The Playbook Of Emergent Church Apologists

It seems that since emergents cannot defend their positions biblically, it follows that they must resort to other tactics in order to deflect people from their weak and indefensible doctrines and ideas.  They have to have some sort of answer for those of us who are attacking their ideas– and I stress, not them personally.

For example, at the Richmond Examiner online edition, Nazarene pastor Scott Marshall attacked my post on the Trevecca labyrinth and retreat story, which is fine with me.  He is entitled to his opinion.  But it is the nature of his criticism that I question, and that seemed to come from the same old playbook that is used by those who love the emergent agenda. Here is what he said:

‘While there is a place to discuss differences, I don’t think this group of people–from what I have seen–are going about it in a kind or helpful way. For instance: the Concerned Nazarene’s website allows only comments that have been emailed and moderated to be posted. No dissenting opinions are listed. The Facebook fan page is the same. If they are “right”, why keep the discussion out of it? I wish they’d spend the time they are spending “defending” Nazarene doctrine on making disciples and serving the poor in their local contexts. As it is, they are doing little more than fear-mongering. To a person, the people who’ve brought it to my attention don’t know the discussion involved and so are naturally concerned. Based on the one-sided arguments, I’d be concerned too. The problem is that they’ve made the Emergent Church into a theological monolith and its anything but. Anyone who reads voraciously will tell you there is plenty to be listened to from those labeled Emergent, and plenty to discard. How is this different than ANY theological articulation? It’s not! As such, they are asking people to fear and tear down a straw man’.

As to the article about spiritual formation, I have two thoughts.

1 – Everyone who has studied spiritual formation will tell you its a tradition based on Scripture, not something directly out of Scripture. That is nothing new. The thinking is that all truth is God’s truth, so we embrace it wherever we find it (otherwise, we risk putting God in a box of our own making). If they are so against this sort of practice, then they need to leave their church buildings, never again be part of a denomination, never again read the Bible alone, and never again take a Faith Promise offering or host a visiting evangelist for a week of revival meetings. All of those are traditions based on Scripture. The logic is flawed. What’s more, meditation, silence and the like are referenced repeatedly in Scripture.

2 – From what I’ve read, I think the people need to leave the Nazarene Church and join the ranks of the Reformed tradition. I have nothing against that, I just think they’d be a lot happier there. The experts they interview I saw on the website were all Reformed. The view of authority of Scripture they espouse is Reformed, not Wesleyan (I read one scholarly article they referenced arguing otherwise, but that is a minority opinion at best). I say, please leave and make yourself happy. You are doing more harm than good by trying to stay and bring a foreign view into Wesleyanism. What comes to mind is the people Paul says to distance ourselves from–the argumentative and dissenters.

Some of their excuses or reasoning they use are right out of the Emergent Church playbook of demonizing the opposition.  By the way, the following phrase is getting rather worn out: “…we risk putting God in a box of our own making.” The old and tired, “you can’t put God in a box” statement.  Not sure which emergent first coined it.  Have you ever heard that before? Well, here are the Top 10 from their playbook:

1. Distortion of facts or outright misrepresentation.
If you go to the Trevecca post I wrote, you will see nearly 200 comments that were allowed.  Roughly half were comments that did not approve of my article, yet he says “no dissenting opinions are listed.” Really?  He also makes a similar erroneous case for our FaceBook page, neglecting to note that the FaceBook group specifically was set up for support of Concerned Nazarenes, and not for useless debate with emergents and their vain philosophies.

2. Forcing people to make a false either/or choice.I wish they’d spend the time they are spending “defending” Nazarene doctrine on making disciples and serving the poor in their local contexts.” Emergents often make this argument as if we can do one thing, but not do the other choice at the same time.  As if we must either defend doctrine, OR serve the poor.  What about if we do both?  It seems defending biblical doctrine is anathema to emergents, because that would bring their whole house of cards crashing down!  Doctrine is a four letter word to them.

3. Ad hominem attacks without support. “…they are doing little more than fear-mongering.” or “Based on the one-sided arguments..” Yes, throw these comments out when nothing else can work, including refuting what we are saying with scriptural support. Other commonly used words are” divisive”, “unloving”, “hateful”, “un-Christlike”, “Pharisees”.  They would not have liked Paul much if he was around today, would they? Yet he brings up Paul at the end of the comments.  (Which reminds me of this; humorous but dead on accurate).

4. Blatant distortion of Wesleyan and Nazarene tradition.
Pastor Marshall said: “The view of authority of Scripture they espouse is Reformed, not Wesleyan.”  andYou are doing more harm than good by trying to stay and bring a foreign view into Wesleyanism.”
This is either an outright lie, or Pastor Marshall got his training at a very non-traditional Nazarene seminary, which may be the case nowadays.  John Wesley clearly believed in scriptural inerrancy; but emergents have a disdain for scripture which is mind-boggling, and makes me wonder how they get through the day without distrusting what God has promised us in scripture.  Their efforts to re-write history is consistent, but we will be just as consistent in challenging this fabrication out of whole cloth.

