Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Entire Sanctification Part 2

Part 2
I apologize to those of you who would like to read this article. I tried finding it online to put in a link to it and couldn’t. If you are interested in reading it I can email it to you. Below is part 2 to the article. In this section Dr. Leth covers holiness and “secondness,” holiness and love, and responsible grace.

4) Holiness and “Secondness”
We should understand entire sanctification as “theologically normative rather than experientially normative.” Theologically normative means this is what happens. Experientially normative explains how we may experience it. The problem with the latter, as Dr. Leth points out, is that people make their experiences the norm for everyone else. If someone didn’t experience it in the way you did then they didn’t really experience it at all. This should be avoided and we should have some room to wiggle around within the various ways a person can experience entire sanctification. Because we don’t all experience it in the same way.

5) Holiness and Love
Really being able to love means first of all that we love God. This is what we were primarily created for. I would agree.

This section was where I felt a little confused. I don’t think Augustine had it right when he said the fundamental human problem is that our love is misdirected. Isn’t the fundamental human problem the lack, or loss, of love in us that vanished after the Fall? I’m not one to argue with Augustine (because our mere human love is misdirected from God and others to only ourselves), but isn’t it hard to misdirect something you don’t possess?

Paul writes in Romans 5, “God has poured out his love (agape) into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” This love is not from us, it is from God. Isn’t this why the writers of the New Testament used the noun agape to describe Godly love? They had to come up with a totally different word for God’s love. Isn’t there a distinction between human love and the love of God? Isn’t this what entire sanctification is all about? Our love does become ‘perfect love’ (to borrow from Wesley) in entire sanctification because God fills us with His love. Harald Lindstrom points out that this is the chief mark of John Wesley’s view of entire sanctification (from his book Wesley & Sanctification, p 139). This is how we fulfill Jesus’ words to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48).

This section was fuzzy and confusing. Maybe I was misinterpreting the message here, my ignorance makes that a frequent occurrence, but there was no talk at all about the distinctiveness of God’s love and the role it plays in entire sanctification. On a similar side note there isn’t really any mention in the 2005-2009 Nazarene Manual of entire sanctification being all about God filling us with His love. Why is that? How could we change and communicate that better?

6) Responsible grace
Dr. Leth believes in the believer working with the Holy Spirit but he affirms that spiritual formation is, “first and finally, God’s work.” I don’t believe practicing the spiritual disciplines will entirely sanctify us (neither does Leth) but they may help a person get closer to that crisis moment. I think Dr. Leth agreed with this. This is the amazing thing about grace. If God’s Spirit is working in us, all things will be worked together for the good of those who love Him.

What are your thoughts on this?


Anonymous said...

I am interested in how Leth's position compares to Oord's position. It would be nice to read Leth's paper.

Tim Sheets said...

I assume you are talking about Thomas Jay Oord from NNU?

I can email you a copy of Leth's paper if you have email. Let me know? You can email me at and I'll send it to you.

Bradley Buhro said...

At the Article X Symposium at which Leth's paper was presented, Leth made it clear (though not by identifying Oord by name) that this paper is in response to (and refutation of) suggestions being made by other Nazarene theologians for changes to Article X.

A brief look at Oord's paper "Revisoning Article X: Fifteen Changes in the Church of the Nazarene's Article on Entire Sanctification" presented at NNU's "Revisioning Holiness" and you can clearly see that Leth is not only familiar with the changes being suggested by Oord, but opposed to many of them. You can read Oord's paper here:

Tim, what I think you missed in the section on Holiness as Love, is the fact that Leth is responding to the suggestion by Oord that we need to "Understand sanctification primarily in terms of love -- God's love for us, and our loving response as we love God, others, and all creation including ourselves." (Quoted from Oord's "Revisioning" paper cited above.)

In this section Leth is arguing that because loving can be defined in so many different ways, and because loving can be defined in ways that can be achieved by human effort apart from grace, repentance or holiness, we should avoid such a redefinition. I'm out of town at the moment and don't have my copy of the paper in front of me to cite Leth's specific arguments, but essentially he's seeking to avoid the idea that teaching ourselves to act in a way that makes others feel better about themselves we are somehow sanctifying ourselves.

Of course, somehow I doubt that's what Oord was talking about either.


Tim Sheets said...

His paper makes a lot more sense when you read Oord's paper first.

Thanks for the link on that Brad.

Anonymous said...

Part of the article seems to be here: