For a long time, I felt like I was kind of a nomad. I am still reminded of the fact every time someone asks me “Where are you from?” It’s not supposed to be a difficult question.
But, I don’t really know.
I will often reply: “I’m from around.”
At times I have had a real sense of rootlessness. Things are different now, but I haven’t forgotten.
I guess you have to know my life to understand the problem. (more…)
My Call to Biblical Preaching
I am one of those pastors who came into the Christian ministry a clear sense of call. I could point to a particular moment in my life when I sensed God’s calling on my life. It was both surprising and overwhelming at the time. But, over time, it became the settled conviction of my heart that God was calling me to preach the Gospel in some way. And, I need to make that clear: in the earlier stages of my life the call I felt was toward preaching. When I started out I had very little conception of what pastoral ministry was and what it might entail. I had come to Christ at the invitation of an evangelist at a holiness camp meeting. The message of Christ had made a profound change in my life for the better. And, I wanted to share that message with others. I felt that a great favor had been done for me — a message of hope had been given to me — and I wanted to extend that favor to others. My attitude was the same as that expressed in the often quoted line from D. T. Niles: ““Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”
Biblical preaching had been crucial in re-directing my life. So, it was something I assumed would be the focus of my future ministry — and it was something I wanted to learn to do well.
I sure have met a lot of people over the years for whom evangelical Christianity — and, I might add, holiness Christianity particularly — was an oppressive reality in their lives. It was something imposed upon them. It was a almost-constant threat of Hell. It was legalism. It was a rigid authoritarian mindset from which they later emerged with relief.
I get that. I have heard the story so often — in so many different forms. I understand.
But, that is not my experience. (more…)
Is The Evangelical Movement Crumbling?
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…)
Why I Haven’t Had Anything to Say Lately
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…)
From my daily Bible reading:
“She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:21 (NRSV).
JESUS. The same as Joshua, יהושע Yehoshua, from ישע yasha, he saved, delivered, put in a state of safety. See on Exod. xiii. 9; Num. xiii. 16….
This shall be his great business in the world: the great errand on which he is come, viz. to make an atonement for, and to destroy, sin: deliverance from all the power, guilt, and pollution of sin, is the privilege of every believer in Christ Jesus. Less than this is not spoken of in the Gospel; and less than this would be unbecoming the Gospel. The perfection of the Gospel system is not that it makes allowances for sin, but that it makes an atonement for it: not that it tolerates sin, but that it destroys it.
— Comments by Adam Clarke (1762-1832).
T. A Noble: The Trinity and the Gospel
A quote from one of the many books I’ve been reading lately:
The great revival of trinitarian theology in the late twentieth century helped us to understand that the doctrine of the Trinity is not just one Christian doctrine among others. It is the comprehensive doctrine that gives unity to the whole Christian faith. Without it, the gospel itself collapses into incoherence. Whereas it was pretty much a dead letter in the eighteenth century, rejected by rationalists and Deists as an illogical conundrum, and held by many Christians merely as a badge of orthodoxy, it has become increasingly clear in our day that every area of Christian doctrine is illuminated and held together in unity by our confession of the Triune God.
One reason why it was regarded as unintelligible by rationalists and Deists, and as mere “ivory tower” theory by many believers, was that it had become separated from the story of the gospel.
— Noble, T.A. (2013-02-19). Holy Trinity: Holy People: The Theology of Christian Perfecting (Didsbury Lecture Series) (p. 128). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
John Wesley: The Faith That Saves
Christian faith is then, not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of his life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us; and, in consequence hereof, a closing with him, and cleaving to him, as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” or, in one word, our salvation.
— John Wesley, Sermon #1: “Salvation by Faith”
Remembrance Inspires Praise – Psalm 135:13-21
This is essentially a Psalm of praise. We are called into praise from the very opening “Hallelujah” (praise Yah). So, it is a song of worship and it calls us into an attitude of worship. As Adam Clarke says: “It is an exhortation addressed to the priests and Levites, and to all Israel, to publish the praises of the Lord.”
The opening verses are an exhortation to worship.
Verses 3-5, and 6, 7 extol God’s greatness.
Verses 8-12 remind the people of Israel of God’s saving acts in their history: their deliverance from Egypt and the defeat of legendary kings. Then, they are called again to praise.
Remembrance has a significance for our faith. it is good to recount for ourselves the answered prayers we have experienced — and the unexpected blessing of God on our lives. The Bible is a book of remembrance: recounting the deeds of the Lord God in times past, as a way of illuminating our lives in the present. We know God through what God has done. For Christians, it is the story of Jesus — before any other — that calls forth our praise.
