Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

Theology Corner

1.)  CAN GOD'S WILL BE THWARTED?

2.)  DID GOD ELECT ONLY A FEW FOR SALVATION WHILE CONDEMNING THE GREATER PART OF MANKIND TO HELL?

3.)  FAITH OR SALVATION: WHICH COMES FIRST?

4.)  DID GOD THE FATHER BEGET JESUS CHRIST?

5.)  WHAT ARE THE TWO NATURES OF CHRIST?

6.)  WHAT IS ANTINOMIANISM?

7.)  WHAT IS SABELLIANISM?

8.)  WHAT IS PELAGIANISM?

9.)  DOES LOVE REALLY WIN?

10.)  IS YOUR WILL REALLY YOUR WILL?

11.)  CAN TWO THEOLOGIES BE TESTED FOR COMPATIBILITY?

12.)  WHAT IS THE FRAUD OF FIDEISM?

13.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES THEOLOGY?

14.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIAN SCIENCE THEOLOGY?

15.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH MORMON THEOLOGY?

16.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS THEOLOGY?

17.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH SCIENTOLOGY THEOLOGY?

18.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH UNIFICATION CHURCH THEOLOGY?

19.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH THE WAY INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGY?

20.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD THEOLOGY?

21.)  IS REPENTANCE REALLY NECESSARY?

22.)  WHAT ARE SOME MUSINGS OF A METHODIST THEOLOGIAN ON LIMITED ATONEMENT?

23.)  WHAT ARE SOME QUESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO TEACH A LIMITED ATONEMENT PROVIDED ONLY FOR THE ELECT OF GOD?

24.)  WHAT WERE CALVIN'S ACTUAL WORDS?

25.)  WHAT IS GNOSTICISM?

26.)  WHAT IS THE UNPARDONABLE SIN?

27.)  IS CLASSICAL CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY?

1.)  IS CHRISTIANITY COMPATIBLE WITH POSITIVE TOLERANCE?

2.)  CAN WE HAVE A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENY THE POWER THEREOF?

3.)  WHAT IS THE GREAT WAR?

4.)  SHOULD PRESIDENT TRUMP HAVE BEEN IMPEACHED FOR IMMORALITY?

5.)  WHO SAID MOSES WAS HUMBLE?

6.)  COULD CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE BENEFIT FROM WOKE REVISION?

7.)  DID EINSTEIN BELIEVE ALL CHRISTIANS WERE CALVINISTS?

8.)  WHY IS MARXISM A MAGNET?

9.)  WHAT IS TRUE SCIENCE?

10.)  CAN YOU LOSE YOUR SALVATION?

11.)  WHAT ARE THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS?

12.)  WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS?

13.)  WAS PAUL ENTIRELY SANCTIFIED?

14.)  ARE YOU LIVING IN A WORLD AT WAR?

15.)  WHAT IS THE DIRECT METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

16.)  WHAT IS THE CONTRAPOSITIVE METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

17.)  WHAT IS THE CONTRADICTION METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

18.)  WHAT MIGHT A METHODIST THEOLOGIAN SAY ABOUT PURGATORY?

19.)  WHICH BIBLE PASSAGES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

20.)  DO SELECTED NIV VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

21.)  DO SELECTED AKJV VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

22.)  DO SELECTED YLT VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

23.)  DO SELECTED 'VOICE' VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

24.)  COULD THE CONCEPT OF 'SALVATION ONLY FOR THE ELECT' HAVE BEEN ROOTED IN THE MIND OF AUGUSTINE BEFORE HE EMBRACED CHRISTIANITY?

25.)  DID AUGUSTINE RECEIVE PUSHBACK FOR HIS TEACHING OF 'SALVATION ONLY FOR THE ELECT' DURING HIS LIFETIME?

ARE WE PREPARED TO SAY, "LORD, MAKE ME HOLY?"

