What we teach

Southern Nazarene University School of Theology and Ministry statement on beliefs and doctrines

The stated mission of the Church of the Nazarene is to "make Christlike disciples in the nations."

Christian beliefs: A statement of faith

"What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching." -- 2 Timothy 1:13

What are the key Nazarene beliefs and doctrines?

Teaching and learning in the School of Theology and Ministry at Southern Nazarene University is grounded in and shaped by the statement of faith in the sixteen Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene. Those brief affirmations of belief asked of church members are our "faith statement." Below are some explanatory thoughts on some of the doctrinal positions expressed in the Nazarene Articles of Faith.

Theocentric and Christocentric / The uniqueness of Christ

We clearly affirm the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. In our classes, we make clear that, in Christ alone, the Eternal God has definitively and finally revealed Himself. Jesus Christ is God incarnate. Thus, to be Christ-centered is also to be God-centered. Jesus both is and preached the gospel. He is uniquely the Heavenly Father's Good News, the Gospel of God.

For us, Jesus is Lord of all, the Savior of the world who, on the cross and in His resurrection, met and conquered death, hell, sin, and the grave. Christ has put to flight all powers of evil, and by the Holy Spirit,1 Christ now makes His victory available to all His disciples.

At SNU, we focus attention on Christ rather than on the disciple. While the individual disciple is important, we steer students away from the errors of subjectivism, introversion, and isolationism. The New Testament order is: first, our being "in Christ" and, secondly, "Christ in" us.

The Christian Scriptures

We seek to inspire in students a love for Sacred Scripture -- both the Old and New Testaments. We present a comprehensive picture of the biblical narrative. We introduce students to the structure of the Bible so that they will not be lost in nor discouraged by the Bible's size and complexity.

The doctrine of the Scriptures that the membership of the Church of the Nazarene embraces is our norm ("Whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith"). The Old and New Testaments inerrantly reveal the will of God in all things necessary for our salvation. Those writings are authoritative in all things related to faith and Christian practice.

The movement we are a part of is not fundamentalist in its doctrine of the Scriptures. Among other things, this means that the authority of the Scriptures is focused on soteriology (concerned with salvation). Salvation, of course, includes both Christian faith and practice. Hence, where the Scriptures do speak on matters of ethics (how the life of Christ is manifest in the Church and His disciples), they are authoritative. [ more on the authority of Bible ]

The Church

We teach the central importance of the Church as the body of Christ. In the Church, one comes to know what it means to be a Christian. John Wesley's statement that "There is no holiness but social holiness" has become an important theme for SNU's School of Theology and Ministry. It is within the koinonia (or fellowship of believers) produced by the Holy Spirit that one learns the whole story of God.

The Body of Christ has a history that helps us understand today what it means to be Christian. So, we show students the major elements of Church history. We want our students to develop an appreciation for the triumphant saints who have paved the path for us. [ see church history PowerPoint ]

The Order of Salvation

The Wesleyan Order of Salvation guides our thinking and teaching. The reality and meaning of prevenient grace, the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, justification by grace through faith alone, regeneration as initial sanctification, growth in grace, entire sanctification, and eventual glorification are very evident themes in our classes.

We make clear that all persons everywhere are called to be Jesus' disciples. In this regard, we are explicitly Arminian.

We believe that Christ radically changes people who come to Him. We don't think that God merely looks at repentant sinners in a different way. We believe in a genuine regeneration of the penitent sinner. Before a person can be truly raised to new life in Christ, he or she must be crucified with Christ. Life in Christ means life in and through the resurrected and reigning Lord.

At Southern Nazarene University, we teach that Christians can live in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit witnesses to Jesus Christ as the Promised Messiah and draws persons to Him. The Holy Spirit is the Divine agent of justification, regeneration, and sanctification. He makes victory over sin normative for Christian life and facilitates life-long growth in grace. We seek to teach students the meaning of entire sanctification and urge them to make the promise their own. [ How entire is entire? ]

We clearly teach the importance of the fruit of the Spirit in the lives of believers. All Christians everywhere are to show the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Such fruit is normative and singular. The primary and dependable evidence of the Holy Spirit is His fruit in the lives of obedient disciples.

