Update on The Homosexuality Controversy At Point Loma

SFT UPDATE 1: If you missed the article “Northwest Nazarene: Symbol Of What’s Wrong In Our Christian Schools”, you can download the issue now from the InterMountain Christian News site, as well as subscribe to this fine Christian newspaper published by Rev. Anthony Harper, which serves Idaho and several other states in that region.  (Dr. Mark Maddix, Dean of The School of Theology, was offered the opportunity to respond to my article and an article by Matt Slick, but he declined.)  I will be doing a profile in the future about several Christian publishers who are trying to hold the line on the truth of scripture, even as others are compromising.  For Dr. Harper’s interview on 94.1 The Voice radio, click here, where he discusses his ministry and also the emergent church problem.

UPDATE 2: Click here -> to Sign The Petition For Nazarenes to Return To Solid Biblical Publications of NPH, Barefoot Ministries, and The House Studio.

Update On The Homosexuality Controversy At Point Loma

Last week’s post (Homosexuality At Point Loma Nazarene University) drew more attention that any other in my two years on this blog, more than double the  daily average, over 1,000 daily for four days. I was not surprised, because of the nature of the story.  However, do not also be surprised to see this type of situation revealed at other Nazarene institutions soon, and perhaps within certain Nazarene churches.

Since last Friday’s post, some things have happened at Point Loma. All God’s Children, an LGBT discussion group (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) will no longer be meeting at the San Diego First Church located on the campus of Point Loma.  See the student news article here: http://blogs.pointloma.edu/thepointweekly/2011/03/28/all-gods-children-disinvited-from-san-diego-first-church/.  The change was made at the request of District Superintendent John Denney.  However, the group, led by Professor Phil Bowles of Point Loma, and his wife, who is also a professor at the school, will be meeting again to decide how to go forward.  Since the official statements are very long in totality, you can read them all at this link: Responses By Point Loma On The Homosexual Controversy.

The matter of the young student chaplain who is at the center of this issue is unclear.  As he stated at the meeting of the group,  “THIS IS MY PROCLAMATION: I AM GAY.  I AM CHRISTIAN. AND I WILL CONTINUE TO LIVE IN THAT MANNER.”

So it remains to be seen what will happen in the long run, but I pray that this young man will be able to be counseled wisely from a solid biblical perspective, and come to fully realize that his lifestyle is not only destructive in the long run, but that it is clearly disobedience to God.  It does not appear that he and others on the campus have been given the best opportunity to see the truth and repent from something which they wrongly believe to be compatible with scripture.  Instead, it seems that this group was not formed for anything but a support group to encourage GLBT “Christians” to remain in their unrepentant lifestyles.

My concern about this story is that perhaps it might serve to distract us from the most critical problem in the church, of which this is only one of the symptoms, and if it goes away completely, it is only a tiny part of the big picture. More on that “most critical problem” in a later post.  In the meantime, some questions to ponder:

  1. Why was this action only done now, since this group has been active for over two years?  Was the impetus mainly because of the publicity?
  2. Why have at least three Nazarene professors been allowed to give their support and encouragement to such a group when it clearly has an agenda that runs contrary to biblical and Nazarene teaching?
  3. Will these professors clarify with a public statement their specific beliefs about homosexuality, and whether they agree fully with the official Nazarene position, and more importantly, with the Biblical position? If they publicly affirm traditional biblical teaching on this, refer back to question #2.
  4. Since the student chaplain, elected by his fellow students, has stated publicly his intention to live in a manner contrary to biblical doctrine, should he remain as student chaplain, and should any student be appointed to such a position if he or she states a position that is contrary to scripture?
  5. How much of an effort will the university now make, to ensure that students struggling with homosexuality and other sins, are given the wisest biblical counsel on how to overcome their sin?  Why don’t we stop having a “conversation” about this sin, and let’s start confronting the sin instead.
  6. Has biblical discernment been thrown to the winds?  Is this just another game of “let’s always be nice to each other” without hurting anyone’s feelings, and is that a true biblical concept at all times?

These are just a few questions.  It remains to be seen whether these new developments signal that a true change is coming, or whether this only happened because someone’s hand got caught in the cookie jar.  I cannot help but be a little cynical, although the leadership did the right thing here and canceled the group meetings.  It should have happened a long time ago, in my opinion. Is it enough?  We will see.

Finally, here is an apt observation by a friend after he read the official statements:

“We don’t talk about adultery as being “complex” and part of our “faith journey” nor should we. We don’t talk about pedophiles as being yet another “minority group” struggling with their “identity” nor should we. We don’t talk about premarital sex (fornication – an unpopular word in our present day) as being a “difficult” issue in need of understanding and openness, nor should we.

So why have we taken this particular issue of homosexuality and implicitly elevated it to some different level of acceptability by putting it on the pedestal of “open dialogue” and community debate??

This is the real problem lying just under the surface of this controversy. The other stuff is merely a symptom of what I view as an epistemological cancer running through the bloodstream of evangelical Christianity in our present day.”

I could not agree more.  I urge all Nazarenes concerned about this school and many of the others, to continue asking questions, including asking their favorite Christian school to provide clarity about what they believe in words, and then see if what they say matches what they do.


