With Richard Foster’s Renovaré Conference, Point Loma Continues On A Downward Slide

With Richard Foster’s Renovaré Conference, Point Loma Continues On A Downward Slide

Here we go again.  I love San Diego, and the last time I was there, I visited the campus at Point Loma Nazarene University.  A beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.  Well designed campus buildings.  Watched a nice soccer game that was going on at the time.  It all looked so beautiful and nice on the surface.  But as we know, looks can be deceptive, and often masks the ugliness within.  And so with Point Loma, as it all does not seem well on the inside.  Something is horribly wrong at this university which carries the name of Nazarene, supposedly reflecting Nazarene teaching and tradition.

Just recently it was a conference in March called Nurturing The Prophetic Imagination.  At a recent conference called Christless Christianity, Dr.  Peter Jones makes reference to it.  His lecture, A Gnostic Gospel, is a good one, and if you go to the 43 minute mark, you will hear his description of some of what this was about.  It’s not good.
In a recent post on my blog that was written by Rev. Peter Migner, I quote:

This past week I discovered that Point Loma Nazarene University is hosting some bizarre conference about Prophetic Imagination and among the featured guest speakers are: An Environmental Activist, a Monk, a Priest, a Black Activist and then it is Emceed by the President of NTS. Among the workshops is a Muslim Imam, a Catholic Priest and professors from ENC, NNU, PNU and TNU. This is not the Holiness Church I was led to as a young man from my Roman Catholic heritage. Some of the topics at this conference are just outright strange and Emergent in nature such as Sophia and Phronesis: A ‘What If’’ Question about Theology, and  Feminist Pedagogy as Acts of Prophetic Imagination.  (download schedule here)

And in an April, 2009 article, Lighthouse Trails Research documents the apparent slide into contemplative spirituality and emergent ideology that Point Loma has embarked on (Point Loma Nazarene University Welcomes Brian McLaren and Embraces Contemplative Spirituality).

Now it’s Richard Foster.  Forgive me for being cynical sounding, but is there something in the theological drinking water at Point Loma?  What has changed in ten years?  Or perhaps, was that change already taking place when I was already walking around the campus grounds, not knowing what was being taught and welcomed there.  Has there been a tragic loss of biblical discernment at Point Loma, by both the students, and particularly, by the theology and religion department, as well as the leadership? When it comes to theology and religion, and sound biblical doctrine, what does Richard Foster have to do with that?

So who is drinking the mystical and emergent coolaide at Point Loma?  Richard Foster is not just coming to speak, but to host an entire conference, the 2010 Renovaré Covenant Retreat.  From all that I know of him, his organization, and his writings, I have come to the conclusion that this man is a false teacher.  And if that is true, then I am following the biblical directive to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them”  (Eph. 5:11).

Let’s look at what his Renovaré organization stands for.  On their home page, it says:

We seek to resource, fuel, model, and advocate more intentional living and spiritual formation among Christians and those wanting a deeper connection with God. A foundational presence in the spiritual formation movement for over 20 years, Renovaré is Christian in commitment, ecumenical in breadth, and international in scope.

Richard Foster is probably the most influential person in the last 30 years or so, in the area of spiritual formation.  However, the problem with this is that spiritual formation means, to those who follow the Renovaré way, delving into what I can describe only as another term for contemplative spirituality, or mysticism, or even the occult.  Spiritual formation the Foster way is far from biblical, and others far more knowledgeable than me on this subject have written extensive and accurate exposés on this “new spirituality” which is fast sweeping the evangelical world, perhaps in preparation for the coming “man of sin”, or the anti-christ.  Please see the critical links that I have at the end of this post, including a recent post at the Psalm 11:3 blog.

