The authority and prominence of Scripture has fallen on hard times in the Holiness movement although there are signs of its recovery. On one hand, the general trend in the broader movement is away from the traditional, evangelical view of Scripture's authority particularly as it regards inerrancy. For example, in a recent publication on Wesleyans and Scripture, a criticism is issued against those of us who are concerned about the harmony of the Gospels and "what really happened." We need to get over that concern, suggests the author, and get to the "inner, spiritual meaning" of the text. I believe in Spirit-illumination that goes beyond the mere facts of the text, but I find it difficult to uphold biblical authority while dismissing the coherency of what the Bible actually says and the veracity of its report.
On the other hand, for some time there was a popular trend among conservatives that based the validity of one's experience or beliefs on an atmosphere of ebullience. This is quickly revealed when one reviews accounts of revivals and campmeetings which read something like the following:
"The church is enjoying a spirit of revival. We had several services with no preaching" (Taken from a real account from a holiness periodical in 1989).For those of us who are well-acquainted with the liturgy in most holiness churches, we know that Scripture is usually only read in preparation for the sermon. The implication in these accounts, then, is that revival is occurring apart from the prominence of Scripture. This is as dangerous and undesirable and reminds me of when Willow Creek removed Bibles from the pew because they were offensive to seekers.
The Bible has taken a beating, indeed, from both liberals and conservatives. But though I cannot say whether or not the former trend is losing steam or not, but I belief the latter one has waned as conservatives are realizing the need to restore biblical authority into our lives in a practical way.
Increasingly the Conservative Holiness Movement is becoming unique among holiness groups for its continued stance on biblical authority. This may not appear so much in differences between formal statements as much as in the interpretation and application of Scripture to our daily lives. I don't know how conscious the founding fathers of the CHM were of the theological differences between the "conservatives" and "liberals," but it seems to me from reading various accounts from these men on why holiness people should act/look a certain way, that the conservative views were based on a fundamentally different view of biblical authority and how Scripture should be interpreted and applied. Some may recall the groundswell of cultural conservatism in the 1940s that came to a head in the Church of the Nazarene, for example, in 1952 and 1956. It was during these years that the CHM came to be formed largely, I believe, because of differences in the interpretation and applicability of Scripture. While battles over Biblical authority were explicit in the Fundamentalist-Liberal controversy that plagued the American church in the early 20th century, the Bible was subject to a much more subtle conflict within the Holiness movement. Often, both fronts produced the same result--separation and antagonism.
So where does the CHM stand currently?
1. The influence of Wesley and Anglicanism pervades our doctrinal statement on Scripture. For the most part, nothing substantial has been formally lost after the turmoil of the 20th century. However, our statements on Scripture may be the most vaguely understood statements of all the articles.
2. A statement on Scripture is a statement on authority. What/who has authority in our lives? Where do we derive our rules for living? Whose interpretation of Scripture is correct? For the most part, this collection of formal declarations do not give a full-orbed philosophy of authority. As it is seen in the 39 Articles as well as in Wesley's 25 Articles (MEC), the discussion of Scripture and authority included a statement on the creeds as authoritative statements on the proper interpretation of Scripture. In the CHM statements, the role of the creeds or any other authority is not specified. As a result, as one hears the call to be "biblical," we don't always know what we mean. Whose idea of "biblical"? Do we mean "textual"? To what extent does the text answer some critical questions apart from systematic concerns such as culture, reason, tradition, experience, or the personal direction of the Holy Spirit?
3. There is a high view of the Old Testament and its usefulness for Christian living today, although a clear method of interpretation and application is lacking. One would not know from the articles themselves how we should read the Old Testament in regard to Christian ethics especially. What is clear is that the Old Testament is relevant for Christian ethics; once we have affirmed that we can work out the rest elsewhere.
4. Our statements have a decidedly democratic influence. Somewhere in the 20th century, holiness people began inserting an article on "relative duties" immediately after the article on Scripture. I suppose we are to read them as relative to the statement on Scripture. (If not, relative to what?) In this article we appeal to human rights and knowledge. What remains unclear is how we should relate natural rights and knowledge to Scripture.
5. Contrary to popular historiography, Wesleyans have never been exempt from the inerrancy wars. For most of the 20th century, the historical Wesleyan position on Scripture was understood to include inerrancy despite contemporary efforts to say otherwise. Here I think I have found another piece of evidence of this truth. Several statements do not explicitly use the word "inerrant" but intend it nevertheless. I'm not sure that any of our conservative leaders would be able to recall a time when any of them or their elders did not affirm inerrancy. The firm commitment to inerrancy in the CHM is a great example of why Donald Dayton, et. al. are wrong in their telling of the story of inerrancy and the Wesleyan tradition.
1. The 39 Articles
VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary for salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, The First Book of Samuel, The Second Book of Samuel, The First Book of Kings, The Second Book of Kings, The First Book of Chronicles, The Second Book of Chronicles, The First Book of Esdras, The Second Book of Esdras, The Book of Esther, The Book of Job, The Psalms, The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes or Preacher, Cantica or Songs of Solomon, Four Prophets the greater, Twelve Prophets the less.
And the other books (as Hierome sayeth) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following: The Third Book of Esdras, The Fourth Book of Esdras, The Book of Tobias, The Book of Judith, The Song of the Three Children, The Story of Susanna, Of Bel and the Dragon, The Rest of the Book of Esther, The Book of Wisdom, Jesus the Son of Sirach, Baruch the Prophet, The Prayer of Manasses, The First Book of Maccabees, The Second Book of Maccabees.All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account the Canonical.
VII. Of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, not the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.
VIII. Of the Creeds (1801 version)
The Nicene Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.
Earlier editions of the 39 Articles included the Athanasian Creed.
2. MEC 25 Articles
Same as 39 Articles but omits the Apocrypha and Article VIII. Also the word "faith" in the second line of Article VI in the phrase "believed as an article of Faith" has been changed to the lower case "faith." This change may not be significant, but I wonder if the intention of the capitalization was to denote Christian faith in general and not the Anglican faith in particular. Although the point is to determine what is required for one to be a believer, I wonder how this might affect the general and special rules in our manuals today. Since we acknowledge the salvation of some who do not follow our rules, the difference between "faith" and "Faith" may not matter, but it does raise some questions for us. Should we have explicit Scriptural grounds for any rule that is placed in our manual and to what extent should the biblical support be explained in order for understanding to be achieved? Are tradition and cultural norms adequate grounds for a rule, or must there be an explicit mandate from Scripture?
3. The Wesleyan-Methodist Church (1959)
V. The Sufficiency and Full Authority of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
It is significant that the WMC added to the title "Full Authority" which is a reflection, no doubt, of the debates over biblical authority in the 20th century. I'm not sure when this addition was made, but it was not part of the original statement. Since the MEC article on the Creeds was never included by the WMC, the addition of "full authority" is not related to the absence of an article on creedal authority here. "Full" authority could and probably does mean multiple things: (a) all of Scripture is authoritative; (b) Scripture is the final authority; and (c) Scripture is the authority for all parts of life. It is significant as well that the WMC made this change as opposed to the Pilgrim Holiness Church which retained the MEC reading. Someone in the WMC was engaged in theological discussion and was able to incorporate thought from broader evangelicalism.
The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or to be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scriptures, we do understand the books of the Old and New Testaments. These Scriptures we do hold to be the inspired and infallibly written Word of God, fully inerrant in their original manuscript and superior to all human authority.
Missing from this statement is the little phrase from the 39 Articles "whose authority was never any doubt in the Church." Instead, the events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries called for a revision at this point of the kind of authority Scripture has, namely, it is inspired, infallible and inerrant in the original manuscripts. This change teaches us three things about our statements of faith: (a) yesterday's theological statements may be insufficient for today because of the lack of specificity, (b) the words we use today may take on a different meaning down the road, but (c) even if different words are used, the same spirit and meaning can be retained.
