The Curious Doctrine of Entire Sanctification

Most denominations have a doctrine that needs explaining. For Wesleyans it is the curious doctrine of entire sanctification.

So what do you think?
Keith Drury


David said...

Born and raised in the CHM, literally in the RADICAL CHM, I do believe in a second experience, something God provides, the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, into hearts that desire Him.

I am NOT sure, at almost 60 years old, that I have seen many people actually possess this, even in the ministry. In my estimation, probably 5 percent or less of holiness congregations have ever possessed this experience. But I have seen it, and feel it when around these people.

My question at this stage in my life is, "Is it necessary to get to heaven?" I believe that "holiness" is a way of living; "sanctification" is a commitment, a consecration.

I believe that we do have to be saved, and that being saved is much easier than we have been taught to believe.

I believe people can be "sanctified", but that the way we have been taught, to beg, grovel, and "die out" is a longer, more difficult process than the book of Acts illustrates. Acts has much that could prove it was all received in one work, and instantly for believers, and upon the whole crowd of them.

I believe that human emotions of anger, human sensuality, etc, have been relegated to the "carnality" pit, and thus, most of those who claim to have been thus sanctified, have lost their confidence, and finally, often after years of struggle, seeking, "backsliding" and despair, have given up, to sit in the pews, jaded. It is sad, when we see Baptists enjoy their salvation and future in heaven to the fullest.

I have found that in every age, in every place, whether church, work, or government, there are those who remove the simplicity, the wholesomeness, from a thing, by adding to the rules, the regulations, the definitions and intentions of the original founders of the group. It is called legalism and I have found this, after all these years, to more dangerous, more destructive, than liberalism.

I DO believe in a second work of grace, and a beautiful one at that. I just think, right now, that it is not the definition of "holiness" per se', that it is not as difficult to obtain as we are made and shown to believe, and that I am not sure it , as taught, is necessary to get to heaven.

What is truth? said...

I agree with an article I once saw that was written by Dr. Drury. Many people are not experiencing "initial sanctification" let alone "entire sanctification." That being said, I am quite sure I know some people who have experienced "entire sanctification."

I would also like to point out that Phoebe Palmer introduced methods that were not consistent with the initial teachings of John Wesley. I wonder if you can comment on these differences, Dr. Drury. I am fairly confident that you know this to be true.

davide said...

Christians from every age testify that God by His Spirit is able to sanctify so that a person is inclined to love and obedience and is Spirit enabled for ministry. I strongly believe that a revival of complete yielding to the control of the Holy Spirit by today’s nominal Christians would results in a social transformation not dissimilar to that in 18th and 19th century Britain and America. Sadly, I wonder if today’s doctrine of “entire sanctification” will be the vehicle for such a revival. The reason is that the vital doctrine that was birthed by Wesley and his Holy Club’s search for personal holiness has morphed (largely starting with Phoebe Palmer) into a “curious doctrine” supra-scriptural theology and life-style legalism. What Christianity (and the Holiness “Movement”) needs is a genuine hunger and thirst for righteousness (not an experience) that is based on bare-bones scriptural teaching (Ga 2:20, Ro 12:1).

The Grahams said...

Here's a great little book that was instrumental in my development as a teen newly exposed to the doctrine of entire sanctification:


Thanks again.


kerry said...

Is "the doctrine" true? Well, scripture is true, but your description of the doctrine and another person's description and various historical accounts of "what it is" can all be somewhat different. A LOT, a whole lot, about the doctrine of entire sanctification is surely true, but it is unfortunately subject to misunderstanding, overstatement, understatement, etc.
Here are a couple thoughts:
1. Clearly it is not enough to receive just a legal forgiveness of sins and experience ONLY imputed righteousness. We are expected to actually change and experience a transformation or at least an improvement of character that stems from an inner change of heart and mind. This inner change of heart is not sufficient if it is only human reform. Our consecration joined by God's supernatural activity in us can be sufficient. Scripture is much more clear and forceful on this than the testimony and witness of the church, currently.
2. Followers of the Lord are expected to not sin. Without a heart change and without the Lord's help, we can't "not sin." If we use a Wesleyan definition of sin (intentional transgression or rebellion against God) then it appears to be POSSIBLE to not sin for an hour, a day, etc.
3. Is it possible that we place "holiness" on such a high shelf that many don't even attempt to live a disciplined spiritual life? We are talking about what SHOULD be the "normal" Christian life. Many Christians may be leading outstanding lives in obedience to God (impossible without this grace), but due to innocuous preaching and teaching in the church, lack confidence. For those who are seeking clarity, I start with the question: "Are you currently in rebellion against God?"
4. Unless you stay close to the scriptures and are preaching or teaching with anointing from the Spirit, then affirming this doctrine can sound less than humble.

