Wesleyan perfectionism is often compared to a Calvinist view of sanctification but this question is different. It is designed for someone familiar with Wesleyan theology to provide an explanation that differentiates it from a Catholic view. I am trying to see in what sense is Wesley’s view similar to or different from a Catholic view in terms of sanctification and potential loss of salvation.

Here is what I understand (or think I do):

Catholics believe that when a person is baptized original sin is removed, the soul is renewed, adoption into the family of God has occurred and so long as one does not commit mortal sin, they remain justified - or inwardly just - by the infused good works within them by the grace of God. Wesleyan’s on the other hand hold a protestant justification view, so that sinners are made righteous before any sanctification has occurred, and that justification is an event introducing sanctification. However sanctification once introduced after justification implies a kind of elite level of true holiness that can be habitually attained that should surpass the experience of Prophets and saints prior to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is the gift to the church and author of this very remarkable holiness so that a person can be in a sinless state even for longer than a whole day. The new heightened holiness or perfection after Pentecost enables Christians in some sense to be perfect (not just mature).

Here is what I do not understand:

Do Wesleyans consider certain sins committed by those who were truly justified as loosing that justified status, such as Catholics do under the concept of mortal sin? For example, if a Wesleyan commits adultery and dies in that unrepentant sin, does this mean he/she is damned? If not, if there is no 'mortal' and 'venial' distinction what is the trigger that makes a Wesleyan in a state of being ‘out of grace’ such as a Catholic is with un-repented mortal sin? Is the only mortal sin just no longer having faith in Christ at all, or some other more complicated criteria?

The reason why I am asking this question is that in terms of Justification it is clear to me Wesleyans and Catholic are at opposite poles of thought. However, when it comes to sanctification and potential loss of salvation, I do not know how they are differentiated from one another. I suspect there are quite different, I just would like to know more from someone who understands Wesleyan theology. I would like this explained in contrast to the basic idea of Catholicism, which is that you are 'just or perfect' so long as you do not commit a mortal sin, upon which time you loose that perfection, justification or grace of God. Of course the methods of restoration to grace from that 'condemned state' would be different, but that is not my immediate question. The question has to do with the criteria for 'falling from grace' not the restoration back.

How does the loss of Wesleyan perfectionism (which might eventually lead to a total loss of salvation) differ from Catholic distinctions between mortal and venial sins?

1 Answer 1


First, I want to be clear that perfectionism doesn't mean being perfect as in without error. So committing a sin, such as adultery, doesn't "remove" perfectionism. Perfectionism, in the Wesleyan sense, essentially means making up your mind to do your absolute best to keep the first two commandments: love god with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. That you fail along the way doesn't matter as long as you pick yourself back up and keep moving towards the mark. The loss of salvation can happen in two ways. First, in your effort to be "perfect" you fail at love (see Pharisees), the second is deciding that you can do whatever you want because you know God will always forgive you. Hosea 6:6 is a good summary.

"For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."


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