Responding To Dr. Leth’s Open Letter To Manny Silva

[Dr. Carl Leth recently wrote “An Open Letter To Manny Silva” in response to my post about Olivet Nazarene University promoting contemplative spirituality. My response to that is below, followed after by the full text of his letter.]

Summary Statement:

Dear Dr. Leth,

1. Instead of attacking the stated facts in my article, you wrongly attacked the integrity and honesty of Stand For Truth Ministries (me) and of Lighthouse Trails Research. You attacked the messenger, but not the message!  I think you could have done better.

2. You did not give a biblical defense for Olivet allowing false teachers like Tony Campolo to speak to students unchallenged.

3. You did not give a biblical defense for Olivet using books by authors like Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster.

4. You demonstrated no Scriptural defense of “spiritual formation.”  Ironically, the only passage you used, Romans 12:2, is actually a reason for not allowing Tony Campolo to speak to the students at Olivet.  He is part of the world!

5. You wrongly accused Lighthouse Trails of some kind of deception.  You said: But I do object to anonymous critique from people without identity or accountability. They operate – by choice – in the shadows.”  Well, you obviously missed the easy-to-find “Contact Us” section that lists David and Deb Dombrowski as the editors.  And you can further read their doctrinal statement, including the opening statement that the Bible is inerrant and historically accurate- a belief that is sadly lacking amongst many Nazarenes today, including many of our college theologians.

6.  John Wesley was not someone who promoted contemplative spirituality. (Although if he did, I would have called him out on it).

7. From your letter, I can only conclude that Olivet Nazarene University has at this time no intention of seriously looking at the implications of what it is doing by promoting contemplative spirituality (via “spiritual formation programs”).  That is why, unless their is a serious change, I do not recommend Olivet for any Bible believing Christian, as I do not recommend any of the other Nazarene schools and the seminary and Bible college as well.

8. I have no problem accepting your invitation to come and visit Olivet.  You can read my answer at the end.

Full Response:

Dr. Leth, although I still have serious disagreement with you on these issues, at least you have responded publicly, and I commend you for that.  Too many leaders in our denomination today are “operating in the shadows.”  The church needs to know the facts of where you and other leaders stand at all the colleges and seminaries, and make their decisions based on the answers.

You stated, “What you failed to mention was our exchange of multiple e-mails and an extended phone conversation discussing Dr. Campolo. You also neglected to mention the multiple page assessment of Dr. Campolo which I sent to you (and which I also shared with our University chaplain), discussing points of disagreement – and agreement – with your concerns.”

Any “omission” of our communications was done out of consideration for your statement of confidentiality, and certainly not to hide anything.  All your emails you sent me marked as confidential, including the one which had your assessment of Dr. Campolo attached.  Your disclaimer says: “This message is from the Office of Carl M. Leth at Olivet Nazarene University and is intended only for the recipient to whom it is addressed.  Please do not share or forward this e-mail without the permission of the sender.”

 So I honored that disclaimer.  If you wish, I would be glad to publicize all those emails that you stated were confidential, as well as your assessment of Dr. Campolo.  There was no failure or dishonest omission on my part, as is implied.

Secondly, I stand by my statement in which I said that you have no problem with Dr. Campolo.  Yes, you did write an assessment of Dr. Campolo that included some criticism, but the bottom line is this.  In allowing Dr. Campolo to come to Olivet, you (and the leadership) are okay with a false teacher coming to the Olivet campus and speaking unchallenged.  You know by now that Dr. Campolo promotes a whole lot of unbiblical ideologies, including contemplative mysticism, mantra prayers, and tacit support of the homosexual agenda.  By allowing him to speak, you (the leaders of Olivet) potentially allow him to poison the minds of your students.  That is irresponsible, and at least says that you and others are willing to tolerate the appearance of a false teacher on campus without giving anyone a chance to refute him at the same time.  I’ll let others decide for themselves whether that is wise or not.

Thirdly, you also said, that “standing for truth” does not require basic courtesy, not to mention following biblical principles for dealing with matters of disagreement.”  I am not aware of any biblical principles I violated.  Surely you do not mean Matthew 18, which does not apply here.  You are a public figure, whose words are read by hundreds of students at a time at Olivet.  A public response to you or any other public figure is absolutely appropriate.  We warn you and the leadership of what your school is allowing.  I am duty bound by God’s word to point out the errors publicly, for the sake of the students who attend your school, and for those who may attend.  I see no biblical basis for keeping my mouth shut publicly.  On the other hand, it would be reckless for me to not give out any warning as Olivet continues on this course.

