“Was our Lord shooting the first century churches in Revelation 2 and 3 when He walked in their midst and exposed their sins and failures, and commanded them to repent? The kindest and most biblical thing a faithful servant of God can do is expose unscriptural conduct to lead to repentance, lest God step in and judge severely and chasten in a most severe manner. I think the worst chastening that we could receive from the hand of God is if He would just leave us alone and let us go on in our compromise. We are so bent on exalting man and lightly esteeming the Word of God. One day, we will be like Samson when it is said, ‘he wist not that the Lord had departed from him’ (Judges 16:20). May God be gracious and wake us up to listen to the rebuke of those who see the error in our faith and practice. No man is above rebuke. May we come to see the love and grace in those who would be so kind as to rebuke us.” (Pastor Wilbert Unger)
[Download extended document here: Gen Assembly Report Extended V1. This includes the GA summary, plus over 150 pages of selected reports.]
The General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene concluded June 29, 2013. There were no big surprises, other than a few “new” things added to the growing apostasy. The denomination of which I have been a member all my life is a holiness church in word only. The Church of the Nazarene is dying spiritually, is splitting up into two very different sides, and both cannot be simultaneously obeying God. It is a sad thing for me to report, and I can imagine friends with tears in their eyes, realizing that I am confirming what they already know. Except for a few local churches that remain strong biblically, there is no evidence of a sound denomination that is staying true to biblical principles. The Church of the Nazarene could not be compared to the church of Smyrna, or Philadelphia. What the Church of the Nazarene has become is a combination of the other five churches that the Lord had very little good to say about.
I do not regret reporting this, although it saddens me. Who relishes being a bearer of bad news? I did not ask for all this to happen. I did not ask to be forced out of a church because I stood up for the word of God, and neither did many other Nazarenes. I did not ask to see pastors fired for preaching against heresy. I did not ask for email upon email notifying me of heartbreak as faithful brothers and sisters were vilified and ostracized by pastors or district leaders. I wanted to live my life as faithfully as I could, and all I was worrying about was keeping the world’s influence from corrupting my children. Now our bigger concerns are for the children that are being corrupted- from within the Church of the Nazarene.
Like cancer cells, the emergent church disease has infected the major parts of the body of the denomination, and it is here to stay. It is a done deal, and there should be no delusions that it will go away. It would take a miracle of God to eradicate this disease. In four years, the General Superintendents of the church have not tried to stop it, have not even spoken out against it, and essentially, they have enabled it and therefore should take full responsibility for letting the foxes into the henhouse. The greatest responsibility for the demise of this denomination lies with these men who are charged with protecting the church.
The Failure of Our Leaders
General Superintendent Emeritus Jesse Middendorf has been a longtime promoter of emergent ideology along with his son Jon. Jerry Porter has been a strong advocate of the Master Plan (G12), a program that has torn apart many churches, particularly Hispanic congregations. The denomination has also embraced many elements of Roman Catholicism, a false religion that my father was saved from. As a Nazarene chaplain once told a student privately a few years ago, “we are becoming Roman Catholic.” This is true. Look at the emphasis now on Lent, on giving up something for Lent, on the “Eucharist”, on putting ashes on the forehead; a greater focus on Advent rituals, on Maundy Thursday, prayer labyrinths, prayer stations, and Roman Catholic speakers at the universities. Yet gullible Nazarenes are watching it unfold before their eyes, sitting in their pews taking in everything without question.
Silence is not an excuse. Some General Superintendents have been complicit by their silence, or by their participation in endeavors with organizations that have compromised with the world. Stan Toler and Jerry Porter are advisory committee members of a radical social justice group called the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, headed by a Nazarene pastor who every year promotes a paganistic and unholy festival called Wildgoose. A third Nazarene leader, Pastor Oliver R. Phillips, is also on this committee. And all six General Superintendents from the past four years were signatories to another radical program called The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition which does nothing but divide Nazarenes who are on opposite sides of a serious political issue. These endeavors by our spiritual leaders is a total waste of time, instead of focusing on preaching the Gospel. Their complicity in allowing the Roman Catholization of the church is also to be noted. Recently, Dr. Eugenio Duarte put his stamp of approval on the observation of Lent, a Roman Catholic rite that has become wildly popular in many churches and districts, and certainly all the other Generals must also approve of it.
Nevertheless, whether they are active promoters or silent bystanders, they have all failed in their duty to provide leadership to the church as outlined in the church Manual. More seriously, they have failed in their duties as shepherds of the church as outlined in Scripture. In the same manner, many of the college leaders (such as Dan Boone and Dr. Karl Leth) and many district superintendents have been active in their promotion or allowing of the heresies that have damaged the church, while other presidents have stood silently by, as if that would absolve them of any responsibility.
There are the currently uninfected parts (the few strong local churches) that are at times seen as detriments to the “progress” of the denomination, and will most likely be dealt with, one congregation at a time, until they either fall in line, are closed down, or are forced to leave. One of the most critical moments in these churches will be when a pastor retires, and a replacement is needed. If the people are not aware of the apostasy around them, they will be vulnerable, and the wrong choice for a pastor could mean the end of a Bible-believing church.
We are facing an onslaught of false teachings:
The Bible has been rejected as God’s inerrant word and our only true source of authority; evolution is being taught as fact, replacing God’s account of creation and denying the truth of Scripture; Genesis 1-11 is considered merely allegory and the existence of a literal Adam and Eve is denied; teaching of mystical practices connected to Eastern religions, and a movement towards a Christianity based on feelings, instead of clear truth expressed in Scripture; the promotion of the social “gospel” in place of the Gospel of salvation from sin; softening of the biblical stance on homosexuality, becoming one of “affirmation” and acceptance of homosexual “Christians”; false teachers such as Brian McLaren, Richard Foster, and Rob Bell are invited to speak to students and even pastors, or their books are used in theology courses as “good” resources; indoctrination and acceptance of Roman Catholic mysticism and rituals, and promotion of books by Catholic mystics; environmentalism and “community” being emphasized to the detriment of the true Gospel message; retreats to Roman catholic monasteries to practice the silence; imitating the world with the Harlem Shake dance at the colleges, and even at an Easter church service; an ecumenical joining with radical and unbiblical religious and political groups; the teaching of occultism at Nazarene Theological Seminary; program after program such as The Master’s Plan (G-12) that is ripping apart congregations; and much more that is destroying the church from within.
The following assessments and conclusions are based on four years of research and reporting, and on gathering as much information from the events at General Assembly. There is much more that will not be covered here, so I have attempted to highlight the most critical issues. The sole motivation for this report is out of love for fellow believers. I call upon all Nazarenes and other Christians to not forsake their responsibility to preach the whole counsel of God, which includes warning the flock of false teaching. The church is dividing. However, what is happening should not be surprising, because our Lord Himself asked “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Luke 12:51
A. Two Significant developments from the General Assembly that have further weakened a once strong denomination:
Confirmed By The General Assembly: The Bible Contains Error And Is Not Fully Reliable
The most serious and damaging issue is that which affects the foundation of our doctrine and faith: how the Nazarene church views the Holy Scriptures. The 66 books of the Bible are God’s written revelation to us, and reveals to us not only the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, but reveals Truth in all aspects of what is written. God’s infallible word says that “The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160).
