Freewill Debate: John Wesley vs. Martin Luther

Explore the profound theological debate on freewill between Martin Luther and John Wesley, orchestrated through ChatGPT. Delve into Luther's view of human enslavement to sin versus Wesley's belief in human capacity to respond to Divine grace, enriching your understanding of this enduring theological question​.


Justin Hoke

10/31/202324 min read

As one traverses the annals of theological discourse, the debate surrounding freewill emerges as a ceaseless endeavor to uncover the intricacies of human agency vis-à-vis Divine Sovereignty. This dialectical exploration often leads us to the doorsteps of towering theological intellects whose reflections continue to shape the Christian understanding of freewill. Among them, Martin Luther and John Wesley stand as emblematic figures, each espousing a distinct stance on this profound issue. In the ensuing pages, a simulated debate between these two theological giants unfolds, a discourse nurtured by the sapient insights of ChatGPT, a language model developed by OpenAI.

The underpinnings of Martin Luther's and John Wesley's theological convictions concerning freewill underscore a broader ecclesiastical discourse, and, in many ways, reflect the diversity of thought within Christian tradition. Luther, a seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation, vehemently contested the notion of freewill, postulating that human beings are enslaved to sin, and only through God's grace can one attain salvation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, John Wesley, a linchpin of Methodism, championed the notion of freewill, asserting that humans possess the capacity to respond to God's grace through faith and good works.

Utilizing the innovative capabilities of ChatGPT, I have orchestrated a debate where each persona—Luther and Wesley—articulates their theological positions, engages in rebuttals, and cross-examines the other’s stance in a structured dialectical engagement. The debate unfolds in a meticulously structured manner, comprising opening statements, rounds of rebuttals, cross-examinations, and closing statements, offering a thorough exploration of the topic at hand.

As you delve into this theological exploration, you are embarking on a journey through the labyrinth of Christian doctrinal thought on freewill. The dialogic exchange between Luther and Wesley, albeit simulated, endeavors to mirror the authentic theological dispositions of these illustrious figures, offering a unique vantage point to contemplate the enduring question of human freewill within the Christian narrative.

In venturing through this constructed discourse, may you find a deeper understanding of the diverse theological interpretations surrounding freewill, and perhaps, a nuanced appreciation for the rich tapestry of thought that constitutes Christian theological tradition.

Opening Statements

John Wesley:

I stand before you as John Wesley, a servant of God, whose teachings are deeply rooted in the understanding that the grace of God does not negate the freewill of man. It is of paramount importance to elucidate that freewill, as perceived through the lens of Methodist theology, is a vital component of one's spiritual journey. I affirm that God’s grace enables, rather than extinguishes, the human capacity to choose between good and evil, righteousness and sin. This is a cornerstone that underscores the essential role of human agency in salvation and moral development.

The Almighty in His infinite wisdom has endowed mankind with the ability to choose, a gift that reflects His love and trust in His creation. It is through this gift of freewill that individuals can respond to the grace of God, a grace that is prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying. Prevenient grace, a cornerstone of my teachings, operates in the hearts of all, illuminating the path of righteousness and beckoning souls towards the love of God. It is by virtue of this grace that the veil of ignorance is lifted, allowing souls to discern and to choose the good.

Contrarily, the position held by Martin Luther suggests a stringent determinism that undermines the moral agency of individuals. The notion that our wills are in bondage to sin until liberated solely by the grace of God, without any cooperative human response, appears to negate the essential role of conscience and personal responsibility in the process of sanctification. The doctrine of sola fide, or justification by faith alone, while holding a grain of truth, seems to overlook the synergistic relationship between divine grace and human freewill, a synergy that I firmly uphold.

Furthermore, the conviction that faith is a singular determinant of salvation without recognizing the necessity of good works and moral rectitude, tends to oversimplify the profound mystery of God’s salvific plan. The Methodist doctrine emphasizes that faith and good works are inseparable, as the Apostle James proclaimed, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). Our ability to choose the good, to act in love, and to grow in holiness, is a testament to the dynamic interaction between God’s grace and human freewill.

In conclusion, the theological stance I represent acknowledges the indispensable role of human freewill in the broader narrative of divine grace and salvation. It is through the harmonious collaboration between the grace of God and human freewill that the sanctification of souls is attainable. This doctrine not only nurtures a sense of personal responsibility and moral agency but also glorifies the benevolent nature of our Creator, who desires that all should come to the knowledge of truth and attain salvation.

