Sufficient Saving Grace: John Wesley's Evangelical Arminianism, Herbert Boyd McGonigle, (Paternoster, 2001), 352 pages. Not available in the U. S. through Eerdmans; order throughsources in the U. K.


McGonigle demonstrates that the English rejection of Calvinism predates any influence of Arminius. Tracts written against the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination appeared as early as the mid-sixteenth century by such men as Henry Hart and John Trewe, who died before Arminius was ever born. The Anglican Articles, first framed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1553, did not reflect a Calvinistic viewpoint regarding free will or predestination. In 1595, William Barrett challenged the writings of William Perkins, by asserting that the only cause of reprobation is God's foreknowledge of sin and that the believer's perseverance is conditioned by personal faith.

Richard Baxter's defense of the universal atonement was published after his death in 1696 and John Goodwin wrote a similar defense in 1651 without having first read Arminius. The first translation of any of the writings of Arminius appeared in England in 1657.

Although Dr. Samuel Annesley, the father of Susanna Wesley was a convinced Calvinist, both Susanna and Samuel Wesley were anti-Calvinists. John Wesley reflected the same opposition to Calvinism long before he became acquainted with the writings of Arminius. Wesley's fifty-volume, A Christian Library, compiled between 1749-1755 does not contain any writings from Arminius or the Dutch Remonstrants.

It was not until Joseph Benson was dismissed by Lady Huntingdon in 1771, when she declared that "every Arminian must quit" and Fletcher also resigned as president of Trevecka College, that Wesley began to openly defend the doctrine of Arminius and thereby declared himself to be an Arminian. Although Wesley owed little of his theological understanding to Arminius, Wesley embraced his writings when he became better acquainted with them. Thus, in 1788 Wesley began the monthly Arminian Magazine, which he edited until his death.

McGonigle, however, defines Wesley as an evangelical Arminian, in distinction to the later Remonstrants who denied original sin. Nor was he identified with the reaction against irresistible grace with the Roman Catholic Church. Wesley was not a Latitudinarian Arminian, either. This term describes the sacramentalist theology which had developed within the Anglican Church. Finally, Wesley was not Arminian in the derogatory sense that the term was used to describe the reductionistic theologies of radical theologians whose teachings diminished the atonement of Christ through Arian or Socinian tenancies. McGongile wrote that Wesley "sifted from this Arminianism all lingering traces of Pelagianism, humanism, and rationalism."

While Wesley has been accused of misrepresenting the Calvinists of his day, McGonigle demonstrates that Wesley was acquainted with the standard Calvinistic writings and that his representation of them was "close and exact." McGonigle concludes that Wesley opposed predestination primarily because he saw it as a barrier to holy living. According to Wesley, the chief enemy to be feared was antinomianism. If Wesley could revisit the contemporary situation we find ourselves in today, his worst fears would certainly be confirmed.

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