Reflections on The Generals’ Position Statement On Emerging Church

FOLLOWUP: The following are comments by a couple of contributors that came in during the past few days, regarding the letter that the General Superintendents are recommending to D.S.’s to use to explain the Generals’ position on the the emergent church.  (original link here)

Jerry: The first important thing to note is that the GS’s are communicating more about the EC.  This can only mean that the work Tim Wirth, Manny Silva and others are doing in exposing the EC is paying off and that more Nazarenes are becoming aware of the EC and are speaking out against it.

Manny: I mention this comment from Jerry not to toot anyone’s horn, but to also point out that there is much more “behind the scenes” work being done to bring these important issues to the forefront.  For every blog we have out there, there are many more concerned Nazarenes engaging and challenging Emergent pastors and other leadership, educating other Nazarenes to the problem, sending letters, and praying.  My late father-in-law was an example of a pastor who respected authority, but never backed down on biblical principles, and instead, challenged anyone who was promoting ill-conceived ideas, methods, or books, that ran contrary to our traditional doctrines of Nazarene holiness and biblical standards.  Respect authority, yes.  Bow down to authority and never dare to question them?  Never.

Comments on some key quotes:

QUOTE #1

“Finally, let me mention the “Everything Must Change” conference.   McLaren’s book Everything Must Change and conference named after it is simply a rehashing of old classic liberalism and “realized eschatology” from around the turn of the 20th century with a green twist.  The Church of the Nazarene does not embrace that position; but we must engage it. We must be in conversation with it if we are to remain an influential force in our culture for Christ.  Otherwise, we will simply slink into the obscure corner of historic irrelevance; congratulating ourselves on our holiness, while the world disintegrates around us.”

Gary: This rationalization that we must engage this view to better promote the Gospel is absurd. Being aware is one thing, but embracing and giving such a view a platform to promote it is entirely different. There are many things in life that I would make my children aware of, but would not encourage them to participate in “to fully understand” the potential dangers it holds. The Church of the Nazarene needs to not only make a statement but they need to adhere to it and hold those within its influence accountable to be consistent with their ministries. We are making blanket statements dispelling our association with the Emergent Church while we plant, license and foster churches [and universities] directly tied and encouraging involvement in the Emergent Church. Doesn’t this seem to be a significant contradiction?

Jerry: I’m guessing the “troubled pastor” was upset because Northwest Nazarene University hosted the conference.  That’s an interesting way of “engaging” a position you don’t embrace:  invite the people who hold that position to tout it from your campus!  Mr. McLaren’s advertisement for the book and the conference can be seen on YouTube. [Also see Eric Barger’s YouTube description of this seminar at NNU, which he attended on all three days].

It is clear that the Emergent church not just the Emerging church has been influential in the Church of the Nazarene.  Any attempt to say otherwise is naive at best and dishonest at worst.  Those who are concerned about the Emergent church have very good reason.  The General Superintendents should explain why, unorthodox as it is, it is being allowed to influence the future leaders of our church.

Manny: Instead of “engaging” them, I suggest that we follow this biblical command: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Eph. 5:11


QUOTE #2

“The Church of the Nazarene must remain vigilant that we neither compromise our message of holiness; nor ignore the cultural challenges around us.”

Manny: Compromise happens when we stand by and continue to allow McLaren, and a whole host of others (Tony Campolo, Rob Bell, Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton) to be good resources via lecture or chapel sermons, or via the books they have written, to be fed to our youth on the college campuses.  Would you allow your child to be slowly fed a small dose of poison every day?  In the end, it just might kill him.
Note Leonard Sweet, who is scheduled to speak at several PALCONS this year for pastors.  If the Emergent Church is not a Nazarene “thing”, why is a New Age sympathizer like Sweet speaking to Nazarene pastors frequently?  Again, we ought to separate ourselves from false teachers, not engage them, and certainly never bring them in as good resources!


QUOTE #3

“There are some misunderstandings which have grown from using the terms “emerging” and “emergent” interchangeably. They are not the same. The Emergent Church finds its roots in the Emergent Village which is an intellectual and philosophical network made up of writers and thinkers such as Brian McLaren, Toney Jones, Doug Pagitt and others.  These individuals are unorthodox in many of their theological positions and are all over the map in methodology. They are far from being unified as a movement.”

Jerry: First, that these men are not unified as a movement is irrelevant, and the argument could be made that they are very much unified considering that Tony Jones is the “theologian in residence” at Solomon’s Porch (the church Doug Pagitt founded), and Brian McLaren and Tony Jones have worked closely on several occasions.  Second, Brian McLaren has spoken at Point Loma Nazarene University, Northwest Nazarene University, and Mid-America Nazarene University.  Three of his books are currently listed as textbooks at Northwest Nazarene University.  Tony Jones has lectured at Olivet Nazarene University, Mid-America Nazarene University, and Mt. Vernon Nazarene University.

So my first questions to the Board of General Superintendents are:

Are you OK with unorthodox speakers coming to our universities to influence our students?

Are you OK with their writings being used as text in Nazarene University classrooms?

QUOTE #4

“We think it’s clear from the above statement that the General Superintendents are not about to lead the Church of the Nazarene in embracing the Emergent Church.”

