The Church of the Nazarene (CotN) denomination, like many other evangelical denominations, has slid into heresy over the past 100 years. Today the CotN is one of the major players in promulgating postmodern (Emerging/Emergent/ Emergence) teachings. CotN compromises with heretical teachings can be seen in its adoption of increasingly heretical textbooks over the years.
Consider the following excerpts. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].
1) While there is no official theology text authorised by the denomination, there are several that have been widely used in the pre-ordination training course for ministers. In the early years of the denomination, books by John Miley and William Burt Pope were used. The most influential theologians within the Church of the Nazarene have been Edgar P. Ellyson, author of Theological Compend (1908); A.M. Hills, author of Fundamental Christian Theology (1931); H. Orton Wiley, author of the three-volume Christian Theology (1940–1943); Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, author of A Theology of Love (1972) and Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology (1972); Richard S. Taylor, author of A Right Conception of Sin (1945) and Exploring Christian Holiness, Vol.3: The Theological Formulation (1985); H. Ray Dunning, author of Grace, Faith & Holiness (1988); and J. Kenneth Grider, author of A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology (1994). Contemporary Nazarene theologians include Michael Lodahl, Thomas Oord, Samuel M. Powell, Bryan Stone, Rob Staples, and Thomas A. Noble. Noble has been commissioned to write a three-volume systematic theology for the denomination that seeks to be intellectually coherent, comprehensive, contemporary, and global.
 Thomas Noble, in Bob Broadbooks, “An Interview with Thomas Noble“, Grace & Peace Magazine 6 (Spring 2012):4.
Source: Wikipedia article on “Church of the Nazarene” (as of 10/01/12)
2) It had become obvious as early as 1919 that the new denomination needed a systematic theology of its own. The two which were recommended in the “Course of Study” were already by that time quite old and not synchronized with the age of the assembly line, urbanization, and obviously increasing social mobility. Benjamin Field’s The Student’s Handbook of Christian Theology had been published in 1886; John Miley’s Systematic Theology was dated 1892; and older than them both, but recommended from the beginning, was Samuel Wakefield’s Christian Theology, a revision of Watson’s Institutes, published in 1869. William Burton Pope’s Compendium of Christian Theology and Charles Hodges’ Systematic Theology, neither of them in the “Course of Study” but both very widely used in the colleges of the holiness movement, date from 1881 and 1871 respectively. These could not meet the onslaught of modernism. They knew little of it.
So it was that in 1919 a formal request was made by the General Department of Education to H. Orton Wiley, then president of Northwest Nazarene College, Nampa, Idaho, that he write a full-range systematic theology [the 3-volume Christian Theology]. (73) About the time that Wiley was being importuned, A. M. Hills, a member of the Pasadena University faculty, began to write his own systematic theology, urged on by his former students. (74) For whatever reasons, Hills’ theology [entitled Fundamental Christian Theology] was published almost a decade before Wiley’s, first appearing in 1931. It was not published by the Nazarene Publishing House, but by C. J. Kinne, a Nazarene elder long connected with denominational literature and publishing interests. A search of several sorts of correspondence revealed nothing as to why the Publishing House did not print the work. Conversations with some persons contemporary with the events suggested that Hills was considered too liberal with respect to the authority and inspiration of Scripture. (75)
…Nonetheless, in spite of Wiley’s critique of theologies such as Hills’ as being too biblicistic; and the critique of grass roots opinion, as it was expressed in administrative leadership, that Hills’ work was too liberal with respect to Scripture, the Fundamentalism of Hills took hold of the Church of the Nazarene in the 1930’s and 1940’s… (85)
Source: Paul Merritt Bassett, THE FUNDAMENTALIST LEAVENING OF THE HOLINESS MOVEMENT, 1914-1940; THE CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE: A CASE STUDY (click here and scroll to the hard copy of pages 79,80,81)
3) At one time the Church of the Nazarene had a “one-size fits all” approach to ministerial preparation. None of us at the ANSR Conference were ordained in 1932. But you probably should know that those seeking ordination in 1934 – received an updated Questions on the Course of Study with a revised recommended reading list! When it comes to preparing our clergy – in our movement . . . we are always moving forward. But in case 1932 roles around again – this author will not have to buy a book!
For the source of the above quote, click here and scroll to the hard copy of page 3. A very insightful article (albeit liberal); this source describes many of the titles on the recommended reading list at the time. It would be very interesting to see the complete list of these biblically sound titles.
Fast forward to 1979, and we see another major change in textbooks, reflecting a shift in Nazarene theology:
4) H. Ray Dunning [who teaches various heresies] of Trevecca was asked by the Board of General Superintendents in 1979 to write a contemporary one-volume systematic theology to replace Wiley. [My question is, why?]