Roger Freed said...

depends on how you define "is".

Roger Freed said...

or "entire"

Garry Spriggs said...

Or "Sanctification!"

Is it a "crisis" is it a "growth process" or is it both??? I have my interpretation but others would have another.

The bottom line is that the sin nature is not going back into heaven, most all Christian doctrines will agree on that, however, the disagreements come as to how it is cleansed before the soul slides through the Pearly Gates! We run the gamut from an "all-in-one" given at the point where we accept Christ as our Savior to "Purgatory" in the Catholic doctrine.

Garry Spriggs said...

I dare say that probably 90% of us Wesleyans would be hard put to explain what we believe concerning this area of our doctrine. In fact, it's my observance that most Wesleyans haven't even figured out the problem, let alone the answer! There are a number of denominations that are "Wesleyan" in doctrine but are not a part of the Wesleyan Church...... Read Morethe problem is universal, they all look like a deer in the headlights in explaining the Wesleyan doctrine. Trouble is, John Wesley wouldn't recognise most of us if he came back to visit us..."You say I said WHAT????" would be his response.

Roger Freed said...

I have been attending a Church of the Nazarene, they talk about it a lot, but not much by way of defining it. Which leaves most new Christians in a quandry (wondering "am I in or am I out" and comes accross as a bit arrogant to seekers.

Garry Spriggs said...

Roger, there is a basic commonality between Wesleyans and Nazarenes but there is also a difference in approach. I came from the Pilgrim Holiness Church side of this merger and there were more similarities between the PHC and the Nazarenes than the now Wesleyan Church and the Nazarenes. Both the PHC and the Nazarenes were strongly influenced by ... Read MorePhoebe Palmer and her interpretations. She was more definitive as the the "Carnal Nature," "Root of Sin," "The Old Man," "Eradication," "The possibility to lose your Sanctification" (which led to strong arguments as to whether you "lost" your Salvation when you lost your "Sanctification") You will find this language more prevalent among the Nazarenes than the Wesleyans. This kind of language brings confusion in my opinion though I understand what they are saying because I grew up in it, new converts g.et somewhat bumfuzzled and have tendency to question the whole doctrine.

Gary Collier said...

Our church, Christ's Sanctified Holy Church (cshc.org), still preaches entire sanctification. We were part of the great holiness movement of the late 1800's, being formed in Feb. of 1892. Today there are 15-20 congregations throughout the southeast US, a permanent (and modern) camp ground in Perry Ga. where a week-long camp meeting has been held ... Read Morecontinuously since 1939, regular fellowship and meetings between congregations, etc. We're not as "strict" as we used to be but the message, the core doctrine of 2 works of grace, has never changed, been watered down, hidden or removed. I like your term "curious doctrine", Keith... good description!

Garry Spriggs said...

In the PHC we had a doctrinal statement on Sanctification; it was a "Second definite work of grace subsequent to regeneration." That was a clear statement but was more based on Phoebe Palmer's teachings than John Wesley. However, it led to the "Two trips to the altar and I'm OK" syndrome and was not clear as to what was to have been changed on this... Read More "second trip" and what was NOT changed. People became confused when they didn't react as they had been told they would (usually by an evangelist at Camp Meeting). Education was looked down on when I was starting my ministry thus our pastors, though good, Holy, dedicated men were not trained in the Word so we heard more about what "Bro so-in-so" said (usually an evangelist who was powerful in his presentations) than what the Word of God actually said.

Roger Freed said...

Now see what you started Keith? I think it is time for denominations to drop the arcaic language.... and focus on a daily walk in the Spirit.

Keith Drury said...

I enjoy doctrinal discussions and get in them often... and titled this column using the word "doctrine" so doctrinal discussions are welcome for sure...

But I am also intrigued in how people today judge the experiences of others in the past--were they real and is such a thing still possible..or were they deceived? What do you all think about that?

davide said...

I believe that in the past there truly were more persons experiencing initial-entire sanctification because there was greater emphasis on the doctrine and there was a higher level of spiritual fervency. However, the fact that we no longer have a Holiness Movement strongly suggests that many from the last two generations were also deceived. Some would argue that the deception was rooted in the fact that we let the world press us into its mold. I suggest that the most insidious and damaging deception was that our preachers taught and our people lived like there was only the crisis of initial-entire sanctification and neglected the teaching and living of the need to maintain continual cleansing by walking daily in the Spirit and in surrender to Him (IJn 1:7). The very practical and unfortunate result was that the Movement became populated by those whose daily lives did not match their theology.

