Ill-Informed Critics? Part 2

 

 

Update: On May 30, 2011, Rev. Felter’s post that I referenced here disappeared, but you can read it all at the end of my comments:

As I continue my response to David Felter’s latest blog post, which can be read at the end of my comments, I wonder if he realizes how many faithful Nazarenes he has maligned with the phrase “ill-informed critics.”  If I am one of those he considers “ill-informed”, then he has also included a lot of like-minded Nazarenes and other Christians in the same category.  He has a right to judge me and others of course, but I would at least like to know what he is judging us about- specifically.

In part one, I critiqued his assertion that the Nazarene denomination is not “turning from its roots and becoming more liberal”. By the way, I did not expand on the fact that Rev. Felter uses a strawman argument by trying to link most of the “ill-informed” to those who have come into the church with a Reformed or Calvinistic perspective.  It would take another post to refute this, so I will simply say that is not the case, and it is an argument that mirrors the NazNet diversionary playbook. However, I don’t know if Rev. Felter is a member of that group, which I have asserted is a breeding ground for emergent heresy.

Rev. Felter continues on with his second point, regarding the emerging/emergent church.   He begins with a somewhat mild criticism of the emergent church, questioning whether it is minimizing the role of evangelism.  He has never named the names of any false teachers in the emergent movement, as far as I know; and as far as I know, he has never openly rejected any of its false teachings, including contemplative spirituality, open theism, and theistic evolution, all of which are a part of this emergent movement.  He then proceeds to go back to his standard formula with the following:

“The rhetoric in some quarters has gotten out of hand with unfounded accusations flying everywhere, creating unnecessary dissension and division in the Body of Christ.”

Just what are these unfounded accusations that he never puts a finger on publicly?  Will Rev. Felter ever be specific?  Has he ever criticized the emergents in the Nazarene church for “unfounded accusations?”  No.  He seems to have a pattern of criticizing those who object to heresies in the church, and which are causing undue angst amongst our long time Nazarenes. Yet he is strangely silent in his criticism about the emergent church.

“Where there has been the substitution of human ideas for the clear teachings of Scripture and the time-honored, Spirit-inspired teachings of the Church, one must declare one’s allegiance to Christ and His teachings.”

I challenge Rev. Felter then to tell us please, and give us examples of those instances where “human ideas have substituted clear teaching of scripture.”  If we are to declare allegiance to Christ and His teachings, we must also be ready to refute without timidity all the practices and ideologies whose origins are satanic, regardless of who is teaching them!  I don’t care if the person has the title of “Most Reverend Doctor.” We are commanded in scripture to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Eph. 5:11.  This clearly means to call them out and stay away from them!

Sadly, in point number three, Rev. Felter makes some statements that mirror the heart of the problem we are having in our denomination, and that is a lack of complete trust in God’s written Word.  This is a problem that is literally destroying the faith of many of our college students!  It has led many longtime faithful Nazarenes to leave their church, because of pastors who reject the authority of scripture.  Here are some quotes:

“We do not receive the Bible as a textbook on science.”

True, it is not a science textbook, but it is God’s word, and whenever it speaks on anything related to science, it is always true and accurate and without error. Otherwise, how do we accept it as God’s word?  Yet, the emergent church does not agree that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God.  Rev. Felter seems to be accepting the same premise.

“Some Nazarene scientists and educators recognize evolution as a methodology that explains the mechanics of creation, but not the reason for creation…”

This really simply means, they don’t believe the Genesis account!  Evolution is an ungodly interpretation of the plainly spoken creation process as described in Genesis, and a rejection of the testimony of Jesus Christ; so I guess Rev. Felter will accept the words of man over the words of Holy Scripture.  With his own words, I refute that premise:  “Where there has been the substitution of human ideas for the clear teachings of Scripture and the time-honored, Spirit-inspired teachings of the Church, one must declare one’s allegiance to Christ and His teachings.”

“The Bible is the word of God.  But it is not a proof text for science, geography, or any other discipline.”

Rev. Felter affirms that the Bible is the word of God, then refutes it by making exceptions, which if he concurs with many others, also believes that it is not a proof text for historical events!  Many of our Nazarene pastors and professors from our universities, do not affirm that the Bible gives an accurate historical account of creation, and instead claim that they are most likely allegory and myth.

“The Bible is to be read, studied, and its teachings to be incorporated, but it is not to be placed on a pedestal and worshipped. That belongs to God alone.”

This reminds me of the argument emergents use, which is similar to a quote by Brennan Manning, who called those who hold the Bible in high regard as “bibliolaters.”  It’s just another red herring argument that does not hold water.  Of course we do not idolize the Bible, but we do recognize it as God’s inerrant, infallible revelation to us, and the only true authority for our faith and practice.  These people will never affirm this statement I just made, because they do not trust the word of God completely, and instead they want to uphold other sources of authority equal to Scripture, namely man’s “wisdom.”

“It is unfortunate that so many other believers have rushed to condemn those who have sought to resurrect ancient methods of worship, reflection, prayer, and meditation.”

That is because these ancient methods are based in mysticism and pagan religions, and therefore their source is not from God, but from satan.  Practicing the silence, prayer labyrinths, repetitively praying the Jesus Prayer; these things are ancient methods- BUT they are not scriptural!  So, what is unfortunate is the inability, or refusal, or fear, to speak out against these false teachings.  It could be a lack of biblical discernment, but how can that be?

 “Numerous voices are extant today that are full of criticism, censoriousness, and confusion. Satan would like to confuse the people of God. Clearly, the Church of the Nazarene is not perfect. It is, however, a vine of God’s planting.  It is committed to the message of Scriptural holiness.  I encourage you to take heart and be faithful, for God is still working with His people.”

Here, Rev. Felter concludes with more non-specific attacks against  many God-fearing Nazarenes and Christians who are just trying to be faithful to God’s word, and ironically, are trying to pursue Scriptural holiness.  We do not subscribe to the teaching that “practicing the silence” will get us any closer to God.  We do not believe that our future pastors should be learning occultic practices at our very own seminary.  We do not believe that placing ashes to the forehead anywhere near resembles our great holiness heritage.  And, we do not believe in picking and choosing what parts of the Bible are inerrant, because all of it is.

I am not saying that the problem lies here solely with the editor of Holiness Today.  He is only one of many who are defending what is going on in our schools, and in many of our churches.  Where is the Board of General Superintendents to speak on these specific matters, and give clear guidance and direction?  I have yet to get one clear answer from the letters I have received, and I’m sure others have had the same result.

Rev. Felter is correct, satan is trying to confuse the people of God, but he’s doing it through the emergent church, and through other ungodly movements such as social justice, environmental justice, and all sorts of other man created programs that often change like the wind and are discarded after failing, other than increasing numbers in the church.  Is that our goal, and is that a reflection of God’s favor on us?  Or is it simply obedience to God, whether a church grows, or shrinks in size?

Yes, God is still working with His people.  But God’s judgment will come as well, if His people continue on a path of disobedience to His word.  The emergent church movement is doing nothing but harm to the Church of the Nazarene, and it really needs to go.

Rev. Felter, please prayerfully consider my words here.  It’s nothing personal against you, but I am clearly against what you seem to be supporting, and I will continue to fight and expose it.  I pray that God will open your eyes, and awaken many more Nazarenes to the false teachings that have come into our denomination.

