Nazarene Churches Emulate Catholic Tradition

A new post from my friend at exnazarene reminds us of the ever-increasing embrace of Roman Catholic practices within the Nazarene denomination, in our universities and churches.  The use of Stations of the Cross (or, for a softer emphasis, prayer stations) is becoming more common.  Of course, don’t forget all the others, such as prayer labyrinths and teaching our youth how to use prayer beads ( a softer way of saying praying the rosary?).
In addition to these is the ever-increasing use of books written by heretical Catholic mystics (Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton for example) for devotionals, spiritual growth, and resources for pastoral studies.  I’m not kidding, although one would think that we should have more than enough books and resources by not only Nazarenes but also from those of the Wesleyan tradition.  Don’t we have more than enough Nazarene resources (John Wesley for one!) and giants of the Christian faith, than to turn to these sources?

So what is going on with this trend, that we need to borrow from a religion that espouses so much false teaching?  See: Roman Catholicism And It’s Heresies.

Is this part of the road to Rome that other denominations are delving into also?  Is this a reflection of the new Nazarene holiness tradition?  Will we soon borrow from the traditions of the Mormons, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Just asking, and I would love to get some answers from our leadership on these questions, so I hope that you will seriously take the time to do that.

Nazarene Churches Emulate Catholic Tradition

March 31, 2010 by exnazarene

To answer the siren call for an ever hungry, insatiable appetite of feelings-based spirituality, Lake Houston Church of the Nazarene, and Flushing Community Church of the Nazarene (amid other Nazarene churches) have turned to the Catholic tradition of the Stations of the Cross.

Who needs to spend time and study in God’s Word when the new spiritual crack of ‘me-focused’ spiritual experiences can give one an euphoric feeling of being close to God instead?  Who better to turn to for these mystical experiences than the traditions of the Catholics?  Makes one wonder what could be next?  Nazarene nuns?  Trevecca has had the Abbey of Gethsemani monastery booked for retreats for the purpose of student spiritual formation for the past 40 years.  With the acceptance and endorsement of other Catholic traditions into the Nazarene denomination, it could happen.

For more in-depth reading on the dangers of Spiritual Disciplines and offering them as routine practices inside of the church, read and print off the following articles:

The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines

Ancient-Future Spirituality

THIS WEEK | MARCH 30, 2010
Love God | Serve All

Stations of the Cross

Tue-Fri  |  Mar 30-Apr2 |  12-9pm Worship Center
Through prayer and reflection, follow Jesus Christ on the way to Calvary. Learn to trust Him more by accompanying Him on the Way of the Cross through this interactive journey. This is a drop-in event.

God and Country Under Attack From Within

by Ildefonso Vasconcelos

The United States of America, that last bastion of freedom spoken of by Ronald Reagan, is under attack from within her walls. In a parallel rail, the Church is also being undermined from within. These two entities have survived attacks from without since their formation. The strength derived from the precepts and concepts upon which they were founded is too powerful and cannot be affected by clear and obvious attacks.  But from within their walls they are extremely vulnerable and subject to deceit and decay.

The intriguing aspect of it all is that both entities seem to be intertwined by one common denominator in their birth – God! Both were birthed with blood, sweat and tears. In one case those belonged to His own Son and in the other they belonged to adopted sons and daughters. The values set forth for the foundation of the Church comes from Truth itself. You see, Truth is a person and not a concept. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life…” words of Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).

The values set forth for the foundation of the United States of America were also derived from following the same Truth. Therefore, the rock upon which these entities were set is extremely solid. In the case of the Church there is a guarantee that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt: 16:18) because it is given by the One who controls the future. The country itself has no guarantee because the keepers of the gates are the guarantors and have a requirement prophetically laid down by one of its founders, John Adams:

“We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions which are unbridled by morality and true religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Once the people cease to be moral and religious the foundation becomes “wholly inadequate”. Does anyone doubt that we are close to this point if not there already?

The United States cannot be destroyed from without because it is too powerful. It would be utter suicide by any country to try to attack us. I worked for 16 years building Trident nuclear submarines and therefore I am fully aware of the destructive force stored just in these submarines that are constantly roaming around the world undetected. Not counting the rest of our nuclear and conventional arsenal, these submarines alone could obliterate the aggressor country with extreme power and swiftness. But we can be weakened from within by our own citizens. If enough people can be convinced that the intentions of the leaders are good and for the welfare of the majority they would be willing to trample on their own Constitution to achieve “Social Justice”.