And, so it is that in this psalm, the remembrance of God’s deliverance in the past, calls forth praise. (more…)
Horace Bushnell: Drop Lecturing and Preach
I originally found this quote in the Appendix to Daniel Steele’s The Gospel of the Comforter. (It is the first part of Note H.) Horace Bushnell was a Congregationalist pastor and theologian, who was quite important — and controversial — in his day. See: Wikipedia, Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Many a time nothing is wanting but to speak as to a soul already hungry and thirsty, or, if not consciously so, ready to hunger and thirst, as soon as the bread and water of life are presented. If the problem is to get souls under sin inspired again, which it certainly is, then it is required that the preacher shall drop lecturing on religion and preach it, testify it, prophesy it, speak to faith as being in faith, bring inspiration as being inspired, and so become the vehicle, in his own person, of the power he will communicate; that he may truly beget in the gospel such as will be saved by it. No man is a preacher because he has something like or about a gospel in his head. He really preaches only when his person is the living embodiment, the inspired organ of the gospel; in that manner no mere human power, but the demonstration of a Christly and divine power. Such preaching has had, in former times, effects so remarkable. At present we are almost all under the power, more or less, of the age in which we live. Infected with naturalism ourselves and having hearers, that are so, we can hardly find what account to make of our barrenness.
— Horace Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural: As Together Constituting the One System of God (1858).
On Having a Single Faith Journey
I see the development of my faith as a connected story. I don’t see it as a matter of once having a certain type of faith and then graduating or switching to another sort of faith. I am thankful to the people who shared the Gospel with me. I am seeking to extend that journey of faith the best I can — as honestly and truthfully as I can.
Yeah, I heard the Gospel among people who talked about entire sanctification in a way that led to some confusion and frustration. Yeah, there were a number of ideas I am sure I picked up from the conservative Christian culture that I later needed to revise or even reject. Sure — though I think I was always skeptical of that “Rapture” (“A Thief in the Night”) teaching that was so much a part of evangelical Christianity in those days.
As I said recently, I see my own faith journey as one story — even though it has taken some unexpected twists and turns.
It is only natural that faith grows and develops. And, the Church ought to be a place where people can explore new ideas and new understandings. It often isn’t, I know, — but I think it should be. New information always raises new questions. Sometimes new information forces us to develop and adopt new paradigms. It’s only natural. But, we should always be open to new information.
I look at it this way. (more…)
Thomas Coke: The Good a Preacher May Do
The good which one single minister, true to the cause in which he has engaged, can do in the course of his life by a faithful ministry of the word, is not easily to be described. How many of the ignorant he may instruct, how many sleepy consciences arouse, how many daring sinners confound; how many mourners he may bring into the liberty of the children of God, how many believers confirm in grace, yea, lead into the enjoyment of perfect love! Blessed be the Lord, we have had our ministers, who were formed according to the model of Jesus Christ, according to his simplicity, his unction, his sacred zeal. We have had our WESLEYS, our FLETCHERS, our GRIMSHAWS, and our WALSHES. Every thing was borne down by their holy eloquence, and by the power of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them. The villages, the towns, the cities, could not resist the impetuosity of their zeal, and the eminent sanctity of their lives; the tears, the sighs, and the deep compunction of those who heard them, were the commendations which accompanied their ministry. The strictness of their manners left nothing for the world to say against the truths which they delivered. The simplicity of their spirit, and the gentleness of their conversation and conduct toward others but severity toward themselves, belied not the gospel of which they were ministers. Their examples instructed, persuaded, and struck the people almost as much as their sermons: and the Spirit of God, who inflamed their hearts, the divine fire with which they themselves were filled, spread itself through the coldest and most insensible souls; and enabled them almost everywhere to raise chapels, temples to God, where the penitents and believers might assemble to hear them, and each return inflamed like themselves, and filled with the abundance of the Spirit of God. O what good is one apostolic man capable of working upon earth! There were no more than twelve employed to begin the conversion of the world.
— Thomas Coke (1747 – 1814), On the Ministry: Four Discourses on the Duties of a Minister of the Gospel, Discourse 1, Part 1.
Steve Heyduck: Sin Less, if not Sinless
A good word from Steve Heyduck, Senior Pastor of Euless First United Methodist Church, in Euless,Texas. Steve says of himself: “I consider myself a postmodern, possibly emergent Christian.”
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” — 1 Corinthians 3:16 NRSV.
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Why I Still Find Wesleyan Theology Interesting
This is a continuation of my previous post: “How I Still Think Like a Methodist.”
First, I need to explain this: when I say “Methodist” I don’t mean it in any denominational sense at all. Yes, I served for many years as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. And, at that time I was quite loyal. I came to Christ long ago at a holiness camp-meeting. But, I really don’t mean to speak of this in any sectarian sense at all.
I know many people who experienced the holiness denominations as spiritually oppressive and legalistic. This has not been my experience, but I know that it has been for many. (more…)
How I Still Think Like a Methodist
In the early part of his 2012 book How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, N. T. Wright remarks on how the Church has not always allowed itself to hear the full witness of the Gospels to Christ. I won’t attempt to reproduce the argument here: read the book.
Wright begins by discussing some ways that the Church’s teachings unintentionally got off track. And, as he is discussing how these various theologians of the past attempted to defend orthodoxy in a way that misconstrued some of the Bible’s teachings, he says on page 37 that “the eighteenth century saw great movements of revival, particularly through the Methodist movement led by John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield.” and, he goes on to say: (more…)
From Around the Internet
Both Allan R. Bevere and Scot McKnight have posted Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail on their blogs. It is always worth re-reading on the day that commemorates the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. His words were prophetic and speak loudly to the church of today — and its leadership.
In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the Church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the Church; I love her sacred walls. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson, and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the Church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. (more…)