Dr. James D. Strauss Theology and Philosophy, Lincoln Christian Seminary

Spirit of God

Christian Existence/Theological Ethics

Spiritual Development


I. Distinctive Idea of Holiness in the Old Testament: God


A.    Occasions of Holiness in the Old Testament - things, persons


B.     Relationship of CT Occasions to NT Occasions of Holiness

              1.       Holiness of God

              2.       Holiness of Jesus Christ

3.       Holiness of the Church (People of God)


C.     OT Witness to God’s Perfection


              Tanrun - perfection; kajdosh


1.   Concept differs radically in structure and character from all contemporary, non-Hebrew,

           Near Eastern religious understandings.

2.   Divine/Hunan perfection in CT is not the harmony with the natural- order, an abstract

postulate or the result of mere consistent logical thinking, not the ethical ideal of pure      moral virtues as in classical Greek philosophies.


D. OT never uses the term “perfection” (tarajn, salem) as a predicate for God.


E.      God’s perfection is only described in terms of relationship with man, and with His covenant



F.      God’s perfection is revealed in definite historical situations in behalf of keeping and fulfilling His covenant.


G.    Perfection is never a ‘norm’ outside or above God, one that he must answer to or fulfill.


H.    In the OT God is the norm of perfection, righteousness, truth, mercy, and grace (synonymous

              expressions or explanatory elucidations).


I.        The Rock, His work is perfect (tamim); for all His ways are justice (nispat). A God of  faithfulness (‘enunah) and without iniquity, just (saddiq) and right (yasar) is us. Deut 32.                            A; II Sam 2?. 31; Ps 18.30; Isa 45.19 “...I declare what is right.”


J.        -God’s Premise - Fulfiller of Gen 18.25; 28.17,31.53 - Bethel (“How awesome is this place.”)

              Ex 3.6-8,17. (W. F. Albright, Yahweh and The Gods of Canaan, 1966, pp. 168-172 argues hifil form of verb hvy meaning He causes to be, or It is He who creates what cones into               existence; and G. A. Larue, “Recent Studies in Hesed,” pp. 1-32; and my Occasions of Grace               in An Achievement World.)


K.    His Hesed is normal by the Covenant. Is 11.8-9; Ps 105.5;               Ps 19.7ff -.Law is perfect,         reviving the soul. . .”; Ps 12.6 (pure - Tenor) ~


L. OT term - rt. ThN (to be complete, blameless) occurs 132 tires in the OT.

              1.       ca. 65 - have cultic quantitative meaning

              2.       others have a personal qualitative meaning

              3.       LXX Translation:

                             a.        by ancmos, except Ex 12.5 (teleios)

                             b.       by adikos, alethinos, dikaios, teleics

                             c.        Hebrew - salem (intact, coiplete, blameless) occurs 27 tines - LXX pleres used in ethical contexts

              4.       In the NT “teleios” occurs 17 times; teleion 23 times (9 in Hebrew) and a derivative of this                            root 4 times.



Paul J. DuhLessis, Teleios: The Idea of Perfection in the NT.   Extensive critique by Karl Prumn-Pruenm, “Das neutestamentliche Sprach - und Begriffs problems der Vollkomenheit,” in Biblica. 44 (1963):76-92; Eichrodt.. Theology of The Old Testament, IT, 1967 (Chap. 21, esp. pp. 268-277; 290-301); H. Ringgren, Prophetical Conception of Holiness (1948).


Holiness of God is not intent upon creating distance and estrangement but upon true communion and close fellowship and loyalty between God and man, and consequently between man and neighbor, Isaiah 5.16.


M.   Moses uses terms justice (naspat), just (saddiq), right (yasor) as virtually synonyms of God’s perfection, DC 32.4; Ps 31.Iff; 33.24, 71.2, 88.11-12 - God’s righteousness is being used               synonymously with ‘errunah - faithfulness and. with hesed, and used in connection with             qodes, sedeq, hesed, tamim (is very intimate - occasions of grace and holiness)..


N.    Perfection - following:   not striving for an unattainable goal/ideal, but in the sense of a    gracious Indtatio Dei,   E. Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 173-77.


II.   Human Perfection in the Old Testament


1.          Creation—faith; redemption—faith; Genesis 1.1 - 2.4a


A.    Creator God and His Holiness

1.       Noetic order - creation, salvation

2.       Ontic order


Earth, K/D, HI. 1, p. 370; K/D HI p. 423; Earth; von Rad - salvation, creation


B.     Imago Dei and Man’s “Imitation Dei.”

C.     Scriptures indicate the perfection of Noah (Gen 6.9), Abraham (Gen 17.1; 26.5; Job 1.1), true

Israel (Ps 84.11; Ps 119.1; Prov 11.20) Earth and ultimate perfection of God’s glory.   Theo-

centric, Israel-centric, universal scope of covenant.


D.    God’s Redeemership presupposes His Creatorship.   “Creator and Lord of History.”   Intimate

relationship of God; Israel - father - child; huranity - God (Gen 1); image/likeness.   Imago

is both gift and task - privilege and responsibility.


E.      him in Babylonian creation epic.   Ehuna fills - man is created to serve and look after the god

in Uic cultus as a slave (ANLT. “Creation Epic” Tablet VI, pp. GSff).   “He [nun] shall be

diarged with die sendee of tJic gods that they might be at ease!”   In Israel, men walk with Ca!/fcl.lo.rfJtip, nornl will ns son with faLlier, Gen 5.22-24.    (Rev 21.5-6 - aU tilings node new Divine word will k> fulf.i.l]«I.    “Csgwn” - it is done.


2         Human Perfection in Israel’s Cultus/Ethos:


A.    Imitatio Dei - cultus/covenant


B.     Israel’s cultus - ultimately qualified by its salvation history, i.e., deliverance from Israel

by historical Exodus and The Sinaitic covenant which constituted Israel as the peculiar, holy

people of God.


C.     God’s faithfulness to His promise


D.    Israel’s whole ethos, of holiness, obedience and social righteousness, consequently, was conditioned by and grounded on Yahweh’s preveniant and saving act - Exodus Covenant.


DC. 6.4ff. - You shall love (12.20-23; Lev 16.12-13.


F.      Following God (halak ‘ ah a re Yahwed) Dt 13.4 (MIS).   Perfect obedience - not impossible

              ideal but rightful expectation and obligatory realities in Israel’s Ethos.   Dt 1.36 (nrille’ 

ah a re).   God - Jos 14.8-9, 14.6-15, to this day - Caleb’s faithful following of God.

(Michaelis, TENT, V, 9ff - way, two ways)


G.    Three functionaries - prophet, priest, king; walk in God’s way (E. Jacob, Theology of the Old

Testament ET, 1958, p. 233).   Israel’s vocation to walk (halak) in Yahweh’s ways.


H.    Theme of Following of Yahweh - Kings, Chronicles, 18,21, Josiah’s cultus reform II Kgs

23.3ff, 21; II Cnr 34.31-33, 35. 1-19. I.   Does the OT define perfection as sinlessness?


1.       Vocabulary of blamelessness or perfection.   Tamin (21 tines in Psalms) and salem. (G.

Liscwsky, Konkordenz, 195B - Pss 7.9 (Ehg. 8); 26.1-11; 41.13 (Eng 12); 78.72; 101.2;

25.21; Tara (complete perfect) 37.37; 64.5 (Eng 4); Tern (perfection, integrity); Taiiim

(complete, perfect, blameless) - 15.2; 84.12 (Eng 11); 101.2,6; 119.1, 80.   No references

to salem.


2.       The Psalms reproduce and conserve the Torah in Israel’s cultus, in her liturgy, songs and

prayers, i.e., in her religious life and ethos.   The great historical facts recorded in’ the Pentateuch meet with a wide response in the poetical songs, egs. Pss 11; 18; 29; 78; 95; 105; 106; and especially 19 and 119.


3.       Ethos is Wisdom Literature: Job 28.28; Prov 15.35. TOT:   Job 4.6; 21.23; Prov 2.7; 10.9; 10.29; 19.1; 20.7; 28.6; 13.6; Tarn:   Job 1.8-; 2.3; 8.20; 9.20; 21.22; Ct. 5.2; Prov 29.10

Tunrah (perfection, integrity): Job 2.3, 9; 27.5; 31.6; Prov. 11.3 Tantim: ‘ Job 37.16; 12.4, 36.4; Prov 11.5; 28.16; 11.12; 2.21; 11.20; 28.10.   No reference to salon.


