I would label myself theologically as:
1) Saved – a converted, born again Christian (John chapter 3)
2) Sanctified – separated from worldly sins, totally committed to the Lord (Romans 12:1-2)
3) Spirit filled – I prefer this to the term Spirit baptized. I do not believe tongues is a necessary initial sign of being Spirit filled (the Second Blessing).
4) Soul winning – passionately witnessing to people, carrying out the Great Commission. This does not include the Great Commandment, which postmoderns have twisted into a social gospel combined with the Great Commission. Yes, we should love our neighbor, but compassion/social justice/being missional will not get people saved – they have to hear the gospel message of what I call “the Blood and the Cross”.
5) Separatist – practicing primary and secondary ecclesiastical separation from those who teach heresies/false teachings/serious errors
6) Textus Receptus only – holding to translations of the Textus Receptus New Testament and Masoretic Old Testament in various languages. I believe that in the English speaking world, the best such translation by far is the KJV.
7) Premillenial, leaning towards Post-Trib
8) Wesleyan Holiness – I most closely identify with the Conservative Holiness movement
Note – in point #7 above, I am using the term “fundamentalist” as an adherent of most of the articles in The Fundamentals of 1910-1915. Some writers of The Fundamentals fell short of being biblically sound (see Footnote #1).
There were many “born again separatist fundamentalist Wesleyan Holiness” churches prior to the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1942. Unfortunately, in the years that followed, many Wesleyan Holiness churches abandoned the practices of primary separation and secondary separation.
I must admit, I love many of today’s Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, particularly those recommended by Bro. David Cloud. I do not necessarily agree with all IFB doctrinal positions. But IFB churches historically hold to many of the same standards Wesleyan Holiness fundamentalists held prior to 1942 – including ecclesiastical separation and “militant fundamentalism” i.e. speaking out strongly against modernism, etc. (Unfortunately, ecclesiastical separation and militant fundamentalism are two traits Dr. Reasoner opposes – see his comments at the end of the repost below.)
I do not necessarily agree with all the theological views of Dr. Reasoner. The following article by Dr. Reasoner does nonetheless represent most of my views. Another caveat – I do not agree with everything on the website which provided this article, but I found this specific article to be “right on” for the most part. Click on the article titles for the original sources of the articles (Parts I and II). I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].
WHAT IS A FUNDAMENTAL WESLEYAN? [Part I]
Dr. Vic Reasoner
Every generation must apply the timeless truths of Scripture to their contemporary questions. While it is enough under ordinary circumstances to profess faith in Jesus Christ, throughout the history of the Christian Church there have been major disagreements as to the proper explanation of our faith. We do not desire to be divisive, but we believe we are to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
1. We are earnest Christians
God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. We endeavor to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
We have no desire to break fellowship with any brother or sister whom God has accepted into the spiritual family. We seek to maintain the “Catholic Spirit” exemplified by John Wesley’s famous sermon by that title. The word “ecumenical” refers to worldwide Christian unity and cooperation. In the early days of the Christian Church there were four major ecumenical councils which reaffirmed the teachings of Scripture and kept the Church on track. These councils did not convene because the Scriptures were not sufficient, but in the face of contemporary questions the councils convened to state a scriptural response.
In more recent times, though, ecumenical gatherings have even included those who have denied the faith. In order to reach a consensus these councils have sought unity at the lowest common denominator. Unlike the early councils which promoted orthodoxy, the modern ecumenical movement has been too willing to compromise orthodoxy for the sake of union. truth is not determined by a denomination board and we dare not surrender our conscience to any ecclesiastical hierarchy.
2. We are Protestants
Although some evangelicals are now expressing a willingness to cooperate with Rome, the greatest unresolved issue is the issue of authority. We maintain, along with Luther, that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. What Luther means by sola scriptura is essentially what Wesley meant by homo unius libri (a man of one book). When challenged that he misunderstood the scriptural teaching on the new birth, Wesley wrote in his Journal, that he turned to his Greek New Testament “resolving to abide by ‘the law and the testimony,’ and being confident that God would hereby show me ‘whether this doctrine was of God.'”
