This is a thorough, point-by-point response to Lance Mackenzie’s rebuttal of the article “Danger! Beware of Compromising Holiness.”
This publication alternates between direct quotes from the article, direct quotes from Lance, and responses from Natalie. Due to the nature of this format, the writing has become lengthy. We have broken it down into six sections to aid in readability, you can use the table of contents to click to the section of your interest. If you would like to read Lance’s rebuttal without Natalie’s responses you can do so here.
SECTION 1: Stricter Doesn’t Always Mean Holier
Herein is my attempt to work through Lance Mackenzie’s objections to my article. On some issues, he and I genuinely have differing theological stances. On other issues, Lance seems to have misunderstood my points. I will do my best to re-explain the topics called into question. At the end of the day, it is up to our readers to search out the scriptures and decide which view is most biblically accurate.
ARTICLE: The applications of biblical principles may very well differ from Christian to Christian. For example, I know of many Christian women who believe they should apply the biblical principle of modesty/simplicity by only wearing plain, home-spun dresses. I commend the heart behind this practice. However, I have no such conviction, and I believe I am sufficiently applying biblical principle of modesty/simplicity by wearing store-bought clothes that keep me covered and aren’t flashy or overly expensive. We are both applying the same principle, and obeying our application as an outflow of relationship with Christ.
LANCE: I believe a category error is present here. Modesty is not given for the woman’s sake ALONE. It is also meant to be an outward manifestation to a lost world of a God given character. (1 Timothy 2:9 & 1 Peter 3:3) The reason why a woman who is wearing a homespun dress cannot exhort her christian sister to do the same is because BOTH articles of clothing demonstrate modesty, none costly array, and femininity. Neither conviction is more “holy” than the other because they perform the PURPOSE in the outside world.
RESPONSE: I honestly do not see the disagreement Lance has with me here. We both believe in the biblical principle of modesty. We both believe that a home-spun dress and modest store-bought clothing are legitimate applications of the same principle. We both believe that one is not more holy than the other. I would add that if one lady has been convicted in prayer/study that she ought to wear a homespun dress, then this is what she ought to do. For her, this is the correct application of modesty, it has come from her relationship with Christ, and anything less would be disobedience—thus, an unholy action. While for the second lady, modest store-bought clothing is still a holy application. I don’t know that Lance would agree with these statements, but he doesn’t refute them either.
ARTICLE: It is very important to realize that the stricter/harder application is not necessarily the “holier” application. If stricter is holier, then gloves are more holy than only long-sleeves, veils are more holy than only uncut hair, burkas are more holy than only high necklines, covering feet is more holy than only covering legs, closed-toed shoes are more holy than sandals, going to church daily is more holy than three times a week, tithing 70% is more holy than 10%, and the list could go on and on and on. In the above example, my Holiness friends would agree that wearing home-spun dresses would not make me any holier or any more pleasing to Christ. They realize that I have absolutely no conviction or logic or prodding of the Spirit which makes me believe I should apply modesty in such a manner. So, for Natalie Mayo, wearing a home-spun dress would not be an outflow of my relationship to Christ. It wouldn’t bring me an iota closer to Him, or help me to obey Him the slightest bit more, it would just be an unnecessary burden, a meaningless work, and make me feel pointlessly odd.
LANCE: I would agree. When it comes to exhorting one another to greater holiness we must keep in mind the PURPOSE of the principle/conviction. This defines for us the limits of our conviction. The bible is against sensuality and for modesty. Why? Because it shows that a Christian woman believes her inner character should be the leading feature of her life. Therefore her outer clothing should reflect this. Long sleeves are NOT more holy than short sleeves. Why? Because one is not more sensual than the other.
RESPONSE: The idea asserted that short-sleeves aren’t more sensual than long-sleeves is Lance’s personal opinion. I know many people who believe that short-sleeves are sensual. Perhaps they legitimately have struggled in this area or know someone who has. Do I believe short-sleeves are sensual? No. But, for those who have prayed about it, thought about it, and come to the conclusion that they are, I would whole-heartedly urge them to avoid short-sleeves. The idea that I am advocating is that every Christian must follow Scripture where it is specific, and where Scripture is not specific we must each pray, study further, and discern the most God-honoring application for ourselves. I can’t go off of Lance’s opinion that short sleeves aren’t sensual and I can’t go off my other friend’s opinion that they are. I have to follow Christ for myself, pray for myself, think for myself, study for myself, and apply the principle of modesty for myself as an outflow of my relationship with Christ.
LANCE: In the end we must define our convictions based upon their purpose. How do we do this? We go back to biblical principles and ask the purpose of the convictions so we might demonstrate God’s character in the world we live in.
RESPONSE: Agreed. And, we are each responsible to do this for ourselves. I can’t create personal convictions for you and you can’t create them for me.
ARTICLE: In Scripture, there is a very undefined concept of modesty, as well the general teaching that we should embrace our biological gender. Many Holiness Christians would believe that the best way to apply these principles is by women wearing skirts. That’s a legitimate application, and I commend them for following through with their personal discernment. However, there is a vast majority of Christians who have no such belief. In biblical times, men and women wore the same type of garment (robes) and many Christians find no reason to believe men and women ought to wear different types of garments today.
LANCE: As I stated in my response, this was acceptable because within that culture gender distinction was shown by subtle differences in their robes. However, within American culture the exclusive feminine clothing is STILL skirts. Why are the applications of other cultures being forced upon American culture to justify pants?
