Roman Catholicism Being Taught To Nazarene Youth? Part 1

I just finished reading Sacred Life, a book for youth that is available through Barefoot Ministries, the youth arm of the Nazarene Publishing House.  This is the first review of two books from Barefoot Ministries, the other being Sacred Space.  My conclusion after reading them: I do not recommend them, and I am appalled that the Nazarene Publishing House allows these books to be promoted to our Nazarene youth, or any Christian for that matter.

The book is broken up into chapters that talk about: the Jesus Prayer (and the use of the prayer rope), lectio divina, confessions, praying scripture, solitude/meditation, Imago Dei,  journaling, the Roman Catholic priest St. Ignatius and his methods, and pilgrimages. (Among the pigrimages that are recommended is the Taizé community in France, a popular center for contemplative, Eastern-oriented, interspiritual practices).

In the introduction to Sacred Life, I find the following quote of interest:

  • “Not all of these practices will work for each person.  If one does not connect with you, try another.  In time, you will find two or more that will fit well with you.”

The Bible-prescribed discipline of prayer will always work if a person is praying with a sincere heart to God.  So the specific disciplines described in the book are not guaranteed to work, but rather depend on the person?  That does not sound like something God would give us, a method of prayer or worship that will “connect” for some, but not others?

The first chapter talks about the General Examen of Conscience, a part of a collection of a work by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, which supposedly helps us apply spiritual disciplines in our daily life in order to get closer to God.  The instructions give guided steps on how to do this. This work is becoming ever more popular within the evangelical spiritual formation movement.

What the book fails to tell us is that Ignatius was a mystic, and he practiced mysticism.
Tony Campolo says of him: “The methods of praying employed by the likes of Ignatius have become precious to me. With the help of some Catholic saints, my prayer life has deepened.” Campolo is an ultra-liberal evangelical who supports the emergent church and contemplative spirituality practices; he also likes to repeat the name of Jesus over and over again every morning for as long as 15 minutes!  (from Mystical Encounters for Christians,  Beliefnet).

In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius emphasizes purifying oneself through asceticism and using the imagination in prayer (also called visualization or guided imagery, a dangerous practice).
Visualization is not biblical, and we ought to put our faith in God and His word, not using our imagination for extra-biblical revelation. It is not true faith. Instead, God’s word says: So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

He was also known for enforcing a blind loyalty to the pope.  He said “what seems to be white, I will believe to be black, if the hierarchical church so defines” (Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Vintage Books Edition, p. 124).  He was the founder of the Jesuit Order, which was known for its brutality in enforcing papal authority. I could tell you more about him, but this is a small picture of someone who is being recommended as a model for youth to follow his teachings.

In the chapter on the Jesus Prayer, the writer describes the prayer as having three levels: The first, verbal repetition of a phrase over and over.  In the second, the prayer is then repeated in the mind over and over without distraction or other thoughts.  The final stage is when the prayer connects the mind with the heart, so that the prayer lives in every heartbeat of the person praying. (p. 21)
Where is this type of prayer instructed for us to do in the Bible?  Nowhere, is the answer.  This is nothing but an extra-biblical, man-created method of prayer that takes the focus away from Christ, and focuses more on ourselves.
What does scripture say?

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Matthew 6:7

There is no doubt this is vain repetition, and not true prayerful communication with God, as taught in the scriptures.  (On page 22 the writers make a weak attempt to dismiss this biblical admonition, and even suggest that Jesus used this technique, but of course, no convincing scriptural evidence is given).

In Wesley’s Bible comments, he says the following: “Use not vain repetitions – To repeat any words without meaning them, is certainly a vain repetition. Therefore we should be extremely careful in all our prayers to mean what we say; and to say only what we mean from the bottom of our hearts. The vain and heathenish repetitions which we are here warned against, are most dangerous, and yet very common; which is a principal cause why so many, who still profess religion, are a disgrace to it. Indeed all the words in the world are not equivalent to one holy desire. And the very best prayers are but vain repetitions, if they are not the language of the heart.” (Wesley’s Notes on the Bible)

Our prayers should come from the heart, and not from following a set pattern or length to be counted. This is particularly a practice emphasized by the Roman Catholic church, but it is a violation of biblical principles.  Why is this being promoted by Nazarenes, for Nazarene youth?

Worse yet, as part of the Jesus Prayer, it is recommended to use a prayer rope.  In other words: a way of showing us how to pray the rosary, using rosary beads.  Perhaps the authors thought that using a different name for this, and a different device, would not mean the same, but that’s exactly what it is.  They are teaching our youth how to pray the rosary!  Again I ask, where is this prescribed in the Bible?  Nowhere.  So why are Nazarenes teaching this to our youth?

