Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Holiness Movement’

(blog under construction)

Should Christians dance (or drink, or smoke, etc., etc.)? Originally the Nazarenes (CotN)(as well as many other Wesleyan Holiness denominations) banned dancing altogether, both inside and outside the churches: http://www.biblefacts.org/church/denom/holiness.html

Here’s the info regarding CotN specifically, at the above link:

“Church of the Nazarene, founded 1908, Holiness. Banned activities: dance, alcohol, smoking, theater, membership in secret societies.”

And many Conservative Holiness denominations are still very “strict” in their behaviors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative_holiness_movement (I would say they’re “living holy lives” – “strict” sounds too negative.)

Conservative Holiness denominations, unfortunately, have “loosened up” somewhat since approx. 1900-1950. Yet I remember not too long ago when one of the denominations (I forget which one) would not allow “mixed swimming” at their church camps.

The most admirable example I’ve seen in recent years was a plainly dressed born again, biblically sound Mennonite woman with a daughter about five years old. She gave her daughter a coloring book showing a little girl on the beach. But she taught her daughter to color long black dresses on the little girl (down to her ankles), on every drawing of the little girl in her bathing suit.

Was this “old fashioned” or “backward” or “legalistic”? Many evangelicals today would say “yes.” But I admire this Mennonite mother for bringing up her daughter so modestly. Her daughter would now be about 15 years old – I’m guessing she has turned out much more godly than most kids nowadays. By the way, I’m guessing her daughter was home schooled – which also helped greatly I’m sure.

We need to set the bar very high nowadays when it comes to bringing children up in a moral way. It reminds me of the following passage:

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6, KJV)

I’m pointing a finger at myself here. My stepchildren were almost out of high school by the time I got married, but there is much more I could have done (but didn’t) even in this situation to bring them up “in the Lord.”


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(revised 09/09/15)

I came across an article entitled “The Conservative Holiness Movement: A Fundamentalism File Research Report,” by Mark Sidwell. Click here for the entire original text of the article.

I found the following section especially interesting, since I admire many aspects of both the Conservative Holiness Movement and Fundamentalism. I have copied the entire section verbatim. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

The Conservative Holiness Movement and Fundamentalism
by Mark Sidwell

For many people, any kind of strongly conservative, traditional form of religion is “fundamentalist,” but such a definition ignores two important factors. First, this definition does not give sufficient weight to the historical context that spawned and shaped Protestant Fundamentalism in twentieth-century America. Second, it does not take into account how religious adherents view themselves—either as Fundamentalists who embrace the label or other religious conservatives who shun it.

In terms of both historical context and self-identification, the Conservative Holiness movement reveals some links with Fundamentalism. For example, the following description of H. Robb French’s preaching at the Interchurch Holiness Convention certainly displays similarities to the Fundamentalist position: “Brother French also was very conscious of the political tides and the dangers of communism and socialism. More than once, he pointed out the coming world church and exhorted his audiences to ‘come out from among them.’ He had little time for those who would sacrifice scriptural principle on the altar of compromise with the elements that would deny the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the virgin birth of Christ, and others of the great doctrines of the church.”[45] Yet a closer examination also reveals some significant differences.

Fundamentalist Leaven”?The Holiness movement predates Fundamentalism, and historians generally agree that Holiness teaching, at least of the Keswick variety, influenced Fundamentalism.[46] They debate, however, how much Fundamentalism influenced the Holiness movement or whether the two movements ever identified with each other.[47] Paul Bassett notes some such influence, although he characterizes it as “leaven” foreign to Wesleyan thought and theology. He argues that the Church of the Nazarene edged toward holding to biblical inerrancy only under the pressure of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy and that Holiness theologians rescued the movement from such tendencies. [48] [This doesn’t speak very highly for the Church of the Nazarene – that is, that they did not hold to biblical inerrancy.]

