John Starke picks the mind of Fred Sanders, associate professor at Biola University, at The Gospel Coalition. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the exchange largely revolves around the subject of why Sanders is not a Calvinist, given his admission that:
…it took me some time to come around to see the Wesleyan-Arminian theological perspective as something worth claiming. But I eventually did so. The sermons of John Wesley and the hymns of Charles Wesley were major factors for me. These are simply excellent, and gradually they drew me to the conviction that these Wesley brothers must have had a grasp of something important if they could keep producing things like that. The Wesleys teach a form of evangelical Protestantism that goes straight to the heart and changes lives. That’s what drew me in to the Wesleyan way of thinking.
Yet Sanders is quite candid about the relative legacies of both traditions, acknowledging that Calvinists often have to apply the doctrinal brakes to Wesleyanism’s inbuilt liberalizing tendencies:
…the Reformed tradition keeps producing good leaders who have a seriousness and responsibility about them. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s as if they’re the grown ups, at least in American Protestantism. They may be tempted to abuse power (and that’s very bad), but at least they are comfortable with the responsible exercise of power, which is not something it’s easy to say about the Wesleyan tradition. Wesleyans are great at shaking things up, at being the powerful protest voice, at activating and empowering the marginalized. But Arminians don’t run things well. I sometimes think the healthiest state of affairs for an interdenominational coalition like evangelicalism would be if the Calvinists ran things and the Wesleyans were a very strong loyal opposition.
Resisting intellectual trends is never an easy job, and Sanders is to be commended for his frankness in acknowledging the real appeal of resurgent Calvinism while standing by his own theological project. Understandably, though, some may see his proposed solution as problematic: for rather than advocate a triumph (or even a restoration of a consensus) around Wesleyanism, Sanders seems happy to have it serve in a permanent minority capacity. His solution is dialectic, which may simply invite dismissal from stronger partisans on either side.
You’ll find the complete interview here.