manifesto, the Remonstrance, in 1610. In 1618-9 the Synod of Dort was convened and adopted a high Calvinistic statement which included the supralapsarian position of Beza. Although it was Arminius who had called for an open forum, there were 130 Calvinists present and 13 Remonstrants who were prisoners of the state and were given no vote. "The Remonstrants were at a disadvantage from the very start, and were summoned as defendants. They were denied seats in the council, and were treated throughout as accused parties."
Simon Episcopius, the successor of Arminius, delivered a speech of two hour length, so logical and magnanimous that it moved many hearers to tears. Yet the Synod of Dort condemned Arminianism as heretical and as a result some 200 Remonstrant ministers were ousted from their pulpits. Some were banished and persecuted until 1625.
Arminianism reintroduced the spirit of tolerance to the Church. The early Arminians were well educated and held strong convictions, but they displayed a different spirit. They had no animosity toward those who disagreed with them; they only asked that their views be permitted to exist.
There were theologians in England who taught the essence of what Arminius taught before Arminius. After the restoration of Charles II in 1660, Arminianism held great influence within the Church of England. Over time, however, the Arminians became the more liberal party in the church. In seventeenth century England the Latitudinarians were considered Arminian. In the eighteenth century the term was associated with Socinianism. It was not until the Wesleyan Reformation that the pure doctrine of Arminius was restored and the tendencies of Pelagianism and Unitarianism removed. John Wesley published the first popular account of the life of Arminius in English and this came in the first issue of The Arminian Magazine in January, 1778.
Having looked at the life, the spirit, and the influence of Arminius, I conclude that we should hold him in the highest regard. John Fletcher concluded that among the theologians who endeavored to steer their doctrinal course between the Pelagian shelves and the Augustinian rock, "none is more famous, and none came nearer the truth than Arminius" [Works, 2:281]. But what about his doctrines which are misrepresented [to be continued in the Fall issue]
THEOLOGICAL ACCUSATION BY ASSOCIATION
An article in the Jan-Feb, 2001 issue of The Voice of the Nazarene leveled the charge of "heresy" against Dr. A. J. Smith, Pastor Robert L. Brush, and Bishop E. O. Jones. It is obvious from the article that the author did not understand what these men were actually teaching.
We recently reprinted Dr. Smiths greatest work, Bible Holiness. In the research I did in preparation for my introduction, I spared no effort in interviewing those who knew Dr. Smith and in gathering up the material he wrote. While I never met him, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Smith was a man of God who was one of the first to sound the alarm that the modern holiness movement was not Wesleyan. While Dr. Smith has been repeatedly misrepresented in The Voice of the Nazarene, anyone who would take the time to read his book would readily see that he has a thorough grasp of Wesleyan doctrine. In order to make his work more accessible, we are offering the new edition of Bible Holiness at the reduced price of $5 postpaid or three copies for $10.
While Bishop Jones is not the editor of Faith in the Future, his article entitled "First and Second Blessing Holiness" is a brilliant insight into the Wesleyan understanding of salvation. Anyone who has taken any time at all to look at Faith in the Future would soon realize that the magazine regularly prints articles on entire sanctification. However, Jones argues in this article that holiness begins at regeneration. Jones does nothing more than amplify the words of John Wesley, "A Christian is so far perfect as not to commit sin. This is the glorious privilege of every Christian; yea, though he be but a babe in Christ" ["Christian Perfection, Sermon #40, 2.20-21].
It is a misrepresentation of both Jones and the Crusaders Church, which he oversees, to conclude that because they contend that the new birth does something that they are teaching it does everything.
Again, this was the burden of Robert L. Brush in his article "The Myth of the Carnal Christian." Although Brush is neither the editor of The Arminian Magazine nor does the article even spell Arminian properly, those are only indicators that perhaps the writer has rushed to preserve orthodoxy without being sure of his facts.
James Arminius declared that "a regenerate man, one who is placed under grace, is neither carnal, nor so designated in the Scriptures" [The London Edition of Works, 2:513-516].
John Fletcher taught that the remains of the carnal mind still cleaves to imperfect Christians, but that the term "carnal" without any qualification refers to either unawakened or awakened sinners [Works, 2:540-547]. Adam Clarke defined "carnal" as the epithet of an unregenerate man. Clarke declared that "carnal" cannot be applied to any Christian after his conversion [Commentary, 6:86]. Joseph Benson explained that "carnal" described "a state of death and enmity against God." Benson said that any commentator who supposed that Paul was describing his own state, or the state of any regenerated person in Romans 7, "must be under a great mistake" [Notes, 5:62].
