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Archive for April, 2012

Click here for the original site of this blog, by my friend Manny Silva.

Three Years Later: Nazarene Foundations Still Crumbling

Posted on January 5, 2012 by reformednazarene

“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”  Psalm 11:3

The Church of the Nazarene is caught in a serious crisis, even though those in leadership may not think so.  The foundations are slowly being destroyed, and many leaders are ignoring the warnings; some are part of the problem; and only a few are sounding the alarm.  I often see reports and updates that tell us that the church is healthy.  Surely in some places things are going well, but there is a cancer slowly running through the church and eating away at its spiritual health, and that is being ignored too much.  How foolish if a sick patient ignores the warning signs of a deadly disease!  The following items of apostasy have been welcomed into our universities (in varying degrees of severity depending on the school) and many of our churches and districts:

Emergent church ideology (now more often dressed up as “missional”); contemplative spirituality or mysticism; spiritual formation; ecumenicalism and interfaith collaborations; Roman Catholic practices; environmental movement; social justice “gospel”; open theism; process theology; theistic evolution; and finally, what has led to all these things, which is the rejection of the inerrancy and authority of God’s word.

I believe that the Church of the Nazarene is moving in a direction that will at some point, perhaps in the not too distant future, put it on the same level as apostate mainline denominations such as the ELCA, the Episcopal Church, and the PCUSA.  Those denominations have shared, amongst other meltdowns, an affinity for watering down the biblical message against homosexual sin, and accepting the LGBT lifestyle as a normal part of Christian living.  We already are seeing signs of this viewpoint coming into some of our universities such as Point Loma and Southern Nazarene University, and even some weakness in official denomination papers (Pastoral Perspective on Homosexuality).

For those who are new to much of this, in December of 2008 I made my first contact with Tim Wirth.  Tim and his friends Sue and Don Butler were instrumental in putting together the Emergent Church DVD, which was passed out to over 6,000 people at General Assembly 2009 in Orlando.  Sometime during the early months of 2009, I had met other Nazarenes or former Nazarenes who were concerned about the direction the denomination was going due to the influence of the emerging church movement and unbiblical teachings in our universities.  We organized ourselves and “invaded” the General Assembly to warn our fellow Nazarenes.  It has been a real battle as we have been joined by many other Nazarenes, and even non-Nazarene friends, in sounding the warning and educating others to the dangers we all are facing throughout all denominations.

I believe that now after almost three years there has come a new turning point, from what I have seen, and what I am planning as far as my ministry goes.  I may not necessarily be speaking for all concerned Nazarenes, and will not be presumptuous to think so.  Most of what I will say here is shared by many others, although I do not claim to be “the voice” of the Concerned Nazarenes.  And I also am taking the risk of losing more friends with what needs to be said today.  I accept that risk, as long as I am being truthful in my assessment.  From all I have seen, the Church of the Nazarene is near or at the forefront of all other traditionally orthodox denominations in bringing emergent ideology and other unbiblical practices and teachings to its people.

Response From Our National Leadership Has Failed

This to me has been the biggest red flag and the most troublesome indicator that the Nazarene denomination is headed for even more difficult times.  And when I speak of difficult times, I only speak of one thing: that of spiritual matters.  It has nothing to do with membership, or finances, or status in the world.  Therefore, I have come to two main conclusions at this time regarding the Board of General Superintendents:

1. General Superintendent Dr. Jesse Middendorf is an active perhaps the most influential supporter of the emergent church agenda within the denomination.  His son Jon Middendorf has also been a big influence, with his embrace of emergent ideology and ecumenical fellowship with the Roman Catholic church.  From his support of Jon’s presentation at the 2009 General Assembly, to his collaboration with emergent church leaders such as New Age sympathesizer Leonard Sweet, it is clear that Dr. Middendorf has been one of the major catalysts in fostering the growth of emergent ideology, contemplative spirituality, and acceptance of Roman Catholic practices within the denomination.  Some university leaders I have communicated with are also helping to usher in Roman Catholic practices, mysticism, and emergent ideology.  Their oftentimes ambiguous or evasive answers, and their staunch defense of false teachers such as Tony Campolo and Mike King, reveals that they have little discernment and have been deceived, and even worse are now spreading that deception to others.

2. The Other General Superintendents.  I do not have hard evidence of any of the other Generals being directly involved in promoting the emergent agenda, because they do not reveal much in their answers to me and others.  However, there is another indicator, which is the apparent lack of leadership from them, and lack of meaningful, clear answers to specific questions.  There are two possibilities, neither of which are good: the current leadership is either complicit with the emergent movement as Dr. Middendorf is, or at best they are aware of the problems and have made a conscious decision to ignore these serious threats to our church for the sake of, perhaps… staying united in one voice?  If so, that does not match up with biblical principles, because staying united as leaders at the expense of ignoring biblical truth, and at the expense of shirking their responsibility to lead the church and give guidance and direction, is unacceptable.

Throughout the past two years, the Generals have written several official statements, including The Emergent Church.  I have personally received responses from them.  Others have received individual responses.  All the words in these statements at best translate to a very generic, “we are against false teachings” position, but lacking substantive comments on anything or anyone specifically.  The current editor of Holiness Today also has shown signs of being sympathetic to the emergent movement, and is known for having attacked Concerned Nazarenes more than once, but like the others, never being specific in his accusations (Ill Informed Critics? Part 1, and Part 2.  So in effect, both the “silent” treatment tactic, and the attempts to attack our motives instead of biblically correcting us, seems to be the primary strategy of not only the leadership, but of those at the universities, as well as many at the District level.  I have had personal disappointments with some of the top leaders in my district, who have not even so much as responded to my emails seeking to have a meeting to discuss my concerns.  In my opinion, they too have shirked their responsibilities as leaders.  There were promises to meet with me, but never followed up.  Yet this “ignore them and they’ll go away” strategy simply exacerbates the situation, not just for me, but for others who at best have received polite form letters that are empty in substance.

The Universities Are Falling Apart

Some university presidents are either fully involved in spreading emergent heresy, or like some of the Generals, are not willing or are powerless to take serious action or speak out.  Universities that have been severely compromised include:
Northwest Nazarene University , led by the open theism of Dr. Tom Oord (see also Open Theism and Christian Evolution at ENC), as well as its welcoming of heretical speakers such as Brian McLaren and Jay McDaniel, and the embracing of The Shack author William Paul Young recently.

Point Loma Nazarene University
, with its promotion of contemplative spirituality and Richard Foster’s Renovaré seminars, compromising the biblical view of homosexuality (Homosexuality At Point Loma); inviting an Eastern Orthodox speaker to teach praying to icons, and welcoming false teachers such as Rob Bell to speak on campus and to pastors;

Trevecca Nazarene University , which has been promoting prayer labyrinths and contemplative mysticism for years, as well as retreats to a Roman Catholic monastery to teach contemplative mysticism to students.  Their president, Dan Boone, changed the name of prayer labyrinth to prayer walk when this was exposed, but it does not matter.  It is still an unbiblical practice.  (See Are There Fundamentalist Nazarenes, And Are They Jihadists?, and Conversation With University President).

Nazarene Theological Seminary openly promotes contemplative mysticism; has a required course for pastors called Celtic Spirituality, an occultic version of “Christianity”; apparently is unapologetically involved in the interfaith movement; has a professor, Mike King, who spoke at the blasphemous Wildgoose Festival (Mike King and Friends Leading Youth To Spiritual Death).  New president David Busic quoted heretical emergence Christianity proponent, Phylis Tickle, extensively in his inauguration message.  There is more, as I have documented, but this is the school responsible for preparing our future pastors!  This is shameful.

The other Nazarene schools have been compromised also in one way or another.  Nazarene Bible College is teaching lectio divina, which is apparently standard fare now with books on that practice at the Nazarene Publishing House, which is sorely lacking in discernment with its promotion of the Catholic ritual of ashes to the forehead.  At the very least they must be seriously scrutinized before sending your children there.  The ones that I have mentioned, I would strongly recommend to stay away from at the moment, and do not send money to them until they repent of what they are doing.

District Leaders

There have been district superintendents who have shown the same display of politically correct responses to letters from concerned Nazarenes, and pastors who simply want to talk about “love” and maintaining “unity.”   Yet, some of them could do something, they could speak out, and yet they choose to remain silent, some of it due to the fact that they have bought into the false teachings.  Yet I thank God for those few pastors (including my own) and district leaders who have boldly taken a stand and rejected these false movements, and have declared it publicly and to their congregations.  There are still pastors who are defending their flock at great cost at times and rejecting the emergent agenda of their districts.  Some have been persecuted and lost their job, because of speaking out against emergent heresy.

People Are Leaving- Because of The Emergent Church

The leaders at some point will have to decide to be on one side or the other- and not walk the fence.  Nazarenes are leaving the denomination because of its liberal attitude and welcoming embrace of emergent thinking and rejection of the Bible’s full authority.  Of course, many are being attracted to the church because of its new emergent, post-modern thought- but at what cost?  How many of those who have come into the church are truly born again?  You will not have types of Nazarenes for too long.  Make up your mind, state your position clearly, and let Nazarenes decided whether they will put up with the emergent (missional) church or not.  But stop leading people on and making them wonder where you stand.  The fact is, if you don’t speak against it, you ARE for it.  If you want us to look like the Roman Catholic Church, you’ll see more of this, which was posted today:

“I can’t do it anymore, I am going to have to leave my church, when the associate pastor and others condone the teachings of the Catholic church it is time to leave!!!  I just can’t take the associate pastor and others supporting the doctrine of the catholic church. How do I witness to a Catholic and then turn around and accept their false teaching?  Pray for us.”

No More Letters

At this point, I will no longer be sending letters to the General Superintendents pleading with them for an answer to serious questions.  Their “answers” from the past two years have been inadequate and cryptic at best, and now I see them as part of the problem unless proven otherwise, not part of any solution to the problems in the church.  If the Lord moves them to action, and the Holy Spirit convicts them, they will finally start showing the leadership that seems to be lacking now, and provide badly needed spiritual guidance to several million Nazarenes.   They have the potential to send a loud and clear message to the apostates that have taken over our churches, our universities, and that are deceiving so many young people today.  But the days of asking them questions are over, and from now on I will be exposing them for their silence until they give us a straight answer.  If they cannot do their job, perhaps they need to resign, and find another occupation with less responsibility.  Here’s some food for thought expressed recently by a Nazarene pastor:
“I wonder how much of the emergent church stuff in our leaders and local congregations comes from the fact that we have failed to “guard the doctrine” (study the Scriptures) and are living in a “fly by the seat of our pants” theology. How much of it is because we have innocently tried to be “all things to all people” and there is really a heart to win the lost for Christ, but we no longer know how to or feel comfortable with the mission because we’re not IN THE LIVING WORD. So all sorts of other avenues are presented to be an attraction to people. How many of our leaders have just been running a giant organization too long to even be aware of what is happening or willing to put a face on it and call it for what it is? Maybe they’re still reeling from the fact that satan has shoved his foot in the door right under their noses and they don’t want to scare people away by pointing him out.”

Some may say, you are not being fair, Manny.  Who are you to question leaders of such stature?  Perhaps they are working diligently “behind the scenes” to fix the problems.  But that’s not how strong leadership works.  Strong leadership will instill confidence and trust from the people.  The fruits of their actions, or perhaps “non-actions”, have borne nothing but more uncertainty for Bible believers, while allowing the apostates to continue solidifying their foothold on our institutions and many of our churches and districts around the world.  If the great apostle Paul demanded accountability and commended the Bereans for verifying his teachings, why should we not hold our General Superintendents, college presidents, district superintendents, and pastors to the same high biblical standards?

Follow Our Example

One of my biggest disappointments has been seeing so many longtime Christians, many of them close family and friends, ignore what is going on, as if it will go away.  It is time now for pastors and laypeople alike who are sitting on the sidelines and do not agree with the false teachings, to stand up and be counted.  I do not claim to come close to emulating the apostle Paul, yet I am compelled to ask many of you to now do something.  I ask that you do as I do, just as Paul asked many years ago, simply because what we are doing here is biblically justified and even mandated- no exceptions.  Admitting that we are imperfect, I ask those who have been on the sidelines to follow my example and that of many Nazarenes who have put themselves on the line, risking reputation and even years of friendships, all for the sake of Jesus Christ and the truth of His word.  Perhaps you can do some research and educate others.  Perhaps you can write or call your district superintendents and ask where they stand, and then continue to pressure them for answers.  Perhaps you will need to confront your own pastor, or a friend in your church.  Perhaps you as a pastor must teach your congregation to be better Bereans.  It will not be easy.  That’s what I had to do.  It cost us plenty, but honoring Christ is the only honest option for us.

Manny Silva

For those who are feeling the threat of false teachings coming into your church, you are not alone.  Need advice and support, a free DVD, or other resources?  Please contact me or join us at our Concerned Nazarene FaceBook page.)


Addendum: Things To Prayerfully Consider

1. Consider specifically assigning your tithe ONLY to certain local church expenses, so that there is less chance it will be sent to the General Church budget.

2. If you are in a church that is promoting emergent ideology, withhold your tithe in some type of escrow until leadership is removed or repentance comes about.

3. Write to one or more of the General Superintendents and express your concerns about the direction of the denomination.

4. Write or call your District Superintendent, and ask him as to where he stands on the emergent church movement.

5. Talk to your pastor and find out exactly what he believes, especially if you suspect he may be trying to bring in “strange” practices, or if his sermons sound different and “odd” lately.  You may want to start by asking if he believes in the full inerrancy of scripture, not “only in matters of salvation.”

6. If your pastor is firmly against the emergent church, give him your unwavering support; pray for him and his spouse; encourage the congregation to stand with him 100%.

7. Write to one or more of the universities or seminaries, especially if you are an alumnus, and express your concerns and ask for the leadership to explain where they stand.  Do not settle for generalities, but press for specific responses to specific issues.

8. If you donate regularly to one of our universities, consider stopping the sending of any money to them, and write and let them know they will no longer get any funds until they get their act together and clean house.

9. Pray daily, especially for the safety and protection of our students at the schools, who are being exposed to dangerous heretical teachings, or who are being ridiculed by theology professors for standing for biblical truth

10.  Consider the possibility that you may have to be divorced from your church.  But is there any price that cannot be paid for standing for God’s truth, and being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ?

11.  Flee.  If all else fails, and you and your family are threatened by unbiblical teachings, you must protect them.  Leave, and find a good solid Bible believing Nazarene church, and if that fails, find a good Bible believing church.  Your allegiance is to Jesus Christ, not any denomination.

12.  Ultimately, you may have to leave the denomination.  That is your call, in your time, based on your circumstances, and only through prayerful consideration.

Manny Silva

(How Do We Discern?- Michael Youssef)

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5 Responses

  1. Lige Jeter, on January 6, 2012 at 11:41 am said:

    Twice Solomon wrote In Proverbs [14:12] and [16:25] “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” Solomon is saying that man is capable of having his own view of religion apart from Scripture that leads to a false faith and supports a false creed or set of beliefs. It is obvious that Solomon was writing about his earlier life when he followed his own set of beliefs rather than trust in those of his father David as David followed the Creator. I believe this sums up the emergents basic ideology and the effect it is having on the Christian Community at large and the COTN.

    Jesus expressed it another way found in Matthew [7:21-23] “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” The warning here is to know that we are doing things Christ’s way and not as the false prophets were doing in their own strength and wisdom, without Jesus knowledge or blessings. They mimic miracles done by Jesus, and then tried to present themselves to Jesus as one of His. There is only one gospel whereby man can be saved, and that is Jesus Christ, and why the Church fools around with less than this truth goes beyond reason.

    I must ask the question, as I did to the BGS, are we like Solomon doing that which seems right in our own sight, and ignoring God’s Word? I truly hope this is not so, and only the leadership can answer according to his or her own conscience. I can’t help but wonder how much Jesus approves of what we as a denomination are doing in His name. No one wants to hear “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

  2. reformednazarene, on January 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm said:

    Hello Dennis,

    The following response to you is from my wife. My only answer to you is, I am reaching people with the truth, and part of that truth is that there are wolves among us Nazarenes. The question is, are you one of them also?
    You had maybe your first and only chance to show me and my concerned friends where specifically we are wrong. You did not.
    Your response is the same type of response I have gotten from the Generals over the last year or two: vague, and never answering any question, or pointing out any specific error. My immediate conclusion is that you have fallen for the deception also, and I pray that your sphere of influence grows much smaller with our youth, if my conclusion is correct, since I know you work closely with the youth in the Nazarene church. Here is my wife’s thoughts after she read your words:

    Dennis,
    I will try to be practical, as a matter of fact practical is what I have been all this time, but my brothers and sisters are missing the message. I am not attacking generals or anyone. This is not a human battle but a spiritual warfare, against principalities and the rulers of the darkness. (Eph. 6:12) I am trying to be as practical as I can using one weapon only, the Word of God. I believe you would do the same to protect the Kingdom of God and your sheep, and your family against false teachers and false messages, if you truly believe in God’s word. As a Berean and watchman you and I should be aware of what is coming by the book of Revelations and be prepared to defend the Word of God. The apostle Paul said: Gal. 1: 9 “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you received, let him be eternally condemned” It does not say, take what is good and discard the rest. Make the best of it, or what some like to say “you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,…” Well. if it is not the true Gospel than throw it out, ALL of it.

    Remember what happened with Joshua when he said to burn everything and not keep anything to themselves, (Jos. 6 :24) what happened later, God told Joshua in Jos. 7: 11 “Israel has sinned, they have violated my command… they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.” God does not want anything that it is half true, half right, half good, half ok, He wants it as the whole, complete truth. I always say like the apostle, do not take my word for it, do your own study and investigate, analyze, use your discernment. This is not a game, and it is not an attack, it is a call to open your eyes. Yes people are being saved, yes the church is growing, but at what cost, ‘false message’ ‘numbers only’ we as Christians should be worried about saving lives saving souls. A lot of what is being preached in churches today, is for saving the earth, recycling, joining forces with what we have been separated for centuries, i.e. Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, and many eastern practices.

    This is ALL condemned in the word of God, but our leaders seem to have found something good about all of this; notice “something good”. Remember, it is not something good we are looking for if it is not the TRUE GOSPEL, it must be condemned. I pray that you will look deeper into what is being done in the Church of God and take a stand and defend. I will pray that you will ask for God to show you what is really being done and He will show you. It is souls that we are talking about, and I don’t want to play games. I have told only what I have seen and heard and it has been a battle, it is not my battle is it our battle as Christians to defend God’s Kingdom and if we are not vigilant, we will fall for all this. The emergent church is promoting an environmental religion, a one religion, homosexuality, acceptance of all, worshiping the Virgin Mary, usage of rosary (prayer beads), labyrinths, emptying your mind (not knowing what spirit will come to possess you), practicing “the silence”, yoga and other kinds of meditation (prohibited in the Bible) and so much more. As I say, do your own investigation and ask for God’s guidance and He will give what you ask. I say all this with a praying heart, a hurting heart for your soul and many others. May God bless you and guide you.
    Monica

  3. Clumsy Sword Bearer, on January 9, 2012 at 8:37 pm said:

    “Take what is good and discard the rest”

    A test that never applies to scripture.

