Several years ago I read a column by Donald W. Haynes — and its content has stayed with me. Haynes used to write a regular “Wesleyan Wisdom” column for the United Methodist Reporter. (I always appreciated what he had to say.)
The one I’m thinking of was titled “Like Wesley, do we seek an ‘inward witness’?” It appeared in November of 2012. It was about the experience of the assurance of salvation. First, Haynes talks about Wesley’s religious life prior to his famous Aldersgate experience. Was he seeking God? Certainly. Was he seeking a holy life? Certainly. Did he have faith? Yes. But, there was a vital and missing element: an experience of inward assurance. It was this that he found at the prayer meeting at Aldersgate. Haynes writes:
Wesley’s doctrine was sound and his self-discipline was exemplary, but he still lacked what Paul called “witness of the spirit.” Wesley admitted later that he did not understand his father, when the old Anglican on his death bed in April 1735 told him that “inward witness” was the “strongest proof of Christianity.”Surely, many of us know how Wesley must have felt. In the years since revival altar calls gave way to confirmation classes, very little has been said in most United Methodist churches about an experience of assurance that one’s sins are forgiven. Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist children once learned a little chorus: “I’ve got the peace that passeth understanding down in my heart . . . down in my heart today.” The second stanza was the same except the last line, “down in my heart to stay.”
How many of us must confess—while we believe that God loves us, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died to save us from our sins, that the Bible is the Word of God, and that we are to reach out with deeds of kindness and acts of mercy—we still have a missing link in our relationship with God? Deep in our soul, there is an empty spot which only the Holy Spirit can fill. Is this not the Achilles heel of multiple millions of Christians? Is this not one important clue to the net loss of 650,000 United Methodists already in the 21st century?
I originally posted this on my old blog on March of 2013. I have made a few, minor editorial changes.
In a book entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Rob Bell speaks of a time when he was troubled by doubts about God.
One Sunday morning a number of years ago I found myself face-to-face with the possibility that there is no God and we really are on our own and this may be all there is.
Now I realize lots of people have questions and convictions and doubts along these lines — that’s nothing new. But, in my case, it was an Easter Sunday morning, and I was a pastor, I was driving to the church services where I’d be giving a sermon about how there is a God and that God came here to Earth to do something miraculous and rise from the dead so that all of us could live forever.
I can’t really comment on this passage extensively, because I’m not absolutely sure I fully understand it myself:
Lovers and friends have two desires. One is to love so much that one enters the other to make a single being. The other is to love so much that with half the earthly globe between them, their union would not suffer any diminishment. Everything that we desire vainly here below is perfect and real in God. Those impossible desires are within us as a mark of our destination, and it is good for us when we don’t hope to accomplish them.
Love between God and God, which is itself God, is the link of a double virtue; this link that unites two beings to the point where they are indistinguishable and really are one soul, the link that extends itself across the distance and triumphs over an infinite separation. The unity of God where all plurality disappears, and Christ’s abandonment of belief in being found, yet without ceasing to perfectly love his Father — these are forms of divine virtue of the same love, which is God Himself.
God is so essentially love that unity, which in a sense is its actual definition, is a simple effect of love. And corresponding to the infinite virtue of unification of this love is the infinite separation over which it triumphs, which is all of creation, spread through the totality of space and time, made of brutally mechanical matter, interposed between Christ and his Father.
— Simone Weil, “The Love of God and Affliction” Awaiting God (pp. 37-38). Fresh Wind Press. Kindle Edition.
The oneness we desire in love is something we never fully experience in this life. But, it is a pointer. It points us to who we really are as beings created in the image of God. It points us to God — in whom alone are we will find the fulfillment of our deepest longings and desires. Thus, having unfulfilled desires is a good thing — and important aspect of being human.
This blog has been inactive for quite a while, so it might be good to give you an idea what I’m doing with it right now.
I am re-activating this and we will see how it goes. I seem to have an interest in writing again but I am not going to push myself. At one time I was trying to post every day, and I am not going to hold myself to that — or anything like it. I will post from time to time. Once a week would be fine, but we will just have to see how it goes.