Source: Click here and scroll to hard copy of p. 14.
Following are some reader comments on H. Ray Dunning’s textbook, Grace, Faith & Holiness: A Wesleyan Systematic Theology. This is just one of several lengthy reviews, which give a great deal of info about the content of Dunning’s book – as well as J. Kenneth Grider’s A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology.
I was among the last crop of students to use H. Orton Wiley’s three volume Christian Theology as my primary theological textbook in college. A year before my graduation Dunning’s work came out and was suggested as a “supplemental textbook” in our theology courses. Shortly thereafter, the Church of the Nazarene changed from Wiley to Dunning as its primary theological text for the preparation of ministers.
Dunning’s approach to Wesleyan Theology couldn’t be more different from the older Wiley text. Wiley was very much in the mold of 19th century Methodist theologians like Miley, while Dunning has taken a much more relational approach. The latter’s Grace, Faith & Holiness: A Wesleyan Systematic Theology could be considered the theological magnum opus of the relational stream of Wesleyan thought that was brought to the fore by Mildred Bangs Wynkoop in A Theology of Love during the 1970s. In many ways, Dunning would, therefore, seem to be a throwback to John Wesley’s eighteen century thinking, minus the additions, accompaniments, modifications, and embellishments that were adjoined during the nineteenth century holiness movement. That movement added much to the original Wesleyan message, and not all for the good (in my humble opinion). [“The relational model” fits in very closely with today’s heretical Emergent teachings. Also, the reviewer seems to be putting the godly John Wesley on the same level as heretics Wynkoop and Dunning (I disagree). And that the Wesleyan Holiness movement theology was incorrect (I disagree).] Now… it would appear that the relational model of Wynkoop and Dunning has become normative in much of the Wesleyan world.
But not quite so fast. Shortly after the release of Dunning’s theology, another work appeared on the scene. This was J. Kenneth Grider‘s A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology. While not precisely in the same vein as Wiley, Grider’s work was still very much attuned to the teachings of the nineteenth century holiness movement. [I’m not so sure about this – Grider also has many heretical teachings of his own.]
Both Dunning and Grider have their place. The two juxtapose the two major avenues of thought in contemporary Wesleyan-Holiness circles. In truth, both need to be read to obtain a full picture of Wesleyan thinking in our time. Which one is closer to a true, biblical, Wesleyan theology?… Perhaps it is not a matter of either/or, but a matter of finding the valid points of each and trying to come up with a synthesis where possible.
The above reviewer believes there were still relatively biblical alternatives to Dunning in the 1970s to 1990s. This document tells us (on p. 19) some more about Grider, and introduces us to Donald S. Metz:
J. Kenneth Grider’s A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology was published in 1994, six years after Dunning and represented a more traditional formulation. Another voice critical of the ‘relational’ formulation was Donald S. Metz. He had published Studies in Biblical Holiness in 1971, and this was placed on the Course of Study in 1976. In 1994, he published independently Some Crucial Issues in the Church of the Nazarene which called for a return to the traditional formulation of the doctrine to save the church ‘embalming itself for burial.’
Hmm, I’m not so sure Grider and Metz can be considered biblically sound. But I would agree that they were “less” heretical than Dunning.
Richard S. Taylor is another story – he does strike me as being biblically sound. Consider an excerpt from this article regarding Richard S. Taylor:
A brave but lone voice seeking a return to the historic Nazarene position [on inerrancy] came in 1980 with the publication of noted Nazarene theologian Richard S. Taylor’s Biblical Authority and the Christian Faith. Taylor writes with a different outlook and a fresh approach to the problem of biblical inspiration. He freely criticizes (in a way few leading Nazarene scholars had done for years) neo-orthodox theologians and their tenets. He just as freely and without apology [favorably] quotes non-Wesleyan inerrantists. He charges that destructive higher criticism destroys the authority of the Bible and the teaching of its tenets renders men “unfit to serve the Savior,” in the words of William Beck. He warns against “excessive exposure” to critics such as Bultmann.
Taylor emphasized the primacy of Scripture…
I’m not very familiar with Taylor. But I have read Wiley’s theology. Even if Taylor was not totally on track in his theology, at least Taylor was in the ball park of being biblically sound like Wiley.
Back to Nazarene textbooks. Unfortunately – and this is key – the Nazarene Board of General Superintendents did not ask Taylor (or even Grider or Metz) in 1979 to write a contemporary one-volume systematic theology to replace Wiley’s. Instead, they chose the worst of the bunch, the heretical H. Ray Dunning. The rest is history.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. This blog does not get into the continued heretical slide in theology textbooks since the 1990s. Today the Nazarene schools are full of postmodern (Emerging/Emergent/Emergence) textbooks. What a tragedy.