    It can, however, lead you on a “wild goose” chase.

  4. Clumsy Sword Bearer, on January 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm said:

    “Take what is good and discard the rest” seems to be the stock answer I’ve heard from more than one person regarding the use of ideas and materials that are out there. So let’s go with that. Let’s take what is good and discard the rest.

    First question: What is good? How is that determined? What is the plumb line?

    Second question: What is discarded? For every teaching and every practice you hold to that has both good and not good please lay out exactly what they are so that the rest of us may know. What are you keeping and what are you discarding and why?

    It appears that the line between good and not good with a lot of the old rejected practices being revived is how they make the practitioner feel. No one is advocating kneeling and whipping yourself with chains until you bleed or isolating yourself in a tiny little room living on starvation rations or having yourself nailed to a cross (though these things are still practiced). Walking a labyrinth, lectio divina, and contemplative prayer (all methods of emptying the mind and entering an altered state of consciousness aka finding the “spark of the divine within”) are advocated because of the so called benefits of the experience. The feeling of being close to god.

    Social Justice and Environmentalism have a veneer of respectability in our culture and, as Christians, we are to care for the widowed and the orphaned and be good stewards of the earth so they sound right; at first. But look closer and tell me if they really are the same thing. Social Justice and Environmentalism have their own underlying philosophies that run counter to what is taught in scripture.

    Open Theism and Evolution completely fly in the face of the clear teaching of scripture that what God purposes he brings about. Open Theism can not co-exist with prophecy being 100% accurate. The test for a true prophet of God is that everything he says happens. If there is one thing prophesied that does not happen then you need not fear or heed that prophet. Open theism allows for God not knowing everything leaving open the possibility that prophecy may not come true. Genesis (whether you believe it is a poetic telling or a narrative) clearly states that all things were created according to their kind and reproduce after their own kind. To hold to either of these ideas, Open Theism or Evolution, is to reject portions of scripture. If you are rejecting portions of scripture then what foundation are you building your faith on?

    All we ask is that you be honest. And all we ask of those in positions of leadership who allow these teachings, knowing what they are, is that they be honest as to why they do. I believe that those who teach these things are being forthright. It is the leadership who allow this without comment other than a general statement of support for the schools that leave us wondering. Please….What do you believe? And are you willing to defend it?

  5. I’m currently an MDiv student at NTS and the Celtic Religions course is not required for that degree…the structure at NTS is a self-guided degree program (outside of the COSAC Mdiv)…I don’t believe the celtic course is required for any degree but it is offered

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(revised 06/06/14)

I grew up in the Evangelical Friends denomination (now known as the EFCI), during a time period in which it was much more biblically sound. Yes, between the years of 1854-1965, many Evangelical Friends aka Gurneyite Friends held a born again, biblically sound separatist fundamentalist Wesleyan Holiness theology – particularly in Ohio Yearly Meeting (OYM). Never once did I hear the terms Inner Light, direct revelation, etc. in the church services of Ohio Yearly Meeting. My fondest memories are of a small OYM church where we:

* heard regular altar calls
* sang gospel hymns such as “The Old Rugged Cross” and “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
* attended Wednesday night prayer meetings where many old saints of God prayed fervently on their knees

Unfortunately, like myself, Richard Foster also grew up in the Evangelical Friends denomination. And he latched on to the contemplative teachings of heretical Quaker founder George Fox. Foster’s bestseller Celebration of Discipline came out in 1978; it was eagerly welcomed by Evangelical Friends. And the rest is history. Along with Eugene Peterson, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet and many other Emerging/Emergents,  Foster has wrought immeasurable damage to the Evangelical Friends and most other evangelical denominations. (I’m not sure who is more culpable – these Emerging/Emergent pioneers, or the Evangelical Friends denominational leaders who have welcomed them with open arms.)

What exactly are the heresies of Richard Foster, and why are they so dangerous? And what is the connection between the heresies of Foster and the heresies of Quakers? Ken Silva explains the connection in the article I’ve reposted below. Click here for Silva’s original article.

RICHARD FOSTER AND QUAKER BELIEFS

By on Oct 22, 2008 in AM Missives, Current Issues, Features, Richard Foster

Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. (Jeremiah 14:14, NASB)

Richard Foster Is Not An Evangelical Christian He Is A Quaker

This well-documented piece from Apprising Ministries is designed primarily as a reference article as it concerns The Cult of Guru Richard Foster. Founder of Renovare “Christian Roshi” Richard Foster is not an evangelical Christian; but rather, he is a Quaker:

Richard J. Foster (Quaker) — Richard is the founder of RENOVARÉ and author of six books including Celebration of Discipline, PRAYER: Finding the Heart’s True Home, and Streams of Living Water which effectively promote personal spiritual renewal. From his base near Denver, Colorado, where he and Carolynn, his wife, live, Richard travels throughout the world, speaking and teaching on the spiritual life. (Online source).

Next this from QuakerInfo.com:

Perhaps the best known Quaker in the world today is Richard J. Foster, although many are at most dimly aware that he is associated with the Religious Society of Friends. He is clearly one of the leading contemporary writers and speakers on Christian spirituality. While maintaining his ties with Friends, Foster deliberately speaks to a much broader audience.

Richard Foster grew up among Evangelical Friends. In adult life, he has been a Friends pastor and a professor of theology at Friends University among the many positions he has held. In his books and speaking, he frequently makes reference to Quaker historical figures and his own Quakerism. (Online source)

And then the interspiritual website Spirituality & Practice website, which lists Foster among their “Living Spiritual Teachers” such as Marcus Borg, Deepak Chopra, and the Dali Lama, also confirms the above:

Richard J. Foster is the founder of RENOVARÉ, an international, ecumenical Christian organization working for the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ in all her multifaceted expressions. Members are dedicated to following the powerful movement of the Spirit of God by bringing together the best spiritual treasures of several great Christian streams of faith and witness… Foster is an Evangelical Friend, one of the Quaker groups.
(Online source)

With the “Evangelical” Quakers we are again dealing with a reinterpretation of what is meant by evangelical. I’ll show you what I mean from the website of the Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI). They tell you they are “evangelical,” and in their mind they are. However, in the “History” section of EFCI we read:

The Friends Church, originally called the “Religious Society of Friends” began in England under the leadership of George Fox… His spiritual experience led him to witness to what he called the “Inner Light” of Christ (the Holy Spirit) that dwells in the hearts of ordinary people

Through the years many changes have occurred, producing differences among various groups of Friends. Some groups maintain “quiet meetings” [without pastors or musical instruments]. Evangelical Friends Church International [EFCI] churches have forms of worship similar to other Protestant denominations. However, like Fox their focus remains an individual, personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. (Online source, emphasis mine)

If you go back and just read the hightlighted within that section above it will show you where one needs to focus to see through the EFCI redefined evangelical double-speak. I cover this in excruciating detail in Contemplating the Inner Light of the Quakers (Pt. 2) so all I’m going to do here is draw your attention to a couple of key points as it concerns the warped theology of Richard Foster. To be a Quaker is to follow the movement—regardless of what window dressing you may later add to, or subtract from, it—begun through George Fox in England in the mid-1640s, as allegedly the restoration of genuine Christianity.

The Personal Revelation From God To George Fox Of “Inner Light”

Men and women, George Fox is the bad tree that all other flavors of Quakerism branch out from. But you need to understand that Fox was heretical; he was not an evangelical or even an orthodox Christian in the first place; and he flatly rejected the essential doctrine of Sola Scriptura. The absolute fact is that Fox focused on “individual, “personal” revelation outside of Scripture, which becomes crystal clear through the following entry from his own journal:

I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition”: and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord did let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory; for all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief, as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence, who enlightens, and gives grace and faith and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let it?

And this I knew experientially. My desires after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the Scriptures that spake of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him not, but by revelation, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit…

Now when the Lord God and His Son Jesus Christ sent me forth into the world, to preach His everlasting gospel and kingdom, I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any.  (Online source)

Note here that Fox is claiming God spoke to him directly’ and this apart from any “book, or writing,” and what is more he “infallibly knew” this revelation was of the Holy Spirit. Ah—one would have to say this doesn’t exactly give anybody much room to disagree, eh. “Thus saith George”—oops, make that God; or um, maybe it really was just George after all? Had you been one of the ones Fox approached with this revelation how would you have known if what he claimed was of God or not? Hint: B-i-b-l-e.

The well-respected Handbook Of Denominations In The United States (HoD) from Mead and Hill informs us that the Quakers date “from the late 1650’s in England” and “ the Society of Friends, or Quakers, is an unconventional but esteemed Protestant body.” *heavy sigh* Well, that all depends on how we define “Protestant.” As a matter of fact Bill Samuel, the Quaker who runs the aforementioned Quaker Info.com, has a most *ahem* enlightening piece that asks “Are Quakers Protestant?” where some interesting information comes…well, emerging:

It is quite clear from reading the works of early Friends that they did not identify with the Protestant movement. They considered the Protestant churches of their day, as well as the Roman Catholics, to be apostate… There were a number of differences early Friends had with Protestants of their day. Some of the key differences were:

  • The Protestants replaced the authority of the church with the authority of the Bible. Friends, while accepting the validity of the scriptures and believing in the importance of the faith community, gave first place to the Spirit of Christ. Pointing to the prologue of the Gospel of John, they viewed Christ, not the Bible, as the Word of God. The scripture was secondary, a declaration of the fountain rather than the fountain itself. (See also Friends (Quakers) and the Bible.)
  • The Protestants replaced liturgy with a sermon as the center of worship. Friends center worship in the divine presence. Even though Friends disdain outward liturgy, in some sense Quaker worship may be closer to Catholic than Protestant in nature. Both Catholics and Quakers believe in the actual presence of Christ in worship, for Catholics centered in the host and for Quakers spiritually. (Online source)

Does any of that ring, O I dunno, a Rob Bell? In any event, as we return to HoD we’re told the Quakers are unique because “they affirm the ‘Inner Light,’ the spiritual nerve center that God has placed in every person.” And in addition “classical Friends deny the validity of clergy, liturgy, and sacraments” (140, emphasis mine). HoD then gives us a further historical background:

The Society of Friends began with the vision of George Fox (1624-91), a British seeker after spiritual truth and peace during the turmoil of the English Civil War and its aftermath. After failing to find satisfactory truth and peace in the churches of his time, Fox discovered what he sought in a direct personal relationship with Christ:

“When all my hopes in [churches] were gone… I heard a voice which said, ‘That is the Inner Voice, or Inner Light, based upon the description of John 1:9: ‘the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (KJV)’ ”

“This voice,” Fox maintained, “is available to all and has nothing to do with the ceremonies, rituals, or creeds over which Christians have fought. Every heart is God’s altar and shrine.” (140,141, emphasis mine)

Well, it’s about time for you to awaken from your snooze now because Richard Foster is teaching the same stupid doctrine of ol’ “Inner Light” George Fox who was so special to the LORD God Almighty that He would even have personal chats with him. In fact, Foster’s been teaching his apostate refried Roman Catholic and Quaker mysticism in your evangelical seminaries for years so now he’s got plenty of evangelical pastors as his deluded disciples—maybe even yours.

Next time I’ll document—again—what this doctrine of the Inner Light actually is. But for a little preview we’ll turn to a book called The Living Testament: The Essential Writings of Christianity Since the Bible (TLT). In fact the reason I went and acquired a copy of TLT is because it’s even recommended by Guru Foster himself in his classic textbook of ascetic-lite neo-pietism Celebration of Discipline.

TLT was edited by M. Basil Pennington, Alan Jones, and Mark Booth. A couple of these men—Spiritual Master M. Basil Pennington and Living Spiritual Teacher Alan Jones—should be quite recognizable to those of you familiar with my writings on the postliberal cult of the Emergent Church and its core doctrine of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism. While discussing their entry George Fox: Epistles to the New World and to Friends Everywhere in TLT we’re told:

George Fox (1624-1691) was the founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers). He preached reliance on the “Inner Light”, the Holy Spirit watching from within; in this he represented a development of the Puritan “spirit mystic” tradition. He believed that everyone has a divine spark within that can respond directly and personally to God. His plain open style has a peculiar force in enthusiasm and moral earnestness.
(379,380, emphasis mine)

But as you’ll see in more depth next time this false idea of an inner light, or a “divine spark,” is a very key issue to grasp before one can come to understand the root of the flawed semi-pelagian “gospel” preached by much of mainstream evangelicalism within which Foster has now become a major player. I cover this spiritually fatal idea of “a spark of the divine” allegedly inside all of mankind further in The Emergent “One” and Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind.

So in closing this for now I tell you in the Lord that this musing is actually classic Gnostic mysticism, which itself has already been condemned within the pages of the New Testament. Particularly in the Book of Colossians as well as in 1 John we find the Apostles dealing with Gnosticism. And again concerning all of this messed mysticism the Lord warns us through His chosen vessel Peter — In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up (2 Peter 2:3).

See also:

WHO IS RICHARD FOSTER?

“CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE” BY RICHARD FOSTER AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THEOLOGICAL ERROR

PRAYER: JESUS VS. RICHARD FOSTER

RICHARD FOSTER AND CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM: A POWERFUL ECUMENICAL BOND

DELUSIONS OF DALLAS WILLARD

SPIRITUAL FORMATION IS PIETISM REIMAGINED

ROB BELL IN A NUTSHELL: CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM

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Before I present Ken Silva’s article, I want to present some background from my own experiences with Quakers. I grew up in what today is called the EFCI (Evangelical Friends Church Intl.), traditionally known as Gurneyite Friends. I thank the Lord that, between approximately 1854-1965, Gurneyite Friends held a born again, biblically sound Wesleyan Holiness theology – particularly in Ohio Yearly Meeting.

Unfortunately, the Evangelical Friends/Gurneyite Friends never completely broke away from the heretical heritage of the Quakers. I would estimate that from approximately 1930 on, Evangelical Friends leaders behind the scenes were increasingly pushing for more relations with non-evangelical (aka heretical) Quaker denominations.  These Evangelical Friends leaders were very hesitant to point out the history and heresy of George Fox’s “Inner Light” teaching (perhaps for fear of alienating nonevangelical Quaker denominations). Even today, Evangelical Friends professors and pastors paint George Fox  as a born again, biblically sound evangelist. This, despite the fact that Fox’s own writings show he was a heretical “Christian mystic.”

Only in recent years, after reading articles like the following by Ken Silva, did I realize just how heretical and nonchristian my own Quaker ancestors had been (prior  to 1854).

I would note that today the Quakers (both evangelical and nonevangelical denominations) vary widely in theology. Evangelical Friends speak very little of the Inner Light; many newer members have never even heard the term. Yet as we know, the Evangelical Friends have fallen head over heals in love with Spiritual Formation’s Richard Foster, who grew up, pastored and taught in the Evangelical Friends denomination.

I find it very odd that Foster chose to preach and teach among Evangelical Friends. His heretical teachings line up much more closely with two other major Quaker denominations, both considered nonevangelical: 1) the moderate Friends United Meeting (FUM) which nonetheless has many Christian universalists, and 2) the liberal Friends General Conference (FGC).

I’m sure Richard Foster fancies himself as walking in the footsteps of George Fox. It’s obvious in his various writings that Foster loves Fox’s “Inner Light” teaching. So what exactly did George Fox mean by the “Inner Light”, and why is this heresy so dangerous? Ken Silva explains, in his article reposted below. Click here for the original site of Silva’s article.

CONTEMPLATING THE INNER LIGHT OF THE QUAKERS (PT. 2)

By on Aug 25, 2008 in Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism, Features, Richard Foster

We now continue this examination of the history of the Quakers and their core doctrine of the Inner Light that is allegedly within all of mankind and which supposedly was “revealed” by God to their founder George Fox. In Part One I opened with testimony concerning current Quaker beliefs from author and mystic Dr. Mary Conrow, a third generation member of The Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). We also got further corroboration through an article by Friend Anne K. Riggs which as of today (5/5/06) is found at the official Friends website Quaker.org.

Shedding Light On Quaker Origins

Dr. Riggs by the way is also co-editor of QUEST: Quaker Ecumenical Seminars in Theology. I then showed that the contemplative spirituality currently taught by Quaker Richard Foster is so consistent with the mysticism of New Age teachers and the meditation of Zen Masters that he is listed (as of 5/5/06) at the Living Spiritual Teachers Project among an odd assortment of heretics and unbelievers.

The New Encyclopedia Britannica brings out that the term “Quaker,” according to founder George Fox came to be applied to this group “because we bid [people] tremble at the word of God.” In addition however, it is “likely that the name, originally derisive, was also used because many early Friends, like other religious enthusiasts, themselves trembled [i.e. quaked] in their religious meetings and showed other physical manifestations of religious emotion” (9/838). This is confirmed in New Religions: A Guide while Richard Hoskins is teaching about a sect of “healers and ‘spiritual’ leaders” from the Dominican Republic called “The Ngunzist movement.” Hoskins tells us the “Ngunzists are often called trembleurs because of their ecstatic shaking (rather like the origin of the term Quakers) (55,emphasis mine).

Next, from his fine work Christianity Through The Centuries (CTTC) noted Church historian Dr. Earle Cairns tells us that:

The Quakers appeared on the English religious scene during the chaotic period of the Civil War and the Commonwealth. They set aside the doctrines of an organized church and the Bible as the sole and final revelation of God’s will in favor of the doctrine of the Inner Light, by which they meant that the Holy Spirit can give immediate and direct knowledge of God apart from the Bible (381, emphasis mine)

The well-respected Handbook Of Denominations In The United States (HOD) from Mead and Hill adds that the Quakers date “from the late 1650’s in England” and “ the Society of Friends, or Quakers, is an unconventional but esteemed Protestant body.” The Quakers are unique because “they affirm the ‘Inner Light,’ the spiritual nerve center that God has placed in every person.” As we saw in Part One as well “classical Friends deny the validity of clergy, liturgy, and sacraments” (140, emphasis mine). HOD then gives us a further historical background:

The Society of Friends began with the vision of George Fox (1624-91), a British seeker after spiritual truth and peace during the turmoil of the English Civil War and its aftermath. After failing to find satisfactory truth and peace in the churches of his time, Fox discovered what he sought in a direct personal relationship with Christ: “When all my hopes in [churches] were gone… I heard a voice which said, ‘That is the Inner Voice, or Inner Light, based upon the description of John 1:9: “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (KJV)” ‘ “ This voice, Fox maintained, is available to all and has nothing to do with the ceremonies, rituals, or creeds over which Christians have fought. Every heart is God’s altar and shrine (140,141, emphasis mine).

