In 1995 Keith Drury delivered his stunning address, "The Holiness Movement is Dead." This book begins with the reprinting of Drury's essay, "The Holiness Movement is Dead," followed by a ten-year update from Drury. Three responses to Drury's article were reprinted. These articles were by Richard S. Taylor, Kenneth Collins, and Wallace Thornton. Each author was given space to update their response. Then each of the four is given opportunity to respond to the other three. Larry Smith closed with an epilogue. Smith refers to an attempt by the Free Methodist to "water down" its statement on entire sanctification. Having been asked to evaluate it, my own response was that in some areas it was an improvement except that it blurs the distinctions between initial and subsequent sanctification.
Drury quoted a Wesleyan evangelist who told him, "Drury, the people you are trying to get sanctified I'm trying to get saved." This has always been a concern with the Fundamental Wesleyan Society. Drury says the only difference between the mainline holiness groups and the conservative holiness movement is a time lag of twenty-five years. He says the conservative holiness movement is dying a slower death. Speaking of standards of dress he said the mainline groups thought they could discard the form and keep the content, but they failed to keep either. He said the conservative holiness movement enshrined the form and lost the content. Drury concludes the root problem is that there is sin in both camps and asks did God kill the holiness movement?
I responded to Taylor's essay in the Spring 2000 issue of The Arminian. "It seems a bit presumptuous for Taylor to single out Nazarene theologian Mildred Wynkoop (1905-1997) as the scape goat of a movement that was off track before she was ever born." In his Counterpoint responses, Taylor opted not to respond to the other three in the dialog and instead argue for a traditional holiness paradigm, even suggesting that we ought to preach a first and second work of grace in every sermon. Taylor is in denial when he writes that the holiness movement is basically the old Methodist doctrine in "slightly new dress."
Collins argued that the seeds of the demise of the holiness movement were sown by leaving the Methodist Church. He also denounced the holiness antinomianism created by confusing the new birth and entire sanctification. And he argues against the liberal view of the Christian life as a process of incremental changes without any crucial events. Elsewhere Collins argued for the crisis of salvation as a logical necessity based on sovereign grace, but he concedes that while conversion is a crisis, it may not be dramatic nor memorable. He allows for process, but argues that process must have actualization and not be opened ended where we are always seeking but never arriving. Thus, Collins opposes an evolutionary or process model of salvation. He argues for a qualitative, not incremental, change. However, he also distances himself from the instantaneous emphasis of the holiness movement in which the seeker is admonished to claim the work is done in an instant. Thus, he argues for a divine work, not a human work. The process has a telos or goal, but it is not all process nor crisis.
Thornton's reaction to Drury was "Holiness or Hubris?" "Hubris" means an inordinate pride which incites a person or group to try to rise above the level or the station in life allotted to them by fate. Again, he is saying that the holiness movement destroyed itself by trying to "get above its raising." I would have to say that I grew up witnessing plenty of bluntness, crudeness, lack of tact, common sense, or culture within the holiness movement. Methodism did not glory in any of those things.
Thornton's argument is that the holiness movement arose as a reaction against the embourgeoisement of the mainline holiness movement. He meant that the holiness movement had begun as a radical movement, but eventually they settled for middle-class respectability. While this analysis has some validity, I am uneasy about defining a spiritual movement in terms of an economic class-struggle. In his response, Collins picks up on this logical fallacy of Thornton to reduce the problem to one component.
I think it is regrettable that Douglass Crossman's essay "Why the Holiness Movement Died" was not included in this exchange. His response to Drury was printed in The Arminian Magazine (Fall 1997-Spring 1998), before anyone else responded and is the most comprehensive response. In general the "conservative" response is still trying to blame the mainline groups, yet they are to be commended for admitting they have a problem. This book is a good first step. It took courage for both the conservatives and the largest holiness denomination to publish books which were critical of themselves.