Friday, March 14, 2014

“The Responsibility of Grace”

In A Century of Holiness Theology Quanstrom writes that the reason the Church of the Nazarene dropped the adjective “Pentecostal” from its name in 1919 was that this word had come to be associated with denominations that emphasized speaking in tongues as evidence of the Holy Spirit. The Nazarenes believed that when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, people were entirely sanctified and that while speaking in tongues may have been appropriate for the first century Christians, it was not for Christians in the twentieth century. While the Nazarene church moved away from the Pentecostal movement to a degree, they also moved towards fundamentalism in a number of ways. The church’s Article of Faith on Scripture is where the “leavening” of the fundamentalists is most evident, particularly with the words “plenary” and “inerrantly” inserted into the text. After 1928 the official article of faith on Scripture for the church stated that we believed “in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures” and that the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments “inerrantly” reveal “the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to salvation…” Quanstrom also writes that the theology of John Miley differed from the orthodoxy of the early Nazarenes. He says that “Miley did acknowledge that sanctification could be understood as an instantaneous gift occasioned by faith,” but that “…it was not necessary to insist on the instantaneous aspect exclusively.” Quanstrom also says that “Miley also did not insist that entire sanctification be strictly interpreted as the eradication of the sinful nature…Furthermore, not only did Miley not describe the effects of sanctification as extravagantly as those in the Holiness Movement, he warned against such descriptions.” However, Miley believed in the church’s stance on “native ability” in that mankind has the ability to choose, or has free agency. A.M. Hills pretty much agreed with what Miley said. I believe that Miley is correct when he says, “If we choose the evil it is because we are pleased to choose it.” However, I would also say that while we are free to choose between good and evil, at the same time we have inherited the results of the fall, resulting in our inability to always choose the good over the evil. We are inclined to sin because we are born into it. However, sin may also be something that we choose. Hills believed that mankind was capable of obeying the commands of God, and this it would seem apart from grace. He attacked the term “gracious ability” when it came to man’s obedience, saying, “We magnify ability, and rejoice in grace; but ‘gracious ability’ means too much.” Hills believed that grace was dependent upon the obedience of man, and that it followed man’s decision to obey. I disagree with this. I believe that grace comes before obedience, as did John Wesley who believed in the prevenient grace of God. I also believe that obedience is the result of grace. All good of which we are capable flows out of God’s goodness. The Nazarenes believed that mankind was incapable of holiness without the grace of God, and that God had given us the freedom to choose between right and wrong. They believed that entire sanctification was contingent upon the “decision to believe and obey.”

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