“Many self-styled Arminians view the problem of sin as merely the problem of guilt (to be forgiven), and not as a severe malady involving deadness, blindness, and rebellion. For these Arminians the gospel message can be made effective simply by a winsome presentation that appeals skillfully to reason and goodwill.”
A post from a few years ago on a question that is still with us
Originally posted on John Meunier:
I agree that, in the eyes of God, one sin is not worse than another. I don’t agree with the statement, “We are all sinners.” (Letters, March/April) The term “sinning Christian” is a misnomer. If Christ doesn’t save us from our sins, then his sacrifice on the cross was useless.
Among the early Methodists the question of whether a Christian could sin was an important one. John Wesley wrote about it often. It is one of the many issues where careful reading of Wesley shows a nuanced understanding of sin and the work of grace. Let’s look at some of what he wrote.
The keystone Scripture for Wesley was 1 John 3, specifically verse 9: “Those who have been born of God do not sin” (NRSV). He wrestled most explicitly with…
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I had someone ask me recently how they should talk to an atheist who insists on saying things meant to provoke or insult.
My initial response was something like this: You are asking me what to say when that person says something insulting to faith or about your belief. How about, “I love you”?
I knew that was easier to offer as advice than to do, but I went on to say that I have always found it interesting how strongly some people feel compelled to react to the presence of faith around them. Based on my own pre-Christian experiences, I believe that in many cases the person is reacting defensively against the grace of God. Acting out in anger might just be the sign that God is getting a foothold and they are lashing out to try to drive grace away.
Upright heathens are by no means to be excluded from this earnest expectation: nay, perhaps something of it may at some times be found even in the vainest of men; who (although in the hurry of life they mistake vanity for liberty, and partly stifle, partly dissemble, their groans, yet) in their sober, quiet, sleepless, afflicted hours, pour forth many sighs in the ear of God.
Some of our sighs to God can look a lot spitting in God’s face.
It is not easy to be on the receiving end of these things, but I do think Christians should view vocal atheism as a sign of God’s grace at work stirring up souls.
Many atheists, of course, would reject what I just wrote. I understand that. I was once among their tribe. Part of being a Christian, though, is learning to tell the story of the world around us in terms of grace and God’s activity.
So maybe in addition to suggesting that my friend say “I love you” in the face of atheist insults, I should have added “God loves you, too.”
We Wesleyan Methodists don’t agree on point four in the list of things that the Reformed Gospel Coalition puts forth. We believe there is a kind of perfection offered in this life, although not one free of failures and mistakes.
We have answers to the 15 questions they don’t agree on as well.
If I get some time, I would like to write in this some more.
What I see us sharing with The Gospel Coalition is an emphasis on grace and a pastoral concern about the twin dangers of legalism and antinomianism.
I’ve enjoyed many of the Chuck Knows Church videos.
This new web series on church revitalization called “The Committee” looks like a good one and a possible resource for churches looking to have a discussion about their own future.
“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen — by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:39-43)
Peter’s testimony to the household of Cornelius echoes the apostolic witness recorded elsewhere in Acts. I think in particular of Peter in Acts 2 and Paul in Acts 13. Here is what I hear in these proclamations.
The resurrection of Jesus is a promise and a sign. It is a promise of a future resurrection of all humanity — the wicked and the righteous. It is also a sign that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Son of God, the messiah, Christ. He is the one who will judge the living and the dead at the end of the present age. He is also the one through whom we receive forgiveness for our sins.
In the witness of the Book of Acts, those who receive this teaching receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a present gift offering us peace, joy, and power to trample down sin. The Holy Spirit gathers us into a body and teaches, nurtures, and disciplines us.
As Christians, we are called to live by the Spirit and in accord with the will of God, so that at the resurrection we will be found to have worthily run the race set before us. In our ears, the Lord will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
This is, I hope, a fair summary of the apostolic preaching recorded in Acts. If it is, I wonder how it is heard today. I wonder how well it accords with what we preach and teach.