Manny: Perhaps they are not going to lead the Church in embracing the Emergent Church.  But what does it say if many of us continue to have the perception that they may be simply standing by while allowing it to happen?  There is good reason for that by the way, if that is what it looks like, for there has not yet been a definitive statement on these issues since General Assembly.  Perhaps there is more study going on by the leadership, but many of us have clearly seen what is happening, and many Nazarenes have left the church, or some have separated officially from the church as this letter mentions.  How much more fire will there have to be in the house, before the “parents” start telling the children, “get out?”  And can we get rid of, once and for all, of all the things that are causing the fire, so that it won’t occur again?


QUOTE #5

“Emerging Churches, on the other hand, are churches that recognize the non-negotiable elements of our historic faith while adapting their methodologies for a rapidly changing culture.

quoting the largely “unorthodox” Doug Pagitt:

“The underlying struggle to contextualize the Christian faith in new cultural situations—to make sure that it is proclaimed and lived in both a culturally relevant and biblically coherent manner—is of crucial importance. ― “The gospel of Jesus has always found its ways in new cultural settings, and not only by changing its methods, but also making adjustments to the message …” (bold text mine)

Jerry: It would seem that these Nazarene leaders think its ok to “mess with the message” along with changing their methodology.  Which raises the question:  How can something be biblically coherent if it has been “adjusted” from what the Bible says?  By the way, the white paper also quotes Brian McLaren and cites some of Tony Jones’ work.  The entire white paper may be found at: http://ragingbhull.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/emerging-nazarenes-white-paper/ .

A final thought by Gary to conclude:

“I do not judge the church or its leadership with regards to their spiritual condition. It is clear however that [some] have initiated, planted and conducted their ministry as they embrace the Emergent Church. They have both past and present involvement with the leaders of the Emergent Church (even as indicated by the letter authored by a District Superintendent and substantiated by the statement from the Board of General Superintendents) and support other organizations (communities) that also fully embrace the Emergent Church.

While I respect their right to serve the Lord in ways they deem suitable, it is not appropriate to discount or ignore the beliefs, doctrines and directions of the Nazarene Village (as they reference the church) while they pursue opposing directions of ministry. The common “unwritten rule” of ministry for associates has been, “If you can’t support your pastor you should resign and find another place to serve instead of causing issues within that local church” and I think the principle is a good one. In this case, the local church should function in similarity as to the associate. The local church subjects itself fundamentally to the doctrines and directions of the larger, global church. The local church should support in word and deed the core doctrines, directions and beliefs of the church they belong to and that support can and should be measurable. When inconsistencies are discovered they should be corrected, not merely dismissed as “just another way of looking at it.” The responsibility of the church is to hold its ministries accountable for adhering to the doctrines and beliefs accordingly and likewise the local church and its leadership should be in harmony with the same.

It is a simple issue of integrity. If a pastor deems that the Church of the Nazarene is drastically different from his or her views and feels obligated to live and lead according to their beliefs, disregarding the position of the church, they should tender their resignation and cease receiving support from the church (financially speaking.) To accept financial support from an organization and disregard its doctrine by teaching or leading opposing doctrines (where core values are concerned, not “pre trib versus post trib”) is to be hypocritical.”

I think where we all get side tracked is simply this. We try and make a place for everyone. The fact remains (as shown in the statement by the BofG’s) that the Church of the Nazarene is not an Emergent Church nor do we embrace or endorse this organization or its leaders. That means we should also not allow a local church, pastor, evangelist, DS, GS, NPH (or affiliates) or Nazarene College, professor or administrator to promote the Emergent Church, period. It is that simple. You cannot be a supporter of the Emergent Church and also be a supporter of the Church of the Nazarene as they are not the same.

And while I am typing…all this dialogue about being missional and caring for the poor, etc. This IS NOT a new concept or movement. This is not a post modern revelation. Perhaps if we could quote Scripture better and faster than the most recent author or latest quote from a monk from hundreds of years ago, we would recognize this simple truth. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (lost souls, bound for the real place called hell) not trees! Be a good citizen, yes! Don’t litter, don’t be wasteful, etc. but remember that is not why Christ died and that is not the mandate for God’s church. The body of Christ’s mission is not to be a eco-friendly organization rivaling the Peace Corps and we are not the Rotary Club. Not knocking either one, just reminding us that is not the role of the church.

I better stop before I really get to preaching!

Love in Christ,

Gary

(*Thanks to my contributors for their commentary.)

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45 responses to “Reflections on The Generals’ Position Statement On Emerging Church

  1. Some very good comments, indeed from everyone.

    Whoevery Gary is….AMEN….to his comments!!
    Especially, his last paragraph.

  2. Regarding Gary’s closing thoughts on integrity: I certainly agree that if a pastor finds himself or herself out of harmony with the doctrines and practices of the Church of the Nazarene they should resign and hand in their credentials. In fact, every ordained elder agrees to this when they are ordained. I know I did, and from talking to other ordained elders, it sounds like this has been common practice for decades.

    Having said that, I don’t know any “emerging Nazarene” pastors who don’t hold to our Agreed Statement of Belief and Articles of Faith. I’m pretty active over on NazNet.com, so I know a few emerging/emergent Nazarene pastors over there, plus I know two or three personally on our district who might fit that description — perhaps including me. All of them (myself included) agree with our doctrines, as far as I know.

  3. i really liked the closing paragraph here. however in regards to the second to last paragraph, gary says that all things emergent church should not be promoted because we (nazarenes) are not emergent. kind of a weak argument. we are not a baptist church either (according to the official website anyways) however several nazarenes (concerned included) promote john piper, gary gilley, ect. some even quoted on concerned nazarene sites and several featured on their dvd. now of course there is nothing wrong with baptists or drawing inspiration from there writtings and the whole wesley vs. calvin thing is played out. my point is you cannot say that because the nazarene church as a whole is not as emergent as some emergent people that it cannot exist in our denomination anymore than you can say that anyone who draws inspiration from john piper or even, gasp, john calvin cannot exist here because we are not calvinist or baptist (at least we aren’t supposed to be). that is why we have a “big tent” because nazarenes have never been that big on throwing out the baby with the bath water. even when the baby does not line up with your personal view of scripture.

  4. What saddens me with this whole conversation is that everyone seems to be concerned with being “right” instead of being “holy.” I didn’t grown up in the Nazarene church, but I’ve now been a part of it for over 35 years despite many of the “Nazarenes” I know.

    My Dad was an alcoholic and his Dad was in prision for killing his wife when my Dad was 18. We visited him in prision when I was a kid and he came to live with us when I was about 10. I am still working through how that one murder over 70 years ago has affected me as a person today.

    I became a Nazarene because when I was 18 years of age, there were godly people who loved me and cared about me. They helped me begin the road to healing in my life through God’s grace. Much of this came through a Nazarene college and it didn’t have anything to do with what they were teaching in chapel or Bible classes. It happened because the HS had led me there, and equipped the people there to care about me when my pain was so deep it took my breath away at times.

    Who really cares what the authors say? Why do we focus on all this. If everyone was spending as much time in the scripture and prayer as they are in disecting all these authors and criticizing our leaders, how would our own lives be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us? How does the Scripture itself instruct us to “act” and “be” as we relate to our world and to each other so that all men may know Him.

    Satan has done a really good job getting us to fight among ourselves so that we are laughed at by the world, shuned by our children, and rendered ineffective, especially in the US church. How can we be transformational with our families, at work, and in our neighborhoods, if we can’t even get along and love one another? That doesn’t look like an Acts 2:42 church to me.

    It’s a sad commentary on being “Christlike” if you ask me. While we are fighting about these issues our children continue to walk away from the church in droves looking for “Christlike” people they can look up to and model their lives after.

    My question is are we really concerned with being “Christlike” or are we concerned that our position (our own egos) we’ve always felt was “right” and someone taught us, is now looking different?

    We are the only instruments God can use to draw the world and our children to Him. Christ never gave up His message, but he did adjust his methods.

    My prayer for our Church is that we can display a Christlike holiness among ourselves that makes us a group of people that our children, our co-workers, and outsiders want to emmulate.

    Praying for holy transformation in the Church we all love. Let’s be a church that radiates the presence of Christ in a lost and dying world…….

  5. Sheila,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. In a very powerful and poignant way you have touched on the heart of the matter. Jesus said to His disciples: “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” Jesus held out our love for each other as the proof of our discipleship and the evidence that would convince the world to follow Christ. Yet the conversations that take place here, I fear reflect little of that. The love that this world so desperately needs to see in us is so often the very last thing that they see. We loose our kids not because they read a book by Rob Bell or Brian Mclaren, but because they do not see the love of Christ lived out in the church on a consistent basis, instead they see this kind of infighting.

    The truth is that this kind of infighting is no different from the world, in fact it is in many ways worse because we have esteemed the rightness of our positions higher than loving God with all our heart soul mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves. Until we start to listen to and live Christ’s new commandment, “to love each other as I have loved you…” we will still loose our kids no matter how right we think we are, because they are not convinced by your arguments, they are convinced by your love.

  6. Hello All,
    I think that the reason our children are leaving in droves is the same reason Adam and Eve left the garden, they wanted to be their own god. People seem to flee sanctification. They want to keep “control” over some portion of their salvation. Children are no different than the rest. Sanctified people stay to warn others. They don’t leave a church because someone hurts their feelings or the minister said something they didn’t agree with or the worship portion isn’t what it use to be. Sanctified people stay until the Lord determines they leave. Sanctified young people will stay for the same reasons not because the music is cool or the youth group is happening. The missional, relevent, social justice ideology has deceived our young people into thinking that the older generation of holiness people are legalistic, judgemental and harsh. Just when did following the Law of the Lord become those things? I say never and I say that a person does not understand that His yoke is light and His burden is easy until they are sanctified. I think that this is where the holiness church has let it’s younger generation down. The teaching of the Law and holiness and the praying through until a person receives it. I shall it(sanctification) or die. They are leaving because they have been deceived. The holiness churches have always been concerned with the poor in Spirit as well as the poor. I’m tired of being accused of not caring for the things of God. The holiness people have always cared for the things of the Lord. I know widowed saints that did not know where the rent was coming from give to our missionary and then to be blessed by the Lord .I’m a old Free Methodist. Praise the Holy One of Israel, Blessed be He.
    In Christ,
    Beth

  7. Sheila,

    It is so sad to see apparently an attitude from you of “who cares what our kids read or are taught on school? We just need love”.

    Hey, what about false teaching Sheila! Would you like to touch on that for a moment and tell me how to deal with it?

