3. Nazarenes And Biblical Inerrancy

Nazarenes and Biblical Inerrancy: 1908-1988:
Eighty Years of Changing Definitions in the Church of the Nazarene

Dr. Daryl McCarthy
President, International Institute for Christian Studies
© 2005

During the early decades of its history, the Church of the Nazarene—–both its leaders and its people—unequivocally affirmed the historic doctrine of biblical inerrancy.  Nazarene leaders unabashedly identified themselves with the fundamentalist movement in responding to the growing liberalism of the day.  But beginning in the 1930s1930’s, a subtle and gradual move away from an affirmation of biblical inerrancy began.  Eventually, many Nazarene leaders and scholars adopted a more restricted view of inspiration and inerrancy.  Some asserted that inerrancy was intrinsically a Calvinistic doctrine, and hence inconsistent with true Wesleyanism.  This paper will examine the changing definitions and the shifting of positions regarding the inerrancy of Scripture during the history of the denomination from the early 1900s until the late 1980’s.

This study is important because the Church of the Nazarene emerged during the second half of the twentieth century as the largest and most prominent holiness denomination.  Their position is seen by many as the default position for Wesleyan-Arminians in general.  In 1993 the average Sunday morning worship attendance was 474, 518.   “In 2001 the Church of the Nazarene had an international membership of 1,390,306, distributed in over 12,600 congregations.”   The Nazarenes developed the strongest chain of denominational colleges in the holiness movement as well.  The Nazarene Theological Seminary, founded in 1945, has served as one of the leading holiness seminaries in North America.

A High View of Scripture: 1908-1920
Because of its reputation for a conservative lifestyles in the first half of the twentieth century, to people outside the holiness movement, Nazarenes are generally perceived as a very conservative denomination.  Because of thisSo many people are surprised to find out it no longer officially affirms biblical inerrancy.  But it was not so in the early years of the denomination.  The Church of the Nazarene was forming and beginning to grow during the final years of theological ferment that had been shaking American Methodism for decades.  Many of the early Nazarene leaders came out of the Methodist Church during that conflict.  They were all staunch opponents of liberalism and the destructive aspects of higher criticism and stood unequivocally for biblical inerrancy.

The union of the Church of the Nazarene and the Holiness Church of Christ in 1908 (considered to be the birth of the Nazarenes as a national denomination) was celebrated by the publication of E. P. Ellyson’s Theological Compend.  It was a popular and much used handbook for the fledgling denomination for many years.  Ellyson emphasized the infallibility of Scripture as well as verbal inspiration and the inerrancy or the original manuscripts.   In a later work Ellyson responded to claims that the Bible taught only religious matters and that it had scientific errors in it.  “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.”   Certainly, the Bible is not the sole source of scientific knowledge, but it is a reliable source.

This strident opposition to any position other than a high view of Scripture is evident during the early years of the Herald of Holiness, the official denominational organ, which began publication in 1912.  From 1912-19 there are frequent references to the infidelity and higher criticism so prevalent in the old denominations.  References were frequently made to that “poisonous scepticism,” the “illogical conclusions,” and the “pernicious and disastrous effects” of the new theology and higher criticism.   Numerous affirmations were expressed declaring the plenary, verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.

Verbal inspiration is the only theory of inspiration which furnishes us an absolutely restful and reliable basis for confidence in the precious Book….The Bible ought to be absolutely reliable, for it is     the basis and the book of authority of the only pure and undefiled     religion known to human history….This inspiration is verbal in     the most acute, intense, literal, all inclusive sense.

For the early Nazarenes, the reliability of the whole Bible was inextricably related to the reliability of all the parts of the Bible.  “It can not be relied on anywhere if it be false in one place.  Here is our challenge—all or none.  Proof of falsity or untrustworthiness established as to one chapter or one great historic fact…loses to us the whole Bible.”   This is remarkably reminiscent of John Wesley’s own clear affirmation of biblical inerrancy.

In an editorial defense of verbal inspiration in the Herald, B.F. Haynes stated: “There was an inexplicable power of the Holy Spirit put upon the authors and writers of these books of the Bible, in order to their guidance even in the employment of the words they used, and to preserve them alike from all error and form all omission.”   During those early years, the Herald featured many editorials and articles on the battle over inspiration.  Editor Haynes made “no apology for the frequent reference to this pernicious work of these enemies of an inspired Bible.”   In 1915 the Herald featured a thoroughgoing article by Andrew Johnson, demonstrating that the Bible was a “divine-human book.”

If God had any hand in the Bible at all, He would doubtless take enough interest in it to preserve it from error….If there are errors, God is more responsible for them than man, for His eye was on every word, His presence was ever near, His commands were implicitly obeyed, therefore it was His prerogative to prevent any error from creeping into the original record.

The critic…must choose between an errorless Bible or an errorless God….  If there is error in the Bible, there is error in God.  If there is no error in God, then there is no error in the Bible.

The only way…the ideal God of the Bible can be fully vindicated and truly glorified is to affirm an inerrant Bible.  If God does not tolerate error, if God does not commit error, if God can prevent a divinely inspired prophet from error while recording the words of divine revelation, then we have and infallible Bible.

The 1915 General Assembly heard the General Superintendents declared that all Nazarenes were agreed on “the great fundamentals.”    One of those great fundamentals was most certainly the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.

The Battle Over the Fundamentals Intensifies:  The 1920’s
During the 1920s the Nazarenes maintained and even intensified their defense of the Bible, especially in the pages of the Herald. In 1920 a series, “Is the Bible Inspired?” by Warren Slote was featured.  Slote made the following observations, among others.  First, there was disagreement concerning whether inspiration came in thoughts, with the authors using their own words, or whether the Spirit “supervised” the choice of words as well.  Slote argued strongly for verbal inspiration in which the Holy Spirit selected or censored the words of Scripture.   Second, even though the Bible is not primarily concerned with scientific matters, its “language is always accurate” and “wonderfully correct.”   Finally, Slote argued for the authority of Scripture on the basis of Christ’s view of the Old Testament.

There is no record anywhere that He ever criticized any part of them.  This argues most conclusively for their absolute accuracy, for if there had been any errors in them, or if any of the parts had been spurious, He who rebuked sin wherever He found it and corrected error as it came to His notice would surely have made some mention of these mistakes.

Basil Miller charged in the Herald that the lack of spiritual power in the church was due to the “doubting of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.”   Editor J. B. Chapman reasserted the interdependence of the doctrines of “the Word of God, the blood of Jesus and the operation of the Holy Spirit.”  When “men begin to question the inerrancy of the Bible,” they will later change their beliefs concerning the blood and the Spirit.   Donnell Smith asserted that the Spirit kept the Scriptures “free from all error.”   C. W. Ruth declared the Bible to be “absolutely reliable.”   Sam Curtis declared that “the suggestion that the Bible is not the unerring Word of God…is a most wicked thrust at morality, law, and government.  If the story of Jonah and the great fish is not true, then many would argue that the Ten Commandments may not be true.”   Numerous other articles were written about the conflict with higher criticism and the doctrine of inspiration.

Increasingly, the controversy was described in terms of fundamentalism versus modernism and one of the great fundamentals was the inspiration of the Word.  The Christian world was divided into two opposing camps, fundamentalists and modernists.   The rejection of the Bible was understood as tantamount to, or even worse, than modernism.  Chapman declared, “When one has rejected the Bible as the inerrant standard of truth he has opened the door for the incoming of theosophy, Christian Science, spiritualism, and every form of error of human or diabolical invention.”

Early Nazarene leaders did not hesitate to quote non-Wesleyan scholars to support their traditional doctrine of inerrancy. Sometimes the term “fundamentalist” was used to designate all those who held to such fundamentals as inerrancy, including Wesleyans, Calvinists, and others.   But more often Nazarenes viewed fundamentalists as a group of Calvinists with whom they sympathized on several major doctrines.  Chapman declared, “Of course, our sympathies are entirely with the Fundamentalists and we rejoice in their boldness for God and truth….May God bless and prosper all who stand up for God and His Holy Book!”   Haynes, in a earlier editorial, affirmed, “Our sympathies are naturally with the fundamentalists” and spoke of the bitter opposition of others to maintaining “the infallible correctness of every word contained in the Bible.”

Editor Chapman realized that the term “fundamentalism,” a common noun, had become a proper noun, “Fundamentalism.”  Most of the “self-termed Fundamentalists” were Calvinists and included in their fundamentals some doctrines that Wesleyan-Arminians viewed as unbiblical, such as divine election and unconditional security.  Yet, their Wesleyan-inerrantists felt that their Calvinistic fundamentalist brethren failed to emphasize other important truths, such as entire sanctification.

It follows, then, that if we are asked whether we are a Fundamentalist or not, we must know whether the word is used as a common noun or as a proper name.  If it is used in the former sense, we answer in the affirmative, but if it is used in the latter sense our answer is “Yes, with reservations.”  In our own category of Fundamentals we would include nothing that is not positively necessary to life  in Christ Jesus….Our list     then would include: The Inspiration of the Scriptures, The fallen state and     condition of man, The Virgin Birth and deity of Jesus Christ, The personality, and office work of the Holy Spirit, regeneration and entire sanctification.

Even though the early Nazarenes were frank in admitting the doctrinal differences they had with their fundamentalist brethren, during these years of controversy there is not the slightest hint of any basic differences in the Wesleyan view of inerrancy vis-à-vis the Calvinistic view.

The Preacher’s Magazine, in its very first issue in 1926, featured the fundamentalist controversy.  In the lead article, “Modernism and Christianity,” F. M. Messenger averred, “If the Bible cannot be taken at its face value, it should be discredited altogether, for it claims too much to be authentic only in part.”  Either “accept the revelation which God has given” or declare yourself an agnostic.

Even in those stressful years of the Fundamentalist/-Liberal conflict, some Nazarene leaders spoke unequivocally but with charity and without bitterness, advocating a balanced, calm approach even to one’s opponents.  Floyd Nease pointed out in an outstanding article in Preacher’s Magazine that though the term higher criticism was usually used as “an introduction to a discussion of infidelity and as a precursor for the vehement utterance of certain stock phrases decrying the justly condemned rationalism,” the term properly “deserves better treatment at our hands.”  There is a “reverent” and “scholarly” use of the term, designating “the study of the historic origins, the dates, and authorships of the various books of the Bible.”  Nease maintained that this type of critical work was an invaluable, indeed indispensable, aid to preachers of the Word.

Conversely, Nease noted, in the hands of anti-supernaturalists, it becomes “destructive higher criticism.”  He traced the roots and development of destructive higher criticism and its relationship to the theory of evolution.  Ultimately, such criticism aims to destroy “faith in an infallible and inerrant book, ‘the Bible.’” With the historical reliability of the gospels discredited and significant doctrines removed, “the New Testament is devitalized and shrinks to the status of an Elizabethan drama.”  To such a philosophy, the “evangelical minister can have but one attitude, that of unalterable opposition.”   But in all of that controversy there should be fairness.  Our attitude and spirit should exemplify our doctrine.  “Is it basically more fair to the representatives of fundamentalism to assume that the literalists are a set of knaves than for the latter to assert that the fundamentalists are ignoramuses and fools?”

In the mid-1920s the first major Nazarene rebuttal to destructive higher criticism and infidelity appeared with Basil Miller’s Cunningly Devised Fables.  It was frequently advertised with “enthusiastic testimonials” in the Herald of Holiness.  The book, which included an introduction by J. B. Chapman, spoke repeatedly of the “inerrancy” of the Bible.   Miller asserted that “the Bible itself affirms that it is the inerrant, infallible, inspired, and completed Word of God.”