The final chapter I will comment on is the one on lectio divina. I have written about lectio divina before and also critiqued it for its formulaic, method based procedure on how to read and pray scripture.  It was actually invented by the theologian Origen, a heretic who amongst other false teachings, believed that Jesus was a created being.

But do we need this practice to get closer to God and live the Christian life?  The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”.  God’s word is what we need, not new invented methods that we have to follow and make sure we do them in the proper prescribed steps.

Do we get special revelation from practicing lectio divina, which is not prescribed in any way in the Bible?  Or do we need to simply know that “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure,…”

God’s word is all we need.  It can be dangerous to open our minds and try to listen to God’s voice in this way, because it may not end up being God’s voice suggesting something to us.

What is this growing reliance on St. Ignatius and other Roman Catholic mystics and priests.  Don’t we have enough inspirational Nazarenes from our past and present who can teach real solid biblical truth?  I found out recently that Dr. Doug Hardy of Nazarene Theological Seminary is one of many Nazarene professors who have become deeply involved with Catholic teachings and teachers, including the practices of St. Ignatius. Oh, and don’t forget the Spiritual Formation Retreat sponsored by NTS and featuring Dr. Hardy, just before the General Assembly in June.  And the unbelievable prayer room at General Assembly, with its prayer stations and the continued promotion of Richard Foster, spiritual formation guru, author of the multiple-flawed book, Celebration of Discipline.

The other chapters also teach methods derived from “ancient” tradition.  We as Christians should only be asking one question: is this practice a proper biblically grounded practice?  It does not matter that it is an ancient tradition. So is going to confessionals, praying to Mary, or taking the Eucharist as a direct means of forgiveness of sins.

I don’t care if it’s been practiced for 2,000 years, if it’s unbiblical, reject it or throw it out!  Our answer as Nazarenes years ago was, no!  Why are some in our leadership now bringing in these practices to our churches, and promoting spiritual formation throughout the universities, and introducing these practices to our youth?  Should we expect these to start soon in our area, at some of our Nazarene churches?  Perhaps we need to start asking questions of our leadership in New England.  Have they not become aware of these books?  If so, what do they think?  Why are the writers of this book promoting dubious authors such as Foster.

If these things are okay with you already, then I have not made much impact with this article.  If you are mad at me for writing this, so be it, but it really is time to get the unvarnished truth out, and let Nazarenes, and all Christians, decide if they accept these things or not.  Some will, and some won’t, but no one deserves to be kept in the dark.  We all deserve to know what these things are, and then decide whether we accept them as proper biblical practice or not.

So if this disturbs you about your denomination, Nazarene or otherwise, what will you do about it?  Will you ask questions, or just close your eyes to it as our denomination slowly incorporates Roman Catholicism into its very core?

For a related commentary on this issue, go to “Roman Catholicism Promoted By Nazarene Publishing House” at  exnazarenes blog

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (I Thessalonians 5:5-10)

21 responses to “Roman Catholicism Being Taught To Nazarene Youth? Part 1

  1. Thank you for bringing this to light. My husband and I were deeply disturbed to visit a sister church during the Passover/Pentecost season this year and find that they were engaging in “40 days of Lent” and blogging about their experiences. Where does the practices of catholicism fit within the framework of scripture?

  2. Hi Amy. It is no longer a mystery to me regarding what is going on. At least some of the top leadership is promoting this agenda of mysticism, “ancient” practices, and “spiritual formation”. I know that at least one General Superintendent, Dr. Diehl, has spoken out against the emerging church, which loves this stuff. But Jesse Middendorf has publically supported the Spiritual Formation Retreat at General Assembly that I mentioned, and he was in attendance at his son Jon’s workshop on the emerging church and Nazarenes. Jon is probably the best known and perhaps most influential proponent of emergent ideology amongst Nazarenes today.

    All we have been asking is for clarity, and so far, no clarification from our leaders as to where they stand on this. After one of our folks stood up and asked if we would be able to get a forum to voice our concerns, we were told directly by Dr. Middendorf at that workshop, “that’s not likely”. So much for “dialogue”, as the emergents are proud to say they are for; but the dialogue is okay only until you start disagreeing with their agenda, including their challenge to the authority of scripture.

    And in answer to your question, that’s the problem. Emergents do not respect the authority of scripture, since they say we are in a “conversation” and need to talk about everything. So they don’t care where this fits within the framework of scripture, thus their desire to keep conversing, so as to never come to any black and white answers.

