A Response To “I Am A Concerned Nazarene” Article in Holiness Today

The following is by John Henderson in response to an article posted by Rev. Kevin Ulmet in the March/April edition of Holiness Today.  Here is the link to the online version of the article by Rev. Ulmet: “I Am A Concerned Nazarene.

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Dear Pastor Ulmet:

I have read your article, “I Am a Concerned Nazarene,” at least twice.  I will have referenced it a few times more before completing this letter to you.  Please understand that, in view of your published comments in Holiness Today, a Nazarene magazine, this is an open letter and will be shared with others.  Many will likely redistribute to their addressees and some will publish this on websites.  I am responding only to your article and will neither say nor imply anything personal.  I have asked several people to go over this very carefully and tell me if I have observed the following guidelines for myself:

1.      Did I demonstrate an accurate understanding of the contents of the article that I referenced and responded to?

2.      Were my responses dispassionate and unbiased, and did they accurately address the questions I brought up?

3.      Was I respectful towards Dr. Ulmet concerning his character, position, and personhood?

4.      Did I reference the Scriptures appropriately to the questions and issues being addressed?

5.      Did I misrepresent anything?

Also understand this:  I am always open to questions, corrections, and positive criticisms.  I take those things seriously and respectfully from the one who directs them to me. 

I assume many of your references are fed by your perception of the frequent counter-emergent articles I have written and the material I have forwarded to you as a recipient on my email list.  I also know that you have relatives who have posted on Concerned Nazarenes Facebook and expect that they have kept you informed—if indeed you have not done so yourself.  I have no issue with that.  You and they are more than welcome to do just that.  You should know what the other Concerned Nazarenes are thinking in their own words. In fact much of what I present is borrowed from several others who have shared their own research and thoughts with me, so this is essentially a composite of several opinions.

It has been important to me that I acknowledge the spirit in which I write and send this.  I cannot send it from a spirit of resentment and bitterness because I have seen my friends unfairly maligned.  I have no such feelings about it.  There are no “gotchas” in this.  That goes against my grain.  I don’t need to win an argument.  Clear facts are enough for me no matter who happens to “win”.  I don’t need to correct your misunderstanding and misapplication of facts.  You appear to be running on a different wave length than I and there is possibly no base of reasoning that we share on these issues.  I don’t feel I need to convince you of anything.  You have convinced yourself of these matters and I not asking you to be willing to reconsider your own decisions.  The only thing I think I need to do is just set the record straight for the sake of those who will read your article and my response.  If they also read my response, it will still be up to them as to how they will judge this matter.

I should emphasize that “Concerned Nazarenes” is not an organization.  It is no more than a network of like-minded Nazarenes, Wesleyans, Evangelical Friends, other Wesleyan types, and anyone who shares the same concerns about the influences of the postmodern emergent movement in our denominations.  They come together on the Concerned Nazarenes Facebook and other similar sites.  Some post on other sites that exist solely to publish online.  There are Baptist and independent groups as well and there is congenial dialog among them and the Wesleyan groups.  It is all best described as a volunteer alliance or network of Christians who have a problem with the tenets of the Emergent Church Movement and its influences on traditional churches and Christians in general.  They have no significant power over others or within their denominations.  They function only to inform and encourage a return to the evangelical traditions of their churches. 

Besides all of that, there are a host of Nazarenes; including elected leaders, pastors, and members; and other Christians who are not a part of Concerned Nazarenes or any other similar network who nonetheless grieve in spirit over the direction our denomination has set upon.  Some of them say something from time to time and many just keep to themselves and make private remarks or say nothing at all.  I am aware of a handful of those folks from across the country whose opinions reach me privately from time to time.  I am also aware that many of that kind sit in First Church and other pews every week. Concerned Nazarenes is only a segment of that massive network.

Allow me to say in that regard that there are a lot of people who post on Concerned Nazarenes Facebook, and the number is growing.  I would say that most are pretty solidly traditional Wesleyan-Arminian; a few are shallow and driven by unreasonable biases and prejudices, inadequate information, and lack of research—they are extremely nerve-wracking; and some are emergent infiltrators.  Tares grow with wheat and it is hard to distinguish between them most of the time.

(Regarding NazNet and Other Emergent Groups)

In all fairness, have you read the many comments coming out of NazNet that fit your list of objectionable behaviors and attitudes every bit as well as you say about Concerned Nazarenes?  I am not prepared to generalize and say that everyone who posts on NazNet is vitriolic just because there are numerous responses on that site that are crotchety, snappish, sarcastic, impertinent, and irreverent in tone and manner towards those who object to the Emergent Nazarene movement.  Those who post like that on NazNet against “fundamental” or Concerned Nazarenes do not usually hold their punches.  Some are more reasonable. 