You Question My Integrity, and That Of Lighthouse Trails

In spite of my serious disagreements with you, I had not (until now) questioned your integrity because I have not had any concrete reason to do so.  I do question your ideas.  I know that you sincerely believe in what you do, although I believe you are sincerely wrong.  A person can be in error and still be a person of integrity.  Yet you are questioning my integrity and my honesty, as well as that of the Lighthouse Trails writers.  That is a disappointment to me, and I believe it is an improper unscriptural judgment of me, Lighthouse Trails, and anyone else who has an opinion of what Olivet is teaching.  And it results , intentionally or otherwise, in trying to deflect away from the facts, which you never refuted.

You said:  “standing for truth” does not require speaking truthfully” …. “It revealed that “standing for truth” does not require a very high standard for truth. The critique of Olivet in a broad, sweeping stroke, was based on the posting of “Lighthouse Trails Research” which you trust and “commend.” 

 I commend and stand by Lighthouse Trails and the work they do, and I stand by my work as well. We bring facts out in the open, and we give our opinion.  Were these facts inaccurate about Olivet?  If so, which stated facts are in error, and why?  Frankly, what you object to is not the facts, but my conclusion as well as LHT’s conclusion, that Olivet is promoting contemplative spirituality.

And it does not matter whether LHT has a Wesleyan background!  John Wesley did not write the Bible!  What matters is if what they post is the truth, and there has been no refutation of any facts, and no biblical justification given for allowing these false teachers to influence our students.  I have no formal theological training, but God has given me the discernment to see what is false, and what is truth.

So I am very disappointed at your accusation that both Lighthouse Trails and myself are lacking in integrity and honesty.  This reminds me of the same technique used by my former pastor, when he did not like hearing the truth from me and could not refute a single thing I wrote.  I’ve seen this often.  When some people can’t refute the truth, they simply try to destroy the integrity of the messenger!  I am not perfect, but my conscience is clear before God.  Is yours?

I suspect that not one theology professor at Olivet, nor any other Christian university, can defend in a biblical manner the ideology of such writers as Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Tony Campolo, and many others.  They all share one thing in common, and that is the rapidly growing phenomenon of “spiritual formation.”  I would challenge your professors to come up with a biblical defense for the use of Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster books.  If not, they ought to throw it all out.  Sadly, those who are on the spiritual formation bandwagon are using contemplative practices that are unbiblical and that teach Christians that if they are quiet enough, the voice of God will speak to them; that if they practice “the silence” they will get closer to God.

Dr. Leth, you and some of your colleagues including some at our seminaries, are trying to justify the positive use of books by men who promote doctrines of demons.   We should not be trying to confuse people by saying we can take the good from these men, and throw out the bad.  That is not biblical at all.  You are trying to justify contemplative spirituality, and denying that it is what you call spiritual formation.  Spiritual formation programs are a Trojan horse bringing in contemplative mysticism. You say mystical expressions are okay.  I would ask, how does one know that any of those mystical expressions are from God, or from Satan?  How do I tell which is it? You seem to be pretty much on the same page as Tony Campolo, who said:

 “We must pay serious attention to mystical happenings, and discern, in the context of biblical understanding in Christian community, whether or not we believe they are of God. Discernment is crucial to mystical spirituality. Without it, anything goes. On the other hand, we must learn to doubt our doubts if we are going to be open to the work of the Spirit in our lives” (The God of Intimacy and Action, p. 11).

Finally, you said: “And I categorically reject the position attributed to Nouwen suggesting that there could be any other way to God.” 

How can it be clearer?  In his own words, Nouwen said:

“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God” (Sabbatical Journey, New York: Crossroad, 1998, p. 51).

Dr. Leth, let me make it clear: I have nothing personal against you or anyone at Olivet or any of the other colleges.  I believe you and your colleagues have good intentions.  God has long ago removed any personal resentments from my heart.  But I am saddened that the current position of Olivet leadership seems to be one of either denial, or refusal to repent.  I call on you and the leaders of the school to reject the use of these false teachers as good resources, to reject the spiritual formation which is a trojan horse for contemplative spirituality, and to get back to the Bible and nothing else as your source of truth.  It is a call for repentance from what is slowly destroying the Nazarene denomination.  It is a call to turn back to obedience to the inerrant word of God.

Your Invitation to Visit:

Regarding your invitation to come to Olivet.  I would be glad to come sometime with a colleague and have a dialogue with two of your best theologians, in front of all the students in chapel, on the merits of contemplative spirituality (spiritual formation).  I think something like that would be very interesting, and would allow someone like me, who is not seminary trained, to make my case.  I would only be armed with my knowledge of Scripture, my knowledge of those who promote contemplative spirituality, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Besides, would this not reflect the spirit of academic discourse and freedom, and sharing of ideas?

So consider this reply a Yes to your offer for me to visit the campus and speak to your students.  After all, if Tony Campolo, a non-Nazarene, can speak to them, why not a lifelong Nazarene like me?