Among all the adamant statements by Nazarene leaders in this era affirming inerrancy during the era, there was no endorsement of the mechanical dictation theory or of the inerrancy of the translations.  It was commonly granted that there were some errors in our translations. But, it was commonly argued, the character of God and the Bible itself demanded inerrant autographs.

During the 1920s there seemed to be an increasing awareness of the threat that modernism posed to the life of the young, growing denomination.  Warnings were issued to Nazarenes.  Chapman editorialized in the Herald:

Our own Church of the Nazarene must be always vigilant to keep the Bible destroyers out (for, thank God, they are out until now) of the pulpit, out of our schools, out of our general boards, out of our     missions and out of our books and literature; for in this way, and in this way only we will be able to keep them out of our homes and     out of our pews.

Cornell issued a similar alert, “Nazarene ministers, beware!  Stick to the Old Book from cover to cover: Let no trace of doubt or unbelief impregnateinpregnate your nature.”

At the 1923 General Assembly the General Superintendents rejoiced in the fact that though many denominations were debating and dividing over the basic doctrinesdoctines of the church, the Nazarenes could say that “on the great fundamental truths of God’s Word and of the Church we stand today without a single exception.”

According to Nazarene church historian Timothy Smith, “An editorial which J. B. Chapman published in the Herald of Holiness in 1924, entitled ‘An Apology for the Church of the Nazarene,’ was the high-water mark in the effort to make common cause with embattled fundamentalists….Chapman expressed the hope that many conservative Christians would find a home with the Nazarenes.”  He explained that the Nazarenes were “orthodox on all historic doctrinal matters.”  He went on to assure non-Nazarenes that there was not one “Modernist nor a Higher Critic” in the denomination.

By 1928 there was clearly a need to declare with even more distinctness the Nazarenes’ stand on inspiration.  In the 1908 Manual, the article on Scripture was basically borrowed from the Thirty–Nine Articles of Americanism and the Twenty–Five Articles of Methodism.

By the Holy Scriptures we understand the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments given by Divine inspiration, revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation; so that whatever is not contained therein, and cannot be proved thereby, is not to be enjoyed as an article of faith”

There were only minor changes in that article until 1928, when major revisions were made.  In an earlier day it had been sufficient to declare one’s belief in the inspiration of the Bible.  There was a basic understanding of what inspiration entailed.  But later there were those who arose and declared their belief in inspiration but not inerrancy or infallibility.  And thus, the church needed to continually define its position in the light of present controversies.  In the 1928 General Assembly Article Four of the Nazarene Articles of Faith was amended to read:

We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures by which we understand the sixty-six 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 enjoyed as an article of faith.

Throughout their 1928 address to the General Assembly, the General Superintendents made clear their stand for a high view of Scripture.

We must stand for the whole Bible.  We do not as a movement believe merely that the Bible contains the Word of God. We believe the Bible is the Word of God.  We believe it from Genesis to Revelation…. The Bible has received the bitterest attack of the enemy for centuries, but today the Old Book stands as impregnable as the Rock of Gibraltar….  The church must stand first, last and all the time for the whole Bible, the inspired, infallible, revealed Word of God….

Every man in this body is a fundamentalist and so far as we know there is not a modernist in the ranks of the Church of the Nazarene.  We believe the Bible and accept it as being the revealed Word of God, immutable, unchangeable, infallible and sufficient for every human need.  A modernist would be very lonesome in this General Assembly.

The Change Begins, A. M. Hills: The 1930’s
In 1931 the first major Nazarene systematic theology was published—A. M. Hills’ Fundamental Christian Theology.   Hills, a Congregationalist who was sanctified and later joined the Nazarenes, began writing what he considered to be his “Master Work,” while he was trying to start a holiness college in New Mexico in 1911.  A review of his original manuscript reveals that he wrote the first half of the text for his systematic theology, including his discussion of revelation and inspiration while in New Mexico.  He had finished a draft of the entire work by the spring of 1915 in Great Britain.  However, it was not until 1931 that C. J. Kinne, a dedicated Nazarene lay leader, published it for Hills (at the urging of General Superintendent Chapman).

Hills’ chapter on “Revelation and Inspiration” has caused confusion as to what he actually believed concerning the inerrancy of the Bible.   A reader of the published version of his theology can almost feel that she is reading a schizophrenic author, because in one paragraph Hills affirms inerrancy and in the next he denies or seriously modifies what he had just said in the previous paragraph.  It was a total mystery to me how one man could hold such a bifurcated position, that is until I examined his handwritten manuscript in his archives.  My examination of the manuscript of the book, comparing sections written in 1911 with additions he made sometime in the twenty years that elapsed before publication, has led me to conclude that in 1911 Hills was an unqualified inerrantist, but by 1931 he had modified his position to allow for errors and a denial of what he calls “universal plenary inspiration.”

In the 1911 sections of his manuscript and theology Hills cited several definitions of inspiration, all of which assumed inerrancy and infallibility as an integral part of inspiration. They all included such phrases as “communicate truth without error,” “without error, infirmity, or defect,” “without error or mistake,” and “infallible communication.” He cited without apology non-Wesleyans as well as Wesleyans.  Apparently, he saw no basic difference in a Wesleyan view of inspiration and other views.  He was careful to point out that such definitions applied only “to the original documents of Scripture as they came from the hands of their authors….”

The inspiration of the ordinary Christian which we by no means underrate, may co-exist with many errors, and crude notions; but the Divine inspiration of the authors of the Word enabled them to give us the mind of God without crudity or error.

Jesus and His Apostles…treat all they quote from [of the Old Testament] as the Word of God.  They also refer to all classes of facts as infallibly true.

Not only great doctrinal facts, such as the creation and probation of man; his apostasy;…not only great historical facts, as the deluge, …but incidental circumstances, and things of minor importance…are all mentioned with a childlike faith in their absolute truthfulness.

One of the greatest proofs against the “occasional inspiration” theory is that the writers would not always be…writing, under the influence of the Spirit which rendered their writings the unerring Word of God; and that consequently, when they were writing without it, they were liable to make mistakes like other men.  So that, as a result, there is in the Bible, an admixture of error and truth, the human and the divine.  The logical difficulty of this theory is that, if it be once granted that there is an alloy of error in the Word, an opening is made for the assumption of every imaginable corruption.

By verbal inspiration the Spirit guided and assisted the writers as they exercised their own faculties so they would “convey ‘the mind of the Spirit’ in its full and unimpaired integrity.”   “Such verbal inspiration is always affirmed of Jesus.”  From statements throughout the Bible, “it is evident that very much at least of the Bible is verbally inspired, so that the authors recorded the very words God would have them use.”

In the 1911 portion of his manuscript, Hills asserted that inerrancy was strictly applicable only to the original manuscripts.  Because of the discrepancies in translations, Hills urged that we admit that we no longer have an absolutely inerrant Bible, i.e., translations.   Yet he believed that this should not lead to a denial of the original inspiration of the Holy Word.

If we knew all the facts, these trivial discrepancies, could probably most of them be satisfactorily explained.  But some of them would doubtless remain, as unexplainable.  They are the human elements that have accrued in the transmission through the ages of our blessed Bible.

But by 1931 it is clear that Hills had shifted to a much more limited inerrantist position.  In the post-1915 revisions of his working manuscript (I could find no evidence in his archives as to when he penned amendments to his original position), he claimed that “absolute inspiration” puts “too great a tax upon faith.”  The Bible does not claim “absolute inspiration,” and it is an unproveable theory.

To…claim the absolute accuracy of all minute statements of fact, or the absolute harmony of all these statements geographical, historical, and scientific with one another-this is a task which the broadest and most thorough scholarship would not undertake.  But if the inspiration of the original text were absolute and complete, and were absolutely proved [Hills now seemed to assume it was not], no one can maintain that we have that text in every minute particular.

By 1931 Hills preferred the “essential inspiration” of Scripture or a dynamic theory of inspiration.  “The Scriptures are inspired to such a degree as to present, with all required fullness and accuracy, the great truths which it is the purpose of Scripture to present.”  That approach avoids the “insuperable difficulties” of the plenary, verbal inspiration of all Scripture.  He quoted the Methodist theologian John Miley, whose Systematic Theology (1894) has been called “a major point of theological transition” within American Methodism.   Hills approvingly points out that Miley advocated a looser, more dynamic theory of inspiration which emphasizes that the Holy Spirit works in and through the human agent without reducing him to a mere implement.  pointing out that an “exact set of words” is unnecessary to have a true statement.  The two major proofs against “universal verbal inspiration” were the “inaccurate quotations” by New Testament writers of the Old Testament and the varying records of the Lord’s words.  That seems to point to the fact that “not always the very words, but the man himself is inspired.”  “In the human element there is always room for inaccuracy.”

Hills concluded that “in spite of all discrepancies, and disagreements, and errors, and minor inaccuracies, the Bible still remains God’s inspired and infallible book.  But infallible for what?…It is infallible as a revelation of God’s saving love in Christ to a wicked world.”  But we should not claim the literal accuracy of the Bible because it is not free from error.

Evidently, at least from what my research disclosed, there was little apparent immediate reaction or recognition of the impact of Hills’ shift on inspiration in the Nazarene denomination.   Throughout the 1930’s the attack on liberalism and higher criticism continued in the Herald, though not with the frequency of the previous two decades.

Frequent defenses of the inspiration of the Bible continued to appear in the Herald.  Editor Chapman declared:

When we are presented a Bible which is said to be a mixture of truth and error and we are left to judge which is the one or the other we are really no better off than if we had no Bible at all…. There is not a single fact of history or science which does not wholly agree with it.

However, about this time, there began to be a marked move away from Nazarene identification with fundamentalists.  In fact, Editor Corlett in the Herald clearly repudiated a close alignment with Calvinistic Fundamentalism.

We have no desire to partake of the spirit generally manifested by the average Fundamentalist.  It is absolutely impossible for us to accept their extreme positions on the verbal inspiration of the Bible as differing from the plenary inspiration as held by our Church, nor do we find ourselves in accord with their emphasis on eternal security, their radical Calvinistic Pre-Millennial position, or their allowance made for “sin in the flesh.”  They are too judgmental and defensive….We are willing to go with the Fundamentalists as far as they travel our path or accept our doctrinal standards.  But where our paths separate we will part peaceably.

My research did not encompass determining the causes for this clear shift away from identification with fundamentalism by several of the Nazarene leaders.  There were probably several causes such as a quiet softening of some theological positions among Nazarene leaders and more likely, the increasing stridency in the Calvinistic wing of fundamentalism and an accompanying antagonism toward Wesleyan-Arminians.  Indeed as Stan Ingersol points out, “The Princeton theologians even regarded holiness theology as a Pelagian highway and thus part of the liberal problem.”   Timothy Smith pointed out that in the second half of the 1920s1920’s, the non-Wesleyan inerrantists such as J. Gresham Machen who founded Westminster Seminary in 1924, “strove to identify conservative Christianity with orthodox Calvinism.”

During the 1930’s the term verbal inspiration was increasingly identified with mechanical dictation by the opponents of inerrancy.inerracny.  There was also much greater stress laid on the experiential proofs of the authority of the Bible, than was the case in earlier decades.

Wiley’s Christian Theology: The 1940’s
The decade of the 1940s was inaugurated (as were the 1930s) with the publication of a major Nazarene theology, this time, H. Orton Wiley’s classic Christian Theology.  I was required to read these heavy tomes as an undergraduate at the Kansas City College and Bible School.  Wiley affirmed inerrancy, but he laid greater stress on the primacy of Christ as the Logos and the Spirit as the primary witness to the Word than had most of his Nazarene predecessors.

Both the revelation and the Christian faith are co-incident with the Scriptures.  We do not say identical, for Christian Theology must ever make Christ, the Living and Eternal Word, the supreme revelation of God.  But the Holy Scriptures as the true and inerrant record of the Personal Word, and the medium of continued utterance through the Holy Spirit, must in a true and deep sense become the formal aspect of the one true and perfect revelation.

