A Response To Holiness Today’s Attack On Scripture

” But the underlying issue in everything else he raises as a concern is the authority of Scripture. If all of Scripture is Divinely inspired and thereby inerrant as Article IV clearly and repeatedly states then each one of his concerns crumble like a house built on sand.”

by Nyk Edinger (Original source: The Black Horse Inn)

In the current issue of HT (Holiness Today, April/May 2012), the Church of the Nazarene’s only official magazine, is an article by Pastor Ulmet, the pastor of Nashville First Church of the Nazarene. You can read it here: http://bit.ly/ISsnnM

   This article must be responded to with force. There is so much in it that is really peripheral to the real issue that I cannot even begin the task of sorting it all out with any brevity. I would encourage you to read a more fully orbed response by one who is very close to Pastor Ulmet and the situation here: http://bit.ly/INkMw7

   I would like to focus on one specific item in this article; Pastor Ulmet’s butchering of Article IV of the Church of the Nazarene’s Articles of Faith.

   The absolute disdain for the truth that Pastor Ulmet demonstrates with his opening sentence under the heading “Doctrinal Heritage” is staggering. He dares turn to Scripture as the basis for our statements of doctrine as if he is writing this article to defend these articles and likewise Scripture itself when the undermining of the authority of Scripture is actually what he is espousing throughout. He calls the theological concept of the inerrancy of Scripture “insidious”. He then invokes the names of Wesley and Wiley and others as if they would side with him in this discussion. He is counting on the ignorance and laziness of the readers of HT to allow him to get away with such outlandish statements.

   In trying as delicately as he can to define Article IV of the Articles of faith of the Church of the Nazarene without letting on how he truly views Scripture he explains it as the “full inspiration of all 66 books…(inerrant) ‘in all things necessary to our salvation.” Of course that is not what it actually says and much less what it actually means.

   Here is how it actually reads: “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.

   H. Orton Wiley, the architect of Article IV explains clearly what is meant by the phrase “plenary inspiration”.

   He writes: “By plenary inspiration, we mean that the whole and every part is divinely inspired…We conclude that the Scriptures were given by plenary inspiration, embracing throughout the elements of superintendence, elevation and suggestion, in that manner and to that degree that the Bible becomes the infallible Word of God

   He goes on: “Superintendence, by which is meant a belief that God so guides those chosen as the organs of revelation, that their writings are kept free from error. (Scripture is) infallibly preserved from all error.

   The theological definition of plenary inspiration is “that kind of inspiration which excludes all defect in the utterance of the inspired message.” That is the definition. “Excludes all defect” means inerrant.

   These quotes from Wiley, the first and foremost Nazarene Theologian explain in clear terms and leave no doubt that the Nazarene church, by stating our belief in plenary inspiration, believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the whole of Scripture, which is all 66 books of the Old and New Testaments and everything contained therein.

   To reiterate: Wiley defines inspiration as having three elements; superintendence, elevation and suggestion. He says that superintendence must be present in ALL inspiration. And he defines superintendence as the fact that God guided the writers to such a degree that the writings were inerrant.

    All of that is contained in just the first six words of Article IV! But it does not stop there. It goes on to refer to the Bible as the “Holy Scriptures”. The word Holy in this context is no empty word. Going all the way back to the beginnings of the Lutheran Church this word was used in combination with Scripture to specifically denote that the scripture referred to as Holy was of divine origin and therefore reliable and inerrant. I do not think this point was lost on Wiley.

   If we yet have any doubts Article IV continues on by specifically stating that it was “given by Divine inspiration”. This is the third time within Article IV that it makes the point that Scripture is inspired, Divinely so, and therefore inerrant. And twice it makes clear that this belief is applied to ALL of Scripture. First by the use of the word plenary which means “fully” and second when the Holy Scripture is defined as the “66 books of the Old and New Testaments.”

   This brings us to the phrase which Pastor Ulmet and countless others like him in our Denomination have seized upon to undermine everything the Article IV has just laid out so emphatically; “inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.

   This statement simply is meant to further emphasize, in case there were any doubt, that contained within Scripture is everything we need to know concerning our salvation and that it is inerrantly revealed. This is of utmost importance because our salvation is the purpose for the entirety of Scripture. This is it’s core message and the writers of this article wanted to make absolutely sure that future generations would understand that.

   Nowhere in Article IV does it even suggest that we believe that Scripture is ONLY inerrant in “things necessary to our salvation” as Pastor Ulmet states.

   The very next phrase puts into context what is said about “all things necessary to our salvation”. It is this: “so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.”

   What this means is we need not look to anything outside of Scripture in regards to our salvation. Everything we need is found in Scripture and inerrant in its revelation. This of course doesn’t mean that everything else found in Scripture is errant. But that is what Pastor Ulmet would want you to believe or at the very least that it has the possibility of being errant. Article IV tells us three times that all of Scripture is inerrant and we see that by Wiley’s own written explanation of the terms and then for added emphasis tells us that not only are the Scripture inerrant but also its message and we need not look anywhere else but to Scripture for our salvation.

