Roman Catholicism Being Taught To Nazarene Youth? Part 1

I just finished reading Sacred Life, a book for youth that is available through Barefoot Ministries, the youth arm of the Nazarene Publishing House.  This is the first review of two books from Barefoot Ministries, the other being Sacred Space.  My conclusion after reading them: I do not recommend them, and I am appalled that the Nazarene Publishing House allows these books to be promoted to our Nazarene youth, or any Christian for that matter.

The book is broken up into chapters that talk about: the Jesus Prayer (and the use of the prayer rope), lectio divina, confessions, praying scripture, solitude/meditation, Imago Dei,  journaling, the Roman Catholic priest St. Ignatius and his methods, and pilgrimages. (Among the pigrimages that are recommended is the Taizé community in France, a popular center for contemplative, Eastern-oriented, interspiritual practices).

In the introduction to Sacred Life, I find the following quote of interest:

  • “Not all of these practices will work for each person.  If one does not connect with you, try another.  In time, you will find two or more that will fit well with you.”

The Bible-prescribed discipline of prayer will always work if a person is praying with a sincere heart to God.  So the specific disciplines described in the book are not guaranteed to work, but rather depend on the person?  That does not sound like something God would give us, a method of prayer or worship that will “connect” for some, but not others?

The first chapter talks about the General Examen of Conscience, a part of a collection of a work by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, which supposedly helps us apply spiritual disciplines in our daily life in order to get closer to God.  The instructions give guided steps on how to do this. This work is becoming ever more popular within the evangelical spiritual formation movement.

What the book fails to tell us is that Ignatius was a mystic, and he practiced mysticism.
Tony Campolo says of him: “The methods of praying employed by the likes of Ignatius have become precious to me. With the help of some Catholic saints, my prayer life has deepened.” Campolo is an ultra-liberal evangelical who supports the emergent church and contemplative spirituality practices; he also likes to repeat the name of Jesus over and over again every morning for as long as 15 minutes!  (from Mystical Encounters for Christians,  Beliefnet).

In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius emphasizes purifying oneself through asceticism and using the imagination in prayer (also called visualization or guided imagery, a dangerous practice).
Visualization is not biblical, and we ought to put our faith in God and His word, not using our imagination for extra-biblical revelation. It is not true faith. Instead, God’s word says: So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

He was also known for enforcing a blind loyalty to the pope.  He said “what seems to be white, I will believe to be black, if the hierarchical church so defines” (Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Vintage Books Edition, p. 124).  He was the founder of the Jesuit Order, which was known for its brutality in enforcing papal authority. I could tell you more about him, but this is a small picture of someone who is being recommended as a model for youth to follow his teachings.

In the chapter on the Jesus Prayer, the writer describes the prayer as having three levels: The first, verbal repetition of a phrase over and over.  In the second, the prayer is then repeated in the mind over and over without distraction or other thoughts.  The final stage is when the prayer connects the mind with the heart, so that the prayer lives in every heartbeat of the person praying. (p. 21)
Where is this type of prayer instructed for us to do in the Bible?  Nowhere, is the answer.  This is nothing but an extra-biblical, man-created method of prayer that takes the focus away from Christ, and focuses more on ourselves.
What does scripture say?

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Matthew 6:7

There is no doubt this is vain repetition, and not true prayerful communication with God, as taught in the scriptures.  (On page 22 the writers make a weak attempt to dismiss this biblical admonition, and even suggest that Jesus used this technique, but of course, no convincing scriptural evidence is given).

In Wesley’s Bible comments, he says the following: “Use not vain repetitions – To repeat any words without meaning them, is certainly a vain repetition. Therefore we should be extremely careful in all our prayers to mean what we say; and to say only what we mean from the bottom of our hearts. The vain and heathenish repetitions which we are here warned against, are most dangerous, and yet very common; which is a principal cause why so many, who still profess religion, are a disgrace to it. Indeed all the words in the world are not equivalent to one holy desire. And the very best prayers are but vain repetitions, if they are not the language of the heart.” (Wesley’s Notes on the Bible)

Our prayers should come from the heart, and not from following a set pattern or length to be counted. This is particularly a practice emphasized by the Roman Catholic church, but it is a violation of biblical principles.  Why is this being promoted by Nazarenes, for Nazarene youth?