Susie Stanley has examined this question in even greater depth, contending that the Wesleyan and Holiness churches were “innocent bystanders” in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy.[49] This bears further research. In my opinion, even if the Conservative Holiness denominations were not actively involved in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy, they would still be considered Fundamentalist if they held to the beliefs of The Fundamentals (a series of articles from 1910-1915.]  She identifies four areas in which she concludes that Holiness Christians differed from Fundamentalists: the inerrancy of the Bible, premillennialism, women as ministers, and “social holiness” (by which she means “social justice activities undertaken by Wesleyan Holiness adherents”).[50] She argues that the first two are characteristic of Fundamentalism but are shared by only a few within the Holiness movement. The last two are, in her view, points to which Holiness Christians hold but which Fundamentalists reject. Based on her study, Stanley questions the identification of the Holiness movement with Fundamentalism.

The case of the Conservative Holiness movement suggests either that the movement has been touched by Fundamentalist leaven or that the conclusions of Basset, Stanley, and others may require some revision. Conservative Holiness adherents, for instance, have been staunch supporters of the doctrine of inerrancy. The Articles of Religion of the Bible Missionary Church say, “We believe the Holy Scriptures inerrantly reveal the will of God concerning all things necessary to our salvation.”[51] A doctrinal statement from the Pilgrim Holiness Church of New York, the Wesleyan Holiness Association of Churches, and God’s Bible School refers to the Bible as “the inerrant, infallible Word of God.”[52] Edsel Trouten published in the Convention Herald, the voice of the Interchurch Holiness Convention, a multipart defense of inerrancy.[53] Clearly, inerrancy is an important doctrine to many in the Conservative Holiness movement.

Premillennialism is likewise important. The Church of God (Holiness) is explicitly premillennial in its Articles of Faith: “The second advent of our Savior, Jesus Christ, is premillennial and visible.”[54] The Bible Missionary Church (and Griffith ’s offshoot, the Wesleyan Holiness Association of Churches) as well as the Pilgrim Holiness Church of New York are not only premillennial but also explicitly pretribulational, a position generally associated with dispensationalist Fundamentalism.[55]

However, one must offer two qualifications. First, the link between Holiness groups and premillennialism is not necessarily a link to Fundamentalism. When Methodist minister John Lakin Brasher embraced the Holiness cause in the late nineteenth century, he accepted premillennialism along with the “second blessing” of entire sanctification.[56] Before Fundamentalism ever arose, then, some Holiness Christians identified with premillennialism.

Second, not all Conservative Holiness Christians are avowedly premillennial in their statements of faith. The Doctrinal Statement of Hobe Sound Bible College makes no explicit reference to the millennium.[57] The Bible Methodist Connection of Churches teaches the imminence of Christ’s return in its constitution (para. 23) as well as a separation between the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked (para. 24), but it says, “It is not to be understood that a dissenting understanding of the millennium shall be held to break or hinder either church fellowship or membership” (para. 25). [58] One should note in this connection a group tangentially related to the Conservative Holiness movement that reflects some of these concerns, the Fundamental Wesleyan Society (FWS) formed in 1979.[59] The FWS reckons itself a part of the Holiness movement in general, and some sources identify it as a part of the Conservative Holiness movement.[60] But the group does not count itself as a part of the Conservative Holiness movement today. The chief difference is that those aligned with the FWS believe that entire sanctification is not identified with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which they say happens at regeneration.[61] In addition, many in the FWS are not as committed to the lifestyle issues that mark the Conservative Holiness movement. However, the FWS strongly asserts the doctrine of inerrancy, declaring in its Statement of Faith “that the Scriptures are inerrant, infallible, and correct even when they speak on points of history, science and philosophy.”[62] At the same time, the FWS expressly rejects premillennialism, asserting that postmillennialism is the more truly Wesleyan and biblical teaching.[63]