In World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present we find out further it was in the wake of “the struggle” within various religious sects following the Reformation that:

Quakerism was born. These “seekers,” [sound familiar?] as they called themselves, abandoned all traditional Christian outward forms – ministry, creeds, sacraments, liturgy, systems of theology – and waited in silence, meditating on the Bible until they felt the “inner light” of God dawning within them and the Holy Spirit to speak. In their small communities they stressed the comradely life of love and works or charity inspired by the mystical experience of Christ through the Spirit (445, emphasis mine)

The Divine Spark Emerges In The Inner Light

Christian researcher Ray Yungen shares an interesting bit of information about the Quaker Guru of Contemplation Richard Foster with us in A Time of Departing when he asks:

Just how influential has Foster become in Christian circles? For certain, his effect on the evangelical church cannot be overestimated. In a 1993 poll by Christianity Today, the magazine revealed that Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home, was the number one most popular books with its readers. Astoundingly, this is the same book that well-known New Ager Rosemary Ellen Guiley has on her suggested reading list in the back of her book, The Miracle of Prayer (80).

Guiley is also the author of Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (HEMPE) published by HarperSanFrancisco, the company that also happens to publish Foster himself. It should strike us as odd that a “Christian” sect should be found in such a secular publication devoted to spiritualism. And yet Guiley tells us in HEMPE that Quaker theology “stresses a personal, almost mystical knowledge of God and the workings of the Lord’s ‘inner lightwithin all people.” And Fox himself taught:

faith is based solely on firsthand knowledge of Christ as a living, personal reality, not on logic, reasoning, historical reporting, or even Scripture. This empirical proof came to be called the Quaker Way: the idea that worshippers need not consult preachers or the Bible to receive knowledge of the Holy Spirit–the so-called “inner light of Christpresent in every human heart (556, emphasis mine).

This idea in Quaker theology that every man has this alleged “Inner Light” is further corroborated in GREAT RELIGIONS of the World which tells us that Fox “insisted that the ‘light of Christ’ glimmered in all men” (375, emphasis mine) We’ll be coming back to this “inner light” that is supposed to glimmer “in every human heart,” but first, in his classic two volume set A History Of Christianity (AHOC) the great historian Kenneth Scott Latourette adds a bit more background information about the person through whom the Quakers originated:

Their founder was George Fox (1624-1691). Of humble birth, from boyhood he had heard Puritan preaching and had acquired an intimate familiarity with the text of the English Bible… For four years he suffered severe spiritual depression induced by the spectacle of human suffering,…and by the doctrine of predestination which he heard expounded from Puritan pulpits. By temperament a mystic, he was eager for direct and unhindered access to God… Eventually (1647) the light broke. He came to feel Christ could speak to “his condition,”… He believed that God is love and truth and that it is possible for all men so to open their lives to Him… [Fox] would follow and have others follow the Inner Light” (Vol. II, p. 822, emphasis mine)

The True Light Of Holy Scripture

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:9-10)

As we get set to shed additional light on the unique Quaker doctrine of the “Inner Light” we need to remember that George Fox was a seeker and a mystic by nature, well versed in the Scriptures, and a man who chose to rebel against solid Biblical preaching. This is actually not too unlike what we see leaders within the Emergent Church doing today. Fox apparently didn’t like the fact that God instituted an authority structure within the local church so he decided to seek the Lord on his own terms. And sure enough Fox finally hears what he wanted to hear all along as he tells us “I heard a voice which said, ‘That is the Inner Voice, or Inner Light, based upon the description of John 1:9: “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (KJV)” (HOD, 141). Not only that but this seducing spirit allows for Fox’s defiance of authority as well as he is told that this Inner Light “is available to all and has nothing to do with the ceremonies” of the local church. Then in the mystic tradition of classic Gnosticism Fox hears that all mankind has a spark of divinity because every human being “is God’s altar and shrine” (141).

This above information is extremely important to understand regarding the spiritual excesses of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). Now you should be able to see an aberrant view of mysticism is already rooted in the base theology of the Quakers. Their founder George Fox, who was himself prone to mysticism, wished for a “personal” approach “to God” that ended up being “apart from the Bible.” As such Fox began with his theology already turned backward by believing that it is man who seeks after God and as a result the Scriptures were forced to take a back seat to his own way of approaching the Lord. We need to carefully consider the above information. Fox is seeking a “direct” and “mystical experience” with God. Admirable yes, but it is the LORD God Almighty–the glorious and transcendent Creator of the universe–Who set the prescribed means of interacting with us through conscious prayer and His Words in Holy Scripture.

I will show you more about this “Inner Light” below, but notice that Fox was “eager” long enough while waiting “in silence” until “the light broke.” And he finally received his mystic delusion that “it is possible for all men” to “open their lives” to God. As I said, the “experience” of George Fox shoved the Truth of the Bible into a secondary place in favor of this mystical view that it is possible that “all men” are capable of opening themselves up to God. Clearly this would appear to be a reaction on his part to the strong Biblical “Puritan preaching” which assisted him in acquiring “an intimate familiarity with the text of the Bible.” For you see Fox has absolutely no excuse for missing this critical Truth from God’s Word:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.(Psalm 14:1-3)

And it’s not like this is some obscure passage the Puritans latched onto but is open to various interpretations, because it appears again in Psalm 53 below almost verbatim:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one (vv.1-3).

We aren’t able to escape this absolute Truth concerning the actual nature of mankind in the New Testament either. O the sappy sentimentality of new evangelicalism just loves to focus on the goodness of God and to tell us that He sent Jesus to meet our every need and to solve all of our problems. However, as I will continue to say, Christ Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator–the dreadful and awful–holy and majestic LORD God Almighty standing upon His planet. And concerning the fallen nature of humankind the Master unequivocally tells his Own disciples – “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

And then Jesus even clarified what He meant by “though you are evil” as He says – “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly” (Mark 7:21-23). Why you’d almost have to think our Creator is trying to get a point across to self-centered and arrogant mankind when later the inspired Apostle Paul is led by God the Holy Spirit to pick up those very same passages in the Psalms mentioned earlier:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:10-12)

You won’t hear all of this preached by e.g. by men like Joel Osteen in The Ecumenical Church of Deceit, but the bottom line in all this simply couldn’t be any clearer than Ecclesiastes 7:20 – There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. Ah, that is except – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 2:1). So tragically, because George Fox denied this clear teaching from God’s Word, two major and spiritually fatal flaws emerged in his theology. Out went the Pastoral Epistles for God’s prescribed method of spiritual leadership within His local churches; and instead of objectively judging all experience by Holy Scripture, “the Quaker way” became proper understanding of the Bible would be determined by subjective mystical experience in “the Inner Light.”

And it is this very same mortal theological wound of interpreting the text of the Bible by the spiritual experiences a given person may have that is also central to the postmodern approach of the Emergent Church, of which Richard Foster is unquestionably “a key mentor.” I’ve already pointed out that Foster considers mystic Teresa of Avila as one of “the great writers of the devotional life.” You will come to see that even this is also consistent with Quaker theology and interestingly enough, on the page prior to the coverage of the Quakers by Dr. Cairns in CTTC is a short piece about a mystic movement within “the Roman Catholic Church during the seventeenth century” that would come to be known as “Quietism.”

The Inner Light Reveals The Global Family

I now draw your attention to the fact that “the Inner Light” just happened to be a core teaching of this Quietism. Dr. Cairns informs us that this theological view within the Church of Rome:

emphasized an immediate intuitional approach to God by the passive soul opening itself to the influence of the inner light. It was a reaction to the emphasis on the rationalization of dogma. [Sound familiar?] Forerunners of the Quietists were Ignatius Loyola; the godly Charles Borromeo (1538-84), cardinal and archbishop of Milan; Teresa of Avila (1515-82); and Francis de Sales (1567-1622) of France… These mystics of the Counter-Reformation were succeeded by the Quietists of the seventeenth century. (ibid., 380, emphasis mine)

You can see that Teresa of Avila was prominent among those who influenced what would itself become a “quiet” reformation within the Roman Catholic Church and would end up bringing it further and further away from Biblical doctrine in favor of this mystic superstition. George Fox and the Quakers would somewhat parallel this quiet decent into the mystical silence of demonic deception. It’s a trap as old as the Garden of Eden where the Devil promises good will come to men who follow him in opposition to what God has said in the Bible. There have been mystical approaches to God virtually since the time of the Fall and the LORD God Almighty has already told us that rather than “emptying” our minds of all thought we are instead to – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

In AHOC Latourette also supplies another key piece of information in understanding the deadly flaw which has emerged from the theology of Fox when he brings out that “Fox and other Quakers insisted that every man who comes into the world is illuminated by an inner light which is Christ” (Ibid., p. 981, emphasis mine). Men and women, here we glean some critical insight into why we are seeing the reemergence of interest in Contemplative/Centering Prayer (meditation) within new evangelicalism. This above view by “Fox and other Quakers” is also indicative of the inevitable result of the practice of this “Christian” mysticism as well. Can you see it: If this alleged Inner Light is already within every man then we don’t have to risk persecution as we stand for the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because now we will have opened the door to a universalism which negates any real need for anyone to have to be “born again.”

And here we have uncovered the reason why so many professing Christians today can believe that all religions should be friends now and seek our common ground as we work together to usher in “the kingdom” of God’s Global Peace. Take an honest look at the warped and toxic theology of men like Richard Foster, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Alan Jones, Steve Chalke and even the Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren–all men involved to one degree or another in the practice of contemplative spirituality. You see no bold stance on their part that the only way any human being anywhere upon God’s planet can ever be saved from an eternity of conscious torment in a literal place our Creator called Hell is personal faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth and His vicarious penal substitutionary atonement on the Cross. In fact, you will see in my article “Evangelicals” Attacking The Atonement it is actually quite the contrary.

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For quite some time now, born again Nazarenes have been speaking out against the drift of the Church of the Nazarene (CotN) into dangerous Emerging/Emergent teachings.  Still, leaders in the CotN refuse to give up these teachings and return to the biblically sound roots of the CotN. The latest example of this Nazarene refusal to repent is an article posted by Rev. Kevin Ulmet in the online March/April edition of Holiness Today (the flagship magazine of the CotN), entitled “I A Concerned Nazarene.” Click here for Ulmet’s article. And click here for the original site of the born again, biblically sound response reposted below.

Note – although this battle is going on in the CotN, it is very similar to the Emerging/Emerging battle going on in many evangelical denominations today. (Personally, I am particularly interested in the Emerging/Emerging battles going on in Wesleyan Holiness denominations, such as the EFCI aka Evangelical Friends.)

A Response To “I Am A Concerned Nazarene” Article in Holiness Today

Posted on April 11, 2012 by reformednazarene

The following is by John Henderson in response to an article posted by Rev. Kevin Ulmet in the March/April edition of Holiness Today.  Here is the link to the online version of the article by Rev. Ulmet:  “I Am A Concerned Nazarene.“

I have added several headers in bold blue text for navigation purposes.
– – – — – – — – – — – – — – – — – – — – – — – – — – – — – – — – – — – – — – – –

Dear Pastor Ulmet:

I have read your article, “I Am a Concerned Nazarene,” at least twice.  I will have referenced it a few times more before completing this letter to you.  Please understand that, in view of your published comments in Holiness Today, a Nazarene magazine, this is an open letter and will be shared with others.  Many will likely redistribute to their addressees and some will publish this on websites.  I am responding only to your article and will neither say nor imply anything personal.  I have asked several people to go over this very carefully and tell me if I have observed the following guidelines for myself:

1.      Did I demonstrate an accurate understanding of the contents of the article that I referenced and responded to?

2.      Were my responses dispassionate and unbiased, and did they accurately address the questions I brought up?

3.      Was I respectful towards Dr. Ulmet concerning his character, position, and personhood?

4.      Did I reference the Scriptures appropriately to the questions and issues being addressed?

5.      Did I misrepresent anything?

Also understand this:  I am always open to questions, corrections, and positive criticisms.  I take those things seriously and respectfully from the one who directs them to me.

I assume many of your references are fed by your perception of the frequent counter-emergent articles I have written and the material I have forwarded to you as a recipient on my email list.  I also know that you have relatives who have posted on Concerned Nazarenes Facebook and expect that they have kept you informed—if indeed you have not done so yourself.  I have no issue with that.  You and they are more than welcome to do just that.  You should know what the other Concerned Nazarenes are thinking in their own words. In fact much of what I present is borrowed from several others who have shared their own research and thoughts with me, so this is essentially a composite of several opinions.

It has been important to me that I acknowledge the spirit in which I write and send this.  I cannot send it from a spirit of resentment and bitterness because I have seen my friends unfairly maligned.  I have no such feelings about it.  There are no “gotchas” in this.  That goes against my grain.  I don’t need to win an argument.  Clear facts are enough for me no matter who happens to “win”.  I don’t need to correct your misunderstanding and misapplication of facts.  You appear to be running on a different wave length than I and there is possibly no base of reasoning that we share on these issues.  I don’t feel I need to convince you of anything.  You have convinced yourself of these matters and I not asking you to be willing to reconsider your own decisions.  The only thing I think I need to do is just set the record straight for the sake of those who will read your article and my response.  If they also read my response, it will still be up to them as to how they will judge this matter.

I should emphasize that “Concerned Nazarenes” is not an organization.  It is no more than a network of like-minded Nazarenes, Wesleyans, Evangelical Friends, other Wesleyan types, and anyone who shares the same concerns about the influences of the postmodern emergent movement in our denominations.  They come together on the Concerned Nazarenes Facebook and other similar sites.  Some post on other sites that exist solely to publish online.  There are Baptist and independent groups as well and there is congenial dialog among them and the Wesleyan groups.  It is all best described as a volunteer alliance or network of Christians who have a problem with the tenets of the Emergent Church Movement and its influences on traditional churches and Christians in general.  They have no significant power over others or within their denominations.  They function only to inform and encourage a return to the evangelical traditions of their churches.

Besides all of that, there are a host of Nazarenes; including elected leaders, pastors, and members; and other Christians who are not a part of Concerned Nazarenes or any other similar network who nonetheless grieve in spirit over the direction our denomination has set upon.  Some of them say something from time to time and many just keep to themselves and make private remarks or say nothing at all.  I am aware of a handful of those folks from across the country whose opinions reach me privately from time to time.  I am also aware that many of that kind sit in First Church and other pews every week. Concerned Nazarenes is only a segment of that massive network.

Allow me to say in that regard that there are a lot of people who post on Concerned Nazarenes Facebook, and the number is growing.  I would say that most are pretty solidly traditional Wesleyan-Arminian; a few are shallow and driven by unreasonable biases and prejudices, inadequate information, and lack of research—they are extremely nerve-wracking; and some are emergent infiltrators.  Tares grow with wheat and it is hard to distinguish between them most of the time.

(Regarding NazNet and Other Emergent Groups)

In all fairness, have you read the many comments coming out of NazNet that fit your list of objectionable behaviors and attitudes every bit as well as you say about Concerned Nazarenes?  I am not prepared to generalize and say that everyone who posts on NazNet is vitriolic just because there are numerous responses on that site that are crotchety, snappish, sarcastic, impertinent, and irreverent in tone and manner towards those who object to the Emergent Nazarene movement.  Those who post like that on NazNet against “fundamental” or Concerned Nazarenes do not usually hold their punches.  Some are more reasonable.

Of course, there may still be the Emergent Nazarene site and others that follows that same pattern.  They are also a network that appears to be committed to putting Concerned Nazarenes in their proper place by whatever means possible—just as you essentially did in your closing remarks by your invitation to others to join you in the effort you espouse, wherein you principally invite people to a fight, not anything that actually resembles compassionate discourse.  Is that discourse reserved only for the postmodern pagans that our leadership often seems eager to cozy up to?   A Nazarene in Ohio who has read your article believes that you are confused as to who the enemy within is and referenced your appeal to Martin Luther by discussing the widespread record of his public battles, implying (my interpretation) that Luther more resembled Concerned Nazarenes than any sort of established entity, referring specifically to his use of the printing press (a precursor to the Internet).

Now permit me to address your article.  My comments are only what I intend as a dispassionate response to those things you have written.  Actually, I have included thoughts from a number of Concerned Nazarenes that have been shared with me after they read your article.  Nothing I received from them was subjective.  They dealt only with factual matters, as I hope to do here.

(The General Nature Of Your Article)

I view the general nature of your article as being a frontal attack on counter-emergent Nazarenes.  That is indicated by your frequent characterizations of those with whom you are disagreeing. You frequently used derisive descriptions of them (stubborn, Internet rumormongers, involved in “a Salem witch-hunt or Inquisition-type atmospheres,” narrowly and selfishly defining worship, slanderous, rumor-spreaders, “full of righteous self-piety,” judgmental, critical attitude of mistrust and gossip, unjustly manipulative, involved in special interest-political-action-group thinking and their tactics, and having divisive and disruptive behaviors.  I think that covers all of the adjectives of your opinion about what typifies Concerned Nazarenes.  Some calls your list the “Dirty Dozen” because there are twelve of them.)  In fact, the quantity and quality of negativism towards those whom you say are attacking the Church of the Nazarene from within sets the tone for your article.  It puts me in mind of Saul Alinsky’s 13th rule for radicals in using conflict tactics:

“13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.  In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen.’… any target can always say, “Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?” When you “freeze the target”’ you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments…. Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the “others” come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target…One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” (pps.127-134).

It is interesting that you refer to counter-emergents as being more in the mode of political activism than of holiness.  It is the view of many Nazarenes and others that the emergent church movement is precisely that—the religious arm of Marxist progressivism and carrying out the political designs of the Marxist agenda by infiltrating the churches.  It is blatantly apparent to many Nazarenes, including Nazarenes in leadership, not just those few of us who rant on the Internet.

I certainly give you credit for not intending to directly adhere to a Marxist rule of Alinsky’s.  Nevertheless, it comes across clearly as being just that sort of conflict tactic against those other Concerned Nazarenes who do not see things as you choose to see them.  Your inference, just the same, is that the angels are on your side and the devils are on their side.  I might go so far as to say that you appear to be assuming that God is on your side and opposes those whom you seem to believe dishonor the Holy Spirit by not letting Him do the work He wants to do and by their not seeking the Spirit’s direction.  How you happen to know that escapes me.  That sort of statement leads me to assume that you already presume to know what that direction is.

I must immediately ask, therefore:  How do you know that?  I assume, from the frequent references you make on nFocus and elsewhere as to your being led by the Holy Spirit and your references to the Holy Spirit in the article, that you see yourself as being led by the Holy Spirit.  You certainly said so in a recent nFocus as to why you wrote the article in the first place:

The March/April issue of our denomination’s official magazine features an article I wrote entitled ‘I Am A Concerned Nazarene.’  This article was prompted by the Holy Spirit some months ago after observing for some time the tactics and approaches of a few who are critical of our denomination, our pastors and leaders, our Universities and other entities.”

