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Thursday, June 18, 2015

What is it that We're Confessing, Exactly?



In a comment from my recent post, Community of Confession, the following questions were posed,

"Surely, everything does not need to be confessed corporately, yes? How do we decide what should be confessed corporately? And what corporate settings? And what needs to be confessed before God only and if necessary confessed privately with the other person/people involved with the sin?"

These, along with some other ongoing discussions, have led me to consider the definition of sin.  Well, guess what!  In the Church of the Nazarene, we have an article of faith for that.  Article of Faith #5 reads:

Sin, Original and Personal

5. We believe that sin came into the world through the disobedience of our first parents, and death by sin. We believe that sin is of two kinds: original sin or depravity, and actual or personal sin.

5.1. We believe that original sin, or depravity, is that corruption of the nature of all the offspring of Adam by reason of which everyone is very far gone from original righteousness or the pure state of our first parents at the time of their creation, is averse to God, is without spiritual life, and inclined to evil, and that continually. We further believe that original sin continues to exist with the new life of the regenerate, until the heart is fully cleansed by the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

5.2. We believe that original sin differs from actual sin in that it constitutes an inherited propensity to actual sin for which no one is accountable until its divinely provided remedy is neglected or rejected.

5.3. We believe that actual or personal sin is a voluntary violation of a known law of God by a morally responsible person. It is therefore not to be confused with involuntary and inescapable shortcomings, infirmities, faults, mistakes, failures, or other deviations from a standard of perfect conduct that are the residual effects of the Fall. However, such innocent effects do not include attitudes or responses contrary to the spirit of Christ, which may properly be called sins of the spirit. We believe that personal sin is primarily and essentially a violation of the law of love; and that in relation to Christ sin may be defined as unbelief.

(Original sin: Genesis 3; 6:5; Job 15:14; Psalm 51:5; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 1:18-25; 5:12-14; 7:1-8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Galatians 5:16-25; 1 John 1:7-8

Personal sin: Matthew 22:36-40 {with 1 John 3:4}; John 8:34-36; 16:8-9; Romans 3:23; 6:15-23; 8:18-24; 14:23; 1 John 1:9-2:4; 3:7-10)

So, based on this definition, there's the sin you're born with and the sin you choose. 

5.1 The sin you're born with.  Most commonly, in the Church of the Nazarene, I hear this referred to as "the sinful nature".  I think I'm going to push back just a little bit on this part of the article, because the wording is stronger than I can fully comprehend.  Do we really believe, for examples, that infants are inclined to continual evil?  Or the regenerate (those who are "saved")?  Really, if that's the case then what good is salvation?  I think the wording here may be intended to emphasize the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (or sanctification), but I'm not certain it is particularly helpful.  (I hope I didn't just get kicked out of the Church of the Nazarene).

5.2  Now this is really intriguing.  Right in our articles of faith we say that this original sin, this sinful nature, this inclination toward continual evil - as it turns out, we're not accountable for it until we expressly neglect or reject entire sanctification.  OK.  Except, if entire sanctification is really very specific to Wesleyan/Armenian/Holiness denominations, and, let's face it, the Church of the Nazarene holds entire sanctification up as our distinctive doctrine; what does this say about the rest of the world?  I'm at war with myself over this.  Honestly, I feel a little bit like Paul (see Romans 7:15-20).  If you stay with me, here, I think this might be the key to why so many Nazarenes are uncomfortable with corporate confession.  Hold that thought... 

5.3  I think we immediately muddy the waters here by using the word "actual".  It begs the question, this original sin that we believe exists, it's not actual sin?  Then what difference does it make?  But again, let's focus on what the Church of the Nazarene does view as actual, personal sin.  "A voluntary violation of a known law of God by a morally responsible person".  There are some serious requirements here.  First, you have to be morally responsible (what does that mean).  You have to know the law of God (what does that mean).  And then you have to voluntarily break the law of God.  Just to clear it up a little bit, "involuntary and inescapable shortcomings, infirmities, faults, mistakes, failures, or other deviations from a standard of perfect conduct" don't count.  You're off the hook.  Oh, but attitudes, they count.  And most importantly, just don't violate the law of love (I have to think we're talking about Jesus' "Greatest Commandments" here, see Matthew 22:36-40) and, you have to believe in Jesus.