Yet, the rejection of a simple and clear resolution on Scripture, which was set aside for “study” four years ago, is the most emphatic act a General Assembly and its leadership could do to make a clear statement to all on where it stands. The finality of their rejection of the resolution shows us that the Church of the Nazarene does not, and may never again, affirm that the Bible is true in all its parts. If you state that the Bible has errors, then that opens the door to anyone choosing to believe what they want to believe, and reject what they want to reject, and it is calling God a liar.
The Scripture Committee’s Report is appended at the end of this report and also attached as a pdf. (The text in red and in blue are comments by James Scullin and Allen Marsh). I will note to you one statement, found towards the end of the document, which perhaps reveals their most urgent reason to reject an affirmation of the inerrancy of the Bible:
“Not only is the detailed inerrancy view at variance with Wesleyan theology, and repudiated by leading Nazarene theologians, but if Article IV were to be amended to restrict us to that particular view of Scripture, the present breadth which can comprehend both views would be replaced by this narrower fundamentalist view. Since Nazarene theologians and biblical scholars as a whole would be very strongly opposed to this narrowing of this Article of Faith, as would many leading pastors and lay people, such a move would threaten a very serious division in the denomination. The division and severe crisis and pain seen in other denominations indicate that this could have very serious results for our unity and could do serious damage to the Church of the Nazarene.”
Three bad pieces of rationale are in this statement alone. First, inerrancy of Scripture is not at variance with Wesleyan theology. That is a false statement. John Wesley himself said, “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.” The ignoring of this, and much more that they ignore in the writings of Nazarene theologian H. Orton Wiley and others, betrays their shamelessly selective isolation of passages out of context to justify their faulty conclusions.
Secondly, the reliance on “leading Nazarene theologians” instead of relying on Scripture is a philosophy that is reflected throughout this document. This is done over and over again as they rely on man’s rationale, and refuse to accept God’s word as it is plainly written. This is a major error which contributes to the downfall of any denomination.
And thirdly, the concern of any kind of division in the denomination should never be an issue by itself, and I believe this rationale betrays the real reason for rejecting the inerrancy of God’s word. This I believe is the main reason that they refuse to confess a belief in the truthfulness of all Scripture. The irony is that this is already causing great division in the denomination, and Bible believers will not put up with this, and many of them will separate from the Church of the Nazarene on this basis alone. What will eventually be left are two camps: the Bible rejecters, and the Bible believers who will be marginalized by the apostates.
Conclusion: the leadership does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, and so as the leadership goes, so will the rest of the denomination. In spite of this final document and its attempt to “explain” how the Bible contains mistakes, you will most likely not see any of these folks go to the local churches and tell the congregations that they do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I think a lot more people would simply stand up and walk away.
*Members of the Scripture Study Committee: General Superintendent Jesse Middendorf, Thomas Noble , Gary Bennett, Stephen Dillman, Bradley Estep, Thomas King (chair), Joseph Knight, Melvin McCullough, Christian Sarmiento, Arthur Snijders, Alexander Varughese (secretary), and David Wilson; Stan Ingersol and Shirley Marvin also assisted.
Homosexuality: It’s Just A Matter of Time Before A Complete Compromise
On top of the fatal error of sticking the proverbial thumb in the eye of God with the rejection of Scriptural inerrancy, is another fatal error. The question of homosexuality is one of the biggest issues not only in society but in the church as well. Countless denominations have succumbed to societal pressure, and have compromised God’s plain teaching about the sin of homosexuality. The allowing of a workshop at General Assembly with the theme of an LGBT friendly church, but sorely lacking a clear Biblical solution, was bad. But the telling part was yet again another resolution set aside for four years of study, as if the issue of homosexual sin needs further study.
This will also contribute to the downfall of the Church of the Nazarene while leading many astray. After a very large majority voted in favor of a resolution strengthening the church’s position on homosexual sin, a motion was made to refer the resolution to the General Board for further study (remember the Scriptural resolution that was tabled four years ago). The main excuse for this was that the church needed to make sure a comprehensive statement on all types of sexuality needed to be made. But why not strengthen the statement on homosexuality now, and then add to it four years later? Sadly, this motion was passed. In a brave attempt to bring it back for re-consideration, several pastors rose and made their case. One was a delegate of the Puerto Rico West District, Rev. Ramon Sierra, and another was the D.S. from North Florida, Dr. Orville Jenkins, Jr. North Florida was the district that originated this well-written and biblically solid statement on the sin of homosexuality. Speaking in opposition to their motion to reconsider was President Dan Boone of Trevecca Nazarene University. Upon voting, the motion to re-consider failed by a fairly close vote, and now the denomination will not have a clear, strong statement on homosexual sin for at least four more years.
This is an utterly sad failure on the part of the leadership, notwithstanding one of the Generals rising after the motion was rejected, and saying that the church still stands firm on this issue. In that case, could not have one or two of the Generals also stood with Dr. Jenkins in asking for a re-consideration? Lack of leadership again, and perhaps politics ruled the day, or perhaps the desire to not offend someone. They truly have forgotten that the Gospel is offensive to those who will not believe. How shameful, and how destructive this may turn out to be for the church in four more years.
With these two critical decisions, along with all the heresies being introduced into the denomination, I believe the Church of the Nazarene is on its way to be part of the ever growing group of apostate churches that are honoring men, rather than God. In spite of Nina Gunter’s proclamation that the church is “not in crisis”, the fact is that the church is in crisis, and perhaps on life support. What we are left with is leaders in denial, and other leaders in total collusion with the enemies of Christ.
B. Brief Summaries Of Other Assembly Issues:
- God Makes Mistakes, And Learns From His Mistakes? A resolution that would have condemned Process Theology was defeated in committee easily. Instrumental in allowing this heretical teaching to continue was Dan Boone, one of the most dangerous leaders in the church today. He is president of Trevecca Nazarene University, and has helped introduce contemplative mysticism at the school, field trips to Roman catholic monasteries, error filled theology, ecumenicalism, as well as allowing a pro-homosexual radical group to speak on campus. His very questionable arguments against the resolution sealed its fate. Tom Oord and others can now continue teaching this heresy to our students as if it was from the Bible itself.
- LGBT Church? A disgraceful workshop was conducted by a church that says it is “seeking to make Christ-like disciples in the LGBT community. Not a mention of sin until I asked a question at the end: “have there been any instances at your church where people testified that they had been freed from the sin of homosexuality?” It is interesting that the pastor referred to my approach as similar to Exodus International’s approach, although I corrected him and stated that it was a biblical approach. The answer was never all too clear as far as I heard it. I stand by my conclusion that this is bad news, not good news for the church. A standing ovation was given to this group at the end.
