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HOLINESS AND UNITY

 

John W. V. Smith

 

Anderson College and Graduate School of Theology

 

There are two affirmations about the Christian Church on which almost all Christians would be agreed: (1) God’s Church is one, and (2) His Church is holy. To question these statements would be to contradict the expressed wishes of our Lord in John 17, to disregard the churchly metaphors of the Apostle Paul, and to ignore declarations about the Church by most of the other New Testament writers. So when any follower of Christ announces that he believes in the unity and sanctity of the Church he creates little excitement, evokes almost no argument, and finds few challengers. We all accept these ideals and even the most ardent non-creedalist can heartily avow, “I believe in the one, holy, catholic Church.”

Once the affirmations are made, however, there comes the added task of elaborating their meaning. Here the complications and difficulties begin—and go on and on and on. The problem is perhaps best identified and simplified in the reported conversation between two sectarians in which one condescendingly said to the other, “After all, when we get down to basics, each of us is earnestly striving to do the will of the Lord, you in your way and I in His.” The result, as we all know, is a severely fractured “body of Christ,” a blemished “bride” with spots and wrinkles and other such things, and multiple “buildings” made with human hands.

We need not elaborate the sadly divided state of Christendom. We are all too well aware of the hundreds of sects and denominations; of parties, camps, wings, factions, “isms,” and “ites” that cluster under separate labels and banners. We also recognize the fact that most Christians are neither repentant nor apologetic about these distinctions. Indeed they are not only willing but proud to wear a name tag that separates them from other Christians and, in effect, says, “Thank God, I’m not as others are!”

Yet, in the context of such universal acceptance of the ideal of Christian unity, there is a certain discomfiture about this separateness. This is not a recent development. Uneasiness about division in the Church goes all the way back to the first century. Much of the development of creeds and structures in the primitive and medieval periods of Christian history were specifically aimed at solving the problem of disunity.

The sixteenth-century Reformers, likewise, were not unmindful of the charge that in separating from the Roman church they were guilty of schism. In order to live with their own consciences, both Luther and Calvin were compelled to develop their own internal rationale for separating from Catholicism. Luther eased his mind by declaring that the papal institution was apostate and had actually ceased to be the Church as early as the eighth century, so in departing from it he reasoned that he was not really dividing the Church. Calvin utilized the ancient Augustinian argument against the Donatists, who objected to sinners in the Church: the Invisible Church, he affirmed, is holy—and one; the Visible Church is imperfect—and divided.

By these and similar intellectual devices the existence of a divided Church was rationalized and the denominational system became the developmental pattern for Protestantism. Although the “established” churches made a noble effort during the latter part of the sixteenth and through the seventeenth centuries to curb “enthusiasm” and enforce conformity, they were unable to prevent the rise of independent movements and “sectaries.” During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries proliferation accelerated, especially in America, and the already sundered “body of Christ” exploded into hundreds of fragments. The dawn of the twentieth century saw Christian rivalry accentuated, competition and proselytism rampant, and very few prophets to raise a voice against the scandal of division.

Then the mood began to change. The nineteenth century had also seen some great developments on the positive side. Most Protestant churches had shown unprecedented growth and expansion—numerically, geographically, and programatically. Missionary activity, though often competitive in the mood of the time, had extended Christian outposts to every continent and to remote islands in every sea. New program emphases, such as youth work, Sunday schools, and social service, began to appear in almost all the churches.

Although these programs often were used as new weapons in the denominational warfare, a different dimension of encounter emerged. Divided Christians who would hardly speak to each other in their own communities found themselves sharing ideas with each other at Sunday school conventions and working alongside each other in the city slums or on some far-off mission field. So as a result of backlash from missionary outreach and the byproducts of other grand ventures there were many Christian leaders who began to raise serious questions about the values of vicious and wasteful competition. Shortly after the turn of the century suggestions were being made from many quarters regarding possibilities for dialogue and cooperation across denominational lines. Consequently, after centuries of division and conflict, a great number of Christians in our time have come to the point of evidencing great concern about the divided condition of the Church and are trying to do something about it.

