Original Letter from David Wasmundt
To admit misgivings about any negative effects of your work is not easy. But if you strive to be honorable and true, to smother the pangs of conscience with pride is even harder to do. My writing of the book "Neo-Phariseeism" was the product of a challenging and soul searching process that led me through some doors of personal revelation and subsequent considerations of the effects of what I called in my sequel book, "Pendulum Extremes." Actually, what became "Neo-Phariseeism" was more of a personal thesis in an attempt to arrange my thinking on an array of issues that were continually privately discussed and debated among ministerial colleagues of mine through the years. These reflections seemed to culminate at the same time that the United Pentecostal Church International, with which I had held credentials for twenty five years, produced a somewhat controversial resolution requiring ministers to sign resolutions reaffirming some of the "traditional standards" that it held important.
As I was uncertain of exactly what I believed about some of the "dress mandates," I could not in good conscious sign the resolution. So what began as personal conjectures and speculation evolved into a public written testimonial of sorts that "grew legs" from there largely because there was such a vacuum of information that existed with regard to many of these issues. To my knowledge at that time there was not any United Pentecostal Church publication that dealt specifically with the subject of phariseeism, a subject that our Lord dealt with in a rather incisive manner. In any event, I was left echoing in a public way, questions that thousands only silently pondered. Perhaps just one wise elder or official could have made a difference in the course that many took had there been any kind of attempt to personally or publicly dialogue about these matters. That is why it is essential that religious affiliations provide legitimate forums so that sincere questions can be asked and even genuinely debated without the sanction of expulsion or the smearing of reputations and motives being the only closure that appears available. As things appeared to me, I felt morally compelled to respond to a real growing phariseeism that threatened the doctrine of true holiness in the church. I do not regret in any way this aspect of my endeavor.
Presently however, I find myself in the difficult position of having both sides of the pendulum extremists irritated with me. But I can only speak from what I have observed having this consolation that ultimately, "The Lord knows His own," and will some day reveal our true motivations and desires. But as I previously felt compelled by the Lord to speak out against some misrepresentations of true holiness, so now I feel equally compelled to be candid about what I have observed in more recent times. I have been troubled by those that have attempted to use "Neo-Phariseeism" as a justification for false grace; for the excision of true holiness and for immodesty in adornment. I regret if and where that these misuses have occurred.
It is still my belief that those that pervert holiness as primarily a "skin outward" doctrine with arrogant and offensive spirits, continue to do as much damage to the church as the "false grace" movement. Real legalism is still a rampant and insidious distortion of the truth about the grace of God. True grace is revelatory as well as true holiness and other foundational doctrines of scripture.
So while I certainly believe that I was on target as to the concerns that I raised about phariseeism in the church, I slowly became alarmed as I began to watch a "pendulum effect" that became evident in so many people that began to adjust to what I believed were simply certain outdated dress restrictions. My dismay intensified as I observed many of these people progress from having dress codes that retained moderation, to basically dismantling all modesty requirements. Now anything that had to do with outward holiness suddenly was labeled as the "spirit of religion," and then I began hearing about those people that were "farther down the road." Unfortunately it was not a "road" that impressed me as I discovered the same old ugly pharisaical attitude that was simply the reverse of conservative hardline pharisaism that I had been acquainted with in the first place. Only now I saw a "liberal elitism" that looked down its nose at anything that didn't resemble its own endemic dress fashion and doctrinal openness! I recoiled at the "venom" that many displayed at "holiness people" and "godly convictions." Unfortunately it didn't stop there with some of these liberated dissidents, because the "pendulum" then carried them from the "Apostolic doctrine" to a smorgasbord of charismatic type doctrines from "Make me rich," to "Make me a prophet" to "Make me laugh." But all it did was make me sick. As a result, I never became involved in any permanent way with these groups and thank God that by His grace, I continue to have a heart for true holiness.
But as a result of my books, I feel somewhat compelled to warn those who might be in a mode of contemplation regarding these issues, about the inherent dangers of the pendulum effect. Although perhaps it is not possible to declare many holiness interpretations as absolute as the "Ten Commandments," it is important to weigh the Apostle Paul's sentiments that although all things may be "lawful," their lack of expediency must be carefully considered to avoid the effects of the "pendulum."
Dangers of Falling Off The "Wagon of Holiness Sobriety"
I have come to believe that although it is possible to have differing view points on relative issues such as modesty, it is important to be aware that without proper church authorization and supervision, any adjustments can be experientially harmful to those who have been given certain spiritual as well as certain "traditional" understandings of holiness. Those understandings correctly contain certain elements that encourage believers to outwardly "come out and be separate" from the world, as well as call for the necessary inward manifestations of holiness. In light of the continual deterioration in the moral condition of our society and in view of the "pendulum" effect that I have described, it would seem to me that for those that have been inoculated with what I will refer to as a high level of "holiness sobriety," it may be better to err a little on the conservative side of holiness theology than to risk falling off of the "wagon of holiness sobriety" into the immoral inebriation of the culture. This paradigm of perpetual compromise always results in a status of apostasy described vividly by the Apostle Peter.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire (2 Peter 2:19-22).
