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Chapter 8: Holiness Family

Chapter 8
Holiness Family

Consult the "Contents" pages to locate the entries in Part III, the Directory Listings Sections, that comprise this family.

The desire to follow in a somewhat literal sense Christ's admonition, "Be ye perfect as my father in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48), has resulted in Holiness churches. These churches take the drive for perfection or Holiness as their primary focus and are distinguished from most other Christian churches by the unique doctrinal framework within which Holiness or sanctification is understood. The corollary to this drive has been separation from Christians who do not in their opinion reach high enough toward the goal of perfection. Thus Holiness churches are also distinct from other churches because of this focus on perfection and the resultant separatist practices.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, gave impetus to the formation of Holiness churches. Though the Wesleyan movement of the eighteenth century was only in part a perfectionist movement, Wesley did encourage the ethical life and a goal of perfection, and numerous churches now strive for what they call Wesleyan Holiness.

Wesley's understanding of perfection developed through two phases: first, an emphasis on sinlessness, and second, on love. While at Oxford as a college student, Wesley formed the holy club, a group of students in search of the holy life. In his early sermon "Christian Perfection," Wesley defined perfection as Holiness, saying Christians are perfect in that they are free from outward sin. Wesley felt mature Christians are free from evil tempers and thoughts, and such perfection is possible in this life.

Wesley was immediately challenged for his doctrine of perfection. In answer to his accusers he had to emphasize that perfection did not apply to mistakes, infirmity, knowledge, or freedom from temptation. Also, he said there was no perfection that did not admit of further progress. Wesley himself began to see the harmful consequences of defining perfection as absence of sin, and he redefined perfectionism in terms of love. His ideas on perfection are gathered together in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection. The line between the Pietist-Methodist family and the Holiness family is difficult to draw. There have always been individual Methodists who stressed Holiness and sanctification. Further, many Holiness churches are schismatic bodies that broke away from various Methodist churches, and some Holiness churches use the word Methodist in their titles. However, Holiness churches place greater stress than Methodist churches on the second blessing and on a lifestyle reflecting sanctification.

THE UNDERSTANDING OF HOLINESS. The distinctive elements of the Holiness way of being Christian are their teachings concerning sanctification and perfection, and the lifestyle they believe should naturally flow from such teachings. The sanctification experience, also called the second blessing or second work of grace in the life of the believer, culminates a process of becoming holy that begins when the believer accepts Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior. The first step in the process–justification, the first work of grace–is also called the "born again" experience. That event is followed by a period of growth in grace, in becoming actually holy in one's life. Both justification and the growing process are seen as involving the activity of the Holy Spirit within the individual. The process should culminate in the second work of grace, in which the Holy Spirit cleanses the heart from sin and imparts his indwelling presence, giving power for living the Christian life. A consensus opinion on sanctification is found in the statement of the Wesleyan Church.

Inward sanctification begins the moment one is justified. From that moment until a believer is entirely sanctified, he or she grows daily in grace and gradually dies to sin. Entire sanctification is effected by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which cleanses the heart of the child of God from all inbred sin through faith in Jesus Christ. It is subsequent to regeneration and is wrought instantaneously when the believers present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, and are thus enabled through His grace to love God with all the heart and to walk in all His holy commandments blameless. The crisis of cleansing is preceded and followed by growth in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When people are fully cleansed from all sin, they are endued with the power of the Holy Spirit for the accomplishment of all to which they are called. The ensuing life of Holiness is maintained by a continuing faith in the sanctifying blood of Christ, and is evidenced by an obedient life.

In John Wesley's thought, the process of sanctification was to be seen as the goal toward which the Christian's life led. The arrival at the state of sanctification in which one was freed from sin and made perfect in life generally occurred only at the end of one's days on earth. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, deriving in large part from the ministry of evangelist Phoebe Palmer, coeditor of The Path of Holiness, a prominent Methodist and Holiness magazine, a subtle but important divergence with Wesley crept into Holiness thought. In her writing and speaking, Palmer began to picture sanctification as more the beginning of the Christian life rather than the goal. As Charles Edward White has cogently pointed out in his study The Beauty of Holiness, Palmer advocated sanctification as the immediate possibility of any believer, and she encouraged all, no matter how new in the faith, to seek it as the instantaneous gift of the Holy Spirit. This subtle change of emphasis led both to a renewed concentration upon the search for Holiness among Methodists, but also created a reaction from many Methodists who saw in Wesley's understanding of the gradual process of the development of the life of Holiness a reason to reject the renewed emphasis upon sanctification.