 

DAVID FELTER’S ORIGINAL POST:

What about those Nazarenes?

As General Editor of the Church of the Nazarene, I frequently get the same questions about the status of the church. These undoubtedly come from well-meaning, sincere people who have picked up bits and pieces along with rumors from here and there that trouble them. Additionally, there are voices on the sidelines seriously critical of just about everything the church does; from conferences on spiritual formation to NYC.

I have combined the queries into two main questions, making them representative of the spectrum of concerns that I receive on a fairly regular basis. In this response, I have posted my perspective and am speaking as a member of the Church of the Nazarene who loves the church and grieves over the rending of its fabric by ill-informed critics.

1. The Church Of The Nazarene is slowly turning away from its roots so to speak and becoming more liberal.

The Church of the Nazarene has consistently affirmed its 16 Articles of Faith and its Agreed Statement of Belief. These documents form the very foundation upon which rests the theological and doctrinal trajectory of the denomination. Additionally, nothing has happened officially, within the decision-making of the General Assembly, to change these documents. If anything, we have strengthened our commitment to these foundational truths. We reference them in relationship to every book we print and every message we send because they represent our DNA.

The challenge behind this accusation is unfounded. Individual members of the Church of the Nazarene may have altered their perspectives and such alterations by individual members may have been mistakenly perceived as wholesale changes endorsed or adopted by the denomination. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Additionally, another challenge has arisen from the influx of new members over time who have come to the Church of the Nazarene from differing theological traditions. Some have come from Reformed, Calvinist, or charismatic traditions and when they discover the significant differences between our Wesleyan-holiness theological tradition, they may perceive such differences as liberalizing. This is especially true for those whose former religious experiences were in fundamentalist, Reformed, and Calvinist traditions. Wesleyan-theological traditions view many elements of Christian theology through ancient lenses stretching back to our roots in the 18th century Methodist revival under the ministries of John and Charles Wesley who were Anglican priests and remained such until their deaths. Our historic theological positions rest on ancient premises, supported by Early Church Fathers.

Reformed churches developed strains of Augustine’s predestinarian perspectives (God’s divine decrees), especially through the work of the towering theological giant, John Calvin. Presently, there are Bible Churches, Baptist Churches, and many Evangelical churches whose theological base is informed by these insights. Doctrines like eternal security and male-only ministry do not find their way into their way into the Nazarene theology because our roots return to the tap root of the ancient, apostolic fathers, mediated by the Church of Rome, the Church of England, the Reformation, the Wesleyan Revival, the American Holiness Movement, right up until now. Consequently, some Nazarenes hear our theological message and sense differences but perceive it incorrectly as a liberalizing trend. Nothing could be further from the truth.

2. The Emerging/Emergent church.

The discussions surrounding the Emerging/Emergent Church have been rather confusing because there is no one, single, all-encompassing definition of the Emergent Church. Some would say it is the church practicing hospitality, openness, and embracing all regardless of their knowledge or understanding of Grace. Others would say that it refers to a theological position staked out by popular authors and church leaders like Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, et al. In truth, much of what is occurring in the so-called “emerging church” is driven by the changes in society as a whole. This is why one rarely if ever hears of “emergent churches” in global areas outside North America.

There are facets of the emergent movement that are truly troubling in that they seem to minimalize the role of evangelism, preferring instead the compassionate ministry approach of listening, serving, and representing the heart of Jesus in their world. While there is something eminently beautiful about selfless service to others on behalf of, and in the name of Jesus, there is also the reality that the Church cannot neglect the proclamation of the Gospel. Many young people are rejecting the heavy-handed approaches of another era, preferring instead “conversations” and solidarity with the world in Christ’s name. Clearly the jury is still out on this, but in my mind, any local church that ignores the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel in decisive terms, misses its God-appointed mandate given by the Son in Matthew 28. Moreover the words of General Superintendent J. K. Warrick help us in his reference to those who espouse the teachings of the Emergent/emerging church: “When they drift into heresy we draw lines and hold the line firm.”

The rhetoric in some quarters has gotten out of hand with unfounded accusations flying everywhere, creating unnecessary dissension and division in the Body of Christ. Many of us who are older are having a difficult time adjusting to the changes we see and hear in the local church; from worship styles to the way the local church perceives its place in the mission of God. The reality is the church is always changing. No methodology is sacrosanct. Everything we do in the Body of Christ must acknowledge our human limitations, relying fully on the grace and power of Christ for the furtherance of His mission.

Where there has been the substitution of human ideas for the clear teachings of Scripture and the time-honored, Spirit-inspired teachings of the Church, one must declare one’s allegiance to Christ and His teachings. Where the message that is proclaimed no longer affirms or is enriched by faithfulness to the Articles of Faith, then that congregation is slipping away from its theological moorings.

Corrective, constructive criticism can be offered without disconnecting one’s self from the Body. Prayer, fellowship, and involvement can bridge gaps between those whose knowledge of Scripture and proper, correct theological doctrine is insufficiently developed.

3. The Church of the Nazarene, Evolution, Legalism, and the Word of God

There is much debate in the evangelical world about these three issues. Some of it stems from widely differing positions on the nature of Scripture. The Church of the Nazarene is not, and never has been a fundamentalist denomination. Our view of Scripture rests on the solid foundations of the Early Church Father’s positions, and has been affirmed by the “holy, catholic Church” (the Church universal) down through the ages. Here are some quick associations between that perspective and some common issues.

    • We do not receive the Bible as a textbook on science. Instead we receive the Bible as a library of 66 books, authored by human authors writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to reveal and disclose the love, grace, and salvation of God.
    • Science is in the business of positing theories based on research. Our foundational understanding of Scripture is not disturbed when science suggests methodologies associated with the study of natural and human origins. All we insist is that all theories must recognize the eternal God who is behind all that exists; or as Gen. 1 says, “In the beginning, God!”
    • Some Nazarene scientists and educators recognize evolution as a methodology that explains the mechanics of creation, but not the reason for creation, and thus they emphasize the faithfulness of God who sovereignly reigns supreme and has disclosed Himself in the person and work of Jesus to bring us to Himself in reconciliation and redemption.
    • The Church of the Nazarene rightly respects the conscience of its membership. Where moral and ethical issues are in play, the Church of the Nazarene recognizes the value of stating beliefs and values in light of the church’s “collective conscience.” Hence, in our Manual you will read statements regarding human sexuality, abortion, homosexuality, and the value of a Scripturally-informed, Spiritually-sensitive conscience when it comes to participation in entertainment venues, both personal and collective.
    • The Church of the Nazarene rejects legalism and affirms the role of the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and the collective conscience of the Church to inform its membership with principles whereby they can navigate the issues of life. Alcoholism and drug abuse with their attendant wreckage in tow, challenge to Church to prescribe a position of total abstinence; not because it can be proved from Scripture, but because it represents the way of compassionate love for others, and for Christ.
    • The Bible is the word of God. But it is not a proof text for science, geography, or any other discipline. The Bible is not the domain of literalists who disfigure the Scriptures to support untenable positions like forbidding women to be ordained as elders in the church of God. The Bible is to be read, studied, and its teachings to be incorporated, but it is not to be placed on a pedestal and worshipped. That belongs to God alone.

