Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Fred Sanders, “Calvinists Who Love Wesley,” the Scriptorium (June 21, 2012)
This is a follow up to the earlier post on Fred Sanders. Here Sanders refers to key, well-known Calvinists who affirmed John Wesley, even though disagreeing with him on some theological issues. There was still much to learn from him. This is as true today as it was then: we can and must learn from each other. This is one – of many! – reasons I am grateful to be a part of the EFCA, where we not only have the privilege but also the responsibility to engage in this sort of learning.
Calvinists sometimes behave as if their Reformed credentials give them a free pass to forget there ever was a John Wesley, or that he is to be reckoned one of the good guys, or that he, being dead, yet speaks. They keep their distance as if Wesley were the carrier of a theological disease, to be given a wide berth. It’s one thing to say (as any good Calvinist must) that Wesley was wrong about a few important doctrines. But it’s another thing, a little tragic, to consign him to oblivion and imagine there is nothing to learn from him. Here are some Calvinists who know better. Their essentially pro-Wesley tone is striking, possibly because it’s becoming rarer than it once was.
Sanders then lists a number of Calvinists, in the order listed below, who had strong words of commendation, affirmation and appreciation for John Wesley (1703-1791).
John Newton (1725-1807)
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
John Duncan (1796-1870)
George Whitefield (1714-1770)
Henry Venn (1796-1873)
J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)
Finally, Sanders’ concludes the following:
Taking a moment to compare his own ministry [Charles Spurgeon] to that of Wesley’s, he thought the comparison was like a little candle held up in the sun: “For my part, I am as one who can see the spots in the sun, but know it to be the sun still, and only weep for my farthing candle by the side of such a luminary.” If you think your own ministry is like a little candle held up against the light of Spurgeon’s accomplishment, take a moment to imagine an even greater light of conservative, evangelical, Protestant witness in the English language. And then go read something, anything, by or about Wesley.