John Wesley’s Anthropology and Soteriology in Light of Pelagius And Augustine

This present paper seeks to defend John Wesley from accusations of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism by establishing the historical development of Augustine’s and Pelagius’ respective anthropological and soteriological perspectives and comparing John Wesley’s perspective to those of Augustine and Pelagius. There are many nuances and intricacies to the following terms: Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, Augustinianism, and semi-Augustinianism. The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination operates on a foundation constructed of Augustinian presuppositions, but what about a Wesleyan-Arminian view that allows humans to choose or reject God’s call to salvation? During his lifetime, John Wesley faced accusations of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism from several Calvinists. Their primary assumption was that the optimistic view that all have the possibility of obtaining salvation necessarily leads to an optimistic view of human nature and fails to correctly understand the detrimental effects of Adam’s fall from grace. Therefore, many in Wesley’s day assumed that, at worst, Arminians are Pelagians who believe in a works-based salvation or, at best, semi-Pelagians who place soteriological initiative in the hands of human nature and thus fail to recognize the full scope of human depravity. This paper spends substantial time exploring Augustine’s and Pelagius’s primary sources to develop an accurate understanding of their respective anthropological and soteriological perspectives. After establishing these systems’ historical development, the paper delves into John Wesley’s theological views. This paper argues that John Wesley held to a semi-Augustinian view of total depravity and divine soteriological initiative, which means that he held to Augustinian anthropological and soteriological presuppositions while also believing that prevenient grace allows all humans to choose or reject God’s call to salvation.

1 thought on “John Wesley’s Anthropology and Soteriology in Light of Pelagius And Augustine”

Leave a Comment