I’ve for a long time believed that people have to blog for themselves and not for others. I will pursue topics that are of interest to me — as I always have.
The Internet’s change from “http” to “https” has affected the posts in this blog, and many of them need fixing. The videos are not displaying, the links are not working and some of the images are not displaying. So, one of the main things I am doing here is fixing the old posts. For many of these, when they are fixed, I will post a link on this blog’s Facebook page and on Twitter.
In addition to this, the old posts from the pre-WordPress blog are also at this site and they still get a fair amount of traffic. Of course, these have also been hit by the “https” transition and are in particularity bad shape. Apparently people are finding these through Internet searches and old links. At some point I would like to fix those as well — at least the most important ones. But, that will have to wait until after I fix the posts at the current WordPress blog.
So, as you click around here you will discover that many of the blog posts need fixing. Some of the links don’t work. I am slowly getting around to fixing them.
[This post follows on the heels of two previous posts on the (anti-) theology of F. LeRon Shults. They are: An Atheist Theologian, and Supernatural Agent Detection (Part 1): At the Hymn Sing.]
In my previous post in this series, I talked about the theory of “anthropomorphic promiscuity” as a mechanism of supernatural agent detection among early human beings — or, you might say “hominins” if you’re a bit embarrassed about being one yourself. I said (and I am really only reacting out of my own experience about the credibility of this) that the theory seems quite credible and certainly accounts for much God-detection in our own day as well — though, I think this is mostly bad (or mistaken) God-detection.
As I mentioned previously, the theory can be found in atheist theologian F. LeRon Shults book Theology after the Birth of God: Atheist Conceptions in Cognition and Culture as well in several of the essays available at his web site: especially Bearing Gods in Mind and Culture, and Excavating Theogonies: Anthropomorphic Promiscuity and Sociographic Prudery in the Neolithic and Now.
Put simply, it is a “god of the gaps” view. There was an evolutionary advantage enjoyed by those early peoples who posited the existence of human-like supernatural beings to explain otherwise ambiguous aspects of human experience. So, natural selection favored those who believed in the gods.
This, by the way, is what he means by “the birth of God.” God is borne in human minds as a way of helping people explain their life in the world — and affords them a significant survival advantage.
As a theory this works well for me in some ways — and doesn’t in others. Having said that I feel it does account for some supernatural agent detection, I wish to also indicate some ways (it seems to me) this doesn’t work. (more…)
A long time ago, while I listened to some spontaneous testimonies, I began to wonder where people get their ideas of God.
When I started out in the ministry (many years ago) I served a small church in the Muskegon, Michigan area. I was young and skinny and had a major chip on my shoulder. I was convinced of the evil of all things (theologically) liberal. (You can get an idea what I looked like at the time from the picture on the left.) I was opposed to all things that smacked of clericalism, very introverted, very opinionated — thinking back on it its a wonder that the people at the Wolf Lake United Methodist Church put up with me to the extent that they did. (People that haven’t known me a long time might be surprised that I was ever like that — but I was.)
In those days the United Methodist, AME, and AME Zion Churches got together on Sunday evening once a month for a Hymn Sing. This was a lay-run event and it rotated among all the various churches involved. (It was always a big thrill for all of us at Wolf Lake UMC when it was our turn to host the Hymn Sing since it filled the sanctuary to capacity — and beyond.) (more…)
On February 15, 2017 Scot McKnight posted some reflections under the title “The Soul of Evangelicalism: What Will Become of Us?” As with a lot of things that are posted on the Internet I didn’t have time to comment on it at the time.
I’m one of those people that owes a debt of gratitude to evangelical Christianity. It was through evangelical Christians — primarily holiness and pentecostal and charismatic Christians — that I heard the Gospel of Christ and was nurtured in the faith. To be honest, I don’t really understand how Christianity can be anything other than “evangelical.” The word evangelical comes from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) which means “good news” and is generally translated “Gospel.” Christianity has good news to share about Christ. The desire to spread that message — with the notion that it is good news for everyone — is the evangelical impulse.
