NPH Endorses Catholic Practice of Ashes On Forehead

In the story of Chicken Little, the townspeople ignored the little guy because they just did not believe him that something serious was happening.  After the acorn fell on his head, and he panicked, and sent the town into a needless frenzy, they just did not believe he was credible, when the real danger finally came.  I’m not Chicken Little, yet I am only one among a growing number of Nazarenes who are saying that in many ways, “the sky is falling.”  Something serious is really happening, and has really been changing the essence of the Church of the Nazarene for quite a while now.  It’s been happening in incremental, little baby steps.  Like slowly poisoning someone to death over a long period of time.  Or perhaps like the frog in the water slowly heating up, and then its too late when he realizes he’s getting cooked alive.

Enter again the Nazarene Publishing House, which I have warned you about regarding many books it is promoting, as well as it’s youth arm, Barefoot Ministries, which is promoting contemplative prayer practices and Roman Catholic monastic mysticism.  There is a new devotional book that is available at NPH called Ashes To Fire.  Here is a partial description of the book from their site:

This 14-week devotional book includes daily scripture readings from the Old Testament and New Testament, prayers, and each Sunday, a small sermon with journaling space.This book is specifically designed to be used, either individually or for small groups, from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost.

Sounds good: a devotional book for Nazarenes to use for spiritual guidance, and it does have some very good lessons in it, from what I hear.  But, note the emphasis on Ash Wednesday.  As a life long Nazarene, I find it odd that only in the last year or two have I been seeing such a consistent reference to Ash Wednesday or to Advent season, or Lenten season, or other such terms, in a way that I never heard once while my father was pastoring for many years, or a couple of the other pastors I had after he retired.  It’s only in recent years that these terms have come into greater use, and the question is, why?  If you recall in previous posts, it has been my suspicion that the Nazarene denomination is slowly being “Roman Catholicized”, and here is another smoking gun.

If you read the first lesson in the book, some of you will recognize that the concern goes beyond just referring to Ash Wednesday, which the writer of the lesson admits is not mentioned in scripture.  I have not read the book, but I do have an excerpt from that first lesson.  Now this book was the result of a collaboration where several authors contributed to the compiling of the lessons, so I cannot tell you which of them may or may not approve of a blatant promotion of a Catholic ritual, and perhaps some were not even aware of this chapter and its reference.  Contributors include General Superintendent J.K. Warrick, Russell Metcalf, Woodie Stevens, and others.

The book was brought to my attention by two Nazarene pastors, both who are former Roman Catholics as well.  Other pastors have expressed their concern for this.  Here is a portion of that first lesson:

OBSERVING ASH WEDNESDAY

Where is Ash Wednesday in the Bible? It isn’t. But there are plenty of precedents for calling God’s people together for repentance, for fresh anointings, and for renewal. The trumpet sound of the prophet Joel, calling for God’s people to tremble at the approaching judgments of God (Joel 2:1-2, 12-17)… 

 

Why ashes? Ashes in the Bible are a sign of mourning or humility before the holiness of God (see Daniel 9:3; Job 42:6; Jonah 3:6; Matt. 11:21). 

 

The Ash Wednesday service for many denominations involves the reading of Scripture, perhaps a very short message outlining the journey to Good Friday, Easter, and beyond. People are then invited to come forward and the pastor marks a small black cross with ashes on each person’s forehead. Traditionally these ashes are from the burning of the previous Palm Sunday’s palms, mixed to a light paste with pure olive oil. Often the service includes Holy Communion. 

 

Do we need to follow a certain ritual? No. But neither do we need to reinvent the wheel. If your church wants to begin an Ash Wednesday observance, a good place to start is with discovering what is good in established traditions. We can approach these sacred times that belong to all the church with humility and reverence. In them we can realize an opportunity to deepen our awareness of God’s forgiveness and purifying presence. Thus, an Ash Wednesday service invites us to humble ourselves before God as we prepare to follow in the steps of Jesus all the way to Calvary.


We have two biblically ordained “rituals” given to us in the New Testament, communion and baptism.  And so now, putting ashes on the forehead, a Roman Catholic ritual, has gotten the blessing of the official publishing house of the Church of the Nazarene.  But there is also a promotional video that NPH has put on the web.  Pay close attention to the final few seconds of this two minute promo.  If it does not shock you at all, then I don’t know what else to say to you.  If it does bother you, well, don’t expect this to be the end of it.  Expect more Roman Catholic rituals to come into our denomination, along with all the emergent heresies and Bible doubting professors and pastors, because frankly, this all seems to be out in the open, with very little objection at this point.

NPH Promo video:  http://vimeo.com/17291499  (If this does not play well, here is the YouTube link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHuZ9Z5A9fo)


You will also see video thoughts on this program by Pastor Carla Sunberg, Pastor Jeremy Selvidge, and President Bowling of Olivet Nazarene University, and perhaps others.
Is Dr. Bowling and these pastors aware of this first chapter and what it promotes, and if so, what is their position on it?  Has the placing of ashes on the forehead occurred at any of the chapel services at Olivet or any other Nazarene university?  What I do know is this, whoever put this together at the Nazarene Publishing House is certainly aware of the contents, and they need to explain why this little bit of leaven was inserted into a devotional book for Nazarenes.  Perhaps this is why I pick and choose very carefully the devotional books I might read, and why the Supreme devotional book, and the only one we really cannot afford to do without, is God’s Holy word.  No matter how fine a devotional book, there is none that is absolutely necessary for our Christian faith and practice.  None at all.

Finally, this link is an opposing view recorded by Pastor Peter Migner of Florida: Pastor Peter Migner On Ashes To Fire

Dear General Superintendents: You each were charged with a big responsibility of leading our great denomination, and part of that is to lead by example.  So what do you say of putting ashes on our foreheads in the Church of the Nazarene?  What is your view of the seeming Roman Catholization of many of our churches and universities?  What will be tolerated or not tolerated as we seem to continue down the road to Rome, and the leaven continues to grow?  What is “essential” or “non-essential?’  Is it that the “essentials” is not just agreeing on a core statement of beliefs; but the “true essentials” is full obedience to the Lord and all that He teaches and commands.

I just want to know how far this is going to go.  Many Nazarenes have already made that decision, and they no longer fellowship with us, precisely because of things like this that have been coming in.

What’s next?

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59 responses to “NPH Endorses Catholic Practice of Ashes On Forehead

  1. I think what pastor Migner said really summed up what is going on. It’s not that Ashes on the forehead are bad, it’s that we seem to be slowly embracing more and more rituals to the point that we are moving further from the simplistic church that was set up in Acts and trying to embrace all the rituals that actually hurt the first churches in the the New Testament.

    The little home churches were doing great and eager to just serve the Lord and fulfill the great commission to the best of their ability, but Gnostics and Pagans kept trying to come in and bring in all their own rituals and customs and before they knew it, the church was changing dramatically into this Clergy and laity system with rules and observances and laws all over again. God desires that we fellowship with him and his bride and sharing him with others. Outside of that-everything else is just stuff that gets in the way of doing those things.

