Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Articles of Faith: Scripture and Authority

"I AM A BIBLE BIGOT. I FOLLOW ALL things, both great and small" (John Wesley, Works, BC XXII.42)

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?

General Comments
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.

The Statements
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
Holy Scripture
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

Friday, May 27, 2011

Articles of Faith: The Holy Spirit

"CHRIST NEVER IS WHERE HIS SPIRIT IS
 not" (John Calvin, Selections, 91).

The Holy Spirit has always held a prominent place in the theology of the Holiness movement. Despite our distant relation to the Pentecostal Movement we have not shied away from a "hermeneutic" of the Spirit. By this I mean that the Spirit's presence, manifestation and blessing is a priority in our method of determining what is true and right. Although our emphasis on the Spirit at times has been so radical that even Scripture itself has taken a backseat. we should not be ashamed of our eagerness for the Spirit's presence.

In the broader, holiness movement, however, the accepted historiography is that we are not "fundamentalist" in our understanding of the authority of Scripture--namely, how it is that Scripture is authoritative and how its authority should be understood. But is all for a later discussion. The point here is that the Conservative Holiness Movement has found itself between the two theological traditions--the Pentecostal tradition and its hermeneutics of the Spirit, and the liberalized holiness theology of Scripture which rejects the inerrancy of Scripture. As a result the position of the CHM has created a real tension between the objective and subjective interpretation of Scripture and experience of the Spirit.

Several interesting discussion continue to be heard around the CHM. An especially lively topic is the witness of the Spirit (Is a subjective witness necessary for salvation?). This import of this issue can hardly be overstated.

Another matter is the role of the Spirit in interpretation of Scripture (Must a person be filled with the Spirit to interpret Scripture accurately?) which is less discussed but is nonetheless a critical issue.

In more recent years the incessant call for a "Holy-Spirit Revival" has been called into question theologically as we have found our revival theology heavily influenced by a Calvinistic doctrine of the church and salvation.

A perennial discussion within Wesleyan circles has been the relation of the Spirit's outpouring in Acts with our order of salvation. The main point of this discussion concerns our biblical theology of holiness and how Pentecost relates to our doctrine of entire sanctification.

I will not attempt to elaborate on any of these discussions now. So, I will proceed to some general observations of our statements on the Holy Spirit and perhaps later will relate them more specifically to various discussions that have yet to produce formalized statements.

Comments
1. Some are weak on the ontology of the Spirit (see comments below). Interestingly, the Anglican statement is void of any reference to the activity of the Spirit, quite the opposite of the later focus of the Holiness movement.

2. Is "Ghost" just an antiquated word or are do we avoid it for other reasons? I've heard some say we avoid it because of the Charismatic emphasis on it. I'm not sure.

3. Despite the first point above, there is more direct connection with the Anglican statement in this article than anywhere else in the articles of faith. The Presbyterians have their Westminster Confession, the Lutheran's have Augsburg, but the Methodists have often been accused of not having a formalized confession. The critics are wrong--we have The 39 Articles. Well, at least 25 of them, most of which we have freely amended, altered and/or abbreviated, and we've added a few of our own. So, I guess we are less formalized than our Christian brothers. So, how important are formal statements to us?

4. What is the highlight of the Christian calendar? Christmas? Easter? Who would say Pentecost Sunday? I have several tubs full of Christmas decorations, a tub or two of Easter stuff, but not a single thing for the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Just a thought, having nothing to do with the statements below.)

The Statements
1. The 39 Articles (source)
"V. Of the Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God."

2. MEC 25 Articles
Same as The 39 Articles


3. The Wesleyan-Methodist Church (1959)
Same as The 39 Articles with the addition of Scripture:
Job 33:4; Matt 28:19; John 4:24-26; Acts 5:3; 4; Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 4:6

4. The Wesleyan Church (2008)
"4. The Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and is of the same essential nature, majesty, and glory, as the Father and the Son, truly and eternally God. He is the Administrator of grace to all, and is particularly the effective Agent in conviction for sin, in regeneration, in sanctification, and in glorification. He is ever present, assuring,  preserving, guiding, and enabling the believer."