Homosexuality At Point Loma Nazarene University

The following is an eyewitness account of what transpired on Sunday, March 20, 2011, at the San Diego First Church of the Nazarene, located on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University.  It is longer than the usual post, but extremely important, and I ask you to please read it all.  Especially to those parents, friends, and alumni of Point Loma, please forward this to as many as possible who may need to know.
I will follow with some comments next week, but let me just repeat what I have been saying (many others also) for over two years: the Nazarene denomination is in crisis with the invasion of the emerging church movement and other apostate movements.

Homosexuality at Point Loma Nazarene University


These words, spoken by Todd Clayton, the current 2010-2011 ASB Director of Spiritual Life (also called the “student chaplain”) at Point Loma Nazarene University, ended a talk given at a meeting of All God’s Children held at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University on March 20, 2011. Over two hundred PLNU students sat in rapt silence as this well-spoken, respectful, wounded young man shared the pain of coming to terms with his same-sex attraction and his decision to “come out” four months ago. He then openly stated his intention to date same-sex partners, attend Princeton Divinity School and become a pastor after graduation. NO ONE in attendance, including some PLNU faculty members and Reverend Dee Kelley, who serves as the current lead pastor of the Nazarene church where the meeting was held, sought to clarify the issue of homosexual activity from a biblical perspective or to promote and defend the position of the Church of the Nazarene as stated in the manual:

“Homosexuality is one means by which human sexuality is perverted. We recognize the depth of the perversion that leads to homosexual acts but affirm the biblical position that such acts are sinful and subject to the wrath of god. We believe the grace of god sufficient to overcome the practice of homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We deplore any action or statement that would seem to imply compatibility between Christian morality and the practice of homosexuality. We urge clear preaching and teaching concerning Bible standards of sexual morality. (1 Timothy 1:8-10) — 2005-2009 manual of the Church of the Nazarene

According to Dr. Phil Bowles, PLNU Professor of Literature, he and his wife, Sharon, began All God’s Children meetings in 2007 as a way to foster an “open dialogue about discussion of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) issues and faith.” However, it is widely known that the only views represented by All God’s Children leaders at these meetings are those which promote a “gay is good” stance.


The group has repeatedly viewed a DVD during meetings called “For the Bible Tells Me So,” which seeks to reconcile the biblical passages regarding homosexuality with living a gay lifestyle. Here is one Christian writer’s review of this DVD, from ChristianAnswers.net:

For the Bible Tells Me So
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Reviewed by: Jennifer Constantine
When I submitted a request to review this movie, I did so primarily because I have a dear friend that no longer speaks to me because he identifies himself as a homosexual and knows that I identify myself as a Bible-believing Christian who views homosexual activity as sinful. I wanted to see this movie because I know that, as a whole, there is an entire community that we as the Church have failed to love as Jesus does. There are exceptions, of course, but we have largely treated this group with, at best, painful uncomfortability, and at worst, well, hate.
I don’t think that I am alone in my reasons for wanting to watch this movie, but, having seen it, I want to warn well-meaning Christians to use extreme discernment and pray about whether God wants you to watch. It is a subversive movie that attempts to distort Scripture to say something it doesn’t. I had to go back into Scripture and reaffirm what I believed, after seeing this movie, because it is VERY effective at manipulating emotions and quoting Scripture out of context.
This movie is marketed as a “must see for everyone,” so it targets our youth as well as adults. I don’t recommend it for anyone.
This documentary follows a few families that have a homosexual member and shows how the families have shown various degrees of acceptance, most notably the Robinsons, who’s son was recently ordained by the Episcopal church as the first openly gay bishop, and politician Richard Gephardt, whose daughter Chrissy identifies herself as a lesbian.
But, this movie doesn’t just present a defense of homosexuality; it goes on the offensive to attack Dr. James Dobson as a dangerous hate-monger, as well as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as capitalists. It also states that most people who break free from the chains of homosexuality are only changed outwardly and experience only a temporary victory. (To know the REAL truth, go to exodus-international.org and Cross Ministry).
The makers of the documentary then go on to interview doctors and psychologists who give us their “scientific” view on homosexuality. But they can’t have it both ways—first they misquote Scripture as the justification for homosexuality, then they want science to be the basis for justification. Which one is it?
The music used in the documentary should also give us a clue as to what influences are being subtly inserted in the background: in the opening we hear Enya, a New Age musician, and later lyrics from a song that says that just because something is in the Bible it “ain’t necessarily so.”
On a final note, besides showing how the Church has fallen short of loving homosexuals, the documentary makes another great point: many Christians don’t know why they believe homosexuality is wrong. They can quote a few Scriptures but can’t go beyond that. Here is a direct quote from the film: “Most Christians haven’t read the Bible, so do they really know what it says and what the true intent is? Probably not. So how do they know? What do they base their Bible beliefs on? Someone else tells them.”
While I think that quote is an exaggeration, it is not too far off the mark. We as Christians need to know why we believe what we believe. It is imperative, for Paul says we will be swept away with “every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).