The change in ecclesiastical climate is nothing short of phenomenal. Within this twentieth century more attention has been directed toward healing the breaches in Christendom than in any other period since the major disruption of institutional unity in the sixteenth century. Great world conferences have been held, interdenominational organizations have been constituted, ecumenical commissions have been created, hundreds of books have been published, numerous periodicals dealing entirely with ecumenicity have appeared, and Vatican Council II has brought Roman Catholics as well as Protestants and Orthodox into the arena of ecumenical discussion and activity.

Seminaries, originally founded to provide a distinctive denominationally oriented ministry, are now cooperating and “clustering” with whatever other schools they can, Protestant and Catholic, in order to provide a broadly ecumenical education for future leaders of the Church. Many denominational mergers have been successfully effected, and most religious bodies have created a department or commission whose specific assignment is to seek ways to promote Christian unity. To cite all contemporary activities which relate to seeking a solution to the problem of a divided Christendom would be very difficult, but if such were possible it would only accentuate the very apparent irenic climate among many of the presently constituted segments of the Church.

Now comes the question of where the proponents of holiness have stood—and are standing—in the midst of all this denominational competition and ecumenicity. Using a basically historical framework for analysis with concomitant theological and practical implications dealt with in context, there are six generalizations which may be posited in regard to this issue. To avoid any accusation of bias, three of them point toward separateness and three point toward unity. All of them relate the holiness emphasis as derived from Wesleyan theology to the problem of Christian disunity.

 

(1) Holiness as a doctrinal emphasis has tended to be a divisive issue.

 

Certainly there is nothing inherent in the doctrine of holiness which would lead to separateness or division among Christians. On the theoretical face of it, quite the opposite would be true. Such terms as perfect love, Christian perfection, sanctification, etc., suggest anything but dissension and disunity. The fact of the matter is, as any student of the holiness movement knows well, holiness has been the occasion for a considerable amount of bitter debate and many severed relationships. The “saints” not only have fought their adversaries; they also have battled each other. Even in an era when harsh polemics were in style, they often exhibited a pungent vocabulary of notable causticity and graphic castigation. Their deep commitment to the doctrine and their intense fervor in propagating it made holiness people not only strong protagonists but also formidable adversaries.

The most specific manifestation of divisiveness fostered by the holiness emphasis was in the separation of factions and the formation of new denominations. Although few groups would admit to intentional divisiveness, the fact remains that almost without exception the holiness bodies came into being through schismatic action on the part of those who were vigorously upholding the doctrine in the face of opposition in the parent body. The general procedure is well illustrated in the Declaration of Principles adopted by the General Holiness Assembly of 1885:

 

Professors of holiness should not voluntarily surrender their Church privileges for trivial causes. But, if an oppressive hand be laid upon them in any case by Church authority, solely for professing holiness, or for being identified with the cause of Holiness, depriving them of the privileges of Christian communion, they should then adjust themselves to circumstances, as may be required in order to have the continued enjoyment of the ordinances of our holy religion.[1]

 

Such separations, of course, were always the result of the “hard core of resistance” in the parent group rather than any lack of wisdom or charitableness on the part of the sanctified rebels. William M. Greathouse well describes the oft repeated process:

 

Increasingly, the people who had espoused the doctrine, which was never meant to be a “theological provincialism,” found themselves unwelcome in their parent denominations. With agapeic hesitancy, but with New Testament poignancy, they formed small denominations.[2]

 

In reviewing the formation of this multitude of independent churches in the wake of the holiness revival, Timothy L. Smith, in an excellent chapter entitled “The Church Question, 1880–1900,” analyzes the complex of factors which produced this circumstance. He notes first that the holiness emphasis found adherents among people from a wide variety of backgrounds, both religiously and culturally, so the movement itself was far from being homogeneous in character. Very early there emerged a basic cleavage between the rural and urban wings of the awakening, the former being more emotional and rigid in defining standards and the latter being more intellectual and flexible.