RESPONSE: With all due respect, the idea that it is more holy for women to only wear what is culturally, exclusively women’s attire is Lance’s personal application of gender distinction. We could apply this same reasoning to other garments and conclude that women must only wear dresses rather than shirts (especially, tee shirts and hoodies) because dresses are the exclusively feminine option in current, American culture. If there is genuinely a lady who believes that she should only wear dresses, or to my friends that feel it best to only wear skirts, I’ve already stated that I respect their judgment calls. However, let’s be textually honest and admit that Scripture doesn’t clarify that women must only wear the garment types which are exclusive to their gender. Thus, how we will apply the concept of gender distinction is left up to us to decide within our own prayer, study, and walk with Christ. Lance states, in biblical culture “gender distinction was shown by subtle differences in their robes.” If someone has believes that gender distinction shown by subtle differences in pants is also sufficient, why wouldn’t Lance respect that person’s judgment call? He need not follow it, just realize it’s a legitimate option in modern times (as much as subtle differences in robes was sufficient in ancient times). Furthermore, if that person has arrived at their conclusion via prayer and bible study, then implementing Lance’s judgment call would not increase their holiness. Holiness only comes through Christ. If we are doing a work only to please a person, and not God, than our holiness goes unaffected.
LANCE: NOTHING man does can make him holy…HOWEVER because the Spirit of God has invaded us we are to demonstrate His nature within our society. We do this by seeking to demonstrate Him by God given principles. Why? Because we are like GOD! We should bear His attributes. If we only apply scripture along the strict lines being presented then Christians CANNOT exhort one another to fulfill their God given destiny.
RESPONSE: Here, Lance has misunderstood me. He believes that I believe Christians cannot or should not exhort one another—this is incorrect. If I believe one of my good friends is doing a very bad job applying biblical principles, then I would definitely sit down and chat with them. If I had a close friend who was a girl and I knew she was into pornography, I would totally ask her if she has considered the biblical principles of fleeing youthful lusts. Even more so, I would be asking her about her devotional life. Bad discernment on the application of principles is a sign of an unhealthy or non-existent walk with Christ. Without a healthy walk with Christ, my friend cannot stand clothed in His righteousness on Judgment Day, thus, this is my chief concern. My role as a sister in Christ is not to make my friend follow a set of rules, my role is to point her back to Scripture and back to Jesus, with high hopes that she will be convicted for herself.
LANCE: However if we simply conform to the NEW none holiness churches/groups how is this any better?
RESPONSE: It’s not. We shouldn’t be mindlessly be conforming to any person or any group. The only image we ought to strive to conform ourselves to is the image of Christ.
LANCE: I will point out however that we have the right to exhort our brothers or sisters to biblical holiness, regardless if their “relationship” is leading them that direction or not. Example: “I don’t ‘feel’ there is anything wrong with my smoking marijuana. There is nothing in scripture to forbid me! Stop hindering my liberty!” Do we have legitimate reason to apply biblical principles to this brother with his weed habit? If so then upon what grounds? If the author’s reasoning above is applied then this CANNOT be done.
RESPONSE: Just like I stated above, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing your concerns, your insight, or your wisdom with a fellow brother. However, the purpose of such conversations is not to get them to follow rules you’ve set for yourself. The purpose is to point them to Christ, point them to His Word, and lovingly challenge their thought processes with the hopes that they will genuinely grow closer to Christ. As an outflow of their improving walk with Him, they should develop healthier convictions. With the marijuana example, I would point my sister to the principles of sober-mindedness and the warnings against addiction. I would challenge them to explain to me how their habit does not violate either of these concepts. Most of all, I would inquire about their personal walk with Christ and do what ever I could to help encourage/strengthen them. Ultimately, only Christ can make them holy.
LANCE: I will point out that the [sin] lists given [in scripture] are EXTREMELY broad. If we use the logic being applied then multitudes of situations within the Roman empire would be allowed! What about public bathing? Often both sexes would bath in the nude! However no SPECIFIC application is given for this. What about the gladiatorial games? Could anyone see Paul condoning this behavior? Yet again no specific application is given for this. The apostle Paul knew that his readers would apply the biblical principles presented and the leadership would seek to exhort their believers to follow these principles in their daily living. It is the only logical conclusion. Unless the author is claiming that Paul would condone this behavior.
RESPONSE: It is true that parts of the sin lists do tend to be broad, at least the inward sins are broad—like greed, lust, and dishonesty. This results in timeless principles that apply across cultures, nationalities and history. Instead of Scripture specifying each way that we could be dishonest and condemning them one by one (thou shalt not copy answers off a classmate’s test, thou shalt not download copyrighted music off thy friend’s computer, etc.) it basically just says “be honest.” In fact, the whole law is summed up in “love God and love others.” It’s reasonable to conclude that a person with a genuine relationship with Christ, who loves God and loves others, will not take pleasure in watching humans be torn limb from limb. Paul felt didn’t feel it was necessary to make a specific rule against gladiators. The necessary factor is authentic relationship with Christ. Obedience to Christ and application of His Word will come in logical consequence.
ARTICLE: Too often, their relationship with Christ, the real source of holiness, is short-circuited and traded off for a list of rules.
Lance: I hope I am misreading the above statement. Is it being implied that a “relationship with God” can make a person holy or save them? May I point out this is EQUALLY dangerous as saying that “good works” save you? All that has been done is a swapping out of how a man can save himself! NEITHER standards NOR a relationship with God can save a man from God’s wrath. This error seems to be filling this entire article. How are we saved from God’s wrath? Standards + faith in Christ? Relationship with God + faith in Christ? OR Faith in Christ ALONE.
RESPONSE: If I put my faith in Christ and I accept Him as my Savior, then where does that leave me? Am I estranged? Am I an outcast? Am I a prodigal? No. The veil has been torn by the sacrifice of Christ, and I can enter into fellowship with God through my faith in Christ. I am now clothed in His righteousness. I am in Christ; Christ is in me. My faith in Christ alone has ushered me into a new standing with the almighty God. I am no longer lost, I am found. I am a child of God. That’s a relationship. And now that I am in a relationship with Christ, I’m saved! Saved by faith through Christ alone, united with God through faith in Christ alone, a child of God through faith in Christ alone. By faith I have entered into relationship, and now that I am a child of God, His wrath will no longer be poured upon me.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” -John 1:12
NATHAN’S RESPONSE: Put another way, a right relationship with God isn’t an action we take to achieve salvation, it is the state of being saved which we arrive at after professing faith in Christ. At which point, right relationship and salvation can be used interchangeably. Why don’t we suffer God’s wrath? Because we are saved by Christ. Because we have a relationship with God through the work of Christ. The two phrases mean the same thing, though with emphasis on different aspects of our salvation. Far from espousing a new doctrine of salvation, Natalie was merely recounting the orthodox view without any variation or even any new insights.
