Leonard Sweet: A Good Choice For Pastor’s and Leader’s Conference?

Is there a shortage of solid, Bible-grounded speakers for the Nazarene denomination? I have no objection to non-Nazarenes speaking to Nazarenes, but New Age sympathizer Leonard Sweet will be speaking at PALCON (pastors and leaders conference) at Northwest Nazarene University, July 27-30.  I have previously written several posts warning about him.  Here is a portion of the description of the conference:

“It is our vision to participate in a fresh move of God upon the Church of the Nazarene in the United States and Canada. We minister in days with a unique opportunity to impact our world. This event has tremendous potential to shape and mold us more clearly into the people and church God envisions.”

Sweet will speak not only once, but twice, in the two major plenary sessions.  Did Northwest Nazarene University staff specifically ask for him?  Or is there someone else responsible for selecting Leonard Sweet to speak not only here, but apparently at other Nazarene events for pastors and students?  Will Leonard Sweet hide his true beliefs when he speaks at the plenary sessions, by “playing it safe” and saying things that are more palatable for Nazarene pastors to hear?  If so, is that acceptable, in spite of his ideology and the grossly New Age like flavor of several of his books?

Following is an article by David Cloud from Way of Life.  After reading it, does it make you ask the question: how is Leonard Sweet a good choice to speak to pastors and students at Christian universities, and why?  What does his ideology have to do with holiness preaching, or sanctification, or Nazarene doctrine, or most importantly- Biblical doctrine?  What does Leonard Sweet have to offer to pastors, that will contribute to a “fresh move of God?”  Will Leonard Sweet with all this baggage he carries with him, really help “mold us more clearly into the people and church God envisions?”  Where are the biblically solid evangelists, pastors, and leaders of today, who are better qualified to speak to pastors, than someone who is not biblically sound and is a New Age sympathizer, based on his own writings?  Is there even any record of Leonard Sweet’s testimony of salvation through repentance of sin and forgiveness by Jesus Christ?  Is there a Nazarene pastor out there who can respond and give us a solid Bible based reason that Leonard Sweet is a good resource for ANY Christian?  If he is not a good resource, may I suggest that he not speak anymore at Nazarene events, but at the same time, let’s pray that he will repent of some of his works, and that he will reject his spurious teachings and books.  Until then, it seems that those who might be ready to criticize me (its predictable, believe me) for using as a resource a solid Bible based Baptist preacher as David Cloud here, have no leg to stand on if they defend Leonard Sweet’s ideology.

[Update: Read this interview, in Leonard Sweet's own words, at Grace and Peace website, a resource for Nazarene pastors!]

Beware of Leonard Sweet: Master of Doublespeak

June 16, 2010 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org)

Leonard Sweet is a United Methodist clergyman, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at the very liberal Drew University, and founder and president of SpiritVenture Ministries.

He is the author and co-author of 34 books, including Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic (1991), Soul Tsunami (1999), Postmodern Pilgrims (2000), Carpe Manana: Is Your Church Ready to Seize Tomorrow? (2001), Jesus Drives Me Crazy (2003), and The Gospel according to Starbucks (2007).

He was twice voted “one of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America” by ChurchReport magazine.

Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren recommends Sweet’s book Soul Tsunami (his recommendation is printed on the cover), which says, “It is time for a Postmodern Reformation … Reinvent yourself for the 21st century or die” (p. 75). Warren and Sweet collaborated on an audio set entitled Tides of Change, and Sweet was scheduled to speak at Saddleback Church in January 2008 for a small groups training conference.

In an undated blog that I viewed on May 17, 2010, Sweet complains about his critics and pretends that he is being wrongly persecuted. He rejects the charge that he is a New Ager and says he does not believe in the divinity of man. He further (and amazingly) pretends that he is theologically sound.

Actually, the man is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He is a master of doublespeak.

If Leonard Sweet truly does not hold to a New Age philosophy, he needs to publicly renounce his books Quantum Spirituality and Carpe Manana. He needs to apologize publicly and loudly for his non-critical recommendation of New Agers. He needs to publicly and loudly expose and rebuke the errors of the heretics he has foolishly recommended.

He needs to stop pointing the finger at his “critics” and point the finger at himself in deep repentance.

Consider the following facts from Sweet’s own books.

Sweet promotes a New Age-like, universalist-tinged spirituality that he calls New Light and “quantum spirituality” and “the Christ consciousness.” He describes it in terms of “the union of the human with the divine” which is the “center feature of all the world’s religions” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 235). He defines the New Light as “a structure of human becoming, a channeling of Christ energies through mindbody experience” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 70).

He says,

“Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family. New Light pastors are what Arthur Peacocke calls ‘priests of creation’–earth ministers who can relate the realm of nature to God, who can help nurture a brother-sister relationship with the living organism called Planet Earth. This entails a radical doctrine of EMBODIMENT OF GOD IN THE VERY SUBSTANCE OF CREATION” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 124).

In his book Carpe Manana, Sweet says:

“New Light embodiment means to be ‘in connection’ and ‘information’ with all of creation. New Light communities extend the sense of connectionalism to creation and see themselves as members of an ecological community encompassing the whole of creation. ‘This is my body’ is not an anthropocentric metaphor. Theologian/feminist critic Sallie McFague has argued persuasively for seeing Earth, in a very real sense, as much as a part of the body of Christ as humans. We are all earthlings. … WE CONSTITUTE TOGETHER A COSMIC BODY OF CHRIST” (Carpe Manana, p. 124).