Anonymous said...

I think a message of delieverance from control and bondage to sin is a great doctrine to proclaim. Passionate love for God instead of God wants me happy, wealthy and healthy is a good message to offer the world. Unfortunately today it seems like much of the church proclaims a message of accomodation & tolerance of sin with a dose of it's all about you. I would rather hear that God can set us free from the bias toward sin instead of God understands and tolerates our human flaws. Yes, I think delieverance from the control of sin in our lives is possible. With God anything is!

Bill Barnwell said...

I think the frustration for many in revivalist/holiness traditions is how many times they've "come forward" for their "Second Work of Grace" or even to be "filled with the Spirit" and nothing happens. As for me personally, I would lean towards some "crisis within a process" theology that gives credit to both distinct times of radical encounter with the Spirit in the span of an overall lifelong growth in the Spirit.

But in the real-world happenings of people being confronted with this message, "going forward" to recieve the Spirit, feeling trapped in their sins and wanting God's spirit to take over, many report nothing at all happens. What follows is a regular cycle of guilt and response, more askings of the Spirit for filling, a period of hoping, and back to square one. Others have just gotten discouraged and given up completely.

I'm not sure that earlier people were decieved that God was actually working in their lives, but there was a much different climate then, much more social support, and such things were the "norm" in holiness traditions, at least the aspired and respected norm. Perhaps their experiences didn't actually encompass all they thought theologically, but certainly many were encountering God.

Today for various reasons, we lack the spiritual fervency, Spirit-filled preaching has gone out of style except for some of the remaining successful camp ministries (and even there with participants it doesn't hold the same significance it once did), or as mentioned earlier, some churches will bring it up and not really explain it...then combine all that with modern day Wesleyan-holiness believers feeling all befuddled on the issue, and you have what we have today.

Joseph W. Watkins said...

Okay, so lets back up and take another run at this.

Assuming for the moment that those in this discussion have a similar confidence in the Bible as the Word of God (I don't want to send this discussion in another direction here)what is it we cannot deny to be the intentional meaning of the Scripture?

1) The scriptures quoted by Keith have to mean "something", they can't mean "nothing".

2) I cannot separate the words used in these passages from the persons who used them. When I look at how Christ and Paul lived, the words they used "holy" and "perfect" make all the sense in the world. There is an uncomplicated congruity between their lives and their testimonies.

3) It is a simple step from their to conclude that this must be the way I am to "be" and "do".

4) I have to conclude further, (not to suggest everyone must reach the same conclusion) that if one would live consistently in the Spirit and not in the flesh, there is a naturalness to growing in grace that will culminate in a stage of maturity whereby "holy" and "perfect" would be applicable to that person. This naturalness is not a formula, it will be different with every individual. This is not to suggest that a level reached is the end of the matter, we all accept that growth is something that will go on until we leave this world.

5) This has led me to question the wisdom of using the description "second work of grace" in pressing people on to an experience of sanctification. It has caused more problems than it has helped. And lets face it, "second work of grace" is not a biblical term. If we hold up the life of holiness consistently and "biblically", then naming it a "second work of grace" shouldn't be necessary.

6) I realize that this approach is not without its danger. It can easily veer off into peaching all growth and no definite level whereby one can say he/she is sanctified. But it doesn't have too. If the teacher/preacher has reached that level of spiritual life personally, that person will have the spiritualy maturity and authority to press others into this experience.

7) Which leads me to my last conclusion and then I promise I'll sign off. The reason the church is experiencing a scanty effort in leading people into a sanctified level of spiritual maturity is largely due to the fact that those doing the preaching and teaching have not themselves obtained such a level. The reasons for this is itself something that needs to be explored.

Robert Bork (Slouching Towards Gomorrah) made the statment that he saw no hope for America as a nation without something like a religious revivial that swept through the country in the 1800's.

Wouldn't it be natural for us as holiness churches, given our history, to make this same assumption for the church. Without a genuine revivial, the likes of which none of us in this generation as ever seen, we likely will never see the church living or preaching the sanctified life on the level evidenced in the scriptural passages listed.

Ted said...

The problem today is that in our current church culture it is impossible to testify to something like this. Perhaps people have actually had such an experience... but who would ever admit it today???

In today's world (and in the church) it would be considered arrogant or bragging to ever say that you were sanctified completely--or even that you have overcame sin. Maybe people have experienced this, or maybe not, but if they did... who would ever know? Nobody could admit it in today's world. We in the church encourage people to "be authentic" and confess their addictions to Pornography or whatever else. The church applauds this kind of authenticity. But if someone got up and told how God had delivered them from all sin the people would gasp and quickly scoff at them--maybe even out loud. Maybe there are people really have been entirely sanctified--but thay can;t "come out of the closet" in today's church--we'd reject them completely as braggarts and proud Pharisees.

