Kevin W. Mannoia and Don Thorsen, eds, The Holiness Manifesto (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008). 249 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8028-6336-2
Dr. Vic Reasoner
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 2. Fall 2008. Volume 26. Page 10
Kevin Mannoia, a bishop in the Free Methodist Church, is chairman of the ecumenical Wesleyan Holiness Study Project, which draws from the Wesleyan, Holiness, and Pentecostal traditions. This group produced The Holiness Manifesto in Azusa, California in February 2006 after working for two years. It can be accessed online at http://holinessandunity.org/fs/index.php?id=1253. The document's creators are comfortable with a statement that never mentions secondness. Chris Bounds said of this attempt,
they were not able to offer any specifics as to what entire sanctification or holiness is, beyond the statement that "Holiness is Christ likeness." The Manifesto is indicative of the contemporary Wesleyan-Holiness tradition's inability to articulate clearly, succinctly, and persuasively her understanding of holiness [http://cbounds.blogspot.com/2006/05/what-is-entire-sanctification.html]
The first half of the document was written entirely by Mannoia, but was affirmed by the whole group. This manifesto is also reprinted as pages 18-21 of the full-length book, by the same title, which was published two years later.
While the purpose of the statement and the book is to promote holiness, there is no attempt made to prop up the old holiness movement or to create a new movement. Their goal is to promote holiness ecumenically, as a basis for uniting Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions.
The book contains a dozen essays which argue that the concept of holiness is relevant in the twenty-first century. There is concern expressed that "this next generation could in fact be the generation that abandons belief in sanctification" unless it can be adapted to a postmodern culture. Yet for this new generation, "doctrinal purity is second to the relational nature of faith in Christian community."
It is possible that these authors have tried too hard to make relevant the biblical teaching of holiness. One author asked, "How are disciples of Jesus to be God's holy people?" His answer was that "There is no precise holiness prescription affirmed universally by the Christian community." Another author wrote, "Jesus offers us little detail on the process and the steps that would lead a people to be truly holy." Rather the Jesus way "is tailor-made to each disciple's need."
If these spokesmen and women sound timid, they are trying to avoid the abuses and legalism of the past holiness movement. Certainly Mark Quanstrom's landmark study, A Century of Holiness Theology, demonstrated some needed reformation in the holiness movement. But his book also demonstrates a current ambiguity which has resulted.
The strongest part of The Holiness Manifesto is the three chapters which survey holiness in Scripture. Any contemporary statement of holiness must be biblically based. I appreciate the analysis of holiness as a process, a goal, and a possession.
However, some other contributors do not seem to add much value to the overall purpose of the book. I especially question the value of an extended section on Kierkegaard's existential understanding of sin. Nazarene theologians have all too often tried to legitimize the holiness message by connecting it with contemporary philosophical thought. In the process they have shifted from personalism to existentialism to process philosophy. But what sounds so contemporary to one generation tends to sound stilted and dated to the next generation. To revert back to Kiergaard, who died in 1855, will not satisfy the postmodernism of the twenty-first century. Only a return to the biblical message of holiness can answer the quest for truth in this generation, as well as all other generations.