Vic Reasoner, “Plugging the Holes”

, posted by Jon Gossman

A review of my book The Hole in the Holiness Movement appeared in the January/February, 1993 Convention Herald. I have been asked to respond. I must begin by noting that the author, Edsel Trouten, called me on January 11 to apologize for the article. Apparently the Convention Herald editor ran the article without Trouten’s knowledge or permission.

In his “Explanatory Note” on p. 5 of the March/April, 1993 Convention Herald Trouten disclosed that “the reviewer considers Bro. Reasoner to be a precious brother in Christ. The exchange was an exchange of ideas not an attack on his person.” I am not sure why Trouten, and not the editor, assumed responsibility for the mistake.

I also consider Bro. Trouten to be my friend. We can disagree and still be brothers. However, since the official publication of the Inter-Church Holiness convention chose to publish his review, I am assuming that Bro. Trouten was used to state the position of the IHC. Endeavoring to avoid any personality clashes, I want to continue our “exchange of ideas.”

I am surprised that the IHC printed the review because:

(1) It is not conservative.

The Convention Herald cover for March/April, 1992 depicts nine church leaders. I am unsure why Augustine and Martin Luther were portrayed since both were opponents of Christian perfection. However, it is obvious with Wesley in the center, surrounded by Francis Asbury and William Booth, that the picture is an interpretation of the caption, “a heritage to keep and to share.” In the forefront of the picture are three IHC leaders: Glen Griffith, H. Robb French, and H. E. Schmul. The apparent connection is that the IHC considers itself to be the legitimate heir of the Wesleyan legacy.

However, it is not the only such organization that considers itself to be Wesleyan. Groups such as the Christian Holiness Association have a much larger constituency. The main distinction is that the IHC is an umbrella organization for the conservative holiness movement.

Conservative, as used in this context, means a desire to preserve tradition. In this case, the tradition to be preserved is the Wesleyan heritage. The book review admits that “John Wesley did teach Pentecostal regeneration.” However, the conservative holiness movement today does not accept that doctrine. The reviewer uses a liberal rationale to explain the discrepancy:

To say that Mr. Wesley did not teach what is accepted by modern holiness writers today is not the same as saying he would not have accepted it had he had an opportunity to see and think through a clearly developed presentation of this later Spirit-centered sanctification theology.

This is a classic liberal argument which can have many applications. Let’s consider another variation:

To say that the apostles did not teach what is accepted by the modern church today is not the same as saying they would not have accepted modern liberal theology if they had been given an opportunity to see and think through a clearly developed presentation of higher criticism.

Is the IHC committed to preserving our Wesleyan heritage or not? Or do they appeal to Wesley only when he supports their agenda?

(2) It ignores the consequences of faulty theology.

The review conceded, “It is agreed by nearly all Wesleyan scholars that Wesley did believe and teach that the disciples were born again on the day of Pentecost.” But then the review continued, “One is tempted to ask, ‘So what?’ and ‘What does that prove?'”

I believe that doctrine has consequences. The consequence in this case is spelled out clearly on the back cover of the book. “When the Holiness Movement began teaching the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second blessing they departed from historic Methodism and opened the door to Pentecostalism.”

Inside the book I devoted an entire chapter to the rise of pentecostalism. I attempted to demonstrate that within one generation of a new holiness emphasis on Spirit baptism the Pentecostal Movement began and it arose from within the holiness movement. I also said it would not have ever happened if we had maintained our Wesleyan doctrine.

Charismatics are a major market for the sale of turn of the century holiness books which have been reprinted. The charismatics find the pentecostal language in them and then claim pentecostalism began with the Wesleyan revival.

Whether the IHC believes Pentecostalism to be in error is an issue for them to decide. When Bro. Trouten attended a Wesleyan/Holiness Study Project in 1990 and wrote a report for the IHC, it drew fire because some people perceived that the IHC had compromised on the charismatic issue.

The reader might be interested to know that when Fundamental Wesleyan Publishers paid to run a book advertisement in the Convention Herald they would only run it on the condition that a phrase be excluded. The layout read, “When the Holiness Movement began teaching the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second blessing, did they depart form historic Methodism and open the door to Pentecostalism?” Check for yourself. The ad in the Convention Herald for November/December, 1991 does not contain the reference to Pentecostalism.

Either I failed to make my point of the IHC is trying to avoid my point.

(3) It misquoted my book.

The review stated, “Reasoner is forced to admit that ‘John Wesley saw the Holy Spirit in the entire sanctification process’ (p. 58). By turning to page 58 you can read for yourself, “John Wesley saw the Holy Spirit in the entire salvation process.”

While the modern holiness movement does not believe you have the Holy Spirit until you are entirely sanctified, I was pointing out that Wesley did not agree with that teaching. Furthermore, the modern holiness movement insists that entire sanctification is a crisis, not a process.

(4) It employs “guilt by association.”

a. Because I quote “five point Calvinists”

The review criticizes me for using commentators like James D. G. Dunn and F. F. Bruce because “they are ardent opponents of the message of holiness.” I am sorry my point was missed. In chapter three, I examined the six references in Acts to the giving of the Holy Spirit. The classic Methodist commentators did not associate any of those references with a second work of grace. In that context I quoted Dunn and Bruce as reputable evangelical scholars to show that they interpreted the passages in the same way.

I certainly would not accept every doctrinal position held by commentators like Dunn and Bruce, but they are accepted as some of today’s best evangelical scholars. I used their exegesis without accepting their doctrinal conclusions. The point is that the old Methodist commentators and some of the best modern evangelical commentators agree.

But when you check the holiness commentaries they have put a different twist on every passage in question. Is it necessary for the defense of their doctrine that the holiness movement reinterpret the Scriptures? Are holiness commentators like Godbey and McLaughlin good exegetes or are they attempting to read into the passages their own presuppositions? My primary loyalty is not to the holiness tradition, but to the authority of Scripture. I do not want to preach anything that cannot be proven by Scripture.

b. By accusing me of “buying into the dispensationalist’s argument.”

I attack dispensationalism by name in my book (p. 17) and refer to its teachings as unWesleyan (pp. 96-97).

However, the conservative holiness movement has bought into dispensationalism lock, stock, and barrel. In his little book Power from on High, Leslie Wilcox asserted that “however valuable the idea of dispensations may be from the standpoint of prophecy it has led to a totally false impression in regard to the method of salvation” (p. 28).

The Wesleyan position is the exact opposite. H. Ray Dunning wrote in Grace, Faith, and Holiness that he did not know of one Wesleyan scholar who would subscribe to a dispensational eschatology (p. 585). However, a Wesleyan by the name of John Fletcher wrote a good deal about the dispensations of salvation. It has nothing to do with John Darby, C. I. Scofield, or Hal Lindsey.

If you want to look through Fletcher’s “Portrait of St. Paul,” you will read, “The true minister believes and preaches the . . . three great dispensations of grace (Works, 3:166). The dispensation of the Holy Spirit is now in force (p. 181) and the evangelical pastor defends the dispensations of the Spirit against all opposers (p. 184).” Fletcher did not teach “multiple ways to be saved.” Man has always been saved by grace through faith. But before Pentecost believers were Jewish and after Pentecost they were Christians.

Most of my book was completed six years ago. I have continued to gather material and I think I could write a better book today. In fact I am now writing a doctoral dissertation on this whole issue. But with all of its imperfections I still think my book will open your eyes to some problems we have for too long been trying to avoid.


From: Reasoner, Vic. “Plugging the Holes.” The Arminian: A Publication of the Fundamental Wesleyan Society, vol. 11, no. 1, 1993. Web.