Sweet calls for a “New Light movement of ‘world-making’ faith” that will “CREATE THE WORLD THAT IS TO, AND MAY YET, BE” (http://www.leonardsweet.com/Quantum/quantum-ebook.pdf, p. 12).

He says the New Light was experienced by Mohammed, Moses, and Krishna.

Sweet says that some of the “New Light leaders” that have influenced his thinking are Matthew Fox, M. Scott Peck, Willis Harman, and Ken Wilber. These are prominent New Agers who hold a pantheistic philosophy and believe in the divinity of man, as we have documented in the book The New Age Tower of Babel.

Sweet calls the New Age Catholic priest Teilhard de Chardin “twentieth-century Christianity’s major voice” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 106). Teilhard promoted the theory of evolution, taught that God is the consciousness of the universe, that everything is one, and that everything is evolving in greater and greater enlightenment toward an ultimate point of perfection, which he called CHRIST and THE OMEGA POINT. Teilhard spoke much of Christ, but his christ is not the Christ of the Bible. For this reason, Teilhard is a favorite with New Agers. (See our book Contemplative Mysticism for extensive documentation on Teilhard and a host of other influential modern-day mystics.)

Sweet promotes Catholic mysticism enthusiastically:

“Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center. … In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, ‘The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing’” (Quantum Spirituality, 1991, pp. 11, 76).

To call Rahner a great theologian is irrefutable evidence of Sweet’s spiritual blindness. Rahner was a Jesuit priest who believed in evolution and in salvation apart from personal faith in Christ. He spoke of the “anonymous Christian,” referring to an individual who unconsciously responds to God’s grace operating in the world, though he might even reject the gospel. “His approach allows him to suggest that the beliefs of non-Christian religious traditions are not necessarily true, while allowing that they may nevertheless mediate the grace of God by the lifestyles which they evoke–such as a selfless love of one’s neighbor” (“Karl Rahner,” http://www.island-of-freedom.com/rahner.htm).

Sweet defines mysticism as an “experience with God” in the metaphysical realm that is achieved through “mindbody experiences” (Quantum Spirituality, 1991, p. 11).

Sweet also cites as a major influence the Catholic-Buddhist mystic Thomas Merton. Sweet says humanity needs to learn the truth of Merton’s words, “We are already one” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 13). Merton was a universalist and a panentheist. If Sweet is theologically sound as he professes in his blog, why does he recommend Merton? Why doesn’t he rather warn his readers of Merton’s gross heresies?

In emerging church fashion, Sweet is extremely relativistic and vague about doctrinal truth. For him everything is experiential. He acknowledges that “revelation has occurred” but this revelation only gives us “universal moral truths” and even these broad truths cannot be dogmatically understood because “knowledge about these truths is socially constructed” (Postmodern Pilgrims, p. 146). He says, “Objectivity can no longer be the sole objective of the pursuit of truth” (p. 146). Sweet quotes Lorraine Code as saying that “subjectivity–however conflicted and multiple–becomes part of the conditions that make knowledge possible” (p. 149). Sweet is supportive of the poet Robert Bly who said that he had no idea of the meaning of the ending of one of own poems (p. 149). Sweet says: “For Jesus truth was not propositions or the property of sentences. Rather, truth was what was revealed through our participation and interaction with him, others, and the world” (Postmodern Pilgrims, p. 157).

In light of his promotion of Catholic mysticism, it is not surprising that Sweet makes the following claim:

“One can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without denying the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 130).

Kali is the Hindu goddess of destruction. Krishna is the supposed incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. We are told that “as a youth, Krishna enchanted and intoxicated the cowherd women with his flute playing; he teased them and made love to them” (Indian Gods, Kent: Grange Books, 1998, p. 45, 47). Krishna’s flute playing is said to “pull virtuous women from their homes and drag them to Krishna” and to make “chaste ladies forget their lords” (David Kinsley, The Sword and the Flute).

We would like to know exactly what “flickers of the sacred” Leonard Sweet finds in Kali and Krishna.

Do these supposed “flickers” put their adherents into a saving relationship with Almighty God and take them to Heaven?

I suspect that Sweet doesn’t even believe in the necessity of salvation from eternal Hell. In fact, I suspect that he doesn’t believe in the reality of Hell fire.

Maybe he will clarify these things in a future blog, but we will warn our friends to take anything the man says with a grain of salt unless he plainly renounces his own books and repents of the heresies he has formerly taught.

David Cloud, from Way of Life

Open Letter to ENC President and Leadership

Dear Dr. McGee and leadership of Eastern Nazarene College,

In what direction is Eastern Nazarene College heading?  I attended ENC back in 1973-1976, although I did not graduate, having transferred to Barrington College and finishing there.  I have some fond memories of my time at Eastern Nazarene College, and I became a Christian while attending a service at the Wollaston Church on campus when I was a teenager.

Dr. McGee, is ENC promoting Roman Catholicism, the emergent church movement, contemplative spirituality, Open Theism, and Process Theology?

I have been quite concerned for some time about changes that I have noticed happening in our Nazarene denomination, and especially in our universities.
I am writing to see if I can get some feedback on these concerns, which are shared by many other Nazarenes as well. We love the Nazarene denomination and what it has meant to us over the years, which is why we are trying to get some direct answers from our leaders in the schools and our denomination.  I believe we are owed at least a clear answer as far as the direction of the school.