We reject the apocryphal books declared four hundred years ago to be Scripture by the Roman Church at the Council of Trent. In opposition to the Roman Catholic coupling of Scripture and church tradition as joint rules of faith we stand for the sufficiency of Scripture. There is no dual authority. John Wesley explained
The faith of the Protestants, in general, embraces only those truths, as necessary to salvation, which are clearly revealed in the oracles of God. Whatever is plainly declared in the Old and New Testament is the object of their faith. They believed neither more nor less than what is manifestly contained in, and provable by, the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God is a “lantern to their feet, and a light in all their paths.” They dare not, on any pretence, go from it, to the right hand or to the left. The written Word is the whole and sole rules of their faith, as well as practice. They believe whatsoever God has declared, and profess to do whatsoever He hath commanded. This is the proper faith of Protestants: by this they will abide and no other (“On Faith,” sermon #106).
In his statement on “The Character of a Methodist,” Wesley affirmed “the written word of God to be the only and sufficient rule both of Christian faith and practice; and herein we are fundamentally distinguished from those of the Romish Church.”
We watch with concern the developments surrounding the manifesto “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.” The Roman Catholic Church pronounced at the Council of Trent over four hundred years ago that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is anathema.
John Wesley affirmed with Martin Luther that justification by faith alone was “the article by which the Church stands or falls” (see “The Lord Our Righteousness, sermon #20). We stand with Martin Luther and raise our voices in protest against all who deny that salvation is by grace through faith. Until this position is officially accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, we remain Protestants.
WHAT IS A FUNDAMENTAL WESLEYAN? [Part II]
Dr. Vic Reasoner
3. We are Wesleyan-Arminians
Although the name of James Arminius is still maligned, few have matched him in scholarship and sainthood. In contrast to the rigid dogmatism that so often accompanies those who contend for the faith, Wesley cautioned, “It is the duty of every Arminian preacher, first, never in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach.”
When Arminianism loses the balance of the Holy Spirit it becomes humanistic, teaching we are saved by an act of our free will. Likewise, Calvinism tends toward fatalism. Wesley argued for a balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. He said Methodism came within a hair’s breadth of Calvinism by ascribing all good to the free grace of God, by denying all natural free will, and in excluding all human merit. Therefore, as fundamental Wesleyans we have as much in common with conservative Calvinism as with liberal Arminianism.
In agreement with Calvinism we affirm man’s natural inability to do good apart from divine grace. In contrast to Calvinism, we believe the Scriptures teach a conditional election, a universal atonement, prevenient grace, and conditional perseverance.
Wesley affirmed the position of Arminius while giving a new emphasis to the witness of the Spirit and sanctification. Wesley also observed, “Who has wrote more ably than Martin Luther on justification by faith alone? And who was more ignorant of the doctrine of sanctification, or more confused in his conceptions of it?”
As Wesleyans we believe in an infallible Book, the fall and sinfulness of mankind, a universal atonement, and prevenient grace. The work of the Holy Spirit in awakening, conviction, repentance, and faith produces all these gifts from God. We believe in justification by faith, regeneration through the baptism with the Spirit, and adoption into the family of God. We believe in the necessity of the new birth, which gives victory over outward sin and is always attested to by the direct witness of the Holy Spirit. We believe that the indwelling Spirit begins the process of sanctification and brings assurance witnessing with our own spirit. We believe the Spirit will lead us to Christian maturity as individuals and through the outpouring of the Spirit in revival, the kingdom of God will cover the earth.
4. We are fundamentalists
By the turn of the twentieth century historic Christianity was under attack. Fundamentalism at its best was a modern attempt to defend historic Christianity. With the validity of the Bible under attack, fundamentalism was originally a battle for the Bible.
Since the modern fundamentalist movement came a hundred years after Wesley we would not expect him to use their precise language. If you read secondary sources about Wesley by liberal authors, you will find he always seems to agree with them. However, if you read Wesley himself you find him saying, “My ground is the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible-bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small.” “Believe nothing they say, unless it is clearly confirmed by plain passages of holy writ.” “If there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there is one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.”
We recognize Adam Clarke as a pioneer in the comparison of biblical texts, known as lower or textual criticism. Yet Clarke concluded, “Men may err, but the Scriptures cannot; for it is theWord of God himself, who can neither mistake, deceive, nor be deceived” (Works, 12:132, see also Commentary, 5:11). However, we deny the value of and reject the conclusions of destructive higher criticism which starts with naturalistic presuppositions. Modern Wesleyan scholars have all too often capitulated to the higher critic in an attempt to gain acceptability for our message. But once our doctrinal source is impugned our message is stripped of its authority.