    “Who really cares what the authors say?’ Really? So… let’s just feed our kids in our universities any kind of false teaching from people like Mclaren, and trust that everything will be alright? I think that is so irresponsible, so please show me what you would do with this problem. Ignore it? Even the Generals have now repudiated the teachings of Mclaren, Bell, and Pagitt. It’s a start. Were they wrong for doing that?

    I am truly getting tired of people implying that “it does not matter what our kids read or are taught.” Of course it does!

    We lose our kids partly because of this mentality of …

    “let’s make them feel good and give them programs and wonderful sounding examples like the cool Rob Bells of the world. Let’s not preach judgment and true repentance let’s just tell them God loves them, and keep out the serious parts of the gospel.”

    Sheila, you’d better wake up to reality, and not just follow part of the Bible- follow the whole thing! and stop ignoring the responsibility that we are called and commanded to EXPOSE false teachers and doctrines. Or am I wrong Sheila?

    John, perhaps you can answer this last question and tell me- am I wrong that we are to EXPOSE false teachers and teachings?

  8. Manny,

    As you are concerned with follow all of scripture I offer up the following as a response, I would especially highlight verses 1-2 as I think they have much to say about this:

    1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
    4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

  9. Good scripture you cited. And what of the biblical mandates to expose false teachers? To protect the flock? To rebuke those who preach another gospel? To defend the very gosp0el Christ and the apostles handed down to us?

    Do you heed those warnings and instructions? That’s what I’m doing.

    2 Tim 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

    2 Tim 4: 1-5 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

    Galatians 1:6-10 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

    Acts 20:28-31 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

    Matthew 7:15-20 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

    Ephesians 4:11-14 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

    Ephesians 5:6-11 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

    Colossians 2:8-12 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

    2 Peter 3:17-18 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

    1 John 4:1-3 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

    Jude 3-4 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

    Titus 1:9-2:1 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. . . . Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

    Romans 16:17-18 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

  10. Manny,

    In response to your question the Church is the body that is given the responsibility to determine what is heresy and false teachings (and by the way every instance in scripture that we read of a teaching that is confronted as heretical has to do with denying Christ, which none of these authors that you are complaining about do, nor does the Catholic church) not individuals. Individuals are called to question, yes, they are even called to confront the persons directly (not over the internet) if they have been offended by them, but it is the responsibility of the Body together to determine together what is true and what is false teaching. The process of determining the truth of the gospel is a dynamic process that is experienced in community as we learn from one another and correct one another. It is not removing ourselves from the responsibilities of relationships and refusing accountability then celebrating our freedom to attack from the sidelines as some here are doing, rather it is striving together to be a faithful witness to Christ, and a faithful expression of His love in an ever changing world. That can only be done together.

  11. I know you are a pastor, but you are wrong that it is the church- collectively- that determines false teaching. Many pastors will soundly refute you for that- and most importantly, there is nothing in scripture that supports this position of yours.

    Instead, EACH of us is responsible for discerning false teaching. What a disaster it would be if we only depended on what the church body says- because, as you know, look at the Roman Catholic church with all its heresies that it teaches.

    To say that denying Christ is the only false teaching that can be, is absolutely wrong, and a cover for allowing all other false teaching to come in. It is a lot more than denying Christ. Brian Mclaren does not verbally deny Christ, but he does when he teaches false doctrines. That premise is also NOT supported by scripture. At least you have not shown it- only by your opinion. My measuring stick on doctrine is the word of God. The Infallible word.

  12. Well Manny if I am wrong that it is the church that determines false teaching then why is the “you” in every one of the passages that you quoted above concerning the determination of false teaching in the plural (except in the case of Timothy in which Paul was authorizing him to lead the church, and one would suppose lead the church in determining when a teaching is false) and addressed not to an individual but to the church. That seems kind of odd if it was the responsibility of individuals to determine heresy.

    Also I did not say that the denial of Christ is the only heresy that exists, I said that those heresies listed in scripture all have to do (in one way or another) with a denial of the orthodox understanding of Christ (something none of the people that you have listed, nor the Catholic church does). Don’t put words in my mouth Manny.

  13. Thanks for clarifying your position- I don’t try to put words in people’s mouths. That does not negate anything I said about false teaching.
    But imagine if the Nazarene church leaders started to officially teach something like oh… sacrifice of chickens at the altar, or praying to Mary, or that hell does not really exist… then what? We all are to follow that teaching like lambs to the slaughter? I don’t think so. The church leaders can be fallible, so it is up to individuals to discern. You should know that. We cannot put ourselves in a position of taking every leader’s word for it, without checking the word of God! Remember the Bereans?

    Matthew 7:15-20 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

    Brian McLaren is a false prophet. He teaches another gospel.

    How do I know? Because of his fruit. Apparently the Generals have seen enough of his fruit also, and Doug Pagitt’s, to agree with me and the concerned Nazarenes. Are you planning to refute their position on that now and say that they are also wrong, as you think I am?

  14. As far as the Catholic church, am I to understand you are perfectly fine with everything they teach? Is there anything they teach which you know to be heresy? Are you introducing their dogma to your church?

    If you don’t know any of their heresies, I’ll point some out to you.

  15. Manny,

    For the sake of clarity, the letter promoted by the General Superintendents said nothing about Rob Bell. You included him with McLaren and Pagitt in your last comment.