4.       Chronicles - not one reference to rt TM-1 is found; they contain however, the term salem 9 tires o[ which 8 arc directly related to lei) (afc): I Chr 12.29; 28.9; 29.9, 19; 1] Oir 8.3

16 (connected with house), 15.17; 16.9; 19.9; 25.2.


5.       Religions - moral foundations of die Psalms and wisdom literature.  All ncn are d’.vidtxl into two groups:   the righteous (saddiqim) and the wicked (resa’im).   The. saddiqim are those who love God and do “what is right” to their fellow Israelites vhen these also are suppressed and persecuted, i.e., they live in obedience to the Torah. (egs. Ps 15.4; 1.2; IS.lff; 19.17ff; 119.14-16, 35.   Psalm 1.1 successively pchts to sins of thoughts, acts, and words.   The r^sa0^ live a different lifestyle and lack love for God and His • torah - as motivation of these actions.   These two different relations to God and His law manifest themselves necessarily in two fundamentally different ways of life or social ethoses.


The deepest motive of Israel’s rcorality in cultus and hckmah is the “fear of Yahweh” (yir* at yhwh). The wicked one or fool in Israel ‘is therefore ultimately characterized not by his imrorality but by his irreligiosity; he says in his heart - “There is no god” i.e., (Hebrew rt fool is “calloused one”).   In contrast, the saddiq is characterized as not merely virtuous or ethically perfect, but as the “haro religiosus” who, motivated by God’s love, trusts and obeys Him according to the cultic and socio-ethical cormand-ments of the covenant.


Pss 25.14, 102.15, 111.10, 119.38, 130.4; Xb 28.28; Prov 1.7, 3.7, 9.10; Eccl 5.7, 12.13. See Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament II, pp. 263-277, 309-110; Vriezen, Outline of Old Testament Theology, pp. 253-256.


6.       Perfection in cultus and ethos:   sinlessness?   Neither the Torah nor the Psalms assume that the sincere Israelite can live in obedience to God’s Torah without atonement, without the need of forgiveness, i.e., sinless.   (Gen 8,21; Lev 4; Pss 14.1-3, 40-7ff; 143.2, 130.3fC; Job 14.4; I Kgs 8.46; II Cnr 6.35)  On the prophet’s view of sin, see Snaith, Distinctive Ideas, 1957, pp. 65-63.


Quite the contrary, the Psalms reveal the need and necessity for God’s forgiving and keeping redeeming grace (Pss 19^12-14, 139.23-24).   Yahweh’s Hesed is man’s constant hope. Consistently the Psalms reveal that God’s Hesed arouses consciousness of sin and need for repentence not only, because of SOTE sinful act* but because of one’s sinful being (Pss 51.5, 32, 58.3).   Perhaps G. Van der Lseuw is correct, “it is the Book of Psalms that exhibits to the true nature of sin and guilt more clearly than perhaps any other literature,” (Religion in Essence and Manifestation in (1963) p. 522.


The deep conviction concerning sin and guilt of the individual psa1nri.gr exceeds the ceremonial ideas of uncleanness and purification.   Psalm 19 intensifies die priestly distinction of sins done (bis c gaga - by error, inadvertently) and sins done with intentionality, presumptuously) as taught in Nun 15.27-31 (beyad rama).


7.       E&vid’s prayer:   “But who can discern his errors (segi’ot):   Qear thou we from hidden faults (mLstarot).   Keep back thy (naqqena) servant also frcm presumptuous sins:   let then not have dominion over me!   Then I shall be blameless (‘etarn, ‘Qal.’ - imperfect of  Tamam) innocent of great transgressions (Ps 19.12-13; Mt 19.13-14),   Here perfection is undeniably indicated to be not inherent sinlessness, but a consistent valk with God. The valk is both requirement and gift.   Eavid so declares in Ps 32.5 - “You did forgive (nasa’ta, take away) the guilt (‘awon) of my sin (hattati).”  The guilt is weighing “like a burden too heavy.”   Ps 38.4 - see Quell in TIM I, p. 28, pp. 36ff, (harmartano); onPs 51 see H. H. Rowley, The Meaning of Sacrifice, pp. 98ff.    Ebvid understood as did Paul later, that Torah cannot make a sinful person perfect.   Eavid points us to the living source of a perfect socio-ethical relationship, the personal covenant with God (Ps 25.24,42.1ff).   Sin causes separation and alienation from God; forgiveness destroys the enmity between man and God.   Mien God removes guilt, He restores relationship.   Significantly, Hebrew uses the saoe word for both sin and guilt; contra Freud’s social-origins-theory of guilt (eg. Ps 32.4-5, see Quell 7WT I, p. 280).


Personal perfection is not described in terms of a sinless nature but of gracious fellow ship with the Holy Gracious God. This restored relationship is the context in which the deep awareness of sin is correlated with the intense joy of salvation (Cf. Ps 19.8, 4.7, 63.5-7; on the there of joy see W. Eichrodt, Man in the OT, pp. 34ff).


8.       Perfection (tanrim) as cultic requirement for entering the sanctuary - Ps 15 “. . .He who walks blamelessly (tamim.), and does what is right(sedeq) and speaks truth (‘emst) frcm his heart” (vss 1,2).   After these three positive stipulations, the psalmist considers seven specifically negative requirements (see also Ex 20; Lev 19.11ff; Ez 18.5-9), all dealing with the socio-ethical conduct ‘within the covenant context.  This redemptive soteriology emphatically retains the foundation for Israel’s cultus and ethos (see W. Gutbrod ‘Noras’ TOOT, IV, pp. 1029-1037; see relationship of morality, blessing, cultus, and God’s grace in G. Von Rad, Theology of the Old Testament I, 1951, p. 378; J. Pederson, Israel I-II, pp. 182ff.).   “Blessing is to be created, increased, and secured through the cult. ...   We see that the blessing comprises everything in life” -Ps 5.7, 69.13, 36.7-9, 16.1-5, 23, 24.3-5, 63.3-6, 73.23-28, 118. 19-20, 142.5.


Isaiah 26.2 - Here a radical contrast with lieathen cultus becores apparent, “. . .to be a guest of Goal msa.it sensual indulgence and gross imrorality; to be a guest of Yahweh meant the character described in Pss 15, 24.1-6.”   FCN. Hicks, The Fullness of Sacrifice, 1946, p. 94.


The prerequisite of approaching God’s presence in the sanctuary at the cultic festival was not sinlessness, but the confession of sin and guilt.   Pss 25.6ff, 51.17-19, 34.18, 81, 95; Isa 55.7, 57.15, 66.1.   Ch Psalms, see Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel’s hbrship I-H, et. 1961; also Vfestennann, The Praise of God in the Psalms.


The cultus was justified in claiming the ethos of social righteousness or perfection as its legitimate fruits (Isa 5.1-7).   Wren did the tension and discrepancy between cultus and ethos arise?   Two factors were central: (1) Fran participants in the culture, I Sam 15.22; Hos 6.6; Amos 5.21; Micah 6.6; Jos 24.15ff);   (2) Fran the priesthood (Ps 50); sacrificial animal - lev 22.21b “. . .to be accepted (1 e rason et) nust be perfect (taraim); there shall be no blemish (nun) - compare with Proverbs 15.87, 21.3, 27.


Psalms 15 and 19 reveal how vital the function of the cultus is in upholding the social ethos of the Tbrah with Israel’s covenant.   (Eichrodt, Theo of OT, I, p. 86; Gutbrod, TENT, IV, pp. 1030ff; the Pss of innocence and their assurance, see Ps 7.8; 26. 1-11, 18. 23-25, n San 22.24ff.


9.       Messianic Kingdom and Premised Perfection


a.    Universal expectation and cosmic implications of Messianic perfection (Vriezen,

ibid, pp. 35ff).

b.   Pss 7, 26, 32, 37,-40, 41, 119.