Capitalizing on the lack of morality and religiosity spoken of by John Adams, deceitful people take hold of power and weaken the country to the point of destruction. Promises of equity and similar outcomes are music to the ears of those that would rather not put in the effort to create their own successful story. Accepting crumbs from the master’s tables will maintain one alive but a slave nonetheless.

Therefore one of the steps to get the people of this country to a point where they are neither moral nor religious would obviously be to attack the other rail, the Church. I have stated before that the Church cannot be destroyed, but it can be weakened. It can be weakened from within. Wolves in sheep’s clothing casting doubts in God’s Word “hath God said?” The same deceitful hissing that started it all!

People are confused and blinded because of lack of knowledge of the Word of God and therefore easily swayed to and fro by various winds of doctrine whispered by seemingly decent and “good” people that may or may not have good intentions. Obvious attacks from cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology are easily discerned by most, but deceitful and subtle tactics as those used by the new “Emergent Theology” espoused by Rob Bell,  Henry Nouwen, and Brian McLaren just to name a few, are not easily detected because they are candy coated poison. Soft spoken words…”God knows everything…or does He?” “Evolution could be the mechanism used by God to bring about all that we see today…couldn’t it?”

It’s sad to see that within church walls the people accept and approve of political leaders that support abortion, homosexual marriage, Marxist ideas, redistribution of wealth, etc…all the while failing to see that they are being led down the path spoken of by John Adams – a people that is neither moral nor religious.

Although these two rails are intertwined, because the weakening of the church leads to the weakening of the people and thus the destruction of the country, we are called to sound the alarm and stand tall against the heresies of the time and maybe we can still avert a calamity that seems to be eminent.

Looking from within the train tracks, the two rails seem to meet at the horizon. But that’s just an optical illusion – they don’t. The True Church will stand, because it’s held by the strong hands of Jesus, the question is…will America stand?

Ildefonso Vasconcelos

From Evolution To Imagination: Have Our Universities Lost It?

By Peter Migner, Pastor
Deland Church Of The Nazarene

Dear Rev. Jenkins,

I want to go on record with you as a pastor under your leadership, that I am greatly perplexed and I am struggling with the current direction of the Church of the Nazarene and her Colleges and Universities.  I do not know how many are with me and my wife on these matters, or if we remain is some kind of silent fearful minority of leaders who struggle with such matters.  I have spent a year reading and researching trends in our church from the Emergent Movement to what is being allowed on our Christian campuses.

In the spirit of love I submit to you a summary of  my recent correspondence with several in leadership in the past several months. In late December 2009 I wrote G.S. Jesse Middendorf about my concern about evolution being taught at ENC.  After two months, the summary reply of a 3 page letter I received was very gracious and kind, but yet it was basically that I/we should have liberty (tolerance) for non-essentials and that there is room for diversity within the walls of the Nazarene Church on such subjects as creation.

Unsatisfied with that response I then wrote Professor Karl Giberson directly at ENC about his position on the creation of the first man Adam. He wrote back a brief comment that I should just see his blog ( read heresy at blog) as he did not have time for personal correspondence due to the high volume of inquiries he receives. Karl noted that all my questions about Adam were on the website. After careful review of the website and many other posts I have concluded that indeed Karl and several other Nazarene Professors are promoting heresy on the internet if not in the class room as well.  The bible warns us of such false teachers! “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, . . .” (2 Peter 2:1)

So now my question becomes after a few inquiries: Does anyone in leadership know how to spot false teachers and prophets today? Outside of our Nazarene walls are culturally popular teachers and preachers like Rob Bell who are influencing countless people with their excellent communication ability. If you listen closely he and many other like culturally relevant teachers  are teaching heresy alongside other biblical truths.