A New England reader of your article observed that someone else made that very claim of being led by the Holy Spirit to be a part of Concerned Nazarenes in order to oppose the postmodern influences among Nazarenes.  He went on to say that you both cannot be right on the same matter.  I guess our respective readers must decide that for themselves.  I would suggest, however, that the best way to determine if someone is actually being led by the Holy Spirit is to look at the fruit of their activities from a biblical viewpoint and to be alert as to whether or not there is genuine evidence of the power of the Spirit in their lives.  In addition, the Holy Spirit never speaks outside of His written Word, i.e., everything He says to the heart is verified in the Scriptures.

I should insert here that your section on music is peripheral to the issue at hand as I understand it, so will not address that.  The portion on “heritage of worship” could, however, be a reference to your support of what you allow and take part in at First Church.  You call it ancient/future worship.  But you do not specify that so I cannot respond to it in that context.

Following our two-hour meeting shortly after your arrival in Nashville, I went home with one of the clearest memories in my lifetime of any meeting.  I had not audio-recorded the meeting, as I normally would have with your permission, so had to rely on memory.  I wrote the exchange in accurate detail for my own record immediately upon my arrival home.

Some of the things you say in the article reminded me of what you said in that meeting.  You convinced me then, as you do now, that you are in full support of the concepts of theistic evolution, limited inspiration of the Scriptures, and Catholic mysticism and other matters emergent.  You as much as say so in your article and actually reference “full” inspiration of Scriptures as “in all things necessary to our salvation” and “a certain view of creation” in making your point.

In a short few months, you also have established a known record of frequently incorporating at First Church practices directly from the “ancient church fathers” (post-A.D. 200) and 20th Century emergent innovators and other activities that clearly identify postmodern emergent doctrines and practices, both in fact and in the minds of many First Church Nazarenes. After all, as one NFCN member recently stated in complaining about all the “new” things going on there: “singing an invitation hymn, being moved by the Holy Spirit to repent, accept Christ’s free gift of salvation, and go forward to confess Him before men is so old fashioned,” but it still works best.

(Your View of The Manual And Of Scripture)

One might surmise from the article that you put preeminence on statements from the Manual as though the Scriptures are amenable to the Manual statements and not the other way around. You may claim that those things you talk about are traditionally Nazarene, but I say unequivocally that they are heretical, postmodern, unorthodox, emergent, new age, and a clear affront to revelational truth.  I can prove my claim from the Scriptures because the Scriptures are my final—no, only—authority.

How do you justify your support of these things?  I make a distinction between exegetical interpretation of the irrevocable authority of all Scripture (all of it being relevant to our salvation wherein it speaks on any subject) and the weak philosophy-based theologies. What equal or superior authority do you claim outside of the Scriptures, and why would you?  Philosophical theology will let you down, if that is where you go for understanding.  You suggest we stop using “emergent”, “unorthodox”, “heretic”, and similar terms.  I see no need to do so because a stinkweed that is called a rose is still a stinkweed by nature.  We did not come up with the term “emergent” anyhow.  They were chosen by that crowd to identify themselves. Their doctrines, when examined in the light of Scriptures, show them as unorthodox and heretical.  How else should we define them when the Bible is the authority?

(Fundamentalism And its Meaning In The Church)

You say the Church of the Nazarene was never fundamentalist.  I understand how people define “fundamentalist” as Calvinistic—as you do in the article—and that much is true to a point.  However, being fundamentalist did actually characterize the Church of the Nazarene, at least in R. T. Williams’ mind in 1928 at the 7th General Assembly.  The term was later abandoned to draw a distinction between Nazarenes and Calvinism.   We had also dropped “Pentecostal” from the church name for similar reasons. That didn’t make us less Pentecostal in the New Testament sense.  I think both actions were a surrender of important terms of identification.

The term is not actually the point, but you might want to consider my footnote #1 to get a more accurate perspective of fundamentalism.[1]  What is fundamental to the truth of the inspired Scriptures is and has always been the concern in these times of uncertainty about where our denomination is going.  No one among the Concerned Nazarenes I know favor having the Church of the Nazarene become Calvinistic in theology.  If they and the Calvinists happen to agree on basic truths such as the unqualified full inspiration of the Scriptures, just as they do on many biblical truths, that does not mean that Concerned Nazarenes are advancing the notion of becoming Reformed in doctrine.  They are very content to remain Arminian and Wesleyan. They just want to also remain truly biblical and evangelistic.  Calvinists do not have the exclusive right on defining inspiration as absolutely full inspiration.

At the same time, I find it odd that you censure fundamentalists and Reformed believers as objectionable while embracing a “new thinking” of emergent principles and practices as somehow appropriate to traditional Nazarenedom.  If I should have to make a choice between the two, please give me Calvinism over emergent theology or anything “new thinking” in character.  At least the evangelical Calvinists are truly and thoroughly Christian and their doctrines are much more scriptural than anything coming out of the so-called “new thought” of postmodernism.  Despite Thomas Oord’s suggestion on his website, we Nazarenes have absolutely nothing to learn from postmodernism and everything to avoid with haste.

One North Carolina Nazarene reviewer of this article and responding to your article said the following in an email to me:  “I would definitely stress that we are not Calvinist, even though it is definitely preferable to his ideologies which lean towards mysticism and Catholic rituals.  It does not have to be an either/or – holiness can stand on its own scriptural merits.”

I never dreamed I would ever be defending Calvinism against inaccurate accusations; whose major tenets on salvation, as defined by the T-U-L-I-P theory, I do not subscribe to!  At least, T-U-L-I-P is internally consistent.

(The Inspiration Of Scripture)

You make an issue of inspiration of Scriptures whereby you decry “Calvinist” ideas of inspiration in favor of a supposed extra-biblical[2] notion of partial inspiration (“in all things necessary to our salvation”).  I should say that every other idea of inspiration, verbal, literal, plenary, dictation, etc., are in total support of every word of the Bible coming under the definition of divine inspiration. Their only discussion is how inspiration came about and not what was and was not inspired. The inaccuracy of “pertaining to our salvation” is in the statement itself.  None of the Scriptures are specifically pertaining to our salvation.  They pertain to Christ (John 5:39) and our salvation is included (verse 40).  I know that the Nazarene statement has been essentially the same since 1908.  There was never a problem with is being understood as anything but one-hundred percent inspiration of Scriptures until modern liberals began to twist it to mean as it is often touted these days as limited inspiration—something the Nazarene Manual never says.

Your idea selectively eliminates any sections that you or anyone may not for any number of reasons deem as “necessary to our salvation” and therefore open to challenge.  In doing so, you are saying that what is called the Bible is a mixture of inspiration and error. Of course, the so-called “not necessary to our salvation” parts have never been definitively identified by anyone who makes that allegation, except those parts they want to question—like the creation account.

Another Nazarene (not part of Concerned Nazarenes) views your line of reasoning as consisting of what is called an etymological fallacy.  That is, you are arguing that the present-day meaning of “fundamentalist” is necessarily identical to its historical meaning.  By that is implied that the present meaning of “fundamentalist” is based exclusively on its etymology. I have demonstrated that such is not the case.

(Middle of The Road)

You say that we are a middle-of-the road Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.  If I may insert a bit of humor here, someone said that if you stand in the middle of the road, you will get run over from both directions.  Put into a political context, I would say that a moderate is a liberal masquerading as a conservative.  In a biblical sense, however, there are no moderates in God’s kingdom.  The narrow way to His place of bliss has no room for moderation.  There is ample space, however, on that other broader road.  All kinds of riff-raff can be found there.

(Your Reference To Christian Leaders Of The Past)

You referenced Christian leaders of the past for your support:  John Wesley, Phoebe Palmer, H. Orton Wiley, and William Greathouse, and said they would blanch in concern if they were aware of “the insidious theological and ecclesiastical battle going on through the Internet, driven by categorization, guilt-by-association, and ‘gotcha’ tactics that more represent radical politics tactics than anything remotely biblical, Christian, or certainly holiness.”  I knew one on that list, Greathouse, and he was pretty much solid, except in one matter when he and Dunning wrote that the Church is our mother if God is our Father.  He might have been more in agreement with you than the others because of that one remark but I doubt even that.  I can easily quote references from Wesley that would contradict your claim about him.  Wiley tended to be immensely profound but the substance of his writings that I have read would contradict your assertions about where he would stand.  Palmer would not agree with you either, and I do not subscribe to some of her positions on Wesleyanism.  Even those positions I disagree with do not support your claim.  I think that many of her contemporaries would call you on it.

You appealed to Martin Luther as being something of a “maverick” as you see yourself.  Martin Luther’s foibles are not related to what you are supporting.  He came from a different mindset and experiences that were basically opposing much of the Catholicism of his day, things that some emergent Nazarenes are attempting to turn to in an effort to change our denomination into what it never has been—more Middle Ages Catholic and less evangelical and fundamentally biblical.  Anyhow, not only would I object to his ripping the Epistle of James from the Scriptures, but I also disagree with him on transubstantiation, his callousness to the tragic death of Zwingli, and his acceptance of the possibility of “soul sleep.”  You might notice that when he translated the New Testament into German in 1522 that James was included and was still there when he translated the rest of the Bible two years later.

On the other hand, Luther held no resemblance to what you are propounding according to any records I have seen about him—and I have read a lot.  I am inclined to have great respect for him because his life was in almost constant jeopardy and because of the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  He fought battles you I and will never have to fight.  He never deviated from his theme that people are made right with God in his emphasis on Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”) – Sola Fide (‘by faith alone”) – and Sola Scriptura (“by the Bible alone”).

Augustine said a lot of good things that are worth remembering.  Also, he made some highly outlandish assertions in his “new thinking,” as you call it, which must be rejected as unscriptural.  He is considered the father of Roman Catholic theology, not Protestant—certainly not Nazarene—theology.  It is possible that he, along with other so-called church fathers after AD 200, has been responsible for many of the Hindu mystical and unscriptural practices advanced by emergent church leaders today.  I prefer to go back prior to AD 200 for better guidance on understanding truth and proper Christian behavior.  That period of “distinguished” early church fathers was responsible for martyrdoms that dwarfed the Roman persecutions and spawned the eventual Reformation.

A Nazarene in Illinois had this to say about Augustine and Luther in an email to me:

“I know that Augustine published a list of retractions late in life. So when quoting Augustine, I think it important to know when in his walk that he stated whatever is being quoted and whether or not he later retracted it. From my limited understanding of Luther, the same is true, it is important to know when he did or said whatever you happen to be quoting. I surmise (given limited knowledge) that Ulmet’s Luther statement is well out of context.”

(Your Defense of Various Nazarenes In Leadership Positions)

You came to the defense of those fine Nazarene administrators, professors, and pastors who have entertained questionable speakers on campuses and pulpits and were criticized for doing so.  You didn’t say their guests were solidly Nazarene-like and seemed to agree they were often questionable.  You should understand that when people hold those doctrinal positions as you described, those who invite them must take the responsibility for the results of their own actions and decisions.  If they are caught off-guard, that is one thing.  To embrace them and support them (as a chaplain from one of our mid-western universities did in an email to me); that puts them in the same camp, even the same tent, as the objectionable guest.  My dad would have said they were in cahoots (they shared equally; become partners in the same thing).

When I raised the question in conversation with you that Rob Bell’s book had just been presented in a study at First Church just prior to your arrival, you didn’t even blink.  You did, however, bristle and passionately denied my request to present a counter-emergent, pro-Nazarene study in a similar format that others in the church had asked me to do.  You told me emphatically that it would add to the disruption already going on in the church that you had inherited.  Rob Bell, who openly advocates the false doctrine of post-mortem salvation, is okay but a Nazarene elder wanting to advise Nazarenes of the risks of following postmodern/new age heresies is disruptive?  Is that what you mean by people such as I am as being “full of self-righteous piety”?  Was I being “under the guise of protecting the church from ‘emergent’ ideas and concepts” or was I really being a Concerned Nazarene who genuinely cares about the direction towards Hell that our people are being lured?

(Critical Thinking)

You express support for what you call critical thinking.  You do not define it so I assume you refer to what is normally understood by “critical thinking” as coming from “Higher Criticism.”  While higher criticism was originally associated with the study of the literary structure of the various books of the Bible, and more especially of the Old Testament, it has degenerated into arrogant attacks upon the Bible and the supernatural character of the Holy Scriptures.  It fosters subjective conclusions and world-friendly opinions.  To say that Nazarene college students must study and learn to evaluate situations of life by that standard is absurd. Christians are not of this world and have no need to understand it and dialog with it other than to know that it is filled with lost souls that need the Savior.

(Textbooks In The Universities And Accountability)

My wife and I ran into that problem when we objected to an offensive textbook being used in one our daughter’s classes at Trevecca.  The excuse they gave us was like the one you offer—they needed to let students know what it was like out there in the real world.  What nonsense!  It doesn’t take a Christian college curriculum to inform kids of what is going on around them.  They already know more than we know about such things.  Anyhow, the real notion of “critical thinking” is not about teaching students the processes of logic and reasoning.  It teaches them what they should “reason” and the conclusions they are expected to reach in a compromise of biblical truths.   This kind of thinking is the antithesis of “Thus saith the Lord.”  It has nothing to do with intelligent awareness and everything to do with being rebellious to God’s truth.

That drivel has brought us to the point that we now teach them that homosexuality is normal unless you act it out.  The next thing we will be telling them is that even the act is okay.  We already tolerate openly homosexual Nazarene “ministers” who boast of it.  The wedge is in the door and the homosexuals are pushing it open while we step aside and just let them walk right in without a murmur of objection.  Even the recent “invasion” by a homosexual advocacy group on some of our Nazarene campuses turned out to be squandered opportunity to share the gospel.  Our educational leaders pandered to them instead of witnessing to them.  Suppose that same group had been there as child-molester advocates.  What would have been out people’s response to that?  If your response would be what I think it would be, I say we should have done with the homosexuals what we would have done had they been advocating child molestation.

Why shouldn’t our college presidents and administrators be called to account over this absurd acquiescence along with their other compromises?  Why are they not being called on the carpet by those with oversight of them?  Why are people like Concerned Nazarenes demonized for bringing it up?  Could it be that we speak up because we are the only ones who really care about our church and harbor no vested self-interests?

(The Battle Is From Within)

You are right about one thing.  “Our greatest battles are from within—from those who name themselves among the people of God and the people called Holiness and Nazarene.”  You just have the finger pointed in the wrong direction.  Disruption, hurt, and damage is not from those of us who have been here all along and instinctively care deeply about holiness.  It comes from the infiltrators who pretend to be of us but whose hearts are far from us. It comes from the backsliders and compromisers among us, and from those who have never been born again but who have slithered into positions of power and prestige and presume to decide what we Nazarenes are expected to think and do.

A lady in the state of Washington wrote me the following: “I didn’t believe these things were happening before I investigated.  And I investigated because I wanted to prove these “concerned” ones wrong.  I found out they weren’t so wrong after all.  I’m a layperson.  If I were a minister or leader in the church, I’d be checking all the more.”

This following is information that you might not really care about.  Maybe you do.  The Church of the Nazarene is viewed largely by the Christian community as having lost its way as demonstrated by the preponderance of emergent-postmodern-new age teachings and practices among us.  They see our churches, pastors, universities, and publishers as willfully compliant in the emergent error and as having carelessly abandoned the faith that was once delivered through the gospel message that brought us into being in the first place.  That is from non-Nazarenes!

(Are You Willing To Have An Open Discussion?)

One reader of your article observed:  “In two locations in this article, the writer claims to make the offer of open discussion.”  He goes on to say that he has sought an open discussion with you but that you have systematically found ways to avoid it.  He views it as your not actually meaning what you say.

May I make an alternative offer? Since you did say in the article, “We can handle these challenges in biblical ways.  We can sit down together and reason together,” I find that very appealing.  Therefore, I would gladly meet in an open (public) forum with you and any two or three people of your choosing, and I with any two or three people of my choosing.  The number is only a suggestion.  It can be any number as long as both sides are represented by the same number.  Both sides would, in my opinion, be free to say anything on their minds and hearts in the matter by following agreed-upon rules that suit both sides equally and moderated by a neutral party. I suggest it be open because it should not be secretive.  I would want it recorded as well.

I should thank you for submitting the article to Holiness Today and should thank Holiness Today for publishing it.  You have unintentionally done what Concerned Nazarenes would have never been permitted to do—to inform Nazarene readers to a greater extent beyond our meager resources and capabilities.

It is possible that many Nazarenes who once never knew about the emergent problem will now do as I did less than two years ago and start searching for themselves.  I am eager for them to do that and will respect their final analysis as far as it concerns their own choices.  I prefer that they are enabled to make informed decisions one way or the other.  After all, that is all Concerned Nazarenes have ever wanted to accomplish. That could hardly be called hurtful and disruptive.  With that in mind, I share a thought from one of my sons in an email:

“Effectively, by allowing this article to be published in our only official magazine … Kevin’s article right now is the de-facto official opinion of the Church of the Nazarene. Some might claim it is not truly ‘official’, but since there is not a published counter-point to this article, this is the de-facto ‘standard’ for Nazarenes. I’m not sure our BoGS truly want this to be that authoritative. But, for now it is.”

The goals you express at the end of your article are, indeed, noble.  As stated, they are goals that anyone who eagerly pursues holiness of heart and life would happily agree to.  The only problem I see with them is the context you place them in and the implications you make of them.

You have already raked Concerned Nazarenes over the coals—those counter-emergent ones that you claim are trying to drag the Church of the Nazarene into Calvinism; those Nazarenes who believe in the literalism of the creation account as reported in the Bible, who faithfully adhere to the total inerrancy of the entire Bible without reservation, and who reject the imposition of Eastern mysticism as replacement for a Biblically prescribed lifestyle of praying.

By that appeal, you ask your readers to subscribe to what you have just written as true and join you in rejecting fundamental Nazarenes through a kind of “holiness” that sounds biblical but is actually counterfeit.  Why not invite them to evaluate your assertions by doing their own research?  Those who will read your article are grown-ups.  They can handle it.

(Conclusion: The Holy Spirit)

One more thought.  The Holy Spirit is never up to something new.  That is unscriptural.  God’s mercies are new (fresh) every morning but they are not different from day to day.  The Holy Spirit is consistently involved in the old-fashioned gospel that has always worked.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He has no need to be innovative so the gospel message can go forth.  Of course, we already know from the Scriptures that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  The “Holy Spirit” that is “up to something new” is an imposter.  The people who subscribe to that notion will find out they are heeding seducing spirits, not the Holy Spirit.  Gimmickry can never replace evangelization. Christianity is not a novelty.  It is a message of salvation to whosoever will accept Christ as Savior through faith alone.  Sin is old-fashioned and so is the remedy.