Some of these issues could seriously affect the long term success of the school as a Nazarene sponsored institution.  Many of us believe that any university or college bearing the name Nazarene should adhere to the same principles that the Church of the Nazarene teaches, and if not, then why have the name Nazarene?  Personally, I would not send my son to ENC at this time if he was old enough.  My recommendation to anyone else who is planning to send their child to ENC, is that they ask plenty of questions first and find out what direction is it that ENC is heading towards, and where it stands on such matters as the emergent church movement, contemplative spirituality practices, and open theism.  Seeing how some of the other Nazarene universities have moved into practices that are either not biblical or very dubious at best, nor are reflective of our Wesleyan-holiness tradition, I am very concerned for the future of Eastern Nazarene College.

Here are just a few:

1. Books at ENC bookstore. During District Assembly, I spent some time in the college bookstore and saw quite a few titles that made me wonder why were they being sold at a Nazarene school?  I asked myself, how are books selected for the bookstore, and what criteria is used?  Especially with youth, it is critical that we provide them with good books that will not cause doubt in their minds about the Christian faith and doctrine, and some of the books I saw potentially will do just that.  I did not see any indication that these books would be considered anything but recommended books with sound content.  I believe this is potentially a very serious problem.  Here are just some of the titles that caused me to be alarmed:

Sex God, Velvet Elvis, and Drops Like Stars, by Rob Bell, a pastor who has clearly denied the complete veracity of the Bible, and questions openly much of its doctrine.  He reflects the basic distrust in scripture that emergent ideology espouses.  He has said that the Bible “is mysterious to the core.”  He is a very engaging speaker whose NOOMA videos have appealed to many youth, as well as to senior pastors and youth pastors, which is why I believe he is so dangerous.  He has appeared with the Dalai Lama and a host of other non-Christian religious leaders in what looked like a very compromising situation that Christians should never allow themselves intentionally to be in (Seeds of Compassion event).  I have heard some of his NOOMA videos and how they twist scripture.  This man can make some Christians practically depressed after finishing with one of his talks about “the mystery of the Bible” and how we cannot know just about anything for sure.  For additional information on what Rob Bell is about, see the following links:
Rob Bell’s Abstract Elvis, Rob Bell: A Modern Day Gnostic, Rob Bell: More Messed Up Emergent Ideology.
If you don’t know Rob Bell, any of these posts will show you why I am so very concerned that his books are in the ENC bookstore.

Another book is PostModernism For Youth, with contributors like Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, and other emergent authors who have dubious ideologies at best.  In fact, many of Brian McLaren’s teachings are clearly false, and I believe he has shown us that he is a false teacher, based on his very words.   If you read some of his positions on scripture, such as the blood atonement of Christ, and his views on eschatology, hell, and other core doctrines of the Christian faith, you cannot come to the conclusion that he is a good influence for our ENC youth.  Although we have not heard much from the General Superintendents regarding the emergent church, they have themselves strongly criticized his teachings recently.

I also saw several versions of the Roman Catholic Bible, including one with a bonus rosary inside. Why are these being sold in a Nazarene bookstore?  Surely you are familiar with the many false doctrines that are promoted by the Roman Catholic church.  If not, I recommend you read the following link for a summary of the official Catholic church teachings, and how the RCC has been brought into evangelicalism in many ways: Roman Catholicism and its Heresies, and here is a video by Richard Bennett, a former RCC priest Roman Catholic Mysticism and the Emergent Church.

There were quite a few other books that disturbed me, but I hope you can understand my concern just from these few I mentioned.  I am not sure if there are books there written by Nazarenes or authors from our holiness and Wesleyan tradition, but I would hope there are, instead of books by Bell, McLaren, and others of the emergent-contemplative spirituality philosophy.

2. Recommended List of Churches on the ENC website. On the ENC website, I noticed at least two Roman Catholic churches as part of the recommended local church list.  The opening comment says: “We encourage you to find a church home while you are in college.  It will help you to grow in your faith and your presence will uplift the congregation where you worship.”

How can listening to heretical teachings, for example, that says that the bread and wine become the actual body of Christ, help someone grow in their faith?  This belief, called transubstantiation, is seen by the RCC as a “re-sacrifice” of Christ, when the scriptures clearly teach that it was a “once for all” sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10, 1 Peter 3:18, Heb. 7:27). This official Catholic teaching does not hold up to scripture- that the wafer and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ. John 6:54, often quoted as justification for this teaching, does not support it. The Bible declares that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial to the body and blood of Christ (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25). It is not the actual “eating” of Christ’s body and blood. Jesus had not yet had participated in the communion supper with the disciples, in John 6. He instituted the Lord’s Supper later on.  This is just one example of many false teachings.  I pray that not a single Nazarene pastor or theology professor is teaching this and other heresies in their church or their school as acceptable Christian doctrine.

Let me make it clear, I do not have a dislike, hatred, or disdain for Catholics or anyone for that matter, and I do believe there are probably individual Catholics who are truly saved, in spite of the official doctrine of the church.  I am talking about the official organization and its dogma.
So here is another question: is Roman Catholic teaching and doctrine in accord with scripture and with Nazarene teaching as a holiness denomination?  Why would we want to steer students to a Roman Catholic church when much of its teaching is indisputably false and heretical?  I’m sure some students will decide on their own to find one, but should we list them on the ENC website, thereby giving some kind of tacit approval as if the RCC believes and teaches the same as the Nazarene church does?  I had to scroll down to the bottom of the list before I could finally see our own Nazarene churches listed. There are a whole bunch of churches listed first, including some other churches of which I don’t know what they exactly teach also, and Nazarene churches are last!