  3. Welcome back, unconcerned. I posted your reply to show that folks from your emergent camp have clearly bought into this stuff, and all you can do is either joke about it, or protest without any sound biblical support for these practices.

    I suggest you seriously go back to the Bible and not trust in your own ideas as to what is good or bad. I will continue to pray for you and your emergent friends.

  4. thanks for the prayers reformed. always appreciated. i will of course extend the same courtesy towards you and hope that there can be some peace (and maybe some joking) between both camps in the future. huh…camps…dont you think the idea of camps within the body of Christ is heartbreaking? i guess thats what happens when everyone (concerned and emergent) is so sure they are right and everyone else is wrong…. actually i think prayer may be the only chance anyone has anymore…have a good one reformed

  5. Thanks for the prayers, unconcerned.
    Just curious. Is there anything, anything at all, that you yourself would not tolerate in the Nazarene church, or the body of Christ for that matter? Is there anything you consider false teaching within the body of Christ? If so, would you stay in fellowship with a false teacher?
    Or would you “shake the dust off your feet” eventually and say goodbye to that false teacher?

  6. i suppose i would not tolerate a pastor who reads and interprets scripture through his/her own lens and calls anyone who reads the bible differently a heretic or “false teacher”. however, thought i would not tolerate them, i certainly would not write slanderous remarks about them on blogs and discussion forums. i am not just talking about the concerned nazarenes as i have seen the emergent nazarenes use the same shameful tactics with you guys. the truth is i dont 100% disagree with either groups. i am somewhere in the middle which i know is probably not allowed but in talking with both groups, i know i will always get questions similar to the ones posed to me above from both groups. i know they will always be questions that serve two purposes….(1) convince me that one group is wrong and (2) convince me that their group is right. the truth is i believe you and your group sincerely love Jesus and i believe the same about the emergents. no matter what questions either of you ask me, i will continue to pray for unity in the body of Christ. thanks again for your time reformed.

  7. Unconcerned… thank you for your insight. Mainly, thank you for your love and concern for unity that is obviously within your response. Keep the faith, and share Christ’s love in all you do. May our Lord Jesus bless you.

    2 Timothy 2:23-26

  8. Manny,

    Back in my early 20s, I attended a smaller Nazarene Church which was pastored by Ben Middendorf. As I was going through some personal issues, he suggested that I visit a monastery in Kentucky to help find some spiritual clarity. If Ben is related to Jon and Jesse Middendorf, then this Catholic attraction has been a long time family feeling.

    I did not take his advice either.

    I greatly appreicate your review and the effort put into the research.

    I see that someone brought up 2 Timothy 2:23-26, but as faithful servants to Christ we should also apply 2 Timothy 4:2-5

    2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
    3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,
    5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry,

    I don’t use these verses in judgement either for I’m not worthy of that task. I use them as proof of what the Bible says we should do as faithful servants unto Christ.

  9. The comments here sound like nothing but ignorance and fear that actually seem more “pagan” than what they accuse the book of of.

    Clearly the word “biblical” is the trump card in the mind of the author of this post and “the Bible” has become the magic talisman of choice that puts what is perceived as magic talismans of the Catholic faith (prayer ropes, labyrinths, and lecto divina’s ) in the category of “heresy”.

    I have read elsewhere this author and his friends mock the idea that Jesus is the Word, preferring instead to cling to symbols written on parchment with ink in an ancient book to be “the word”. To them the incarnation was God becoming a book and not a man. And so that book is their god and anything that isn’t “biblical” by their standard and in their own eyes is “heresy”.

    Ignorance, ignorance, ignorance; they are guilty of idolatry (bible-olatry) as those who who make idols of the rosary and prayer labyrinths. What you say? The Bible does not have to be an idol? You are right, it does not- neither do the things the author of this post condemns. But the author condemns one pagan mindset in exchange for another one; where the Bible is above all- even above God as it is used to justify any and every hateful and unloving action against others.

    Of course this will be denied, just an example of further ignorance. The author can quote the bible, but sadly one can not read the text of scripture in the way the author lives his life or conducts himself online. What you can read in this mans sad life is a devotion to his idol- a picture of God in written form he thinks that through his own human interpretation is actually God.

    So ” in the name of God” he spreads fear and hate, just like those who burned “heretics” before them or started holy wars- all in ignorance and all “in the name of God” fighting against whatever they feared or thought threatened their picture of God.

