An article in the Jan-Feb, 2001 issue of The Voice of the Nazarene leveled the charge of "heresy" against Dr. A. J. Smith, Pastor Robert L. Brush, and Bishop E. O. Jones. It is obvious from the article that the author did not understand what these men were actually teaching.
We recently reprinted Dr. Smith's greatest work, Bible Holiness. In the research I did in preparation for my introduction, I spared no effort in interviewing those who knew Dr. Smith and in gathering up the material he wrote. While I never met him, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Smith was a man of God who was one of the first to sound the alarm that the modern holiness movement was not Wesleyan. While Dr. Smith has been repeatedly misrepresented in The Voice of the Nazarene, anyone who would take the time to read his book would readily see that he has a thorough grasp of Wesleyan doctrine. In order to make his work more accessible, we are offering the new edition of Bible Holiness at the reduced price of $5 postpaid or three copies for $10.
While Bishop Jones is not the editor of Faith in the Future, his article entitled "First and Second Blessing Holiness" is a brilliant insight into the Wesleyan understanding of salvation. Anyone who has taken any time at all to look at Faith in the Future would soon realize that the magazine regularly prints articles on entire sanctification. However, Jones argues in this article that holiness begins at regeneration. Jones does nothing more than amplify the words of John Wesley, "A Christian is so far perfect as not to commit sin. This is the glorious privilege of every Christian; yea, though he be but a babe in Christ" ["Christian Perfection, Sermon #40, 2.20-21].
It is a misrepresentation of both Jones and the Crusaders Church, which he oversees, to conclude that because they contend that the new birth does something that they are teaching it does everything.
Again, this was the burden of Robert L. Brush in his article "The Myth of the 'Carnal Christian.'" Although Brush is neither the editor of The Arminian Magazine nor does the article even spell Arminian properly, those are only indicators that perhaps the writer has rushed to preserve orthodoxy without being sure of his facts.
James Arminius declared that "a regenerate man, one who is placed under grace, is neither carnal, nor so designated in the Scriptures" [The London Edition of Works, 2:513-516].
John Fletcher taught that the remains of the carnal mind still cleaves to imperfect Christians, but that the term "carnal" without any qualification refers to either unawakened or awakened sinners [Works, 2:540-547]. Adam Clarke defined "carnal" as the epithet of an unregenerate man. Clarke declared that "carnal" cannot be applied to any Christian after his conversion [Commentary, 6:86]. Joseph Benson explained that "carnal" described "a state of death and enmity against God." Benson said that any commentator who supposed that Paul was describing his own state, or the state of any regenerated person in Romans 7, "must be under a great mistake" [Notes, 5:62].
According to Romans 8:6 to be carnally minded is death. A born-again Christian has the remains of the carnal mind, but has been set free from its control. Wesley taught that sin remained, but did not reign. None of the men who were falsely accused wrote that regeneration cleanses the heart from the sinful nature. However, they would all agree that the new birth gives a sufficient measure of victory over that sinful nature that the new Christian is enabled to live above willful sin.
To label their writings as Zinzendorfism is to introduce a "red herring" argument; an accusation which distracts from the real issue. Although Nicholas Ludwig von Zinsendorf (1700-1760), taught that we are as holy as we will ever be when we are regenerated, that teaching has been consistently rejected by all who are Wesleyans. Although nearly a page is devoted to the discussion of a historical situation in which a segment of the holiness movement was led astray by the same Zinsendorf position that there was no further need for cleansing after justification, that is not the position of any of the three men accused by name of heresy. The real issue is this: does regeneration produce victory over sin?
Secondly, to raise the issue of the disciples experience at Pentecost is not germane to the discussion. It is faulty logic to claim that if the disciples were not entirely sanctified at Pentecost, they were never sanctified. John Fletcher, for example taught that at Pentecost thousands were wonderfully converted and clearly justified. The chaff of selfishness and sin began to be burned. "Some time after, another glorious baptism, or capital outpouring of the Spirit, carried the disciples of Christ farther into the kingdom of grace which perfects believers in one" [Works, 2:631]. Does the fact that Fletcher equated the entire sanctification of the disciples with Acts 4:31-33, instead of Acts 2, mean that he was also heretical?
Proverbs 17:15 warns that it is an abomination to condemn the innocent. Not only did the author falsely condemn three holy men, he ends the article with a heretical statement. He declared that to teach you received the Holy Ghost when born again is false doctrine. When Dr. Smith wrote of three errors in the popular holiness movement, he identified the second error as the teaching that "the Holy Spirit does not come into the heart of the penitent at the new birth, but later when one is entirely sanctified." Smith proceeded to quote first from Romans 8:9, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Then he quoted from Charles Wesley's sermon, "Awake, Thou That Sleepest." In this sermon Charles Wesley declared "he is antichrist whosoever denies . . . that the indwelling of the Spirit of God is the common privilege of all believers." Victory over sin in the life of the regeneration is possible only through the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is that same abiding Spirit which leads the believer on to Christian perfection. Without the enabling grace of God, wrought through the Holy Spirit, we are not nor can we ever become a Christian.
Ironically, The Voice of the Nazarene magazine has become a major distributor of early Methodist teaching through their promotion of CD-ROMs. Yet the magazine blatantly contradicts the very teachings it seeks to propagate. James warned that those who teach will be judged more strictly (3:1). Those who write to explain the truth of God's Word will be held to a higher standard. Yet James also conceded that we all stumble in many ways. James is not excusing sin; he is simply declaring that no one knows it all. However, it seems that the author of this article is guilty of a far more serious blunder than are the men he has accused. When the blind lead the blind, a whole movement can end up in the ditch.