“‘The Oracle and the oracles are one.’  The Scriptures, therefore, become the perfect disclosure and finished revelation of the will of God in Christ Jesus.”   Wiley warned against the danger of separating the personal Word from the written Word, because that leads to mere formal knowledge without spiritual knowledge, creedalism without spirituality, and orthodoxy without life.  He obliquely chided the fundamentalists for a “mere legalistic defense of Scripture,” in their response to liberalism.

Wiley defined inspiration as “the actuating energy of the Holy Spirit through which holy men were qualified to receive religious truth, and to communicate it to others without error.”   Three factors were involved in all revelation: (1) superintendence— “God so guides those chosen as the organs of revelation, that their writings are kept free from error,” (2) elevation—“an enlargement of understanding,” and (3) suggestion—direct suggestion from God of thoughts “or even the very words” the writer was to use.  Inspiration is constantly “guiding the writer at every point, thus securing at once the infallible truth of his material, and its proper selection and distribution.”

Though as we will see later some modern Nazarene scholars read him differently, Wiley repeatedly affirmed biblical inerrancy.  “Only as we are convinced that the writers were aided by a supernatural and divine influence, and this in such a manner as to be infallibly preserved from all error, can the sacred Scriptures become a divine rule of faith and practice.”  This seems to me, to be an indubitably unequivocal affirmation of biblical inerrancy.  He goes on to approvingly quote Hannah’s definition of inspiration as the enablement given by the Holy Spirit “to embrace and communicate the truth of God without error, infirmity, or defeat [sic, defect].”   One reason inspiration was necessary was so that “a true and inerrant account” could be provided of historical facts such as the creation and the Deluge.

Wiley called his own view “dynamical inspiration” and cites it as being the same view as that of Pope, Watson, Wakefield, and Ralston (all inerrantists), as well as Miley and others.  He places “dynamic” in contradistinction to “mechanical.”  His plenary, dynamic view was that “the whole and every part is divinely inspired.”

Throughout the 1940s though the battle for the Bible in the Nazarene denomination and elsewhere was subsiding.  But occasional references in the Herald still maintained its inspiration and trustworthiness.  Ross Price, writing on John 10:35, declared,
Our Lord, in this argument, assumed the absolute truth of the Scripture, and its changeless, indestructible authority….The Bible is correct astronomically, geologically, historically, medicinally, botanically, zoologically, meteorologically, prophetically, and spiritually.  It is the final court of appeals on matters of faith and practice.

Stephen White propounded a dynamic theory in which “the thoughts of the writers of the Bible were so dominated by the Holy Spirit that the truth recorded is an infallible rule of faith and practice.”   But he presented no clear affirmation of the inerrancy of the Word.

The debate over Fundamentalism continued when Oscar F. Reed argued in The Preacher’s Magazine, a Nazarene publication that fundamentalism was thoroughly Calvinistic and had no place in Wesleyan theology.  Stanley Ingersol, Nazarene historian and archivist, summarizes Reed’s argument, “Since Calvinism is antithetical to Wesleyan-Arminian theology, Wesleyans cannot be fundamentalists without betraying their most cherished theological principles.”

Silence:  The 1950’s
During the 1950s, it is difficult to find many unequivocal affirmations of inerrancy in the Herald of Holiness or other Nazarene publications.  The truth and authority of the Bible was affirmed in general terms of faith and practice but not in other areas such as history and science.  There was now room in the Church of the Nazarene for those who held a loose, dynamic view, as well as for those who held to a stricter view, such as White.

Editing History:  The 1960’s
Throughout the 1960s it became clear that many Nazarene scholars had definitely moved away from the traditional Wesleyan doctrine of biblical inerrancy.  However occasional general warnings continued to be sounded about the dangers of rejecting the Bible.

Exploring Our Christian Faith, a Nazarene introductory theology text edited by W. T. Purkiser, appeared in 1960.  There is a very evident attraction to neo-orthodox thinkers with frequent quotes from Barth, Brunner, C. H. Dodd, and John Baillie, among others.  Such stock neo-orthodox terms as “salvation-history” and references to the Bible as “a record of revelation” were used.    “Historical act becomes a revelation of God when interpreted through the eye of faith.”   Inspiration was limited to providing an accurate and true record of the “Christ-event.”  Wiley’s three factors of inspiration are referred to.  The writers seem to opt for dynamic, plenary inspiration without inerrancy.

While it contains nothing, properly understood, which is unscientific or unhistorical, yet the Bible is not a book of science or history.  Its purpose is to make known the will of God, not to answer questions about nature or to satisfy our curiosity about general human history….

It is only when limited and arbitrary standards of judgement are set up that the Bible may be charged with error.  When considered in the light of its own purposes and by reasonable canons of value and truth, the Scriptures will be found to be without material error….  It is perverse to insist that the Bible conform to modern attitudes and thought patterns.

The first major denominational history of the Nazarenes came in 1962 with Called unto Holiness by the distinguished historian Timothy L. Smith.  Though admitting that many of the early Nazarenes held to a high view of inspiration, Smith views such persons as inordinately infected by Calvinistic fundamentalism.  Inerrancy is viewed as an alien doctrine in Nazarene circles.  He speaks of “Wesleyan fundamentalism” and seems to view much of Nazarene history as an attempt to rid itself of old, narrow views.   He blames the Laymen’s Holiness Association, one of the many disparate holiness groups which joined the Nazarenes, for bringing their more rural fundamentalism into the fledgling denomination and thereby infecting much of the denomination.   J. G. Morrison, a prominent Methodist who had joined the Nazarenes, “repeatedly explained that Wesleyans stood for both an inspired Bible and salvation from all sin, whereas other fundamentalists, nurtured chiefly in Baptist and Presbyterian traditions, gave little or no place to the doctrine of entire sanctification….On issues other than the doctrine of holiness, however, the fundamentalist outlook made steady progress among Nazarenes.”   Smith clearly believed that affirmation of biblical inerrancy was an alien doctrine for Nazarenes and was never and should never be adopted by Wesleyan-Arminians.

Wesleyanism and Inerrancy Incompatible:  The 1970’s
The 1970’s found still more Nazarene scholars not only being silent about inerrancy, but in vocalizing their denial of biblical inerrancy.  In 1978 Herald editor W. E McCumber stated that the Nazarene Articles of Faith are committed to “all things necessary to our salvation” but left untouched the question of whether Scripture is inerrant on all other matters, such as history or science.  “Among evangelical and holiness scholars, opinion has always been divided on the meaning and extent of inerrancy.”  He observed that such affirmation of Scripture’s authority as 2 Timothy 3:14-15 and John 10:35 relate only to extant manuscripts and not to the “original, indefectible manuscripts not longer extant.”

One of my favorite professors at Nazarene Seminary, church historian Paul Bassett, in a definitive article “The Fundamentalist Leavening of the Holiness Movement, viewed early inerrantist Nazarenes as having been infected with non-Wesleyan fundamentalist “leavening.”   Bassett claims that such inerrantists as J. B. Chapman were by no means speaking for “a certain significant leadership” of the Church of the Nazarene.   In light of the abundant body of literature on the widespread controversy that engulfed Methodism concerning biblical authority and inspiration, it is interesting to hear Bassett claim that “Methodism and the holiness movement did not concern themselves more than very minimally with the issues being raised by the so-called ‘higher criticism’ in the period 1870-1914.”   In the face of the innumerable affirmations of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible throughout the history of Wesleyanism in general and Nazarenes in particular, Bassett asserts that the rationale for inserting affirmations of the full inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible into the Nazarene creed in 1928 was found nowhere but “in the broader context of American Protestant wars over the Bible.”   Bassett points out that “informed sources” claimed that Wiley wrote the new affirmations of plenary inspiration, but he is baffled.  “Certainly, the phrase ‘plenary inspiration’ is his—not originally of course but as it commends itself to the doctrines of Wiley’s denomination.  But there is much room to doubt that the word ‘inerrantly’ is his as well.”  Bassett claims that Wiley felt that in Wiley’s theology, the term “’inerrance’ seems to be deliberately avoided as saying both too little and too much.”   Bassett has no evidence for this, except to assert, “The word itself [inerrance] had, by 1928, become one of the shibboleths of Fundamentalism, and much more an emotional than a cognitive term.”

Bassett’s Wesleyan Theological Journal article asserts that Wiley actually did not believe in inerrancy.  Bassett claims that because of the “fundamentalist leavening” of the church, Wiley “came in on cat’s paws, and a generation or two of holiness preachers thought he was basically a Fundamentalist.  The contrast between his position and the ‘received’ position of the great majority was not perceived, though the clues are ample and Wiley does not dissemble.”   Bassett cites many passages from Christian Theology in which he seeks to show how Wiley maintained the supremacy of Christ and the proper relationship of the personal Word and the written Word.   Interestingly enough, none of the passages in which Wiley clearly affirms inerrancy is quoted or referred to.  Bassett argues mostly from silence or from inference.

Bassett claims as evidence that Wiley rejected Fundamentalism the fact that during his tenure as Herald editor 1928-1936 there are almost no editorials on the struggle over inerrancy.   Bassett concludes his article thus:  “Fundamentalism could not leaven the whole lump.  But it has continued to affect the Church of the Nazarene, especially as it has become more and more clear that she has inherited two basically incompatible points of view; not on some peripheral item, but with regard to the central issue of spiritual-theological authority.”

In an earlier 1973 article in the Wesleyan Theological Journal Bassett pled for a response from the conservative Wesleyan movement to secular humanism.  But he made sure to remind his readers that Wesleyanism got saddled with a Fundamentalist view of Scripture “that is quite out of place in Wesleyanism” because it, Bassett claimed, separates “the doctrines of biblical authority and inspiration from Christology.”

Bassett granted, “It is true, of course, that Wesley seems on many occasions to sound as if he believed the authority of Scripture to be impositional.”   But he goes on to assert that really Wesley grounded his belief in the authority of Scripture in experience.  In other words “the ultimate authority is that of the Living Word by way of the written Word.”  He was heading toward his central point that “the methodological linchpin for both conservative Wesleyan theology and secular humanism is the authority of experience.”

In yet another Wesleyan Theological Journal article in 1983, Bassett is even more direct in his disavowal of inerrancy, ironically in an article entitled “The Holiness Movement and the Protestant Principle” in which he insists that the Holiness movement must certainly be Protestant.  But he wastes no time in defining inspiration differently than the historic Protestant view.

But the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura makes no idol of the Bible….Scripture is not ultimate as a written document though it is the ultimate written document.  It is the ultimate vehicle of truth, but it is not the ultimate truth itself…..the reliability of Scripture is understood not to lie in its mere words….Scripture speaks savingly only as the Spirit enlivens it and witnesses to its truth.  Apart from this witness of the Spirit, it is only another religious book.

Bassett quotes some of Wesley’s affirmations of inerrancy, beginning the sentence with this telling introduction, “In language typical of his time,…”  This is Bassett’s way of saying, “Don’t accept the clear and unequivocal meaning of Wesley’s affirmations of inerrancy.  They must be deconstructed.”  So after quoting Wesley, Bassett goes on to explain, “Yet, for all that, it is unwise to count him among the forebears of Fundamentalism.”  He then cites some of Wesley’s comments on the difficulties in Scripture, the kinds of challenges with which most informed inerrantists grapple.  He then claims, “Wesley is farthest from the Fundamentalist understanding when he insists on the exercise of the venerable notion of the testimonium Spiritus sancti as a hermeneutical sine qua non.”