5. Suggesting that WE leave the denomination. Their thought is, “if you don’t like it, leave!”  He says: “I think the people need to leave the Nazarene Church and join the ranks of the Reformed tradition.” I would make a suggestion to Pastor Marshall: how about if all the emergents leave the denomination, so that they don’t continue to poison the minds of our children with their mystical doctrines and low view of scripture? Is he aware of the lives that have been disrupted by the emergent ideology and its false teachings and practices?

6. Vague Reasoning. “Anyone who reads voraciously will tell you there is plenty to be listened to from those labeled Emergent, and plenty to discard.” They say things like this, but never give the specifics as to what it is that should either be listened to, or discarded.  You can’t pin them down!  Whereas, I certainly will tell you where I clearly stand, Pastor Marshall. How about you?  In favor, or not in favor,of prayer labyrinths?

7. Stating that scripture proves their case, without using scripture to prove their case. “Everyone who has studied spiritual formation will tell you its a tradition based on Scripture, not something directly out of Scripture. That is nothing new.” Oh, really? How long has this been in the Nazarene tradition, including the use of such things as lectio divina, labyrinths, or retreats to Catholic monasteries?  I would love to have you explain that to us, as to how these have been long-standing Nazarene tradition, in the Wesleyan heritage.  Boy, did my dad miss something there?  And you are wrong, it is not a tradition based on scripture.

8. You are all nothing but a bunch of extremist fundamentalists or Calvinists. Reminds me of Dr. Boone’s analogy, and the likes of Rick Warren, who seem to have disdain for “fundamentalists”.  Such are the emergents, who use fundamentalism like a dirty word, who laugh at those of us who dare to say that we believe in scriptural inerrancy, or that Adam and Eve actually existed, or that there are absolute truths in the Bible.  If that’s the case, I am certainly glad to be called a fundamentalist!  And do you think only Calvinists believe in scriptural inerrancy?  Just read the Bible, sir, and you will find that it affirms that it is inerrant by its own testimony!

9. How dare you judge others?  Only God should be the judge. A weak, lame argument that is unscriptural.  It is ignorant of scripture at best, and disingenous most likely, in order to try to shut people up from questioning their very questionable ideology.  Pastor Marshall did not use this, but it is a common ’emergent playbook’ selection that is always refuted and fails, yet they keep coming back to it.  Is that not the definition of insanity?

10. Finally, a real classic which was not used but is common: You don’t have the educational background or degrees that we have. First of all, what about those who have even more education and studying than you, but who disagree with you?  And since when does having many degrees and years of study automatically equate to being spiritually wise?  This argument cannot stand the test of scripture either, for it is not intellectual reasoning or educational degrees that make us better Christians, it is the power of God’s word and the Holy Spirit guiding folks who are humble enough to admit they don’t know all the answers. or that they cannot understand everything about God, but they will trust who He is, and trust completely in His word.  Emergents have a hard time doing that.  (“ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth”)

I could list a few more, but this is fairly representative.  Emergents cannot get too far in conversation with us, because they cannot have a starting point as we do.  That is, they cannot state that scripture is the only and final authority for any and all debates as to what is right for our Christian faith and practice.  If they did, that would force them to leave out their own intellectual ideas and reasoning.  That would be unacceptable to them.

“Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”


Nazarene Pastor Fired For Fighting Emergent Ideology

Dear brothers and sisters,

Disturbing trends continue to develop in our denomination.  Recently, I sent out a prayer request for a pastor and his church that decided to leave the Nazarene denomination, rather than stay and bow to emergent ideology and priorities.  Soon, I will be posting some information regarding those who have been forced to leave their churches (“Divorced From The Church”).  More and more Bible believing Nazarenes are finding themselves ostracized and are even being labeled as cult members, hateful, dividers, “used by the devil”…etc.  On and on it goes, with no biblical justification!  Students are subject to ridicule or harassment for standing up against unbiblical teachings at their universities.

The following story is also another scenario, that of a pastor being fired for daring to speak out against a movement which has not even been officially welcomed into the Nazarene denomination.  Please understand that it is the desire of this pastor not to target leadership, but to make you aware of the magnitude of this problem.  Hopefully, some of you will begin to look at this, and not be overcome by it.

Below is a statement written by a Christian journalist who has actively supported the work of Lighthouse Ministries on the border.  We would like to thank you all for your faithful support!

