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