Another review of “For the Bible Tells Me So” found at http://ex-gaytruth.com/for-the-bible-tells-me-so-critical-movie-review/ states, “Besides the deception and lies presented as truths, the gay theology espoused in the film claiming that the Bible does not condemn homosexual behavior is considered by many a self-serving concoction…”


In 2009, Dr. Michael Lodahl, PLNU Professor of Theology and World Religions, spoke to All God’s Children attendees. Here is one father’s story regarding that particular meeting:

“I gained familiarity with SSA (same-sex attraction) in January 2009 when our daughter informed my wife and I that she was in a same-sex relationship.  She told us that while attending Point Loma she nurtured her SSA ideas, which culminated after she graduated. She wanted us to meet the theology professors who helped her scripturally understand why her SSA was acceptable.  She invited us to a group (All God’s Children) she had been attending at the Point Loma campus Nazarene church, to give us a chance to be enlightened.

In February 2009 we drove to San Diego for this Sunday afternoon meeting at the campus church.  During the presentation I heard no balance and only predetermined pro-gay conclusions presented.  The session was 2 hours, including a variety of discussion, with my comments being the only non-pro gay advocacy.  At the conclusion of the presentation I talked to Lodahl and told him it was amazing how the course of a vehicle can be guided if you loosen the lug nuts sufficiently.  His dismissive arrogance was oozing and my anger was seething.  I could not believe this was happening!  The knowledge of our daughter is a month old, and now crumbling before my eyes is the highly trusted educational institution of our family.  It felt like I got hit in the face with a baseball bat, a second time!  This can’t be happening.  The religious institution I thought would be there, to whom we entrusted the spiritual development of our children, was a co-conspirator for confusion and deception.

Two years have gone by and my understanding is now deep, but the pain can still be on the surface.  What I want now is for there to be a balancing voice at Point Loma and the Nazarene church.  Let Lodahl and company spew their confusion, but also announce with a strong voice the loving truth of scripture that is core to the Nazarene beliefs.  And if the Nazarene church has abandoned the issue, that is understandable.  But say so.  Announce Point Loma has a non-position on Gay Theology.  Then it can be taken into account by parents when they are deciding where to send their children.  Know what you are going to get for your $40,000 yearly educational investment.”

Five weeks ago, on Feb. 7, Dr. Bettina Tate Pedersen, PLNU Professor of Literature, attended a meeting of All God’s Children where she spoke to the group, which, on that day, included another PLNU student who had decided to embrace a gay identity. Dr. Pedersen, like other PLNU faculty members before her, trotted out the litany of reasons as to why and how the scriptures condemning homosexual practice actually meant something different and that engaging in gay sexual activity could be completely compatible with being a Christian.

Although it meets on the campus of PLNU, All God’s Children is not sanctioned or sponsored by the university. It falls solely under the ministry umbrella of San Diego First Church of the Nazarene, Pastor Dee Kelley and Pastor Marc Otto, who frequently attend the meetings. PLNU administrators turned down Bowles’ request for permission to meet on campus. However, the group found safe haven at First Church, even though Bowles and his wife attend a United Methodist church elsewhere. The campus location enables the group to more easily indoctrinate students with their pro-gay message.


After yesterday’s meeting, jubilant group members celebrated Todd’s talk. One of them wrote this email to everyone listed as an All God’s Children Facebook “friend”:

Todd Clayton was great!

It is impossible to overstate the importance of today’s event. For PLNU to have had such a popular elected officer, student chaplain, for two years, and to come out of the closet, is stunning.
This will be felt throughout the Church of the Nazarene, and on all of their campuses.
Both of Todd’s parents are ordained Nazarene pastors. His mother is on the board of trustees of the university.
Keep Todd in your prayers. Pray also for Phil and Sharon Bowles, and for Pastor Dee Kelley of S.D. First Church of the Nazarene.
Oh, check out the school’s online paper, The Point Weekly, tomorrow morning. Tomorrow!http://www.pointweekly.com/
Ron Goetz

Here are some other quotes from the meeting:

Todd Clayton: “This question is ‘Why do you not choose celibacy?’ and this would go back to the way in which I read scripture…”

Audience Member: “What would you say to gay young people who have developed a deep fear of God’s wrath as a result of their sexuality, as a result of the church’s teachings and intolerance?”

Todd’s answer: “I would say that God is abundantly loving and that you are abundantly clean and that there is space for you in God’s gracious and large church.”

Phil Bowles (in response to a question about why All God’s Children doesn’t meet on campus): “I was in conversation with leaders on the campus five, six years ago asking for permission and did not receive permission to host the “conversation” on campus, so we started at another denomination, a church in Mission Valley, and after a semester moved here (1st Church) because the pastoral staff was amenable, and so far, even though there has been an unpleasant person now and then, so far we have been allowed to continue meeting here next to the university campus. This is not the university campus. So, you would have to ask maybe administrators why not. I keep asking them why not… I don’t really get an answer…”

Audience Member (regarding a man she knew who had struggled with same sex attraction but who had married and had children and grandchildren): “He never got to experience true love and true happiness. God is love, and everybody should be able to experience that!” (thunderous applause)

Todd Clayton: “I feel indebted to the student body because you elected me, and you deserve to know at least part of the story because you entrusted me with your voice, and my hope is that I continue to hold that trust and that I can witness to the fact that I still represent you…”

