Thursday, April 18, 2013


Last October, the Rev. Dr. Calvin Samuel delivered the 2012 Chamberlain Holiness Lectures at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Dr. Samuel is the Director of the Wesley Study Centre in Durham, UK, and New Testament Lecturer at Cramner Hall.

Lecture 1.- Be Holy,as I am Holy: Why Holiness is Important, How Holiness is Obtained, and What does holiness look like? Why is holiness important? Dr Samuel's answer: because holiness is the essence of who God is. God's holiness is what distinguishes Him from all other gods. When we seek to be holy, we aren't simply seeking more integrity or to act more justly; we are seeking nothing less than to be like God. It is who we are as God's people. Holiness in us is obtained only through the grace of God. What does holiness in us look like? Lev. 19:2 through the rest of that chapter gives us a good picture. Time- 35:34.

Lecture 2.- Models of Holiness in the Old Testament: Exploring Priestly, Prophetic, and Wisdom Traditions.
Priestly Tradition: Dr. Samuel explores various themes concerning holiness, such as holiness as separation (from sin, towards God), holiness as power or destructive energy, holiness as completely other, etc. Leviticus obviously dwells on this theme. Dr. Samuel asks whether we can fully understand Jesus without understanding Leviticus.
Prophetic Tradition: The prophets were not proclaiming a new message, they were calling Israel back to the Torah, so Israel would again be a holy nation in which a holy God lives. Their messages stressed social justice (I prefer Wesley's term social holiness) which Dr. Samuel defines as standing on the side of the powerless against the powerful. The book of Isaiah stands out in its repeated usage of the language of holiness.
Wisdom Tradition: Surprisingly, Dr. Samuel cites Job as the most important book in the wisdom tradition concerning holiness. Before Job is afflicted, he is described as blameless, upright, shuns evil, and one who fears God. Dr. Samuel points out that scripture does not link Job's possessions to his holiness. It is Satan who insists on this linkage when he asks God, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Job did not live in the Holy Land and he was not a member of God's covenant people. He was afflicted with a skin disease that the Israelites would have recognized as leprosy. Readers in ancient Israel would have picked up on these points. Those who were truly discerning would recognize that one could be holy outside the covenant and outside the land of Israel. This insight would be very important to the Jews when they were in exile. In Job, holiness is not defined strictly by moral behavior, but in terms of personal integrity and fear of the Lord. Perfection is not to be defined as not needing improvement, but being in the state of being that God wants us to be. Wesley would define perfection in this way. Why did God want Israel to be a holy nation? So Israel could be a prototype for a new humanity. Time- 75minutes with 25 minutes for questions.

Lecture 3.- Holiness in the Pauline Tradition: From Thessolinica to Rome. 1Thess. is Paul's first epistle, Romans is one of his last. Both concern holiness. In 1Thess., holiness is tied to the hope connected with the 2nd coming. Paul urges his audience to be holy, to be prepared for Jesus' return. Holiness is seen primarily in terms of relationship, how we are related to God. Sin is not defined in terms of an ethical system, but in terms of who God is and what he wants from us. Holiness is not about us thinking about ourselves; thinking about ourselves puts holiness beyond our reach. Holiness is the child of love; the practice of love leads to the unselfishness that is the essence of holiness. Personal sinlessness is not to overshadow love for all. Paul keeps the two in balance. He is speaking to a community suffering persecution. They were tempted to retaliate, but Paul declared that love cannot be turned inward. Paul taught that holiness is rooted in normal life. This stems from his background as a Pharisee. The Pharisees expected purity for all. In Romans, Paul teaches us that death to sin is part of the reality of our salvation. In Rom.6, Paul did not say that sin had died, but that believers have died to sin. Sin is a power that seeks to enslave. Christians are surrounded by sin, but not enthralled by it. The end which we await for has broken into the present; the Kingdom of God in which we are heading is now near, in Christ. This makes sanctification possible. Sanctification is an intermediate condition between what was true of us at our conversion and what will be true of us in the life to come. The Holy Spirit makes us more truly what we shall be. It is the Spirit that imparts holiness; holiness is a work of grace. Sanctification is an ongoing work of grace rather than a 2nd work of grace. Time- 79 minutes, 31 for questions.

Lecture 4.- Holiness in the Gospel Tradition: The Words, Acts, and Mission of Jesus. The Gospels emphasize the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. Yet in the Gospels, the Pharisees fade from view in the accounts of Jesus' final hours before his arrest, trial, and execution. It was the Chief Priests, the Elders, and the Scribes which actually brought about Jesus' death on the Cross. So why do the Gospel writers emphasize Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees? Because the writers wanted to highlight the contrasting views concerning holiness held by the Pharisees and Jesus. Both believed that holiness was to be practiced within society, as opposed to groups such as the Essenes, who withdrew from society. But the Pharisees believed that holiness was fragile; they believed holiness was an absence of purity which threatened holiness. Jesus viewed holiness as a dynamic force which always overpowered impurity. Holiness always transforms impurity. When Jesus touched the unclean, he was never defiled. The unclean were made clean; their situations were transformed. As holiness is dynamic, it is missional. Jesus reached out, the Pharisees drew back among themselves. Jesus lived out a model of holiness which is always on the offense. It is demonstrated through acts of love.The Pharisees' model was purely defensive. Dr. Samuel rightly claims that the model of holiness practiced by the modern day holiness movement is more in line with the Pharisees than Jesus.  Time- 84 minutes, 45 minutes for questions.

Matt O' Reilly sums up all four lectures here at his blog Incarnatio.

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