Saturday, 19 January 2008

Calvinist Methodists

I grew up in the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka. Methodism comes from John and Charles Wesley, and George Whitfield. They were Anglican ministers who preached powerfully, and were serious about living a Godly life. They were “methodical” in their approach to their personal life – hence, “Methodists”.
I like to combine the intense personal devotion and powerful preaching of Methodism with the doctrinal precision of Calvinism. If you have just one without the other, you have trouble. Mere doctrinal precision without personal devotion turns into a cold legalism. That seems to be the classic Presbyterian problem – theologically correct, but not very loving or evangelistic. On the other hand, personal devotion without doctrinal precision could lead to… well, anything…! It’s great to be devoted – but to what? I’ve seen people deeply devoted to their careers! The health & wealth gospel, and other problems of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, can be seen as Methodist piety and preaching without doctrinal precision.
That’s why I’m drawn to people like Jonathan Edwards and Martin Lloyd-Jones. They also combined doctrinal precision with personal devotion and powerful preaching. It’s not head OR heart, it’s head AND heart. It’s not doctrine OR passion, it’s doctrine AND passion.
So maybe in becoming a Presbyterian, I’ve become a Calvinist Methodist.
David Jones - my supervisor here in Hobart - comes from the Welsh Presbyterian church. Their roots lie in the revivalist preaching of people like Howell Harris and Daniel Rowland, who were themselves associated with the Wesleys and Whitfield. They combined Calvinist doctrine with powerful preaching and serious godliness. In fact, the Welsh Presbyterians used to go by another name.
Calvinist Methodists.

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