Of course, there may still be the Emergent Nazarene site and others that follows that same pattern.  They are also a network that appears to be committed to putting Concerned Nazarenes in their proper place by whatever means possible—just as you essentially did in your closing remarks by your invitation to others to join you in the effort you espouse, wherein you principally invite people to a fight, not anything that actually resembles compassionate discourse.  Is that discourse reserved only for the postmodern pagans that our leadership often seems eager to cozy up to?   A Nazarene in Ohio who has read your article believes that you are confused as to who the enemy within is and referenced your appeal to Martin Luther by discussing the widespread record of his public battles, implying (my interpretation) that Luther more resembled Concerned Nazarenes than any sort of established entity, referring specifically to his use of the printing press (a precursor to the Internet).

Now permit me to address your article.  My comments are only what I intend as a dispassionate response to those things you have written.  Actually, I have included thoughts from a number of Concerned Nazarenes that have been shared with me after they read your article.  Nothing I received from them was subjective.  They dealt only with factual matters, as I hope to do here.

(The General Nature Of Your Article)

I view the general nature of your article as being a frontal attack on counter-emergent Nazarenes.  That is indicated by your frequent characterizations of those with whom you are disagreeing. You frequently used derisive descriptions of them (stubborn, Internet rumormongers, involved in “a Salem witch-hunt or Inquisition-type atmospheres,” narrowly and selfishly defining worship, slanderous, rumor-spreaders, “full of righteous self-piety,” judgmental, critical attitude of mistrust and gossip, unjustly manipulative, involved in special interest-political-action-group thinking and their tactics, and having divisive and disruptive behaviors.  I think that covers all of the adjectives of your opinion about what typifies Concerned Nazarenes.  Some calls your list the “Dirty Dozen” because there are twelve of them.)  In fact, the quantity and quality of negativism towards those whom you say are attacking the Church of the Nazarene from within sets the tone for your article.  It puts me in mind of Saul Alinsky’s 13th rule for radicals in using conflict tactics:

“13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.  In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen.’… any target can always say, “Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?” When you “freeze the target”’ you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments…. Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the “others” come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target…One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” (pps.127-134).

It is interesting that you refer to counter-emergents as being more in the mode of political activism than of holiness.  It is the view of many Nazarenes and others that the emergent church movement is precisely that—the religious arm of Marxist progressivism and carrying out the political designs of the Marxist agenda by infiltrating the churches.  It is blatantly apparent to many Nazarenes, including Nazarenes in leadership, not just those few of us who rant on the Internet.

I certainly give you credit for not intending to directly adhere to a Marxist rule of Alinsky’s.  Nevertheless, it comes across clearly as being just that sort of conflict tactic against those other Concerned Nazarenes who do not see things as you choose to see them.  Your inference, just the same, is that the angels are on your side and the devils are on their side.  I might go so far as to say that you appear to be assuming that God is on your side and opposes those whom you seem to believe dishonor the Holy Spirit by not letting Him do the work He wants to do and by their not seeking the Spirit’s direction.  How you happen to know that escapes me.  That sort of statement leads me to assume that you already presume to know what that direction is.

I must immediately ask, therefore:  How do you know that?  I assume, from the frequent references you make on nFocus and elsewhere as to your being led by the Holy Spirit and your references to the Holy Spirit in the article, that you see yourself as being led by the Holy Spirit.  You certainly said so in a recent nFocus as to why you wrote the article in the first place:

The March/April issue of our denomination’s official magazine features an article I wrote entitled ‘I Am A Concerned Nazarene.’  This article was prompted by the Holy Spirit some months ago after observing for some time the tactics and approaches of a few who are critical of our denomination, our pastors and leaders, our Universities and other entities.” 

A New England reader of your article observed that someone else made that very claim of being led by the Holy Spirit to be a part of Concerned Nazarenes in order to oppose the postmodern influences among Nazarenes.  He went on to say that you both cannot be right on the same matter.  I guess our respective readers must decide that for themselves.  I would suggest, however, that the best way to determine if someone is actually being led by the Holy Spirit is to look at the fruit of their activities from a biblical viewpoint and to be alert as to whether or not there is genuine evidence of the power of the Spirit in their lives.  In addition, the Holy Spirit never speaks outside of His written Word, i.e., everything He says to the heart is verified in the Scriptures.

I should insert here that your section on music is peripheral to the issue at hand as I understand it, so will not address that.  The portion on “heritage of worship” could, however, be a reference to your support of what you allow and take part in at First Church.  You call it ancient/future worship.  But you do not specify that so I cannot respond to it in that context.

Following our two-hour meeting shortly after your arrival in Nashville, I went home with one of the clearest memories in my lifetime of any meeting.  I had not audio-recorded the meeting, as I normally would have with your permission, so had to rely on memory.  I wrote the exchange in accurate detail for my own record immediately upon my arrival home. 

Some of the things you say in the article reminded me of what you said in that meeting.  You convinced me then, as you do now, that you are in full support of the concepts of theistic evolution, limited inspiration of the Scriptures, and Catholic mysticism and other matters emergent.  You as much as say so in your article and actually reference “full” inspiration of Scriptures as “in all things necessary to our salvation” and “a certain view of creation” in making your point.  

In a short few months, you also have established a known record of frequently incorporating at First Church practices directly from the “ancient church fathers” (post-A.D. 200) and 20th Century emergent innovators and other activities that clearly identify postmodern emergent doctrines and practices, both in fact and in the minds of many First Church Nazarenes. After all, as one NFCN member recently stated in complaining about all the “new” things going on there: “singing an invitation hymn, being moved by the Holy Spirit to repent, accept Christ’s free gift of salvation, and go forward to confess Him before men is so old fashioned,” but it still works best.

(Your View of The Manual And Of Scripture)

One might surmise from the article that you put preeminence on statements from the Manual as though the Scriptures are amenable to the Manual statements and not the other way around. You may claim that those things you talk about are traditionally Nazarene, but I say unequivocally that they are heretical, postmodern, unorthodox, emergent, new age, and a clear affront to revelational truth.  I can prove my claim from the Scriptures because the Scriptures are my final—no, only—authority. 

How do you justify your support of these things?  I make a distinction between exegetical interpretation of the irrevocable authority of all Scripture (all of it being relevant to our salvation wherein it speaks on any subject) and the weak philosophy-based theologies. What equal or superior authority do you claim outside of the Scriptures, and why would you?  Philosophical theology will let you down, if that is where you go for understanding.  You suggest we stop using “emergent”, “unorthodox”, “heretic”, and similar terms.  I see no need to do so because a stinkweed that is called a rose is still a stinkweed by nature.  We did not come up with the term “emergent” anyhow.  They were chosen by that crowd to identify themselves. Their doctrines, when examined in the light of Scriptures, show them as unorthodox and heretical.  How else should we define them when the Bible is the authority?

(Fundamentalism And its Meaning In The Church)

You say the Church of the Nazarene was never fundamentalist.  I understand how people define “fundamentalist” as Calvinistic—as you do in the article—and that much is true to a point.  However, being fundamentalist did actually characterize the Church of the Nazarene, at least in R. T. Williams’ mind in 1928 at the 7th General Assembly.  The term was later abandoned to draw a distinction between Nazarenes and Calvinism.   We had also dropped “Pentecostal” from the church name for similar reasons. That didn’t make us less Pentecostal in the New Testament sense.  I think both actions were a surrender of important terms of identification.

The term is not actually the point, but you might want to consider my footnote #1 to get a more accurate perspective of fundamentalism.[1]  What is fundamental to the truth of the inspired Scriptures is and has always been the concern in these times of uncertainty about where our denomination is going.  No one among the Concerned Nazarenes I know favor having the Church of the Nazarene become Calvinistic in theology.  If they and the Calvinists happen to agree on basic truths such as the unqualified full inspiration of the Scriptures, just as they do on many biblical truths, that does not mean that Concerned Nazarenes are advancing the notion of becoming Reformed in doctrine.  They are very content to remain Arminian and Wesleyan. They just want to also remain truly biblical and evangelistic.  Calvinists do not have the exclusive right on defining inspiration as absolutely full inspiration.

At the same time, I find it odd that you censure fundamentalists and Reformed believers as objectionable while embracing a “new thinking” of emergent principles and practices as somehow appropriate to traditional Nazarenedom.  If I should have to make a choice between the two, please give me Calvinism over emergent theology or anything “new thinking” in character.  At least the evangelical Calvinists are truly and thoroughly Christian and their doctrines are much more scriptural than anything coming out of the so-called “new thought” of postmodernism.  Despite Thomas Oord’s suggestion on his website, we Nazarenes have absolutely nothing to learn from postmodernism and everything to avoid with haste. 

One North Carolina Nazarene reviewer of this article and responding to your article said the following in an email to me:  “I would definitely stress that we are not Calvinist, even though it is definitely preferable to his ideologies which lean towards mysticism and Catholic rituals.  It does not have to be an either/or – holiness can stand on its own scriptural merits.”

I never dreamed I would ever be defending Calvinism against inaccurate accusations; whose major tenets on salvation, as defined by the T-U-L-I-P theory, I do not subscribe to!  At least, T-U-L-I-P is internally consistent.

(The Inspiration Of Scripture)

You make an issue of inspiration of Scriptures whereby you decry “Calvinist” ideas of inspiration in favor of a supposed extra-biblical[2] notion of partial inspiration (“in all things necessary to our salvation”).  I should say that every other idea of inspiration, verbal, literal, plenary, dictation, etc., are in total support of every word of the Bible coming under the definition of divine inspiration. Their only discussion is how inspiration came about and not what was and was not inspired. The inaccuracy of “pertaining to our salvation” is in the statement itself.  None of the Scriptures are specifically pertaining to our salvation.  They pertain to Christ (John 5:39) and our salvation is included (verse 40).  I know that the Nazarene statement has been essentially the same since 1908.  There was never a problem with is being understood as anything but one-hundred percent inspiration of Scriptures until modern liberals began to twist it to mean as it is often touted these days as limited inspiration—something the Nazarene Manual never says.

Your idea selectively eliminates any sections that you or anyone may not for any number of reasons deem as “necessary to our salvation” and therefore open to challenge.  In doing so, you are saying that what is called the Bible is a mixture of inspiration and error. Of course, the so-called “not necessary to our salvation” parts have never been definitively identified by anyone who makes that allegation, except those parts they want to question—like the creation account.    