    My old Naz church celebrated Ash Wednesday for many years and I went along with it-even embracing it for a few years but as I drew closer to the Lord by reading his word and an active prayer life, the less appealing this ritual was to me, to the point that the last time the church observed it, (and Lent) it made me feel very uncomfortable and soon after, I finally decided it was time to leave.

  2. Manny,

    Those who grew up in the Catholic Church, unlike myself, no doubt are better qualified to answer the worth of Ash Wednesday. I hope that many will respond.

    Pastor Migner brought out some good points and one point stood out above the rest that Ash Wednesday being a ritual. I believe without any real substance to aid one’s worship (my words)

    Those who commented in support of Ash Wednesday such as: Pastor’s Sunberg, Selvidge and GS Dr. Bowling I believe are missing the mark with remarks like: “Fits into our busy schedule; Assists pastors planning for Sunday services; and Brings all Christians together.”

    These are acceptance remarks or selling the worth of it as valuable. On the surface this all appears to be harnless and is just what the Doctor ordered for a quick fix for life’s struggles. To the Contra I believe Jesus is the answer to life’s problems not a substitute as found in a ritual as Ash Wednesday.

    Our Church is on a collision course of spiritual destruction if we continue to follow the pathway we are on. For those who endorse such practices, I would like to hear from them, that they can state beyond a shadow of doubt, that Jesus approves such worship. If they can’t then they shouldn’t!
    Lige

  3. It is not sufficient to merely point out that the imposition of ashes is done by Roman Catholics. It kind of sounds like you believe we can find the truth just by doing or believing the opposite of the Roman church, but that isn’t the case. We already share beliefs and practices with Catholics. Catholics and Nazarenes believe in the Trinity, that Jesus died for our sins, and on and on. You’ve got to show that the theological content of the idea behind the imposition of ashes is contrary to Scripture and Wesleyan theology. Otherwise, you’ll end up committing an ad hominem logical fallacy. You haven’t disproven an idea by slamming the person who holds it. The truth of the idea in question is a separate issue from the worthiness of the people that hold it.

    Anyway, a lot of other denominations have Ash Wednesday services too. Catholics don’t have any exclusive ownership of it. It’s not magic–you don’t become Catholic just by participating in Ash Wednesday. If there really is a problem with teaching people Catholic theology, it has to be with a certain way of thinking about Ash Wednesday, not Ash Wednesday itself.

    What Catholic theology are you concerned will be communicated through the imposition of ashes? What idea do you think people will imbibe that will convince them to become Catholic because they’ve gone to an Ash Wednesday service? What theology is being taught in Ashes To Fire that is distinctively Roman Catholic or anti-Wesleyan?

  4. Ryan,
    Some of your assumptions are a bit of a stretch to me. There are some strawman arguments here that I won’t address. I’d like to know where you are coming from if you don’t mind.
    Are you a Nazarene?
    Do you identify yourself in some ways with the emergent church movement?
    Do you agree that the Roman Catholic Church is an apostate church because of the many heresies it teaches?

    Did you read my post carefully? I think you missed one of the main points I tried to make in the post: RITUALISM. Could you give me your thoughts on that part? I said:

    “We have two biblically ordained “rituals” given to us in the New Testament, communion and baptism.”

    In other words, what gives Christians the authority to create and start as many rituals as they want? Where does it end? Is it okay if we go further and start actually tossing ashes all over our heads and body, instead of the forehead? Should we start wearing sackcloth as well? Would that be okay? Or perhaps another ritual could be that every Easter, we start a tradition in the Nazarene church, and pick one person- perhaps by lottery in each church- to be paraded down the center of the church aisles while the congregation curses at him? And then the person is stripped and nailed to a crucifix. How about that? Who decides what rituals that are created is biblically okay or not? Do you see where I am going with this? You may say its tradition, but what does that mean? Man’s tradition, or God’s tradition? Who had the authority to start the ritual of ashes on the forehead?

    Please make sure you answer the ritual question, because I don’t really allow a lot of conversations to go on for along time here.

  5. I had someone remind me today how God’s timing always seems to coincide with Biblical rituals such as the feasts. Perhaps we need to do more Bible study in the old testament (particularly the Pentateuch) and find how the laws of Moses testifies to Christ Jesus just like Jesus said it did. How ironic is it then that so many of our college professors want to reject OT teaching? Or that OT stories are just allegorical and not really True. And that these same college profs are the ones promoting Catholic rituals? (Lectio Devina, Ash Wed., etc.) Anything to keep us distracted from looking at what “rituals” were/are actually Biblical.

  6. Ryan said, “You’ve got to show that the theological content of the idea behind the imposition of ashes is contrary to Scripture and Wesleyan theology.”

    Wesley’s Letters: 1749
    To Dr. Conyers Middleton [1]
    TO DR. CONYERS MIDDLETON [1b]
    LONDON, January 4, 1749

    The consequences of it are tolerably plain, even to free the good people of England from all that prejudice, bigotry, and superstition vulgarly called Christianity. But it is not so plain that ‘this is the sole expedient which can secure the Protestant religion against the efforts of Rome’ (ibid.). It may be doubted whether Deism is the sole expedient to secure us against Popery; for some are of opinion there are persons in the world who are neither Deists, nor Papists. 3. You open the cause artfully enough by a quotation from Mr. Locke (page 4). But we are agreed to build our faith on no man’s authority. His reasons will be considered in their place.

    http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/wesleyrsquos-letters-1749/

    2 Timothy 4:1-5

    1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

  7. “Ash Wednesday is the day Lent begins. The official name of Ash Wednesday is “Day of Ashes.” The reason the day became known as Ash Wednesday is that it is forty-six days before Easter Sunday, so it will always fall on a Wednesday. The Bible does not mention Ash Wednesday, or Lent either, for that matter.

    “The period of Lent is intended to be a time where sinful activities and habits are forsaken. Ash Wednesday is the commencement of this period of repentance. The Bible contains numerous accounts of people using dust and ashes as symbols of repentance and/or mourning (Genesis 18:27; 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21). The tradition is that the symbol of the cross is made in ashes on a person’s forehead as a symbol of that person’s identification with Jesus Christ. A similar concept is mentioned in Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1 and 22:4.

    “Should a Christian observe Ash Wednesday? Ash Wednesday, along with Lent, is observed by most Catholics, most orthodox denominations, and a few Protestant denominations. Since the Bible nowhere commands or condemns such a practice, Christians are at liberty to prayerfully decide whether to observe Ash Wednesday or not. If a Christian decides to observe Ash Wednesday and/or Lent, the important thing is to have a biblical perspective. It is a good thing to repent of sinful activities, but this is something Christians should do every day, not just during Lent. It is a good thing to clearly identify yourself as a Christian, but again this is an ongoing identification. It is unbiblical to believe that God will automatically bless in response to the observance of a ritual. God is interested in our hearts, not in us observing rituals.”

    -http://www.gotquestions.org/Ash-Wednesday.html

  8. Thanks for posting my comment. It’s difficult to address big issues like this in a “comment” format, but I’ll do my best to be brief.

