Book Review: Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology

Saturday, November 01, 2014


Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology
by Mildred Bangs Wynkoop

Noel recommended me this book by a very brilliant writer, minister and PhD holder, Dr. Mildred Bangs Wynkoop (1905-1997).

I recommend this book to anyone who wants a short and summarised read of the life of James Arminius, and a brief history of how Calvinism and Arminianism came about, as well as their theological characteristics and differences.

I can't say enough that she was brilliant. I like how she brought out the historical background of these different thrusts of theology and insisted that one needs to know its history to fully understand where each is coming from. Failing which she referred it to as "confusion of mind which ignorance of historical fact engenders."

She also touched on Theological Provincialism where, "Lifting one aspect of doctrine into a central dominating position, away from its proper place in the whole doctrine, is provincialism. Such theological provincialisms are not necessarily untruths but they invariably distort the Christian gospel because they, apart from the whole gospel, are made to become themselves the judge of truth and actually the gospel."

She also said, "Can we read the Bible objectively? None of us is intellectually neutral. We are committed. Our personal prejudices can and do blind us to truth. We tend to find in the Bible, or in nature anywhere, about what we want to find. Our own fixed point of view “filters out” some of the truths we hear. In fact, our prejudices become the “filter” and hence the judge of truth. Or, to change the figure, the shadow of our own provincialism falls on the truth and we interpret the material according to the pattern formed by our prejudices."

This is so true and quite saddening for me to attend service today and have pastor preach on Limited Atonement, and why the cross of Christ is only for a selected groups of people rather than what is so clearly and simply stated in Scripture where Christ died:

1. For all (Isa. 53:6; Luke 19:10; Matt. 18:14; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; I Tim. 2:4, 6; 2 Pet 3:9)
2. For every man (Heb. 2:9)
3. For the world (John 3:16-17)
4. For the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2)
5. For the ungodly (Rom. 5:6)
6. For many (Matt. 20:28)
7. For the Church (Eph. 5:25)
8. For “me” (Gal. 2:20)

While I admit that I am wearing my own Arminian glasses and having my own filters but I believe I am seeing these verses in Scriptures as they were intended to be - for all, for the world, for the ungodly, for many, for the Church, for me. The words mean what they mean - all, world, ungodly, many, Church and me.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9 ESV), who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4 ESV)

I really encourage you to read Wynkoop's book. Here is a cross section of what she wrote on:

I. Background of the Doctrine of Personal Predestination
- Early Christian Ecumenicity
- Development of Divisions
- Theological Provincialism
- The Pelagian-Augustinian Controversy

II. The Development of the Doctrine of Personal Predestination
- Augustine’s Concepts
- Calvin’s Concept of Personal and Double Predestination
- Double Predestination and Divine Decrees
- Arminius’ Concept of Divine Decrees
- Summary of the Arminian Views

III. Theological Characteristics of Calvinism, Arminianism and Wesleyanism
- Synod of Dort
- High Calvinism
- Arminianism
- Wesleyanism
- Wesleyan-Arminianism

IV. Wesleyan Influence on Classical Theology
- Neo-Calvinism (Mild, or Low Calvinism)
- Wesleyan Calvinism
- Calvinistic Wesleyanism
- Doctrinal Differences in the Light of Biblical Interpretation

V. Theological Tensions Raised by the Doctrine of Particular Predestination
- God’s Will and Man’s Will
- God’s Will and God’s Grace
- God’s Grace and Man’s Sin
- Salvation by Decree or by Faith?

VI. Influence of the Wesleyan Doctrine of the Holy Spirit on Theology
- The Work of the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit and Christian Assurance

pearlie

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