Sincerely,

Manny Silva


* Additional comments have been added in red within your letter below:

ORIGINAL LETTER FROM DR. LETH

Date: Wed, 7 Mar 2012 07:29:47 -0800
Subject: An Open Letter to Manny Silva

An Open Letter to Manny Silva

(Please note: This letter will also be published on EpworthPulpit.com)

Dear Manny,

You recently issued a sweeping online critique of Olivet Nazarene University which you sent to Dr. Bowling and myself.  I was saddened and disappointed to receive it. But not by what it had to say about Olivet. It was what it revealed about Stand for Truth Ministries.

It revealed that “standing for truth” does not require speaking truthfully, or at the very least, is not averse to misleading statements. You wrote, concerning Tony Campolo’s visit to speak in chapel, “I sent my concerns to Dr. Carl Leth, dean of the School of Theology, but apparently he has no problem in having Dr. Campolo speak there.” What you failed to mention was our exchange of multiple e-mails and an extended phone conversation discussing Dr. Campolo. You also neglected to mention the multiple page assessment of Dr. Campolo which I sent to you (and which I also shared with our University chaplain), discussing points of disagreement – and agreement – with your concerns. In the end, our differences were less about the areas where Dr. Campolo is on questionable grounds than the severity of that critique. I shared your concerns about several positions Dr. Campolo advocates but I did not conclude that they disqualify him from speaking at all. That is a different conclusion from yours but hardly constitutes having “no problem” with Campolo.

It revealed that “standing for truth” does not require basic courtesy, not to mention following biblical principles for dealing with matters of disagreement.  In my multiple exchanges of communication with you I have tried to understand your concerns and respond to them in a serious manner. While we do not agree on every issue I want to honor your concerns and perspective. In those multiple (and wholly congenial) exchanges I repeatedly asked you to contact me if you had any concerns about what we were doing at Olivet. “If you have a concern please let me know.” I extended my personal invitation to Olivet to communicate your concerns directly, offering to personally serve as your host. You have my e-mail address and my personal phone number, both of which you were invited to use freely. Yet this latest, sweeping, critique came without any prior contact from you. Perhaps any explanation I would have made would have been unsatisfactory to you. But it would have been a gesture of simple courtesy to give me that opportunity.

It revealed that “standing for truth” does not require a very high standard for truth. The critique of Olivet in a broad, sweeping stroke, was based on the posting of “Lighthouse Trails Research” which you trust and “commend.”  So I went to Lighthouse Trails to learn a bit more about my accuser. What I learned was almost nothing. The editors of Lighthouse ministry shine a bright light on folks they disagree with but remain, themselves, in the shadows. The site includes a tab “about us” but it does not include any names, credentials, or church affiliation. Instead, the site freely identifies their purpose as for-profit book sales. I have no objections to free enterprise or book sales. But I do object to anonymous critique from people without identity or accountability. Do they have any meaningful theological training? Are they from the Wesleyan Holiness tradition? Are they active in a local church? Is there an accountability community that can vouch for their character and integrity? I am not presuming negative answers to any of these questions. I am simply noting that I have no basis on which to offer any kind of answer to them. The writers of Lighthouse Trails may be well-trained churchmen, deeply grounded in the Wesleyan holiness tradition and their understanding of our tradition, and persons of high personal, spiritual and moral character. I simply have no way to know. They operate – by choice – in the shadows.

Nevertheless, they have been installed as the authoritative theological source for assessment of the Church of the Nazarene and Olivet Nazarene University whose judgment is accepted without question by Stand for Truth Ministries.
Dr. Leth, I have many reliable sources of information that I use, besides LHT, and I also do my own research and also verify the information.  But how would you know I accept LHTs words without question?  And please tell me, which facts that they reported were incorrect?  Did they not use Richard Foster’s book, and Nouwen’s books, in some courses?  Did not the VP of SPiritual Life favorably quote Nouwen?  Which facts were incorrect?

Among the faculty of Olivet’s School of Theology and Christian Ministry we have over 200 years of ministry experience – on the mission field, as pastors, in local ministry staff positions. I have, myself, over 25 years of pastoral service, including four years in Missions. I have been entrusted with leadership roles on districts where I have served – District Advisor Board, chairman of the district Finance Committee, chairman of the Ministerial Credential’s Board. You can read what I have written, identified by name, in multiple publications easily available to the public (including EpworthPulpit.com). You can hear me preach any Sunday at the multi-cultural church I pastor (as a bi-vocational pastor) in downtown Kankakee. My credentials, experience and service are readily available for public assessment. But for Stand for Truth Ministries none of that matters the moment an anonymous, for-profit, online bookseller makes a condemning critique. That is the standard of truth.  No sir, the standard of truth is Jesus Christ, and His word, the word of God!

LHT is NOT anonymous, and you should correct that and apologize for saying that.  They even explain why they are for-profit, but even so, what s wrong with for profit?  Can they make a living, just as a pastor needs to get some income as well?  Do you earn income for what you do?