I don't know if I dare say this, but I think our definition of sin, for which we are accountable, is far too narrow.  Why did we choose this?  Well, I think that goes a couple of different ways.  Primarily, I think this is about our doctrine of holiness.  The way we have things set up, once a person has experienced entire sanctification (baptism of the Holy Spirit), the sinful nature is eradicated.  So, not only do we say that a person is no longer inclined to continual evil; that person is also no longer capable of sin (at least, for the most part, assuming he or she does not "fall away").  But also, I think our definition of sin is thoroughly wrapped up in our understanding (or misunderstanding) of the eschaton (there's that word again).  To put it bluntly, often, in the Church of the Nazarene, sin=Hell.  To accept responsibility for mistakes or faults or imperfections is a dangerous proposition.

I think the people who crafted these statements in Article of Faith #5 were hoping to lessen the burden of sin.  I think these words were supposed to be freeing.  Unfortunately, they may have set the stage for power structures that lack accountability, transparency, and integrity.  After all, if a person is sanctified, there is no longer a desire to sin.  To claim sanctification is to claim perfection.  There is no need for confession.  There is no need for questions.  There is no need for investigation.  Sanctified people might make mistakes here and there, but they are to be trusted implicitly.  There is no responsibility.

Perhaps ironically, the most egregious (not defined as) sins that I frequently see among the sanctified leadership of the church seem to fall into the category of violating the law of love.  If nothing else, that's something to think about.

But let me just backtrack, for a moment, regarding these mistakes we make.  Do they hurt others?  Do they create an environment where redemption is secondary to our own pride and perfection?  Are we so concerned with manipulating the law in order to assure a seat in Heaven that we miss building the Kingdom right where we are?  Even if we don't want to call it sin, can we not take responsibility?  Several months ago, I read a book about responsibility that completely changed my view on this.  I hope it has changed my actions, as well.  If you're interested in a fabulous read, I can highly recommend, "Scandalous Obligation".  But even if you don't want to dive in this deep, perhaps you might start to think about the confession of corporate sin in corporate settings.  Can we not be sincerely sorry for the ways in which we have neglected to contribute to peace in the Kingdom of God?  Can we not be sincerely sorry for the things we have not done?  For the mistakes that have been made that have brought harm to others, even if unintentionally?  For broken relationships?  For not embodying love like we should?  Who talks about these things?  Jesus does.

Perhaps it's a little bit odd, but the more I think about sin and confession, the more concerned I become with the things we don't even recognize as sin.  Somehow, I think they might cause the greatest harm.  So, if the question is, "Do I need to stand up on a Sunday morning and publicly declare the really "big" sins in my life that fall into the "willful transgression against the known law of God" category?  I guess not.  Personally, I would highly recommend finding someone, with whom you can be honest, who will help you to walk through the process of confession and repentance, listening to God with you, in such a way that things can be made right.  But that's not even what I'm talking about anymore.  May we all recognize that we are a part of doing things (or not doing things) that affect the people in our lives and in the world around us.  May we be truly sorry when we cause pain instead of redemption.  May we confess these shortcomings, intentionally, on a regular basis.  And then, may we go out and do something as catalysts of restoration.

L.      

13 comments:

  1. I will give my layman's understanding to each section you address from the COTN Articles of Faith. I think I have probably learned more about our theology from my Pastor (who grew up Catholic........some of the best Nazarenes, IMHO), than I ever did as a student at Olivet. That is not a slam on my education, just an observation of a more mature Christian.

    5.1 You stated, "I think the wording here may be intended to emphasize the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (or sanctification)"... I tend to agree with you there. Yes, we are naturally inclined to continual evil because of the Adam & Eve's Fall. We are born with this original sin nature, but not to the extent of "infants" being lost because they are not to the age of accountability yet.....more on that in a minute. I'm not sure why you feel this section being related to Sanctification is not necessarily helpful. I won't vote to kick you out of the church :)

    5.2 Could it be the article is referring to salvation, and not sanctification?? If so, the article might make more sense.