Phil Bowles: “I would like to thank Todd for his wonderful gift to us…

Pastor Dee Kelley: “Thank you, Todd, for sharing your story… and though you’ve heard it before, I simply want to say that one of the reasons this is happening is because we believe beside you that the church needs to be a safe place where we can engage in difficult conversations on difficult topics and engage our faith in that process… I so appreciate Todd’s comments that his journey in scripture and understanding of the voice of scripture in our lives is central to the discussion…There needs to be places where the scripture is engaged in conversation and where we dig into the passages to understand what has both been church history and biblical criticism and faith traditions and to do it in ways that move us closer to the reality of Christ in our lives… My prayer is for all of us that we have many more of these, and not just on this topic but the other difficult questions of sexuality and church polity and biblical questions of what it means to be a holiness witness in whatever place Christ sends us…”

Dee Kelley’s closing prayer: “Father, this has been set aside from those who have invested deeply in this local church body as sacred space. This particular room has been set aside as a sanctuary of worship. My prayer, Lord, is that somehow we leave this place challenged to worship through our conversations, through our search of The Word, through telling our story and being there as a listening ear when someone else desperately, desperately needs to tell their story…”

Audience Member to Todd Clayton: “You’ve really opened up a lot of doors, and I just want to, like, thank you and applaud you for your courage.” (applause)


If you have ever had any affiliation with PLNU and/or are a member of a Nazarene church we hope you will make your voice heard about All God’s Children. Why has this group, with their obvious agenda, been allowed to meet at a Nazarene church for over three years? Why have Phil Bowles, Dee Kelley, Michael Lodahl, Bettina Tate Pedersen and others been allowed to influence PLNU students in this manner and to this extent? What will be done by administrators and church leaders to rid Point Loma Nazarene University of these toxic influences and to inform students of the truth of God’s Word on this matter? Where is the outrage? Keep in mind, PLNU students being thus indoctrinated are our pastors and Nazarene leaders of the not-too-distant future. Just a couple of sentences from several concerned people can have a big impact. NOW is the time to speak out!

People to Contact:

District Superintendent, Rev. John Denney: JLDenneySoCal@aol.com

General Superintendent, Dr. J.K. Warrick: jkwarrick10@aol.com

PLNU President, Dr. Bob Brower: BobBrower@pointloma.edu

PLNU Vice President of Student Development, Dr. Caye Smith: CayeSmith@pointloma.edu

PLNU Provost, Dr. Kerry Fulcher: kerryfulcher@pointloma.edu

Dean of the School of Theology, Dr. Bob Smith: RobertSmith@pointloma.edu

Vice President for Spiritual Development, Dr. Mary Paul: mpaul@pointloma.edu

National Youth Leaders Are Lacking In Sound Biblical Judgment And Discernment

“There is a sad lack of serious and strong biblical leadership from those who are supposed to lead the flock as undershepherds of the Great Shepherd.”

(See Acts 20:17-38; 1 Peter 5:1-4, 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

My intent last week was not to single out House Studio as a unique aberration occurring within an otherwise strong denomination.  Rather, it was to show that it is yet another symbol of the many institutions within the Nazarene denomination whose leaders are failing miserably in their responsibility to maintain a strong biblical basis for what they do.  Whether it is Nazarene Publishing House, Barefoot Ministries, YouthFront, Nazarene Theological Seminary, or some other Nazarene universities, districts and churches around the country, there has been a serious breakdown of leadership, and those in leadership will be held more accountable by God than those who are not.  There also seems to be a total reluctance to name false teachers no matter who they are, and when some of us do call them out, we are labeled as “hateful”, “unloving”, “unChristlike.”  But worst, there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing right within our own walls; they are masquerading as angels of light; and they will be exposed by the light of truth.  The only other possibility is that these leaders, in spite of their Master’s degrees in theology, are utterly bankrupt in their biblical understanding and need to get into the word of God.

In my last post, I answered Chris Folmsbee’s question, “So, tell me, why should I care about this controversy?”  The controversy he was referring to was regarding the new book by Rob Bell, Love Wins, and I posted my entire response on his blog.  Since then, after 42 comments from various people, both for and against the new book, the blog moderator decided it was time to terminate the “conversation”, which of course he has a right to do.  He/she said:

“Looks like we’ve passed any potential for this to continue being a constructive discussion. Thanks all for participating!”

Well okay, House Studio.  End the conversation that you and your emergent friends always proudly state is what you seek to have all the time.  It is disappointing once again, to see another group that promotes emergent ideology and mysticism back off when we ask questions that are looking for specific answers that are not shaded in mystery.  We have exposed your agenda in the past, and we will continue to expose it to as many Christians as possible.  After all, you are playing around with the minds of youth, and that is a heavy responsibility.  My suggestion for resignation is still something Mr. Folmsbee ought to consider.

Well, now it seems Mr. Folmsbee’s colleague, Mike King, President of YouthFront, has weighed in regarding the Rob Bell “controversy.”  Apparently, Mr. King cannot spot a false teacher as well, and would not want to call them out if he did.  Here are his words from his latest blog post:

IS Jesus Christ Lord? Love Wins…

Without wading into the Love Wins conversation too deeply (a conversation that has been going on for two thousand years, by the way) I will add a thought about the context of what I see.

