Friday, September 22, 2006

So, What is Holy Living?

This is a question that has been niggling at me from more than one angle. Too many to really explain. I've heard a lot of pat answers. I've tasted (mostly vicariously) a rules-based approach which I utterly reject. I fail miserably in the personal pursuit of holiness. In fact, I find the most consistent reflection of Christlike character in community. Maybe that's an issue that deserves more thought.

This quote from Out of Ur sums up part of the debate for me:

More and more, the new generations cannot stomach these holiness codes. I have regularly met with outstanding candidates for ministry who raise their eyebrow at my denomination’s persistence on its holiness codes for clergy. This is because these codes are not holy. Instead, they trivialize holiness. The real question for us holiness denominations, if we are ever to be taken seriously by the postmodern generations (and our credibility slips everyday we hold onto to these “legalistic and unbiblical” codes of behavior—e.g. there is no Bible verse prohibiting drinking alcohol, quite the contrary), is whether we have the wherewithal to be sanctified in such a way as to be trusted with a drink or a stogie.

The real issue that our denominational leaders should focus on concerning the fitness of clergy is the commitment to a holy life and what that looks like in community. Obviously this refers to issues like drunkenness, addictions that reveal our lack of dependence upon God including tobacco, pornography, gambling, and yes, food! But this should also include how we handle money, how we engage the poor, how we speak to our neighbors, whether we engage in conflict in holy and Christ like ways. We should not resort to legalism!

Legalism is not the answer. Nor is License. Does anyone have any bright ideas?


Ken said...


I read your blog with intense interest, because I'm a person who would love to have a stogie but is instead about fifty-five pounds overweight.

We all know Romans 12, right?" Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

How many times have holiness groups used this to call us away from alcohol and other potential vices? But what about obesity? And what about not letting anything control me, whatever that may be?

Abstinence is a great idea, but should not be a requirement. The Spirit-filled life should be the requirement, with debatable issues remaining just that - debatable.

I'll have more to say, I'm sure... I just wanted to weigh in (no pun intended) as soon as I could!


servant said...

I enjoy a beer and various other tasty alcoholic beverages.... my wife and I also work very hard to prioritise our spending to be able to give as much as we can to various people and organisations.

I have an issue with any denomination that would give more attention to my liking of a nice beer than my very intentioned approach to giving and I also have an issue with any denomination that calls for people to not drink while not challenging them to be intentional about their giving to the poor etc.... our idea of holiness is whacked if it focuses around a few small activities.

I'm of the generation that raises it's eyebrows when there is talk of 'holiness codes' for clergy.

I drink on occasion, I also enjoy a cigar on very special occasions.... I also love Jesus and do my utmost to follow him as a faithful disciple.... I'm wondering why some people see that as incompatible.

Uncle Jakey said...

Unfortunately legalism is often just an easier answer; especially when trying to apply some kind of generalised standard. It's easy to say “don't drink, don't smoke” (or “I don't drink, I don't smoke). It's a lot harder to 'measure' the attitudes and motivations which are the more accurate markers of our Christ-likeness. Certainly abstaining from alcohol is not a good marker, as Jesus would, by that standard, be very un-Christ-like!

Nice quote. Good things to be thinking about and trying to outwork day to day.

Uncle Jakey.

BJ said...

Well I like the idea that Jesus could (if he chose) join the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand as its statement of beliefs and lifestyle practices are currently framed.

Of course, he would perhaps not feel the need to join a church (and he would be against denominations for sure...)