“People of the Lie.” Further Thoughts on Holiness.

(I have moved the pod casts about holiness that were posted to this home page on March 8 and 15 to a newly created page entitled “Holiness.”

  1. If you want to access those podcasts, click on “Holiness” in the menu bar above.
  2. If you want to access the blogs of February 15 and 22 to which this post refers, click “Holiness” in the “categories” list to the right. Clicking there will show you the posts for February 15, February 22, and March 2 along with this post for April 26.)

Unconfessed Sin . . .

Scott Peck’s article “People of the Lie,” in The High Calling (pages 2 and 5 of the March-April issue, to access this issue click here ) recalled the concern I expressed in the February 22 blog about the tragedy of unconfessed sin in the Wesleyan-Holiness movement. In that blog I suggested that the claim to be “without sin,” though nuanced, has often, in fact, led to unconfessed sin in the lives of people who professed to be holy.  In Peck’s article, which is taken from his 1983 book by the same title, he argues that refusal to admit that we have sin allows sin to go unchecked and produces wickedness. Peck writes as a psychiatrist, but his insight rings true in Christian experience.

produces wickedness . . .

It was Peck’s use of the word “wicked” that got my attention. When I began to reflect on my life-long experience within the Wesleyan-Holiness movement, it appeared that much behavior had been motivated by un-crucified self-centeredness. This seemed to be true not just in one context or institution, but in a broad range of contexts. Even when maintaining certain standards pertaining to matters of dress or entertainment, we have often let things like criticism of others, intimidation, flattery, manipulation, shading of the truth to protect our own image, insistence on one’s own way (often invoking “Biblical” authority), refusal to be reconciled, and refusal to ask for or give forgiveness, go unchecked. Does this list remind you of the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21? We have also often failed to be “deeply kind, tender hearted, graciously forgiving one another and making allowance for one another as God in Christ has forgiven us” (Eph 4:32). We have not been “imitators of God, as dear children, walking in love as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us . . .” and thus we have not been “an odor of sweetness” before God (Eph 5:1-2, my own translation of these verses).

which leads to hypocrisy and abuse . . .

Indeed, Peck is correct. Our failure to admit the presence of sin has led to “wickedness.” In our case, often to a hypocrisy in which holiness was defined by certain external standards while sins of the flesh and spirit were ignored provided people used the right words when talking about “holiness.” As per the February 22 blog, this situation has been exacerbated by a superficial approach to sanctification which prematurely called people to a “second experience.” The result was the short-circuiting of a true death to self-centeredness and thus failure to experience genuine fullness of the Spirit and surrender to the lordship of Christ (blog of February 15). When leaders have acted in this way there has been much harm to the body of Christ and to the people under their care, sometimes causing them to turn away from the Lord. One might dare to use the word “abuse.” Scot Peck’s article helped me see the seriousness of this situation, which my former colleague, Dr. Carey Vinzant, has been raising for several years.  We have too often claimed holiness, while actually practicing wickedness.

and calls for true repentance.

In my blog of February 22, I suggested some changes in the way we think about and articulate God’s call for holiness in order to address these concerns. I am still convinced that we need to do some hard re-thinking, re-examining of Scripture, and re-articulation along the lines suggested. However, now I am also convinced that something even more radical is necessary. Sin requires repentance, restitution, and change. (That sentence is intentionally redundant for emphasis—restitution and change are part of true repentance.) God calls us (I’m including myself) to humbly seek His forgiveness and, by the power of His Spirit, to change and to bring healing and restitution to those who have been hurt. Did not the Asbury revivals come when people who claimed to be holy repented of their sin? It is time for triumphalism to end.

Peck’s article was the final link in a chain that has clarified my thinking. Many thanks to the Francis Asbury Society, and to the editor Stan Key, for publishing this article in The High Calling.

 

 

 

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