Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why I Am a Nazarene: Reason Number 1, We Are Wesleyan, Not Fundamentalists

I love my church. Locally, for the most part and certainly in my situation, it cares deeply for its pastors. Generally, for the most part it cares for its people, even when it seems to give in to the kingdom of the world sort of politics and polity, but I'll overlook those things for now.

The first reason that I am a Nazarene has everything to do with our understanding of scripture. When my wife recently applied for a position in an unnamed organization whose name contains the word "Christian" she was to sign a "Statement of Faith" documenting that she agreed with and adhered to a list of statements regarding some aspect of the Christian faith. Topping the chart at number one was a statement concerning scripture. It reads "I believe the Bible to be the verbally inspired and only infallible, authoritative, inerrant Word of God." The first statement of faith is about Scripture, not God and not only is it about Scripture, but of one that is verbally inspired, only infallible, authoritative, and inerrant Word.

I love the Church of the Nazarene because we don't put scripture ahead of God and because God is an issue of love and salvation, not merely (only) of truth (it is this truth that comes from love and salvation), and because nowhere in our 4th Article of Faith (that's right, 4th, after the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the doctrine of the Divine Christ who is the God-man Jesus, and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit) do we confuse the Holy Scripture as written word of God with the Christ of Our Lord as the (big W, capitalized, proper) Word of God. (You may now take a breath.) The point is more eloquently written by Rob Staples in his Outward Sign and Inward Grace. He writes, "Fundamentalism tends to need proof texts for its positions, because its view of biblical authority rests on particular concept of verbal inerrancy. Inerrancy as taught in Fundamentalist theology may be called 'epistemological inerrancy.' That is, it believes the basic question in theology to be: What is truth? . . . . For Wesleyanism, the basic theological questions is: What must I do to be saved?" (Staples 173).

As Wesleyan folk, we Nazarenes don't bring the idea of Truth to scripture, we allow scripture to determine Truth. "I am the way, the truth, and the light, no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). For the Wesleyan, as Staples writes, "Truth is determined and defined by what salvation is, not the other way around" (Staples 174). Truth is subject to God. Truth is for God to decide. For the fundamentalist, truth is eternally existent/existence and only then may scripture be determined as truth and therefore only then may God be determined as truth. It seems that if we allow Truth the precedent over God, then we allow God to be nailed down again.

What is true must be good and is communicated by beauty. Truth is held in balance by Good and Beauty. I love the Church of the Nazarene because we do not commit idolatry in our understanding of Holy Scripture.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely! Amen! Well stated!

mfisteach said...

WOW!! Thanks Evan --- you put into words --- my theology. Wellllllll said--good thing those amazing genes of yours are genetic in nature

Eric said...

We are doing the Natural Church Development church health survey. On the Pastor's survey it asks to what extent I agree with the following question (Likert scale 1-5): "Every word of scripture was given by God."

First, with one being absolutely and 5 being HECK NO! how would you answer?


My first gut was HECK NO! But is this a question of inspiration? I certainly would say inspiration aside, every word of scripture is Given to us by God so that he might be revealed and glorified and that we might find salvation in him. So now I say ABSOLUTELY. Anyway. The middle of one and five is the indecisive "average" box in which I wrote my X

Charlie said...

Amen to that!

Bezaleel said...

Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). People have been struggling with this question for centuries. Each man or woman has the responsibility to find the truth.

Another appropriate question is, “Where can truth be found?” Perhaps a clue to the answer can be found in the following story:
Ali Hafed, an ancient Persian, owned much land and many productive fields, with orchards and gardens, and had money out at interest. He had a lovely family and was “contented because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented.”

An old priest came to Ali Hafed and told him that if he had a diamond the size of his thumb, he could purchase a dozen farms like his. Ali Hafed said, “Will you tell me where I can find diamonds?”
The priest told him, “If you will find a river that runs through white sands, between high mountains, in those white sands you will always find diamonds.”
Said Ali Hafed, “I will go.”
So he sold his farm, collected his money that was at interest, and left his family in the charge of a neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds, traveling through many lands.