IV.  Christ and New Testament Ethosxpf Perfection:   Matthew’s Teleios and Of Tandm: (Isaiah 60-65—New Heaven and New Earth—Eschatological Perfection)


A.    Jesus is God’s perfection - both its source and content.   Yet, teleios is used in only two passages in Matthew - 5. 48, 19. 21 (W. D. Davies, The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount, 1964; cf. Discipleship and “imitatio Christ”)   P. J, Du Plessis, Teleios, The Idea of Perfection in the NT. 1959; J. Cupont, Les Beatitudes, 2 vols, 1954.


1.       “Esesthe oun hyneis teleipi hos ho pater. . .teleios estin”  Matt 5.48.

This \s is a conscious contrast with the legalistic piety of the Scribes and the Pharisees, who not only do not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but also hinder those who were entering, (cf. Hermeneutics of the Sermon on the Mount - note seven hermeneutical approaches to the Sermon on the Mount.)


The contextual relationship precludes that the above is to be considered as an isolated moral imperative which would imply the teaching of ethical sinlessness or perfectionism.


2.       Character of the perfection - imperative will be colored by one’s perception of the basileia ton ouranon - the nature of which determines its entrance requirements and itsrelation to Jesus as the Messianic King (cf. Daniel 2, 5, 7, 9, 11).


3.       Jesus and tte Kingdom of God (lieoven):   tlic Premise


4.       Perfection - Imperative


5.       Redemption - Indicative


6.       CT perfection as convenantal ImLtatio Dei


7.       OT Imitatio Dei is now made manifest as the InrLtatio Christ (cf. E. J. Tinsley, Imitation

                             of God in Christ, 1960.


8.       Imitatio Christ:   Jesus - Disciple relationship (cf. G. Kittel in TENT. I, p. 213).

W. P. de Boer, The Imitation of Paul, An Exegetical Study, 1962.   “aboloutheo;”  Note:

Imitatio roust not be understood in the moralistic medieval sense of copying or reproducing the life of Christ as, for example with Francis of Assisi or Thomas a Kempis.   It can only mean from a Biblical perspective - the obedient following of Jesus our Lord.


Compare: E. Schwerzer, Lordship and Discipleship (et. 1960, rev. of Gor. 1955); Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification, chp. 7 - “The Imitation of Christ;” and H. Thielicke, Theological Ethics I, 1966, p. 185ff, who completely rejects ‘irrLtatio’ as Biblical, but this stars from a too limited semantic detrain - also K. Earth’s KD, n, 2, 569-571, 613-630 on Nachfolge and Nachahrung - practicing in the sphere of ‘regnum Jesu Christi.’ “It is not the imitation that makes sons; it is sonship that makes imitators” (Luther, Vfarks, vol. 27, p. 263).   In the theology of Matthew, participation in eternal life is to concretely ‘imitatio Christi’ (eg. Matt 19. 16-21).   Martin Bengal’s, Nachfolgg-   und Char, B2NU’, 34, 1963; esp. pp. 55-63; and G. F. Basel’s extensive criticism in Bibliotheca Orientails, XXVI (1969): 262-264.           


10.Christ’s Perfection - Imperative understood in light of Israel’s and Eavidic covenant -

              The Premise (see my Theology of Premise).


B.     Paul’s Ethos of Perfection and Holiness


1.       Church as Temple (naos) in relationship to her ethos of holiness, Yahweh and Holiness,

(cf. Lev 26. llff; Ezra 37. 27; H Cor 3. 18, 6. 16 -.7. 1, 13. 5; I Cor 3. 16-17; Col. 2. 20; Eph 3. 16-18, 5. 18, 2. 19-22)


2.       God’s dwelling in Old Testament Temple; Holy Spirit’s dwelling in the New Testament


3.       Theological synergisra versus indwelling Lord


4.       Christological moral application in I Cor 5. 7-8 (“cleans out” - ekkatharate - see Ex 12. 15, 19, 13. 2; StTack/Billerbeck in, p. 359.


5.       Apostolic ethos of perfection in Romans 12. 1-2

a.        “to present” (parastesai) - no parhistemi functions as technical term to present sacrifices and offerings in Levitical cultus - Lk 2. 22, see Michel, Dgr An Die Rccnier,1955, p. 260; discusses LXX usage.

b.       thysion - living sacrifice

c.        hagian - holy

d.       euareston - acceptable

e.        logiken latreian - spiritual worship


6.       Structure of Remans 12. 1-2 prepared by the ethical imperative from Ron 6. 12ff; 6. 13,16, 19 uses the-verb parhistaneim in 12. 1.


7.       New life is life in and with Christ.  New walk, new man; old walk, old man - Eph 2. 4ff; Col 2. 12ff, 3. 3; Gal 6. 15; Rcm 6. 4ff; H Cor 5. 17 (kaine ktisis).


8.       Romans 6. 12-23.   The ethos of sanctification is motivated by ‘linitatio Christi.’ (cf. C. H. Ebdd, Rorens on Romans 12. 1-15, “The Righteousness of God in Christian Living”; also, 0 . Michel, ibid, p. 253) Self-understanding of Christian in state of justification, see Earth KD, IV, p. 581-591.   Mil In” a - Christian in Rom 7. (1) Inner discord within the saved?   (2) unregenera.ted, morally sensitive person.  Note: “Phronema - Bertram TOfT. IX, p. 228.


9.       Paul calls Christians to responsibility of self-examination (IbkiiBzein - prove “what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God”, Ron 12.1)  Eu Elessis, ibid, p. 177; ‘Michel, ibid,’p. 262; GrunduBnn, “Edcuros” TENT, II, p. 259ff; Ridderbos, Paul, pp. 463-478,’esp. pp. 474ff.  Self-examination in a self-centered world is possible only ‘coram deo1 - on the basis of v knowing or dckunazein - the divine will, not as a legal code of behavior, but under Christ’s Lordship in all circumstances,   (cf. Rom 2. 18; Col 1. 13; Phil 1. 10; see esp. Grundmann TDNT, IT, p. 263; I Cor 15. 25ff.)   Paul’s apocalyptic theology functions to order his soteriology and ethics (Ridderbos, 58/60; Paul, pp. 297)   The apocalyptic redemption of man is explicitly  described as ‘to teleion1 by Paul in I Cor 13. 10 (Du Plesis, ibid, pp. 205).


10.Priority of grace in Sanctification - Eph 2. 10, 4. 13; 5. 26-27; Pnil 1. 9-11; Rev 4. 8,11,5. 9, 15. 4.


11.  Perfection in Hebrews   (Heb 6. 1, 13. 22)


a.        Teleios (2) - 5. 14, 9. 11

b.       Teleioun (9) - 2. 10, 5. 9, 7. 19, 29, 9. 9, 10. 1-,14, 11. 40, 12. 23

c.        Teleiotes - 6.1

d.       Teleiosis - 7. 11

e.        Teleiotes - 12. 2

f.         Telos (5) - 3. 6, 14, 6. 8, 11, 7. 3


Note the occurrences of Teleiotes in section 5. 11 - 6. 20; requires growth of believers (5.14.pros diakrisin kalou te kai kakou); Apostacy as intellectual, moral, and spiritual deterioration,   (cf. DJ Plessis, ibid, p. 203; Grundmann; “nepioi in der Urcliristlid)en Parancse” in WS V (1959) esp. p. 193.


(Sec Aland, ct.al., Concordance; Du Plcssis, ibid, pp. 118-122, 2C6-233; and 0. Michel, “Die Ldirc von dor Giristlcclicn VollkamcnciL mch dcr sclauung das llebracrbriefes,” Īn Iheologische Studien Und Kritlken xxlOo (1935) Hamburg, 348-355; Prochsch,  ‘Hagiasros’ TENT I, p. 115ff; Cepbe, ‘dicko1 TTOT EC, p. 233ff; Schneider, ‘proserchoiai’ TENT II p. 682ff; D. Peterson, Hebrews and Perfection (Cambridge:   Cambridge University Press, 1982.)


12.Christo-centric Mtatio Dei in I Peter


a.        Israel’s continued election in Christ’s chosen - “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” - I Pet 2. 9-10

b.       “But as He •who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct (anastrophe) also I Pet 1. 18, 2. 12, 3. 1, 2, 16; and Eph 4. 22).

c.        Blood of Christ - I Pet 1. 2; IJohn 1. 7.

d.       Redemptive cultus (soizei baptisms -3. 21)!   Acts 2. 33, 3. 19,26, etc.   All conversion accounts in Acts.


