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.

30 responses to “Northwest Nazarene University: Symbol Of What’s Wrong In Our Christian Schools

  1. Good solid article Manny
    Parents need to read this article before sending their kids to a Nazarene college or university.
    Keep in mind though the Nazarene denomination is not the only Christian school at fault here.
    I have been sent and have read many tragic stories on how Christian parents have sent their kids to alleged Christian schools of higher learning only to have their kids faith shipwrecked on the cliffs of false teaching some of these schools have allowed in and promoted.
    You can see the fruit of many of these apostate fundamental place of unlearning on places like Naz net and some of the people who respond on this blog.

  2. College Church of the Nazarene now only retains the name as such because of its next-door proximity to the University. It is no longer part of the college itself.

    The Wesleyan Conference was held at College Church but sponsored, promoted and put on by the University.

    As with most things, the influences go both ways. There are some very Godly, Bible-believing individuals (and believe in its inerrant Authority) who attend College Church and the six other Nampa Nazarene churches who are appalled at what is coming forth from the Religion department. They too are influential in the college community. Many students are flocking to these individuals because they are offering hope in TRUTH, the Absolute Truth in Jesus Christ and his unchanging Word.

    We can only imagine what it must be like to be employed and paid by the University and yet fighting spiritual warfare within it – especially, when they are the minority and their influences are being noticed.

  3. Manny;

    You mentioned a loss of 10,000 members over the last four years. I would imagine a large percentage of that number represents those of us who could not abide the shift into the emergent.

    But, it is about the numbers. Do you know the net gain or loss over those four years? From what I was seeing, if the new approach gets more in the door, then I don’t see the false teaching going away any time soon, because the bottom line looks to be numbers in attendance. We used to count number of conversions before actually giving the gospel unappologetically became too offensive.

  4. Thank you for the post. Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego needs to be also mentioned. As many know, Rob Bell spoke at PLNU last month at the Pastor’s Conference held on campus and also to students in chapel. As a point of information, please note that Mr. Bell has a new book to be released March 15th, entitled “Love Wins”. If one googles this title you will find a lot of info/blogs/videos on it. Rob Bell is now questioning the sound biblical theology of “hell”. Does it exist? Can a God of love send someone to hell? It is so unfortunate that the college presidents and boards of these universities seem so blinded to the danger of this postmodern theology and unable to discern it’s heresy according to the Word of God. Are they ever learning and never able to come to the truth? Or, are they just asleep on the job?

  5. Hi Jim,
    Still trying to get more details. The 10,000 figure was from a quote of Dr. Broadbrooks, who told the folks at a session that we have lost that many in the U.S. and Canada. Previously, GS Middendorf was telling all that we have gained 8,000 new Nazarenes, and perhaps that is mostly from overseas.
    Dr. Broadbrooks was also quoted as getting up and crying out, “Oh God, we are in trouble”, just before he mentioned the stats.
    One other stat I have found out is that M7 had 5,000 attendees; M11 only 2500. Interesting that the emergent agenda seemed to have come out at M7, perhaps that affected some people? Don’t know, just wondering.

    I’m still waiting to gather a lot more details in order to write up something of significance.

  6. To Ann’s comments about Rob Bell I think it is worth mentioning that Rob really played this one sly.
    Look at all the media attention this guy has gotten.
    They had to move the release of the book up because of all the rukus.
    Sad to say he will probably sell a million books.
    Its always been said “good press or bad press at least they are talking about me”.
    Look at all the free advertising this false teacher got.
    Very sad

  7. Do you really think that the Church as we know it from the past 50 years or so has it all figured out?! Why are we so quick to condemn our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Why do we reject the tradition of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Church from whom we Protestants emerged from.
    Questions are good. Doubt is good. Let us not be so afraid of something that we aren’t willing to engage in the conversation and truly hear what people have to say. It’s easy to take comments out of context.
    Why are we embracing the Reformed tradition instead of embracing our Wesleyan/Arminian heritage.