The canonical books of the Old Testament are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
The canonical books of the New Testament are: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts, The Epistle to the Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation.
Psalms 19:7; Luke 24:27; John 17:17; Acts 17:2, 11; Rom. 1:2; 15:4; 16:26; Gal. 1:8; I Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Heb. 4:12; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Rev. 22:14, 19.
VI. The Old Testament
Same as 39 Articles with the addition of these Scripture references:
Matt. 5:17-19; 22:37-40; Luke 24:27, 44; John 1:45; 5:46; Rom. 15:8; 2 Cor. 1:20; Eph. 2:15, 16; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 10:1; 11:39; 1 John 2:3-7.
VII. Relative Duties
These two great commandments which require us to love the Lord our God with all the heart, and our neighbors as ourselves, contain the sum of the divine law as it is revealed in the Scriptures: they are the measure and perfect rule of human duty, as well for the ordering and directing of families and nations, and all other social bodies, as for individual acts, by which we are required to acknowledge God as our only Supreme Ruler, and all men as created by Him, equal in all natural rights. Wherefore all men are bound so to order all their individual and social and political acts as to render to God entire and absolute obedience, and to secure to all men the enjoyment of every natural right, as well as to promote the greatest happiness of each in the possession and exercise of such rights.
Lev. 19:18, 34; Deut. 1:15, 17; 2 Sam. 23:3; Job 29:16; 31:13, 14; Jer. 21:12; 22:13; Matt. 5:44-47; 7:12; Luke 6:27-29, 35; John 13:34, 35; Acts 10:34, 35; 17:26; Rom. 12:9; 13:1, 7, 8, 10; Gal. 5:14; 6:10; Titus 3:1; James 2:8; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 John 2:5; 4:12, 13; 2 John 6.
Article VII on Relative Duties is an addition that is not found in Wesley's 25 Articles. This article has a noticeable American flavor to it, the final lines in particular. American history could be written around the question, "What are our natural rights and how do they apply in various situations?" Does the equality of natural rights cross all boundaries including gender? What about childhood and adulthood and old age? What about born and unborn? What about sexual orientation, particularly in the rare case of hermaphroditism? What about employee and employer?
4. The Allegheny Wesleyan-Methodist Church (1986)
VI. The Sufficiency and Full Authority of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
Same as the WMC (1959)
VII. The Old Testament
Same as the WMC (1959)
VII. Relative Duties
Same as the WMC (1959)
5. The Bible Methodist Connection (2000)
V. The Sufficiency and Full Authority of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
Same as the WMC (1959)
VI. The Old Testament
Same as the WMC (1959)
VII. Relative Duties
Same as the WMC (1959)
6.The Wesleyan Church (2008)
5. The Sufficiency and Full Authority of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
We believe that the books of the Old and New Testaments constitute the Holy Scriptures. They are the inspired and infallible written Word of God, fully inerrant in their original manuscripts and superior to all human authority, and have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctrine. We believe that they contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man or woman that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. Both in the Old and New Testaments life is offered ultimately through Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and humanity. The New Testament teaches Christians how to fulfill the moral principles of the Old Testament, calling for loving obedience to God made possible by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
The Wesleyan statement rearranges the sentences of the WMC (1959) statement with only slight changes in the wording.The addition of the transmission clause is good though it begs the question, "What is an essential doctrine and on what authority can this be determined?" Interestingly, there is no statement on the Creeds to which one could be appeal to determine what the "essential" doctrines of Scripture. They have added gender-specific language as well in an effort to fit contemporary preferences. The Wesleyan-Methodist article on the Old Testament has been merged into a single statement and makes up the final sentences of the Wesleyan article.
In the second half of the article it is clear that Wesleyans affirm a single plan of salvation from the beginning of time as opposed to various dispensations. This is not to ignore differences in time, but to affirm the essential continuity that exists between the Testaments.