Bassett says, “for Wesley, the revelation is, strictly speaking, Christ, not ideas nor ideals, not even Scripture.  To the true Revelation, Christ, Scripture is attuned.  From this Revelation, Scripture takes its authority.  There could be Christ without Scripture; there could be no authoritative Scripture without Christ.”

Inerrancy With Limits:  The 1980s1980’s
A brave but lone voice seeking a return to the historic Nazarene position came in 1980 with the publication of noted Nazarene theologian Richard S. Taylor’s Biblical Authority and the Christian Faith.  Taylor writes with a different outlook and a fresh approach to the problem of biblical inspiration.  He freely criticizes (in a way few leading Nazarene scholars had done for years) neo-orthodox theologians and their tenets.  He just as freely and without apology quotes non-Wesleyan inerrantists.   He charges that destructive higher criticism destroys the authority of the Bible and the teaching of its tenets renders men “unfit to serve the Savior,” in the words of William Beck.  He warns against “excessive exposure” to critics such as Bultmann.

Taylor emphasized the primacy of Scripture.  “The ultimate authority of God himself is necessarily in the Bible.”   Thus the issue of infallibility becomes most crucial.  Is the Bible “unfailing and unerring in disclosing God’s self-revelation to man?” (Taylor believed it is “semantically difficult” to distinguish infallibility and inerrancy).   Taylor identifies three types of inerrancy: (1) salvation inerrancy holds to inerrancy on matters of faith only (Taylor says this is where “most neoorthodox and some neoevangelicals” fit), (2) total inerrancy holds that “to concede any error at all of any kind is fatal to the authority of the whole” (e.g., Harold Lindsell and John Wesley), and (3) qualified inerrancy holds to inerrancy in all salvation matters, as well as cosmology and anthropology, but not necessarily in “every chronological, numerical, and grammatical detail.”    Taylor asserted that this is the position of Rene Pache and the Lausanne Covenant and he calls it “a qualified inerrancy.”  It is interesting that Taylor readily and approvingly cited non-Wesleyan inerrantists, including the Lausanne Covenant which affirms inerrancy for the Bible “in all that it affirms” and Abraham Kuyper.

Taylor points out that the 1928 revision of the Nazarene creedal statement on Scripture was attributed to Wiley.   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.  But Taylor asserts that, “According to Paul Culbertson [another Nazarene leader] Wiley explained to him that he deliberately articulated a moderate statement because he wanted to  ‘to leave elbow room in there.’”    Taylor explains in a footnote, “The objective was not to limit inerrancy but to exclude tradition” (as in Catholic theology) from being a determining authority of dogma.   Once the terms plenary and inspired are understood in their historical meaning, and especially as used by the early Nazarenes, Taylor declares, “Obviously, therefore, the total statement limits the size of the ‘elbow.’  The claim of plenary inspiration would rule out serious error of any kind.”  Thus the statement leaves only room for debate about whether there are “inconsequential” errors and whether there were any in the original autographs.   Taylor claims that “Wiley himself intended that the inerrancy which is affirmed by taken very seriously, as a careful reading of his Christian Theology will show.”  He then cites several of Wiley’s clear affirmations of inerrancy.

Taylor readily grants that “the whole question about ‘inconsequential error’ remains debatable.”   He made no claim that he had resolved the questions as to “whether (1) there is such a thing as inconsequential error, and (2) whether indeed such inconsequential errors were in the original autographs.”  Some of the variations in the gospel accounts might fit in the category of “error.”   We do know that “every part of the Bible is divine and every part is human.”  The only way to reconcile that with the possibility of errors is “to say that the Holy Spirit (and He alone) would know whether a particular error was truly inconsequential, and therefore would permit it.”

But Taylor assures the reader that he is definitely “not assuming that such error existed in the autographs.”   He insists that “Even if some room for debate about inconsequential error were legitimate, this latitude does not extend to what by any legitimate criteria would be major error.”  Major errors, according to Taylor would be the historicity of Adam and Eve, the Fall, the Virgin Birth, the sayings of Jesus and other teachings of Scripture.  This is important, because

If the Bible on these matters is wrong, such error would undermine the very foundations of biblical authority.  The Bible’s obvious assumption of the factualness of these accounts is so clearly in the very warp and woof of the literature, whether history, poetry, or prophecy, that to weed these elements out—to “demythologize” thoroughly—would leave little Bible left.  The remainder would be a feeble reed of support for historic Christianity.

Taylor’s position on “inconsequential errors,” especially in light of the qualifying phrase he cites in his declaration of biblical inerrancy, “in all that it affirms,” appears to be compatible with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  Most signers of the Chicago statement believed that inerrancy is compatible with phenomenalistic language, a lack of historical precision, approximate citations of the Old Testament by New Testament authors, free renderings of the words of Jesus, and a lack of comprehensiveness of historical accounts.

The Chicago Statement itself declares, “We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of metrical, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.”   In another section, the Chicago Statement also states, “Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission.”   So it is refreshing to hear a distinguished modern Nazarene scholar reaffirming such a high view of Scripture, especially in the face of broad rejection of the doctrine by his Nazarene colleagues.

Another of my favorite Nazarene Seminary professors, Kenneth Grider weighed in on the issue with a paper in the Wesleyan Theological Journal in 1984.  He explains why he was glad that five years into its history, he helped the Wesleyan Theological Society eliminate the requirement that members affirm biblical inerrancy, a requirement many of them had carried over from their membership with the Evangelical Theological Society.   But he quickly assures the reader, “I have never taught that there were errors in the autographs.  I teach only that there might have been, and that it would not matter greatly to faith and practice if there had been certain inconsequential errors in such areas as mathematics or geography.”   He dubs his position an “agnostic-like kind of view.”

Grider applauded the “historical sleuthing” of Fuller Seminary professor Jack Rogers in his debunking of inerrancy as a historic teaching of the church and claims that Harold Lindsell’s, Francis Schaeffer’s and Norman Geisler’s views are really a departure from the historic teaching of the church, not Rogers   But again, he reassures us that he is not admitting “any errors of any kind in the autographs” and that he is “non-committal about any possible non-faith, non-practice errors in those non-extant manuscripts.”  But “I hold, as a faith confidence which I cannot altogether support, that the autographs would not have contained errors on doctrine and practice matters—if I am allowed to interpret with wide-brush strokes the manuscripts which we do possess.”

Grider was confident that the Holy Spirit’s inspiration would protect the writers from any significant errors.  However, he goes on to present several reasons why he does not believe that errors on such matters as math, science, or geography would be of any consequence.  He argues that the Hebrew and Greek languages, the necessity of supplying Hebrew consonants, the lack of punctuation and the very process of translating, all militate against “total accuracy.”   He claims that “Scripture itself is not interested in inerrancy.  It makes a claim for inspiration, but not for inerrancy—at least, not for total inerrancy.”  He cites 2 Tim 3:16 as his support.

His final argument against total inerrancy is that “we would be expressing a ‘higher’ view of Scripture than the church usually expresses on Christ our God-Man Savior.”  While clearly Christ was sinless, “Scripture does not declare outright that Christ never did err in any way whatever.”  Grider is quick to add, “I myself would not state that He erred in any way.”  But Jesus might have in some simple way, such as looking for Joseph in the shop when he was elsewhere.

Then Grider tries to convince the reader that Wesley did not believe in “total inerrancy.”  In spite of Wesley’s statement that “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….” Grider claims “even this statement is not a clear teaching of total inerrancy.”  The parallelism with which Wesley expresses his position, making a “mistake” synonymous with “falsehood” is evidence that therefore “he seems to be talking about consequential matters….”  Grider goes on to exegete several other of Wesley’s statements deconstructing them to show Wesley was not an inerrantists.  He then does the same for Adam Clarke.

He asserts that Wiley’s position is very similar to his.  Grider, who studied under and later taught with Wiley as Pasadena College, says, “We discussed specifically the matter of the Bible’s total inerrancy, and he told me clearly that he did not hold to that position.  One reason I remember this so clearly is because, at that time, I myself tended toward the total inerrancy view.”  Later Grider searched through Wiley’s Christian Theology and concluded, “I am confident that Wiley nowhere taught total inerrancy.”   He insists that Wiley only believed in the trustworthiness of Scripture on matters of faith and practice, just as he had worded the change in the Articles of Faith in 1928.

When Grider discusses A. M. Hills’ position, he seems to have noted the confusing amalgamation of Hills’ earlier and later positions because he uses terms such as, “Sometimes, it seems that Hills means…” and “At other times, though….”   At the end though Grider seems amazed that Hills actually goes so far as to say “there were inconsequential errors and discrepancies in the autographs, and not just in the copies…. Hills might be the only major Holiness Movement theologian to teach that there were unimportant errors in the autographs.”  Grider then distances himself from this position.  “I myself understand that there might have been inconsequential errors, not that there were.”

Grider adds that the views of Richard S. Taylor, his colleague at the Nazarene Seminary, “are remarkably similar to my own.”   He concludes with this appeal, “Let it be hoped that we will do our theological work with care, not accepting readily spillovers from the right wing of the larger segment of the evangelical camp:  Calvinistic evangelicalism.”   If I understand his position, I could wish that Grider would have recognized that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy addressed most, if not all, of his concerns.  I can’t help but think much of the time he was rebutting arguments for inerrancy that had been discarded with the Chicago Statement.  It seems to me that he was very near to the parameters set forth in the more-carefully nuanced Chicago Statement than some of the carelessly-worded declarations of “total inerrancy” put forth by earnest but overzealous proponents of a total inerrancy and even, at times, of mechanical dictation.

In summary, it is clear that early Nazarenes strongly affirmed a high view of Scripture, its inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy. Tragically, the impact of A. M. Hills and other leaders in the 1930s and onwards changed the theological direction of the denomination in the decades since then.  Even though my research only covers the period up to the late 1980s, unfortunately, my observation over the years since 1988 indicates that the majority of Nazarene scholars have continued to restrict the inerrancy of Scripture to matters of faith and practice.  This is in spite of the fact that, in my anecdotal observation, most Nazarene laypersons would affirm the full inerrancy of Scripture.  But a study of the history of theology would indicate that in another generation or two, even the inerrancy of matters of faith and practice will likely be questioned.  Let us hope and pray that in this generation the deep and authentic commitment of Nazarene leaders, pastors and laypeople around the world will instead lead once again to a thoughtful and unequivocal affirmation of Scripture’s trustworthiness, indeed of its inerrancy as the Written Word, testifying to the Living Word.


43 responses to “3. Nazarenes And Biblical Inerrancy

  1. AMEN! It’s amazing how the truth always reveals itself in the end. Those who brazenly make false claims about the denomination and the Word of God I hope will reconsider their stance after this indisputable article.

    My prayers are with you Manny and the others as you prepare for week two of the GA.

    Your brother in Christ,

  2. Yeah, what an awesome article!

    Thanks for the support and prayers, brother!


  3. We need to know our history and where those who have led stood on this. Awesome! How many of knew this. Thanks for the execellent FYI.

  4. Uh, this is the scariest thing I’ve ever read. We do not, nor have we ever, preached anything but soteriological innerancy. WE DO NOT BELIEVE IN TOTAL INNERANCY. I’ve never heard or read any legitimate theologian or historian related to the Church of the Nazarene who would espouse such a view. If you want to preach and believe in Total Innerancy, join the Southern Baptist Convention. Please stop trying to change our history.

  5. Hi Steve,
    You are scared of believing that the Bible is inerrant? That’s God’s word is perfect, because the Bible is God’s word. That’s what it attests for itself.
    Perhaps you may want to read this article again, and I think if you do read it carefully, you will find that the re-writing of history is with those who call themselves emergent. They are the ones who are trying to undermine the word of God, and therefore once that;s done, everything is fair game for “re-interpretation”. In other words, re-packaged relativism, just said in a different way.