This ecumenical spirit that is fostered (no pun intended) by so many evangelicals today is stunning, shocking, and should make most Bible believing Christians take some serious heed to what I and others are practically shouting out.  The desire to “hold hands” with anyone who declares that they are Christian, regardless of doctrines that they espouse, is unbiblical.  We are commanded in Romans 12  “do not be conformed to the world.”  So why should we care whether we get the approval of some other organization or group of people that is blatantly disregarding biblical instruction?  Are we seeking to stay within the socially approved circles of the religious elite, not wanting to be shunned and excluded from their worldly fellowship?  Do we really think that working cooperatively with any other professing “Christian” group, for a common good, under the banner of Christian unity, helps further the cause of the gospel?  Inevitably, it leads to us overlooking serious doctrinal differences between the groups, in order to keep a “spirit of unity.”  That will then lead to serious compromise of God’s word and His commands to obey all that He teaches us.

So what is it about Richard Foster that folks at Point Loma are willing to overlook, for the sake of listening to perhaps a few good things he might have to say?  What about the bad stuff?  What about the unbiblical baggage he carries with him?  Is Point Loma leadership saying, “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.”  Perhaps they are, or the only other conclusion is that they are completely oblivious to his heretical teachings.  Perhaps someone who has a child there, or plans to send one soon, or perhaps is sending money to the school, might want to ask the university president and theology department if there is a biblical sound, rational reason to host Renovaré at the school.

I won’t go into detail about Foster here.  I have posted various posts on him, so please read them carefully.  Others have written extensively, exposing his erroneous teachings, and promotion of heretical mystic monks.  Pastors Bob Dewaay, Ken Silva, David Cloud, and others, have done some really good work on Foster, as well as Lighthouse Trails Research, and many other hard working online discernment ministries who are taking the heat from the apostates who pretend to be Christian.

I will remind you of an amazing comment he made in his book (popular with many pastors), Prayer; Finding The Heart’s True Home.  In regards to going into contemplative prayer, he issued this warning:

At the outset I need to give a word of warning,… Contemplative Prayer is not for the novice. I do not say this about any other form of prayer… Contemplative prayer is for those who have exercised their spiritual muscles a bit and know something about the landscape of the spirit. In fact, those who work in the area of spiritual direction always look for signs of a maturing faith before encouraging individuals into Contemplative Prayer…

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.

I and others have asked before, why would a Christian need to pray a prayer of protection, before doing something that is supposed to be good for them?  And why can’t a novice Christian participate in contemplative prayer without fear?  Would God give us something that might be spiritually dangerous to us?  As Paul warns in scripture, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  Tolerating a little bit of false teaching will corrupt the church.

So I pray for some answers from the Point Loma University leadership.  If your child is going there now, or is considering going there, I would encourage you to ask them hard questions, if you are convinced that Richard Foster is nothing but bad news.  It looks to me as if the answer might be already evident: Point Loma, as well as other Nazarene universities, and its seminary, may have already been deceived by Richard Foster and his contemplative spirituality replacement for the true gospel.

If you are even a bit suspicious of Richard Foster now, here are some additional resources to find out more about him.  I pray you will be a Berean and put his teachings up to the light of scripture, and not with the reasoning of man.

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.

Articles on Richard Foster and Mysticism:

Richard Foster To Speak At Point Loma, Renovaré Link (Psalm 11:3, Tim Wirth)

Contemplative Prayer, or Terror? (Roger Oakland, Understanding The Times)

Richard Foster, Celebration of Deception (Bob Dewaay, Critical Issues Commentary)

Mysticism (Gary Gilley, Southern View Chapel) (Parts 1 to 5)

Richard Foster A Reliable Source For Proper Christian Spirituality? (Ken Silva, Apprising Ministries)

Richard Foster, The Prayer Room, And Discernment (reformednazarene)