Smith then isolates four factors which individually and collectively contributed to the fragmentizing and sectizing of the holiness emphasis in America:

 

(1) the persistent opposition of ecclesiastical officials to independent holiness associations and publishing agencies; (2) the recurrent outbursts of fanaticism among persons who were members of the associations but not of the churches; (3) the outbreak in the 1890’s of strenuous attacks upon the doctrine of sanctification itself; and (4) the increasing activity of urban holiness preachers in city mission and social work.[3]

 

The story of the formation of these many holiness denominations is sufficiently well known that it need not be detailed here. One writer has estimated that as many as 100 separate groups were brought into existence by the divisive activity of the proponents of holiness.[4] Even though it might be difficult to document this figure, there is really no denying that holiness preaching and teaching has contributed significantly to the divided state of the Christian Church.

 

(2) The holiness movement has been from its beginning and continues to be interdenominational in both theory and practice.

 

It is not difficult to document the fact that the central leaders of the holiness movement never intended that the proponents of this doctrine should be confined to a single denomination. Although most of these leaders were Methodists, their vision of the field for the promotion of this work was as broad as the Christian faith itself. The official “call” to that first organizational camp meeting in Vineland, N.J., in 1867 makes the interdenominational emphasis doubly clear. Rev. Alfred Cookman phrased it well:

 

We affectionately invite all, irrespective of denominational ties, interested in the subject of the higher Christian life, to come together and spend a week in God’s great temple of nature. . . . Come, brothers and sisters of the various denominations, and let us, in this forest-meeting, as in other meetings for the promotion of holiness, furnish an illustration of evangelical union, and make common supplication for the descent of the Spirit upon ourselves, the church, the nation, and the world.[5]

 

The response at the meeting itself was a vindication of the inclusiveness of the call. In reporting this 10-day encampment in the Guide to Holiness, Rev. G. Hughes lifts up some of the highlights of the first national holiness camp meeting. Among other observations he notes the following:

 

Another striking feature of the meeting was the fact that so many Christian denominations were represented. Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Friends, and Methodists were all dwelling together in sweetest harmony. Never was there a more beautiful illustration of the Psalmist’s declaration, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”“ One Presbyterian minister had come from Illinois to receive the baptism of fire; and he did receive it. A Baptist minister from Philadelphia came for the holy anointing, and the Spirit of power came upon him. He went to the Baptist church in Vineland on Sabbath morning, and preached to them on the text, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly,” and held up to them distinctly the privilege of full salvation in the blood of the Lamb.[6]

 

All the later developments of holiness associations—whether local, regional, or national—have stressed and continue to emphasize the inter-denominational character of the movement. The focus of attention has been on promotion of the doctrine and practice of holiness and not on other affiliations which a person might have. Wide and diverse participation in all the associations was eagerly sought after because this broadened the potential field for promotion. Although holiness as a doctrine has been developed and advanced most specifically by those in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition, it never has been regarded by its proponents as private property of the Methodists. The teaching has been presented as biblical and Christian and available to all, regardless of their denomination.

 

(3) Holiness groups have tended to be aloof from general ecumenical activity.

 

The massive ecumenical bustle of the twentieth century referred to earlier has developed largely without either the encouragement or the assistance of holiness-oriented leadership. Currently no avowedly holiness body in the United States is a full member of the World Council of Churches. One, the Salvation Army, has held membership but is not listed on the 1974 roster. The British Salvation Army, however, does participate in the World Council. The National Council of Churches lists no holiness churches in its membership, but five Arminian groups and one Canadian body with holiness orientation have been approved for participation in selected units of the Council’s programmatic activity. The degree and extent of participation would vary widely from group to group and from time to time.

The ecumenical picture of holiness denominations involved with the National Association of Evangelicals is considerably different. Here a high degree of participation is clearly evident. Of the 12 member bodies of the Christian Holiness Association,[7] of them are also members of NAE; and of the 6 organizations listed as “cooperating” with the CHA, 2 are members of the NAE. The sum total adds up to the fact that one-half of these holiness groups are affiliated with NAE. It is notable, however, that some of the larger bodies—such as the Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army, and the Church of God (Anderson)—are among the other half who do not cooperate. To these must be added a significant number of holiness groups which do not even have a relationship with the CHA.