Some Conclusions:

A new generation, weary of modernist assurances based on empiricism alone, have sought fresh wells from which to drink of the living water offered by our Lord (John 7:37-38). Many Christians have searched the ‘memory’ of the earlier generations of believers, in different times and locations, and have found rich treasures that offer simple, fresh ways to experience the transcendence and holiness of God in worship, praise, prayer, and community.

It is unfortunate that so many other believers have rushed to condemn those who have sought to resurrect ancient methods of worship, reflection, prayer, and meditation. It is always possible that someone will take something too far, idealizing it and in turn actually creating the inverse of what they thought they were finding by making their discovery an end in itself. Clearly some conferences or gatherings in universities have pushed the limits and have, or are, learning from their experiences. The criticism they experienced as a result served as a corrective.

Take the issue of homosexuality; the Board of General Superintendents has affirmed our traditional stand found in the Manual through their pastoral letter. They also reminded the church that as Wesleyan’s we view sin as any willful, voluntary breaking of a known law of God. They have reminded the church that there is a difference between a tendency or temptation, and acted out behavior. The latter separates an individual from fellowship with God, while the former offers the Spirit opportunity to perform the work of transformation and recovery.

Our institutions like Pt. Loma and others are intersections where critical issues will surface from time to time. They offer an environment where the fine line of love for the person and commitment to law of God are balanced to provide an opportunity for discussion, clarification, and redemption.

Numerous voices are extant today that are full of criticism, censoriousness, and confusion. Satan would like to confuse the people of God. Clearly, the Church of the Nazarene is not perfect. It is, however, a vine of God’s planting. It is committed to the message of Scriptural holiness. I encourage you to take heart and be faithful, for God is still working with His people.

Grace & Peace

David Felter

Ill-Informed Critics? Part 1

Update, May 30, 2011:  Rev. Felter’s post apparently disappeared today, but I have the full article copy at the end of my commentary:

In a new article on his blog, What About Those Nazarenes?, the editor of Holiness Today, David Felter, continues his analysis of the emergent church influence on the Church of the Nazarene.  In the past, I have sent two open letters to Rev. Felter, and I have yet to get a substantive response.  I have been particularly interested in getting very specific answers to some questions, so I can know what his thoughts are on some issues of importance.  I believe that some of his comments from this post are again aimed at concerned Nazarenes like myself.  It is my premise that Rev. Felter has missed the mark on some of his points by a wide margin, and I would like to give my opinion on them.

Here are some excerpted quotes:

“there are voices on the sidelines seriously critical of just about everything the church does; from conferences on spiritual formation to NYC.”

 “I have combined the queries into two main questions, making them representative of the spectrum of concerns that I receive on a fairly regular basis. In this response, I have posted my perspective and am speaking as a member of the Church of the Nazarene who loves the church and grieves over the rending of its fabric by ill-informed critics.

1. The Church Of The Nazarene is slowly turning away from its roots so to speak and becoming more liberal.”

That we as a denomination are “turning from our roots” and “becoming more liberal” is without a doubt true, but Rev. Felter does not agree.  Instead, he says that:

“The challenge behind this accusation is unfounded. Individual members of the Church of the Nazarene may have altered their perspectives and such alterations by individual members may have been mistakenly perceived as wholesale changes endorsed or adopted by the denomination. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

This accusation IS founded!  And it is true!  So, in my opinion, when Rev. Felter says, “nothing could be further from the truth”, that conclusion he makes is far from the truth.  With the incredible amount of evidence for Rev. Felter to read, much of which crosses his desk by way of my emails to the Board of General Superintendents, he should know by now this is not a case of just a few individuals going off the Nazarene doctrinal railroad tracks!  He has had almost two years of my annoying emails and enough information within the denomination to sift through the truth, and if anything is true, it is that this emergent church phenomenon is not just a few individuals going off the deep end.  This should be very clear to him.  Or is it that Rev. Felter is on board the emergent church express?

Another quote:

“Consequently, some Nazarenes hear our theological message and sense differences but perceive it incorrectly as a liberalizing trend. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Not much space here to get into it all, but here are a few examples of liberalism making its way into the Nazarene denomination now: social justice, environmental justice, denial of the Bible as the infallible word of God (which is attested to by John Wesley himself, which Rev. Felter likes to reference often, as well as many NazNetters and emergents who try to distort Wesley’s position on scripture).  Even some are promoting liberation theology.  These and the positions of such ideologies as open theism, process theology, and theistic evolution,  are all on the side of liberal thought.

And then Rev. Felter states the following:

“The rhetoric in some quarters has gotten out of hand with unfounded accusations flying everywhere, creating unnecessary dissension and division in the Body of Christ.”

Time and again, Rev. Felter has said similar things like this, without substantiation.  Just what are those “unfounded accusations?”  Here are possibly a few that he might be referring to:

-  Contemplative spirituality is being promoted in practically all of the Nazarene universities including the seminary, and in many Nazarene churches.  This includes the use of prayer labyrinths, a clearly pagan practice.

-   Nazarene Theological Seminary taught a course this semester that was based on Celtic spirituality, which is nothing short of occultic “Christianity.”

-   Northwest Nazarene University has a professor, Tom Oord, who teaches open theism, which says that God cannot know all of the future.  Dr. Oord is also a proponent of process theology, which concludes that God can make mistakes.

-   Trevecca Nazarene University for years has been promoting and sending students to a Roman Catholic monastery, including encouraging the use of a mystical practice called “the silence.”  The school also promotes the prayer labyrinth, which for some reason they now call it a prayer walk.

-   Point Loma Nazarene University allowed a student chaplain to remain in his position after he openly professed that he was homosexual, and intended to live an open homosexual lifestyle after graduation.  The local Nazarene church also hosted a support group for homosexual students that did very little, if anything, in helping these students see the sinfulness of their lifestyle.

-   Many of our Nazarene schools are using books in their theology curriculums by such false teachers as: Brian McLaren, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Rob Bell, and others.

-   The Shack, a blasphemy-filled book, is being promoted as a great missional book for pastors and laypeople alike.   It is an example of a total lack of discernment on the part of leaders who promote it.

-   Most serious and egregious: the trust and reliability of the Holy Scriptures is being weakened in our Christian universities and churches, including the acceptance of the unbiblical views of theistic evolution.

Are any of the above examples the “unfounded accusations” Rev. Felter talks about?  Believe me, I can give him, yet again, clear and irrefutable evidence of all these accusations and more, if he would like.  I can assure him, the above are all true.  The only question remaining is this: where does he stand on all of these issues?  There is no doubt where I stand, and there is no doubt where many- many Nazarenes stand on these issues.

But the question remains unanswered: where does the editor of Holiness Today stand on the specifics of these issues?

DAVID FELTER’S ORIGINAL POST:

What about those Nazarenes?

As General Editor of the Church of the Nazarene, I frequently get the same questions about the status of the church. These undoubtedly come from well-meaning, sincere people who have picked up bits and pieces along with rumors from here and there that trouble them. Additionally, there are voices on the sidelines seriously critical of just about everything the church does; from conferences on spiritual formation to NYC.

I have combined the queries into two main questions, making them representative of the spectrum of concerns that I receive on a fairly regular basis. In this response, I have posted my perspective and am speaking as a member of the Church of the Nazarene who loves the church and grieves over the rending of its fabric by ill-informed critics.

