Wednesday, April 08, 2009

New Baby & Entire Sanctification part 1

Thursday Thinking is back! My wife and I had our second child this week. What a beautiful thing! This was my first time to experience a C-section (hers too!). We both survived. A beautiful baby girl was the result; she was a bit on the heavy side, 9 lbs. 1oz.

This summer Nazarenes from around the world will be gathering for General Assembly in Orlando, FL. One of the big issues to be discussed will be Article X on entire sanctification. Comments and whispers have been popping up over the possible changes to this second work of grace that might or might not happen. Dean of the School of Theology at Olivet Nazarene University, Dr. Carl Leth, has written an article to prepare us for what’s possibly in store at General Assembly.

So, here is one measly little associate pastor’s thoughts on Carl M. Leth’s article titled Trajectories: Identifying Key Issues for Article X (Article 10 which is Entire Sanctification). This paper was emailed out to all pastors on my District (NEI). As I read through it several times some thoughts came to my head. There will be two parts to this, so come back next week for part 2.

Overall, Dr. Leth made some great points. Here’s a recap:

Intro and why language matters
- Language matters. Language does matter and Dr. Leth was right on the money when he said, “language conveys meaning and, inescapably, values.” I think Nietzsche himself said the only way we could ever get rid of God in our society is to get rid of language. Language sets boundaries and helps us explain truths. We need it! I agree.

Section 1) Our distinct Understanding of Holiness
- I would agree that our understanding of what entire sanctification does in a person is crucial and the place to start. If we are not clear here, we will have all kinds of problems. Though we may explain to each other in different terms (e.g., sanctified, entirely sanctified, filled with the Spirit, baptized with the Spirit, fully surrendered, etc.) we have to be crystal clear in our understanding of just what it is we are talking about. We need a solid, consistent, and precise definition to help us understand entire sanctification. We need something in place we can keep coming back to that is unique and distinct in its definition of entire sanctification. What do you mean when you tell me you were, “filled with the Spirit”? Is that the same thing as “entirely sanctified,” or “baptized with the Spirit”? Is your understanding the same as my understanding? If so, we can move forward. I think this was the point Dr. Leth was making.

2) Baptism of the Holy Spirit
- Entire sanctification is not the starting point for when we receive the Spirit. This happened when we began our life with the Spirit, when we first confessed, repented, and believed in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and Savior.
- Entire sanctification is the point where we have the fullness of the Holy Spirit in us.

3) Trinitarian Language
- I think Dr. Leth makes a good argument for why we need to talk about the Holy Spirit’s role in the sanctification process and not refer to it in generic Trinitarian language. It seems most people have a hard enough time believing in the Person Jesus Christ who took on human flesh and dwelt among us. How much harder it is to believe in a Person like the Holy Spirit whom we cannot see. We do not want to diminish the role of the third Person of the Trinity by excluding Him in our conversations about His work in our lives. If we talk of the process of sanctification in terms of the work of the Trinity as a whole, we diminish the role of the Spirit and His personhood.

Any thoughts on this?

Parts 4, 5, 6 will be next week.

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