Why do we hear so few testimonies to entire sanctification today? It is because we will applaud someone who confesses to a porn addiction but we reject anyone so arrogant as to testify that God delivered them from sin. This is why this doctrine has disappeared.

Chap said...

I will readily admit that I am an entire sanctification skeptic. Not for the sake of trying, yearning or having moments in an ES victory lap. I've just spent so much time experientially in the dust bins of defeat with sin.

Having said that, I still don't throw out the passages or explain away the ones Keith pointed out.

I've concluded that holiness doesn't make any sense to me outside of the person and incarnation of God in Jesus. The trouble I've had is how people define holiness. For me holiness is defined by "watching" perfect God and perfect man in the gospels who sympathizes with my weakness. Jesus resisted temptation, but also could lay down a good verbal tongue lashing with the disciples and religious leaders of his day. At times it appears Jesus walks very closely to "losing it". I hope to be more like Him someday.

In some ways I have accepted the fact that I will struggle daily with sin and live in the tension of... "greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world"...even when sometimes the world seems to be winning the day.

Stephen Ley said...

Interesting article and discussion!

- In my opinion the "holiness movement" of the 19th century had more to do with rationalism, the loss of a confessional "churchly" faith, and an overemphasis on subjective experience than it had to do with a move of God. Granted, it was partly in reaction to the beginnings of nominal Christianity that eventually about killed off mainline Protestantism.

- Were these folk deceived? Only God knows the heart, but anyone that gets up in campmeeting and claims to have experienced "entire sanctification" has just proved that they haven't experienced it (see the extensive teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in the NT about the hiddenness of the Christian life). In my experience this doctrine tends to engender pride and self-righteousness more than genuine piety. Not to mention the way it undercuts assurance.

- Also, I'm not sure that calling predestination a "curious" Calvinist doctrine makes much sense seeing as it was believed and taught by Augustine, Aquinas & Luther, just to name three pre-Calvin heavyweights.

- The contemporary church would do well to reclaim Wesley's emphasis on personal Godliness, even if they don't accept the shaky exegesis of some of his later followers.

Blessings in Christ,

Anonymous said...

There is a Chinese saying, " A frog that live in a well cannot conceives the ocean."

A christian frog will be saved eventually but entire sanctification or holiness is about an eagle in Isaiah 40:31 enjoying the vast ocean of divine love.

Holiness in its ultimatum is really the taste of God's love in its truest purity, embedded/ transfuse in the body, soul and spirit in a trichotomy sense. It is something like God breathing into the nostrils of one the breath of divine love so callled, Agape. It it meant for his children to enjoy, having ceaseless sweet fellowship and communion 24/7.

It don't make one to be a superior christian projecting a holier than thou altitude.On the contrary, it make one with inner confidence, peace, and joy knowing who their God is and freedom in spirit.

Most of us fall into the trap of labeling holiness in its ethics, behaviour, code of conduct, personality..... But holiness isn't strictly about these. I do have qualms about Wesley forming his Holy Club, as holines is a divine act and was never meant to be obtain through a set of religious exercises. Neither is it strictly eradicating of sin, there is no such thing, but holiness do give you the power to overcome.

Those who yearns for this blessing must be willing to go transparent with God or else stay in the well. Preachers who encourages their folks to seek it at the puipit really must exercise caution to avoid putting guilt trips and false hopes on well meaning folks. God does not necessary acede to the preacher's
command like a magic wane. Rather preacher should pray for God to will the people to go transparent with Him, and let the Spirit of God take over.

So, which would you rather be? The frog or eagle?

By the way, Ausgustine had it too though he was Calvinist. Read his testimony on how he described his experiences of God's love.

Would love to hear from those who play down this doctrine account for John 7:38.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is obvious to me that there is much disagreement where it concerns what "holiness is", or "how it looks", or 'how it is expressed".

Some would think of Jesus as a "moral example".

Others would suggest Scripture's admonitions. But, which ones still are applicable, and how do we assess which ones are not, and when and if they change?

Whenever one has in mind a certain way of viewing "who is committed", or "who is sanctified", or "who is a Christian" (when they are not definately telling you they are not), then, one has a 'standard" where they judge another's life. Is this an appropirate way to "go forward"? If so, expect to have division over "that one definition" of yours (even if it is "Scriptural").

I personally think it is very offensive to think of oneself as "higher" or "more spiritual" than another. I think some people who don't even acknowledge the name of Christ behave better then some Christians.