Worse yet, as part of the Jesus Prayer, it is recommended to use a prayer rope.  In other words: a way of showing us how to pray the rosary, using rosary beads.  Perhaps the authors thought that using a different name for this, and a different device, would not mean the same, but that’s exactly what it is.  They are teaching our youth how to pray the rosary!  Again I ask, where is this prescribed in the Bible?  Nowhere.  So why are Nazarenes teaching this to our youth?

The final chapter I will comment on is the one on lectio divina. I have written about lectio divina before and also critiqued it for its formulaic, method based procedure on how to read and pray scripture.  It was actually invented by the theologian Origen, a heretic who amongst other false teachings, believed that Jesus was a created being.

But do we need this practice to get closer to God and live the Christian life?  The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”.  God’s word is what we need, not new invented methods that we have to follow and make sure we do them in the proper prescribed steps.

Do we get special revelation from practicing lectio divina, which is not prescribed in any way in the Bible?  Or do we need to simply know that “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure,…”

God’s word is all we need.  It can be dangerous to open our minds and try to listen to God’s voice in this way, because it may not end up being God’s voice suggesting something to us.

What is this growing reliance on St. Ignatius and other Roman Catholic mystics and priests.  Don’t we have enough inspirational Nazarenes from our past and present who can teach real solid biblical truth?  I found out recently that Dr. Doug Hardy of Nazarene Theological Seminary is one of many Nazarene professors who have become deeply involved with Catholic teachings and teachers, including the practices of St. Ignatius. Oh, and don’t forget the Spiritual Formation Retreat sponsored by NTS and featuring Dr. Hardy, just before the General Assembly in June.  And the unbelievable prayer room at General Assembly, with its prayer stations and the continued promotion of Richard Foster, spiritual formation guru, author of the multiple-flawed book, Celebration of Discipline.

The other chapters also teach methods derived from “ancient” tradition.  We as Christians should only be asking one question: is this practice a proper biblically grounded practice?  It does not matter that it is an ancient tradition. So is going to confessionals, praying to Mary, or taking the Eucharist as a direct means of forgiveness of sins.

I don’t care if it’s been practiced for 2,000 years, if it’s unbiblical, reject it or throw it out!  Our answer as Nazarenes years ago was, no!  Why are some in our leadership now bringing in these practices to our churches, and promoting spiritual formation throughout the universities, and introducing these practices to our youth?  Should we expect these to start soon in our area, at some of our Nazarene churches?  Perhaps we need to start asking questions of our leadership in New England.  Have they not become aware of these books?  If so, what do they think?  Why are the writers of this book promoting dubious authors such as Foster.

If these things are okay with you already, then I have not made much impact with this article.  If you are mad at me for writing this, so be it, but it really is time to get the unvarnished truth out, and let Nazarenes, and all Christians, decide if they accept these things or not.  Some will, and some won’t, but no one deserves to be kept in the dark.  We all deserve to know what these things are, and then decide whether we accept them as proper biblical practice or not.

So if this disturbs you about your denomination, Nazarene or otherwise, what will you do about it?  Will you ask questions, or just close your eyes to it as our denomination slowly incorporates Roman Catholicism into its very core?

For a related commentary on this issue, go to “Roman Catholicism Promoted By Nazarene Publishing House” at  exnazarenes blog

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (I Thessalonians 5:5-10)

Rob Bell Deconstructs The Gospel (Again)

Here is Rob Bell’s latest deconstruction of the gospel.  Bible believing Christians need to continue to call these people out for what they are, false teachers who water down the gospel to a feel good message that offends few, but does no good in articulating the clear gospel of repentance.  Rob Bell is very dangerous, especially to youth, who watch many of his NOOMA videos.

