Salvationist Quadrilateral: 4 Authoritative Sources for Salvationists
There are four authoritative sources for Salvationists that help to sustain and define our faith and our self-identity as the people of God.
The first source for Salvationists is The Bible.
Salvationists are people of the Bible. For Salvationists, the Bible is “the living Word of the living God.” In the Bible, God has made known about Himself and His will to us as the written revelation. Salvationists agree that our first doctrine was chosen intentionally as the corporate declaration of our commitment to the Bible: “We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice (Doctrine #1).”
Through this affirmation, we crucially acknowledge that the Bible is the central and foundational ground of our holiness movement and mission. In this acknowledgement of the Bible as the ultimate source that only constitutes “the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice,” the transformational discipline of Bible-reading with a prayerful heart is fundamental to bringing us into the fruitful harvest of God’s Kingdom-business. Further, to follow Christ’s example and to deepen our relationship with Him requires and inspires us to enjoy the intimate, Word-centered relationship with God as He reveals Himself to us in Scripture.
In fact, The Salvation Army has a distinctive heritage of pursuing the life of holiness through the faithful reading of the Bible. For example, Catherine Booth, “the Mother of The Salvation Army,” read the Bible 8 times by the time she was 12. After his conversion, William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, committed himself to read 4 chapters of the Bible daily. In The Soul-Winner’s Secret, our “teacher of holiness” Samuel Logan Brengle testifies, “Personally, for years I have given the best hour of the day to the Bible, and now I want it more than I want my food.”
At this point, we may ask one question regarding the most faithful and effective way to deepen a Salvationist’s covenantal commitment as a person of God: “Are you a faithful Bible-reading Christian?” This honest inquiry should be considered of utmost importance in our efforts to renew our individual and collective Salvationist identity and as faithful followers of Christ. It is my conviction that we are not exempt from the issue of biblical illiteracy within the community of The Salvation Army. Further, I believe that the greater Christian community is facing this same issue as a whole.
The second source for Salvationists is the Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine.
The Salvation Army’s 11 doctrines are the official creed that manifests Salvation Army’s doctrinal positions as “an evangelical part of the universal Christian church.” In his preface for the 1998 edition of the Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine which is called Salvation Story, the 15th General of The Salvation Army, Paul Rader, indicates that The Salvation Army’s Handbook of Doctrine is meant “to assist us in reflecting on the foundation of that faith, and its meaning for our life together as the people of God in mission and for our programmers of redemptive and compassionate action.”
It is declared in the 2010 edition of The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine that “for Salvationists, belief and action have always been intertwined. Our faith and practice are rooted in the Bible, personal experience and the Christian heritage. Salvation Army doctrine is part of that heritage, and it too is built upon the foundation of the biblical text as interpreted by the people of God.”
In an address to officers at a Council of War in 1876, William Booth instructed his audiences:
Teach your people. Teach them sound doctrine; if you do not give them thetruth, somebody else will give them falsehood. The best method of keeping the weeds out of your garden is to stock it well good, useful plants, and I know no better plan to prevent the devil and ignorant, mistaken teachers sowing the seeds of error in the minds of your people than to anticipate them with sound scriptural doctrine. There are thee old-fashioned practical truths which you must frequently and emphatically insist upon. They may be regarded as three pillars which mainly carry the entire building of experimental godliness; and if your people are thoroughly grounded in these, they will not be easily moved. They are REPENTANCE, FAITH and HOLINESS.
The third source for Salvationists is the Song Book of The Salvation Army.
Ronald W. Holz points out that “music has always been a strong component of the Salvationist mission to spread the Gospel of Christ to the ‘whosoever.” Holz also asserts that the Songbook has been used as an “important source for assessing the Army’s theological self-understanding… since the movement’s doctrinal commitments find expression in its worship;” especially for defining the rich heritage of Salvationists’ Wesleyan holiness theology. Indeed, General André Cox accentuates in his foreword for the new Song Book of The Salvation Armywhich has published in 2015 as follows: “As Salvationists, we believe in the divine inspiration and authority of the Word of God. That is the bedrock of our faith. God speaks to us also through the lyrics of our personal devotions as much as in our corporate worship.”
The fourth source for Salvationists is the Orders and Regulations of The Salvation Army.
The various units and dimensions of the Orders and Regulations of The Salvation Army symbolically functioned as the authorized “blueprint” for the pastoral and ecclesiastical guide and discipline of Salvationists.
It states that: “The orders and regulations of The Salvation Army together make up a manual of operations for furthering the mission on which Salvationists are engaged, a mission to combat the sin and evil that cripples and corrupts men and women in body, mind and soul.” The Orders and Regulations of The Salvation Army manifests Salvationism’s individual and communal aspects. They encompass the goal of the Christian life, in light of Salvationism’s Wesleyan emphasis, a holistic life of redemption in every part.
The Orders and Regulations reflects that the whole journey of Christian life should be balanced and reflected in the holistic approach of correlation between works of piety(the inward ways of practicing the spiritual disciplines: e.g., searching the Scriptures, prayer, fasting, receiving the Lord’s Supper, and public worship, etc.) and works of mercy (social and outward appropriation of Christian responsibility: e.g., the proper use of money, solidarity with the poor, education etc.).
In this holistic understanding of four authoritative sources (“Salvationist Quadrilateral”) of The Salvation Army’s distinctive missional and ecclesiastical heritages, “The Articles of War that all senior soldiers now sign are known collectively as the Soldier’s Covenant” demonstrates the essential notion of the Salvationist’s missional commitment and self-identity as “a good soldier of Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
Thus The Soldier’s Covenant includes two pedagogical elements: the one (The Salvation Army’s 11 doctrinal confessions) addresses “orthodoxy” (or “correct thinking”). The other (our 11 commitments) deals with “orthopraxy” (or “correct practice”). In the Bible, the basic meaning of holiness (or sanctification)is rooted in the notion of being set apart, separated, or consecrated from the worldly things for the purpose of glorifying God who is the Creator and the origin and foundation of our being in holiness. Based on this foundational biblical meaning of holiness, it is emphasized that “The Salvation Army’s ‘Soldier’s Covenant’ invokes a holy separation, including our vow of total abstinence from ‘all that could enslave the body or spirit’.”
Considering the significant value of biblical aspect of “covenant” between God and His people, Major Stephen Court shares his urgent concerns as follows: “We’ve watered down our end of the covenant so much that soldiership has meant, in some cases, signing a piece of paper and going to a Saturday seminar so that you can join the band. But the Articles of War covenant is intended to provide a means to holiness. The Junior Soldier’s Covenant and the Officer’s Covenant have the same purpose. And this puts reins on good intentions to accomplish great ends.”
In conclusion, it is worthy to be reminded ourselves that soldiers, in obedient faithfulness to God, carry the vital energy and propelling force that makes The Salvation Army a mission movement moving forward. From the first days of The Salvation Army, it is evident that God has been using and blessing those God-honoring soldiers who have demonstrated their tireless and sacrificial participation in evangelistic and social ministry across the frontline mission fields. Soldiers are an irreplaceable force and true blessing for maintaining and sustaining The Salvation Army today and for carrying the Army into tomorrow.
written by Major Young Sung Kim, Territorial Ambassador for Holiness