   All of this is very convincing but let’s take a look at the actual Scriptures cited as foundational to Article IV. Let’s go to the source that Pastor Ulmet so rightly pointed out our Articles of Faith are based upon.

 Luke 24:44-47 (HCSB) 
 44 Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Here Jesus is speaking and referring to the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms as Scripture. This of course comprises nearly the entire Old Testament, including Genesis which would be the first book that Pastor Ulmet would exclude from inerrancy. Yet Jesus says it is Scripture. Scripture that He fulfilled. If it were a fable that He fulfilled, what exactly would that make Him?

 John 10:35 (HCSB)
 35 If He called those whom the word of God came to ‘gods’—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 

The poignant phrase here is the statement of fact by Jesus that Scripture cannot be broken. In other words, it is true. In other words, it is not in error.

 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (HCSB) 
 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 

Here Paul is verifying that the Gospel he preached to them is indeed found in Scripture. This only matters of course if Scripture is reliable. And it is only reliable if it is true.

 1 Peter 1:10-12 (HCSB) 
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that would come to you searched and carefully investigated. 11 They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Angels desire to look into these things. 

Here again we have an affirmation that the prophesies found in Scripture regarding Jesus and our salvation were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is interesting here that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was not simply what to write but who they were writing it for. This is quite a revelation! If the Holy Spirit is willing and able to provide this kind of detailed information to the writers of the Old Testament, I suspect He could handle getting accounts of the Creation and the Flood correct. After all, He was there.

 2 Peter 1:20-21 (HCSB)
 20 First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 

This one is fairly self explanatory.

 2 Timothy 3:15-17 (HCSB) 
 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God[a] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 

I left this one for last because it contains everything. Scripture is efficacious for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, all of Scripture is inspired by God, (and remember that Wiley, the architect of Article IV, says that inspiration is synonymous with inerrant) and that Scripture is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. It cannot be profitable if it is not true. It is also interesting that not one of the things that this verse says Scripture is profitable for is pertaining to our salvation, they would all be things that would take place after or apart from our salvation. So from the Scriptures (the ones that Article IV cites as the foundation for the Article itself) we see that all Scripture is indeed inspired by God through the Holy Spirit directly and is without error.

   But Pastor Ulmet believes something completely different. He says in this article “the Bible as the fully-inspired and with regard to all things salvific the inerrant Word of God.” Do you see the clever word play? According to Pastor Ulmet the Bible is only inerrant with regard to all things salvific. That is very different from what Wiley wrote and what Article IV states.

   This isn’t a new idea though. There were those in Wesley’s day that put forth this exact idea concerning Scripture and this is how Welsey responded to one of them: “Nay, if there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.”

   In fact, Wesley wonders aloud if this person might actually be an atheist. So maybe Welsey and Wiley would not view those who support the authority of Scripture as being insidious as Pastor Ulmet contends. In fact, it is clear they would not.

  He then again misrepresents what those who stand by the Church of the Nazarene’s belief in the authority of Scripture by saying that they want the Bible’s primary purpose to “define all science and research.” I would challenge Pastor Ulmet to produce proof of this accusation.

   He then tells a bold faced lie. “We have never, for example, taken an official position on a certain view of Creation or a certain timeline of other events. Never in our history!

   In the very Articles of Faith that he previously referred to as “precious” the affirmation of the Genesis story of Creation is seen over and over again. In Articles 1, 5, 5.1, 6 and 7, the Genesis story of Creation is taken as literal and foundational to our very salvation or the need of it. Wiley, himself, makes a special point of stating that the truths and facts of the Creation and the antediluvian times had to be inspired. And in his view, inspired and inerrant are synonymous.

  So we DO have an official statement on Creation and that is, it happened the way the Scripture says it happened and not only that but the Genesis account of Creation is foundational to our salvation and our need of it. If that wasn’t our official statement on Creation then four of our Articles of Faith would be baseless.

   Pastor Ulmet brings up many things he is concerned about and some of them such as his position on what I call the “worship wars” are included as a means of distraction even though I actually agree with him on that issue. But the underlying issue in everything else he raises as a concern is the authority of Scripture. If all of Scripture is Divinely inspired and thereby inerrant as Article IV clearly and repeatedly states then each one of his concerns crumble like a house built on sand.

   Pastor Ulmet and many others like him want to recreate a church built on human wisdom, not Scripture and if we sit idly by in our seats in our churches and let them do this then we only have ourselves to blame for the inevitable destruction of our Denomination. As Nazarenes, we are not there yet but the battle is raging on the hill and this is one hill to die upon.

Nik Edinger

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