Yesterday I picked up where I left off reading Wesley's "Doctrine of Original Sin." In my reading I came across what I was looking for. Certain Wesleyan theologians claimed that Wesley's views concerning the extent to which God's image remains in Man following the Fall is the same as the Calvinist view. Calvinists, following Augustine's lead, claim that when the first humans fell, the image of God in which they were created was totally obliterated. The Wesleyans who voiced this opinion cited "Doctrine of Original Sin" as their evidence. (Although no passages from this work were cited.) This was not what I was taught at seminary. At seminary it was stated that Wesley maintained that there was still some of the image of God left in man, though greatly marred. Otherwise, how could Man respond to God's grace if there was no vestige of that image left? This view lined up with my own previous thinking and I have expressed such views in my preaching and teaching. So I began "Doctrine of Original Sin" to make sure that I was at least in agreement with Wesley, keeping an open mind that perhaps even Wesley was wrong on this point. Yesterday's reading demonstrates that at least I was taught correctly concerning Wesley's views.
Here is the passage where Wesley's views are expressed: "The Doctrine of Original Sin", from "The Works of John Wesley", Baker Books, vol. 9, p. 291-292. Wesley was responding to the published views of one John Taylor, who claimed that original sin was not passed down through the generations and that education had brought Man back to the status before God that Adam possessed before the Fall. It takes a concentrated effort at times to understand Wesley's train of thought. One has to be constantly aware when Wesley is speaking for himself, when he is quoting supporting materials, or when he is quoting Taylor. The passage begins with Wesley quoting from Taylor's work:
"Objection 2. But do not the Scriptures say, Adam was created after God's own image? And do his posterity bear that image now?
"The Scriptures do say, 'God created man in his own image.' (Gen. i. 27) But whatever that phrase means here, it doubtless means the same in Gen. ix. 6: 'Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: For in the image of God made he man.' (Page 177.)"
This is Wesley's immediate response:
"Certainly it has the same meaning in both places; for the latter plainly refers to the former. And thus much we may fairly infer from hence, THAT 'THE IMAGE OF GOD,' WHEREIN 'MAN WAS' AT FIRST 'CREATED,' WHEREINSOEVER IT CONSISTED, WAS NOT UTTERLY EFFACED IN THE TIME OF NOAH. YEA, SO MUCH OF IT WILL ALWAYS REMAIN IN ALL MEN, AS WILL JUSTIFY THE PUNISHING MURDERERS WITH DEATH. BUT WE CAN IN NOWISE INFER FORM HENCE, THAT THAT ENTIRE IMAGE OF GOD, IN WHICH ADAM WAS FIRST CREATED, NOW REMAINS IN ALL HIS POSTERITY. (Capitalization mine.)
"The words of Gen. v. 3, rendered literally , are, 'He begat in his likeness, according to his image.' 'Adam,' says Mr. Hervey, ' was created in the image of God.' After his fall, the sacred historian varies his style, and, with a remarkable peculiarity, as well as propriety, says, 'Adam begat a son in his own likeness;' --so it must be translated, according to all the rules of grammar, Adam being the nearest antecedent. That every reader may avert to this melancholy but important truth, it is enforced by a very emphatical repetition: 'After his own image,' as contradistinguished from that 'image of God,' mentioned in the preceding verse; which expressions are evidently intended to denote the difference between the state in which Adam was created and Seth begotten."
In this passage, Wesley states that while the Entire image of God in which Adam was created does not reside in fallen Man, fallen Man still retains a portion of that image, however marred that image in Man now is.
The exploration of this issue is no mere theological exercise. This issue figures in evangelism and in ministry. I will demonstrate this by posting notes from one of my earliest sermons, which presents content I have found useful in prison ministry. All this will appear on my main blog, http://www.therighthandoffellowship.blogspot.com/ .
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Posted by Mr. Guthrie at 1:15 PM
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