I like this statement for two reasons: first, it changed "very" to "truly" (synonyms but the latter is a modern term), and second, it has expanded the article in a way that reflects the Holiness tradition in several ways. It emphasizes the universality of God's grace dispensed by the Spirit and it emphasizes the continuous role of the Spirit in the way of salvation. There is really only one question that comes to mind: is the Spirit "ever...assuring" the believer? I understanding the word "ever" to be modifying the whole phrase, if it is not then my question is irrelevant to the statement but still relevant for discussion. If "ever" means continuously (without cessation) then I doubt that this is true in everyone's experience. But I suppose one could say, "The Spirit is always assuring but we are not always hearing." Fine. The point is, should we emphasize Christian assurance in such a way that if a person has doubts about his or her faith, we automatically place them in the category of the unsaved? I don't think so because I'm not sure where Scripture speaks about a continuous witness. It does talk about the trying of faith (James 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3-7) which, I suppose, may entail some level of doubt, else how is it a trial of faith.

5. Allegheny Wesleyan-Methodist Church (1986)
Same as The 39 Articles with WMC Scriptures.

6. The Bible Methodist Connection (2000)
Same as The 39 Articles with WMC Scriptures.

7. The Pilgrim Holiness Church (1958)
Same as The 39 Articles with the addition Scripture in the text:

"3. The Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son (John 15:26; Acts 2:33; John 16:7), is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God (1 John 5:7; Acts 5:3,4)."

1 John 5:7 appears here again as in the first article on the Triune God. Its inclusion should be discussed once again and along with a new determination on the benefits of keeping it or not.


8. Midwest Pilgrim Holiness Church (2000)
Same as PHC (1958).

9. New York Pilgrim Holiness Church (2006-2007)
Same as PHC (1958).

10. The Church of the Nazarene (2005-2009)
"III. The Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune Godhead, that He is ever present and effectively active in and with the Church of Christ, convincing the world of sin, regenerating those who repent and believe, sanctifying believers, and guiding into all truth as it is in Jesus. (John 7:39; 14:15-18, 26; 16:7-15; Acts 2:33; 15:8-9; Rom. 8:1-27; Gal. 3:1-14; 4:6; Eph. 3:14-21; 1 Thess. 4:7-8; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 3:24; 4:13)."


Is the Spirit's ministry limited to the Church? Does the Spirit operate beyond the bounds of the Church? If not, then how can we affirm universal grace since there are those who have never been reached with the Gospel through an explicit presentation of it? I recognize that this statement does not necessarily limit the Spirit to the Church, but it simply fails to acknowledge the broader role of the Spirit. I guess one's interpretation of this statement hinges on whether the participle "convincing" is part of a list of what the Spirit does or if it is specifically modifying the Spirit's effective action in and with the Church. It is vague. If the latter is true, I disagree; if the former, then I am satisfied. One thing is certain: it can't mean both. So which is it? The list seems begin with "convincing" rather than "is ever present" so I read it as "the Spirit is ever present and effectively active in and with the Church of Christ in these ways: convincing...regenerating...sanctifying...and guiding...." Am I mistaken? If not, I disagree with the statement's limiting the Spirit's role to the Church. Did the Spirit not have a role prior to the Church? Why would he not have a role now outside the Church? How can God desire that people should come to the knowledge of truth (1 Tim. 2:4) or how can the light of Christ enlighten every person if the Spirit only operates through the Church? This produces a conflict between human free will and responsibility and the work of the Holy Spirit.

11. International Conservative Holiness Association
Mixture of the 39 Articles and the Nazarene statement:

"10 The Holy Spirit
We believe the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God. He is ever present and efficiently active in and with the Church of Christ, convincing the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, regenerating those who repent and believe, sanctifying believers and guiding into all truth.
(Matt. 28:19; John 4:24-26; Acts 5:3-4; Romans 8:9; 2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 4:6)."


See comments on the Nazarene statement.

12. God's Missionary Church
"The Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son as the true and eternal God, of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son (Matt 28:19; Acts 5:3,4; Romans 8:9-11). His office work is to (a) Convince the world of sin (John 16:8); (b) Regenerate those that repent (John 3:5-9); (c) Sanctify believers (Acts 15:8, 9); (d) Guide into all truth (John 16:13)."


13. Church of God (Holiness)
"III. There is one Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, who is now the representative of the Godhead on earth, who came from the Father and the Son, to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26). God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three persons, united and inseparable, of one substance and eternal (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)."


This statement places the Trinity at the end of the first three articles (God, Jesus Christ, and now the Holy Spirit) as a kind of summary rather than an add-on.

14. The Aldersgate Forum (source)
"Holy Spirit
That the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Godhead, is Lord and Giver of life, who continually glorifies Our Lord Jesus Christ, convicts men and women of sin, and regenerates all who repent and trust in Christ for salvation. It is by the Holy Spirit that believers are sanctified, indwelt, and guided into all truth; and it is also by Him that Christ lives in the church, the gospel is proclaimed, and the Kingdom of God is advanced in the world."