Separatism—Perhaps the chief distinctive of contemporary Fundamentalism has been its stress on “separation,” that the Christian should strive to free himself from worldliness, from false doctrine, and even from ecclesiastical connections to other Christians who willfully persist in sin.[64] The Conservative Holiness movement obviously owes its origin to concerns about growing worldliness. Furthermore, it is a “come-out” movement that has emerged from another come-out movement. Some in the movement acknowledged their debt to Fundamentalism. Edsel Trouten’s use of Baptist Fundamentalist Chester Tulga has been previously noted. Conservative Holiness ministers warn other believers against “compromising their convictions of separation.”[65]

Yet the context of these separatist comments is often different, sometimes subtly so, sometimes more obviously. Generally, Conservative Holiness Christians stress a separation based more on practice than on doctrine. Dale Hallaway writes, “We are currently faced with the necessity of ‘earnestly contending for the faith,’” but he means by this “that we stand firmly for old-fashioned principles which govern one’s conduct in all areas of life.”[66] One could perhaps view the original Holiness secessions of the late 1800s and early 1900s as doctrinal, since they involved a defense of the doctrine of entire sanctification against the hostility of denominational leaders. But the Conservative Holiness withdrawals centered more on behavioral questions, matters of dress and entertainment. Conservative Holiness leaders expressed doctrinal concerns, but they gave them second place generally to concern about eroding standards of holiness. In this emphasis, the Conservative Holiness movement differs from Fundamentalism, whose basis of separation revolved, theoretically, around more purely doctrinal concerns.

Making a Distinction—The most obvious evidence for or against viewing the Conservative Holiness movement as Fundamentalist is how those within the movement identify themselves. Even this approach yields only a qualified answer at best. A writer in the Fundamental Wesleyan Society says plainly, “We are fundamentalists,”[67] as the very name of the organization would indicate. Still, elsewhere he writes with qualification, “While we may feel that the rest of the holiness movement should have taken more seriously the contributions of fundamentalism, yet inherent in fundamentalism is a spirit of legalism and intolerance passed down from its Calvinistic roots. [Such comments are very common among New Evangelicals and their sympathizers.] Today the conservative holiness movement is not only contending for fundamental Christian doctrine, but it is also infected with the dogmatic spirit of fundamentalism.”[68] Even then, the FWS is only at the edge of the Conservative Holiness movement.

Tom McCasland, brought up in the Conservative Holiness movement, says that he was “taught to identify myself as a fundamentalist evangelical.” However, he has come to reject Fundamentalism, which he identifies with the conservative faction within the Southern Baptist Convention. He charges that Fundamentalism is hostile toward the use of reason, that it rejects historical tradition as a guideline, and that it reduces the Bible to “limp leather” and “a book of propositions.”[69] [Again, such comments are very similar to those made by New Evangelicals.]

Discounting McCasland’s critique of current application of the term, it is significant that some Conservative Holiness Christians at one time thought of themselves as “Fundamentalist.” The sticking point in such identification would likely be how far self-professed Fundamentalists and Conservative Holiness believers are willing to agree to disagree. The Fundamentalist movement has never had a particularly strong Methodist contingent,[70] and the since the 1950s the movement has been overwhelmingly Baptist in composition. [What this author fails to mention here, is the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1948, as well as the rise of the Billy Graham ecumenical crusades in the 1950s. Fundamentalists split into two groups over these and similar issues. Namely, separatist Fundamentalists – primarily Baptists – and nonseparatist Fundamentalists.] The question would be how much Fundamentalists would be willing to overlook Wesleyan Holiness distinctives (notably falling from grace and entire sanctification) and how much Conservative Holiness adherents would be willing to cooperate with those who reject their distinctives.

[I believe it is critical to separate from New Evangelicals, including the National Association of Evangelicals, Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusades, etc. My big question is which denominations, if any, in the Conservative Holiness Movement separated from New Evangelicals?]

