The Roman Catholicization Of the Church of the Nazarene

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  Eph. 2:8-9 (NKJV)

It was a bit ironic that after I had drafted this post, I learned that Dr. Kent Hill, a Nazarene who among other positions was formerly President of Eastern Nazarene College, has joined the Roman Catholic church.  That would be the Roman Catholic false religion.  Dr. Hill gave thanks for his Wesleyan heritage, yet I fail to see what would cause him to abandon a denomination that believes in “saved by faith alone”, to become part of a religion that believes in works and baptism as the means of salvation.  And yet, I have in the past received notes from at least two other former Nazarenes who became Roman Catholic. Dr. Hill was also a signatory to the Evangelicals And Catholics Together document (ECT).  Here is just one statement found within that document which shows a stark difference as to why two opposing beliefs cannot be right at the same time:

“For Catholics, all who are validly baptized are born again and are truly, however imperfectly, in communion with Christ.  That baptismal grace is to be continuingly reawakened and revivified through conversion.

For most Evangelicals, but not all, the experience of conversion is to be followed by baptism as a sign of new birth. For Catholics, all the baptized are already members of the church, however dormant their faith and life; for many Evangelicals, the new birth requires baptismal initiation into the community of the born again.”

The Church of the Nazarene, of which I have been a lifelong member, may as well merge with the Roman Catholic church. Certainly the evidence is nowhere in the church manual, but in practice, it is clear that the Church of the Nazarene is incorporating Roman Catholicism, and it would be foolish to deny this reality if you have seen the evidence.  Complicit in this “denominational makeover” are leaders from the very top, to District Superintendents and pastors alike, as well as university chaplains and other leaders. Soon, the Nazarene church many of us have grown up in will not look the same.  In fact, many have already reached that state of mind, and have embraced Romanism and its ideology as being acceptable and equal.

The New Catholic Catechism states: “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation” (1129).  This is a heretical teaching that has no basis in Scripture, and is totally contradictory to what the Church of the Nazarene states, that we are saved by faith; not through works (1).  In spite of this and many other egregious heresies that show that the Roman Catholic Church is a false “church” that preaches a false gospel, (grace plus works, faith plus sacraments), some of the leadership in the church seems to have no problem identifying Roman Catholics as our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But are they really?

The sacraments and rituals being done in the Nazarene denomination have now gone beyond Scriptural authority.  With Ashes to Fire being promoted for three years now, church leaders have been quite successful in convincing many Nazarenes that ritualism and liturgical practices are necessary for the spiritual growth of its people.  When Lent was invented by the Roman Catholic church in the 4th century, it was for the purpose of fasting, moderation and self-denial.  It was, and is seen as a way to remind Christians of the value of repentance, and that giving up something for Lent is a way to earn God’s blessings.  Yet, we know that we can never earn God’s grace; it is a gift from God; it is the gift of righteousness, as expressed in Romans 5:17.  Furthermore, why do we need Lent to remind us of the value of repentance?

Fasting is one of the biggest parts of Lent.  And many Nazarenes not only are expressing publicly that they they are fasting during Lent, or giving up “something”, but many churches are going further and placing ashes to the forehead so that others will see what you are doing.  But does not Jesus Himself tell us in Matthew 6:16-18: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen.”

How does putting ashes to the forehead “jive” with this clear command by Jesus that we should not be parading around our piety to others?  Jesus is clearly telling me that my personal fasting is no one’s business but between me and the Lord.  And do the Lenten practices comport with Scripture?  There is nothing in Scripture that promotes this or tells us we should do rituals such as this.  This is a works based practice right out of the false Roman Catholic culture, and now many Nazarenes are embracing it.

Is there more evidence, you might ask?  Yes, every month that goes by there is more evidence.  Just recently, the Nazarenes news site posted an article about an interconfessional conference in Italy, where Nazarenes, Baptists and Catholics met.  Interconfessional means a gathering of groups that have differing confessions of belief systems, of which it is clear that we are totally different from Roman Catholics, albeit certainly not perfect in our theology.  Yet, at least we do not believe that works are needed to save us, as the RCC does.  Or do we?  There are dozens of beliefs held by the RCC that upon Scriptural analysis are rank heresies, not just small differences in theology.  But the Nazarene denomination has certainly changed in the last several years, perhaps it has been slowly happening for much longer, and only now is sticking out like a sore thumb.

Have you noticed the terminology changing also?  Communion is often replaced with Eucharist; child baptism is now emphasized by some pastors to the point where some believe that it saves you, just like the Roman Catholics believe.  Prayer stations are our version of Stations of the Cross in Romanism.  Prayer labyrinths are sprouting up at universities and Nazarene churches.  Prayer beads are being promoted to our youth.  Retreats are now being held at monasteries, including participation in their mystical rituals. Interspiritual pilgrimages are planned at places such as Taizé in France.  Roman Catholic monks such as Thomas Merton, and “saints” such as Theresa of Avila and Mother Teresa are quoted and promoted from the pulpit!  This is the Nazarene church?  This is reflective of holiness?

It’s embarrassing to call myself a Nazarene right now, when so many of us can testify to having been freed from the bondage of Roman Catholicism and its curse of works-based salvation.  My father was one of those, who after becoming a Christian, preached to the very people whose misguided ideology we are embracing now!  Yet we have Nazarene leaders silent on these issues, while they call Roman Catholics our brothers and sisters in Christ.  How can that be, when their religion is based on doctrines of demons?

This continuing corruption of the “church” will go on until it completely falls apart and will only be a church by name.  In the meantime, a small remnant that is faithful will separate one way or the other from the apostates running these sideshows that deviate from the true Gospel.

Like the proverbial frog in the pot of slowing heating water, we just did not realize what was happening, and now it is probably too late to save the denomination. But we can pull some people out of the fire, one at a time.

 (1) IX. 12: We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness. (Articles of Faith, Church of the Nazarene)

Resources: Mike Gendron: Catholic Christians: Is This An Oxymoron?
http://proclaimingthegospel.org/equip/articles/34-catholic-christians-is-this-an-oxymoron

Roman Catholic Ritualism Corrupting Nazarene Schools and Churches

The Lenten season is upon us once again. As I have reported before, spiritual formation is one of the key avenues of the demonic influences coming into evangelical churches and universities.  Where spiritual formation is mentioned (another red flag is spiritual disciplines), it is more likely than not that it is an unhealthy emphasis on things other than what God has prescribed for our growth in spiritual maturity.  Christian spiritual formation would be that which is supported by Scripture and follows the model and examples given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles.  The problem is that today’s spiritual formation strays far from God’s word and incorporates inventions of man that goes back as far as the Desert Fathers, who introduced unscriptural methods of “getting closer to God.”  This is being taught at every Nazarene university and seminary.

The following, which I received  last week from an alumnus of Point Loma Nazarene University, is a reflection of the sad decline of the Church of the Nazarene.  We are moving away from a biblically based tradition, to a mystical, ritualistic and experience-based tradition based on man’s inventions.

“So this evening at Point Loma Nazarene University and most likely in other so called Christian universities they will have a “Traditional Ash Wednesday” chapel service.

Today’s chapel service speaker said that “Lent was needed.  The practice of Lent and the ritual of Ash Wednesday is the invitation for God’s spirit to come to you.”

Where does it say that in scripture!?!  He then said that this was a practice to “undo unholiness” a “seasonal affection time”. Really!?!

God does not ask us for a season, but if I recall scripture says DAILY…

And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:22)

Yes! I’m going to say it! If you are at Point Loma , any university, or any church service that is offering you a “Traditional Ash Wednesday” service, DON’T GO! The Word of God does NOT require this ritual or practice of you! God keep us in His TRUTH!!!  END QUOTE

In listening to that chapel service (Wednesday Feb. 13) with speaker Jamie Smith, I could barely finish it without hearing in almost every other sentence a promotion of Lenten practices that I had never before seen in my dad’s ministry or in any other Nazarene pastor’s ministry, nor during my years at Eastern Nazarene College.  Although the speaker mentioned Psalm 51, he used it erroneously to justify the practices of “spiritual disciplines” during a prescribed Lenten season, as if they are biblically mandated and necessary for spiritual growth.  I can smell this stuff a mile away it seems, because these people consistently have the same goal: move away from clear doctrine in Scripture, and embrace a lifestyle of experientialism and ritualism.  The result is a rejection of clear instruction from God, and a welcoming of your own personal “experience” of God, and a formulaic, unbiblical way of “doing” things to get an outcome.