A Personal Note:  This is the only time I will be getting personal.  All that has gone before was not meant to be personal in any way.  It was only about the issues and nothing else.  Having said that, I still fully expect to be meticulously excoriated—personally and publically—for what I have written here, and that it will come largely from many who support a holiness denomination moving towards emergent postmodernism. But I have already considered that as something I may have to accept as inevitable.

I want you to know that it is my deepest desire to get behind you in a ministry that will bring glory to God in every respect.  What I see at this point includes so much of postmodernism that I am hindered from giving you the full support I dearly want to give.  I challenge you, not because I want to get in the way, but because I care enough about you to tell you the truth as I understand it.  You are pastoring a church filled with wonderful people and it is my prayer on your behalf that you will more than meet the task in being faithful to their souls.  I do not want you to be hurt in any way because of me.  You and I will stand before the same Judge and neither can answer for anyone but themselves.

Because I care about you and your ministry, I will not indulge you and tell you things I know are not true.  I once told you that I can be your best friend.  I still mean that.  I trust that you do not feel you have arrived at the pinnacle of possibilities.  There is still a long way to go and there always will be that for anyone.  I pray for you but cannot ask God to bless you in doing the wrong things, but only in the right things.  I do not always know the difference but He does.  I pray for you and trust Him to sort it all out.

You are headed in the wrong direction with what I call postmodern emergent error and maybe you just don’t realize it.  I am sure you understand that people who believe deeply as do Concerned Nazarenes and other counter-emergent evangelicals also feel deeply committed to biblical truth.  I have learned from our youngest son’s outlook about his ten years at war and life itself that if you don’t let opposition destroy you it will strengthen you.[3]  I sincerely do not believe God will bless you in the pursuit of “new things” and that you will eventually find that out if you continue in them.  I honestly wish God’s best for you.  May I offer a single consideration that is expressed well in an old gospel song that has expressed my life-long goal:

Let me lose myself and find it, Lord, in Thee.

May all self be slain, my friends see only Thee.

Though it costs me grief and pain, I will find my life again.

If I lose my self I’ll find it, Lord, in Thee.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14

Respectfully submitted,

John Henderson

April 11, 2012


[1] “Online Etymology Dictionary: 1920 in the religious sense (as is fundamentalism), from fundamental + -ist. Coined in American English to name a movement among Protestants c.1920-25 based on scriptural inerrancy, etc., ….Fundamentalism is a protest against that rationalistic interpretation of Christianity which seeks to discredit supernaturalism. This rationalism, when full grown, scorns the miracles of the Old Testament, sets aside the virgin birth of our Lord as a thing unbelievable, laughs at the credulity of those who accept many of the New Testament miracles, reduces the resurrection of our Lord to the fact that death did not end his existence, and sweeps away the promises of his second coming as an idle dream. It matters not by what name these modernists are known. The simple fact is that, in robbing Christianity of its supernatural content, they are undermining the very foundations of our holy religion. They boast that they are strengthening the foundations and making Christianity more rational and more acceptable to thoughtful people. Christianity is rooted and grounded in supernaturalism, and when robbed of supernaturalism it ceases to be a religion and becomes an exalted system of ethics. [Laws, “Herald &Presbyter,” July 19, 1922]  The original opposition to fundamentalist (within the denominations) was modernist.

[2] Extra-biblical refers to teachings, concepts and practices claimed to be supported by or taught in the Bible, but which are based on incorrect interpretation. (www.apologeticsindex.org)

[3] “I definitely do need the struggles that I face these days. In fact, in spite of how impossible they may appear on the surface most times, I highly value them for the potential they will forge in me” (Karl Henderson, April, 2012).

Dr. Gran’pa
(John Henderson)
[NOTICE:  ANYTHING I write over this signature may be copied or shared with others
and is deemed as published material unless otherwise stated herein]

One Response [as of 04/11/12]

Christi, on April 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm said:

I applaude your response to that article! I was furious when I read I am a concerned nazarene. Nothing is on my heart and in my prayers more then the compromise of the emergent sweeping our universities and churches. Just a few years ago, I was going to a Nazarene univeristy that was completely swept away by this movement. And while I was being swayed towards it, something deep in my gut kept screaming, “This is wrong! This is wrong!”. I only attened there 2 years, and then God brought me from there and did not allow me to finish college anywhere, no matter what I did something always kept me from it. Over the last few years I have done heavy research on the emergent. And broken hearted over it all. When I see fellow sturdents, who even now, are still clinging to the emergent and their top leaders, I break down and sob and sob and plead with God for eyes to be opened. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not praying and pleading God. And the young girls I mentor now, I am so careful that they know the Bible and what it says, and not to be swayed by every new teacher, preacher, study material that is out there. Thank you for posting this response.

FOR FURTHER READING

Reader comments on Ulmet’s HT article (many comments opposing Ulmet, as well as many comments favoring Ulmet – use discretion and discernment)

A Response To Holiness Today’s Attack On Scripture (Nicholas, 04/13/12)

Responding To A Nazarene Pastor’s Attempt To Discredit Bible Believers (Manny Silva, posted 04/19/12)

Read Full Post »

(revised 03/31/15)

NOTE – In the past, I have reposted entire articles by David Cloud. Recently I read David Cloud’s statement at the bottom of his articles, giving permission to repost excerpts from his articles. Thus, I have taken nearly all of my reposted David Cloud articles offline. However, I am leaving this repost online for now, since it is directly tied to a primary purpose of my blogs: exposing Richard Foster and other apostate teachers in my former, “birthright” denomination the Evangelical Friends. The following article by David Cloud is excellent.

The more I read about Evangelical Friend Richard Foster, the more I am ashamed of the Evangelical Friends denomination (EFCI). For the life of me, I cannot understand why this denomination accepts and endorses Foster’s Spiritual Formation, with its occultish contemplative teachings.

The EFCI was formed in 1965 (as the EFA aka Evangelical Friends Alliance) from various Friends Yearly Meetings which had a (relatively) biblically sound, Wesleyan Holiness theology at the time. Yet today the EFCI continues to sink deeper and deeper into Spiritual Formation and Emerging/Emergent teachings.

Note: click here for a Google.com listing of my other blogs mentioning Richard Foster.

Below I have reposted Independent Fundamentalist Baptist David Cloud’s article exposing the heresies of Evangelical Friend Richard Foster. Click here for Bro. Cloud’s original article. In my repost, I have emphasized certain points by bolding and inserted comments in [brackets].

RICHARD FOSTER: EVANGELICALISM’S MYSTICAL SPARKPLUG
October 8, 2008 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service)

The following is excerpted from our new book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, which is available from Way of Life Literature. If it is not yet available through the online catalog, it can be ordered by phone or e-mail with a credit card.
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Richard Foster’s writings have been at the forefront of the contemplative movement since the 1970s. No one has done more than this man to spread contemplative mysticism throughout Protestant and Baptist churches.

Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, which has sold more than two and a half million copies [as of 2008], was selected by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the 20th century. (For this review I obtained multiple editions of Celebration of Discipline, plus three other books by Foster.)

The Quaker Connection

He grew up among the Quakers  (the Religious Society of Friends)[specifically, Foster grew up in the Evangelical Friends denomination, which is the only evangelical aka born again Quaker denomination], was trained at George Fox College [now George Fox University], has pastored Quaker churches [technically Evangelical Friends churches], and has taught theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and at George Fox. One website calls him “perhaps the best known Quaker in the world today.”

The Quaker connection is important, because one of their peculiar doctrines is direct revelation via an “inner light.”  This is defined in a variety of ways, since Quakerism is very individualistic and non-creedal, but it refers to a divine presence and guidance in every man. There is an emphasis on being still and silent and passive in order to receive guidance from the inner light. Other terms for it are “light of God,” “light of Christ,” “inward light,” “the light,” “light within,” “Christ within,” and “spirit of Christ.”

George Fox used the expression “that of God in everyone.” In his journal Fox said, “I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any” (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, p. 35).

Another prominent Quaker, Robert Barclay, called this “the light of the heart” and said “there is an evangelical and saving Light and grace in all.”

Isaac Pennington said, “There is that near you which will guide you; Oh wait for it, and be sure ye keep to it.”

The inner light teaching is said to be based on John 1:9 — “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Yet this verse does not say that there is a divine light in every man. It merely says that Christ gives light to every man. The epistle of Romans tells us more about this. There is the light of creation (Romans 1:20), the light of conscience (Romans 2:14-16), and the light of the Scripture (Romans 3:2). When men respond to the light that they have, they are given more light (Acts 17:26-27).

Because of the fall, man’s heart is darkened and foolish (Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:18).

The inner light teaching was exalted above reliance on the Bible. Martin Meeker says, “… the early Quakers’ reliance on the Bible as a source of spiritual knowledge and inspiration was secondary to their belief in the Inner Light as the primary path to salvation and communication with God” (The Doctrine of the Inner Light).

George Fox would say to his listeners:

“You will say, Christ saith this and the Apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?”

Fox claimed that he received the doctrine of the inner light without help from the Scriptures (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, pp. 33-35).

This is an unscriptural and very dangerous position that opens the door for every sort of heresy. The Scripture is able to make the man of God perfect; obviously, then, nothing more is needed (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The early Quakers misinterpreted 2 Corinthians 3:6, claiming that the “letter” referred to the Scripture in general.

“Along these lines, we might note that early Quakers tended to give an expansive reading of 2 Cor. 3:6, which states that God has made us ‘ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ This verse, if ‘letter’ is taken to mean ‘Scripture,’ obviously places strong limits on the use of Scripture while extending preference to Spirit, at the very least. One thus is not surprised that it is a favorite of early Quakers, appearing as an allusion in the postscript of the Letter from the Elders of Balby, cherished by many contemporary Friends” (Stephen Angell, “Opening the Scriptures, Then and Now,” QUEST, Fall-Winter 2007-2008).

If the “letter” of 2 Corinthians 3:6 refers to the Scripture in general, it would mean that Paul was exalting “the Spirit” above the Scripture. It would mean that the Scripture is not the sole authority for faith and practice, but it is only one authority and that men are free to follow their inner lights.

This is a gross misinterpretation of the passage. In truth, 2 Corinthians 3 contrasts the Law of Moses with the Gospel of Grace, the Old Covenant with the New.

2 Corinthians 3:7 leaves no doubt about this, which tells us that the “letter” that killeth is “the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones.” That refers, of course, to the Law of Moses given on Mt. Sinai. It was a covenant of death because it requires of fallen sinners what they cannot perform, which is perfect holiness. It was not given to provide a way of salvation but to show men their sinful, lost condition (Romans 3:19-20).

To interpret the “letter” of 2 Corinthians 3:6 as a reference to the Scripture in general also contradicts the fact that verse 11 says the “letter” has been “done away.” Obviously the Scripture has not been done away with, but the Law of Moses has. Its purpose was to act as a “schoolmaster” to lead men to Christ and once it performs that glorious function its work is finished (Galatians 3:24-25).

It is easy to see how the Quaker philosophy paved the way for Foster to accept Catholic mysticism. It did this by its emphasis on an “inner light” and its tendency not to judge things in an exacting manner with the Bible.

Other Quakers have followed the same path, and some, like Mary Conrow Coelho, have followed it all the way to the New Age. Conrow believes in evolution, the oneness of the universe, and the unity of man with God, and she traces her New Age mysticism to deep third generation Quaker roots and its inner light teaching:

“The adults in our Quaker community spoke often of the Inner Light, the seed of God, the indwelling Christ. [Thomas Kelly] said, ‘It is a Light within, a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth within us’” (“Of Leadings and the Inner Light: Quakerism and the New Cosmology,” http://www.thegreatstory.org/QuakerMetarelig.html).

(Richard Foster quotes Thomas Kelly favorably and frequently in his books, and the Renovarè Spiritual Formation Bible quotes Kelly as saying: “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center.”)

From its inception Quakerism was a heretical movement that downplayed the Bible and exalted personal revelation, and Foster is a product of that heresy even though he is on the “evangelical” side of Quakerism.

In this light it is not surprising to find him promoting Roman Catholic mystics who exalted their tradition and mystical revelations above the Scripture.

Salvation Not Clear

One thing that is glaring in its absence from Foster’s books on spiritual living is a clear biblical testimony of salvation and a clear exhortation for his readers to be born again.

When he does mention salvation, he speaks of it in a confused manner.

He says, for example, that reconciliation has already been achieved in Christ.

“In some mysterious way, through shedding his blood Jesus took into himself all the evil and all the hostility of all the ages and redeemed it. He reconciled us to God, restoring the infinitely valuable personal relationship that had been shattered by sin” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 42).

This is not true. Though the redemption price has been paid, sinners are not reconciled until they individually put their faith in the gospel (John 3:16, 18, 36).

Foster also speaks of salvation as a process.

“One more thing is needed, namely, our response of repentance–not just once but again and again. Martin Luther declares that the life of the Christian should be one of daily repentance” (Prayer, p. 42).

We must understand that the previous statement is made in the context of a discussion of salvation. Foster makes no clear distinction between the one repentance for salvation (Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9) and continual repentance for sanctification (2 Cor. 12:21). Foster’s statement describes either universalism or sacramentalism, but it is not the once-for-all new birth doctrine of the New Testament.

Further, Foster describes salvation in terms of an emotional experience and in association with baptism. In Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster tells of a non-Christian who attended one of his contemplative seminars. Part way through the course the following event transpired.

“Throughout the weekend the Spirit of God rested tenderly upon the entire group, so much so that on Sunday afternoon this same gentleman asked quietly, ‘Would you pray for me that I might know Jesus the way you know Jesus?’ What were we to do? None of the normal responses seemed appropriate. We waited in silence. Finally one young man stood up and gently placed his hands on the man’s shoulders. I have never forgotten his prayer. I felt like taking off my shoes–we were on holy ground. Strange as it may seem, he prayed a commercial. He described a popular advertisement of the day for NesTea in which different people, sweltering from the summer sun, would fall into a swimming pool with a thirst-quenching sense of ‘ahhh!’ on their faces. He then invited this man to fall into the arms of Jesus in the same way. The gentleman suddenly began to weep, heaving deep sighs of sorrow and grief. We watched in reverent wonder as he received the gift of saving faith. It was a tender, grace-filled moment. Later he shared with us how the prayer touched a deep center in his past relating to his baptism as a child” (pp. 48, 49).

While it is true that the Bible describes salvation in terms of drinking and eating of Jesus, the scene described by Foster is confusing at best. What was this man trusting? What was he receiving? He mentions his infant baptism. Had he come to believe that his baptism had brought him into a saving relationship with God that he was only now learning to enjoy? What Jesus was he trusting? What gospel? What was the nature of his faith? The Bible warns that the devils believe in God. Only a certain kind of faith is saving faith. Foster doesn’t clarify any of this. His doctrine of salvation is exceedingly murky at best. When the unbeliever asked the group to pray for him, why didn’t they share with him the gospel? They didn’t need to pray about what to say. They didn’t need to hesitate. Jesus has already commanded us to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Why did they preach a NesTea commercial rather than the gospel?

And while we are talking about Richard Foster and the gospel, if he believes the true gospel of the grace of Christ without works, why does he constantly and uninhibitedly promote Catholic mystics who hold to a sacramental gospel? If he doesn’t believe Rome’s gospel of process salvation, why does he never warn about it plainly?

Personal salvation is foundational to prayer and Christian living. It is criminal to write books on these subjects for broad public consumption and not make salvation absolutely clear.

Roman Catholic Mysticism

Foster advocates Roman Catholic mysticism with absolutely no qualms, building his contemplative practices unequivocally upon this heretical foundation.

He recommends Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Benedict of Nursia, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Genoa, Julian of Norwich, Brother Lawrence, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Madame Guyon, Thomas à Kempis, Catherine Doherty, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis de Sales, Alphonsus de Liguori, Bernard of Clairvaux, John Henry Newman, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, G.K. Chesterton, Andrè Louf, Henri Nouwen, Dorothy Day, Karl Rahner, John Main, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning, John Michael Talbot, and many others.

Foster’s recommendation of these Roman Catholic mystics is not half-hearted. In the introduction to the 1998 edition of Celebration of Discipline, he says that they taught him spiritual depth and substance (pp. xiii, xiv), and he calls them “Devotional Masters of the Christian faith.” Of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, Foster says, “… it is a school of prayer for all of us” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 59).

There is no warning of the fact that these mystics trusted in a works gospel, venerated Mary, worshipped Christ as a piece of consecrated bread, believed in purgatory, and scores of other heresies. (For extensive documentation of this see the chapters “A Description of Catholic Monastic Asceticism” and “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)

Bible Not Sole Authority

Like his Roman Catholic friends, Foster’s foundational error is in not exalting the Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice.  Nowhere in Celebration of Discipline or Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home does he instruct his readers that the Bible alone is God’s infallible revelation and that everything must be carefully tested by it. This should be the very starting point for books on Christian spirituality and worship, but it is glaring in its absence. Foster encourages his readers to find revelation beyond Scripture through meditation, dreams, and personal prophecies.

Foster describes how Francis of Assisi found spiritual guidance. When he was puzzled as to whether he should devote himself exclusively to contemplative practices or also to engage in preaching missions (which is plainly answered in Scripture), he sent word to two “trusted friends” and accepted their replies as the very will of God. Foster says that Francis “was seeking a method that would open the gates of heaven to reveal the mind of Christ, and he took it as such” (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 154, 155). Nowhere does Foster chide Francis of Assisi for depending on the word of man rather than the Scripture.

Neo-Orthodox Approach to Scripture

Foster’s approach to Scripture is a neo-orthodox, existentialist one. It is not by accident that he quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer frequently and non-critically. (He also quotes the other two fathers of neo-orthodoxy, Karl Barth and Emil Brunner.)

“This is not a time for technical word studies, or analysis, or even the gathering of material to share with others. … Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘… just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation’” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 26).

Yet the Bible is not merely a love letter. It is much more. It is the infallible Word of God, and we are commanded to “analyze” it. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries exposes the error of Foster’s approach:

The idea expressed above by Bonhoeffer of accepting Scripture subjectively as spoken to you is completely in line with the flawed view of the text of the Holy Scripture spread by neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth. In neo-orthodoxy the Scripture only becomes the Word of God when the Holy Spirit illuminates it. We can sum up this wrong idea this way: ‘The Bible is a divine mailbox in which we receive letters from Heaven.’ But no, it isn’t. The Bible itself–in full–is the letter, the message, from God.