The man who purchased Ali Hafed’s farm led his camel out into the garden to drink, and as the animal put his nose into the shallow waters, the farmer noticed a curious flash of light in the white sands of the stream.

Reaching in, he pulled out a black stone containing a strange eye of light. Not long after, the same old priest came to visit Ali Hafed’s successor and found that in the black stone was a diamond.

As they rushed out into the garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers, they came up with many more beautiful, valuable gems. Thus were discovered the diamond mines of Golconda, the most valuable diamond mines in the ancient world. Had Ali Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar or anywhere in his own fields rather than traveling in strange lands, he would have had acres of diamonds (adapted from Russell H. Conwell, Acres of Diamonds [1915], 4–9).

The search for truth is often not unlike Ali Hafed’s search for diamonds. The truth is not in distant lands but under our feet. Sir Winston Churchill once said of someone, “Occasionally he stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened” (in The Irrepressible Churchill Stories, ed. Kay Halle [1966], 113).

One of the significant legal trials of all history was the trial of Socrates. The charge against him in the Athenian court was twofold in nature: first, that he was atheistic and did not believe in the gods prescribed by the state; and, second, that he was corrupting the youth, in the sense that it was contended he influenced the young people to inquire for themselves as to the wisdom of the Athenian society. Socrates was convicted by the majority of the jury and was sentenced to death by poison.

As a means of coming to truth, people are encouraged to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover.

Searching and inquiring are a means of coming to a knowledge of all truth, whether that truth be spiritual, scientific, or moral.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

The Queen of Sheba, having heard of the fame of Solomon, came to visit him to learn if his fabled wisdom, his great wealth, and his splendid house were as great as had been reported to her. It is recorded that “she came to prove Solomon with hard questions” (2 Chr. 9:1). Solomon answered her questions, and she became satisfied and said to him, “It was a true report which I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom” (2 Chr. 9:5).

Some people in their searching, however, are not seeking for truth but are given to contention. They do not sincerely seek to learn; rather they desire to dispute,to show their supposed learning and thus cause strife. The Apostle Paul said to Timothy, “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes” (2 Tim. 2:23).

Since each person has his free agency, the ultimate determination of what is inspired of the Lord, what is right and wrong, true or false, can be made by each of us. Each must bear the accountability of accepting or discarding the values of truth, which values if followed will produce his greatest happiness.

As we ask Pilate’s question, we can learn from the wisdom of Sir Francis Bacon, who said there are three parts in truth: first, the inquiry, which is the wooing of it; secondly, the knowledge of it, which is the presence of it; and thirdly, the belief, which is the enjoyment of it (see “Of Truth,” in Essays).

Yet while the gathering of many facts may be very helpful and productive, the inquiring mind must not stop there. Henry Alford said: “Truth does not consist in minute accuracy of detail, but in conveying a right impression; and there are vague ways of speaking that are truer than strict facts would be. When the Psalmist said, ‘Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law,’ he did not state the facts, but he stated the truth deeper than fact, and truer.”

Those who earnestly inquire, under the Spirit of God, will enjoy a companionship, not only of the Spirit, but of others who seek truth. Thomas Carlyle said, “I have always found that the honest truth of our own mind has a certain attraction for every other mind that loves truth honestly.”

There is no greater truth than that spoken of by the Savior: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), and, He continues, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6), and “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37).

All who seek to rise above themselves must make a humble and honest inquiry to determine where truth lies: an inquiry in their hearts as well as in their minds and in their lives.

Evan and Julia said...

I don't ask the question of Romans. I'm interested only in what I must do to be saved. Truth is the by product. The Christ of our Lord is the salvation.

We are not interested in bringing some concept of truth with us into the interpretation of scripture. Only the guidance of the Holy Spirit and occasionally the Canonical Heritage.