Just a few weeks ago I was enraged when I discovered that TNU was hosting a retreat at a Catholic monastery in KY. Instead of writing, I called TNU and spoke with President Dan Boone directly. I did appreciate the personal time on the phone with Dan . However, after reflecting on that conversation I still stand my ground in spite of what President Boone says about his reasons in justifying a retreat at this Catholic monastery. In my opinion we should not be sending our students onto these grounds and intentionally exposing them to Catholic people, practices and icons as it is a form of silent endorsement at worst, and teaching religious tolerance at best. Dan Boone’s reply to me was basically that it is cheap and affordable and we’ve been doing it for 40 years. I understand thriftiness in this economy but I must still ask, ”does the end ( cheap retreats) justify the means ( Catholic Monastery)  when it offends ministers like me ( former Catholic)  who were redeemed many years ago from the false teachings ( heresy) of the Catholic Church?” Just this past week our Hispanic Church planter pastor led three adult Catholic women to Christ upon hearing the gospel preached for the first time in a Nazarene church. They came forward to the altar of our Nazarene church. Now we must begin to teach them the truth which the Catholic church never revealed to them.

This past week I discovered that Point Loma Nazarene University is hosting some bizarre conference about Prophetic Imagination and among the featured guest speakers are: An Environmental Activist, a Monk, a Priest, a Black Activist and then it is Emceed by the President of NTS. Among the workshops is a Muslim Imam, a Catholic Priest and professors from ENC, NNU, PNU and TNU. This is not the Holiness Church I was led to as a young man from my Roman Catholic heritage. Some of the topics at this conference are just outright strange and Emergent in nature such as Sophia and Phronesis: A ‘What If’’ Question about Theology, and  Feminist Pedagogy as Acts of Prophetic Imagination.

I am concerned that if this continues much longer the Church of the Nazarene will be swept away into total heresy among a generation that trusted the elders who led them into these false doctrines. I wonder how many more ministers will exit the church as Rev. Rick Headley recently did in Ohio. 

I truly wish that this were all just some nightmare and I will wake up soon and find that our great holiness denomination has not actually become just another tolerant people with no distinction.  If you don’t believe what I am writing by all means look at these links and see for yourself.

Nurturing the Prophetic Imagination

PNC Conference Schedule.

My oldest child is a freshman in one of our Nazarene Universities and I am not sure about her academic future if this continues. I cannot honestly imagine supporting our colleges and Universities if this is to become standard in our Denomination. As for the rest of my four children coming up through the ranks, I am inclined to begin looking elsewhere.  Maybe my only vote will be by virtue of the Gospel of money until a true stand is made by the General church.

Yours Truly,

Peter Migner, Pastor
Deland Church of the Nazarene
Blog: Nazarenes For Biblical Creationism

What Is Aberrant And Unorthodox About The Emergent Church?

In a recent post, a questionnaire on The Shack, a challenge went out to Nazarene leaders, pastors, District Superintendents, General Superintendents.  If anyone could defend the merits of recommending this book as a good spiritual resource for Christians, I wanted to hear from them.  Results so far: only one pastor responded.  He did not give his defense, however, so I did not post his comment.  He qualified any defense he may have, by asking me to fully document and show where someone or others had said that The Shack “is better than the Bible.”  That’s it, that’s all I got so far. The post is still open for anyone to give a good biblically sound defense of a novel which many Christians believe to be full of heresy and blasphemy.

Today I would like to reference you to the Emerging Church statement by the General Superintendents and focus on a few specific quotes.  In the statement, which was signed by Dr. Jesse Middendorf, there was a part that said:

“Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS) and some of our universities are engaged in the conversation in order to help correct some of the aberrations that are associated with some of the “emergent” churches.”


“We are hopeful that we can be patient with what is a phase in a conversation that is already beginning to wind down in some areas even while it is just now being engaged in by others. Hopefully, we can move beyond the mischaracterizations and embrace what is legitimate while we readily and without hesitation reject the aberrations.”

“We do not endorse those “emergent churches” or leaders who are not orthodox in their theology.”