    1. I am not a Nazarene. I belong to another Wesleyan denomination that is nearly identical to the CotN. However, I do interact with a lot of Nazarenes and want the CotN to flourish without compromising its theological commitments.

    2. No, I definitely do not identify with the emergent church movement. I, like you, oppose theological postmoderism and its perspective regarding rituals. (There are a lot of ways of thinking about rituals that I oppose.) I am a conservative Wesleyan.

    3. I think the Roman Catholic church is wrong about a number of things, and I don’t think I could ever join it (which is the same thing I’d say about Presbyterians, Baptists, and many other Protestant churches, actually). But I don’t think it goes to the extreme of being theologically apostate as long as it remains within the boundaries of creedal theology.

    4. Now about ritualism. I am for rituals, but against ritualism. Just going through the motions gets you nowhere, but rituals can be helpful for conveying meaning and teaching theology. The Manual has a section called “Ritual” and it contains more than just Communion and baptism. Infant dedication, marriage, funerals, the dedication of a church, and more are included, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that these are all good and participating in them doesn’t constitute “ritualism.” Ritualism is the extreme–a reliance on ritual apart from relationship with Christ.

    I think the best way to test a ritual’s appropriateness is to ask questions like this:
    –What does the ritual mean to the participants?
    –What is it supposed to mean (officially speaking)?
    –Do the ritual actions fit with the meaning? Do they succeed in conveying the meaning?
    –Is this meaning consistent with biblical theology?

    This allows us to make a distinction between the ritual act and the theological content–without getting distracted by who else might be doing it with other content in mind. For example, we take Communion, and so do Catholics, but taking Communion does not smuggle Catholicism into our churches. This is because Catholics believe in transubstantiation and we don’t. The fact that we have a different theology of Communion makes all the difference in the world. The same goes for the imposition of ashes (which is done by many denominations that disagree with the Catholic church and are in no danger of joining it). If you’re not thinking Catholic thoughts when you do it, you’re not being Catholicized.

    I don’t think the church has the authority to force people to participate in particular rituals. But we are free to have rituals that aren’t mandated by Scripture as long as they are consistent with Scripture. If you live by the principle “We are only free to do that which is mentioned in Scripture” you’d have to give up funeral services, all instruments in church other than ram’s horns, tambourines, and harps, modern weddings, and many other things. That is not the principle the Church of the Nazarene has ever officially lived by–as far as I have studied its history.

    I think you and I are agreed when it comes to judging things that are mentioned in Scripture. Bu how do you decide if things are OK or not when they’re not mentioned in Scripture? (For example, what instruments to use in church, what hymns to sing, how to conduct a wedding, using terms like “Trinity,” when/where/how to pray, and so on.)

  9. Pam,

    I only mention Wesley’s theology because part of Manny’s concern (if I understand him correctly) is that the Nazarene church is going off-track by incorporating non-Nazarene/Wesleyan ideas. I hold Scripture as the ultimate authority in these matters and if there is any point where Wesley contradicts Scripture, I will go with Scripture. Let me assure you that I do not base any of my views solely on Wesley’s authority. We must be faithful to Scripture in order to be orthodox Christians, and we must adhere to Wesleyan theology in order to properly be Nazarene Christians. Otherwise, we belong in a different denomination. Just a little clarification there . . .

  10. Ryan,
    Thanks for answering. I only asked because some don’t like to reveal their background for some reason. I’m pretty much upfront about mine, so I like to know where someone is coming from in some ways.

    I have no argument with part 4- In fact I would agree with the way you are explaining it for the most part. Yes, funeral services and other things like that have their rituals if you will and are necessary. My concern with ashes on the forehead and other such things, is again, how far should we go in adding even more such rituals to our daily worship, to the point that these rituals of themselves are a distraction from the real focus, which is Christ, and I think some of these things do- especially when you talk about “ritualizing”.

    To answer the last question, you and I would agree- judge these things by whether they comport with scripture or not.

    Regarding the RCC, my view on that is extremely serious. I believe their teachings to be heretical and thus that is why I consider the institution an apostate church, based on the vast amounts of doctrine they teach which is blatantly unbiblical and is “another gospel.” My concern with posting this was because it is yet another “smoking gun” for what has invaded the Nazarenes and other churches: monastic mysticism, and a fascination to go back to “the old Christin ways.” What is ironic is that we are going back to practices that were completely rejected in the Reformation, which led to the birth of Protestantism and eventually denominations that at first, totally rejected the works based system of the Roman Catholic Church. Go figure!

  11. Just to clarify also, Ryan,
    I’m not so much concerned with Wesleyanism, as I am with Biblical Christianity within the Nazarene denomination. So the going off track is from an incorporation of non biblical ideas into the denomination, such as contemplative prayer, Celtic spirituality, evolution, Open Theism, Process Theology, denial of the inerrant word of God, etc.

  12. Ryan, thank you for the respect you gave this discussion. I strongly believe that those who are proposing new courses in Nazarene leadership be able to prove their points with scripture and the thoughts of John Wesley. The weight of the argument is on those proposing the actions. Acts 15 is the scripture that I use to support my view on this.

    Peter had the vision in Acts 10 and Paul had the vision in Acts 9 where he was told to go the Gentiles. If Nazarene leadership has gotten a vision or visions about Ash Wednesday I would like to know about it, till then I’m standing with scripture.

    Acts 9:15-16
    15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

    I don’t think any one here was subjected to ad hominem attacks. If they have please show me the link or links. The only rational that we have seen by those suggesting or approving these new-old ideas is that the person is a “really nice person” or “we need these because our lives are too complicated.” I don’t see either of those ideas supported by scripture or John Wesley. If I’m wrong I would love someone in the faith to lay it out Biblically.

  13. Ryan, said “The Manual has a section called “Ritual” and it contains more than just Communion and baptism. Infant dedication, marriage, funerals, the dedication of a church, and more are included, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that these are all good and participating in them doesn’t constitute “ritualism.” Ritualism is the extreme–a reliance on ritual apart from relationship with Christ.”

    I can find a lot of scriptures to support Communion, infant dedication, marriage, funerals and the dedication of a church therefore these would be excluded.

  14. PS on the visions, both sides of the discussion would need to have visions and have them supported by change in life, people coming to Christ, and verified by upstanding elders in the church like Ananias for the visions to be given weight equal to scripture.

    Manny let me know if you get a vision about the Emergent church or Ash Wednesday.

  15. The Nazarene Church is incorporating these things because without it they are running out of things to offer the people that is not another rock n roll concert.

    Discernment is the key here. As far as the bible is concerned Act 15 gives the answers to the minimum requirements for folks that don’t have good common sense on anything.

    It is quite strange that they would use a black man for the spot. That is first of all a desensitizing tactic simply due to the lack of contrast of the mark.

    Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?

    This has nothing to do with rituals it has to do with the mark of the beast. The cross is a curse, bible reference available. Not only do Catholics curse (cross) themselves through the heart; with this ungodly practice they unwittingly put a curse on their mind.

    yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (Read Fox’s book of martyrs.)

