Wesleyan or reformed view of holiness?

Discussion in 'Spiritual Warfare' started by Jon 316, Feb 25, 2009.

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  1. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    First of all, the holiness movement tends to have a small view of sin. When they speak of "victory", they are often referring to external behaviors that are not being committed. What they fail to grasp, is that such external behaviors are only the fruit of the real sin lying underneath of it all. Sin involves the initial cumpulsion and minute desire towards a behavior that is contrary to absolute perfection, not just the stifling of it once it has compelled us from within. Also, they entirely leave out the sins of omission. What about all of the things I should be doing that I am not doing, like actions of love towards my neighbor, or the thousands of needs I could have met for others today that I did not lift a finger towards. How about the sins of attitude.....was I really wanting to love my neighbor when I helped him rake his leaves yesterday....was I desiring it with my entire heart......and what about my motives while doing so......were they 100% for the glory that God would have for himself as a result of it? Basically, a stoical monk with a half-iron will would be able to outdo most perfectionists, because the main thing is emphasized that must be conquered is external, known, sinful actions. Give an unregenerate person enough motive, and they'll stifle about any desire within them that is sinful. Hold a gun to their head 24/7, or to that of a family member, and watch how much p*rn they watch, or how much they get drunk, or how strict they now keep the sabbath. Israel did a pretty good job at keeping those laws that demanded their life from them if they didn't obey. So, I think the holiness movement first has a small view of what sin is in the first place.

    Second, I think that, where the holiness movement messed up, was with their understanding of what was restored in regeneration. They believe that the faculty of the will is entirely restored to wholeness. The other two faculties of the understanding and the affections they still see as partially corrupted. Whereas, reformed thinking, in my opinion, sees all three faculties as only partially restored. Sanctification is still needed in all three areas. And so, sometimes our wills are overpowered by the sin within us, as was David's, Samson's, Solomon's, and many others. John Newton speaks about this in several of his letters, as does Owen in a few of his discourses, if I remember correctly.

    But, I'm with you, in that it is frustrating, b/c often the difference is hard to catch onto, b/c what they promise is what we all want. And, once you trade in 17 years of your life for believing it, and realize that you're actually a worse sinner afterwards then you were starting out in the first place, you look back at all those decisions you made because of it, and all the advice you gave to other young believers, and just cringe. It was a path of utter darkness for me, one that was filled with misery, doubt, and fear...and the joy and peace of the gospel were nowhere to be found, nor was true sanctification. For, if victory over true sin was attainable, I sure wasn't experiencing it, if I was honest about it. So, off to church I went, for my weekly beatings.......*sigh*
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2009
  2. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    You might enjoy John Owen's classic works on Sin and Temptation, Mortification of Sin, and Indwelling Sin.
  3. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    I never knew this! I'd love to find out more about this transformation within Jerry Bridges, and his thoughts looking back on this work of his. That was the book given to me by someone who pushed holiness in a similar fashion.
  4. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    Someone told me " He's reformed, read this" when I was on my Keswick Recovery program. I was a little baffled. I'm happy to hear he finally got the picture.
  5. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    My pastor knows Jerry Bridges, and he is the one who shared this with us.
  6. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast Puritan Board Junior

    I think the wording of the confession of faith shines in this section. A careful and deliberiate reading of it helps to distinguish any notion we have that being free from the bondage of sin,and its ultimate penalty- and being free from all sin leaves very quickly. Ryle, Owen, and many others help us to examine our heart motives in their writings.
    God is so Holy that we cannot fully grasp what that consists of, but we strive to gain a clearer understanding of Isa.6, or Rev.4/5.
    Thankfully by the grace of God we can see growth in many areas. Look carefully and re-read this section of the confession phrase by phrase and see if you think they were not biblically accurate in their statements
  7. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    You can read Holiness by J. C. Ryle online here.
  8. Jon 316

    Jon 316 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I agree with your point on systematic study.

    However, does the bibles texts which show that the 'sinful nature' remains (although is that not a dodgy translation of the word which should read 'flesh'?) undermine the truths in scripture which point to deliverance from sin?

    Excuse the paraphrases and lack of exact references (I dont have much time).

    I.e Corinthians speaks of 'God always providing a way of escape for the tempted believer'.

    The Lord also taught in that prayer, that we should pray 'Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from Evil'.

    Leaving aside the term 'perfection' or 'sinless. (Inorder to avoid reducing sin). Is it not true that the bible expects believers to triumph over temptation?

    I'm not sure that this is the case. Perhaps the holiness movement moved towards that. But the book I am reading, from a Nazerene perspective. and what I understand of Weslyian theology, suggests the opposite. In fact what I have been reading explicitly says it is not about external behaviour, neither is it (holiness) about decisions of the will. It is instead about purification of heart on the basis of the application of the work of Christ to the believer by The Holy Spirit.

    I appreciate your dispair, and I appreciate this is one of the most common criticisms of the holiness movement.