Martin Luther:

Esteemed colleagues and keen minds assembled here, I, Martin Luther, present my stance on the concept of Freewill, a notion explored and debated by theologians over centuries. My discourse rests on the premise that human will, after the fall of Adam, exists, but only in the service of sin. Our Will is in bondage to sin, and without the grace of God, it cannot do, strive for, or work toward anything good. The sinful nature of man, as depicted in scriptures, leads him away from righteousness unless divinely intervened upon by God’s grace.

The foundation of my argument is rooted in the Holy Scripture, which unequivocally declares our inability to come to Christ unaided. In the Gospel according to John (6:44), it is written, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." This verse illuminates the incapacity of our will to strive for righteousness or goodness without God’s divine pull. Our will, being shackled by sin, is not free but enslaved, making us incapable of desiring, much less choosing, the good on our own accord.

Furthermore, as I have expounded in my treatise "The Bondage of the Will," the notion of a free will, capable of choosing good or evil, is a fallacy that diminishes the glory and necessity of God’s grace. It is by grace alone, through faith, that we are saved, as stated in Ephesians 2:8-9. This grace is not a result of human endeavor but a gift from God. Thus, to argue for the freedom of will is to argue against the necessity and the magnanimity of God's grace, which is a grave theological error.

Moreover, the doctrine of predestination further underscores the bondage of the will. God, in His omniscience, preordains our salvation or damnation, and this divine decree cannot be thwarted or influenced by human will. Our salvation is entirely contingent upon God's mercy and not on any merit or choice of ours. This doctrine, far from being a doctrine of despair, illuminates the richness of God's mercy and the depth of our fallen state, driving us to a deeper reliance on God alone for salvation.

Lastly, historical and ecclesiastical testimony lends credence to the stance of the bondage of the will. The early church fathers and the councils have affirmed the depravity of man and the necessity of God’s grace for salvation. The assertion of free will, on the other hand, aligns more with the Pelagian heresy, which was vehemently rejected by the early church. Hence, the doctrine of the bondage of the will is not a novelty, but a historical and biblically substantiated truth, essential for maintaining the integrity of the Christian faith and the glory of God’s grace.

In conclusion, the belief in free will undermines the core Christian teaching of salvation by grace alone and veils the utterly dependent state of man on God's grace for anything good. As such, it is a theological stance that should not be endorsed but refuted for a more biblically grounded understanding of human nature and God’s sovereign grace.

First Round of Rebuttals

John Wesley:

Esteemed assembly, I acknowledge the thoughtful exposition presented by Martin Luther. However, there are several points where our theological perspectives diverge significantly, notably on the matter of freewill and its interplay with divine grace.

Firstly, it is crucial to delineate that acknowledging freewill does not, in any measure, diminish the indispensable and paramount role of God's grace in our salvation. It is through God’s prevenient grace that the bondage of sin is loosed, enabling us to respond to the divine call. While the verse from John 6:44 underscores the necessity of divine initiative, it does not negate the human response. Indeed, God draws us, yet in His love, He allows us the choice to respond to His drawing or to reject it. It is a cooperative venture where God’s grace and human choice work in tandem towards salvation.

Luther’s assertion that the will is enslaved to sin, while scripturally grounded, overlooks the transformative power of God’s grace that enables the will to choose righteousness. The grace of God is not a one-time intervention but a continual empowerment that aids us in our journey towards holiness. By positing that the human will remains in bondage even after the intervention of divine grace, Luther's stance seems to discount the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.

Furthermore, Luther’s adherence to the doctrine of predestination in such a rigid manner appears to undermine the loving character of God. Our Lord is described in the Holy Scriptures as desiring all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). The doctrine of predestination, as expounded by Luther, seems to impinge upon the universality of God’s salvific will, portraying God as a being who arbitrarily preordains some to salvation and others to damnation without granting them any choice in the matter.

Moreover, the dichotomy Luther presents between faith, works, and freewill oversimplifies the intricate workings of salvation. It creates an erroneous perception that acknowledging human freewill invariably leads to a works-based soteriology, which is far from the truth. Faith and works are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are two sides of the same coin in the economy of God’s salvation. Good works are the natural fruition of a genuine faith, and freewill plays a crucial role in actualizing these works in our lives.

