Summary: The 4th Article of Faith for the Church of the Nazarene.
I believe that it is important to state what we believe up front and with full disclosure. Watch out for places of worship where they are unwilling to tell you what they actually believe. If they are hiding something, they are likely a cult. Cults are religions that are at least somewhat related to Christianity (sometimes very much related to it) but base much of their beliefs on writings contained in something other than the Bible. That would include Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness.
In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, though they use parts of the Bible as a hook, they base much of their beliefs on the writings of Joseph Smith. In the case of the Jehovah’s Witness, much of their theology is based upon the ‘Watchtower’ and their own translation of the Bible (the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures), which differs drastically from our own Bible. Both of these religions have things in common with mainstream Christianity on which we could find common ground. However, they stray so far afield from NT teachings that we can not call them ‘Christian’ in practice.
I state all this to make a point: Nazarene theology is based solely on the Bible, which leads us to our fourth Article of Faith, which is:
The Holy Scriptures
Here is the description of this 4th tenet of our faith:
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.
First of all, there is that word ‘plenary.’ What does that mean? Plenary means complete or absolute. We believe that the Holy Scriptures are the absolute inspiration of God to man. God not only told the various writers of the Old and New Testaments what to write, but also led the leaders of the church to decide which books were included in the ‘canon,’ or list of books of the Bible. Since we believe that the Bible is Divinely inspired, we can not and will not add to it in any way. In fact, that paragraph from the Manual specifically states that we cannot put anything in our Articles of Faith that is not in the Bible to begin with.
Well, you might say, there are a lot of things contained in the Manual for the Church of the Nazarene that aren’t in the Bible, and to that I would say that you are right. However, they are not part of our Articles of Faith. What is the difference?
In his book, the Church Awakening, Chuck Swindoll gives a beautiful illustration about erosion. He recalls a time when he was around 10 years old visiting his grandfather at his South Texas cabin, which overlooked a bay. His grandfather told him that every year, some of the cliff wore away. His grandfather walked to the edge of the cliff and then paced off a distance and put a stake in the ground to mark the spot. The next year, Chuck returned to the cabin. There had been two hurricanes that had occurred during the year. When they checked the distance, eight inches had disappeared. He would never had noticed if it had not been for the stake that had marked the spot. That is erosion and it is what can happen in our church if we do not put our stake in the ground to make sure that we are aware of any erosion that takes place.
But where do we put our stake? That is what our Articles of Faith are for. Since these are the fundamental teachings of our church that are based solely on biblical principles, these are the things that we must keep safe by placing our stake in the ground before them.
The rest of the stuff in the Manual may change over the years as our culture changes. While much of the manual are guidelines as to how to govern and such, some of it applies to our Christian conduct. However, these things can and do change over time and are not where we will place our stakes. At one time, the Christian code of conduct said that you couldn’t bowl, go to movies, or dance. These things changed, thankfully, and at some point other things will change as well. But our Articles of Faith must not change or we cease to be the Church of the Nazarene and become something else.
And this Article is the crux upon which all the others must stand. If the Bible is the complete and absolute authority upon which we base our theology, then this is the most important of all of the 16 Articles of Faith.