  16. I think we need to talk about the “elephant in the room”.

    The unwritten rule in the Nazarene church is “accept all things in love” will prove you are a true Christian. If you disagree about something because the Bible clearly says it is wrong, then you are not a Christian because you don’t have love.

    Jesus=truth
    Jesus=love
    truth=love

    John 18:36-40

    36Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

    37″You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
    Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

    38″What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

    40They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.

  17. I certainly agree with that Pam. It is a problem that even pastors will say that. I have challenged them about false teaching, and asked… then what do you do about it? Keep quiet, so as to not offend?

    They seem to equate love with keeping silent, and therefore those who speak out or condemn clear false teaching, are not loving Christians. That is absolutely wrong, and dare I say, unscriptural?

  18. Weird. I’ve never encountered that “unwritten rule” you guys mention in the Church of the Nazarene. Even among “emerging” folks. Certainly “show love to all people,” but not “accept all things.”

    There are many things Christians can disagree about without leaving the Christian faith. So, for example, we love our brothers and sisters in other denominations even though we view many things differently than they do. We accept them in love as brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of our differences. “To his own master he stands or falls.”

    But then there are some things that are departures from the Christian faith. Denying Jesus Christ is Lord is an easy example. Adding other texts as equally authoritative as Scripture, as the Mormons do, is another easy example. And, of course, following an entirely different faith (Islam, Hinduism, etc) or no faith at all. In these cases, we show love and respect, but we don’t “accept all things.” “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

    The question, of course, is which things fall into which category. Which things are essential? Which are peripheral? How much room is there for people to ask questions and explore ideas? This seems to be the heart of our disagreements.

  19. Oh, it certainly seems to be an unwritten rule, Rich, at least for me. I’ve run into it many times, much to my occasional frustration and pulling out my hair (not really). Especially when a pastor tries to tell me that we as individual Christians should not ever judge, or that identifying false teachers is the responsibility of the entire church, and not the person.

    Anyway, clear disobedience to any clear command in scripture, should NOT be acceptable to any Christian. It does not have to be something so obvious as denying Christ as Lord. Easy example: Benny Hinn does not deny Christ, yet he is a false teacher, and therefore I cannot call him a brother in Christ. Could you? He preaches another gospel that is not in the Bible.

    I cannot agree that “we” should accept other professing Christians as brothers and sisters in the Lord, if they are clearly disobeying what is taught plainly in scripture.

    So the peripherals for a Christian would be something like: is it okay for me personally to drink wine, or not? So I don’t care so much for “exploring ideas” as I care for obeying all that God wants me to do as revealed in scripture. I do not consider any clear command in scripture, as being on the periphery.

    Remember Galatians 1:6-9

  20. Rich Schmidt,

    Regarding: Weird. I’ve never encountered that “unwritten rule” you guys mention in the Church of the Nazarene

    Please re-read Sheila’s and John’s comments.

    Sheila said, “It’s a sad commentary on being “Christlike” if you ask me.”

    John said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”

    This is the classic love vs truth debate. We need to stop speaking truth so we can be Christlike and not be clanging cymbals. God, Jesus and the HS are both not one or the other.

    The premise of this response is Biblically weak because it assumes you can have a Jesus of love at the expense of a Jesus of truth.

    Jesus’ is being made over into our own image when we say he is a God of love but not a God of truth.

    Deuteronomy 5:8 You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

  21. Pam…
    You said:
    John said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”
    This is the classic love vs truth debate. We need to stop speaking truth so we can be Christlike and not be clanging cymbals. God, Jesus and the HS are both not one or the other.

    Given that John was quoting 1 Corinthians 13 when he said that, are you suggesting that Paul was wrong? If I understand John correctly (and I’m pretty sure I am), he is not saying that we should not speak the truth, but rather that when we speak the truth, it should be done in love. This is not “love vs. truth,” but rather “Love AND Truth vs. Truth alone.” You seem to be assuming (and if you’re not, I’m sorry for misunderstanding) that we want to choose between love and truth, when that is simply not the case. We want to speak truth, and also express love, neither to the exclusion of the other.

  22. Is is possible to speak the truth in love, AND say it a bit harshly sometimes? Or is speaking harshly to someone always mean that they are not speaking in love?

  23. Yes, Manny it is possible to speak the truth in love and say it harshly if in those rare occasions the situation calls for it. However, it is imposable according to 1 Corinth 13 to love and attack at the same time. One necessarily negates the other.

  24. Who says that those occasions are necessarily always rare? Is that scripture that teaches us that?

    So I don’t accept the premise that there are always only rare situations that call for harsh words spoken in love. Now, you did not define what you mean by attack- but if it means attacking false teachings and rebuking those who deliberately are promoting it, Christians ought to “attack” relentlessly if need be.

    I was asking this in the context of false teachings and doctrines. We ought to never let up in speaking out against those things- and if need be, a sharp rebuke spoken out of love is justified. Sometimes even publicly, if necessary.

  25. “Who says that those occasions are necessarily always rare?” I know you have read 1Corinthians 13, but I don’t know if you have really heard it. I have not seen you respond to it at all other than saying to John, “that’s a nice Scripture.” then moving on some of your most quoted ones. Also see James 1:19.

    I have re-read the context of your comment and fail to see where it was in response to false teachings. I assumed it was in the context of Shea, Pam and John’s comments around truth and love.