This seems to be baby steps to eventual acceptance and affirmation of homosexual “Christians”. With the Eastern Nazarene College chaplain already having boasted of worshipping with an openly homosexual pastor and congregation, LGBT support groups, the welcoming of pro-homosexual groups to campuses, and a weak official Pastoral Perspectives document.… why not? The doors are opening wider for homosexuality becoming fully accepted in the Church of the Nazarene.
- Contemplative spirituality and Roman Catholicism is getting into Nazarene blood, and its all okay with the leadership. In the workshop conducted by Mark Maddix of Northwest Nazarene University, he promoted lectio divina, and spiritual formation, and at the end, I challenged him and asked why is it the Nazarenes are bringing in all sorts of heresies and practices of the Roman Catholics. His co-speaker also erred when he stated that the Bible came from the Roman Catholics. He talked to us later, and when Tim Wirth asked him if he thought the Catholic gospel of salvation was the same as the Protestants he stated ” Yes, they are the same gospel of grace.”
He did not have an answer to the question: That’s wrong they are two separate gospels, and if they are not why was there a split?” In other words, why was there a Reformation? Dr. Maddix apparently does not know much about the history of the Roman Catholic church and what it teaches. Roman Catholics, as is taught by the magisterium and the Council of Trent, are not our brothers and sisters in Christ- yet, these “learned” professors and pastors have no idea what they are talking about- or are completely overwhelmed with a delusion that is very deadly.
- Experiencing Strange Things: Another prayer room was there, complete with the Roman Catholic feel and the icons. The same oppressive feeling that three of us had as we approached the prayer room to enter it, and the hesitation, was a bit odd for us. I went in later after praying first, and wrote my message to the church on the table. There more indications that the church is helping to bring in new problems. Experientialism is becoming more pronounced, as people are looking to “feel” and “experience” the presence of God, whatever that means. Having rejected Pentecostalism and the Azusa Street movement years ago, especially from the founder Phineas Bresee, now it seems “strange fire” is being introduced to the church again, by way of the Fire School: Living The Supernatural, conducted by Rob McCorkle and Dan Bohi.
Then there was the encounter we had with one of the young ladies at the Fire School booth. She insisted that the physical manifestations she had experienced were the mark of the Holy Spirit. I asked, how do you know it’s the Holy Spirit? And I asked again, is it possible that you could be deceived? And we were told we were not to touch God’s anointed when we questioned Dan Bohi’s teachings. We were finally asked to leave. If someone thinks that feeling heavy in their arms and not being able to get up is proof of the Holy Spirit working in them, then this person is in serious trouble. Get ready for a new wave of unsound doctrine similar to the very things Bresee warned about.
- Elections: Two new General Superintendents were chosen. One, David Busic, was president of the Nazarene Theological Seminary, and as far as I know, has done nothing to change the direction it is going: into contemplative spirituality and even the teaching of an occultic course. He has at minimum some connections to emergent ideology, including his liberal use of quotes by Phylis Tickle in his inaugural address. I’m afraid we will find out more in time. The second General Superintendent, Gustavo Crocker, has quite a few connections with Leonard Sweet, an emergent leader who is connected to Rick Warren and also has some strange ideas of spirituality. I don’t know much about him, but again, time will tell as to how he will lead. I am not optimistic.
- The Board Of General Superintendents: I have absolutely zero confidence in the Board of General Superintendents, nor should anyone else. These men have failed the church. I believe that all the evidence shows that those who were on the Board the last four years paid only lip service to the ideals and doctrines of the COTN, while allowing all sorts of heresies to damage the church, perhaps irreversibly. We must pray that they will repent of their lack of leadership, wake up to the destruction that is happening around them, and speak the truth to the people, even at the cost of losing membership. If not, we must hold them accountable.
I am asking every Nazarene who reads this, and is as concerned as we are, to write a letter to the General Superintendents, or email each of them directly, and ask for answers. Do not be satisfied with anything but direct and unambiguous answers to your questions. Ask for specifics as to what they believe. A good yes or no question to start with might be, “do you believe that Genesis 1-11 is allegory and not fact, and that Adam and Eve did not really exist? And, do you believe evolution to be true?” For a sample of possible questions, see “Questions For the Leadership.”
- A few other notes. There were debates regarding infant baptism and the atonement; arguments made for not using the Nazarene name for a church, out of fear that people would not come to a Nazarene-labeled church. We also cannot forget the terrible influence Nazarenes Exploring Evolution is having on the church, although I did not see any presentations by them. There was a pastor who abruptly walked away from me who would not back up anything with the word of God. His pastor friend then asked to pray for me, when he himself is under deception. I recalled the time when three of us could not for some reason enter into the prayer room, until I finally asked God for protection and then I went inside. There was the joy of speaking to a few pastors who told me that yes, they would hold the line, they would defend the word of God at all costs. And then meeting with fellow Nazarenes I had known for several years only through email and Facebook. Spending time with two friends who generously opened their home up to me was an enjoyable experience. There was some good at this Assembly.
“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
I believe there is a strong delusion setting into the minds of many Nazarenes today, and they are believing in many lies. What else can explain the inexplicable ignoring of so much false teaching by the leadership, and also the deliberate turning a blind eye from the truth of what is happening, by many people in the pews, and by pastors who do not seem to be interested in warning their flock? They are dangerously living in a bubble, keeping their congregation from knowing the dangers, and thus allowing them to be potentially exposed to error. The seminary is turning out pastors who are in turn introducing heretical teachings to their congregations. The pews in turn are being filled with people who are not even saved, or who are saved but are naïve and cannot or will not think for themselves.
Many Nazarenes have given their blood, sweat and tears to the Church of the Nazarene. I think of those who sacrificed much of their time and resources such as Don and Sue Butler, who with the help of Tim Wirth produced a DVD that has gone out to thousands of Nazarenes and helped many become aware of the emergent church and its dangers. Countless Nazarenes who for standing up for the truth have been disenfranchised and forced to leave their church, and when no other healthy Nazarene church is available, are forced to leave the denomination.
The Church of the Nazarene has become a denomination that has little interest in the truth of the Gospel and the well being of Bible believing Nazarenes, and instead as one former Nazarene said recently it is “a works-based religion with all sorts of rules and regulations, and the demand for increasing numbers of people, and increasing the bank account.” Even that is backfiring as the church seems to be in financial crisis, part of it precipitated by the sex scandal at Bethany First Church a few years ago, which cost the denomination an undisclosed amount of money. There is no interest in truth, because speaking the truth will often turn away people. If the truth is hidden under the cover of “love” while ignoring the righteous judgment of God, surely more people might be added to the church daily- but how many will actually be saved?
A Message To Those Who Have Been Hurt By The Church
It is difficult to see so many years of enjoyment and pure joy at being a part of a holiness church, turn into times of anguish. I have received many of your stories, and it is absolutely heartbreaking. I do not cry too many tears outside, but the sorrow I feel inside is more than I had felt in all my years before four years ago. But God has promised He will never leave you, in spite of persecution, which He says you would face. And to the churches that are standing firmly in opposition to the apostasy, we will pray for you.