My main question is this: what are the aberrations that Dr. Midddendorf is referring to? In the last post, I emphasized that there needs to be much more clarity than came out of this document.  It certainly was not the kind of statement that we thought was going to come out after the General Assembly, when the General Secretary promised us that one was forthcoming.  We are looking for specifics.  We are looking for details.  We are asking for names to be named, and practices to be mentioned, so that we can truly keep the good stuff, and shun the bad stuff.  The Bible says,

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

And the Bible specifically calls us as Christians to name names: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11

Would it not be most helpful if our leaders, then, would come out with a strong statement that rebukes those very practices, teachings, and false teachers that they themselves have said in this document are aberrant. A great bit of confusion would be cleared up instantly, and we would know what direction our leaders truly want to take us.  There would be a lot less guessing about some things, and Christians could make up their minds as to whether they accept or reject any ideas that are put forth.  Clearly people would be upset with a clear and unambiguous statement, no matter which way it went.  But at least we would finally know which direction the ship is heading, and we could finally decide if we want to stay on that ship without complaining, or stay on that ship and fight for change, or abandon the ship.  (Some already have).

Here are some questions that ask to give a response if these are aberrant teachings or not, or if these are orthodox leaders.  These are drawn from what many Nazarenes have been wondering about, and clarity on these once and for all will go a long way to straightening out the confusion that is going on now.  To really answer these questions in the best way, it would be ideal if we could get the General Superintendents’ working definitions of aberrant, and orthodox, that way we have something to compare with.  But I would love to get an answer to these questions from them, even without a definition of the words.

1. Prayer labyrinths. Their origins are clearly from pagan religious practices.  Aberrant, or good Christian practice?
Brian McLaren. Orthodox, or unorthodox?  (called the doctrine of hell “false advertising for God”)
Rob Bell. Orthodox, or unorthodox? (Taught that Peter lost faith in himself, not Jesus, when he sank in the water).
Leonard Sweet. Orthodox, or unorthodox? (Influenced by New Age thought, “Christ-consciousness”)
Henri Nouwen. Orthodox, or unorthodox?  (He was a universalist, and said there are many paths to God, in contradiction to Nazarene statements of belief)
2. Prayer beads for our youth. Aberrant, or good Christian practice?
3. Youth books recommending pilgrimages to interspiritual, multi-religion worship centers (Taize). Orthodox, or unorthodox?
3. Prayer stations. Aberrant, or good Christian practice?
4. Open Theism (God does not know the future). Orthodox, or unorthodox?
Process Theology (God learns from his mistakes?). Orthodox, or unorthodox?
6. The novel “The Shack” (The Trinity was crucified on the cross; all roads lead to Christ, etc.)   Orthodox, or unorthodox?
7. Tony Jones. Orthodox, or unorthodox?   (Homosexuality is totally compatible with Christianity)
“Practicing the silence”. Aberrant, or good Christian practice? Orthodox, or unorthodox?
9. Richard Foster. Orthodox, or unorthodox? (Recommends a prayer of protection before doing contemplative prayer).
10. “Christian Yoga”.  Orthodox, or unorthodox? Aberrant, or good Christian practice?

The list could be longer, and perhaps at another time, but no doubt this is all going on in our denomination.  These practices are being taught and used; these leaders are being invited to college campuses; these books by heretical mystics are recommended and used by pastors, AND used by Nazarene universities as primary sources for spiritual formation degree programs!  Contemplative spirituality, which is known by the more popular name of spiritual formation, is taught at practically every Nazarene university, and Nazarene Theological seminary as well.  The only truly unresolved matter is getting to the specifics, the details, of who and what is orthodox, and aberrant, as Dr. Middendorf has stated.

It would go a long way to resolving all the mystery and guesswork, and more importantly, identify the aberrations and the unorthodox, which would benefit all Nazarenes.  We pray that this will happen soon.

Manny Silva

Response To The General Superintendent Statement

Recently, several statements were released from the Board of General Superintendents.  It is yet not clear to me if one of them specifically speaks for all of them, or not, the one titled “The Emergent Church-From the General Superintendents.”  It is signed by Jesse Middendorf, but does not explicitly state that all the Generals are in accord with the statement, so I will not yet assume they all agree with it as written.  So I will address my comments to Dr. Middendorf. The first document, called WE BELIEVE, indicated approval by the entire Board, and is essentially a re-affirmation of the core belief statement of our denomination.  The Emerging Church document is what I want to focus on and share some thoughts and perhaps questions regarding its content, and what it means to us.