  6. Sir, you obviously don’t understand the Emergent Church, or the Nazarene church.

    Please. Go join you’re fellow Calvanists in the Souther Baptist COnvention. Wesleyan theology is not for you.

  7. Sir,
    Emergents, or emergent sympathizers, never seem to quote enough scripture to back up their opinions. Perhaps you should spend some time in the scriptures. Here is some recommended scripture, and it all gives me confidence that what I do read int he Bible is God’s Holy and perfect, infallible word. And I’ve been a Nazarene all my life. Please read the Bible more, if you are not. If you are, please use scripture to refute what many of use believe, that it is perfect and it is GOD’S WORD.

    God’s word is truth. John 17:17.

    We don’t know all about infinite God, but we proclaim what He has revealed. Ecclesiastes 3:11; 11:5; Deuteronomy 29:29; Romans 10:14-5; 11:33-4; 15:14; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16; Job 38-42:6; Ephesians 1:9; 1 John 5:20;Mt28:20

    “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20-21

    “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

    Luke 24:25-27 Jesus rebuked the disciples for being slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.

    The Power and Authority of God’s Word from Psalm 119

    God’s word is eternal, it stands firm in the heavens. Psalm 119:89

    God’s law /word is true. Psalm 119:142b,151,160

    All God’s commands are trustworthy. Psalm 119:86 and fully trustworthy. Psalm 119:138b

    God’s laws are right. Psalm 119:137b,138 and forever right Psalm 119:144a

    All of God’s precepts are right Psalm 119:128, all His commands are righteous Psalm 119:172

    These words were not just idle words, they are your life. Deuteronomy 32:4.


    God’s word gives light and understanding. Psalm 119:105,130

    God’s word directs our footsteps. Psalm 119:133

    God’s commands make us wiser than our enemies. Psalm 119:98

    Keeping God’s statutes makes you blessed. Psalm 119:2

    God’s word strengthens us when we are weary with sorrow. Psalm 119:28

    God’s law sustains us. Psalm 119:175

    We find comfort in God’s laws. Psalm 119:50,52

    God does good to us and preserves our life according to the promise of His word. Psalm 119:25,37,38,65,107,116,149,154,156,170

    God’s word helps a young man keep his way pure. Psalm 119:9

    Our Attitude from Psalm 119

    “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” Psalm 119:72,127

    “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:113

    God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Psalm 119:105

    We should stand in awe of God’s laws. Psalm 119:120 and tremble at His word. Psalm 119:161b

    We should rejoice and delight in following God’s law/statutes/commands. Psalm 119:14,24,35,47,70,77,92,111,143b,162a,174b

    Set our heart on keeping God’s decrees. Psalm 119:112

    We should love God’s commands/precepts/law Psalm 119:47,48,97,113,127,159,163,165; and long for God’s laws. Psalm 119:20,40,131

    We should love God’s promises. Psalm 119:140b

    We are to trust and hope in God’s word. Psalm 119:42,43,74,81,114,147.

    God’s law has wonderful things in it. Psalm 119:18,27,129

    We are to believe in God’s commands. Psalm 119:66

    God’s decrees are the theme of our song. Psalm 119:54a

    We should seek out God’s precepts. Psalm 119:45,94, not like the wicked who do not. Psalm 119:155

    We should want to be taught and understand God’s laws, and ask God for understanding. Psalm 119:27,125,135b

    We should hide God’s word in our heart that we might not sin against Him. Psalm 119:11.

    New Testament Testimony of the Authority of the Old Testament

    Jesus said: “scripture cannot be broken” in John 10:35.

    Jesus answered Satan’s attacks by quoting scripture and saying “it is written” or “it stands on record”. Matthew 4:4,7,10

    Jesus and the New Testament calls the Old Testament scripture. Matthew 21:42; Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 3:16

    Jesus said not even the smallest part could be broken. Matthew 5:18

    Hebrews 5:12 calls the written record the oracles of God

    Old Testament scriptures are: sacred (2 Timothy 3:15), holy (Romans 1:2) inspired of God (2 Timothy 3:16), need to be read (Matthew 21:42); Sadducees should not be ignorant of (Matthew 22:49).

    New Testament Testimony of the Authority of the New Testament

    2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is breathed of God and is profitable for teaching, correction, rebuke, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be equipped for every good work.”

    Paul said his words to them were the Word of God 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 2 ~Corinthians 5:20

    Paul spoke not in words taught him by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:13

    Important not to add or subtract from the words of this prophecy (Revelation) Revelation 22:18-19

    (Thanks to gotquestions.org for these and many other wonderful references affirming God’s word is completely true!)

  8. Thank you for this article!
    I am so afraid the direction of the Church of The Nazarene…

    The teaching at the Nazarene universities is largely neo-orthodox.

    The old guard is dying off in the local churches. Those who are being educated in the more liberal ideas are coming into positions of influence in the churches, and it appears that the denomination will continue to move farther and farther from its roots.
    I fear that it may already be too late.

    Can the Nazarene church be reformed as it relates to its view of inerrancy?

    Just a side note… I am aware that theistic evolution is the predominant view being taught at, at least one Nazarene university. I suspect this to be wide spread and simply a natural consequence of the lower view of scripture.

    The Nazarene people are sincere, holiness people, and as the article stated… most believe in the inerrancy of scripture.

    Again I appreciate this article as a watchman on the wall!

  9. Dear Reformednazarene,
    I’m concerned about the mixing of “metaphors” in this article, and in your responses to me and others on this page. Let me be clear, I believe in the eternal, lasting truth of Scripture. I rest on its truth and it is the foundation of my faith in Jesus Christ and my life in Him! I am also not Emergent or any of the other religious slurs that you would like to throw my way, simply because I believe differently than you do concerning the historical teachings of the Church of the Nazarene. The truth of the matter is, that while your belief in the total inerrancy of scripture has much validity in many denominations and traditions in the evangelical world, it does NOT have validity for the Church of the Nazarene, and so I believe you and Dr. McCarthy are deceiving those who would read it (like Brian for instance, who is now under the impression that the Church of the Nazarene believes and teaches total inerrancy, which we most assuredly do NOT).
    Sir, I must reiterate that We emphatically DO NOT believe, teach or practice Total inerrancy – never have and never will. The reasons for our stance would leave you unchanged and unfazed, and I’m sure you’ve read them before, but let’s leave the debate between total inerrancy and soteriological inerrancy for another time and place. Let me state two things here, for clarity’s sake – just in case Brian or anyone else who is confused about this issue should come back and read this conversation.
    1)The belief in soteriological inerrancy is not a “softening” on the stance of the truth of the Bible. In fact, soteriological inerrancy takes MORE seriously the purpose and context of the original writers than does a total inerrancy perspective. Again, this is not the time or place for a debate between these two perspectives – I simply want to state for the record that to believe in soteriological inerrancy does not in ANY way diminish the power or importance of the Word of God – NOT AT ALL!!!
    2) While I appreciate the work that Dr. McCarthy has done here, two things should be noted – A)Dr. McCarthy is not a historian nor a historical theologian. His work here is based upon his Dr of Ministry dissertation that he did for Fuller Theological Seminary, a practical degree, and not to be mistaken for an academic or scholarly treatment of this subject. B) His treatment is strong on quotes and devotional writings from members of the Church of the Nazarene who were typically making statements about how we ought to value the importance of scripture, and even occasionally making statements concerning the inerrancy of scripture. There is one small problem with Dr. McCarthy’s work, though. The only time Dr. McCarthy actually refers to the only thing that matters when talking about the Church of the Nazarene’s belief system (i.e. the Nazarene Manual for us, the denomination’s only valid expression of systematically accepted beliefs) he actually CONCEDES that the Nazarenes believe and practice soteriological inerrancy, and then changes the subject to gloss this over by switching the conversation to a strong belief in inspiration instead of continuing to address inerrancy. Here is the section in question:

    “By 1928 there was clearly a need to declare with even more distinctness the Nazarenes’ stand on inspiration. In the 1908 Manual, the article on Scripture was basically borrowed from the Thirty–Nine Articles of Americanism and the Twenty–Five Articles of Methodism.

    By the Holy Scriptures we understand the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments given by Divine inspiration, revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation; so that whatever is not contained therein, and cannot be proved thereby, is not to be enjoyed as an article of faith”

    There were only minor changes in that article until 1928, when major revisions were made. In an earlier day it had been sufficient to declare one’s belief in the inspiration of the Bible. There was a basic understanding of what inspiration entailed. But later there were those who arose and declared their belief in inspiration but not inerrancy or infallibility. And thus, the church needed to continually define its position in the light of present controversies. In the 1928 General Assembly Article Four of the Nazarene Articles of Faith was amended to read:

    We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures by which we understand the sixty-six 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 enjoyed as an article of faith.

    Throughout their 1928 address to the General Assembly, the General Superintendents made clear their stand for a high view of Scripture.” (McCarthy)

    Point made. Even Dr. McCarthy can’t argue that the Church of the Nazarene, as a denominational whole, believes and practices, from its VERY BEGINNING, soteriological inerrancy. I don’t even have to go back to the Church of the Nazarene’s manuals, all the way back to the beginning, and show that we have ALWAYS, since DAY ONE, believed and practiced soteriological inerrancy, because Dr. McCarthy does it for me. He’s given us some nice quotes from a handful of denominational leaders who expressed an obvious difference of opinion from the Church of the Nazarene as a whole (either out of ignorance, a lack of careful consideration on the denomination’s beliefs, or an individualistic obstinacy that disregarded the denomination’s teaching – not sure which), but it cannot be more clear from the Historical evidence that the Church of the Nazarene does now and always has believed in soteriological inerrancy.
    Again, as I stated in a previous post, this view is not, nor has it ever been, disagreed with by any legitimate Nazarene historian or scholar. Ever.
    Mr. ReformedNazarene, I genuinely admire your strong stand on scripture, and I say this will love and true Christian brotherhood, I greatly appreciate your tenacity and your zeal. But you are not helping the Church of the Nazarene with your teaching. You are hurting us and dividing us. Please reconsider your current course. Find a fellowship that believes in total inerrancy as fervently and passionately as you do, and lend them your energy and strength. But don’t try to “reform” or “restore” something to the Church of the Nazarene that NEVER WAS! That is not reformation or restoration, that is what we call manipulation, and it is not appreciated or needed.

    In the Strong love of Christ,

    Steve Johnson

  10. Thanks for your comments, Steve.

    If I called you emergent and you are not, pardon me- although I don’t think it is a religious slur.

    There are lots of Nazarene pastors- many who I met at General Assembly- who believe and have always believed in the inerrancy of scripture. One of them wrote an article that I have posted- https://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/inerrancy-and-wesleyanism/

    If the Bible is not infallible or inerrant, how can we know which parts of it are true? The soteriological view, in my opinion, opens the door to doubting the entire scriptures, not just parts of it.

    I don’t know if an honest discussion of inerrancy would really seriously divide us, the way the division is being caused by the emergent ideology crowd. That… will clearly divide the Nazarene denomination if that train is not stopped dead in its tracks and reversed. (Again, I don’t know if you are an emergent or not).