3. Lecturers at ENC.
I was concerned last year with the hosting of Dr. Tom Oord of Northwest Nazarene University for a lecture at ENC, and I know that I am clearly not alone amongst other Nazarene parents and supporters.  Dr. Oord is a proponent of Open Theism, a heretical teaching that says God cannot clearly know the future and thus denies His sovereignty.  At his lecture, when I pointed out to him that sin and death came to the world through the sin of Adam, he clearly disagreed with me, even though the scriptures plainly state that fact, and I believe the apostles and Jesus Himself referred to Adam and many other Old testament figures as actual historical figures, and not allegory. ENC also helped sponsor a seminar on Open Theism a few years ago, with the support of Dr. Karl Giberson, a science professor at ENC.  Dr. Giberson believes that evolution is compatible with Christianity, even though it contradicts the biblical account of creation.  He has recently called creationists “cult members”, in an article at USA Today, as mentioned at Sola Sisters blog.  You will find that there are many Nazarenes who take exception to his teaching and his obvious disdain for Christians who dare to believe the biblical account for what it says.

4. Chapel Speakers at ENC. My most recent concern is regarding Dr. Tony Campolo, who is scheduled to speak on Oct. 29.  Why is Dr. Campolo being given a forum to speak to our students?  Perhaps you and the leadership are not aware of his brand of “Christianity.”  First, Dr. Campolo is a practitioner and proponent of contemplative spirituality and mystical practices.  On his blog, he has described how he prays every morning, repeating the name of Jesus for up to half an hour as a way to start his day (the Jesus Prayer).  He described it this way:

“In my case intimacy with Christ had developed gradually over the years, primarily through what Catholics call “centering prayer.” Each morning, as soon as I wake up, I take time—sometimes as much as a half hour—to center myself on Jesus. I say his name over and over again to drive back the 101 things that begin to clutter my mind the minute I open my eyes. Jesus is my mantra, as some would say.”  (From the book Letters to A Young Evangelical)

This is unbiblical prayer!  It ignores the scriptural admonition to not pray with vain repetitions, and it is just a Christianized version of transcendental meditation!  He actually has said that “mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam.” And did you know that it is his view that “rigid” Christians who believe in the possibility of Jesus’ soon return are the real problem for the world?  He believes these kinds of Christians are to blame for wars, and all sorts of other evil things in the world.  In his book, Speaking My Mind, he says: “I do not know what to make of the Muslim mystics, especially those who have come to be known as the Sufis. What do they experience in their mystical experiences? Could they have encountered the same God we do in our Christian mysticism?” p. 149-150.  He is also a  promoter of the social justice gospel and that man can solve the world’s problems, rather than someone who preaches about the gospel of repentance and turning to Christ as the only solution for the world.  Finally, these quite intriguing quotes:

“I am saying that there is no salvation apart from Jesus. That’s my evangelical mindset.  However, I’m not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians.”

“Jesus is the only Savior, but not everybody who is saved by him is aware that He is doing the saving.”

I’m sure someone will complain and say that I am taking Dr. Campolo out of context.  Perhaps then, if he does come to ENC in October, someone could ask him to explain to our students what he actually means by these statements?

There is a whole lot more I could tell you about his ideology.  But the question is this: if ENC leadership is well aware of what I have stated about Dr. Campolo, does this mean that they are supportive of speakers with his kind of theology?  If you are not aware of what he is all about, then I recommend finding out more, and suggest that you could find speakers for the students to listen to, who are more in line with solid Christian doctrine, rather than dubious theology and practices.  I believe those who might have a possible future invested at ENC for their children, have a right to know on what basis does the leadership at ENC decide who is to come and speak to very impressionable students in chapel services.  From my research, it is clear that Dr. Campolo is closely connected with Brian McLaren and others who push the emergent church agenda.

I have more concerns that I would like to share later.

I know that as the College President, you most likely do not directly oversee book selections at the bookstore, but I thought it was best to bring this directly to your attention and ask if you, the instructors, or the school chaplain approve of these things.  My goal is to help in the best way I can, to keep Eastern Nazarene College focused on reflecting the same principles, ideals, and doctrinal stances of the denomination of which it bears its name.

Should you have the time, I would be glad to meet with you personally to further discuss additional concerns.

The Duty And Danger of Opposing The “Emergent” Movement

The following article was posted at Nazarene Church Has Lost It’s Way.  It was written by Rev. William E. McCumber, Nazarene pastor and former editor of Herald Of Holiness (Holiness Today).  Rev. McCumber serves as a senior pastor at a Nazarene church in Gainesville, GA.
Click here to visit his website.

THE DUTY AND DANGER OF OPPOSING THE “EMERGENT” MOVEMENT

The duty is simple. The gurus and leaders of this emergent movement, conversation, dialogue—call it what they will—do not base their teachings and writings upon Scripture but upon their own opinions. They do not submit to the authority of the Bible but seek to impose their authority upon the Bible. They dismiss the clear witness of the Bible to itself as the inspired Word of God. When this has been done the witness of the Bible to God, to Jesus Christ and to salvation from sin is rejected outright or dangerously distorted.

