Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Holiness Movement

1. In which the Author finds Authority in Wikipedia

From Wikipedia, on the Methodist Episcopal Church (emphasis mine) ...

By 1854, it was clear that a major, conference-wide conflict was brewing. On the one side were those conservatives who favored traditional Methodist teaching on matters of social and personal ethics, and who favored the traditional Methodist emphasis on entire sanctification. On the other side were those progressives who favored an assimilation of Methodism to prevailing American sensitivities and mores, including a de-emphasis on entire sanctification in favor of more "realistic" ethical expectations.

 What is this but the story of the Catholic Church in America since its beginnings?  History repeats itself, you say?  Well, yes, but much more so does theology repeat itself!

Assimilation and Christian Minimalism have reigned here from the start, leading to, in effect, what has become the near total collapse of the Catholic Church in the United States.

2. In which the Author Advocates for Factionalism

"Entire sanctification", by the way (quoted above), is a term for a theological concept in Methodist circles that means "becoming holy" as much as you possibly can at any given moment through God's grace.  It's sad to say that this fundamentally Catholic concept had to battle against more liberal trends in the Methodist church, and in fact had to form its own faction, the "Holiness Movement" - as if our entire life in Christ is anything other than a Movement toward Holiness.  

Let us hope and pray that sanctification in the Catholic Church is not relegated to a mere faction here in America.  Or perhaps we should pray that the desire for sanctification becomes a faction in the Catholic Church, since this desire and the doctrine behind it are almost totally absent as things currently stand.

A faction would therefore be an improvement.

3. In which the Author Compares Holiness to Losing Weight

The Holiness Movement folks explain Entire Sanctification thus ...

Sanctified people can sin, just like Adam and Eve could sin -- and did. However, believers who have moved to this level of Christian life and experience are more likely not to sin than believers who haven't. 

Now this is my third week of performing my summer Penance of dieting.  (Yes, I know I'm not fat, but I used to be, and I need to keep things in check or I will be again).

And the funny thing is, now that I'm on my third week, I'm in the groove.  Anyone who's broken a bad habit or established a good one, or who's started working out or begun serious training or any sort knows what I mean.

There comes a time when you don't desire the junk food or the huge portions you used to.  There comes a time when your body is used to being off heroin and you don't get the shakes and the runs like you used to when you'd miss your fix.  There comes a time when you can run the two miles and actually have a desire to run two more, instead of collapsing in a corner half dead.  That has kicked in for me this week.

Sanctification is similar.  We Christians have within us the Old Man (the flesh) and also the New Man (the Spirit) at the same time.  One of these can only triumph upon the death of the other.  Thus, painful as mortification is, the Spirit grows stronger day by day as day by day we deny the "sarx" (the sinful self).  Kill the sin and the Spirit flourishes.  It's that simple, and it's God's New Creation working within you.

4. In which the Author Broods Upon Knots

Even after Baptism or Confirmation or Confession, we remain such a mixed bag - or more accurately such a knotty mess.  Or naughty mess.

I know a young person who has much potential in loving God and thereby in becoming holy.  That thread is a constant in her life, but a thread that is knotted up in twists and tangles of sin and pride and anger and fear.  Tug too hard on that thread and the knot only gets tighter, as knots are wont to do.

Loosen patiently - or even cut out - the cheap yarn that wraps around it, and you might get somewhere.

It is the disentangling of the thread of our better selves - our thread of holiness - from the sin, the pride. the anger and the fear that entangle it and choke it - it is this that is the project of our lives.

Mary, Untier of Knots, Pray for us.

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