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Rethinking Holiness

A Theological Introduction

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Holiness is experiencing a renaissance both within and beyond the church today. Based on years of conversations with students, this approachable theological introduction to the Christian doctrine of holiness challenges the commonly held idea that holiness is primarily a moral category. The author explains that holiness is grounded not in ethics but in the basic nature of God; it is essentially and exclusively a divine property. The book highlights the Bible's necessary and corrective role in defining holiness and shows how individual holiness is grounded in the community that is the church catholic.

1. The Desire and Need for Holiness
2. A Biblical Definition of Holiness
3. A Theological Investigation of Holiness
4. Holiness and the Nature and Purpose of Humanity
5. Holiness and the Nature and Problem of Sin
6. Holiness and the Nature and Goal of Salvation
7. Holiness and the Nature and Goal of the Church


"Holiness is a nearly forgotten concept in my church. That's a great pity. The Wesleyan conviction that God is able to draw us into ever closer fellowship with the Trinity and that our thoughts and deeds are transformed in the process--holiness--is the force that drove the Methodist revival. Holiness is what a living, loving God is and does. Bernie Van De Walle has written a remarkable book that gives fresh, contemporary, practical significance to the idea of holiness. Here's a book that my church needs to read, ponder, and inculcate now that we may go with God into God's future."

Will Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry, Duke Divinity School; United Methodist Bishop, retired

"In Rethinking Holiness, Bernie Van De Walle speaks to a church confused about how salvation shapes one's life in Christ. He gives us a fine introduction to a belief once so core to the Christian faith, but now so forgotten. After reading it, I came away with fresh eyes for what it might mean not just to be saved in Christ but to be transformed in Christ."

David Fitch, Betty R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary; author of Faithful Presence

"Rethinking Holiness brings forward an important conversation that addresses how the Christian community can demonstrate the holiness of God in the present cultural context. Recovering the concept of holiness--not as insider jargon but as good news for the world for which Jesus died--Van De Walle supplies theological reflection that invites the reader to better articulate and proclaim the scriptural witness to the God made known in Jesus. I've been waiting for this conversation, and Rethinking Holiness brings it front and center."

Joy J. Moore, associate professor of practical theology, Wesley Seminary, Indiana Wesleyan University

"What an exhilarating experience to read Bernie's book and find the soul resonating and rejoicing! The power of holiness as a description of God's nature captivates the heart and compels us to participate. It's almost as if we are seeing holiness for the first time. Bernie carefully and thoughtfully strips away the layers of insulation that have kept holiness locked in a time warp of irrelevance and lays before us the glory of God's transcendence in life-changing clarity. He does all of this with the implicit nudge to participate in God's holiness so that we are transformed. Holiness has never been more compelling, life giving, and desirable."

Kevin W. Mannoia, chaplain, Azusa Pacific University; former president, National Association of Evangelicals

"In Rethinking Holiness Bernie Van De Walle presents a readable, engaging, and theologically sound conversation that is absolutely necessary. Approaching a subject that has fallen out of popularity within the contemporary Christian church, Van De Walle offers a much-needed corrective to the misrepresentations of holiness that have arisen over the past several decades. By connecting the lines between God's nature and God's intention for creation, Van De Walle invites us to embrace the genuine liberty to participate in the divine nature and to be conformed to the image of Christ. He reminds us that holiness is neither something we achieve nor a matter of behavior--of being sinless--but is rather something God creates within individuals and the church. For pastors and theological educators who have lamented the current state of holiness among our parishioners and students, Rethinking Holiness provides an excellent resource for reigniting conversations about genuine holiness with those to whom we are called to minister."

Estrelda Alexander, president, William Seymour College

"Dr. Van De Walle has pulled off a small miracle: he has written a book of theology that's also a page-turner. He has a gift for rendering complex ideas in lively prose with lucid arguments--and presenting it all as nourishment for the soul. In Rethinking Holiness he employs this gift on a topic the church urgently needs to rediscover: holiness. I am going to recommend this book widely in the hope that it reintroduces to the church (and to the world) the staggering beauty of God's holiness and invites us again to delight in the good news that God shares God's own holiness with us in order to makes us holy as God is holy."

Mark Buchanan, author of The Rest of God

"The message of holiness has been proclaimed throughout the centuries, though at times it has been distorted by legalism and misunderstanding. Bernie Van De Walle brings this important understanding of God's character back into the center of conversation in the life of the church. Rethinking Holiness provides a necessary, contemporary expression of a vital doctrine."

Carla Sunberg, president, professor of historical theology, Nazarene Theological Seminary

"Van De Walle strikes at the heart of what God desires for the church and what Christians have always yearned for--holiness. He eloquently unravels the complex meaning of holiness and persuasively argues that Christians and non-Christians alike have a deep desire and need to be holy. Rethinking Holiness challenges those who have dismissed holiness as an antiquated and uninteresting topic to rethink their dismissal. This book offers deeply theological yet practical insights from a scholar who is passionate about helping ordinary Christians rediscover the essence of holiness."

Antipas L. Harris, associate professor, Regent University; author of Holy Spirit, Holy Living: Toward a Practical Theology of Holiness

The Author

  1. Bernie A. Van De Walle

    Bernie A. Van De Walle

    Bernie A. Van De Walle (PhD, Drew University) is professor of historical and systematic theology and theology program convener at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta, where he has taught for over fifteen years. He is the author of The Heart of the Gospel...

    Continue reading about Bernie A. Van De Walle


"[This] book brought my education [on Holiness theology] into the 21st century. . . . Though the book occasionally has a practical bent, it is primarily a theology text. As such it is grounded in scripture. . . . The book is well-researched with references and includes a complete index in the last few pages. . . . The writing is concise, well-organized, and interesting. I felt invited to move into each chapter and to be engaged with the content. The writing is easily understood, whether the reader is a theologian or a layperson. The book belongs in the seminary library. Some church libraries will find it useful. It would certainly fit well as an ancillary text for a course on God's character or attributes or one focusing on the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life. Finally, the book is recommended reading for anyone (scholar, pastor, or lay) looking for a source of personal renewal in their walk with Jesus."

Pastor Floyd,

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