Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Doctrine of Christian Holiness

This blog has endured a rather extended period of suspension--a lot has been happenning: we had a new baby girl enter our own family, and I know that Brannon and his family have moved from one continent to another over the last few months (while he has taken up a new job and is finishing his dissertation!)...so I can only offer my own apologies for my absence.

I'm taking a class this semester, however, on the doctrine of holiness (with Nazarene Scottish professor Tom Noble), so I plan on posting some reflections/observations from class every once in a while here (I'll also be taking a class with Paul Bassett on Arminius, so I might be able to offer some gems from that class as well!). I hope some of you will still be interested in participating in discussion of what has become not simply the "central doctrine" for the Church of the Nazarene, but has begun to define our very identity--and thus the beginnings of a potential rift are already forming (since inevitably the necessity to form an identity for ourselves is motivated by some kind of claim, some kind of possession...and I think we all know how possession begets competition, and competition division).

A principle focus of the historical development of the doctrine of Christian holiness--as in Paul Bassett's work in Exploring Christian Holiness: Volume 2--is the early linking of "perfection" with "sanctification" that is later severed, starting with Augustine, and culminating in the medieval period with Gregory the Great.

For now, I just wanted to ask if you thought this a convincing conclusion--that a decline in the understanding of "Christian perfection" or "Christian sanctification" enters when we separate these two--and why might that be? Two things seem to be going on here, for Bassett (who relies heavily on Harnack's history, I should add (even if he doesn't accept everything Harnack says prima facie)--this is not insignificant): 1) Perfection is transformed into an "ideal," an aim, rather than a norm of Christian life (which meaning enters due to the "falling away" of the use of the term "sanctification"...in other words, that "perfection" enters into a state of disrepute without the irrupting transformative notion of sanctification in this life); and 2) the Church's role in one's perfection is increased to the extent of making the grace necessary for such perfection more "optimistic." What do you think?

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