How Can You Be Sure? Charles Stanley and John Wesley Debate Salvation and Security. Mark Bird,
Salem, OH: Schmul Publishing Co, 2004. 144 pages
The main idea of this book is to compare and contrast two men, John Wesley and Charles Stanley and their views on the atonement, especially as it relates to the doctrine of Eternal Security. Thus, Bird combats some of Stanley's theological balderdash by contrasting him with an evangelical standard like Wesley. Bird does an admirable job articulating both positions.
Here are just a few examples of how Wesley's and Stanley's views collate. Stanley does not speak much about grace before salvation. Wesley believes in "prevenient grace because of the depth of inherited depravity", and for him "no good could be done except for prevenient grace." Stanley believes that "Christ was the substitute for our punishment and for our righteousness." Wesley believed that "Christ was the substitute for our punishment" but not that his sinless life is imputed for our righteousness. Stanley believes that willful sin cannot separate a person from God. Wesley does. Concerning assurance Stanley says "one is now saved and will persevere in his salvation." Wesley says "assurance is a present assurance, a knowledge that one is now saved, but not that he will persevere." Bird also points out that "Stanley describes the Spirit-filled life like Wesley describes regeneration, rather than entire sanctification." At the end of each chapter Bird summarizes the differences with a parallel chart.
While Bird contrasts the views of both men, he does not rebut some of Stanley's particular interpretations, especially peculiar interpretations of some parables. Rather, he allows the reader to draw a general response from Wesley's views. Nevertheless, Bird does give us a better view of the twistings and turnings that Stanley does as he tries to craft his wrought iron eternal security fence.
Respectfully submitted by Pastor D. L. Hartman