  8. Tim Wirth,

    I agree with what you are saying, and for sure this will make Bell a mega-rock star. However, there is a silver lining to this dark cloud. I believe a few handfuls of his followers will finally come to their senses and part company. Even more important perhaps, is this will further help separate the sheep and the goats, and it will be evident to anyone who’s paying attention. I would say we will be (somewhat) surprised by some people who will lend their support to Bell, but hey, this will “out” them for what they really are. Overall I think God will use this for much good.

  9. Aaron,
    No one is condemning fellow brothers and sisters. I personally condemn false teachings no matter who teaches them.
    You are in error about the Roman Catholic church. The reformation was about the REJECTION of their teachings- not that we “emerged” from them. read the history of Martin Luther and you will know that.

    Who is afraid of what?
    What comments out of context? Be specific.
    Who is embracing Reformed tradition? We are embracing true Christianity- biblical Christianity.

    I wish you would have specifically defended any of the things I wrote about in this post.
    Is it perhaps you cannot do that and support these things biblically?

  10. Aaron,

    Questioning what people say is good, so where is the problem if we disagree with Roman Catholic and Eastern doctrine? As for doubting God’s revealed truth found in Scripture, not so good:

    James 1:6-8 (New American Standard Bible)
    6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
    7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
    8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

    You may have a conversation (modern sense) to determine where each party stands, but from what I am hearing of the post-modern conversational mode, it only leads away from Scripture. In the new paradigm, conversation is not for the purpose of jointly arriving at the absolute truth; it is only for the sake of clarifying and affirming each others relative truths, even when they are polar opposites. But there is only one truth; Jesus says it is He (John 14:6), and that He is the only path to the Father.

    Wesley was a man of one book, the Bible. He would not reduce its importance and decide what God was like based on any conversation with only man’s reasoning behind it. God’s Spirit is required to understand the Bible. Therefore when I see teachers rejecting the easy to understand, plain passages, such as the exclusivity of salvation through Christ (John 14:6), I have Biblical grounds to call them false teachers who lack God’s leading.

    And no, the church was not perfect 50 years ago, but it was much healthier than present.

  11. Here is another solid review on Mr. Bells new book by Kevin Deyoung. While I am sure the “Wesleyans” who think John Wesley promoted open theism and throught the Bible was full of errors will probably automatically dismiss this because he is reformed in his theology, but I believe Rev. Deyoung has done a very thorough and God honoring review here. Here is the link to check it out….

  12. Just a point of interest: it appears each person will have to be in much prayer as to what Church of the Nazarene to become a part of now-days.
    The pastor, the people both make all the difference.

    One has to wonder why the enemy has made an all-out attack against the Church of the Nazarene denomination wide, doesn’t it? Just sayin’.

    Rev. Nancy Coyle, retired

  13. I just wanted to thank you for the warning of what is happening to NNU that you have put up here. I myself attended NNU and was in the Religion program there during the 2006-2007 school year and was not at all impressed with what was happening. Everything you mention there is completely true and has brought back memories of my time there. They even planned a “spiritual formation retreat” for the students when I was first there in 2006, up in McCall, ID.

    Thank you again for sharing the unbiblical heresies that are happening on this campus. I pray that God will use you and your knowledge of what is going on to save many students from being misguided by these professors and fellow students alike.

  14. What schools are out there (in America) that are still Biblically sound? I only know of one and that is The Master’s College in So California.

  15. Mike, please check out Southern Baptist Theological Seminary whose President is Dr. Albert Mohler. He also has a website where there is a very interesting article on Biblical inerrancy where he mentions what is being taught at Eastern Nazarene College. The article is called “Science Trumps the Bible?” By the way, my husband and I recently left the Church of the Nazarene because of these issues.

  16. There’s a lot in this blog post that I could comment on, but allow me to start with this:

    What is so wrong with contemplative, or “mystic” spiritual disciplines, as you call them? Jesus himself frequently took time away from his ministry and retreated to the Garden for prayer and meditation. He spent 40 days alone in the desert preparing for his ministry; one might even call this a “monastic retreat” for him. I believe that instead of running our mouths all the time, we all need to take opportunities to be silent in God’s presence.

