Wednesday, October 23, 2013

History, Theology, and the Church.

I (Aaron) have been reading a lot about the history of the Church of the Nazarene lately, as well as its distinguishing doctrine of Christian holiness and sanctification…mostly -but not entirely- for an ordination class I’ve been taking.

One of the texts I was assigned was Mark R. Quanstrom’s A Century of Holiness Theology: The Doctrine of Entire Sanctification in theChurch of the Nazarene, 1905 to 2004.

The following are some of the more surprising (and inspiring) passages I read along the way: 

“[Vincent Synan] has rightly characterized the [19th-century American] Holiness Movement as a ‘kind of “evangelical transcendentalism” that thrived in the idealism of a young and growing America.’ ” –Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States [Century of Holiness Theology, 17] 

“Martin Marty…characterized the interwar years (1919-1941) as yeas of conflict. He wrote: ‘Instead of harmony and simplicity, conflict ruled…Not since the Civil War had America been more torn. In matters specifically religious, the nation had never seemed more divided than it was in those interwar years…original-stock Protestants vs. everyone else; “100 percent Americans” vs. Communists and Slavs in the Red Scare; old-stock Anglo Saxons vs. Catholic or Jewish or Asian immigrants; the Ku Klux Klan vs. the same, plus liberals and blacks; white Christians vs. black Christians…Protestant Fundamentalists vs. Modernists…Protestant liberals vs. Protestant realists…and more.’ “ –Marty, The Noise of the Conflict [Century of Holiness Theology, 53] 

“The doctrine of sanctification must not be so interpreted as to be made a doctrine of despair to all Christians who have not consciously attained to such an experience, particularly in the definite manner of the second-blessing theory.” –John Miley, Systematic Theology [Century of Holiness Theology, 60] 

“Free agency was fundamental for Miley because that was the only way persons could be morally accountable. ‘If God is a moral ruler over responsible subjects, they must be morally free’…the paying field was always level when it came to choosing good over evil.” -Miley, Systematic Theology [Century of Holiness Theology, 63] 

“According to [Nazarene theologian Mildred Bangs] Wynkoop, the reason it was difficult to believe the doctrine of entire sanctification was because the American-Holiness Movement had uncritically adopted a fundamentally wrong ontology, an ontology which could not be faithful to the theology of John Wesley…

“Rather, the emphasis was more on the purity of a person’s consecration which would lead to unhindered communion with God. When one willed Christ without reservation or duplicity, one could be considered entirely sanctified by virtue of the purity of the subsequent relationship with God.” [Century of Holiness Theology, 143, 146]

Interesting, illuminating, exciting, and fascinating stuff for me…as both an historian and theologian-in-training. Love it!

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