In that respect, I agree with this guy, “evangelical” is a good word: (more…)
Guest blog by Nicholas Quient. Nick — along with his wife Allison — blogs at Split/Frame of Reference. He is an MAT student at Fuller Theological Seminary (New Testament; Biblical Languages). He is a graduate of Biola University (BA: Screenwriting; Biblical Studies). He hopes to pursue a Ph.D in New Testament upon graduation. His interests include (and are not limited to) the Apostle Paul, Second Temple Judaism, textual criticism and Greek. Allison is a Ph.D student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Systematic Theology & New Testament. She is a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Advanced M.Div) and Biola University (BA: Biblical and Theological Studies). Her interests include bridging the gap between biblical studies and systematic theology, the formation of the biblical canon, theology of gender, apologetics, and politics. Here is one of Allison’s recent posts: Piercing the Veil: Spiritual Gifts, Mystical Experiences and A Relationship With God. They are both bloggers well worth reading. They also have a podcast.
Nick alerted me to this article on Twitter, and I appreciate his exegetical reflections. The article contains a nice summary statement toward the end. (more…)
Thanks to Jason Wiser of WiserSites.com things are looking better at the main part of this site today.
Several pages, including this one, were broken due to an “http” vs. “https” issue. The only broken pages I have found have been on the main part of the site — the (numerous!) Holiness Books pages appear to be okay.
Frankly, I had fallen into such a funk, I not only had no desire to write, I also didn’t have much desire to fix things.
I’ve been thinking about doing some writing again — or updating some of the older posts on this blog — and fixing the broken pages therefore became necessary.
Now I’m not embarrassed to link to my old posts on this blog.
If, in clicking around, you find any broken pages (pages not displaying properly) let me know and I’ll fix them.
The Gospel message in the Bible assumes the existence of God. So, is belief in God, in and of itself, meritorious?
Belief in God is basic to Christianity. The Bible never sets out to prove the existence of God — it assumes God’s existence. Yes, the apostle Paul in the book of Romans say that God’s existence can be seen from created things — but in a day and age when people talk and write (quite seriously) about self-organization in the universe, and the development of life from natural processes, this observation seems a bit less obvious than it did at the time it was written. The Christian Gospel of Jesus Christ has a lot of backstory to it. The Old Testament story of Israel is an assumption for the New Testament. The story of Jesus is understood against the backdrop of the previous story of Israel. And, what we have in the Old Testament is the story of Israel’s relationship with God. This growing and changing portrait of God lies behind all that Jesus says about his “heavenly Father.”
So, if belief in God is considered a disputed point, can the Gospel still be heard?
Or, looking at it another way: if faith in Christ is the basis of human salvation from sin and divine judgement (as generally regarded by Christians), and faith in Christ presupposes belief in God, then is belief in God itself meritorious?
Some people already believe that the issue of faith versus unbelief is the existence of God. They seem to think belief in the existence of God, per se, is the essence of Christianity — and that it somehow helps to make one a “good person.” I don’t know how many people really think like that — but it appears that some do. Yet, for Christians, the issue of faith is trust in Christ. We see Christ as being our way to understanding God.
Is belief in [a] God meritorious? I think the answer is No. My reasons follow. (more…)
Last month a Facebook acquaintance, who posts on the web as the Not So Hostile Pentecostal, had some nice things to say about this blog and web site in a post entitled Top Ten Blogs that You (Probably) Haven’t Checked Out Yet. The words of appreciation were a great encouragement to me. But it also caused me to reflect again on how silent I have become on this blog.
