Q&A: A History of Article IV (Scripture)

Q&A: A History of Article IV (Scripture)

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The Church of the Nazarene's official position on Scripture has been the same since 1928.

Q: Some say that Article IV (The Holy Scriptures) has changed quite a bit over the years in the Church of the Nazarene's Articles of Faith. I didn't think that was accurate.

A: To put it simply: they heard wrong. The Church of the Nazarene's official position on Scripture has been the same since 1928, when the General Assembly undertook a major overhaul of the Manual, including its Articles of Faith. Here is how Article IV reads now as well as in 1928:

IV. The Holy Scriptures

4. We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith (Luke 24:44-47| John 10:35| 1 Corinthians 15:3-4| 2 Timothy 3:15-17| 1 Peter 1:10-12| 2 Peter 1:20-21).

(Manual 2009-2013)

The 1928 revision of Article IV was authored by H. Orton Wiley, who subsequently told his theology students at Pasadena College that he fashioned the statement in a way that provided "elbow room" for the church's biblical and theological scholars. We have testimony to this from his former students Ross Price, Carl Bangs, Paul T. Culbertson, and Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, each of whom was mentored personally by Wiley. The statement on Scripture prior to 1928 made no claim at all about inerrancy. Here is the statement in the 1919 Manual:

The Holy Scriptures

By the Holy Scriptures, we understand the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, given by Divine inspiration, revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation| so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith. (Manual 1919)

This simple 1919 statement does four things:

  1. Affirms that Nazarenes hold to the Protestant canon of Scripture (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox canons have over 66 books),
  2. Affirms our faith in the full and divine inspiration of the 66 canonical books,
  3. Affirms that Scripture provides a clear path to salvation, and
  4. States that Scripture is our only authoritative source for deriving our articles of faith.

The 1919 and 1928 statements are completely congruent with one another, in my opinion.

Stan Ingersol is manager of Nazarene Archives.