As they say on Fox News, “we report, you decide.” I have been in a back and forth dialogue with the President of Trevecca Nazarene University, Dr. Dan Boone, since I posted my article, Trevecca Nazarene University Promoting Mysticism and Pagan Practices. We have had a cordial conversation, in spite of the harsh criticism of Trevecca that I have given in my article. In fact, this is the first real “conversation” of substance that I have had with anyone in Nazarene leadership in the past year and a half, and that is greatly appreciated, because dialogue is what concerned Nazarenes have been looking to have for a long time. All we have been asking for is direct answers to the questions we have about some things that have been troubling us in the past several years.
So I am posting an exchange between Dr. Boone and me (he has given me permission to share them). Here are the emails, unedited and uncensored. Dr. Boone’s words are in blue text, my original words are on black, and my added comments are in red).
Brothers and sisters, please read this carefully and judge for yourself but only in the light of scripture.
From: Boone, Dan
Sent: Tue 2/02/10 10:04 PM
Greetings friend. I just got home from a campus revival service. Over 500 students gathered for great worship. The song Be Thou My Vision captivated us in worship and praise. The preacher has been walking us through the Lord’s Prayer. (Monday night) – Hallowed name = the sanctification of the name of God in his people remaking us in the image and likeness of God. (Tuesday morning) – Kingdom come/will be done = the deliverance from self-rule and self-sovereignty for a life of obedience to God and his mission in the world. (Tonight) Give us bread = to be human is to be needy before the provision of God and humble enough to receive it. About 100 were at the altar praying tonight.
Leading up to revival, we always create a prayer room where our students can prepare themselves for revival. There are 5 prayer stations. At the first one, students read and meditate on the Psalm, “search me and know my heart, try me and know my ways….” At the second station, they pray for the entire campus to be open to the preaching of the word. At the third station, they pray for lost friends on the campus to be saved during the meeting. At the fourth station, they pray for our chaplain, the musicians, and the evangelist. And at the fifth station, they pray for their family and church back home. Two years ago we called this a prayer labyrinth. This identification bothered some people because of the association with pagan labyrinths. So we stopped calling it that. But the Concerned Nazarenes have never explained what we were doing, nor stopped hammering us about being pagan/emergent/liberal/and any other bad names they can come up with. I have answered this hundreds of times. I wish they would stop taking one word, filling it with deceptive suggestion, and labeling us. It is beneath the dignity of holiness folk.
You’ve probably also seen the accusation that we force students to take yoga as a way of introducing them to Hindu spirituality. For the record, in 110 years, Trevecca has never had a yoga class. A campus visitor saw an ad for a yoga class on our intercampus TV network. It was sponsored by Trevecca Towers, an independent HUD housing project for the elderly. They have a yoga class to increase the mobility of their residents. Most of the folk in the class are over 65 and many of them are retired Nazarene pastors and missionaries. We haven’t lost any to Hinduism that I know of.
I regret the pain you have experienced in your church and I wish you God’s healing. I can assure you that those who are targeting Trevecca as anti-Christian will not bring you much peace. They are full of fear and anxiety. I pray for them and stand ready to forgive.
From: Boone, Dan
Sent: Fri 2/05/10 11:38 AM
To: Manny Silva
Good morning Manny. Please call me Dan.
It is a joy to reply to you. I’ve regretted that 98% of the concerned Nazarenes/reformed Nazarenes communication has felt like a drive-by shooting – with the exception of one email, no one except you has even called or written me.
I am thankful for your concerns that the church be rooted in the scriptures, and also that our Wesleyan heritage be valued. As a Wesleyan, I concur with the quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. This has guided the holiness movement across centuries.
In your email below I have tried to respond to the objections you have raised. Also, please note my closing note to you at the end of your letter.