A friend wrote recently in response to a Christian who was sharing a burden for the church:
“If these are the end times, I only see a further falling away. But God has said His Word will not go out void. Where the Word is still faithfully preached and lived, there will be hope, there will be growth, there will be revival…. Instead of being humbled by the punishment of God, “Christians” are only going farther from God. Rejecting God’s discipline will lead to a seared conscience and a darker walk. But continue working while there is daylight because there is still some harvesting possible, even if these are the end times. I share your broken heart over the state of the church today. May God be with you.”
A Message To The Silent Pastors
You must tell your congregation about these things. You may be against all these false teachings, but that is not enough. You MUST tell your congregation the truth about it too. They must be equipped with the knowledge of what is going on, or they will be in danger someday. You will retire someday, and then a false teacher comes in to replace you, and soon he will bring devastation upon the church with the revisionist lies of the emergent church and other false movements. Are you willing to take responsibility for that happening? You are an undershepherd to the Great Shepherd, and you are charged with a much greater responsibility, and Scripture says that you will be held more accountable by God for what you teach, or what you fail to teach.
A Message To Those Who Say We Should Not Criticize the Church And Its Leaders
We are to look out for those who preach another gospel. Paul warned about those who preached “another Jesus … another spirit … or another gospel” (II Cor. 11:4). How can we know them unless we judge their Jesus, their spirit, and their gospel by the Word of God? Paul called such preachers “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (11 Cor. II: 13). He explains in v. 14-15 that these preachers are the ministers of Satan. The God-called man must be just as faithful today in exposing the ministers of Satan.
Paul warned the Galatians about those who “pervert the gospel of Christ.” He also said, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (See Gal. 1:6-9). Multitudes today are preaching a perverted gospel. Those who teach salvation by baptism, or by works, are teaching a perverted gospel. The charismatics who add signs and wonders to the gospel, Catholics, many evangelicals, and many fundamentalists (?) are preaching a perverted gospel. Yet, we are supposed to cooperate with them in evangelism and Christian work, according to many today. If we fail to expose these false prophets, then we have betrayed Christ and His gospel.” (Tim Wirth)
www.reformednazarene.wordpress.com (a blog with articles on what is going in in the churches and universities)
www.concernednazarenes.org (our official website with some basic information and links to discernment ministries)
For a free DVD about the Emergent Church: firstname.lastname@example.org
Concerned Nazarenes (a support and information group for Nazarenes and other Christians; this group will soon be re-named to reflect its diverse mix of Nazarenes, former Nazarenes, and other Christians of like mind. The new name will be “Nazarenes And Other Concerned Christians United”
Thanks: a great thank you goes to so many people who have endured the difficulties: Sue and Don Butler and Tim Wirth for producing the Emergent Church DVD that has helped many Nazarenes; the speakers on the DVD; the pastors who have endured hardship and even firings and church closings; the laypeople who have suffered much. Your reward is in heaven.
SCRIPTURE COMMITTEE’S FINAL RESPONSE TO THE 2009 GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION JUD-805, REGARDING ARTICLE IV (THE HOLY SCRIPTURES)
(Including several responses by two Nazarenes)
[The text of the Scripture Committee report is in black text;
[Responses: by James Scullin and Allen marsh are in italics]
Resolution JUD-805: regarding Article IV. The Holy Scriptures; to remove the phrase “inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation,” and replace it with the phrase, “inerrant throughout, and the supreme authority on everything the Scriptures teach.”
Reject Resolution JUD-805 which seeks to alter the wording of Article IV. The Holy Scriptures. This committee recommends leaving this Article of Faith as it currently stands.
The proposals at the 2009 General Assembly to amend Article IV of the Nazarene Articles of Faith in order to assert the complete inerrancy of Scripture clearly come from a concern that the Bible be given its rightful place in our life and theology. Having been asked to evaluate these proposals, the committee begins by expressing our appreciation for this concern and wish to make clear our solidarity with all those who have a high view of the place of the Bible in the life of the Church and of each Christian. John Wesley declared himself to be homo unius libri, ‘a man of one book,’ and described the Methodists as ‘Bible-Christians’ determined to preach ‘plain, old Bible-Christianity.’
There is no place below to appropriately insert this, so I’ll do it here. The Nazarene church schools teach that Genesis 1 is some type of fiction allowing our schools to teach millions of years of evolution. . In giving Moses the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, God (Jehovah) said to keep the Sabbath holy “for in six day Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.” In Exodus 31:17 He repeated that: “For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He abstained from work and rested.” Therefore the Nazarene Church teaches that God lied. If God lied about that, we can’t trust anything the Bible says that God said—or about anything else.
1. THE STRENGTH OF ARTICLE IV
We wish to begin by drawing attention to the strength of the present Article IV as a declaration of our commitment to the authority of the Bible.
(a) Plenary, divine inspiration
First, the article clearly states the inspiration of Holy Scripture as ‘divine’ and ‘plenary’: that means that the whole Bible is inspired and that it is inspired, not just in the sense that a work of art may be said to be ‘inspired’, but by God. To say that the Bible as a whole is inspired is to say that we cannot take texts out of context and quote them arbitrarily as ‘the word of God.’ Where do inerrantists do that? We have to understand biblical theology as a whole.
The Bible as a whole is inspired, NOT the Bible in whole. Theologians determine what the context means. The text IS the Word of God and should be stated as such. That said, an interpretation that denies context is not the Word of God.
Nor do we believe that divine inspiration cancels out the human authorship. Each book has a distinct style, vocabulary, and idiom reflecting the quite different human authors and contexts, whether of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Luke, Paul, or even writers unknown. We do not believe in a mechanical idea of inspiration in which their minds were blotted out and they became mere puppets. Rather their mental powers were heightened and their free wills guided by the subtle and sensitive Spirit of God. Whether they were gathering information to write a narrative, or editing what had previously been written, or were putting into writing speech directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, the result was a collection of documents fit for the purpose of revealing God’s will and way, God’s acts, and supremely God’s revelation in his Incarnate Son. We agree therefore with the Cape Town Commitment of the Third Lausanne Congress when they say in their confession of faith:
We receive the whole Bible as the Word of God, inspired by God’s Spirit, spoken and written through human authors. We submit to it as supremely and uniquely authoritative, governing our belief and behavior. We testify to the power of God’s Word to accomplish his purpose of salvation. We affirm that the whole Bible is the final written word of God, not surpassed by any further revelation, but we also rejoice that the Holy Spirit illumines the minds of God’s people so that the Bible continues to speak God’s truth in fresh ways to people in every culture.2
“We receive the whole Bible as the Word of God.” “The whole Bible is the final written word of God.” This includes Genesis 1-11 and other historical narratives not accepted by many as truly historic.
