Words from the mother of Methodism

Donald Haynes’ latest rallying cry for Arminian theology includes a wonderful story about his youth and his upbringing in a small Methodist church. He recounts a charming exchange with his mother who was worried that the young Haynes was being seduced by the Nazarenes away from Methodism.

(The concluding story of a pastoral hospital visit is worth the whole article. Read that if you skip the rest.)

The article also has a nice excerpt from a letter written by Susanna Wesley to John while he was at college:

This amazing “Mother of Methodism” wrote to her collegiate son in 1725, “’Tis certainly inconsistent with the justice and goodness of God to lay any man under either a physical or moral necessity of committing sin, and then to punish him for doing it.” She continued, “faith should never derogate God’s free grace nor impair the liberty of man.”

Aside from making me rethink the notes I write on my son’s Facebook page while he is at college, the quote – and Haynes’ article – reminds me why I find Wesleyan/Arminian faith so compelling and why I continue to return to Wesley for spiritual guidance.

I also note the role of parents in watching of the faith of their children. We might find it rather quaint now that a mother would be worried that her son was being lured from Methodism to the Nazarenes. We find such denominational border building wrongheaded today. But it does indicate a concern for the soul of a child so deep that it spills over into active care. Often today, it seems we place so little weight on the spiritual life of our children and neighbors that we do not care about the choices they make.

We will go to great effort to warn them about buying the wrong gadget but never about buying into a harmful theology. Perhaps we would all be wise to follow the example of Susanna Wesley.