During Breakout Session 2, Woodrow Whidden presented a paper entitled "Calvin, Arminius, Wesley, and Seventh-day Adventism: Could There Have Been Adventism Without Wesley and Arminius?" He introduced it as a study in the traditional Christian DNA. He admitted from the outset that there is no strong indication that Arminius influenced Wesley before Wesley took the name, Arminian Journal, against his Calvinistic opponents. Apparently, Arminius was in the Anglican via media, from which Wesley came.
Could there have been Adventism without Wesley? Whidden notes that this is obviously a historical, rather than providential question. Whidden would argue that even though Ellen White gives more attention to Luther than Calvin, Calvin had the greater influence on her. Wesley was not quiping when he said that there was but a hair's breadth between him and Calvin. So what was it about Calvin that so strongly influenced Wesley?
Calvin, along with Luther, most prominently articulated the solas of the reformation, which Arminius, Wesley, and Seventh-day Adventists assume. For Whidden, Calvin's articulation of how faith alone relates to grace alone, especially sanctifying grace, in mystical union with Christ is his most important contribution. His idea is that when you get Jesus, you get the whole package—saving grace is not partitioned. This mystical union with Christ assumed the third use of the law (that it teaches us obedience to Christ), the claim that God's work is rooted in his eternal love, and the strong doctrine of the depravity of human nature.
On the other hand, Calvin's dependance on Augusting for total devravity resulted in his adoption of determinism, which Arminius strongly renounced. While Arminius' position on irresistible perseverance is not clear, he was strongly suspicious of Calvin's determinism regarding election and predestination.
Whidden observes that it was both Arminius and Wesley's strong emphasis on God as love that caused them to reject Calvin's determinism. They argued that Calvin's doctrine of predestination logically made God the author of sin. Wesley was further radicalized in his critique of determinism when he realized his greatest opposition in his holiness movement came from Calvinists with their doctrine of irresistible perseverance.
When tracing the outline of Wesley to Adventism, Whidden stresses that we need to remember that the core of Wesley's theology and motive for all his holiness activity was his commitment to God's outreaching and redeeming love. In this context, Wesley's greatest contribution to Adventism is in informing the manner in which imputed righteousness and character transformation inform one another. For Wesley, the way of salvation consisted of waymarks that related to holiness, and the final step was a judgment (The Great Assize), which would transpire during the second coming and resurrection of the dead. This judgment would include a thorough assessment of all works.
Whidden believes that the way this judgment fulfills a saving purpose is related to Wesley's concept of granted free will, which makes possible a judgment based on works. This freed will is granted on the basis of God's loving character, and therefore it becomes important for God to be seen as totally equitable and fair in his handling of the cases.
For Wesley, the responsibility of grace calls for freely chosen initial acceptance and ongoing participation in regards to God's election. Therefore, Whidden asserts that it becomes a short leap to unite the biblical judgment by works to the legitimate fruit of salvation. In Wesley's view, however, the cause of salvation was neither faith without works, nor faith plus works, but rather faithful participation in God's salvation that works.
The second concept which makes Wesley's final judgment possible is (2) final justification, where, as opposed to initial justification, justification is united to sanctification. In final justification believers display the full-orbed perfection of God's love. Whidden believes this notion provides the key rationale for an investigative judgment teaching.
Whidden asserts that moment that a theologian proposes any such thing as free-will an investigative judgment becomes possible. Therefore it is no accident that those who most strongly opposed Wesley's free-will and Great Assize in his day are those who most strongly oppose Adventism's investigative judgment in our day. Whidden paused to emphasize that Wesley did not teach that such a judgment was pre-advent, but rather co-advent. On the other hand, Wesley's judgment had believers as it's scope and God's self-vindication as it's goal.
Whidden sees a hint of a great controversy theme in Wesley's judgment that was elaborated more fully in the message of Ellen White and Seventh-day Adventism. Moreover, Whidden believes Adventists betray For Whidden, consonance could not be more clear. This theme comes to full maturity in Ellen White's understanding of Calvary in the context of this cosmic debate. Adventism has taken Wesley's final justification view of the Great Assize, and put it in the context of an exposition of the Sanctuary and the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation.
So, Whidden says, simply put: No Calvin; no Arminius and Arminian Anglicanism. No Arminian Anglicanism; no Wesley. No Wesley; no Ellen White and Seventh-day Adventism. No Wesleyan final justification, no investigative judgment. And Whidden takes the issue further, no Seventh-day Adventism, no ultimate theodicy of God's character, which will resolve God's balance of justice and mercy.