1. The Church Of The Nazarene is slowly turning away from its roots so to speak and becoming more liberal.

The Church of the Nazarene has consistently affirmed its 16 Articles of Faith and its Agreed Statement of Belief. These documents form the very foundation upon which rests the theological and doctrinal trajectory of the denomination. Additionally, nothing has happened officially, within the decision-making of the General Assembly, to change these documents. If anything, we have strengthened our commitment to these foundational truths. We reference them in relationship to every book we print and every message we send because they represent our DNA.

The challenge behind this accusation is unfounded. Individual members of the Church of the Nazarene may have altered their perspectives and such alterations by individual members may have been mistakenly perceived as wholesale changes endorsed or adopted by the denomination. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Additionally, another challenge has arisen from the influx of new members over time who have come to the Church of the Nazarene from differing theological traditions. Some have come from Reformed, Calvinist, or charismatic traditions and when they discover the significant differences between our Wesleyan-holiness theological tradition, they may perceive such differences as liberalizing. This is especially true for those whose former religious experiences were in fundamentalist, Reformed, and Calvinist traditions. Wesleyan-theological traditions view many elements of Christian theology through ancient lenses stretching back to our roots in the 18th century Methodist revival under the ministries of John and Charles Wesley who were Anglican priests and remained such until their deaths. Our historic theological positions rest on ancient premises, supported by Early Church Fathers.

Reformed churches developed strains of Augustine’s predestinarian perspectives (God’s divine decrees), especially through the work of the towering theological giant, John Calvin. Presently, there are Bible Churches, Baptist Churches, and many Evangelical churches whose theological base is informed by these insights. Doctrines like eternal security and male-only ministry do not find their way into their way into the Nazarene theology because our roots return to the tap root of the ancient, apostolic fathers, mediated by the Church of Rome, the Church of England, the Reformation, the Wesleyan Revival, the American Holiness Movement, right up until now. Consequently, some Nazarenes hear our theological message and sense differences but perceive it incorrectly as a liberalizing trend. Nothing could be further from the truth.

2. The Emerging/Emergent church.

The discussions surrounding the Emerging/Emergent Church have been rather confusing because there is no one, single, all-encompassing definition of the Emergent Church. Some would say it is the church practicing hospitality, openness, and embracing all regardless of their knowledge or understanding of Grace. Others would say that it refers to a theological position staked out by popular authors and church leaders like Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, et al. In truth, much of what is occurring in the so-called “emerging church” is driven by the changes in society as a whole. This is why one rarely if ever hears of “emergent churches” in global areas outside North America.

There are facets of the emergent movement that are truly troubling in that they seem to minimalize the role of evangelism, preferring instead the compassionate ministry approach of listening, serving, and representing the heart of Jesus in their world. While there is something eminently beautiful about selfless service to others on behalf of, and in the name of Jesus, there is also the reality that the Church cannot neglect the proclamation of the Gospel. Many young people are rejecting the heavy-handed approaches of another era, preferring instead “conversations” and solidarity with the world in Christ’s name. Clearly the jury is still out on this, but in my mind, any local church that ignores the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel in decisive terms, misses its God-appointed mandate given by the Son in Matthew 28. Moreover the words of General Superintendent J. K. Warrick help us in his reference to those who espouse the teachings of the Emergent/emerging church: “When they drift into heresy we draw lines and hold the line firm.”

The rhetoric in some quarters has gotten out of hand with unfounded accusations flying everywhere, creating unnecessary dissension and division in the Body of Christ. Many of us who are older are having a difficult time adjusting to the changes we see and hear in the local church; from worship styles to the way the local church perceives its place in the mission of God. The reality is the church is always changing. No methodology is sacrosanct. Everything we do in the Body of Christ must acknowledge our human limitations, relying fully on the grace and power of Christ for the furtherance of His mission.

Where there has been the substitution of human ideas for the clear teachings of Scripture and the time-honored, Spirit-inspired teachings of the Church, one must declare one’s allegiance to Christ and His teachings. Where the message that is proclaimed no longer affirms or is enriched by faithfulness to the Articles of Faith, then that congregation is slipping away from its theological moorings.

Corrective, constructive criticism can be offered without disconnecting one’s self from the Body. Prayer, fellowship, and involvement can bridge gaps between those whose knowledge of Scripture and proper, correct theological doctrine is insufficiently developed.

3. The Church of the Nazarene, Evolution, Legalism, and the Word of God

There is much debate in the evangelical world about these three issues. Some of it stems from widely differing positions on the nature of Scripture. The Church of the Nazarene is not, and never has been a fundamentalist denomination. Our view of Scripture rests on the solid foundations of the Early Church Father’s positions, and has been affirmed by the “holy, catholic Church” (the Church universal) down through the ages. Here are some quick associations between that perspective and some common issues.

    • We do not receive the Bible as a textbook on science. Instead we receive the Bible as a library of 66 books, authored by human authors writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to reveal and disclose the love, grace, and salvation of God.
    • Science is in the business of positing theories based on research. Our foundational understanding of Scripture is not disturbed when science suggests methodologies associated with the study of natural and human origins. All we insist is that all theories must recognize the eternal God who is behind all that exists; or as Gen. 1 says, “In the beginning, God!”
    • Some Nazarene scientists and educators recognize evolution as a methodology that explains the mechanics of creation, but not the reason for creation, and thus they emphasize the faithfulness of God who sovereignly reigns supreme and has disclosed Himself in the person and work of Jesus to bring us to Himself in reconciliation and redemption.
    • The Church of the Nazarene rightly respects the conscience of its membership. Where moral and ethical issues are in play, the Church of the Nazarene recognizes the value of stating beliefs and values in light of the church’s “collective conscience.” Hence, in our Manual you will read statements regarding human sexuality, abortion, homosexuality, and the value of a Scripturally-informed, Spiritually-sensitive conscience when it comes to participation in entertainment venues, both personal and collective.
    • The Church of the Nazarene rejects legalism and affirms the role of the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and the collective conscience of the Church to inform its membership with principles whereby they can navigate the issues of life. Alcoholism and drug abuse with their attendant wreckage in tow, challenge to Church to prescribe a position of total abstinence; not because it can be proved from Scripture, but because it represents the way of compassionate love for others, and for Christ.
    • The Bible is the word of God. But it is not a proof text for science, geography, or any other discipline. The Bible is not the domain of literalists who disfigure the Scriptures to support untenable positions like forbidding women to be ordained as elders in the church of God. The Bible is to be read, studied, and its teachings to be incorporated, but it is not to be placed on a pedestal and worshipped. That belongs to God alone.

Some Conclusions:

A new generation, weary of modernist assurances based on empiricism alone, have sought fresh wells from which to drink of the living water offered by our Lord (John 7:37-38). Many Christians have searched the ‘memory’ of the earlier generations of believers, in different times and locations, and have found rich treasures that offer simple, fresh ways to experience the transcendence and holiness of God in worship, praise, prayer, and community.

It is unfortunate that so many other believers have rushed to condemn those who have sought to resurrect ancient methods of worship, reflection, prayer, and meditation. It is always possible that someone will take something too far, idealizing it and in turn actually creating the inverse of what they thought they were finding by making their discovery an end in itself. Clearly some conferences or gatherings in universities have pushed the limits and have, or are, learning from their experiences. The criticism they experienced as a result served as a corrective.