Following are the opening comments of Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio (thanks Apprising Ministries), from his internet blog, Fighting For The Faith:

Something seriously wrong with this guy’s teaching. I’ve been smelling smoke for years from this guy; and now well, it’s erupted into fullblown fire… I’m going to play for you the audio from this video. I’m not going to interrrupt it; I’m going to let you hear the whole thing in context, and then we’re gonna circle back and we’re gonna pull this thing apart piece by piece.

Not only are there doctrinal errors in here; there are historical errors in here, and he’s engaging in something here called deconstructionism. This is a very, very dangerous “gospel” that he’s preaching. And I am not going to back off from my assessment; I’ll tell you ahead of time, this is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not the Gospel that the Apostles preached. This is something completely different…

I am willing, at this point, to stand by my assessment; unless I hear otherwise from Rob Bell, which I seriously doubt, I’m going to basically make the charge this is not Christianity. This is a rehashed liberalism, if you would; kind of an interesting spin on liberalism, the liberal social gospel, if you would. This is seriously, seriously, dangerous and heretical stuff…

You can hear the entire dissection by Chris at his Fighting For The Faith blog.

A Warrior Moves On

My father in law, Rev. Eudo Tavares de Almeida, passed away on Monday, July 20.

UPDATE*July 27, 2009

The memorial service was held on Saturday, July 25, at 10:30 am, at the New Bedford International Church of the Nazarene, 278 Pleasant St, New Bedford, MA.  On behalf of the family, I thank everyone who came to pay respects to Rev. Almeida and listen to just a little bit of what his life was all about.  May many people follow the type of example he showed as a Christian).

Rev. Eudo Tavares de AlmeidaRev. Eudo Tavares de Almeida, in 1986

He is, as some would say, from the old school.  A native of the island of Boa Vista, he was a pastor way back years ago in the Cape Verde Islands, and was a colleague of my father, the Rev. Ilidio Silva. Before that, he was also a very accomplished and skilled soccer player, but turned down the opportunity to continue as a professional, and instead answered the call of God to the ministry.

After pastoring in Cape Verde, he moved to Brazil with his family to pastor and plant churches there.  He then finally came to the United States and settled in Fall River, MA.  He also went to serve for two years in Holland, and then in Portugal. He never stopped preaching.  After retirement, and until he became ill last Fall, he was on the pastoral staff at New Bedford International Church of the Nazarene, and was the Portuguese Sunday School teacher.

He wrote hundreds of articles for various Christian publications, including major contributions to the Herald of Holiness.  He also wrote two books, “Believe It Or Not” and “The Prose of A Pastor” (both in Portuguese). In addition, Pastor T. de Almeida has two poetry books that have not been published yet. He wrote numerous articles for the local newspapers “Portuguese Times” and “O Jornal.”

Years after both he and my dad left the Islands and eventually came here, I married his youngest daughter, Mónica.

He was the kind of preacher and pastor that is needed so sorely today: uncompromising in preaching the gospel, honest and truthful.  In the past  year, his example was encouraging as I began fighting my own battles in this spiritual warfare that we are in.

He lived another 7 months after being given 3 days to live.  Throughout his illness he preached the gospel to every doctor and nurse that saw him.  It reflected his passion to help every person to encounter Jesus and receive forgiveness of their sins.  One of the nurses who spent time with him, through his testimony to her, re-committed her life to the Lord; another, returned to her church. Another nurse, a devout Roman Catholic, claimed, from the first time she entered Pastor T. de Almeida’s house, something made her feel at peace “in this house” and eventually she found out that it was Jesus.

He was ahead of most in warning about the dangers of ecumenism.  His knowledge of the scriptures was his weapon in defending the faith.  In a note from one of his notebooks, he said the following:

  • “An evangelical church as one, united in idolatry, superstition and distortion of the scriptures, would be a great tragedy for the cause of Christ.  The prophet Amos asked: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” Amos 3:3
    Certainly not!  It would be a tragedy, a terrible injustice to those who gave their lives in the fires, those who were drawn and quartered, or decapitated, or strangled, [for the sake of Jesus Christ].”
    “Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[a] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—” Heb. 11:35-37

We would do well to take heed of this warning, which he gave years ago.

