How do Nazarenes who are emergent in their ideology, actually go about discussing theology, and how do they think? Emergents rarely focus much attention and importance on things such as sin, repentance, and doctrine, and end times prophesy, when those words are like a third rail for them. Instead, like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, they are much more at home talking about less offensive things such as: community, being missional, ecumenical, friendship, “understanding and accepting our differences”, love, peace, and on and on. So one answer to the question is a website called NazNet.
I did not think I would ever write something about NazNet, but I believe that it is a microcosm of emergent ideology, and how they think and believe. What is NazNet? It is an online website discussion group, founded by Nazarenes. Although not officially sanctioned by the Nazarene denomination, please note that they had an official booth at the General Assembly in 2009. A statement on the site describes NazNet: “The NazNet Fellowship Forum is an Internet-based forum for members and friends of the Church of the Nazarene. Dave McClung, G.R. “Scott” Cundiff, and Hans Deventer are moderators of the Forum.” Here, members ( of which I am still one) can post topics for discussion, generally about community or theological issues, among other topics that include sports, prayer requests, technology questions, and other categories. I joined NazNet last year as a way to participate in discussions regarding the Bible and mostly regarding the emergent church movement. What is disturbing to me, is that many of the participants on Naznet, including pastors, are trying to pass off some very distorted thinking as orthodox Christian doctrine, or as traditional Nazarene doctrine and beliefs.
After less than a year on this forum, I have spent much less time on it, other than occasionally reading what they discuss with each other. In my opinion, it is, as a friend has coined it, a “breeding ground for emergent ideology.” I seriously believe that an appropriate motto for this site would be the quote from the serpent, “Hath God indeed said?” However, I will point out that there are members here also, who are opposed to the emergent ideology, and who engage emergent Nazarenes often in their discussions.
I’ve also likened NazNet to an Emergent Theological Seminary for emergent Nazarenes, for here they will find a comfortable place to be properly schooled in the “non-doctrinal doctrines” of the emergent church, and with a good pat on the back for your thoughts- if you are in line with emergent-speak. The approved manner of communication seems to encourage you to show deference to anyone’s opinion- unless it goes against the emergent grain. Most of the time, you can pretty much state any opinion- as long as it is not perceived to be “too dogmatic.” This is taboo for the most part on the site; dogmatism is not tolerated much. The reason I spend less time commenting there, is not because of the many emergents who are there, but because of the “toxic” atmosphere that often arises when you dare to declare things such as the following:
1. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God,
2. There are absolute truths in the Bible that cannot be “interpreted” in more ways than one,
3. The emergent church is a movement that is filled with doctrinal error and therefore contradicts biblical teachings,
4. Adam and Eve were really historical figures created directly by God, as narrated in the Bible, and did not evolve through multiple series of changes over millions of years,
5. God is sovereign, He does not make mistakes, and He does know the future.
Now, I don’t mind a good healthy discussion and even disagreement- that is not my problem with NazNet. I could give more examples of what I listed, but when arguments like these are made by me and others, and we refuse to compromise from our stance on such things as biblical inerrancy, and instead be “open-minded”, then the reaction by some of the more “militant” emergents would be words like: “you are intolerant”, “you don’t have the educational background”, “you are just another extreme fundamentalist who should leave and join the fundamentalist Baptists”, “you do not reflect the normal views of the denomination”. Rarely do they use scripture to refute your positions, unless of course they are using it out of context to justify their beliefs (such as misusing “Be still, and know that I am God” to justify contemplative prayer). By the way, there is nothing wrong with being a fundamentalist Baptist, so frankly, I welcome being put in the company of a Bible believing Baptist or any other such Christian.
I’d like to give you a few samplings of just some of the outrageous theological statements and beliefs that have come across this forum. There are many more, and keep in mind, I said that the atmosphere there can be very toxic because of content that flies in the face of sound Bible teaching and doctrine. Again, NazNet is not sponsored by the Nazarene denomination, but I would strongly recommend the General Superintendents to read some of the really bad stuff they write. I guarantee they would be shocked to see what some of the writers post and try to pass off as “standard” Nazarene belief, or Christian belief for that matter. And much of it is written by pastors! Let me just give you a few examples. All of their original postings can be very long, but the selections I give here are representative of some of the most unbiblical thinking that goes on there. I have been very careful not to show you anything that is taken out of context, and the excerpts speak for themselves, on their own.