If Peter were alive today, I believe that he would agree with me and say, "the "false liberty" movement is a failure. The "false grace" movement is a failure. The liberal elements of the "charismatic movement" is a failure." The fact remains that no amount of re-labeling sin will make it moral. Peter emphatically declares that you can package sin any way you want to but it will still emanate with the stench of mud and vomit! There is no escaping the fact that people who attempt to shrewdly legitimize that which is clearly sin are Neo-Apostates that have broken the "holiness covenant" that pledged a bride to Christ having no spot or wrinkle. Presently, as a result of an insidious moral implosion that is sweeping the land, we see that the pendulum effect has carried many believers to the point where they have just about given up resisting the cultural tug of immorality. Sadly they have fallen "off the wagon" of a "chosen generation," a "royal priesthood " an holy nation" and a "peculiar people." Now they are just like everyone else, unholy and unashamed.
How an Inch Becomes a Mile
I have come to realize to a greater degree than before, that contained in human nature there is a certain quirkiness or a principle that tends to reinforce a corresponding scientific principle that says "things in motion tend to stay in motion." Thus, for too many people, (not all) in the realm of adjustments to holiness traditions and dictates, there is a tendency to stay in motion, so that cultural adjustments turn into cultural debasements; moderation gives way to excess; true grace turns into false disgrace and ultimately a loss of important doctrines, pureness of heart and personal commitment occur.
Simply put, freedom becomes a curse for those who are either unable or unwilling to accept a corresponding personal responsibility. Freedom always carries an absolute "addendum" of responsibility and accountability. In the spiritual realm, that addendum is always delivered by the Holy Ghost, in conjunction with the Word of God, for only where the "spirit of the Lord" is available to feed us as well as constrain us on a daily basis, can true liberty be enjoyed. Unfortunately it is obviously clear that far too many believers do not make themselves privy to the personal leading of the Holy Spirit. It has become clearer to me that perhaps this is why God has established a system of checks and balances within organizational church leadership in order to correct those believers that tend to stay in perpetual motion toward the world.
This human foible of "turning an inch into a mile" is also true in other areas of life whenever and wherever the soulish part of humanity is given an opportunity to wrestle away physical, moral or spiritual assets. Thus the person dieting; the athlete exercising; the student studying; the musician practicing, and yes, the believer praying, giving and committing to God must always confront a potential crisis of deterioration and compromise when they allow themselves to take even a "inch" of ease and assuagement in these productive areas because "turning an inch into a mile" is more than a simple cliché, it is a reality. That reality also indicates that the deceitfulness of our heart will always attempt to defile the truth that is in us. The carnal in us will always attempt to negotiate for just an inch, but will still be grasping for more after miles of capitulation and ruin lay behind us. The corner of darkness in our heart will always attempt to smother the light that is in us. Best advice? Don't negotiate.
In terms of personal spiritual control, perhaps it was nonsensical "idealism" on my part that assumed that people would install a personal governor on the racing engines of their fleshly desires. Perhaps the same inability in drug addicts and alcoholics to adjust to less as opposed to total prohibition is also the reason that the majority of believers that are mightily delivered from the addiction of sin and self and are then brought to a certain level of "holiness sobriety" cannot adjust downward or moderate their comprehension of these beliefs without "falling off the wagon" of holiness altogether. This notion seems to be true even if the adjustments are "lawful" and even if the understandings are traditionally acquired.
Bottom Line Truth
It would seem that if reasonable spiritual principles and standards are applied through Biblical teaching to a believers holiness awareness, such as the ideals embodied in "separation from the world" and "denying ones self," that these understandings then become a part of the behavior for those that understand their spiritual relevance and thus become a part of what is necessary for them to maintain their holiness sobriety. At the same time we must acknowledge that there are other groups of believers that apply holiness standards somewhat differently and not having been exposed to certain indigenous traditions as they relate to holiness, are not affected by this "slippery slope" phenomenon. This is evidenced by the reality that they also embrace basic teachings of modesty, separation and commitment that are common elements to the doctrine of holiness. The bottom line truth seems to confirm that reasonable people can interpret holiness standards somewhat differently but it is difficult for conservative believers to adjust to a more liberal stance without a pendulum effect.
The Apostle Paul 's spiritual analogy could apply here in the sense that we could concede that "others may eat meat" but those that were saved with traditions of "meat prohibitions" may risk choking on it. So while it may be possible for some to get out the spiritual "A-1 sauce," most need at a minimum, legitimate, spiritual supervision so they don't strangle themselves with that which may be lawful but not expedient to them. Too many people are becoming Neo-Apostates in their pursuit of freedom. Too many are losing their spiritual equilibrium as they slowly fall away from God toward the magnetism of the world, the flesh and the devil. Too many have lost that certain "heart after God," as evidenced by their lack of commitment toward the building of the kingdom of God. Regardless of the "Pharisees" that exist in and out of the holiness movement, by the grace of God I want to continue to keep my face set toward holiness and a continued love for the Apostolic doctrine and godly living.
The warning must go forth with a certain sound of urgency that in these evil days, all of us had better submit ourselves to the governor of the Holy Ghost, as well as legitimate and unified church leadership, or the odds of the motion toward this dying world will be too great to resist. All I know is that the world is getting too dark, the hour is too late and the task of the church is to great to risk seeing good people who have had a high standard of holiness sobriety continue to fall off of the "wagon of godliness" back into an ever increasing cultural flood of moral depravity.
October 20, 1998
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