As far as your credentials, they look really good to me.  But is that the standard for Christians before they can discern what is right and what is wrong?  Does that mean no one is qualified to discern unless they have gone to theological school and received a degree?  Please read Psalm 119:99 and you will know that is not necessarily the case.

About Olivet

So much for what this reveals about Stand for Truth Ministries. Let me respond to the substance of your expressed concern. The general concern about “spiritual formation” reflects a misunderstanding about what spiritual formation is. You assume that anything identified as spiritual formation must be, or lead to, inappropriate forms of mysticism or non-Christian spirituality. This is simply mistaken. The disciplines of spiritual formation have been a part of the Christian community from its beginning. They reflect the intentional formation of practices and patterns of life to reflect and honor Christ’s lordship. They include practices of prayer, reading Scripture, worship, giving, and service. John Wesley did not use the term “spiritual formation” but emphasized the practices of spiritual formation as “means of grace.”

John Wesley, as far as I know, would not be involved with the kind of spiritual formation being promoted in the universities today, in many of our churches.  But… if he did, I suppose I would have to call him out on it as well.  The attempt to re-write the history of John Wesley, such as the claims of some that he was the first emergent, is outrageous!

The Wesleyan holiness understanding of God’s work of salvation has always included an emphatic insistence that this must include a radical change of life. Justification cannot be the experience of the believer without regeneration, newness of life, or initial sanctification. This means that life change is part and parcel of the New Birth. We must live in a new way. And this includes learning new habits and patterns of life. We need to learn to read the Word, spend time in prayer, spend time just listening to God, learn to act in new and different ways – like learning to serve others and spending time in the fellowship of the church.

All we need is the instructions God has given us in scripture.  We MUST NOT use “new and different ways” if they contradict God’s word.  But your examples certainly are not new.  Serving others, fellowship in the church- those are nothing new, although they are biblical.  Practicing the silence is not.  Using books by heretical authors as good resources are not.   Placing ashes on the forehead are not.

It is the expression of living worship. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

That is one of the points I have been trying to make!  Do not conform to the world!  Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster are part of the world!  Run away from them- don’t embrace them!

This work of life transformation is God’s work, a gift of grace, but it is not done without us. We are called to participate with God’s gracious work in us. And just because it is grace does not mean that the work is not sometimes hard work on our part. We emerge from lives of sin and the powerful influence of this world with deeply ingrained patterns of thinking and habits of life. We have to re-learn how to think of ourselves, what we value, how to use our resources, how to work through our hurts and grievances. All of this is part of God’s work in our lives to make us holy. All the “work” we do is participating in God’s sanctifying work in our lives. This is what “spiritual formation” must always be about – being made holy, reflecting the image and character of the Christ to whom we belong.

This is the work we are purposing to do. No mystic spiritualism. No inner divinity. Richard Foster claims that EVERY human being can be a portable sanctuary for contact with God.  EVERY human being, not just Christians. No universal spiritual being. Just forming hearts and lives around the heart and life of the One who gave himself for me. He alone is our life. He alone is our hope. He alone is the One we seek.

Let me add a word about the language of mysticism. It is easy for someone to misunderstood what is being said when calling for a movement from “moral” to “mystical” Christian experience. There are Christian traditions that see the Christian life as primarily a kind of moral living. Being Christian is, essentially, following the moral standards found in Scripture or expressed by the church. The life of the Christian is a life of compliance with the Law or the Church. “Mystical” expressions of Christianity have called people to a personal experience of God, a living personal relationship that does not require the mediation of a priest or the institutional church.

How is “Mystical” expressions biblical?  Please explain how mysticism is encouraged or taught in Scripture.  Nouwen said this:  “Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love. … For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required” (In the Name of Jesus, pp. 6, 31, 32).  How is this scriptural?

In this sense, we of the Wesleyan holiness tradition have always been “mystical.” We have never believed that being Christian is, essentially, about the Law.  Dr. Leth, let me explain what being a Christian means.  Being a Christian is this: someone who has repented of his sins, and placed his faith in Jesus Christ.  He has turned away form his sinful path, and now turns to obedience to Christ.  How do you obey Christ?  Simply by following His word, His law if you will.  Jesus said it Himself: if you love me, keep my commandments.  He did not say, if you love me, become a mystic and experience by practicing the silence.

It is about a personal encounter with the living God. It is what every altar in every church calls out. God, Himself, may be met here.

This is a description of the experiential philosophy of the emergent church and the mystics of today.  That you can “experience” God.   However, this is very subjective, and there is not clear way for us to discern whether someone’s “persona” experience is genuine or not, or if it is demonic.

In this sense I am glad to be called “mystical.” In fact, I refuse to be anything else. As I write this response I am listening to the song that asks, “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song, as the burdens press, and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long?” And my heart is encouraged by the ringing refrain, “O yes, He cares; I know He cares!…I know my Saviour cares.”  I know because I have met Him, I know Him. The Christian life is to follow Him and to know Him. This is the “mysticism” we value here at Olivet.