Lastly, while historical and ecclesiastical testimonies are invaluable, they are not infallible. The truth of God’s Word transcends ecclesiastical affirmations and historical consensus. The assertion that freewill aligns with Pelagian heresy is a gross mischaracterization. Unlike Pelagianism, the Methodist theology recognizes the utter depravity of human nature apart from divine grace and affirms the necessity of grace for both faith and works.

In conclusion, the doctrine of freewill as expounded in Methodist theology glorifies God’s grace as enabling, transformative, and universal. It upholds a balanced and biblically grounded understanding of the synergistic relationship between divine grace and human freewill in the magnificent tapestry of God’s redemptive plan.

Martin Luther:

Esteemed John Wesley, your exposition, though eloquent, veers away from the scriptural truth and aligns more with human reasoning, thus jeopardizing the pure doctrine of grace. Your assertion that freewill plays a vital role in one’s spiritual journey is a lofty notion that undermines the total depravity of man post the fall of Adam. The scripture is clear; there is none righteous, not even one, and none who seeks God (Romans 3:10-11). The will of man is not just impaired but is dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). It is solely the grace of God that quickens us to a new life, enabling faith and repentance.

You speak of a synergistic relationship between divine grace and human freewill, yet this is a dangerous proposition that muddles the waters of salvation. The synergistic model you propose posits a salvation that is partly the work of God and partly the work of man, which is contrary to the scriptural teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is God who works in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), not a cooperative effort between God and man.

Furthermore, your emphasis on the role of conscience and personal responsibility in sanctification, while seemingly noble, actually diverts the glory due to God alone to the faculties of man. The process of sanctification, like justification, is the work of God (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Our moral rectitude or good works are the fruits of God’s work in us, not the cause or the cooperative factor in our salvation or sanctification.

Your reference to James 2:17 overlooks the essential understanding that good works are the result of genuine faith, not a cooperative effort with grace. The Apostle Paul clarifies that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). These good works are a testimony of God’s grace in us, not of our freewill cooperating with God’s grace.

Lastly, the notion of a harmonious collaboration between God’s grace and human freewill tends to elevate the status of man to an unbiblical pedestal. It subtly implies that God’s grace is insufficient or ineffective without human cooperation, which is a perilous theological path to tread. The scripture is clear, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).

In conclusion, the essence of the Gospel is the proclamation of God’s sovereign grace in saving sinners wholly and unconditionally. The introduction of human freewill as a cooperative agent in salvation not only distorts the Gospel but also diminishes the glory and honor due to God alone in our salvation.Top of Form

Second Round of Rebuttals

John Wesley:

Esteemed Martin Luther, your articulation is indeed rooted in a profound reverence for God's sovereign grace, a reverence I share wholeheartedly. However, the interpretation of Scriptures concerning human freewill and God's grace seems to present a more complex narrative than the absolute determinism you propose.

Firstly, the assertion that recognizing human freewill undermines the total depravity of man seems to misconstrue the Methodist perspective. It is clear, as Scriptures affirm, that apart from God’s grace, we are indeed dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1). Yet, it is through God’s prevenient grace that our wills are awakened and enabled to respond to God’s call. This grace goes before, illuminating the darkness of our hearts and granting us the capacity to choose. Therefore, it is not a glorification of human ability, but a recognition of God’s enabling grace.

Secondly, the notion of synergy between divine grace and human freewill does not posit a salvation achieved partly by God and partly by man, rather it acknowledges the relational nature of God’s grace. Our salvation is wholly the work of God, yet it involves a response. As the Apostle Paul elucidates, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13). This passage beautifully captures the synergistic relationship without detracting from the primacy of God’s grace.

Additionally, emphasizing the role of conscience and personal responsibility does not divert glory from God; instead, it underscores the transformative work of God’s grace in our lives. Our capacity for moral discernment and our ability to choose the good are testimonies to God’s redemptive work within us. It is a reflection of God’s image being restored in us, enabling us to love and to choose the good, which ultimately glorifies God.

Moreover, the reference to James 2:17 does not overlook the primacy of faith; rather, it highlights the inseparable nature of faith and works. Faith is the root, and good works are the fruit. They are a visible manifestation of the invisible grace at work within us. The Apostle Paul’s clarification in Ephesians 2:10 aligns with this understanding, positing good works as a divine ordinance that we should walk in them, not as a human merit but as a response to God’s grace.