“I agree, no part of us is immortal. That is why I believe that hell is annihilation and immortality is conditional.”
This statement was originally reported by Grant Swank, who now has a blog, NazNet Distorts, dedicated to critiquing what they write, which I believe reflects the spirit of the emergent ideology accurately. This comment by Hans Deventer, who is a moderator on this forum, was part of a discussion on hell and what happens to those who are eternally condemned. As Rev. Swank, a former Nazarene, rightly says, “The Bible states nowhere that the damned go to annihilation. Christ Himself speaks repeatedly of eternal damnation. Those familiar with the Bible know these passages. Those in the Church of the Nazarene know these passages.”….“So NazNet preaches that heaven is not without end. Hell is not eternal torment. The Scriptures are not reliable. Yet so far this and similar comments have gone unchallenged by any other person on NazNet, and especially the other moderators.“
“We human beings are just not perfect enough to define God and absolute Truth in any infallible way. Even those who claim that all of the Bible is infallible do so as fallible human beings, not realizing the irony and oxymoronic nature of that claim (it has been called “the doctrine of immaculate perception”).
Here, (and in many other posts) Dennis Bratcher, who is a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University who believes in Open Theism, shows his utter disdain for the Bible as God’s infallible word. His position is one shared by every emergent worth his salt that I have run across, and is almost a doctrinal requirement for being in the emergent club in good standing. This and many more statements similar by Bratcher and others, reveals what I believe to be the underlying, driving philosophy for emergents, and that is, that the Bible is not infallible, it can be questioned, and most of it cannot be settled, but rather is open to a variety of interpretations. If you fall for this, then you have simply destroyed the only sure basis for putting trust in God’s word, that it is fully reliable and infallible in all it teaches. And this from a professor at one of our Nazarene universities. How’s that for confidence building in our students? Would that make them want to trust the Bible, or cast serious doubt that any of it is true?
The following is also by Mr. Bratcher:
I read nowhere in any of Scripture that anyone has been or will be cast into hell because they believed the wrong thing. That is a total rationalistic misconception of the nature of God and what grace is about. We are not saved, or condemned, based on what we believe.”
In my opinion, this is the kind of talk that gives an “out” for emergents or emergent types to reject much of what the scriptures teach, especially in the New Testament. So here you have it. We are saved by grace, therefore the conclusion is that we don’t have to have belief in any certain way? That is also incredible. Here’s just a few scriptural commands on the importance and necessity of doctrine and belief:
For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. Prov. 4:2
If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. John 7:17
But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. Romans 6:17
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. Romans 16:17
that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, Eph. 4:14
If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 1 Tim. 4:6
Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 1 Tim. 4:13
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. 1 Tim. 4:16
Reminds me of the scripture that states they they are “always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7).
Finally, this comment by a Nazarene pastor on the site is just mind boggling and again an illustration of the way they hold a disdain for Biblical inerrancy and the authority of God’s word. This came following during a discussion of infant baptism (which is also yet another problem with some of these emergents! Some believe infant baptism saves a person!) Here is the excerpt:
“I believe that the true problem is that we as a church struggle with being sufficiently Christocentric. My fear is that we as a Church too often succumb to the temptation to make peripheral issues central and push the central issue to the periphery (by the way scripture has a term for that, it is called idolatry).”
” an example of this, when we look at the teachings of the Concerned Nazarenes and others they will often make the assertion that the Bible is the only reliable revelation of God (even while the Bible itself consistently points beyond itself to Christ as the only reliable and ultimate revelation of God), and that God’s word must be without error for if we cannot trust God’s word then we cannot trust God. This assertion places the word of God in a position of authority over God in that the trustworthiness of God is dependent upon scripture being factually correct and internally consistent in every jot and tittle.