The journey along the path of holiness begins with regeneration and continues down the path of sanctification.  The journey begins with regeneration or initial sanctification which is the change God works in the soul when He brings it to life, when He raises it from the death of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness.  The journey ends, for the vast majority of us, at death when we enter into the presence of God and our souls are, at long last, glorified; we are set free from the influence of sin and enveloped by the holiness of God. 

But a question arises.  Is it possible, in this life, for a human being to enter into the earthly analog of glorification sometimes called entire sanctification?  How far can I travel along the road to holiness during my life on earth?  Can I achieve, at least for some interval of time:

  • Holiness in being and holiness in action
  • Purity of heart, will, intellect and action
  • Perfect love, integrity, righteousness, morality, ethics, and character

Can I at least allow the Holy Spirit to occupy and purify nearly every room of my heart?  Can my human will become at least somewhat aligned with the will of God?  Can my feeble intellect discern at least many important truths?  Will the Holy Spirit give me a boost toward the top?  Will He occasionally push me up so I can hang from the edge of the precipice?  Can I be holy, for a while, until I am, once again, weighed down by my own

  • Concupiscence
  • Bad judgment
  • Inconsistent will
  • Weariness caused by the constant struggle against temptation

causing me to lose my grip and fall from the heights?  Scripture suggests the possibility of, at least, hanging from the edge of the precipice for a time.  (Oden, v3, p 241-244) 

 

  • God would not command the impossible.  A mature, complete, continuing response to grace is enjoined repeatedly in Scripture (Ex 19:6; John 5:14; 2 Cor 7:1, 13:1; Heb 6:1, 12:14; 1 Pet 1:15-16).  God would not require holiness in this life (Deut 6:5; Luke 10:27; Rom 6:11) if it were intrinsically impossible.

 

  • God would not promise complete responsiveness to grace if it were intrinsically unattainable.  A complete and mature life of loving holiness is clearly promised in scripture (Deut 30:6; Psalm 119:1-3; Isa 1:18; Jer 33:8; Ezek 36:25; Mat 5:6; 1 Thes 5:23, 24; Heb 7:25; 1 John 1:7-9).

 

  • The apostles repeatedly prayed for the full and complete life of holiness and perfect love (John 17:20-23; 2 Cor 13:9-11; Eph 3:14-21; Col 4:12; Heb 13:20-21; 1 Pet 5:10).  Were they deluded?

 

  • Scripture identifies a few entirely sanctified persons (Gen 5:18-24; Gen 6:9; Job 1:8; Acts 11:24).  A single instance establishes attainability.

 

  • Certain texts that appear to argue for un-attainability can be explained on different grounds (Eccles 7:20; 2 Chron 6:36; Job 25:4; 1 John 1:8-10).

 

Here are some thoughts of Samuel Wakefield on regeneration and sanctification, including some from Wesley Works in italics.  

“With respect to regeneration and adoption, we may observe, that though we must distinguish them as being different from each other, and from justification, yet they are not to be separated.  They all occur at the same time, and they all enter into the experience of the same person; so that no man is justified without being regenerated and adopted, and no man is regenerated and made a child of God who is not justified.  Whenever, therefore, they are mentioned in Scripture, they involve and imply one another, -- a remark which may preserve us from some error…Regeneration may be defined to be that moral change in man, wrought by the Holy Spirit, by which he is saved from the love, the practice, and the dominion of sin, and enabled, with full choice of will and the energy of right affections, to love God and to keep his commandments…The regenerate are born ‘not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1:13)…It is the image of God on the soul…It is Christ formed in the heart…It is freedom from the dominion of sin…(Wakefield, p 424-427)