Lastly, the claim that acknowledging human freewill elevates man to an unbiblical pedestal seems to misinterpret the intent. It is not a matter of sufficiency of God’s grace, but a matter of the nature of God’s grace as relational and enabling. God, in His sovereign mercy, has chosen to grant humanity the dignity of choice, not because His grace is insufficient, but because His grace is magnanimous and His love desires a genuine relationship with His creation.

In summation, the recognition of human freewill within the framework of God’s sovereign grace presents a balanced, scripturally grounded, and relationally rich understanding of the divine-human interaction in the journey of salvation and sanctification. It glorifies God as the author and perfecter of our faith, who graciously enables us to respond to His call and to grow in holiness.

Martin Luther:

Your esteemed rebuttal, Mr. Wesley, brings forth a fervent discourse, yet there remain several fundamental misconceptions which need addressing to maintain a scriptural integrity in this theological dialogue.

Firstly, the notion of a cooperative venture between God’s grace and human choice in salvation, as you propose, undermines the omnipotent nature of God's grace. It suggests a dependency of God’s grace on human will to effectuate salvation, which is scripturally unsound. The Apostle Paul unequivocally states in Romans 9:16, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” This verse exemplifies that the efficacy of God’s grace in salvation is not contingent upon human will.

Furthermore, you assert that acknowledging freewill does not diminish the role of God’s grace. However, by introducing human will as a cooperative agent, you inadvertently place a portion of the salvific responsibility upon the sinner, which is a departure from the scriptural doctrine of sola gratia (grace alone). The scriptures are explicit that salvation is the work of God from beginning to end (Philippians 1:6). By implying a synergistic relationship between grace and freewill, you lessen the absolute necessity and sufficiency of God’s grace in salvation.

Regarding the transformative power of God’s grace, I wholeheartedly agree. However, the transformation is a result of God’s monergistic work in us, not a synergistic effort. The Holy Spirit regenerates the heart, granting faith and repentance, without a preceding act of human will. Our new nature, with desires for righteousness, is entirely a work of God’s grace, not a cooperative achievement between God’s grace and human will.

Your critique of predestination misinterprets the doctrine and portrays it as a heartless decree. Yet, it is a glorious testament to God’s mercy and justice. It magnifies God's grace bestowed upon undeserving sinners and upholds His righteous judgment. The mystery of God’s sovereign election and human responsibility is a profound truth held in tension within the scriptures, not to be unraveled by human reasoning.

Lastly, your assertion that faith and works are two sides of the same coin, while true, misses the crucial understanding that works are the fruit of faith, not its cooperator. The assertion of freewill as a necessary component for good works erroneously shifts the focus from God’s enabling grace to human ability, which is a precarious theological stance.

In conclusion, the discourse on freewill and its relation to divine grace is not merely a theological conjecture but a matter of utmost importance that affects the very core of Christian doctrine. The assertion of human freewill in salvation risks veiling the glorious grace of God which alone has the power to save, sustain, and sanctify the sinner.

First Round of Cross Examination by Wesley:

John Wesley:

Mr. Luther, you've emphasized the bondage of the will to sin prior to divine intervention. However, post such divine intervention, do you affirm that the will remains in bondage, or is it liberated to some degree, hence capable of responding to God’s grace?

Martin Luther:

Post divine intervention, the will of man indeed experiences a liberation, not from its bondage to sin autonomously, but through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which enables the believer to respond to God’s grace. It’s a divine liberation where God’s grace reorients our will towards Him, allowing us to desire and choose that which is good and pleasing to God. Nonetheless, this liberation is not an autonomous function of human will but a gracious operation of God's Spirit within us.

John Wesley:

In your discourse, you've mentioned that “It is God who works in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Could you elucidate on the phrase “to will” in this context? Does it not suggest that God’s grace enables our will to align with His, rather than bypassing our will altogether?

Martin Luther:

The phrase “to will” in Philippians 2:13 is indicative of God’s sovereign act of transforming our desires and inclinations to align with His holy and perfect will. This transformation, however, does not suggest an enabling of a previously autonomous will, but rather a divine overruling and renewing of our will. Our will doesn’t act independently, but is brought into subjection to God’s will, entirely by God’s grace, not by a synergistic cooperation between God’s grace and human will.

John Wesley:

You’ve referred to Romans 9:16 to emphasize the primacy of God’s mercy over human will in the matter of salvation. However, the Apostle Paul, in the same epistle, also mentions that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). How do you reconcile these verses? Does not Romans 10:9 imply a human response to God’s grace?