    5.3 "First, you have to be morally responsible (what does that mean)". Again, I think this goes back to the age of accountability. If you don't understand what Jesus came to offer at the Cross (salvation, redemption, grace, mercy, sanctification, justification, etc....), how can you be morally responsible?
    "You have to know the law of God (what does that mean)" Sin can not be committed on accident. We disobey known laws of God. He has certain laws (Ten Commandments, the Shema). We willfully, on purpose, disobey these laws from time to time.....rebellion against God. For these sins, we certainly must repent and ask for forgiveness from God (not just say "I'm sorry", but actually turn from our sin and go the opposite direction).
    The mistakes, failures, etc are "sins" described in the original language (I am not a Greek scholar) that are indeed different than rebellion against God.
    "So, not only do we say that a person is no longer inclined to continual evil; that person is also no longer capable of sin". Wesley never taught we were never capable of sin once we were sanctified, but that it was possible to not sin, although not very probable, according to Paul.
    "After all, if a person is sanctified, there is no longer a desire to sin. To claim sanctification is to claim perfection". We are going to be tempted to sin. The consecration of our lives to the Lord, and His cleansing of our heart, does not make us perfect in all of our actions. That is just plain false teaching from the days of judgmental evangelists. Thank God we have moved away from "holiness" meaning we have to dress a certain way, or don't go to movies or even the circus!


    If we hurt others, we MUST ALWAYS, in humility, go to them and apologize and ask for their forgiveness. How can we expect God to forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive one another? If we have something against our brother ........hello?
    We must always take responsibility for our actions, especially if it causes pain to another believer.

    That's about enough for now. Looking forward to your rebuttal. Of course, remember I was the Quizmaster first! Lol :)

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  2. Bryan -

    5.1 I'm just not sure it's helpful to imply that we're bent toward *continual* evil until a crisis moment of entire sanctification (which is how es is still often understood). I think, in many ways, this negates initial sanctification, salvation, atonement, whatever you want to call it. If that's the case, we should be emphasizing entire sanctification from the beginning, because I'm not sure what good salvation is if it leaves us bent toward continual evil. And yes, I understand that this does not lead to a belief in infants being lost. Realistically, the way this is worded, I'm not sure it leads to a belief in *anyone* being lost (that's a plus), since as we progress through the article we find that it holds us responsible for so very little. But I'm not so concerned about who is lost and who is not, in regard to this point. I am much more concerned about how this affects our ability to bring the Kingdom of God to fruition, starting now. Much of my concern, as my post goes on, is that we have made sin far too much about another life than about this one.

    5.2 Ironically, I also read it this way, at first. I have been corrected by multiple theologians, after asking questions. This part of the article is, indeed, referring to entire sanctification as the remedy for the sinful nature, which is the only thing that makes sense, since salvation is obviously not the remedy, as seen in 5.1.

    5.3 I was, at least in part, asking rhetorical questions here, but I do appreciate the attempt at answering them. My point was that "morally responsible" is sort of vague. We can talk about an "age of accountability", but I'm not sure we can actually set one. As an example, even my five year old knows when certain things are right or wrong, but I am quite certain she cannot be held personally responsible for other things, because she just doesn't understand them yet. This could be said, to a certain degree, of all of us. Further, there are seriously diverse opinions on what is moral. It's way too subjective (at many points) to be clear cut. I disagree with you that sin cannot be committed on accident. I know that's not very Nazarene of me. My main problem with the premise that sin cannot be committed on accident is that I think this absolves us of any responsibility for the ways in which we hurt others on accident. I might even be OK with saying that *sin* cannot be committed on accident but that confession is still required for accidental injury. But almost no one does this. What about the things we omit that we *should* do. Are they only sin if premeditated? What if we cause harm by being unintentionally irresponsible for the care of others? Are we "off the hook"?