Consider more of what Jamie Smith said in light of Scripture:

“So the church… is a peculiar people who are sort of stretched… which is why we keep time differently.  One of the ways the church has tried to embrace this peculiarity, this difference, is by inhabiting different calendars, different rhythms and seasons, with feasts and fasts, which are all meant to regulate and circle us back to the life of Jesus Christ.

“And so, around the world today, Christians will observe what we know as Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the season of Lent.  It’s a season of disciplined denial and focused confession.”

“I want to encourage you to see the spiritual disciplines associated with Lent as the answer to the prayer of Psalm 51.  The spiritual disciplines of denial are the answers to prayer in Psalm 51.”

“So the Psalmist’s prayer “create in me a clean heart”… that prayer now is answered in the gifts that God gives us, of bodily tactile disciplines, the visceral ritual of Ash Wednesday, and the ascetic practices of denial that accompany Lent.”

“Friends, I encourage you to receive in a way the ritual of Ash Wednesday and the disciplines of Lent as yet another way that our gracious God meets us right where we are.”

“This is how the Spirit of God creates in us a clean heart,  by meeting us in the practices and disciplines that are invitations into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God actually knows that the way to our hearts is through our bodies.”

“And there is something tangible and bodily and visceral about the practices of denial, and the rituals of Ash Wednesday that are a way of God marking His love on our hearts.”

“We tend to assume that we will think our way into holiness.  We assume that we will get some information that will finally trigger a way for us to follow Jesus in the way that we’re supposed to do.” 

“We don’t think our way into holiness…. But what primarily drives our behavior… our actions… what moves us in the world is not for the most part the outcome of some logical conscience deliberative choices we make, it’s in fact governed by the power of habits we’ve acquired.” 

“It’s a season in which the Holy Spirit wants to tap into your affections and order them to the Kingdom of God.”

“…to see these rhythms and rituals as the conduits of the Spirit’s power is because I really think we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about sanctification.”

Very little of this is Scripturally sound, if any.  But I was not surprised by any of this, considering that Jamie Smith wrote a book called Desiring The Kingdom.  In the book, he makes the premise that ritual, or liturgy, is that which comes first, before someone’s Christian worldview or theology is formed.  In other words, he believes that “doing things” first, will then formulate what you believe inwardly.  This I straight out of works based Roman Catholic theology.

There is nothing Scriptural about Ash Wednesday rituals, or ashes to the forehead, or giving up something for Lent.  There is nothing “traditional” about it, other than it being man’s tradition, not God’s.  Yet, the Nazarene denomination and its leaders are defying God’s word and are shamelessly going forward with another year of Ashes to Fire, Lent, and the various mysticism based practices we have been warning about.  I have warned many times that the Nazarene leadership seems to be complicit with efforts to mix Roman Catholicism and mystical practices into a denomination that claims to preach holiness.  Should not the leaders, whose duty it is to interpret church doctrine, either explain how these practices are Scriptural, or if not, speak out against them?

Some Nazarene churches last week had Ash Wednesday services complete with the ritual of ashes being placed on the forehead.  There is no doubt it is happening, the only question is, what is the motive?  And what of those Nazarenes sitting in the pews who felt a bit awkward as others got up to receive their ashes?   Did they feel less pious for not going up?  And did the recipients feel good about a practice which never existed before in a denomination that preaches “holiness unto the Lord?”  Is this a way of attracting those of the Roman Catholic faith, by saying, “look at us, see, we are just like you.”