It is always refreshing to read the Aldersgate statements because it is the most recent of the statements here and is well-thought-out. It draws on language from the Nicene Creed ("Lord and Giver of Life"). Interestingly, it omits any reference to the procession of the Spirit and, consequently, any statement as to how the Spirit relates ontologically to the Godhead. On what basis is the Spirit the "third," distinctive person? The statement is heavy on the activity of the Spirit and light on the person of the Spirit.

I like that it distinguishes the Spirit's general activity, the Spirit's personal activity in the believer, and the Spirit's activity through the church. I'm not sure what the intent was in the framing of the statement, but at this point I think it should be a model for other statements.

15. Union Bible College (source)
"4. We believe that the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead, proceeds from the Father and the Son and is Christ's 'other Self.' He is the Paraclete, the Comforter, the One who reproves 'the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.' He is 'the Spirit of truth;' and guides God's children 'into all truth.' He also takes the things of the Father and the Son and reveals them unto us. His ministry does not involve the glorification of Himself but rather the exaltation of Jesus Christ. We believe that the Triune God is actively involved in the work of salvation. God the Father planned our redemption. God the Son is the 'Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.' God the Spirit applies the atoning blood to the seeker who meets God's conditions."


This is the most lengthy of all the statements. It specifies the ontological relation of the Spirit in the Godhead, it names the Spirit, and it describes his activity. It could be more specific in some places. For instance, in the sentence "He also takes the things of the Father and the Son and reveals them to us," what "things" and to whom (who is the "us"?).


16. Hobe Sound Bible Church (source)
"That there is one Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, Who came from the Father and the Son, to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; to regenerate the believing sinner, and to indwell, guide, instruct, cleanse and empower the believer for godly living and service (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)."


In what way did the Spirit come from the Father? Is His coming a reference in time or eternity? Is this a reference to his relation in the Godhead or his economic activity? I like the focus on empowerment in the phrase that refers to the sanctification of the believer--empowerment for godly living and service preceded by indwelling, guiding, instructing and cleansing (is the order significant?).

Next Article: Holy Scripture


Previous 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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Articles of Faith: The Son of God

"THE LORD, WHEN HE WAS ASKED TO show the Father, said, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also. He that would alter this is an antichrist, he that would deny it is a Jew, he that is ignorant a Pagan" (Hilary of Poitiers, De Trinitate VII.38).

The fourth article in this series is on Jesus Christ. The earliest debates among Christians concerned the nature of Christ. The church fought against and overcame the heresies of Arianism (Christ is a created being), Nestorianism (denied the divine nature of Christ), Eutychianism (denied the real humanity of Christ), and Docetism (Christ only appeared to be human but was not really). Later, Pelagianism also posed a threat to the doctrine of Christ. Its condemnation was assisted by its association with Nestorianism. Today, these heresies are alive in the Church of the Latter-Day Saints and in the Watchtower Society (Jehovah's Witnesses). I suggest that every heresy that the church has ever faced or ever will face has implications for the doctrine of Christ.

The evangelical and orthodox doctrine of Christ is being tested not only by the resurgence of old heresies, but by the impulse of pluralism and relativism. Somehow it has become possible to be a "Christian" without affirming Christ. We must be clear in our doctrine of the person and work of Christ, producing a well-rounded account of why Christ is worthy of our faith and worship. .

Some of the documents have more than one article on the Son; I have combined them into a single survey. I first have offered some general comments and have then scattered specific comments within the presentation of the articles themselves. If the formatting is confusing please let me know. I would like for this survey to be user-friendly.

Comments
1. The Nicene Creed has made its mark on our statements.

2. An Augustinian Calvinist would love the statements that affirm our inheritance of original guilt, which is what I understand the 39 Articles and the derived statements to mean when it says that Christ died for both original guilt and actual sins. The Wesleyan Church has made a positive change in their article at this point, changing original guilt to original sin--there is a world of difference. More will be said as we get to the doctrines of man, sin, grace and salvation. I anticipate some contradictions to appear.

3. The question of subordination within the Trinity is a live issue and one that has implications for orthodoxy and, some would argue, for the use of women in ministry.

4. If the Trinity was given prominence in the first article (On the Triune God), in some cases it is taken away here especially when worship is specified to the Father but not to the Son or the Spirit (see below).