Martin Luther:

Romans 10:9 indeed highlights the necessity of confession and belief for salvation, yet it doesn't contradict the doctrine of the bondage of the will. The ability to confess and believe is itself a gift granted by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8). This verse underscores the manifest response of a heart regenerated by God's grace, not an autonomous human action. The confession and belief are the evidences of God’s preceding work of grace in the heart, not a cooperative human endeavor.

John Wesley:

You’ve critiqued the notion of synergy between divine grace and human freewill, labeling it as a dangerous proposition. However, the scripture also says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). How do you interpret this verse in light of your theological stance on the bondage of the will?

Martin Luther:

James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you,” does not propose a synergistic model but rather elucidates the divine principle of God’s relational faithfulness. When God, by His grace, initiates a change in our hearts, and we respond by drawing near to Him, He faithfully draws near to us. This verse doesn’t teach that our will is free or contributes to our salvation but highlights the resultant relationship borne out of God's initial grace.

John Wesley:

Lastly, you’ve alluded to the doctrine of predestination in a manner that suggests a deterministic outlook. However, the scripture also affirms God’s desire for all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). How do you reconcile the doctrine of predestination with the universal salvific will of God as expressed in the scriptures?

Martin Luther:

The doctrine of predestination and the universal salvific will of God are profound truths held in scriptural tension. 1 Timothy 2:4 expresses God's benevolent will for all to be saved, yet, as Romans 9 elucidates, God's sovereign, electing love has chosen some unto salvation. This tension does not denote a contradiction but a divine mystery. The universal call to repentance goes forth to all, yet the effective call of God unto salvation is extended to His elect. This doctrine doesn’t undermine God’s universal salvific will but rather magnifies His mercy and justice in the grand narrative of redemption.

First Round of Cross Examination by Luther:

Martin Luther:

Mr. Wesley, you mention the concept of prevenient grace as a means by which God enables our wills to respond to His call. Could you elucidate where exactly in Scripture this specific kind of grace is delineated, and how it differs from the monergistic work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration as traditionally understood within Reformation theology?

John Wesley:

Concerning prevenient grace, it is observed in scriptures such as John 1:9, where it is stated that Christ, the true light, enlightens every person coming into the world. This verse, among others, portrays a universal grace extended to all, enabling them to perceive and respond to God's salvific call. This differentiates from the monergistic work of regeneration in Reformation theology, which posits a unilateral act of God without human cooperation. Prevenient grace, on the other hand, provides the means for such cooperation, inviting rather than compelling a response.

Martin Luther:

The passage from Philippians 2:12-13 is indeed a profound text. However, how do you reconcile your synergistic interpretation of this text with the consistent teaching of Scripture that salvation is solely the work of God, unaffected by human merit or decision, as stated in passages such as Romans 9:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9?

John Wesley:

The texts from Philippians, Romans, and Ephesians are indeed rich in meaning. While Romans 9:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9 accentuate the primacy of God’s grace in salvation, they do not categorically exclude human participation. The call to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” in Philippians 2:12-13 reveals a synergistic endeavor, where God's grace energizes the believer's will and actions. The Apostle Paul's discourse harmonizes the initiative of divine grace with human response, never suggesting a meritorious human effort, but a faith that is active in love.

Martin Luther:

You speak of a dignified choice granted by God to humanity. In light of the Scriptural testimony concerning the natural man's inability to choose God apart from regenerating grace (1 Corinthians 2:14, Romans 8:7-8), how do you reconcile this notion of a dignified choice with the Scriptural doctrine of total depravity?

John Wesley:

The Scriptural testimony concerning total depravity indeed underscores the human incapacity to choose God apart from divine grace. Nonetheless, it is through prevenient grace that the fetters of sin are loosened, enabling a response to God. The doctrine of total depravity does not preclude the possibility of a grace that restores the capacity for faith and repentance, a restoration that invites but does not coerce the human will.

Martin Luther:

In your discussion on faith and works, you assert that good works are a visible manifestation of invisible grace, which is a point of agreement. However, how do you respond to the charge that by insisting on a cooperative role of human will in salvation, the doctrine of justification by faith alone is compromised, potentially leading to a works-based soteriology?

John Wesley:

The discourse on faith and works is indeed a seminal point. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is not compromised but enriched when understanding that faith is not a solitary act but a living, working reality. Good works are not perceived as meritorious causes of salvation, but as fruits and evidences of a living faith. This aligns with James 2:18, which speaks of demonstrating faith through works, portraying a holistic, biblical soteriology.