As a consequence, to them Jesus is no longer “the Way.” He is “a Way,” and all ways lead ultimately to God and heaven. Devotees of other religions are not to be converted to Christ. Instead, we should encourage them to blossom fully in the soil of religious beliefs they have already chosen. Our goal is not to make them Christians, but to encourage them to be the best they can be within the structures of belief and behavior of their ancestral faith. That is unscriptural and untrue, whoever says it.

It is true that some who form the listening audience when these emergent leaders are paid (by our institutions with our tithes and offerings) to expatiate upon their concept of truth do not accept all they offer. They insist that they are putting an orthodox spin upon it all, and clinging to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, insisting upon salvation through Jesus alone, and giving lip service to the unique authority of Scripture for faith and life. Why in the world should we pay someone to voice opinions we then have to caution against and recast in order to use?

These who listen to the emergent gurus claim to be mining the emergent movement for structures of thought and strategies of engagement that will help them reach increasing numbers of people for Christ. If you keep tabs on them, however, you will find that the longer they preach and teach the closer they come to the beliefs of those gurus who want to dismantle historic, Bible-based Christian doctrines.

Leaders of the emergent movement claim to have no interest in theology or doctrine. They try to sell themselves as men and women concerned only, or at least mainly, with discovering ways and means of gaining attention to and involvement in genuine Christianity. Despite their disclaimers the emergent movement is creating theology and disseminating doctrines and making converts to their re-interpreted and inoffensive Christ.

The duty of opposing them arises out of their rejection of the authority of the Bible.

The danger in opposing them is more subtle. I’ve spent over 30 years as a pastor and another nine as a college teacher. I know that in our denomination there is a strong and stubborn streak of anti-intellectualism. Some of our people, including some of our preachers, seem to think that ignorance is a fruit of the Spirit.

The same God who created us as emotional beings also created us as rational beings. To go to church and unscrew your head in order to have some acute feel-good experience is to slander true worship.

The danger is that we shall allow our opposition to heresy to be voiced only or chiefly by leather-lunged fanatics instead of informed and reasonable proponents of what John Wesley called “good old Bible religion.” We cannot effectively oppose false teaching by merely turning up the volume. Noise level, even happy noise level, is no substitute for “reasonable service.”

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Over 69 Years of Service

W.E. McCumber has served the Church of the Nazarene for over 69 years as preacher, college professor, revivalist, conference speaker, radio speaker, writer and magazine editor. He has served as senior pastor of First Church in Gainesville, Ga. since 2004. Many of his books are available through various outlets, which include Nazarene Publishing House and Barnes and Noble. On Palm Sunday he celebrated the 68th anniversary of his first sermon.

Why Can’t They Just Believe The Bible?

Following are a few samples of comments from a recent discussion on the NazNet Forum, a website created by some Nazarenes for topics such as theology and Nazarene teachings.  Yet, I still am amazed at some Christians who just cannot bring themselves to trust what the scriptures say.  The topic was evolution.
(Names have been left out to minimize embarrassment).

One question: Can you be a pastor in our denomination and still believe in evolution? Here is one amazing answer.

“One theory that I rather like is that the species developed and evolved over millions of years and when it finally got to the point when there existed creatures that were basically physiologically, “human,” God stepped in with some kind of special creative act and transformed a pair of the human-like creatures (let’s call them Adam and Eve) into full humans by giving them “the image of God” (free-will, self-awareness, and/or whatever else that phrase means). The bloodlines of the rest of the then current existing species (Adam’s cousins, for example) all died off.”
It’s certainly not a theory I’m married to, but I like it.

This was written by a Nazarene pastor.  (By the way, at least seven persons thought this was a useful post). This is amazing!  So God allowed this gradual evolvement of almost human-like creatures over millions of years, and then at some point decided to make them fully human. I think it is really sad when so many Christians try to re-interpret Genesis to accommodate evolution theories, which really is more like a weak hypothesis and has very no credible evidence that supports it.  The bottom line is this: God’s description of how we were created is incompatible with any kind of evolutionary theory, including the preposterous one submitted by the commentator above.  But many Nazarenes and other Christians seem to succumb to pressure by evolutionists who try to ridicule creationists for believing the Bible.  What a sad state of affairs when man cannot fully trust in God’s word, but instead decides that he will be the arbiter of what is fact or fiction in the Holy Scriptures.

Here’s another comment:

“I take pretty much the entire first 12 chapters of Genesis as a literary way of relating a fundamental understanding of the nature and person of God- a collection of parables, if you will, which tell us about God and God’s relationship to humanity.”

This comment is not a surprise, because I hear similar ones from many emergent or liberal Nazarenes on this site, which has been described as a breeding ground for emergent ideology.  I have no doubt that this forum is primarily a vehicle for those Nazarenes who are going against Nazarene teaching, not supporting it.

One of the reasons for disbelieving the creation account is that there is a lack of proof that it happened that way.  But if we believe that God is a Being who is all-powerful and transcends all of creation, and what He does is done supernaturally, then why do we need any kind of proof before we can believe what He said in Genesis?  The only explanation is that the religion of man takes over, and man has to somehow come up with “logical” explanations of how we came to be, instead of believing in God’s word.  Oh yes, man’s religion, which includes the atheists who will try their best to discredit any and all explanations that defy “man’s wisdom.”  But as the scriptures say, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.”  Romans 1:22   “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” Romans 1:25

2. Another person responded to the question, Are they (our college professors) teaching any evidence of a great flood?

“I never took geology but I have read of evidence for a great regional flood. The Greek, Persian, Mesopotamian and surrounding cultures have stories in their myths of a great flood. Now it comes down to this: How are we to understand the word translated “earth” in the ancient texts? We know that they did not think of the earth as a planet, instead it seems that they thought of “earth” to be the dry land and in certain senses a region (“The Earth Is Not a Planet,” Karen Strand Winslow, Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science Tom Oord ed. pp. 13-27; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth#Cultural_viewpoint). So maybe just maybe if we are looking in North America for evidence of a global, planetary flood and do not find it we should not be surprised.”