Rev. Almeida was 84 years old.  He leaves his wife Arlinda, 13 children, 29 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter, Destiny.

He fought the good fight.  He kep the faith.  He was faithful to the Lord, and we thank God for his example.

Amen

Rev. Almeida with Tiago, Isaac, 2007

With my sons Tiago and Isaac, in 2007

Don’t Meet Jesus at the Cross, Meet Him at the Labyrinth!

Thanks to my friend at exnazarene for this post:

From a recent web announcement from Highland Park Church of the Nazarene in Seattle:
(see photo at end of article)

You are invited to experience prayer in a fresh way.  The Prayer Labyrinth is not a maze, it’s a journey with an internal destination. It is an opportunity to meet with Jesus and take him with us as we go out into the world. Call the church office at 206.762.8044 or complete the form below and sign up to experience an updated use of an ancient tool for prayer and reflection centered on Christ.

The Prayer Labyrinth requires approximately one hour to complete.  You will contacted to confirm your desired start time.

Giving people a dose of experience through ancient mystical methods is all the rave today.  Highland Park states that you can meet with Jesus through this experience and take Him with you like your newly adopted buddy into the world when you go through the labyrinth.

Who needs to meet Jesus at the blood-stained cross anymore?  Who wants to open the Law to sinners and show them their condition and the penalty for sin?  Who wants to preach repentance for sins and tell of the good news of a loving Savior?  THAT is all so negative, and in the words of Brian McLaren, “false advertising for God”.  We want to appeal to people’s self-esteem and give them a dose of warm fuzzy theology so that they will want to come back for more spiritually high experiences like a crack addict.

No, shepherds don’t lead their flocks to green pastures, feeding them from the full counsel of the Word of God; they lead them into pagan labyrinth experiences, sprinkled with a little scripture and measure their success by all the star-gazed faces and smiles….Cue:  (”Jesus is my boyfriend” type of music)  Hold Me Close To You.

2 Timothy 4:2 – 4 Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  (NKJV)

Spiritual maturity is brought about through the preaching and TEACHING of the Word, not through spiritual experiences.  Even though we live in post-modern times, we are STILL commanded to preach the word…..even if it is out of season.


exnazarene

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Living in real Biblical Communinty!

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Prayer Labyrinth – July 12-13th

Prayer LabyrinthYou are invited to experience prayer in a fresh way.  The Prayer Labyrinth is not a maze, it’s a journey with an internal destination. It is an opportunity to meet with Jesus and take him with us as we go out into the world. Call the church office at 206.762.8044 or complete the form below and sign up to experience an updated use of an ancient tool for prayer and reflection centered on Christ.

The Prayer Labyrinth requires approximately ONE HOUR to complete.  You will be contacted to confirm your desired start time:

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Jul 12
Jul 13

Final Word on “Concerned Nazarenes” and Orlando Convention wrap up

From Eric Barger – Take A Stand Ministries

Several have written wondering about the outcome of our efforts during the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene in Orlando earlier this month.

One writer simply wrote:

I was wondering if the denomination took any specific action or vote on the matter.  Thanks, Ron

Here is my response.

Ron,

Thanks for writing!

There was no action taken by the Nazarene Church as a body on the matter of the Emergent Church philosophy. Also, there was at least one very pro-Emergent seminar session presented at the General Assembly by John Middendorf of Oklahoma City, who is perhaps the best known Emergent-leaning pastor in the Nazarene denomination. During the Q&A time after Middendorf spoke, Pastor Joe Staniforth of Brownsville, TX, stood and asked if there was any forum where he or other “Concerned Nazarenes” might be allowed to present an opposing view. Pastor Joe was summarily shut down – and that was with General Superintendent Dr. Jess Middendorf (John’s father) sitting in the front row, I am told. Though I was not present at the Middendorf session, the pastor of a prominent Nazarene church from a major southern city (who attended two of the seminars that I presented while in Orlando) told me personally that he was ashamed and embarrassed for the way Pastor Staniforth was treated for merely asking a question that opposed the endorsement of Emergent thinking.