A Church Now Focusing On Experience, Instead of Doctrine

All these things are part of the “experience” that comes with the contemplative mysticism being introduced, and even some charismatic based revival. It’s prayer stations, and prayer labyrinths, and lectio divina, etc, etc. Do this ritual, or do that ritual, follow these steps, and you will get closer to God. We are exchanging a real experience with God through knowing His word and through prayer, for activities that are not prescribed by the Lord. Instead, the focus is taken away from Jesus, and becomes a focus on ourselves, and what WE do, not what He has done for us.

As many Nazarenes now focus on that magical goal of 40 days of Lent, what then after that?  How is your life after this specified time period going to look like?  Is this like the Super Bowl experience, where the hype builds up over time until the big event, and then we go back to “normal” until the next time around?  Do you really think that this is a “special” time God has set aside for you to grow spiritually, or is not God’s desire that we grow spiritually every day, without any gimmicks?

The bottom line is that no ritual can make our hearts become right with God, and instead, we may end up being only filled with personal, sinful pride for thinking “look at me, I’m better because I did this, and you did not.”

In his article Spiritual Formation at Worship, Dr. Gary Gilley states:

 “Deliberate asceticism, harsh treatment of the body and abstinence from acceptable activities, actions and food, may have the appearance of spiritual activity but have no effect on our souls, nor do they enhance our spiritual development. Lent is a hold-over from ascetic practices of the past that have no direct spiritual value.”

The danger of participating in these practices is that the Nazarene church will also eventually tell you, as the RCC does now, that these “new” liturgical practices are required for our “spiritual formation,” thus resulting in the practices of man once again casting aside the teachings of Holy Scripture.

I close with a word from Colossians 2:20-23 which I believe speaks to these issues:

“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”

 

Recommended Resources:

 Spiritual Formation at Worship, by Dr. Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel

Point Loma Summer Retreat Encourages Interfaith Worship With Unbelievers

Spiritual formation in the Nazarene churches, universities and seminaries is NOT a biblical endeavor.  It is merely a nice sounding way of introducing contemplative mysticism to the masses without using terminology that might scare some people.  It is a cancer on the church that will continue to cause great damage unless it is cleaned up.  Yet, you will find spiritual formation, including occultism, being taught at Nazarene Theological Seminary and practically all the Nazarene universities.  Lessons are not being learned; warnings are not being heeded; administrators have bought into it; and national leaders continue ignoring the many signs of spiritual decay.

We have seen it trickle in by way of seemingly harmless practices and rituals that used to be solely the purview of Roman Catholic tradition.  It sneaks in under the umbrella of celebrating the Lenten season; it sneaks in through the use of Sunday School quarterlies and such programs as Ashes To Fire.  It is evident through the programs being used for the youth, primarily promoted through the extremely dangerous Barefoot Ministries as well as Nazarene Publishing House.  But the warnings fall on mainly deaf ears, and most likely the following issue will also.  It all points to the severe compromise of church leaders today.

What am I talking about?  Point Loma Nazarene University, along with San Diego First Church of the Nazarene, is encouraging mysticism, ecumenicalism and interfaith worship with unbelievers to its college students.

A summer retreat called Taize 2013 is being offered to students.  The website states the following:

A unique trip is being offered through San Diego First Church  (the church on campus) during the summer of 2013.  A cross-generational group will be taking a pilgrimage to Taizé, France to spend a week in community, in worship and in spiritual reflection.  This will be followed by a week of service in a nearby location.

Students will be spending a week Taize (pronounced Ta-zay), a monastery in France, and the stated purpose is that it is a

“spiritual formation trip, aimed at those seeking intentional devotional time, Sabbath, fellowship, and space to seek and listen for God in a cross‐cultural setting.  Taize is a community made up of over a hundred brothers, Catholics and from various Protestant backgrounds, coming from around thirty nations.  From its beginning the community has been inspired by two aims: to live in communion with God through prayer and to be a leaven of peace and trust in the midst of the human family. A stay at Taizé is an opportunity to seek communion with God in prayer, singing, silence and reflection.”