Plain reading of scripture: Gen. 7:18-23  The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet.h i 21 Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. (KJV)

There are also many more biblical references that show that the writers also believed in this global flood, and Jesus Himself referenced it.  Why then is it so hard to believe that it was a global flood that covered the entire earth?  Never mind the great amount of scientific evidence that points to a global flood, such as oceanic fossils found on mountaintops all over the world; great amounts of coal deposits that would have required a very rapid covering of vegetation; and much more evidence.

Some of these Nazarenes, some of them pastors, might even refuse to acknowledge that Adam and Eve were real.  I recall challenging Dr. Thomas Oord last year at a lecture at Eastern Nazarene College, with my answer to the question of how death and sin came to the world.  The answer was rather simple, and I referenced Romans 5:12-14, which says plainly:  “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.”
Even Jesus our Lord referenced Adam as a real historical figure, not an allegory.  But Dr. Oord did not agree with “my” explanation, which was actually the biblical explanation.

How sad that we have Nazarene professors and pastors  who not only cannot accept or doubt the biblical account, but who also promote an anti-biblical evolutionary theory, or do not believe God knows the future, or who teach that God is ever learning from man’s activities, and even makes mistakes!  Eastern Nazarene College, my old school, has a professor who believes evolution is compatible with Christianity, and who is an Open Theist and Process theologist.  But he is not the only one, and many others like Dennis Bratcher of Point Loma Nazarene University, are causing great damage by challenging the plain teachings of scripture.

What about your pastor or professor?  Does he believe in the scriptural account of the creation?  Is he grounded in the word of God, and believes in its infallibility in all that it teaches, without compromise?  Does he leave open the possibility that man evolved over millions of years, thereby contradicting the biblical account of God’s creation?  Does he “lord it over you” with his “learned ways” when you dare to oppose his belief that God does not know everything?  If so, he may very well be a victim of the post-modern way of thinking, or the damaging liberal philosophies of the New Evangelicalism which has welcomed and held hands with just about any thought or ideology, all for the sake of “getting along.” Beware, for such are the “pied pipers’ of the emergent church and other “religions of men”, leading the gullible and spiritually immature down towards the cliff and into the deep waters of unbelief and distrust.

What about you?  What do you believe: God’s account, or man’s “wisdom?”

The Religion of Man: Big Mistake

I was speaking to a friend last week after church, and he was talking about how when he became a Christian, he prayed to God and asked God to “deliver me from the religion of man”.  We spoke about the consequences of being true to God and the commands of scripture.  These consequences can include the loss of friends who are “offended” by our insistence that God’s word is the final word.  I agree wholeheartedly with what he was saying.  We must always stand for God’s word above any desire or need to please men, or even to please family, or even leaders in a denomination.  We all must understand that we are human and subject to failure or to erroneous doctrinal stances, and we must never blindly submit to everything anyone says, without question, no matter who it is.  We must judge everyone’s words by the word of God, our final authority.

So this got me to asking myself, what are some of these “religions of men” that have caused, and are still causing, so much harm to the body of Christ?  Here are some that I can think of, but in the end, they are all the same.  They look to man’s wisdom, instead of God’s, and that is a fatal error for many.

Seeker Sensitive movement. At its core, this movement’s strategy tries to make the church look more attractive to unbelievers, using promotions, gimmicks, surveys, and technology.  Robert Schuler helped popularize it, and his church was always full, but it was full of people who had “itching ears”, only wanting to listen to what made them feel good.  Bill Hybels (of Willow Creek Association churches) was one of the biggest proponents of this, and only recently admitted it was a miserable failure.  But what is Willow Creek Association doing now?  Trying something else, trying to figure out what else can be done to make a church “successful.”  What can we create that will work this time and bring in more people and help us “grow?”  So now Willow Creek is dabbling in… maybe you guessed it, contemplative spirituality, as reported in an article from Lighthouse Trails Research.

Let’s not forget that the church is first and foremost for the believers, the body of Christ, for their edification and training. Let’s bring in the unbelievers to hear the gospel, but let’s not water it down into some faddish thing just to bring them in.  If you bring them to church under false pretenses, they will soon leave after being disappointed that we did not deliver what they wanted.  See Mike Oppenheimer’s assessment of this movement.

Word of Faith movement. (Also known as “name it and claim it”, “Positive Confession”, or simply “Faith Movement”).  Richard J. Vincent describes it this way: “This is the group that would seek to convince us that Jesus and His disciples were rich, that to be poor is a sin, to be sick is a sin, and that faith is a creative force that we can use to shape our world just like God supposedly created this world and universe that we live in through His “faith”! And “positive confession” is the belief that if a believer speaks “spiritual” or “faith-filled” words then he can have what he says. (Clete Hux). This is all nonsense and completely unbiblical, yet we see so many people taken in by this today, and churches filled with thousands listening to the drivel spewed by these preachers who often take advantage of their congregation and those watching on television.  (Got any seed money today?) Who are some of these folks? Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Juanita Bynum, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch, Creflo Dollar, Mike Murdock, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Hagin, Marilyn Hickey, Rod Parsley, Peter Popoff, Fred Price, Robert Schuller, Robert Tilton, Paula White, Ed Young, Bishop Eddie L. Long, Clarence McClendon.   I realize that some of them may be liked by some folks reading this, but the truth must be told and people warned about them.  For ten reasons to reject Word of Faith teachings, see this article by Tricia Tillin.