    Sincerely in Christ,


  11. Manny, since you seem to be more concerned about the emergent church than you are the Nazarene Church, let me reiterate my concerns, but first let me thank you for the graciousness of your response. I may disagree with your stance on inerrancy, but again I appreciate your Christian spirit.
    My concerns are that you have not found the right place to state your concerns or wave your banner. The discussion between the Church of the Nazarene and the Emergent movement are one thing, your urgent desire and demand that we “return” to our roots of total inerrancy are a COMPLETELY different thing altogether.
    Secondly, of course there are some nazarene pastors who believe in the total inerrancy of scripture – some who have NO IDEA that this is not a Nazarene belief. I know a pastor who pastors very close to me (geographically speaking) who has pastored for more than 20 years who believes and practices total inerrancy. That doesn’t mean that this is what the Church of the Nazarene believes, nor does it mean that this is what we OUGHT to believe. Martin Luther was not speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church when he nailed his 95 theses to the door at the church in Wittenberg. Following this analogy, every Nazarene pastor who says they believe in total inerrancy DOES NOT speak on behalf of the Church of the Nazarene.
    I think open, loving, honest discussions of inerrancy and other issues is a helpful and necessary thing. But what you propose should take place in an ecumenical setting where members of different faith traditions should dialog from their own historical and theological positions in an effort to gain a greater understanding of the “other”. Following my theme from previous posts, I think it would be ideal if you were to contact leaders from the Church of the Nazarene and ask them to enter into just such a dialog. I just think, in the spirit of honesty and integrity, that you should wait until you’ve transfered your credentials to the Southern Baptist Convention, and then do it as a member of the SBC asking for the CoN to discuss the issue with you cross-denominationally and ecumenically.
    Manny, I hope you don’t feel as if this comes across as unloving, it is not intended to be so. I genuinely feel bad for you in your conflict because I feel your passion and zeal. But it is important, in the spirit of this discussion, that you understand that you would NOT be reforming us, restoring us or returning us to our roots by persuading members of the Church of the Nazarene that we ought to be total inerrantists. Please stop trying to make us something we are not Manny. Please find people who believe like you and help them, make them stronger. Please stop confusing members of the Church of the Nazarene.


    Steve Johnson

    Ps – in the spirit of fair play – I’ll post a couple of articles here that give counterpoint to your article above:


    One more – this is a GREAT article offering the historical perspective on the inerrancy issue from perhaps our finest historical theological – Paul Merritt Bassett

    Click to access 1978-wtj-13.pdf

    Manny, thanks for giving me a VERY fair treatment on this site. I know this site is devoted to total inerrancy doctrine, but you’ve given me plenty of space to share an alternative view and this is much to your credit.

  12. Steve,
    I’ll check out those links- thanks- and perhaps others will. I had already read Cowles and was not to excited by it.

    I don’t think I need to leave the Nazarene church necessarily- and there are many Nazarenes who clearly want to correct this idea of “errancy”, and affirm that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. We’ll have to disagree on that. And I don’t see the need to discuss it with folks from other denominations necessarily.
    I hope you can read the article by Pastor Joe that i linked for you.

    But I’ll read the other references over the next few weeks.



  13. Manny, one last thought, following the Luther analogy from earlier. Luther’s desire with his critique of the Catholic church’s practices was to take them back to what they WERE before they lost their way. He wasn’t trying to convert them to something they had never believed in. That’s what I believe you are trying to do with your good-hearted but misguided efforts to turn Nazarenes into total inerrantests. I think the same would go for anyone who agrees with you. I truly and genuinely don’t understand why you or anyone else would even WANT to be in the Nazarene church. What’s the point? I think it would be easier and more preferable for you to take the biblical doctrine of holiness to the SBC than for you to try to turn an entire denomination away from what they’ve ALWAYS been toward something they have NEVER been. I just don’t understand…

    Thanks for the dialog.

    Steve J

  14. One last thought too. We’ll have to see how this battle plays out. There are way too many serious Nazarenes who believe in inerrancy, to make this seem like a few “disgruntled” Nazarenes like Manny Silva!

    Perhaps like the Presbyterians, maybe someday there may have to be an Orthodox Nazarene denomination, to separate themselves from the slowly emergentizing/Roman Catholicizing Nazarene church of today.

    I don’t say that lightly either; I’ve been a Nazarene all my life.

  15. OK Manny, I’m having a hard time letting this go. You’ve been a nazarene all your life, but you believe in a doctrine that has NEVER been taught or accepted by the NAzarene Church. Where did you encounter this teaching? Under who’s influence have you received and accepted it? I know and understand why you are passionate about it, but again, when you realize that the teachings you have come into contact with that are influential to you are outside the realm of, or in disharmony with your current tradition, it only makes sense to follow your passions, not impose them on your current church. I would find it hard to believe you encountered inerrant teaching in a Nazarene school, so where does it come from? All of the people that I know who believe and accept total inerrancy learned it from OUTSIDE the church of the Nazarene.
    I also am a life-long Nazarene Manny, and like you I am a passionate defender of that which I think is most important. I believe our understanding of scripture is the best of any denomination in the world. I love our statement on soteriological inerrancy. It perfectly balances us between the liberals on the one side who believe scripture is nothing more than a polite suggestion and on the other side it separates us from the fundamentalists who want so badly to protect scripture that they crush the life and meaning out of it by holding to it to tightly.
    As to an “Orthodox” group producing a new denomination, I think that’s what I’m urging you to do, my brother. Except you would be starting a “non-orthodox” denomination, where all those who want to accept a view of total inerrancy can work and strive together. Again Manny, I mean this with total respect and brotherly love, but outside of our view of entire sanctification NOTHING is more central to our teaching in the CoN than our current view of scripture. The day we change our statement on scripture is the day I will have to cease to be a Nazarene because the Nazarene Church will no longer be the church I grew up in.
    Manny, if you want to stay and help the Nazarene Church (and I truly hope you do), then keep your passion for the strength and integrity of scripture, but a view of total inerrancy does not help the CoN. At all.
    Thanks again Manny, for the dialog and for your passionate devotion to this subject.

  16. Very good gentlemen….

    I applaud the Christian spirit with which you have been discussing this issue. It is interesting to me that Steve and others have encouraged Manny to join the SBC. Did Manny express an interest in the SBC? If so, please pardon me, as I didn’t pick up on that. The printed word can be a bit dry and it is difficult to know the intent behind each statement, however it seemed to me that the encouragement to join the SBC was almost given as a statement of derision. Was that the intent?

    I would point out that there are other camps that hold to the plenary-verbal inspiration of scripture as other than the SBC. One does not have to be in a Calvin camp to believe this! For instance, the Restoration movement Christian churches believe this. They are a movement that has been founded on Christian Unity based on Biblical authority!

    Below are four mistaken views of the inspiration of scripture.

    1. Verbal dictation…… some would charge that God verbally dictated every word….. This is incorrect because the Gospel record demands not only an inspired record, but an inspired writer of that record.

    2. Some say that the Bible is no more inspired than having an author of marked ability such as Mark Twain or William Shakespeare…. I pray not for all of our sake!

    3. Some say that there are varying degrees of inspiration. In other words, some parts of the Bible are more inspired than other parts… How do you decide which portions of the Bible are more inspired and which ones are less? Who is the one to decide?

    4. Some say that the Bible is only partially inspired… In other words, the Bible only contains the word of God. How do you decide which parts are inspired and which parts are not inspired?

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB)

    But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NASB)

    I honest wonder, why would anyone want to settle for lesser view of the inspiration of scripture?

    I must confess that although I spent more than thirty years in The Church of the Nazarene I do not possess the depth of understanding of its history that Manny and Steve do; however I was shocked to discover the things that both of you are pointing out as to the “Current” view of scripture. I never in that length of time heard any Nazarene pastor who was bold enough to proclaim any suggestion of “degrees of inspiration” or “Portions of inspiration.” I wonder how that would be received in many of the local churches even today? I suspect that many would not receive that very well.

    Steve, there is some definite merit to your encouragement to Manny to at least consider joining with a camp that is more in line with his views. That is in fact what I chose to do for some of the reasons that you have mentioned, however, does that mean that all who would disagree with the direction that the denomination is going should make an unceremonious exit? What will Steve do if the denomination turns in a direction that he perceives to be wrong? Should he also simply make an exit?

    I have very much enjoyed the candid discussion between, Manny and Steve…. I will continue to follow your words to see where you end up.

    Sincerely –Brian-

  17. Manny,

    The Glory is departed! That is if it was ever there.

    Pro 24:21 My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:

    You yourself have moved away from the positions stated by the men in your article. Those men rejected a whole slew of liberal teachings to include modern perversions of God’s word. You couldn’t possibly fix an inerrant position in the Nazarene Church- No two Bible’s on the market are even the same, and yes they disagree. Various Greek manuscripts do not agree, and God made sure that there are no “originals” for anyone to verify absolute truth! It only comes by FAITH.

    Nazarenes mislabel everything and don’t know what the Bible really teaches they follow the church fathers just like ma-ma church.

    Please stick with one version of the Bible or you become guilty of picking and choosing, your authority, trying to remove a mote with a beam in your eye. May I suggest the perfect and infallible King James Bible, if you want to come out ahead that is.

    John Wesley wrote:
    “I want to know one thing — the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore.

    God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a Book.

    O give me that Book! At any price, give me the Book of God!”
    — John Wesley

    By the way, folks make comments that have no validity. Southern Baptist only believe in inerrancy like muslims and every other messed up cult in the world (that is in the Original Manuscripts) which does nobody any good.

    The Nazarene Church believes in the fundamentals but reject being “fundamentalist” because the word took on a connotation of taking the Bible literal. Which is again a problem that you need to recognize. Even if the Nazarene church would appease the squeaky wheel they would then imply the glasses or lenses in which they could distort (interpret) the Bible, like ma-ma church. You will not win!

    The Nazarene church is un-fixable and you need to figure out what you believe. Your problem is complex in that the Bible issue is the foundation for everything you believe. You best get to the Bible (not Chapman, Wesley or Calvin) and figure out what is right. Get yourself to II Timothy 2:15 “STUDY” and that’s not the same thing as being “diligent” NKJV. Luke 10:41 Martha was diligent and came up short.

    Lord Bless you! I think you have the right spirit and discernment but a faulty biblical foundation as far as sound doctrine is concerned. Been there and done that! I know my opinion matters very little, but I am an ex Nazarene preacher. The Nazarene Church is giving heed to doctrines of devils like ma-ma church.

    My first class at NBC, Colorado Springs Colorado, 1993. Prof. Neil Wiseman said to the class “Let’s not bring the Bible into it” meaning the discussion about the Bible. Go figure. If I only had the time to tell you what all he did let come into the discussion. Nazarene Pastors have been trained to be infidels, Bible critics of the first degree! They don’t even think that Moses crossed the Red Sea.

    Here are 2 verses from God’s Word for the Nazgrad that tried to say moses wasn’t the author of the Law.

    Joh 5:46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
    Joh 5:47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

    Jesus Said that they were Moses “writings”

    Job 6:25 How forcible are right words! but what doth your arguing reprove?


  18. Wow! This post was dormant for a while, and now all these comments! I can’t keep up, especially after just getting home at midnight from table tennis league. I’ll need to breathe a little before I can respond if at all- But thanks for all the comments. I’ll review these later and give them some thought.

    In the meantime, trusting completely in God’s inerrant, infallible word.

  19. Thansk for all the comments. Just a few brief thoughts:

    1. Tony- If that was intended for me, that I don’t understand the emergent church or Nazarenes- you are wrong- and the fact you make that statement without backing it up invalidates it in my mind. I know the emergent church well- it is a heresy filled movement, whose core doctrine is the denial of scriptural inerrancy. I reject it. It’s ideology is from the devil- is that clear enough?

    2. Steve (Johnson) – look, if I have to leave the Nazarene church, I will know when it’s time. I pray for the time where if God is willing, those who reject Biblical inerrancy will leave, not those who trust in God’s word completely. Feel free to believe in “soteriological” inerrancy, wherever that philosophy came from. It did not come from the Bible, that’s for sure. If is is going to be the Nazarene church’s final statement, I won’t accept it and so many others will not.
    As I said before, I believe in the Bible and trust it completely, not partially.