Anonymous said...

I had the privledge of working at a church during my undergrad that was filled with people who believed that every believer could be made perfect in love.

To be sure, so many of these older holiness persons were not perfect. Many of them tilted towards legalism (perhaps out of ignorance) and many of them were worn out by their years of faithful service (no doubt partly due to their infirmities multiplying in old age) but these are not signs of holiness nor are they barriers to true holiness.

What they taught me was that a true and perfect love has everything to do with my will being owned by God, so that as far as my will is concerned I will not sin. I may still sin unintentionally- due to lack of knowledge, or sins of surprise, or sins caused by simple exhaustion or disease, but my will can be free to follow Christ alone.

Many of them claimed to have recieved an instantaneous work of grace. Knowing them, I have no doubt that they did. Though my road will most assuredly be much longer and rockier, I in fervent faith seek the prize.

Glenn Knepp

David said...

In reading the comments, the various definitions, the various measurements, means of attainment, etc, it all validates my concern that there is a doctrine said to be in the Bible, that few "holiness" denominations can completely define, say how it is obtained for the common, ignorant, and uneducated person.

If God demands such thoroughness of spiritual perfection, why is it so illusive, even for sincere, obedient, totally consecrated seekers?

If God truly wants all men to go to heaven, and perfection is necessary, why is this state of grace seemingly such a complex combination-lock affair?

If, in my opinion, such a small handful of the CHM ever possess it, and the CHM is such a small portion of the world's population (I understand the great commission deal), why would people be held responsible for something that is very hard to understand and obtain (as preached), if they are ever even introduced to it in the first place?

I have relatives that have been, and some that are, missionaries to Papua New Guinea. The concept of salvation is, after five decades, still almost inconceivable to them. The doctrine of purity of heart has only scratched a mark, on such a few individuals. If the message of salvation be so foreign, how much more the doctrine (as preached) of sanctification?

I wonder sometimes if, and God please bear with me, if the doctrine, as preached, is not the enemies method of causing confusion, discouragement, and a general final turning away from religion, period.

I say these things after six decades of observations. I say them humbly and fearfully, to be sure!

I want to be assured of the 'true' facts! But if they are yet to be succinct after hundreds, or thousands of years, what hope have we?

Anonymous said...

Truly, the second work of grace was the calling of the gentiles in Christ. God's first work was the deliverance of a people in bondage.

Interesting isn't it, it really is all one work of grace....God's love and mercy to man! Some men/women had a deeper relationship with Him while others did not. There was only one Moses, one Jesus, one Enoch, etc.

Ted said...

Your question is interesting but quaint. The question in today's church is not "Can a Christian be free of all sin" but it is "Can a Christian be free of ANY ONE sin."

What started as doubting "entire" sanctification is now doubt about "any" sanctification--doubting there is power to overcome any sin at all.

If people cannot believe in deliverance from ONE sin how would they ever expect the deliverance from all sin?

Garry Spriggs said...

Keith, we who have been around the holiness movement all our lives have witnessed this experience at work in the lives of some who claimed it but have also seen some who showed no evidence of ANY work of grace while testifying to "two works" of grace. Personally, I can't write it off because of some bad examples. I have personally enjoyed the experience and am thankful for what it does daily in my own heart.

Tim Jones said...

It is a real experience. I personally know when I was sanctified wholly. Whenever we feel like God has to do something on the outside before He gets to the inside, I think we are deceived or in the least misinformed. Perfect Love is the greatest theme for the sanctified life IMO. Thanks for starting this discussion Keith! We truly need a move of God bringing in a wave of holiness to our lives and churches...

Gary Collier said...

No, they weren't deceived. I've seen pure love lived and manifested in front of me by many, many of the old folks. It wasn't a "claim" to them, it was a way of life.

George Holley said...

Just looking at the difference between the disciples before and after Pentecost ought to be enough evidence, not to mention the working of the Spirit in the life of Stephen in Acts chapters 6 & 7.

Michael Dickerson said...

Pentecost marked the dispensational outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Afterwards the Spirit takes residence in the heart of each born again believer. Entire sanctification marks the total surrender of the believer to the Lordship of the Spirit. But in no way does entire sanctification remove the need for daily submission or the struggles common to every human being.

Garry Spriggs said...

Good way of putting it, Mike. NUTSHELL theology, I like it.

Garry Spriggs said...

Hey Keith, I just re-read my post to Michael. Is there a need for a book titled "Nutshell Theology?" I'm tempted to give that one a whirl because I am a "Nutshell" thinker. What say ye?

Keith Drury said...

Garry--I say go for it... but read Ted's post above first... for light on how to approach this subject today.