The Intolerance of The “Tolerant” Emergents, And Their Leaven

Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

You can’t really maintain a good discussion or “conversation” with many emergents, if you are someone who believes in the infallibility and trustworthiness of all of God’s word, and that it is the sole authority for our faith and practice. Emergents reject that belief, and the most intolerant ones will more than likely vilify you for claiming this. The true emergent rejoices in “doubt”, and “mystery”, and takes pride in the idea that we can’t truly ever understand the Bible; and so their conclusion is: let us be compassionate, understanding, and be open to anyone who has any kind of idea about the scriptures.  Now that idea on the face of it, is not a problem for them; it only becomes a problem when they find out that you refuse to budge on a particular doctrine. That’s when their true colors show, because these people are blinded to their own intolerance and cry about how they are being persecuted. Yet if you disagree with them, they have no problems calling and threatening other pastors and leaders with the sole purpose of running them over with their own church bus, which of course has love in big letters printed on the side.

Over at NazNet, which also welcomes non-Nazarenes into their discussions, that is how many of them (not all) operate.  In the past, I have called NazNet “a breeding ground for emergent heresy.”  Frankly, it should be an embarrassment to the Church of the Nazarene, at least much of it.  Not all who are members of NazNet are emergent, as I am a member myself, and there are others who do battle with them on a regular basis.  But if you read some of their writings and opinions and you are not an emergent, chances are you would agree with my description, at least in the things many of them espouse.

Here’s what one pastor recently said, in a discussion that mentioned Christian universities and what their role should be.  This was also in the context of several of these emergents ripping apart a Nazarene elder for daring to criticize some things going on in our universities.

“That’s just what a good educational system does, equips their students to be able to think and operate for themselves in the real world and lets them fully own their decisions, not bend them to a certain view.


A second pastor followed with this:

“Yes there is a vast difference between education and indoctrination. It seems as if there is a growing segment of our church that simply would rather our students not be educated but rather indoctrinated. “

Translation: let’s expose our students to just about everything and anything, without any biblical guidance whatsoever. Let’s bring in false teachers like Brian McLaren and Jay McDaniel, allow them to expose (indoctrinate?) our students to false ideas, and then let them walk away unchallenged by anyone.  They seem to be okay with that scenario.

Ponder hearing something like: “Hey, I’m really proud of my student.  He fully owns his own decisions.  Yes, I know he doubts that Adam and Eve were real, or he strongly believes that we should bring worldly practices into the church to make the gospel more relevant and hip.  And yes, he even believes that his Hindu friend will probably go to heaven without ever coming to repentance and faith in Christ.  But so what?  He arrived at that conclusion on his own- so who am I to correct him?”

Yes, believe me, that is their mindset.  Many of them are pastors, the shepherds of their flock.  They don’t really believe that a Christian university should try too hard to keep their students down the narrow path that Jesus wants us to go down.  They don’t think it matters that Christian universities expose their students to a variety of heretical speakers.  Oh no, they might say, let’s not shut them off from the world and isolate them.  Let’s let them hear what crazy things Brian McLaren teaches, and I’m sure they won’t fall for his heretical ideology.

Truly, they seem to take pride in this sort of “hands off” mentality, and would rather take the chance and let the student decide to go down the wide path of destruction, as long as they made that decision themselves.  So much for the uncompromising, godly training they received at home from their parents.  Well, too bad, this is their chance now to grow up and make adult decisions.  So what if it’s a fatal one, spiritually speaking.

The pastor continued:

“This has certainly always been the case in the church, but what concerns me uniquely about the internet age is the rapidity with which information is spread and the way in which blogs, facebook, and other mediums draw in large numbers of lay people that would otherwise be unaware, and who do not fully understand the issues involved. As such the whole issue becomes an intensely emotional one in which the fears of the masses are whipped up to serve the agenda of a smallish group of people who would like to take the church in a fundamentalist direction.”