5. None besides the Anglican Church affirm Christ's descent into Hell.

6. Christology has always been a hotbed of controversy because of the delicate line of affirming two natures in Christ and equality within the Godhead while distinguishing Christ's divinity from his deity and one person of the Trinity from another. It is possible to maintain ambiguity without contradiction. However, if affirming an ambiguous article is a matter of membership or ordination, we must be specific enough that a heretic who uses the same language with different concepts would be quickly spotted.

7. My research here leads me to think that there is some theological engagement that needs to take place on the matter of Christology. I would encourage a forum of friendly discussion on the subordination issue and whether or not it has real implications on women in ministry, a discussion of the relation of Christ's atonement and original sin, and our general attitude toward the person of Christ as God and man.

8. Having said that, the CHM's evangelical fervor comes through its emphasis on the work of Christ. If our weakness on this article is ontology, our strength is certainly in affirming both the historical work of Christ and its purpose for mankind.

The Statements:
1. The 39 Articles (source)
"II. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man
The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men."

"III. Of the going down of Christ into Hell.
As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed,that he went down into Hell."


"IV. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man's nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day."


2. MEC Articles of Religion

"II. Of the Word, or Son of God, Who was Made Very Man
The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men."


"III. Of the Resurrection of Christ
Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day."

I am not certain why "begotten from everlasting of the Father" was omitted. There are several commentaries on the Methodist articles of faith, I should consult with one of those. The obvious omission of the article on the descent into hell is evident of the uncertainty that exists on this issue. The omission of "with flesh, bones" simplifies the article.

The statement on original guilt is indicative of Augustinian and Reformed influence in both the Anglican Church and in early Methodism. The Methodist stance on this changed in the 19th century. Wesley himself equivocated on the issue by using the term "guilt" in reference to original sin but denying responsibility or culpability. Later Methodists, particular John Miley, called him on his sincere inconsistency.

3. The Wesleyan-Methodist Church (1959)
"II. The only begotten Son of God was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried--to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for the actual sins of men, and to reconcile us to God.
Mark 15; Luke 1:27, 31, 35; John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 17; Acts 4:12; Rom. 5:10, 18; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19; Gal. 1:4; 2:20; 4:4, 5; Eph. 5:2; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 2:17; 7:27; 9:28; 10:12; 1 Peter 2:14; 1 John 2:2; 4:14."


"III. The Resurrection of Christ.
Same as MEC with the addition of Scriptures:
Psalms 16:8-10; Matt. 27:62-66; 28:5-9, 16, 17; Mark 16:6, 7, 12; Luke 24:4-8, 23; John 20:26-29; 21; Acts 1:2; 2:24-31; 10:40; Rom. 8:34; 14:9, 10; 1 Cor. 15:6, 14; Heb. 13:20.

The first part of article II. is obviously derived from the Nicene Creed and the latter part from the MEC statement. I was surprised to find that original guilt was still part of the article. It appeared in the earliest manual of the WMC (1842), well before Miley wrote his systematic dismantling of the doctrine. The 1959 article is stream-lined from the previous article which was a copy of the MEC. I'm not sure when the change took place.

4. The Wesleyan Church (2008)
"II. The Father
We believe the Father is the Source of all that exists, whether of matter or spirit. With the Son and the Holy Spirit, He made man, male and female, in His image. By intention He relates to people as Father, thereby forever declaring His goodwill toward them. In love, He both seeks and receives penitent sinners."
Psalm 68:5; Isa. 64:8; Matt. 7:11; John 3:17; Rom. 8:15; 1 Peter 1:17


"III. The Son of God
We believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, truly God and truly man. He died on the cross and was buried, to be a sacrifice both for original sin and for all human transgressions, and to reconcile us to God. Christ rose bodily from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and there intercedes for us at the Father's right hand until He returns to judge all humanity at the last day.
Psalm 16:8-10; Matt. 1:21, 23; 11:27, 16:28; 27:62-66; 28:5-9, 16-17; Mark 10:45; 15; 16:6-7; Luke 1:27, 31, 35; 24:4-8, 23; John 1:1, 14, 18; 3:16-17; 20:26-29; 21; Acts 1:2-3; 2:24-31; 4:12; 10:40; Rom. 5:10, 18; 8:34; 14:9; 1 Cor. 5:18-19; Gal. 1:4; 2:20; 4:4-5; Eph. 5:2; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb 2:17; 7:27; 9:14, 28; 10:12; 13:20; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2."