According to Romans 8:6 to be carnally minded is death. A born-again Christian has the remains of the carnal mind, but has been set free from its control. Wesley taught that sin remained, but did not reign. None of the men who were falsely accused wrote that regeneration cleanses the heart from the sinful nature. However, they would all agree that the new birth gives a sufficient measure of victory over that sinful nature that the new Christian is enabled to live above willful sin.
To label their writings as Zinzendorfism is to introduce a "red herring" argument; an accusation which distracts from the real issue. Although Nicholas Ludwig von Zinsendorf (1700-1760), taught that we are as holy as we will ever be when we are regenerated, that teaching has been consistently rejected by all who are Wesleyans. Although nearly a page is devoted to the discussion of a historical situation in which a segment of the holiness movement was led astray by the same Zinsendorf position that there was no further need for cleansing after justification, that is not the position of any of the three men accused by name of heresy. The real issue is this: does regeneration produce victory over sin
Secondly, to raise the issue of the disciples experience at Pentecost is not germane to the discussion. It is faulty logic to claim that if the disciples were not entirely sanctified at Pentecost, they were never sanctified. John Fletcher, for example taught that at Pentecost thousands were wonderfully converted and clearly justified. The chaff of selfishness and sin began to be burned. "Some time after, another glorious baptism, or capital outpouring of the Spirit, carried the disciples of Christ farther into the kingdom of grace which perfects believers in one" [Works, 2:631]. Does the fact that Fletcher equated the entire sanctification of the disciples with Acts 4:31-33, instead of Acts 2, mean that he was also heretical
Proverbs 17:15 warns that it is an abomination to condemn the innocent. Not only did the author falsely condemn three holy men, he ends the article with a heretical statement. He declared that to teach you received the Holy Ghost when born again is false doctrine. When Dr. Smith wrote of three errors in the popular holiness movement, he identified the second error as the teaching that "the Holy Spirit does not come into the heart of the penitent at the new birth, but later when one is entirely sanctified." Smith proceeded to quote first from Romans 8:9, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Then he quoted from Charles Wesleys sermon, "Awake, Thou That Sleepest." In this sermon Charles Wesley declared "he is antichrist whosoever denies . . . that the indwelling of the Spirit of God is the common privilege of all believers." Victory over sin in the life of the regeneration is possible only through the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is that same abiding Spirit which leads the believer on to Christian perfection. Without the enabling grace of God, wrought through the Holy Spirit, we are not nor can we ever become a Christian.
Ironically, The Voice of the Nazarene magazine has become a major distributor of early Methodist teaching through their promotion of CD-ROMs. Yet the magazine blatantly contradicts the very teachings it seeks to propagate. James warned that those who teach will be judged more strictly (3:1). Those who write to explain the truth of Gods Word will be held to a higher standard. Yet James also conceded that we all stumble in many ways. James is not excusing sin; he is simply declaring that no one knows it all. However, it seems that the author of this article is guilty of a far more serious blunder than are the men he has accused. When the blind lead the blind, a whole movement can end up in the ditch.
WHAT LEFT BEHIND LEFT OUT
The Left Behind series of books has sold 36 million copies. Last year both #7 and #8 in the series debuted each as the #1 best-selling fiction book. In its first five years the Left Behind series generated a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue. Now the movie Left Behind is at the theater and Christians are strongly encouraged to go and support a Christian movie. As usual, the modern church world is better at marketing than at getting the message right. Here are 4 biblical concepts which are left out of the Left Behind message:
1. The Conditional Nature of Covenants
By rejecting their Messiah, Israel was cut off from their covenant with God (Rom 11:20). Tim LaHaye, the theologian behind Left Behind, believes that covenants are unconditional. If God will keep his promises, even when we break faith, then the believers security is unconditional. However, many Arminians who would not accept the previous premise, have not thought through the teaching that Israel will always be the people of God, regardless of their response to Christ.
The teaching of Romans 11:26 is that all Israel will one day acknowledge Jesus as the Christ and be saved, not that they have always been Gods people even while they rejected their Messiah. When that day of salvation comes they will be baptized by the Spirit into the one body of believers which is comprised of both Jew and Gentile (1 Cor 12:13). However, while they persist in their unbelief, they are not the people of God. Gods people are his Church. God has one Church, Christ has one body, and the Holy Spirit baptizes believers into that one body.
