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Holiness movement

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The holiness movement is a Christian movement dating from the 19th century with its roots in John Wesley's Methodism and in the German Pietist movement. Several of today's denominations are historically Holiness denominations.

Distinguishing features[edit]

They are distinguishable by two things:

  1. A strict legalistic personal morality: Holiness denominations are opposed to their members playing cards, attending movies, wearing shorts or jeans, going to public swimming pools, tobacco or alcohol use, or dancing. Holiness churches also tend to take literally parts of the Bible that mainline churches might find embarrassing, and so practice foot washing before taking Communion.
  2. Holiness churches teach sanctification is a second act of grace after being born again. Being born again brings about salvation and forgiveness of one's sins. A second, later act of grace is sanctification, in which God takes away the believer's sinful nature so their sins are not only forgiven, but they stop sinning at all from then on.


Holiness churches also tend to hold a strongly Arminian theology and teach that salvation can be easily lost by sinning (in contrast to, for example Baptists and Calvinists, who teach that once saved, always saved).


  • Salvation Army
  • Wesleyan Church
  • Church of the Nazarene
  • Christian and Missionary Alliance
  • Church of God (Anderson, Indiana)
  • Brethren In Christ (which has Mennonite roots and later adopted Wesleyan beliefs)
  • Church of the Brethren (which is also a pacifist church with roots in both Anabaptism and German Pietism)

Less holy than thou[edit]

In recent decades some of these churches have de-emphasized or abandoned some of the more hardcore, holier-than-thou[1] aspects of their moral teaching such as no movies, swimming, or shorts, and sanctification as a second act of grace may not get the emphasis it once did either. The Wesleyan, Nazarene, Brethren In Christ, and C&MA churches are nowadays pretty much like any other modern evangelical church, while the Salvation Army has become better known for its charity programs, and the Church of the Brethren for its emphasis on peace and social justice.

Some of the Pentecostal movement has its roots in the Holiness movement. Holiness Pentecostals are distinguishable by their teaching that the "baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues" is the third act of grace (after salvation and sanctification). Other Pentecostals teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the second act of grace. Examples of Holiness Pentecostals:

  • Pentecostal Holiness Church (duh)
  • Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee): The second largest mostly-white Pentecostal denomination
  • Church of God of the Mountain Assembly
  • Church of God in Christ: The largest mostly-black Pentecostal denomination

See also[edit]