Sanctification: The Wesleyan View

This view is so named after its founder, John Wesley. Proponents of this view are often accused of being anti-Calvinists, thinking that John Wesley himself was in deep disagreement with John Calvin. In reality, Calvin and Wesley actually held more doctrine in common than often supposed. Both believed that all mankind inherited their sinful depravity from Adam. One distinction though that divided them, was Wesley’s belief in ‘prevenient grace,’ which is ‘the universal work of the Holy Spirit in the heart before conversion’ (Lecture Notes, 8.5.2). Calvin indeed believed that the Holy Spirit works in the unbeliever’s heart as well, to prepare them for conversion. Wesley said that every person has a measure of prevenient grace. Whereas Calvin said only the elect person has that measure of grace working in their heart unto conversion. Wesley also taught what he called ‘perfect love,’ a term he got from 1 John 4.18. To him this meant the believer experiences a deep and authentic trust in Christ that is unwavering. Though some take this term in the sense of wooden literalness, Wesley did not believe there could be an absolute perfect and sinless sort of love this side of heaven. The sort of perfection he did teach though, was ‘a perfection of motives and desires’ (LN, 8.5.5). This particular perfection he believed could be attained by a second work of grace after conversion. Wesley thought that since God commands his people to be ‘perfect’ and ‘holy’ as he himself is ‘perfect’ and ‘holy,’ then certainly some degree of perfection and holiness can be attained in this life.

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