At General Assembly last year, I recall attending a session about the emerging church, presented by Jon Middendorf and Scott Daniels, two of the biggest pushers of this movement within our denomination. Jon is pastor at Oklahoma City Nazarene, and is the son of current General Superintendent Jesse Middendorf. In this session, I recall that amongst some of the typical emergent catch phrases I heard, such as “you can’t put God in a box”, and “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater”, were some comments that referred to a “big tent” ideology. In other words, the idea is that the Nazarene church is a big tent, and large enough to welcome and embrace or at least include in the “conversation”, a broader range of theological ideas outside of the stated articles of faith in the Nazarene manual. I suspect some of those broader ideas would include: mysticism, use of Roman Catholic rituals, teaching of evolution, and even the belief that parts of the Bible are not necessarily true! If anyone following this emergent drama really thinks by now that all Nazarene pastors and theology professors believe in biblical inerrancy, I have a bridge to sell to you.
The “big tent” concept is nothing more than liberalism. Liberalism by its definition welcomes a broad range of ideas and beliefs, and theoretically is open to all ideas. In my experience, that is true… until, of course, someone chimes in with their idea that there is absolute truth, and that some things cannot be tinkered with. That’s when liberalism shows it’s hypocritical, nasty side, by vilifying those who believe in absolute truth. It’s pretty easy then to show liberalism for what it is, an arrogant, destructive ideology that preaches openness to any idea, unless that idea says there is only one truth.
So along comes a conference this coming September called Big Tent Christianity: Being And Becoming The Church. Philip Clayton, one of the big organizers, has written this about “big tent Christianity”:
“[It is] urgent … to reclaim a Big Tent Christianity, a centrist return to ‘just Christian’ in word and action. The two poles are driving each other ever further apart, spawning ever deeper hostilities. The solution — in American society as in the church — certainly is not to let the other’s anger fuel my own. As leaders it’s our task to help break the cycle of anger, of rejection leading to rejection, and to foster a radically different understanding of the heart of Christian faith.”
Huh? What do you mean, reclaim? Did we lose something? What two poles? What “radically different understanding”, after all these years of Christianity?
Well, anyway, here’s the theme as they post it on the website:
What does “big tent Christianity” mean to you? What does it look like in your context? What are your hopes and dreams for the Church?
So in preparation for the September conference, there is an online, week-long session from August 9-13, where you can go and post comments in response to these questions. And… as a bonus, 15 bloggers will be chosen at random to receive two books, including A New Kind Of Christianity by Brian McLaren! I suspect you know where this is going. And then a big, big winner will get to attend a brunch with Brian McLaren at the conference!
(Just thinking: I wonder if the Holy scriptures and what it says will have any significant part in the “conversation” at this conference)
As I looked at the list of conferees, I saw that a scheduled panelist was Dr. Tom Oord of Northwest Nazarene University. He is scheduled for the last session on the last day. It is titled Big Tent Spirituality, and he will be joined by emergent stars Tim King and Spencer Burke, and a few others. When I saw the other conferees, I said to myself, why would a Nazarene theology professor attend and be a panelist at such a conference, with the list of speakers who will be there?
Here are some of the presenters and either a brief summary, or a link to more on each of them. They are all radical, committed emergent revolutionaries seeking to change the face of Christianity as we know, all for the betterment of Christians who cannot see with their vision. See if this is the kind of company you would want to keep, and be seen with, as Tom Oord apparently does.
Brian McLaren: Godfather of the emergent movement, biggest name by far. Believes that we have not gotten it right in over 2,000 years of Christianity. Has called for a moratorium on homosexuality for five years, then for us to come back and see what we think about it. Has described Christ’s death on the cross as “almost false advertising for God.” And asked about homosexuality, he said this: “’You know what, the thing that breaks my heart is that there’s no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side.” So much for clarity from a pastor on that issue.
He endorsed a book by Alan Jones called Reimagining Christianity that called the doctrine of the Cross a “vile doctrine.” Brian McLaren wants us to learn more about ‘meditative practices, about which Zen Buddhism has said much. To talk about different things is not to contradict one another; it is, rather, to have much to offer one another’ (A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 255.)
He is ecumenical: in a letter to Chuck Colson, he said: “Several years back, you (Chuck Colson) tried to bring Evangelicals and Catholics together, an effort which I applaud and in which I am involved myself.”
Tony Jones: Promotes contemplative practices, including centering prayer, the silence, Jesus Prayer, the labyrinth, stations of the cross, the Ignatien Examen, yoga, Taize worship, lectio divina. Has said that unrepentant practicing homosexuals can live in harmony with the Christian religion.
Phylis Tickle: author of The Great Emergence
See this: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1785 and this: http://www.alittleleaven.com/2009/05/whats-being-taught-at-rob-bell.html
Jay Bakker (son of Jim Bakker): http://apprising.org/2010/01/25/emerging-church-jay-bakker-and-outlaw-preachers/
Greg Boyd: a proponent of open theism and process theology.
See this: http://apprising.org/2009/06/19/bob-dewaay-refutes-open-theist-greg-boyd/
Tim King and Spencer Burke: http://apprising.org/2008/11/26/spencer-burke-im-a-universalist-who-believes-in-hell/
and: http://apprising.org/2010/02/02/in-the-emerging-church-ooze-conversion-is-out/ (This is amazing as Spencer Burke and Tim King spout off their non-biblical nonsense which smacks of universalism at times. Folks, just listen to this 9 minutes and you will see a great example of what I mean when I say “religion of man.” These men not only do not mention Christ during their talk, they reject conversion as something good!)
There are more, but this is just part of this star studded, emergent lineup that is very impressive. All that’s missing is folks like Rob Bell and Tony Campolo to round it out.
All I want to know is, why would a Nazarene theology professor be part of this crowd, unless he agreed with their ideologies? Will Dr. Oord present at this conference, and then later write a critique on all the warped ideologies these people teach? Perhaps we can get a hint from one of his posts at his blog: http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/christian_and_scientific_fundamentalism/. Here you will get an idea of his opinion of “fundamentalists.” But there’s more, and if you take the time to read many of his posts there, you will get a good idea of where he is coming from.
And I don’t think that he is the only Nazarene theologian who would find himself comfortable participating in this conference. I know some Nazarene pastors over at NazNet who would feel right at home in this conference, and that is what troubles me. It is not just one person or professor I am questioning. It is this heretical ideology (heretical, yes the no-no word) that is sweeping through the Nazarene and other Christian denominations like wildfire. It is helping to produce our pastors of tomorrow.
Is it too late, and have all the horses been let out of the barn, so to speak? Is this just an example of the ideology of many who are teaching in our universities today? Can we reverse this in some way and be able to again produce more and more pastors and professors who preach and teach holiness, and a complete trust in the bible, and not in the religion of man? It’s a question worth asking and getting an answer, because as I have said before, this kind of thinking and teaching could result in your child walking away from the Lord, and perhaps worshiping another Jesus.
Is that what you want? If so, then be happy with it. If not, then…
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
Additional resource: Pastor Ken Silva’s commentary on Big Tent Christianity: http://apprising.org/2010/04/21/big-tent-progressive-christianity-as-liberalism-2-0/