In his book Reckless Faith Dr. John MacArthur hits the target dead on as he shows why neo-orthodoxy is a perfect fit for contemplative mysticism as well as why it’s a necessity for it to flourish:

‘Neo-orthodoxy is the term used to identify an existentialist variety of Christianity. Because it denies the essential objective basis of truth–the absolute truth and authority of Scripture–neo-orthodoxy must be understood as pseudo-Christianity. … Neo-orthodoxy’s attitude toward Scripture is a microcosm of the entire existentialist philosophy: the Bible itself is not objectively the Word of God, but it becomes the Word of God when it speaks to me individually. …

‘Thus while neo-orthodox theologians often sound as if they are affirming traditional beliefs, … they relegate all theology to the realm of subjective relativism. … Mysticism is perfectly suited for religious existentialism; indeed, it is the inevitable consequence. The mystic disdains rational understanding and seeks truth instead through the feelings, the imagination, personal visions, inner voices, private illumination, or other purely subjective means’ (MacArthur, Reckless Faith) (Ken Silva, “Contemplative Mysticism in the Southern Baptist Convention,” April 30, 2008, http://www.apprising.org/archives/2008/04/contemplative_m.html).

Instead of seeing the Scripture as divinely inspired and profitable in every part as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, and therefore studying it diligently in order to rightly divide it as 2 Timothy 2:15 commands, neo-orthodoxy sees the Scripture as inspired only as it speaks to me experientially through a mystical approach.

Foster’s School of Contemplative Mysticism

Foster invites his readers to “enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 13), promoting thoughtless centering prayer, visualization, guided imagery, the repetition of mantras, silence, walking the labyrinth, even out of body experiences.

Foster says, “Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 15).

Apparently Foster got some criticism for this statement, because in the next edition of Celebration of Discipline he omitted it and tried to contrast Eastern meditation with Christian meditation with the following words:

“Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind. The two ideas are quite different” (Celebration of Discipline, 1988, p. 20).

This sounds nice and tidy, but it contradicts the practice of Catholic contemplation. In reality, both Eastern meditation and Catholic meditation are an attempt to empty the mind in order to arrive at a transcendental experience. Consider the following quotes from the mystics that Foster heartily recommends:

Thomas Merton: “… the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. IT IS WORDLESS. IT IS BEYOND WORDS, AND IT IS BEYOND SPEECH, and it is BEYOND CONCEPT” (The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, 1975 edition, p. 308).

The Cloud of Unknowing: “I URGE YOU TO DISMISS EVERY CLEVER OR SUBTLE THOUGHT no matter how holy or valuable. Cover it with a thick cloud of forgetting because in this life only love can touch God as He is in Himself, never knowledge” (chapter 8).

John Main: “Recite your prayer-phrase [mantra] and gently listen to it as you say it. DO NOT THINK ABOUT ANYTHING. As thoughts come, simply keep returning to your prayer-phrase. In this way, one places everything aside” (The Teaching of Dom John Main: How to Meditate, Meditation Group of Saint Patrick’s Basilica, Ottawa, Canada).

Teresa of Avila: “All that the soul has to do at these times of quiet is merely to be calm and MAKE NO NOISE. BY NOISE I MEAN WORKING WITH THE INTELLECT to find great numbers of words and reflections with which to thank God. … in these periods of quiet, the soul should repose in its calm, and learning should be put on one side” (The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, chap. 15, pp. 106, 107, 108).

Foster’s attempt to set Catholic contemplation apart from pagan mysticism cannot be sustained.

Foster encourages his readers to go deep into their inner world of silence and explore it:

“[W]e must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation. In their writings, all of the masters of meditation strive to awaken us to the fact that the universe is much larger than we know, that there are vast unexplored inner regions that are just as real as the physical world we know so well. They tell us of exciting possibilities for new life and freedom. They call us to the adventure, to be pioneers in this frontier of the Spirit” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 13).

Amazingly, he says that these practices are not only for believers but also for unbelievers.

“We need not be well advanced in matters of theology to practice the Disciplines. Recent converts–for that matter people who have yet to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ–can and should practice them” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 2).

Since the contemplative practices are supposed to enable the practitioner to commune with Christ within himself, how could an unsaved person “practice them”? This is evidence of Foster’s Quaker belief in an “inner light” in every man.

Some might protest that I have only focused on the more controversial parts of Foster’s teaching and have ignored the truth contained therein. I will admit that Foster’s books contain some true insights about traditional biblical prayer that in another context could be helpful, but this is ruined by his promotion of Catholic mysticism, Jungian dream interpretation, healing of memories, and other heresies. Anyone that uses his writings is in imminent danger of being snared by error.

And though he does give many lessons about traditional biblical prayer, he considers this a shallow level of Christian living. To reach the truly “deep” levels, he urges believers to aspire to move beyond normal conversational prayer. He quotes C.S. Lewis:

“I still think the prayer without words is the best–if one can really achieve it. … [But to] pray successfully without words one needs to be ‘at the top of one’s form’” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 156).

In reality, contemplative practices are beyond the bounds of Scripture and are completely “off the deep end.”

Visualization

Foster encourages the exceedingly dangerous practice of guided imagery and visualization:

“The inner world of meditation is most easily entered through the door of the imagination. We fail to today to appreciate its tremendous power. The imagination is stronger that the conceptual thought and stronger than the will. … In his autobiography C. G. Jung describes how difficult it was for him to humble himself and once again play imagination games of a child, and the value of that experience. Just as children need to learn to think logically, adults need to REDISCOVER THE MAGICAL REALITY OF THE IMAGINATION. …

“Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises constantly encouraged his readers to VISUALIZE THE GOSPEL STORIES. Every contemplation he gave was designed to open the imagination. He even included a meditation entitled ‘application of the senses,’ which is an attempt to help us utilize all five senses as we picture the Gospel events. His thin volume of meditation exercises with its stress on the imagination had tremendous impact for good upon the sixteenth century.’ …

“Take a single event like the resurrection, or a parable, or a few verses, or even a single word and allow it to take root in you. Seek to live the experience, remembering the encouragement of Ignatius of Loyola to apply all our senses to our task. … As you enter the story, not as a passive observer but as an active participant, remember that since Jesus lives in the Eternal Now and is not bound by time, this event in the past is a living present-tense experience for Him. Hence, YOU CAN ACTUALLY ENCOUNTER THE LIVING CHRIST IN THE EVENT, BE ADDRESSED BY HIS VOICE AND BE TOUCHED BY HIS HEALING POWER. It can be more than an exercise of the imagination; IT CAN BE A GENUINE CONFRONTATION” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 22, 23, 26).

Note that Foster recommends Carl Jung, who followed a demonic spirit guide, as well as Ignatius of Loyola, who founded an organization dedicated to blind obedience to the pope at the very height of the murderous Inquisition. The “spirit realm” to which these men connected through meditative practices was the realm of darkness.

Foster recommends Loyola’s practice of visualizing a personal encounter with Jesus, which is presumptuous foolishness. We don’t even know what Jesus looks like and we are not supposed to. Faith is simply believing God’s Word (Romans 10:17). Faith is not putting oneself into the biblical account and letting one’s imagination run wild.

(For more about visualization and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises see “Ignatius of Loyola” in the chapter “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)

Interpretation of Dreams

Foster promotes the interpretation of dreams, which is not surprising in light of his recommendation of Carl Jung.

“In learning to meditate, one good place to begin is with our dreams, since it involves little more than paying attention to something we are already doing. … If we are convinced that DREAMS CAN BE A KEY TO UNLOCKING THE DOOR TO THE INNER WORLD, we can do three practical things. First, we can specifically pray, inviting God to inform us through our dreams. … Second, we should begin to record our dreams. … That leads to the third consideration–how to interpret dreams. The best way to discover the meaning of dreams is to ask. ‘You do not have, because you do not ask’ (Jas. 4:2). … Benedict Pererius, a sixteenth-century Jesuit, suggested that the best interpreter of dreams is the ‘…person with plenty of experience in the world and the affairs of humanity, with a wide interest in everything human, and who is open to the voice of God’” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 23, 24).

Though God did speak from time to time to the prophets of old in dreams, the New Testament does not encourage God’s people to seek revelation in dreams nor does it instruct us in how to interpret dreams. Foster takes James 4:2 out of context applying it to the interpretation of dreams, though it has nothing to do with such a thing. He quotes a Jesuit heretic who held a false gospel of sacramentalism. The fact is that we do not need dream revelations for we have the perfect and sufficient “voice of God” in the Scriptures. It is “a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (2 Peter 1:19).

Dream interpretation is one of the things that led Sue Monk Kidd astray as she pursued the contemplative path. She came to believe that God was speaking to her through weird dreams, and those dreams led to self-deification and goddess worship! (See “Sue Monk Kid” in the chapter “Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)

Communing Face to Face with God in Outer Space [astral projection]

Foster even urges the contemplative practitioner to commune face to face with God the Father.

“A fourth form of meditation has as its objective to bring you into a deep inner communion with the Father where you look at Him and He looks at you” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 27).

Foster says that this amazing feat can be accomplished via visualized out of body experiences [astral projection].

“In your imagination, picture yourself walking along a lovely forest path. … When you are able to experience the scene with all your senses, the path breaks out onto a lovely grassy knoll. Walk out into the lush large meadow encircled by stately pines. After exploring the meadow for a time, lie down on your back looking up at blue sky and white clouds. IN YOUR IMAGINATION ALLOW YOUR SPIRITUAL BODY, SHINING WITH LIGHT, TO RISE OUT OF YOUR PHYSICAL BODY. Look back so that you can see yourself lying in the grass and reassure your body that you will return momentarily. IMAGINE YOUR SPIRITUAL SELF, ALIVE AND VIBRANT, RISING UP THROUGH THE CLOUDS AND INTO THE STRATOSPHERE. Observe your physical body, the knoll, and the forest shrink as you leave the earth. Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in His presence. Listen quietly, anticipating the unanticipated. NOTE CAREFULLY ANY INSTRUCTION GIVEN … Do not be disappointed if no words come; like good friends, you are silently enjoying the company of each other. When it is time for you to leave, audibly thank the Lord for His goodness and return to the meadow. Walk joyfully back along the path until you return home FULL OF NEW LIFE AND ENERGY” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 27, 28).

Foster thus claims that the believer can go into outer space and receive direct revelation from Almighty God! Who needs the Bible and who needs faith when we can actually meet Christ in the center of our being, talk face to face with God the Father, and have personal revelations from Almighty God?

(The previous passage was dropped out of subsequent editions of Celebration of Discipline, but to my knowledge Foster has never renounced the practice. My e-mail to him about this was not answered.)

This technique is occultic. It is exactly what I was taught by Hindu gurus in the early 1970s.

In Out on a Limb New Ager Shirley MacLaine describes an out of body journey to the moon that follows the same playbook!

Consider the following description of what Brian Flynn was taught when he was training to be a psychic before his conversion to Jesus Christ:

“Carolyn then instructed us to lie on the floor, close our eyes and imagine we were lying in a field of wildflowers on a beautiful summer’s day. The wind was calm, and the smell of flowers awakened our senses. As we were lying in the field, she asked us to now leave our bodies and look down upon ourselves. Carolyn then guided us to raise our souls to the heavens and to leave our earthly bodies behind. When we reached what we believed to be the outer edges of the universe she told us to ask for a message from the universe and what we needed to know at this time. ‘Listen to the voice inside you. Ask what it is you need to know to help you release the burdens you carry,’ she said softly” (Flynn, Running against the Wind, 2005, p. 50).

There is no significant difference between the psychic practice and Foster’s so-called contemplative practice. When we go outside the realm of the Bible we put ourselves in the way of spiritual harm and deception.

Other Occultic Practices

Foster recommends other occultic practices.

One is channeling the light of Christ through visualization. Consider his description of how he taught visualizing prayer to a little boy:

“Imagination opens the door to faith. If we can ‘see’ in our mind’s eye a shattered marriage whole or a sick person well, it is only a short step to believing that it will be so. … I was once called to a home to pray for a seriously ill baby girl. Her four-year-old brother was in the room and so I told him I needed his help to pray for his baby sister. … He climbed up into the chair beside me. ‘Let’s play a little game,’ I said. ‘Since we know that Jesus is always with us, let’s imagine that He is sitting over in the chair across from us. He is waiting patiently for us to center our attention on Him. When we see Him, we start thinking more about His love than how sick Julie is. He smiles, gets up, and comes over to us. Then let’s both put our hands on Julie and when we do, Jesus will put His hands on top of ours. WE’LL WATCH AND IMAGINE THAT THE LIGHT FROM JESUS IS FLOWING RIGHT INTO YOUR LITTLE SISTER AND MAKING HER WELL. Let’s pretend that the light of Christ fights with the bad germs until they are all gone. Okay!’ Seriously the little one nodded. Together we prayed in this childlike way and then thanked the Lord that what we ‘saw’ was the way it was going to be” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 37).

This is not biblical prayer; it is occultism. Mind Science practitioners and New Agers have promoted this type of thing for a century.

Biblical prayer is not the attempt to accomplish something through the power of our minds. It is talking to God and asking Him to accomplish things. There is a vast difference between these two practices, as vast as the difference between God and the Devil.

Foster recommends that parents pray for their sleeping children after this fashion:

“Imagine the light of Christ flowing through your hands and healing every emotional trauma and hurt feeling your child experienced that day. Fill him or her with the peace and joy of the Lord. In sleep the child is very receptive to prayer since the conscious mind which tends to erect barriers to God’s gentle influence is relaxed” (Celebration of Discipline, p. 39).

There is not the hint of support in Scripture for this practice. To attempt to bypass “the conscious mind” is occultism.

Foster’s descent into occultism is further evident by his recommendation of “flash prayers” and “swish prayers”:

“Flashing hard and straight prayers at people is a great thrill and can bring interesting results. I have tried it, inwardly asking the joy of the Lord and a deeper awareness of His presence to rise up within every person I meet. Sometimes people reveal no response, but other times they turn and smile as if addressed. In a bus or plane we can fancy Jesus walking down the aisles touching people on the shoulder and saying, ‘I love you…’ Frank Laubach has suggested that if thousands of us would experiment with ‘swishing prayers’ at everyone we meet and would share the results, we could learn a great deal about how to pray for others. … ‘Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance’” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 39).

This depicts prayer as an occultic entity rather than a simple communication addressed to God.

Foster also recommends a practice called “palms up, palms down.” The practitioner is instructed first to hold his palms down in order to “release” his worries and concerns, such as anger, lack of finances, or fear of an upcoming event.

“Whatever it is that weighs on your mind or is a concern to you, just say, ‘palms down.’ Release it. YOU MAY EVEN FEEL A CERTAIN SENSE OF RELEASE IN YOUR HANDS” (Celebration of Discipline, 1998, p. 31).

Then the practitioner is to turn his palms up in order to “receive from the Lord.”

“Perhaps you will pray silently: ‘Lord, I would like to receive your divine love for John, your peace about the dentist appointment, your patience, your joy.’ Whatever you need, you say, ‘palms up.’”

There is not a hint of support for such a thing in Scripture, but this practice is found in New Age and pagan religions.

Palms up, palms down is used in walking the labyrinth (http://www.lessons4living.com/three_fold_path.htm).

It is used in Nia Technique to channel energy fields (http://www.nianow.com/teachers/continuingedu/sharingthejoy/0606/t_tip.html).

It is used in Tai Chi to manipulate the flow of the occultic chi energy (http://groups.ku.edu/~kungfu/instructions/instructions.htm).

Sufi dervishes hold one palm up and one palm down while whirling in order to channel their mystical experiences. I have observed this in Turkey.
Union with God

Foster has adopted the contemplative doctrine of union with God. To the question, “What is the goal of Contemplative Prayer?” Foster answers:

“To this question the old writers answer with one voice: UNION WITH GOD. … Bonaventure, a follower of Saint Francis, says that our final goal is ‘union with God,’ which is A PURE RELATIONSHIP WHERE WE SEE ‘NOTHING’” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 1992, p. 159).

The “old writers” are old Catholic writers, but the Bible nowhere describes or encourages such a practice. The believer’s complete relationship with God is an accomplished fact in Christ.

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:6-10).

We receive Christ by faith in the gospel, and Paul says that we are to walk in Him in the same way. It is a walk of faith. We walk “from faith to faith” (Romans 1:17). God gives the believer many wonderful “experiences” along the way, but we are not to seek after experiences; we are to be content with knowing Christ by faith.

The believer is complete in Christ and his “union” with Christ, is an accomplished fact. It is not something we have to pursue through mysticism.

Further, the believer’s relationship with Christ in this world is not an experience of “seeing nothing.” It is, rather, an experience of knowing the Saviour through faith in His written Word and through the power of the indwelling Spirit. It is an objective, mindful experience. As former Catholic priest Richard Bennett says, “Seeing ‘nothing’ [is] just an Evangelical rehashing of Catholic irrational superstitious myth.”

Promoting Heretics

God’s Word commands us to mark and avoid those who cause divisions contrary to the apostolic faith (Romans 16:17), but Foster ignores this and draws his material from a bewildering assortment of heretics.

The following are just a few of the many examples we could give of the man’s disturbing, dangerous, and unbiblical habit of quoting heretics in the most recommending manner.

For a starter, as we have noted, he asks his readers to join hands with Catholic “saints” and mystics (all of whom are committed to a gospel of works and many of whom are pantheists, panentheists, and universalists). (See the chapter “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics” for studies on Francis of Assisi, Benedict of Nursia, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Catherine of Genoa, Julian of Norwich, Brother Lawrence, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Madame Guyon, Thomas à Kempis, Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, Karl Rahner, John Main, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning, John Michael Talbot, and others cited by Foster.)

Foster quotes ALPHONSUS DE LIGUORI (he spells his name Luguori) at least three times in Celebration of Discipline (1978, pp. 132-134). Liguori was one of the greatest worshippers of Mary the Roman Catholic Church has ever produced. His book The Glories of Mary (1750) is a simply blasphemous. Note the following quotations:

“… though the sinner does not himself merit the graces which he asks, yet he receives them, because this Blessed Virgin asks and obtains them from God, ON ACCOUNT OF HER OWN MERITS” (The Glories of Mary, edited by Eugene Grimm, Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931, p. 73).

“IT WAS THEN BY THIS GREAT OFFERING OF MARY THAT WE WERE BORN TO THE LIFE OF GRACE; WE ARE THEREFORE HER VERY DEAR CHILDREN, SINCE WE COST HER SO GREAT SUFFERING” (p. 59).

“This was revealed by our Blessed Lady herself to St. Bridget, saying, ‘I am the Queen of heaven and the Mother of Mercy; I AM THE JOY OF THE JUST, AND THE DOOR THROUGH WHICH SINNERS ARE BROUGHT TO GOD” (p. 43).

“Let us, then, have recourse, and always have recourse, to this most sweet Queen, IF WE WOULD BE CERTAIN OF SALVATION … LET US REMEMBER THAT IT IS IN ORDER TO SAVE THE GREATEST AND MOST ABANDONED SINNERS, who recommend themselves to her, that Mary is made the Queen of Mercy” (pp. 43,44).

