United Methodist Stance on Free Will in Idaho Falls

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church – their May 2011 newsletter teaches (p. 3):

We are continuing our series this month on “What do United Methodists believe?”  Sometimes it is easier to understand your beliefs when you contrast them with what other people believe.  One belief that separates Methodists from other denominations is the doctrine of free will.  There are churches that teach that an ‘elect’ group of people have been chosen by God to be ‘predestined’ to be saved.  This doctrine of ‘predestination’ is found in many Baptist, Presbyterian, Fundamentalist, and Evangelical churches.  One problem with this view is that if God elects some for salvation, God must elect others for damnation.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, strongly disagreed with this belief.  He argued that if God has predetermined who is saved, all preaching is vain.  Predestination does away with the need for Christian revelation and practice,  because nothing could change the eternal decree of God.  Predestination makes God into a false, unjust one who condemns many who earnestly desire salvation.

Wesley taught the following three key points fundamental to Methodism:

  1. Man is free not only to reject salvation but also to accept it (free salvation) by an act of human will.
  2. All people who are obedient to the Gospel according to the measure of knowledge given them will be saved (universal salvation).
  3. The Holy Spirit assures man of his salvation directly, through an inner ‘experience’ (sure salvation).

But let me ask this question:  Why should I let man’s logic require that I have to believe in a double predestination?  That God predestines people to be conformed into the image of His Son and live with joy in heaven forever and that likewise God predestines people to be conformed into the image of Satan and live with agony in hell forever?  Why?

This is a crucial question in the I-15 Corridor.

6 comments

  1. The funny part is that the three points outlined by John Wesley are in perfect agreement with LDS doctrine.

  2. Patricia, I do believe human choice exists. Christ died for every individual – the love of God that encompasses a work of universal redemption. That is where John Wesley affirms his agreement with me. But if you reject the Christ of the Bible and His way and chose not to believe, you are headed to an eternity in hell. John Wesley thundered this. But I differ from Wesley in the possibility at arriving at a state of perfection in this life. Somewhere in Wesley’s train of logic, I jumped off.

    Because I also believe in predestination and gracious election. There is miraculous, loving, divine favor that God shows to people which they clearly don’t merit or deserve – that is not based upon the strength of the individual’s faith or will. It is rooted solely in the good pleasure and amazing grace flowing from the heart of the incredible Triune God. George Whitfield would preach this. But as many of the readers of this blog would know, I also eventually jump off Whitfield’s train of logic, as you can see in what I wrote in my first paragraph.

    Shem, yes, many LDS would see similarity. The United Methodists in town are probably the most ecclesiastically accomodating to LDS friends. In the Trinity United Methodist Church in Idaho Falls , they hosted a “This is my song, this is my story” speaker series – one keynote speaker being Frank Vandersloot.

    http://tumcif.org/Home.html

    But I have difficulty seeing John Wesley as being so accomodating. John Wesley seems to be similar to the earlier teachings of Jacob Arminius. But I don’t think that Jacob Arminius was on the same track with an earlier man named Pelagius.

    People in Southeastern Idaho reflect Pelagius more than Augustine. But I think it is because of what they are taught from childhood on.

  3. My point is that the three points listed are not only similar but exactly LDS doctrine.
    I was not making a comment on anything but these three points that were listed.

  4. I believe the heart of the Augustine/Pelagian controversy is the same as what is at stake with our current disagreements on these issues, and that is the doctrine of total depravity:

    Just how undead in your sins are you that you can make such a good choice as to choose Christ?

    And on another note, I think the Bible is clear that 1. God is sovereign, and He foreordains all that comes to pass, and 2. man is completely responsible for the decisions that he makes.

    How can these two things be reconciled? Paul expounds upon this issue in Romans 9, and anticipates that question – to which he replies – who are you to question God!?! (Rom. 9:18-21)

    Just because our minds can’t fully wrap themselves around how God does things doesn’t mean that we can reject the way God does things. To do so puts human reason as god.

  5. Along the I-15 Corridor, this could be the popular t-shirt, “Pelagius is my homeboy”.

    But Romans 9 is the powerful theodicy.

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