Dr. Middendorf, I would like to reach out to you and the other General Superintendents, and extend the hand of conversation, and of open dialogue, to sort out these issues and address the specific concerns many have.  Are you willing to do that?  I speak with this concern, not just from one person, but for pastors, evangelists, and laypeople all over the country, who are waiting for an unambiguous answer to the questions that still linger after this statement came out.
I am not an official spokesman, nor even any kind of official leader of Concerned Nazarenes.  Just one of many who are trying to have a voice.
Not all may be in 100% agreement with every word I say, but they join me in a unified concern at the direction that our beloved denomination has been going, because of emergent ideology and mystical practices.

I believe that most of what I say here speaks for those who have been disenfranchised from their churches of many years, who were stopped from speaking out and asking questions.  I cry out for many students in the universities who are being ostracized by professors who despise their stance on scriptural inerrancy.  I cry out for those groups of Nazarenes who have walked away from their churches, and started their own congregation, rather than stay and tolerate the very “aberrations” you allude to in this statement. I cry out for the Nazarene church that recently cut ties with our denomination and is now on their own, and the pastor who was recently fired for daring to speak against practices that are not even officially sanctioned by the church.  I’m just a small voice, but I speak for many, and continue to do so, for whoever will listen.

I pray that soon there will be an opportunity to get into direct, complete and open dialogue with you and the rest of the leadership, so that these matters and issues can be addressed, and the Nazarene people will know where you and all of our leaders stand on the troubling issues that you say are there, but have not yet told us what they are specifically.

Here is the statement, and to allow you to follow along easier, I highlight my comments in blue text as you read:

The Emergent Church – From the General Superintendents
(G.S. Statement in black, my comments in blue)

We appreciate your concerns regarding the conversations surrounding “the emergent church.” The issues related to this topic are many. Some are helpful and positive; others are problematic and deeply troubling.

I agree.  Unfortunately, this is a very general statement, and does not go into details.  What are the helpful and positive issues?  What are the problematic and deeply troubling ones?  I hope you can share this with us very soon, because many Nazarenes also see very problematic and troubling issues happening in our denomination.

“The emergent church” is really somewhat of a misnomer. While there are many attributions which imply that there is a single focus or movement called “the emergent church,” in reality, the conversations range all over the map. Some people believe that there is a monolithic kind of conspiratorial entity that is seeking to undermine the church with heresy and immoral license.

Actually, Dr. Middendorf, there are many Nazarenes who are deeply troubled by what we see as heretical or false teachings that has crept into our universities and churches.  We don’t claim there is an organized conspiracy, but we do believe that there is a like-minded philosophical agreement amongst the “emergents” that works just as effectively.  We hope that the specifics of our concerns can be addressed by the leadership very soon.  Those have been itemized many times by us, so I won’t repeat it here.  A good summary would be the Concerned Nazarenes statement.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who view the whole concept of an emerging church as a positive and hopeful expression of the church seeking to genuinely come to terms with ministry in a complex and rapidly-changing culture, while seeking to make Biblical truth relevant. These people depend heavily on the authority of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to radically change lives, communities, and nations. They are often radically engaged with the brokenness in society through active, compassionate ministries that work hard to bring renewal and conversion.

I would argue that Biblical truth is always relevant on its own anyway.  Also, the emergents who I and others have interacted with over the last several years, do not match up with the description of “depending heavily on the authority of the word of God.”  We see often acasual contempt of the scriptures;  a dismissal of folks like me, who according to emergents, are practicing bibliolatry, when we say God’s word is infallible; and the almost worshipful attitude towards books written by emergent leaders like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, and on devotional books by mystics and universalists like Henri Nouwen.  If these people that you describe in this way are out there, I have not encountered them yet.

Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS) and some of our universities are engaged in the conversation in order to help correct some of the aberrations that are associated with some of the “emergent” churches.

You say there are aberrations.  I agree, but again, I would love to see specifics about what these aberrations are.  If you believe there are aberrations out there that can be dangerous to our spiritual lives, should you not tell us all, so that we can be aware of them?  And I am sorry to say this, but we are troubled by some of these aberrations coming right out of the seminary itself, and we have specified those issues many times.  Will there be some statements soon on the specifics of what you mean by these aberrations.

There are widely-read authors who readily identify themselves as “emergent church leaders.” While some of them are orthodox in their theology and views of Scripture, others embrace positions which we would view as far away from what is orthodox and acceptable.