That regeneration is not the same with sanctification.  This is indeed taken for granted by many, who therefore speak of regeneration as a progressive work.  But though this is true of sanctification, it is not true of regeneration, which is at once complete.  Regeneration is a part of sanctification, not the whole; it is the gate to it, the entrance into it.  When we are born again then our sanctification, our inward and outward holiness, begins; and thenceforward we are gradually to ‘grow up into him who is our head.’  This expression of the apostle admirably illustrates the difference between one and the other, and further points out the exact analogy there is between natural and spiritual things.  A child is born of a woman in a moment, or at least in a very short time; afterward he gradually and slowly grows, till he attains to the stature of a man.  In like manner a child is born of God in a short time, if not in a moment.  But it is by slow degrees that he afterward grows up to the measure of the full stature of Christ.  The same relation, therefore, which there is between our natural birth and our growth, there is also between our new birth and our sanctification.” (Wesley Works, Vol 1, p 406)  (Wakefield, p 432)

 

George Allen Turner offers this interpretation of Wesley’s teaching on sanctification:

 

“In Wesleyan teaching regeneration is the positive side of justification and is instantaneous, while sanctification is the gradual work of the Spirit in inner transformation, although there is a time when this process may be consummated instantly in response to faith”  (Turner, quoted in Grider, p 398)

 

Adam Clarke, a younger contemporary of Wesley, viewed the matter differently. 

 

“In no part of Scripture are we directed to seek holiness gradatim.  We are to come to God as well for an instantaneous and complete purification from all sin as for an instantaneous pardon.  Neither the gradatim pardon nor the seriatim purification exists in the Bible.”  (Clarke, quoted in Grider, p 398-399)

 

Adam Clarke taught that entire sanctification is an instantaneous event when the soul is purified from all sin so it can properly grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  On the issue of entire sanctification in this life, the Holiness Movement understood Clarke’s view to be scriptural instead of Wesley’s.  (Grider, p 399)

A belief in instantaneous entire sanctification is, in fact, the foundation of the Holiness Movement and sets this movement apart from mainstream Methodism.  It has been echoed by Holiness teachers through the centuries.  J. A. Wood, Daniel Steele, C. W. Ruth, E. F. Walker, T. Cook, S. S. White, H. Orton Wiley, Richard Taylor, W. T. Purkiser and many others have followed Clarke instead of Wesley in teaching that entire sanctification should be instantaneous in this life and not the end goal of a process which may not reach culmination this side of heaven. 

 

It is important to clarify that Wesley taught both gradual and instantaneous entire sanctification.

 

We tend to view entire sanctification as a great prize at the end of our spiritual ‘yellow brick road.”  But are we really prepared for what it would mean?  Would it mean we could sit in church with our arms crossed and a smug look on our face hoping that we would be recognized as entirely sanctified?  Would it raise us to a peerage above the ‘just barely saved?’  Would it free us from confession of sin?  Or would it be a tremendous responsibility as well as a tremendous gift?  Read the words of Oswald Chambers:

 

“When we pray to be [entirely] sanctified, are we prepared to face the standard of these verses [1Thes 5:23-24]?  We take the term sanctification much too lightly.  Are we prepared for what sanctification will cost?  It will cost an intense narrowing of all our interests on earth, and an immense broadening of all our interests in God.  Sanctification means intense concentration on God’s point of view.  It means every power of body, soul and spirit chained and kept for God’s purpose only.  Are we prepared for God to do in us all that He separated us for?  And then after His work is done in us, are we prepared to separate ourselves to God even as Jesus did?  “For their sakes I sanctify Myself.”  The reason some of us have not entered into the experience of sanctification is that we have not realized the meaning of sanctification from God’s standpoint.  Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him will rule us.  Are we prepared for what it will cost?  It will cost everything that is not of God in us.

Are we prepared to be caught up into the swing of this prayer of the apostle Paul’s?  Are we prepared to say – “Lord, make me as holy as You can make a sinner saved by grace?”  Jesus has prayed that we might be one with Him as He is one with the Father.  The one and only characteristic of the Holy Ghost in a man is a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, and freedom from everything that is unlike Him.  Are we prepared to set ourselves apart for the Holy Spirit’s ministrations in us?” (Chambers, February 8th)

(See also Section 3.17 of Theology Corner)