We follow and know Him by knowing His word.  Otherwise, your mysticism and my mysticism can be totally different, and again, how can I tell whether your experience is valid or not?  Or whether the “mystical experience” of 1000 different students at Olivet is valid or not.

That is not to say that any mysticism will do. Absolutely not! Only a life grounded in the life of Christ has found Life. And I categorically reject the position attributed to Nouwen suggesting that there could be any other way to God. There is no other Way, no other Truth, no other Life.

Where is any scriptural support for mystical experiences that can somehow be achieved by our efforts?  All the mystical experiences documented in the New Testament were initiated by God- not by Paul or anyone else going through some kind of procedure or ritual.

Moving Forward

I want to take you and your concerns seriously – as I have tried to do from the beginning. I will ask our faculty who are using Nouwen to carefully consider the texts they are using. I will ask them, specifically, to explore the suggested pluralism in the source you attribute to Nouwen.

They know what Henri Nouwen believed and taught.  There should be no question but that they should immediately remove his material, as well as Richard Foster’s, from the curriculum.  However, I do not fault Olivet alone on this.  I was ashamed to see Richard Foster’s book at General Assembly, AND in a prayer room, which was doubly shameful.

We want to avoid any suggestion that we affirm mystical spirituality or hope of salvation that is not grounded in the life of Christ alone.

But that is what the Nazarene denomination is doing right now, seeking “experiences” instead of remaining int he word of God.  It is no longer sufficient for them.  They must seek more new ways of getting close to God.  That is an insult to the sufficiency of placing our faith in Christ, and relying on His word.

We will not, however, abandon the enterprise of spiritual formation as I have described it. To do so would be to fail to be faithful stewards of the responsibility entrusted to us.

I’m sorry to hear that.  May the Lord bring conviction to you all and repentance from this path that Olivet seemingly has chosen.  It is the wrong way to go.

Nonetheless, I want to repeat my earlier offer to you. You are welcome to visit Olivet at any time as my guest. I will personally serve as your host and we will work to arrange meaningful opportunities for dialogue with you. If you are unable to visit the campus but have concerns you would like to express please communicate them to me and I will try to address them. In whatever we do let us try to honor Christ and be honoring to each other for his sake.

I’ll be glad to come, if I will be allowed to speak to the students in chapel, just as Tony Campolo was.

About these ads

18 responses to “Responding To Dr. Leth’s Open Letter To Manny Silva

  1. Manny, you have done as Romans 16 calls us to do to those who distort the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Romans 16:17-20

    Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

  2. Manny, I posted this on Epworthpulpit.com. I’m not sure how my remark will be received, but feel strongly that most comments were very complementary to Dr. Leth which I have no problem with. It leaves the question of Spiritual Formation and ONU and the rest of the Church’s involvement unanswered. Are we or are we not practicing mysticism? Here is my post.

    “Now that everyone has received their cud do’s and pat-on-the-back for a job well done still leaves the question unanswered: Is the church practicing heresy while dabbling in Spiritual Formation? A generation ago evangelicals had hardly heard the phrase, and now it has become the buzz word of the church as if it is the answer to man’s spiritual problems. Spiritual Formation as being touted by the emergent crowd is a poor substitute for a genuine relationship with Christ that is Biblical centered and not based on man’s ideology. My question to the body at large is: Who saved you from your life of sin? Who sanctified you holy, if you have been, after coming to Christ? And who will keep you until His coming. Lige Jeter”

  3. Hi Mr. Silva,

    I was looking at the Lighthouse Trails websites to learn more about them. I found their names and doctrinal statements, but I could not find anything about the Dombrowskis’ educational background. Do you know if they have any formal theological training?

    Additionally, I noticed in their doctrinal statement that there are several points that differ from the Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan-Arminian theological tradition as stated in the Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene. For example, the lens through which they interpret Scripture is different than the Church of the Nazarene, which makes theological discussion quite difficult. Additionally, they maintain eternal security, which the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition does not. LHT refutes infant baptism (which, in this conversation, is quite minor I suppose). Also, they do not believe in the sanctified life.

    Could you comment on these observations in relationship to their status as an authorative source for theological analysis of institutions? Additionally, do you know if they use any Wesleyan resources in their research?

    Thank You for entertaining my questions,
    Keith

  4. Dear Keith,
    NONE of these questions have absolutely anything to do with the problem at hand. For an ordained pastor, you have a lot to learn about some things.
    If you read my response to Dr. Leth, you would know what I think about the concept of “needing to have a theology degree” to be considered an authority on proper biblical discernment. If you were to ask the Dombrowskis, they might tell you the same answer as to their qualifications: I graduated from the same seminary that Peter and most of the apostles graduated from. Wait! Why, hardly any of them had some kind “higher degree, now that I remember. In fact, the majority were totally uneducated for the most part. But look at who the Lord picked anyway!