Which leaders do you consider orthodox? And especially, can you tell us who these unorthodox leaders are?  Should we not know their names, so we can take care and not recommend their books, or watch out if they are coming into our universities?  Is Brian McLaren unorthodox?  How about Leonard Sweet?  Rob Bell?  Tony Campolo?  If they are far away from orthodoxy and unacceptable, should we not follow this biblical imperative?

Ephesians 5:6-11 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Yet even those authors and pastors who are not orthodox in their views of Scripture and its authority have an awareness of the need to make the church more engaged in society so as to bring about a radical change and improvement.

Does it matter whether they care about engaging the church in society, if their beliefs are unorthodox, which I assume means running contrary to our Nazarene doctrine and more importantly, runs contrary to scripture?  Should we not shun, according to scripture, those who are contrary to the word and are divisive by teaching another gospel?

We do not endorse those “emergent churches” or leaders who are not orthodox in their theology. The involvement of many of our young pastors and students in the conversation is an attempt to embrace the positive dimensions while clearly articulating an orthodox interpretation of Scripture and theology.

By most definitions of what is genuinely meant by “emergent,” John Wesley more than fits the description.

I’m sorry, this was the statement that most jumped out at me and I could not disagree with you more!  Here is a comment from someone else on a blog that speaks the same concerns I have with this:  I would love to listen to an encounter between Wesley and an emergent who sympathizes with, and glorifies, universalism, or maybe overhear Wesley’s response to an emergent’s heretical nonsense about varying theories of atonement and how the cross is false advertising for God…that ought to be a treat.”

So with all due respect John Wesley was not emergent in any way that reflects what today’s emergents think.

He was radically engaged in the social needs around him while clearly calling men and women to a radical commitment to Christ and to the fullness of the Spirit in cleansing and heart purity.

True, but John Wesley believed in scriptural inerrancy; the emergents laugh at that and treat the Bible as something that “contains” the word of God, denying its full and complete reliability.

That is the objective toward which Nazarenes, engaged in the conversations regarding the emergent church, are committed. It is a vital conversation, but one that also carries with it the risk of being misunderstood or being classified with positions which are not healthy or appropriate.

I’ve had the experience in the past year or so, to see that most emergents are engaged in a one way conversation that has little room and tolerance for those Nazarenes who reject their ideology and their disrespect for the supremacy of Christ and His infallible word.

We hope these thoughts are helpful to you. The issues are complex, and the rhetoric is sometimes shrill and angry. We are hopeful that we can be patient with what is a phase in a conversation that is already beginning to wind down in some areas even while it is just now being engaged in by others. Hopefully, we can move beyond the mischaracterizations and embrace what is legitimate while we readily and without hesitation reject the aberrations.

Again, not specific yet, with all due respect.  What are these mischaracterizations, and what is being mischaracterized?  What is legitimate that we can embrace?  What are specifically the aberrations that we should reject?  Are we to continue speculating as to what you mean?  Or will we get a more direct dialogue and discussion about what aligns with scripture, and what does not? That is what matters, is it not, with these issues, whatever they may be?

We pray for you as you work with your people through this issue. We are not at all embracing anything heretical, but we want to engage in conversations with our young Nazarenes who want a vibrant church that is committed to our theology and actively engaged in ministry to the lost and broken people around us.

Dr. Middendorf, I don’t know what you are embracing personally.  What I do know is that many Nazarenes are embracing heresy and false teachings, and we need to know if what they embrace is heresy to you, or is it orthodox?  Yes, we believe in a vibrant church also, but it must be committed to defending the gospel as given to us by Jesus and the apostles, and we believe that another gospel is being preached in many parts of our denomination now.

Jesse C. Middendorf
General Superintendent
Church of the Nazarene

Thank you for this statement, Dr. Middendorf.  It is a start, but please hear me when I say, it is simply not enough for many Nazarenes who are hurting today, or worried about the future of their children  when they send them to college someday.  I pray that the next statement will take a stand on the specific issues that we have addressed so many times, but are yet to hear an answer.