13. Ethos of ‘perfection in James - presupposes God’s covenant with Israel


a.        Perfect law - 1. 25

b.       Faith and works - 2. 15ff

c.        Abiding dignity of the Imago Dei of creation - 3.9

d.       Jesus/Paul on faith and works


14.Problematic texts:   I Jn 3. 9ff; II Pet 1.4, 3. llff; Heb 10.2


A.     Anthropocentric (Gnostic) Christology and Soteriology.   John confirms the Gnostic challenge of “Inherent Holiness” by his Christological soteriology.   The consequences for Christian ethics is clear:   “to know God is to love Him (4.8), to abide in Him (3.6) by the ‘Imtatio Christi’ in full obedience to His commandments (2. 306).”    ‘Christian Gnostics’ in their moral indifference denied the ethical imperative of the ‘Imitatio Christi’ as being’ irrelevant for the pneumatics.


B.     II Peter 1. 4 contains the hapax legcmsnon “Iheios koinonoi phuseos’ (B. 0. Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter and Jude, Anchor Bible, 1964, p. 153; Romans 6. 5; Eph 4. 2ff) vhich is connected to God’s divine power (Tes Theias durances - 1.3, concentrated in “His precious and very great premises” 1. 4.   Ihe phrase ‘”partakers of the divine nature” is placed in contrast with “escaping (apophugontes) the corruption that is in the world because of passion (tes en to kosmo en epithunai phthoras - cf. I Pet 1.14, 2.11, 4.1ff; I Jn 2.l66ff; Gal 5. 16, 13; Eph 2. 3, 4. 22.   Peter’s imagery reminds us of the ‘halak’ of Israel’s cultus ^Pss 15. 5b, 37. 31.   CT - Imitatio Efei; NT - Mtatio Christi - “You shall be holy for I am holy” - I Pet 1.15£f., 2.9; compare II Pet 1. 3-7 with I Pet 2. 9.  “Partakers of .the divine nature: through the covenant premises.   The knowledge of God in both I and II PeLer is practically expressed in sanctification.   Moral conduct is motivated by gracious fellowship with God in Christ, II Pet 3. 18.


C.     Hebrews 10. 2 - Does the superior glory of die new covenant provide total absence of the “consciousness of sin, i.e., the assurance of ethical perfection or sinlessness?”   The Mosaic cultus had a sin renumbering functicn (Ex 34. 7-9; Lev 10. 17; Heb 10. 3).   Ihere are three perfect tenses in Heb 10 (vs. 2 - cleansed; vs. 10 - sanctified; vs. 14 perfected) which affirm completed sacrifice of Christ, not the progressive sanctification of the believer. “ (Compare two participle phrases -Heb 10. 22, which allude to one-tuns baptism by which believer has been washed, i.e.,  ‘cleansed all over.’   Compare II Pet 1. 9  Christ’s atonement on the cross “has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (tous hagiazcmencus) - Heb 10. 14.


V.   Typology of Perfectionism:


“Perfectionism presents a problem we nay never lightly dismiss:   the problem of- sin of those who are justified and those whose sanctification is Christ Himself” (Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification, 1952, p. 48.


A.    Historically, there are three general characteristics of perfectionist movements:


1.       All types of perfectionism arose as a reaction against contemporary religious moral

lethargy or apostasy.


2.       All perfectionist groups, if not in the beginning, led to the establishment of a more or less

separate religious, cctmunity apart from the main body of believers (cf. Monasticism became incorporated with RCG as a legitimate way of perfection).


3.       The creation and recognition. A new standard or authority was the source of individualistic perfectionism.   The higher standard/authority was invariably a new revelation or a new inter pretation (heniEnejtic).   La Rondelle, Perfection and Perfectionism, p. 325.‘Whether it was Tatian or Mcotanus, Novatian or Pelagius, the great mystics, or Wesley, separate communities or movements to practice the proclaimed perfection inside and ultimately outside the established church were the result.”   (La Rondelle, ibid, p. 326)


B.     La Rondelle’s typology of perfectionist ethos entails six paradigms:


1-. Apocalyptic Perfectionism (eg. Qunran Community; Montanism; Joachim of Floria).

2.       Moralistic - ascetic perfectionism (the Encratites; Pelagianism)

3.       Ecclesiological perfectionism (Novationism).

4.       Neoplatonic ascetic perfectionism (Alexandrian theologians).

5.       Monastic - contemplative perfectionism.

6.       Ethico-philosophical perfectionism.


J. H. Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, 1974; E. T. dark, The Snail Sects in America, 1965 (rev ed.); Vfesleyan hfovenent; Rondelle, ibid, p. 326).


The complex reality of life interacts at several levels of the above distinctions.  Other typological paradigms of holincss/pci’fccticaian are PieLisn, Revivalism (often anti-intellectualistic- see Hccfstadcr— a moss of new-age movcncnts, and Uie resurgent neditation techniques of Easicrn nelo-physics (sec my New ARC Movaients).


C.     The abiding phenomenon of perfectionism in the history of ancient Israel, the Church of the apostate period, and the post New Testament church period confronts us with the self-evident reality of imperfection among the People of God.   Even with the Biblical norm and theological standard post-scripture efforts at perfectionism must be evaluated in context.  It is to some of these changing paradigms that we new turn.


1.       Qumran Perfectionism: (See M. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenisn; H. H. Brownlee, The Meaning of the Qumranian Scrolls for the Bible, 1964)


The Qumran community was a brotherhood of segregated Jews established by a persecuted Priest who claimed to have the specific prophetic charisma. (Founded ca. 50 B.C.; flourished until the Roman invasion in 63 B.C., but continued to exist until 63 A.D.)   L. Brenner, Sects and Separation During the Second Jewish Carnpriwealth, 1957; G. R. Driber, The Judaean Scrolls, 1965.   Josephus, Vfers, II, 8; Antiquities, XVm - 1; H. Ringgren, The Faith of Qumran (et. 1953); and H. Braun, Cumrafi und das ..fey.Testament, -I/IL, 1-856; extensive bibliography in II, sections 3-5.


The Qumran community lived by the d)Tsmics of intensified eschatology, i.e., that they were living in the last days of the cosmic conflict between truth and false hood, light and darkness.   The radical dualism which saw holiness and wickedness being polarized into two caimunities.   (IQH. ‘5^ke distinction between the righteous and the wicked.”) The mission of the Teacher of Rightecusness was to establish the pure remnant of Israel, the perfect “new covenant carrnjnity (IQS 1, 7^10).   This perfect people was gripped by a deep passion to walk perfectly.   (IQS 1. 8, 2. 2, 3. 9, 8. 18, 21”, 9. 6, 8, 9, 19; B. Rigaux, “Revelation des mysteries et .Perfection a Qunran et dans le N.T.,” NTS, IV (1957/8):237-262). They did not hesitate to call themselves “the perfect ones (IQS, 3.3 - Tenrimm - 4. 22; 8. 1), “the men of holy integrity” (IQS, 8. 20), and. the “council of holiness” (IQS, 8. 21). This concentration on sanctificetior;, «expr»essad -in e-rajititek-‘cf regulations for ceremonial .   purity and intense exclusiveness” . . .and to “preserve their holiness” (B. Gaertner, The Temple and the Gbrrrunity in Cunran and the New Testament, 1965, p. 4; K. Stendahl, “Hate, Non-Retaliation, and Love” HTR 55 (1952):343-355.’ “Only Jews forbade and removed the vindictive spirit of vengeance itself; compare moral self-qualifications in IQS and IQi). The doctrine of dual predestination - the history of both the righteous and the wicked is ordained beforehand - appears to determine the structure of the whole Qunran theology, its eschatology and soteriology in particular (IQS, 3. 15 - 4. 26; IQH, 1. 7; Hengel, ibid, p. 397). S. Scliulz, “Zur Rechtfcrtigung aus Gnaden in Qumran und bei Paulus.”   Z th K., 2citschri.fi: Fuer Ifologre Und Kirche (Tubingen).


A deep consciousness of man’s inherent sinfulness is especially prevalent in tlie Thanks -giving hymns or Psalms, (cf. S. Hoki-Nielsen, “Hodayot. Psalms frcni Cura-aii,” Acts Iteo. Ebncia, II, I960, pp. 274ff.) Yet not a single Psalm deals exclusively with noLhiignass, sin and guilt, but as a compliment there is always a reference to God’s grace and ccm-passion” (Ringgren, ibid., p. 104).