    However, my experience has been the opposite. In that, the times when I have known the sweetest presence of Christ, victory over sin, etc is when I have read key truths from certain holiness writers i.e Andrew Murray and now this book I am currently reading.

    The truth which I refer to is that It is Christ in me and through me who produces holiness. Christ is my Holiness. Its not by striving, or decisions but by faith in the finished work of Christ whose benefits are applied in me, to me, and through me by the Spirit of Christ.

    Infact, even William Gurnall (Puritan?) says in his complete Christian armour regarding the promise of deliverance found in the scripture 'sin shall not have dominion over you'. He encouraged believers to find refuge in this verse.
  9. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    But in Arminian Wesleyan theology Christ is in you only by your invitation and remains in you only by your permission. So because of your invitation and your permission holiness ultimately depends upon you.
  10. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    True, that "sanctification by faith" or "exchanged life" takes a lot of work on the part of the believer.
  11. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    Well....I agree that many holiness preachers go so far as to say that victory over all internal motions of sin is attainable. It's just that, when I've pressed the issue of whether or not this refers to the actual bent towards sin within us or not, I've never gotten a yes answer from them. I just don't think that either scripture or experience supports such a belief. When I read Romans 6-8, I see that we have died to sin in the same manner that Christ died to sin (6:10,11), which is to it's ability to condemn us. Our death to sin was to it's guilt, not to it's power. We are to reckon ourselves dead to the guilt of sin. Our removal from the Law's condemnation of us (ch. 7) now legally allows us to be joined to Christ in marriage, and now, sanctifying power can flow from him to us via his Spirit. However, we are still in bondage to sin, (7:14), although not to the same degree, for we have a new law of holiness working in us at the same time. Sin is impaired, but not destroyed. It's power is weakened, but not removed. It's dominion is gone, but it's army still holds fortresses throughout the countryside. Victory is certain, but it is not entirely present. And so, Paul goes on to say in Chapter 8, vs. 23-25 that we must wait for full redemption. Our full deliverance lies in hope. And, who hopes for what he sees. But, we hope for what we do not see, but rather wait for it with patience. The holiness movement does not want to wait in hope. They expect deliverance now, and, in order to grant it to you, they either have to lessen the standard of perfection or else make us into good liars. John says, that "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (I Jn. 1:8). So, my question to them, when they say that we can have victory over sin b/c we are now dead to it power, is, "well, then where's the struggle?" If it has no power, then the struggle is gone.

    I agree with you in what you say above, that 'Christ in me and working through me produces holiness', but, I don't think it actually produces it in perfection this side of glory, for sin is always contaminating us to some degree at the same time. As for the puritan above regarding "sin not having dominion", be cautious with what "dominion" means, for the holiness people tend to take it too far, in my opinion. It doesn't mean that the other basketball team won't score a point any more. It just means that finally now, we get to at least score a few of our own, whereas before, we could score none.

    Keep reading and thinking it through. I'm on your side.....and I don't want to seem like I'm here to just combat your points with rebuttal, so, sorry if I have done that too much. I enjoy hearing you out and listening to your thoughts. I have the Works of John Wesley here on my shelf, so, I'll try to take a look at them, and see if there's some similarities in what you're reading and what he says. BTW, I'd be interested in knowing the book you're reading, if you don't mind sharing that. I'd enjoy comparing his thoughts with Wesley's at my own leisure as well.

    Blessings and warm fellowship!
  12. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    If you are interested in reading further on the subject, I heartily recommend Sinclair Ferguson's response to the Wesleyan view of sanctification in the book "Christian Spirituality," ed. Donald L. Alexander.
  13. Jon 316

    Jon 316 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm enjoying your input, thanks.

    The book is The Power to Be Free: Discovering Life in the Spirit of Christ by Frank Moore
  14. Calvinist Cowboy

    Calvinist Cowboy Puritan Board Junior

    I love this! You hit the nail on the head! Those portions I put in bold are truths that I honestly had no understanding of until just a few short weeks ago. One of the elders and I are studying Gal. 5. I had always thought that Gal 5 was commanding believers to put on the fruit of the Spirit - to "be holy as I am holy". This, however, only leads to moralism. We ourselves are unable to put on the fruit of the Spirit precisely because it is the Spirit's fruit. We are unable to bear such fruit ourselves. This is why moralism burns us out. Our responsibility in sanctification is not to bear fruit, but to abide in Christ just as branches must abide in the vine. If we look at the "holiest" men of church history, they are those people who have been most enamored with Christ. Augustine, John Calvin, Edwards, they all had a passion for Christ that totally consumed them. Because they desired Christ and loved Him, they were transformed more into His image.
  15. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Galatians 5 has had a deep impact on me, too. Another passage that transformed my understanding was Philippians 3. "I count all things as rubbish, that I may win Christ."
  16. TaylorOtwell

    TaylorOtwell Puritan Board Junior

    Very encouraging - thanks.
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