Another Nazarene (not part of Concerned Nazarenes) views your line of reasoning as consisting of what is called an etymological fallacy.  That is, you are arguing that the present-day meaning of “fundamentalist” is necessarily identical to its historical meaning.  By that is implied that the present meaning of “fundamentalist” is based exclusively on its etymology. I have demonstrated that such is not the case.

(Middle of The Road)

You say that we are a middle-of-the road Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.  If I may insert a bit of humor here, someone said that if you stand in the middle of the road, you will get run over from both directions.  Put into a political context, I would say that a moderate is a liberal masquerading as a conservative.  In a biblical sense, however, there are no moderates in God’s kingdom.  The narrow way to His place of bliss has no room for moderation.  There is ample space, however, on that other broader road.  All kinds of riff-raff can be found there.

Your Reference To Christian Leaders Of The Past)

You referenced Christian leaders of the past for your support:  John Wesley, Phoebe Palmer, H. Orton Wiley, and William Greathouse, and said they would blanch in concern if they were aware of “the insidious theological and ecclesiastical battle going on through the Internet, driven by categorization, guilt-by-association, and ‘gotcha’ tactics that more represent radical politics tactics than anything remotely biblical, Christian, or certainly holiness.”  I knew one on that list, Greathouse, and he was pretty much solid, except in one matter when he and Dunning wrote that the Church is our mother if God is our Father.  He might have been more in agreement with you than the others because of that one remark but I doubt even that.  I can easily quote references from Wesley that would contradict your claim about him.  Wiley tended to be immensely profound but the substance of his writings that I have read would contradict your assertions about where he would stand.  Palmer would not agree with you either, and I do not subscribe to some of her positions on Wesleyanism.  Even those positions I disagree with do not support your claim.  I think that many of her contemporaries would call you on it.

You appealed to Martin Luther as being something of a “maverick” as you see yourself.  Martin Luther’s foibles are not related to what you are supporting.  He came from a different mindset and experiences that were basically opposing much of the Catholicism of his day, things that some emergent Nazarenes are attempting to turn to in an effort to change our denomination into what it never has been—more Middle Ages Catholic and less evangelical and fundamentally biblical.  Anyhow, not only would I object to his ripping the Epistle of James from the Scriptures, but I also disagree with him on transubstantiation, his callousness to the tragic death of Zwingli, and his acceptance of the possibility of “soul sleep.”  You might notice that when he translated the New Testament into German in 1522 that James was included and was still there when he translated the rest of the Bible two years later.

On the other hand, Luther held no resemblance to what you are propounding according to any records I have seen about him—and I have read a lot.  I am inclined to have great respect for him because his life was in almost constant jeopardy and because of the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  He fought battles you I and will never have to fight.  He never deviated from his theme that people are made right with God in his emphasis on Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”) – Sola Fide (‘by faith alone”) – and Sola Scriptura (“by the Bible alone”).  

Augustine said a lot of good things that are worth remembering.  Also, he made some highly outlandish assertions in his “new thinking,” as you call it, which must be rejected as unscriptural.  He is considered the father of Roman Catholic theology, not Protestant—certainly not Nazarene—theology.  It is possible that he, along with other so-called church fathers after AD 200, has been responsible for many of the Hindu mystical and unscriptural practices advanced by emergent church leaders today.  I prefer to go back prior to AD 200 for better guidance on understanding truth and proper Christian behavior.  That period of “distinguished” early church fathers was responsible for martyrdoms that dwarfed the Roman persecutions and spawned the eventual Reformation.

A Nazarene in Illinois had this to say about Augustine and Luther in an email to me:

“I know that Augustine published a list of retractions late in life. So when quoting Augustine, I think it important to know when in his walk that he stated whatever is being quoted and whether or not he later retracted it. From my limited understanding of Luther, the same is true, it is important to know when he did or said whatever you happen to be quoting. I surmise (given limited knowledge) that Ulmet’s Luther statement is well out of context.”

(Your Defense of Various Nazarenes In Leadership Positions)

You came to the defense of those fine Nazarene administrators, professors, and pastors who have entertained questionable speakers on campuses and pulpits and were criticized for doing so.  You didn’t say their guests were solidly Nazarene-like and seemed to agree they were often questionable.  You should understand that when people hold those doctrinal positions as you described, those who invite them must take the responsibility for the results of their own actions and decisions.  If they are caught off-guard, that is one thing.  To embrace them and support them (as a chaplain from one of our mid-western universities did in an email to me); that puts them in the same camp, even the same tent, as the objectionable guest.  My dad would have said they were in cahoots (they shared equally; become partners in the same thing).