    I tend to agree with you that entire sanctification does not actually make us unable to sin. Still, I think it is *taught* this way in many settings, and I certainly think we lift those in authority to a position of sinlessness in such a manner that they are never to be questioned. I don't think that's very healthy. I'm really glad that you have seen this taught and lived out differently, perhaps more graciously and closer to sound teaching than I have seen in various places. It is an area in which I think the CoTN is improving, but it takes a lot of people who are willing to fight for transparency and integrity to keep making progress!

    And yes, when we hurt others, we must always ask forgiveness, and when we are hurt by others, we must always offer it, even if they never ask.

    Thanks for this excellent discussion!

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  3. Lisa,

    Thank you for the reply (I read it first at 2:30 a.m. I resisted the urge to start typing then, but didn't get back to sleep for at least 30 minutes because my brain would not shut off)!

    **Soap box moment**
    The reason I love and respect my Pastor so much, is that he does not read a watered down 10 minute sermon devoid of the cross. Weekly he turns to the cross on the wall behind him (yes, we still have a cross and an altar) and preaches Christ and Him crucified. **Stepping down from said box now** He has been preaching a series about the cross on Wednesday nights going through the cross' different aspects, other than just salvation. One of the more interesting ideas he has presented is that salvation is not just about the here and now, but after the crisis event, is a lifelong process of being saved until the completion of hearing "Well done, thou good and faithful servant". He went on to say that Nazarenes have too often treated holiness as a "once sanctified, always sanctified" idea. I am saved, sanctified, petrified and on my way to heaven! Entire Sanctification is also a lifelong process where true perfection is never attained until we see Jesus one day. So, your explanation of 5.1 above makes much more sense to me now. We should definitely be emphasizing initial sanctification from the beginning, because Christ already provided it to us at the cross. We get it all when we accept what He did for us. The crisis moment comes when we realize we need to consecrate ourselves completely to the Will of God. After the struggle that Paul so clearly describes, which was after his conversion, not before. As to the Kingdom of God.......yes, it must be a part of our lives now. It was already brought forth in part when Christ cried out from the cross, "It is finished", and will be established completely upon His return to this earth one day.

    5.2 Hmmm.................. that really does get confusing. I will be asking my Pastor about this one!

    5.3 The sins we commit that hurt others require us to seek their forgiveness. If we refuse to do so, then yes, that then becomes rebellion against God. We must realize we have hurt someone before we even know we have "sinned". What we do with that information moving forward determines if sin is now separating us from God. Thankfully, He is the Judge, with Christ pleading our case!

    This is fun!


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    1. Hi Bryan-

      You made some really good comments here including touching on a couple of things that I myself had laid out for a comment but had not posted yet - particularly the idea of "once sanctified, always sanctified" and "petrified." I think as a holiness denomination we have railed against "once saved, always saved" only to replace it with "once sanctified, always sanctified." It is the same attitude and thinking, just dressed in holier-than-thou robes.

      In your '5.3' comment above...I don't think it requires us realizing we have hurt someone for our actions to be sin, or sinful.

      This is why confession that goes beyond personal, individual, 'known transgressions' is so important, and why the lack of this practice in our denomination is detrimental to our spiritual well being as individuals, local congregations, and a global community.

      I am certain I have hurt people that have never told me I have hurt them, and whom I never realized I hurt. This lack of knowledge does not make the hurt and pain caused any less a result of a fallen, sinful world in which *my* actions were complicit. I think we need confession and repentance for these things, personally and corporately, and we need this on a regular basis, because I think it happens on a regular basis, whether we have specific knowledge of it or not.

      In the same way, people have hurt me that have never apologized or tried to make it right. Some may not have any idea that it happened. I think sometimes the right thing is to go to that person and let them know (if one does this, I think they should go in a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, not in a a spirit of offense and accusation). Other times, it may do more harm than good for the other person or group, and the best thing is to process this with ourselves, the Lord, and a close friend or two, a mentor, or a spiritual director.

      So whether it is something done to us, or something we have done to others, there are many things where we do not have full knowledge of the extent of hurt and pain caused where we have been involved. I think these are real sins/consequences of sin and should be confessed and repented of regularly. I think the problem comes in when some want to make this a heaven-or-hell issue rather than a spiritual formation and Christlike character issue. The most important question should always be, "how can I be more like Jesus?" rather than "how can I make sure I get to Heaven?" The former focuses on relationship (transformative), the latter on rules and regulations (conformative). And the former always leads to the latter, anyway, so why not place our focus there?