Take the issue of homosexuality; the Board of General Superintendents has affirmed our traditional stand found in the Manual through their pastoral letter. They also reminded the church that as Wesleyan’s we view sin as any willful, voluntary breaking of a known law of God. They have reminded the church that there is a difference between a tendency or temptation, and acted out behavior. The latter separates an individual from fellowship with God, while the former offers the Spirit opportunity to perform the work of transformation and recovery.

Our institutions like Pt. Loma and others are intersections where critical issues will surface from time to time. They offer an environment where the fine line of love for the person and commitment to law of God are balanced to provide an opportunity for discussion, clarification, and redemption.

Numerous voices are extant today that are full of criticism, censoriousness, and confusion. Satan would like to confuse the people of God. Clearly, the Church of the Nazarene is not perfect. It is, however, a vine of God’s planting. It is committed to the message of Scriptural holiness. I encourage you to take heart and be faithful, for God is still working with His people.

Grace & Peace

David Felter


Response #3 To Holiness Today’s Editor-In-Chief

“Those of you who are leaders in the Church are going to pay a high penalty when you stand before God… because you did not have enough courage to stand up and confront the wicked.” (Paul Washer)

Preface:

I’m sorry if this has become my longest post ever (about 4,500 words).  I know you are all busy with your lives, but I ask you to please read it carefully, I believe it is that important.  This issue I am responding to goes to matters of integrity, honesty, forthrightness, false accusation, and most importantly, the questions on what is or is not biblical Christian doctrine and practice.

The emergent church debate is alive and well in the Nazarene denomination.  I believe much of it is due to a bunch of “loud mouth Nazarenes” who some say have nothing better to do than complain.  But if not for those who refused to shut up, perhaps the emergent church train would not only have left the station long ago, but it would not even be in sight today.  To you emergents out there, sorry if some of us have derailed those plans for a quick and thorough indoctrination, but such is the arena of ideas and debate.  Now you have to deal with “the malcontents”- thus my response to Rev. David Felter, editor-in-chief of Holiness Today.

It seems to me there are three types of approaches going on in this emergent church “conversation.”

The first is the straight talk, “no beating around the bush” approach.   That would be the approach taken by folks like me and other concerned Nazarenes.  We are very straightforward in our writing as we seek to expose the false wolves in our midst.  We believe, for instance, that open theism is outright heresy, because its very premise negates biblical prophesy, as well as God’s sovereignty. But whether you agree or disagree with our conclusions, we make accusations that are backed up with documented evidence and specific biblical refutation, of which the bulk of the evidence is the very words and teachings of those we accuse of contradicting scripture.  We also are following the scriptural mandates to “rightly divide the word of truth” and to “expose”, “rebuke”, and “avoid” false teachers who cause divisions in the Body of Christ.

Secondly, there is the middle of the road approach.  This has manifested itself in commentaries and position statements that have come from leadership, including the Board of General Superintendents.  In these statements, it is difficult to pin down exactly what they think of the emergent church movement.  Most of the statements involve generalized comments, such as condemnation of false teachers, but without saying just who are the false teachers.  This has satisfied some, and frustrated others, including myself.  But this approach generally does not tend to get a lot of people extremely upset, although some do want more answers in detail, as expressed in my open letter last week.

Thirdly, there is the character assassination approach.  This method will use a lot of general statements of opinion but lacks specific details.  But then it goes further and gets into the realm of accusation without substantiation or evidence.  And thus the most recent character assassination piece, sadly, written by Rev. Felter.  It is very disappointing to see this again, since I have tried several times to dialogue with him and get specific answers, but apparently, he prefers to write hit pieces about people like me or any other Nazarene who dares to buck the status quo.  On three occasions I have written a commentary, then an open letter, followed by a second open letter, inviting a genuine dialogue about all the facts.  Rev. Felter has chosen a different path.

So last week, I came across a new post by Rev. Felter.  Frankly, he should not have bothered with it, because he continues on with cryptic writing full of words, but with very little substance.  And more seriously, Rev. Felter throws out accusations without one bit of substantiation or proof. Now some will say that’s what we do, but the difference is quite simple: those of us who are calling on the carpet these emergent church promoters and their heresies, are actually providing substantiation and evidence, straight from their own testimony!  Not so Dr. Felter in his latest post, which again leaves me wondering as to how much spin is there left to write.

I have written him several times in the past year, inquiring as to what is his position on the emergent church movement, and asking for specifics.  He has never responded to me other than one unrelated email.  Perhaps he just does not have the time to respond directly to me, but he certainly is responding (on his own website) to those of us who call ourselves concerned Nazarenes.  And he is certainly attacking (again with no substantiation at all) many faithful Nazarenes who are simply expressing their dismay and concern about where our denomination is heading.  I don’t believe that they deserve the dismissive ridicule and unsupported accusations coming from such an intelligent and well informed leader in the church.  I for one seek to defend their integrity, as well as mine, in this response.

Rev. Felter’s entire post can be read at his site:  I’m Concerned And It’s Time To Tame The Unruly Memes.  I believe the issues I am addressing here are critical to the “conversation”, or lack thereof, that is going on in the Nazarene denomination.  His quotes are in red italics.


To Rev. Felter, From an “Unruly Meme”:

Dr. Felter, I really think that you are either (a) not doing your homework and not analyzing the facts, or (b) you are doing your best to defend the indefensible, by attacking those who are concerned, rather than addressing directly the practices and teachings that we are condemning.  And you need to realize that you are also going after much more than what you seem to perceive as a small, disgruntled band of unhappy Nazarenes who have nothing better to do than sit around thinking up the next person we can target for no good reason.  It seems you still don’t take us seriously, even as many faithful Nazarene’s lives are in turmoil because of this so-called “emergent conversation.”  Have you ever considered that?  Following are some thoughts on what you wrote:
Quote #1

“Frequently I receive inquiries concerning the legitimacy of content developed by those who are harshly critical of the Church of the Nazarene. Their assumption is that the denomination is headed to hell in a handbasket. Numerous sites on the Internet have reflected the “concerns” of those who are “standing firm.” The allegations and charges are severe.”

It’s funny, but frequently I receive inquiries from Nazarenes all over the world now, asking me, “what is happening to our beloved denomination?”  Rev. Felter, those you speak of who are harshly critical of the COTN, are Nazarenes themselves! Some have been members for over 50 years.  These are folks who were brought up in, and were saved, because of the biblical holiness preaching in our church. I cannot speak for other concerned Nazarenes, but as for me, please feel free to mention my name in any of your critiques, because I have no problem with that and have nothing to hide in my attempts to get a dialogue going with leadership.  In fact, we’ve been trying to have a “conversation” since at least the General Assembly last year, but unfortunately, no one seems willing to talk at this point.  Is the denomination “headed to hell in a handbasket”, as you suggest is what we believe?  I can’t answer that for sure, and I’m not a prophet, but I do know we are in big trouble, and if the ship’s course is not corrected, it will become another Titanic.  You can quote me directly here: “The Nazarene denomination is heading for disaster if we do not tackle this problem head on, honestly, and biblically.”

Quote #2

“In some instances, perhaps some inquiry as to the legitimacy of their allegations should be made, although in a calm, Scripturally-mandated way, so that truth can indeed prevail without being blindly dragged through the court of Internet opinion.”

If any one of us is not doing this in a scripturally mandated way, please cite the specific scriptural support for that criticism, because we are willing to be corrected if we are not following proper biblical guidelines.  However, I am very certain that we are. As far as doing it calmly, I myself am usually calm, but unfortunately, seeing pagan practices in a Nazarene church or school tend to upset me, and I also get a bit bothered at the thought of students walking away from the Lord because of false teachings- right in our own Nazarene universities!  So please forgive me if I and others sometimes don’t appear to be as calm as we should.  One can get nervous about the thought of losing a child from a terrible accident; so you can imagine getting all unraveled at the thought of just one child losing his soul for eternity.

And as far as you decrying the court of Internet opinion- well then, are you proposing a forum where we can gather with our leaders to discuss these issues?  I’m all for it!  I am reminded how at the emergent church session last year, run by Jon Middendorf and Scott Daniels, after we had asked GS Middendorf whether we could have a forum to present our side of the issues and he replied “that’s not likely”, you told us that “we need to go through proper channels.”  Perhaps you can finally tell us the exact steps as to how to go through proper channels to air our grievances?

Quote #3

“Remember, you don’t have to have proof, nor do you have to submit to the scrutiny of vetting or fact verification in order to unleash a web-based attack on an individual or entity. All you need is a keyboard connected to the Internet.”

Are you implying that we are not basing anything on facts and proof? If so, please do some fact verification, and correct me and all the others in those instances where we have “twisted” the facts.  And don’t forget, that you yourself are “using a keyboard connected to the internet”, therefore you have an opinion also.  Perhaps you could back it up with proof next time.

Quote #4

“1. All Christians are concerned, or should be, not just an elite group populating the Internet.”

I will accept that you are a concerned Christian also.  But I certainly do not consider myself elite.  Do you consider yourself elite?  Is NazNet an elite group, since many NazNetters have such a superior, elitist attitude, that perhaps you are talking about them, and not concerned Nazarenes?  Have you read some of their posts recently?  If you do, you will see a living, breathing definition of elitism right there; never mind that you will also read some very, very un-Nazarene and un-Christian theology (read this)!  Yet I have not heard you criticize any of their work yet.  Is NazNet more in line with your thinking, since they never seem to criticize anything at all, except concerned Nazarenes?

Quote #5:

“It’s in our DNA to be concerned…  We have the right to wear the colors of the concerned as much as anyone.

Who is “we?”  And is anyone taking away the right for you to be concerned? I’ve been asking all Christians to be concerned, Rev. Felter.  And we are particularly concerned about doctrinal matters.  And we are voicing those concerns, not just keeping silent and wringing our hands in distress, hoping it all goes away.  That’s not how it should work in the Body of Christ.  As many would say, “God is in control”; yet, that does not absolve us from standing for truth, and standing against error, loud and clear, without fear of being villified by our own.

Quote #6:

“One of the cultural ideas that is being transmitted by the astroturfers in the Church of the Nazarene is that its impermissible to investigate any idea that has not been approved by, and comes from the Articles of Faith.”

You’ve got it wrong here in yet another assumption about us.  What we disagree with is not the investigation of ideas; it is the dissemination of ideas to young, impressionable students as if those ideas were based on sound Christian doctrine! However, I confess, we are against any idea that contradicts the infallible word of God!  In fact, we believe that the Scriptures are wholly and completely inspired by God, not by men, and in their entirety.  Of course, I am sure you don’t think that prayer labyrinths is a good cultural idea for the Nazarene church.

Quote #7:

“The lambasting of Trevecca Nazarene University’s incorporation of a prayer labyrinth as a sure and certain indication of the institution’s de facto surrender to New Age religion is laughable”

I am shocked, absolutely shocked!  Yet I applaud you for at least not saying “guided prayer walk” (as now re-defined by Trevecca) instead of the correct name that it is, prayer labyrinth.  Rev. Felter, If I am to understand that you are now defending prayer labyrinths- a pagan practice - then frankly, I am disappointed, because you are the editor-in-chief of Holiness Today, and you seem to now be giving your approval of this clearly ungodly pagan practice which is forbidden in Scripture, and which serves to only demean God’s work and the Holy Spirit’s work.  Please correct me if I’m wrong, but what else can I conclude from this statement?  So can we clarify this: do you or do you not believe that prayer labyrinths are unbiblical?  Or are you still investigating this?

Quote #8:

“Why is it that the cultural idea that it is impermissible to review, study, or evaluate different thoughts and forms, is being sanctified by the astroturfers as though such sanctions are indigenous to the Church of the Nazarene? Nothing could be further from the truth!”

Here is the problem, Rev. Felter.  Nazarenes are not just “reviewing”,  “studying”, or “evaluating” such things as prayer labyrinths.  They are using them as worship tools, in violation of biblical commands, and replacing the sufficiency of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, with inward turning rituals that focus on themselves and what they do, rather than what Christ has done!

Quote #9:

“The Nazarene academy has granted academic freedom to explore even those ideas inconsistent with our foundational theological understanding, with the knowledge that in the pursuit of truth, the Holy Spirit who is the author of all truth can enable us to grasp the rich treasures of that truth, enabling us to make the compelling, Scriptural case for our beliefs.”

And if a few students (many trust their professors without question) walk away from the faith as a result of this great, unbridled academic freedom? What then shall we say about that?  Yes, the Holy Spirit is the author of all truth.  But I am reminded of the scripture in Matthew 18, when Jesus says it would be better to “have a millstone hung around his neck than to cause one of His little ones to stumble or sin”.  I prefer a millstone.  I prefer to see that any future student is instructed in the way he should go, and to be told the difference between sound doctrine and heresy, rather than letting him figure it out without any guidance whatsoever.

Quote #10:

“Am I saying we should unquestionably acquiesce to every wind of doctrine, practice or belief that contradicts the essence of our beliefs? Absolutely not!”

Then, is it possible that you and others could start openly condemning specifically that which is unholy, unbiblical, untrue, and in error? What do you think we have been trying to tell so many people, Dr. Felter?  We are warning them about every wind of doctrine, practice and belief that contradicts Holy Scripture (not the Nazarene Manual).  Yet even though you just said something significant here, you have not specified which winds of doctrine that you disagree with.  Do you believe in the heretical teaching of open theism?  If not, then reject it loud and clear, and speak out against those who are teaching it to our students! Write an article on it in Holiness Today!  Look, if leaders have made mistakes by embracing some of this emergent stuff, let them admit it, repent, correct it, and move on to full obedience to Jesus Christ!

Quote #11:

“I am not a big McLaren fan…I think he’s got some things all wrong. I am not a huge fan of Ken Blanchard, Erwin McManus or Len Sweet. But does this mean that I can’t learn something from them”

In two sentences, you just mentioned four false teachers! Yet, all that you can say is, “I’m not a McLaren fan?”  What about his thorough disrespect and low view of scripture?  What about his concept that John 3:16 means Jesus came to save the planet- the earth?  Or that end-time believers need to be robustly confronted?  Or his utter disdain for the Cross as perhaps being false advertising for God?  What about Len Sweet’s bizarre quantum New Age thinking?  Or Ken Blanchard for that matter?  And Erwin McManus?  Do you really know these guys?  Have you ever given specific reasons for not being a fan of these people, and did you give scriptural support to refute them?  If they are tainted with false teaching, yes, by all means, let’s throw out the baby with the bath water!  That’s what we can learn from them.

Quote #12:

“St. Paul said, “No man is an island.” I can learn from others, even from some of their half-baked ideas.”

Actually, the apostle Paul did not say that quote, it is not in the Bible.  It was said by John Donne, (1572-1631). It appears in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII, 1624.  (Ironic that it has the word emergent in the title).  The idea of learning from others is fine, but it gets pretty dicey when we think we can risk learning good from those who are purveyors of untruth, who mix lots of truth with a bit of error. (I’m sure we can learn some good from the Satanic Bible).  But this is a working definition of false prophets, Dr. Felter, and you know that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  The lesson we can learn from those with “half-baked ideas”… is to reject them completely!

Quote #13:

“1. The basic premise of many of their objections is rooted in Reformed theology, not the Wesleyan-holiness perspective.”

This is a recurring strawman argument.  No one I know who is a concerned Nazarene is a Calvinist, and our objections are based on Holy Scripture, nothing else.  Theological labels are useful sometimes, but irrelevant here.  And if anything, those who oppose us are clearly trying to re-write Wesleyan history, some even claiming that John Wesley was emergent, which is laughable.  He would roll over in his grave to see some of the error coming into our denomination that is trying to pass for Wesleyan theology.  John Wesley would have roundly criticized Brian McLaren much the same way that he called out the Roman Catholic Church as apostate.  John Wesley was not emergent, but perhaps he would be a Concerned Christian now!

Quote #14:

“2. The theological process by which these individual(s) extract their positions does not follow John Wesley’s wonderful procedure known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience.”

You may be preaching to the emergent choir, but not to me.  And I am seeing a pattern here.  There is more emphasis on John Wesley as the basis to refute us, and so far, no emphasis on scripture.  Wesley also believed in the inerrancy of scripture, yet the emergents ignore that tidbit of information.  But, how much more will you cite John Wesley, instead of refuting us with biblically sound arguments?  No matter what John Wesley or anyone says, Scripture trumps everything as far as authority over our lives, because man’s reason, tradition, and experience is prone to error.  Jesus Christ is THE WORD, but His written word ought to be held up to the highest respect and final authority, because it IS the word of God.  And those are the only words I trust completely.

Quote #15:

“4. They have created straw men against which to mount massive attacks in the name of purifying the church of New Age thought. In truth, they really do not understand New Age thought.”

Who are these straw men, Rev. Felter?  Can you please give specifics again?  This is another accusation, without substantiation.  And I think I have a pretty good understanding of what is New Age, but can you explain New Age thought to us?

Quote #16:

“5. They have labeled precious individuals with scurrilous comments and false accusations, raising unnecessary questions about motives they cannot possibly read from afar, and often creating unnecessary suspicions and the cloud of doubt.”

This statement was the final straw for me.  It painfully reminded me of accusations thrown at me publicly last year, without any basis in truth, without any substantiation or proof.  Since then, I’ve heard more of the same, but the same pattern remains.  If you were a lawyer in court, the judge would have roundly scolded you if you brought up charges like this without evidence.  Therefore you owe all these people that you are accusing a sincere apology, or if not, then show the evidence that demonstrates that your allegations are true.

We name names and provide documented evidence, and let the readers decide for themselves!  On the other hand, you plainly accuse us of “scurrilous comments and false accusations”, and then you don’t follow it up with any proof whatsoever.  Which precious individuals have we falsely accused, and for what reason?  Can you name one false thing that I have fabricated on my blog?  Or perhaps from the other concerned Nazarenes such as the Nazarenes-Standing Firm folks, or Concerned Nazarenes, or sadnazarene, or Nazarene Psalm 11:3, or ex-nazarene, or maybe Help For Nazarenes? Or NazNet Distorts? Or maybe Nazarenes for Biblical Creationism?  I’ll personally retract any mistakes you can point out.  If not, please stop accusing us of something without substantiating it?

Quote #17:

“6. They have created distractions that have absorbed the energies of the church needlessly and without blessing or benefit either to the Body of Christ, or to the accomplishment of our mission.”

If “distractions” means that we have awakened some in the church to the heresies invading our beloved denomination- then I am very glad that has happened.  And I disagree- it is always a blessing to the Body of Christ when false teachers are exposed to the light of truth. And I assure you, Dr. Felter, we will not stop doing this, until every false teacher and false doctrine is revealed to our brothers and sisters in Christ, Nazarene or not, who can then make their own decisions as to their future in any denomination.

Quote #18:

“7. They have created a smokescreen of innuendo by mislabeling everything that is different either New Age, Contemplative Spirituality, Spiritual Formation, or Emergent. Every variant and manifestation has its dangers. Emotionalism can breed a sentimentalism devoid of true holiness.”

Again, I believe you say much here by way of accusation and over-generalization, but you show little substantiation for it.  We are not labeling everything that we see as New Age; we are only labeling New Age for what it is, and the predominant bulk of teaching of Spiritual Formation in our universities is based on mystical practices that have no basis in scripture.  But no one seems to want to have a real “conversation” about it.  And what would you label books and teachings by such authors as Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, and Richard Foster?  Do these people write in the tradition of great holiness writers?  It seems that those kind of speakers and writers are fading fast from our Nazarene landscape, to be replaced by such as these I mentioned.  I believe the following scripture is an accurate description of all these false teachers circulating in our denomination today:

“They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots;   raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” Jude 12b, 13

Quote #19:

“For the sake of our Lord, His Church, and the mission to which He calls us, I urge us to be alert and recognize that God is building His Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it!”

This is about the only part of your article that I agree with!  I do trust that God is building His church, and it has nothing to do with membership numbers, and I know for certain that the gates of hell will not prevail against it!  But Rev. Felter, I’m not so sure about the future of the organization called Nazarene.  I’ve been a Nazarene all my life, yet I am certainly aware that “The Church” is not simply comprised of Nazarenes.  No sir, the real Church is the invisible church, that which is living in obedience to Christ and is not being tossed around, as you said, “by every wind of doctrine.”

The Church of God, the true Church, will not be destroyed.  On the other hand, I cannot say that for certain about the Nazarene organization.  My question to you is, will you be a part of facilitating it’s destruction, or will you stand up for the truth, even if it costs you your job.  I know several pastors who have taken that stand, Rev. Felter, and they counted the cost.  One was fired unjustly, and another “divorced” from our denomination along with his entire congregation.  Oh, but to have a few more men with backbone who will put the Lord first above their position and standing.  God builds His church not with numbers, but through faithful servants, no matter how few.  Remember the 7,000 that did not bow the knee to Baal?

Rev. Felter, as I close, for the sake of our Lord, I exhort every Nazarene and Christian who is reading this, to fight those who are spreading false doctrines in our churches.  Do not be silent.  You suggested that “it’s time to tame the unruly memes”.  Sorry, it’s not going to happen. Speaking out against heresy is our responsibility and duty as Christians, and it is not an option.  I suggest you go back to the beginning of this post, and read the quote from Paul Washer.

And if you can put in a good word for me, I am willing to come to Lenexa or Kansas City at my expense to speak with any or all of the General Superintendents about our concerns.

