Holiness Today is a big voice in our denomination. Perhaps hundreds of thousands subscribe to it and read it on a regular basis. It’s articles have great weight and are taken seriously by Nazarenes. So it is that it is a great responsibility for those who prepare and submit articles, and even greater responsibility for those who decide what is published in the magazine. Most Nazarenes would assume that what is written in what used to be called Herald of Holiness, is based on sound principles and doctrine as written in the word of God.
Rev. David Felter is the editor in chief of Holiness Today, and recently he wrote an article titled “Are The Emerging Church Folks Stealing The Church?” My overall opinion of this article is: it was disappointing, much of it was very hard to decipher and come to any conclusions, and my impression is that Rev. Felter supports the emergent church agenda. The problem with this article being read by thousands, is that for many of them, they will read it, and because of the generalities in which he mostly writes, they will move on and not think much harm from this. But to those of us who have been studying and researching the emergent church movement, this article said a lot by not saying much, and it is not encouraging.
(At the end, there is a link to his full article, and you can read it in it’s entirety and context).
In his second paragraph, Rev. Felter says this in reference to the emergent Nazarenes:
A group of Nazarenes, sensitive to the winds of change, have taken heart from the pulsing optimism of our Wesleyan message… Like structures built before hurricane standards or earthquake specifications, some congregations may wither and die before the blasts of change.
His “structures” reference makes me wonder if after all these years, does that mean our churches have been doing the wrong thing, and have been weak structures in everything?
As far as change, it is certainly a big, big word in the emergent church vocabulary. Brian McLaren’s “Everything Must Change” tour really showed what the “guru” and default godfather of the emergent movement means by change. Eric Barger’s description of what went on at Northwest Nazarene University tells about some of this type of change: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n2PQ94Gh18. (Excerpt from Eric’s DVD, “Errors of the Emergent Church.”) And the wither and die reference sounds much like the philosophy of Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven Church book (see Purpose Driven Resistors Must Leave-Or Die). And this is a sad reality that has happened to many Nazarenes across the country.
They seek not to tame the winds nor to shutter the fortresses, but to respond to such challenges by courageously engaging our times.
The passage in Romans 12:2 comes to mind: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” We should be “shuttering the fortresses”, in other words, we are “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”. There is way too much desire by many Nazarenes to cozy up to the world so they can like us. Jesus said otherwise! He said we would be hated for His name’s sake! If we are to engage the world, it is to give the undiluted gospel of man’s sin and his need for repentance, not to give feel good sermons that are not offensive, because the gospel is offensive to those who are perishing.
Rev. Felter continues:
These Nazarenes, not content to simply lock the shutters or man the battle stations, are joyously dreaming new expressions of the Body of Christ that can thrive in the arid deserts of cultural change.
Well, dreaming can sometimes get us in trouble, whereas following the word of God cannot, because God’s word is always reliable; but our dreams may not be in line with His word, and therein lies the problem. The days of the prophets and apostles are gone, and this almost sounds as if he likens these emergents to those who are of the New Apostolic Reformation movement today, who say that now there is a new continuation of what the original apostles were doing, and that their ideas, visions and dreams are as authoritative as the apostles in the New Testament. Unfortunately, his statement also is unclear because of the fact that Rev. Felter does not give any details whatsoever of the “new expressions” and what they are. Allow me to list some of those “new expressions” that Rev. Felter omitted, or perhaps is not aware of (and they are not really new):
- Pagan prayer labyrinths in use at universities and Nazarene churches.
- Unscriptural contemplative prayer methods such as lectio divina and breath prayers, being taught in churches and universities.
- Books sold by Barefoot Ministries instructing youth how to pray with prayer beads (aka the rosary), how to build prayer labyrinths, and how to go on pilgrimages to interspiritual prayer centers.
- A pre-teen “Best Practices” retreat sponsored by NTS with instruction on using prayer beads, prayer stations, and other unbiblical Roman Catholic methods.
- Welcoming false teachers like Brian McLaren and Tony Jones to university chapels to speak unchallenged to our youth, or using their textbooks for courses.
- Using books full of doctrinal error, such as “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster for weekly small group study and “Bible” study in churches.
These are just some of the “new expressions” that the emergent church movement has brought into our denomination. I have not even touched on the open theism and evolution teachings, and frankly, the most serious, which is the blatantly low view of scripture that these emergents have, while at the same time elevating human reason and tradition to the same level of importance. So unless Rev. Felter plans to clarify what he means specifically by “new expressions”, I have to do the job for him and let you know what the emergent movement stands for, and therefore these are some of the expressions that they are about. My question for Rev. Felter is this: are you on board with these “new expressions”, and are you willing to state unambiguously to all your readers that you support the emergent church movement and all these practices?