This pastor says “other wise be unaware” and “who do not fully understand the issues involved.” In other words, “we emergents understand the issues fully, but no one else does.” They are the enlightened ones.  They are like the Gnostics of old.  They have a special, hidden knowledge- so would the rest of us please, just shut up and listen!  And this comes from people whose philosophy tells us that we can’t really understand the Bible, that it’s a mystery, that there are many ways to read it.  (Perhaps even John 3:16 is not what it seems!)  Yet, when they get confronted, whether its by me, or by a highly educated theologian or pastor who happens to disagree with them, they lump us all in the same categories: ignorant, intolerant, hateful, lacking true insight, and uneducated.  Oh, and apparently if they have an inking that you may be a fundamentalist, that’s evil also.

So that was not just one emergent pastor’s opinion, friends.  This is a reflection of most of them.  I know these people.  I know how they think.  After almost two years of research into the emergent movement, and then banging heads with them on their blogs, I know them well.

Their primary tactic is to demonize any and all opposition, because they cannot defend their positions biblically. And I mean demonize anyone.  They have already dismissed me as someone who lacks the theological training and advanced degrees.  Yet, when someone with theological training and advanced degrees confronts their false teaching, what do they do?  They treat him just like me.  In other words, they are hypocrites, they don’t care what your background is.  They will shred you to pieces if they feel threatened in any way.  Picture a wounded animal caught in the corner of the room with nowhere to go, and that’s how an emergent looks like when he is confronted with biblical truth.

My tactic is this: to present the facts of their belief system, and pray that people will decide for themselves- on the sole basis of “does this comport with biblical doctrine?”  There should be no other measuring stick we ought to use.  None whatsoever.  But they don’t believe that, so there is no starting point of agreement.  Since they cannot confess that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, there is really no point in going forward with long discussions with them.  It would be a waste of time, because they are entrenched in the “religion of man.”  In other words, they are post-modern.  They are the intellectual elite.  They are full of pride, these people, and will continue in their elitist, intimidating, and sometimes threatening ways unless they repent.

And so to you Christian parents who may be sending your children to “Christian” colleges, watch out.  These same, misguided emergents on Naznet and other emergent liberal blogs, who speak of tolerance out of one side of their mouth, and then hurl vicious attacks on Bible believing Christians and even respected elders in the church, are invading your schools.  They have infiltrated our Christian universities, and future misguided emergents are being taught in our seminaries now, preparing for the next wave of Bible-doubting pastors in your town.  A friend of mine recently told me of the difficulty of finding a good teacher for a private Christian school, who has not drunk the coolaide of emergent heresy.  These are clearly dangerous times, and you can’t even trust anymore some of the most trusted evangelicals from the past, because even some of them have turned towards the mystical, “let’s experience God” fad.

Rest assured, these emergents will continue on, exposing themselves everyday.  They are living double lives, venting amongst themselves and showing their rage at Bible believers on their blogs, and then saying just the right words in the pulpit on Sunday mornings to fool the congregation.  You sure won’t hear them preaching about the “almost” perfect word of God on Sunday.  They won’t dare elaborate on their corrupted theologies.  Instead, as I have mentioned before, their modus operandi is by stealth.  Mix in a little leaven ever so slowly.  And sadly, some people don’t worry about a small bit of poison.

After all, what’s the harm in that, right?

(For related articles, see:   NazNet Pastors And their Dubious Ideology, NazNet: A Good Example of Bad Emergent Ideology, What Do Emergents Believe: A Review)

Where Are The Battlegrounds?

“O son of man, I HAVE SET THEE A WATCHMAN unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me… IF THOU DOST NOT SPEAK TO WARN THE WICKED from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but HIS BLOOD WILL I REQUIRE AT THINE HAND… IF THOU WARN THE WICKED of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but THOU HAST DELIVERED THY SOUL…” – Ezekiel 33:7-15

The Emergent Church Movement is a serious problem for the Christian church.  It threatens practically all Christians regardless of denomination.  I’ve been a Nazarene all my life, but if you are reading this and are anything but Nazarene, it probably makes no difference.  Whether you are Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Calvary Chapel, or one of many other evangelical denominations, chances are you are either facing this danger, or you will be soon.  The third horrible option is that you either embrace this heretical ideology, or that you are a Christian who knows of this danger and have even seen it, but you have chosen to ignore the danger or warning signs, and have “stuck your head in the sand.”  The Bible speaks of a great falling away in the last days.  We certainly have been warned, and false movements and teachings have been with us since the days of the apostles.

Who are these emergents?  Very briefly, among most emergents today, you will find: an incorporation of Roman Catholic practices and embracing of books by many heretical mystics; the use of contemplative spirituality (mysticism), including but not limited to, prayer labyrinths, centering prayer, breath prayers, mantra-type prayers, and “practicing the silence”; the embracing of false ideologies such as open theism, process theology; the equating of evolution as being compatible with scripture; an unhealthy over-emphasis on social justice to the diminishing of preaching the plain gospel of salvation; an unbiblical focus on environmental concerns; a belief that after 2,000 years we have not gotten it right.  And there’s more, but here is its crowning jewel of “unbelief”: the Bible is NOT the inspired, infallible word of God, therefore man can use his reasoning to come up with different ways to read the Bible, all of which are equally valid (post-modernism, relativism).  Woe to to any Christian who dares to stand on the whole truth of scripture, and be ready for ridicule, scorn, and intellectually superior condescension!

I see the battle against this movement playing out in several major fronts.  I believe all of these fronts will play a key role in how any denomination will fare in dealing with the emergent church, or any other false movement for that matter. First, and perhaps most critical, there is the university battleground.

At the Christian universities, there are two major concerns I see.  I think of the many young students coming into our Christian universities today, and it is painful to think that some of them are probably safer from apostasy and false teaching if they attend a secular school.  If a young person goes to a secular university, at least he might have a fighting chance, and have his guard up, because secular schools are not in the habit of touting or upholding high Christian standards, and that’s not what a secular school does or is expected to do.  But when a young man attends a Christian school, the natural assumption is that the school will not only state that they have high Christian values and teachings, but that they will consistently teach the student to recognize that which is bad, and will not bring any poison into the school that would mislead such young people who might not be solidly grounded in scripture.  At least that is my expectation as a parent of a future student.  The proper way to bring in this “poison”, in my opinion, is to bring it in as an example of what to avoid, not as something to embrace.

So I fear for those young people at our Nazarene (and other Christian) universities who are at this very moment being fed, very subtly at times, this poison, while at the same time that school is carrying the name Nazarene high up for all to see.  “Hey, its Nazarene, so it must be teaching and defending the same things we learned back home in our local church, right?”  Maybe.  That is not the case with all of our universities, and I fear that there are students who may, and might have already, walked away from the faith, because of what is happening in some of our universities.  And the usual reasoning from the leadership of these schools is, “let’s let them be exposed to everything, and let them decide what is good for them.” Can you see how fraught with danger that is, and do you really want your child to be exposed to anything and anyone out there, without the strong guidance from godly professors who can clearly refute that which is bad, and explain why?

For those of you who are parents of kids who may go to a Christian school someday, would it worry you a little if I told you your child could be in danger of walking away from the faith, giving up because his theology professor told him that Adam and Eve probably were not real, or that the flood account was a myth, or that the creation account was just an allegory?  Does it frighten you to think that your child may come home someday and start telling you about his wonderful experience with the prayer labyrinth that is on campus?  Or is that just another good old Nazarene practice in the holiness tradition?  Would you tolerate it, or would you pick up the phone and call the school to ask what’s going on?

Or maybe he will tell you that he spent 30 minutes each morning doing a mantra-like prayer, just because Tony Campolo said he does it?  After all, since he spoke to the kids in chapel, was never confronted (in front of of the students) in anything he said, so everything he says or teaches must be good.  Right?  Why, your son even likes Campolo’s idea that perhaps the Muslim mystics have encountered the same God we do in our Christian mysticism?  (Of course, I never knew of this Christian mysticism as something that we have missed for so many generations, but since Tony Campolo teaches it, it must be okay now.)  Right?

Or how about this: your son comes home, and argues with you that perhaps his Hindu friend can go to heaven also, because a professor by the name of Jay McDaniel at Northwest Nazarene gave a lecture where he suggested that it was so, and there was NOT ONE Nazarene professor in that lecture hall that defended biblical truth and refuted him.  At least not that I know of, from listening to the whole video, start to finish including questions and answers.  Perhaps someone can correct me and show us where he was vigorously refuted for his blatant false teaching to our Nazarene youth.  I can tell you right now, it is hard to sit through this thing for any biblically sound Christian.

Perhaps your daughter came home and told you that she learned something new from the local Nazarene pastor near the school; that the bread and wine of communion actually becomes the body and blood of Christ!  And what would you think if your child came home and talked about his Ash Wednesday experience, when at evening service, he received the ashes on his forehand from the Nazarene pastor?  No problem?  Is that okay now in our Nazarene holiness and Wesleyan tradition?

There are more scenarios I can give you, and it is not a joke or laughing matter.  What about yearly trips to a monastery to practice the silence and pray and commune with the monks.  What about blatant advertising of Roman Catholic churches as options for students, knowing that the RCC teaches a whole list of heretical teachings.  We may as well advertise Mormon churches also, and perhaps Jehovah’s Witness churches.  What’s the difference?  Is not their theology in line with what Nazarenes believe?  Have we forgotten about the doctrine of separation?  (2 Cor 6:14-18)  Are all who proclaim Christ as Savior truly our brothers and sisters in the Lord, in spite of everything else they teach?  Are we inching every so slowly down that very wide ecumenical road?

Or how about the selling of books by such false teachers as Brian McLaren, who likened Christ’s death on the cross to “cosmic child abuse.”  Or Rob Bell, who does not believe in biblical inerrancy, and who distorts Bible passages, and has no problem sharing a world platform with leaders from many false religions.  I recall scripture that commands us to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  yet we allow this stuff to be peddled to our vulnerable children in a Christian school?  Rest assured, my child will not be caught in such situations when he is ready to go to college.  But the good news, is that there are still good alternatives for Christian schools, you just have to do your homework and ask a lot of questions.

I know that for some of you, I am “preaching to the choir.”  You know what I am talking about, and you are involved in this fight for the faith as seriously as I am.  But if one more “undecided” person out there today realizes that what I am saying here is deadly serious, and God’s Spirit moves that person to action, to cry out to those in authority, that “enough is enough”, I will praise God for that.  To Him all the glory if someone else today sees that this is not a phony reality show; rather, it is a true reality show that is being produced by Satan.  But I keep wondering every night, and asking God, why are so many still not seeing this?  And even worst, why are so many SEEING this and NOT speaking out?  I do realize that there are scriptural answers to these questions, but I still ask them.

I almost forgot the second battleground.  It’s our local churches of course, where emergent pastors are coming to, after being mass produced at our seminaries and elsewhere, and then being shipped to the local churches to spread the emergent poison ever so subtly and slowly.  And many of them follow the Rick Warren model of “let’s just let them either die out, or force them to leave, if they don’t get with the program.  Yet it is hard to find one emergent pastor, who proudly proclaims what he truly believes to his congregation.  Oh no, that is the danger, friends.  They don’t dare shout it out, lest they be exposed immediately.  Have you really, really listened carefully like a Berean to your pastor’s sermons lately?  You may want to, because an emergent pastor must feed you the poison in very small portions.
The good news is that the faithful pastors who stand true to God’s infallible word are defending their flock.  The bad news is, there is no guarantee that they will be replaced someday by someone who actually believes the Bible is totally trustworthy.

Just remember, we are equally responsible to God for our actions or non-actions.