Manny Silva

“The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Psalm 119:160

Questionnaire For Church Leadership: Part 2

In Part One of my questions to leaders and pastors, I submitted four questions and asked for anyone, including our General Superintendents and my District Superintendent, if they could give an answer to those questions, mainly, are these things good or bad for Christians?  Most of the responses I received in Part One were from the usual emergent folks I have interacted with in the past.  In my opinion, their defense of Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Rob Bell, and prayer labyrinths was weak, and they could not provide any biblical justification for defending these men’s works, or defending the use of a pagan practice like the labyrinth.  The questions are still open to all who might wish to answer them with biblical support.

In Part Two, there will only be one question, to help everyone focus a little better and not be all over the map with different answers for multiple questions.  It is in regards to the popular book, The Shack.

The Shack has been a popular book in Christian bookstores, and has been on the NY Times bestseller list for several years now.  It is also very popular amongst non-Christians as well.  Christian pastors and leaders, including Nazarenes, have recommended this book as a great missional book, or inspirational book.  One pastor described it as being better than several years in seminary.  Some have said it is better than the Bible, or that it has changed their lives more than anything else.

The question for our leaders and pastors today: Based on the excerpts I give you below, is The Shack a good resource for Christians, in terms of helping them be better Christians, and for learning good biblical doctrine?  Or is it a book that is leading Christians astray with false doctrine and blasphemous statements against God?

Some will say that you need to read an entire book before you can give an opinion on its value or worthiness.  I believe that is not the case, and that a Christian grounded in the word of God, can spot a phoney without having to read the entire book.  However, I will say that there are many who have read it from cover to cover, such as Dr. Michael Youssef, who also preached a great sermon on it which I highly recommend you view.  Here is the link: The Shack Uncovered.

(What is The Shack about? From Al Mohler’s review: In The Shack, “Mack”, who lost his daughter to a murderer four years before, meets the divine Trinity as “Papa,” an African-American woman; Jesus, a Jewish carpenter; and “Sarayu,” an Asian woman who is revealed to be the Holy Spirit. The book is mainly a series of dialogues between Mack, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Those conversations reveal God to be very different than the God of the Bible. “Papa” is absolutely non-judgmental, and seems most determined to affirm that all humanity is already redeemed.)
Here are four excerpts, and comments are by Dr. Al Mohler from his book review, The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment.  I also recommend you read my post,  “Thirteen Heresies in The Shack”, by Michael Youssef.
I look forward to eliciting a good biblical defense of why this book is a healthy, good resource for Christians:

1. “Papa” tells Mack of the time when the three persons of the Trinity “spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God.” Nowhere in the Bible is the Father or the Spirit described as taking on human existence.

2. In another chapter, “Papa” corrects Mack’s theology by asserting, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Without doubt, God’s joy is in the atonement accomplished by the Son. Nevertheless, the Bible consistently reveals God to be the holy and righteous Judge, who will indeed punish sinners. The idea that sin is merely “its own punishment” fits the Eastern concept of karma, but not the Christian Gospel.

3. In one of the most bizarre paragraphs of the book, Jesus tells Mack: “Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.” The theorized submission of the Trinity to a human being — or to all human beings — is a theological innovation of the most extreme and dangerous sort. The essence of idolatry is self-worship, and this notion of the Trinity submitted (in any sense) to humanity is inescapably idolatrous.

4. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”
Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.
“Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”

Dr. Mohler concludes:

The answer is not to ban The Shack or yank it out of the hands of readers. We need not fear books — we must be ready to answer them. We desperately need a theological recovery that can only come from practicing biblical discernment. This will require us to identify the doctrinal dangers of The Shack, to be sure. But our real task is to reacquaint evangelicals with the Bible’s teachings on these very questions and to foster a doctrinal rearmament of Christian believers.

Manny: I believe The Shack has somewhat become “a bible” of the emergent church.  If you read it, read it with caution and biblical discernment.  It can be dangerous and misleading, and lead you to erroneous understandings of God’s nature, of the atonement, of God’s justice, and other errors as outlined by Dr. Mohler, Dr. Youssef and other Christian leaders.  For Nazarene emergents, this has nothing to do with whether these men and others are Nazarene or not; they are all looking at this book from a biblical perspective, not any other.  I pray that those of you evaluating this book will determine to use discernment based on the Bible and its teachings, and not on someone else’s imaginations of who God is, or who the Trinity is.  I believe that it is irresponsible of Christian leaders to recommend this book, but if I am wrong, I would like them to direct me to a better understanding of why they believe it is a book worthy as a good resource for Christians.