I have previously written about Point Loma’s fascination with Taize, and Northwest Nazarene University’s embrace of Taize worship.  Their explanation at best waters down what Taize stands for, although please note that there is no emphasis mentioned about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That’s because Taize does not stand for, and never has stood for, the spreading of the Gospel.  Not the true Gospel anyway.

The following is excerpted from LightHouse Trails Research:

“Taize is a form of contemplative worship that incorporates mystical practices and interspiritual beliefs [an odd term?  Probably means, “all roads lead to the same Heaven,” or something similar.]

’Short chants, repeated again and again, give it a meditative character,’ the brothers explain in a brief introduction printed in the paperback songbook. ’Using just a few words, [the chants] express a basic reality of faith, quickly grasped by the mind. As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates the whole being.’”

The entire matter is “just another indication that contemplative spirituality is no respecter of denominations. Nearly all are affected and influenced.”

Taize Worshipers:  “Practicing the silence with icons, candles, incense and prayer stations, this very contemplative community is attracting young people from around the world.”

In John Henderson’s post on my blog on Nov. 11, 2011, he states the following to which I am in agreement:

“I find it enormously puzzling as to why Nazarenes, especially in a Nazarene university or a Nazarene church, would have so easily abandoned the simple faith in Christ for this satanic form of the worship of strange gods and evil spirits—and then call them by God’s names.  An even greater wonder is how they unabashedly resort to mauling the Word of God to force-fit those precious words of life to this spiritual sludge.  They seem to sense no shame in it but, rather, boast in it and lie that God is pleased with it.  It is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah and I fear that God’s judgment will not tarry much longer.  I had rather be in Heaven when it breaks open but He might keep me here to witness it and I just do not look forward to that.”

It’s more than Taize that is going on here, in spite of the school’s recent rejection of an on campus LGBTQ group, which most likely they had no choice.  This school is being corrupted daily and is rotting from the inside out, taking students with it down the road of apostasy.  And once again, while “Rome burns”, our irresponsible leaders at all levels do nothing.

A Host of Problems

It is the promotion of contemplative spirituality by way of other retreats, such as the Jesus Prayer Retreat at Point Loma Nazarene University, conducted by Frederica Matthewes-Greene of the Orthodox Church.  What Matthewes-Greene promotes is nothing more than Roman Catholic style mysticism, including praying to icons, as I noted in the post Blind Guides.  She also spoke at a student chapel the week of the retreat, where she promoted these false teachings, with the approval of college leaders.

In a post on May 9, 2011 entitled Would Jesus Attend PLNU?, problems were addressed such as: false teacher Brian McLaren speaking in a chapel service; universalist Rob Bell speaking at a pastor’s retreat; a biology professor promoting Darwinism and evolution; the failure to immediately as a gay activist student chaplain to step down from his position; the retreat sponsored by Richard Foster’s Renovare organization, which promotes mysticism.

And in his article on spiritual formation, Dr. Gary Gilley concludes:

“The “face” of the Spiritual Formation Movement, as well as contemplative spirituality and emergent Christianity, is often first noticed within evangelical churches by the incorporation of traditional Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox practices and liturgies. Many of these practices are being introduced at special events and eventually find their way into the regular services of the church. Worshippers are often confused by what they are experiencing and do not understand what is taking place. It should be understood that when traditions borrowed from errant groups such as Catholics and Orthodoxy are taken into evangelical worship and life, and are done so without a careful examination of Scripture, what is being adopted is more than just methods. There is a comprehensive, and in many ways wrong, theology upon which these practices rest. Methods do matter, and we are naïve to think that we can take techniques from false religions and not eventually embrace their theology.”

I cannot explain to you exactly why all this is happening.  I do know that these things are not of God, and yet it is being condoned over and over again by our supposedly mature spiritual leaders.

I will conclude with a few admonishments from Holy Scripture that address the problem with Taize worship and this upcoming summer retreat:

James 4:4-5 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Romans 12:2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Amos 3:3  Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

 

Resources:

Spiritual Formation (Dr. Gary Gilley) http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/133-spiritual-formation-movement/783-spiritual-formation-at-worship