    No Keith, I have the authority of God’s word, and the leading of His Holy Spirit, as the only qualifications for what I do. And Keith, sorry to say, good Christian discernment from reading God’s word and really knowing it and OBEYING it, trumps all theology degrees!

    “I know more than my teachers, because I have kept Your word” Psalm 119:99

    The questions you asked are part of an old, tired game to distract Bible believers from the question at hand: is contemplative spirituality biblical? The answer is: NO. You as a pastor ought to at least try to defend these practices using God’s word- not YOUR opinions. Also, as I mentioned in my response, Wesleyanism has NOTHING to do with it. Biblicalism does. The authoritative source for biblical analysis of institutions is: the Bible.

  5. Mr. Silva,

    Thank you for your response.

    1. The Bible the source for authority and accountability. However, Calvinism and Wesleyans approach Scripture differently. It is because of these differences that they matter in this conversation. The Church of the Nazarene is a Wesleyan denomination and using a Calvinist approach to criticizing Wesleyan institutions is not incredibly helpful for the Wesleyan institution itself.

    2. I mentioned nothing of spiritual formation in my comment. I am not quite sure what led to you mentioning them in your response. My questions had nothing to do with spiritual formation, but were my attempt to better understand your position.

    3. Of course the apostles did not receive theology degrees, Christian schools did not exist then. But they all did devote three years of their lives learning from the Master Teacher. They literally left their jobs to participate in Jesus’ training for them as future leaders of the Church (ironically, that is about how long a Master of Divinity degree takes). Paul received formal education, and this fact is quite evident in his approach to preaching, evangelism, and writing. The logical and rhetorical devices Paul uses are direct result of his education. Additionally, several Old Testament individuals received education through “internships” if you will. Joshua, Elisha, and Samuel all studied under their mentors for extended periods of time. Surely the faithful kings received education in the Scriptures and the practice of Israel was formal teaching of the Torah. The Bible is quite clear that education in Scripture and the practices of the faith is especially significant. If you have the opportunity to learn more about the Bible and Christ from those who are older, wiser, and more spiritually mature than you, why not take it?

    4. Ordination is significant in any Christian tradition. When an individual is ordained, it is the Church’s affirmation of God call and work in the life of that individual. By ordaining a minister, the Church of the Nazarene is saying “we have tested and approved this individual for the task that God has called him/her to.”

    Peace,
    Keith

  6. This is not a comment directly related to your dialogue with Dr. Leth. I visited your website and was surprised to see material by John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and John Piper. Do you endorse the Reformed theology of these teachers?

  7. No, but I consider them fellow Christian brothers who clearly reject emergent ideology as I do- although, John Piper has lately been endorsing contemplative prayer, and associating with Rick Warren, and working with Beth Moore, who also promotes contemplative prayer, so he has some issues and has been straying.

  8. The fact that some of you posting here are more alarmed about Manny’s approval of some Calvinists than about the emergent and contemplative movements happening in your Nazarene denomination tells me that either 1.) you are missing the point about what’s going on, or 2.) you’re deliberately sidestepping the issue in order to distract from the things going on in the Nazarene church.

    Whether or not you agree with Calvinism, it has been historically affirmed that Calvinists and Arminians have recognized each other (with the exception of some fringe elements) as brothers in Christ. Despite disagreements on some issues, both have maintained common ground on justification by faith alone and the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

    The emergent church and contemplative spirituality, however, do not. Both of these movements involve people who at the very least flirt with mysticism and universalism. Both of these movements cast doubt on the sufficiency of Scripture (all one has to do is read Brian MacClaren’s book A New Kind of Christian to see this). Both of these movements to a degree advocate a form of prayer that is more akin to the warning of Jesus in Matthew 6 to avoid vain repetition.

    In essence, these movements cast doubt at the heart of the gospel by supplanting it with questionable ideas at best.

    Yet some of you ignore all of this and turn around to attack Manny just because he happens to agree with MacArthur or Sproul (both of whom do a FAR better job in presenting the gospel than a number of Arminians I’ve heard-not all, but a number of them). That says a lot more about your willingness to turn a blind eye to real error in favor of nitpicking over others who hold to the core of the Christian faith.

    Manny, my friend, I will pray for you.

  9. Hello Keith,

    1. Calvinist, Wesleyan, it does not matter- but you don’t seem to understand that. What matters is what the Bible says. There are both Calvinists and Wesleyans who absolutely agree with what I wrote, and who completely repudiate what is being promoted at Olivet and any other Christian school that promotes spiritual formation (aka contemplative spirituality).