John Mark said...

I spent three days last week at a Francis Asbury Retreat. The theme was The Pastor and Revival. I don't think the phrase "entire sanctification" was used once, though I felt I was in the presence of holy men. A UMC evangelist, speaking of the need for revival, asked the question, "Are we willing to really come clean?" So: can we have deliverance over even one sin(?): only if we confess and repent.

I personally think a deeper life is possible, though few experience it, and that may be in part because we have taken Wesley's theology out of its social context, the small group confessional setting-the bands, the classes, and the love feasts, where you could, they say, bare your soul without fear of condemnation. Corrie Ten Boom spoke of "entire" sanctification, but was always confessing her failures; a great model for us all, I think.

I am reading Wigger's American Saint on Asbury; in his journals he mentions a couple of times when he experienced what "might be called entire sanctification." I think that for at least some early Methodists, and perhaps for the Early Church, the pursuit of holiness in a radical and abandoned way was more important than making any kind of absolute claims of "perfection." I think that "going on to perfection" was to be a continuous way of life.

I have had, personally, several experiences where I thought I made an entire consecration to God-and believed myself to be "entirely" sanctified, but have failed (miserably) after. I find, indeed, that only as I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus am I able to have victory over sin.

Your article does point out a key aspect of both Wesley's theology and Palmer's, a sense of expectancy, reflected in our (AHM) old songs. Current songs about holiness express great longings, but little expectancy-I say this only as an observation, not a criticism.

Thanks for another great and thought provoking piece for us to chew on.

Anonymous said...

Among many people in my church the question is not if entire sanctification changes people but if salvation changes anything at all other than our "standing."

Many are satisfied to see their salvation as merely a matter of switching labels: declaring them justified and they expect little or no actual changes in how they live.

Maybe the real question for today's church is: "Is any power at all from God at any time to overcome any sin at all?"
-Steve Cummings

Pete Vecchi said...

Tuesday column, ans here on Tuesday afternoon, there are already 41 comments on it as I type this (and there could be more by the time I finish this). I'd say you've hit on a popular topic, Keith!

So, I only go to read the first 31 comments, and a number of the comments seem to have gotten off of the main question regarding the preaching of "entire sanctification" and whether or not folks in the 1800's "Holiness Movement" were deceived or correct.

My answer is that the doctrine is still developing. A key is the question, "What does holiness look like?" As some have said, over the years holiness preaching tended to get confused with living certain lyfestyles=holiness, and living other lifestyles=worldliness. If a person didn't identify, for instance, with the total abstinence from alcohol or tobacco issues, he or she couldn't have experienced entire sanctification. The lines got blurred between what was Biblical and what was "expected".

(end of part 1)

Pete Vecchi said...

(Part 2)

Many who decry the lack of "holiness" preaching these days seem to be more bothered that there's not enough preaching of rules and that certain rituals (i.e., the altar call, the campmeeting, the multiple-service revival, etc...) have become less comonplace.

In addition, an attitude has crept into our culture (especially in North America) that even Christians and non-Christians seem to espouse--one that says that people are basically good deep down. This flies in the face of the traditional Christian worldview that we are conceived in with natures that need cleansing from sin.

Finally, the evolution of the word "perfection" has changed the way the doctrine is viewed. Today, if a person claims "perfection", more people than not think if perfection of PERFORMANCE, not perfection of love towards God and others. Therefore, people likely tend to shy away from using the term "perfection", not because something different occurs (or doesn't occur) today compared with 100-150 years ago, but because the meaning of the terminology to the average listener has changed.

Here's how I have understood it. Look at Hebrews 10:14 which says in the NIV translation, "by one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." Now, I'm not a Greek scholar, but I tend to like this particular translation for this verse, because it implies a one-time work (sacrifice) that HAS MADE PERFECT (a completed deal) those who ARE BEING MADE (an ongoing deal) holy.

(end of part 2)

Pete Vecchi said...

(Part 3)

I can understand entire sanctification only by acknowledging the functional human trichotomy of body, mind, and spirit. At entire sanctification, God indeed perfects one's spirit--endowing that person's spirit with a perfect love for God and others. In function, this righteousness of spirit is IMPARTED (not imputed), making a real change in condition from one of the person being naturally inclined towards selfishness (i.e., evil, or sin) to the person being transformed to being primarily inclined towards godliness.

But while the spirit is indeed perfected, the body (flesh) is still subject to the fact that we live in a world that is still infected and affected by sin. While the true transformation of a person's spirit will indeed affect the way a person behaves, the truth of the matter is that the sin that surrounds the person will also influence the person's behavior. The mind is then the "battleground."