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    2. Bryan -

      I think it's great how seriously you are thinking about these things. Phil's response is spot on in many ways, so I'm going to let it speak for itself on the points he chose to address.

      I'd like to add just a couple of things. First, thank you for pointing out the importance of process. I absolutely agree that salvation and sanctification happen over time as a part of spiritual formation. May we never begin to think that we have "arrived". I know I need God's grace every single day, for sure!

      Also, thanks for taking a brief moment to talk about the symbols that are so important to our worship in the CoTN (the cross, the altar). I am going to be doing some writing for "Sacramental Saturday" that will incorporate this a little more fully.

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  4. Hey Phil,

    I think we are coming to similar conclusions from different angles. Toward the end of your reply you make reference to some wanting to make these "sins" a heaven-or-hell issue. That hits the nail squarely on the head. This goes back to the two different words in the original language that are translated as sin in English. Some sin separates us from God and is a heaven-or-hell issue (rebellion.....I will do it my way no matter what God says). The other type of "sin" as you so very well have termed it a spiritual formation or Christlike character issue. I like how you described that. We must repent of these sins also, but they are not a heaven-or-hell issue. Going back to the days of a more judgmental attitude in Nazarene circles, all sin would condemn us to hell, no matter what, because sin separates us from God, and no sin can enter into heaven. That is what I meant when I said we must realize we have hurt someone before it becomes sin for us. I don't mean to be going in a circle, but I agree with how you are making the distinction between the two different types of sin. Does that make sense?

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    1. Bryan -

      I'm not Phil, so I'll let him speak for himself. However, you've said some things here that I feel the need to address. I'm not quite sure which two words from the original languages to which you are referring. I can actually find at least *twenty-two* words that we sometimes translate as "sin".

      My point, in writing about sin and confession, was decidedly *not* about heaven and hell and which sins determine our place at the eschaton. On the contrary, my concern is that we do not take sins of omission, corporate sin, systemic sin, etc. seriously enough. Even as I write that, though, I want to be abundantly clear that I am not saying, "We don't take these sins seriously enough, because they are a matter of heaven or hell". The truth is, I don't talk much about either place. It's not that I don't think they exist (although I've been accused of such). It's just that don't think we have a very solid grasp on them, because Scripture doesn't actually say a whole lot about them. This is probably another subject to flesh out on another day.

      But in regard to these sins we ignore... I'm really concerned about our lack of integrity, transparency, and accountability. I think we want to push them aside, because they're not "the big ones" that are hot button issues, but we need to take more responsibility.

      I posted a song to FB the other day, Derek Webb's "I repent". It speaks pretty well to this, and one of my favorite lines is, "the way I believe that I am living right, by trading sins for others that are easier to hide, I am wrong and of these things I repent". Honestly, I am so sick of sins that are easy to hide.

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    2. Bryan - I'll just let Lisa speak for me, even though she said she wasn't. I will 'Amen' her response and call it good! :)

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  5. I prefaced all of my comments by admitting they were from a layman's viewpoint. Thank you for keeping me on my toes. You got me researching a little. I found this from studylight.org:

    The New Testament view of sin is somewhat more subjective than objective. Jesus taught quite forcefully that sin is a condition of the heart. He traced sin directly to inner motives stating that the sinful thought leading to the overt act is the real sin. The outward deed is actually the fruit of sin. Anger in the heart is the same as murder (Matthew 5:21-22 ). The impure look is tantamount to adultery (Matthew 5:27-28 ). The real defilement in a person stems from the inner person (heart) which is sinful (Matthew 15:18-20 ). Sin, therefore, is understood as involving the essential being of a person, that is, the essential essence of human nature.

    This is an example of how I was trying to define sin that separates us from God (rebellion). The type that could be more of a heaven-or-hell issue because it would cause separation between us and God if we did not ask for forgiveness and repent.