However, the view has been made popular that God has two peoples: Israel and the Church. Gods relationship with Israel is based upon his old covenant promises, while Gods relationship with the Church is based upon the new covenant. We cannot understand future prophecy if we misunderstand present realities. There are not two plans of salvation. The old covenant is null and void. There is only one way of salvation and it is through faith in the work of Christ. Christ, in his atoning work, also broke down the barrier between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14-16). To revert back to the old covenant would dishonor the finished work of Christ.
However, the Left Behind series is based upon the premise that God has two peoples and two plans. Christ failed at his first coming to establish a Jewish kingdom, so the Church was inaugurated as a parenthesis in Gods original plan. Thus, Christ is expected to return secretly at any moment and rapture out the Church. Then God will revert back to his original plan of establishing a Jewish kingdom on earth. After a seven-year period of Jewish tribulation, Christ is expected to return a third time to set up that kingdom. While the events portrayed in the Left Behind series happen during that seven-year period, this sequence of events cannot be established from Scripture. Their projection of future events is a logical necessity based upon their unproven assumptions.
2. The Great Tribulation is a past, not a future event (Matt 24:21).
The period of the Great Tribulation is the struggle between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. When that light shines into the darkness, the darkness will attempt to overpower it but will fail (John 1:5). Therefore, the struggle ensues at the point in time when God s kingdom invades this world.
The Left Behind crowd believes the struggle will be in the near future because they believe the kingdom was postponed. But the kingdom was not postponed. Christ accomplished his mission (John 19:30). They misunderstood his mission. It was not to establish a Jewish kingdom, but a universal, spiritual kingdom.
The kingdom of God was near at the time of his birth and it was established at the time of his death, resurrection, and session. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the verification that his kingdom was established. Since the kingdom came in the first century, the struggle occurred in the first century. Specifically, the great tribulation was the siege of Jerusalem between A. D. 67-70. The historical record of Josephus describes the fulfillment of the prophetic warnings given by Jesus in Matthew 24.
Daniel foretold of 70 sevens, or a 490-year period of time, in which the temple would first be rebuilt, the Messiah would enter the temple, and then the temple be destroyed. The only way the Left Behind crowd can fit a future tribulation period into that well-defined window of time is to force a gap of seven years between the 69th and 70th week. That means that the gap is over four times longer than the original period outlined by Daniel. It also means that they have stretched Scripture to the point of breaking.
3. Christ was victorious on the cross.
Satan was defeated at the cross (Col 2:14-15) and the preaching of the cross binds Satan. Ultimately all things will be reconciled unto him and he will have dominion in everything (Col 1:18, 20). The universal atonement of the last Adam not only counteracts the sentence of death brought by the first Adam, but the victory of Christ is superabundant, restoring much more than was lost through Adam (Rom 5:20). While everyone will not be saved, the race, as a whole will be redeemed (Rom 11:32).
Therefore, our optimism is an expression of our faith. This kingdom will fill the whole earth (Dan 2:35, 44). In the 14th century, John Wycliffe, the "morning star of the Reformation," ended his Confession with the words, "I believe that in the end the truth will conquer."
There have always been those who either opposed Christ or set themselves up in place of Christ. Even in the first century John said "many antichrists have come" (1 John 2:18). No future antichrist, no political beast, nor even the man of sin, will ever control the world because God gave this world to Christ at the time of his resurrection (Psalm 2:7-8; Acts 13:33).
Carnal men have more faith in a future antichrist than they have in the victory of Christ. The Left Behind series feeds this misplaced faith by portraying the rise and universal reign of antichrist. It will never happen.
I object to the fear-mongering of this PG-13 movie. If people are not convicted over their sin, you cannot scare them into the kingdom. God has not given his children the spirit of fear (Rom 8:15) and I refuse to raise my children with an apocalyptic worldview. I want them to have faith for the future, not to live in fear of some international conspiracy which will result in a cataclysmic Armageddon.
The gospel of Jesus Christ will fill the world and displace the bondage of Satan. While Satan cannot change the decisive defeat he received at the cross, he has temporarily succeeded in stealing honor which is due Christ alone by getting the modern church to produce books and movies which overinflate the significance of antichrist. We have no king but Christ.
