A historical-theological evaluation of John Wesley's understanding of human free-will and the prevenient grace of God : an Adventist perspective
Mamarimbing, Ronell Ike
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Some people assume that the Adventists’ understanding of free-will and prevenient grace originated from John Wesley’s soteriology. This study is to evaluate John Wesley’s concept of the issue based on the perspective of Ellen G. White. This research traces the development of free-will and divine (prevenient) grace doctrines in some prominent theologians since the early church to the Reformation periods as its background. It also portrays the observation, identification, and description of Wesley’s understanding of human free-will and the prevenient grace of God. The evaluation of Wesley’s views from Ellen G. White’s perspective is presented after the issues are described. The summary, conclusion, and some theological implications follow the evaluation. The primer sources of this research focuses only on the writings of John Wesley and Ellen G. White. Both Wesley’s and White’s concepts on human free-will and prevenient grace have been gathered from their published and unpublished works as well as from the Internet. Other authors who have also written about Wesley’s and White’s understandings on those issues have been considered. The evaluation is based on the materials collected. Since the beginning of the church, Christianity has adopted the teachings of Augustinianism, Pelagianism, and semi-Pelagianism. Meanwhile, Wesley’s view of freewill and prevenient grace are not in the line of Augustinian/Calvinistic or semi-Pelagian, but Arminian. Furthermore, an evaluation proves that even though Ellen G. White was an ex-Methodist, and in some extent she was influenced by Wesley’s teaching, all of her teachings were confirmed by God through the work of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, White affirms Wesley’s view that salvation is a co-operative work between God and man. The role of a human being in salvation is not only to refuse the prevenient grace, which is worked by the Holy Spirit. However, both Wesley’s and White’s views on free-will and prevenient grace may fall between Augustinian’s or Calvin’s soteriology or anthropology. Both Wesley’s and White’s teachings stand somewhere between Calvin’s divine-monergism and semi-Pelagian human-monergism. Their views promote divine-human synergism. White’s view critiques and disagrees with Wesley’s views on free-will and prevenient grace when those issues are linked to Wesley’s understanding of grace before and after the fall of humanity, his dualism anthropology, and dualism hamartiology. White’s view approves some and disapproves other parts of Wesley’s concept of the free-will and prevenient grace. Therefore, Wesley’s teachings seem close yet so far from White’s view.