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Thursday, June 13, 2013

John Fletcher's Chronic Confusion

I have been reading selected works by John Fletcher, John Wesley's close associate. I am amazed how confused he was about salvation by grace. Instead of recognizing that the Bible sometimes spoke of eternal life by law and in other places spoke of eternal life by grace (with the first being impossible for any sinner to attain), Fletcher and Wesley habitually compounded grace and law into one. So if a Bible passage spoke of eternal life by doing good -- say, Jesus' instructions to the rich young ruler who didn't think he was a sinner, or Paul's words about attaining eternal life through continuously doing good from Romans 2 -- they always assumed that these were talking about the Gospel! They seem completely blind to the fact that the Old testament Law also offered eternal life, on the condition of perfect obedience. As a result of their partisan biases and poor interpretive principles, Wesley and Fletcher confusedly mingled passages together that should have been kept distinct, like yoking a donkey to an oxen. Paul was clear that salvation was by faith from first to last (Romans 1:17). In their obsessive anxiety over the sin of lawlessness (which they called antinomianism), they ignore legalism. They preached that you started off your initial salvation by faith, but you attain final salvation by good works. But many of their opponents were hyper-Calvinists like the Rev. John Gill, so that made Wesley and Fletcher look better in contrast. Thy assumed that any time the Bible promised eternal life, it automatically was talking about the Gospel, and because of that fundamental error, they ended up preaching salvation by works.

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