When I raised the question in conversation with you that Rob Bell’s book had just been presented in a study at First Church just prior to your arrival, you didn’t even blink.  You did, however, bristle and passionately denied my request to present a counter-emergent, pro-Nazarene study in a similar format that others in the church had asked me to do.  You told me emphatically that it would add to the disruption already going on in the church that you had inherited.  Rob Bell, who openly advocates the false doctrine of post-mortem salvation, is okay but a Nazarene elder wanting to advise Nazarenes of the risks of following postmodern/new age heresies is disruptive?  Is that what you mean by people such as I am as being “full of self-righteous piety”?  Was I being “under the guise of protecting the church from ‘emergent’ ideas and concepts” or was I really being a Concerned Nazarene who genuinely cares about the direction towards Hell that our people are being lured?

(Critical Thinking)

You express support for what you call critical thinking.  You do not define it so I assume you refer to what is normally understood by “critical thinking” as coming from “Higher Criticism.”  While higher criticism was originally associated with the study of the literary structure of the various books of the Bible, and more especially of the Old Testament, it has degenerated into arrogant attacks upon the Bible and the supernatural character of the Holy Scriptures.  It fosters subjective conclusions and world-friendly opinions.  To say that Nazarene college students must study and learn to evaluate situations of life by that standard is absurd. Christians are not of this world and have no need to understand it and dialog with it other than to know that it is filled with lost souls that need the Savior.

(Textbooks In The Universities And Accountability)

My wife and I ran into that problem when we objected to an offensive textbook being used in one our daughter’s classes at Trevecca.  The excuse they gave us was like the one you offer—they needed to let students know what it was like out there in the real world.  What nonsense!  It doesn’t take a Christian college curriculum to inform kids of what is going on around them.  They already know more than we know about such things.  Anyhow, the real notion of “critical thinking” is not about teaching students the processes of logic and reasoning.  It teaches them what they should “reason” and the conclusions they are expected to reach in a compromise of biblical truths.   This kind of thinking is the antithesis of “Thus saith the Lord.”  It has nothing to do with intelligent awareness and everything to do with being rebellious to God’s truth. 

That drivel has brought us to the point that we now teach them that homosexuality is normal unless you act it out.  The next thing we will be telling them is that even the act is okay.  We already tolerate openly homosexual Nazarene “ministers” who boast of it.  The wedge is in the door and the homosexuals are pushing it open while we step aside and just let them walk right in without a murmur of objection.  Even the recent “invasion” by a homosexual advocacy group on some of our Nazarene campuses turned out to be squandered opportunity to share the gospel.  Our educational leaders pandered to them instead of witnessing to them.  Suppose that same group had been there as child-molester advocates.  What would have been out people’s response to that?  If your response would be what I think it would be, I say we should have done with the homosexuals what we would have done had they been advocating child molestation.

Why shouldn’t our college presidents and administrators be called to account over this absurd acquiescence along with their other compromises?  Why are they not being called on the carpet by those with oversight of them?  Why are people like Concerned Nazarenes demonized for bringing it up?  Could it be that we speak up because we are the only ones who really care about our church and harbor no vested self-interests?

(The Battle Is From Within)

You are right about one thing.  “Our greatest battles are from within—from those who name themselves among the people of God and the people called Holiness and Nazarene.”  You just have the finger pointed in the wrong direction.  Disruption, hurt, and damage is not from those of us who have been here all along and instinctively care deeply about holiness.  It comes from the infiltrators who pretend to be of us but whose hearts are far from us. It comes from the backsliders and compromisers among us, and from those who have never been born again but who have slithered into positions of power and prestige and presume to decide what we Nazarenes are expected to think and do.

A lady in the state of Washington wrote me the following: “I didn’t believe these things were happening before I investigated.  And I investigated because I wanted to prove these “concerned” ones wrong.  I found out they weren’t so wrong after all.  I’m a layperson.  If I were a minister or leader in the church, I’d be checking all the more.”

This following is information that you might not really care about.  Maybe you do.  The Church of the Nazarene is viewed largely by the Christian community as having lost its way as demonstrated by the preponderance of emergent-postmodern-new age teachings and practices among us.  They see our churches, pastors, universities, and publishers as willfully compliant in the emergent error and as having carelessly abandoned the faith that was once delivered through the gospel message that brought us into being in the first place.  That is from non-Nazarenes!

(Are You Willing To Have An Open Discussion?)

One reader of your article observed:  “In two locations in this article, the writer claims to make the offer of open discussion.”  He goes on to say that he has sought an open discussion with you but that you have systematically found ways to avoid it.  He views it as your not actually meaning what you say. 

May I make an alternative offer? Since you did say in the article, “We can handle these challenges in biblical ways.  We can sit down together and reason together,” I find that very appealing.  Therefore, I would gladly meet in an open (public) forum with you and any two or three people of your choosing, and I with any two or three people of my choosing.  The number is only a suggestion.  It can be any number as long as both sides are represented by the same number.  Both sides would, in my opinion, be free to say anything on their minds and hearts in the matter by following agreed-upon rules that suit both sides equally and moderated by a neutral party. I suggest it be open because it should not be secretive.  I would want it recorded as well.

I should thank you for submitting the article to Holiness Today and should thank Holiness Today for publishing it.  You have unintentionally done what Concerned Nazarenes would have never been permitted to do—to inform Nazarene readers to a greater extent beyond our meager resources and capabilities.  