Foster heavily promotes the Catholic Trappist monk THOMAS MERTON recommending many of his books and quoting from him frequently, at least 15 times in Celebration of Discipline, not giving the slightest warning about the man. Foster says that Merton “has done more than any other twentieth century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood” (Spiritual Classics, pp. 17, 21). He calls Merton’s Contemplative Prayer “a must book” and What Is Contemplation “an excellent introduction to contemplative prayer for everyone.” In Meditative Prayer, Foster gushes that “Merton continues to inspire countless men and women.” Foster includes an entire chapter by Merton in his book Spiritual Classics.

Foster does not tell his readers that Merton was at the forefront of interfaith dialogue, that he claimed to be both a Buddhist and a Catholic, that he had powerful mystical experiences while meditating before Buddha idols, and that he was a universalist. Nowhere did Merton say that Buddhists and Hindus and Sufis worship false gods or that they are hell-bound because they do not believe in Jesus. When writing about Zen Buddhists, Merton always assumed that they were communing with the same “ground of Being” that he had found through Catholic monasticism.

Foster recommends the universalist mystic MEISTER ECKHART, quoting him at least two times in various editions of Celebration of Discipline and saying, “Today Eckhart is widely read and appreciated, not so much for his theological opinions as for his vision of God” (Spiritual Classics, p. 206). How can Eckhart have had a proper vision of God when he believed that God is everything and that man is divinity?

Foster recommends the universalist DOROTHY DAY. He has an entire chapter by and about her in his book Spiritual Classics. Day wrote:

“Going to the people is the purest and best act in Christian tradition and revolutionary tradition [she is referring to Marxism] and is the beginning of world brotherhood. Never to be severed from the people, to set out always from the point of view of serving the people, not serving the interests of a small group or oneself. … It is almost another way of saying that we must and will FIND CHRIST IN EACH AND EVERY MAN, when we look on them as brothers” (Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness).

Foster promotes KARL RAHNER. There is a chapter by him in Spiritual Classics. Yet he believed in evolution and in salvation apart from faith in Christ. He spoke of the “anonymous Christian,” referring to an individual who unconsciously responds to God’s grace operating in the world, though he might even reject the gospel.

Foster promotes Benedictine priest JOHN MAIN, saying that he “understood well the value of both silence and solitude” and he “rediscovered meditation while living in the Far East” (Spiritual Classics, p. 155). Indeed, he did. Main learned meditation from a Hindu guru! Main combined Catholic contemplative practices with yoga and in 1975 began founding meditation groups in Catholic monasteries based on this syncretism.

Foster recommends HILDEGARD OF BINGEN. There is an entire chapter by her in Spiritual Classics. She had wild-eyed visions and wrote as the direct mouthpiece of God, yet her prophecies taught Catholic heresies, including the veneration of Mary. One of her songs was entitled “Praise for the Mother.”

Foster recommends AGNES SANFORD, saying, “I have discovered her to be an extremely wise and skillful counselor in these matters” and calls her book The Healing Gifts of the Spirit “an excellent resource” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 136, footnote 1). Foster includes an entire chapter by Sanford in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home and another chapter by her in Spiritual Disciplines. Sanford delved deeply into New Thought, Jungian psychology, and other dangerous fields. She said that she got her doctrine that there is a “spiritual body” within the physical body from New Thought teacher Emmet Fox (Sealed Orders, p. 115), who also believed that man is God. Sanford was a universalist and the founder of the dangerous field of healing of memories. She taught healing through meditation, visualization, and positive confession. She said that if she spilled hot oil on her hand in the kitchen, she would confess: “I’m boss inside of me. And what I say goes. I say that my skin shall not be affected by that boiling fat, and that’s all there is to it. I see my skin well, perfect and whole, and I say it’s to be so” (The Healing Light, p. 65). (For more about Sanford see the report “Agnes Sanford” at the Way of Life web site.)

Foster recommends MARTIN MARTY, who wrote the foreword to Streams of Living Water. Yet Marty is a relativist and a modernist who denies the divine inspiration of the Bible and eternal judgment in hell. Marty supports abortion and the ordination of homosexuals, and in an interview with Playboy in 1974 he recommended adultery in some situations.

Foster quotes HARVEY COX, who repudiates the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith and has described himself as a fellow traveler of the Hare Krishna movement.

Foster also quotes sympathetically and non-critically from the psychoanalyst CARL JUNG who rejected the Bible as mythical and communicated intimately throughout his life with a spirit guide.

Foster even recommends New Age mystics. He quotes MARTIN BUBER, who rejected the God of the Bible and the fall of man and believed that God is found through interaction with human society and non-doctrinal mysticism. Buber believed that the Bible is largely mythical.

Foster quotes ELIZABETH O’CONNOR, who was a universalist and praised the Hindu guru Krishnamurti. O’Connor believed that Christ has saved all of mankind and is creating a new world through social-justice action. There is no need for individuals to be saved; they are already children of God and merely need to find God’s will for their lives and see “the divine life throbbing in the whole of the world” (O’Connor, “Each of Us Has Something Grand to Do,” Faith At Work magazine, Nov.-Dec. 1979).

Foster recommends the writings of DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 62; Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 33; Spiritual Classics, p. 156, 251-260). He was a universalist who built the UN Chapel in 1952 as a New Age meditation center. There is a six-and-a-half ton block of iron ore in the center of the room, the polished top of which is lit by a single beam of light from the ceiling. The light depicts “divine wisdom,” and the block depicts an empty altar representing “God worshipped in many forms” (http://www.aquaac.org/un/sprtatun.html). The iron ore also represents the metal from which weapons are made and the New Age hope that through the power of meditation world peace can be achieved. Hammarskjöld said, “… we thought we could bless by our thoughts the very material out of which arms are made.”

Foster recommends PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN. He includes a chapter by him in Spiritual Disciplines. Teilhard taught that God is the consciousness of the universe, that everything is one, and that everything is evolving in greater and greater enlightenment toward an ultimate point of perfection. He called this perfection CHRIST and THE OMEGA POINT. Teilhard spoke much of Christ, but his christ is not the Christ of the Bible. For this reason, Teilhard is a favorite with New Agers.

Foster also recommends the writings of pagan mystics LAO-TSE of China (founder of Taoism XE “Taoism” ) and ZARATHUSTRA of Persia (founder of Zoroastrianism) (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 62).

These are only some of the heretics that Foster quotes and recommends in his books!

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).

Renovarè: Foster’s ecumenical program

In 1988 Foster founded RENOVARÈ (pronounced ren-o-var-ay), which is Latin, meaning “to make new spiritually.” This is an ecumenical organization that promotes spiritual renewal through contemplative exercises, charismatic practices, and other things.

Renovarè’s ecumenical thrust is radical. Its objective is “to work for the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ in all her multifaceted expressions.” Its slogan is “Christian in commitment, international in scope, ecumenical in breadth.” Renovarè’s ministry team represents men and women “from Mennonite to Methodist, Roman Catholic to Church of God in Christ, Assembly of God to American Baptist.”

Foster describes the breadth his ecumenical vision in these words:

“God is gathering his people once again, creating of them an all-inclusive community of loving persons with Jesus Christ as the community’s prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant. This community is breaking forth in multiplied ways and varied forms. …

“I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people” (Streams of Living Water, 2001, p. 274).

In his book Streams of Living Water Foster “celebrates the great traditions of the Christian faith.” These are contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational, claiming that all are “true streams flowing from the fountain of Jesus Christ.” In emerging church fashion, he believes that these “traditions,” which represent diverse and contradictory doctrines and practices, are “complementary” and needed.

At the October 1991 Renovarè meeting in Pasadena, California, Foster praised Pope John Paul II and called for unity in the Body of Christ” (CIB Bulletin, December 1991).

In Renovarè Foster works closely with Dallas Willard . Willard attended Foster’s Quaker church in the 1970s, and today he is one of Renovarè’s Ministry Team members. [Actually Willard was Foster’s assistant pastor at a California Evangelical Friends church. Foster states in his intro to Celebration of Discipline – at least an early edition – that Willard was being even more knowledgable about Spiritual Formation and gave Foster the ideas for his book.] The  Renovarè web site in March 2008 advertised an upcoming “conversation” between Willard and Foster.

Willard says that “it is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved” (“Apologetics in Action,” Cutting Edge magazine, winter 2001, vol. 5 no. 1, Vineyard USA, http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=14).

Anti-Dispensationalism/Kingdom Gospel

Foster calls Dispensationalism a “heresy” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 46, footnote). Thus, he believes that Christians are building the kingdom of God today and that Christ’s coming is not imminent.

Dallas Willard believes the same thing. In his book The Divine Conspiracy he preaches a “kingdom gospel” that downplays the centrality of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. (He calls it a “theory.”) The apostle Paul said that if anyone preaches a different gospel than the one given to him by God he is accursed (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul’s gospel is plainly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, and it is not a kingdom gospel. It is the gospel of personal salvation through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

We have refuted the kingdom gospel error in What Is the Emerging Church, which is available from Way of Life Literature.

Accepting the Catholic Mass

Foster allows for Rome’s abominable doctrine that the consecrated wafer of the Mass is actually the body of Christ. He says it doesn’t matter to him what one believes about the “eucharist”:

“Christian people of honest heart have long differed over how the life of Christ is mediated to us through the Communion feast. Complicated words are used to make important distinctions: transubstantiation, consubstantiation, memorial, and the like. … I have no desire to unsettle the convictions of any person, irrespective of the tradition by which he or she is able to enter fully into the Communion service” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 112).

Foster’s position sounds sympathetic and kind, but it is blantant disobedience to God’s Word, which commands us to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The apostle Paul received directly from the Lord the teaching that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Christ is not “mediated” through the Lord’s Supper in any sense, and we are not authorized to allow heresies and private doctrines not supported by Scripture. Foster refuses to exercise this obligation. He is willing to allow his Catholic readers to believe that a piece of bread becomes Christ through priestly hocus pocus and that it is perfectly acceptable to pray to this piece of bread and to venerate it as Jesus, which is what all of his Catholic mystic friends do.

The Pentecostal-Charismatic Connection

Foster is closely associated with the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. He believes this movement has wonderful and important things to offer to the “body of Christ” and he accepts some of the most radical charismatic practices, including spirit slaying, holy laughter, and spiritual drunkenness. He calls these things the “prayer of the heart” but they are actually doctrines of devils.

“Another expression of the Prayer of the Heart” is what is sometimes referred to as ‘resting in the Spirit.’ It is the experience of being taken up by the Spirit’s power in such a way that the individual loses consciousness for a time. Some enter a trancelike state; others lie quietly on the ground or floor. …

“‘Holy laughter’ is still another expression of the Prayer of the Heart. The joy of the Spirit seems to simply well up within a person until there is a bursting forth into high, holy, hilarious laughter. It sometimes is given to the individual in personal prayer, but more frequently it comes upon the gathered community. That is as it should be, for laughter is, after all, a communal experience. To the uninitiated it might appear that these people are drunk, and so they are–with the Spirit” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, pp. 138, 139).

See the book The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements: History and Error for a biblical refutation of these practices. This is available from Way of Life Literature.

Healing of Memories

Foster believes in the heresy of the “healing of memories,” which he doubtless learned from the aforementioned Agnes Sanford.

“My first experience was with a man who had lived in constant fear and bitterness for twenty-eight years. He would wake up at night, screaming and in a cold sweat. He lived in constant depression, so much so that his wife said that he had not laughed for many years.

“He told me the story of what had happened those many years before that had caused such a deep sadness to hang over him. He was in Italy during the Second World War and was in charge of a mission of thirty-three men. They became trapped by enemy gunfire. With deep sorrow in his eyes, this man related how he had prayed desperately that God would get them out of that mess. It was not to be. He had to send his men out two by two and watch them get killed. Finally in the early hours of the morning he was able to escape with six men–four seriously wounded. He had only a flesh wound. He told me that the experience turned him into an atheist. Certainly, his heart was filled with rage, bitterness, and guilt.

“I said, ‘Don’t you know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives in the eternal now, can enter that old painful memory and heal it so that it will no longer control you?’ He did not know this was possible. I asked if he would mind if I prayed for him–NEVER MIND THAT HE WAS AN ATHEIST; I would have faith for him. He nodded his consent. Sitting beside him with my hand on his shoulder, I invited the Lord Jesus to go back those twenty-eight years and walk through that day with THIS GOOD MAN. ‘Please, Lord,’ I asked, ‘draw out the hurt and the hate and the sorrow and set him free.’ Clmost as an afterthought I asked for peaceful sleep to be one of the evidences of this healing work, for he had not slept well for all those years. ‘Amen.’

“The next week he came up to me with a sparkle in his eyes and a brightness on his face I had never seen before. ‘Every night I have slept soundly, and each morning I have awakened with a hymn on my mind. And I am happy … happy for the first time in twenty-eight years.’ His wife concurred that it was so. That was many years ago, and the wonderful thing is that although this man has had the normal ups and downs of life since then, the old sorrows have never returned. He was totally and instantaneously healed” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 205).

The bottom line is that this experience is strictly and profoundly unscriptural. There is not a hint of such a thing taught in the Bible.

Some are impressed with the results of such practices, but if the only standard for the truth of a practice is its effectiveness, then we are left with no certain standard, because the devil can imitate many “spiritual” things. Psychics and psychoanalysists have produced the same results that Foster achieved with his “healing of memory prayer.” Note that he does not say that the man was scripturally born again through this experience. He just became happy, and the manipulation of the emotions is easily within the realm of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Foster’s Interfaith Activities

Foster is involved in the LIVING SPIRITUAL TEACHERS PROJECT, a group that associates together Roman Catholics, liberal Protestants, Zen Buddhist monks and nuns, universalists, occultists, and New Agers. Members include the Dalai Lama, who claims to be the reincarnation of an advanced spiritual entity; Marianne Williamson, promoter of the occultic A Course in Miracles; Marcus Borg, who believes that Jesus was not virgin born and did not rise from the grave; Catholic nun Joan Chittister, who says we must become “in tune with the cosmic voice of God”; Andrew Harvey, who says that men need to “claim their divine humanity”; Matthew Fox, who believes there are many paths to God; Alan Jones, who calls the gospel of the cross a vile doctrine and says there is no absolute authority; and Desmond Tutu, who says, “… because everybody is a God-carrier, all are brothers and sisters.”

God’s Word unequivocally reproves Foster’s activity with the commandment, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Conclusion

Richard Foster believes he is promoting a true spiritual revival within Christianity, but he is the blind leading the blind. His writings are an exceedingly dangerous mixture of truth and error. Pastors and teachers need to warn their people to stay away from him, for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).
__________________

This report is excerpted from our new book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, which is available from Way of Life Literature. If it is not yet available through the online catalog, it can be ordered by phone or e-mail with a credit card.

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I hold to the Wesleyan Holiness position of conditional security, not unconditional security. That is, I believe a truly born again Christian can fall away from the Faith and not make it to Heaven.

However, I believe it is a misnomer that one “loses” his salvation (as one would lose a valuable possession like a piece of jewelry). When a born again Christian choses to turn his back  on Christ, God “lets him go” to condemnation to eternal punishment. God does not turn His back on people – people turn their backs on Him. But as long as they are on this earth, people can still return to salvation by turning back to Christ and accepting Him once again. Only God knows our hearts, who is truly saved and who is not.

Following is my repost of an article on this issue, originally found here. I hope to add additional comments as I have time, emphasizing certain points by bolding, and inserting comments in [brackets]:

Eternal Security & Apostasy:
Can a Child of God Fall from Grace and Be Lost?

Can a child of God fall from grace and be lost, or are we once saved, always saved? Eternal security, perseverance, and impossibility of apostasy - a study of Calvinism

One of the major points of Calvinism is “the eternal security of the believer” or the “perseverance of the saints.” It is also called “impossibility of apostasy,” or simply “once saved, always saved.” The doctrine teaches that it is impossible for a child of God to so sin as to fall from grace and be eternally lost. It is based on the belief that salvation is unconditional, so there is nothing a person can do to be saved; and once he is saved there is nothing he can do to be lost. What does the Bible teach about falling from grace?

Introduction:

Many people believe that, when a person becomes a child of God, afterward it is impossible for him to so sin as to fall from grace and be eternally lost.

This doctrine is one of the five major points of Calvinism. It is often called “the eternal security of the believer,” “perseverance of the saints,” “impossibility of apostasy,” or simply “once saved, always saved.” Several major denominations officially believe the doctrine, though some do not emphasize it and as a result the members may not be aware of it.

The Westminster Confession adopted by most Presbyterian churches, states:

“They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved … Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan … fall into grievous sins…” (Book of Confessions of the United Presbyterian Church, 1967 Ed., Sec. 6.086-6.088).

The Philadelphia Confession, adopted by many Baptist churches, is almost identical to the above.

Sam Morris, “Pastor” of the First Baptist Church, Stamford, Texas, expressed the doctrine in its most extreme form as follows:

“We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul! The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul … All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger … The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul.” (Morris, A Discussion Which Involves a Subject Pertinent to All Men, pp. 1,2; via Handbook of Religious Quotations, p. 24)

The purpose of this study is to examine what the Bible says about falling from grace.

It would be very comforting if this doctrine were true. However, if it is not true, then it would be a very dangerous doctrine because it would give people a false sense of security. People would not be on their guard against sin, and may not see any need to repent of sins, if they thought they would still be saved eternally despite their sins. If however they will be lost for sins they do not repent of, then such people are in grave danger. Surely it is important for us to know what the Bible teaches.

We can all agree that there is security for those who serve God faithfully. If we study God’s word diligently and honestly, if we strive to overcome sin in our lives, and if we diligently repent and ask forgiveness for our sins, then we definitely have assurance and security regarding our eternal destiny. The question, however, is whether it is possible for a child of God to cease being faithful, to become disobedient, fail to repent, and so be lost.


Part 1: Evidence that a Child of God
Can Sin and Be Lost


A. Passages Warning Christians about the Danger of Sin

The Bible teaches that there are conditions a person must meet in order to receive forgiveness and become a child of God. Likewise there are conditions one must meet to continue faithful after becoming a child of God. Many passages warn us to be careful to meet these conditions else we will not receive eternal life. In each case we will note first that the passage is addressed to children of God. Then we will note that we are warned to avoid sin or we will be lost.

John 15:1-6 – We must bear fruit or be cast off.

Disciples are described as branches “in Christ” (v2,5, etc.) who have been cleansed by His word (v3).

But if they don’t bear fruit and abide in Christ (v2,4-6), they will be taken away (v2), cast into the fire and burned (v6). (Abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit requires obedience – I John 3:6,24; John 15:10; Gal. 5:19ff; etc.)