The Wesleyans have abbreviated the longer WMC (1959) article on the OT, by specifying that it is the "moral principles of the Old Testament" that are still binding upon Christians. How we are to determine what those moral principles are is for subsequent discussion. In any case, there is widespread agreement that the Old Testament remains significant for how we conduct our lives today.
The canonical books of the Old Testament are: [same as The Wesleyan-Methodist Church]
The canonical books of the New Testament are: [same as The Wesleyan-Methodist Church]
Psalm 19:7; Matt. 5:17-19; 22:37-40; Luke 24:27,44; John 1:45; 5:46; 17:17; Acts 17:2, 11; Rom. 1:2; 15:4, 8; 16:26; 2 Cor. 1:20; Gal. 1:8; Eph. 2:15-16; 1 Tim. 2:5; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Heb. 4:12; 10:1; 11;39; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 1 John 2:3-7; Rev. 22:18-19.
6. God's Purpose for Humanity
We believe that the two great commandments which require us to love the Lord our God with all the heart, and our neighbors as ourselves, summarize the divine law as it is revealed in the Scriptures. They are the perfect measure and norm of human duty, both for the ordering and directing of families and nations, and all other social bodies, and for individual acts, by which we are required to acknowledge God as our only Supreme Ruler, and all persons as created by Him, equal in all natural rights. Therefore all persons should so order all their individual, social and political acts as to give to God entire and absolute obedience, and to assure to all the enjoyment of every natural right, as well as to promote the fulfillment of each in the possession and exercise of such rights
Lev. 19:18, 34; Deut. 1:15, 17; Job 29:16; 31:13, 14; Jer. 21:12; 22:13; Micah 6:8; Matt. 5:44-47; 7:12; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:27-29, 35; John 13:34, 35; Acts 10:34, 35; 17:26; Rom. 12:9; 13:1, 7, 8, 10; Gal. 5:14; 6:10; Titus 3:1; James 2:8; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 John 2:5; 4:12, 13; 2 John 6.
There are slight changes in the Scripture reference list from the WMC (1959) as well as the use of more modern language in article 6. Overall, it is virtually the same as WMC (1959).
7. The Pilgrim Holiness Church (1958)
Article 4. The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation (John 15:3; 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:15-17), so that whatsoever is not read therein nor may be proved thereby is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or to be thought requisite or necessary for salvation (Eph. 5:6; 1 Tim. 6:3, 4). By the Holy Scriptures we understand the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, commonly received and known as the Bible.
There is no major difference between this statement and the initial paragraph of the 39 Articles. The closing phrase "commonly received and known as the Bible" is the only difference in wording. The Scripture references have been placed in the text. It should be noted that the Bible was not so commonly understood prior to the Reformation although a distinction between the canonical books and the Apocrypha has always been made. Nonetheless, even Luther included the Apocrypha in his German translation of the Bible. The the elimination of the Apocrypha has not proven to be to our detriment.
The Pilgrims do not have articles on the Old Testament and Relative Duties.
8. Midwest Pilgrim Holiness Church (2000)
9. Sufficiency of Scripture
Same as the PHC (1958) except for the wording of the article title. The reasoning behind the title is not clear from the article itself. Perhaps the minutes of the MWPHC contain the reasoning or someone well-acquainted with the proceedings of the church would know. Since the opening line of the statement clarifies, the reason is probably nothing other than abbreviating the title in order to fit it onto a single line. Who says theology can't be practical? This is the first deviation by the Midwest Pilgrims from the PHC (1958) manual.
9. New York Pilgrim Holiness Church (2006-2007)
2.5 Sufficiency and Inerrancy of Scripture
The use of "inerrancy" is reflective of a particular era in history when the term became critical for our understanding of biblical authority. Today the term is understood in various ways that renders the simple appearance of the word vague. The WMC (1959) which states the "full authority" of Scripture is preferable because it is more comprehensive than "inerrancy."