    Something goes wrong with the mind it becomes reprobate! IN THE NAME OF GOD.

    Go ahead show the leopard who you belong to.

    X=cross as it is found in the English language:

    seX, taX, foX, siX, cruX, aX, hoaX, heX, veX, feliX, sphinX, fiX, jinX, poX, styX, miX, Xmas, X marks the spot, generation X.

    XeroX=copy (cat)

    Go ahead put one on your head today.

  16. Steve said, Discernment is the key here. As far as the bible is concerned Act 15 gives the answers to the minimum requirements for folks that don’t have good common sense on anything.

    Yep, Bible 101.

  17. I think Ryan and Danielle both addressed the issue excellently in their comments. I’ll only add one thing, in light of Manny saying this: “What is ironic is that we are going back to practices that were completely rejected in the Reformation…”

    Having ashes put on one’s forehead as part of a worship service on Ash Wednesday was not “completely rejected in the Reformation.” Lutherans of all stripes continue to observe Ash Wednesday, as do Anglicans, Reformed churches (Presbyterians, etc), and United Methodists.

    So, as others have pointed out, it is incorrect to refer to it as a “Catholic practice” or “Roman Catholic ritual.” It’s a Protestant practice, too.

    Like you, Manny, I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene, the son of an ordained minister. I didn’t hear about Ash Wednesday much growing up, either. But that’s not surprising, given that the Church of the Nazarene has roots in American revivalism, which doesn’t have much use for rituals of any sort… except altar calls… a practice with far less biblical support than putting ashes on one’s head as a sign of repentance…

    Sorry, I got sidetracked. :)

  18. Rich,

    Okay, so it’s not just a Catholic practice. I never said that, just to clarify.
    I think others here like Lige, Pam, and Melinda have made excellent points about this as well.
    My dad would have rejected this outright- he was also a former Roman Catholic who was rescued from the bondage of its rites and rituals and heretical teachings (I assume you agree with that last point; if not, I can point you to its teachings which constitute another gospel).

    I believe this kind of thing can easily become a part of what we call “religiosity”, which can be described as an exaggerated way of doing religious activity (also from gotquestions). It becomes an inappropriate devotion to all the rituals and traditions of a specific religion, in this case Christianity. I hope I never get to that point, and that I can stay focused solely on the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and that performing rituals such as this will never be necessary for me to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    As far as the ashes on the forehead, if you have no problem with that, let’s also introduce as many rituals/icons/practices as we can into the denomination, as practiced also by the Catholic church. While some may be innocent in their use, they can also be used without even understanding the meaning of what they represent, and become yet another ritualized process that defies the simplicity of the gospel and the sufficiency of Christ. Of course, some of these are outright heretical. Here are some suggestions:

    1. Holy water
    2. Incense
    3. Praying to our Nazarene “saints”
    4. Confessional
    5. Making the sign of the cross
    6. Confirmation
    7. Last rites
    8. Eucharist (as drinking the actual body and blood of Christ)
    9. Baptism (as an actual way that a person becomes a true Christian)

    Unfortunately, through the centuries, whether in the RCC, or the Lutherans or some other denomination, the “religion of man” has taken over the authority of the Bible as our sole source of faith and practice, much to our detriment. it has hurt more than it has helped, and we are seeing an explosion of heretical teachings, exacerbated by an equal explosion of biblically illiterate and undiscerning Christians. And that includes many professors and pastors in our Nazarene institutions and churches of today. It’s all about a new thing, a new “refreshing” approach to how to get close to God. We are overloaded with all this stuff, instead of sticking with the simple things of the gospel. So today it’s another thing- Ashes To Fire- that is going to revolutionize the COTN and change things in a wonderful way.
    Tomorrow it will be something else, on top of all the other stuff tat is going to make a great difference in improving our spiritual lives.

    I don’t think so. Repentance will change things dramatically however, starting with much of our leadership.

  19. Manny, you’ve called it “a Catholic practice” throughout your post and comments… and even in the title. True, you didn’t say it’s “just” a Catholic practice… but why call it “Catholic” at all? Why not “NPH endorses Lutheran practice of ashes on forehead”? Or “Anglican practice”? Etc.

    “Religiosity” already occurs in the Church of the Nazarene and doesn’t depend on things like Ash Wednesday observances. It’s been centered on things like attendance at Wednesday night activities, revival services, or camp meetings. When I was a teenager, “religiosity” was based on having my daily “devotions” or “quiet time.” In short, participating in an Ash Wednesday service doesn’t lend itself to “religiosity” or “empty ritualism” any more than any other religious/church activity. Yes, we should resist “religiosity.” I agree with you there. But I don’t think the way we do that is to strip down Christian worship and Christian life to the bare minimum (just me and my Bible and communion once a quarter). If we did, we would just end up getting “religious” about our rejection of rituals!

    No one has said that this ritual of ashes on the forehead is “necessary for [anyone] to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.” You yourself quoted the Ashes to Fire devotional guide as saying, “Do we need to follow a certain ritual? No.”

    You see this as “one more step” moving us back to Rome. I see it as one more way that we Nazarenes are looking up from our huddle and learning from Christian brothers and sisters in other denominations, both past and present. Like others have said, there’s nothing especially “Catholic” about this. Are you opposed to our learning from other Protestant denominations?

  20. Rich,
    And I guess you don’t agree with me that the RCC is an apostate organization that teaches heresies as if they were biblical. That’s fine, but correct me if I’m wrong. I know that many of your Naznet friends have no problem with holding hands with this apostate church. Instead, you ought to be evangelizing Roman Catholics to bring them out of their false beliefs, as my father and so many others have witnessed to. But no, ecumenism abounds in the COTN, and soon perhaps we will hold hands with the apostate World Council of Churches, and maybe the Mormons and JWs, and maybe even the Muslims. Why not? Whats the difference, Rich? Look at who we let speak at our universities. Look at Campolo, McLaren, McDaniel, and so many others. It’s all become one big compromising, ecumenical love fest, and all you guys do is continue to defend every little thing that is coming into our denomination and polluting it. Just a little leaven every day, slowly but surely.

    And I generally reference the RCC, and not Lutherans, because of exactly what the COTN is doing- going back to Rome! It is plain as day, and you refuse to admit it. That’s fine, but for many of us, including pastors who were former Roman Catholics, they can smell it a mile away. They see what is happening, they have discernment, they will not compromise.

    Am I opposed to learning from other Protestant denominations? Look, that’s not the question here, so let’s not distract from the real issue. I am opposed to anything that goes against scripture plain and simple. And I cannot in good conscience call the RCC part of my fellowship, because it is an apostate religion Apparently you don’t agree.

  21. Thanks Pam,
    There were too many things to think about- and I forgot to mention that altar thing. I was scratching my head on that too.