Man’s struggle between good and evil is structured by his predetermined “destiny (Hengel, ibid., p. 399).   The history of both the righteous and the wicked is ordained beforehand . (see IQS, 3. 15 - A. 26; M, 1. 7, 4. 38; Hengel, ibid., p. 347).   How then can election ever be the source of assurance of salvation and ultimate religious praise as the Hodayot testifies?   (IQi 16. 10; IQS, 10. 12, 10.13; IQH, 4. 35, 6. 10, 7. 31, 9. 12, 6. 9, 11. 16, 4. 32, 6. 67, 18. 12; IQS 11. 11, 13; also H. W. Huppaibauer.’to tensch Zwijschen Zwei Vfelten. 1959, esp. pp. 95ff.)


As is widely known, the doctrine of predestination, at least since Augustine, has always tended to prevent or neutralize the idea of human meritorious and low-righteousness, i.e. all forms of synergism.   Strangely enough in late medieval Scholasticism, the doctrine of predestinating grace (solo gratia) could be combined at the saos tims with the doctrine of justification by works alone (solis operibus).   (See H. OberoBn, The Harvest of Medieval Theology, 1963, pp. 175ff., 185ff.; F. Noetscher, Gotteswege und tenschenwege in the Bibel und in Qumran, Ecnner Biblisch Eeitrege, Bonn, 1958, esp. pp. 84-87 - recognizes no radical distinction between “divine grace and moral efforts,” p. 86.


Though  tensions remain throughout the ESS, it is difficult to escape a s^-nergistic soteriology, or legal.istus perfectionisTi.   The doctrine of justification sola gratia is taught in IQS and IQH, but probably not in distinctive characteristics—ascetician, legalise, ritualism, and exclusiveness—the Qjnran ccrmunity thus represents the opposite extremes from .the religion of Jesus” (More light, p. 92).   The tension remains between the Torah per se -and the presence of Yahweh,   But en the critical point we are left without a clear ccnnunis opinio.   Yet the judgement of Brcwilee will survive scrutiny, “Unlike Jesus, the Teacher of Righteousness, founded a ccnnr-nity enmeshed in legalism.   The strict rules of the Essenes, Manual of Discipline, indicate their stern legalism” (The Meaning of the ISS, p. 150).


2.       The Encratites:  


Perhaps Barrack’s observation remains intact that the first Christian perfectionists were those “circles of ascetics in the Christian communities who required of all complete abstinence from marriage, renunciation of possessions, and a vegetarian diet” (Harnack, H.D., I, pp. 238.   He refers to Qemsnt of Alexandria’s Stromateis HE, 6, 49; for all extent sources see A, Hilgenfeld, Die Ketzer^eschichte des Unchristentuns (1956, rep of 1834, pp. 543-46).   Also Grundmann ‘Enkrateia,’ -TDNT IT, pp. 338-340.


The most important representative of Encratism is tJie a]»logist Tatian, a disciple of Justin Martyr.   Tatian’s ascetic oLtucal imitation of Christ is the definite perfectionistic elcncnt:   Iqjlicite in Uiis vie..1 point is not only tint Christ ‘can’ be imitated, all true disciples ‘most1 Miatc IL’m.   (Sec HUgenfcld, ibid, .pp. 384-397; Irena«is, Adv Ihcr. I, 28; Eusebius, EH, IV, 29 - regards Tatian the origin of Ebcratism, Tatian, Oration to the Greeks (ca. 176 .AD).


3.       The Hontanists:    (ca 160 A.D.)


The fertile Fhrygia Valley uas the geographical home of the Montonist movement.    (Hilgen-.felt, ibid, pp. 591-595).   H. Kraft, “Die AltkLrchleche Prophetie und Die Entstehung des hfantanismus,” in Tneologische Zeitschrif t CBaull) (1955): 249-271; K. Aland “Eemerkungen Zum Mbntanismus und Zur Fruh Christlichen Echatologie” in his Kirchengeschechte Enturuerfe, 1960, pp. 105-143.

The movement was called “Ihe new Prophecy” before, and “Ihe Phrygian Haresy” afcer its excomunication.   Frcra the few extent oraces, it appears that Montanus, as well as Presca and Jtenrilla, claimed to have the particular prophetic charisma.   Ihe imminent return of Christ was the context of urgency from which all Christian believers were called, gathered, restored, made pure,’ or the perfect bride of Christ.   Ihe ftntamjs movement represented prophetic inspiration rather than Jesus and His apostles.   Only those who followed new Montanist prophecy veie true spiritualists (pneumatikoi).


4.       The Novations:


The schismatic Novation church derived from the problematic ordination of Novation as counterbishop of Rene in 251 A.D.   His ordination coincided with the claim of Cornelius to possess the power of the keys to extend forgiveness to all the repentant lapsed members (lapsi) of the CUTE of the Decion persecution.(Harnack, HD, n, pp. 118-122; Hefele, Concilienseschichte, I 2, pp. 407ff.


The guiding principle of Novation was to establish and maintain a ‘pure church.’   The Novations called themselves the Catharists, (Katharoi) i.e., the moral purists.   After his excommunication by the synod at Roms in 251 A.D., Novation began to organize his ‘holy counter-church’ (Eusebius) EH, VI, 43.


The emphasis on the “ccnrmnio sanctorium1 and the sanctified life of the baptized believers surely preserved an important element of primitive Christianity.   Yet, ultimately the Novation churches speedily ceased to be any-stricter than other groups in their renunciation of the world (Hamack, HD, II, p. 121).   In 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea decided to readmit the clergy of the Novations to the Clergy of the Catholic Church, which entailed acknowledgcncnt of the baptism of the Catharists.


V.   C.   5.   Pelagius:


In Pelagius we encounter the strong influence of the prevailing Aristotelian/Stoic philosophy and ethics.   Pelagius desired to lead the church to “monarchist, ascetic perfection” (HD, V, pp. 170ff; J. Ferguson, Pela%ius, 1956, pp. 18-22).   His concern for sinless perfection appears most strikingly in his letter to the noble virgin Dsmstrias.   Pelagianism only becomes problematic and even heretical when Augustianism  became its forceful counterpart, which ultimately triumphed at the Council at Carthage in 418 A.D.


Pelagius1 call to sinless perfection (anarartetos) after baptism was not an innovation.   Both Justin and Athanasius were Pelagians before Pelagius in this respect.   The other critical Pelagian emphasis was justification sola fide.   Augustine failed to perceive this emphasis when he accused Pelagius of teaching gratia qua justificamur, ncn gratis, sed secundum merita (contra Duas Epp. VEH; Ds Ebno Persev., IE, 4) only after the recovery of Pelagius’ Expositions of Thirteen Epistles of St. Paul in the twentieth century was it possible to recover, with certainty, what Pelagius actually taught; (cf. A. Scuter, Texts and Studies IX ed., J. A. Robinson, 3 vols, 1922-1931 (reprint 1967); R. F. Evans, Four Letters of Pelagius, 1958, pp. 34ff; and his Pelagius, Inquiries and Reappraisals, 1968, p. xiv.

Augustine refers to Pelagius’ work in The Peccatorum Mgritas et Renissione, HE, 1,1 and discusses what he deems his three major errors:


a.       The denial of original sin.

b.       The neritorious character of grace,

c.       The possibility of sinless perfection after baptism. (This emphasis will reappear in the Wesleyan Theological paradigm.)


Augustine’s unqualified accusation does no justice to Pelagius real teaching concerning the teaching of Augustine.  “It seemed to Pelagius to turn the individual into a mare marionette, impotent before the leading strings of God, and to destro}1 the very foundation of die moral effort he had set himself to inculcate in himself and others.”   (Ferguson, Pelagius ( Cambridge 1956), p. 47.   “The Pelagians deserve respect for their purity of motive, their horror of the >bnichaean leaven and the opus operatum.”  (HD, V, p. 203).


Pelagius uses the verb perficere in various semantic domains in his expositions, always referring to “accaiplisbrait” of good works,   (cf. complete-listing of his use of perficere see Evans, Four Letters, p. 81; Scuter, Texts and Studies, IX vol I, 107 - perfectus, perfectior, perfecte, aid pcrfectico.)  See esp. Pelagius’ expositions IT Cor 5.9; 4.13,24; 6.23; Gal 3.11.