    As a recent MNU grad and a current NTS student, I really do feel that you are misunderstanding what these Nazarene schools are trying to teach us. By hosting various speakers, or by having us read their books, they are not saying, “This is exactly how you need to believe.” They are opening us up to the different forms of theology that are already out there. I personally do not want to graduate completely and totally ignorant of the different views of theology that are out there.

    As for the specific names you mentioned (Bell, McClaren, Nouwen, Manning, etc.), I ask, Have you even read their books? Or have you just read negative media about them? I have read books by all of the these authors and they are very insightful and well-written. They didn’t necessarily change my Wesleyan-Arminian theology, and I don’t think they are the next Bible or anything; but I did find them interesting and have gained something by reading them. I encourage everyone to open their minds up to different authors, even those they don’t agree with, simply to expand their learning and knowledge.

    The bottom line for this post is: These “emergent” or “post-modern” philosophies are already out there. Wishing they weren’t there won’t change anything. NNU and other Nazarene schools are simply doing what they are supposed to be doing: EDUCATING their students on the various viewpoints that exist in theological circles. The professors then leave us to make our own judgments, rather than forcing us to believe a certain way.

  17. How very sad, Shannon, for me to read this.

    To answer the first question contemplative or mystic spiritual disciplines are not biblical disciplines at all. Every example of Jesus praying or going out to the desert to pray, has no such kind of teaching that resembles the contemplative prayer of today. None at all. Jesus taught us only one way to pray- and that did not include “listening” for the “voice” of God, or sitting in silence. There is absolutely nothing biblical about contemplative mysticism.

    No I do not misunderstand what these schools are teaching, and neither are the many parents, alumni, concerned pastors and other leaders in the church. I am far from being alone in this. And these speakers are being allowed to come in, as authority figures, who are looked upon as credible in what they say, therefore they end up poisoning the minds of out students. I can guarantee you that so far, I have not heard of any professor like Tom Oord, or Karl Giberson, or Darrel Falk, accepting a challenge or invitation to debate their beliefs. I don’t expect to see it happen soon, but I am hopeful. Why cannot they defend their ideologies against those who oppose them?

    Have I read those books. A few, but not all. However, I do know I don’t need to read an entire book to know a false teacher when I see them. I listen to some of the audios as well, and sometimes you can spot a false teacher a mile away without ever having to read their entire writings- especially when they recommend works by past false teachers, which at the very least shows their lack of discernment.

    The fact that you believe that Mclaren is okay tells me that you do not have a strong grounding in scripture- because he is one of the easier ones to spot. I encourage you to get into God’s infallible Holy word, and do not spend so much time reading books by humans like Mclaren who are imperfect and often preach their own brand of the gospel, not the gospel according to Jesus and the apostles. He is a false teacher.

    Finally, its not just wishing these philosophies were not there. No, its about the biblical command for Christians to “beware of false prophets”, and to expose them and rebuke them as needed, and finally, to stay away from them. That is what we are doing here.
    And the professors are pushing these philosophies on these students, and many are ridiculing anyone who has an opposing viewpoint- especially the traditional, conservative Christian view. I know, I’ve heard from many parents and students who testify to this fact.

    It is my prayer for you that you stay away from the wolves in sheep’s clothing, and trust in God’s word first and foremost, and compare what they say, to what scripture teaches.

  18. I am currently a student at NNU, and from my perspective this article, if anything, understates the problem.

    Readers should take heart, though, not all the students and certainly not all the faculty and staff swallow this particular brand of nonsense. I’ve had conversations with professors from other departments who’ve asked ME what’s going on since they know I’ve been a student in some of these classes.