We strongly endorse the emphasis in this Cape Town Commitment that we love God’s Word because we love God, love his world, love the gospel, love the people of God, and love the mission of God.
Nothing in the Cape Town Commitment says anything about loving God, His world, etc. That statement brings in unrelated ideas that sound good.
I find this troubling in light of James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” What God has revealed has been revealed and His methods established; why are we looking for new ways?
(b) Inerrantly revealing the will of God
Secondly, Article IV clearly states that the Holy Scriptures reveal the will of God inerrantly. True, but it reveals more than the WILL of God. It also reveals truth in every area of creation about which it speaks. That means that what Holy Scripture tells us about God and his saving acts and purpose cannot be set aside by any merely human philosophy, metaphysics, or ethics. Human reason and culture are all fallen and therefore suspect when it comes to discerning the will of God, but we each may trust the word of God given to us in Holy Scripture as ‘a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105). Human reason and experience may guide us in many things, but when it comes to the things of God (which shapes all of life), they must bow to what he has revealed to us in the inspired Scriptures. So why does the church accept the ideas of modern secular science over the clear words of Scripture? This belief is what is usually known as the ‘infallibility’ of Scripture, that it ‘inerrantly reveals the will of God in all things necessary to salvation’ as distinct from absolute ‘inerrancy’ in every factual detail. This is why Bible believers wanted the change. This implies that, while the Holy Spirit guides us as we listen for the voice of God speaking to us through Scripture, no claims to private revelations of the truth of God which are additional to Scripture are acceptable.
The black highlighting in the previous paragraph is mine. I felt its only intent was to weaken absolute inerrancy. Obviously true! The proper scope of the paragraph should be to establish the Holy Spirit illumines our understanding of Scripture, not our private interpretation. The degree of inspiration deserves its own paragraph. And Scripture goes far beyond implication as to the Holy Spirit guiding us, as John 16:13 plainly states. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will shew you things to come.”
This does not imply however that we are infallible in our interpretation of the Bible. Some Christians think that they are merely stating what the Bible says, but that is naïve. Whether we like it or not, every Christian is actually engaged in interpreting the Bible. Accordingly, we must interpret each word in its sentence, each sentence in its paragraph, each paragraph within the argument of the book as a whole, and each biblical book within the Scriptures as a whole. We interpret the New Testament against the background of the Old Testament, and the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament and particularly as progressive revelation leads up to the final revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We follow the guidance of the ancient creeds of the Church as we interpret the Scriptures together. All of this calls not only for careful scholarship, but also for dependence on the Holy Spirit. We expect all preachers and teachers particularly to be committed to the interpretation of the Scriptures given in the ancient creeds and the Articles of Faith, but on other matters we affirm freedom of interpretation provided it is in a spirit of loyalty to the Church. As we interpret Scripture together within the fellowship of the Church, we look to the Holy Spirit to guide us in the future into ‘the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Romans 12:2).
(c) All things necessary to our salvation
Thirdly, that brings us to the point that Article IV makes clear the purpose of Holy Scripture: that it reveals the will of God “…in all things necessary to our salvation…” John Wesley was very clear that the purpose of being a person ‘of one book’ was to find ‘the way to heaven.’
One book surely means Wesley would have rejected the volumes by theologians saying the one book he relied on was not totally inerrant. Wesley’s words on the subject: “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.” Journal for 24 July 1776
The Bible is not to be treated as an almanac or a magic book or a text book of history or science. Its truth is expressed in the thought forms of the ancient world, in their culture, context, geography, cosmology, and language. But on the other hand, God’s action in the history of Israel and supremely in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was ‘necessary to our salvation.’ Accordingly, it is part of our faith that the Bible is the God-given account of God’s action in space-time history and therefore an integral part of God’s revelation in history and uniquely in the Lord Jesus Christ. And while science progresses by studying ‘the book of nature’ rather than by biblical study, nonetheless modern science arose in a Christian culture out of Christian convictions, and ultimately we believe that everything we know through science will be seen to be more than compatible with all that has been revealed to us through Holy Scripture. That is, when both science and Scripture are correctly known and understood.
Other than our technology, humanity is the same. The truths expressed are timeless. Man is still sinful and in need of a Savior. The culture dictating what is relevant in Scripture is being used to bless homosexuality in today’s culture. Refer back to James 1:17, God has not changed His mind on what He has revealed in Scripture.
Faith in the word of the gospel of salvation also implies obedience to the law of God. To live intentionally violating the law of God as interpreted by Jesus and the apostles is the antinomian denial of the faith. Christian ethics are formulated as the Church interprets Holy Scripture guided by the Holy Spirit and taking note of the wisdom of the Church through the ages.
Again with implication, what happened to Nazarenes who could proclaim the Word of God? I John 2:2-3 “And hereby we do know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
(d) What is not from Holy Scripture cannot be a doctrine of the Church
Fourthly, the final compound clause of Article IV is perhaps the strongest of all. Its wording derives (via Wesley’s Twenty-five Articles) from Article VI of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England:
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man [sic]that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite necessary to salvation.
This asserts one of the cardinal principles of the Reformation, the sola scriptura, that Holy Scripture is the only source of Christian doctrine. It says that only what is read in Scripture or proved from Scripture is to be required as an article of faith or is necessary to salvation. Of course, as Wesleyans we know (as do the other major theological traditions in the one Church) that Scripture has to be interpreted. We interpret Scripture, guided by the traditions of the Church, in the light of our experience as the people of God, and using sanctified reason. But according to this sentence none of these can be in itself the source or basis for Christian doctrine, and as we look at the other Nazarene Articles of Faith, we see that this is in fact true. They are all derived from Scripture. Christian tradition helps us today to interpret Scripture, and human reason and experience are engaged in this interpretation and in articulating our doctrines. Reason and experience have shaped the way these Articles of Faith were formed and they still shape the way we express our doctrines and they may even corroborate them. But every doctrine we profess together as a denomination in our Articles of Faith is in fact based upon and derived from Holy Scripture.
Sometimes interpretation is based on incorrect translation. Two examples: “Thou shalt not kill.” Hindus don’t kill animals, so they are better than we are. Error: it should read, “Thou shalt not murder.” Also God told Adam, “When you eat it you will surely die.” Some say God lied because they didn’t die. The correct translation is, “When you eat it, dying you will die.” Solomon said the same thing to Shimei about leaving Jerusalem. Shimei didn’t die instantly when he left, but he was ultimately going to die. Adam & Eve began to die and ultimately died.
So, it is implied the Holy Spirit will guide our interpretation, but in practice we rely on church tradition, experience, and reason.
