In chapter 24 of Isaiah, it speaks of how judgment for sin will fall upon the land, but a remnant will be rejoicing at the advancement of God’s kingdom. Those who scoff at God and reject His word will be judged by God, but the remnant will go on to help advance God’s kingdom. And so it is today as was before. God does not change His ways, and He will also judge those today who refuse to obey His word and instead embrace the ways of the world and bring in concepts of false worship. Their only proper decision is to turn away from trusting others and seek to trust only in God. That is the only way to escape the coming wrath of God.
If you needed further proof that the Nazarenes and other Wesleyan denominations are more and more accepting and actively promoting contemplative mysticism and the ways of the pagan world, we have another example. They don’t even hide it anymore. I believe there is an urgent need for repentance at the national leadership level in many holiness denominations today, if they are ever going to return to their real holiness roots, not just in word, but in their actions. This is just one of the many reasons many Nazarenes have left, and are still leaving, the denomination today.
What is contemplative mysticism (aka contemplative spirituality, or the more harmless sounding spiritual formation)? An accurate definition of this is stated at Lighthouse Trails Research, a leading ministry and resource in exposing the dangers of these various unbiblical practices.
Contemplative spirituality is:
“A belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but is often wrapped in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all).” http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/contemplativespirituality.htm
What are the types of practices that are part of contemplative spiritualism? Here are some of the more popular ones, all of which have no basis in Scripture, despite the claims of those who promote them:
Breath Prayers, which have been promoted by false teacher Rick Warren in his book, Purpose Driven Life. In the book, he quotes 1 Thes. 5:17 (“Pray without ceasing”) and then uses this to suggest that to help us to pray without ceasing, we should use “breath prayers” by choosing a short phrase and repeating it over and over. This is unbiblical and goes against Christ’s command to not pray repetitively as the heathen do.
Lectio divina, which is described by Thomas Keating (a leading promoter) as NOT part of traditional Bible reading to gain understanding, but as a “gateway” to contemplative prayer and centering prayer. Again, it essentially uses the same technique of choosing a passage or phrase and repeating it over and over, until you work it down to one small phrase or word. The purpose of that is to finally get rid of all distractions and thoughts, so that you can hear God’s voice and feel his presence. You will see many references throughout the church now, including many books, that emphasis “practicing the presence of God.” This is again nothing more than Eastern meditation, and an invitation for the presence of demonic influence, rather than God. Yet, it is being promoted in the Nazarene and other Wesleyan denominations, and being accepted by many gullible and undiscerning Christians today.
Practicing The Silence: Trevecca Nazarene University has been promoting this practice for years, with yearly trips to a monastery in Kentucky that was the spiritual home of Thomas Merton. Why would Merton be popular amongst any Christian church or denomination, since he identified himself with Buddhism, and practiced all sorts of mysticism that was nothing less than transcendental meditation?
There is more, but now comes today’s example, from the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy conference, scheduled for April 16-19 in Charlotte, North Carolina. All the above practices I have described are scheduled to be taught at this conference, not as evil things, but as practices that supposedly are good for Christians. There is no doubt that this organization clearly has the official blessing of the Nazarene leadership, as shown in their statement: “each board member represents one of seven supporting denominations that selects its board members.” There are several Nazarenes on this board, including the president of Nazarene Theological Seminary, Dr. Carla Sunberg. Nazarenes also on the board are Karen Jones-Porter, and Vicky Copp. There are representatives from the Free Methodist Church, the Church of God-Anderson, Brethren in Christ, Evangelical Friends Association, the Wesleyan Church, and the Salvation Army.
(A clarification of my position on women pastors: I do not believe there is any scriptural foundation that allows women pastors to be ordained in the church and place them in a position of teaching over men. I believe women can and should have places of responsibility in the church, but God has clearly written in Scripture that the pastor be a man. This discussion is for another time and place, and I am sure some friends will be upset at me for taking this position. But I must clarify this here and base my belief on the word of God and what it teaches regarding the qualifications of a pastor).
The Soul Care Session At The Conference
In a session titled “Soul Care”, taught by Lynn Holt and Doris Barr, there is much that is troubling.
These two ladies start by mentioning John Wesley in their introduction to this session, and then state that they plan to delve into “Silence and Solitude: “Be Still and KNOW that I am God.”. Here we see, yet again, a perversion and distortion of the passage in Psalm 46 that has absolutely nothing at all to do with being “silent”, as the mystics will have you believe. This passage was used by Dan Boone, president of Trevecca Nazarene University, in justifying “silence” as perfectly biblical. It leads us to question how such learned people, however nice they are personally, come to adopt such an error-filled concept that is not rooted in Scripture?