Questionnaire For Church Leadership, Part 1

Our Nazarene leadership is made up of many people.  But generally we think of pastors, District Superintendents, and General Superintendents, as our main leaders in the denomination.  We look to leadership for guidance, don’t we?  And sometimes we get confused as to what is good or bad for us, so we ask our leaders for their guidance.  Right now, many Christians are in somewhat of a state of confusion, regarding many things, including new practices that have arisen that never were around (in our denomination) 20 or 30 years ago, some not even in the last few years.  Practices that were never taught in the Nazarene church are now becoming the norm, and folks are rightly confused. Books by “new” authors that were never used before.  Would it not be good if our leadership could help answer some questions and therefore give some guidance as we try to sort out some of these things?

I am sending the following questionnaire (four questions) to my District Superintendent in New England, to each of the six General Superintendents, and to as many pastors as I have on my list.  I invite them all to share their knowledge of the scriptures in assisting us to get some solid, biblically sound answers to the questions below.  Feel free to also send in your answers even of you are not considered “leadership” (no degree required, just a love of Jesus and the truth).

1. Henri Nouwen was a Roman Catholic monk and mystic. Some Nazarene pastors use his books as a good resource. He also: instructed readers to test things by their own “vision”, instead of testing by the scriptures; taught that mantras could bring you into God’s presence; combined the teachings of Hinduism with Christianity; taught that God is in ALL things (universalism); taught that God is only love, unconditional love.
One of his most notable sayings is:

“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.”
Is Henri Nouwen a wise, biblically sound choice for recommending to Christians for devotional reading, and if so, how?
And is it your opinion that this question falls into the category of “non-essentials?”

2. Richard Foster, probably the most famous contemporary promoter of contemplative prayer, is also a favorite with many pastors.  His book, Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home, was featured in a prayer room at General Assembly.  Yet, in this same book, Foster gave the following advice before anyone practices contemplative prayer:

“I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance…. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.

Foster is saying here that contemplative prayer can be very dangerous!  He goes on to recommend that “novices” should not try it!  In light of this, as well as: his approval of new Age teachers; his occultic use of imagination; open theism; his promotion of visions, revelations and charismatic gifts; his embracing of pop-psychology, and more:
Is Richard Foster a wise choice for recommending to Christians for devotional reading, and if so, how?
And is it your opinion that this question falls into the category of “non-essentials?”

3. Rob Bell is the teaching pastor at Mars Hill Church.  He is author of such books as the very popular Velvet Elvis, and the creator of a popular series of videos geared especially for youth, called NOOMA.

Many Nazarene pastors seem to love this guy.  But in one of his lessons called Dust, when talking about Jesus and Peter walking on water, he claims that Peter did not lose faith in Jesus, but lost faith in himself!

Many other lessons like this are very dubious and seem to twist scripture.  And he has many, many thoughts such as the following regarding scripture, he says “This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.”

Or this regarding original sin: “In other words, I assumed that the doctrine of Original Sin was a biblical notion, and that all Christians accepted it as gospel truth.  Of course, neither is true.”

There’s lots more, but in light of just these comments:
Is Rob Bell a good role model for teens and other Christians, or is he at best a dubious choice?

4. Prayer labyrinths. These are being used at Trevecca Nazarene University and some Nazarene churches. They are clearly derived from pagan cultures and religions, and existed 3,000 years before Christ.  I have been told by someone in Nazarene leadership that they may be coming into my own New England District! My question:
What is the biblical justification for the use of prayer labyrinths?  Perhaps that person can reply and defend what they told me that day- biblically that is.  Or
is it your opinion that this question falls into the category of “non-essentials?”

There will be some more questions soon, but these are the kinds of questions many of us would really like answered from our leadership- very specifically.  Can my District Superintendent send me an answer that is supported with scripture, taken in proper context?  Will a pastor out there give it a try, and defend or reject these four questions, and base that defense or rejection on the word of God?  Is there no one who can do this?  We have so many learned people out there with theology degrees and years of Bible study, and I and others have been sincerely asking questions like this for months, and have been met with silence or vague answers.
I pray that we get some answers.  Not much has been forthcoming for quite a long time.

Is the silence saying something?

“The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Psalm 119:160