Such is the strength of Article IV therefore, that as a committee we believe that when it is fully understood, it is a good and sufficient guard against any theology that departs from Holy Scripture. Its strength and clarity needs to be understood and appreciated by all who preach in Nazarene pulpits and teach in Nazarene colleges/universities. The committee therefore believes that it is not only unnecessary, but that it would be untrue to the Wesleyan tradition, incompatible with Wesleyan theology, and unwarranted by the Scriptures themselves, to add any assertion that the Scriptures are ‘inerrant throughout’ not only in revealing the will of God for our salvation, but in determining the truth of any statement whatsoever. That would be to turn the Bible from the saving word of God into an almanac or encyclopedia. To say that the Scriptures are ‘the supreme authority on everything the Scriptures teach’ merely raises the question of what exactly the Scriptures teach, and there are numerous unsettled disputes among Christians (and even among Nazarenes) about that. To assert the complete detailed factual literal accuracy of every part of Scripture (‘inerrant throughout’) raises more problems than it solves and diverts people into unnecessary, distracting and futile disputes.
This is truly disturbing. This says we can’t say Scripture is the final authority, because we really don’t know what Scripture teaches. Nowhere do conservatives make the claim that Scripture gives detailed information on each and every bit of minutia of life. Indeed, we would claim the opposite; there are things unknown; we must live by faith where we do not know.
What can be known, we are commanded to find. II Tim. 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Rejection of Scriptural authority only serves the desire to live outside of Scriptural authority.
To support this conclusion, we need to expand on this key-note paragraph. We need to understand where this demand for complete detailed ‘inerrancy’ comes from, why it is unnecessary and misleading, and what the view of Nazarene theologians has been.
2. THE CALVINIST ORIGIN OF THE ASSERTION OF DETAILED INERRANCY
The debate over ‘inerrancy’ has been particularly strong in North America over the last few decades, sparked off in 1974 by the book written by Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible, and at first it might appear that the assertion of this kind of inerrancy is commendable. However, it is necessary to understand that this assertion of the complete inerrancy of Scripture in every detail (‘inerrancy throughout’) comes out of one particular Calvinist tradition. It is also Wesleyan tradition, and most, if not all, Wesleyan churches except post-1960 Nazarenes continue to believe in total inerrancy. Since this is true, the following argument falls apart.
It is part of a particular Calvinist theological method, and it cannot be understood apart from its place in the rationalism which too often characterizes that theology. The Calvinist theologians who taught at Princeton in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Charles Hodge (1797-1878) and B. B. Warfield (1851-1921), inherited this assertion from previous Calvinists such as the Swiss-Italian theologian, Francis Turretin (1623-1687), and it comes directly from their Calvinist concerns. In their battle with the Roman Catholics, the Calvinist theologians of the century after John Calvin held to the authority of the Bible in order to oppose the authority of the pope and the cardinals. Their apologetic strategy prompted them to assert the authority of the Bible as a basis for faith in Christ rather than as something which was implied by faith in Christ.
This is an ad hominem attack, first on Lindsell, then on Calvin. Calvin believed this, so we can’t. No doubt Calvin believed the sky was above his head, and the earth was beneath his feet. Hmmm, I suppose we have to forget those silly notions. Show me, Scripturally, why Calvin was wrong.
And placing the Bible in the place of authority instead of the pope, why is that a bad thing? Why tell people not all the Bible is factually inerrant? Why tell them a theologian is required to determine what it says? Why claim entire inerrancy makes it impossible to understand? Intentional, or not, such an approach only places theologians as the real authority and undermines Scripture. Calvin objected to these tactics by the pope. I object to these tactics by theologians.
Their method became to establish first the truth and authority of the Bible, and then build faith in Christ on that. Intellectual persuasion and apologetics therefore came first. Some Lutherans departed from Martin Luther by taking a similar position. Accordingly many of the Reformed Confessions in the post-Reformation period began with the Article of Faith on the Bible. It was in that context that they began to assert the inerrancy of the Bible. In keeping with their deductive method in theology, they argued that since God was perfect, and since the Bible came from him, the Bible must be ‘perfect’ in the sense of being without any error in the smallest detail.
I fail to see a problem here. God’s prophets were held to 100% reliability. If God revealed it, it was true.
It was a presupposition they brought to the Bible rather than a conclusion from the study of the biblical text itself. Not all Calvinists took this position. The Dutch and Scottish Calvinist traditions (Hermann Bavinck, Abraham Kuyper, and James Orr) are different and closer to John Calvin and the Reformers. The insistence on inerrancy was particularly strong among American Calvinists, perhaps helping to explain why Fundamentalism is a predominantly American phenomenon.
The continental Reformers themselves, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and the others, made no such claim, and no such claim is made in Article VI of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. This was a new claim in the post-Reformation period. For the Reformers themselves, it was faith in Christ which led to trust in the Bible. Martin Luther first proclaimed justification by faith (sola fide) and it was only when he realized that the pope rejected this that he saw the necessity that the Church be subject to the Bible (sola scriptura). For these later theologians in the Calvinist tradition, faith in the inerrancy of the Bible became the foundation for faith in Christ. It was from this Calvinist tradition, passed on through the nineteenth-century Calvinist theologians at Princeton, that the Fundamentalists of the 1920s took their belief in the total, detailed inerrancy of Scripture. Harold Lindsell tried to hold all evangelical Christians to this particular Calvinist belief in the 1970s and seriously divided evangelical Christianity, at least in the United States if not elsewhere. This whole development with its concern with detailed inerrant facts, demonstrates how much the Calvinist tradition was shaped by rationalistic modernity.
Wesleyans are truer to the original Reformation. We know that we are not brought to faith by having the inerrancy of the Bible proved to us, but that our faith in Christ is what leads us to trust his messengers, the prophets and apostles, and all who wrote the Holy Scriptures. It is not that we are committed as a denomination to the opposite view that the Scriptures are unreliable or that they are historically untrustworthy. No: we are committed to the belief that the Scriptures give us a sufficiently (omit the word “sufficiently”) accurate account of God’s action in the history of Israel and particularly in the birth, life, death, and bodily resurrection of the Lord.
Sufficiency. Used in this sense, good enough, adequate. Seems a tad inadequate.
It is rather that we do not think that highlighting the issue of detailed factual inerrancy is helpful or necessary to insisting on the full authority and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture. Article VI of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England is therefore entitled, ‘Of the Sufficiency of Holy Scripture’, and this concept of ‘sufficiency’ also appears in the title of Article Five of the Twenty-five Articles John Wesley gave to American Methodism.3
3. WHY THIS CALVINIST BELIEF IS THE WRONG WAY TO ASSERT THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE
There are two severe disadvantages in asserting the authority of Scripture by claiming the detailed factual inerrancy of Scripture instead of its ‘sufficiency.’ First, the concept of ‘error’ is not a helpful one since it is impossible to define what constitutes an ‘error.’
Anything that’s not correct.