If one were to attempt to analyze the reasons for this basically non-ecumenical stance he would find it difficult to formulate any overall generalizations. From our review thus far, however, at least one factor is historically evident. Almost without exception the holiness groups were born out of conflict with the very denominations which make up the main-line ecumenical organizations, thus creating an inherent, though often unconscious, reluctance to lock arms with one’s former adversaries. Beyond this, there are the usual evangelical objections to cooperating with groups more “liberal” in theology and more “leftist” in politics. Pronouncements on social issues and involvement in protest activism have not been highly regarded by holiness people as proper procedures for proclamation, albeit there is an evident heightening social concern among all Evangelicals. These theological and social issues would not apply, of course, to non-cooperation through the NAE. Here the reasons for aloofness would be less accusative and probably less specific. For some it is simply, “We have plenty to do and we’re making it well on our own.” For others there are problems of attitude and spirit. Still others see all “conciliarism” as an abortive approach to true Christian unity, so do not join any organization for this purpose.

Putting it all together, one must conclude that holiness people have not been highly enthusiastic about the promotion of unity through entering into associational relationships with a broad spectrum of other Christians throughout the nation or around the world.

 

(4) Holiness has been promoted largely through cooperative “associational” measures and also has been the basis for some significant denominational mergers.

 

Donald W. Dayton has observed that, “although denominations within the holiness movement consistently ignore the conciliar movements on the national and international level, they are fiercely ecumenical within their own circle.”[8] The tendencies toward divisiveness and aloofness mentioned earlier have not subverted an even stronger inclination to devise ways to identify with and establish vehicles of cooperation with others of like mind and spirit.

Holiness people have never been loners. From the “class meetings” of the Wesleys to the “Tuesday meetings” of the Palmers to the “camp meetings” of modern times, togetherness has been integral to the holiness emphasis. This togetherness has never been incidental or casual; it has been deliberate and planned. From the earliest days of the movement the proponents of this doctrine have joined together in transdenominational associations, assemblies, and bands. These structures were conceived as completely non-ecclesiastical. Their function was solely for the promotion of holiness, and no participant’s denominational affiliation or loyalty was challenged. The prevailing attitude on this point is well expressed in a resolution passed by the 1901 General Holiness Assembly held in Chicago:

 

To more effectively promote the spread of holiness, and unify our work, we recommend the organization of bands, and county, and state associations, with a uniformity of constitution and by-laws. That this Assembly, composed of members from at least twenty different evangelical churches, declare that these bands and associations are in no sense churches, were never intended to be churches, and are not to take the place of churches, but are simply a union of people for the promotion and conservation of holiness.[9]

 

At various times throughout the history of the movement there have been those who have sought to unify the whole effort through some central coordinating agency. S. B. Shaw of Lansing, Mich., for example, had a dream of forming a national holiness union and was one of the promoters of the assemblies held in Chicago first in 1885 and again in 1901. He hoped that these assemblies would eventuate in just such a union, but it never developed that way. The association approach yielded to the forces generated by the formation of separate denominations. Before the 1901 meeting, Shaw himself had led a group of followers in the formation of the Primitive Holiness Mission.

The association idea did not die with the sectizing of holiness, however, but it was forced to take a different focus. Since many participants were no longer members of the parent churches, they were not free to promote holiness inside those walls, so more attention was given to the development of the new denominations and less attention to the associations. Many of the local and regional organizations dropped out of existence entirely, and the National Holiness Association itself went through some very lean years. Recent developments reflect new vigor, and the change in name to Christian Holiness Association opens the way to broaden both purpose and function.

The strength of the cooperative impulse in holiness people is reflected in the fact that hardly was the fragmenting process under way until the merging process began. Here again, the details are many and impressive, but they have been reviewed adequately elsewhere.[10] It is sufficient here to note that, from the bringing together of five groups to form the Church of the Nazarene in 1895 to the recent mergers which have produced the Missionary church and the Wesleyan church, there has been evidenced a continuing urge to bring strength and unity to the cause of promoting holiness. Even now conversations are in process to further unify and enhance this witness.