Pelagius declares dot at Exposuit quide sit honinem ad imaginem dei esse creotun, ut scilicet iustus [sit] ct.vcrax [sii] ut deus.  licrc ue note a central thene vMcli confronts the very foundation of August Jnizin tradition—lltit nun is creaial iji U>c i/ioj-c of God and thus ouyhl and ran be holy as God is holy.   If the ‘Imago Dei was not annihilated by the fall, then the Augustinian/ Reformed paradigm is in legitimization crisis.   This is an exegetical/hermeneutical “matter rather than a Systoratic Theology issue.   “Che of the chief Uieolcgical interests of Pelagius was and remained the combating of Manichaean fatalism. . .Pelagius1 insistence that we can be without sin is an emphatic assertion of the doctrine of creation by a just God; it is nothing more and nothing less.”   (Evans, Pelagius, p. 22; 1O-106)


By adjudging the Pauline doctrine of fide in an exclusively judicial sense, Pelagius divorced the sola fide frcm the way of sanctificaticn. This judgment places him closer to Seneca1 Stocism than to Pauline theology.   Since Pelagius wanted to be orthodox,   he cams to define grace as the infused capacity for sinlessness.   The radial disjunction between the Biblical paradigm of grace and Pelagius’ teaching is apparent in his identification of grace with fellowship with the Holy Spirit (gratia inspiraticnis) which changed conajpiscentia mala into concu-piscentia bcna (dilecto), as it-meant to Augustine.   Grace only meant the freedom of choice, i.e., grace of nature (HD, V, pp. 2GOff).   Augustine sought to respond to Pelagius in his Ds_ Natura et Gratia.


Augustine was so shocked by Pelagius1 teaching on grace he judged it to be a “poisonous perversion of the truth, hostile to salvation in Christ.”   (Evans, Pelagius, pp. 79-89)   Augustine also rejected Pelagius’ claim that his teaching on grace, freedom and sinless perfection was orthodox. Pelagius quoted Lactentius, Chrysostun, Jerone, and even Augustine’s He Libro Arbitrio   in support of his claim,   Evans formulates the issue between Pelagianism and Augustinianism as follows: “Which theological synthesis, ^ch attempt to bring clarity, which novelty will prevail?”   It is interesting to see how Augustine, while denying the etipirical reality, acknowledged the possibility of sinless perfection or “perfection of character” if aided by the grace of God (ope adjuvante divina), Ce Spir. et Lit:, I; Ete Pecc. Msr., IL, 6.7ff.21.   For Augustine the possibility of sinless perfection or “perfection of purity” is not the great error, but the idea that nen without the divine assistance may either attain or progress toward perfection through the exercise of natural free will in obedience to the divine carnandrrcnts, Ee Spir. et Lit., II.   Evans, Pelagius, pp. 74ff. ably defends the thesis that Augustine in Eb Spir. et Lit, reacts, at least in part, to teachings which he had read in Pelagius’ Pauline Comrentary.   (Evans, ibid., p. 89; quoted by La Rondelle, ibid, pp. 293,4)


The biblical paradigm of holiness (both Old and New Testaments) excludes the notion of inherent sinless perfection, the decision of the Council at Carthage in 418 A.D. is justified in rejecting the static moral perfectionism of Pebgianisro (cf. Ch. J. Hofcle, A History of The Councils of The Church from the Original Documents, IT, 1896 (ET), pp. 4SSf.   The first two canons reject Adam’s death as natural and Unt newborn labics would have no original sin; the next Unxc canons reject the claim cf ‘sinless perfectionisn.’


6.       Christian Platonists of Alexandria:


The great Christian Catechetical School at Alexandria has been called the brain of Christendom. Clement and his disciple Qrigen are two of the nest influential Alexandrian apologists who presented their Christian message in a Hellenistic philosophical guise.   In Qemsnt’s Stromateis he describes philosophy as a divinely ordered preparation of the Greeks for faith in Christ.


A.    Gnosis for dement means imre than intellectual insight, it also means ethical perfection. Divine perfection is described as apatheia or erotionlessness.   dement rail*; this sinlessness “deification” which later penetrates Eastern theological orthodox)’.   (See ELew’s, Idea of Perfection, pp. 142ff; Mdagosos, I, 6, 25-26; Strcmateis. VII, n (description of the Gnostic’s life); VI, 14 (discusses degrees of glory in heaven); sinlessness is postulated in Strcrmteis, IV, 9, 20, 75, 127).’Clement seems to be,^ historic origin of two levels of grace (saving changes):   (1) from unbelief to  faith;   (2)  from faith  to  knowledge.


The Gnostic Christian is already deified (cf. H. E. W. Turner, The Patristic Doctrine of Redem,

1952, p. 7-9).


B.         Perfectionisn for Origen (18&-255 A.D.).   Origen was a master of the spiritual life, possessed by the idea of experiencing the ideal of Christian perfection (cf. Danielou, History of Theology, p. 55; W. Voelker, EBS VoILkamienheitsideal des Origines (1931).   His theory of ‘gradations’ underlies his hermeneutics, exegesis, spirituality.-“ “Just as there is a irovemsnt onward from the literal meaning to the allegorical meaning, so there is a transition from the ccmron faith to gnosis and there is a progress from the ordinary Christian life to perfection.   Spirituality forms the inuard dimension of this ladder.”   (Danielou, ibid, p. 60; on Origen’s five gradations in his raisrtiology, see Voelker, ibid., p. 30fL).   Origen’s perfecrtionisn ulti mately entails the restoration of all things in their original perfection.   This is the apoka-tastasis panton of Acts 3.19 (cf. Hamack, HD H, pp. 377-8; Danielou, Origen, pp. 209-220;271-310).


7.          Perfectionism in Monasticism:


“Monasticism is the baldest organized attempt to attain to Christian-perfection in all the long history of the Church,” according to R. N. Flew (cf. Idea of Perfectionism, p. 158; esp. pp. 158-63).   The precise origins of die movement is impossible to recover, but before the aid of the fourth century there was strong emphasis on Anthony the monk as the founder of this movement.   Li ca. 320 A.D., fodcmius started die organized cloistral life with rulesof unconditional obedience.   Basil The Great, the Archbishop of Cacsarca, became the most influential founder cf mjiirT.iJci.s-i jji tJic 1-hsi.   Pxjl it vos Basel’s younger brollpr, Gregory o£Nyssn, wiio gnvc r.,^i--.—I ir life- its r<>n:i (Fl«*, ihiiL, p. ICO; .sec iJic hilil i(/f;ni])!iy in I). I. Pa]»’a S. 0. Cisljjstousia Theou (Studia Anselmana, 55, 1966, and W. Jaeger, Gregorii Nysseni Opera, vol. VIII, 1 for the text-of On Virginity, Ch Vfrat It Means to Call Cheself A Christian, and On Perfection, written between 371-391 A.D.’).


Gregory explains, a short time before the Pelagian controversy in the West, that the grace of God and the moral efforts of man nust cooperate in a halarvpH co-ordination (cf. the “Synergia Theory”) in order to attain perfection (cf. W. Jaeger, Tip RprH Covered Works:   Gregory of Nyssa and Macarius, 1954, pp. 87ff., 92ff.).   Gregory, like later.serni-Pelagianisa, defends the priority of free will over divine grace. ‘W. Jaeger’s work clearly reveals hew that Gregory’s attempt to Hellenize the apostolic concept of perfection via Plato’s ideal of divine imitation, or assimilating to God through ascetic virtue, is a radical departure from the New Testament norm (Jaeger, ibid., p. 33; note hew this entire thesis develops into the concept of ‘deification of man’ in. Eastern theology).   Jaeger, I think, correctly traces Gregory’s ascetic perfectionism back to Origen.   Using the New Testament tenn, teleios, Gregory fills it with Platonic philosophical content, i.e., .a life according to virtue in order to attain Do self-perfection.   (Compare with du Plessis, Teleios in the New Testament)   Utilizing the Platonic theory of ‘participation, ‘ Gregory inserted it into a Christian synthesis.   In Monastic perfection the Imitatio Christi cane to mean perfect renunciation and “complete impassivity as regards actual living” (Hew, ibid., p. 167f.).