4. No one will be left behind when Christ returns.
The movie begins with the disappearance of Christians. All that is left behind is their clothes. Some family members express concern that they may be walking around naked. Then for the next half hour the rest of the world tries to figure out what has happened as life for them goes on. Although millions will suddenly disappear, the Christian influence upon this world amounts to the sum total of car wrecks Christians cause as they are raptured from the cars they are driving.
Jesus did teach that at his coming one would be taken and the other left (Matt 24:40-41; Luke 17:34-36). While the believers dead and alive will go out to meet the Lord as he returns (Matt 25:6), there will be no interval of seven years until Christ comes a third time to judge those left behind.
When Christ returns in the movie there is no trumpet sound. But according to 1 Cor 15:52 and 1 Thess 4:16-17 when Christ returns a trumpet blast will literally raise the dead. The Bible teaches that at his glorious return all the dead, both saved and unsaved will be raised and we will all stand before his judgment seat. This truth is revealed in John 5:28-29; Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10, and Rev 20:13. Those found to be listed in the Book of Life will enter into heaven. Those not found in the Book of Life will then be cast out into the regions of hell. But rest assured, no one will be left behind.
Watching the movie Left Behind will never make you an authority on eschatology. The crowd which contributed to this phenomenal-fictional series of books has a consistent track record of being wrong on their predictions of future events. The only thing they have learned from their false prophecies is to repackage them as fictional literature. During this brief moment of success, they are quick to add that while the plot and characters of Left Behind may be fictional, it is based upon the foundation of biblical scholarship. The truth is that Left Behind is wholly fictional and without biblical foundation. It is based upon a view of the future which was unknown to the Church until it was first presented in 1830. While the Left Behind series reflects one more desperate attempt to sell dispensationalism, it is actually the Word of God which Left Behind left out.
DISTORTING THE TEACHINGS OF HISTORIC METHODISM
The Entire New Testament on Holiness is advertized as a concise collection of the comments of John Wesley and Adam Clarke on the subject of Perfect Love in the New Testament. Schmul Publishing Company just reprinted this compilation by John C. Capehart, which was first published in 1923.
Part One is entitled "Baptism with the Holy Ghost." Although Capehart compiled twenty pages of comments by Wesley and Clarke on the baptism with the Holy Spirit, in not one instance did they ever equate it with perfect love, entire sanctification, or Christian perfection. That connection was made by the American holiness movement. Although such a connection existed in the mind of the editor, this is just another instance of an editor imposing his suppositions upon the author.
Part Two is entitled "Sanctification." It contains a fifty-seven page collection of comments on texts which, for the most part, contain the word "sanctification." The editor gave no consideration to whether the context dealt with initial, progressive, entire, or final sanctification. Apparently the editor failed to understand Wesleys comment that the term sanctification refers to those who are justified unless it is qualified by another word such as "wholly" or "entirely."
Part Three is entitled "Holiness." It is a ninety-three page assortment of comments on biblical texts dealing with either holiness begun or perfected. Disregarding the context of such passages as Romans 6 and 1 John 3:9, the doctrinal of initial sanctification, and statements by Wesley that "a Christian was so far perfect as not to commit sin," holiness is confined to the second blessing.
Part Four is entitled "Perfection" and although these comments pertain most directly to the editors purpose, this is the shortest section containing only eighteen pages.
Ironically, Clarke himself complained that many interpret the very text of Scripture in light of their own preconceived doctrine. See his comments on Rom 12:6, where he was critical of those for whom the analogy of faith means nothing more nor less than their own creed. The practice Clarke criticized was the mode of operation followed by this editor. Therefore, the chief value of the book under review is that it states the views of John C. Capehart. It falls into the same category of books such as Wesley on Perfection edited by J. A. Wood in 1921, in which Wood omits the sections of Wesleys writings which did not agree with his theology. For example, chapter eight is entitled "Sanctification Instantaneous, by Faith, and Not by Growth in Grace." Wood simply omitted Wesleys teaching on progressive sanctification and misrepresented his teaching by only stating one side of the issue. It was during this same time period that many began to "improve" on the teachings of the founders. More recently Ralph Earle did the same thing with Clarke s Commentary [see "The Earle & Clarke Exposition," Spring 1994].
The holiness movement has been fed edited versions of what early Methodism actually was for so long that they really do not know the teachings of those who are claimed to be their founders. Those who desire to know what Wesley and Clarke taught should consult the primary sources.