Image of God
Wesley held firmly to the scripture truth that all humanity was created in the image of God. Humanity was created moral, but they rebelled against God, their Creator. Because they were created to differentiate truth from falsehood, Wesley viewed this belief as another support for his free will doctrine. Wesley would be the first to stand and proclaim that God had implanted freedom to choose deep in the very fabric of humanities being. To be created in the image of God came packed with the ability to make a choice because God himself can and does make choices.
In his sermon, The Image of God, preached in 1730, Wesley contends that man, “…was endued, after the likeness of his Maker, with a power of distinguishing truth from falsehood; either by a simple view wherein he made the nearest approach to that all-seeing Nature, or by comparing one thing with another (a manner of knowledge perhaps peculiar to himself) and often inferring farther truths from these preceding comparisons.”
Man, created in the image of God possessed a freedom that was untainted. The image of God for Wesley was an important theological concept. For Wesley, humanity carried the very essence of God and therefore we represented that reflection. However, being created in the image of God in no way caused Wesley to think that the image remained unscarred or not diminished after the fall. Wesley would contend that the image of God was not lost at the fall of humanity but rather reduced and in need of restoration through God’s divine power. Due to the fall of man, in an act of mercy, it would take God’s Prevenient Grace to restore a measure of faith needed to choose or reject God and we will there shortly.
For the love of God and the image of God to be made clear in man, he had to be given a choice and that choice was found in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, “the liberty of man necessarily required that he should have some trial; else he would have had no choice whether he would stand or no, that is, no liberty at all.”
Sovereignty of God
Wesley held to a strong position on the total depravity of man but was opposed to the Calvinist understanding of depravity. For Wesley, rather than an issue of innate human abilities, the real issues came down to what he felt was putting the character of God at stake. Wesley had a conviction that to hold to absolute unconditional predestination by God’s unquestionable decree would have made God unjust and would therefore also bring into question His goodness and love.
Wesley’s theology emphasized human freedom without reducing the sovereignty of God. He believed in predestination, but preached destiny anchored in the foreknowledge of God and not his unchallenged judgments. Wesley’s understanding of God’s sovereignty was not arbitrary but rather God acts freely out of His own degree without outside conditions. Therefore, Wesley’s view of sovereignty fits well centered within historic Christianity.