Dialogueon Human nature, sin, grace, and salvation between John Calvin andJohn Wesley
Dialogueon Human nature, sin, grace, and salvation between John Calvin andJohn Wesley
Thefollowing is an imaginary dialogue between two theologians on thesubjects of human nature, sin, grace, and salvation. The schools ofthought here are varied, and while the topics are similar, thebeliefs and doctrines differ from each other.
Calvin:Let me begin this discussion by talking about the features ofhumankind. Human nature is exemplified by the fall into sin, and thisis the real character and composition of man. In essence, people aretotally depraved. Therefore, they are not inclined to do good thingsincluding the love for God. Also, this shortfall is hereditary andcapable of producing all forms of corruption and evil, and thus, thewhole of humanity is deemed as concupiscence at best. What I want tosay is that we cannot choose good from evil in a spiritualperspective because we are bound to the evil nature.
Wesley:I do agree with Calvin on the aspect that the fall of man into sinplayed an important part in the modeling of human nature. However,the theology of total depravity goes wide of the mark in the factthat man was created in God’s image which was marred by sin. Thisdoesn’t mean that humankind is totally meaningless but rather, theaspect of Godliness pushes for seeking of the wholeness of the light.Although we are all considered sinners in a spiritual sense, there isa free will and the ability to decide to lean towards doing thatwhich is good and shun that which is considered evil.
Calvin:Clearly, from the explanation, man has fallen short of the Glory ofGod, putting him in a state that is prone to do that which is evilthan the good and this surmounts to the depravity that I mentionedearlier. For a sinner to be bonded with Christ, the primaryrequirement is the regeneration initiated by the Holy Spirit sincethe evil nature in itself cannot advocate or propel one towardsbelieving in the gospel.
Wesley:While being short of the glory may be perceived by some as depravity,the sense of striving to be good is embedded deep within us. That iswhy from the beginning I mentioned that humans were created as moralbeings but somewhere along the way, things went awry leading to thefall, but this same creation is capable of seeking salvation hencethe disparity from total depravity. The man is therefore not strippedentirely of the spirituality and become helpless. He can, therefore,be able to repent through God’s grace but without interfering withthe freedom of choice. In simple words, man is not entirely enslavedin his sinful nature and has the power to collaborate with the HolySpirit or decide to resist the grace provision and perish.
Calvin:This brings me to the aspect of transgression. The Scripturesevidently states in Romans chapter 5:12-21 that by one man’sdisobedience sin entered into the world. Apparently, sin is thuspassed on from the parents to the offspring, and the transgressionhas defiled the intellect to will and purpose to do that which isconsidered right. Sin has made man to become blind, deaf and dead tothe things that God wants rendering him unworthy and helplessregarding spirituality.
Wesley:Yes, but not entirely accurate. The sin committed by the first manled to the loss of holiness and righteousness. But the natural imagethat describes humans including intellect, feelings and will wereardently retained in the process. In this respect, the determinationto choose the will of God is within every person despite being born asinner. Transgression is encompassed in all humans, but therepentance of the sin makes one be considered spiritually righteousbecause the grace and the faith will finally move the sinful persontowards uprightness in Christ.
Calvin:I am sorry I do not perceive the issue in the same way. It seems asthough the nature of man is in between good and evil which in myopinion is incorrect. I believe that sin renders us sinful. Onecannot be sinful yet at the same time have an aspect of Godlinesswithin. The remedy for this situation is the faith which bearsrepentance and the remittance of sin. However, the sinful nature willpersist and thus the struggle against sin throughout the lifetimeeven though the Spirit has given the sinners a new nature.
Wesley:Once again I concur with you except I would like to emphasize more onthe ability of man to make choices by the virtue of having an innerwill and intellect to perceive sin from righteousness and being ableto make a judgment on his course of action. While a person requiresthe help of the Spirit to flourish in Spirituality, he doesn’t needhave to be renewed by the spirit in advance so that he can believe.
Calvin:On the contrary, it is God who initiates the process ofjustification. It is through faith in God that we are justified andaccepted and drawn into His grace. Surely, even you cannot disagreethat God is entirely sovereign in salvation by providing grace to thebelievers!
Wesley:Grace is the means by which God consecrates and converts those whobelieve in Him. In essence, the Grace of the Almighty is sovereign inthe process of salvation. Everyone has the chance to be saved becausegrace enables and empowers them to have a more faithful relationshipwith Him and ultimately bring the freedom of response to Him.
Calvin:The Grace of God is received through the Holy Spirit. The union ofman with Christ through faith results into a state of bothjustification and regeneration. From my earlier explanation Godinitiates the grace and in that perspective, man cannot resist thisgrace if he was elected to be saved. As you can see…
Wesley:Allow me to interject, Grace is provided to man beforehand.Prevenient grace is extended to all, and it is this that enables onto turn from is evil ways and experience forgiveness and embrace thetrue salvation.
Calvin:From your argument, it seems that salvation is for all yet somepeople have been predestined to be lost even before they were broughtinto being. The same way, in the beginning, God foreordained the fallof Adam and humankind for His mercy to be depicted in his plan tosave the elect from the whole population. As written in Romans3:23-28, the salvation of man is solely founded on the fact that Godmust appeal to the person irresistibly.
Wesley:I would like to differ from your point of view in this matter. God’sgrace is prevenient and therefore resistible. John 3:16 clearly saysthat those who believe in Him will receive life eternal. This readingtends to give a sense of choice, to believe and receive life or notto believe and be lost forever. The first grace provided by Godenables man to initiate the movement towards salvation.
Calvin:Basing my disagreement on Matthew 22:14, which unmistakably says thatmany people have been called but few are chosen, then salvation isentirely for the elected few. Other Bible verses support thistheology including John 6:44-45 and John 10:3. Many other sections ofthe scripture. So you can now see that those elected to salvation areprotected and are assured of ultimate salvation even though sinful,they will suffer for their evil on earth. Even if they are temptedand fall into sin, they do not lose their salvation because of theirundoing.
Wesley:The interpretations of the scripture you have quoted according to meare quite misplaced. John 1:29 explicitly says that Christ takes awaythe transgressions of the entire world. Similarly, Acts 10:34-35 andRomans 2:11 both provide sufficient evidence that salvation isuniversal and obtained individually by each and every man. Christdied for the sake of all men, but from the whole human race, onlythose who believe in Him are saved. Also, the death of Christ did notautomatically remove anyone’s sins completely and accord aparticular group of people direct salvation. On the contrary,salvation is entirely grounded on the receiving of grace, followed byfaith and believing and finally the maintenance of the union betweenGod and Man which leads to eternal life.
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