Many years ago while attending a theological conference on Holiness at Asbury, I recall hearing a statement made around the lunch table that, “the Holiness movement has lost its ability to renew itself and the Church and has become merely a repository of historical information.” I bristled but did not speak, since I was still a student and overwhelmed at the capacity of the scholars around me. I did not agree, nor do I today.
Upon beginning a term as president of the NAE, I told a press conference that evangelicals are being called to reintegrate social holiness and personal holiness; our task is the transformation of hearts and of culture; we are not so much to define the perimeter as to define the center from which our identity proceeds; the block walls of division must give way to picket fences in a new day of missional growth toward impacting culture.
In recent years we have seen broad discussions seeking truth beyond the “solas.” The old tactic of isolation and takeover in cultural politics by precept has been declared ineffective. The defense of the rational side of the gospel has given way to a rise in the relational, personal dimensions of truth exemplified in a new generation of pastors and upstart churches for whom doctrinal purity is second to the relational nature of faith in Christian community. Does this mean there is equivocation at the point of the Christocentrism of the faith? Certainly not in those churches.
The concepts of integrating social and personal transformation are no longer merely the extreme rhetoric of councils and denominations in battle with each other. The old battle lines have become blurred and groups who historically would never have conceded to one or the other are talking similar language and calling for authentic engagement. Throughout denominations and new networks of churches alike there is interest in centered set theology that is generous. Allowances for grace unlimited in real-live circumstances are growing; and a call for the convertive piety described by Don Dayton is coming from unexpected pulpits. In truth, the Church is agreeing that “we believe in right practice along with right belief.” in the words of Donald Thorsen. These are in great measure indicative of the influence of the Holiness message and call to the Church today.