In the last half of the nineteenth century, personal Holiness, symbolized by a rigid code of behavior, became the distinguishing theme in the Holiness movement. John Wesley, who wrote the General Rules for the Methodists, is the source of this trend. He disapproved of flashy clothes, costly apparel, and expensive jewelry, and in the early nineteenth century Holiness schisms from Methodism, a consistent voice was one deploring the departure of the Methodists from the General Rules. The strictest personal codes came in the late nineteenth century. They were in part a reaction to the social gospel emphasis in the larger denominations. There is also strong evidence that such codes were and are tied to the frustrations of people left behind by urbanization, mechanization, and population growth. Without status in mass society, people reject it and find virtue in the necessity of their condition. Holiness was and is to be found in asceticism and rejection of worldliness.

The rejection of worldliness has led to typical Holiness disagreements over exactly what constitutes worldliness. Churches have split over the acceptance of television or a style of clothing, such as neckties. Other issues include the attitude toward divorced people, cosmetics, swimming with the opposite sex, dress in high school gym classes, and the cutting of females' hair (I Cor. 11: 1–16).

At one time the Holiness movement concentrated much of its attention on social issues and public morality. The Wesleyan and Free Methodists both were abolitionist and at different times the Holiness movement was tied to the great crusades for temperance and women's rights. Beginning with the co-mingling of Wesleyan and Quaker ideas during the era of John Gurney, pacifism has had a strong hold on the Holiness movement and is the major remnant of the social imperative. Many Pentecostal churches have inherited this pacifist emphasis.

Among the Holiness groups, sacraments have not been an important part of church life. Some churches have two sacraments– baptism and the Lord's Supper–as the Wesleyan Church does. Some consider baptism and the Lord's Supper to be ordinances, not sacraments. Churches such as the General Eldership of the Churches of God add footwashing as a third ordinance. Finally, other churches, most notably the Salvation Army, have neither ordinances nor sacraments.

HOLINESS MOVEMENT IN AMERICA. The strain of perfectionism in Wesleyan teaching was not the most emphasized doctrine in early nineteenth century Methodism. On the heels of the great American revival of 1837–38, however, centers of interest in the Wesleyan doctrine of perfection, or Holiness, as it was termed, emerged. One phase of this interest came in 1839 with the sanctification experienced by Charles G. Finney. Sanctification, in this context, means Holiness; it means becoming perfect in love. Finney, a Congregationalist and the most famous evangelist of his day, had learned of sanctification from the Methodists and from his own reading of Wesley's Plain Account of Christian Perfection. At the same time, Finney became involved in a search for social Holiness, making society perfect in love, understanding justice to be the social form of love. Finney defended women's rights, participated in the antislavery crusade, and as a pacifist protested the Mexican War (1846–48). After experiencing sanctification in 1839, Finney began to write on it and preach it. In 1844 his colleague at Oberlin College, Asa Mahan, published his book Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection, which became the major statement of the Oberlin position. Because of his non-Methodist background, Finney had a great effect on other soon-to-be Holiness greats– T. C. Upham, William Boardman, and A. B. Earle. Thus, the first wave of Holiness in the United States began outside of Methodism, by Methodized Presbyterians, Baptists, and Congregationalists. Prior to 1855 the only Methodist who had gained any reputation for perfectionist thinking was Timothy Merritt, editor of the Guide to Christian Perfection (later called the Guide to Holiness), but Finney had raised the issue for the whole Methodist Episcopal Church, and Methodists could no longer ignore their heritage.

Without any weakening or demise of the Oberlin Holiness crusade, the Holiness movement began a new phase after the revival of 1857–58. The new center of interest was the "Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness" led by Phoebe Palmer from her base as a member of Allen Street Methodist Church in New York City. Palmer's efforts were aided by the publication of two books, Christian Purity by Randolph S. Foster and The Central Idea of Christianity by Jesse T. Peck. Both men were soon to be Methodist bishops. The revival that was spreading from Allen Street to the whole of Methodism was interrupted by the Civil War, but picked up momentum as soon as the hostilities ceased. During the war, the Palmers–Phoebe and her husband, Walter–bought Merritt's Guide to Holiness and in 1866 they toured the country, establishing centers of the sanctified wherever they preached.

It was not long until ministers rallied to the cause. The camp meeting proved to be the prime structure to carry on the work and in 1867 William Osborn of the South New Jersey Conference of Methodists and John S. Inskip of New York set up a national camp meeting at Vineland, New Jersey. During this camp meeting the "National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness" was formed, and Inskip became its first president. Bishop Matthew Simpson personally aided the work, which prospered under episcopal approval.

The Holiness movement grew tremendously among Methodists in the first decade after the Civil War. In 1872 Jesse T. Peck, Randolph S. Foster, Stephen Merrill, and Gilbert Haven, all promoters of the Holiness revival, were elected Methodist bishops; with their encouragement, the movement was given vocal support through the church press. In 1870 a second national press organ was begun by William McDonald of the New England Conference. The Advocate of Holiness became the organ of the Camp Meeting Association. The revival reached some of the most influential members of the church: Daniel Steele, first president of Syracuse University and then professor of systematic theology at Boston University; William Nast, father of German Methodism; Bishop William Taylor; wealthy layman Washington C. DePauw; and women's rights leader Frances Willard. A new generation of preachers came along ready to make their mark as ministers of the Holiness gospel: Beverly Carradine, J. A. Wood, Alfred Cookman, John L. Brasher, and Milton L. Haney. The movement grew and developed, and, like the Finney revival, there was little or no fear of schism.

While this new work spread quickly among the Methodists, that begun by Finney did not die but continued to bear fruit. While the Oberlin position never really caught on with non-Methodists, leaders from the Quakers, Presbyterians, and Baptists preached the second blessing. William Boardman carried the message to England, where, in conjunction with R. Pearsall Smith, a Presbyterian, he began the "Oxford Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness." The Oxford meetings then formed the base for the Keswick Movement, which became the main carrier of the Holiness movement in the Church of England. Smith's wife, Hannah, wrote one of the great classics of the Keswick era, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life. The Keswick brand of Holiness, which emphasized the giving of power instead of the cleansing from sin, gained its adherents in the United States: Dwight L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, Adroniram J. Gordon, A. B. Simpson, and evangelist Wilbur Chapman.

At the height of this wave of success something went wrong. Schisms began to dominate the movement, and a third phase began: the establishment of independent Holiness churches. The voice for schism began to be heard in the 1880s, became dominant in the 1890s, and by 1910 had almost totally removed the Holiness movement from the main denominations into independent Holiness churches. The movement out of Methodism was a response to at least three forces antagonistic to the Holiness movement. First, a theological critique began to be heard. Men such as J. M. Boland, author of The Problem of Methodism, attacked the second blessing doctrine and maintained that sanctification was accomplished at the moment of conversion. James Mudge, in his Growth in Holiness Toward Perfection or Progressive Sanctification, argued for progressive rather than instantaneous sanctification. Borden Parker Bowne, representing a growing army of German-trained theologians, simply dismissed the whole issue of sanctification as irrelevant. (In the Lutheran and Presbyterian theologies, sanctification and justification were not separated as they were in Wesleyan and Methodist perspectives.)

The second force of growing concern to Methodist leaders was the mass of uncontrollable literature and organizations the Holiness movement was producing. By 1890 the number of books, tracts, pamphlets, and periodicals coming off the press to serve the Holiness movement was enormous. Independent camp meeting associations covered the country and in many places competed with local churches for the allegiance of members. Since camp meetings were independent, bishops and district superintendents had only the power of moral suasion to control what happened at the meetings or what was read throughout the movement. For some, this state of affairs was felt as a direct threat to their power. Others were genuinely concerned with excesses, fanaticism, and heterodox teaching. In either case, the loss of control led to an anti-Holiness polemic.