The Statement

As many of you know, Pastor Joe Staniforth joined Concerned Nazarenes – a group of Nazarenes troubled by false teachings in our academic institutions and many of our churches in the Western world.  These teachings can be summed up as “emergent ideology.”

For more information on the emergent church movement and the mission of Concerned Nazarenes, please visit or one of the websites listed below.

In September 2008, Pastor Joe and his wife Claudia answered God’s call to work as missionaries, evangelists and church planters on the Texas-Mexico border.  Although they’ve witnessed the Lord at work – especially in ministries in Matamoros, Mexico – Pastor Joe became increasingly concerned about emergent teachings in the Nazarene denomination.  In obedience to the Lord’s leading, he began preaching against the ideology and practices of the emergent movement (click here).

As a result of his stand, Pastor Joe met heavy opposition.  He was rebuked by Nazarene pastors who promote emergent teachings, had certain preaching dates cancelled, and was cautioned not to speak out against the emergent church.

In September 2009, the district leadership of the Church of the Nazarene removed Pastor Joe from his missionary position because of his stance, but allowed him to remain as pastor of the new church plant in Brownsville, Texas.

Although he knew his pastoral position was on the line, Pastor Joe still strongly sensed God’s leading to speak out against the emergent movement.  He sent information to local pastors, warning them of the dangers of the emergent church. Three days before Christmas, the Nazarene district leadership dismissed him from his pastoral position on the grounds of “insubordination.”

Pastor Joe says: “The Lord placed a passage on my heart before I met with certain authorities.  It was about Balaam’s insubordinate donkey. Remember? Balaam’s donkey was considered insubordinate by his owner, because he would not budge.  However, his donkey could see the danger ahead (Numbers 22:22-40).  I’m just a vessel that the Lord has chosen to speak through.  But He has shown me there is great danger ahead for this denomination, if we continue on the emergent path.”

Pastor Joe would be happy to send you one of two excellent books – “Faith Undone” (also available in Spanish) and “A Time of Departing.” We’d also be happy to send you a free copy of “The Emerging Church” DVD produced by Concerned Nazarenes.

If you would like Pastor Joe to share his heart with your church, he would be happy to do so.  He remains an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene and an evangelist, and is eager to help people and churches learn more about the emergent movement so they can make informed decisions.  Also, he is available for revivals.  Please contact us if you are interested in having Pastor Joe speak at your church.

Finally, Pastor Joe and Claudia believe this is a time to rejoice.  We rejoice because our Lord has brought us into the light. The Lord is gathering His remnant!  (Psalm 14:7).

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.  Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to discuss the emergent matter with us.

May our Lord guard your hearts and minds in these testing times.

Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”

– Psalm 14:7 –

Here is Eric Barger’s recommendation on dealing with emergent ideology in your church:

* Prayer (conduct spiritual warfare!)
* Dialog (ask questions)
* Confront (Matthew 18)
* Warn others!
* Flee! (when all else fails)

List of websites:

Recommended video:

Errors of the Emergent Church” by Eric Barger (for info. on how to order and preview click here)

Also available:

How to Spot the Emergent Church: Is the ‘New’ Liberalism Affecting Your Congregation?” by Eric Barger (this free pamphlet is available only in English and is a great introduction)

Are There Any Fundamentalist Nazarenes, And Are They Jihadists?

In the post Trevecca Nazarene University Promoting Mysticism and Pagan Practices, Dr. Dan Boone weighed in with some interesting comments.  By the way, this post generated the most hits on my blog since I started it last year, with over 1,000 hits for almost three days in a row.  I used to average about 250 hits a day, so that shows us the level of interest which I had not anticipated.  It certainly raised some ire, especially amongst some Trevecca students and some alumni as well, who objected to my “attacks” on the school.  My clarification was that I was attacking the unbiblical practices which are being promoted by Dr. Boone and the leadership at the school, and making an argument that these should not continue.  I also made the point that is not just Trevecca, but other schools as well, that are involved in contemplative spirituality, such as Northwest Nazarene, Point Loma Nazarene, and Mount Vernon Nazarene, and possibly others.

Following is Dr. Boone’s last comment, out of three which he made.  To see the entire string of all three comments, go here.  But we will focus on this third and what seems to be the most controversial.  let me say that I really appreciate the fact that Dr. Boone has jumped into the fray.  As one person commented recently, he was glad to see at least one leader with the guts to express his thoughts on these matters that we are concerned about.  It is very rare, and the norm in the past year or so has been absolute silence.  A thundering or deafening silence, if you will.  So loud is the silence, it hurts my ears. So my respect goes to Dr. Boone for that reason, that he is not afraid of duking it out in the public forum.  I wish more leaders would do that, because the give and take and the debate, is where we can see where people stand on these issues more clearly.  And I don’t believe Dr. Boone stands alone on this, rather I believe he definitely reflects the thinking of the majority of our university leaders today, which if true, is very alarming to me and others.