The Holy Scriptures (that is, the 66 books of the Protestant Canon of the Bible) are the only written Word of God. Every part of the Bible, as originally written, was inspired by God and was and is without error. The Bible contains all things necessary to salvation and is the only totally authoritative and infallible rule of faith and conduct (John 15:3; 20:31; II Tim. 3:15-17). Therefore, whatever is not written therein nor may be proved thereby is not to be accepted as an article of faith nor be though as essential to salvation (Eph. 5:6; 1 Tim.6:3,4).
The opening statement is likewise unique though not opposed to any of the other statements. The use of the past and present tense to describe inerrancy is interesting. I take it to mean something like "insofar as our current Bible versions reflect the original they too are inerrant." This is an affirmation that needs to be heard more than it is so that lay people don't lose faith in our English translations and think they have to know Greek and Hebrew to really get the Word of God. Insofar as we understand just a few technicalities, we can stand behind the pulpit and hold our English Bible in the air and declare, "This is the Word of God." The day we can no longer do that with confidence will be a sad one.
I suppose by "totally authoritative" the NY Pilgrims mean something like what I described above in my comments on the WMC (1959) and their use of "full authority".
2.5.1 Foundational Doctrines.
The Scripture has long been an unfailing source of wisdom and guidance for Christian, non-Christian, church, society, government, education and all walks of life. It is the definitive source for matters of morality, character, values, right and wrong, sacredness of life, marriage, family, business, finance, conduct, etc.
Instead of "Relative Duties," this manual contains an article with two sub-points under the heading "Foundational Doctrines." The key point here is how closely the doctrine of Scripture is tied to ethics. So many times Scripture and ethics are separated by several intermediaries including tradition, culture, personal experience, rationalization, etc., etc. This is not to say that these "intermediaries" are not pertinent to ethics, but sometimes they keep us from working our way back all the way to Scripture. By placing the following statements in this context, I understand the NY Pilgrims to be saying that the first and primary purpose for this ethic is Scripture.
a) Sacredness of Life.
Life is a sacred gift bestowed by God (Isa. 43:7). Human life is made in God's image and is imparted by God (Gen. 1:27). Human life uniquely transcends all other creation. Only it is God-breathed (Gen. 2:7). Human nature passes to a new life at conception (Psa. 51:5). God acknowledges us as persons long before birth. "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee..." (Jer. 1:5). God is the giver and taker of life, from womb to aged (Ex. 20:13)/ A human becomes a spiritual being at conception (Gen. 2:7). The Scriptures forbid euthanasia, infanticide, genocide, or abortion.
Is only human life sacred? Are there levels of sacredness? Does Scripture forbid human enhancements, alterations, replacements? To what extent should we engage and accept post-human thought and technology. At what point does the philosophy of "live at all costs" become detrimental? How is death essential to the sacredness of life? This are simply questions that come up as I read this article. Articles are not meant to answer all the questions, but they are meant to be usable for life. So, these questions really get to the overall question, "How does this article affect me practically?"
b) Sacredness of Marriage. Marriage is a sacred union, ordained by God, life-long and sexually exclusive. Marriage is between one man and one woman and excludes same-sex unions, group unions and cohabiting. Divorce is not a part of God's plan for marriage. The God-designed differences of a man and women complement each other physically, emotionally and spiritually. Each gender brings vitally important and unique elements to the other and to the maturing and developing of children. The child receives essential training in three key relationships required for good development: husband/wife, mother/father, and male/female. History shows that, without exception., whenever a civilization strays from the God-ordained ethic of marriage, it deteriorates and eventually disintegrates.
Marriage is the first institution established by God. "it is not good for man to live alone" (Gen. 2:18). Jesus emphasized the importance and sacredness of marriage in His own teachings (Matt. 5:31-32, 19:4-8, Mark 10:11-12). Paul taught that marriage is a picture of the relationship of Christ and His church (Eph. 5:24-33). Extramarital or homosexual behavior is sinful (Lev. 18:6-22, Rom. 1:26-28, Heb. 13:4).
