are Weslyan Beliefs?
John Wesley's (1703-1791) system of belief (doctrine) was clearly built on the foundation of James Arminius' (1560-1609) earlier teachings. This is why the theological perspective is legitimately called "Arminian-Wesleyan." The best known denominational names are Wesleyan and Nazarene. In no particular order the following is a list of beliefs or teachings adhered to by churches faithful to the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition.
A full rebuttal of Arminian beliefs is here.
1. Free Will
The Scriptures are clear that Jesus specifically and effectually laid down His life for the elect.
Their gospel requires man's "free will" as an active part of the process of salvation, giving "man" the sovereign right to decide if he or she will be saved or not. While God initiates, it is not up to God in original choice or subsequent outcome. It is God's grace plus man's "freewill" choice (or decision) that saves.
2. Unlimited Atonement and Prevenient Grace
Wesley believed that the atonement of Christ was for everyone, that Jesus did not come to die only for his elect. In addition, he held that grace was given to all people enabling them to accept (or reject) salvation if they should so choose. While professing a belief in the "total depravity" of mankind, he claimed that it had been universally overcome through the gift of God's grace to all people. With this understanding he believed that people do seek after God, irrespective of Scriptures that state otherwise.
Wesley's view of mankind's current state would hold this passage in Romans irrelevant. In his view prevenient grace now enables all people to seek after God. With this viewpoint it makes one wonder why God would even have such a statement in His word (multiple times!).
3. Women in Leadership
The Wesleyan 1966 General Conference stated: "In spite of some forces which seek to undo our long-standing position on the ordination of women, we refuse to budge on this issue - we will not tolerate the blocking of a person's ordination due to their gender, for we believe that both men and women are called to the ministry and thus should be ordained. Furthermore, we condemn any practice of exclusive male-only leadership on boards and committees in the church, excluding women from these positions by either public policy or unofficial behind-the-scenes agreed-upon policy, for we believe that when it comes to God's gifts, graces and callings, there is neither male nor female."
This doctrine is in direct violation of the Scriptures. Note that the context of the following scripture passage is in regards to the church.
God clearly defined his leadership of the church to be qualified men. A pastor is an elder of the church.
More on female
pastors is here.
4. The second blessing, sinless perfection, entire sanctification and actual holiness.
Wesleyan churches believe in a doctrine of entire sanctification or sinless perfection coming from a secondary (to salvation) baptism of the Holy Spirit. Once a person has been saved, or born again, they are taught that they can achieve sinless perfection in this lifetime. This "second blessing" in one instantaneous act removes all inward sin enabling the believer to live a sinless life.
Even as they hold that God is obligated to forgive if a person can "freely" choose Christ, they hold that God is obligated to give "the gift" of this actual holiness to any believer who exercises sufficient faith.
Trying to live up to their newly professed sinless state is a constant struggle, one that assaults the conscience as they struggle to justify thoughts and actions which are Biblically known to be sin. Still we have met some who profess that they have been personally sinless for years.
To be fair, they redefine some sin and imperfection so that these are possible and not counted as true sins, though the line is certainly unclear. This is similar to the Roman Catholic's arbitrary distinction between mortal and venial sins.
For more on sanctification and the Wesleyan view of Entire Sanctificsation, read this additional article (parts I & II).
5. No eternal security and limited assurance of salvation.
While the term "backsliding" is often used, they mean far more than a believer merely experiencing a time of weakness or falling into sin. Since Wesley believed that salvation is given in response to the decision to exercise faith (an act of the believer), he held that it was possible to reverse the decision, to fall from grace, and to "backslide" from God. Wesley's foundation for this belief was a mixture of logic and Scriptures. It must be clear that backslidden individuals are seen to have lost their salvation and apart from renewing their salvation decision would be lost for all eternity. Wesley saw two primary pathways that could result in a permanent fall from grace: unconfessed sin and the actual expression of apostasy. Where he disagrees with Arminius, however, is in maintaining that such apostasy was not final. Wesley maintained that multitudes have lost and regained their salvation.
This ability to be "saved again" runs counter to the declaration of Scriptures that if it was possible for a person to fall away, it would be impossible for them ever to come back to faith.
Wesley claimed that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit enabled believers to know if they were "saved" or not. In fact he claimed this as a birthright of every believer. But due to the Wesleyan belief that it is possible to "backslide" through willful sin and fall from grace, severing his or her relationship with Christ, it functionally becomes impossible for any Wesleyan to tell you that they know for sure they are going to heaven. Why? Because the believer doesn't know if they might sin willfully at any time during the rest of their lifetime and thus sever their relationship with Christ and end up damned for eternity. In practice this makes their remaining "saved" depend upon themselves and not God. Saved by grace quickly falls into a works (or performance) based system of trying to stay saved. Sin and don't repent before dying and you are without hope for eternity. Scriptures, in complete contrast, makes clear who it is that keep believers from falling...
6. The authority of Scriptures.
Like most evangelicals, Wesley held to the authority of Scriptures - that it was to be understood as being God's word. In more recent years the Wesleyan church (or at least their educational institutions) have been more willing to modify absolute statements on the authority of Scriptures, more by what they don't say than what they do say.
View an open letter to the Nazarenes regarding this.
If the authority of Scriptures is limited to only things regarding faith and practice, it diminishes (or removes) its' authority in regards to creation, history, science or anything else to which the Bible speaks. Wesley would have held to a more comprehensive view of the authority of Scriptures than this. One article on Wesley stated...
Scriptures are never to be judged by experience. Rather all experience must be judged by Scriptures. Anything other than the latter is a potentially dangerous and misleading exercise, one that has historically led to many aberrant practices. Wesley's application of "experience", "reason" and even his selective use of historical "tradition" functionally ended up modifying his claim of belief in the absolute authority of Scriptures. For example, Wesley acknowledged that Scriptures sometimes went beyond reason, yet appealed he appealed to reason whenever he felt it to be expedient. This leads to inconsistencies in Bible interpretation. In regards to his use of tradition, Wesley was quite willing to appeal to later Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions as well, especially in regards to his belief in Imparted Righteousness (or actual holiness). For him, the length of time the belief was held sometimes became more persuasive than what were the earliest beliefs held. Truly, the witness of history is important, but (again) Scriptures must be the first and final authority. The Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura (Scriptures alone) mandates that the Bible is fully sufficient, apart from any other work, in teaching sound doctrine.
God is clear that the Bible is HIS word spoken with absolute and exclusive authority...
In summary; Wesleyans hold to orthodox views regarding God, the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, and the need of salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ. The scope of this article is not to outline all the universally agreed upon things, but rather to highlight the areas wherein they would differ (perhaps substantially) with many other evangelical and/or reformed churches. As is true with many churches and denominations today, those in their pews do not necessarily agree with (or even know) all of the points we have examined. Yet, as a professed Nazarene or Wesleyan or follower of John Wesley, this is the doctrine that they have ascribed to at least in name.