The word seems to imply the need for absolute accuracy, but what degree of accuracy is appropriate? Do we insist on the kind of accuracy of modern scientific language which is foreign to all ancient literature? Are round figures acceptable? Must every narrative observe strict chronological accuracy? Are metaphors and parables disallowed? Are we going to insist that the stories Jesus told must be factually accurate? Even if we accept that the Scriptures are full of metaphor and parable and other figures of speech, are we going to decree where everyone must draw the line—what is literal fact and what is metaphor and parable, poetry and vision? The concept of ‘error’ is an absolutist word applied to something which is necessarily a matter of degree, and it is consequently a nightmare since it leads us straight into frankly silly and futile questions. That is the second point here: this misguided concept of detailed ‘inerrancy’ diverts attention to unprofitable debates about unimportant details. Was it Abiathar or Abimelech who was high priest when David ate the showbread? Were there two angels at the tomb, or was there only one? Were there several women at the tomb on Easter morning or was there only one? Did Judas hang himself or did he die some other way? There are innumerable debates on points which have no bearing on the truth of the gospel and which are a waste of time. Because we are dealing with ancient literature, we frequently do not have enough information to determine whether an apparent contradiction is truly a contradiction or not. To assert complete inerrancy therefore is to be diverted into petty and unprofitable arguments like those at Ephesus who debated ‘myths and genealogies which promote vain speculations’ and had ‘wandered away into vain discussion’ (1 Timothy 1:4-6).
If there were two angels, there was certainly one. Why one account only mentions the one is unknown. Simply stating the one establishes angelic presence. In keeping with the human will not being overtaken, each author gave his perspective. What if one angel were not in the one’s field of vision? It is wiser to fault our understanding than to claim Scripture is untrustworthy. As these authors insist, if it doesn’t affect your salvation, why the furor? It’s okay to say you don’t have the answer instead of placing Scripture as in error, such that you claim to understand it all.
Men more intelligent that any of us have declared the Bible inerrant—men such as Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, Dr. Gleason L. Archer, and Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. Check them out. Dr. Archer expressed the view of all when he said, “I candidly believe I have been confronted with just about all the biblical difficulties under suspicion in theological circles today…as I have dealt with one apparent discrepancy after another….My confidence in the trustworthiness of the Scripture has been repeatedly verified and strengthened by the discovery that almost every problem in Scripture that has been discovered by man, from ancient times until now, has been dealt with in a completely satisfactory manner by the biblical text itself.”
What persuades us of the truth of Scripture is that when it is preached in the power of the Spirit we come face to face with the Lord. We not only know ‘that he died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). Paul gives us these as the central facts of the gospel, and we believe that there is no good reason to doubt their historicity. But it is not merely a matter of being given accurate facts. It is rather that through this narrative, we come to meet and know and trust and place our faith in the Risen Lord himself. That is how the narrative of the gospel carries conviction when we evangelize—not by persuading the seeker that we can determine accurately how many angels were at the tomb. The authority of Scripture is validated by the Holy Spirit as we tell ‘the old, old story.’
On what grounds can Peter and Paul be trusted other than the opinion of theologians, if not all Scripture is factually correct? The conclusion is certainly suspect; salvation comes through good narrative (story-telling) that the Holy Spirit can use; it’s an emotional, touchy-feely, experience the “force” encounter with God.
We respect our brothers and sisters who love Scripture and want to defend its authority, but as Wesleyans it is our conviction that trying to do so in this Calvinist way is the wrong way to do it.
4. THE UNITED VIEW OF NAZARENE THEOLOGIANS
The following three web sites are academic reviews showing that Wesley and the Nazarene Church believed in total biblical inerrancy:
It is true that at the height of the Fundamentalist-Modernist battle in the 1920s, Nazarene leaders expressed their solidarity with the Fundamentalists. Given the alternative, a Modernist/Liberal theology in which (as H. Richard Niebuhr put it), ‘A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross,’ that is hardly surprising! But the denomination’s premier theologian, H. Orton Wiley, had a deeper understanding of the issues.
Wesleyans were committed to asserting the authority of the Bible against Modernism, but not in the simplistic way in which Fundamentalists tried to do it. Paul M. Bassett writes that, following in the tradition of the Wesleyan theologians, Richard Watson, W.B. Pope, and John Miley, “Wiley clearly enters the lists against American theological liberalism on the one hand and against fundamentalism on the other.” 5 In his Christian Theology, he criticizes the Protestant scholastics in the century after the Reformation in that they began “to substitute the written Word for Christ the Living Word.” In the context in which he was writing, it is clear (as Paul Bassett argues) that H. Orton Wiley was also criticizing the Fundamentalists of his day who had inherited their view of the Bible’s detailed inerrancy from scholastic Calvinism. 6 He goes so far as to warn against three ‘worthy monarchs’ to whom we can mistakenly give a false position in place of Christ, the Living Word: the church, the Bible, and reason.
Okay, interesting point here, earlier, we are told interpretation is done through church tradition, experience, and reason. Two of the three things Wiley warns about. Were there multiple authors involved in this response, or was it done in two phases that were not compared to one another?
There is good reason to conclude that it was H. Orton Wiley who drafted Article IV at the 1928 General Assembly, which is good reason in itself why Article IV should not be amended.
We don’t know for sure, but we are sufficiently sure, but, true or not, Scriptural soundness should be the driving force behind the decision on Article IV, not who the human author was.
Timothy L. Smith, in a letter to the editor of Christianity Today published on March 10, 1978 similarly maintained that Wesleyans reject both the ‘liberal’ or ‘modernist’ stance and also the narrow inerrantist view of Scripture associated with B. B. Warfield and Harold Lindsell. Timothy Smith wrote: ‘…we Wesleyans stand in an older and much broader evangelical tradition than that represented by modern neo-Calvinist scholasticism.’ In a letter to the editor of The Christian Century, he maintained that ‘the roots of the nonfundamentalist view of scriptural authority accepted by many evangelicals’ lay in the writings of the Reformers, and that the Hodge-Warfield view of inerrancy was never held by evangelical leaders such as William Booth, Adoniram J. Gordon, Dwight L. Moody, or the leaders of the National Holiness Association. He rejected the contemporary efforts of the inerrantists, Harold Lindsell and Francis Schaeffer, ‘to impose upon modern evangelicals a view of Scripture which Jesus and Paul renounced in rabbinical Judaism.’Holiness Association. He rejected the contemporary efforts of the inerrantists, Harold Lindsell and Francis Schaeffer, ‘to impose upon modern evangelicals a view of Scripture which Jesus and Paul renounced in rabbinical Judaism.’Holiness Association. He rejected the contemporary efforts of the inerrantists, Harold Lindsell and Francis Schaeffer, ‘to impose upon modern evangelicals a view of Scripture which Jesus and Paul renounced in rabbinical Judaism.’
Really? Jesus and Paul denied Scriptural inerrancy? Show me that chapter and verse!
It’s a shame you have to pick and choose which theologian to believe and quote from because you can’t or won’t make a Scriptural decision based on what Scripture says, because you don’t believe it is totally trustworthy. And after admitting to potential human fallibility!
Similarly, Ralph Earle quotes the early Nazarene theologian A. M. Hills, that the Bible is infallible in what it tells us about God and salvation, not in detailed inerrancy: Hills was the first Nazarene to present this heresy. As late as 1948 Ross Price wrote in the Herald of Holiness, “Our Lord…assumed the absolute truth of the Scripture…. The Bible is correct astronomically, geologically, historically, medically, botanically, zoologically, meterologically, prophetically, and spiritually.” (29 Nov. 1948).