Who can argue with this statement? It is no doubt the result of some time and thought as it comprehends several aspects of sexuality and marriage relationship. The wording of the last sentence is a bit awkward: does it mean extramarital sexual behavior...is sinful? This is merely a matter of grammar; I think the meaning is clear.
10.The Church of the Nazarene (2005-2009)
IV. We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.
Luke 24:44-47; John 10:35; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21)
This statement is probably the most simple, but not necessarily the most straightforward. In fact, an entire book could be written on the history of interpretation of this article alone, not because it is so vastly different from other statements in the Holiness movement but because many Nazarene theologians have accepted the historiography of Donald Dayton, et. al., who downplay the significance of inerrancy for Holiness theology. The critical issue is that many have adopted the liberal view that the historical accuracy and harmony of the Gospels, for instance, is not necessary for our salvation, that faith and history ought to be separated.
The CHM continues to be committed to the harmony of faith and history, contrary to many of their Holiness counterparts. "What actually happened" manners to us. On this point, we have more in common with many Calvinists, Lutherans and Baptists than we do with some Holiness brothers.
11. The International Conservative Holiness Association
15. The Holy Scriptures
We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we mean the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, to be given by divine inspiration. These Scriptures we hold to be the infallible written Word of God, superior to all human authority, containing all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be considered an article of faith. The Authorized King James Version 1611 shall be the official version of the ICHA. While we feel that other versions have some value, confusion arises when a church embraces many varied versions which plainly do not say the same thing.
Psa. 19:7; Luke 24:27; John 17:17; Acts 17:2; Rom. 1:2; 15:4; 16:26; I Thess. 2:13; II Tim. 3:15-17; Heb. 4:12; I Peter 1:23; II Peter 1:19-21; Rev. 22:14, 19.
This statement is probably the most interesting of all, so interesting, in fact, that I wrote an entire paper just on this article for my doctoral studies. It begins with the Nazarene statement, but leaves off the phrase "inerrantly revealing the will of God." In my investigation I have discovered that this exception was intentional as some of the framers did not desire to affirm inerrancy. It should be noted that this is a carry-over from the Articles of the Church of the Bible Covenant and has not been changed at this point. In speaking with the current leaders of the ICHA, inerrancy is affirmed and understood to be included in what is stated. I never doubted that such was the case since I know this group quite well. If you were present in the proceedings of the Church of the Bible Covenant and can recall any information that might pertain to this article, please contact me. This article is a curious example of where two movements within the Holiness tradition collide.
What has been added since the formation of the ICHA is the statement on the King James Version. Although the statement seems to say that only the 1611 edition of the King James Version is the official version, I assume they mean that a later edition based on the 1611 KJV is the official Bible since I've never heard anyone preach from the 1611 edition. While I would not be in favor of this statement if it ever came up in my church (and it has), it does raise a pertinent question: given the plethora of Bible translations, is it wise to adopt an official version for uniformity? In my family we have adopted a particular version for family devotions and everyone who can read has their own personal copy of it (four of us so far!). The rationale in this article is that confusion arises with a conglomeration of translations--indeed, it does at times. But can the confusion be cleared by a simple explanation of the nature of translations or do we need uniformity?
12. God's Missionary Church
12. By the Holy Scriptures we understand the sixty-six canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, given by divine inspiration (II Tim. 3:16); containing all things necessary for salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man; that it should be believed as an article of faith, or necessary to salvation (II Peter 1:20,21).
This statement summarizes the basic language of the Wesleyan tradition. There is one small grammatical change that should be made in keeping with the tradition--the semi-colon before "that it should be believed as an article of faith" should be changed to a comma in order to clarify what is not required. As it stands, it creates a separate clause and renders the "it" vague (that Holy Scripture should be believed as an article of faith or that whatsoever is not read therein should not be required and believed as an article of faith).
13. Church of God (Holiness)
Article IV. [No title]
We emphatically affirm the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, infallibly true as originally inspired, constituting our only divinely authorized rule of faith and practice (II Tim. 3:16; II Peter 1:21).
