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The Reformed Perspective and the Doctrine of Holiness Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2022

Introduction

The Reformed Theology provides a unique view on the concept of sanctification. Based mostly on the ideas promoted by John Calvin, it places a very heavy emphasis on the importance of the Scripture (Leclerc, 2010). Therefore, reformed Theology views the notion of sanctification as a dual concept, namely, as the definition of Christ and the stage of spiritual development that can be achieved by following Jesus’s teachings (Sider, 2005). The described approach is rooted in the Reformed perspective on human life, in general, as the idea of following one’s core beliefs in every step that one takes.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The proposed perspective on sanctification has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, the fact that the suggested interpretation does not provide a clear description of sanctification weakens the argument. On the other hand, the opportunity for an individual to introduce sanctification into one’s life using union with Christ offers greater flexibility and a more personal relationship with God.

Authors: Evaluation

The notion of sanctification as it is represented in Reformed Theology has been debated broadly in the Christian theological discourse due to the multiple complexities in its logic. Therefore, each of the authors does a very good job at disentangling the key points of the Reformed position on the theological discourse and especially the notion of sanctification. For instance, Dieter et al. (1996) rely on the crucial points of the reformed perspective quite accurately, whereas Leclerc (2010) provides a historical context, and Sider (2005) addresses some of the controversial aspects of the Reformed Theology.

Reformed and Wesleyan Position: Comparison

The Reformed Theology is often compared to the Wesleyan one for a good reason. The two communicate similar points, elevating the role of an individual in achieving the stage of sanctification (Dieter et al., 1996). However, unlike the Wesleyan Theology, which keeps the opportunity for salvation open for any individual, the reformed one suggests that, once the chance for salvation is gone, it cannot be regained (Sider, 2005).

Doctrine of Holiness

In what ways did early Holiness themes influence John Wesley?

The concepts of Holiness and sanctification are central to the Wesleyan Doctrine, which is why the principles of holiness as a notion are likely to be found at the roots of Wesleyan Theology. Indeed, diving into the history of the Wesleyan philosophy, one will realize that its founder, John Wesley, relied heavily on the early Holiness themes in the development of his perspective. Namely, early Holiness themes related to the Methodist teachings, such as the role of social engagement of an individual as the path toward Holiness have shaped Wesley’s interpretation of Christianity and its ultimate goal. Similarly, the importance of cooperation in small groups, mutual accountability, and, ultimately, unity as the early Holiness themes defined the Wesleyan Theology to a significant extent. Namely, the specified notions were incorporated to establish social justice as the foundation for Wesleyan Theology (Snider, 2016). Thus, the Wesleyan framework has led to the interpretation of holiness as an achievable stage of spiritual development.

Describe ways in which the Christian mystics attempted to find holiness. How did they differ from those who focused on asceticism?

The phenomenon of Christian mysticism as the experience of getting in contact with the transcendental and expanding one’s perspective used to be seen as a crucial part of the Christian experience at a primary stage of the religion’s development. The mentioning of practices associated with Christian mysticism can be found in Paul’s writings, which describe the practices currently defined as Christian mysticism from the perspective of a union with Christ. For instance, the following quote exemplifies the notion of the specified union as the ultimate goal of spiritual development: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1, New International Version). Therefore, the idea of embracing Christlikeness appears to be inherently linked to the process of finding holiness in Christian mysticism.

In contrast to Christian mystics, who viewed holiness as a gift from God and the reward for approaching Christlikeness by embracing Jesus’s teachings, asceticism introduces the version of holiness interpretation that suggests that holiness is not earned but achieved. Specifically, in the asceticism interpretation of the subject matter, the consistent focus on repentance and the development of love toward others, which borders self-denial enables one to reach the state of holiness (Dieter et al., 1996). The described perspective means engaging in greater introspection and appears to have evolved significantly from the initial understanding of holiness as the result of abstinence.

What did Anglicanism contribute to Wesley’s overall theological vision?

When considering the development of the Wesleyan Theology and the model on which it is based, one should give credit to the Anglican tradition that contributed significantly to the creation of the Wesleyan philosophy. Namely, the fact that Wesley himself belonged to the Anglican Church explains a range of coincidences in the Anglican perspective on sanctification and the one that Wesley promoted in his work.

Notably, the discrepancies between the Anglican perception of predestination and perfectionism and that one of the Methodist churches have introduced a certain conflict into the Wesleyan doctrine. Remarkably, with his interpretation of the concept of sanctification and the focus on the parochial system, Wesley only reinforced the development of the divide between the two churches, thus sending ripples across the concept of Christian union. Nevertheless, Anglicanism did manage to produce an extensive amount of impact on Wesley in his interpretation of religion and sanctification.