Here is the one which we will look at:

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


Let’s look at some of the more interesting parts of this:

“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.”

I believe it was my brother in Christ, Brad White,  who pointed out that this was very similar to Rick Warren’s comment a few years ago.  Here is what the great compromiser Rick Warren said back then in 2006 in an interview:

“Today there really aren’t that many Fundamentalists left; I don’t know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren’t that many Fundamentalists left in America.”

‘Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism – they’re all motivated by fear. Fear of each other.'”

“Now the word “fundamentalist” actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity.”

This sounds so close to what Dr. Boone stated, that I wonder if he spends a lot of time reading up on Rick Warren, and has found that Rick Warren’s views on fundamentalism resonates with his own.  They certainly seem to take the same tone, which is apparently a distaste for those who would call themselves… fundamentalists.  It almost seems like a dirty word to Rick Warren and Dr. Boone.

What does that document state as to what the Five Fundamentals are?  Warning to all emergents, this may not be to your liking:

* The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ

* The Virgin Birth

* The Blood Atonement

* The Bodily Resurrection

* The Inerrancy of the Scriptures

So to the “regular’ Nazarene or Christian, are you shocked?  Surprised? Outraged?  Is there any one of these statements that you would disavow and  NOT consider a fundamental of the faith?  If so, let me know.  Better yet, if you dare to call yourself a fundamentalist, please let me know.  If I need to keep your name anonymous, for fear of retribution, I will.  I am being a little sarcastic here, but in seriousness, both Dan Boone and Rick Warren went over the top, and with just a few words they managed to disparage a whole lot more Christians than they could imagine.  To Rick Warren, I would say, you got it wrong; there are plenty of fundamentalists left in this world, and we are keeping a good eye on you, sir, because we object to your compromising, hand holding with anybody you can to reach your unobtainable goal of peace in the world, no starving children, and no more poor people.  It is an impossible task for humanity, sir, and it goes against everything the Bible says about how peace will come to this world!

As far as Dr. Boone, I am disappointed, although grateful for him to enter into the “conversation.”  (Pun intended).  He goes on:

…”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.”

Well, here Dr. Boone, right after complimenting us for our good citizenship and patriotism, contradicts himself and puts us in the same category as Muslim terrorists.  The previous compliment does not negate the slam on fundamentalists following that, but I understand the tactic.  I have seen it in the political arena when liberals attack conservatives while smiling as they twist the knife ever so slowly, and it is the same here, when liberals/emergents attack those who are exposing the fallacies of emergent ideology and all its mystical trappings and “new” ways to “listen” to the voice of God.  As it says in Ecclesiastes , “there is nothing new under the sun.”  It is just done or said in a novel, different way, but its all the same.  Some of us call it rebelling against God.

Finally, one more comment deserving of attention:

“A small group of people declare themselves the authority in interpreting some ‘holy’ text,”

Some ‘holy’ text?  Dr. Boone, did you mean the Bible, by any chance?  I find it deplorable that you would reference God’s holy word in such a manner.  We don’t talk about some ‘holy’ text around here.  We call it the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, the inerrant, infallible word of God.  Not “some holy text”.  We do not declare ourselves the authority!  But we do declare that the Bible is THE AUTHORITY!  In fact, it is the ONLY authority that is infallible.  It would amaze you, I think, to find out that most likely, the vast majority of Nazarenes believe that it is the infallible, authoritative word of God.  And no, we do not accept the ridiculous argument from many emergents that folks like us are practicing “bibliolatry.”  It is not idolatrous to respect the very words that God has passed down to us, through the inspiration of men such as Paul, David, Jude, and all the authors of the 66 books of the Bible.  I praise God for giving us His holy, perfect word, and that gives me the confidence to trust in Him completely.

One final thought: you are accountable to God, as are all of us, Dr. Boone, as are all university presidents, and those students are directly under your responsibility.

Are Nazarenes Fundamentalists? Yes, I believe there are many of them.

Are they jihadists, comparable to Muslim terrorists? Only someone bent on smearing fundamentalists would believe that.

Fundamentalists, please don’t be shy or embarrassed to admit you are one, in spite of how the emergents try to paint you.  Do not move an inch for them. There’s a whole lot more of us than they would like to admit, and I believe that is their worse nightmare.

He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. Psalm 62:6-7

Conversation With A University President

As they say on Fox News, “we report, you decide.”  I have been in a back and forth dialogue with the President of Trevecca Nazarene University, Dr. Dan Boone, since I posted my article, Trevecca Nazarene University Promoting Mysticism and Pagan Practices.  We have had a cordial conversation, in spite of the harsh criticism of Trevecca that I have given in my article.  In fact, this is the first real “conversation” of substance that I have had with anyone in Nazarene leadership in the past year and a half, and that is greatly appreciated, because dialogue is what concerned Nazarenes have been looking to have for a long time.  All we have been asking for is direct answers to the questions we have about some things that have been troubling us in the past several years.