Purpose Driven movement. Rick Warren is very popular, his Purpose Driven Life book has sold over 30 million copies, and he is sometimes called “America’s pastor.”   Yet, he has boldly formulated his P.E.A.C.E. Plan which erroneously promotes the idea that we can not only work with all religions, hand in hand, but that we can actually wipe out poverty and hunger, and bring peace and prosperity to the world, through our own efforts.  This is a lie because it contradicts scripture, yet so many have bought into this.  I confess I bought into his book a few years ago and even used it for a while, but I thank God that he revealed to me the lies in his book, including his promotion of mystical authors and teachers, and his own unscriptural “steps” that we should follow in order to be better Christians.  This is the danger of looking up to someone who is so popular, without being a Berean and checking everything he teaches and says.  The lack of discernment has caused many to buy into his ecumenical plans and “purpose driven formulas”, without checking it biblically.  We ought to pray for Rick Warren so that he can understand it is not man’s efforts that will bring peace, but peace will finally be established only after Christ’s return. See The Wonderful Deception of the Purpose Driven Paradigm.

G12 movement. What is G12?  From gotquestions.org: The G12 vision / movement is a cell-church discipleship strategy pioneered by Cesar Castellanos at International Charismatic Mission of Bogota, Colombia, where he was a pastor. Castellanos believed that God spoke to him in a vision, laying out what He desired the Church do in response to the end times. This vision was the “government of 12” principle, a hierarchal pyramid scheme of discipleship and authority. He proposed that because Israel had 12 tribes, and Christ had 12 disciples, the Church needed to base their structure on this governmental model and become a cell-church.

This movement has come into the Nazarene denomination as well, mainly in Latin American countries.  It is also essentially the same as what is called The Master Plan, and a group of Spanish speaking Nazarenes have started a FaceBook page to ask questions about it as well as the emergent movement, and other Nazarenes from Argentina and other countries have joined Concerned Nazarenes, and we also are concerned about this movement which really does not seem to have any true basis in scripture.  For a description of this movement, go to gotquestions.org for the full article.

Emergent church movement. This movement is not of God, because it questions the word of God.  How can any movement be ordained by God, when it’s leaders question so much biblical truth?  When they say that we haven’t gotten it right in over 2,000 years, what does that say of the power of the gospel and all it has done in that time?  When they say you can only trust the Bible in “matters of salvation”, what does that really mean, except that it is a loophole to question the creation account and a whole bunch of other historical accounts?

When they claim that Adam and Eve may have only been allegories, what does that say of Jesus, who referred to them and other historical figures as real people?  When Jesus said that sin and death entered the world through the first humans, what does that say of Jesus when they question the reality of Adam and Eve?  How can this movement be of God, if they say that we ought not to judge what other people believe and teach, totally contrary to what scripture tells us to do?  How can this movement be of God, when it promotes pagan rituals like prayer labyrinths, when we are clearly warned in scripture not to take on the practices of the heathen?  And when Brian McLaren compares the sacrifice on the Cross by Christ as irrelevant and to being a form of cosmic child abuse, what does that say about their discernment when they follow him like lemmings to the edge of the cliff?

This movement will be taken down eventually, because it cannot withstand the truth of God.  But in the meantime, we ought to do all we can as Christians to rebuke the leaders of this movement, to rebuke the promoters of it, and warn everyone possible of this “religion of man” that is deceiving so many.

Then there is the social gospel movement (see T.A. McMahon’s commentary on that).  And let’s not overlook the “let’s save the planet” gospel of Brian McLaren and others, practically worshipping the created instead of the creator.  And the ever insidiously dangerous contemplative spirituality/mysticism movement, also known as spiritual formation, which is a cornerstone of the emergent church.

These movements are all man’s religion. Nothing more, nothing less.  Instead of boldly preaching the gospel of repentance from sin, and turning to Christ in faith, and teaching that we are all headed for destruction if we seek our own ways, these movements have perverted and watered down the gospel, and made a mockery of the simple message of faith and trust in the blood of Jesus Christ.

I believe all these “religions of men” come from pride.  Pride is one of the most dangerous things we can experience as Christians.  We can sometimes drift into our own little world of how we “think” things ought to be, instead of asking- what does God’s word say?  We want it our way.  We think we know what is right for our times.  Yet, the scriptures have said, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Prov. 14:12

We can sometimes use the excuse of, “well, the culture has changed, and now we don’t really need to follow these directives’ they’re outdated.  It’s not for us anymore.”  This is pride, this is arrogance, and this is man deciding that he knows better than God, and deciding that God did not give us His word that can be relevant to all cultures and throughout all ages; instead, we become the arbiters of what is “relevant” to our culture today.  Thus the perversion of what is clearly written in scripture, in order to suit our own wants and desires.

May God give us the wisdom to continue seeking His ways, not man’s ways.