I have watched with a sense of sadness at the labeling and demonization of each other around this issue.  I was sitting in church yesterday thinking about what is going on.  If one confesses “Jesus Christ is Lord” we (those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord) should, despite our differences in theology and doctrine, at least acknowledge each other as sisters and brothers.  Yes, let us have disagreements, but please do it without labeling, dismissing and demonizing the other.

To me this feels like two fans of the Kansas City Chiefs hating each other because one fan believes the offense is the key to a future Super Bowl Championship and the other fan believes that the defense is the key.  To declare the other “not a true fan of the Chiefs” would be absurd.

Of course, I am not saying these issues being discussed around “Love Wins” are trivial and don’t really matter.  They matter immensely, but let us learn how to seek first to understand before being understood.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.



This is utterly ridiculous.  I understand Mr. King is an adjunct professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary and a graduate.  Is this the best biblical analysis he can do, that one only needs to proclaim that Jesus is Lord, and everything else is fair game?  So I can therefore say “Jesus is Lord”, but go on doing anything I want, even if it is in direct contradiction to Jesus and the apostles’ doctrine?  I am amazed he would say that, and surely he does not really mean it, does he?  This is the typical disdain for scripture and doctrine that the emergent church crowd has, and instead, they love the touchy feely, emotion driven, let’s all get along theology that has no origins in scripture, but from somewhere else, and from someone else.

It’s also interesting that he uses a football analogy, because he simply looked into that old worn out emergent playbook, and all he could come up with is a play that is frankly getting rather old, useless, and predictable.  It only plays well to the choir which I’m sure is cheering and posting congratulations on Mr. King’s blog, but it does not play well with Bible believing Christians.

The playbook’s favorite moves go something like this:

  1. Use emotion and accuse those who expose false teachers of being hateful, or demonizing, or unChristlike,
  2. Twist scripture out of context to lecture us that we should be “loving”, or going about the business of “the Kingdom”,
  3. And finally, don’t use scripture to back up your argument, but instead tell us how you “feel” about it, or give us your own intellectual reasoning that has no basis in the Bible, but in the new spirituality.

For Mr. King and Mr. Folmsbee, and even many of the leadership at Nazarene Theological Seminary, to apparently not see what is going on, is very sad.  They are clearly promoting contemplative spirituality in their alliance with Barefoot Ministries.  NTS has even promoted CS to middle grade students.  This all is happening with the blessing of the president of the school, Professor Dean Blevins, and others, unless they do not know, although that does not seem possible.  Dean Blevins happens to be the Chairman of the Board of YouthFront, how would he not know?  He is also President of the highly ecumenical Religious Education Association. President of NTS Dr. Ron Benefiel must know what they are doing in promoting this contemplative spirituality.   Why, even a class this Spring that teaches future pastors on the practice of Celtic Spirituality, which is rooted in occultism, is acceptable!

It is clear that these leaders are promoting this new spirituality which has no basis in Nazarene Wesleyan theology, and most importantly, no basis in scripture.  It is even ironic, yet not a surprise, that the prayer Mike King quoted is one that is ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi.  St. Francis was well liked by many, but he taught and practiced many heresies, spent much time in solitude and contemplative practices, and the veneration of Mary.  And did you know that he received the blessing of Pope Innocent III to head up the Inquisition, which as we know led to the brutal persecution and murders of many Bible believing Christians?  Yet, Mike King cannot quote anyone else but a Roman Catholic who had no respect for religious freedom?  But it makes sense because the emergent church is bringing in Roman Catholicism to the Nazarene church, including the latest offering of a book that promotes the ritual of ashes to the forehead.

Mr. King, and Mr. Folmsbee, please turn away from these false teachings you are promoting.  If not, please resign your positions, and let someone else take over YouthFront and Barefoot Ministries, someone who will have the Bible as the foundation for all of its activities and programs, not man’s religion.

2 Tim. 4:1-5 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Why We Should Care About The Rob Bell Controversy

(A response to Chris Folmsbee of House Studio and Barefoot Ministries)

Chris Folmsbee is one of the staff people at the House Studio, a division of the Nazarene Publishing House which focuses on books and other materials for Nazarene youth.  He is also director of Barefoot Ministries, and is involved with Youthfront.  The House Studio has already come under criticism for some of its books, including the book 180, which was reviewed by Rev. Peter Migner last year as a questionable book for our youth.  Mr. Folmsbee recently posted a new commentary called 4 Reasons Why I Don’t Care About The Rob Bell Controversy.  Here are the four reasons he wrote, followed by my response which I posted at his blog:

I haven’t followed the controversy over the new Rob Bell book called, Love Wins very close at all.  Honestly, it doesn’t even interest me all that much.

4 Reasons Why I Don’t Care About The Rob Bell Book Controversy

1. It seems small to me.  It seems like we should be having controversies over bigger issues if we re going to have them.

2. It is irrelevant to me.  Granted I don’t know much about the controversy but if it is about what I think it is about (no hell?), it doesn’t change the way I live and the way that I participate with God’s mission.

3. Controversy in evangelicalism often seems more about demeaning people than real dialogue so I am skeptical that I will find meaningful, generous conversation anyways.

4. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen “controversy” from Rob Bell/Mars Hill.  To me, what others have classified as “controversy” is largely a misunderstanding or suspicion and speculation without context – and so I’m thinking this is the same kind thing.

