I received an email that reminded me that the doctrinal statement of the Church of the Nazarene has always been essentially what it is now. That is indeed true, all the way back to possibly 1898 but at least to 1903 before the 1908 merger, so far as “in all things necessary to our salvation” is concerned. The following was my response:
My point is what primary leaders of the day were saying about it compared to what some are saying today that are quite different. I especially subscribe to the statement: “If there is any error in the Bible, there is error in God. If there is no error in God, then there is no error in the Bible,” and similar declarations. If the Church of the Nazarene, as a body, originally or ever has since stood on the side of limited inerrancy or whatever (which I do not believe it has), it is the Church of the Nazarene that is in error, not the Word of God. The error has been in those who are willfully distorting H. Orton Wiley’s original statement (that which is in the Manual statement) to mean what Wiley never intended.
Richard Taylor once pointed out that the 1928 revision of the creedal statement was attributed to Wiley and that later generations took the words, “inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation” as limiting inerrancy to matters of faith and practice. Taylor explained that the objective was not to limit inerrancy but to exclude tradition, as in Catholic theology, from being a determining authority of dogma. So, even with a statement that has been voted into the Manual, there are still those who have misapplied its originally intended meaning, either ignorantly or by design.
I have been one who has overlooked a lesson my lawyer-grandfather taught me when I, a teenager, was quoting him a string of Scripture verses in order to lead him to Jesus (he did eventually come to Christ through a lot of others’ influences). He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Young man, if you are going to quote me something, be sure you do it in context. There is always something that goes before and comes after what you quote.”
I have been so focused on the discussion about the meaning of the Manual statement concerning the inerrancy of Scripture that I overlooked the rest of the statement. The full statement is this:
“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)”
The final phrase, “so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith,” explains that which came before it. The Scripture references back it up as the authority for saying so. Going solely on this doctrinal statement, the meaning of the doctrinal statement excludes anything the Bible does not plainly teach. That rules out limited inerrancy, theistic evolution, open theism, everything postmodern, mysticism, emergent, etc. Those who glom onto the first part of the statement shoot themselves in the foot by ignoring the rest of the statement because the doctrinal statement itself points directly back to the authority and complete inerrancy of the Scriptures as its support. By this, I mean that the argument for limited inerrancy has no basis in the Manual statement at any point in the denomination’s history. The doctrinal statement clearly limits acceptable doctrine to what the Bible teaches as God’s will. Of course, it pertains to salvation because that is the purpose of it all in the first place. The entire Bible has that singular purpose. It exists for no other reason.
Someone may argue that there are always those who argue around the statement. That is correct. It is done on both sides of the debate. I think it is good that it is, because those of us who come behind them may have a better understanding of original intent versus distortion, especially when it comes from those who were there. Therefore, it is essential that we keep on doing that, as well we should about the rest of our doctrinal statements. If one side of the debate abandons the statement, the debate is over because we no longer are talking on the same basis of authority.
From what I see in this context, there is no way one can accurately say that the Manual supports the idea of limited inerrancy. The notion must be a superimposed meaning that is not supported by what is underneath. The Church of the Nazarene has never issued an official doctrinal statement that says or implies or supports the notion of limited inerrancy. That is solely within the “talking points” of those who wish it to be so. To say that it has is to misrepresent what has been stated.
It then goes to intent. We should be examining motive. I think that is where we will discover the real purpose behind making such a far-fetched allegation about something as clear as this simple doctrinal statement about the Scriptures.
My motive is wide open to scrutiny. My commitment is clear. My basis of authority for revealed truth is nothing other than the Scriptures. Every idea I encounter must pass the muster of Scriptures or be discarded as deception. Prove me wrong on that foundation and I will change my opinion about anything.