    It will come as no surprise that I do not agree with your premise that Christians ought to attack relentlessly false teachers. If one is relentlessly attacking false teachers, then that one is not loving them. You can not attack and love at the same time the two are mutually exclusive. “but the greatest of these is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

  26. You apparently twisted my words around, I made no such premise that we attack false teachers. I clearly said that we must relentlessly attack false TEACHINGS. I stand by what I said. We can attack false TEACHINGS, and rebuke those who promote false teachings, and do it out of love. If you want to equate rebuking with attacking, well, okay.
    It is a biblical thing to do. I do not apologize for exposing and rebuking anyone who is teaching unbiblical doctrine.

    You either misread what I wrote, or ignored it. Please read it again.

    Was Paul unloving when he called Elymas “you son of the devil?” I believe he did that out of love, and to try to wake up Elymas to what he was doing, in order for him to repent.

    You CAN attack false teachings, and love the false teacher at the same time you rebuke them. It is not mutually exclusive. There is no biblical support for your premise.

  27. Did not intend to twist your words. My apologies for misquoting you.

    Elymas – Clearly I don’t read the passage the way you do. Just having a hard time seeing Paul’s attack on the sorcerer as an act of love. It appears from a cursory reading of the context that Paul was acting in love for the protection of the Proconsul.

    I just re-read through your hall of shame posts. It is clear to me that there is more being attacked than Len Sweet’s doctrine (teaching). In fact, there is very little specific doctrine being attacked in that article at all. There is a quote about divine light but it is left to sand with no reason given as to why it is false or heresy or bad. There are some unsupported claims that he is sympathetic to New Age along with Rick Warren. It is mostly about the man and his popularity among Nazarene leadership. The point I am trying to make is that the teacher is attacked here not the teaching. I have recognized a pattern of this. People are not the only thing that seems to be sitting in the cross hairs. Institutions are not exempt either.

    The first order of apologetics is not to defend the faith. Certainly not to attack those who disagree with it. The first order of apologetics is to define and articulate it so that it may be lived out in our world. 1 John 4:18-21

  28. Are you saying that Paul was wrong in saying what he said to Elymas? All over the Bible, there are examples of how seriously Jesus and the apostles took false teaching and teachers, and we ought to do the same.

    There are many more instances of harsh rebuke, including Paul scolding Peter publicly for teaching incorrect doctrine. Was Paul wrong for doing that? Were the Bereans wrong for scrutinizing Paul’s preaching to make sure he was teaching correct doctrine? I stand by what I do as necessary and scripturally mandated to us as Christians.

    The following is a comprehensive review by Sandy Simpson, of many of Sweet’s quotes from his books and teachings.

    http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/leonardsweetquotes.html

    If you still think he is not a false teacher, then that’s your choice. I have come to the conclusion that he is by comparing his writings to scripture. He is a New Age sympathizer, by his own words. He should be not anywhere near a Nazarene church or campus, as well as speaking to Nazarene pastors.

    How can we attack false teachings if we cannot expose those who do the false teaching? If you want to call that an attack, so be it. It is right for Christians to expose false teachings and false teachers.
    Frankly, I can chew gum and walk at the same time; i.e., I can articulate right doctrine, and expose false doctrine at the same time.

    Those Nazarenes all around the world who are fighting emergent ideology will continue to do the same, and we will not be intimidated into being silent as our youth in the universities are misled, and as many of our churches are bringing in deceptive practices.

    Institutions are not exempt from being held accountable. If they are allowing false teaching and false practices are part of their program, they need to be exposed and held accountable. I do not shrink from that either. Anyone or any institution that is not obeying Christ- as a teacher or leader- ought to be exposed, for they pose a danger to many Christians.

  29. Manny,
    I am intentionally avoiding this discussion of “false teaching.” You and I have gone ’round on that particular issue enough times that we each know where the other stands, and I would rather not continue the bludgeoning of one another, either in person or online. My question to Pam was in regard to her “truth vs. love” statement, which made it appear as though we must at some point choose between the two, or redefine one in light of the other, and I don’t believe either is the case.

    Now, as for being harsh and still being loving, I believe there is a place for that. However, I would point to an example from daily life to explain the appropriateness of “tough love”- it is, in my opinion, a parent’s duty to discipline his or her child. Sometimes discipline involves punishment, and that is also a necessary action for parents to take. There are only rare cases, though, where it is acceptable for a person to punish someone else’s children. In either case, the harsh actions taken are dependent on a pre-existing relationship. Why is this the case? I believe it’s because without this relationship in place, harsh words will almost never exhibit love, because the recipient has no basis for understanding that they are being said in a loving manner. Are there exceptions? Yes, but I think you’ll almost always find Mitigating circumstances. John the Baptist rebuked those who came to him while he was teaching, thereby placing him in a position of authority. Likewise Jesus and Paul each held authority when they rebuked individuals with whom they did not have intimate relationships. I do not hold such a position of authority in regard to you, nor you in regard to me, nor do we have a true relationship with one another, so there is no context for us to speak harshly to one another.

  30. Where is your basis in scripture for saying that I have to be in a position of authority before I can rebuke someone for false teaching?

