New vocabulary for holy living in the 21st century
There is a need for new vocabulary in regards to how we approach the subject of holiness, and how we live it out. “Holiness is a theme of Scripture that is not about what God does to us or for us,” said Dr. Kevin Mannoia during his keynote lecture at the seventh annual Wesley Studies Symposium, “but a description of the very nature of God in God’s own self. It is a description of who God is.”
Dr. Mannoia listed two characteristics of holiness: a transformed character and responsible engagement. “Our function isn’t to practice the doctrine of holiness, but to reflect the nature of a holy God through our lives,” he said. The transformed character means pursuing a life of surrender and is based on experiencing the otherness of God.
“In the face of allowing God to be reflected in us and through us, the only act of the human will can be to surrender,” said Dr. Mannoia. “It is the life of complete surrender and abdication of self-will so that the nature of a holy God may be seen in greater measure, in and through us. The pursuit of holiness is a downward journey of surrender.” Transformation is optional because of free will, Dr. Mannoia explained. “‘Transformed’ implies options,” he said. It is moving from one form to another, and free will is the fulcrum of that.
Responsible engagement is based on the Incarnation, said Dr. Mannoia: “God did not wait around for us to come back to Him for wholeness. He saw our condition and took responsibility.” In turn, we are responsible to go out and reach people so that God can pull them out and save them from hell by His grace through their faith.
People are looking for an integrated wholeness in their lives. Dr. Mannoia discussed how Wesleyans can take the essential message and translate it with new vocabulary. He suggested that pastors try preaching their sermons without using old, usual phrases so that the message is fresh and engaging. However, they must hold firmly to their heritage. By anchoring themselves in the centre, they can have greater freedom to reach farther than expected.
“The torch needs to pass,” said Dr. Mannoia, explaining that God is calling the Wesleyans to a new day. “The Holy River of God is flowing through the desert, bringing life wherever it goes. It is always moving, it is never stagnant. It is always changing.” All along the River of God are streams and tributaries that join and feed the river. He sees a Wesleyan holiness stream that God is raising.