It is possible that many Nazarenes who once never knew about the emergent problem will now do as I did less than two years ago and start searching for themselves.  I am eager for them to do that and will respect their final analysis as far as it concerns their own choices.  I prefer that they are enabled to make informed decisions one way or the other.  After all, that is all Concerned Nazarenes have ever wanted to accomplish. That could hardly be called hurtful and disruptive.  With that in mind, I share a thought from one of my sons in an email:

“Effectively, by allowing this article to be published in our only official magazine … Kevin’s article right now is the de-facto official opinion of the Church of the Nazarene. Some might claim it is not truly ‘official’, but since there is not a published counter-point to this article, this is the de-facto ‘standard’ for Nazarenes. I’m not sure our BoGS truly want this to be that authoritative. But, for now it is.”

The goals you express at the end of your article are, indeed, noble.  As stated, they are goals that anyone who eagerly pursues holiness of heart and life would happily agree to.  The only problem I see with them is the context you place them in and the implications you make of them. 

You have already raked Concerned Nazarenes over the coals—those counter-emergent ones that you claim are trying to drag the Church of the Nazarene into Calvinism; those Nazarenes who believe in the literalism of the creation account as reported in the Bible, who faithfully adhere to the total inerrancy of the entire Bible without reservation, and who reject the imposition of Eastern mysticism as replacement for a Biblically prescribed lifestyle of praying. 

By that appeal, you ask your readers to subscribe to what you have just written as true and join you in rejecting fundamental Nazarenes through a kind of “holiness” that sounds biblical but is actually counterfeit.  Why not invite them to evaluate your assertions by doing their own research?  Those who will read your article are grown-ups.  They can handle it.

(Conclusion: The Holy Spirit)

One more thought.  The Holy Spirit is never up to something new.  That is unscriptural.  God’s mercies are new (fresh) every morning but they are not different from day to day.  The Holy Spirit is consistently involved in the old-fashioned gospel that has always worked.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He has no need to be innovative so the gospel message can go forth.  Of course, we already know from the Scriptures that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  The “Holy Spirit” that is “up to something new” is an imposter.  The people who subscribe to that notion will find out they are heeding seducing spirits, not the Holy Spirit.  Gimmickry can never replace evangelization. Christianity is not a novelty.  It is a message of salvation to whosoever will accept Christ as Savior through faith alone.  Sin is old-fashioned and so is the remedy.

A Personal Note:  This is the only time I will be getting personal.  All that has gone before was not meant to be personal in any way.  It was only about the issues and nothing else.  Having said that, I still fully expect to be meticulously excoriated—personally and publically—for what I have written here, and that it will come largely from many who support a holiness denomination moving towards emergent postmodernism. But I have already considered that as something I may have to accept as inevitable. 

I want you to know that it is my deepest desire to get behind you in a ministry that will bring glory to God in every respect.  What I see at this point includes so much of postmodernism that I am hindered from giving you the full support I dearly want to give.  I challenge you, not because I want to get in the way, but because I care enough about you to tell you the truth as I understand it.  You are pastoring a church filled with wonderful people and it is my prayer on your behalf that you will more than meet the task in being faithful to their souls.  I do not want you to be hurt in any way because of me.  You and I will stand before the same Judge and neither can answer for anyone but themselves.

Because I care about you and your ministry, I will not indulge you and tell you things I know are not true.  I once told you that I can be your best friend.  I still mean that.  I trust that you do not feel you have arrived at the pinnacle of possibilities.  There is still a long way to go and there always will be that for anyone.  I pray for you but cannot ask God to bless you in doing the wrong things, but only in the right things.  I do not always know the difference but He does.  I pray for you and trust Him to sort it all out. 

You are headed in the wrong direction with what I call postmodern emergent error and maybe you just don’t realize it.  I am sure you understand that people who believe deeply as do Concerned Nazarenes and other counter-emergent evangelicals also feel deeply committed to biblical truth.  I have learned from our youngest son’s outlook about his ten years at war and life itself that if you don’t let opposition destroy you it will strengthen you.[3]  I sincerely do not believe God will bless you in the pursuit of “new things” and that you will eventually find that out if you continue in them.  I honestly wish God’s best for you.  May I offer a single consideration that is expressed well in an old gospel song that has expressed my life-long goal:

Let me lose myself and find it, Lord, in Thee.

May all self be slain, my friends see only Thee.

Though it costs me grief and pain, I will find my life again.