    NNU can change, but it’s going to take the support of every Nazarene who is concerned about the postmodern influence on the campus. Let your district leadership know you are concerned. If you are sending your kids to NNU, be sure to question the admission folks carefully and pointedly about what your kids are going to be taught. Ask for lists of reading materials for the required Bible and Theology classes that every student MUST take, and see for yourself what’s going on.

    Pray for us here – it’s a daily battle.

  19. Yes, the entire school (faculty or students) has not been taken in by these false teachings. I have heard from many others with the same concern you have, Larry. We are praying daily.

  20. I too am a current student at NNU. I’ve had a couple of classes from the Religion department and am thankful that I’m not called to have to graduate through that department. I have been ridiculed for believing differently from some of the professors. Yes, it may be part of their job description to challenge what they believe. But they should not force their own brand of belief on us in the process. I read some books by people that were way off base with the Bible while being in those classes. The only reason I continued reading was because they were required to do well enough in the class. I too see the a danger in some of these authors and their ideas. I’ve encountered “Bible” studies and videos by the likes of Bell, McLaren, and Manning. I don’t care for their stuff at all as it just flat out feels wrong. As others have pointed out, there is no biblical basis for what they are trying to preach. I do second what Larry says in that there is still hope for NNU and many have not given in to the nonsense that has pervaded this school.

  21. Amen to what Larry and Keenan says.
    Good to know there is always hope
    Prayer can change things
    Its good to hear a good report though in this day and age

  22. To Doug and anyone else looking for a long, drawn out battle with me or anyone who rejects what is going on in the schools, it will not happen here. See my About page- again. Perhaps you may want to start your own blog and promote these things.

    If you have an open mind, here is a new post on Rob Bell:

    Read it and tell me what you think about it- send it to my email. If your defense of Rob Bell is biblical, I will post it.

    Don’t know anything about Brennan Manning? Here’s a great summary of this man’s heresies:

    Read up on him and then get back to me on my email as to what you think of him.
    If you wish to defend him in relation to what scripture teaches, please do so.

    You don’t care a bit about Celtic Spirituality? Well, then, find out about it. It is occultism and nothing else at our seminary. If you want to ignore it, that’s a real problem. But here is my post on it:

    This will not be a place to disseminate emergent ideology to others. This is a place that has rejected- and will always reject- these things, and I will not let anyone come here to poison the minds of those who might be swayed by false doctrines.

    However, I am willing to go to any of these universities and in an open public forum, get into a good old fashioned debate with any of the professors who support the EC ideology. I thought the emergent church people were all about dialogue, but apparently that conversation will not happen openly with the other side challenging them in front of others.

  23. I see. You are willing to attack, but not to engage in a dialogue. This tells me quite a bit about fairness and character.

  24. No Rev. Ward,
    This should tell you that I will not allow deceptive teachings to be promoted here. My challenge to you remains- defend any of these things I have pointed out. If you wish, I will come to your church- where I assume you promote these things- and I will confront you in front of your own congregation. Then you can defend all you want, including your belief that God does not know everything.
    But not here sir.

    In the meantime, please read up on those people that you say you don’t know much about- and let me know what you think about them in in relation to the word of God.

  25. I am proud to have studied at Northwest Nazarene University and blessed to have had such amazing professors who truly emulate the love of Christ. God brought me to that school and I can not be more grateful for all the people I met, professors I studied under, and opportunities I had. I believe that NNU is a picture of success and they’re really doing things right. They are truly a loving, accepting, and God fearing community.

  26. If you really agree with all that has been written here, that which the school has been teaching over the years, I truly am sad about it. Praying.

  27. I am a new student at NNU Christian Ministry dept. I have read this blog and have questions of those that are attending now, namely Keenan, and Larry Nielson. Firstly, I believe in the Bible, I read the Bible, I trust the Bible, and not someones idea of the Bible. So, I am concerned. I would appreciate any info you can share about who, what, where, when and how to look out for. I can appreciate a more esoteric view only if it is taught as a “watch out for” you can reach me @ –

  28. Thanks Mark. I took note of your email and will get in touch a little later on with some information.
    Manny Silva

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