Here is what he said:
Commonplace Holiness is the blog of Craig L. Adams. Adams was a longtime United Methodist minister and now is a lay minister and servant at his current church, Mars Hill Bible Church. Adams is regularly a guest speaker at different United Methodist Churches and his blog still reflects the richness of the Methodistic-Wesleyan tradition. Although Adams blogs on a number of topics, I have been most interested in his thoughts on Entire Sanctification and holiness. Adams’ understanding of entire sanctification is refreshing to anyone who has only been exposed to the prideful and legalistic side of Wesleyanism. In fact, Adams is anything but legalistic or prideful. It was both Adams’ demeanor and his theological insights during our Facebook conversations that were influential in my conversion to a Wesleyan approach to sanctification. Additionally, Adams also takes old Methodist/Holiness books by authors such as Thomas C. Upham and Daniel Steele, and that are no longer in print (and are now in public domain), and types them out into an electronic format so that they are available for free to anyone. If you want to check out some great posts from a progressive Wesleyan and the people who have fed his soul, check out Commonplace Holiness here: https://craigladams.com/blog/
Lately I’ve mostly gone silent on this blog. It’s nice to know that those old posts have been helpful to him — and I suppose they may also have been to others. However, for a long time now I have been overcome by a sense that I just don’t have anything to say right now. I especially to do not have any strong desire to convince anyone of anything. And, that (I’m afraid) really does drive a lot of blogging — at least in the Christian world.
There are reasons that I feel I have nothing to say: some unresolved issues in my own mind. And, some of them are things I can identify and talk about a bit. So, here goes. (more…)
I made a small change to my morning prayers. It’s a response to some of the things I’ve been reading lately. There are two issues that came to mind — consecration and openness.
I noticed that Phoebe Palmer — in her letters — emphasized not only the need for a particular moment of consecration and faith in a believer’s life, but also the need to remain in that consecrated state. This got me to thinking that praying a prayer of consecration in the morning would be a good idea — a way of reminding myself whose I am, and whose goals I am seeking. Thomas C. Upham discussed the Christian’s prayer of consecration here: On the Act or Covenant of Religious Consecration — and he includes an impressive (and lengthy) prayer written by Philip Dodderidge (1729-17510). I was wondering how I could include a Prayer of Consecration in my morning devotions — which, due to circumstances, are sometimes rather rushed. I was looking for something simple, but something that would seriously address the issue. (more…)
From my daily Bible reading:
Comments by Adam Clarke (1760–1832) in his Bible commentary:
“So we find that ingenuity in arts and sciences, even those of the ornamental kind, comes from God. It is not intimated here that these persons were filled with the spirit of wisdom for this purpose only; for the direction to Moses is, to select those whom he found to be expert artists, and those who were such, God shows by these words, had derived their knowledge from himself. (more…)
From my daily Bible reading:
“The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”” — Exodus 24:12 NRSV.
“Obedience and faith are tightly bound together. Here, the Israelites, having been freed from slavery by God’s gracious action, trust God as their God and pledge to live out that trust by obeying God’s commands. Obedience, like faith, is a response to what God has already done for us. It is the evidence of our love toward God (2 John 6). Obedience is living “by faith” (2 Cor 5:7), and “faith working through love”(Gal 5:6). There is no real faith without obedience, and no real obedience without faith. Disobedience springs from a lack of trust in God—a lack of faith. We disobey when we trust in things, in others, or in ourselves and act accordingly. Obedience, on the other hand, is visible faith—a testimony to God’s reign. Obedience is God’s will being done by us “on earth as it’s done in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10).”
— Comments from The Wesley Study Bible.
From my daily Bible reading:
“Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”” — Exodus 3:3-5 NRSV.
“Despite Moses’ earlier failures and exile in Midian, Moses encounters God on God’s mountain in the form of a fiery bush. God declares the intent to deliver Israel from Egypt and commissions Moses as ambassador. This encounter is powerful and dynamic as Moses meets the real presence of the God of Israel. Yet the narrative is relational and conversational. The action moves forward in response to Moses’ five objections about God’s commissioning him. God remains resolute in his calling of Moses, but the dialogue displays patience with Moses. The implication is clear: the God of Israel is profoundly relational. God desires vital relationships with God’s people. Part of God’s relational character is self-giving nature: God reveals elements of his character and nature in response to Moses’ inquiries. Moreover, this text offers reflection on the nature of a divine call. Moses is needed for the service of God. There will be profound loss in God’s plan without Moses, but God’s call here is not primarily coercive” (more…)