What is the infallibility we claim for the Bible? It is infallible as regards the purpose for which it was written. It is infallible as a revelation of God’s saving love in Christ to a wicked world. It infallibly guides all honest and willing and seeking souls to Christ, to holiness, to heaven.8
This is presupposition. The Bible is presumed to not be factual throughout. It is presumed to only be reliable in matters of salvation. It is then merely stated to be true in those matters because we are told it is. Again, if not totally reliable, we are left with the statement of men as to what parts to trust.
Ralph Earle then goes on to defend a fellow evangelical scholar who accepted that there are errors in the Bible in rhetoric, history and science. At the same time he thought that this colleague had made more concessions than he needed to and had accepted that there were factual contradictions where the historical accounts could be harmonized by careful hermeneutics.9
J. Kenneth Grider similarly rejected detailed inerrancy. He takes note of one sentence from Wesley quoted by Harold Lindsell which seems to teach detailed inerrancy, but argues that when that sentence is taken in the context of Wesley’s whole theology, he did not teach inerrancy as part of his theological method in the way of scholastic Calvinism. J. Kenneth Grider argues: “…Scripture itself is not interested in inerrancy. It makes a claim for inspiration, but not for inerrancy—at least, not for total inerrancy.”
And Deuteronomy 18:21 – 22 says, “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”
J. Kenneth Grider examines that claim to inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, and points out that according to the text it is inspiration specifically for teaching (doctrine) and practice.10
Then why does the verse begin with “All scripture is given by inspiration” instead of for inspiration?
Rob L. Staples contrasts Wesleyanism with Fundamentalism, which arose in Calvinistic soil and insists on ‘epistemological inerrancy.’ Wesleyanism works differently and takes a view which he calls ‘soteriological inerrancy.’ See both of my comments above under “THE UNITED VIEW OF NAZARENE THEOLOGIANS.”
Epistemology deals with truth, I’m fine with insisting the Bible be without lies. What is the other choice? If the Bible is from God, but not totally accurate, then isn’t that calling God a liar? From Romans 3:4 “…let God be true, but every man a liar;…”
The point of Martin Luther’s analogy is that Christ, who is the Living Word, is to be found in the Bible, which is the written Word. But the latter is an instrument directing us to the former, and thus not an end in itself.12
Paul M. Bassett argued in an article on the understanding of the Bible in the holiness movement, that its history and inner logic would lead it to conclude ‘that a call like Lindsell’s [for detailed inerrancy] is theologically and spiritually irrelevant.’ Paul Bassett continues:
A fully true Bible is irrelevant, really?
Its history and inner logic would lead it to conclude that, if the term inerrancy be used, as it is, it refers to the Bible’s service as the unique creation of the Holy Spirit, intended by that Spirit to carry conviction for sin, the news of full salvation in Christ, and sure instruction in how to relate to God and neighbor in righteousness and true holiness. In these things the Bible is to be understood as wholly inerrant.
Paul Bassett proceeds to rule out the more detailed inerrancy (‘inerrancy throughout’):
The movement has concluded that, since empirical or scientific exactitudes certainly are not soteriologically ultimate and are not even metaphysically ultimate, they must be accounted for in terms of something other than scientific exactitude itself…. Most holiness people would insist that all such questions must submit to the question of the ultimate purpose of Scripture itself, which is not absolutely accurate knowledge of all things in heaven and earth but soteriological sufficiency.13 Nobody says the Bible gives full knowledge of all things, but we do say the Bible is completely accurate in the facts it does give.
H. Ray Dunning notes that some evangelicals base the Bible’s authority on its inerrancy, but concludes that ‘such rationalistic defenses are less than compelling.’14 H. Ray Dunning goes on to quote A. M. Hills, Clark H. Pinnock, Richard S. Taylor, H. Orton Wiley, and even John Calvin to support the alternative view of the Bible’s authority, that we are persuaded of it by the testimonium internum Spiritus sancti, the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. This he sees as an aspect of the doctrine of prevenient grace.
We have to conclude then that current Nazarene theologians (the intelligencia of the church—academicians) as a whole, with few if any exceptions, are totally opposed to the idea that we need to assert the complete detailed factual inerrancy of Holy Scripture in order to defend its authority. As a body, they are totally committed to its authority in matters of faith and practice, doctrine and ethics. The question of whether the Bible is totally accurate in every statement is not therefore something on which the Church needs to pronounce one way or the other in its official Articles of Faith, for it is quite irrelevant.
In the 1800’s many things in the Bible were thought to be errors including the idea that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch (writing didn’t exist then) and the Hittites didn’t exist. Science has time and again found the Bible to be correct. Things many think to be errors now have already been answered (Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions Volumes 1 and 2 by Ken Ham).
Two editors of the Herald of Holiness made the very good point that the present Article of Faith IV is a broad one. W. E. McCumber commented in ‘The Answer Corner’ that Article IV “does not commit us for or against total inerrancy, and, as one would expect, there are proponents of both concepts of ‘plenary inspiration’ to be found among us.” He himself concluded, ‘It is not errorless, but it will infallibly achieve its purpose when the Holy Spirit uses it to convict of sin and draw to Christ, making possible our salvation.’16 Wesley Tracy, in ‘The Question Box,’ made clear his view that the inerrancy view “has become the trademark and battle cry of rigid, right wing, Calvinist fundamentalists” and does not belong in the Wesleyan tradition. Nonetheless, he comments that Article IV is a “roomy one”: and that both the rigid fundamentalist who believes in inerrancy can assent to the article, while those “who take a less rigid view… also have elbow room.”17 All this has been rebutted earlier.
Creeds should be ambiguous enough to maximize membership.
That brings us to a final thought. Not only is the detailed inerrancy view at variance with Wesleyan theology, and repudiated by leading Nazarene theologians, but if Article IV were to be amended to restrict us to that particular view of Scripture, the present breadth which can comprehend both views would be replaced by this narrower fundamentalist view. Since Nazarene theologians and biblical scholars as a whole would be very strongly opposed to this narrowing of this Article of Faith, as would many leading pastors and lay people, such a move would threaten a very serious division in the denomination. The division and severe crisis and pain seen in other denominations indicate that this could have very serious results for our unity and could do serious damage to the Church of the Nazarene.
Keeping the denomination united is more important than taking a modified stance on inerrancy. I would think that advertising to the general populace of the church that the church does not believe the Bible is inerrant in its entirety would cause many to leave the church, as a number of those of us who know it have already done.
For all these reasons, the committee strongly advises that these amendments should be rejected. Nazarenes are committed by the present Article IV to the sufficiency of Holy Scripture, its final authority in all matters of Christian faith and living, in doctrine and ethics. That is all we need to say.
* Thanks to James Scullin and Allen Marsh for their comments on this document
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