Martin Luther:

Lastly, you mention that recognizing human freewill is a matter of understanding God’s grace as relational and enabling. However, how do you address the concern that this perspective could lead to a diminished view of God’s sovereign rule over all things, including the salvation of sinners, as extensively taught in the Scriptures?

John Wesley:

Lastly, acknowledging human freewill within the framework of God's relational grace does not diminish God’s sovereign rule but reveals His desire for a genuine relationship with His creation. The Scriptures portray a God who seeks, invites, and draws, yet allows the human heart the dignity of response. This does not undermine divine sovereignty but unveils the profound mystery of a God who rules with love and righteousness, orchestrating a grand narrative of redemption that includes human freedom and responsibility.

Second Round of Cross Examination by Wesley:

John Wesley:

Mr. Luther, you have emphasized the bondage of the will and God's sovereign grace in the act of salvation. However, in the daily life of a believer, would you say the will remains in bondage, or is there a measure of freedom through which the believer can pursue sanctification and resist sin?

Martin Luther:

In the daily life of a believer, the will indeed experiences a divine liberation through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a liberation that enables the believer to pursue sanctification and resist sin. However, this liberation should not be mistaken for an autonomous freedom of the will, but rather a freedom granted and sustained by God's grace. It is God who works in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). The struggle against sin and the pursuit of sanctification are thus not accomplished by the autonomous efforts of the will, but through the empowering grace of God which renews our minds and aligns our wills with His holy and perfect will. This is a continual reliance on God's grace, not a one-time liberation that now enables autonomous human striving.

John Wesley:

Your interpretation of predestination suggests a selective salvation only accessible to the elect. Yet, the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:9 states that God is "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." How do you reconcile your doctrine of predestination with such scriptures that suggest a universal call to salvation?

Martin Luther:

The doctrine of predestination, as I have expounded, is indeed a profound mystery rooted in the sovereign and unsearchable will of God. The scripture you've referred to, 2 Peter 3:9, reveals the benevolent heart of God, desiring that none should perish but that all should reach repentance. This universal desire for salvation does not stand in contradiction with the doctrine of predestination but rather accentuates the depth of human sinfulness and the necessity of God's electing grace. It is within this divine mystery that we find the tension between God's sovereign election and His universal call to salvation. The universal call goes forth to all, but due to the bondage of the will, none can respond positively apart from God's electing grace which effectively calls, regenerates, and brings the elect to faith and repentance. This magnifies not only the justice of God in condemning justly deserved sinners but also the immense mercy of God in saving the undeserving.

Second Round of Cross Examination by Luther:

Martin Luther:

Mr. Wesley, your interpretation of John 1:9 posits a universal enlightening grace, which you term as prevenient grace. However, the scripture also delineates a special and saving grace extended only to those who are regenerated (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:5). How do you reconcile these scriptural testimonies with your understanding of prevenient grace, which seems to blur the distinctive nature of saving grace?

John Wesley:

The distinction between prevenient grace and saving grace is indeed a nuanced one. Prevenient grace, as seen in John 1:9, serves as a divine illumination, enabling all individuals to perceive their need for salvation and respond to God's redemptive invitation. This grace is universally extended, leveling the ground for all to come to the understanding of truth. However, it does not guarantee salvation, but rather, offers the opportunity for individuals to respond to God's salvific call.

On the other hand, the scriptures you've referenced, Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 2:5, speak to the saving grace that comes through Jesus Christ, which is applied to those who respond in faith. Saving grace is a distinct act of God that imparts new life to the believer, regenerating the heart and justifying the sinner before God. While prevenient grace enables the choice, saving grace is the divine act that effectuates salvation when that choice is made in favor of Christ. The distinction remains clear: prevenient grace is universally extended, inviting response, while saving grace is the exclusive domain of those who respond affirmatively to the Gospel call.

Martin Luther:

In your exposition, you place a significant emphasis on human response in the process of salvation. Yet, the Apostle Paul, in Romans 9:16, declares, "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." How do you interpret this verse in a manner consistent with your synergistic model of salvation, without undermining the scriptural emphasis on the primacy of God's mercy over human will or effort?