Sincerely in Christ,

Manny Silva

P.S.  Rev. Felter, I have not sent this to your email address.  If you wish to be placed on my email list, please let me know.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Open Letter #2 to Holiness Today

Dear Reverend Felter,

First of all, I wish you a Happy New Year!  I had previously written to you in an email on Oct. 9, 2009 in response to your editorial in Holiness Today, entitled “Are The Emerging Church Folks Stealing the Church?”  I was very concerned about what I understood from your editorial, because Holiness Today is so very influential and reaches so many Nazarenes across the world.  I realize that it is difficult to respond to every email, but I believe, based on the enormous audience that the magazine reaches within the Nazarene denomination, that it would be very helpful for you to clarify some things that are written in Holiness Today that are not so clear to all readers.  And it seems that your editorial is one of those that still needs clarification.

Previously, I had asked you to read my article, and then if possible, respond to some of the questions I raised in my critique, which was posted on September 26, entitled “Does Holiness Today Endorse The Emergent Church?”  Some things you wrote did not necessarily give clear answers to the questions in my mind, and I believe in the minds of other Nazarenes who have written to me, or who have posted questions on our blogs and FaceBook group.  Perhaps it might be easier if I asked a few specifically targeted questions, and you could answer them.  I do understand you are busy every month with new editions to put out, but again, I believe many Nazarenes are awaiting some answers that will clarify where Holiness Today really stands on the emergent church. So here are some questions that I hope you will be able to answer for us.

One of your comments that gave me pause was this one: “These [emergent] Nazarenes, not content to simply lock the shutters or man the battle stations, are joyously dreaming new expressions of the Body of Christ that can thrive in the arid deserts of cultural change.”

1. Question: For you, does “new expressions” include any or all of the following:  prayer labyrinths, prayer stations, Walk To Emmaus, use of prayer beads, lectio divina, ecumenical services with the Roman Catholic church (which I am sure you know teaches a lot of false doctrines), and rejecting the Bible as the infallible, inerrant word of God?  Many emergent Nazarene churches and some universities are actively doing some or all of these things.  What is your position on these?  Is that part of what you meant when you used the term “new expressions?”  If not, what are some of the new expressions that you referred to?

Another quote stated: “they believe we more closely resemble our beloved founders than at any other time since the beginning of our history.”

2. Does this statement mean that those emergents who are using all these expressions I mentioned in question #1… that they are truly reflecting the holiness tradition of our founders, even though none of these practices were officially in use in our denomination, and still are not officially sanctioned or recommended by our leaders?  (Regarding our founders, my position is that even though they were great men of God, that even they are not infallible, and whatever they wrote, should always be scrutinized in light of what the infallible word of God says, would you agree?)

3. Regarding scriptural authority: (This was not mentioned in your article by the way)  I have noticed a trend amongst emergent Nazarenes, particularly those who I have interacted with on NazNet (a Nazarene discussion site, although unofficial), of lowering the bar regarding scriptural authority.  Many of them say that the Bible only CONTAINS the word of God, instead of stating that the Bible IS the word of God.  Some have incredulously said that holding the scriptures to the highest level is idolatry! (They say that Jesus is the real Word.  Well… yes.. but.. aren’t the scriptures the only sure way for us to really know what God has revealed to us?  Yet this is a strange position many of them take, including pastors!)
My question is: is it your position that the entire Bible IS the word of God, as opposed to those in the emergent movement who seem to be casting doubt on the complete veracity of all scripture?  In other words, do you believe that ALL of the Bible is trustworthy in ALL it affirms, and not the view of emergents that it is probably allegorical in the creation account, in the global flood account, when saying Methuselah lived 967 years, etc?

4. You also stated: “the bold lengths to which these innovative Nazarenes are prepared to go in order to be the people of God in a changing world.”
Would you agree with me that we Christians ought to be as bold as possible to reach out to the world with the gospel, as long as we do not violate, change, or water down the gospel message itself? (I believe the only way people are changed by the gospel is when the power of the Holy Spirit is behind it).
And also, would you agree with my statement that “we should NEVER change or compromise the gospel in ANY way, in order to accommodate the world, or our “changing post-modern culture.”
Would you instead agree with me that we ought to follow Romans 12:2 in its admonition:

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.”


In other words, cultures may change, Rev. Felter, but the true gospel and its effectiveness and power NEVER changes, no matter what culture we are in. Would you agree?

5. Finally this statement from you: “Others, for whatever reasons, have chosen the caricatures of exaggeration and the use of disingenuous rhetoric to assail both the character and the efforts of a new generation of visionary Nazarenes.”

Can you please give us some very specific examples of this so-called exaggeration and disingenuous rhetoric? I am so perplexed with this statement, Rev. Felter, because surely you know by now that there are many Nazarenes all across the denomination, including internationally, who are extremely concerned abut the direction of our denomination with these new emergent and contemplative spirituality practices, which never were around in the past, but now in the last ten years or so, have filtered in, under the radar of many Nazarenes.

I truly feel it is an insult to those Nazarenes (which includes pastors like you, evangelists, and ordinary laypersons like me) who are grieved tremendously by the fruits of this movement, to simply imply that we are exaggerating and being disingenuous.  Did you know that there are many Nazarenes across the country who have been forced to leave their churches, because of these emergents and their “joyous expressions of faith”?  Did you know that even though there is no official position by the leadership or even in our church manual about the emergent church, some pastors cannot readily speak out against this movement without risking some level of intimidation or pressure?  I could tell you some real life stories I have received, that would make you cry for those families who have had their lifelong relationships and fellowship with other Nazarenes totally disrupted and severed.  It is real, and that fact cannot be ignored forever without real long term consequences to our churches and universities.

I wonder if the revenues into our denomination have not reached its projected targets lately, and if not, I wonder how much of that has been affected by long time Nazarenes giving up and leaving their churches in disgust, because of emergent ideology and these “new expressions of faith.”  Or perhaps there are churches who have decided not to submit their budgets to their designated university, until that university cleans up its act and stops the indoctrination of our youth with contemplative spirituality practices, or with teachings that God does not know the future (Open Theism), or that He makes mistakes. Perhaps these new teachings about God are what you mean by “new expressions?’  But we just don’t know for sure..

So that is something to think about, Rev. Felter, and perhaps I may be able to get those financial statistics from headquarters.  I think this is a big problem that may continue to show itself more prominently as more Nazarenes become aware of what seems to be a quiet behind the scenes operation to weave emergent ideology into the fabric of our denomination, without ever hearing any official announcements that it has been welcomed. If people are not aware, how can they make good decisions, especially the kind that determines what university their child will go to?

But, I digress.  I’ve written more than I had planned.  Were you able to read the 3,000 word post I sent out last month, called “Nazarene Denomination Losing It’s Way?” It was written as an introduction to our many concerns, and mainly targeted those who have never heard of the emerging church.  I am praying that the paper copy of the newspaper also reaches many in New England who were not yet aware of the emergent church problem.  If you also have time, let me know what you think of it. And do you think it is just a matter of time until there is a formal declaration that the emergent church ideology has been welcomed into our denomination?  If so, would we expect new training programs denomination-wide to introduce all Nazarenes to the emergent church and its practices?

I sincerely ask that you are able to spend a few minutes of your time and answer these questions.  I believe a lot of Nazarenes around the globe would really appreciate it.  Please keep in mind you are not the only person I am asking for answers.  I realize you are one part of our large denomination.  Rest assured I and others will be asking questions of our leadership as well, until we can get some answers.

I think we deserve that much.

All the glory to Jesus,

Manny Silva