 

(5) Holiness leaders generally have tended to give only marginal attention to the matter of Christian unity, have steadfastly defended the denomination system, and have disclaimed “come-outism.”

 

The fact that holiness people have been strongly associational does not mean they have been concerned about Christian unity. Their cooperation has been focused on a specific purpose—the promotion of holiness—and has not been directed toward the overcoming of division and the unification of the Church. One might go even further and state that the central emphasis on personal holiness has so occupied the thought of leaders of the movement that little attention has been given even to articulating a doctrine of the Church, and much less to formulating concepts of the unity of the Church. This is not to say that a concern for the nature of the Church and its unity is entirely absent, for some significant formulations have been made.[11] But one can examine a whole section of books on holiness in a seminary library and find very few of them which include any treatment of the “ecclesial” implications of the doctrine.

The deep concern on the part of early leaders of the movement that the holiness emphasis not be confined to a single religious group put them in the position of condoning—and seeking to work within—all existing groups. A holiness preacher was not just a holiness preacher; he was a Methodist, Baptist, or Presbyterian preacher who preached holiness. As the associations were formed, there were usually specific stipulations that participants were to be “members in good standing” of some Christian denomination.

Even after the fragmentation process began, there was still this strong attachment to the importance of denominational affiliation. In the “call” to the 1901 Chicago Assembly it is stated: “Persons will be enrolled as members who bring certificates from some branch of the evangelical Church, or from organizations which maintain a fraternal spirit and attitude toward the Church.”[12] In the “Salutation” this principle is explicated further in regard to persons who, because of their fidelity to the cause of holiness, may have been expelled from their church:

 

They should be regarded with charity, treated with tenderness and consideration, and not disfellowshiped by the holiness brethren or branded with epithets of an unpleasant and reproachful character. Our advice to such would be in all cases to seek affiliation as early as possible with some organized body of Christian people who believe in and are committed to the holiness work.[13]

 

In order to avoid a position which seemed to put a blessing on division in the Church, one writer finds comfort in drawing a distinction between “denomination” and “sect.” The sect, says Joseph H. Smith, is a “child of carnality” while the denomination is sometimes a “child of providence.” He regarded the latter as necessary to meet the diversities of “localities, languages, governmental restrictions, ancestral heritages, etc.,” incident to the worldwide propagation of Christianity. “As there were twelve tribes, but one Israel, so the body has various members, but one life within all; and different ‘branches’ of the church may all yet be as of one Vine.”[14] At other points Smith utilizes Calvin’s “visible-invisible” rationale for denominational divisions in the Church.[15]

In spite of widespread accusations to the contrary, holiness leaders, almost with one voice, denounced “come-outism.” Even the come-outers denounced it, except they put the onus on the other parties and accused them of “crush-outism.”[16] Regardless of the rhetoric, it is evident that the proponents of holiness had high regard for existing denominations, were reluctant to withdraw from them unless circumstances became intolerable, and in forming new denominations they simply took advantage of the system and did little to try to change its nature.[17]

 

(6) Some holiness leaders have regarded sectism as “sin,” have looked to “perfect love” as the only escape from division in the Church, and have envisioned Christian unity as a visible fellowship of all the “saints.”

 

In his introduction to the report of the 1901 General Holiness Assembly, S. B. Shaw observes that “many hearts have been greatly burdened and have been crying to God for union among all of God’s children, especially among all those that believe in holiness of heart as possible through faith in the cleansing blood of Christ and by the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”[18] Earlier (1896) holiness evangelist L. L. Pickett had declared, “Remember, when you people are lamenting the lack of unity among the people of God, that the remedy is to be found in sanctification. It is the doctrine of oneness among the children of God.”[19]

At various other times and by a number of other people the suggestion has been made that the practical application of the sanctifying experience should have the effect of removing the barriers which divide Christians from each other. One of the earliest such expositions which has come to this writer’s attention is a letter to the Guide to Holiness in 1867 from Southern Methodist Bishop John Wilkins. He raises the question as to whether “the element of ‘Perfect Love’ is of sufficient power in the various branches of Methodism to leaven the animus of the whole denomination with such Christly love as that we shall hear no longer of that bitter hate between Northern and Southern Methodism.” He goes ahead to state that he does not feel that the time is ripe for reuniting the two churches, but there is need, he says, “to remove the fretting friction.” He continues by affirming, “There is enough of ‘Perfect Love’ in both branches to accomplish the desired result.”[20] Admittedly, there is considerable difference between bringing peace to Methodism and healing the breaches in all Christendom, but the suggested remedy could well apply in both cases, for the malady is the same.