They have accepted the challenge of change with a spirit of optimism for they are certain that the message of scriptural holiness is the only message that can redeem our times. Indeed, by doing this, they believe we more closely resemble our beloved founders than at any other time since the beginning of our history.
No! Not so! I do believe Rev. Felter is terribly mistaken or just plain uninformed. The emergents are trying to move us far away from our holiness roots, just by the challenging and questioning of the word of God alone, not trying to get us closer! Look at the people they emulate and heap praise on, such as McLaren, Bell, Tony Jones, Phylis Tickle, and more. Look at all the heretical mystics they use as resources for spiritual inspiration, such as Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, and the Desert Fathers. Look at what seems to be a push towards an ecumenical joining with Romanism and other world religions. These “mentors” of the emergent church proponents do not respect the Bible, and some even deny that Christ is the only way to the Father. They claim that Christianity is “mysterious to the core” (Rob Bell) and cannot be understood, and therefore neither can God be understood in any way; and they are attempting to totally re-write Wesleyan history and portray John Wesley as an emergent, which is a lie! They claim he also did not believe in biblical inerrancy, and that is a lie as well, but frankly, they are not about to let the truth stand in their way. So the claim that they believe that “scriptural holiness is the only message” is clearly not backed up by their actions and teachings.
Rev. Felter goes on to say:
Because their actions seem so different from the status quo, fear of loss and a sense of disequilibrium have ensued. Others, for whatever reasons, have chosen the caricatures of exaggeration and the use of disingenuous rhetoric to assail both the character and the efforts of a new generation of visionary Nazarenes.
I have a suspicion that his reference to “others” includes folks like me. I would ask Rev. Felter to expound on the details of the kinds of exaggeration he is talking about, so I and others can be corrected if we are wrong. Also, I ask for the same explanation of “disingenuous rhetoric”. What does that mean, and can he give specific examples? This kind of accusation without details is typical of how the emergents themselves talk when they do not like criticism. Has Rev. Felter spoken to the many Nazarene evangelists, pastors, and laypeople across the country who are opposed to emergent ideology, and asked them why are they “exaggerating and using disingenuous rhetoric?” Better still, has he spoken to just one of the many loyal Nazarenes who have been forced to leave their church because they had to choose between either faithfulness to the congregation and pastor, or faithfulness to the Lord’s teachings and correct doctrine?
And who are these visionary Nazarenes, Rev. Felter? Are they boldly preaching about the new visions at District Assemblies and General Assemblies so that ALL Nazarenes will know of this wonderful new Reformation that is going on? Or do they prefer to bring in these teachings as slowly as possible, because they know that countless Nazarenes will not stand for such new visions?
Why don’t more Nazarenes know about this? Is there a fear that prayer labyrinths or prayer ropes are really not a Nazarene thing to do?
And then he says:
This is a generation seeking to respond to the voice of God in a decidedly different generation and social milieu, with faithful expressions of grace, faith, and holiness. Because they are different does not mean they are aberrant.
True, different does not necessarily mean aberrant. In this case, however, it does! The emergent ideology is slowly spreading poison like a cancer throughout the Nazarene denomination, and no amount of “soft speak” will make the outcry grow silent or go away as more voices rise up against this movement. The emergents are not seeking “faithful expressions”, they are seeking expressions based on their own selfish and unbiblical concepts of what Christianity should be, or as some of them call it, “a re-imagined Christianity.” If they truly want to respond to the voice of God, let them go back to the scriptures, instead of trying to “hear” the voice of God in aberrant practices that have no basis in scripture.
Finally, he concludes:
Assuredly, you too are sensing the rising velocity of the winds of change. Together, we can retreat into the sheltered security of our fixed, inviolable constructs of church, fastening the shutters in order to brave the coming storm. Or, we can don the full armor of God, braving the gales of change in order to witness the new manifestations of the Church that God is bringing forth in our changing times. Above all, we must know that those folks, dripping wet in the hurricane squalls of cultural change, are not thieves among us. They are our brothers, our sisters, and our children!
They are perhaps not thieves among us, because a more apt phrase for many emergents is “wolves dressed like sheep”. Putting on the full armor of God is precisely why so many of us are at this point in time, trying to warn Nazarenes about the errors of the emergent church. This is a time that many Nazarenes are practically begging and pleading for clear answers from leadership. Rev. Felter, if you fully support the emergent church movement, please say so. Do not let anyone keep on guessing what you mean. If you do support this movement, then start writing articles in praise of prayer labyrinths, prayer beads for our youth, and praising such “Wesleyan” writers as Richard Foster, Brian McLaren and Rob Bell. Whatever you truly believe about the emergent church, be perfectly clear with all Nazarenes who read Holiness Today, so we know where you and perhaps other leadership stand on this issue. You have a responsibility to be clear on such a critical matter.
(Link to Rev. Felter’s full article in Holiness Today: Are The Emergent Church Folks Stealing The Church?)