Saturday, October 1, 2011


A question wasposed by Herb Davis o the Confessing Christ listserv on how the holiness folks identify Holy or Holiness.

My intial response was as follows:

I don't speak for any movement, but keep in mind that in God Almighty Donald Bloesch identifies holiness and love as the two primary attributes of God. If I had to venture a definition I would call it a movement toward a continuous consecration to the indwelling voice of God in our actions, attitudes, relationships with others, as guided by our fallible illumination of the Holy Spirit in conformity with the revealed word of God. Consecration is sometimes linked to the term "sanctification." which is sometimes contrasted to the term "justification." I see the relationship between these two dynamics of faith in a much more fluid relationship. While there is a finished element to justification (Romans 3:21-31; 5), which itself requires an action on our part--faith, there is also the outworking of this through adoption and repentance, to draw on classical biblical doctrine, in which it is possible to grieve the holy spirit. Thus in the broadest sense there are past, present, and future connotations to salvation to which any understanding of election needs to be so grasped. Sanctification would be the progressive working out of our New Adam calling in which Christ is being formed within us While in the present a good deal of the Old Man remains, the trajectory of our faith--our calling is still toward the formation of New Adam. Holiness, then, would be the aspiration with radical intent of striving to having Christ formed within us (Philippians 2:12-13) as the incarnational image of God grafted into our reality. While there is much in our own lives and in the world that militates against this, our calling is still toward this aspiration which in the fullest sense of the term would be New Jerusalem. The extent to which this is realizable in our current vale of tears is an ongoing debate between the Calvinist and Wesleyan strands within contemporary Protestantism.

What is your view?


Herb responded with the following:
Dear George, As always your responses are thoughtful and clear. I think this sentence reflects your position, “Holiness, then, would be the aspiration with radical intent of striving to having Christ formed within us (Philippians 2:12-13) as the incarnational image of God grafted into our reality.” As you must know by now I have a great deal of trouble with striving on my part. I think I would emphasis v. 13, more than 12. I have a fear that I could convince myself that my striving has paid off and the image of God in Christ is grafted into my reality and assume authority and power and righteousness that belongs only to the Holy One, and none are Holy and Good but God. I agree that love and holiness are of God.

You asked me what I think and you can take a shot at me. I believe our holiness is our relationship to the Holy. As adopted sons and daughters of God in Christ we are holy. Although we are not worthy that God should come under our roof, when he does we are holy. Our holiness is not the result of our striving, “grapsing to be like God” Phil 2:6 but of “God who is at work in us” phil 2:13. In Holy Communion there is a mystical union between the believer and God in Christ, for Calvin we are lifted up into the holy of holies, where only holiness is present. So holiness for me is being in Christ Jesus, second person of the Trinity. I became holy when I was baptized and the holiness grows as I receive the body and blood of Christ,hear his word preached, share in the life of the elect. It is all gift no grasping.

Maybe there is two ways of being holy, one striving, another let it happen, believing that it is happening.

So I never strive to be holy, I do try to listen to God’s word in the Law and the Prophets and Word made flesh. To obey that word, the one Word.

Always enjoy your presence. You push me from I place I seldom go. Thanks. Herb

I offered the following:

Thanks Herb

You caught the essence of what I meant by holiness in terms of our relation to it. Of course I agree with you that God is most holy, infinitely more so than we have the capacity to appreciate which means that he has a sense of humor, too, undoubtedly more so than do we. In terms of the quoted sentence, “Holiness, then, would be the aspiration with radical intent of striving to having Christ formed within us (Philippians 2:12-13) as the incarnational image of God grafted into our reality,” I would simply add that such aspiration is futile without the prompting of the Spirit of God. With that clear recognition and with both vs 12 & 13 of Philippians 2 in mind, let us consider James, "show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (2:18). I don't believe James was saying that one is saved by works and neither is Paul in Philippians. Rather, and I think this is the critical point, "faith" is a verb and a very active one at that, including that of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, such faith believing is a decisive act of the will, whether or not accompanied by corresponding emotions.

Agreed that one simply cannot choose to believe; there is the blowing of the breath of the Spirit there without which we would only but be working out of our own energy sources. Thus we cannot make ourselves righteous before God, however steadfast we may enjoin any such effort On this, Watchman Nee in The Normal Christian Life is very clear. Yet, within the faith calling, the human striving is an essential aspect in the full coming into salvation in any comprehensive sense in which creation itself "groans" (active verb) in "quest of eager longing for the revealing sons of God." Then again, Paul warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit, which obviously means we have the capacity to do so. Then we have al those active verbs of doing something or refraining from doing something in Romans 12, Colossians 3, Galatians 5, Ephesians 6 We are also told in various places to "put on." Put on tender mercies, put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Then there's so much in the gospel parables that has to do with what we do and what our attitude orientation is. Clearly some of this; a great deal in fact, has to do with the condition of our innate disposition "where your treasure is there your heart will be." But there is also a great deal that calls us to turn toward something, to change, to beware, etc. No doubt much of this has to do with repentance, which in my understanding neither Paul nor 1 John radically separates from salvation even as justification and repentance have different theological definitions.

I think part of the problem may be that of linking justification alone and salvation too closely together, particularly when salvation needs to be grasped comprehensively (Romans 8:18-30) as pertaining to the entire creation and past, present and future in which some degree of openness (not necessarily "openness theology") needs to be taken into account.

Finally, I think the difference between the Calvinist and Wesleyan strain within Protestantism is at least partially related to particular gifts and callings, which might help to explain some of the differences between you and I on this topic. However, I think we're both thinking comprehensively even as you and I may emphasize he different strains within Protestant theology.


I expect this is a discussion that could go on for a long time. I'm wondering what others are thinking?

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