    Look, I would hope that I never try to speak harshly to a brother in Christ who is sinning, but rather speak to him in as gentle a way as I can to show where he is wrong. However, teachers who publicly promote false teaching and doctrines or practices, need to be rebuked for it. That’s the difference, as demonstrated by Jesus and the apostles and how they handled the topic. There is nothing in scripture that hints at the need to be in a position of authority to rebuke a false teacher.

  31. Could you show me in Scripture where a person who had neither a relationship with, nor authority over the other individual harshly rebuked them without first taking a gentler approach, and being right for doing so? I am not aware of this occurring.

    Jude gives some pretty clear instructions for responding to “scoffers”:
    “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

    Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

    What I don’t find in Scripture is a granting of permission to continually lambaste individuals, either publicly or privately, with insults and cries of heresy. I see admonitions to reject false teachers, to encourage others to do so, and to show mercy to those who might be swayed by those false teachers. All of this is consistent with speaking the truth in love. I’ve given more than one sermon in which I have opposed false doctrine, and never once have I needed to call the proponents of those doctrines by name. When I finished my sermon against “name it and claim it” and other “prosperity Gospel” claims, everyone in the sanctuary knew precisely where I, and more importantly Scripture, stood on the matter. I didn’t need to mention TD Jakes or Joel Osteen to get the point across. I am all for opposing false teachings (although you and I may disagree over what those might be), but if you can’t oppose a teaching without naming the person who teaches it and labeling that person as a heretic, then it’s not the teaching you’re opposing, it’s the person, and if you can and choose not to, you have unnecessarily dragged another person’s name through the mud.

  32. Shea Z,

    Shea Z said, “My question to Pam was in regard to her “truth vs. love” statement, which made it appear as though we must at some point choose between the two, or redefine one in light of the other, and I don’t believe either is the case.”

    My point is that we can never divide the two. That is my point with the “elephant in the room” when quoting a Bible verse and it is said to be unloving and a clanging cymbal.

    Shea Z said, “Given that John was quoting 1 Corinthians 13 when he said that, are you suggesting that Paul was wrong”

    No that is not what I meant. It was a love response to a truth statement. Paul was not one to spin the truth. He spoke as an attorney.

    I’m sorry if I was harsh in my response. It was not my intent. I was frustrated about the “love response” to a truth statement and it came out too “loudly”.

    It is the same thing that happens when a adjective is put in front of the word Gospel. It implies that there are many gospels to chose from. There is one Jesus and one gospel. All aspects or characteristics of Jesus are in perfect harmony.

    The Jesus of truth is the Jesus of love. This is my point.

  33. No, Shea, you really need to name TD Jakes and Joel Osteen as examples when you are coming against their teachings.

    As a shepherd, it is good to be more specific.

    The shepherd doesn’t say to the flock…..be on guard against animals with long fangs and aggressive tendencies.
    No, the shepherd says beware of WOLVES.
    The shepherd should be very specific.

    Paul was very specific, at times.

  34. exnazarene,
    “wolves” is not at all specific. Considering how much debate has gone on over the last 2 Millennia about who is or is not a “wolf,” it’s pretty clear to me that it’s not a specific statement. Furthermore, “be on guard against wolves” is a far cry from “be on guard against wolves like JimBob.” It is fully possible to identify what a wolf is or is not without giving every individual wolf a name.

    The book of Galatians spends a lot of time talking about “certain men” who had “infiltrated our ranks,” and yet not once does Paul name them, he only identifies them by their teaching. Colossians contains an admonishment to the church not to let anybody judge them according to outward regulations (chapter 2), yet Paul does not identify any of the Judaizers who might be doing that. 2 Thessalonians 2 talks about “the man of lawlessness” but does not give a single name. 1 Corinthians 5 lists a whole bunch of sins, but not one of them is accompanied by a name. Perhaps most notably, there is not a single passage about false prophets which Manny listed above includes a name of one of the individuals being mentioned, even when the author makes it clear that he is referring to specific individuals. So no, exnazarene, I don’t think we need to name names, and the biblical witness and model would appear to support me in this claim.

  35. Shea you assume that people know name it and claim it theology and those who preach it.

    Was Paul’s advice about false doctrines loving or truth? I believe he spoke the truth to set them free and therefore it was loving.

    The goal of the command was love.

    1 Timothy 1:3-7

    3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith.

    5The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

    6Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

  36. Shea

    You just exposed two false teachers publicly on this blog. How will you ever teach your congregation on not only what to avoid, but who to avoid, if you don’t name names?
    I recall one day in Sunday School when my apologetics mentor was asked a question: “I’ve been watching Benny Hinn for a while, and he seems very good. What do you think of him?” My friend went on to give her a serious warning about him, and made sure she understood he was a false teacher, and to avoid him. I wonder, should he not also explain to the entire class that Benny Hinn is a false teacher, in order to avoid him? Or should someone else stay in the dark, who could also be watching his program and think he is okay?

    I have other questions, but could you let me know what you think here?

    I give you what is an unambiguous command in scripture:

    Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (KJV)

    And here is a particular thought on that passage from Matthew Henry’s commentary:

    How earnest, how endearing are these exhortations! Whatever differs from the sound doctrine of the Scriptures, opens a door to divisions and offences. If truth be forsaken, unity and peace will not last long. Many call Christ, Master and Lord, who are far from serving him. But they serve their carnal, sensual, worldly interests. They corrupt the head by deceiving the heart; perverting the judgments by winding themselves into the affections. We have great need to keep our hearts with all diligence. It has been the common policy of seducers to set upon those who are softened by convictions. A pliable temper is good when under good guidance, otherwise it may be easily led astray. Be so wise as not to be deceived, yet so simple as not to be deceivers.

