The streams contributing to the river of God are formed by unique evidences and stories of God with us. Each stream is different, not better. Azusa Pacific University traces its spiritual and theological identity to a robust lineage of influences, including the Wesleyan Holiness tradition. These influences shape our mission, and create a dynamic heritage that we continue to embrace today. It allows us to remain confident in our call as we engage relevant cultural issues while remaining anchored in Scripture and our Christian faith.
Recent social and political issues demand a coherent, meaningful Christian response that can best be shaped from the richness of our heritage. The following characteristics describe the evidence of this heritage and how it is expressed in our lives and our institution:
These are not prescriptive standards to which Christians aspire—they are descriptions resulting from the commitment to self-surrender so that God’s holy nature will be reflected in greater measure. They are not bounded doctrinal propositions, but evidences of a growing relationship with God through Jesus. One characteristic is not more important than another; only focusing on one or a few results in the loss of breadth and depth of God’s holy influence. Working in union, these demonstrate how a daily surrender may find expression in selfless reflection of God, who increasingly transforms us from within.
We are called to surrender a selfish will in favor of God’s. As Christ surrendered, so we follow suit, allowing the righteous character of God to be manifested in us. We become holy as He is holy. God is wholly other and His otherness creates differences that distinguish a surrendered person from the surrounding worldly culture—being in this world, yet not of it. However, if this is the only descriptor we emphasize, we may fall prey to becoming sectarian, so set apart from the world that we become irrelevant. In its extreme, sectarianism will lead to legalism as it becomes a source of pride.
Theological basis: Otherness of God
Scriptural reference: Romans 12
Isolated focus results in: Sectarian legalism
Engagement is endemic to God and His work, and it counterbalances the tendency to be segregated, sectarian, or set apart from the world. Engagement, however, is not simply in reaction to another’s plea. God did not wait for humanity to ask for help, but took responsibility to initiate engagement as He saw our fallen condition. Those striving to reflect God’s holiness are called to take responsibility for the hurt and brokenness of others. They initiate engagement in compassion and advocacy, reaching out in culturally meaningful ways. However, if engagement is disconnected from transformed character, it may become merely social action, like any secular social organization that seeks civil good.
Theological basis: Incarnation
Scriptural reference: Mark 10:21
Isolated focus results in: Social activism
Even the Church struggles with unhealthy relationships resulting in splits, tension, intractability, gossip, and other forms of relational damage. Healthy relationships stem from mutual submission. This is most evident in the Trinity, where selflessness gives way to the other: the Father submits to the Son, the Son submits to the Spirit, the Son submits to the Father, and so forth. People who walk in God’s holiness are characterized by this disposition of mutuality, which yields healthy, whole relationships. However, if seeking health in relationships is the only focus, the tendency will be toward relativism in negotiating consensus among various people.
Theological basis: Mutuality
Scriptural reference: Ephesians 5:21
Isolated focus results in: Relativism
We often hear people say they are waiting to know God’s will before making a choice. In fact, God may be waiting for that person to make a decision based upon Christian character and thoughtful communion with the Spirit. God gives us the ability to choose, and the holy life is a daily exercise of choices that honor God and turn our souls toward Him. Such decisions are informed by and reflect God’s nature through the Holy Spirit; they are imbued with the hopeful grace that grants the option not to sin. However, an overdependence on free will may result in rationalized faith that can justify selfish desires.
Theological basis: Free will
Scriptural reference: Joshua 24:15
Isolated focus results in: Rationalization
In pursuing a greater measure of God in us, we discover the fullness of our humanity. The path of integrating the dimensions of our being is a journey toward wholeness. Being created in God’s image, we see people with the hope and capacity for wholeness under the present constraints of our fallen nature. Jesus’ own command to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength guides us in an integrated life that results in completeness and fulfillment in our devotion to reflecting God’s holiness. In isolation, though, this pursuit can lead to misguided desire for self-actualization as a human endeavor toward a human end.
Theological basis: Completeness of God
Scriptural reference: Mark 12:30
Isolated focus results in: Priority on self-actualization
God’s love is not tied to our performance. Though we failed, missed the mark, and fell short, He was motivated by love to engage us through prophets, priests, kings, the law, and finally through His Son and His Holy Spirit. This same motivating love drives the hearts and actions of people pursuing God’s holy nature. They reach out in love regardless of performance or behavior, extending grace that offers the hope of a relationship with Christ. However, if love is the sole focus of the Christian walk, it often results in the loose generalization of universalism.
Theological basis: Love of God
Scriptural reference: I John 4:7
Isolated focus results in: Universalism
Jesus Christ was the ultimate servant leader. Throughout his life, he exhibited a variety of leadership styles, yet one inner nature. By emptying himself of his rights and humbling himself to the will of His Father, Jesus voluntarily became a servant. He allowed the nature and priority of His Father to shape and form His own, from which he engaged in ministry to people. Likewise, those on the path of becoming Christ-like live out the priorities of their master in acts of reconciliation. Without the other evidences of the holy life, however, focusing on this alone may mean simply pursuing a style of leadership.
Theological basis: Mind of Christ
Scriptural reference: Philippians 2:5-8
Isolated focus results in: Style of leadership
Being “called” does not relate only to ministry or spiritual vocations. Everyone has a vocation—the call of their creator to live into their unique abilities, passions, and fit. Those who walk daily with God discover that their work is a fulfillment of His invitation to thrive. They grow to understand this work is a result of God’s call, and therefore has value; they apply themselves to the work they were uniquely designed for with vigor. It becomes an expression of their obedience and devotion to the Caller. However, only focusing on work can result in confusing it as the primary expression and fulfillment of our faith. Personal character and spiritual mission will be lost in favor of simply doing well at the office.
Theological basis: Call of God-vocation
Scriptural reference: Exodus 3:7-10
Isolated focus results in: Work is our faith
All truth is God’s truth, and all of creation bears witness to God’s nature; therefore, the pursuit of truth and understanding allows greater discovery in knowing God. People pursuing holiness have a growing appetite to know God, which drives their curiosity to search, to discover, and to think. They begin to see all things as evidence of God. As curiosity increases, our humility grows in realizing our own deficiency in pursuing a holy God. However, too much emphasis on thinking as the sign of God’s holiness may enable a worldview that allows for any and all paths of rational thinking to end up at the heart of God. This pluralism undermines the singularity of Jesus in our journey.
Theological basis: Mystery of God
Scriptural reference: Job 38:1-7
Isolated focus results in: Pluralism
Imago Dei—the description of how humanity was created. Yet our free will and a sense of individuality caused us to make a selfish choice, resulting in separation, and the image of God in us became warped and broken. People who give in to God’s nature realize that salvation is more than reparation of an offense, it is the restoration of God’s image through Jesus Christ. And restoration is more than relying on Jesus, it is a daily journey of being restored. Through repentance, confession, regeneration, and sanctification, we are being restored to reflect God’s holy nature in greater fashion. Though never perfect, our love for God and our reflection of God grows more focused and clear. An overemphasis on restoring self as a measure of holy living, however, can result in a purely psychological exercise in self-help.
Theological basis: Image of God
Scriptural reference: Genesis 1:26-28
Isolated focus results in: Self-help