  22. Manny,

    Whether or not I believe the Roman Catholic Church has crossed the line from “Christian-group-we-disagree-with” to “heretics” is irrelevant to the point I’m making. A person can believe Roman Catholics are heretics and still find Ash Wednesday celebrations with their Lutheran friends to be deeply meaningful. Ash Wednesday celebrations are (1) not “Catholic” and (2) pose no more danger for “empty ritual” than any other worship or devotional practice we do that’s not specifically mentioned in Scripture.

    And yes, Pam, that includes “the altar” as we call it in the Church of the Nazarene. That bench in front of the church that we invite people to come kneel at for prayer isn’t mentioned anywhere in Scripture. We call it an “altar” (though it was originally called a “mourner’s bench”), but our calling it that doesn’t mean it’s the same thing as the altars mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. It’s not. (We don’t sacrifice burnt offerings on it. We don’t build it as a monument and reminder of God’s faithfulness. We don’t build them according to God’s instructions. Etc.) This is common knowledge… or at least I thought it was.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing for churches to have these benches in the front as places for people to kneel and pray. Just like it’s not a bad thing for churches to invite people forward to have ashes placed on their foreheads as a call to repentance.

  23. It would have been nice to get a straight answer about the RCC- but I think I know what it is, Rich.

  24. Manny:

    If I understand my Bible, Jesus said that “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” John [6:44a]. With all due respect inviting people forward to have ashes placed on their forehead as a call to repentance would be bold on any pastor’s part and could lead to a false security of repentance unless the Father draws him.

  25. Lige,

    I am wondering…you said, “With all due respect inviting people forward to have ashes placed on their forehead as a call to repentance would be bold on any pastor’s part and could lead to a false security of repentance unless the Father draws him.”

    So is a pastor never to invite people to pray at the alter because that may be from him or her rather than the Father?

  26. When I choose a denomination and church to be a part of the question in my mind is, do these people know the heart of God and do they have a strong solid relationship with him. Their words and plans will line up with scripture and they will be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

    Here is a Biblical case for the alter.

    In the following verses in Luke 5:5-11 the pre-called disciples are frustrated with their fishing. When Jesus fills their nets with literal fish Peter falls to his face and says he is a sinful man. This passage isn’t about fish it’s about seeing Jesus and then seeing our sin and bowing our knees in humility and repentance. The scripture is full of people bowing their knees in humility and repentance therefore I see the alter in scripture.

    Luke 5:5-11
    5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

    6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

    8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

    Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

  27. Its obvious to me. We are adding a ritual to the call to repentance.
    We could start doing altar calls AND ask people to do one or more of the following as well:
    1. When you come up, take some holy water and sprinkle it on yourself first,
    2. Make the sign of the cross three times,
    3. Put ashes on your forehead,
    4. After coming up, pray to a statue of a “saint.”
    I could go on.

    I think Lige made that point clear in his comment. You can certainly make a call to repentance. Why add a ritual to it, and on what basis in scripture?

    That’s the difference

  28. Well, I answered the “how is different” question and then it is not responded to in any way. I also asked, is the RCC teaching heresies?

    Can you guys answer the question of: is the Roman Catholic church, in what it teaches, an apostate church or not? Based on what they teach, are they brothers and sisters in Christ? Where do you stop calling someone a fellow Christian, even when they PROFESS to be a Christian? Are Mormons? Are JWs?

    I won’t take a fit if you don’t agree with me, but why don’t you take a stand either way? Get on the record like I did!

  29. Manny, I’m really not sure why you’re so hung up on the question of whether or not the RCC’s are heretics. The answer to that question doesn’t change whether or not Ash Wednesday celebrations are appropriate for members of the Church of the Nazarene!

    But since you insist… even though I’m already “on the record” in my comments on previous posts… to the best of my knowledge, even though I deeply disagree with them on some things, the Roman Catholic Church does not officially teach anything heretical. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are an entirely different story. Both of these are heretical groups that set themselves up in opposition to the orthodox Christian churches. From what I can tell, the Mormons are further from orthodox Christianity than the JW’s, but both are over the line.

    Again, this question is totally unrelated to whether or not it’s appropriate for a Church of the Nazarene to call its members to repentance and to show that repentance by wearing ashes on their foreheads.

  30. Forgive me. The first sentence of my last comment was unclear. The question of whether or not the RCC teaches heresy is an important one. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. It’s just not relevant to the Ash Wednesday issue. Which is why I’m not sure why you keep coming back to it in this conversation, Manny.

  31. Well, I appreciate you going on the record. Many of your colleagues have always skirted the question.

    There is no doubt that the RCC teaches heresies. You should know that, and so should every discerning evangelical Christian.

    Shall I go through the heresies again? Better still, here is a full list. Tell me which ones of these are NOT heresies:
    http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/roman-catholicism-and-its-heresies/

    And there is a connection because of the very problem that the COTN is bringing in all sorts of monastic mysticism and RCC rituals into the church, so it all is related in one way or another. The ashes to the forehead is just another symptom of the BIG picture. The COTN is crashing and burning before our eyes, and you guys don;t see it, or if you do, you obviously embrace it.

  32. Manny,

    I have made my position on this issue clear to you on a number of previous occasions. Briefly, I find in your list of “heresies” most, but not all of the reasons why I am not a member of the Roman Catholic church. But I find in that list no reason whatsoever on the basis of scripture why Roman Catholics are not our Brothers and sisters in Christ if they have trusted Christ alone for their salvation.

    (By inference, of course “Nazarenes” who are trusting in their own “holiness” would not be our brothers and sisters in Christ.)

    Given the number of years the “church” has been around, I’d say that if 10% of Roman Catholics from all time and places make it to heaven (a ridiculously small number, I think) and if 90% of Nazarenes get in (likely very optimistic) the chances are all of us “Naz” folk will have RC “neighbors” in heaven.

    Consider the words of John Wesley on the matter of what matters in the faith. (taken from Works of John Wesley, volume 10, pages 80-82.

    1. Belief in an infinite and independent Being… One God… The Father of all things . . . The Father of His only Son, whom he hath begotten from eternity . . . (53) 2. Belief that Jesus of Nazareth was the Saviour of the world, the Messiah so long foretold; . . . he is the proper, natural son of God, God of God, very God of very God; and that he is Lord of all, having absolute, supreme, universal dominion over all things. . . . I believe that he was made man, Joining the human nature, with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary… (54) 3. Belief in the infinite eternal Spirit of God, equal with the Father and the Son, to be not only perfectly holy in himself, but the immediate cause of all holiness in us; . . . purifying and sanctifying our souls and bodies, to a full and eternal enjoyment of God. (55) 4. 1 believe that Christ by his Apostles gathered unto himself a church, to which he has continually added such as shall be saved; that this catholic, that is to say universal, Church, extending to all nations and all ages, is holy in all its members, who have fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that they have fellowship with the holy angel who minister to these heirs of salvation, and with all the living members of Christ on Earth, as well as all who departed in his faith and fear. (56) Then Wesley asks: Now, is there anything wrong in this? Is there any one point which you do not believe as well as me? But you think we ought to believe more. We will not now enter into the dispute. Only let me ask, If a man sincerely believes thus much and practices accordingly, can any one possibly persuade you to think that such a man shall perish everlastingly? (57)

    Now, what do you think of teens in the late ’50′s and ’60′s throwing sticks into fires at camp?