    The other type I was referring to is described this way, also from studylight.org:

    Chata means “to miss the mark,” as does the Greek hamartia . The word could be used to describe a person shooting a bow and arrow and missing the target with the arrow. When it is used to describe sin, it means that the person has missed the mark that God has established for the person's life.

    This describes what I would deem the types of sins or mistakes that many times lead to the need for us to offer apologies to those we have hurt. Again, this would still require forgiveness and repentance.

    Now, as for that getting kicked out of the Nazarene church thing, you might want to be careful where you voice your opinions on heaven and hell! :)

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  6. I started writing this before referencing your “What is it that We're Confessing, Exactly?” blog page. Then as I was writing I revisited your page not realizing there was a lengthy discussion at the bottom of your blog….

    So...maybe you should backtrack on blogging...

    It would be interesting to read your thoughts on defining each part of the trinity and how they are the same yet different.

    When I think of the salvation prayer, I believe we are admitting we have sinned, asking for forgiveness for the things we have done wrong, believing Jesus came to earth and died for me and everyone else, asking Jesus to come into our hearts and direct our paths.

    But then last night during the storms between 1 and 3 am, I got to thinking, “Is that really correct theology?”

    So, this morning I'm looking at the VBS postcards we had kids fill in describing the A, B, C's of salvation. Here's a brief summary of what it says,
    "A - Admit that you have done wrong, sinned. (Romans 3:23)
    B - Believe in Jesus Christ. (Romans 10:9)
    C - Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness. (1 John 1:9)

    Dear Jesus, I admit that I am a sinner and have done wrong. I am truly sorry. I believe You are the true Son of God who died in my place and was raised to life again. Please forgive me and help me to follow You and Your ways instead of my own way. Thank you for the gift of eternal life in heaven."

    So, praying the salvation prayer...are we truly asking Jesus into our hearts or should we be asking the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts? I believe there are many who believe in Jesus Christ, ask for forgiveness but continue to sin and ask for forgiveness again. They’re not really wanting to live for Jesus…they want the benefit of eternal life after death.

    I'm thinking sanctification is being filled with the Spirit; meaning desiring to truly live for God and Jesus. Giving up my will for God's will. That being said, I don't have an attitude of I'll sin today and ask forgiveness later. That doesn't mean I can't sin but I don't have an "Oh well" attitude when I comes to sinning.

    I totally disagree with these statements, "After all, if a person is sanctified, there is no longer a desire to sin. To claim sanctification is to claim perfection. There is no need for confession. There is no need for questions. There is no need for investigation. Sanctified people might make mistakes here and there, but they are to be trusted implicitly. There is no responsibility." I think there is still a desire to sin in some areas, for we have all fallen but with sanctification we have chosen to live for God and have the Holy Spirit to guide us. Therefore, we are not perfect but we are saved and sanctified through His grace.

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  7. Can you give an example of these statements, “Perhaps ironically, the most egregious (not defined as) sins that I frequently see among the sanctified leadership of the church seem to fall into the category of violating the law of love.”

    “Perhaps it's a little bit odd, but the more I think about sin and confession, the more concerned I become with the things we don't even recognize as sin.”

    In the comments about 5.3 Bryan writes: “We disobey known laws of God. He has certain laws (Ten Commandments, the Shema).” How does this effect an un-churched new “Christian” if they don’t even know these things?
    I’m writing my thoughts as they come from reading the blog, so please forgive me for rambling because I don’t have time to re-write but I do like what Bryan says here, “We should definitely be emphasizing initial sanctification from the beginning, because Christ already provided it to us at the cross. We get it all when we accept what He did for us.” That makes sense but do the majority of people really pray with a deep sense of desire to be sanctified? Or are they just wanting the reward of not going to hell? Is it once again, an attitude of “I’ll sin now and repent later.” And then are they really saved or not saved? Does that depend on maturity? Or does having the faith of a mustard seed cut it? (There’s another topic…discuss what we Nazarenes know and believe about hell….oops never mind I just got to your brief thoughts on that topic.)

    Phil, you write, “I think as a holiness denomination we have railed against "once saved, always saved" only to replace it with "once sanctified, always sanctified." Really, you think that the general people of the Naz denomination think this? Because I feel like sanctification is a daily choice to lay down my will and take on God’s will….Not that I’ve thought I can live a good life on my own but it is a daily choice.

