Nothing we have heard at Harvest Church over the course of the entire year of 2009 is new. But a few felt it was somehow new - that Tim made it up himself (accessing that massive stash of sunglasses and Kool-Aid he keeps in his office). This reveals only the fact that the pure gospel has been so little preached in our generation. Most of us have grown up on a spiritual diet of topical this, that, and the other thing; all of it good, none of it the best. And it shows.
Not a bit of the controversy we've experienced is new, either. John Wesley, a die hard proponent of methodical good works and "Christian perfection" (and much of whose thoughts and writing I respect and enjoy) was regarded by many a solid, well educated man of God as being unbalanced and uninformed. "Jolly beggar", Wesley was not. Wesley "scurrilously" (to use an exact word from an original source document - a letter to Wesley himself from a man whom Wesley misrepresented) misunderstood and misrepresented the doctrines of Calvanism and grace. Wesley ended up parting company with several very good men who loved him.
The saddest thing is that I can prove to you that Wesley himself was confused, and at times deeply contradicted himself. He owns up to what he himself calls a "conversion" which took place after years of his own human effort to serve Christ. The passion and peace that passes human understanding of a few Moravians stole his heart, and brought him to a better understanding of the true Christian foundation of faith. Wesley in his own words often reveals mistaken ideas of Christian "perfection". Yet he longed, himself, to be what C.S. Lewis later called "...a jolly beggar".
Nevertheless, let no one diminish Wesley's remarkable contribution to the faith! Simply do not read his writing until you have had a firm foundation of the gospel of Christ laid in your life, and you will gain much from him.
I've known these things for years and years - it is to my regret that I didn't teach them sooner. (Yeah...a true disciple takes responsibility for her own actions, or lack thereof.)
Here are a couple of quotes from one of Wesley's contemporaries (and a man who himself had foibles and faults. Hmmmmm. What do you make of that??) ~
"I will venture to assert that not one grain of Arminianism ever attended a saint [with him] into heaven... They may be compared to Paul, when he went from Jerusalem to Damascus, and the grace of God struck him down: he fell a free-willer; but he rose a free-gracer."
"The Pelagian hopes to get to heaven by a moral life and a good use of his natural powers. The Arminian by a jumble of grace and free-will, humus works, and the merits of Christ. The Deist by an interested observance of the social virtues. Thus merit-mongers, of every denomination, agree in making any thing the basis of their hope, rather than that foundation which God's own hand hath laid in Zion. But what saith Scripture? It avers, again and again, that Jesus alone is our hope: to the exclusion of all others, and to the utter annihilation of human deservings."
- Augustus Montague Toplady
Anyone who would part company with a friend, with a brother or sister in Christ, calling them a heretic or a cult or anything long those lines, over these same old issues that Wesley, Toplady, Whitfield, and others argued over...well, that person has not been well taught in church history. The one who does not know history is doomed to repeat its mistakes. It need never be so.