So, tell me, why should I care about this controversy?

Dear Mr. Folsmbee,

Let me try to tell you why I believe you should care.  Although we have never met, I believe it is my duty to point out some errors in your thinking.  I assume you are probably a very nice guy, but this is not personal, but a question of right doctrine and discernment.   First of all, I applaud you for at least having the courage to say what’s on your mind publicly, because apparently many leaders in the Nazarene church do not have the courage to say anything lately. But frankly, I also suggest that you and perhaps the entire staff at The House Studio seriously consider resigning your positions, and letting others take over who might have a bit more discernment in these issues.  If not resignation, a serious amount of prayer time should be taken to ask God for wisdom and a return to strong biblical principles, instead of the type of books such as 180 that are being promoted to our youth.

As to your first point, does this controversy really seem small to you?  I believe matters of doctrine are pretty big issues.  Rob Bell is possibly the most popular national pastor among Christian youth today, including the Nazarene denomination which you serve.  It would seem that you should be prudent in keeping pace with these issues, especially since his books are very popular, as well as his NOOMA videos.  I do want to know however, if you like Rob Bell for what he teaches, and how much you really know about him?

What does it mean to participate in “God’s mission”, as you say?  I have never heard a clear explanation of what that term means, as it is being used frequently within the Nazarene denomination.  It sounds good, but what does that mean to you?  Would not defending the gospel, and scrutinizing a pastor’s teachings with what the Bible says, be part of God’s mission?  That’s what many of us are doing, and why many of us have come to the conclusion that Rob Bell is a false teacher!  Yet you seem to cavalierly brush aside the question of hell as if that is not important!  If Rob Bell is implying that there is no hell as the scriptures teach, and that unrepentant sinners might still get to heaven after they die, don’t you think this is worth investigating, especially by someone who is a youth leader and very influential?

You also say you don’t know much about the controversy.  Well, I suggest that you get to know about it because there’s enough noise being made by many Christians around the country, and if you continue to “not know much about it” and not even check it out, then I ask you again, please consider seriously resigning your position!  In such a position as yours, you ought to know what Rob Bell is teaching, and you ought to be able to articulate clearly to us what you believe about his positions on hell, eternity, and who is or is not saved.  Don’t you think that’s important, especially if it is true that he is preaching another gospel, as many believe he is?

Thirdly, you seem to be implying that criticism of a pastor’s teachings and doctrine is a matter of demeaning him.  Are you familiar with the many passages in scripture that instruct us to defend the faith, to judge what others teach, to reprove and to rebuke those who preach another gospel?  Do you remember when Paul rebuked Peter publicly?  Was he demeaning to Peter?  Do you remember the Bereans, who made sure that Paul was preaching according to scripture, in spite of knowing of his reputation?  If you remember, Paul also commended the Bereans, as opposed to accusing them that they were demeaning him.

Finally, I strongly suspect that if the books listed at The House Studio and Barefoot Ministries are any indication, your organization is heavily supporting the emergent church movement and all the baggage that comes with it.  That movement has been seriously eroding our strong  foundations in the church for a long time, and if proper biblical discernment is not your strong suit, then perhaps its time for new leadership at this organization, as well as at Barefoot Ministries and Nazarene Publishing House.

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.  Gal. 1:6-10

A Review of Rob Bell’s Book, Love Wins

Rob Bell is yet again the topic here because of his immense popularity and likeability in the evangelical community, especially among youth, and even many pastors now, as I mentioned in a previous post.  Attached to Justin Taylor’s post here, there is a 21 page review of the book by Kevin DeYoung.  I suggest downloading the pdf version and keeping it for reference and distribute to others, especially those who are enamored by this false teacher.  If your pastor has been deceived by Rob Bell, please give him a copy of Kevin’s review.  And pray for Rob Bell.

Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Response
(posted originally at The Gospel Coalition)

Kevin DeYoung has invested an enormous amount of time to provide the Church with a careful, comprehensive, and compelling review of Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. I could not recommend this review more highly. Whether Bell realizes it or not, Kevin is serving as a biblical friend to him. I pray God gives Bell ears to listen.

The Gospel Coalition has produced a PDF version of the review for easier reading, printing, and distributing.

Kevin’s opening paragraph summarizes the book’s thesis and argument:

Love Wins, by megachurch pastor Rob Bell, is, as the subtitle suggests, “a book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived.” Here’s the gist: Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. But hell is not forever. God will have his way. How can his good purposes fail? Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but he does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and he certainly does not punish for eternity. In the end, love wins.

After listing some of the book’s virtues, he summarizes why it is so troubling:

The theology is heterodox. The history is inaccurate. The impact on souls is devastating. And the use of Scripture is indefensible. Worst of all, Love Wins demeans the cross and misrepresents God’s character.

He also explains why this is such a difficult book to review; namely, that one doesn’t know where to begin:

Love Wins is such a departure from historic Christianity, that there’s no easy way to tackle it. You can’t point to two or three main problems or three or four exegetical missteps. This is a markedly different telling of the gospel from start to finish.