    ‘Oh no- the Catholics are going to get us- the devil is in catholic teaching’!!! What that you say, even if their is some truth in Catholic teaching the Devil can twist it with just a little bit of lies to deceive you? We if that is the case, than we need PURE truth the devil can’t twist, and the author of this blog actually thinks he has it- that his understanding is free of error because he is “in line with scripture”. So then, both the scripture and he as its reader are “inerrant” and keepers of the “pure truth.” You better listen to this blog or the devil is going to get you.

    How about this one? The devil has already got most everyone else, the leaders in our church, the seminary, many pastors- The author of this blog and his friends are the last true faithful ones left as almost everyone else is on their way to hell.

    What delusional ignorance!! What kind of fool, wise only in his own eyes, does it take to dedicate their lives to trying to get the “heretics”? You brood of vipers with your whitewashed tomb, holier than anyone that does anything remotely “Catholic” attitude! To quote the prophet Nathan as you condemn what you perceive to be ignorance- you are the man.

    Of course, you do not have the ears to hear, (and i will likely be deleted) so you will instead embrace this in your delusional state of mind to be persecution for your righteousness as you imagine yourself to be some hero of faith.

    Stop all this anti- catholic garbage and your self righteous notion that your ideas and the ones you approve of represent “the true faith”. You are the worst kind of deceiver- one who is self deceived.

  10. Again, I allow comments like yours, deleted prophet, for the very reason to illustrate the emptiness of your arguments! When are those of you who challenge the authority of God’s word, are going to start using scripture to make your case? The answer is, never!
    Why? Because you do not respect scripture, you think your intellectual arguments and your accusations of me spreading fear and hatred, is going to make a difference here and inspire others.
    Maybe those who are refusing to follow God’s word are pleased with your words here, but they are absolutely foolish talk.
    You did not address a single issue here and make any case as to why prayer labyrinths, lectio divina, and all this other contemplative prayer is biblical. Not once.
    I hope you are not a professor from one of our Nazarene universities, but if you are, that is exactly the kind of thinking that does not belong in our schools anymore.
    Stop this foolish talk, get right with God, follow His word and the teachings of Jesus, and turn away from your own ways and come back to God’s ways.

  11. The dead prophet said above, “I have read elsewhere this author and his friends mock the idea that Jesus is the Word, preferring instead to cling to symbols written on parchment with ink in an ancient book to be “the word”. To them the incarnation was God becoming a book and not a man. And so that book is their god and anything that isn’t “biblical” by their standard and in their own eyes is “heresy”.”

    This is what I understand about the Catholic Church.

    Catholicism teaches another gospel.
    The Catholic Catechism relies on Catholic edicts, not the Bible.
    Catholicism teaches the same false gospel as all false religions.
    Catholicism says Mary was born without sin and never sinned.
    Catholicism says Mary became the cause of salvation for humanity.
    Catholicism says we have life through Mary.
    Catholicism says Mary was crowned Queen of all things.
    Catholicism says Mary brings the gifts of salvation.
    Catholicism says Mary is our intercessor, advocate, helper and mediator.
    Catholicism teaches that Jesus’ sacrifice is still continuing.
    Catholic Cardinal John O’Brien on consecration.
    Catholicism says Christ’s work on the Cross was not sufficient to fully pay for our sins.
    Catholicism says believers will be punished for sins that have already been forgiven.
    Catholicism says works, e.g., participation in the sacraments are necessary for salvation.
    Catholic doctrine teaches that we can earn salvation for ourselves and others by works.
    Catholicism says water baptism is necessary for salvation.
    Catholicism says the good works of one believer can pay for the sins of that believer or other believers.

    I believe these are enough reasons why the Nazarene Church and other denominations need to bring to light the dangers of prayer labyrinths, lectio divina, and other comtemplative praying. These practices are part of the Catholic Church also.

    For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebr. 4:12-13)

    The standards of holiness are set forth in Scripture in a plain and clear fashion. Isaiah describes the “Highway of Holiness.” “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35:8). The prophets of hardness will pick words out of the plain statements of truth and exaggerate them to support their doctrines of men exactly like the Pharisees did in Jesus” time. These hard teachings are always based on some highly suspect method of interpretation. Isaiah’s statement precludes this kind of religious fantasy. He said that God’s “highway of holiness” was so plain and so pure that a wayfaring man though a fool (simple-minded) should not err therein. If you have to produce a scholarly sounding defense for your doctrine of hardness to prove your point, you have already disproved yourself. The way of purity and holiness is simple and available for the uneducated mind. Just obey the plain Word of God, adding no intricate meaning or disobeying no simple truth. Holiness is the standard of God’s laws and commandments produced in the heart by the sanctifying Blood of Jesus Christ.