A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ

From Mike Ratliff at his blog, Possessing The Treasure:

A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ

June 2, 2010 — Mike Ratliff

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20 ESV)

We have been looking at examples in the last several posts of a confused mess within the visible church. There are most definitely those who remain faithful in their orthodoxy while there are those who most definitely are “out there” in their apostasy. The confusion comes into play when we witness those with a very positive witness theologically making very unwise decisions with whom they fellowship or endorse. We also have some who have the right theology, but also embrace elements of the Emergent Christianity, which is heretical on many levels because of its unbiblical nature and its ecumenical inclusion of elements from other religions. This intermixing of things is where the confusion comes to bear. I attended a “mega-church” this last Sunday that has a fine pastor. He is theologically very sound. The church has many fine, biblically sound practices. However, it is amazing how conformed it also is on many levels to the very same new age nonsense that I have to put up with at the Catholic Healthcare System that employs me to manage their databases. They have banners hanging in their lobby that are nearly identical to the ones that appear on our newsletters at work as we are being called to “come together” more as a team, to engage, et cetera.

Before going on, please read the passage I placed at the top of this post, 1 Timothy 1:18-20. From this we learn that we are all called to hold faith and those who reject that make a shipwreck of their faith. Please remember that.

We had our quarterly staff meeting at work today and one of the speakers mentioned within a span of less than two minutes that our company’s main emphasis was to be there as an instrument of the healing ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and then began praising one of our employee encounter groups for their efforts in being so spiritual and coming together as one with a motto that was actually a Buddhist prayer. She even gave the name of the Buddhist monk who authored it. They showed a picture of the group planting sunflowers as a group activity in one of their meetings on the overhead. I knew almost all of them and that they were all Emergent in their religion using terms like “centering prayer” instead of “reflection” to begin our meetings.

What does this say? It says that the undiscerning that claims to be Christian are that way because they lack something vital that the discerning Christian does have. What do you suppose that would be? It is an active, believing, living faith. The faithful are not so just because they try harder. We saw that in yesterday’s post that the faithful are so because the Lord works through them for without Him, we can do nothing (John 15: 5). This includes discernment. Therefore, when we see professing Christians including other religions within their “faith” then we know that they are counterfeit. Jesus is not in that. Faithfulness is a determinant of Christian authenticity. To say mysticism is just as valid as Christianity in getting to God is a marker of unfaithfulness and Christian disingenuousness.

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1-3 ESV)

Here we see what has derailed so many or broken the string of faithfulness in our time. The baton of faithfulness has not been passed to faithful men, which will be able to teach others also. How often do we see a great man of God die or retire, then a young man replaces him, and everything changes? The old guard is run off. The church goes new age or emergent and there you go. However, this disaster has averted the need to suffer as a good soldier of Christ Jesus though because now these fellows are friends of the world… Well, you get the idea. However, if we stand against these “ministries” or “leaders” by showing from God’s Word what is wrong, we are suddenly the bad guys. We are the bullies. We are the ones not being Christlike. I suggest that those with that mindset go read some of our Lord’s rebukes in John 6 with his “hard preaching” against those who wanted to follow him, but all they really wanted was the good stuff without the repentance.

Now the no-fun stuff; I have prayed for wisdom in this. I am not God. I am finite. I do not know who the elect are. God does though. He knows who are His. I am convinced that as I read His Word that He does allow His people to err. We sin. We are not perfect. Therefore, it is possible for a theologian to make theological errors or errors of fellowship, et cetera. However, I am just as convinced by studying God’s Word that anyone who commits High-Handed sin is not regenerate. Christians will sin, but they will walk in repentance. They will not walk in rebellion as a way of life. Therefore, when we see professing Christians getting worse and worse in their apostasy, we must conclude that they are to be excluded from fellowship and exposed as wolves in sheep’s clothing if they are confronted and they do not repent. On the other hand, if we do confront these men about their sin and they do repent then we must accept that and include them in fellowship as long as they remain in that repentance.

Marks of apostasy would include the inclusion of religious rites or practices from other religions including mysticism in all its forms. This puts Emergent Christianity in the hot seat right away doesn’t it? Well, we must be discerning here and I see a lot of my friends doing a fine job of that. What about the Church Growth movement stuff? The main issues with it are its inclusion of the world in the Church. It has tried to make each local church a church for the unchurched. This is lunacy and unbiblical.  They use a gospel message that is powerless and has created a large body of professing Christians who are totally Biblically illiterate. All they know is their religion they have at their PDC church that is based totally on works righteousness.

What about New Calvinism and the Acts 29 Network? Where New Calvinism intersects and includes Emergence Christianity there is the problem. It is a merging of good theology with a man-based focus, which is called being “Missional.” It is a merging of Calvinism with works righteousness in an attempt to accomplish some sort of world “reformation.” This is Dominionism. I personally think this is the most dangerous one of these, but time will tell.

Do you see a commonality in these things? Yes, it is here. Where is our focus supposed to be and where is it in these things?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)

These movements, or whatever they are, are all based on a man-focused agenda. The Christian’s focus should be where? We are to seek the things that are above where Christ is. We are to be focused on Christ, to be doing His will, not ours or any man’s will. Stop being conformed to man’s religion and start being conformed to Christ and His mission. That means that we set our minds on Christ and obeying Him in all things regardless of what people say or do. This means that we are to share our faith with everyone who will listen. We are to grow as Christians by living in the Word of God and obeying Him in all things. We are to suffer by His grace and, when the time is right, we will join Him. I personally think that is the best part of the whole deal.

Soli Deo Gloria!