The following are the three comments that Dr. Dan Boone made, in response to my article Trevecca Nazarene University Promoting Mysticism and Pagan Practices.
Dan Boone, on February 5th, 2010 at 5:30 pm
Tim, can you give me a call. I’d rather talk person to person. What you are attacking is not pagan or mystical or Catholic, but the Biblical practice of prayer by our students. The word labyrinth is no longer on our website. We have removed it to keep from offending you and your friends. We don’t mean the same thing you do when we use the word, but to keep from offending, we have decided to stop using it.
Let me describe for you what actually happens in the prayer room. Leading up to revival, we always create a prayer room where our students can prepare themselves for revival. There are 5 prayer stations. At the first one, students read and meditate on the Psalm, “search me and know my heart, try me and know my ways….” At the second station, they pray for the entire campus to be open to the preaching of the word. At the third station, they pray for lost friends on the campus to be saved during the meeting. At the fourth station, they pray for our chaplain, the musicians, and the evangelist. And at the fifth station, they pray for their family and church back home. We learned to pray this way from the scriptures. The practice of the OT people of God in the temple includes Psalms of individual confession of sin, thanksgiving, offering up sacrifice, and prayers for their nation and king. The practice of Jesus was to go into the mountains and pray with the Father. His followers were so moved by his practice that they asked to be taught to pray as he has prayed. In the Sermon on the Mount we are instructed to go into our prayer closet, close the door and pray to the Father in heaven. The epistles are full of instructions regarding the kind of prayers we are to pray. We learned to pray like this from the Bible.
The fact that some of these forms were practiced by the Catholic Church is incidental. Given they were the only church for 1500 years after Christ, it would be expected that the church formed in the Protestant Reformation would do some of the things that Christians had been doing for 1500 years.
I grew up in a church that had cottage prayer meetings, 48 hour continuous prayer at the church altar, and open altar times during the early morning. I learned this from people much older than me, not from emergent theologies or Catholics. And given the setting of a college campus, with 4 to 8 people living in a suite of rooms, it is hard for students to find space and place to pray alone. To set aside a room where they can pray is a very Biblical thing to do. For someone to grasp the word labyrinth and fill it with meaning that is pagan, and accuse us of those type practices, is either a gross misunderstanding or an intentional lie.
Regarding the trip to the Abbey, it started in the late 1960’s with Dr. Bill Strickland, one of our now-retired religion professors. We choose the Abbey for our silent retreat for several reasons. It is affordable room and board for our students. The monks there run a retreat business that is highly hospitable. It is a beautiful setting for a retreat. It also is designed for minimal distractions – no TV’s or radios in rooms, no lobby music blaring, no fast food restaurants up and down the street. Students today live in the middle of noise all the time. We think it is important to teach them to practice the command – “Be still and know that I am God”. The monks neither teach nor participate in the retreat. We show them common Christian courtesy by inviting them to welcome the group and tell us about the Abbey requirements, much as would happen on any camp ground being leased. To leap from renting a retreat facility to embracing the Catholic theology or the works of Thomas Merton is like saying that someone who stays in a Marriott Hotel is practicing Mormonism (a Mormon family owns it)… or like accusing a church of being Satanic because they held their retreat in a hotel that hosted a Wiccan Convention last year. I am not approving Mormon teachings by renting a room at the Marriott Courtyard. This retreat is a model of what Jesus did – leaving the crowds and the noise to go into the mountains to pray, to get alone with God, to listen to the Father. The occurrence of the words “hear”, “listen”, “what the Father says”, and other similar phrases are all over the Bible. Jesus got away, quieted himself, and listened to the Father. I am shell-shocked that any Christian would attack us for teaching students to do this and providing the most affordable, hospitable, quiet place we could find that would be conducive to this experience. We’re raising up a new generation of praying college students. Being called pagan and Catholic and new age and heretical is just unreasonable. I still have a hard time understanding this type attack.
The above article concerning Trevecca is based on a word (labyrinth) and a retreat place (the Abbey). We no longer use the word because we seek not to offend you, and the practices you have associated with the word never occurred. I’m not sure God is all that bothered what we call the place we pray – labyrinth, prayer room, prayer closet, bedside, church altar. I think it is more important that we pray.
We’ll keep using the prayer retreat site because it is a good place for our students to get alone with God.
As to complaints about silence as a practice int he presence of God, I think that is also Biblical. “Be still and know that I am God.” Numerous Psalms that speak of quieting the heart. All the commands to listen and hear. The practice of Jesus getting alone with the Father – mountains, Gethsemane. John on the Island of Patmos. Paul praying in the prison. I just can’t believe God wants us to do all the talking. I’m sure God prefers that we get silent and listen. And we teach our students how to discern the voice of God – what God says is in keeping with the written word of scripture, it is aligned with the character of Jesus, it is faithful to the doctrine that has been handed down to us by our Wesleyan-holiness fathers and mothers, it is confirmed by the common experiences of other believers, and it is reasonable… being that God is a God of order.
If I were a parent, knowing what is happening in public universities these days, I’d do anything to get my child into a university that is serious about prayer, Bible, theology, and a Christian lifestyle. I wouldn’t be bashing a school devoted to doing these things. You have chosen the wrong enemy to fight, and God gets no glory in this kind of slander. Your stated “contention for the faith” is more like a witch hunt based on your assumption of personal inerrancy and your castigation of good, Godly people that you have never met or had a face-to-face conversation with. I am also wounded by your attack on the Catholics. I cannot find where God has asked us to do this. I do remember Wesley suggesting that we extend hands to those who claim Christ, and Jesus himself refusing to call down fire on the Samaritans as suggested by his disciples. If I remember correctly, he rebuked them.
I stand ready to forgive the above mis-characterization and slander of Trevecca, and am praying that God will open your eyes to the significant harm you are doing to Christ. With the Apostle Paul, I am willing to fill up in my body the sufferings of Christ and thereby be identified with Christ in his sufferings – I just didn’t think it would come from someone claiming to know Jesus…but then, it was the religious folk who crucified him.
Dan Boone, on February 7th, 2010 at 4:33 pm
Tim, thanks for the correction on the authorship of the web article. I wasn’t sure who had written it. I am in a good conversation with Manny and look forward to further correspondence with him.
And to other responders, the sentence regarding the 1500 years is meant to state that there were no Protestant denominations in existence – only the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches and a few smaller movements. I am talking about how the church organized in the first century following the completion of the canon, and the ongoing existence of the church in that form for the next 1500 years. I am not speaking about the church of Acts, Revelation, etc. That church was a fragile local expression just gaining foothold through the missionary leadership of Paul and others.
I wish we could recover the missional fire of that early Biblical church today. The closest thing I’ve seen to it lately is the students of Trevecca. They preach the gospel to the poor under bridge overpasses, host the homeless on our campus and feed them, oppose human trafficking, tutor inner city children, move into poorer neighborhoods to embody the gospel of Jesus, travel to the poorest of places for work and witness, plow gardens for the elderly, visit prisons and hold services, and give sacrificially for the cause of Christ in the world. They find the attack on their college ludicrous. I tell them it is good practice in blessing those who persecute the righteous.
One other note – having written on the Revelation, I actually believe the harlot church of Rev. 17 was the Roman Empire, which followed in the wake of Egypt and Babylon as other empires supported by the beast on whose back they rode. Any corporate power becomes the harlot when it does the work of evil. This is not so much a prediction of what might be coming, as a historical message to the people to whom the book was written. The idea that this is the church of the future misses the point that kings, merchants, and shipmasters were the ones invested in the harlot that fell. This sounds more to me like economies, governments, and power brokers than a form of religion. While Rome had its priests and enforcers supporting the temple guilds, the primary focal point was professional guilds and their role in building the empire. That’s why I’m working on issues like human trafficking, immigration law, prison reform, and poverty rather than yoga, who a retreat center hosts, and whether silence before God meets the stringent requirement of people who have never been in a Trevecca prayer room. You’ve got the wrong enemy. We are teaching students to love and serve the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to pray, to fast, to listen to God, to give to the poor, to bear witness to the faith. Come on guys, stop this silliness.
There may be Christians being led astray somewhere by mystical practices and pagan connections, but not at Trevecca. I hope to find reasonable people in this reformed Nazarene movement. You are being drawn into an enemy-centered life and are imagining enemies where you actually have friends. I have taken a huge risk to step into a conversation that many of my friends say is unreasonable, one-way, highly judgmental, and useless. Reading the Bible makes me hopeful. I hope you will change your tone and stop doing damage to a Christian university. Our world needs schools like Trevecca.
Dan Boone, on February 9th, 2010 at 5:34 pm
What an exchange! Wow! I am so thankful. As a university president, I love to find opportunities to teach our students about important issues. Religious fundamentalism is one of the hot topics in the world today and this website has given me the best model, other than Islamic fundamentalism, to demonstrate to students how religious fundamentalism works. Let me be clear, I think these folk are good American citizens and despise, as we all do, the terrorist attacks on America. But the strategies and tactics of religious fundamentalism are pretty consistent across the board. A small group of people declare themselves the authority in interpreting some ‘holy’ text, they create litmus tests of orthodoxy, they name the enemies who will not bow to their demands nor confess under their accusations, they seek the largest targets they can find to gain the greatest attention (like a university or denomination- or a Twin Towers if they are Islamic) , and then they attack. Because they bow to no authority, other than their own interpretation of God, they are inerrant. Because they themselves operate no church, denomination, university , or government, they can freely snipe at those who do.
This is wonderfully educational.
This is what happens when religions have no accountability. I am accountable at many layers for my walk, talk, and leadership as a minister in the Church of the Nazarene. The sponsors of this blog are free of accountability – other than “God”, I’m guessing they will say. But when your “God” already believes your opinions, is this really the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ or is it a god made in their own image? Friends, this is exactly how fundamentalism works.
Now, I must confess a sin. I did not listen to some friends who told me that I would not find a rational conversation here. I am most likely viewing these websites for the last time and would urge all thinking Christians to join me in the exit. Maybe we can stun them with our silence. In the meantime, I am working on a book called “A Charitable Discourse on the Things that Divide Us”. I’ll discuss Jihad in the church. Trevecca will soon post an open letter to the Reformed/Concerned Nazarenes.
I am proud of our university and wish to let everyone know that if your cup of tea is the kind of “Christianity” posted here, Trevecca probably isn’t for you. We won’t be trying to conform to these folk, nor soft-pedaling around them. But if you are looking for a Wesleyan-rooted, Biblical, hospitable, spiritual-formation teaching, servant-oriented, prayerful, serious-about-changing the world national research university of the highest calibre – check us out. We’re open for business and loving life on the hill.
Blessings to all, Dan Boone