John Wesley was a fundamentalist. He believed the Bible is inerrant and infallible in all that it teaches. Let’s set the record straight.
“Wesleyans aren’t fundamentalists because that would require them to exchange a high doctrine of Scripture for a low one.”… “We shouldn’t ask the Church of the Nazarene, which is a Wesleyan denomination, to exchange its high doctrine of Scripture for a lesser one.” (Al Truesdale)
These words by Dr. Al Truesdale in his article from Holiness Today (Why Wesleyans Aren’t Fundamentalists) sums up the thinking of some modern day Nazarene theologians who seem to be revising Nazarene history, as well as revising the history of John Wesley. In this article, Dr. Truesdale flips things upside down and makes the incredible assertion that those who believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God in ALL that it teaches and affirms, have a low doctrine of Scripture. For him, and other theologians in the Church of the Nazarene such as Thomas Oord, those who reject biblical inerrancy are the ones who have a higher view and doctrine of Scripture!
Dr. Truesdale was my Greek New Testament professor at Eastern Nazarene College in three classes. Greek New Testament was my favorite subject at ENC, and he was an excellent teacher whom I greatly respected. But I am afraid he is wrong in much of what he asserts here. As I spent some time thinking on what approach I would respond, of which there were several, I received the following from my friend Allen Marsh. It addresses one of the approaches I was contemplating for a rebuttal, which would deal with the historical aspects of the views of Wesley and fundamentalists. Another approach would also be to deal with the question of whether the Bible is fully inerrant in ALL that it teaches. Allen’s approach in his writing was solely to address historical accuracy, and here is what he wrote:
(by Allen Marsh)
“Why Wesleyans Aren’t Fundamentalists” has much good information. It also contains errors.
The very first sentence is opposite of fact—that fundamentalists have a low view of Scripture (inerrancy) and Wesleyans (certainly not all) have a high view (the Bible has errors). To believe the Bible IS the Word of God is a high view while to believe the Bible only CONTAINS or BECOMES in certain situations the Word of God but contains errors is a low view.
According to the article, John Wesley, early Methodists, and the early Nazarenes had a low view of Scripture. I will here argue for historical accuracy, not to prove inerrancy.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (consequently, all Scripture is infallibly true).”
“We know, ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,’ and is therefore true and right concerning all things.”
“[I]f 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.”
“Will not the allowing there is any error in Scripture shake the authority of the whole?”
Here are two examples from Methodism:
Adam Clarke stated:
“Men may err, but the Scriptures cannot; for it is the Word of God himself, who can neither mistake, deceive, nor be deceived.”
Richard Watson (1781-1833), the first systematic theologian of Methodism, stated that the authority of scripture “secures the Scriptures from all error both as to the subjects spoken and the manner of expressing them.”
Following are a few examples regarding early Nazarenes and inerrancy:
Many of the early Nazarene leaders came out of the Methodist Church during the conflict in the early 1900’s referenced in the article. They stood unequivocally for biblical inerrancy. E. P. Ellyson, in his Theological Compend, wrote, “The Holy Spirit knows all the truths of nature, and would not inspire an untruth.” “Logically and morally we are as much bound by the geological writings of Moses as by the theological writings of Saint Paul.”
As late as 1948 Ross Price wrote in the Herald of Holiness, “Our Lord…assumed the absolute truth of the Scripture…. The Bible is correct astronomically, geologically, historically, medically, botanically, zoologically, meterologically, prophetically, and spiritually.” (29 Nov. 1948).
Not until the 1960’s did soteriological inerrancy become the Nazarene view in academic circles although it was first suggested in the 1930’s. That view is taught in academic circles but not to the general public. The adult Sunday school lessons for the Fall of 2010 taught Genesis 1-11 as historical, not fictional. Try teaching soteriological inerrancy to the tribes of third-world countries.
For one thorough study of this, see “Eighty Years of Changing Definitions in the Church of the Nazarene” by Dr. Daryl McCarthy.
The above information reveals the fallacy of most of the article’s other arguments, but I want to speak to one more.
The author says, “God himself, not information about him, is the primary content of revelation.” He says fundamentalists are concerned with facts about God while Wesleyans are concerned with relationship with God. How can you know a person without knowing information about him? You can’t. The more you know about the person, the better you know him.
The author said that “not everything in the Bible is essential to God’s self-disclosure.” But it is. The Bible says He created the heavens—He is greater than that. It discloses God’s power, wisdom, holiness, love, mercy, justice, creativity, organization, attention to detail, etc. God is truth. His written word is “God-breathed,” true in its entirety when understood as it was written. There are problems with translations and there are problems with interpretations, but that the Bible is inerrant is the historic Wesleyan and Nazarene position.
Dr. Gleason L. Archer said that “almost every problem in Scripture that has been discovered by man, from ancient times until now, has been dealt with in a completely satisfactory manner by the biblical text itself.” And Dr. John Warwick Montgomery said, “I myself have never encountered an alleged contradiction in the Bible which could not be cleared up by the use of the original language of the Scriptures and/or by the use of accepted principles of literary and historical interpretation.”
To be honest, those promoting soteriological inerrancy only should say they have changed from what our founders believed.