A Book Review
By Dr. Gayle Woods
Standing before the Christian Holiness Partnership, formerly known as the Christian Holiness Association, in 1995, Keith Drury detonated an issue which has sent shock waves through Wesleyan holiness circles for over a decade. His premise was that “The Holiness Movement is Dead.” He was not saying that any holiness church or denomination was death. Neither was he saying that the doctrine of holiness was dead. He was stating that the holiness movement is no longer moving. It is no longer making a significant impact on our society. He proceeded to list eight reasons that he felt this was true.
- We wanted to be respectable.
- We have plunged into the evangelical mainstream.
- We failed to convince the younger generation.
- We quit making holiness the main issue.
- We lost the lay people.
- We overreacted against the abuses of the past.
- We adopted church-growth thinking without theological thinking.
- We did not notice when the battle line moved.
The responses to this address were many. They varied from “So what? It was out of step with reality anyway,” to “The liberals finally have recognized that they have lost it, but we are the true remnant which is still proclaiming the truth.”
Ten years after the presentation, Schmul Publishing Company printed a compendium of responses to the original monograph in the format of dialogue. The contributors are Keith Drury, professor at Indiana Wesleyan University Richard S. Taylor, founding president of the Wesleyan Theological Society, and retired professor from Nazarene Theological Seminary; Kenneth J. Collins, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary; and Wallace Thornton, Jr, a former professor at Union Bible College. Each of these men have distinguished themselves as published authors. Larry D. Smith, who serves as the editor of “God’s Revivalist and Bible Advocate”, edited the volume.
“Counterpoint” was structured well. It began with the initial presentation by Keith Drury. An Appendix written in 2004 was added in which Dr. Drury revisited the presentation and evaluated his initial conclusions. Part Two included the published response of the other three authors. They were also allowed to evaluate their former thoughts with a 2004 appendix. Part Three was designed to allow each of the authors in turn to assess the opinions and conclusions of the other three. The book was concluded with an Epilogue by editor, Larry Smith.
Each of those involved in the dialogue made significant contributions as they dissected the problem. The holiness reader cannot help but be disturbed as the material unfolds and the causative matters are discussed. For those of us who have seen the holiness movement as a healthy vital centerpiece of our offering to the world the realization of what has taken place is gut wrenching. We must admit that Keith Drury’s assessment of the Conservative Holiness Movement is true when he says, (1) that we are mostly a “preservationist” movement making little impact upon our world; and (2) that we are “in the early (perhaps medium?) stages of the same process” that destroyed the broader movement—perhaps twenty-five years behind. (p. 158)
In my opinion, this is a book that must be read by everyone who is sincerely concerned that the holiness movement seems to have no movement. I would challenge every pastor, board member, Sunday school superintendent, Sunday school teacher, Bible school teacher, and thinking layperson to make a prayerful study of this book. I would encourage our leaders to develop a think tank to discuss how to remedy this creeping problem. We need to listen to these prophetic voices calling us to action lest we soon have to wipe tears of regret while we listen to the reading of the obituary of our movement.
Keith Drury; Richard S. Taylor; Kenneth J. Collins; Wallace Thornton, Jr.; Larry D. Smith. Counterpoint: Dialogue with Drury on The Holiness Movement (2005). Schmul Publishing Company, Salem, OH. ISBN 0-88019-495-2