Other expressions suggesting holiness as the hope for unity have appeared from time to time in the literature of the movement, but the most articulate exponent of sanctification as the remedy for division was Daniel S. Warner, an Ohio preacher of the (Winebrennerian) Churches of God. He was led to accept the holiness teaching and experience around 1877 and became an ardent promoter of the doctrine. In 1878 he was expelled from his denomination for noncooperation and failure to abide by admonitions given him by the eldership regarding his activities as a traveling evangelist. He was accused of creating agitation in particular congregations by his vigorous preaching of holiness. Shortly after his expulsion he entered the following note in his diary:

 

The Lord showed me that holiness could never prosper upon sectarian soil encumbered by human creeds and party names, and he gave me a new commission to join holiness and all truth together and build up the apostolic church of the living God. Praise his name! I will obey him.[21]

 

During the following several months Warner’s thoughts concerning the relationship between holiness and unity began to take shape. He launched into the preparation of a manuscript which was published in 1880 by the Evangelical United Mennonite Publishing Society under the title of Bible Proofs of the Second Work of Grace. In order to adequately understand his views, a rather extended series of quotations from this work will be noted.

To begin with, he clearly regards all divisions in the Church as sinful:

 

Oft the enlightened Christian’s conscience inquires whether it is right for the Church to be divided thus, into a plurality of sects or denominations, with their respective human creeds and party names. In the light of truth, we are compelled to answer, No. And for the simple reason that these parties are not of Divine origin. Christ is the source of all true union among His disciples, and all divisions between them and the world; while the Devil is the instigation of all divisions in the Church, and all union between it and the world.[22]

 

Again:

 

It is a solemn fact that adherence in different denominations is the Devil’s wedge, whereby the unity of the Spirit, so perfectly procured in the grace of perfect love, is again destroyed. Party names, party creeds, and party spirits, almost of necessity go together; and the natural return of this spirit, because of membership in a fragmentary Church, takes more souls off of God’s altar than everything else together.[23]

 

This party feeling which he describes as “very sin” not only destroys brotherly love among Christians; it also hinders the work of evangelization. “The division of the Church into parties not only destroys the power and holiness thereof, but is the greatest impediment to the conversion of the world to God.”[24] He mourns this dire result of division among Christians:

 

O, the thousands of souls, that are being lost to all eternity through the selfish, wicked and carnal spirit of our churchism! God is dishonored, yea, robbed of the purchase of His Son’s death, and infidelity stalks abroad; the result of a divided house.[25]

 

Warner does not believe that an invisible spiritual unity is adequate:

 

Can it be said of professors of holiness that they have “one heart” and “one mind,” while some have a mind to be Presbyterian, others Baptists, others United Brethren, and others have a mind to adhere to the several different sects of Methodism? Have they “one heart and one way,” when they rise from the solemn altar in the holiness meeting and go, each one in his own way, to the synagogue of his own sect?[26]

 

For Warner, neither the problem nor its solution is of a corporate nature:

 

I would lay the responsibility of this enormous evil just where God places it, and all other sin. We will not be judged by sects states, nor even by neighborhoods and towns, but “every one shall give an account of himself to God.”