The Wesleyans have added quite a bit more Scripture to their articles as well as the article on the Father.
Should the phrase "Source of all that exists" be taken to include the Son and the Spirit? There is nothing here that would exclude them. This raises the difficult issue of whether or not the distinction of the Father and Son is a unilateral action on the part of the Father or if there is a bi-lateral activity that is essential to the nature of both. The danger here is to insert a monarchy of the Father over the Son and Spirit in the ontology of the Godhead (or the immanent Trinity as Rahner called it) or to violate all distinction of the persons. In other words, is it appropriate to specify the Father as "the Source of all that exists" versus the Godhead as a whole? What about John 1:1-3? The problem is not that the statement is wrong, rather it's that an Arian can affirm it too. An Arian could not affirm article III. though.

"Guilt" was taken out by the Wesleyans in favor of a more generalized statement on the relation of original sin and the atonement.

5. Allegheny Wesleyan-Methodist Church (1986)
Same as WMC (1959)

6. Bible Methodist Connection (2000)
Same as WMC (1959)

7. International Conservative Holiness Association (2002)
"5. Jesus Christ
We believe the only begotten Son of God was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried to be a sacrifice, not only for original sin, but also for the actual sins of men, and to reconcile us to God. In resurrection He came forth from the dead, took again His body, together with all things appertaining to the perfection of man;s nature, wherewith He ascended into heaven and is there engaged in intercession for us.
Matt. 27:62-66; 28:5-9, 16-18; Mark 15, 16:6, 7, 12; Luke 1:27, 31, 35; 24:4-8, 23; John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 17; 20:26-29; 21; Acts 1:2; 4:12; 10:40; Rom. 5:10; 8:34; 14:9; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19; Gal. 1:4; 4:4, 5; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 9:28; 10:12; 13:20; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2."

It has merged what formerly appeared in two articles in the MEC and WMC statements. It has also changed "original guilt" to "original sin," a change that stems from the Church of the Bible Covenant articles of faith written by Marvin Powers and committee. There is slight change in the word order, but the wording clearly reflects the Nicene Creed at the beginning. The clause on intercession has been added at the end and is derived from the Nazarene influence in the CBC.

8. The Pilgrim Holiness Church (1958)
"2. Jesus Christ
The Son, who is the Word of the Fahter (John 1:1-3), is the very eternal God, of one substance with the Father, who took man's nature (John 1:14; 3:31; Heb. 2:14), in the womb of the Virgin, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided, whereof is One Christ, very God and very man. He truly suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried (1 Cor. 15:3-6), to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for the actual sins of man (Heb. 13:12; 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:18). Christ did truly rise again from the dead and took again his body (Matt 28:6, 7; Acts 1:3; Like 24:39-43), with all things pertaining to the perfection of man's nature (Eph. 4:11-13; 1 John 3:2, 3, wherewith he ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9; Eph. 1:20; 4:8; 1 Tim. 3:16)."

This statement is derived from the MEC with little exception. Mary is no longer called "blessed," an obvious attempt to avoid Roman mariology. Also missing is any reference to Christ's return for judgment which is included in a later article. Once again, original guilt is affirmed.

9. The Midwest Pilgrim Holiness Church (2000)
Same as Pilgrim Holiness Church (1958)

10. The New York Pilgrim Holiness Church (2006-2007)
Same as Pilgrim Holiness Church (1958)

11. The Church of the Nazarene (2005-2009)
"II. Jesus Christ
We believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead; that He was eternally one with the Father; that He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say the Godhead and manhood, are thus united in one Person very God and very man, the God-man.
We believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that He truly arose from the dead and took again His body, together with all things pertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith He ascended into heaven and is there engaged in intercession for us."

As gender conscience as the broader Holiness movement has become, I'm somewhat surprised that "man's nature" has not been changed to "human nature."

12. God's Missionary Church
"II.  God the Father
The Father is the supreme Person in the Godhead, to Whom the Son and the Holy Ghost, though equal in essence, are subordinate in office. The Father sent the Son into the world; He also sends the Holy Ghost. To the Father, the Son reconciles the penitent sinner; and to the Father pertains the worship of every believer."

"III. God the Son
The only begotten Son of God was eternally with the Father; was conceived by the Holy Ghost; was born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died, and buried; a sacrifice, not only for original sin, but also for actual sins, and to reconcile us unto God. He truly arose from the dead, took again His body, ascended into heaven and is there engaged in intercession for us (Luke 1:27-35; John 1:14; 3:16; Acts 4:12; Romans 5:10; Hebrews 7:25)."

What does it mean for the Father to be the "supreme" Person in the Godhead? Is this ontological subordinationism? It sounds like it. The following phrase "subordinate in office" seems to indicate that the hierarchy that is clearly affirmed is economical rather than ontological, but this is a discussion that needs to be had in order to avoid heresy. This is the second time this has appeared within these statements and this is certainly the strongest of the two (the other being The Wesleyan Church article on the Father). I would like to know the history of this article.

