Wilbur F. Tillett, “Methodism Is Arminianism Put into Practice for the Salvation of Souls & the Evangelization of the World” (1906)

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[This post first appeared at GospelEncounter.wordpress.com]

Here is Wilbur F. Tillett, Vanderbilt University, in A Statement of the Faith of World-wide Methodism (1906):

The Arminianism of Holland, even in its earliest and purest form, was but a theological and intellectual system at best. Its highest purpose seems to have been to prove that the doctrines of Arminianism as opposed to Calvinism constituted the true doctrinal system of Christianity. Proving this point, it had, or seemed to have, nothing more to do.

The Arminianism of Wesley and the Methodists, however, was intensely spiritual and evangelical. With theology as such they had little to do. They loved not theology for its own sake, but only as it was an embodiment of the truth of the gospel capable of being transmuted into spiritual power for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of believers. The theology of Wesley and his followers is the Arminianism of Holland baptized with the Holy Ghost and infused with spiritual life. It is the theology of a Church that is “Christianity in earnest,” that believes in and enjoys experimental religion, that is on fire to save souls and carry the gospel to the whole world.

While the Arminianism of the Remonstrants was content to prove the moral free agency of man and an unlimited atonement as being true against the erroneous Calvinistic doctrines of election and partial redemption, the Arminianism of Wesley, accepting them as true, began to practice them, to live them out, to plead with every man to decide for Christ because he was free, and to carry the gospel to every man because Christ died for all. The theology of Methodism is Arminianism put into practice for the salvation of souls and the evangelization of the world.

The theology of Methodism, therefore, is quite different from that of the early Remonstrants, even in its purest form, and should always be designated as Evangelical or Wesleyan Arminianism. It contains and emphasizes many doctrines that concern the experience of religion in the soul and the salvation of sinners and the spread of the gospel, about which early Arminianism was practically silent.


The notable and historic “five points of Arminianism” alluded to above are not dead issues but a vital and essential part of the Arminian faith of modern Methodism. They concern a true definition and statement of

( 1 ) predestination and election as conditioned on the foreknowledge of God;

( 2 ) the atonement of Christ as unlimited in its purpose and efficacy, making possible the salvation of all men who repent and believe;

( 3 ) man’s inability by nature to save himself from sin and the consequent necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit;

( 4 ) the affirmation of man’s free agency in that while he may be and often is irresistibly convicted of sin by the operations of divine grace, yet under conviction he can and often does resist the further gracious influences of the Holy Spirit and willfully continues in sin ; and

( 5 ) the possibility of apostasy on the part of those who are truly regenerated in that while divine grace sufficient for their perseverance is pledged to them from God, they may of their own free wills neglect to use this grace and thus forfeit their sonship and be finally lost.

Every one of these is a doctrine of cardinal importance.

You can read the full pamphlet here: A Statement of the Faith of World-wide Methodism

I don’t think the comment regarding Dutch Arminianism is true of Arminius himself. Arminius did seem to have the heart of an evangelist.  As Victor Shepherd has written, Arminius “was never distracted from the practical, non-speculative understanding of theology […] and credibly stated that his sole ambition was ‘to inquire in the Holy Scriptures for divine truth … for the purpose of winning some souls for Christ.’” (link). That Arminius quote is from his Works, Vol 2: Justification.

But I do think it is true that Methodism is the logical outflow of Arminian theology–“Arminianism put into practice”–and that, as I have written before, Arminianism is naturally missional and evangelistic.