A revival of holiness in a community is the result of personal consecration and faith; and its relapse will be in proportion to the number of individuals that remove the sacrifice from the altar. There is no such thing as thorough holiness, except as wrought by the Sanctifier in individual hearts; and if, as has been said, and as I verily believe, thorough and widespread holiness destroys denominations-burns up sectarian distinctions-it must do it in your heart, as an individual.[27]

 

To accomplish this desired end—to destroy denominationalism and achieve Christian unity—requires action on the part of sanctified persons. Though Warner denied the charge of “come-outism,” affirming that urging people to come out of one sect into another was furtherest from his thought, he nevertheless left little doubt regarding what he felt a sanctified Christian should do:

 

If you are a true, intelligent Bible Christian, a holy, God fearing man, you must cast off every human yoke, withdraw fellowship from, and renounce every schismatic and humanly constituted party in the professed body of Christ. Instead of belonging to “some branch,” you will simply belong to Christ, and be a branch yourself in Him, the “true vine.” Instead of remaining identified with any sect,—i.e., cut-off party, “directly or indirectly the results of sin”—you will claim membership in, and fellowship with the “one and indivisible Church, that God has on earth, and which is made up of all, and singularly who are born of the Spirit.” On this broad and divinely established platform, and here only, can you stand clear of the sin of sectarianism and the blood of immortal souls that perish through its pernicious influence.[28]

 

In Warner’s mind the views which he expressed were not to be identified with the “no-churchism” propounded by John P. Brooks and others in the holiness movement. He declared:

 

I am not advocating the no-church theory, that we hear of in the west, but the one holy Church of the Bible, not bound together by rigid articles of faith, but perfectly united in love, under the primitive glory of the Sanctifier, “continuing steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,” and taking captive the world for Jesus.[29]

 

In summarizing his views Warner lists five points:

 

From what has been said, and the uniform teaching of the Bible, the following facts are very evident:

1. The division of the Church into sects is one of Satan’s most effectual, if not the very greatest means of destroying human souls.

2. Its enormous sin must be answered for by individual adherents to, and supporters of sects.

3. The only remedy for this dreadful plague, is thorough sanctification, and this is only wrought by a personal, individual contact with the blood of Christ through faith.

4. The union required by the Word of God is both a spiritual and visible union.

5. The divisions of the Church are caused by elements that are foreign to it as a Divinely constituted body, by deposits of the enemy, which exist in the hearts and practices of individual members, involving their responsibility and requiring their personal purgation.[30]

 

And finally, he affirms his conviction that neither holiness nor unity can progress unless they do it together:

 

It is, indeed, my honest conviction that the great holiness reform can not go forward with the sweeping power and permanent triumph that God designs it should, until the Gospel be so preached and consecration become so thorough, that the blood of Christ may reach, and wash away every vestige of denominational distinction, and “perfect into one”—yea, one indeed and in truth—all the sanctified.[31]

 

Even though Warner held these convictions strongly, he did not take any hasty action. In the summer of 1880 he played a very active role in the Jacksonville, Ill., holiness assembly, making one of the presentations and serving on a committee. The following year at Terre Haute, Ind., however, he withdrew from the association because the assembly refused to remove what he called the “sect endorsing clause” from their bylaws. He felt that the requirement that a participant in the association must be a member of some church was approval of the sinful system. In October of that same year he withdrew from the Northern Indiana Eldership of the Church of God (a small holiness group with which he had affiliated three years earlier) and took his stand “with Christ alone.” From this action—and similar steps taken shortly thereafter in Michigan and Ohio—a nondenominational holiness movement emerged which is known as the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.).

So—there have been and still are those who hold the view that true holiness destroys division and produces genuine Christian unity.

 

* * *

 

Now that these six historically oriented generalizations have been posited, it is appropriate that six concluding propositions be stated regarding the relationship between holiness and unity.

(1) Believers in holiness must not be too ready to accept easy answers in rationalizing division in the Church. Even “liberal” Christians pray God’s forgiveness for participating in the sin of division.

(2) A passionate concern for personal sanctification should not subvert an equally great concern for the doctrine of the Church. It is well to keep in mind that the Apostle Paul uses the word sanctify in regard to both persons and the Church.

(3) In the light of Christ’s prayer for the Church (John 17), the concepts of “spiritual unity” and “invisible oneness” are inadequate and inconsistent with the apparent implications of “perfect love.”

(4) Associationalism and conciliarism are abortive approaches to Christian unity in that they only mitigate the evils of division and do not remove it.