He ends up organizing the book’s problems under the following seven headings:

  1. Not Your Grandmother’s Christianity
  2. Historical Problems
  3. Exegetical Problems
  4. Eschatological Problems
  5. Christological Problems
  6. Gospel Problems
  7. A Different God

Kevin closes with a “Pastoral Postscript,” and it is worth reproducing in full:

The tendency in theological controversy is to boil everything down to a conflict of personalities. This is the way the world understands disagreement. This is how the world sells controversy. It’s always politician versus politician or pastor versus pastor. But sometimes the disagreement is less about the men (or women) involved and more about the truth.

This is one of those instances.

I have not spent hours and hours on this review because I am out to get another pastor. I may be a sinner, but with four young children and a very full church schedule, I have no time for personal vendettas. No, this is not about a single author or a single church. This is about the truth, about how the rightness or wrongness of our theology can do tremendous help or tremendous harm to the people of God.

No doubt, Rob Bell writes as a pastor who wants to care for people struggling with the doctrine of hell. I too write as a pastor. And as a pastor I know that Love Wins means God’s people lose. In the world of Love Wins, my congregation should not sing “In Christ Alone,” because they cannot not believe, “There on the cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” They would not belt out “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood.” No place for “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” with its confession, “the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.” The jubilation of “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine!” is muted in Love Wins. The bad news of our wrath-deserving wretchedness is so absent that the good news of God’s wrath-bearing Substitute cannot sing in our hearts. When God is shrunk down to fit our cultural constraints, the cross is diminished. And whenever the cross is diminished we pain the hearts of God’s people and rob them of their joy.

Just as damaging is the impact of Love Wins on the nonbeliever or the wayward former churchgoer. Instead of summoning sinners to the cross that they might flee the wrath to come and know the satisfaction of so great a salvation, Love Wins assures people that everyone’s eternity ends up as heaven eventually. The second chances are good not just for this life, but for the next. And what if they aren’t? What if Jesus says on the day of judgment, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23)? What if at the end of the age the wicked and unbelieving cry out, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16)? What if outside the walls of the New Jerusalem “are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev. 22:15)? What if there really is only one name “under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)? And what if the wrath of God really remains on those who do not believe in the Son (John 3:36)?

If Love Wins is wrong—if the theology departs from the apostolic good deposit, if the biblical reasoning falls short in a hundred places, if the god of Love Wins and the gospel of Love Wins are profoundly mistaken—if all this is true, then what damage has been done to the souls of men and women?

Bad theology hurts real people. So of all the questions raised in the book, the most important question every reader must answer is this: is it true? Whatever you think of all the personalities involved on whatever side of the debate, that’s the one question that cannot be ignored. Is Love Wins true to the word of God? That’s the issue. Open a Bible, pray to God, listen to the faithful Christians of the past 2000 years, and answer the question for yourself.

Bell addressed an invitation-only meeting at Mars Hill Bible Church on Sunday night and began by saying that he is not a universalist, that he believes in heaven and hell, and that he believes Jesus is the only way to God. Kevin’s review will help you see what he really means in each of these three areas.

I am praying that God uses this review, among others, to strengthen God’s church in sound doctrine and to protect the church from deceptive teaching. May God’s name be glorified.

You can read the review here:

God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True:
A Review of Love Wins

Northwest Nazarene University: Symbol Of What’s Wrong In Our Christian Schools

Note: This post is also on the latest issue of Intermountain Christian News, serving Colorado, southern Idaho, Montana, northern Nevada, eastern Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.  You can subscribe to the monthly newsletter (tax-deductible) either vie e-newsletter or printed copy.  Dr. Anthony Harper is the publisher of this voice of Christian truth on vital issues in our time.

In the last several years, there has been a growing body of members in the Church of the Nazarene who are very concerned about the direction of the denomination. In the United States and Canada, 10,000 Nazarenes have left the denomination in the last four years.  Our research in the past few years has shown that the influence of the emergent church and other unbiblical ideologies is widespread, with its various forms including Roman Catholic monastic mysticism, liberal social justice and environmental programs, and post-modern philosophy promoted by emergent leaders such as Brian McLaren.  All this, with a very low view of scripture and denial of biblical inerrancy has brought a once great holiness church into crisis, right alongside most evangelical denominations today.  And this crisis includes universities such as Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.

One of the warning signs about NNU was in early 2008 when Brian McLaren was at the school for his “Everything Must Change” Tour. In a video excerpt of Christian apologist Eric Barger’s visit to the three day event, Eric describes some of the thinking of McLaren that goes against the teachings of orthodox Christianity. One of his basic premises is that after 2,000 years, we just have not gotten it right, and we need to re-discover Christianity all over again.  McLaren truly means it when he says, “everything must change.”  He decries those of a fundamentalist persuasion and believes they are intolerant.  He wavers on the issue of homosexuality, and has likened the Cross to “false advertising for God.”  He supports the contemplative spirituality movement, and recently joined his Muslim friends to participate in Ramadan with them. Yet NNU and other Nazarene schools have celebrated this man as a visionary in Christian teaching.  Instead of solid Bible based teachers, Nazarene universities like NNU are bringing more and more emergent teachers who reject the authority of God’s word and deny its inerrancy.