The third cause for the Holiness schism is found in the genuine shift of power that occurred between 1870 and 1890 in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Holiness movement itself. By 1890 the bishops who promoted the Holiness movement and gave it official sanction had been replaced largely by others who were cool to the Holiness heat. Within the Holiness movement itself were regional and national leaders who were unhappy under the yoke of an unsympathetic hierarchy that was moving further away from their position each day. Not wishing to be confined in their ministry, they left the church. Among the first to leave were Daniel S. Warner, who founded the Church of God at Anderson, Indiana, and John P. Brooks. Brooks, a leader in the Western Holiness Association, in 1887 published The Divine Church, which called for all true Holiness Christians to come out of Methodism's church of mammon. The Divine Church became the theological guide to lead the way to the formation of independent churches.

The "come-out" movement created pressure on those who chose to stay in to justify their position. Thus, the 1890s saw loyalists publishing books against "come-outism," and calling for strengthening of the camp meetings. Beverly Carradine called for remaining in the church, but favored the establishment of independent Holiness colleges. Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, and Taylor University in Indiana represent the partial success of Carradine's view. These efforts by the loyalists were significantly unsuccessful, however, and by 1910 only minor pockets of Holiness teaching (such as the Brasher Campgrounds in Alabama) remained in the larger Methodist churches. As the twentieth century came to a close, these churches were dying out.

CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENTS. Possibly because of the intense controversy during the formative years of the older Holiness churches, there is a strong sense of identity within the Holiness family among the various members. This image is focused not only in the doctrinal unity and similarity of lifestyle, but in the several ecumenical structures. These structures are home to a wide range of groups, from those who still keep ties with the United Methodist Church (Wesleyans, Free Methodists), all the way over to groups like the Church of God of the Mountain Assembly, which has Baptist origins.

The oldest ecumenical structure is the Christian +Holiness Partnership (formerly Christian Holiness Association). This body, which includes most of the larger Holiness churches in its membership, is a continuation of the National Holiness Camp Meeting Association, which guided the movement from the 1870s. After the establishment of the various denominational structures it remained as a meeting ground for these new organizations and those who remained in their original churches, primarily Methodists. Increasingly, it served the denominational bodies and in 1997 assumed its present name to recognize that fact.

One longstanding, if minor, theme in the Holiness movement was that perpetuated by the Keswick Conventions. Growing up primarily among the Holiness supporters of the Church of England, it supported the idea of suppression of the evil tendencies in man, as opposed to the eradication taught by the Wesleyans. Keswick ideas did not produce many new groups but did find a home among one large body, the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

THE GLENN GRIFFITH MOVEMENT. Through the midtwentieth century, the Holiness churches found themselves more and more accommodating to the world, especially in decisions concerning new realities (such as television and other contemporary forms of "worldly" entertainment) that were not an issue in previous generations. Some of its members protested this accommodation. They say they wish to preserve the "old-fashioned Scriptural Holiness" in which they were raised. The leader of this movement was the Reverend Glenn Griffith, a former minister from the Church of the Nazarene. The revival services he held in 1955 at a location between Nampa and Caldwell, Idaho, attracted many people. His movement spread, finding advocates in all of the larger Holiness churches. Adopting many of Griffith's ideas, ministers and members left those churches and formed a number of new denominations through the 1960s.

Even before Griffith gave focus to the protest movement, Rev. H. E. Schmul had facilitated fellowship among conservative Holiness churches and ministers through the Interdenominational Holiness Convention. It was begun by Schmul, a Wesleyan Methodist minister, in 1947. Its magazine, Convention Herald, served as a placement service for evangelists seeking appointments for revival meetings. Leaders of the various splinter movements within Holiness churches had participated in the Interdenominational Holiness convention. After the new churches were formed, these leaders moved into key positions in the Convention. The Interdenominational Holiness Convention continues to operate informally with membership open to individuals, congregations, and churches.