    2. The main topic of my article was spiritual formation. It was relevant to mention it.

    3. You said: “If you have the opportunity to learn more about the Bible and Christ from those who are older, wiser, and more spiritually mature than you, why not take it?”
    Yes, I have taken the opportunity. My father, a Nazarene pastor for years, was my main mentor. Wonderful preacher who believed in the Bible’s inerrancy, who came out of the bondage of Roman Catholicism- something we are now bringing in. After he passed away, one of my mentors was my father in law, also a holiness preacher and pastor. When I first told him about what I was doing to fight the emergent church, he told me he was not surprised. He saw this mysticism coming in years ago, saw the Roman Catholic influences, and was not shy in rebuking those in leadership who needed a rebuke. Needless to say, his invites to preach were diminished, BUT he stood for the truth. So yes, I have had and learned from some really great mentors, who do not seek to please men- but seek to please God! Right now, you might be thinking they were the wrong mentors, right?
    I don’t consider ANYONE who promotes spiritual formation, or promotes writers like Nouwen and Foster, or promotes open theism, or theistic evolution- those are NOT my mentors.

    4. Finally on ordination: When my district rejects a pastor to be ordained Because he believes in the inerrancy of scripture, what does that tell you Keith? Do you believe in the full inerrancy of scripture? and a simple Yes or No should suffice. So why should we be trusting what the COTN is putting out now in terms of approved ordinations, when they reject Bible believers, and ordain those who question the word of God? KInd of strange, don’t you think?

    Keith, you still have a lot to learn. You seem to rely too much on the politics and hierarchy of the church, instead of focusing solely on what God’s word dictates.

  10. Thanks Manny for your response.

    4. It tells me that our church leadership is doing a great job upholding the doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene.

    I am a part of the Church of the Nazarene because of all the denominations out there, I believe it’s doctrines are closest to what the Bible says. I am glad to hear that the Church of the Nazarene is remaining faithful to it’s doctrines.

    Additionally, the way you are speaking makes me feel like I am being attacked for my position about practices of Spiritual Formation. However, I have not made any comments about my perspectives on what the Bible says about such practices. I am unsure as to why such comments are directed at me. I was simply asking why you chose LHT as a source for accountability to Wesleyan institutions.

    My original question was a gesture of understanding, trying to better understand your position and perspectives. I am Christian who through a great deal of study of Scripture has found that the doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene (including Article IV) are faithful to the Bible. I have also found that some other faith traditions have some doctrines that are actually contrary to the teaching in Scripture. So from my perspective, it is quite important as to who is being used as an authority in theological conversations about Nazarene individuals and institutions. While Wesleyanism and Calvinism are of the same family, they are also different. If a Calvinistic organization deems a Wesleyan institution heretical, it carries less weight than if a Wesleyan organization does the same thing. They will evaluate the institution based on different criteria.

    Please realize that I do not wish, at this point, to discuss Spiritual Formation practices. I am neither here to defend nor disapprove of them. I am merely seeking to understand what research made you draw your conclusions about Olivet and what resources you use.

    I am glad you had some great spiritual mentors in your life.

  11. After Pentecost Peter preached probably his best sermon and the Scripture says that “about three thousand souls were added to them.” Later Peter and John heal a lame man and rebuked those who doubted. Afterward Peter and John was arrested and was forbidden by the Sanhedrin to speak about Jesus any more. What is interesting in the whole story is a truth surfaced about Peter and John that even the Sanhedrin could not deny.

    Acts [4:13] “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” I have nothing against education, but when the sheep-skin defines ones status or rank regardless of the position they take on Spiritual matters it becomes very dangerous. The important issue here is when people can see and distinguish that one has been with Jesus. At this point the degrees become meaningless.

  12. Well, Keith, I tried. No disrespect intended, but you seem incapable of biblically supporting your premise that “that our church leadership is doing a great job upholding the doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene.” No, they are not! You cannot even acknowledge whether you believe in scriptural inerrancy or not. Do you believe that the Bible has errors, or not? Simple question. Do you believe that God cannot know all the future? Simple question. Do you believe that the use of prayer labyrinths is biblical? Do you believe that the Bible- all of it- IS God’s word?
    These are all yes and no questions.

    You also refuse to address spiritual formation, probably because you cannot defend it biblically. That was certainly the point of my article, and I don;t need to get into a long series of discussions about “approaches: or “my lens” vs “your lens”, or my perspective. So we’ll end it here.

    Should you wish to send me additional arguments that are BIBLE based, instead of all this Wesleyan logic, feel free to email me.

    MannyRSilva@hotmail.com

  13. Rev. Silva,

    I am in agreement that much of what has fallen under the label of ‘spiritual formation’ finds its origins not in the Biblical practices of the Prophets of Israel or the Apostles of Jesus, but in the Hellenistic Greek culture of the early centuries A.D.–some from the philosophical traditions and others from pagan cultic traditions. So, I am with you that such ‘paths to God’ or ‘paths to spiritual discipline’ will prove perilous.