They continue by quoting the late Henri Nouwen, a Catholic monk and mystic. They quote the following:
“Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. ….We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to Him.” – Henri Nouwen
It is true that we ought to be as close as we can to God and to listen to Him. But… we are to be close to Him and listen to Him through His established word, the Holy Scriptures, and through direct prayer with Him that does not leave us in an altered state of mind. We are not to attempt to do that through some mystical practice like mindless mantra-like repetition of words, or by sitting and focusing on silence until our minds are empty, ready to be filled with all sorts of demonic influenced thoughts.
Henri Nouwen should not ever be an example for any Christian. This man was a lost soul who believed that any person can find their own way to God.
“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” Henri Nouwen
He also endorsed a book by Hindu spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran which teaches mantra meditation. He promoted universalist Thomas Merton, and the Desert Fathers. He promoted Catholic priest Teilhard De Chardin, who believed Jesus would not return in person but rather as a cosmic Christ. He has also said the following: “The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being.”
This is heresy and fundamentally rejects the Scriptures, which do not teach any such nonsense, and which do not support any of his universalist leanings at all. Yet, here we are again, exposing the lack of understanding in our own leadership and amongst those who will quote John Wesley as if he would ever have supported pagan mystical practices.
Healing of Memories
They will also be teaching “healing of memories through episodic encounters with Jesus.” Really? This is probably the same thing based on the healing of memories which was started by Agnes Sanford, an occultist, who was influenced by Carl Jung. This is stuff that is based on Freudian psychology theories that is rooted in the occult. These methods, like all other psychology based systems turn us away from God and directs us towards doing things by our own self-will and “inner power.” Its basic teaching is that healing, or salvation, comes through getting rid of negative memories which have been buried deep in our subconscious for years and which has been influencing us, often unknowingly, over the years. They then go on to teach people to “visualize” Jesus entering into a painful setting from the past, and thus helping us deal with that memory and get rid if it. This is not biblical advice, this is occultic and takes away from the simple remedy for us, and that is turning to prayer and God’s word for true spiritual healing.
Finally, the session will also feature lectio divina, the Prayer of Examen, and breath prayers. All these things are part of the contemplative spirituality package, and has no basis in Scripture. They will conclude with teaching people about “spiritual directors”, which is the evangelical form of Roman Catholic priests for confession. All of these are tools of contemplative spirituality and should never be a part of any Christian’s life. But here we are on a continuing path of self-destruction in the church, and the people in the pews are either mostly oblivious to this, or they are blindly accepting what the blind are teaching them without question.
Based on what Scripture teaches, these are nothing but doctrines of demons, but with the blessing of the leadership at the highest levels, the Church of the Nazarene and other Wesleyan denomination are on course to be just another denomination that has compromised biblical principles, in exchange for teaching how to have an alleged “personal experience” with God.
In the book of Isaiah, the prophet knew what he was getting into when he accepted God’s assignment to warn the people. He knew his years of preaching and warning would go unheeded by most, yet he faithfully accepted God’s call. How often did he wish that the people would listen, and how often did he feel sad knowing most would not? Yet God told him that perhaps a tenth would eventually remain faithful, the remnant which in other passages “did not bow the knee to Baal.”
So are we to be faithful. The Church of the Nazarene may never recover from the downward slide it is already on, but we leave this up to God to deal with those who reject His word. Our duty is to remain faithful, “preach the word in season or out of season”, and warn the believers continually. We cannot worry about the results nor whether we are liked by anyone. God will take care of all that in His time.
It truly is sad to see such a decline in biblical discernment in the church. May God touch the hearts of Carla Sunberg and these other women, and bring them to repentance. They have been deceived, as have many others in the church today.
For an expanded explanation of these topics, see the following links:
Healing of Memories or Cleansing of the Conscience? (Bob Dewaay): http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue96.htm
Unbiblical Teachings On prayer and Experiencing God: How Mysticism Misleads Christians, by Bob Dewaay:
Breath Prayers: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/breathprayer.htm
Lectio Divina: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/lectiodivina.htm
The Silence: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/thesilence.htm
Contemplative prayer: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/cp.htm
Henri Nouwen: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/nouwen.htm