So I am posting an exchange between Dr. Boone and me (he has given me permission to share them). Here are the emails, unedited and uncensored.  Dr. Boone’s words are in blue text, my original words are on black, and my added comments are in red).

Brothers and sisters, please read this carefully and judge for yourself but only in the light of scripture.


From:            Boone, Dan
Sent:            Tue 2/02/10 10:04 PM

Dear Manny,

Greetings friend. I just got home from a campus revival service. Over 500 students gathered for great worship. The song Be Thou My Vision captivated us in worship and praise. The preacher has been walking us through the Lord’s Prayer. (Monday night) – Hallowed name = the sanctification of the name of God in his people remaking us in the image and likeness of God. (Tuesday morning) – Kingdom come/will be done = the deliverance from self-rule and self-sovereignty for a life of obedience to God and his mission in the world. (Tonight) Give us bread = to be human is to be needy before the provision of God and humble enough to receive it. About 100 were at the altar praying tonight.

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. Two years ago we called this a prayer labyrinth. This identification bothered some people because of the association with pagan labyrinths. So we stopped calling it that. But the Concerned Nazarenes have never explained what we were doing, nor stopped hammering us about being pagan/emergent/liberal/and any other bad names they can come up with. I have answered this hundreds of times. I wish they would stop taking one word, filling it with deceptive suggestion, and labeling us. It is beneath the dignity of holiness folk.

You’ve probably also seen the accusation that we force students to take yoga as a way of introducing them to Hindu spirituality. For the record, in 110 years, Trevecca has never had a yoga class. A campus visitor saw an ad for a yoga class on our intercampus TV network. It was sponsored by Trevecca Towers, an independent HUD housing project for the elderly. They have a yoga class to increase the mobility of their residents. Most of the folk in the class are over 65 and many of them are retired Nazarene pastors and missionaries. We haven’t lost any to Hinduism that I know of.

I regret the pain you have experienced in your church and I wish you God’s healing. I can assure you that those who are targeting Trevecca as anti-Christian will not bring you much peace. They are full of fear and anxiety. I pray for them and stand ready to forgive.


Dan Boone

From:   Boone, Dan
Sent:    Fri 2/05/10 11:38 AM

To:       Manny Silva

Good morning Manny. Please call me Dan.

It is a joy to reply to you. I’ve regretted that 98% of the concerned Nazarenes/reformed Nazarenes communication has felt like a drive-by shooting – with the exception of one email, no one except you has even called or written me.

I am thankful for your concerns that the church be rooted in the scriptures, and also that our Wesleyan heritage be valued. As a Wesleyan, I concur with the quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. This has guided the holiness movement across centuries.

In your email below I have tried to respond to the objections you have raised. Also, please note my closing note to you at the end of your letter.

From: Manny Silva
Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2010 7:53 AM

To: Boone, Dan

Dear Dr. Boone,

Thanks for getting in touch with me, although I should have sent the article to you right away. I appreciate the response, as many of us have been seeking answers from leadership to questions about the emerging/emergent church, contemplative spirituality practices, Roman Catholic works-based rituals, Open Theism, and other teachings that have caused us to be concerned, and not just simply a few of us who are “officially” connected to Concerned Nazarenes.  Please understand that I and others are equal opportunity critics, and have been also raising questions about practices and teachings at such schools as Northwest Nazarene, Point Loma, and Eastern Nazarene College, where I attended for several years.

Thank you for the thought regarding my experience at my church, but sadly, it is but one of many similar stories of faithful Nazarenes being forced out of their churches because of this emergent ideology.  It is not an isolated incident, and I keep receiving more and more of these stories from folks around the country.  Did you know that many people are leaving the Nazarene denomination, sometimes starting their own church instead of putting up with pastors who don’t completely trust the Bible?  Much of it is due to the contemplative spirituality, emergent philosophy, and introduction of Roman Catholic practices and rituals to students and churches.  Why are these things being welcomed into our holiness denomination?   To be holy is to be set apart, yet we seem to be going the other way.

Regarding the prayer stations you mentioned, I object to those and see them as inappropriate for Christians.  Nowhere is something like it found in the Bible, and they are simply a man made ritual originating from old Roman Catholic traditions similar to the Stations of the Cross.  The same goes for prayer labyrinths, of which the school prominently displays on the website.  Prayer labyrinths are in use now in Nazarene churches as well, and it is a practice borrowed from pagan religions which has absolutely no biblical justification for its use, and certainly is not part of our wonderful Nazarene heritage.  If I am wrong on both of these, I still wait for men much more learned than me, to justify the use of these with the scriptures.