LANCE: I will say that those in our congregations MUST come to own their convictions as their own. However, if your child was eating cyanide laced candy and you said nothing would this not be PERVERSE! “Well I don’t want to short circuit their growth in God” There are times we must jump into the fray and knock the poisoned “liberty” from the hands of the child…However if we make all application of scripture a personal conviction then please do your pastor a favor: don’t go to church Sunday. Why waste his time and yours? You aren’t going to apply the truth he gives unless you “feel” in your “relationship” that God is calling you to lay down your evil actions.
RESPONSE: If something is a heaven/hell issue, “cyanide,” then it’s not a matter of personal liberty. Liberty is for the “gray” areas, so to speak: to regard the day, to not regard the day, to eat the meat, to not eat the meat, to watch Disney, to not watch Disney, amusement parks or no amusement parks, long-sleeves or short-sleeves, head-coverings or no head-coverings, etc. Heaven and hell issues will all be covered clearly by one of those “broad” topics of scripture. For example, pornography, sending explicit images, and watching movies saturated with explicit, promiscuous content, should all clearly fit under the broad principle of “fleeing lust.” Anyone who has the ability to reason should be able deduce the obvious modern applications of ancient principles without having to have every detail spelled out. Furthermore, anyone with a genuine relationship with God (truly saved) will feel conviction if they go towards sin. God won’t let his children who are walking in the Spirit, seeking Him daily, and studying His Word just accidentally and ignorantly fall into gross immorality (cyanide). That said, if a biblical application is very clear (like fleeing lust forbidding pornography), then there is absolutely nothing wrong with preaching the application! Continuing with this example, navigating modern culture will include a plethora of decisions on when and where and how to flee lust. No preacher can make create a list of rules which will address every situation. It’s much more beneficial in the long run to understand the principle and be properly discipled on how to apply it for yourself. Most importantly, we must be walking in an authentic relationship with Christ. If we are, we can trust His Spirit to lead us and guide us into all truth.
LANCE: I without question agree that giving people a list of “convictions” without ALSO teaching them how to form their convictions produces weak Christians. However the solution is not to forbid us from exhorting each other to higher heights of holiness! We have to be consistent. If we can tell a Christian from a homosexual background that they should no longer practice this form of immorality, then when can we also tell a young lady to seek to dress as feminine and modestly as possible?
RESPONSE: I completely agree that we should encourage each other towards “higher heights of holiness,” I would just add that it’s super important to do so in a biblical manner. We can tell a Christian who was a homosexual to depart from that lifestyle because we have Scriptures which explicitly state he must do so. Thus, it’s not us telling him anything; it’s us sharing what God already said. We can encourage a young woman to dress modestly because there’s a Scripture for that. However, we can’t tell her she must wear long-sleeves in order to be modest. We can only tell her that’s our opinion and hope she’ll seriously consider it. Dictating every specific application of a broad principle is not our place. The Holy Spirit was given to leads and guide in the non-specifics, let’s trust Him do His job.
SECTION 2: Examining Galatians
ARTICLE: There were “spiritually mature” elders who were cherry-picking and dictating which parts of the Old Testament the new converts should follow in order to be holy and pleasing to Christ.
LANCE: ….That’s not at all what was happening here. The issue was that the Jewish Christians were not walking according to the Gospel. They had started to cave into Old Testament rituals as means of JUSTIFICATION. This passage in context has nothing to do with sanctification… The rest of chapter 3 CONSTANTLY talks about justification not sanctification. I don’t think any honest reader can walk away from this passage and think that Paul was dealing with Christian growth or sanctification.
RESPONSE: “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” – Galatians 3:2–3
The Galatians had already “begun in the Spirit.” They were saved through faith. After being saved through faith, the problem was that they were trying to grow in their Christianity via the amount of rules they followed from leaders. Following these extra-rules was not in obedience to scripture or to a Spirit-led conviction, it was just a result of trying to please men. Paul kept pointing back to the fact that they were saved by faith to make a point. The point was, if they couldn’t be saved by works then they can’t be “made perfect” (increase in holiness) through works.
LANCE: They weren’t adding rules to help men to walk more holy before God. Instead they were removing themselves from the presence of their fellow Gentile Christians because they deemed them to be “sinners” (Psalms 1:1) as a result of not being circumcised…
RESPONSE: “I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” —Galatians 2:14
Peter was rebuked for pressuring Gentile Christians to live after Jewish rules. Rules were not a means for them to become saved (considering they were already saved), but to stay saved. Yes, the Jews were adding rules in an attempt to help Gentiles become more holy.
LANCE: Paul then launches from this story into showing the Galatians that NO works of man can cause him to escape God’s wrath (i.e. be justified). It is FAITH ALONE that causes us to escape God’s wrath. Not faith + good works. Not faith + law. Not faith + relationship. If Natalie is implying that Paul in this passage was teaching that men are justified (escaping God’s wrath) by having convictions that are a result of their “outflow of their relationship with Christ”, then this is heretical. This passage is teaching the very OPPOSITE of that implication.
RESPONSE: I am not saying Paul taught justification through convictions flowing from relationship. In fact, there’s no possible way you can even have a relationship with God without being justified. But, once you become justified you will by definition enter into a relationship with God. To quote the article exactly,
“Scripture could not be more clear; righteousness, moral perfection, holiness—they absolutely, positively cannot come through our own works or through obeying rules. They only come through faith in Christ alone.”
LANCE: Lance: May I also say it is a perversion of the Gospel to state that we earn God’s righteousness by a “relationship” with God?
RESPONSE: You can’t have a relationship with God unless you’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ. So, how am I saying we earn righteousness?
LANCE: May I also point out that the apostle does not put the “idea that we can be made perfect (mature) through rules” under a curse. He puts ANY OTHER GOSPEL under a curse.
RESPONSE: And then Paul goes on to write a whole book against the idea of earning holiness through works/rules. It seems reasonable to believe that this is one of the falsehoods he was referring to.
LANCE: In the end, the entire trip to the beginning of Galatians to prove the author’s point that leadership/fellow brothers do not have the right to exhort one another to higher degrees of biblical holiness is a farce.
RESPONSE: Thankfully, I never claimed we shouldn’t encourage each other towards biblical holiness. Furthermore, my entire article was written specifically to encourage others towards holiness.
LANCE: This passage has nothing to do with the issue at hand. In fact it SUPPORTS the OPPOSITE of the author’s intention. How so? Because in this passage Paul EXHORTS Peter to stop committing a certain sin. Why did Paul inhibit Peter’s “liberty” (sin)? Because there is an exact verse from the Old Testament forbidding it? NO! Because Peter’s actions were not in accordance with the Biblical principles of Gospel.
RESPONSE: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” —Galatians 6:1
Peter wasn’t just doing a bad job applying a general principle, he was undermining Christ as the ultimate source of holiness and bringing Gentile saints into bondage. Moving on, anyone who is living in sin is not living in liberty. They have abused their liberty. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” —Romans 6:1–2
There was absolutely nothing wrong with correcting Peter’s doctrinal error. What would have been wrong would be if Peter said to Titus, “Hey, you have to regard Saturday as sacred if you want to grow in holiness!” Even if Peter had some personal conviction or reason to believe he should regard Saturday, it would be totally wrong for him to assert his personal application of the biblical principle of rest onto Titus. That would infringe upon Titus’ liberty. This is what Paul was talking about and this is what I am talking about.
SECTION 3: The Danger of Expecting Others to Develop Your Convictions
LANCE: I will say that not all mature Christians are going to have the exact same convictions (application) of biblical principles to their lives:
Some (but not ALL) convictions/ applications are personal…
However does this mean that there will not be universal “extra biblical” (which its not but oh well) applications that all mature believers will follow? Can any mature woman in Christ honestly believe a bikini is modest form of dress?
RESPONSE: If there is an application of a biblical principle that every mature Christian would come to on their own, then why do we need a rule on top of scripture? If, (using Lance’s example and beliefs) every Christian knows that a bikini would be contradictory to the biblical principle of modesty, then they’d already be in rebellion to Christ to wear such. So, why do they need a rule? If they’ll obey a man’s rule when they would rebel against Christ, then something is seriously wrong with their relationship with Christ; they have much bigger problems than swimwear.
That said, this article wasn’t addressing applications which every Christian would universally agree with, in every scenario, in every culture, in every era. This article is addressing the applications which can legitimately vary.
LANCE: As Natalie has stated previously in this article there is NO exact definition for modesty in the bible. Therefore all believers are free to define modesty on their own terms! Who is to say a bikini is immodest? Where does the bible give an EXACT definition for this? This is the problem with reasoning being utilized. Not only does it forbid actual application of biblical concepts, it also prevents believers from being able to apply general commands given in the Bible itself!
RESPONSE: I’m honestly very confused on how the concept of each Christian prayerfully, carefully, studying the Word and applying it to their own lives, is preventing anyone from applying general commands of scripture. I don’t need an exact definition of modesty to be modest. I need a rational mind. I need to have read/studied the biblical passages addressing modesty. I need to be walking in the Spirit, and a floor-length mirror would be great.
LANCE: Lance shouldn’t mature believers who have been in church for years know? Shouldn’t the Spirit convict them? …It is VERY possible for those who have been in church for years to be deceived.
RESPONSE: Agreed. This is why it’s very important for Christians to study and discuss Scripture together. If I see a sister making what I believe to be very bad life choices, I have every right, even an obligation, to ask her to reconsider those choices in light of the Scripture and the personal wisdom I bring to her. Most importantly, I must point her back to Christ. If her bad life choices are a result of drifting from the Savior, then she can do things my way all day, but if her walk with Christ isn’t restored—she’s losing her holiness and heaven too. The last thing she needs is for me to just hand her a list of rules. If I can’t convince someone that doing things a particular way is the most pleasing to Christ, then why should they do it? Doing it to please me would be shallow and unhelpful as far as their spirituality.
LANCE: Question: The author doesn’t have an issue with applying biblical principles. They just have issues with applications that aren’t biblical. Why are you arguing this point if you agree? Answer: The question is what is meant by “applications that aren’t biblical”? It appears the author has a double standard..why does the author consider it acceptable to derive extra biblical application from scriptures that don’t give exact definitions of modesty? How did the author come to this conclusion WITHOUT “extra biblical reasoning” i.e. biblical principles with logic.
RESPONSE: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with applying Scripture and logic to our modern-day lives and coming up with a conclusion on how to live that’s not expressly given in Scripture. I’m all for that! The question is who does this for whom? Do I apply Scripture for me, or do I apply Scripture for you? Do you make the rules for you, or do you make the rules for you and me too?
LANCE: When we subscribe to the narrow method of application of scripture given the only result is anarchy. No one has the right to convict or exhort his brother to do anything.
RESPONSE: I obviously believe I have the right to share my personal applications of Scripture and make a case for them; I do it all the time. I hope God will use my words to convict others and draw them closer to Him. However, I don’t convict—the Spirit convicts. I pray God does use me, and I hope someone is convicted to live in a healthier, holier manner through my writings. However, if God does not do this work in their life, or if they reject God’s prodding, then who am I to say, “Well, too bad. You have to do it anyways because I said so”?
LANCE: [In Romans 14] They were not following these traditions out of an attempt to JUSTIFY themselves (escape God’s wrath and become holy in God’s sight). Instead they were doing this out of their love and submission to the Lord.
RESPONSE: Agreed. My comments on what was happening in Galatians don’t apply in Romans.
LANCE: Was Paul stating that both options were equally valid? If so then why does he prove that no foods are of themselves unclean? What was Paul’s point? His desire was to preserve the love and unity of the church while the ignorant believers were in transition into a higher form of Christianity. These were NOT mature believers coming to different conclusions as is claimed by this article.
RESPONSE: Paul’s point seems to be that even when we have justifiable reasons to believe our application of Scripture is the best one, we still would be wrong to require it of someone else (let’s assume their position is not sinful). Note that he says, “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” (Romans 14:14). Even though Paul believes he has a better understanding than the other brother, it would still be sin for other brother to do as Paul does. Why? Because that other brother is morally obligated to live according to the best of his own knowledge of Scripture and walk with God—not Paul’s. I find it interesting that the “weaker brother” in this passage is the one who has more personal convictions and lives more strictly. The stronger brother realizes his God-given liberty. Either way, it still seems they are both mature Christians; they are both genuinely growing in Christ and making decisions that would please Him.
SECTION 4: The Danger of Backwards Emphasis
ARTICLE: Holiness standards have everything to do with externals, and it would be easy to claim that 80% of them have to do with personal appearance. Have you ever compared this to what the biblical authors emphasized in regards to holiness? Easily less than 5% had to do with appearance.
LANCE: May I also point out that regardless of how much or little something is mentioned in scripture does not make it untrue. How much space is given to the trinity in scripture? Does this make this doctrine any less true?
RESPONSE: Of course it doesn’t make it less true. If a teaching is given once in Scripture it’s true forever. (Though, I’d submit the Trinity is not scripturally marginalized). As far as the less than 5% of the New Testament where it does mention the outward appearance, I wholly support preaching that-about 5% of the time. Notice, even these verses aren’t the specific rules of the Holiness standard. The fraction of NT scriptures which were written on outward appearances are principles for each individual to apply. The Bible also is a fantastic model of how we should teach and what we should emphasize. The Old Testament gives a ton of specific outward rules, the New Testament gives a few general principles and tells us to walk in the Spirit. Now, how should we be preaching and teaching in our churches, Old Testament style or New Testament style?
LANCE: Unfortunately the word “sanctification” is no where mentioned in this article. Neither are the classic texts that speak of this process. Instead it seems that the author claims that we are “saved” then we work to become “holy”. However scripture states that we become holy by faith alone and then working that holiness out by the process of sanctification (Philippians 2:12-13).
RESPONSE: With all due respect, this characterization of my claims is the exact opposite of what I said. First, “sanctification” is specifically mentioned twice in my article. Here’s a direct quote: “If works are not sufficient to make us holy for salvation, then works are not sufficient to make us holy after salvation (for sanctification).” The article isn’t specifically about sanctification per se, the focus is “What is holiness and where does it come from?” My conclusion is that holiness comes through faith in Christ alone (which results in relationship), and then our relationship with Christ will be made manifest by our works.
Here’s the Scripture Lance references, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” —Philippians 2:12–13. Ironically, this beautifully sums up two of my main points. One, each of us must work out our own salvation (including hammering out our own beliefs). Two, it’s God that does the work in us. Thus, if we have a right relationship with God (Him in us) that relationship will be made manifest (as He works in us).
SECTION 5: A Deadlier Compromise
ARTICLE: Works, rules, things—these will never gain us favor with holiness of this magnitude. The only restoration would be for Him to bear the punishment for our sin, that we might be clothed in His righteousness. Thanks be to God, that’s exactly what He did. Christ was crucified, that through faith in Him, we can be made partakers of His holiness. We are utterly dependent on a relationship with Christ for our holiness, yet, obedience to His clear rules and gentle prodding will be an outflow. By His Spirit and by His Word, God will conform us into Christ-likeness…
LANCE: WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?! I had to do a double take when I read this. Is it actually being claimed that justification (escaping God’s wrath) is made complete by a relationship with Christ? What happens if I don’t pray in 3 weeks? Do I suddenly come under the wrath of God again? What if I pray but it’s kind of a tired prayer? Ya know what I mean. What if I’m just half asleep because I stayed up too late writing responses to a certain website? At what point in that relationship do you become “holy” in God’s sight? Where is the line where God’s grace needs your “help”?
RESPONSE: Again, there seems to be differing definitions of “relationship with Christ.” To clarify my belief, anyone who accepts Christ as their Savior, through faith, comes into a relationship with Him. Once we’re in a relationship, we’re safe from the wrath of God. As for Lance’s example of not praying for three weeks, not praying within itself wouldn’t bring us back under wrath. However, considering that Scripture commands us to “pray without ceasing,” if a person is able to go such a long period of time without obedience, large red-flags would go up as to whether or not they truly are in a relationship with Christ. If anything, it would seem like an indicator that their love for Him has gone cold; they would be choosing to disobey and drift away. That’s dangerously thin ice to tread.
ARTICLE: By His Spirit and by His Word, God will conform us into Christ-likeness: loving, kind, merciful, gracious, forgiving, selfless, righteous, joyful, generous, truthful, gentle, peaceful… the list goes on and on. A wretched sinner transformed into a holy saint; it’s an incredible sight, nothing short of a miracle. Tragically, this miracle is often short-circuited and traded in for a list of rules.
LANCE: That depends on what miracle you are referring to. Are you stating the miracle of “earning” God’s favor and deliverance from His wrath by your own perfect relationship? If so then this is no miracle. It’s heresy.
RESPONSE: Yet again, nothing I can do will merit God’s favor. That’s why I must trust in Christ. I call trusting in Christ a relationship with Christ.
ARTICLE: Tragically, this miracle is often short-circuited and traded in for a list of rules. “Yes, you were saved by faith, but you’ll need to do these things to become holy.”
LANCE: You are spot on. However a relationship cannot make on holy either. Only faith in Christ.
RESPONSE: The words in quotations are not my words. They represent the idea that works can make us holy and this is the idea that I am writing against. I believe works cannot make us holy, holiness only comes through Christ. However, the closer we grow to Him the more we will study and obey His Word, as well as allow Him to guide us into living in a Christ-centered manner.
ARTICLE: “No, these rules aren’t exactly in the Bible, but this is my opinion on how you should apply principles—and you’ll follow my opinion if you’re 100% holiness.” [Again this is the thought process I’m writing against.]
LANCE: Why is this a bad thing? If someone is saying applying scripture to my life and showing me where I fall short, then I should rejoice! Didn’t Paul do this in Romans 14? Didn’t he plainly show them they fell short in love? Why are you attacking Paul for? I fully understand leaders abuse this. However the answer ISN’T to burn the bible because we don’t like the abuse of its teachings. The answer is to get better leadership. (If you don’t believe that Natalie’s teaching would “burn the bible”. See my previous comments in this article. I plainly show that this teaching would remove any believer from consistently applying the bible to their own lives or others)
RESPONSE: As I’ve said multiple times, I have absolutely nothing against sharing opinions. I do it all the time. I even share my opinions on the best ways to apply Scripture all the time. Clearly, this is not what I’m speaking against. What I find unhealthy is when we use our opinions as a plumb line and measure our brothers and sisters up against it. We should hold each other accountable to Scripture, not opinion. I agree that Paul showed the believers that they fell short in love. The commandment to love is very scriptural, thus, Paul was holding them up to God’s Word. This is what I would love to see!
Let me give an example of what I find a problem with. What if I applied the principle of love to my own life and decided it would not be loving for me to eat peanuts. This could be due to the fact that I have a roommate who is deathly allergic to peanuts and I don’t want to create a hazard. Thus, I make myself a rule “No peanuts.” But then, if I go home to visit my sister and find her eating peanuts, would it be right for me to criticize her? Absolutely not. That would be me condemning my sister for not living up to my personal application of the principle of love. That’s silly. She doesn’t need to live up to my opinions and personal applications, she needs to study the Word for herself and come up with her own. I’d love to help her all I can in that process, but at the end of the day, how my sister chooses to apply Scripture is between her and God. Following my extra-biblical rules just to please me will never increase her holiness.
ARTICLE: Tragically, this miracle is often short-circuited and traded in for a list of rules. “Yes, you were saved by faith, but you’ll need to do these things to become holy. No, these rules aren’t exactly in the Bible, but this is my opinion on how you should apply principles—and you’ll follow my opinion if you’re 100% holiness.” What would Paul say?“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you…Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” “Why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?” Holiness will never come from works, works are only holy if they come as an outflow of a relationship with Christ. If works come as an endeavor to please men, they are nothing but a meaningless burden.
LANCE: [Paul’s] heart would be broken. Almost as broken as when he would see your exegesis of this passage from Galatians. I imagine all the Reformers would also grown in incredible agony. This passage, as I showed earlier, has NOTHING to do with sanctification. Paul was showing the Galatians that their justification was NOT made complete by works. He shows this by reminding them that they received the Spirit not as a result of works but by faith. God’s divine favor came upon faith ONLY. Why then do they now think their justification needs to be perfected by works of the law (flesh)? God’s currency is faith.
RESPONSE: I completely agree that justification comes by faith. I also agree that the Spirit comes by faith and divine favor comes by faith. Justification does not need to be perfected by works. Let’s realize that Paul mentioned the Galatians had already “begun in the Spirit” (already received justification/salvation) but were now attempting to “be made perfect” (become holy and mature) through human, fleshly works. They were not seeking Christ, reading His Word for themselves or striving to discern how He would desire them to live scripture out practically. Instead, they were content to obey the extra-biblical rules their leaders were compelling them towards and thinking that this how they would be made perfect. Walking and growing in Christ was being tossed to the wayside, traded in for merely doing works. This is what Paul was against and this is what I am against.
ARTICLE: Can you imagine how much it must frustrate Christ to see lists of extra-biblical rules being taught as the means of His holiness?
LANCE: Absolutely horrific. I agree it is a sad thought for sure. Almost as sad as stating a relationship will also earn God’s favor. That His blood was not sufficient.
RESPONSE: Again, if you have trusted in Christ by faith, His blood covers your sins, and you are now in a relationship with Him. When I refer to being in right relationship with Christ, I am referring to someone who’s sins have been covered by his blood. I’m glad to see that that Lance agrees it is “absolutely horrific” for extra-biblical rules to be taught as the means to holiness.
ARTICLE: Can you imagine how much it must grieve His heart to see converts base their spiritual maturity off of what they look like, completely short-cutting around a deep, and transforming walk with Him? Can you imagine His disappointment when His body splits and divides itself when one member doesn’t develop identical convictions to another?
LANCE: Can you imagine His disappointment when we live inconsistent lives that do not glorify His name? When asked why we ignored His truth we are told “I didn’t feel that conviction. I didn’t feel there was anything wrong with my porn habit. You didn’t specifically mention it! I didn’t feel my marijuna habit was wrong! You didn’t specifically mention it”. Oh how God must weep for a church that looks nothing like His Son. That CONSTANTLY refuses to bear His image. That has caused His name to become a byword for compromise and hypocrisy. Don’t believe that’s happening? Then start visiting other churches. Start evangelizing. Start talking to people our age about convictions and how they live their lives.
RESPONSE: I’m super confused by this response, especially since Lance seems to indicate that this is what I am teaching. On the contrary, personal opinions and feelings are exactly what I am saying we should never base our life upon. We absolutely must have a healthy relationship with Christ, and we absolutely must be studying His Word. Then, we must apply Scripture to the best of our ability and hold each other accountable to Scripture. There’s no earthly way someone could have a right relationship with Christ, be a student of His Word, and then make the conclusion that God sees nothing wrong with sexual gratification via pornography and recreational marijuana addiction.
LANCE: Question: Do you believe that all Christians will have identical convictions on every issue?
Answer: Absolutely not. We all struggle in unique ways. However we WILL have the same convictions in certain areas. Why? Because we all live in the same culture. Therefore we will have certain convictions that are similar due to this shared experience. We are called to be salt. We are called to approve that which is good and hate that which is evil. We will be consistent in this regard.
REPSONSE: Yes, we will have similar convictions in certain areas. However, we don’t all live in the same culture. Even among American Christians in the 21st century, there is quite a difference between Midwestern, New England, and Southern cultures. Moreover, city and rural cultures differ, rich and poor cultures differ, and there are even more culture differences between ethnic backgrounds. On the clear, scriptural rules, we should always agree, but our specific applications and extra-biblical rules will not always be the same. For example, we should all agree that we must show love one to another. Among Christians with Hispanic roots this may mean that we should all greet each other with a kiss, while another ethnicity would find this despicable—even sinful. Christians in a rich, urban subculture may see nothing prideful about owning Coach purses, while this may be entirely unacceptable among Christians in a poor, rural area.
LANCE: I agree that it is a compromise to think that process of sanctification is JUST a list of rules. However, it is ALSO incredible compromise to think that sanctification is JUST a relationship and doesn’t require consistent conformity to scriptural principles. If we come to this conclusion then we are NOT Berean. Being Berean requires being submitted to scripture not feelings. Not inclinations. Instead it must be SUBMISSION to scripture in a logically consistent manner.
RESPONSE: I stated many times throughout the article that anyone who is in a right relationship with Christ will definitely be seeking conformity to Scripture. There’s no way that you can be saved without loving God, and there’s no way that you can love God and live in defiance to His commandments, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” —John 14:15. Thus, if we love God and are walking with God, we absolutely will be seeking to obey His Word. As I said many times throughout this article, works will be an outflow of relationship. That said, it is the relationship with Christ, faith in Christ, that makes us holy, not the works in and of themselves.
SECTION 6: CONCLUSION
Natalie: Heaven will only be obtained by His holiness, and we are partakers of His holiness only by faith, never works.
Natalie: Holiness only comes from a relationship with Christ
Lance: So which is it? Which way do we escape the terrible wrath of God? If one claims both then you are a heretic and need to repent. I will not mince words on this issue. The bible is ABUNDANTLY clear on this point. Please go take the time to do an in depth study of Galatians 1 & 2.
RESPONSE: Again, this discrepancy roots from Lance and I have differing definitions of relationship. My understanding of a relationship with Christ is the right standing we have with God after we place our faith in Christ alone. This decision results in us becoming the children of God and exempts us from His wrath. Thus, we trust in Christ as our Savior, come into a relationship with God, and receive His holiness. As we continue in our walk with God, we will strive to please Him by keeping His Word and continuing in good works. There is no contradiction between holiness coming through relationship and holiness coming through faith—both relationship and holiness come through faith. You cannot separate the two. You cannot have relationship without faith, or have faith without relationship, and neither will be had without faith in Christ alone.
ARTICLE: To all my friends who have a genuine conviction towards a strict outward application, I want you to know that you have my utmost respect. Whether it’s a conviction to wear home-spun dresses, to wear veils, to wear skirts, to stay clean-shaven, to not wear wedding rings, to not pluck your eyebrows, to not curl your hair, to not watch movies, to not have internet—whatever it may be, go for it and never back down. If your conviction flows out of obedience to Christ’s work in your life, then for you, it would be compromise to give it up. So don’t, and God will greatly bless your faithfulness. That said, please be careful that you do not expect your personal application of Scripture to be practiced by others. Don’t force it on someone as a rule, for such rules are only hindrances if they are followed to please you and not Christ.
LANCE: If the conviction is a personal conviction then I give a hearty “Amen”! However if one uses this to justify behaviors that cause our fellow Christians to stumble, cause us to have a corrupted testimony in our culture, or rebel against God’s moral obligations then I say this is a grievous error.
RESPONSE: I am only speaking towards the danger of enforcing personal convictions. I am in no way, shape, or form, endorsing behaviors which clearly contradict Scripture. If someone tries to justify sinful behavior with my words then they are twisting what I am saying. I am not responsible for such abuse. In sharp contrast, I am highly encouraging Christians to search the Scriptures, apply them, and obey them.
ARTICLE: Lastly, don’t look down upon or disfellowship a brother with different convictions from yourself. If he is living in blatant sin or contradicting a clear biblical rule, that’s one thing, but please, stay aware of the distinction between plain biblical rules and your personal application of principles.
LANCE: What is meant by “biblical rules”? Does this include the often long lists in the epistles with little or no definitions? How do you exhort your brothers using such lists given by Paul when there is no specific application in scripture? How do you stay consistent with your passage earlier in this same article in which you said to be careful that “extra biblical” applications aren’t given?
RESPONSE: It’s really simple. Say, one of my Christian friends is in a sin that goes against a clear, biblical rule. For example, I found out she’s been sleeping around. In such a case, I have the option, even obligation, to go up to her in private, show her the Bible verses which condemn her behavior and lovingly say, “What you’re doing is wrong. I’m extremely concerned because you’re living in defiance of Scripture.” Now, here’s a second example. What if I had a friend who is sporting a Coach purse and I believe this is demonstrating the sin of pride. Would it be right for me to say to her, “What you’re doing is wrong. I’m extremely concerned because you’re living in defiance of Scripture?” Of course, not! In order to be biblically honest, my words would have to be more along the lines of, “I’m concerned, because I think your Coach purse gives off a sense of pride. They’re relatively very expensive, and Timothy warns us about allowing our beauty to come from costly array. It’s even possible that another sister may become jealous of your purse. If I were you, I personally wouldn’t carry it. However, I’m not you and I will respect your decision either way.”
LANCE: Perhaps you are saying that this includes only specific applications? (Therefore all of the lists Paul gave would be useless to us as Christians) Such as not offering food to idols? How many specific applications are given in scripture? (The answer is FEW) This is an area that I believe must be better defined by the author. This is the heart of the entire debate in my opinion.
RESPONSE: No specific rule given anywhere in Scripture is “blown away.” Anything in the Bible is clearly not extrabiblical. Paul was inspired by the Holy Ghost to reveal God’s truth and to write His very Word. Thus, the inspired work of Paul, which is Scripture, should never be put in the same category as the uninspired ideas of ourselves. That said, we must allow ourselves to learn from the way in which the NT teaches us. As Lance understands, God emphasizes principles, not long lists of specific applications. We would help ourselves greatly by teaching according to the biblical model.
LANCE: Are we allowed to exhort ourselves and others to higher degree of sanctification using the principles of the bible OR are we forced to use ONLY the specific applications scripture gives. If we are allowed to exhort one another based on principles (which is the only logical method) then how is this to be accomplished? I do not believe the authors of this site are consistent in this regard. In this very article they attack biblical principles. However they then turn and state that one CAN exhort fellow brothers and sisters based on “biblical rules”. How does one define a “biblical rule”? How do you define a “personal application” from “universal applications”?
RESPONSE: As stated many times, I am all for encouraging each other with the principles of Scripture! All for it, that’s an essential point of my article—we must be biblically-based in our teaching. As for the accusation that I “attack biblical principles,” I honestly can’t clarify myself, because I have no idea what Lance is referring to. Biblical rules are rules which are given in the Bible for Christians to follow. For example, rules against lying, rules against cheating on one’s spouse, and rules against stealing. A personal application is an extrabiblical application of a biblical principle (or general rule) made by a person. For example: a personal application to never carry a Coach purse, wear a Dainty Jewel’s dress, or copy a music CD without permission. The idea of universal applications comes from Lance, not myself, so it’s not my responsibility to define them. However, I’d suppose a universal application is just a personal application that every Christian in the universe would make.
LANCE: I’m not using this comment in anyway to attack Natalie’s character. I am showing that there is a major inconsistency here. Why are Christians allowed to exhort one another using “biblical rules” (whatever that is) however they are NOT to apply scripture to others? Explain to me how this is to be accomplished? Explain how these statements don’t contradict themselves? Is the answer that only the rules that don’t lead to any form or semblance holiness standards are the “rules” we apply? Is perhaps this inconsistency due to a fear of holiness standards instead of a Berean hunger for truth? I believe this article greatly demonstrates the flip flopping that is going on within the minds of many young people.
RESPONSE: As I’ve already said many times, I see absolutely nothing wrong with sharing our personal applications of Scripture and explaining how we came to our conclusions. I highly encourage this type of conversation and created the Berean Holiness website towards this goal. However, I do not require, or even desire, my friends to follow my opinions. I desire them to follow the Scripture. If I can convince them that my personal conviction is the best way to apply Scripture, great, but if I can’t then I must respect their conviction (unless it is blatantly contradictory to God’s Word; in which case, it would not be a personal conviction at all, but rather rebellion). I have no fear of “holiness standards,” whatever they may be. I am accountable for lining up my life with the scriptures. If I overlap someone’s perception of “holiness standards,” great. If I don’t, they’re welcome to show me how they arrived at their conclusions and I’ll show them how I arrived at mine.
ARTICLE: In summary, any doctrine which includes rules as a means to holiness, most especially rules which are not taught in Scripture, is a not a holiness doctrine at all. Paul would call it a perversion of the gospel. I would call it a deadly compromise. True holiness is a glorious picture of thriving, vibrant relationship with Christ. He walks with us and talks with us; He loves us and forgives us; He calls us higher and deeper. He opens His Word and He opens His heart. Daily, step by step, we’re transformed into His glorious image. Bit by bit, we become some of the most loving, most compassionate, most forgiving, most joyful, most kind, most caring, most truthful, most pure, most holy human beings this world has ever seen. Christ pours Himself into us, and then we pour ourselves out for the least and the lost, turning our world upside down.
LANCE: Correct. [Paul] would also say the same about earning God’s holiness (justification) through a “relationship” with God.
RESPONSE: I feel like a broken record, but once again, anyone who has put their faith in Christ alone has entered into relationship with Him. You cannot have salvation without having entered into this right standing with God. No heresy here.
ARTICLE: It’s a glorious vision, it’s a glimpse of true holiness. It’s a virtue and an attribute of God that we must crave with everything in us. That craving must never be subdued with anything less: not works, not rules, not standards, not pleasing men. True holiness, His holiness, holiness through faith in Christ alone; this must be the only thing which satisfies us. Nothing more, nothing less. No compromise.
LANCE: This sentiment is without question mutual. Frequently I weep for greater depths of holiness and purity. My greatest fear is ANY shadow in my life to hinder God’s light from shining through. I must confess I fall short in many ways. However I believe it CAN be seen in all its brilliance! Therefore I run all the harder! I search scripture diligently lest I cause any shadow in my life to hinder the Gospel of Christ. I do not seek to conform to man. Frankly many in the holiness movement would not agree with my thinking on the subjects of sanctification. However, I know it is truth. Why? Because His word is TRUTH therefore I gladly revel in my liberty and rejoice in my restraint. Why? Because through Christ I am liberated to freedom from sin. Because through Christ I am restrained from darkness. Through His revelation I can distinguish myself from a darkened world. This is my great fear. That my fellow Christian’s light would be bound by their “liberty” as an occasion to the flesh (Galatians 5:13).
RESPONSE: Agreed. We must be diligent to be as scriptural as possible, and never abuse the liberty which God so graciously has gifted to us.