The Personality Of Our Doctrines
universal truth is that we become like the object of our
serve a violent god, we become aggressive. If we are devoted
to pleasure, we become hedonistic. However, if we commit to
the God of love, dare we believe that we can become more
So, we can
ask ourselves: ‘What evokes my passion?’ ‘Where do I spend my
time?’ And, ‘What personality is being fashioned in me as a
expand the idea a little further. What impact does theology
have on a community of faith? What personality evolves from a
system of beliefs? It is surely no coincidence that we think
of quiet Quakers, loud Pentecostals and peaceful Mennonites.
results of creed do have their impact, it seems. Baptists are
renowned for their strong Christian Education; Methodists
distinguished by hearty singing; Presbyterians characterized
by order and Eastern Orthodoxy identified by the mystery of
traits reflect the influence of doctrine.
your favourite denomination and mine? What is our Salvationist
doctrines are terse and efficient. For instance, compared to
other denominations — the 39 Westminster Articles of Faith or
the 25 Methodist articles of religion — we are notably brief.
quite certain that in contrast to Reformed doctrine, which was
carefully crafted in the scholar’s study of John Calvin,
Salvationist doctrine was created, like Wesleyanism, in the
passion of revival. No time to ponder theological subtleties
here, there are souls to be saved and campaigns to be planned.
primary theological text is a ‘handbook’ of doctrine;
something to easily reference, not an ecclesiological
is denominational pragmatism and a creative space that
ecumenical colleagues find disarming.
5 doctrines form a classic and orthodox foundation. They are
broad, strong and uncontentious.
of any basic theological framework often reveals an identical
progression and pattern.
5 of the
11 doctrines feature salvation — the critical mass of our
beliefs. No wonder we are called a ‘salvation people;’ as the
Founder said, ‘our speciality.’
fanfare of salvation blasted in 6, to the carefully layered
explanation outlined in 7 and the inner mystery alluded in 8,
no salvation layer is left untouched. 9 brings a dose of
reality therapy and gets us moving while 10 unfolds a
magnificent horizon almost beyond belief.
And so, we
have a naturally evangelistic personality, always looking for
new ways — in addition to the tried and trusted ways — to get
holiness doctrines, 9 and 10, counter-balance each other with
dynamic tension. ‘Continued obedient faith in Christ’ is
filled with discipline and tenacity. ‘The privilege of all
believers to be wholly sanctified’ is saturated with grace.
While the former sweats, the latter soars.
they create vibrant tension.
It is the
same combined cadence pictured by Winton Marsalis when
describing the discipline and freedom of jazz: ‘In a strange
twist … the way that profound things almost always happen, a
thing and the opposite of that thing are matched together.’
effect is what Commissioner Ian Cutmore calls ‘Muscular Piety’
— a truly accurate description of Salvationist spirituality.
desire that the character of our lives and ministries will be
uncluttered and focused, will radiate the greatest news ever
told, will incarnate the beauty of holiness, leading many to
You and I
are part of a beautiful movement whose personality aims to
dispense with the unnecessary, proclaim the immediacy of grace
in Christ and who exhibits a strong beating evangelistic
indeed, this doctrine has personality alright.
drill down a little deeper into our holiness doctrine.
Doctrine 10 — Everyone Holy! Every Part Holy! Every Day Holy!
profess quite radical holiness — available to all believers,
for the totality of their being and accessible completely
while here on earth.
believe that it is the
privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that
their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved
blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
So, how is
it that such a seemingly innocuous doctrinal statement can be
described as radical?
deconstruct the sentence and see what emerges.
Everyone Holy — We believe it is
the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified.
‘Privilege’ is an interesting choice of word, because what
comes to mind are the ideas of being ‘chosen,’ ‘a select few’
or those with ‘greater access and advantages.’ However, what
makes it intriguing is the run in the same sentence with the
word ‘all,’ where the ideas of ‘everyone,’ ‘equality’ and ‘no
differences’ come to mind.
We can be
justified in asking ourselves, does the word ‘privilege’
contradict the word ‘all?’ Is there a tension here? We might
say a ‘pleasant tension.’
is the modifying word ‘believers’ — ‘all believers.’
are talking about, this ‘whole sanctification,’ is only
available to ‘believers.’ In other words, you have to
‘believe’ in Christ first.
surely no coincidence that the coming of the Holy Spirit
during Pentecost is a gathering of believers, with that word
‘all’ strongly featured: ‘When the day of Pentecost came, they
were all together in one place […] All of them were filled
with the Holy Spirit.’ (ACTS 2:1, 4)
is not to be taken lightly, or ignored, because what we are
talking about means that sanctification is not just for
religious enthusiasts, or just the gifted, or just the
beautiful people, or just the elderly, or just the full-timers
or just the clergy.
Sanctification is for the believer on the factory floor as
well as in the monastery, available to the college student in
the dorm, as well as the mystic on the prayer retreat,
available to the stay-at-home mom, as well as the seminary
there is sufficient evidence from the pages of the New
Testament to suggest that the norm of Christian experience is
the sanctified life. Paul exhorts, ‘Be filled with the
Spirit.’ (EPH 5:18)
Part Holy — their whole spirit and soul and body.
complex and mysterious, full of intriguing and inter-connected
dynamics. Unlike a computer or machine, we cannot be
compartmentalized. Contemporary medicine and science fully
Salvation Army is renowned for serving the ‘whole’ person, it
is a clear part of who we are and how we contribute to our
world. ‘Soup, Soap and Salvation’ is the pithy way our
founding parents described it; ‘holistic ministry’ is the
technical and missiological term. The ‘sacrament of the
ordinary’ is the theological term.
words, we can say there is a real ‘holiness’ to our body as
well as our spirit and our soul. All of us — mind, body and
spirit — given over to God.
This is as
ancient as the Shema — ‘Love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul and with all
your mind and with all your strength.’ […] ‘Love
your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater
than these.” (MK 12:30–31 and DT 6:5)
that we are enabled to see God present even in the most
ordinary moments and mundane tasks. It means we can see God’s
image in every person, and that often means God is present in
quite surprising people and in quite surprising ways.
that we do not compartmentalize life, sacred and secular, but
that work, play and spirituality can be fused into one.
Day Holy — May be preserved blameless unto the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
where we get quite explosive! We are convinced that all
believers can be holy, blameless, here on earth, right now,
every day, all the time, before they go to heaven
the endless sin-repent-confess syndrome and are not satisfied
with a ‘try and do as well as you can’ approach. We don’t
believe in compromise, the passive acceptance of sin; and its
twin thinking, that we can only ever be holy in heaven.
prayed for the early church that God would strengthen their
hearts so that they would be ‘blameless and holy in the
presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus
comes with all his holy ones.’ (I TH 3:13)
and holy in readiness for when Jesus returns.
We are not
na´ve to the power and presence of sin, but, place more
emphasis on the availability of grace and the very real
availability of divine love. Holiness isn’t just the absence
of sin; it is the presence of love, expulsive love.
experience of holiness has been described as journey
and encounter, a dynamic pilgrimage punctuated with
face-to-face encounters with Christ. This picture of movement
demolishes any notion of holiness being a passive, reclining,
inert, lifeless, placid state.
Of this we can be confident, ‘He who
began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until
the day of Christ Jesus.’ (PHLP 1:6)