  33. The Church of the Nazarene is not crashing and burning where I live, Manny. Sorry…. well, actually, I guess I’m not sorry. I’m glad. :)

  34. Ryan said, “You’ve got to show that the theological content of the idea behind the imposition of ashes is contrary to Scripture and Wesleyan theology.”

    Then he said, “I hold Scripture as the ultimate authority in these matters and if there is any point where Wesley contradicts Scripture, I will go with Scripture.”

    Then he said, “But we are free to have rituals that aren’t mandated by Scripture as long as they are consistent with Scripture.”

    Ryan, how is this consistent with Scripture?

  35. Thanks for also going on the record, especially as a chaplain from a Nazarene university. Now if only more people could be upfront about it. I would love to see the position on that from each og the Generals- they are our leaders, and they lead by example. I do think that if more were honest about this, we would truly see how sad the situation has become in our denomination, that you- a college chaplain, along with seminary professors, college presidents, and pastors- cannot see the obvious heresies in the RCC teachings. You obviously reject the doctrine of separating from those who teach another gospel. That is what the RCC teaches- another gospel.

    I’m sure there are some individual MEMBERS of the RCC who are truly born again and do not depend on a works based system to be saved. However, THAT is what the RCC teaches- and THAT is heresy, whether you believe it or not.

  36. “Now, what do you think of teens in the late ’50′s and ’60′s throwing sticks into fires at camp?”

    Is this a Nazarene heresy from the old days? What are you talking about and how does this make any sense? Is there a correlation between fires / sticks and ashes?

  37. Consider the words of Paul:

    Galatians 1:6-10
    6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
    7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
    8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
    9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
    10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

  38. Gene Schandorff – as you are here…….. your voice and questions can be heard from the back of the room in the video featuring Jay McDaniel when he visited NNU. Can you explain why he was allowed unchallenged and why you yourself didn’t make more of a definitive statement that Jesus IS the ONLY way, the ONLY Truth, and the ONLY life and that NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT through Him? And why you didn’t oppose Jay McDaniel’s position of the Hindu example?

  39. Gene,

    Inviting a person to publically repent at an altar and placing a mark on their forehead are not equal my friend.

    If 10% of Catholics get saved it is not because they followed Catholic doctrine.

    Because Nazarenes can fall from grace your comment on Nazarene’s trusting in their own holiness is very objectionable, theologically speaking. Heb 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

    Some err- “supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” Rich, a thing crashes and burns from the inside out. I have saved many houses and buildings from burning and crashing as a professional Firefighter; by finding the little smoldering fires unseen from the outside, and extinguishing them, not playing with them!

    Professing Christians walking around with a mark on their forehead is unbiblical, wicked, and shows serious lack of discernment.

    It makes very little difference who does it, why they do it, how they justify it, what other denominations do or even if your own mother does it. That is not the measure of truth.

    It has its roots in Baal worship. Just one more way to mix Christianity with belial.

    Pastor Steve Sumner

  40. Mal 2:3

    Behold, I will corrupt your seed,

    and spread dung upon your faces,

    even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.

    Mal 2:17

    Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him?

    When ye say,

    Every one that doeth evil is good

    in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

  41. Hi, Pam.
    (This is in reply to your question about how my statement, “But we are free to have rituals that aren’t mandated by Scripture as long as they are consistent with Scripture,” can be consistent with Scripture.)

    It seems to me that there are two schools of thought (among Protestants) on this subject. As far as I know they are traced back to Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. They disagreed about how to understand and apply the principle of sola scriptura. Luther looked at the ideas and principles presented by Scripture, and said that a practice is OK if the Bible doesn’t prohibit it, and it is in line with the principles and ideas that Scripture teaches. Zwingli, on the other hand, said that if the Bible doesn’t prescribe a practice, it should be prohibited. Following this line of thought, Zwingli got rid of all pictures, statues, crucifixes/crosses, candles, relics, organs, and choirs from the churches under his authority. If I remember correctly, he also got rid of all hymns other than the Psalms, too, but that might have been someone else acting on his principle.

    I side with Luther on that issue. Scripture should have the final word on all our practices (especially the ones that are symbolic and codified into “ritual” form). I think it’s generally helpful when a ritual naturally arises to address issues in our lives that are important to us and, we believe, to God.

    For example, when teens graduate from high school, we want to encourage them and pray for them as they go off to college or enter the work force. When this happens, we have a special service (or portion of a service) when we honor the graduates, have them stand in front, and everyone comes down and lays hands on them and prays. Every time we do it, we do it the same way, but it never loses it’s meaning or value. There’s nothing about this in the Bible, but the desire behind it is a godly desire, and the Bible doesn’t prohibit it explicitly or in principle. If someone came along who believed that this prayer time was necessary for remaining a Christian while at college, I would respond by explaining the true meaning behind the ritual (that it can be helpful, but not necessary), not eliminate the practice.

    I think the same principle can be applied to things like Communion (in the Bible it was a complete feast with wine and everything, but now it’s a wafer and a sip of grape juice) or marriage (our ceremonies today aren’t like they were in Bible times). We change things around a bit, but it’s OK as long as the ritual is able to communicate the theological idea in question.

    One other thing I think is helpful is to consider how theology was conveyed to Christian lay people before the printing press was invented and the Bible was available to literate lay people. They were taught by sermons, religious pictures, by reciting the creed, learning set prayers with lots of theological content, and by participating in rituals that symbolized biblical truths. (Even from a practical point of view, educators typically agree that if you teach an idea visually (with pictures), aurally (with speech), and physically (with movement, or things to touch, taste, or smell) students usually respond better and retain the information longer.)

    I am glad we can all have our own Bibles now, but I don’t think that the former methods have to be completely discarded, or that we should revile them.

    There’s a lot that could be said about this, and I’m sorry this format only allows for discussing in bits and pieces. I am always afraid that these limitations will make it hard to give the right impression of my views. Thank you for your kind patience in this discussion.

  42. Jay McDaniel seems to have no problem articulating his beliefs- however unbiblical they are.
    But we will most likely not find any serious public defense (biblical) of his ungodly ideology from any Nazarene pastor or professor. To do so would reveal their support for those who teach doctrines of demons.

  43. Mickey G.

    I did not wish to imply that a pastor should never invite people to an altar to pray; however, where repentance is involved is another dimension and cannot be taken lightly using some external means, such as the ash, as if to seal one’s intention should they come forward and allow the pastor to mark their forehead with a cross with the ashes as a mark of repentance.

    Allow me to illustrate man’s intentions and God’s Holy Word. When I was in the military stationed aboard the USS Saratoga, I attended a religious service and the Chaplain served communion at the conclusion of his service. Not being a Christian, and really unaware of what communion was all about, I was lead to believe that it was for everybody, and therefore I was served communion.