The strong statement on the Father seems to discount Trinitarian worship and reconciliation. While these things are true about the Father, we should be explicit that they are true to the entire Godhead--for instance, we worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

13. Church of God (Holiness)
"There is one Saviour, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who is the Supreme Head of the Church, which He redeemed unto God by His own blood (Matt. 3:16,17)."

The brief statement is straightforward and orthodox if properly interpreted. Its lack of specification, however, allows even a modern-day Arian, such as a Mormon, to affirm it.

14. The Aldersgate Forum
"That Our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal and only begotten Son of God, became man without ever ceasing to be God; that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and lived a sinless life. He died on the cross, making a full and satisfactory atonement for the sins of the whole human race, then rose bodily from the grace and ascended into Heaven, where He is enthroned at God's right hand as our intercessor."

This is the first statement that shows evidence of Chalcedonian influence (451), the most authoritative Christian statement on the nature of Christ (even if its meaning at some points is still debated). I have in mind specifically the sinlessness of Christ. I imagine this will appear more frequently when we get to the articles on the atonement, but it is nonetheless central to the human nature of Christ, and these articles are supposed to be statements of ontology.

15. Union Bible College
"We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. Without laying aside His deity, He took upon Himself flesh and blood that He might provide an atonement for sin through His death upon the cross. Having arisen from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven and is now at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us as our great High Priest. We also believe that Jesus will return again to rapture His bride, the saints of God, from the earth. The fact of His return is certain, but the time of His coming is uncertain. Therefore, we are admonished to be ready, 'for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.'"

This article covers a large amount of ground and will be referred to later. It lacks any elaboration on the nature of Christ and, after briefly stating the fact of his personhood as the "eternal Son of God," the remaining part deals exclusively with the work of Christ. This should raise our awareness to the balance between emphasizing the person and work of Christ. 

16. Hobe Sound Bible Church
"In the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His miracles, His vicarious and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His personal future return to this earth in power and glory (Matthew 3:16,17)."

This list of fundamentals is refreshingly simply even if it is heavy on the work of Christ as opposed to His person. In doing so, it avoids a lot of issues. I suppose if the issues never rise it's a good thing. 

Next Article: The Holy Spirit

Other articles in this series

Monday, May 23, 2011

Articles of Faith: The Triune God

"THE PERCEPTION OF THE HUMAN MIND
cannot attain to the knowledge of the divine: but neither can a reverent faith doubt the works of God" (Hilary of Poitiers, De Trinitate X.69).

After a several-month hiatus, my series on the Articles of Faith within the Methodist tradition continues with Article I. My focus and goal is to survey and offer brief commentary on the theological statements that appear within the Conservative Holiness Movement in order to create a clear picture of the theological spectrum. This study is especially pertinent in light of several recent moves to re-write or significantly update our church manuals. I am presently involved in one such endeavor.

The first article that appears in our church manuals is on the Triune God.

When I look at an article on the Godhead, the first thing I look for is the prominence of the Trinitarian nature of God. In one case, the Trinity is entirely left out of the first article. This recalls to mind what one professor said, "If the Trinity doesn't come first it is usually is relegated to a secondary role or an afterthought" (my paraphrase). With the revival of Unitarianism (the persons of the Trinity are all one person), it is especially crucial that we understand the significance of Trinitarian theology and its implications for everyday life.

In keeping with the Anglican tradition and the OT (perhaps not in that order), the Methodist/Holiness tradition begins its theology by emphasizing the oneness of God. It is important, however, that there is always a clear description of the community that is in God's being. The CHM is clearly monotheistic and Trinitarian in its theology. With the resurgence of paganism and the blurry line between good and evil caused by Harry Potter-like fiction, the importance of being clear on the theological implications of monotheism and Trinitarianism is vital. The implications include (to name just a few):

  1. God is not the world; the world is not God.
  2. Only God is omni-anything.
  3. Good and evil are not equal entities; evil is only a perversion of good.
  4. Persons are made for community; our individual identities must be tempered by a healthy view of community.