William Abraham wrote The Coming Great Revival in 1984, declaring that modern evangelicalism is at an impasse. The dilemma of evangelicalism is whether it will revert back to fundamentalism or blend in with liberalism? Abraham feels that the Wesleyan tradition has a solution to this impasse, but only if we purify ourselves of our fundamentalist corruption, repudiate the inerrancy of Scripture, and make a “bold and unqualified commitment to critical work in biblical studies.” But revival has come when the integrity of the Word of God was upheld and preached it with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. If we replace the living bread of God’s infallible Word with the barren stone of higher criticism, we have nothing to contribute to the impasse and we will move towards apostasy, not revival.
While Wesley argued for liberty concerning nonessentials, he also believed there are essential Christian doctrines which must be maintained in order to be Christian. In his preface to theNotes Upon the Old Testament, Wesley spoke of “those grand, fundamental doctrines, original sin, justification by faith, the new birth, inward and outward holiness.”
However, we must defend Christian doctrine with a Christlike spirit. Fundamentalism has too often been associated with harsh, bitter attitude, a separatist mentality, and a bizarre form of prophecy known as “dispensationalism.” [I would disagree with Dr. Reasoner regarding this previous sentence – I believe we should have a “separatist mentality” i.e. practice ecclesiastical separation. And although I am not completely comfortable with dispensationalism, I am premillenial (unlike dispensationalists, I am leaning towards a post-Trib view). Dr. Reasoner, on the other hand, is not even in the same eschatological ballpark – he is a postmillenial preterist; see the latter part of this article.]
We are fundamentalists only so long as we define what constitutes the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. And unlike militant fundamentalism , we endeavor the practice the “catholic spirit” of love towards our Christian neighbor with whom we may disagree. Our use of the word fundamental primarily refers to the Scripture as our sole authority. [Here too I would differ with Dr. Reasoner; I admire the “militant fundamentalism” of Independent Fundamentalist Baptists today who speak out loudly against ecumenism, modernism, etc. And this militant fundamentalism was common among Wesleyan Holiness denominations before the National Association of Evangelicals was formed in 1942.]
As early as 1916 J. B. Chapman, editor of the Herald of Holiness, wrestled with this terminology. He stated that Nazarenes believed in the fundamentals and then proceeded to give his list of fundamental doctrines. However, if the question is raised whether Nazarenes are Fundamentalists, using the term as a proper noun, Chapman answered, “Yes, with reservations.” While Chapman had reservations about certain Calvinistic tendencies among Fundamentalists, there was no reservation, however, concerning the inerrancy of Scripture. We are in agreement with Chapman at this point.
Our commission is to preach the whole Book to the whole world. We are to preach a free gospel for all men and a full gospel from all sin. Anything short of this is neither apostolic nor Wesleyan.
#1) See the quote from Bro. David Cloud, found here. I have emphasized certain points by bolding:
The authors of The Fundamentals represented the broader approach to fundamentalism. They held a wide variety of doctrine, some holding very serious doctrinal errors. For example, James Orr of Scotland denied the verbal inspiration of Scripture and allowed for theistic evolution. J. Campbell Morgan denied the literal fire of hell and believed that men could be saved even if they do not hear of nor believe in Christ.
Some men who started out with the fundamentalist movement turned back and renounced their former position. For example, A.C. Dixon was the executive secretary of the committee that produced The Fundamentals. Historian George Dollar observes that though Dixon was a fundamentalist for many years, he “deserted because of the stigmas and battles of separatism.” Dixon helped found the Baptist Bible Union in opposition to the liberal Northern Baptist Convention, but “right in the middle of the fiercest battles against the liberals within the convention, Dixon abruptly and without warning turned in his resignation.” He went back into the very denomination that he had left and publicly called upon others to do the same. There were many sad cases like this that discouraged and confused the hearts of those who were in the battle for the truth.
FOR FURTHER READING
Harriet A. Harris, Fundamentalism and Evangelicals – many pages viewable online here. Although Ms. Harris takes a generally critical view of Fundamentalism, she nonetheless provides many helpful historical details.