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Calvin and Wesley: Making Peace with Competing Approaches

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August 18, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's video features Joel Hunter. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video Conversation, Joel Hunter notes the inherent strengths of both Calvinist and Wesleyan faith traditions. In fact, he points out that what are often cast as “competing” approaches really are complementary rather than at odds with one another. As we listen to different perspectives we become not just stronger, but more accurate in our understanding of the world around us, says Hunter. In turn, we will understand more of God and his Kingdom will become stronger as a collective of believers.

At its core, Reformed theology is intellectual and focuses on theological structures which build on each other, which is important—yet the spirit, devotional, and emotional passion of the Wesleyan tradition is an essential part of a complete faith experience too. When combined, both perspectives and traditions yield a fuller picture of religious belief. It is only through a combination of intellect and sensitivity that Christians can hope to have the level of sophistication and strength of a mind and heart encounter with God.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Joel Hunter is senior pastor at Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood, Fla. Hunter is also a board member of the World Evangelical Alliance and author of the book A New Kind of Conservative.

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conrad - #26048

August 18th 2010

That speech takes the prize for the,....

I do nor worship Calvin or Wesley.
Neither one of them ever wrote a Bible or published a peer-review scientific paper.
So the two topics i am interested in do not appear in this blog.


After that i feel like shouting!

Tim Muse - #26075

August 18th 2010

It’s true the body of Christ is built up as each part contributes and does its work; but what Dr. Hunter fails to recognize is that we’re strengthened as we listen - not always in a complementary way (that is, by the cumulative addition of each part adding to truth, or by always accepting or agreeing with all that others have to say), but also (on the basis of God’s Word) by distinction and when appropriate dissociative ways (by distinguishing between views and contending with that which doesn’t constitute truth).

Todd Pruitt - #26083

August 18th 2010

Reverend Hunter does not seem to understand that Reformed and Arminian theology contradict each other in substantive ways.  The nature of sin, regernation, God’s sovereignty, assurance of salvation, and sanctification are not small matters. 

What is more, his suggestion that Reformed folks focus on theological systems and Wesleyans are interested in devotional passion betrays a deep misunderstanding of the Reformed tradition.  I would recommend that Reverend Hunter read Calvin and Luther and then proceed to the Puritans (Thomas Watson, John Bunyan, John Flavel, etc.).  He will find a GREAT deal of devotional and emotional passion.  I am surprised that he does not seem to know this.

John Parks - #26085

August 18th 2010

I was expecting the video to be about how one doesn’t need to decide between being a Calvinist or an Arminian, that its not an either/or debate but that you can be somewhere in between (which is, what I believe, to be what is Biblically correct). However going on about the intellectualism of Calvinism vs. the devotional aspects of Wesley, is foolish. Pastor Hunter says it himself, both sides have their intellectuals and both sides are passionate. What was the point of this video?

Scott Mapes - #26246

August 19th 2010

I think John Parks’ distinction he mentioned of Calvinism vs. Arminianism is more correct than Joel’s distinction of Calvinism vs. Wesleyanism.  Otherwise I appreciated Joel’s video—probably more from a pastoral than a theological perspective.  A side note:  In British Methodism one can observe what could be called Calvinistic Methodism or Calvinistic Wesleyanism, hence Wesley was not necessarily a polar opposite to Calvin on every point.  For further reading, one could consult Dr. George Croft Cell’s writings. (Dr. Cell may even convince you that Wesley was a Calvinist!)

like a child - #26313

August 20th 2010

I must have completely missed what was controversial about this video.  Personally, I appreciated it, as a non-theologian at least.  Yes, I generally understand the some of the vast differences between Armenians and Calvinists and am very perplexed as to how to reconcile the two, but I also don’t want to worry about having to choose between the two, because I just don’t see how you can be 100% certain that one theological system is wrong and the other is right. It is discouraging to see people saying that Joel Hunter’s perspective is flawed!

Jon Garvey - #26345

August 20th 2010

@Scott Mapes - #26246

Calvinistic Methodism arose from George Whitefield - whose ministry here and in the US is evidence that the premise of the article, as theology rather than sociology, is mistaken.

As is well known, Wesley and Whitefield broke apart over the Arminian/Calvinism question, but over the years grew in respect for each other as men of God without changing their minds on their principles.

Of course their continued disagreement doesn’t necessarily mean the theological question is unresolvable - for example Wesley also held firmly to his doctrine of Christian Perfection, which was quietly ditched after his death (though not before sowing the seeds of the Holiness Movement, the Pentecostal Movement, etc).

Charlie J. Ray - #26485

August 21st 2010

The Calvinist and the Arminian view are contradictory to each other, not complementary!  The Synod of Dort condemned Arminianism as heretical and the Formula Consensus of Helvetica condemned Amyraldianism, the attempted reconciliation between Arminianism and Calvinist, as heresy as well.

Hunter’s view is essentially relativism in disguise.  Either God is ABSOLUTELY sovereign in salvation OR man is absolutely sovereign in his own salvation and God cannot do anything to save determined sinners.  Which is it?  It’s not a both/and situation but an either/or.  “Choose you this day whom you will serve?  Will it be the Sovereign Lord God or the god of man’s own making who has to bow to man’s capricious and sinful will?


John Parks - #26497

August 21st 2010


How does God allowing Man a choice in accepting HIS gift diminish His Sovereignty at all? It was God who set in motion the plan of redemption, it was God who did the sacrifice and broke down the wall that the rebellious man had set up by revelry in sin and it is God who works through those who partake in His righteousness that bring the truth to the open air, and not sequestered away in mystery.

Saying God’s Sovereignty is denigrated by His allowing freedom to choose is akin to saying that it denigrates our Lord Christ’s power and glory by saying He emptied Himself out and became a little lower than the angels to redeem man. Both are biblical.

Andy D - #26659

August 23rd 2010

“Hunter’s view is essentially relativism in disguise.”

I believe this statement and some of the other commentary here fails to recognize that Hunter’s point was about the approach and focus of each tradition, not the actual content.  He emphasized each tradition’s strengths and the legacy they have left behind by emphasizing their distinctions especially.  The differences do abound—one need only examine the life of Wesleyan vs. Calvinistic communities to recognize this.  That’s not to say this is to the exclusion of other values.

Jerry - #27019

August 26th 2010

Just because the Synod of Dort rejected Arminianism doesn’t mean the Arminian position is incorrect.  It just means the deck was stacked!

Jim - #27104

August 26th 2010

For anyone holding both sides are over-argued beyond the data (scripture) which never resolves the issues, Hunter’s a fair listen.  If a bit caricatured.

Bill C. - #50455

February 8th 2011

You said it in a nut shell Bro. because the life of Wesley was riveted with question after question.  It wasn’t until he saw the Moravians who were born again spirit filled believers
that his heart became warm and became a true born-again spiritfilled believer.  So, why didn’t he become a Moravian?  Because he could not leave what he began ” the Holy Club” and use his methodical sense of belief to call it Methodism. Therefore, the stacking kept going.  All of us from time to time need to relook at our theological systems of belief and just re-read the Bible again and again without everyone’s view and allow “The Holy Spirit” who came to teach us the Word of God to be heard and believed.  I am glad that somebody is willing to say something to reconcil Brothers and Sisters of Aminian and Calvin systems because the way I see it, anything clearly seen in scripture that is referred to by either is Biblical.

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