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:
“But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”” — Matthew 9:12-13 NRSV.
“They that be whole need not a physician. A common proverb, which none could either misunderstand or misapply. Of it the reader may make the following use:—1. Jesus Christ represents himself here as the sovereign Physician of souls. 2. That all stand in need of his healing power. 3. That men must acknowledge their spiritual maladies, and the need they have of his mercy, in order to be healed by him. 4. That it is the most inveterate and dangerous disease the soul can be afflicted with to imagine itself whole, when the sting of death, which is sin, has pierced it through in every part, infusing its poison every where. (more…)
My current stroll through the Bible is slow enough that it allows me to notice and think about things. I’m reading about a chapter a day, and that gives me the chance to mull it over in my mind.
“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” — Genesis 1:31 NRSV
This verse appears at a significant place. It is a summing up statement, coming at the end of the sixth day it is also a statement about the whole world that God had created. The seventh day will be a day of rest.
So, it represents God’s evaluation of the world that has been created: “very good” (ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד).
How often I have lost this perspective of the essential goodness of the world. Part of this is my scientific background, by which I learned about the concept of entropy. Entropy is random disorder. The second law of thermodynamics asserts that natural processes favor the increase of random disorder. With the apostle Paul I have a strong sense that the world is in “bondage to decay.” (Romans 8:21 NRSV). I see the cruelty of life more often than I appreciate its beauty and wonder. I used to have trouble singing: (more…)
In this early part of the letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul has been emphasizing the greatness of Christ. The verses just before this speak of Christ as the Head of the Church.
Καὶ ὑμᾶς ποτε ὄντας ἀπηλλοτριωμένους καὶ ἐχθροὺς τῇ διανοίᾳ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς, νυνὶ δὲ ἀποκατήλλαξεν ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ διὰ τοῦ θανάτου παραστῆσαι ὑμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους καὶ ἀνεγκλήτους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ, εἴ γε ἐπιμένετε τῇ πίστει τεθεμελιωμένοι καὶ ἑδραῖοι καὶ μὴ μετακινούμενοι ἀπὸ τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ εὐαγγελίου οὗ ἠκούσατε, τοῦ κηρυχθέντος ἐν πάσῃ κτίσει τῇ ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν, οὗ ἐγενόμην ἐγὼ Παῦλος διάκονος.“And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him — provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.” (NRSV)
Jesus Christ is the reconciler. Paul writes in verse 20: “and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” The ideas here remind us of 2 Corinthians 5:19: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself….” (more…)
I am about to launch into a rather long post — and one that will not be of interest to everyone. Nevertheless, because of the nature of this site, and because of the issues I commonly address and raise here, I need to post a statement — about a problem often encountered in the literature of the holiness movement. It is common in these writings to encounter the language of eradication: the eradication of “sin” or of “inward sinfulness” or of “inbred sin” or of “the sin nature” or of “the carnal nature” — or similar language. What is to be made of these claims?
I have recently re-affirmed the purposes of this web site, saying: “I intend this as a site that is focused on the Wesleyan teachings about holy living.” I have often expressed my appreciation of the Holiness Movement and (to a lesser extent) the Pentecostal movement for the formative influence they had on shaping the earliest stages of my Christian journey.
I maintain here a growing collection of resources on the holiness movement here — and hope to have more soon. I also maintain two blogs that feature the writings of nneteenth century holiness writers Daniel Steele and Thomas C. Upham. . All of this, I am presenting “as is.” I am seeking make this material accessible, so that people can grapple with these writings on their own — without having them filtered through my own opinions and evaluations of them.
I am a retired United Methodist pastor. I realize that the message of Christian Perfection / Entire Sanctification (the main theme of the Holiness Movement) is almost completely unknown among contemporary United Methodists. Many United Methodist pastors heard of this theme for the first time in their life while attending Seminary. (And, some who did may not have been paying attention that particular day.)