    The Bible is our “paper pope” (pun intended) and we live by every Word of God. Jesus said, “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).

    Manny, I wanted to say that I am glad I found your website at the first of this year. Incidents like this have helped me to become a stronger Bible student and stronger supporter of the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

  12. Thanks Brad, your thoughtful comments using strong scriptural support have been an encouragement to me and I am sure others.

  13. Just an update here regarding how I approve comments. As long as there is some semblance of an argument for your case, I approve the comment, even if I personally think your argument might be ridiculous. However, of those who have tried to insert attacks of either a personal nature, or comments without any semblance of scriptural support for your position over and over again, they won’t be approved. There’s only been a few, but this is for those who have recently written this kind of stuff.

  14. Manny,

    Do you not see what deleted prophet has said? It doesn’t take scripture to tell someone that they seem to think they have inerrantly interpreted the Bible – as you do.

    You set yourself up as the authoritative interpreter of the Scriptures – and all who agree with you. Any who interpret Scripture differently are then wrong and branded a heretic. Why? Because you are the harbinger of truth. You have unlocked the key to understanding the Bible. Your interpretation is inerrant.

    It doesn’t take scripture to point that out Manny. It’s simply a fact. You may have interpreted the Bible inerrantly – you may have not. But to ignore the charge that you believe that you have – or even to deny it – would be to deceive everyone who reads this site, and to lie through your teeth.

    I’m not saying you are lying. You haven’t made any statement on the issue. This is not an attack. I’m asking you please, as a brother in Christ. Admit that you think you have interpreted the Bible inerrantly. Make the claim from the mountatins. It is what your posts claim. And yet when someone calls you on it you say “they didn’t use Scripture.”

    Jesus didn’t use Scripture when he called pharisees white washed tombs.

    John the Baptist didn’t use scripture when he called the pharisees a brood of vipers.

    Seems that fact is fact – and doesn’t need Scripture to back it up. What you believe can be pointed out from your own statements.

  15. If your interpretation is not inerrant… then you have no grounds on which to call people who interpret it differently heretics.

    Can we at least agree on that?

    Thank you for your time Manny.

    I have no desire here but to see you acknowledge to your readers what level of interpretive authority you believe that you possess.

    You aren’t simply reading the Bible – you’re interpreting it. After all, Scripture has to be interpreted – not merely read.

  16. Look, Humble Servant,
    Let’s get the facts straight: I never, never have claimed that MY interpretation is inerrant. Listen closely: my claim is that I believe “the Bible is inerrant”. Please re-read my posts.

    I allowed the comments because I believe you just either misread, or overlooked somehow, and of my claims. So let’s get it clear from now on:

    The Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God in all that it teaches.

    Now, whether you or I interpret some passages wrong, that’s another matter. But my position on the Bible must be the starting point, otherwise you waste your time arguing with me, if you yourself don’t believe that the Bible IS God’s word, and since God is perfect, His word is perfect.

  17. Manny,

    My question is this:

    If your interpretation is not inerrant (meaning you are wrong sometimes)…

    Then what ground do you have to call others who disagree with your interpretation heretics and false teachers?

    Couldn’t you be more gracious and say “we need to work at this together, since neither you or I are inerrant in our understanding? Therefore, I have no right to claim that your interpretation is ‘obviously wrong’ because that assumes mine is inerrantly correct.”

    Can’t we do this?

    You seem to think we can’t. Why not?

    Again – the question is: If your interpretation is not inerrant, then what grounds do you have to say that the way someone else interprets it is wrong?

  18. Most of scripture is very easily understood without needing any kind of degree in theology, would you agree?

    As an example, John 14:6 is clearly understood and there is no other meaning to it, is there? Or do you think there are different interpretations to it? Maybe we should start there, because if you think that there can be more than one “understanding” of this verse, I would not see the point in discussing anything else.

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

    This verse, and in combination with many other supporting verses, clearly tell us that Jesus and only Jesus, and confessing in Him only, will let us get to heaven.

  19. Manny,I like how the Lord expresses it in Roman3:4
    “Let God be true and every man a liar” Also Ps.12:6-7
    “The words of the Lord are pure Words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven times.Thou shalt keep them, O LORD,Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever ”
    This is the thing that should concern us all 11 Thessa-
    lonians :1-12 it states in verses 9- 12
    “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion,that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believe not the
    truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
    “His word is a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path”
    The Psalmist said ” thy word have I hid in my heart, that
    I might not sin against thee”
    May the Lord awaken those that take lightly that ,which
    will judge them someday.
    Blessings on you Manny and all that will receive what
    God has called you to reveal.

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