From: Manny Silva
Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2010 7:53 AM
To: Boone, Dan
Dear Dr. Boone,
Thanks for getting in touch with me, although I should have sent the article to you right away. I appreciate the response, as many of us have been seeking answers from leadership to questions about the emerging/emergent church, contemplative spirituality practices, Roman Catholic works-based rituals, Open Theism, and other teachings that have caused us to be concerned, and not just simply a few of us who are “officially” connected to Concerned Nazarenes. Please understand that I and others are equal opportunity critics, and have been also raising questions about practices and teachings at such schools as Northwest Nazarene, Point Loma, and Eastern Nazarene College, where I attended for several years.
Thank you for the thought regarding my experience at my church, but sadly, it is but one of many similar stories of faithful Nazarenes being forced out of their churches because of this emergent ideology. It is not an isolated incident, and I keep receiving more and more of these stories from folks around the country. Did you know that many people are leaving the Nazarene denomination, sometimes starting their own church instead of putting up with pastors who don’t completely trust the Bible? Much of it is due to the contemplative spirituality, emergent philosophy, and introduction of Roman Catholic practices and rituals to students and churches. Why are these things being welcomed into our holiness denomination? To be holy is to be set apart, yet we seem to be going the other way.
Regarding the prayer stations you mentioned, I object to those and see them as inappropriate for Christians. Nowhere is something like it found in the Bible, and they are simply a man made ritual originating from old Roman Catholic traditions similar to the Stations of the Cross. The same goes for prayer labyrinths, of which the school prominently displays on the website. Prayer labyrinths are in use now in Nazarene churches as well, and it is a practice borrowed from pagan religions which has absolutely no biblical justification for its use, and certainly is not part of our wonderful Nazarene heritage. If I am wrong on both of these, I still wait for men much more learned than me, to justify the use of these with the scriptures.
Dan Boone: I think things like this actually are found in the Bible. The practice of the OT people of God in the temple includes Psalms of individual confession of sin, thanksgiving, offering up sacrifice, prayers for their nation and king. The practice of Jesus was to go into the mountains and pray with the Father. His followers were so moved by his practice that they asked to be taught to pray as he has prayed. In the Sermon on the Mount we are instructed to go into our prayer closet, close the door and pray to the Father in heaven. The epistles are full of instructions regarding the kind of prayers we are to pray. Please read these words from my earlier email as a model of this kind of praying – “Leading up to revival, we always create a prayer room where our students can prepare themselves for revival. There are 5 prayer stations. At the first one, students read and meditate on the Psalm, “search me and know my heart, try me and know my ways….” At the second station, they pray for the entire campus to be open to the preaching of the word. At the third station, they pray for lost friends on the campus to be saved during the meeting. At the fourth station, they pray for our chaplain, the musicians, and the evangelist. And at the fifth station, they pray for their family and church back home.” We learned to pray like this from the Bible. The fact that some of these forms were practiced by the Catholic Church is incidental. Given they were the only church for 1500 years after Christ, it would be expected that the church formed in the Protestant Reformation would do some of the same things they did.
I grew up in a church that had cottage prayer meetings, 48 hour continuous prayer at the church altar, and open altar times during the early morning. I learned this from people much older than me, not from emergent theologians or Catholics. And given the setting of a college campus, with 4 to 8 people living in a suite of rooms, it is hard for students to find space and place to pray alone. To set aside a room where they can pray is a very Biblical thing to do. For someone to grasp the word labyrinth and fill it with meaning that is pagan, and accuse us of those type practices, is either a gross misunderstanding or an intentional lie.
I also believe that the trip to the Abbey at Gethsemani is wrong and should not be allowed to happen. Students all over the country seem to be getting introduced to Roman Catholic practices and monastic rituals on a regular basis, and I ask again, why? Why are Nazarene students going to this monastery to “fellowship” with those whose basis for salvation is works based, and not by faith alone in Jesus alone. Why is it that your university, along with others, is increasingly promoting these events, as well as promoting the use of books by such authors as Thomas Merton, a man who equated Buddhism with Christianity, and Henri Nouwen, who was a universalist. Do you embrace the official teachings of Roman Catholicism as being par with our Wesleyan heritage? I have a love for Roman Catholics, but I want to present the true gospel to them, not fellowship with them and thereby give our tacit approval to their heretical teachings by associating with them in such a manner. I have seen the agenda for this retreat, and it is disturbing.