As we have known for quite a while, opposing voices are not welcome when criticizing Emergent ideology in at least some sectors of the Church of the Nazarene and elsewhere. As I have constantly cited, Emergents rarely attempt to present a defense for their beliefs and ideas. Rather than answering the charges that biblically-based thinkers bring, many Emergents simply use the unseemly political tactic of attempting to discredit their opponents through character assassination, baseless charges, guilt-by-association and the like. I know those are serious charges but I am all too aware of this first hand. Recently I have been called numerous things such as a “liar,” “unqualified,” “uneducated,” a “trouble maker,” a “church splitter,” an “online discernment ministry,” a “fundamentalist,” a “Calvinist” and on and on – all to simply try and portray me and our ministry in what the Emergents would consider a negative light. One pastor even inferred that because one-time radio host, Bob Larson, endorsed my book, From Rock to Rock, in 1991 I couldn’t be trusted. It didn’t matter that I haven’t had any communication whatsoever with Bob Larson in 15 years and for better or for worse have never endorsed his ministry! The fact that Larson interviewed me long ago was in this particular Nazarene pastor’s eyes the best argument he had to try and discredit me. To this very day, Emergent Nazarenes have attempted again and again to make me the issue but have failed to address the real problem – the Emergent heresy they insist on promoting.

Moving on to perhaps the most important issue, it is apparent that there is great disagreement inside the Church of the Nazarene concerning biblical inerrancy. Their current articles of faith are very carefully worded to avoid the idea that they affirm the Bible to be inerrant. I perceive that this is how some in the Nazarene universities have successfully introduced Open Theism and evolution without much opposition.

One thing is certain – Bible believers in the Church of the Nazarene are not going to be silent. Nor are they going to go away. I suspect (and hope) that at the next General Assembly in 2013 there will be an even stronger push to affirm inerrancy. That will probably mean a fairly nasty showdown IF (and that’s a big “if”) there is a large and organized push to bring the issue to the floor of the convention.

Concerning the three new General Superintendents elected by Nazarenes in Orlando… What I am hearing from conservative Nazarenes seems to indicate that the three, Eugenio Duarte (Africa), David W. Graves (U.S.) and Stan Toler (U.S.) are not in any way Emergent – at least not publicly. Duarte did use the phrase missional church during his address to the Assembly in Orlando but the consensus is that he may actually be the most biblically evangelistic and conservative of the three new G.S.s. (His use of this Emergent buzzword may indeed hold a completely different meaning than its use in Emergent teaching.) Though I surely do not know with certainty, it would appear that the new G.S.s range from fairly to very conservative. Time will tell but from the reaction I have read by some of the Emergent-minded Nazarenes it would appear that the new General Superintendents are not what they had hoped for. Praise the Lord! However, no one should presume that the election of conservative General Superintendents fixes the encroachment of the Emergent philosophy inside the Church of the Nazarene. As a long-standing and well-known Nazarene evangelist told me yesterday, “Regardless of the hope we might have in these three (G.S.’s), it still remains our schools have to be purged of this heresy, along with the professors promoting it, or we die as a denomination!”

Finally, as I mentioned in my video updates to our subscribers on June 26 and 27, I am so glad to have been involved in this effort with the group of biblically solid “Concerned Nazarenes.” Again, our efforts were surely not without opposition and this opposition continues in some pretty ugly and unbiblical ways. However, when the truth is obscured and error is exalted, standing on the side of the Bible is always the right thing to do – even if it’s unpopular. Ultimately, anything we did in Orlando was for one goal – that in the future the lost would hear the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully taught and preached.

Eric Barger