The second thing I look for is how well-balanced the statement is in its description of the nature of God . For instance, which is emphasized--divine sovereignty or divine providence? transcendence or immanence? being or doing? For the most part, the Methodist/Holiness tradition has emphasized the providence and grace of God and therefore the immanence of God and what he does. The most obvious exception is the current Nazarene statement which seems to do the opposite. Of course, the best statement is to describe the tension between each point. Therefore, I conclude that the CHM leans significantly to the side of emphasizing the graciousness of God as opposed to the Reformed tradition's emphasis on divine sovereignty (this neat little bifurcation is, of course, not so neat as it sounds). This will be discussed further when we get to the article on mankind. The strength of our emphasis is/should be reflected in our preaching and evangelism. A weakness may be in our inability to answer tough questions concerning the sovereignty of God in saving, healing, providing, guiding, etc.

A third theological point that stood out to me is the omission of "without body, parts, or passions" in our statements. As you can see, this phrase appears in the Anglican faith and in the Methodist tradition, but has been omitted by most of the Holiness churches. The purpose of the phrase is to defend to theological points that arose especially in medieval theology, namely, the simplicity of God and His impassibility. Both of these doctrines are consistently called into question in contemporary theology. Divine simplicity, some say, is contradictory to the doctrine of the Trinity. In truth, there are all kinds of ways to affirm simplicity in perfect accord with the Trinitarian nature of Scripture which is why I am not defining "simplicity" here. Concerning divine impassibility (God does not have passion), it is especially bothersome to consider a God who is unaffected by us or by the happenings of the world. Does God really not feel sad, happy, angry, hurt, etc., etc.? Can our understanding of the world, esp. human freedom, be reconciled with an impassionate God? It is a difficult issue and one that the Holiness tradition has chosen to avoid. But, lest we think it's purely a matter of academic discussion, perhaps there are some serious pastoral implications here. (For further reading on these two matters I recommend John Feinberg's discussion in No One Like Him)

One final note: Many of the articles use 1 John 5:7 to support the Trinity. I would encourage more study on this point so that our people can be prepared for some tough questions if we keep it.

The Statements
1. 39 Articles (source)
"Of Faith in the Holy Trinity
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

2. MEC Articles of Religion (source)
Same as the 39 Articles

3. The Wesleyan-Methodist Church (1959)
Same as 39 Articles but omits "without body, parts, or passions." Adds in parentheses "the Word" after "the Son" so it reads: "the Father, the Son (the Word), and the Holy Ghost."


Also, the addition of the following Scriptures:
Gen 1:1; 17:1; Ex 3:13-15; 33:20; Dt 6:4; Ps 90:2; 104:24; Is 9:6; Jer 10:10; John 1:1-2; 4:24-5:18; 10:30;16:13; 17:3; Acts 5:3-4;  Rom 16:27; 1Co 8:4,6; 2Co 13:14; Eph 2:18; Phil 2:6; Col 1:16; 1Ti 1:17; 1 John 5:7, 20; Rev 19:13

4. The Wesleyan Church (2008) 
"We believe in the one living and true God, both holy and loving, eternal, unlimited in power, wisdom, and goodness, the Creator and Preserver of all things. Within this unity there are three persons of one essential nature, power and eternity--the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."


There are two changes here: (a) the addition of "both holy and loving" which comes out of the debate within the holiness movement about whether God is first holy or first loving (it seems to be a mute point now); (b) a couple of word changes have occurred, "infinite" has been changed to "unlimited" in reference to God's power and "Maker" has been changed to "Creator." 

5. Allegheny Wesleyan-Methodist (1986)
Same as the Wesleyan-Methodist (1959).

6. Bible Methodist Connection (2000)
Same as the Wesleyan-Methodist (1959).

7. International Conservative Holiness Association (2002)
Same as the Wesleyan-Methodist (1959) with the addition of:


The Father is specially related to God's work in creation; the Son by incarnation is specially related to God's work in redemption; and the Holy Spirit by His indwelling is specially related to God's work in sanctification.


The added sentence is puzzling. First, why was there a need to add anything to the article? Second, why the ambiguous language of "specially related"? What does that mean? Surely it doesn't mean that only the Father works in creation, only the Son in redemption, and only the Spirit in sanctification. I'm a bit puzzled about what exactly is the advantage of this addendum.


8. The Pilgrim Holiness Church (1959)
"God
There is but one living and true God (Deut. 4:35; 1 Cor. 8:4; 2 Sam. 7:22; 1 Kings 8:23, 60; Isa. 43:10, 11; Mark 12:32; John 17:3; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5); everlasting (Gen. 21:33; Rom. 16:26); without body or parts (John 4:24); of infinite power, wisdom and goodness (Gen. 17:1; Matt. 19:26; Psa. 147:5; 34:8); the maker and preserver of all things visible and invisible (Psa. 19:1; John 1:3; Col. 1:16). In this Godhead there are three persons of one substance, power, and eternity--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (1 John 5:7; 1 Tim. 1:17; 3:16; Matt. 28:19)."


