I taught one of our denominational requirements the last part of this week for FLAME. I haven't taught for FLAME for over 10 years, so it was fun. I have to take my hat off to Wayne Richards for the incredible organizational skill he has and for the way he has created an incredible grass roots community across the church for those moving toward ordination.
What is the state of the doctrine of holiness in the church among this group of emerging ministers? It is probably as mixed as your average Wesleyan district is. Here are some observations:
1. The old language of eradicating the carnal nature is dead. Nobody thinks in these sorts of terms. I tried to see if I could sell the following language: the Spirit part of your life can so come to dominate the flesh part of your life that you love God and others with ease, overcome temptation with ease, and sometimes don't even notice that your flesh part is even there.
Some were good with that, I think. I frankly don't think a person is Wesleyan ministerial material if they can't at least agree to this much.
2. I think everyone largely agreed that debates over the "how" were distracting. Focus on the "instantaneous" versus "progressive" piece tends to get people's eye off the ball, which is the goal that a person 1) be fully surrendered to God to the best of their knowledge and 2) be empowered by the Spirit to love God and others with delight and consistently make the right choice in temptation with delight.
I think almost everyone in the class found the Discipline statement puzzling and incommunicative, more of an obstacle to the doctrine (especially in terms of outsiders/doctrinal skeptics) than helpful.
3. Here's my short version:
Those who believe in Christ often find that there are areas of their lives that they either haven't surrendered to God or struggle to surrender to God. They experience their early Christian life as a series of struggles to do what they know God wants them to do, like the person Paul pictures in Romans 7.
Sometimes, this leads to a major struggle with some really big item, something that potentially is "make or break" for continuing to serve God. It's like you've given God almost all the rooms in the house but there is this one broom closet that you don't want him to go in.
But when you finally surrender everything you know to surrender to him--and commit to continue to surrender all the new things that will eventually come up--there is usually a release. This full surrender, to the best of your knowledge, makes it possible for God to empower you for good on a whole new level, to give you a fullness of the Holy Spirit, so to speak.
It's like the plug wasn't fully in the wall up to that point and now it's all the way in. The power's not cutting in and out now. It's like the fruit is ripe and mature.
Of course, just because the plug is all the way in doesn't mean that you can't grow to take more voltage. It's just that the plug is now all the way in. The connection is solid, the way it's supposed to be. There's plenty of room for growing to take more power. There's an infinite supply on the other side of the plug.