It is clear to me, that the movement called the emergent church movement has slowly but surely infiltrated into the very heart of the Nazarene denomination. There is no doubt about it now. The only question now is, what do we do? At first I thought it was just a few renegade churches and colleges, but that is not the case. It is more than that, and it is very disturbing. It has particularly been welcomed by almost all Nazarene universities, and even our seminaries and Bible colleges.
It is obvious in the universities, with the consistent invitation of false teachers like Brian McLaren to speak, most of the time unchallenged, at seminars and even college chapels. It is also obvious when you see Open Theists like Tom Oord of Northwest Nazarene University and Michael Lodahl of Point Loma Nazarene University, and evolutionists like Karl Giberson of Eastern Nazarene University, openly challenging the sovereignty of God in their writings and lectures.
It is evident in the curriculums, courses, and undiscerning recommendation of books written by highly suspect authors at best, and at worst, authors who are false teachers, such as McLaren and Rob Bell, and prominent and popular writer and spiritual formation guru Richard Foster.
It is also evident from the growth in popularity of spiritual formation courses and seminars, and new degrees and positions for “spiritual directors”. But, is something that is very popular and highly recommended by our most learned professors and theologians and even pastors, automatically good for Christians? That is the $10,000 question. The answer is obvious; not necessarily. Let us not make the assumption that just because spiritual formation is the rage now, that it is a good thing that all Nazarenes should adopt without investigating, and especially when looking at these practices in light of scripture. After all, is not scripture the final and only infallible authority for our Christian faith and practice?
Upon first hearing this term “spiritual formation”, it sounds pretty good to most people. It makes me think of growth as a Christian, and perhaps how as we read and study God’s word, pray, and fellowship with other Christians, we continue to grow spiritually and mature every day. Ah, but that’s where the hijacking of terminology by the emergent church movement comes in again. They are very good at using a word we may have used for many years, yet they put a different definition to it. (The term missional comes to mind).
Spiritual formation is simply a package that when you open it, has all the contemplative spirituality practices that the emergent church is resurrecting from the Desert Fathers of old. The contemplative spirituality movement, as I have written before, goes hand in hand with the emergent church. Where there is emergent, there is contemplative prayer practices. There are often prayer labyrinths. There is lectio divina in some places. There are breath prayers, and prayer stations, and now for the youth, straight from Barefoot Ministries, are the prayer ropes, prayer labyrinths, and recommended pilgrimages to interspiritual places such as the Taizé community in France, a popular center for contemplative, Eastern-oriented, interspiritual practices. Do these things sound like traditional Nazarene to you?
And of course, the Rob Bell NOOMA videos are very popular. He is clearly one of the biggest threats to our youth today, because he is such a good speaker, and sounds so nice and caring when he speaks, but the substance of what he says is often a downright perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet he is applauded at many universities, and the kids just keep marching like lemmings towards the cliff, not seeing in their naivete that they are being duped by a slick, well packaged product that does not pronounce condemnation of sin, and does not clearly spell out the fact that unless we repent and turn to Christ, we are all lost and totally sin-ridden rebellious losers who are headed straight to hell.
You see, the gospel of Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and so many others, is a gospel full of non-condemnation, little reference to coming judgment, and more references to saving the planet and wiping out hunger and poverty, and the “can-we-all-get-along and hold-hands-with-all-the-religions-to-save-the-world” mentality. Which is why Rob Bell (along with Doug Pagitt) appeared on stage with the Dalai Lama and leaders of other false religions last year, at the Seeds of Compassion Conference in Seattle, WA. What a disgrace! He even referred to the Dalai Lama as “His Holiness”. What an affront to every true Bible believing Christian! If anything, that title is only deserved to be addressed to our Lord Jesus Christ, and not to the Dalai Lama, who is leading many people straight to hell.
Along with being there with a well known group of false religious leaders, Rob never once spelled out the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the thousands there, as far as I know! What a lost opportunity for a Christian leader. And he is considered by some Nazarene pastors as a good resource for youth? In my opinion, any pastor who recommends Rob Bell or Brian McLaren for a good read, other than to learn how bad their theology is, is sorely lacking in discernment. The following scripture puts his appearance there in perspective:
- Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
Rob Bell, and sadly, some Nazarenes, need to re-visit this passage. There is too much ecumenical mingling going on here with this we-are-the-world mentality. Perhaps Rob Bell is worshipping the Jesus of the New Age, rather than the Jesus of the Bible. Rob Bell must be shunned as a teacher, while at the same time, we need to pray for him as well.
So all that and more, is what is getting into our universities and some of our churches, right now. So the state of affairs in the universities is such, that I would not recommend automatically sending any of your children to any Nazarene university, until you have investigated it thoroughly. I have a seven year old, so he has a long ways to go yet. But I also have a checkbook. I can safely say that, until there is some clarification from them as to where they stand, I will not give one penny to any Nazarene university seeking my help. You see, money talks, and perhaps it is time to start sending letters out, or even better, pay a visit to your prospective college for your son or daughter, and ask some hard questions, before making a commitment. You see, I am one of many who believe that if you have that Nazarene name on your school, you had better be upholding essential Nazarene principles as well. The “we are a liberal arts school with an open mind to everything” explanation does not hold water.
One final note, regarding our Nazarene website. What puzzles me is the switching of words on one of the Nazarene NMI web pages. I got my first warning flag last year, when I encountered on an NMI webpage, a page titled “Emerging”. After reading it, my gut reaction was, did Brian McLaren write this? The emergent language was practically jumping out at me. Its the usual postmodern-like terminology and fuzzy words that sound nice, but leave you wondering what exactly did it mean. Well, when I went to the same site a few weeks ago, I was stunned that the same exact article seemed to be there, but every occurrence of emerging or emergent, was changed to “developing”. Everything else looked to be the same words from before.
So, instead of emerging, we are now developing? How does that change things? Should I stop my campaign of warning others about the emergent church movement and believe that it is over now? Should I assume that there is no more ideology of the emergent church coming into our midst, since the word has been changed to developing on the Nazarene website?
We have been waiting since General Assembly, for a statement from the General Superintendents, regarding the emergent church movement. I pray that that will come soon. We need to know where our leadership stands on this matter. It is only right, and fair, to inform us. We deserve clarification on this emergent issue, as well as the issue of inerrancy of scripture as it pertains to how Nazarenes should treat the Bible: as perfectly reliable in all it teaches, or as semi-reliable, which would open up doubt in the minds of many, as to whether they should trust the Bible at all?
These are crucial times in our denomination, and as a pastor friend has said to me several times, the pendulum often swings during critical times in the history of the church. The question is, will the pendulum swing in the direction of the emergent church, with its postmodern thinking, and its attempt to lower the bar on scriptural authority? Will we allow the “ancient traditions” to come in and influence us with a lessened reliance on trusting the word of God for direction, and instead do we start trusting experience-based and ritual-based processes? Or will the pendulum swing in the direction of scripture as the only trustworthy arbiter of truth?
The good news is that there are pastors, laypeople, evangelists, and others rising up to speak out, and their voices are getting a little louder every day. Something is happening, folks, and many are not taking this laying down. This issue will need to be addressed, but in a very serious manner. Not just with a simple statement from leadership that “we are working on the problem”. There are too many souls at stake, and time is of the essence. We need to return to true holiness preaching, and throw out the nonsense of emergent “conversations”.
The sooner the better.