    Afterwards, I felt no different from before I was served. Some years later after becoming a Christian I learned that I had eat and drank judgment against myself. I know that I took communion unaware of God’s Word and that He has long forgiven me. But what about those who continue to do these things as part of a ritual? And what about those (ministers) who continue to lead others to repeat those rituals without any true worship? Are they better off for it?

  44. Ryan,

    Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully respond to my questions. I can tell you put a lot of time into your ideas and responses.

    At this point in time I would take “Jesus Wept” as an answer over the Historical Christianity answer to scripture’s mandate. I find it telling that Biblical Wesleyan theologians are terrified or just plain refuse to use scripture to back up their ideas, thoughts and practices.

    The idea that High Graduate honoring ceremonies are confused with humbling ourselves before Jesus and asking for repentance is a weak example.

  45. Since Pam asked for Scripture…

    If Daniel were alive today, and he wore ashes and sackcloth while praying and fasting (Dan. 9:3), would we call him a heretic?

    If the Lord were to speak through Jeremiah today, telling his people to “Put on sackcloth… and roll in ashes” (Jer. 6:26), would we say, “Sorry, that’s Catholic”?

    If it was appropriate for Job to humble himself before God and “repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6), why is it inappropriate today?

    And if Jesus himself can speak approvingly of “sackcloth and ashes” as a sign of people’s repentance (Matt. 11:21; Luke 10:13), how can we now reject it by saying it’s “one more way to mix Christianity with belial”?

    Like I said earlier, if it’s “ritualism” that you’re fighting against, then fight against it in all its forms, including its traditionally-Nazarene ones. But just because some people turn weekly worship attendance or kneeling at an altar for prayer into ritualistic activities doesn’t mean we should abandon these practices. The same goes for wearing ashes on one’s head.

    It’s true, God chastised his people through the prophet Isaiah when their forms of worship (including wearing ashes) were empty rituals unaccompanied by God-honoring lives (Isaiah 58:5-6). But it wasn’t the ashes or the fasting he had a problem with. It was the corrupt, sinful, selfish lives of the people.

  46. Okay, do whatever you want. Let’s bring on some holy water into the foyer for our fellow Nazarenes. Let’s bring on some prayer beads to pass out to everyone. Let’s also bring animal sacrifices back as well. Let’s just do it all. It’s all good.

    Sorry I complained about all this, Rich.

  47. Hmm… I’m not sure what holy water, prayer beads, or animal sacrifices have to do with this, Manny. The first two aren’t mentioned in Scripture at all, as far as I can remember just now. The third one (animal sacrifices) is clearly addressed as being no longer necessary thanks to Christ’s “once for all” perfect sacrifice for sin. Wearing ashes on one’s head as an expression of repentance, on the other hand, is mentioned in Scripture repeatedly, with nothing in the NT that hints it would no longer be appropriate.

    You made your case against Nazarenes having Ash Wednesday services. I’m just responding. Pam said people were “terrified or just plain refuse to use Scripture,” so I thought I’d go ahead and point to some of the specific passages. So… why the sarcasm?

  48. You twist the scriptures. Sackcloth and ashes in the O.T. does not give license for ashes to the forehead and all sorts of other rituals .
    Read the lessons again that have been given here for your benefit by those who have responded.

  49. The sarcasm I guess is from all the frustration off seeing our Nazarene denomination bringing in the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, which is an apostate church, and mysticism, not too mention the disrespect of God’s infallible word by emergent false teachers in our midst, especially at the colleges. Forgive me please for a moment of weakness in my sarcasm.

    The denomination, Rich, has lost its way- at least many of the leaders have, and many of the churches. Not all, I attend a church that doe snot buy into this nonsense, otherwise I would be gone from there. There are a few left standing that are fighting this heresy. And so occasionally, my disappointment comes really through, mainly through a bit of sarcasm.

  50. Rich,

    Holy water is in the Bible but as usual it has no resemblance to the way in which Catholics use it. Par for the course such as for lent.

    The Two Babylons:

    The cross is adored with all the homage due only to the Most High; and for any one to call it, in the hearing of a genuine Romanist, by the Scriptural term, “the accursed tree,” is a mortal offence. To say that such superstitious feeling for the sign of the cross, such worship as Rome pays to a wooden or a metal cross, ever grew out of the saying of Paul, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”–that is, in the doctrine of Christ crucified–is a mere absurdity, a shallow subterfuge and pretence. The magic virtues attributed to the so-called sign of the cross, the worship bestowed on it, never came from such a source. The same sign of the cross that Rome now worships was used in the Babylonian Mysteries, was applied by Paganism to the same magic purposes, was honoured with the same honours. That which is now called the Christian cross was originally no Christian emblem at all, but was the mystic Tau of the Chaldeans and Egyptians–the true original form of the letter T–the initial of the name of Tammuz–which, in Hebrew, radically the same as ancient Chaldee, was found on coins. That mystic Tau was marked in baptism on the foreheads of those initiated in the Mysteries, * and was used in every variety of way as a most sacred symbol.

    * TERTULLIAN, De Proescript. Hoeret. The language of Tertullian implies that those who were initiated by baptism in the Mysteries were marked on the forehead in the same way, as his Christian countrymen in Africa, who had begun by this time to be marked in baptism with the sign of the cross.

    Then look at Easter. What means the term Easter itself? It is not a Christian name. It bears its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven, whose name, as pronounced by the people Nineveh, was evidently identical with that now in common use in this country. That name, as found by Layard on the Assyrian monuments, is Ishtar. The worship of Bel and Astarte was very early introduced into Britain, along with the Druids, “the priests of the groves.”

    * Socrates, the ancient ecclesiastical historian, after a lengthened account of the different ways in which Easter was observed in different countries in his time–i.e., the fifth century–sums up in these words: “Thus much already laid down may seem a sufficient treatise to prove that the celebration of the feast of Easter began everywhere more of custom than by any commandment either of Christ or any Apostle.” (Hist. Ecclesiast.)

    That festival agreed originally with the time of the Jewish Passover, when Christ was crucified, a period which, in the days of Tertullian, at the end of the second century, was believed to have been the 23rd of March.
    That festival was not idolatrous, and it was preceded by no Lent. “It ought to be known,” said Cassianus, the monk of Marseilles, writing in the fifth century, and contrasting the primitive Church with the Church in his day, “that the observance of the forty days had no existence, so long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained inviolate.” Whence, then, came this observance?

    The forty days’ abstinence of (LENT WAS DIRECTLY BORROWED FROM THE WORSHIPPERS OF THE BABYONIAN GODDESS.) Such a Lent of forty days, “in the spring of the year,” is still observed by the Yezidis or Pagan Devil-worshippers of Koordistan, who have inherited it from their early masters, the Babylonians.