    Bryan shares, “Also, thanks for taking a brief moment to talk about the symbols that are so important to our worship in the CoTN (the cross, the altar). I am going to be doing some writing for "Sacramental Saturday" that will incorporate this a little more fully.” I agree, it’s great you’re blogging these topics and open to discussion….but did you discuss the altar? Did I miss it? I personally have a hard time with the whole alter thing. I have had only one occasions where I felt led to go to the alter to pray. It’s not that I want to invalidate its purpose but we can pray/talk to God at anytime and anywhere. So, there’s another good topic. Why is the alter necessary? When is it not appropriate to go to the alter? When is going to the alter to pray with someone appropriate? What is appropriate to ask that person? What is not appropriate? Is it best to just pray silently or to pray aloud for that person? (I somehow missed class, “Alter 101.”)

    You should consider placing more key word links on the side of your blog so people can find the topics they want to read on. (sinning, forgiveness, sanctification)

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    1. Debby-

      First, your comments are amazing. You are asking *so* many good questions and giving some great push back/further thought on so many of these subjects!

      Let me respond specifically to what you quoted from me and your response. You wrote,

      "Phil, you write, “I think as a holiness denomination we have railed against "once saved, always saved" only to replace it with "once sanctified, always sanctified." Really, you think that the general people of the Naz denomination think this? Because I feel like sanctification is a daily choice to lay down my will and take on God’s will….Not that I’ve thought I can live a good life on my own but it is a daily choice."

      I should clarify a couple of things:

      First, no, I do *not* think the 'general people of the Naz denomination think this' (meaning that being sanctified is a be-all-end-all to the spiritual life, where instead of being Baptist and getting our 'eternal security' from being 'once saved, always saved' we get our 'eternal security' from being 'once sanctified, always sanctified').

      What I *do* think is that *at one time* many Nazarenes essentially thought this way (though they never would have said it this way), and that this was so ingrained into the denominational ethos that, although there are few 'everyday Nazarenes' today who think this way (which is both good and bad...I'll get to that in a moment...), the denominational *structures* especially when it comes to leadership still tend to reward or at least encourage this kind of thinking. At the very least, even when most people *don't* think this way, there are still structures/leadership that continue to try to hang on to what they *think* is the status quo, but is actually more like their own memories of a long ago bygone era.

      The reason I say it's both 'good and bad' that the 'everyday Nazarene' no longer thinks this way about sanctification is that it is good for the obvious reasons that such was never good Wesleyan *or* holiness theology anyway, but it's bad because I don't think we've replaced this with adequate teaching on what sanctification actually *is* and actually *does* - to borrow a word from a different series of L's posts, we have very different "expectations" from church to church, district to district, world area to world area. Our understanding and teaching should always be contextualized to the historical and cultural context we teach and learn in, of course, and as a kind of 'big tent' denomination, varied interpretations and views are certainly 'allowed' (and ought to be encouraged so that we can better learn from one another!)

      I was following a conversation recently where many of the people in it (lots of long time Nazarenes including many pastors and leaders) were basically saying, "yeah, our church doesn't really talk about sanctification or holiness anymore, and I think it's better that way." If our language needs to evolve so people understand our message, that's OK. If our message needs to evolve because we come to better understandings and better theological positions as a result, that's OK, and good, too. But I am a Nazarene precisely because we are of a Wesleyan, Armenian, Holiness theological persuasion (and for some other, non-theological reasons, as well!). If we cease to be that, we cease to be Nazarene.

      I agree with you about the 'daily choice' - really, maybe it's daily *choices* - sanctification does involve, I think, both 'crisis' and 'process' - but it is mostly about the ongoing work of Holy Spirit in us and through us as we lovingly, obediently open our hearts, our minds, our spirits, our lives to the work of the Kingdom of God, here and now. As we join God in the work God is doing, God sanctifies us by God's grace.

      Well...this wound up as a rather long-winded comment...I wonder why that seems to happen with me so much? :)

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