This is the same as The 39 Articles with the addition of Scripture passages.

9. The Midwest Pilgrim (2000)
Same as The Pilgrim Holiness Church (1959).

10. The NY Pilgrim (2006-2007)
Same as The Pilgrim Holiness Church (1959).

11. The Church of the Nazarene (2005-2009)
"The Triune God
We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God, Sovereign of the universe; that He only is God, creative and administrative, holy in nature, attributes and purpose; that He, as God, is Triune in essential being, revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(Genesis 1; Leviticus 19:2; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Isaiah 5:16; 6:1-7; 40:18-31; Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19-20; John 14:6-27; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 2:13-18)"


This most significant change in the holiness movement definite occurs here. In the aforementioned debate between the love and holiness of God, the latter clearly wins out. Also, there is a definite emphasis on the sovereignty of God in such terms as "Sovereign of the universe" and "creative and administrative." There is no mention of the essential goodness of God or providence of God, unless  we are to understand "holy in nature" as a divine beneficence (but how are we to tell?).

12. God's Missionary
"There is but one true and living God, everlasting, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things visible and invisible (Isa. 45:21, 22; Deut. 6:4; Ps. 90:2), and in the unity of this Godhead there are three per­sons, equal in power and eternity--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (I John 5:7; II Cor. 14:14; John 1:1, 15:26)."


The same as The Wesleyan-Methodist Church (1959) with the exception of the Scripture and the omission of "substance" in describing the equality of the persons. Is this a copyist's error or was the word deliberately left out? If the latter, for what reason? 

13. Church of God (Holiness)
"There is one God over all, the same yesterday, today, and forever; the Creator of all things, and in whom all things consist (Deut. 6:4; Heb. 11:3)."

Simple and straightforward enough, but lacking of any statement on the Trinity. Is the Trinity foundational to theology? Interestingly, the Trinity does not appear until Article III which is on the Holy Spirit, but contains an additional paragraph that ought to be included in Article I. It reads:

"God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three persons, united and inseparable, of one substance and eternal (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)."

14. Aldersgate Forum (God's Bible School & College Ministerial Faculty) (source)
"God
[We believe...] That there is one God, self-existent and eternal, the creator, sustainer, and ruler of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Their glory is equal, their majesty co-eternal."

This is the newest statement to be published within the CHM as far as I can tell. There is obvious continuity between it and the other statements within the Holiness tradition. It continues the emphasis on monotheistic conviction, it offers the clearest statement on the aseity of God (God has no source for His being; he is self-existent and self-sufficient). There is a good balance in the list of names (creator, sustainer, ruler) between control and providence. It employs both perfect-being ontology and infinite being ontology, the latter being the most popular in contemporary philosophical theology. I do not take the term "eternal" as time-specific insofar as it regards the debate about the relation of God and time; in other words, it could read either "eternal" or "everlasting" depending on your view of God's relation to time.

The statement also introduces the term "glory" in reference to the Trinity. This is a theologically rich word and is especially relevant in light of recent emphasis on the glory of God by Piper and others with little regard to the Trinitarian life. By specifying Trinitarian glory it counters any hint of divine megalomania (of which Piper has been accused).

15. Union Bible College (source)
"We believe that God subsists from everlasting to everlasting, manifesting Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, being equal in essence, but different in office and personhood."

This statement is brief but contains a couple of complexities. First, the verb "subsists" is an ancient term in Christian theology (ancient as in "old", not ancient as in "out-dated"). It is conceptually like the word "hypostasis" which is usually used in reference to the personal distinction within the Godhead. Since the two words are derived from different languages (Latin and Greek) there is a history of some confusion as to the precise definition of the words. Here it appears to mean God's existence as a personal being. In this way, it is also a theologically-rich term versus the simple "God exists from everlasting...."

The mystery here is what the difference of "office" is. What is a divine "office"? I would have to do some more research on the formation of this statement to discover what is meant here.

16. Hobe Sound Bible Church (source)
"There is one God, eternally existent in three persons--God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Ghost (Deuteronomy 6:4; Hebrews 11:3)."

I'm not sure which phrase Hebrews 11:3 refers to: "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." There is nothing in this article that refers to God as Creator which seems to be the point of the verse. The verse certainly belongs with an article on God nonetheless.

Other articles in this series:
1. Discovering the Theological Spectrum of the CHM
2. An Overview of the Articles