The Evangelicals and Catholics Together "Call to Holiness" is much more church-focused than historic Anglo-American evangelical talk about holiness. That is no doubt because evangelicalism has always warned against mistaking mere church participation for following Jesus. As Billy Sunday said, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile."
But many of our evangelical forebears, from the Puritan John Owen to Methodist founder John Wesley and Salvation Army founder William Booth, understood deeply the social nature of holiness. They also understood the social nature of spiritual sloth, and strove to purify the established church.
Historically, evangelicals have suspected that the church gets too easily co-opted by cultural and political norms; so they've labored for reform and revival, often creating alternative structures for inculcating holiness, from class meetings to camp meetings. They formed many of these structures because the churches were not "preaching the gospel to the poor." In the long run, the church has benefited from alternative structures, but only when it has appropriated them in a spirit of self-criticism and a longing for renewal.
Evangelical suspicion of church also prompted some to think about holiness mostly in individualistic terms. Although some 19th-century holiness advocates sacrificed for social reform, others tended to become preoccupied with the self. The title of a classic CT book review about one 19th-century holiness leader says it all: "The Entire Sanctification of an Extraordinary Ego."
"The Call to Holiness" reminds us how crucial it is to wed individual passion for holiness to perpetual church renewal and social reform. Evangelicals have ...1
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