  37. Pam,
    Did Paul name the men in the letter? No. He told Timothy to (in his position of authority) command “certain men” to stop preaching false doctrine. I think we can rightly assume that he told Timothy in person who these men were, but in a letter which would be made public, he left it much more vague. I can explain “name it and claim it” without specifically naming the above individuals. We here all know they teach these things, so I don’t see how I’ve “exposed” anything to anyone, but I can pretty easily explain this claim that God is somehow contractually obligated to do as we say, show what verses are used to support it, and then explain why the doctrine is wrong, without ever bringing up their names, or those of many others who do the same.

    Manny,
    this may shock you, but I’ve got no problem with what your apologetics mentor did… well, other than the part about mentoring you in apologetics :D (said in jest). I also don’t have an issue with things like you do in your facebook group, when people ask your opinion of this or that teacher, and you give it. I’m even willing to not complain when members of that group encourage others to “give me over to the devil to learn the meaning of Blasphemy,” because you are a group of individuals in relationship with one another, who value each other’s input.

    Where I feel you and others have breached biblical standards are these extremely public, specific attacks. Whether you choose to view it this way or not, these attacks do not show love- please note that I am not saying the love is not there, as I do not know your heart to judge it, but by the time these assaults are made, whatever love you may feel is lost in translation because you choose to be abrasive, insulting, and to claim authority where you do not have it. What authority do I mean? I mean your constant claim that your personal interpretation of Scripture is the right one, your willingness to label others as heretics based simply on that interpretation. I know there are others who agree with you, that is not the problem. The problem is that by openly declaring various individuals as heretics and false prophets, you are claiming the authority to judge each of them, with no measure of accountability to anything but your own opinions of what Scripture says.

  38. Shea,
    Your jest is taken with a smile- I understand.

    Here’s a problem with your objection to the public attacks.
    What do you do, when a false teacher preaches to thousands or millions on TV or the internet, blatantly false doctrine, or for that matter, subtle false doctrine, that can deceive millions?

    There seems to be only two choices:
    1. Keep quiet, and hope that others have the discernment to understand what they are preaching is false, without me alerting them about the specific false teacher;
    2. Or, In return, announce publicly to as many as possible, that what he has just taught is false.

    See, when someone preaches publicly to many, he then must be willing to receive public criticism from those who discern his teaching as going against God’s word. There is no way I could successfully reach or go to Joel Osteen and apply Matthew 18 privately; that is not what Matt. 18 covers anyway. And if I did do get to speak privately with him, and he refuses to stop his false teaching, then what?

    Your thoughts on this scenario I gave? Choose #1 or #2 and give me a scripturally sound reason if you choose #1

  39. Good video link. I wish I had seen it first- I repeated a bit of what MacArthur’s thoughts were on this.

  40. Oh, by the way, Shea, I don’t claim the following that you said:

    “….your constant claim that your personal interpretation of Scripture is the right one, your willingness to label others as heretics based simply on that interpretation.”

    I truly don’t impose my personal interpretations of difficult passages on anyone (like certain passages in Revelations);

    however, those passages that have only ONE interpretation, I do stick with and will not compromise on. There is so much in the Bible- most of it I believe- that is not open to interpretation, and that is what I continue to insist must be followed- not on my thinking, but what the Bible clearly teaches. And exposing and naming false teachers- it is clear to us that is what we should do.

  41. I cannot in good conscience choose either option. I would choose option 3, which would be to:
    1) seek to communicate with these individuals (even though I would likely be unsuccessful)
    2) explain the flaws in the given doctrine to those in my charge
    3) alert those who hold positions of authority over me to the problem
    4) make others aware of the problem as the opportunity presents itself
    5) not be afraid to give my personal opinion when asked.

    None of these things need to be done publicly. I recognize that if I tell a complete stranger why I feel that health and wealth theology is wrong, that person has no reason to listen to me, so I try to limit these things to my personal sphere of influence… speaking of which, I apologize for the circumstances under which you and I first “met” (online). Yes, I believe the Concerned Nazarenes are misguided in their efforts, but the facebook group I was/am a part of was guilty of doing to you precisely what we admonished you for doing to others. It was a public offense, and requiring of a public apology.

    I’ve already told you this via a facebook message, but I’m taking my family to visit my parents this weekend, and since they have dialup, I won’t really be able to engage this conversation any further for a few days. Blessings on you all this weekend.

  42. And there’s the rub, Manny. Kind of like my comment earlier about the fact that we disagree on what is essential and what is not, clearly some of your Nazarene brothers and sisters disagree with you about which passages “have only ONE interpretation.”

    The example of women in ministry leadership is helpful, I think. In many non-Nazarene churches, they believe that there is only ONE interpretation of the relevant passages, and that is that women should not be allowed to serve as preachers/teachers/pastors. We in the Church of the Nazarene disagree, of course, and we believe we have good, solid, biblical grounds for doing so.

    Likewise, you have Nazarene brothers and sisters who believe they have good, solid, biblical grounds for disagreeing with you about some of the issues that are central to the Concerned Nazarenes.

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