    With that said, not all behaviors that fall under the current label of ‘spiritual formation’ are unbiblical. Fasting, for instance, seems to be a practice endorsed and practiced by the biblical churches. In Acts 13:2-3, for instance, the text indicates that the Christians in that context were “worshipping and fasting” when the Holy Spirit revealed His selection of Paul and Barnabas to be set aside for missionary work.

    My only point is that the advocates of ‘spiritual formation’ have lumped a whole collection of unlike behaviors together under one umbrella term, and part of what those of us who are in disagreement must do is to separate out the biblical from the unbiblical once again. Perhaps you’ve already made those distinctions. I have only read this one interaction.

    I’m most interested, however, in your understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture. I consider myself an evangelical, and I believe something very close to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Innerancy (http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf), which I believe to be, even today, the starting point for most conservative evangelical beliefs regarding the authority, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture. Would your understanding of inerrancy come close to that statement, or have you defined the terms somewhat independently?

    J. Thomas

  14. The cloaks really come off when their real fear (Reformed Theology) is revealed. I wonder – where has the Reformed doctrines deviated from Scripture historically? And yet, what is about Wesleyan/Arminianism that has maintained Scripture historically (beyond Wesley and Arminius)?

    Nazarene doctrines can only go back so far as Wesleyan/Arminianism. Why is that? It’s like that is the ultimate Nazarene Trump card. Why? Many of us want the Truth and it will be found despite the theological titles and “heritages” we all have.

    For just a moment let’s look at Reformed vs. Arminianism, shall we? Supposedly, Arminianism is Biblical, and yet, supposedly Reformed is Biblical. Shall we go back to the Synod of Dort and have the discussion again? (Will the Arminians actually show up for the discussion this time?) Why don’t we ALL hold the Doctrines we have and let’s look at them in light of Scripture and see what Scripture says…. What if Arminianism is wrong? What if Reformed is wrong? What if Arminianism is right? What if Reformed is right? And, if we’re wrong in ANY areas, then we better make some hard fast changes to our doctrines (and REPENT!) so that our Theology ALIGNS WITH SCRIPTURE FIRST AND FOREMOST. THE BIBLE TRUMPS ALL. It is inerrant. It is sufficient.

    In other words, if you want to have the Arminian/Reformed discussion and try to marginalize by that obvious red herring – then let’s ALL have that discussion and determine which doctrine(s) are Biblically sound. If you do not, and yet claim that you only want Biblical Truth, then let’s open our Bibles and see what IT says.

  15. No attack (or diversion) was intended in my question regarding Piper, MacArthur, or Sproul. I am new to this site and was just trying to understand the theological perspective of the site. I have some reservations about Reformed theology, because I think that their doctrine of God is influenced too much by Platonic philosophy (and his student Aristotle). I thought it was a fair and pertinent question. I have enjoyed hearing these men teach; and also Tony Campolo. However, in each case I have disagreements with their views of biblical theology.

    To appleofHiseye: As you know, the Arminian/Reformed debate has been going on for centuries. I believe this debate does help us discern sound biblical doctrine. These positions do not carry the same weight as Scripture, but they are important attempts to understand the truth of God’s Word and apply it rightly to our lives. A task that is always contemporary and relevant.

    You presumed that I was interjecting a distraction or red herring; this is not an accurate presumption.

  16. Craig Dillman:

    >>>I am new to this site and was just trying to understand the theological perspective of the site.
    >>>You presumed that I was interjecting a distraction or red herring; this is not an accurate presumption.
    >>>I have some reservations about Reformed theology, because I think that their doctrine of God….

    (Your original post:
    >>>I visited your website and was surprised to see material by John >>>MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and John Piper. Do you endorse the >>>Reformed theology of these teachers?)

    Thank you for taking the time to respond, Mr. Dillman. I would encourage you to read all of Manny’s posts and follow the links, but more importantly, verify everything with Scripture.

    Please understand that for you to be surprised and even ask if Manny endorses current Reformed theologians raises questions that perhaps your interest in asking is more or less setting the precedent with how you proceed with the information rather than with Scripture itself. I have never taken a philosophy course and honestly do not know the difference between Aristotle, Socrates or Plato — only that they are historical figures in the philosophy realm. I don’t even know if any of them were Christians, for that matter.

    It is hard to tell in text form without voice inflection, etc., but are you saying that just because an argument has been going on for years that we cannot know the Truth (simply on the basis of time duration)? Satan told a lie at the beginning of time, and that “argument” (if you will) of good vs. evil has been going on since then. Does that mean we can’t know the Truth simply because the “argument” has been going on for years?

    While I do not presume to speak for Manny, he has been rather clear that the “Theological perspective” is the Bible. Period. The Holy Bible trumps John Wesley, Jacob Harmensen (Arminius’ real name), and John Calvin. Our lens is Scripture and I would hope that yours would be as well when you pursue the Truth, after all — that is why Jesus came to this world: to testify to the Truth.

    John 18:37-38 : Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

    Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”

Comments are closed.