    3. Steve (Sumner) – your comments reflect much of what I have asked many people over the past year- and most of it is opposed to what you will find over at “Nazarene” websites like NazNet- where there is an incredible display of disrespect for the authority of God’s word.
    I also have to agree with your criticisms of the Nazarene church- I see all of that as well. Perhaps I am trying to help fix something that is broken beyond repair. In the end, my aim is to warn as many as possible in the Nazarene church of the emergent ideology. I don’t have an obsession with fixing the Nazarene church. If in the end, the leadership keeps moving done this road, it’s over for a lot of Nazarenes. We will leave if need be, to separate ourselves from false ideology and a false gospel.

  20. Manny – we’ve already agreed to disagree on several things about the bible, but we can definitely agree on this – Table Tennis is AWESOME! Hope you did well last night.

    Brian – a couple of things in response to your post.
    1)My encouragement to Manny regarding the SBC was not intended to be a slight or a snide remark in any way. I simply believe that since Manny’s main issue seems to be his understanding of Scripture as totally inerrant, that this is his dominant doctrinal “ax” to grind so to speak, then why not join a denomination in which he will be supported and encouraged in that view? If I didn’t believe in entire sanctification, I’m not sure I’d spend the rest of my life trying to dissuade the entire Nazarene denomination from believing in it. I’d probably find a church that fit my theological perspective.
    2)Brian, most of your theological observations were concerning inspiration, not inerrancy. Most of mine and Manny’s conversation has been concerning inerrancy. As you probalby know, these are two very different ideas. The Church of the Nazarene DOES believe in plenary inspiration, and has since its inception. I’m not sure where you read the following comments in this post:

    “I never in that length of time heard any Nazarene pastor who was bold enough to proclaim any suggestion of “degrees of inspiration” or “Portions of inspiration.” I wonder how that would be received in many of the local churches even today?” (Brian’s post)

    Again, not sure where you read or inferred these comments from on this post, but you didn’t get them from anything I said. I have not on this post, any other post or at any time in teaching my congregation, suggested that there are degrees of inspiration or portions of inspiration, because this teaching is not in compliance with Nazarene doctrine and teaching. Nor is a view of total inerrancy, which is, again, the topic that Manny and I have been discussing
    3)Brian, you made an interesting closing statement, or rather asked an interesting closing question:

    “What will Steve do if the denomination turns in a direction that he perceives to be wrong? Should he also simply make an exit?”

    Two things about these questions are very interesting and pertinent to what Manny and I have been discussing.

    A. You asked, Brian, what I would do if the denomination “turns” in a direction that I perceive to be wrong. Here is the critical point for my discussion with Manny. For Manny, his battle (at least on this particular page, and I realize Manny’s issues with CoN extend beyond just the issue of total inerrancy, but I believe the inerrancy issue to be central to all the other issues) is concerning a doctrine that has ALWAYS BEEN at the center of the Church of the Nazarene’s teaching. In spite of Dr. McCarthy’s best efforts to prove otherwise, the CoN has ALWAYS believed in soteriological inerrancy, that the bible is inerrant insofar as it has to do with teaching us about our salvation. This is a different issue entirely than the one you are asking about. Under your scenario (what would I do if CoN took a “turn” in a direction I didn’t like), the church would be turning AWAY from something they are NOW teaching or HAVE taught to teaching something entirely different. Manny’s crusade is an attempt to lead the CoN AWAY from something they have NEVER believed. These two things are very, very different. But, to answer your question, if the CoN took a “turn” away from something they have always taught, thus abandoning their essential historical identity and ceasing to be the church they always have been, is that I’m not sure what I’d do. More than likely I’d fight till I felt like I couldn’t change the church. But just to make sure we’re all on the same page, my staying and fighting and working for change if the CoN walked away from something they had always been is RADICALLY different than what Manny is doing. So, let’s change the scenario. What if I woke up tomorrow and decided that I no longer believed that the Bible taught that God operated preveniently, that we have a role to play in our own salvation and that God saves or condemns those He chooses without our consent or involvement (classic Calvinism in short)? If I woke up and suddenly believed this and was convinced of its truth and was certain that I would never change my mind then I have two courses of action before me. I can spend the rest of my life trying to turn the entire CoN into a church full of 5-point Calvinists, a view which is completely universally opposed to what the CoN actually believes and teaches; or I could find a denomination which agrees with that position and not be a divisive, distracting entitiy, but rather a contributing, important asset and much appreciated addition to a denomination in which I will find myself in much greater alignment with the principle teachings.

    B. The second question you asked above: “So should Manny also simply make an exit?” My simple response would be either “No, he should seek to come into compliance with the central doctrinal teachings of the church and strive to understand soteriological inerrancy and why we teach it, but also strive to help the CoN to have a strong understanding and respect for God’s Holy Word. Or “Yes, if Manny remains adamant in his stance on total inerrancy, then it only makes sense that he should leave a denomination that is clearly not in alignment with that view and find one that is, so that he can be a positive, encouraging, thriving member of that new denomination, not one always at odds with his brothers and sisters, out of step with the doctrines of his church and totally in disagreement with his denominational leaders.

    Thanks for the contribution and opportunity for clarification Brian. I hope these comments have helped bring you up to speed on this conversation and my position.

    Manny, thanks again for being a gracious host.

    Steve J

  21. Manny, I respect your prayer life and will trust that God will lead you in this regard. Let me make a few final remarks and then I will vacate this space to the like-minded.

    1. Your battle with the emergent church is a much different issue than your on-going efforts to lead the CoN into a doctrinal stance it has never accepted (namely total inerrancy). I encourage you to continue to challenge and question the emergent movement, as I believe they need the accountability and the “iron” to sharpen their “iron”. But you can do that within the confines of another denomination where you will be more doctrinally supported and encouraged. Again, I will leave your departure between you and God and trust that He will guide you. I will be praying with you regarding this decision.
    2. I will be happy to share with you more about the history of soteriological inerrancy (although the articles I posted here yesterday will be of some help in that regard as well), and I believe you have my e-mail address as a part of this post. If not, let me know how I can get that to you “off the air” and I will gladly carry on a correspondence with you in a more appropriate venue. I should say though, in response to your suggestion that the teaching of soteriological inerrancy didn’t come from the bible, neither does the teaching on total inerrancy. The word inerrant or inerrancy does not appear on the pages of our Scripture Manny, total, soteriological or otherwise.
    3. Manny, while I will join you in praying for God’s direction about your future, I cannot join you in the following prayer which I borrowed from your last post:

    I pray for the time where if God is willing, those who reject Biblical inerrancy will leave, not those who trust in God’s word completely.

    Manny, I’m afraid this is a misguided prayer, for all of the reasons we’ve already talked about here. Praying for all those who “reject” total inerrancy to leave a denomination that has NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER taught or believed in total inerrancy just seems ridiculous, not to mention totally unnecessary. Manny, I realize that you believe you have a groundswell of support and that people are joining your cause by the day, but not one single Nazarene school teaches or believes in total inerrancy, which means that none of our pastors who are attending those schools is learning to believe in total inerrancy, which means none of our churches should be being instructed concerning total inerrancy. I’ve attended two nazarene schools and am currently attending a third, and I’ve NEVER, EVER heard any Nazarene faculty member mention a word of support for total inerrancy. it is not being taught now. It has never been taught. My prayer, in response to your prayer, is that you will come to terms with the fact that the Nazarene church does not believe in total inerrancy. Further, my prayer is that you will come to believe that soteriological inerrancy gives us an even STRONGER stance on scripture and does not crumble or erode our belief in the Word of God even a little bit.

    God’s blessings on you in the days to come Manny. May God richly bless you and strongly keep you.

    Steve J

  22. Manny,

    1. Be assured that “soteriological inerrancy” is a “doctrine of devils.” It is a fancy way of saying nothing, it is a partial truth, the worst kind of lies! In reference to soteriological doctrine Paul says “preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” The $10.00 word demonstrates the wickedness of deception, for it makes the Cross of Christ of (non effect.)

    Imagine if the Nazarene Church all of the sudden told all the people “The Bible is full of mistakes and cannot be trusted completely in every area except for verses on salvation.” A liar never says it so that everyone can understand. Paul said “my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom” The real kicker is that the Nazarenes (and when I use that word I’m not talking about the unknowing pew sitter who fully would throw up if they knew how the devil was running their church at-large.) they don’t even believe in “soteriological inerrancy” this corruption has now produced a monster that is well on its way to teaching multiple ways of salvation!

    Joh 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

    Eph 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

    2. The Nazarenes falsely capitalize on an opponent of opposition to protect their coffers. It is called Calvinism.
    John Calvin and Jacob Arminius took two paths to come to the same conclusion “works salvation” one was the means and one was the end. In other words Calvinist will label people that don’t tithe not really saved, and an Arminian will do exactly the same thing.

    The Calvinist Cliché works for both groups:
    “If Jesus Christ is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.”

    Inerrancy of the Bible is not one of Calvin’s five Points and therefore has nothing to do with your legitimate beef with the Nazarene Church who has been deceiving people for years. Most Baptist are adamantly apposed to all but 1 point of 5 in Calvin’s system. That is Eternal Security!

    See the following links for more information.


    http://www.lighthousebaptistchurch.biz/index.php?p=1_25 My Personal Testimony


  23. There, you said it first, Steve S., but I also believe that also- half truths are from the devil, not from God. And the many “pew-sitters’ I have talked in the last year to ask what they think of the Bible, almost look at meas if i should not even ask them if the Bible is completely true and reliable and infallible. They always say to me, of course it is!

    But as you say, the problem has been the hiding behind the fancy words and couching it with half truths.

    Steve J., I’m sorry you don’t accept the Bible as infallible, as the complete, inerrant word of God- or do I have that wrong? I have made the same argument many times to others- who determines what is true or fable in the Bible? You? A bunch of professors at NTS? NazNet intellectuals? General Superintendents? or the Bible itself?
    This concept of “soteriological inerrancy” is what has led to evolution as preached by Giberson and others, open theism, denial of the existence of Adam and Eve, or a global flood, on and on.

    I reject it, I’m still a Nazarene, and frankly, I will leave only when it is time to leave, if I do.

  24. Steve… Thank you for clarifying the reference to the SBC… I suspected that was what you were doing, but just wanted to be sure.

    You are a sharp guy! You are indeed correct that the words that we use do mean things. The words that I used were different than the words in your discussion. I spoke of “Inspiration” and you spoke of “Inerrancy” Your ability to keep things focused makes for a good discussion that doesn’t chase too many rabbits. Again, I thank you.

    Although as you have pointed out, there is some difference between these two terms, I wonder, if they are really so very far apart? In other words, I would ask, are they so easily separated at it relates to this specific discussion? I’ll explain what I mean, but first I want to clarify…

    “We believe that the Old and New Testament Scriptures, given by plenary inspiration, contain all truth necessary to faith and Christian living” —Nazarene Manual 2005-2009

    This statement at least loosely links the scriptures and inspiration with soteriology, just as I think you have been trying to make clear. The absence of the actual word “inspiration” from your discussion, doesn’t preclude its relevance.

    “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”.—Nazarene Manual 2005-2009”

    Again… even the authors of this statement in the Nazarene Manual link the ideas of inspiration and inerrancy. In this example, they even included them in the same sentence. I’ve been exposed to the deliberations of a number of General Assemblies, and I’m well aware of the careful crafting of each Manual statement. It is no accident that these two concepts were stated together.

    “We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures” As you are aware, the word plenary means the “whole thing” which sounds good on the surface, however the Nazarene church will not affirm that this extends to “Plenary verbal inspiration” Which means that in the original texts every word is inspired.

    And so I ask, if the Holy Scriptures are wholly inspired, how is it possible to also affirm that they are not inerrant in all things? Does the Nazarene church really affirm that a “Wholly” inspired scripture contains error or at least contains the possible for error? (Just no error in things that relate to salvation or holy living/Faith and Christian living)??

