Why I am not Wesleyan

Where I can’t agree with Wesleyan theology is on the notion of his concept of prevenient grace and total depravity. Wesley once stated:

1. I proceed to draw a few inferences from what has been said. And, First, from hence we may learn one grand fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined Heathenism. Many of the ancient Heathens have largely described the vices of particular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness, or cruelty; their luxury, or prodigality. Some have dared to say that “no man is born without vices of one kind or another.” But still as none of them were apprized of the fall of man, so none of them knew of his total corruption. They knew not that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into the world, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices which reign in particular persons, as by the general flood of Atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will, and love of the world. This, therefore, is the first grand distinguishing point between Heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges that many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness to them; but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much over-balances the evil: The other declares that all men are conceived in sin,” and “shapen in wickedness;” — that hence there is in every man a “carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be, subject to” his “law;” and which so infects the whole soul, that “there dwelleth in” him, “in his flesh,” in his natural state, “no good thing;” but “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil,” only evil, and that “continually.” (Sermon 44)

I sadly cannot concur with the doctrine of total depravity. The world has good in it. True, there is much evil in it but this evil is caused by man denying their inherent nature which is geared toward the good as St. Thomas Aquinas would argue (Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, 241) the will is always aimed toward the first and principal object of the good or that which is desirable. Man is perfectly capable of turning away from his true nature but his will is for the good.

According to Augustinian thought, man has an inherent desire for God.

1. Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and of Your wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Your creation, desires to praise You, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that You resist the proud, — yet man, this part of Your creation, desires to praise You. You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You. (Confessions, 1.1)

The whole idea that man is naturally disposed toward sin is actually very Sartrean. Sartre clearly feeds on the idea of total depravity to establish his philosophy of man as hopelessly no good. According to Wesleyan thought, prevenient grace is applied by God to all men to cancel out the effects of total depravity (Sermon 85). But I don’t see why prevenient grace cannot be reinterpreted to mean the state which we are born in, while in the absence of deifying grace, still ultimately retaining the image of God. In which case, there is no need for total depravity whatsoever.

Romans 3:23 is used by Arminians and Calvinists to support the doctrine of total depravity but the problem is that this is a quote of Psalm 14 which is referring to those who have rejected their human nature and have concluded in their heart that there is no God. Total depravity isn’t derived from Biblical or historical evidence whatsoever.


About newenglandsun

A student. Male. Passionate. Easily offended. Child-like wonderer. Growing in faith, messing up daily.
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6 Responses to Why I am not Wesleyan

  1. quiavideruntoculi says:

    If by total depravity, Welsey means that we are naturally inclined to sin in all our faculties, he’s right. If by total depravity, he means that this renders us incapable of virtue, he’s wrong.

  2. Pingback: Why Catholics are Neither Arminian nor Calvinist | Sedevacantist Papal Anglican

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