Coming from a Nazarene tradition, influenced by Wesley and the Holiness Movement, my reflections upon sin are based upon the Nazarene manual's definitions (See 5.1,5.3) summarized as

5.1. Original sin, a hereditary sin descended from Adam

5.3. Actual (personal) sin, committed knowingly by a responsible individual. Exclusions are made for involuntary failings, excepting when contradicting the spirit of Christ.

I would be interested in knowing how this relates to other traditions, especially the Calvinist tradition. Does election in the Calvinist tradition have impacts upon the doctrine of sin? Are these concepts of sin standard (that is, agreed upon by most denominations?) within the Christian community at large? Perhaps this is a matter where both traditions agree, but I'm afraid I don't have many Calvinist sounding boards in my immediate vicinity, so I've had a hard time figuring out the distinctions.

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    Great question and welcome to the site. This is exactly the sort of targeted question we should be able to field here.
    – Caleb
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 6:26
  • Thank you. I hope to contribute in time, and I hope to see more from everyone here, although my spare time may disagree. Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 6:42

1 Answer 1


No difference.

On the doctrines or original sin and justification by faith Wesleyan and Calvinism seem to run a course along the same stream. Wesley's view of original sin is made clear with few words in a sermon entitled 'SERMON 44 ORIGINAL SIN'.

This sermon on its own clearly shows that Wesley taught the same doctrine as the Protestant reformers, including Luther and Calvin.

Wesley uses the time of the flood as a way to trace 'the nature of man' and then concludes this is a description of humanity at all times, not just then.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5, NIV)

Fixing on the phrase 'God saw all the of the thoughts of his heart', Wesley explains that this means total depravity:

He “saw all the imaginations:” It is not possible to find a word of a more extensive signification. It includes whatever is formed, made, fabricated within; all that is or passes in the soul; every inclination,affection, passion, appetite; every temper, design, thought....Now God saw that all this, the whole thereof, was evil; — contrary to moral rectitude;contrary to the nature of God, which necessarily includes all good

Then he asked a question many using their own instincts might ask. 'But was there not good mingled with the evil? Was there not light intermixed with the darkness?'

He answers plainly:

No; none at all: “God saw that the whole imagination of the heart of man was only evil.”

Then using a similar reasonable protest he asks, “Was there no intermission of this evil? Were there no lucid intervals, wherein something good might be found in the heart of man?'

Wesley again says no, insisting human nature is totally depraved always:

For God, who “saw the whole imagination of the thoughts of his heart to be only evil,” saw likewise, that it was always the same, that it “was only evil continually;” every year, every day, every hour, every moment. He never deviated into good.

Finally he goes on to show that this is the description of man in every generation. Wesley followed the early Protestant reformers such as Luther and Calvin in asserting human nature in all generations is only fully evil continually, i.,e 'the total depravity of man.'

  • My recollection of something I read some time ago is that while Wesley did hold and sometimes express these views, he also waffled on them in other parts of his writings, not being quite consistent in handling them. Have you not run across any points where the streams diverged?
    – Caleb
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 12:28
  • @Caleb - I do not know if he waffled but the theological schools understand where he settled. According to Hodge's Systematic Theology 'The Arminian system received such modifications in the hands of Wesley and his associates and followers, that they give it the designation of Evangelical Arminianism, and claim for it originality and completeness. It differs from the system of the Remonstrants - 1. In admitting that man since the fall is in a state of absolute or entire pollution and depravity. Original sin is not a mere physical deterioration of our nature, but entire moral depravity.'
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 15:47
  • @Caleb - As I understand it, the differences are around how a person is first drawn by God. The semi-Pelagian is man desires salvation first and the Holy Spirit then helps. Arminians accept total depravity then add that the Holy Spirit gives grace to everybody to believe the gospel, if they choose, they just need to cooperate. Lutherans say man can 'resist' God’s grace, otherwise they are drawn in. The Calvinistic is that the Holy Spirit does a work in those who are elect only. The only groups not believing in total depravity is Catholic, Pelagian and Semi Pelagian. However modern thoughts?
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 15:52

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