For instance; a person may have to make a split-second decision of "Do I step in front of the person who is about to shoot that innocent person, or do I sustain my own life?" The person's spirit is self-sacrificing, but the person's boy is self-preserving.

Is that person still entirely sanctified? Yes. Can that person still make mistakes and/or even go against his/her transformed spirit and still choose selfishness over godliness? Yes. But it happens less and less as the person grows in maturity, being transformed in the renewing of his/her mind as time goes on.

So, did the holiness movement of the 1800's miss the boat? In theory, no, but in practice, perhaps the message they preach got to be based more on outward behaviors instead of the work the Holy Spirit did to perfect that person's spirit within.

Just my two-cents-worth.

Bishop Weartle said...

I believe this discussion just proved why the dogmatic denominations (Wesleyan to PCA) have completely missed the point. These sects only exist because their founders used these "core" doctrines to differentiate against the "plain vanilla" church world. To define a church based on extreme theological speculation is lunacy, unless that is the only way you can market your church to the unsuspecting public/saints. The mainline churches, which allow for individual speculation, were correct in throwing out folks who would divide the church based on unprovable doctrines. The Lord's call to unity can't be fulfilled when fleecers would rather run it based on worldy business strategies! It's just sad that even after 3-4 generations, really good folks (some who I even admire) have still not figured this out.

John Mark said...

Bishop, I think if you look at the churches that are fractured and splintering today, you will see that they are for the most part mainline. Even "mere Christianity" is not enough to maintain unity in and of itself..

The history of Methodism in the USA and the later holiness movement churches is not one of people being thrown out (of the Anglican church, for example) it is far more complicated than that.

I would never suggest "we" never made any mistakes (we did; this is freely acknowledged here), but that what division we (may have-at certain times and places) caused pales by comparison with the kind of division brought in by "unsupportable" doctrines today.

Bishop Weartle said...

John Mark,

Using your example of the UMC, what unsupportable doctrines does it hold? I don't recall any doctrinal changes in the past 200 years. The splinters that you cite more properly reflect the deep division in our country based on soci-economic/regional differences. It is unfortunate.

But back to my point - The Nazarene's leading proponent of ES, Dr. Purkiser, spent years going from camp to camp telling the story of how his respectable Presbyterian father couldn't embrace ES. As a result, he claimed that he was 100% convinced that his father was walking among the damned. The church was clear that ES was the only reason why it was in existence. 30 years later there are many Nazerene pastors who ignore/disparage the doctrine.

Playing with folks emotions/lives isn't just a MISTAKE! Why are the fundamentalists unable to operate under the simple basis that we have a heart-felt preference/passion on some point? The answer is that they have replaced salvation by grace with theological idolatry!

Happy Thanksgiving

John Mark said...

My apologies to Bishop, for being defensive, and to Coach Keith for drifting off topic. I think that in the early Methodist movement there was perhaps a realism about ES, such as Fletcher's multiple experiences of seeking, claiming, then struggling to believe, and as I mentioned, Asbury's reluctance to make any kind of definitive, once-and-for-all statement (so far as I know). It is a realism we should return to.
Wesley never made any public testimony of ES (did he?). Yet he did think others were finding "perfect love" in his estimation. The AHM, again, was much more positive and many did-as recently as my parents generation- claim to be entirely sanctified. I have no doubt that there was a difference in their lives after this "second blessing" so I don't think they were dishonest or deceived. I think that legalism was part of our downfall, when we placed too much confidence in our various taboos and abstinence's as a mark of true holiness. This is a broad statement and exceptions could be made, to be sure.
I have never heard what was said about Purkiser, but I would agree that our teaching of "holiness or hell" was erroneous as we often understood it. This may represent a fault line from which we moved away, eventually, from our Pentecostal/holiness theology.

Anonymous said...

If this doctrine is not real, then the road of suffering of the tormented soul prior to being blessed is a mockery! I am glad God is not mocked!

Anonymous said...

As per your original question I can't argue with integrity that these people did NOT experience from God what they said they experienced... any more than a scoffer can say that we Christians are decieved in thinking we were converted.

But I do think this sort of thing is rare today. Could it be posisble that it was just a way God worked for a time--like He used tongues in New Testament times? Maybe God doesn't "do" entire sanctifications any more.
At least (given the discussion above) even if that happened to me I sure wouldn't want to admiit it today. Chad

Former Nazarene said...

Entire Sanctification is a preaching tactic, not a doctrine.

In America preachers cannot tell their members they are miserable sinners in need of a true conversion. American are too proud to believe they aren’t saved. So these preachers told their proud unconverted members they are saved but “in need of something more.” Entire Sanctification was one generation’s invention of that “something more.”

Did those who quit being drunks and quit beating their wives really receive something? Yes, they simply got converted but called it entire sanctification.

The Ghost of John Wesley said...


As clarification, I was not attacking the Wesleyan/Nazerene Church or the doctrine of ES per say. I would never venture to suggest like Mr. Ley and others that the HS movement is completely bogus. I am completely believe in people having great encounters with God or more properly God finding His people. However, the Achilles Heel of fundamentalism is that they try to pre-load God encounters with their predetermined theology brand (Baptists are more so guilty). People are made to feel that they must accept a theological formation or deny their God encounter.

As Barth stated, we all come to Leissing's "ugly broad ditch" and must take hold of faith on the basis that we are ultimately saved by Christ's faith in us. I am not against experience, assurance, eternal security, and the higher life but let's be honest most evangelical groups, at best, have confused these categories with Sola Fide, and, at worst, have pitched them as security blankets. In Methodism, conversion was always the full entry into the ethical life not getting saved.

I will leave it at that, but I hope the Wesleyan/Nazaren/Free Methodists can merge, rise above their past, and then help fill an increasing gap in the evangelical liberal tradition.
As a starting point, download Dr. Francis John McConnell's "The Christlike God" from open library.

Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

To say that one is not saved without ES is heresy!

Garry Spriggs said...

I have just read all the comments on this blog and my mind is whirling.

We are losing our doctrinal distinctive as Wesleyans by default. I am not as much concerned about being called a "Wesleyan" as I am that the lifestyle of a "holy life" is getting blurry. The "Nutshell" of holiness is a lifestyle that exemplifies Christ. We have such a strong emphasis on numbers of people attending our churches via church plants, programs, and promotions that I am fearful we have become 40 miles wide and a half inch deep! I am NOT opposed to counting numbers--I have told my students many times that God wrote a whole book called "Numbers." But, why exist if we do not produce a product worthy of Christ's name?

I'm not interested in testifying that "I'm so glad I'm a Wesleyan," but I am concerned that my life shows forth what the message of Wesley conveyed. I am NOT a Calvinist but I have surely met many of that doctrinal persuasion that live a very holy life. Call me a heretic if you will, but I have even worked side-by-side with a Catholic man whose lifestyle and spirit fully exemplified Jesus in ALL areas of his daily walk; both his actions and reactions were Christlike.

Bottom line: there is only one way to get to Heaven and that is through believing in Jesus Christ and maintaining a daily walk with Him by the aid of the Holy Spirit. I again say that I am Wesleyan in doctrine because in my heart and mind it makes the most sense in resolving the sin issue. I must also realize that this is my heritage, I grew up in it...others have not and may use different terms in explaining their heritage but all of us know and agree it is Christ and Christ alone that provides the gateway to Heaven. Christ is Holiness. My life should be the example of that Christ, the Gateway. Terminologies get confusing, Christ doesn't.

Keith Drury said...

Garry, thanks for the comment--here and always... I might just add a note to say that many of those commenting above are not from the Wesleyan church --or even the holiness movement.

As for the holiness movement… I think you are generally right that there is a shift in thinking on entire sanctification among many in the holiness movement. Here is what I have seen:

1. Entire Sanctification was widely believed, preached, sought, experienced and testified to.
2. Believed, preached, sought, experienced… but seldom testified to except for old people.
3. Believed, preached, sought… but few found their experience to match the promise of the preaching.
4. Believed, preached… but few laity sought seriously or ever heard a fresh or recent testimony to it happening.
5. Believed… since we are required to believe it—but in a whatever that means” sort of way.

Finally, at the stage when Entire Sanctification becomes a belief that is seldom preached or experienced the church seeks other “longer way” approaches to holiness rejecting Phoebe Palmer’s “shorter way” approach. And since Wesley (at times) seems to suggest this longer way is the usual route to sanctification the church goes “back to Wesley” and accepts the “remote possibility” of entire sanctification in this life but more commonly preaches a gradual recovery from sin throughout our entire lives. Adopting the “longer way” as the norm and 18th century Wesley as the model these can then easily dismiss and mock the American Holiness leaders like Phoebe Palmer which is easy to do for many since she was woman.

For what it’s worth a similar pattern is now unfolding among Pentecostals regarding tongues.

And for those of you who have written me emails asking me to answer my own question--YES, I believe that many of those who claimed this experience have indeed experienced what they said they had. And I can name a dozen people I work daily with who fit this description.

Thanks all for the excellent comments providing much food for thought. Some thoughts are so astonding that i will take me several weeks to work through them.