One ultimate consequence of the monastic way of life was the necessity of and the legitimization of a double moral standard within or alongside the Church (Harnack, HD, II,   94, 123; and his Monerasticisn:   Its Ideals and Its History (NY:   E.T., 1895, pp. 44ff.).


Aquinas later created a theory of merit (based on Works of Supererogation) in which he developed a system of two kinds of irertis:   (1) a ‘meritum de congruo’ and (2) a ‘mzritum de condigno’ on the hgsi-s of the presupposition that God’s justice requires the distinction.    (ST I-II, qq. 109-114, esp. a.l and 3 “Siice our action has the character of merit only on the presupposition of the RLvine ordination, . . ;”  ST, I-II, q 114, a 5 - referring to Remans 11.6 -questions, can fallen man earn the first bestowal of grace?   See discussion in H. Oberman, Forerunners of The Reformation, 1965, p. 132.)


Aquinas considered grace and free will basically as two separate entities besides each other. Thomas employed Aristotelian metaphysics, i.e., the sharp distinction between soul and its. faculties, of which the will is one.   When grace is infused in the essence of the soul, creating in it a new quality or habitus, this molding of the soul takes place apart from. any act of the will.   This leads Aquinas to conclude that “By every meritorious act a man merits the increase of grace, equally with the consummation of grace which is eternal life.” (ST, I-II, q- U4, a. 8, ad. 3).


Monastic perfectionism precipitated the so-called works of supererrogation (supererogationes), which are gathered in the thesaurus .or. spiritual treasury- of the Church and can be used for the benefit of chose who fall short (ST q. 25, a.2. Q. 26 - Indulgences, Q. 27 with those whan indulgences avail).   Thus, the Roman Catholic Church had full control of God’s grace, which in this life  expressed sovereignty over human perfection.   But the abbot of the Cisterican Monastery in Corace, Joachim of Floris (ca. 1130-1202) was to soon challenge Roman Catholic domination, of the grace of God.   His new theology of history (see H. Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages, A Study on Jcechnrisn, esp. 16-27 (1969); and L E. Frccm, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, I, 1950, pp. 633-716) would oppose the Augustinian orthodox-prophetic interpretation.   Hermeneutically, the Trinity became the guiding principle for development and thus a new view of perfection came to dominate the Church.   The age of the Father vas still a carnal period, the epoch of the Son partly carnal and partly spiritual, the age of the Holy •Spirit would be the age of triumphant perfection.


Joachim’s ‘third age’ as the time of Monastic perfectionism and is the source of his mission, which was to be the ordo spiri.tial.is.   The coning perfect Church, the ecclesia contemplantium, was to fulfill God’s original design for the Church, it was neither a new Church nor a new faith. • The year in vhich Joachim died, 1260 A.D., became identified as the specific date when the new . age began.   History new justifies the conclusion that both Monasticisn and Monastic apocalypticism must be defined as forms of ascetic perfectionism.   Both movements failed in their mission.


The First Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, The French Revolution, the coming of capitalistic democracy and compulsory education, incited western nan to believe once more that man was capable of self-perfection.   By the. twentieth century the mythological origins of these assumptions are self-evident (see Mortimer Adler, ed., Ideas of Freedom, 2 vols; note esp. the autonomy of man implicit in classical liberal anthropology.   Rejection of r1a<yriral Calvinism is not the source of the revolt against the Christian view of “man, especially during the past •two hundred years.


8.       Wesleyan Perfectionism:


In 1790, near the end of his long productive life (1703-1791), Wesley states that the doctrine of “Entire Sanctification” or Christian perfection, was the “grand depositim which God has lodged with the people called Methodists; and for the sake of propagating this chiefly, He appeared to have raised us up.”   (Works, VIZI, p. 238; for Wesley’s evaluation of English immorality and irreligiosity, see forks, XT, p. 159; and VIII, p. W8f, 201) “His Methodist revival checked the progress of skepticism and infidelity which had begun to set in with Dcisn.”  (Schnff, Creeds, I, 1931, p. 885; see also Bread, England Before and After Wesley). From the tine of the Oxford Holy Club (1730), both John and Charles Wesley became convicted that holiness is required for full salvation, according to Hebrews 12.13 (Works, VUL, p. 300; E. W. H. Vick, “John Wesley’s Teaching Concerning Perfection” AUSS, IV (1966):2Q1-217).


Wesley sharply distinguished between perfection and sinlessness, even if at the expense of consistency. “And I do not contaid for the term sinless, though I do not object  against it.” (Works, XT, p. 446, 1767). Even earlier in 1763, he seems to have recognized that the New Testament never qualifies perfection by “sinless.” (Works, HI, p. 257; Flew, ibid., p. 325). The judgement of Vick is unavoidable that “Wesley in principle repudiates his doctrine of perfection as the annihilation of human sinfulness by his qualification of “sins” in the perfect Christian life. Though Wesley did accept the attainability of sinless perfection in the present by a “second work of grace,” his anthropological dualism, i.e., soul/body dichotomy is not a sound basis for attaining his desired end. Partner of thy perfect nature, Let me be now in Thee A new, sinless creature (Hymn of Charles)


9.          The Great Challenge: Cultural Revolt against the Holiness of God in our mega-trend world:


a.       18th-19th centuries shift of ethics from ‘reason1 to ‘will’. (Kant)

b.      Cultural/Conceptual Relativism from the Social Sciences (The Social Construction of Reality)

c.       Extreme forms of contextual17ation, i.e., Radical Relativism

d.       19th/20th centuries break between Law and Ethics

e.       Privatization of Faith a’ la’ the First Amendment

f.        Shift from Ethics to Value Clarification

g.       Relationship to Freedom/Rights and Self-Fulfillment Movement expressed through the New Age Movement

h.       Loss of Ultimate via Humanistic thesis of ‘absolute value of the person’

i.         Holiness and all forms of human potentiality movement/self-realization (see my Christian Existence and Philosophical Ethics)


10.  Personal Integrity Crisis: within both the Church and the Culture at large


a.       Moral Integrity is not very practical in our high tech mega-trend world. In times of crisis values are the first things to go.

b.       Mysticism Meditation and Holiness in ‘New Age’ form

c.       Loss of Moral Absolutes to cultural, and conceptual relativism (cf. 19th-20th Century Developments in The Social Sciences).


11.     Transformation Vocabulary:


Transformation: Personal vs. Private; moral life and social structures - I Peter; Ron 8; Rev21.24-

(We lapse into Gnosticism when we refuse to extend transformation to Social Structures) 0. O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order: “We shall argue for the theological proposition that Christian ethics depends upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (p. 13) J. Piper, “Hope as the motivation of love in I Peter 3.9-12” in NTS (1980) 26.2: 212-231 R. Schnackenburg, The Moral Teaching of The New Testament, 1965


Douglas Schuurmann, “Creation, Eschaton and Ethics: An Analysis of theology and ethics in Jurgen Moltmann” in Calvin Theological Journal (1987), 22.1. John Stott (ed.) Evangelism and Social Responsibility 1982, esp. pp. 4-lff; Bruce Nicholls (ed.) In Word and Deed, 1985; The journal, Transformation launched in 1984, is billed as an international dialogue on Evangelical social ethics; Kumnel, The Theology of the New Testament, 1973, pp. 121-123; Conzelmann, An Outline of The Theology of The New Testament. 1969 p. 128; metamorphoo (Latin Metamorphoses) - transliteration - is used 4 tiroes in the NT: hfett. 17.2; Me. 9.2; Rom. 12.2; H Cor. 3.18 (TDNT, IV, E.T. pp. 735ff ; in Romans 12.2, it states the continuing process of transformation is to characterize the believer; (a) rens>/al of the mind - a moral obligation to responsibility, vs. rights; (b) resistance of influence of the world (age(aion) (Gk) - II Cor. 3.18, Christian transformation - Moses in Ex. 34.29-35.