Dan Boone: I think things like this actually are found in the Bible. The practice of the OT people of God in the temple includes Psalms of individual confession of sin, thanksgiving, offering up sacrifice, 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. Please read these words from my earlier email as a model of this kind of praying – “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 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 same things they did.

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 theologians 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.

I also believe that the trip to the Abbey at Gethsemani is wrong and should not be allowed to happen.  Students all over the country seem to be getting introduced to Roman Catholic practices and monastic rituals on a regular basis, and I ask again, why?  Why are Nazarene students going to this monastery to “fellowship” with those whose basis for salvation is works based, and not by faith alone in Jesus alone.  Why is it that your university, along with others, is increasingly promoting these events, as well as promoting the use of books by such authors as Thomas Merton, a man who equated Buddhism with Christianity, and Henri Nouwen, who was a universalist.  Do you embrace the official teachings of Roman Catholicism as being  par with our Wesleyan heritage?  I have a love for Roman Catholics, but I want to present the true gospel to them, not fellowship with them and thereby give our tacit approval to their heretical teachings by associating with them in such a manner.  I have seen the agenda for this retreat, and it is disturbing.

Dan Boone: The trip to the Abbey started in the late 1960’s with Dr. Bill Strickland, one of our 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.

(* Clarification: The opening prayer is scheduled to be delivered by a monk, and the students are given options to participate in some of the regular hours of prayer that the monks participate in).

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 being Mormonized. A Mormon family, or maybe it’s a Latter Day Saints family, owns Marriott. I actually like to stay there because I get a good room rate and they are clean. I am not approving their teachings by renting a room from them. 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.

Manny, 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.

I was not really aware of the yoga story you mentioned, but (with all due respect) I question the discernment of Nazarene pastors and missionaries who would participate in yoga, of which there is nothing Christian about it.  It is again, the incorporation of a pagan religious practice, and that cannot be separated from it.

Dan Boone: I don’t even have a dog in this hunt.

Dr. Boone, there are many of us who will not let up in asking for answers and for accountability.

Dan Boone: have hereby accounted for what we are doing, defending it as Biblical, Wesleyan, reasonable, and rooted in a common Christian experience of generations of Nazarenes. I have also included Judge Charles Davis on the email as the Chair of our Board of Trustees, to whom I as President am accountable for my leadership of Trevecca. I also am fully aware that I stand accountable to the church and have included the two General Superintendents that you have been corresponding with, along with the GS in Jurisdiction of Trevecca. Above and beyond this, I am accountable to God and am fully at peace that we are following the ways of Jesus and seeking to live as holy servants.

All we are doing is really… to try to warn you about a serious danger to the church.  We love our denomination too much to ignore what is spreading throughout the Christian world like cancer. We are in no way hateful Nazarenes, or mean-spirited, although admitting we are not perfect.  I would disagree with one of your comments, and would say that it would be beneath our dignity, not to say anything and speak out.  We are dedicated to one thing right now, and that is to preserve the purity of the gospel, which was “once for all entrusted to the saints.”

May I also offer a warning? The doctrine of Holy Love, entire sanctification is being muddied by unfounded accusations, insinuations of evil intent where there is none; and all this (with the exception of you and one other) is being done on a public website rather than person to person. It 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 associated with the word  never occurred. We’ll keep using the prayer retreat site because it is a good place for our students to get alone with God.

(*If the word labyrinth is not being used anymore, is the practice still happening?  Because it is the practice or ritual which we find wrong, not whatever it is called).

What we are seeking is answers to questions such as these, and perhaps you or someone from the theology department can answer these questions:

1. Is the use of prayer labyrinths justified by scripture?  If so, please show me.

Dan Boone: We’ve stopped using the word, please stop beating us over the head with it.

(* See: The Labyrinth: A Walk to Life or A Walk To Death?)

2. Are prayer stations biblically justified?

Dan Boone: I really don’t know. I actually don’t care whether you call the place you pray a prayer station, a prayer closet, an altar, a bedside, or a quiet retreat place. But I am absolutely certain that providing places to pray, confess, intercede for others is Biblically justified.

3. If it’s okay to fellowship with Roman Catholic monks at a monastery, is it also okay to fellowship with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who also say they believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior?

Dan Boone: If you believe all Catholics to be lost and unsaved (which I don’t), this would make them sinners. I recall that Jesus was accused of fellowshipping with sinners quite frequently. I guess I am guilty. I actually think God wants us to be with them.