The history of the Evangelical Methodist Church illustrates the tensions inherent in a Fundamentalist-Holiness relationship. Founded in 1946 as a protest against growing liberalism in the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Methodist Church contained both Holiness and non-Holiness factions. Eventually, the tension grew too great, and in 1952 the denomination split over the issue of entire sanctification. [Was the issue of New Evangelicals not a factor also? This needs to be researched.] The non-Holiness segment, led by W. W. Breckbill, took the more ardently Fundamentalist position, aligning itself with the American Council of [Christian] Churches, a Fundamentalist alliance.[71] In this case, mutual opposition to liberalism was not sufficient to make up for deep differences over the doctrine of sanctification. Once the split took place, those opposed to entire sanctification found themselves more comfortable in the Fundamentalist camp. This story reproduces in miniature the general outline of Fundamentalist-Holiness interaction.


In his History of Fundamentalism in America, George Dollar uses the label “Orthodox Allies” to describe conservatives who were not in the Fundamentalist camp. His definition of the term is too narrow, excluding some self-professed Fundamentalists.[72] But the concept has value nonetheless, as in the present case. One cannot honestly equate Fundamentalism with the Conservative Holiness movement. To do so would sweep too much evidence under the rug. Nonetheless the two movements have similar concerns in addition to their differences. Both reject theological liberalism and both enunciate a strong separatist position. The Holiness view may place more stress on personal separation, and Fundamentalism may be known more for its ecclesiastical separation, but neither group would deny the other aspect. Their interaction, although limited, suggests they are orthodox allies. The closeness of their alliance will likely depend on the nature of the foe they face and their willingness to forego some of their distinctives for the sake of unity.

[Besides the author not mentioning New Evangelicalism, I have another issue. He barely mentions the historical basis of Fundamentalism: The Fundamentals, a series of articles published from 1910-1915. It would be very interesting to see 1) a list of the doctrines put forth in The Fundamentals articles. And 2) how many of these doctrines the Conservative Holiness Movement agreed with.]

[Another problem with this article is the ambiguous definition of “Fundamentalism.” Does Fundamentalist mean those on the Fundamentalist side of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy? Or does Fundamentalist mean those who hold to The Fundamentals articles from 1910-1915? Or does Fundamentalist mean the separatist Independent Fundamentalist Baptists? Or does Fundamentalist mean nonseparatist Baptists? There are many meanings to the term Fundamentalism, as opposed to a more simple, clear cut meaning for the term “Conservative Holiness Movement.”]


[45] Leonard Sankey, “Our Fortieth Year,” May–June 1991, pp. 2–3.

[46] See George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870–1925 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 72–101.

[47] For a brief discussion of this issue, see Mark Sidwell, “Methodism and Fundamentalism: A Survey,” Biblical Viewpoint 29, no. 2 (1995): 90–92.

[48] Paul Merritt Bassett, “The Fundamentalist Leavening of the Holiness Movement, 1914–1940, The Church of the Nazarene: A Case Study,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 13 (1978): 65–91.

[49] Susie Stanley, “Wesleyan/Holiness Churches: Innocent Bystanders in the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy,” in Re-forming the Center: American Protestantism, 1900 to the Present, ed. Douglas Jacobsen and William Vance Trollinger (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), pp. 172–93.

[50] Ibid., p. 190.

[51] J. Gordon Melton, ed., The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1988), p. 323. The wording comes originally from the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene. Commenting on the Nazarene version, Stanley notes (pp. 178–79) that inerrancy is applied only to things “necessary to our salvation,” not in matters of history and science, as most Fundamentalists affirm. However, Bassett notes (p. 74) that this phrase was added in 1928 by factions within the Church of the Nazarene sympathetic to Fundamentalism. There is every indication that Glenn Griffith and the others who founded the Bible Missionary Church understood this article, in the case of their church, as teaching full inerrancy.

[52] J. Gordon Melton, ed., The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds, vol. 2 (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1994), p. 161.

[53] Edsel Trouten, “The Conservative Holiness Movement and the Inerrancy Issue,” appearing in six consecutive issues of the Convention Herald from March through September 1981. See also “International Council on Bible Inerrancy,” Convention Herald, February 1978, p. 2.