If I lose my self I’ll find it, Lord, in Thee.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20


“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14

Respectfully submitted,

John Henderson

April 11, 2012


[1] “Online Etymology Dictionary: 1920 in the religious sense (as is fundamentalism), from fundamental + -ist. Coined in American English to name a movement among Protestants c.1920-25 based on scriptural inerrancy, etc., ….Fundamentalism is a protest against that rationalistic interpretation of Christianity which seeks to discredit supernaturalism. This rationalism, when full grown, scorns the miracles of the Old Testament, sets aside the virgin birth of our Lord as a thing unbelievable, laughs at the credulity of those who accept many of the New Testament miracles, reduces the resurrection of our Lord to the fact that death did not end his existence, and sweeps away the promises of his second coming as an idle dream. It matters not by what name these modernists are known. The simple fact is that, in robbing Christianity of its supernatural content, they are undermining the very foundations of our holy religion. They boast that they are strengthening the foundations and making Christianity more rational and more acceptable to thoughtful people. Christianity is rooted and grounded in supernaturalism, and when robbed of supernaturalism it ceases to be a religion and becomes an exalted system of ethics. [Laws, "Herald &Presbyter," July 19, 1922]  The original opposition to fundamentalist (within the denominations) was modernist.

[2] Extra-biblical refers to teachings, concepts and practices claimed to be supported by or taught in the Bible, but which are based on incorrect interpretation. (www.apologeticsindex.org)

[3] “I definitely do need the struggles that I face these days. In fact, in spite of how impossible they may appear on the surface most times, I highly value them for the potential they will forge in me” (Karl Henderson, April, 2012).

Dr. Gran’pa
(John Henderson)
[NOTICE:  ANYTHING I write over this signature may be copied or shared with others
and is deemed as published material unless otherwise stated herein]

 

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9 responses to “A Response To “I Am A Concerned Nazarene” Article in Holiness Today

  1. I applaude your response to that article! I was furious when I read I am a concerned nazarene. Nothing is on my heart and in my prayers more then the compromise of the emergent sweeping our universities and churches. Just a few years ago, I was going to a Nazarene univeristy that was completely swept away by this movement. And while I was being swayed towards it, something deep in my gut kept screaming, “This is wrong! This is wrong!”. I only attened there 2 years, and then God brought me from there and did not allow me to finish college anywhere, no matter what I did something always kept me from it. Over the last few years I have done heavy research on the emergent. And broken hearted over it all. When I see fellow sturdents, who even now, are still clinging to the emergent and their top leaders, I break down and sob and sob and plead with God for eyes to be opened. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not praying and pleading God. And the young girls I mentor now, I am so careful that they know the Bible and what it says, and not to be swayed by every new teacher, preacher, study material that is out there. Thank you for posting this response.

  2. This is one of the reasons I left the Church of the Nazarene. There is far too much infighting and worry over “who is right”. In reading Dr. Ulmet’s article, I found him to be reasonable in his approach. I feel that he is asking for constructive discussion, rather than “open warfare”. I personally think that you read a bit much between the lines. I do know that Dr. Ulmet has a deep love of the Church of the Nazarene, but more importantly, he has a deep love for Christ. I have known him for over 30 years, and he has always approached things in a level-headed way, and with much thought and prayer. I have the utmost confidence in him, even though there are points on which we would surely disagree.

  3. Did you actually read the article Terry? Is this reasonable?

    “driven by categorization, guilt-by-association, and “gotcha” tactics; narrowly and selfishly define worship by their own personal tastes; Internet rumormongers; professors under surveillance; slanderous attacks from various sources; Salem-witch-hunt; Inquisition-type atmosphere; full of self-righteous piety; special interest-political-action-group thinking; such divisive and disruptive behavior.”

    Really? Asking for constructive dialogue with these types of accusations? He has a deep love for Christ, so this is how he shows it?

    He did not once substantiate anything he accused us of. Not once.

    Amazing is all I can say, yet I see this kind of response from others also. Sorry to say, there is a strong delusion out there if you cannot see what he has written.

  4. Dear reformednazarene in response to your response of Terry above,

    I have actually heard many of those different things from Nazarenes and those that have ‘left’ the Nazarene church. I have seen that behavior and I am so thankful that the churches I have been a part of haven’t taken part in those items ( although I heard those things said about a couple of the Nazarene churches I went to even though there was no evidence ). I didn’t see it as an attack but as examples of the things he had heard and/or saw from others.

    I also truly hope that Kevin was not directing this directly to you or to the Concerned Nazarenes Facebook page. Maybe he was, but I honestly didn’t read that from it.

    My largest concern with the Nazarene church is some of the things professors do promote or have promoted in classes. I went to a Nazarene college and was glad I learned some things about how people would attempt to attack my faith and beliefs – that said, I was disappointed that some of those attacks came from professors themselves. Friends of mine quite classes that required you to read books like Native Son by Richard Wright. Why that book?

    All that said, there are people in all denominations and all faiths that cause issues for their church. The fight should be with the ideas that go away from the Articles of Faith, not the church or the people.

    God’s blessings to me and my family from the Nazarene church have been great. I have talked to some who have unfortunately not had my experience with the Nazarene church and I honestly feel for them. I have had my issues with some churches and was actually forced out of a Nazarene church once – mostly due to longer hair… None of my parents or grandparents were pastors ( at least not for long ), just faithful Nazarene believers.

    I truly hope that God blesses you and your work and your heart. I only ask that you be sure your desire is for a better church and a better witness for the kingdom.

    Again God bless.

  5. This is a very good response. I actually looked at the source article, and was pretty disappointed with the “Why can’t we all just get along?” tone espoused. A real shame to read the first part about not needing to believe in the Creation account as literal.