    Such a Lent of forty days was observed in Egypt, as may be seen on consulting Wilkinson’s Egyptians. This Egyptian Lent of forty days, we are informed by Landseer, in his Sabean Researches, was held expressly in commemoration of Adonis or Osiris, the great mediatorial god. At the same time, the rape of Proserpine seems to have been commemorated, and in a similar manner; for Julius Firmicus informs us that, for “forty nights” the “wailing for Proserpine” continued; and from Arnobius we learn that the fast which the Pagans observed, called “Castus” or the “sacred” fast, was, by the Christians in his time, believed to have been primarily in imitation of the long fast of Ceres, when for many days she determinedly refused to eat on account of her “excess of sorrow,” that is, on account of the loss of her daughter Proserpine, when carried away by Pluto, the god of hell. As the stories of Bacchus, or Adonis and Proserpine, though originally distinct, were made to join on and fit in to one another, so that Bacchus was called Liber, and his wife Ariadne, Libera (which was one of the names of Proserpine), it is highly probable that the forty days’ fast of Lent was made in later times to have reference to both. Among the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing, and which, in many countries, was considerably later than the Christian festival, being observed in Palestine and Assyria in June, therefore called the “month of Tammuz”; in Egypt, about the middle of May, and in Britain, some time in April.

    (TO CONCILLIATE THE PAGANS TO NOMINAL CHRISTIANITY, ROME, PURSUING ITS USUAL POLICY, TOOK MEASURES TO GET THE CHRISTIAN AND PAGAN FESIVALS AMALGAMATED. . .
    The instrument in accomplishing this amalgamation was the abbot Dionysius the Little, to whom also we owe it, as modern chronologers have demonstrated, that the date of the Christian era, or of the birth of Christ Himself, was moved FOUR YEARS from the true time. Whether this was done through ignorance or design may be matter of question; but there seems to be no doubt of the fact, that the birth of the Lord Jesus was made full four years later than the truth. This change of the calendar in regard to Easter was attended with momentous consequences. It brought into the Church the grossest corruption and the rankest superstition in connection with the abstinence of Lent.
    Let any one only read the atrocities that were commemorated during the “sacred fast” or Pagan Lent, as described by Arnobius and Clemens Alexandrinus, and surely he must blush for the Christianity of those who, with the full knowledge of all these abominations, “went down to Egypt for help” to stir up the languid devotion of the degenerate Church, and who could find no more excellent way to “revive” it, than by borrowing from so polluted a source; the absurdities and abominations connected with which the early Christian writers had held up to scorn. That Christians should ever think of introducing the Pagan abstinence of Lent was a sign of evil; it showed how low they had sunk, and it was also a cause of evil; it inevitably led to deeper degradation. Originally, even in Rome, Lent, with the preceding revelries of the Carnival, was entirely unknown; and even when fasting before the Christian Pasch was held to be necessary, it was by slow steps that, in this respect, it came to conform with the ritual of Paganism. What may have been the period of fasting in the Roman Church before sitting of the Nicene Council does not very clearly appear, but for a considerable period after that Council, we have distinct evidence that it did not exceed three weeks. *
    * GIESELER, speaking of the Eastern Church in the second century, in regard to Paschal observances, says: “In it [the Paschal festival in commemoration of the death of Christ] they [the Eastern Christians] eat unleavened bread, probably like the Jews, eight days throughout…There is no trace of a yearly festival of a resurrection among them, for this was kept every Sunday” (Catholic Church). In regard to the Western Church, at a somewhat later period–the age of Constantine–fifteen days seems to have been observed to religious exercises in connection with the Christian Paschal feast, as appears from the following extracts from Bingham, kindly furnished to me by a friend, although the period of fasting is not stated. Bingham (Origin) says: “The solemnities of Pasch [are] the week before and the week after Easter Sunday–one week of the Cross, the other of the resurrection. The ancients speak of the Passion and Resurrection Pasch as a fifteen days’ solemnity. Fifteen days was enforced by law by the Empire, and commanded to the universal Church…Scaliger mentions a law of Constantine, ordering two weeks for Easter, and a vacation of all legal processes.”

    Lent and all its fixens is idolatrous wickedness dressed up by blind christians that only know how to follow the mother of harlots.

  51. I would like to say that just because “Ashes on the Forehead” are not specifically mentioned in the Bible that they are automatically bad or ‘unbiblical.’

    That being said, that does not give them a free pass either. It would seem clear to me that the CotN has been really promoting Roman Catholic traditions like Prayer Beads, Stations of the Cross, Prayer Paths, Spiritual Pilgrimages, and Lectio Divina. This can be found in books published by the Nazarene Publishing House (“Sacred Life” and “Sacred Space”).

    Ashes on the forehead is just another example of this.

    After reading all of the posts (up to this point there are 54) it seems clear that the lines have been drawn and neither side is moving. It would appear that most people have already chosen their side regardless of the information presented.

    I believe that there will be many pastors that will have to give an account for allowing such things to take place in their churches.

    Grace and Peace

  52. I would just like to say a big THANK YOU to Manny and Peter for their wonderful insights to Ashes to Fire. The video that Peter did was excellent and done so graciously and informatively. I have decided not to participate in ashes to fire in our small group and have actually ordered another study that we will be doing at that time. Again, thank you both for your wonderful insight, always. You have helped me on many occasions to see Gods discernment prooven. Thank You

  53. In reading the posts regarding “Ashes to Fire” I saw very little evidence that the writers who are opposed to the use of the program have actually read or studied the devotional material. It appears that the comments are based on opinion rather than research. I have the utmost respect and support of Merritt Nielson who has edited the daily devotional guide from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost and am amazed at the lack of understanding on the part of the writer from refomednazarene who stated in the original document that he had not read the devotional. Writers such as J.K. Warrick, Russell Metcalf, Woodie Stevens, John Bowling, Robert Broadbooks, and Jeren Rowell are unwavering in their support of the Wesleyan Holiness traditions of the Church of the Nazarene. To refer to Ash Wednesday as a “ritual” is to misunderstand what happens in the event. It is a worship service not a ritual and should be recognized as such.

    With true Christian concern for all.

  54. Leland,
    You are incorrect in implying that ashes to the forehead and Ash Wednesday rituals are part of the Nazarene Wesleyan tradition; it is not. My father and all his contemporaries never- ever did such a thing. This has all been ushered in by the emergent crowd and their “back to Rome” ways.

    And this practice is certainly not part of the biblical tradition. You may want to ask some of these writers, including Dr. Warrick, for their opinion as to whether placing ashes on the forehead is okay with them. But even if all of them say it is, that doe snot make it so- according to scripture.

    I don’t have to read the rest of the devotionals- which might be fine- to say that ashes to the forehead in such a practice are wrong.

  55. I realize this discussion has been going on for awhile and it may be a moot point at this time to write anything. But I feel I have to write this because I am just amazed at how uninformed some folks really are. Steve Sumner’s post regarding the Two Babylons hit the nail on the head. To sum it up, most if not all Catholic rituals have their historic roots in Babylonian “Mystery” worship. For those who are in favor of ashes on the forehead – read your ancient history, then read your Church history. Ashes on the forehead in the sign of a cross is PAGAN, and God says in his Word that we are to have nothing to do with it. Period. In fact His word says to RUN from it. There is no debate. There is no gray area. It’s black or white – life or death – God or Satan. If you are looking for middle ground, there isn’t any. Jesus said: “he that is not with me is against me…” (Mat. 12:30). Period.

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