How did Aristotle’s philosophy influence Thomas Aquinas’ views on holiness?

Aristotle’s philosophy has also produced an array of noticeable changes in the mathematical context. Specifically, Aristotle’s philosophical stance managed to alter the interpretation of holiness that Thomas Aquinas had at the time. Despite taking its roots from the philosophy of Neoplatonism to a significant extent, the foundational Christian doctrine principles were, for the most part, rooted in Aristotelianism (Leclerc, 2010). As a result, the described phenomenon could have been determined by the fact that Aristotle’s teachings borrowed from those of Plato (Dieter et al., 1996). Since Aristotelian philosophy defied generations of great thinkers, it would only be logical to suggest that a substantial amount of Aristotelian philosophy made its way into the theosophical and theological discourse, adding to the interpretation of Christ’s teachings and the reading of the Bible. As a result, Aristotelian philosophy shaped how most philosophers viewed Christian theology, Thomas Aquinas not being an exception.

Considering the exact way in which Thomas Aquinas’ view of Christianity was affected by the Aristotelian arguments, one should bring up the interpretation of self and an individual’s agency that Aquinas promoted in his work. Specifically, according to Aquinas, viewing a person as an isolated individual that is not subjected to any outside influences is impossible and, most importantly, pointless from the analytical perspective, which is why the impact of the environment and the related factors must be considered when defining the notion of self (Sider, 2005). As a result, the construct of holiness becomes the process of self-improvement and the development of Christian virtues about the social environment in which the search for personal spiritual discovery is placed.

What is Moravian pietism and how did it influence John Wesley’s views on holiness?

Originated within the Lutheran Church, the notion of pietism suggests compliance with the ideas and standards promoted in the Bible while diminishing the importance of self and the role of an individual in the grand scheme of the Divine Plan. As the philosophy of Pietism spread, being introduced first into the Methodist context and then proceeding to the Lutheran theology, it affected a range of philosophers, including Thomas Aquinas. Namely, in his perspective, the concept of holiness coexists with the ones of forgiveness, love, Christian unity, and conversion as crucial ideas that one needs to embrace on the path toward spiritual cleansing and further development. Therefore, in Aquinas’ perspective, Moravian pietism implied the shift toward personal holiness and the promotion of vigorous Christian life (Leclerc, 2010). In turn, the latter implied aligning with essential Christian values and following them precisely.

Therefore, the introduction of Moravian pietism has allowed the rejection of self and the idea of opening oneself to God as the ultimate step toward spiritual; cleansing and achieving the status of holiness. Consequently, the process of sanctification when viewed through the lens of Moravian pietism became the platform for the individual return to the study of the Bible and Scripture (Sider, 2005). While coexisting with the promotion of ultimate selflessness, the described approach also highlighted the individual role that each Christian community member played in his or her spiritual growth. Therefore, Moravian pietism defined Wesley’s approach toward holiness as the process of individual transformation and building a personal relationship with God.

What did the apostolic fathers believe about holiness? How can we use the teaching of the apostolic fathers in today’s church?

The phenomenon of holiness has been scrutinized from multiple perspectives and viewpoints in the Christian Church, leading to countless interpretations and interpretations of the notion of holiness. The perspective that the apostolic fathers provide is another way of envisioning holiness and the path toward it. Based on the theory provided by the apostolic fathers, the concept of holiness was stripped to its bare minimum, leaving only the simplified definition intact. As a result, the phenomenon of holiness was seen as the essential attribute of life; specifically, the apostolic fathers believed that all lie was holy (Dieter et al., 1996). Therefore, the [proposed point of view implies viewing life, in general, as the embodiment of holiness.

Although the teachings of the apostolic fathers could seem unsuitable for the context of modern Christianity with its nuanced outlook on the issues of holiness, they could still contribute largely to the promotion of essential Christian values. Namely, the teachings of the apostolic fathers could be used to ensure that the principal values according to which Christians should act remain unchanged, and that Christian ethics continues to support believers on their way toward redemption.

References

Dieter, M. E., et al. (1996). Five views on sanctification. Zondervan.

Leclerc, D. (2010). Discovering Christian holiness: The heart of Wesleyan-Holiness Theology. Beacon Hill Press.

Sider, R. J. (2005). The scandal of the evangelical conscience: Why are Christians living just like the rest of the world? Baker Books.

Snider, G. L. (2016). The use of the Old Testament in a Wesleyan Theology of mission. ISD LLC.

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