Dan Boone: The trip to the Abbey started in the late 1960’s with Dr. Bill Strickland, one of our religion professors. We choose the Abbey for our silent retreat for several reasons. It is affordable room and board for our students. The monks there run a retreat business that is highly hospitable. It is a beautiful setting for a retreat. It also is designed for minimal distractions – no TV’s or radios in rooms, no lobby music blaring, no fast food restaurants up and down the street. Students today live in the middle of noise all the time. We think it is important to teach them to practice the command – “Be still and know that I am God”.
The monks neither teach nor participate in the retreat.
(* Clarification: The opening prayer is scheduled to be delivered by a monk, and the students are given options to participate in some of the regular hours of prayer that the monks participate in).
We show them common Christian courtesy by inviting them to welcome the group and tell us about the Abbey requirements, much as would happen on any camp ground being leased. To leap from renting a retreat facility to embracing the Catholic theology or the works of Thomas Merton is like saying that someone who stays in a Marriott Hotel is being Mormonized. A Mormon family, or maybe it’s a Latter Day Saints family, owns Marriott. I actually like to stay there because I get a good room rate and they are clean. I am not approving their teachings by renting a room from them. This retreat is a model of what Jesus did – leaving the crowds and the noise to go into the mountains to pray, to get alone with God, to listen to the Father. The occurrence of the words “hear”, “listen”, “what the Father says”, and other similar phrases are all over the Bible. Jesus got away, quieted himself, and listened to the Father.
Manny, I am shell-shocked that any Christian would attack us for teaching students to do this and providing the most affordable, hospitable, quiet place we could find that would be conducive to this experience. We’re raising up a new generation of praying college students. Being called pagan and Catholic and new age and heretical is just unreasonable. I still have a hard time understanding this type attack.
I was not really aware of the yoga story you mentioned, but (with all due respect) I question the discernment of Nazarene pastors and missionaries who would participate in yoga, of which there is nothing Christian about it. It is again, the incorporation of a pagan religious practice, and that cannot be separated from it.
Dan Boone: I don’t even have a dog in this hunt.
Dr. Boone, there are many of us who will not let up in asking for answers and for accountability.
Dan Boone: have hereby accounted for what we are doing, defending it as Biblical, Wesleyan, reasonable, and rooted in a common Christian experience of generations of Nazarenes. I have also included Judge Charles Davis on the email as the Chair of our Board of Trustees, to whom I as President am accountable for my leadership of Trevecca. I also am fully aware that I stand accountable to the church and have included the two General Superintendents that you have been corresponding with, along with the GS in Jurisdiction of Trevecca. Above and beyond this, I am accountable to God and am fully at peace that we are following the ways of Jesus and seeking to live as holy servants.
All we are doing is really… to try to warn you about a serious danger to the church. We love our denomination too much to ignore what is spreading throughout the Christian world like cancer. We are in no way hateful Nazarenes, or mean-spirited, although admitting we are not perfect. I would disagree with one of your comments, and would say that it would be beneath our dignity, not to say anything and speak out. We are dedicated to one thing right now, and that is to preserve the purity of the gospel, which was “once for all entrusted to the saints.”
May I also offer a warning? The doctrine of Holy Love, entire sanctification is being muddied by unfounded accusations, insinuations of evil intent where there is none; and all this (with the exception of you and one other) is being done on a public website rather than person to person. It is based on a word (labyrinth) and a retreat place (the Abbey). We no longer use the word because we seek not to offend you, and the practices associated with the word never occurred. We’ll keep using the prayer retreat site because it is a good place for our students to get alone with God.
(*If the word labyrinth is not being used anymore, is the practice still happening? Because it is the practice or ritual which we find wrong, not whatever it is called).
What we are seeking is answers to questions such as these, and perhaps you or someone from the theology department can answer these questions:
1. Is the use of prayer labyrinths justified by scripture? If so, please show me.
Dan Boone: We’ve stopped using the word, please stop beating us over the head with it.