The school has at least one professor who teaches or promotes open theism and process theology.  Open theism says that God cannot know the future, thereby rejecting biblical prophesy as something we can trust.  Process theology teaches that God makes mistakes and learns from them, refuting what scripture teaches about God’s nature. The theistic evolutionist believes in: (a) an old Earth; (b) wholly natural processes responsible for life as we see it, once the initial matter was brought into existence by God, and; (c) a figurative (non-literal) interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.  But do these ideas fall in line with what scripture teaches about the nature of God?

There have been other very dubious speakers at the school.  Brennan Manning was a guest speaker on the college campus church. He was quoted favorably at a chapel service in 2008 by the college president.  Yet he is a big promoter of contemplative mysticism, practicing “the silence”, mantras, centering prayer and other forms of New Age occultism and Eastern meditation.  In his book Abba’s Child, he refutes the Cross of Christ as the only way to salvation.  He mocks Bible-believers and calls them bibliolaters.  He believes that homosexuality is acceptable.  He is ecumenical and embraces other religions as valid.  So why would a Christian school invite such a speaker who promotes unbiblical practices?

Another recent speaker was Dr. Jay McDaniel, an ordained Methodist who is a self professing panentheist (God is in all).  In his one hour presentation to students and faculty, he promoted a universalistic gospel, making the argument that his Buddhist friend would be welcome in heaven without ever accepting Jesus Christ, and that Christians can learn and apply truth from other religions.  He was well received by the faculty who were present.  I have listened to the entire presentation, and was shocked at the kind of heretical teaching that was being allowed to go unchallenged.

Another popular leader in the post-modern movement is Leonard Sweet, and he was a featured speaker at the PALCON (pastors’ conference) in 2010.  He has been described as a New Age sympathizer and written several books that heavily promotes that kind of thinking, and endorses authors who promote contemplative spirituality.  Although he has recently denied his New Age leanings, his book Quantum Spirituality still remains available on his website.  He continues his influence, appearing at a leadership conference in January at European Nazarene College.

Northwest Nazarene has been on a path of emergent ideology, contemplative spirituality and secularization for some time now.  In June of 2009, along with Nazarene Theological Seminary, the school sponsored a spiritual formation retreat at the Nazarene General Assembly in Orlando.  This term sounds nice enough to the unawares, but it is the catchall term used today that now means the teaching of contemplative spirituality practices.  And recently, the Wesleyan (The Bible Tells Me So) conference was just held at NNU, resulting in the end with very weak statements on scriptural authority.

In NNU’s theology courses, you will find emergent leaders, Roman Catholic mystics, and modern day mystics such as Richard Foster in the textbooks used.  The Master’s in Spiritual Formation program uses books by Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Donald Miller, Rob Bell, Steve Chalke, Brother Lawrence, Eugene Peterson, Brian McLaren, and Dallas Willard.  There are two Nazarenes on the list, but they both support open theism, process theology, and do not believe in biblical inerrancy.  The M.A. in Missional Leadership, and M.A. in Pastoral Leadership, also are stacked with books from the same kind of writers.  It makes one wonder, is there a severe shortage of textbooks by Bible believing teachers?  Even the M.A. in Christian Education is filled with textbooks from emergent authors such as McLaren, Sweet, and Phylis Tickle.

But not all professors or students at the school are happy with what is going on, and NNU is not the only school in trouble.  The school is just one example of the retreat from biblical principles that many of our Nazarenes schools have taken.  Our very own seminary, Nazarene Theological Seminary, has a course this Spring called Celtic Spirituality, which is giving pastors-to-be the opportunity to practice what amounts to an occultic type of Christianity that is not based on scripture.  Point Loma Nazarene University has been going the way of contemplative spirituality for quite a while, and also has brought false teachers consistently to the school, most recently an appearance by Rob Bell, where he spoke on Pastor’s Day.  Trevecca Nazarene University still has a prayer labyrinth on campus, and sends its students on retreats to a monastery to practice the silence.  Even Nazarene Bible College has brought in spiritual formation.  And Eastern Nazarene College has a prominent professor who believes in evolution and open theism, and the school is helping to introduce Roman Catholic ideology to the students.

We have only scratched the surface here.  At some of these schools you will find professors teaching a view of God as being gender neutral, or even describing God as having a feminine side.  You will find more and more emphasis on environmentalism, and social activism or social justice, to the exclusion of strong, biblically sound preparation of students. You will even see the “psycho-babble” that is prevalent at so many Christian schools and churches, where licensing with secular agencies is encouraged in their counselor education programs (unholy alliances) and given more weight and importance than solid Christian counseling for those who want to go into counseling ministries.

All this amounts to what is a serious problem that is resulting in schools losing students, as more and more parents and students are turning to biblically sound schools, instead of the slowly deteriorating schools in the Nazarene denomination.  Will even more than 10,000 leave the denomination in the next four years?  Will there be more and more pastors graduating from seminary who do not believe and trust all of scripture?  Will the denomination recover from this damaging trend away from Biblical soundness?  Will the leadership in the church speak out boldly, clearly, without ambiguity?

Only time will answer these questions.  True revival- and the fruits that bear witness of true revival- will only come through much prayer, and the work of God’s Holy Spirit to move the hearts and minds of leaders at the schools and in the churches.

** If an official representative of any of these schools I mentioned would like to post a rebuttal or defense of any of the facts written here, I am willing to post their response.