Aldersgate Forum Documents
Deeply concerned for both the heritage and the future of the conservative holiness movement of which we are so gladly a part, the administration and Bible faculty of God’s Bible School and College join in this call for the establishment of the Aldersgate Forum. Convinced that God calls us to uncompromising faithfulness to His word on one hand and to creative relevance to our culture on the other, we envision the Aldersgate Forum as a means to confront the issues which threaten or challenge us with vigor and with honesty, to reaffirm our historic commitment to holiness of heart and life, and to make us better informed and more effective witnesses for Jesus.
The Aldersgate Forum exists as a yearly conference and continuing fellowship to promote informed dialogue and scholarly analysis of the vital theological and practical issues confronting us as Christians and as members of the conservative holiness movement, and as a consequence, to foster renewed commitment to loving God and others, biblical fidelity, moral integrity, aggressive evangelism, consistent discipleship, intellectual growth, and holy living.
The Aldersgate Forum seeks to enlighten servants of God in areas that are crucial and relevant to the church at large and to the conservative holiness movement in particular thereby fostering a greater commitment to Christ, biblical fidelity, moral integrity, intellectual growth, and evangelism.
The Aldersgate forum is unalterably committed to the absolute authority, centrality, inerrancy, infallibility, primacy, and sufficiency of God’s inspired word. We believe that Scripture is by far the single most important source that informs and shapes the views we must hold as Christians in this present world. All issues addressed in the Aldersgate Forum will, therefore, be examined first in the light of God’s word, and then by the witness of history as well as the logic and practicality of their application in our lives and congregations. The Aldersgate Forum will advance its purpose with profound esteem for our heritage as Wesleyans, candid interaction with and fraternal respect for one another, and concerned commitment to our mission in contemporary culture.
The Aldersgate Forum is a ministry of God’s Bible School and College and will be organized and directed by its Administration and Bible faculty. Our purpose is to hold a brief, yearly conference for the presentation of scholarly presentations, informed responses, and general discussions. Speakers with scholarly training and valuable insight in areas relevant to the Forum’s mission, who are not members of the Forum, may be invited to give special lectures during the Forum. We also project the possibility of placing Aldersgate papers in print for general distribution or on a specially designed web site, including the production of materials for pastors and congregations and such other activities that may advance our cause.
Statement of Faith
All members of The Aldersgate Forum shall subscribe to the following articles of faith:
That there is one God, self-existent and eternal, the creator, sustainer, and ruler of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Their glory is equal, their majesty co-eternal.
That the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God written, inspired by the Holy Spirit and inerrant in the original writings. They contain all that is necessary to our salvation and are of supreme authority for faith and practice.
That Our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal and only begotten Son of God, became man without ever ceasing to be God; that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and lived a sinless life. He died on the cross, making a full and satisfactory atonement for the sins of the whole human race, then rose bodily the third day from the grave and ascended into Heaven, where He is enthroned at God’s right hand as our intercessor.
That the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Godhead, is Lord and Giver of life, who continually glorifies Our Lord Jesus Christ, convicts men and women of sin, and regenerates all who repent and trust in Christ for salvation. It is by the Holy Spirit that believers are sanctified, indwelt, and guided into all truth; and it is also by Him that Christ lives in the church, the gospel is proclaimed, and the Kingdom of God is advanced in the world.
That man was created in the image of God; but as the result of Adam’s sin, the entire human race was alienated from God and plunged into sin. By nature we are thus corrupt and fallen, hostile to God and His Law, and utterly unable of ourselves to remedy our lost condition. By His prevenient grace, God restores moral sensibility to all mankind, enabling each of us to respond to His offer of salvation.
Salvation is the provision of God’s grace alone, but it is a gift which we must freely accept. Thus God graciously justifies and regenerates all who repent of their sins and believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As the children of God, they are restored to fellowship with Him, delivered from the penalty of sin, as well as from its willful practice, and are initially sanctified by the Holy Spirit who dwells in them.