“…Be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. FOR THERE ARE MANY unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: WHOSE MOUTHS MUST BE STOPPED… TEACHING THINGS WHICH THEY OUGHT NOT… This witness is true. WHEREFORE REBUKE THEM SHARPLY, that they may be sound in the faith…” -Titus 1:9-13

Spiritual Formation: What Does It Really Mean?

All of a sudden, after years of membership in your church, you start hearing “new” words used much more frequently than ever before, such as: Conversation.  Missional.  Incarnational.  Prophetic.  Mystery. Community.  Relational. Authentic. Post-modern. Deconstruct. Narrative.  Story.  Re-imagine.  Tribe.  Contextual.  Mystery.

Or phrases such as: “You can’t put God in a box.”  “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”  “The Bible is just ink on paper.”  Vintage Faith.  Vintage Christianity.

There’s more, and most of it has a totally different meaning than you might guess, and it’s not good, and they are usually signs that you may be conversing with a pastor, or other person, who has bought into the emergent movement, another “religion of man.”  But let’s look at another phrase here today: spiritual formation.

When was the first time you were aware that this term all of a sudden was being tossed around all over the place?  As a Christian growing up in the Nazarene church, I can tell you that I never heard this phase up until perhaps two years ago, at about the same time when I began researching and finding out about the horrors of the emergent church movement.  So what brought about the prominent use of this phrase, what does the emergent church define it as, and if so, is their definition biblically sound?

One mystic equates Christian mysticism with spiritual formation. He defines it as being formed, by the Holy Spirit, through Christ, in the image and likeness of God.    Sounded good, until I continued on to the pages where he promotes all sorts of heretical books by mystic writers; the usual suspects like Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, et al.

At Trevecca Nazarene University’s website, their definition is “Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”  But as some of you know, that apparently includes the use of prayer labyrinths and retreats to Thomas Merton’s old monastery to “practice the silence”, certainly not biblically sound.

It’s even hard to pin down an exact definition of spiritual formation, and that’s where we can get into trouble.  What does it mean when someone mentions it to you?  Do you nod your head in approval, because it sounds pretty good to you?  Do you have some idea of what it is, yet you are not sure, and you don’t want to sound ignorant and unlearned by asking the person what they mean?  It could be, and so you go on thinking that it means one thing to you, but it might mean a totally different thing to the person talking about it.

Its like the word missional for me.  As missions president for a few years at my former church, I used to use that word in my yearly reports.  I would, with great pride, talk about the kind of church the Nazarene church was, that it was a “missional” church.  It was only until a few years later, when stumbling onto all this emergent silliness, that I realized that I may have been using the word while thinking of the traditional meaning of sending missionaries to the world to preach the gospel, when in reality, it seems that much of the Nazarene denomination’s use of the word is now, at best, confusing and changing like a chameleon, depending who uses the word.  It now often means a more social gospel-like, community oriented idea.

Back to spiritual formation.  Let’s cut to the chase: spiritual formation as defined and used by the emergent church crowd, is not a good thing.  If it’s not good, it’s not from God.  If it’s not from God, then there is only one other other source.  It can’t be bad and from God, so the source must be Satan.  Harsh words?  Perhaps, but if your conclusion about spiritual formation is that it is not of God, what else can it come from?  As you read the following article, remember that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  If you mix a little bad with a lot of good, it’s all bad.  To answer the well used phrase by some emergents, “you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater”…. yes, doctrinally and biblically, you can.

So it makes me ask the question: how did spiritual formation get thrown into the mix all of a sudden in the Nazarene universities?  It did not exist in the 70’s when I went to Eastern Nazarene College, as far as I know.  Who started the first spiritual formation theological degree program, and where?  And what was the biblical rationale behind it, that we missed something like this for so many years?  Is this an example of Brian McLaren and company’s assertion that we have not gotten it right in 2,000 years, and that now this is the “New Reformation” that is happening?  (Remember that these programs now use books by McLaren, Rob Bell, Richard Foster, and all sorts of teachers and writers who clearly do not come close to speaking the same language, or expressing the confidence in holy scripture that John Wesley had, even though they try to say he was an emergent).

Just thinking…

Manny

The following was originally posted at Nazarene Church Has Lost It’s Way.

Does “Spiritual Formation” Line up with God’s Word?

Spiritual Formation is common in our churches now. What exactly is it? The definition can vary from church to church. From research, I believe it is meant to push people to have a deeper spiritual life while emphasizing holiness. This in itself is not a bad goal. The problem is that it takes its direction from unholy roots. Some would claim that the roots lie in Wesleyan theology, but I could not find this. Holiness, yes.  Labyrinths, prayer beads, breathing exercises, cannot be found with Wesley, but rather in Catholicism and eastern religions. Spiritual formation contains many good attributes, such as self-examination and encouraging the practice of prayer and holiness. But where it strays and becomes a snare is when it entangles ancient heathen practices and ritualism in its teachings. In Jeremiah 10:2, Israel is commanded,” Learn not the way of the heathen…”and v.3 says, “For the customs of the people are vain…” By adding traditions that are used primarily in unholy religions, the will and work of the Holy Ghost is not aided. The Holy Spirit will always lead you plainly and clearly to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

The fruits of the teaching of “Spiritual Formation” in our churches are many. I would address a few here. First, I believe it has resulted in spiritual relationships with people who are not saved. We are not to bond with unsaved people, religious or not. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 clearly tells us to “Come out and be separate.” We cannot study with the Catholics, who believe Mary is superior to Jesus, and pray to idols and be right with God. We cannot, in good faith, practice prayer meditation in the same manner the Buddhists do, and expect to please the God of Israel. Remember in the Old Testament how God got very angry when his people did not tear down the groves that the heathen had used for prayer. Surely, they could have prayed there, but God wanted them to have no part in even the appearance of evil. In I Kings 14:22-24, the Lord deals with this. In 2 Chron.19: 3, God blesses them for removing the groves.

This brings me to my second point; we are engaging in practices that we have learned from the ancient Eastern religions. Such as meditations, centering prayer, lectio divina practices, among others. Christianity has always stood apart from such mystical practices. Now we are teaching it in our Sunday School curriculum!! Another result from this emphasis on “Spiritual Formation” is our inclusion of those who do not worship Christ. “Spiritual Formation” always leads people to ultimately define God for themselves. In other words, I could pray to the God of Isaac, while you might pray to a “higher power”, or “Allah.” Follow the writings of those who are leading us in this movement. They start out pretty ordinary, but as they progress in the movement it always leads to the joining of saved people with those who may not even acknowledge His blood sacrifice for salvation. I believe this is an abomination in the sight of God.

2 Tim. 2:15,16,17a  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker.”

One last fruit of this movement, which I would like to draw your attention to is this: Watered down preaching. This movement encourages a therapy couch type preaching, where we read and you tell me how it makes you feel and I tell you how it makes me feel. The pastor asks, “What do you think it means?” Instead of the Bible, the pastor reads from man-made lesson plans that incorporate, at best, the opinion and quotes of saved and unsaved alike!! What are you being fed at the house of God? Is it similar to watching a Dr. Phil show??? Pastors are to preach the WORD! They are to exhort us to live holy, God fearing lives. Not by teaching us how to walk a labyrinth, but by teaching the unblemished Bible!

In conclusion, I say we do not need to go to the heathen to learn how to worship or become holier. We just need to go to the Bible. It will teach you the difference between the holy and profane. And, if you are sitting under a pastor who does not preach the Word and you feel like you are starving to death, please, pray for wisdom. Ask God to lead you to the right pastor who can instruct you in righteousness, not in only a “form of godliness.”

2 Timothy 3:5 “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” V.7 “Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”