[54] Melton, Religious Creeds (1988), p. 288.

[55] Ibid., p. 324; Melton, Religious Creeds, vol. 2, p. 162.

[56] Brasher, The Sanctified South, p. 62.

[57] It says only that Christ “is coming again to receive the church as His bride” and that “There will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the unsaved and the unsaved”; the Doctrinal Statement is found at http://www.hsbc.edu/doc.html.

[58] “Constitution of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches.”

[59] For information on the Fundamental Wesleyan Society, see http://members2.visualcities.com/fwp. The organization’s periodical, Arminian Magazine, is also found on-line at http://wesley.nnc.edu/arminian. Note in particular C. Marion Brown, “For Such a Time as This,” Arminian Magazine, Fall 1995, and Vic Reasoner, “What Is a Fundamental Wesleyan?” Arminian Magazine, part 1, Spring 1995; part 2, Fall 1995.

[60] The host on the Internet for Arminian Magazine, Northwest Nazarene University , identifies the periodical as “a publication from the conservative holiness movement.”

[61] Its teaching on entire sanctification is detailed in the following articles by Vic Reasoner from the Fall 1998 issue of Arminian Magazine: “Interpreting the Word Accurately,” Fall 1998, and “John Fletcher Revised.” Reasoner also set forth this view in his book The Hole in the Holiness Movement, which led to an exchange with the Interchurch Holiness Convention. See Edsel Trouten, “Holes in The Hole of the Holiness Movement,Convention Herald, Jan.–Feb. 1993, pp. 4–5, and Vic Reasoner, “Plugging the Holes,” Arminian Magazine, Fall 1993. In his rebuttal, Reasoner charges that the Conservative Holiness movement is not really “conservative” because its view of entire sanctification modifies the teaching of John Wesley.

[62] “Statement of Faith,” http://members2.visualcities.com/fwp/statement.html. See also Vic Reasoner, “Defining Biblical Inerrancy,” Arminian Magazine, Fall 1998.

[63] See particularly the articles in Fall 1984 issue of Arminian Magazine: C. Marion Brown, “Editorial”; Robert L. Brush, “Is the Second Advent of Our Lord Imminent?”; Vic Reasoner, “Are There Two Phases to Christ’s Second Advent?” (refuting pretribulationism); and Elmer Long, “The Design of the Gospel.” See also Vic Reasoner, “The Obituary of Dispensationalism: 1830–1988,” Arminian Magazine, Spring 1990.

[64] These concepts are summarized and discussed from the Fundamentalist viewpoint in Mark Sidwell, The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation (Greenville, S.C.: Bob Jones University Press, 1998).

[65] Bryan , “The Interchurch Holiness Convention: A History,” p. 9

[66] Dale L. Hallaway, “Will We Remain—A ‘Conservative’ Holiness Movement?” Convention Herald, March–April 1987, p. 6.

[67] Reasoner, “What Is a Fundamental Wesleyan?” part 2.

[68] Vic Reasoner, “The Spirit of Tolerance,” Arminian Magazine, Winter 1993.

[69] Tom McCasland, “Why I Am No Longer a Fundamentalist: A Confession,” http://www.baylor.edu/~Thomas_McCasland/fund.htm.

[70] See Sidwell, “Methodism and Fundamentalism: A Survey.”

[71] On the Evangelical Methodist Church , see J. H. Hamblen, A Look into Life: An Autobiography (Abliene, Tex.: J. H. Hamblen, 1969), pp. 117–37, for the viewpoint of the Holiness faction, and Randy Hilton, The History of the Evangelical Methodist Conference (Kingsport, Tenn.: Able Printers, 1994), for the viewpoint of the non-Holiness faction.

[72] George W. Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America (Greenville, S.C.: Bob Jones University Press, 1973), pp. 173-83. Dollar appears to limit Fundamentalism basically to those of a Baptist and dispensationalist viewpoint.

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