That God calls all believers to entire sanctification in a moment of full consecration and faith subsequent to their new birth in Jesus Christ. By the Holy Spirit they are thus cleansed from inherited depravity and further empowered for continuous growth in grace, victorious living, and fruitful service. Entire sanctification is both preceded and followed by growth in grace, dynamically expressed in advancing Christlikeness.
That believers are assured of personal salvation by the infallible promises of God’s Word, confirmed by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, and attested by a good conscience and the presence of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
Security of Believers
That all believers are fully secure in Christ, conditioned only by their continuous obedient faith. Those who backslide may be immediately restored to God’s favor by returning to Him in repentance and faith in Christ.
The Christian Life
That it is the joy and duty of all Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit to love God whole-heartedly and their neighbors as themselves, thereby living righteously, victoriously, and sacrificially, obedient to God’s law, faithful in the use of the means of grace, continually sharing the hope that is in them, and ministering compassionately to human need.
That the true church of Jesus Christ is composed of all who are united to Him in saving faith and who are thus members of the body of which He is in the head. All Christians should live in fellowship with the church, uniting in its worship of the Triune God, supporting its great task of world evangelism, and loving one another with pure and fervent hearts.
That Our Lord Jesus Christ will personally return in glory at the end of the age, as He has promised, and that He will consummate His kingdom and judge the world in righteousness. His coming, as we confess, is the “blessed hope” which is set before us and for which we must live in constant joyful readiness.
Heaven and Hell
That all shall be raised from the dead, those who have died in Christ to eternal blessedness, and those who have rejected Him to conscious and everlasting punishment.
Membership Requirements & Benefits
- Members must affirm the Aldersgate Forum statement of Faith annually.
- Members commit themselves to
- the Forum’s mission
- candid interaction with and fraternal respect for fellow Forum members
- adherence to the Forum’s guidelines for academic etiquette.
- Members who fail to interact in the Forum with fraternal respect, kindness, and academic etiquette will be admonished by the Forum steering committee. Members, who after being admonished, fail again to maintain their commitment to fraternal respect, kindness, and academic etiquette, will not have their membership renewed.
- Members will pay an annual membership fee of $30, which also doubles as the Forum registration fee. Checks should be made out to God’s Bible School and College.
- Members receive a discounted meal rate that covers the meals provided during the Forum.
- Membership applications are subject to review by the Aldersgate Forum steering committee.
- Members receive a notebook with all Forum papers as well as audio copies of the Forum presentations, if they are available. (S&H charges will apply for mailing materials to members who are not present at the Forum and who request a copy of the materials.)
- Members may attend and participate in the annual Forum sessions for members only. (Some evening sessions may, at the steering committee’s discretion, be opened to the public.)
- Members may submit paper proposals for consideration by the steering committee to be presented at the Forum.
Guidelines for Academic Forum Etiquette
The nature of an academic forum
An academic forum is a setting designed to foster the substantive and constructive interchange of ideas. Four commitments are essential for an academic forum to function properly: honesty, humility, critical thinking, and respect for others.
- Honesty. Honesty clearly states your ideas and convictions as well as the grounds and evidence upon which they are based.
- Humility. Humility acknowledges the limitations of your knowledge, the existence of alternative understandings, the possibility of being in error, and forthrightly concedes when your ideas have been shown to be factually inaccurate, logically incorrect, or evidentially weak.
- Critical thinking. Critical thinking evaluates the evidence, logical structure, and ramifications of ideas in order to expose errant ideas and identify ideas that are true.
- Respect for others. Besides being a natural consequence of loving others, respect for others is the foundation of effective communication. Respect manifests itself in assuming the best about others’ intentions, considering other’s ideas willingly, listening carefully, taking notes accurately, evaluating evidence honestly, and voicing questions courteously.
Etiquette in an academic forum
The ‘rules of etiquette’ governing academic dialogue are not unique to the academic forum. They grow out of a commitment to honesty, humility, critical thinking, and respect for others in the realm of communication. There are, however, certain logical fallacies that frequently occur in settings where conflicting ideas are discussed. Participants in an academic forum must take care to avoid these logical fallacies in order for dialogue to be effective.