Domain Lexicon - compare scriptures with New Age Movement’s emphasis on radical transformation of human nature and culture. J. Sire’s, The Universe Next Door, dip. 8, “Separate Reality: The New Age,” pp. 208; Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy; F. Capra, The Turning Point; Yoga Journal; East-West Journal; New Age Journal, available at the news stand; and Confronting The New Age; Time Magazine, December 7, 1987, pp. 62-72, a New Age cover story featuring Shirley MacLaine. Age of Aquarius was announced by the musical group, The Fifth Dimension in the 1960’s. On August 17, 1987, three hours of air time from the studios in Boulder, Colorado were devoted to conversations with New Age Aficionados who phoned in from the Great Pyramid in Egypt, from Glastonburg in England and other psychic power spots around the world.


12. Ancient Pagan Religions Reflected by the New Age Consciousness:


1.       Natural universe is inhabited by countless spiritual beings - hierarchically structured from top to bottom - uninterested in human beings.

2.       Universe has a personal dimension but not an infinite personal creator God.

3.       These spirit beings range in temperament from vicious and nasty to comic and beneficent.

4.       For people to get by in life the evil spirits must be placated and the good ones wooed by gifts and offerings, ceremonies and incantations.

5.       Witch doctors, sorcerers and shamans through long arduous training have learned to control the spirit world to some extent and ordinary people are much beholden to their power to cast out spirits of illness, drought and so forth.

6.       Ultimately there is a unity to all of life; that is, the cosmos is a continuum of spirit and

matter; animals may be ancestors of men; people may change into animals, trees and stones may possess souls, (from some of the writings of Eugene Nida and William Smalley, Introducing Animism (NY Friendship Press, 1959 - data on modern pagan animism).


13. Factors in The Fatal Flaw: Demise of Christian Ethics


1.       Natural Law Ethics (classical from Augustine/Aquinas, et. al.)

2.       Comparative Religion and Ethical contexts

3.       First Scientific Revolution and loss of transcendence

4.       Neo-Paganism and resurgence of occult (Molnar, The Pagan Temptation)

5.       Presupposition that all scientific explanation .is by ‘immanent, laws of nature (see my Christian Faith and Scientific Paradigms)

6.       Conflicting claims regarding moral absolutes exposed in the ‘Evangelical fiascos’ of the 70‘s and 80’s, i.e. see major media models with feet of clay.

7.       Natural Ethics vs. artificial religious restriction and the developments of Freud, Adler and Jung.

8.       Ethics and Authority: Demise of authority vs. reduction to authoritarian personality structure (Freudianism of Adoro/Horkheimer, etc.)

9.       Ethics in Another Age of nominalism.

10. Empiricism can generate only statistical norms, not absolute norms.

11.  Curs is the fifth age of personal and social crisis in the West. Each time caused by assuming that knowledge could be derived from sons form of Empiricism, i.e., knowledge is grounded in experience.

12.  Separation of Law from Ethics in Legal Positivism (see my Christian Faith and Changing Theories of. Law)

13.  Many things are legal that are immoral from a biblical perspective.

14. Spiritual\Wakefulness in the New Testament:


A.     Motif of darkness and light in the Old Testament, the Qumran, and Early Judaism

B.     Wakefulness in New Testament Epistles and the Revelation

1.       Romans 13.11-14

2.       I Thessalonians 5.1-11          6.   Revelation 3.2; 16.15 (life) (see Selwyn

3.       I Corinthians 16.13-14          °n ‘Vigilate there1 pp. 363-466)

4.       I Peter 5.6-10

5.       Ephesians 6.18; Colossians 4.2 (wakefulness and prayer)

C.     Wakefulness in Synoptics:

1.       Parable of the door keeper - Mark 13.33-37

2.       Waiting Servants - Luke 12. 35-37

3.       Thief in the night - Matthew 24.43^44; Luke 12.39ff.

4.       The Ten Virgins - Matthew 25. 1-13

5.       Jesus’ Eschatological Discourse - Matthew 24; Mark 13 and Luke 21


15.Renewal Movements, Mysticism, Monasticism, Pietism and Revivalism; T. L. Snith/

Revivalism and Social Reform.

16.Holiness and Discipleship: A Hermeneutic of Obedience


In pursuit of purity: D. 0. Beale, American Fundamentalism Since 1850 (Bob Jones University Press, 1986; Saints and sanctification in Domain Lexicon; TDNT: and ENTT;- Acts 9. 13, 31, 32; 26. 10;Rom. 15. 25ff, 31; I Cor. 16.1; II Cor. 8.4; 9. 1,12.


Resume’: Historically, there have been three types of perfectionist movements: (1) Reaction against moral lethargy or apostasy; (2) Emphasis which caused movement to create a separate religious movement; (3) Individualistic perfectionism which creates a new standard or authority by which to judge belief and acceptable behavior.


Biblically, holiness or perfection is grounded in the following: (a) The Holiness of God (Ps. 99; Isa. 6.3; Watt. 6.9; Lk. 11.2; John 17.11; Rev. 4. 6-10; 16. 4-7; I Peter 1. 5-16; Ex. 19. 3-8. (b) The Holiness of Jesus (Lk. 1.25; 4.34; Me. 1.24; Jn. 6.69; Acts 3.14; 4. 27,30; I Jn. 2.20; Rev. 3.7; Heb. lO.lff; Ex. 19.6; Leviticus; Jer. 31.31-34. (c) The Holiness of The Church (Saints) (Ex. 19.6; Heb. 9. 15-22; 12. 18-24; I Pet. 1.14-16; 2.9-10; Roms. 11.13-16; Eph. 1.12; 5.2-20; Col. 3.15-17. (d) Both the holiness of the Body of Christ as individual members are derived from the nature, revelation and grace of God revealed in Christ, (e) Holiness Themes:


a.       Holy Prophets - Acts 3.21

b.       Holy Apostles - Ephesians 3.5

c.       Holy railing - LT Timothy 1.9

d.       Holy Scriptures - Romans 1.2

e.       Holy Covenant - Luke 1.72

f.        Holy Law - Romans 7.12; IE Peter 2.21

g.       “Hallowed Be Your Name” -Matthew 6.9; Luke 11.2

h. Holy Spirit - Psalms 51.11; Isaiah 63.10ff; John 14-16; I Corinthians 12-14

i. Holy City - Revelation 11.2

j. Holy Life of Christians - I Cor 3.17; II Cor 7.1; 8.4; 9.1; Heb. 6.10; Eph. 2.21; Ron. 12.1;         15.16; I Tness 3.13 k. EccJegig nrili’tans, Ecclesia triumphans stands under the concept of Holiness - Heb. 12.10;I Peter 1.15.


•\   ^ ,    ? • -      PARADIGMS,  POWER & POSSIBILITIES


                  “Y.ou  Shall  Be Holy Because  I Am Holy”


Bibliography on Holy/Holiness


A.        Dictionary  Article:


0.   Prochsch/K.G.  Kuhn.  “Hagios” TDNT I.  88-115.


B.     Journal Articles:


J.   B.  Davies.   “The Concept of Holiness.” London Quarterly Review,   (1960):36-44.

D.    S.   Shapiro.   “The Meaning of Holiness  in Judaism”,   Tradition   7.   (1965):A6-80.

E.  W.  Vick.   “John Wesley’s Teaching Concerning Perfection” AUSS  IV (1966):201-217.


C.     Books:


W.  P.  de Boer.  The Imitation  of  Paul. An Exegetical Study, 1962, Kampen.

P.  J.  Du Plessis.  The Idea of Perfection in the N.T.  1959,  Kampen

R.   N.   Flew.  The  Idea  of  Perfection in Christian Theology. 1968  Oxford, 1968-  repr, of 


H. Lindstrora. Wesley  and   Sanctification (London, 1961- repr. of  1950).

E.      J.   Tinsley.   The  Imitation  of God  in Christ  (Phil.:   I960).

B.  B. Warfield.  Perfectionism.  (Phil.:  Presbyt. Reformed,  repr.  1958)  

H. K.  LaRondelle,   1979,  Perfection and Perfectionism.  Berrien  Springs,  Mich. Andrews

University Press.

E.      H.   Askvith.   The Christian Conception of Holiness. 1900.

J.H. Elliott.  The Elect  and Holy.  Supplements  to Nov. T.  12, 1966.

0.       R.  Jones.  The Concept  of Holiness.  1961.

N.    H.   Sraith,   The Distinctive  Ideas  of the O.T.  1944,  pp.  21-50.




Dr. James D. Strauss


Lincoln Christian Seminary