(*Clarification from Manny: I do not believe all Catholics are lost.  I do believe the institution of the RCC does teach heretical doctrines, such as: praying to Mary or the saints; purgatory; the communion wafer and wine being the actual body and blood of Christ; works-base salvation. Therefore, creating a doctrine contrary to the gospel is in direct disobedience to Jesus Christ and His command to obey Him in everything).
** Further clarification: A Catholic who believes in the same heretical dooctrines as the RCC teaches, and believes in works-based salvation- well, that Catholic could not be saved, because that would be believing in another Jesus.  Same goes for Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  These folks are not truly saved).

4. Is practicing the silence (as advertised for in the retreat) a spiritual discipline, and if so, where is that taught in the Bible?

Dan Boone: “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 can’t believe God wants us to do all the talking. I’m sure God prefers that we get silent and listen.

(* Note from Manny: See my post regarding Psalm 46:10, which is used as the main reason to practice contemplative prayer).

5. Is there such a thing as Christian yoga, and should Christians incorporate this into their lives as a good thing?

Dan Boone: I have no opinion on this. I do think exercise is good for the body. You are more than free to make your case against yoga. I just have other things that I see as more valuable to oppose – human trafficking, alcohol destruction, hunger, etc. I am not suggesting that you don’t care about things like this, but the websites I see attacking us don’t mention these kinds of issues – only yoga, labyrinths, Catholics, and other stuff.

6. So if I listen long enough, I can hear the voice of God?  How do I know that what I hear is really the voice of God?

Dan Boone: What God says is in keeping with the written word of God, 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.

I have so many other questions to all of the universities and even to our General Superintendents, for example: how can I trust God if I believe that God makes mistakes?  (Open Theism).  But that can be another day I guess.  There are many Nazarenes who truly believe that there has be a serious correction, a repentance, throughout our universities and churches, by those who are pushing the emergent/contemplative/Roman Catholic practices in the Nazarene denomination, or serious judgment will come because of a failure to recognize and respond to this crisis.  We love our church.  Why would we otherwise pay such a price that we have paid, for what we have stood for?  Either we are confused and are disobeying God, or it is the result of faithfulness to God, and an indication of what was promised in 1 Tim 3:12:  “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

I sincerely am praying that this event will be canceled.  I understand that many were at the altar praying at that revival, but I would rather see one contrite person who has responded to the true gospel, than see 100 people praying, of which some perhaps are putting their trust in man made practices and rituals that have no basis in scripture.

Sincerely in Christ,

Manny Silva

Dan Boone: I respect your right to question these practices. I hope my response has been helpful to your understanding of the truth. One of the things I try to do when I disagree with someone is to look for signals that God may be blessing what they are doing. The fruit of Godly living, Christian service, and holy witness being borne by the students and faculty of Trevecca is easy to see. Come visit us. I wish you continued healing in your life.




Trevecca Nazarene University Promoting Mysticism and Pagan Practices

On its website promoting yet another retreat to a monastery, Treveccca Nazarene University states the following:

“In order to help students strengthen their Christian faith and establish spiritual disciplines, the school year at Trevecca includes times and events that focus on spiritual formation.” (Trevecca website)

Sounds good.  You might think it’s just another way of expressing how we ought to grow as Christians, and for me when I first heard of it, things came to mind such as regular prayer, Bible study, worship, and fasting, as ways to grow as a Christian, as prescribed to us in the Bible.  But beware, this is not what it means now in many Nazarene universities, or many other Christian schools for that matter.

Alarm bells should go off when you hear the term spiritual formation.  If you hear “spiritual formation” mentioned by your pastor, a preacher, or a professor, it would be advisable to ask them to explain what they mean, and to explain it completely and honestly.  However, it is clear to me that spiritual formation as practiced at Trevecca is not coming from a healthy biblical foundation.  In fact, this university seems to be the one that is most outrageous in its display of the “new spirituality” that is being promoted and touted as a must-have part of our lives if we are to grow as Christians and get closer to God.  Yet, is it helping students get closer to God, or it is helping them stray further away from the Bible as sole authority for our Christian faith and practice?

You see, Trevecca has a prayer labyrinth right on campus.  There is absolutely nothing scripturally warranted in the use of this clearly pagan practice, so why does a Nazarene university use this tool?  Thinking of sending your kids there?  You may want to write to President Dan Boone, or the theology department, and ask them if they can justify the use of labyrinths, and ask them to make sure that they can justify it according to scripture.  Otherwise, why is this being used on a Nazarene campus?