John Wesley:

The verse from Romans 9:16 indeed underscores the sovereign mercy of God as the ultimate source of salvation. This scriptural truth is harmonious with the understanding of a synergistic model of salvation. The emphasis on human response in the process of salvation does not suggest that salvation is initiated or earned by human effort, but rather, that God, in His mercy, invites a cooperative response from individuals.

The synergistic model acknowledges the primacy of God's grace and mercy, recognizing that the ability to respond is itself a gift from God, enabled by prevenient grace. Therefore, even as individuals respond to God's grace, it remains God who initiates, sustains, and completes the work of salvation. The acknowledgment of human response does not dilute the centrality of God's mercy; it only underscores the relational aspect of God's redemptive plan, wherein God graciously invites human beings to participate in the unfathomable riches of His saving grace. Hence, the synergistic model is not in opposition to the scriptural emphasis on God's mercy, but rather, it accentuates the manifold wisdom of God in orchestrating a redemptive plan that is both sovereign and relational.

Closing Statements

John Wesley:

As I summarize the core tenets of my stance on freewill, it is imperative to reiterate the harmonious relationship between God’s grace and human agency. The essence of Methodist theology is encapsulated in the understanding that God's grace invites rather than compels human response, portraying a Creator who desires a genuine relationship with His creation. This perspective upholds the dignity of human choice, affirming that individuals, through the enlightening grace of God, possess the capacity to respond to God’s salvific call.

The dialogue with Mr. Luther has underscored the divergence in our theological postures. While Mr. Luther posits a monergistic framework of salvation, accentuating the bondage of the will to sin and the overriding sovereign grace of God in salvation, I affirm a synergistic model. This model celebrates the cooperative interaction between divine grace and human freewill, a cooperation that neither diminishes the sovereignty of God nor exalts human effort to a meritorious status. The Scripture is replete with instances that invite human response to the grace of God, a reality that underlines the relational heart of our Creator.

In conclusion, the doctrine of freewill, as perceived through the lens of Methodist theology, does not merely stand as an abstract theological proposition, but as a vibrant truth that nurtures a life of faith and obedience. It is through this understanding that believers are motivated to pursue holiness, to love God and neighbor, and to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The discourse on freewill extends beyond the realms of theological academia, reaching into the heart of Christian praxis, instilling a profound sense of personal responsibility and moral agency in the lives of believers. This theological stance, I believe, not only aligns with the broader narrative of Scripture but also glorifies the benevolent, relational nature of our God.

Martin Luther:

Esteemed assembly, through the course of this discourse, the core tenets of my theological stance on Freewill have been thoroughly delineated and defended against the counterarguments presented. The doctrine of the bondage of the will remains an indispensable truth, upholding the primacy of God's grace in the matter of salvation, thereby preserving the glory and the sovereignty of God, which is of paramount significance.

Throughout the debate, it has been reiterated that human will, ensnared in sin since the Fall, is incapable of desiring, much less choosing, the good apart from a divine intervention. This divine intervention comes through God's sovereign and unmerited grace alone, not through a synergistic effort of God's grace and human will. It's a divine liberation where God’s grace reorients our will towards Him, allowing us to desire and choose that which is good and pleasing to God. This position not only aligns with the Scriptural testimony but safeguards the Christian from delving into a merit-based soteriology, which could lead away from the pure Gospel of grace.

Furthermore, the doctrine of predestination, a scriptural truth, underscores God's sovereign reign over all of creation, including the salvation of sinners. It's a doctrine that places God at the center of salvation, from the initial act of calling to the final act of glorification, thereby excluding any grounds for human boasting.

The counterarguments and alternative interpretations presented during the discourse, though articulated with a measure of eloquence, fall short of harmonizing the scriptural truths concerning human depravity, God's sovereign grace, and the glory due to God alone in salvation. Moreover, they venture dangerously close to a theology that could potentially ascribe to man a merit in salvation, thereby undermining the essence of the Gospel which centers on the grace of God as the sole means of salvation.

In conclusion, the theological stance on the bondage of the will, upheld through the lenses of scripture, historical Christianity, and logical coherence, remains a bulwark against any teaching that seeks to exalt human ability above divine grace. It draws us into a deeper adoration of God’s unfathomable grace, a grace that calls, regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and will eventually glorify us, not on the basis of our meritorious will or works, but solely on the basis of God’s sovereign and unchanging love toward us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Through this lens, the believer is led into a life of deep humility, profound gratitude, and an unshakeable assurance in the God who is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to Him through Jesus Christ.

For Further Study

The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection by John Wesley