(5) Nondenominationalism is an inadequate concept for the full realization of Christian unity in that it expresses primarily a negative rather than a positive character to the Church.

(6) This time in Christian history seems to be an especially propitious one for all proponents of holiness to dedicate themselves to giving major attention to the relational implications of this doctrine to the end that, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to lead the way toward unification of the whole Church so that, indeed, the world may believe.

 



[1] As quoted by John L. Peters, Christian Perfection and American Methodism (New York: Abingdon, 1956), p. 141.

 

[2] William M. Greathouse, Nazarene Theology in Perspective (Kansas City: Nazarene Publishing House, 1970), p. 5.

 

[3] Timothy L. Smith, Called unto Holiness (Kansas City: Nazarene Publishing House, 1962), p. 27.

 

[4] Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 37. He later observes (p. 53): “A measure of the intensity of the conflict over sanctification is the fact that twenty-three holiness denominations began in the relatively short period of seven years between 1893 and 1900.” The process of schism did not end with the nineteenth century, however. Donald W. Dayton, in The American Holiness Movement, A Bibliographical Introduction (Wilmore, Ky.: B. L. Fisher Library, 1971), p. 52, notes that very recent times have seen the formation of a number of new small holiness denominations. Included in these would be the Allegheny Methodist connection, The Bible Missionary church (originally Nazarene), the Wesleyan Holiness Association (originally Bible Missionary church), the United Holiness church, and the Evangelical Wesleyan church (both originally Free Methodist).

 

[5] W. McDonald and John E. Searles, The Life of Rev. John S. Inskip (Chicago: The Christian Witness Co., 1885), p. 190.

 

[6] G. Hughes, “The Vineland Encampment,” Guide to Holiness, (September, 1867), P. 93

 

[7] The listing of member churches in the various organizations is given as reported in Constant H. Jacquet, Jr., ed., Yearbook of American Churches, 1974 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1974).

 

[8] Donald W. Dayton, The American Holiness Movement, A Bibliographical Introduction (Wilmore, Ky.: B. L. Fisher Library, 1971), p. 52.

 

[9] S. B. Shaw, ed., Echoes of the General Holiness Assembly (Chicago: S. B. Shaw, 1901), p. 275.

 

[10] Among such reviews is Howard A. Snyder, “Unity and the Holiness Churches” (B.D. thesis, Asbury Theological Seminary, 1966).

 

[11] Delbert R. Rose, in A Theology of Christian Experience (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1965), calls attention to Joseph H. Smith’s treatment of the doctrine of the Church and Christian unity.

 

[12] S. B. Shaw, Echoes, p. 9.

 

[13] Ibid, p. 34.

 

[14] As quoted and paraphrased by Delbert R. Rose, A Theology of Christian Experience, pp. 196–97.

 

[15] Ibid., p. 245.

 

[16] John L. Peters, Christian Perfection and American Methodism, pp. 141–42.

 

[17] Timothy L. Smith (Called unto Holiness, p. 29) refers to The Divine Church, by John P. Brooks, as the textbook for “come-outism.”

 

[18] S. B. Shaw, Echoes, p. 3.

 

[19] L. L. Pickett, A Plea for the Present Holiness Movement (Louisville: Pickett Publishing Co., 1896), p. 89.

 

[20] John Wilkins, “Peace in Methodism,” Guide to Holiness, 52 (November, 1867), pp. 144–45.

 

[21] As quoted by A. L. Byers, Birth of a Reformation or the Life and Labors of Daniel S. Warner (Anderson, Ind.: Gospel Trumpet Co., 1921), p. 159.

 

[22] D. S. Warner, Bible Proofs of the Second Work of Grace (Goshen, Ind.: E. U. Mennonite Publishing Society, 1880), pp. 418–19.

 

[23] Ibid., p. 421–22

 

[24] Ibid., p. 425.

 

[25] Ibid., p. 426.

 

[26] Ibid., p. 427.

 

[27] Ibid., p. 428.

 

[28] Ibid., pp. 428–29.

 

[29] Ibid., p. 429.

 

[30] Ibid., pp. 431–32.

 

[31] Ibid., p. 436.