But let’s get to the upcoming issue at hand.  Yet again, Trevecca has scheduled another Spiritual Formation Retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky.  It’s called “Silence and Listening For the Voice of God”.  One of their comments regarding this retreat is the following:

“Union with God in prayer requires us to learn to quiet ourselves–yes, from the noises which surround us, but also from inward noises (restlessness, fears, our agenda’s, etc.)  It is this stillness and emptiness which allows us to be open to hearing the voice of God.” (Emphasis in red mine)

This stuff, if you are a discerning Christian, is right out of contemplative mysticism.  It is often justified by the misuse of Psalm 46:10, a sorry out of context reading of what is a passage that clearly teaches us not to go into any silence, but to relax and stop worrying so much about the turmoil in our life, because God is in control).

It is the seeking of silence, and worst still, of emptiness, that warning bells should be ringing for every Christian who reads this.  It is nothing more than a call to empty your mind, albeit masquerading as Christian spirituality.  Emptying the mind is the exact goal of transcendental meditation, and this is the very thing that spiritual formation subtly tries to promote.  Friends, if you empty your mind in some type of altered state of consciousness, can you guarantee that it is God’s voice you are hearing?  And where in the Bible are we ever directed to get into a state of “emptiness” and “silence” in the manner directed by mystics?  This is really just a resurrection of traditions created by the Desert Fathers.  However, tradition, as we should understand, does not necessarily equate to being biblically grounded.

They also categorize silence as one of the spiritual disciplines.  Really, where does the Bible teach us that?  This is nothing but adding to the word of God, which we are forbidden to do.  This is nothing more than Oprah Winfrey spirituality!

Sure, prayer and fasting, studying the scriptures, those can be called spiritual disciplines.  But not silence.  And certainly not labyrinths and prayer stations (a form of Stations of the Cross).  And not even things like journaling, which has become popular and often suggested as necessary for Christian growth.  When did we begin to forget that all that is sufficient for our daily Christian growth is faith in Christ, and trusting in His word which he has given to us? Anything else, and you are dangerously adding to the word of God, which according to scripture is a very serious offense!  And what about listening to God’s voice? If I told you the voice of God spoke to me last night (other than through His Word), how would I convince you that it was God’s voice, and not the voice of some other spirit that was not of God?

You also need to know that the Abbey of Gethsemani is a Roman Catholic monastery that is dedicated to Mary.  It is famously known as the spiritual home of Thomas Merton.  Their website has a page dedicated to him.   Remember this name, because it is becoming very popular amongst Nazarenes, along with such other monks as Henri Nouwen, who learned much from Merton and who believed that there are many paths to God, not just Jesus!  Spiritual formation programs and books rarely omit Thomas Merton as a resource, but instead he is looked at as a great spiritual source of wisdom for Christians.  There is no avoiding the influence of his teachings if you are going to a retreat at this monastery.

Merton was a Roman Catholic monk who was a mystic, and he experimented with Eastern religions mixed with Christianity, as many other monks such as Henri Nouwen did.  (Henri Nouwen has also become popular with Nazarene pastors as a “Christian” resource, which is unbelievably irresponsible and reckless). But as a professed Christian, Merton was a serious promoter of interspirituality.  He saw no problem between Christianity and Buddhism:

“I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”  (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969)

In the final year of his life, he spent time in various Eastern countries in search of the answers to spirituality (he could have searched the Bible).  He later visited a Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka, and described his visit as an experience of great illumination, a vision of “inner clearness.”
Six days later, he was accidentally electrocuted in a cottage in Bangkok by a faulty fan switch. (Contemplative Mysticism, David Cloud, p.315).

This kind of relationship Trevecca has with the teachings of folks such as Merton is unbiblical.  Will the prayer by Father Damien on opening night at the retreat involve praying to Mary or other saints as they normally do?  Do Trevecca’s leaders realize that praying to Mary, and participating in the Catholic Mass, is unbiblical and equates to idolatry?  Or do they think this is typical reflection of Nazarene doctrine and practice?

We are called to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11).  It would seem to me that associations with folks who adhere to Merton’s philosophy qualifies for the category of fruitless deeds of darkness!  Or am I missing something here?  If someone could correct me with the scriptures, I will apologize for my error.  I doubt if that will happen, because this is not the first time I have asked these folks in leadership to correct me or those who are questioning these practices.  By the way, their recommended resources for spiritual formation reads like a who’s who of teachers such as Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Ruth Haley Barton, and several other usual suspects of the spiritual formation movement.

So Trevecca Nazarene University needs to openly explain clearly to all prospective students, and their parents, what is the biblical authority for participating in retreats such as this, and for participating in pagan rituals such as prayer labyrinths.  If not, perhaps feeling the pinch of the pocketbook, from less enrollments, and less donations, will draw their attention.  Just follow the money, it seems to be the order of the day, and if that is what will get some answers, perhaps we should do it.

(Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason Ministries explains prayer labyrinths and yoga)

Additional Resources on Trevecca’s plunge into Contemplative Spirituality:

Trevecca Nazarene University Promoting Contemplative Spirituality in No Small Way