The gifts of the Spirit are several. They are not uniformly distributed to all members of Christ's Body. The gifts of the Spirit are given for witness and service in Christ's Church and in the world. The fruit of the Spirit must always govern them. [ What about speaking in tongues? ]

We lift up the hope of the Second Coming of Christ when He will consummate His inaugurated Kingdom. The relationship between the inauguration of the Kingdom of God in Christ's person and His return in glory will be made clear in our classes. The Second Coming of our Lord is cause for hope, joyous anticipation, and watchfulness among His disciples. On the other hand, the Second Coming must never become the subject of fruitless speculation. It must never be viewed as scintillating entertainment, a reason for fear among God's people, or a topic that assumes a life of its own. Our soteriology -- belief about salvation -- is holistic and firmly grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. [ essay on Matthew 24:14 ]


We emphasize to students the essential role of water baptism and the Lord's Supper as sacraments formative of the Church's identity and as means of God's grace. Water baptism is the appropriate public demonstration of commitment to the community of faith. We teach that the Lord's Supper celebrates the central reality of the Incarnation -- God the Son come in human nature. [ devotional thoughts on Holy Communion ]

The Triune God

We teach that Christians worship the One God who is triune -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We were created to worship God and to enjoy Him all the days of our lives. Worship of God and service to Him is the center of Christian life. All else flows from that worship.

In articulating our beliefs, we lean on the time-honored phrasing of the Apostles' Creed as well as the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds. In our classes, Christ is presented as the author and Lord of His Church.

Christian Service and Witness

Nazarenes teach that Christ calls and empowers believers for service in the Church and in the world. Although God does not call all persons to ordained Christian ministry, He does call and empower all believers for Christian ministry. Every believer has a ministry to exercise before God and for others. Toward that end, God equips Christians through the gifts of the Spirit: "There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NRSV).

Compassionate Ministry

The movement of which SNU is a part was born in a revival that joined love for God and love for persons -- with special reference to the poor and disenfranchised. Phineas Bresee and other early Nazarene leaders insisted that Christian holiness included a love for and practice of justice and mercy. True to his Wesleyan heritage, Bresee thought that Christian salvation addresses the whole person. Both Wesley and Bresee thought that the compassionate Christ who brings good news to the poor, gives light to those who sit in darkness, and sets captives free is the Christ by whom all Christians should be discipled. The Church of the Nazarene that Phineas Bresee envisioned was one that would carefully take its instructions from Matthew 25. [ more on compassionate ministry ]

Our belief as Nazarenes is that following Jesus must include believing that the gospel is good news for marginalized people, victims of abuse, prisoners and their families, the illiterate, and victims of tragedies that threaten to destroy them.

We want to show how complete and holistic the Gospel of our Lord is. [ Come share the dream ]

1Note: "Holy Ghost" was the title used for the third person of the Trinity in the classic King James Version of the English Bible. Thus, older books and articles will use that designation rather than "Holy Spirit" which all modern English versions use.

"You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine." -- Titus 2:1

An appendix

A non-Nazarene university where I did some adjunct teaching of a world missions course asked all its professors to sign off on the school's doctrinal statement. I did so with the statement below as an attachment. They accepted it even though the wording varied somewhat from their own statement.

Doctrinal Statements -- an addendum

As an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene, I hold in common with other members of my church the following doctrinal statements related to the three topics on the application form:

The Holy Scriptures
"We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith."
The Church
"The Church is a historical reality which organizes itself in culturally conditioned forms; exists both as local congregations and as a universal body; sets apart persons called of God for specific ministries. God calls the Church to live under His rule in anticipation of the consummation at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Second Coming of Christ
"We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again; that we who are alive at His coming shall not precede them that are asleep in Christ Jesus; but that, if we are abiding in Him, we shall be caught up with the risen saints to meet the Lord in the air; so that we shall ever be with the Lord."

Personal notes:

The Bible: As can be seen, the emphasis on the divine inspiration of Scripture is on "inerrantly revealing the will of God."

The Church: The local congregation is a key institution for the Kingdom. Often local churches can most effectively carry out their divine mandates through cooperative programs with other local churches. That's how the denomination of which I am a part operates. We thus have an agreed-upon constitution at the denominational level that binds local churches together for effective service.

End Times: I tend toward "pre-millennialism," but I do not hold to it so hard and fast that I will be disappointed or shocked if I get to Heaven and discover that my understanding of how End Times events were going to unfold missed the mark.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

The Apostles' Creed

Click hereA brief, succinct statement of classic Christian fundamental beliefs is "The Apostles' Creed."
Prayer for learning

"Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom: Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn, that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they may worship you and serve you from generation to generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen."
— Book of Common Prayer

In a sermon at New York's Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, George Buttrick described the inward coronation of Christ in people's hearts as taking place "among confession, and tears and great laughter."
reported by Frederick Buechner in The Alphabet of Grace (Seabury, 1970).


The Church of the Nazarene is a Protestant Christian denomination whose key beliefs and practices include: