Nazarene Theological Seminary and Nazarene Bible College are two schools responsible for preparing future pastors in the Nazarene church. What are they teaching or promoting which is different from many years ago? More importantly, is there anything they are teaching that is reflecting a compromise with the emergent church, contemplative spirituality movements, and other man-centered ideologies?
Nazarene Bible College is teaching the practice of lectio divina and embracing Roman Catholic resources. This alone is a serious problem, if there were no other! This seems par for the course now, as you will also note the same trend at NTS. It is disturbing to me that our Nazarene universities and Bible schools show signs of ecumenism, specifically in the Roman Catholic resources and books. In the Spiritual Formation course at NBC, Practicing Wesleyan-Holiness Spiritual Formation, one of the books used is “Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina“. The book is described as “an introduction to the discipline of praying the scriptures (spiritual reading) written by a Benedictine priest. He explains the four steps in the process and discusses how it can be used by a group.” Since when have Benedictine monks become a standard source of guidance for a school that carries the banner of a Wesleyan holiness denomination? Has the leadership at NBC shrugged their shoulders to the biblical admonitions to avoid those who preach another gospel? Is it not inevitable that when Christians start compromising with practically any denomination regardless of serious doctrinal differences, that eventually they will themselves be compromised, and be weakened in their faith and practice? Romans 12 commands us (does not suggest) to “not be conformed to the world.” Galatians 1:8 warns that if anyone brings to you another gospel, that they should be accursed! Are not the major teachings of the Roman Catholic church another gospel? Or has the Nazarene leadership given its blessings for the acceptance of Roman Catholicism as being as sound doctrinally as traditional Protestantism? What do our General Superintendents think about this trend?
Nazarene Bible College, whether through ignorance, or through deliberate planning, is embracing contemplative spirituality practices. It would seem to me that the natural steps will be a further addition of contemplative prayer techniques as lectio divina becomes accepted by default as something biblically sound. Perhaps lectio divina has been perceived as the safest practice that can be accepted by Christians as something good and seemingly in line with biblical doctrine. So once we can safely move from there, others are sure to follow, for why stop with that? If the “ancient Christian practices” are sound, it’s a matter of time that they will be introduced also, and they are. Prayer labyrinths will most likely soon be introduced at our seminaries. They are at least in one university (Trevecca) and are being used without any sort of embarrassment or guilt, approved by its own President, Dr. Dan Boone. I wonder how pastors reading this would react to a prayer labyrinth at our seminaries and Bible college? Would some write a letter expressing concern? Would others accept it as something within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy?
At Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS), you can see the same trend in their course offerings and required books. Spiritual Formation classes are par for the course. In one class taught by Dr. Doug Hardy, called Christian Spiritual Practices: Sacraments and Asceticism, what you see is practically a Roman Catholic flavor. One book is The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. Wait a minute, we are now interested in the sayings of the heretical Desert Fathers as required reading at a Nazarene seminary? For what purpose, and to what end? If its to point out the fact that these people were unbiblical in their ascetic approach to Christian living, that’s one thing. But I doubt that is what this book is being used for. Then the seemingly obligatory use of a Richard Foster book in practically every Nazarene university. This one is called Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World. Don’t know what he has to offer with this, but I am again reminded how the some of the Bible doubters at NazNet complain that we concerned Nazarenes use resources that are not part of the Wesleyan tradition, yet they have no problem citing and use false teachers such as Foster. At least my non-Nazarene resources actually believe in the truth and complete reliability of the entire Bible!
Another course, Seminar in Spiritual Formation, taught again by Doug Hardy, gives instruction on how to do pilgrimages. One book is A Pilgrim’s Journey: The Autobiography of Ignatius of Loyola. Does Dr. Hardy have any idea of the history of Ignatius? If he does, then I am even more concerned. Here are just a few facts about Ignatius, excerpted from David Cloud’s book, Contemplative Mysticism: “Loyola’s asceticism was very extreme. He lived for a year in a cave, wearing rags, never bathing, and begging for his food. All of this was an effort to do penance for his sins. He scourged and starved himself and slept very little. He taught that “penance” for sin requires “chastising the body by inflicting sensible pain on it” through “wearing hairshirts, cords, or iron chains on the body, or by scourging or wounding oneself, and by other kinds of austerities” (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, First Week, Vintage Spiritual Classics, p. 31).” And this book is a good resource… how? Loyola also dedicated himself to Mary, taught visualization prayer, promoted breath prayers, the use of spiritual directors, and his aforementioned book is growing in popularity amongst evangelicals. You can read the entire excerpt from Cloud’s book at his Way of Life website.
So again, this is yet another Roman Catholic resource. And I have written previously about the dozens of Roman Catholic and mystical books recommended by Dr. Hardy for the Windsor Hills Camp library, and his involvement with the Spiritual Directors International, an interspiritual group that is ecumenical and promotes contemplative spirituality amongst all religions.
Finally, in Christian Spiritual Practices: Connection and Service, taught by Dr. Hardy also, you find books such as: The Way of Friendship: Selected Spiritual Writings, by Basil Pennington. Pennington is a heavy promoter of contemplative spirituality practices such as centering prayer (the focusing on a word and silently repeating it over and over again), which are unbiblical. Why use him as a resource? To show an example of what is not good? I think not. And then there is Flirting with Monasticism: Finding God on Ancient Paths, by Karen Sloan. Sloan is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, which is no longer a sound Christian institution. In the description at Amazon books, part of it says “The book, which reads like a blog, explores areas where evangelicals may feel at home with monasticism (community life) as well as with practices that feel foreign (praying to the saints and the Virgin Mary).“ Okay, let’s explore that area, shall we? Praying to the virgin Mary!
I never thought I would see the day this would be happening across practically all of our Bible schools. It’s amazing and disheartening to see, yet, does anyone care?
This is just a taste of it all. There will be more posts on this, highlighting more of the things that are pointing ever consistently towards a move of our Christian universities and seminaries to becoming Roman Catholic; if not in name, certainly in practice.