Sources–Holiness Family

Studies in the Holiness tradition are focused by the Christian Holiness Partnership, which may be reached c/o Martin Hotle, 263 Buffalo Rd., Clinton, TN 37716. The Partnership publishes the semi-annual Holiness Digest. The B. L. Fisher Library at Absurd Theological Seminary, which houses a large Holiness collection. Primary denominational archives are at the Church of the Nazarene headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Marston Memorial Historical Center at the Free Methodist Church world headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana.

General Sources onanctification and Holiness

Bassett, Paul M. Holiness Teaching–New Testament Times to Wesley. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of KC, 1997.

Dieter, Melvin E., et al. Five Views of Sanctification. Grand Rapids, MI: Academic Books, 1987.

Fenelon, Francois de Salignac de La Mothe. Christian Perfection. New York: Harper & Row, 1947.

Finney, Charles G. An Autobiography. Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1876.

——. Sanctification. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, n.d.

Law, William. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1906.

Lindstrom, Harold. Wesley and Sanctification. New York: Abingdon, 1946.

The Holiness Movement in America

Bundy, David D. Keswick: A Bibliographical Introduction to the Higher Life Movements. Wilmore, KY: B. L. Fisher Library, Asbury Theological Seminary, 1975.

Dayton, Donald W. The American Holiness Movement, A Bibliographic Introduction. Wilmore, KY: B. L. Fisher Library, Asbury Theological Seminary, 1971.

Dayton, Donald W., David W. Faupel, and David d. Bundy, eds. The Higher Christian Life: A Bibliographical Overview. New York: Garland Press, 1985.

Dieter, Melvin Easterbury. The 19th-Century Holiness Movement. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of KC, 1998.

A Guide to the Study of the Holiness Movement. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1974.

Jones, Charles Edwin. Black Holiness: A Guide to the Study of Black Participation in Wesleyan Perfectionist and Glossolalic Pentecostal Movements. Metuchen, NJ: American Library Association/Scarecrow Press, 1987.

Kostlevy, William C. Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 2001.

Lambert, D. W. Heralds of Holiness. Stoke-on-Trent, England: M.O.V.E. Press, 1975.

Miller, William Charles. Holiness Works: A Bibliography. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1986.

Nazarene Theological Seminary. Master Bibliography of Holiness Works. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1965.

Peters, John Leland. Christian Perfectionism and American Methodism. New York: Abingdon, 1956.

Pollock, J. C. The Keswick Story. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1964.

Smith, Timothy L. "The Holiness Crusade." In vol. II of The History of American Methodism, Ed. Emory Stevens Buck. Nashville: Abingdon, 1965, pp. 608–59.

——. Revivalism and Social Reform. Nashville: Abingdon, 1957.

Wesley Center for Applied Theology. What Happened to the Holiness Movement? Napa, ID: Northwest Nazarene College, 1995.[A-V]

White, Charles Edward. The Beauty of Holiness. Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury Press, 1986.

Holiness Thought

Arthur, William. The Tongue of Fire. Winona Lake, IN: Light and Life Press, n.d.

Boyd, Myron F., and Merne A. Harris, comps. Projecting Our Heritage. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1969.

Carradine, Beverly. The Sanctified Life. Cincinnati: The Revivalist, 1897.

Foster, Randolph S. Christian Purity. New York: Nelson & Phillips, 1869.

Kuhn, Harold B., ed. The Doctrinal Distinctives of Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY: Asbury Theological Seminary, n.d.

Palmer, Phoebe. Faith and Its Effects. New York: Walter C. Palmer, 1854.

Rose, Delbert E. A Theology of Christian Experience. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1965.

Critical Appraisals

Boland, J. M. The Problem of Methodism. Nashville: The Author, 1889.

Ironside, Harold A. Holiness, the False and the True. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1947.

Mudge, James B. Growth in Holiness Toward Perfection, or Progressive Sanctification. New York: Hunt and Eaton, 1895.

Nevins, John W. The Anxious Bench. Chambersburg, PA: German Ref. Church, 1844.

Warfield, Benjamin B. Perfectionism. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1958.

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