Why didn’t Wesley become a Reformed Charismatic?

John Wesley and John Calvin - nearly but not quite!

John Wesley and John Calvin - nearly but not quite!

Wesley was miraculously healed while reading Paul on predestination
There are several accounts of physical healings during the Great Awakening.

But one is particularly amazing, seeing as it happened to John Wesley, avowed opponent of the Doctrine of Predestination. Now that statement cries out for explanation, so without any further ado let’s cut to Wesley’s journal entry for the period of 15th to 17th May 1739:

‘Wed 15 – I explained at Greyhound Lane, the latter part of the fourth chapter to the Ephesians. I was so weak in body, that I could hardly stand; but my spirit was much strengthened.

Bed-ridden all day
‘I found myself growing sensibly weaker all Thursday; so that on Friday, 17, I could scarce get out of bed, and almost as soon as I was up, was constrained to lie down again.

‘Nevertheless I made shift to drag myself on, in the evening, to Short’s Gardens.

‘Having, not without difficulty, got up the stairs, I read those words, (though scarce intelligibly, for my voice too was almost gone), ‘Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.’ (Romans 8:29)

Instant healing while reading about God’s predestinating grace
‘In a moment both my voice and strength returned: And from that time, for some weeks, I found such bodily strength as I had never done before, since my landing in America.’ (JW Journals, Baker edition, p. 306-7)

It’s amazing that God would heal Wesley, who had so misunderstood the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereignty in salvation, while he was reading that particular verse.  But it didn’t soften him up or even cause him to pause.

When Wesley decided to preach so vehemently against predestination (and, therefore against Whitefield and Edwards) he asked that God would confirm his position. When the Spirit began to touch people with power, Wesley wrongly interpreted that as a divine confirmation of his rejection of predestination.

Why wasn’t Wesley consistent and view his instant healing as an endorsement of the verse? Because he’d already drawn a lot, to ‘preach and print’ against the Reformed position.

So the healing didn’t turn Wesley from his Arminianism to either a Reformed or a Charismatic position, nor did it cause him to become a forerunner of the modern Reformed Charismatic movement!

Wesley continued in his prejudice against election and probably interpreted the healing as God strengthening him to contradict the doctrine.

Shame that! Because of Wesley’s somewhat flawed (and inconsistent) means of gaining guidance, his continued determination to publicly blast election effectively divided the new converts’ loyalty, created bickering within the new movement, and caused energy to be directed away from the mission and onto this important, though secondary issue.

And that, folks, is why Wesley nearly (coulda, shoulda), but didn’t become a Reformed Charismatic!!

© 2009 Lex Loizides

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One thought on “Why didn’t Wesley become a Reformed Charismatic?

  1. Interesting an insightful. I believe scholars have been hard on John Wesley in failing to recognize him as serious theologian and progressive thinker. His teachings are just as relevant today as they were radical in his time.

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