Missteps to Avoid in Academic Dialogue
- Ad hominem argument. Ad hominem is a Latin phrase meaning “against a man.” An ad hominem argument is one which attacks another person’s character rather than addressing the substance of his or her ideas. An idea is not necessarily wrong because a bad person espouses it, or necessarily right because a good person espouses it.
- Dismissal by labeling. This error involves applying a stereotypical label to an idea (or person) and then dismissing it as irrelevant, patently wrong, or inadmissible. For example, calling an idea “stupid,” “liberal,” “ecumenical,” or “legalistic” and dismissing it without clearly identifying the logical or factual errors in the idea is inappropriate.
- Guilt by association. One commits this error by asserting that because an idea is associated with a person or group that one considers errant, the idea is itself errant. For example, to argue that it is wrong for Methodists to practice baptism by immersion because that is the mode of baptism used by Baptists is a guilt by association argument. The theology of those who employ a mode of baptism has no necessary bearing on the correctness or incorrectness of that
- Over Generalizations. Assertions that employ the terms always, never, everyone, no one, are guilty of exaggeration. Over generalizations are almost without exception false, or at best virtually impossible to substantiate. Exaggeration obscures and sometime distorts the truth.
- Emotional Appeals. Emotions motivate, illustrate, or aid recall, but they are no substitute for evidence. Appeals to emotion have their place after the truthfulness of ideas has been confirmed. An appeal to emotion in order to gain consent to an argument promotes uncritical thinking at best, dishonesty at worst.
Participation Principles for the Academic Forum
There are three basic modes of discourse in an academic form: presentation, response, and rejoinder. Perhaps the most basic principle that applies to all three modes of discourses is objective presentation. Whether presenting, responding, or responding to a response, ideas should be stated in a way that permits people to examine them critically without feeling that they are dissecting the presenter. Statements prefaced with, “The way I see it…, In my opinion…, My experience …,” unless intended to indicate the limitations of one’s perspective, tend to link ideas so closely to the one expressing them that it is difficult to avoid ad hominem response. Personal opinion and experience may be shared in academic dialogue, but they rarely help promote it.
Responses, whether formal or informal, should seek to achieve one or more of the
- commend what is commendable, including correctly identified weaknesses. One may maintain a position, while admitting that an argument used to support it was weak or inaccurate.
- affirm what is affirmable.
- identify areas which may be strengthened and means to strengthen them.
- identify ways in which the ideas presented may be extended in their application or made even more serviceable.
- raise questions that promote discussion rather than squash it. Questions that ask how a position incorporates evidence not already discussed, relates to historical trends, or explains related problem are particularly helpful.
- identify areas in which further study will contribute to the discussion.
If a presenter advances a position or idea that appears to be demonstrably errant or false, in addition to the previous items, a respondent should provide evidence, logical argument(s), and/or point out necessary ramifications that disprove, falsify, or otherwise significantly alter the conclusions that have been offered. In presenting a contrary argument, a respondent should acknowledge the possibility that he may have misunderstood the presenter and grant the presenter the same latitude he would wish for in reverse roles. For example, a respondent might say, “It appears to me that the ideas we have heard does not adequately account for / integrate the following data / evidence / logical considerations / ramifications … These considerations suggest an different conclusion: … If I have misunderstood the presenter’s ideas, I will be happy to be corrected.” Such an approach limits the criticism to the ideas under consideration, provides an alternative understanding without demeaning the original presenter, and leaves the presenter room to clarify or correct his original ideas or correct the respondent’s understanding of them.
A rejoinder, which is a response to a response, should not attempt to respond to every point made in a response. A rejoinder should focus on the most substantive issues raised by the response and avoid nit-picking. After thanking the responder and affirming what is affirmable in the response, the person giving the rejoinder should list the major items to which he intends to give a rejoinder. This sets the framework for the dialogue and guards against rabbit-trails of no return. The aims listed above for a response should also be the aims of all subsequent rejoinders.