Contemporary Trends, Bible, Christianity

John Wesley on Foreknowledge and Election

Below, you’ll find 1 Peter 1:1-2 and John Wesley’s comments on vs 2. Over all, I find what he says to be convincing. The idea that the descriptions of God’s fore or after knowledge in the Bible are metaphorical is perfectly reasonable. It is just as much true that predestination is a metaphor as it is true that God’s being surprised or ignorant is as well.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
(1 Peter 1:1-2 KJV)

[Quote] According to the foreknowledge of God – Speaking after the manner of men. Strictly speaking, there is no foreknowledge, no more than afterknowledge, with God: but all things are known to him as present from eternity to eternity. This is therefore no other than an instance of the divine condescension to our low capacities. Elect – By the free love and almighty power of God taken out of, separated from, the world. Election, in the scripture sense, is God’s doing anything that our merit or power have no part in. The true predestination, or fore – appointment of God is:

1.  He that believeth shall be saved from the guilt and power of sin.

2. He that endureth to the end shall be saved eternally.

3. They who receive the precious gift of faith, thereby become the sons of God; and, being sons, they shall receive the Spirit of holiness to walk as Christ also walked.

Throughout every part of this appointment of God, promise and duty go hand in hand. All is free gift; and yet such is the gift, that the final issue depends on our future obedience to the heavenly call. But other predestination than this, either to life or death eternal, the scripture knows not of. Moreover, it is:

1. Cruel respect of persons; an unjust regard of one, and an unjust disregard of another.

2. It is mere creature partiality, and not infinite justice.

3. It is not plain scripture doctrine, if true; but rather, inconsistent with the express written word, that speaks of God’s universal offers of grace; his invitations, promises, threatenings, being all general.

We are bid to choose life, and reprehended for not doing it. It is inconsistent with a state of probation in those that must be saved or must be lost. It is of fatal consequence; all men being ready, on very slight grounds, to fancy themselves of the elect number. But the doctrine of predestination is entirely changed from what it formerly was. Now it implies neither faith, peace, nor purity. It is something that will do without them all. Faith is no longer, according to the modern predestinarian scheme, a divine “evidence of things not seen,” wrought in the soul by the immediate power of the Holy Ghost; not an evidence at all; but a mere notion. Neither is faith made any longer a means of holiness; but something that will do without it. Christ is no more a Saviour from sin; but a defence, a countenancer of it. He is no more a fountain of spiritual life in the soul of believers, but leaves his elect inwardly dry, and outwardly unfruitful; and is made little more than a refuge from the image of the heavenly; even from righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Through sanctification of the Spirit – Through the renewing and purifying influences of his Spirit on their souls.
Unto obedience – To engage and enable them to yield themselves up to all holy obedience, the foundation of all which is, the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ – The atoning blood of Christ, which was typified by the sprinkling of the blood of sacrifices under the law; in allusion to which it is called “the blood of sprinkling.” [End Quote]

Hopefully Wesley’s point of view is helpful to you.

3 Comments on “John Wesley on Foreknowledge and Election

  1. Helpful indeed, and while the reality of God not being temporally bound (I’ve been eating this up lately from medieval and ancients), but I still wouldn’t speak of the divine action and verbs therein, even when condescending to a verb of temporality, as metaphorical, or at least as a mere metaphor. Why then would he condescend to speak of foreknowledge at all?

    His closing thoughts, about the antinomian result of a Reformed position, is a touch disingenuous.

    1. Yeah. He’s talking about a specific group of folks. In reality, he was friends with Whitefield, but Wesley was deeply perturbed by a popular version of the reformed ideology that essentially believed what he decried and I think a lot of his pastoral visits were trying to help people who believed these things.

    2. And when it comes to the metaphor business, I think there are four options when you consider two kinds of texts. The text types are: God learning/being surprised and God foreknowing/foreordaining. Here they are:
      1. Both are metaphors for God’s actions, each with a distinct rhetorical purpose. (my point of view for now).
      2. Foreknowledge is the metaphor and God’s shock is literal (open theism).
      3. Surprise is the metaphor and foreknowledge/foreordaining is literal (Calvinism)
      4. Both are literal but incomplete. God foreknows what he chooses to and not other things. (basically open theism again).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *