Voice of the Day: T. A. Noble

One of the central, defining tenants of early Methodism was its focus on Christian holiness. That focus has been lost and needs to be recovered. However, we must not strive after holiness for its own sake. That’s the point made by T. A. Noble in Holy Trinity: Holy People. Here is his argument in a nutshell:

“That danger [of being so self-absorbed that we end up separating ourselves from God] is never greater than when we make our own holiness the centre of our interest. ‘It is a dangerous thing to do,’ wrote P. T. Forsyth, ‘to work at your own holiness.’ Surely, as Luther saw, the last and most subtly hidden bastion of our sinful self-centeredness is self-centered religion. As Paul makes clear in Philippians 3, the aim of the ‘perfect’ is not their own perfection, but that they may know Christ. He is the goal. Christian ‘perfection’ is only a by-product.”

Holiness is an important hallmark of the Christian life, but it is not the ultimate goal. God is the ultimate goal. Perhaps that’s why John Wesley’s understanding of holiness is best summarized in the biblical language of loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.