Moreover it places the highest standard of authority in our hands in that we must demonstrate or prove that it is completely accurate and true so that it can be trusted and therefore God can be trusted. It places both the interpreter and scripture in a position of authority over God, and that by definition is idolatry. In one fell swoop the Concerned Nazarenes have removed God from His throne and placed the interpreters and the scriptures on it. Christ has been removed from the center and pushed to the periphery and the result is division and dissension in the body.”
This is absolutely incredible, yet it represents not only this pastor’s view, but many others on NazNet. First, I would like to know what emergents might consider are other reliable revelations of God. Could it be signs and wonders demonstrated today? Would books written by Dennis Bratcher be reliable revelations of God? Could a reliable revelation of God come from a few hours of sincere emergent “conversations” with enough people who come to a consensus on a particular topic? Perhaps if you hold enough theology PhDs, would that be enough to give reliability to every word that comes out of your mouth?
So if this pastor says that the words in the Bible are not the real reliable word of God, but Jesus Christ Himself, is he saying that we cannot rely on the Bible, and must rely on Christ? Okay, so if we do, is he saying that he hears the “reliable” voice of Christ speak to him, and that is what he trusts? If so how does he know he is hearing the voice of Christ? I’ll stop on this point for now, because any reasonable person will see that this is absurd, but it seems to be the prevailing emergent position- by emergent Nazarene pastors!
This pastor asserts that we have to prove that the Bible is completely accurate and true. We have to prove it? When we read the Bible over and over, we see so many places where it confirms and declares that it is totally reliable and trustworthy- yet his assertion is that the pressure is on us to prove it is trustworthy? Does a person come to Christ as a result of reading a book that is full or errors? You either believe it is true, or you don’t. If you doubt that the Bible is completely accurate and true, how can you possibly believe then that any of it is true? And of course, he says that if you believe that, then the logical conclusion is that you are an idolater, because you trust completely in the word of God.
Frankly, his final comment about causing division and dissension in the body of Christ applies only to one group of people: those who have a complete disdain and disrespect for God’s holy word, and it is shameful what the emergent breeding factories such as NazNet are putting out. I pray that this and many other pastors wake up from their delusion and look to the word of God as His true revelation, and repent from their misguided ideology which is nothing more that what is based on human pride and intellect.
In response to Mr. Bratcher, Mr. Deventer, and others who try to lower the standard of the Bible, here is a quote that is well put by my brother in Christ, Pastor Joe Staniforth, who has written an excellent paper called Inerrancy and Wesleyanism. His comment below rebuts this flawed and devilish thinking about the scriptures:
As intellectual as they may sound, they all arrive at the same place -distrust in the Word of God. They are ashamed to put their reputation at risk, and lose their respect among secular scholars by faithfully putting their name to an inerrant Word! The word “inerrancy” is not in the bible. Neither is the word “trinity” (an argument of Jehovah’s Witnesses), but it is a word that expresses a truth that we find in scripture again and again. The inerrancy of scripture is a fundamental belief of the Christian faith! It is an absolute truth that the Spirit assures us of in our hearts when we are born again. This is why we are troubled when people speak against it. In simple language, when man would even hint that there are errors in the Word of God, it is nothing more than a satanic revolt against it’s Author. He is attempting to put his head above our sovereign God. He has become judge of that which will judge him. I am convinced that some of these people will even argue when God breaks out the record books of Heaven, and lists every evil deed they have ever done. I can guarantee there will be an accurate record of all their doubt.
Warning: Unless you are strong in your faith and are biblically discerning, stay away from NazNet. There are some true Bible believers there who are very brave and continue to engage emergents, but it is a dangerous game for some to play. I would love to know what the General Superintendents might think if they read some of this stuff, and more, that is posted on this site for Nazarenes. I would hope that they would be appalled at the disrespect for God’s word expressed on NazNet. This group (the NazNet emergents) does not represent true holiness principles and doctrine of the Nazarene denomination.