At one time "infallible" included the concept of inerrancy, but not in today's nomenclature. Nonetheless, I suppose the term includes the concept here.
A significant matter is raised in the last phrase, "constituting our only divinely authorized rule of faith and practice." This brings me back to one of my opening remarks concerning the relationship of Scripture to our faith and conduct (see comments under the MEC 25 Articles). Do we really believe that only Scripture authorizes faith and practice? Are there not reasons for believing or doing things that are beyond what is explicitly spelled out in Scripture? Furthermore, are there not general principles in Scripture that vary in their application from place to place or time to time or context to context? Albert Outler argued in the 1960s that the Wesleyan method of doing theology included the so-called "Wesleyan Quadrilateral" of Scripture, tradition, experience and reason. Is there room for this method in this statement?
A preferable way of stating the Wesleyan view of biblical authority is partially described (in my words) by Thomas Langford in Doctrine and Theology in the United Methodist Church that the primacy of Scripture often begins a process but does not always conclude an argument. In other words, there are times when Scripture provides a general principle such as how men and women are to dress distinctively to their gender, but Scripture does not conclude what that must look like at all times in all places. In such cases, there are other criteria (such as our conscience which Scripture also addresses) that must come into play and inform authoritatively our faith and practice. This does not mean they have more authority than Scripture, but that their authority is derived from Scripture. In any case, Scripture is the final authority, but not our only authority.
Furthermore, heretics could agree with the assertion that Scripture is our only authority because history has proven again and again that words can be defined in various ways, some of them with heretical implications. While simple is usually preferable, it is not always sufficient. In this case, I think sufficiency is sacrificed for simplicity. Fortunately for the COGH, the articles here are merely guidelines that are not official statements of any of the individual churches themselves.
Finally, is it even possible for Scripture to be our only authority? Does Scripture itself support this? What about the very nature of language itself and the a priori of human reason to understand language? What about the role of the Holy Spirit to contribute to a proper understanding of Scripture?
14. The Aldersgate Forum
That the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God written, inspired by the Holy Spirit and inerrant in the original writings. They contain all that is necessary to our salvation and are of supreme authority for faith and practice.
The final sentence of this statement is a good alternative in reference to the previous point (see Church of God, Holiness). It avoids the implication that there are no other forms of authority other than Scripture, yet affirms that Scripture is the supreme authority. This statement is pretty straightforward and balances simplicity with sufficiency though there is more that could be affirmed. I am particularly interested in knowing how a group or church handles the diversity of translations issue raised by the ICHA and also addressed by the transmission clause in The Wesleyan Church, but is lacking here and elsewhere. I think this is an important issue that we may want to consider addressing in future statements.
15. Union Bible College
We believe that the Bible is God's written revelation to the human family and is "given by inspiration of God," thus making it His infallible and inerrant Word which is the final authority regarding the doctrines we believe and the duties we practice.
Most of the statements specify what they mean by "Scripture" by either listing the names of the books or stating the Old and New Testaments in particular. Here we are supposed to know what "Bible" means, and most of us do. But Christians in some parts of the world who are accustomed to Bible versions that include the Apocrypha may not know. I don't suppose any of the CHM Bible colleges have too many Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox students.
16. Hobe Sound Bible Church
That the Bible is the inspired and only infallible and authoritative written Word of God (II Tim. 3:16; II Peter 1:21).
Notice the difference between the wording here and the wording of the COGH article--they are significantly different. Indeed, the Bible is the only authoritative written Word of God, which is not the same as saying it is the only divinely authorized rule of faith and practice. Despite what is lacking in this statement, it comprehends the primary point in the CHM's doctrine of Scripture. From this, everything else follows.
Next Article: Sin, Original and Personal
Other articles in this series:
1. Discovering the Theological Spectrum of the CHM
2. An Overview of the Articles
3. The Triune God
4. God the Son
5. God the Holy Spirit