It has been my intention, from the beginning of this site, to raise up this particular part of the Wesleyan tradition — I am not seeking to indoctrinate anyone in anything — I am raising an issue that (I believe) needs re-consideration and re-appropriation. My personal reasons for harping on the Christian Perfection theme of the Wesleyan tradition are given here: Sanctification as a Central Theme.
This naturally raises the question: do I agree with everything in the teachings of the 19th Century Holiness movement? And, the answer is: no, I don’t.
From long experience and observation I am inclined to think, that whoever finds redemption in the blood of Jesus, whoever is justified, has then the choice of walking in the higher or the lower path. I believe the Holy Spirit at that time sets before him the ‘more excellent way,’ and incites him to walk therein; to choose the narrowest path in the narrow way; to aspire after the heights and depths of holiness, — after the entire image of God. But if he does not accept this offer, he insensibly declines into the lower order of Christians. He still goes on in what may be called a good way, serving God in his degree, and finds mercy in the close of life, through the blood of the covenant.
I would be far from quenching the smoking, flax, — from discouraging, those that serve God in a low degree. But I could not wish them to stop here: I would encourage them to come up higher. Without thundering hell and damnation in their ears, without condemning the way wherein they were, telling them it is the way that leads to destruction, I will endeavor to point out to them what is, in every respect, ‘a more excellent way.’
— John Wesley, Sermon 89 “The More Excellent Way.”
I intend this as a site that is focused on the Wesleyan teachings about holy living. I know I pursue other topics, but I know what I am about, and I mean to emphasize the call to live a life wholly devoted to God. I believe that this the great animating theme of the Wesleyan tradition — and it is a theme I greatly appreciate.
To this end, I continue to scan and edit old holiness books, and maintain two sister blogs on Blogger: Steele’s Answers and The Hidden Life. I don’t personally agree with everything that is said on those pages — or maybe I should say, I don’t always agree with the way it is said. But, I believe those writers were intending to call us to the living of a life wholly devoted to God and to the genuine well-being of others — and I need to hear that challenge and that call — I’m sure I’m not the only one. (more…)
When we approach Christmas time we naturally have to turn to the Gospel of Luke. It is Luke that tells us the familiar Christmas story that we remember at this time of the year. The Gospel of Mark begins its story with John the Baptist. The Gospel of John talks about creation and the Word and “the Word made flesh.” The Gospel of Matthew tells us a story that centers on Joseph. It is Luke alone that tell us the nativity story upon which the church Christmas pageants and celebrations are based.
So the Revised Common Lectionary — which tries to assign only one of the Synoptic Gospels to a particular year — nonetheless has to draw from the Gospel of Luke as Christmas rolls around again. So, recommended for this coming Sunday, is the story of the angel’s announcement to Mary of the birth of the savior. (more…)
Gay marriage is on its way to being accepted as part of life in the USA. At The Daily Beast Jay Michaelson seems to me to state the situation well: “Same-sex marriage is becoming a national inevitability. A cascade of court opinions, significant public support, not to mention increasingly sympathetic gay couples and increasingly implausible opposition — all these and more point to an emerging national consensus that “gay marriage” is actually a form of “marriage.” It’s not exactly clear when the hump took place — but we definitely seem to be over it.” Here: Were Christians Right About Gay Marriage All Along?
Things are looking different now.
Randy Thomas, formerly a leader in the ex-gay organization Exodus International, writes about his change of heart over the anti-gay-marriage initiatives in which he was once involved. He hasn’t changed his Side B (“tradionalist”) views on marriage or sexual morality, but he looks back on his involvement in attempts to ban gay marriage with embarrassment. He says: “The night that Prop 8 in California and Amendment 2 in Florida (both banning gay marriage) passed I was jubilant. I truly believed what we had done was right and good. In the following days, and for a while afterwards, I repeated the talking points I had willingly adopted. I truly believed what I was saying. What I didn’t make widely known was how heart-broken I was when I saw the gay community in California take to the streets. Their protests that night and in the days afterwards tugged at me. When I saw their grief-stricken faces my heart twisted in my chest. It was the first time in a long time I remember thinking, “did we do something wrong?” I quickly shoved that thought out of my mind as I joined my fellow religious activists celebrating the marriage “wins.” Yet, the gay community with their protesting and sorrow filled faces would come back to haunt me over the years. Eventually the doubt over what we had done would get louder in my mind and change from a question to a conviction; a conviction that indeed we had done something terribly wrong.” Here: Gay Marriage And Public Policy: Personal Reflection, Apology. (more…)
Great words from Charles Wesley:
“Let us plead for faith alone,
faith which by our works is shown;
God it is who justifies,
only faith the grace applies.
“Active faith that lives within,
conquers hell and death and sin,
hallows whom it first made whole,
forms the Savior in the soul.
“Let us for this faith contend,
sure salvation is the end;
heaven already is begun,
everlasting life is won.
“Only let us persevere
till we see our Lord appear,
never from the Rock remove,
saved by faith which works by love.”
— Charles Wesley (See: “Let Us Plead for Faith Alone.”)
In this view, there is no separation between faith and works, or between faith and spiritual formation.
The same faith that sets us right with God is also the faith that: “conquers hell and death and sin, hallows whom it first made whole, forms the Savior in the soul.”
In 1727, I read Mr. Law’s ‘Christian Perfection,’ and ‘Serious Call,’ and more explicitly resolved to be all devoted to God, in body, soul, and spirit. In 1730 I began to be homo unius libri [a man of one book] to study (comparatively) no book but the Bible. I then saw, in a stronger light than ever before, that only one thing is needful, even faith that worketh by the love of God and man, all inward and outward holiness; and I groaned to love God with all my heart, and to serve Him with all my strength.
— John Wesley, Journal (for more quotes along this line, see: HOW MR. WESLEY WAS LED INTO THE LIGHT OF FULL SALVATION).
There is no perfection ‘which does not admit of a continual increase.’ However far a Christian may advance in sanctification ‘he hath still need to ‘grow in grace’, and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God His Saviour.’ The gradual development, then, still continues. It is conceived primarily as further growth in love on the plane of entire sanctification. The Christian life must either wax or wane. It is impossible for the Christian, even if fully sanctified, to stand still. ‘Yea, and when ye have attained a measure of perfect love, when God has circumcised your hearts, and enabled you to love him with all your heart and with all your soul, think not of resting there. That is impossible. You cannot stand still; you must either rise or fall; rise higher or fall lower. Therefore the voice of God to the children of Israel, to the children of God, is, ‘Go forward’! ‘Forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forward unto those that are before, press on to the mark, for the prize of your high calling of God in Christ Jesus’!’ The Christian, even the fully sanctified Christian, must still face the possibility of being lost. Thus even such a one must still be admonished to give up his attachment to the world.
— Harald Lindström, “Sanctification and the Order of Salvation” Wesley and Sanctification (1949).
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Prayer is at the foundation of all church renewal. We are regularly encouraged to pray. “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18 NRSV). We are given the examples of Jesus and Paul, who made prayer and intercession priorities in their lives and ministries. Before we need new ideas and quick fix solutions, we need prayer.
Prayer is at the heart of Christian ministry and at the heart of the life of the Church. This part of the letter is very important, and it’s going to take me a while to fully discuss this.
I need to begin by pointing out something about this prayer that seems odd at first. So, first some brief introductory remarks, and then some personal reflections. (more…)
Sometime last week at the Hidden Life blog I posted this:
It seems to have been the doctrine of some advocates of Christian perfection, especially some pious Catholics of former times, that the various propensities and affections, and particularly the bodily appetites, ought to be entirely eradicated. But this doctrine, when carried to its full extent, is one of the artifices of Satan, by which the cause of holiness has been greatly injured. It is more difficult to regulate the natural principles, than to destroy them; and there is no doubt that the more difficult duty in this case, is the scriptural one. We are not required to eradicate our natural propensities and affections, but to purify them. We are not required to cease to be men, but merely to become holy men.
This is the kind of thing I was surprised to discover when I began reading the old holiness writings. Why do I say “surprised”? (more…)