  6. Great article and rebuttal to the HT article. Nothing seemed more disingenuous to me than the statement “Under the guise of protecting the church from emergent ideas and concepts, whatever those are”. Am I really supposed to believe that Ulmet has no idea what emergent concepts are?

  7. Manny an excellent post and a well written response by Bro. Henderson. In regard to leadership and one being scrutinized, I always felt the moment I became a Christian that I was being judged regarding my Christian conduct. If I could turn back the clock when I first became a Christian my once sinner friends probably bet how long it would last. My life then and now has always been on display for the Lord, and I have no regrets nor expect special treatment.

    Dr. Ulmet’s article particular the portion pertaining to “Respecting Nazarene Higher Education” wrote; “Under the guise of protecting the church from “emergent” ideas and concepts, whatever those are, these accusers continue to press their cause in Jesus’ name, quoting scripture while full of self-righteous piety. It is not enough for these people that our presidents and professors confess our Articles of Faith—they must also toe the litmus-test line of those doing the charging—no matter how narrow, non-Wesleyan, or even unbiblical that test may be. Boards of Trustees, elected by districts and General Assembly delegates—elders and laypersons of distinction though they be—are not trusted by these loosely-knit groups.”

    Dr. Ulmet made some strong remarks categorizing those of the opposition (as accusers, quoting scripture, self righteous, and loose knit) who hold a different opinion to his while at the same time uses similar tactics in his defense of higher education and those who hold the various positions within the institution. He admits to his not understanding the issue with the emergent and brushes them off as “ideas and concepts whatever those are.” Here he alludes that the opposition’s effort is aimless and without real merit based upon no one really knowing what the issues are.

    His litmus-test of proof for the leadership is they confess the Church’s “Articles of Faith” while accusing the opposition of fabricating a false narrow test thus he would refuse the opposition of having any means to measure or access what is happening in the Church. The proof that our institutions of higher learning are being questioned by some is because of what some of the student body is reporting being taught in the Religion Department, such as: “There is no virgin birth, no work of sanctification, and the Bible was not a reliable source.” If accusations such as these are true, then the leadership needs to take action. The unanswered question is which side will be called the son of the bondwoman and the other side see themselves as the son of the freewoman or vice versa as portrayed in Galatians [4: 22-23, 30]?

    In Mark [3:24-25] Jesus said; “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” The strength of any Church is its unanimity. In my opinion this is where we are failing as a Church.

  8. Nothing in Kevin’s original article suggested that those who are concerned or reformed Nazarenes were not fellow Christians. On the contrary, he spoke of them as being “on the same side”. However, you leave no doubt that your opinion of anyone who does not hold the exact views as you on these matters cannot possibly be true Nazarenes or even true Christians. You wrote, “Disruption, hurt, and damage is not from those of us who have been here all along and instinctively care deeply about holiness. It comes from the infiltrators who pretend to be of us but whose hearts are far from us. It comes from the backsliders and compromisers among us, and from those who have never been born again but who have slithered into positions of power and prestige and presume to decide what we Nazarenes are expected to think and do.”
    I am a born again third-generation Nazarene who does believe differently than you about many of the things in your response and I have never been backslidden or compromised nor do I “slither” anywhere. Just because my beliefs are different does not mean I am not Christian nor does it mean you are not. It means we all “see through a glass darkly” so none of us can claim our interpretation is the only Christian one. What it does mean is we need to discuss our differences as you suggest except that all involved need to lose their feelings of superiority and admit some of their beliefs could be wrong. All need to come to the table with the attitude of meeting with believers and truly wanting to find the common ground we all share in serving and worshiping the same God who calls us to love one another. We need to agree there will always be differences in what we believe but that we can put those aside in order that the world may know us by our love for each other.

  9. A few points, Ava:

    1. No one connected with us ever said that Kevin suggested that we were not fellow Christians, where did you hear that?
    2. Are you sure that you can read our hearts and minds and assume such things that you said in your second sentence? That is not our view.
    3. You continue to make some kind of silly assumption that we think your not a Christian.

    But here is the most unscriptural statement you made:

    “We need to agree there will always be differences in what we believe but that we can put those aside in order that the world may know us by our love for each other.”

    Now I will make an assumption based on this statement. It says to me that you believe that NO MATTER what differences in doctrine or belief we have, that all of it should be ignored for the sake of “love?” Well, let me tell you what real Christian love is: it is when we are in obedience to Christ and follow ALL that He commands- or at least try- that we exhibit true love for God, and true love for each other. It sounds like your philosophy fits right in with the emergent church crowd, that rejects the Scriptures, that promotes false teachings, and that are the ones who truly exhibit hate filled words- as shown by the more than 20 ugly characterizations written by a pastor no less, against the many Nazarenes who truly love the church and want to see it come back to true holiness.

    I will pray for you, Ava, that the Lord will take the blinders off of your eyes and let you see the truth. There is no fellowship with those who call themselves Christian, but who continue to live in disobedience to God’s word.

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