    Again… I will concede that perhaps I would have been more on topic if I had used “Inerrancy” rather than “Inspiration” in my language. However, in that spirit, I would again ask… How would it be received if the preacher were to stand in most Nazarene pulpits this coming Sunday and boldly say… “I believe that although the Bible is inerrant in matters relating to salvation… it might contain (or probably contains ) error in other things. When it refers to locations, or history, or science it may be in error.” I suspect that many if not most, would not receive that very well.

    Steve, I suspect that several of us have traveled on some similar paths. Including directed studies, education from Nazarene institutions, the credentials boards process and finally ordination which is then just the beginning. When one invests the time, effort, and heart to continue through this entire process, it is not surprising that one would feel passionately about the church’s future direction. Although I’m still discovering if this a new development, or a longstanding position…my heart aches for the current direction the CON as it relates to its position on inerrancy.

    In hopes of unity in the Body, and in a spirit of not wanting to create division, I have thought best to minister in a “Camp” that does hold to the inerrancy of every word, and I am currently doing so. However, I am in admiration of those like Manny who have felt compelled to remain and put a voice to this issue.
    My heart leaped inside of me when I stumbled upon this discussion, for I have often wondered if it would ever openly be discussed.

    Thank you again for your gentle approach and your well thought out responses.


  25. I did also have a question for Manny…

    Your wrote to Steve a few posts back,

    “We will leave if need be, to separate ourselves from false ideology and a false gospel.”

    What are you referring to by a false Gospel?

    I am very interested to hear your thoughts on this. Have you written about this somewhere else?

    Can you send me a link of somekind?

    I too have some concerns with the Gospel message that the CON is preaching… I wonder if they are the same ones that you have picked up on?


  26. Manny,

    From Dr. McCarthy’s article come these quotes:
    ————————————————————————–In the mid-1920s the first major Nazarene rebuttal to destructive higher criticism and infidelity appeared with Basil Miller’s Cunningly Devised Fables.” Miller asserted that “the Bible itself affirms that it is the inerrant, infallible, inspired, and completed Word of God.”

    During the 1920s there seemed to be an increasing awareness of the threat that modernism posed to the life of the young, growing denomination. Warnings were issued to Nazarenes. Chapman editorialized in the Herald:
    Our own Church of the Nazarene must be always vigilant to keep the Bible destroyers out (for, thank God, they are out until now) of the pulpit, out of our schools, out of our general boards, out of our missions and out of our books and literature; for in this way, and in this way only we will be able to keep them out of our homes and out of our pews.

    Cornell issued a similar alert, “Nazarene ministers, beware! Stick to the Old Book from cover to cover: Let no trace of doubt or unbelief impregnateinpregnate your nature.”
    The Higher Criticism that Chapman, Miller, Cornell and others were dealing with was the textual criticism that was trying to replace the “Old Book” King James Bible with the new translation of Westcott and Hort. The Church fought hard to keep it out going so far as to hold hands with the Fundamental Movement. The Revised Version of 1881, and the American Standard of 1901 began a new era in Church history. These works were accepted by the most liberal churches of the day but rejected by God fearing men like Chapman.

    And the real kicker is that McCarthy’s article stops with the date of 1988. This Just happens to be the date of the publication of the work to replace H. Orton Wiley’s work on Christian Theology. The work ordained by the Board of General Superintendents, written By H. Ray Dunning, PH.D. On page 6 of the Forward it claims to replace Wiley’s Christian Theology, but will take into account-

    “more recent developments in Christian thought.”

    This work sinks the ship, and is the source and completion of corruption that started back in 1881. On page 66 Dunning changes versions and demonstrates the doctrinal implications by changing 2Tim 3:16 to read without total inerrancy. The footnote reads on the same page:

    “The AV translation has behind it a long history of misinterpretations, . . . From these misconceptions the rise of modern historical criticism in the nineteenth century has set us free.”

    The Church is now set free! The Book that Wesley spoke about does not even exist in the Nazarene Church anymore!

    Dunning validates McCarthy’s article and the opposing positions of the church on inerrancy, as he puts total inerancy to bed forever

    By rewriting the Bible itself.

    Please get to the right Book, from which to make your stand for the Truth.
    The Authorized King James Bible!
    All other ground is sinking sand.

    The New Release is “Barabas”

    Steve Sumner

  27. Like the others, I have enjoyed reading this discussion. I have to say one thing though, being raised in a Nazarene church in Nashville, I was always under the impression that total inerrancy of the Bible was the belief system of the church. Pastors Morse, Reed, Toler, Henecke never came across as teaching “soteriological inerrancy”. Why did I always hear that you can trust every word that is in the Bible during Sunday School then? Plus, the emphasis that these pastors put into their sermons about trusting all that God is telling us through the Bible. I just don’t get it when others try to say otherwise about total inerrancy of the Bible within the denomination.

  28. I forgot to add that it’s the new generation of pastors that appear to be mislead by the Emergent Church theology within the denomination. I found that out first hand while trying to find a new home church in my new home town.

  29. Brad,
    You nailed it!
    There is a disconnect between what most of the Pastors in the pulpit preach about the trustworthiness of the Bible and what the stated belief of the denomination is. Like you I also “thought” that the denomination believed in total inerrancy for a very long time.
    It would be interesting to hear from some of the proponents of soteriological inerrancy why they believe that view is superior? I vaguely remember one of them telling me a while back that it was so that they didn’t have to lose their faith should the day ever come when someone proves errors in the Bible. Is that really the reason? The world has been trying to disprove the scriptures for a couple of thousand years. It can’t and won’t be done.

  30. The Bible always runs a few thousand years ahead of “science”. Notice the following facts that were revealed in the Bible long before man discovered them with telescopes, microscope, and scuba divers:

    No actual “moon light” Job 25:5
    Light travels Job 38:19
    Stars cannot be counted Genesis 15:5; 22:17
    Cosmic light Gen. 1:3; Psa. 74:16
    Empty place in North Job 26:7
    Earth suspended in space Job 26:7
    Entropy increases Psa. 102:25-27
    Sound waves from stars Job 38:7
    Pleiades star cluster Job 38:31
    Sea mounts Jonah 2:3-6
    Sea springs Job 38:16; Pro. 8:28
    Submarine canyons II Sam. 22:16
    Ocean currents Psalm 8:8
    Earth not flat Isaiah 40:22
    Running water more sanitary, Leviticus 15:13
    Circumcision on 8th day Genesis 17:10-12
    Electric telephone & TV Job 38:35

  31. Steve,

    I like how you spell these things out. I currently own a Defenders Study Bible in the KJV. The expositor is Dr. Henry M. Morris and he explains scripture from a creationist viewpoint. It is interesting how he explains thermodynamics and its laws in reaction to creation. I highly recommend this Bible as a study tool when it comes to defending the faith and the inerrancy of God’s Word.

  32. Brad,

    I cannot take credit for the references. I took them from http://biblebelievers.com/.

    Truth is a rare commodity these days. I once owned and operated a Christian Bookstore and sold a number of those defender study bibles. I am sorry to say but the late Dr. Henry Morris does correct the text of the bible (KJV) when it is necessary to contribute to his position on creation. The modern educated premise is simple; it supposes that the no translation of the Bible is inerrant, and subject to the information of the day to properly reveal the “Original Meaning.” This is an evolutionary process that will continue to go in reverse until the King shows up.

    I hate to apologize for my dogmatic position on the issue but I will as it pertains to others who are simply in the dark on the issue as I once was. I have never seen an issue so crystal clear to some and appalling to others.

    The church (all denominations) is now boarding the apostasy bus that rejects the written word of God as “God’s people” once did the living Word (Jesus.) They thought he was the “Carpenter’s” son. The word of God is not a product of man regardless of how it appears.

    It literally makes me sick to think of the deception that is being fed to innocent unknowing people. All truth must start with “Thus saith the LORD” or it is nothing more than man doing right in his own eyes.

    When there was no KING in Israel. Judges 21:25

    If the Bible is nothing more than a man’s translation like the Scholars of the Nazarene Church say it is than the absolute biblical command when there is someone interpreting a different tongue is to allow only ONE to interpret. Multiple interpretations is confusion in the Church and was not allowed for fear that outsiders would say they were “mad” If that King James word is hard to understand let me give you some dynamic equivalences nuts, off their rocker, coo coo, one oar in the water, not playing with a full deck!

    Stand on the BooK!

    There is no easy way to convince someone of the truth. People are like dogs they just like to be scratched behind the ears.

    Steve S.

  33. This is my first time hearing of you and YOU have just moved up to the top of my prayer list because you are one sick person! I have never heard anyone slander the Bible the way you do. I grew up on the same zone with Trevecca President, Dan Boone. There is not a better example of a true christian anywhere!! You on the other hand I do not know but by your own printed words are proving to be a follower of the devil. You are trying to put doubt in true C minds and divide the Nazarenes. Sounds familiar. I was taught in our wonderful Nazarene church that the devil is the author of confusion, doubt and division so I guess you chose to follow the Wrong leader!

  34. Wow! Where did that come from?

    Next time, can you please back up what you are saying with support from the scriptures. Frankly, Mary, the things that Dr. Boone promotes at Trevecca are unbiblical, and he and many others are being called out for what they are doing, and must be held accountable.

    If you can show that we are misguided, and use the Bible, and not the personal attack you just threw at us, that would be appreciated. I doubt of you can, however, otherwise, you would have shown me already.

  35. mary-
    i have to share in reformeds “wow”. while i certainly disagree with his and all the concerned nazarenes methods, i have not read anything they have written that would lead me to believe they are “serving satan”. it is ok to disagree as christians, but we should be careful not to let that turn into hateful and false accusations. i believe the concerned nazarenes sincerely love Jesus as i believe do all the christians they disagree and are concerned with. lets not forget we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we are to let Christ love through us even when we do not see eye to eye.

  36. Somewhere,
    I would say this- at some point, there will be those who profess to be Christians, who cannot be called brothers and sisters in Christ. So we may not all be brothers and sisters in Christ, but those who are doing the will of the Father.

    I agree, we should not be hateful and state false accusations- I have not done that myself. We should vigorously defend the faith, and when false teachings arise, expose them and the false teachers. It’s not a fun thing to do, but we ought to do it, because the scriptures command us to.

  37. One thing that should be clear – the influence of Calvinistic writing in our American Christian culture is great in the CoN. We have no concept of who we are or where we came from. I wish that the CoN would have someone write a book on the basics of the faith in a readable format for layman. Wyncoops book Foundations… is good but will need to be expanded. I think the main problem here is presuppositional (sp) we are not monergistic – if we become monergistic we become Calvinist

  38. Very good article. I am an older Nazarene who is just taking a course and finding out that the church no longer accepts or promotes inerrancy and I was astounded at that revelation. What is the reformed Nazarenes?

  39. Hi Norine,
    Thank you for your comments. First, regarding Reformed Nazarene- that is just the title of my blog which I decided to use- not in a Calvinistic sense as some say I do- but as I explain in my About page, I have reformed myself to obey the Lord in all he teaches- without compromise.

    Concerned Nazarenes is an informally organized group of Nazarenes who have been, as the word says, concerned about the apostasy that has come into our denomination, and we are trying to warn as many Nazarenes as possible. My blog has become at this point the prime source of regular articles and exposes, but we also have a Facebook group which you may want to consider joining. http://www.facebook.com/groups/concernednazarenes/

    We provide a lot of information there as well, and also it is a source of encouragement, prayer requests, and other support for those who are Nazarenes (we also have like minded non-Nazarene members who contribute greatly).

    Should you like a free copy of the emergent church DVD we made that we passed out to over 6,000 at last General Assembly, please email me and I will be glad to send you one.
    Manny Silva


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