2. Are prayer stations biblically justified?
Dan Boone: I really don’t know. I actually don’t care whether you call the place you pray a prayer station, a prayer closet, an altar, a bedside, or a quiet retreat place. But I am absolutely certain that providing places to pray, confess, intercede for others is Biblically justified.
3. If it’s okay to fellowship with Roman Catholic monks at a monastery, is it also okay to fellowship with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who also say they believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior?
Dan Boone: If you believe all Catholics to be lost and unsaved (which I don’t), this would make them sinners. I recall that Jesus was accused of fellowshipping with sinners quite frequently. I guess I am guilty. I actually think God wants us to be with them.
(*Clarification from Manny: I do not believe all Catholics are lost. I do believe the institution of the RCC does teach heretical doctrines, such as: praying to Mary or the saints; purgatory; the communion wafer and wine being the actual body and blood of Christ; works-base salvation. Therefore, creating a doctrine contrary to the gospel is in direct disobedience to Jesus Christ and His command to obey Him in everything).
** Further clarification: A Catholic who believes in the same heretical dooctrines as the RCC teaches, and believes in works-based salvation- well, that Catholic could not be saved, because that would be believing in another Jesus. Same goes for Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. These folks are not truly saved).
4. Is practicing the silence (as advertised for in the retreat) a spiritual discipline, and if so, where is that taught in the Bible?
Dan Boone: “Be still and know that I am God.” Numerous Psalms that speak of quieting the heart. All the commands to listen and hear. The practice of Jesus getting alone with the Father – mountains, Gethsemane. John on the Island of Patmos, Paul praying in the prison. I can’t believe God wants us to do all the talking. I’m sure God prefers that we get silent and listen.
(* Note from Manny: See my post regarding Psalm 46:10, which is used as the main reason to practice contemplative prayer).
5. Is there such a thing as Christian yoga, and should Christians incorporate this into their lives as a good thing?
Dan Boone: I have no opinion on this. I do think exercise is good for the body. You are more than free to make your case against yoga. I just have other things that I see as more valuable to oppose – human trafficking, alcohol destruction, hunger, etc. I am not suggesting that you don’t care about things like this, but the websites I see attacking us don’t mention these kinds of issues – only yoga, labyrinths, Catholics, and other stuff.
6. So if I listen long enough, I can hear the voice of God? How do I know that what I hear is really the voice of God?
Dan Boone: What God says is in keeping with the written word of God, it is aligned with the character of Jesus, it is faithful to the doctrine that has been handed down to us by our Wesleyan-holiness fathers and mothers, it is confirmed by the common experiences of other believers, and it is reasonable… being that God is a God of order.
I have so many other questions to all of the universities and even to our General Superintendents, for example: how can I trust God if I believe that God makes mistakes? (Open Theism). But that can be another day I guess. There are many Nazarenes who truly believe that there has be a serious correction, a repentance, throughout our universities and churches, by those who are pushing the emergent/contemplative/Roman Catholic practices in the Nazarene denomination, or serious judgment will come because of a failure to recognize and respond to this crisis. We love our church. Why would we otherwise pay such a price that we have paid, for what we have stood for? Either we are confused and are disobeying God, or it is the result of faithfulness to God, and an indication of what was promised in 1 Tim 3:12: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
I sincerely am praying that this event will be canceled. I understand that many were at the altar praying at that revival, but I would rather see one contrite person who has responded to the true gospel, than see 100 people praying, of which some perhaps are putting their trust in man made practices and rituals that have no basis in scripture.
Sincerely in Christ,
Dan Boone: I respect your right to question these practices. I hope my response has been helpful to your understanding of the truth. One of the things I try to do when I disagree with someone is to look for signals that God may be blessing what they are doing. The fruit of Godly living, Christian service, and holy witness being borne by the students and faculty of Trevecca is easy to see. Come visit us. I wish you continued healing in your life.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME. PLEASE DEFEND YOUR POSITION BASED ON SCRIPTURE, NO MATTER WHICH POSITION YOU DEFEND.