Romans 8:12-17 – We must live according to the Spirit, not the flesh.

This is addressed to children of God (v16).

We are warned not to live according to the deeds of the flesh but be led by the Spirit. If we live according to the flesh, we will die (v13). This cannot be physical death since we all die physically regardless of how we live. This death is the opposite of the life we receive if we follow the Spirit.

To be heirs of Christ, we must be led of the Spirit (v14) and suffer with Christ (v17). It is conditional and depends on our life.

Galatians 6:7-9 – We must sow to the Spirit, not the flesh.

This is addressed to members of the church (1:2), sons of God by faith (3:26). [Cf. 4:6]

We will reap as we sow. If we sow to the spirit (i.e., if we produce the fruit of the Spirit – 5:22-25), we will reap eternal life (v8). If we sow to the flesh (do the works of the flesh – 5:19-21), we reap corruption (6:8), which is the opposite of eternal life. In this case, we cannot inherit the kingdom of God (5:21).

We reap eternal life if we don’t grow weary in doing good (v9). Note: “Be not deceived.” Yet “once saved, always saved” is a doctrine that deceives many into thinking they will still reap eternal life even if they sow to the flesh.

1 Corinthians 9:27 & 10:12 – We must control our bodies and avoid sinning like Israel did.

9:25-27 – Paul, who was an apostle and therefore a child of God, was striving to gain the imperishable crown (v25). He had to discipline his body and bring it into subjection lest he himself be disqualified (NKJV; “a castaway” – KJV; “rejected” – ASV). (KJV elsewhere translates this word “reprobate” – 2 Cor. 13:5; Rom. 1:28; 2 Tim. 3:8; Tit. 1:16).

10:1-12 – Israel is an example showing us the importance of avoiding sin. The people to whom this warning applies (“we,” “us”) include the church, sanctified saints (1:2; cf. 1:9), and the apostle Paul.

This is an example and admonition to us (v6,11). We should not lust after evil (v6), commit idolatry (v7), commit fornication (v8), etc. One who thinks he stands, must take heed lest he fall (v12). In context, this means he will not receive the crown Paul described (9:25-27). 6:9,10 show that people guilty of these sins won’t receive the kingdom of God.

Note that a person who believes in “once saved, always saved” thinks he cannot fall. This passage is addressed to just such people and shows that they are the ones in the very greatest danger that they will fall!

Hebrews 3:6,11-14; 4:9,11 – We must avoid rebelling like Israel.

This is addressed to “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” (v1).

Israel failed to enter God’s rest because they lacked faith and obedience. We too must guard lest we have an evil heart of unbelief, departing from God (v12), and become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (v13).

To partake with Christ, we must hold fast our confidence (faith) firm to the end (3:6,14). If we do so depart, we will not enter the rest God has for us (4:9,11). Note that receiving the eternal reward is conditional on continued faithfulness.

Hebrews 10:26-31,39 – We must avoid willful sin.

This is speaking to those who know the truth (v26) and have been sanctified by the blood (v29). It is discussing the Lord’s judgment on “His people” (v30).

We are warned not to sin willfully (v26). As long as we go on sinning willfully (NASB – v26), there is no sacrifice for sin. (This is not discussing what will happen if such people repent and change but what our condition is as long as this conduct continues.)

Such people are trodding underfoot God’s Son (v29), doing despite to the Spirit of grace, counting the blood by which we were sanctified unholy (v29). Their only future is fierceness of fire (v27), sorer punishment than physical death under the law (v28f), vengeance from God (v30).

This is why we must not shrink back to perdition (v39).

2 Peter 1:8-11; 2:20-22 – We must grow in Christ instead of returning to the world.

1:8-11 – This is spoken to those who have obtained like precious faith (v1), escaped the corruption of the world (v4), and been purged from old sins (v9).

We must add to our lives the qualities listed (v5-7). If we do, we make our calling and election sure so we don’t stumble (v10), but we receive the abundant entrance to the everlasting kingdom (v11). Note there is security for the believer, but it is conditional on growing and adding these qualities.

2:20-22 – This is still talking to people who have escaped the pollution of the world (v20), knowing the way of righteousness (v21). [cf. v1,15]

We are warned not to become entangled again in the world (v20), turning from the holy command (v21). If we do, we are worse off than we were before we knew the truth (v20). We are like a dog returning to vomit or a sow returning to mire (v22). [cf., v1,3]

But if “once saved, always saved,” then this dog is much better off after returning to the vomit than he was before.

Romans 6:12-18 – We must not let sin reign in our bodies.

These were baptized into Christ (v3,4), set free from sin, and become servants of righteousness (v18).

They are warned not to let sin reign in their bodies nor present their members as instruments of sin (v12,13). The result of that would be death (v16). This must be spiritual again, since all die physically. The wages of sin, even for those here addressed, is death, in contrast to eternal life (v23).

Hebrews 6:4-8 – We must avoid falling away.

This is addressed to those once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift and the good word of God and were partakers of the Holy Spirit (v4,5).

We are warned not to fall away (v6). If they continue in this pattern of life (implied), they cannot be restored. They are crucifying Jesus afresh and putting Him to an open shame (v6). Their destiny is to be burned like a field of thorns (v8).

Revelation 3:5; Exodus 32:30-33 – We must avoid having our names removed from the Book of Life.

Those whose names are in the book of Life will enter the eternal city, but those not in it are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 21:27; 20:12-15). But people whose names are in the book, may be removed because of sin (Ex. 32:30-33). Those guilty of sin CANNOT enter the city (Rev. 21:27). But those who overcome will not be blotted out of the book (Rev. 3:5). [Cf. Rev. 22:18,19]

Why would God continually warn of the danger of sin and being lost if it cannot happen? Do human parents warn their children to be careful how they flap their wings lest they fly too high and crash into the moon? God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). Why waste time warning us about dangers that cannot happen anyway?

B. Bible Examples of Christians Who Sinned & Stood Condemned.

The Bible not only warns us to be on guard lest we fail to meet the conditions for remaining faithful, but it also mentions specific people who did fall. This is not just a theoretical possibility. It is a practical reality. In fact, it has happened to many people, and could happen to us if we are not diligent.

Genesis 3:1-6 – Adam and Eve

God said if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die (2:16,17).

3:4 – Satan said if Eve ate, she would not die. She ate and we know the result. This event is used in 2 Cor. 11:3 as an example to us of the danger of falling into sin.

Satan was the first one to teach the doctrine of “impossibility of apostasy.” God stated the consequence of sin, but Satan denied that the consequence would follow. Today God has stated the consequences of sin, and Satan uses preachers to deny the consequences. The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” was originated and first preached by Satan himself.

The nation of Israel

The Old Testament contains countless examples in which God’s people sinned and fell from God’s favor, both individually and collectively. (Lev. 26; Deut. 28-30; I Sam. 12:10; chaps. 10-16; 28:15,16; I Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 15:2; 24:20; Isa. 1:28; Jer. 2:19,32 cf. Psa. 9:17; Jer. 3:6-14; 8:4-13; 9:12-16; Hos. 9:10; cf. Acts 7:37-43; Rev. 21:8)

The fact these are in the Old Testament does not diminish the lesson for us. The New Testament expressly warns us that the same principle applies to us – I Cor. 10:1-12; Heb. chap. 3,4. With regard to the possibility of God’s people sinning and being lost, the Old and New Testaments teach the same.

Christians who lost their faith

Hebrews 3:12 warned of the danger of developing an evil heart of unbelief like Israel. Many New Testament examples show people to whom this very thing happened:

2 Timothy 2:16-18 – Hymenaeus & Philetus strayed and overthrew the faith of some. (Faith cannot be overthrown in those who do not first possess it.)

1 Timothy 1:18-20 – Timothy should hold the faith and not be like Hymenaeus and Alexander, who made shipwreck concerning the faith and committed blasphemy.

1 Timothy 5:8 – Anyone (including a child of God) who doesn’t care for his family has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

What happens to people who lose their faith? Faith is essential to salvation. Those who lose it are no better off than those who never had it.

Hebrews 11:6 – Without faith it is impossible to please God (the application in the context of this book is to those who had faith but turn from it – 3:12; 10:30).

Revelation 21:8 – Unbelievers will be in the lake of fire.

Acts 8:12-24 – Simon the Sorcerer

Simon believed and was baptized (v13). This is what Jesus said one must do to be saved (Mark 16:16). This is what the other Samaritans did (v12). Simon did “ALSO” the same things the others did. If they were saved, he was saved. If he was not saved, then none of the others were saved.

But Simon later sinned. His heart was not right (v21), he was guilty of wickedness (v22), and was in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity (v23). As a result, he would perish (v20) if he did not repent and pray (v22).

Galatians 5:1-4 – The Judaizers

These people were children of God (3:26; cf. 1:2-4; 4:6), who had been set free by Christ (5:1). They had to be in grace if they fell from it (5:4).

They sinned in that they desired to go back to the Old Testament yoke of bondage (5:1) and bound circumcision. As a result, Christ profited them nothing (v2), they were severed from Christ (v4), fallen from grace (v4). They were not obeying truth (v7).

These were children of God who were in God’s grace but then fell from that grace so that Christ profited them nothing and they were severed from Christ. Can one receive eternal life if he is severed from Christ (Eph. 1:3-7) and fallen from the grace that saves (Eph. 2:8)?

“Once saved, always saved” is a tempting doctrine because it is comforting.

It tells people what they would like to hear. We would all like to think that, even if we or our loved ones fall into sin, they will still receive eternal life.

But it is a false doctrine because it clearly contradicts Scriptures in nearly every book of the Bible.

It is also a dangerous doctrine because it leads people to think they are safe even if they don’t examine their lives, don’t study the Bible, and don’t repent of sin. Furthermore, it leads preachers to not warn sinners that they need to repent.

I have personally known people who told me of terrible sins they deliberately and knowingly committed, justifying themselves because they believed it would not affect their salvation. I have known teachers who justified those very people saying that they would not have lost their salvation even when committed those sins.

Suppose a child is about to cross a busy street. Shouldn’t the parent warn the child to look carefully for traffic before they cross the street? People who advocate “once saved, always saved” are like a parent who not only does not warn the child, but worse yet tells him there is nothing to worry about because he can’t get hit, and if he does get hit, he won’t die!

Why should the child be warned? Because there is a very real danger. And the situation is most dangerous if the child is not on guard. The worst thing anyone can do to the child is to tell him there is no danger. Yet that is exactly what preachers do when they teach “once saved, always saved.” And this has eternal consequences, because souls are at stake.

Nevertheless, if the child is careful, he can cross the street safely despite the danger. So the best favor anyone can do for the child is to warn him of the danger, so he can avoid it. That is exactly what we do when we preach the Bible passages that warn Christians to avoid sin. It is not that we believe Christians have no security, but we know people are only secure when they are aware of the dangers, so they can be on guard.


Part 2: Evidence Offered to Show that a Child of God Cannot So Sin as to Be Lost


Folks are sometimes confused by passages that are used to defend “once saved, always saved.” We need to understand the arguments and how to answer them. Some of these passages do offer hope and security to believers, but they are conditional passages, and these conditions are often overlooked. If we study the verses in light of what we have already learned we will see that, while they do give security to those who are faithful, they do not teach unconditional “once saved, always saved.”

John 10:28,29 – “They shall never perish … no one shall snatch them out of my hand”

This is a wonderful promise. But is it, as the preacher said, so unconditional that a person’s soul cannot be lost no matter how he lives?

The context gives conditions – v27,28.

Note the word “and” repeated. Receiving life and never perishing are tied to hearing Jesus and following him. These are conditions, exactly like we have been teaching.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus protects His sheep so no one can destroy them, as long as the sheep hear Jesus and follow Him. But what if they cease to hear and follow, as we have learned elsewhere they can do?

“Pluck” refers to an outside force.

“Pluck” (KJV) or “snatch” (NKJV, ASV) means “to seize, carry off by force” (Thayer), like the thief might do (v10,12). Neither Satan nor any outside force can steal you from the Lord, as long as you meet the conditions.

But we must “resist the devil,” and then we have assurance he will flee from us (James 4:7). What happens if, through negligence or willful rebellion, we wander away from the protection of Jesus’ fold?

Sheep can stray from the shepherd’s protection.

Luke 15:3-7 – 100 sheep belonged to the shepherd (v4,6), but one became lost.

Acts 20:28-30 – Wolves may enter among the flock, speak perverse things, and draw away the disciples. They cannot compel us to follow them and be lost. We may still choose to follow the Lord’s voice. But false teachers can lure us, attract us, and tempt us.

I Peter 5:8,9 – Satan is a roaring lion seeking to devour us. If we do not withstand him, he can capture and destroy us. But we can withstand him if we have faith and vigilance. This is what Jesus promised in John 10. (John 17; 6:37-40; I Pet. 2:25).

If sheep cannot possibly stray, even of their own free will, then this would deny our free moral power to choose. We could not become lost even if we wanted to!

1 John 3:9 – One begotten of God “does not sin … he cannot sin”

We must take all the Bible says on any subject (Matt. 4:6,7; Acts 3:22,23).

We have already shown many passages showing that it is possible for a child of God to sin. Many more verses, even in 1 John and addressed to these same people, show this is true:

1 John 1:8,10 – If we say we don’t sin, we lie and truth is not in us. This is exactly the condition of some folks who argue for “once saved, always saved”!

1 John 2:1,2 – John wrote so we would avoid sin. Jesus is our propitiation if we do sin. If sin is impossible, why write, and why would we need propitiation?

1 John 2:15-17 – Love not the world. If we do, we don’t love the Father (cf. I Cor. 16:22). Why warn us, if it is impossible to be guilty?

1 John 5:21 – Guard yourself from idols. Why, if it is impossible to be guilty of sin?

2 Peter 2:14 – Some children of God (v1,15) “cannot cease from sin”! If I John 3:9 means children of God cannot possibly commit sin, then this passage means these children of God cannot possibly quit sinning!

Clearly 1 John 3:9 does not mean sin is impossible, else we have contradictions in the Bible. In fact, many people who believe “once saved, always saved,” will admit sin is possible (see quotes in introduction).

“Does not sin” refers to persisting in the practice of sin (see NASB).

A true child of God may occasionally commit acts of sin, but he must repent, confess, and be forgiven by Jesus’ blood (1:9; 2:2). He must not continue in the practice of sin. Why not?

“God’s seed abides” in the child of God.

The seed that begets us, so we become children of God, is the word of God:

1 Peter 1:23-25 – We are begotten again by the incorruptible seed which is the Word of God.

James 1:18 – We are begotten by the word of truth.

1 John 2:14,24 – The word of God, which we heard, abides in us. [Luke 8:11ff; I Cor. 4:15; I John 1:10; 2:5,7]

How does the this seed abide in us? Can it cease abiding in us?

1 John 1:10 – If we say we do not sin, His word is not in us. We may still know what it says, but we have rejected it.

John 5:38 – If we do not believe Jesus, God’s word does not abide in us.

Acts 2:41 – Those who gladly received the word were baptized. Receiving the word requires believing and obeying it. Otherwise we are rejecting it. (I Thess. 2:13)

To have the word abiding in us means to have a receptive attitude toward it, believing and obeying it, applying it in our lives. If this is our attitude, 1 John 3:9 says we will not continue in the practice of sin. Of course not, because to do so would be to reject the word so it no longer abides in us!

Note Psalms 119:11 – Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! This is exactly what 1 John 3:9 says.

But can we cease believing the word, studying it, and striving to live by it? We have shown that we can. If we do, the seed no longer abides in us, so we practice sin.

“He cannot sin”

Does this mean it is humanly impossible under any circumstances to transgress?

“Can” (Gk DUNAMAI) means: “to be able, have power, whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources, or of state of mind, or through favorable circumstances, or by permission of law and custom” (Thayer).

Examples elsewhere show it does not necessarily mean physical or human impossibility, but rather that law, state of mind, or circumstances do not allow it:

1 Corinthians 10:21 – You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons (it is not lawful).

Acts 4:20 – We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard (law and state of mind do not permit it).

Mark 2:19 – Sons of the bridechamber cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them (circumstances make it such that no one would do it).

Hence 1 John 3:9 means that, when one has accepted God’s word into his heart and so becomes a child of God, his attitude and the principles of the word will not allow him to continue practicing sin. God’s word (the seed) has become the guiding principle of his heart, and it would be inconsistent with this to continue practicing sin.

For example, suppose an employer asks a Christian employee to tell a lie. The Christian replies, “I can’t do a thing like that.” Is it physically impossible? No, but it is completely contrary to his nature as a child of God. As long as his attitude toward God’s word is right, he will not do it.

The Body Sins, but the Spirit Does Not

We are told that we may physically do things that violate God’s word, but He does not hold our spirit accountable for what the body does.

Those who teach this doctrine are obligated to produce Scripture to prove it.

It is not enough to make the claim. They must give Scripture.

Is the spirit responsible for the good deeds of the body? If so, why not also for the bad deeds?

If they cite Rom. 7:25 & 8:1, note 7:23 and 8:6-17 which show the man is condemned for the sins of the body.

Many Scriptures show that God holds the spirit (inner man) accountable for the sins of the outer man.

1 Corinthians 6:9,10,13,15,18-20 – Fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God. But this is a sin of the body. The body is a member of Christ, a temple of the Spirit, and belongs to God so it should be used for His glory (this shows the people addressed are children of God, bought with a price, etc.). [cf. 3:16,17]

Mark 7:20-23 – Evil (done by the body) proceeds from the heart and defiles a man. [Prov. 23:7; 4:23]

2 Corinthians 5:10 – We will be judged for deeds done in the body. Our spirits will be held accountable for what the body does.

Romans 6:12,16,23 – People who have been baptized into Christ (v3,4) and made free from sin (v18), must not let sin reign in their mortal bodies. If we do, we are servants of sin and must die (v16,23).

1 Corinthians 9:27 – Paul buffeted his body to bring it in subjection, let he be a castaway.

Romans 8:13 – We must put to death the deeds of the body in order to live. Otherwise, we will die.

[2 Cor. 7:1; Rom. 12:1,2; Gal. 5:19-24; Acts 8:20-22]

Passages that Say We Have Eternal Life

Numerous passages are cited which say we have eternal life: John 10:28; 17:3; 5:24; 3:36; 6:47; 3:16; I John 5:12,13. Some argue that, if we have it, and if it is eternal, then we cannot lose it. If we do, it wasn’t eternal.

We have eternal life now only as a promise or hope.

1 John 2:25 – This is the promise He has promised us, even life eternal.

James 1:12 – The crown of life which the Lord promised to those who love Him.

Titus 1:2; 3:7 – The hope of eternal life, which God promised.

We receive eternal life, in the sense of a present possession, only after earthly life is over and then only if we endure faithfully till life is over.

Luke 18:30 – We receive eternal life “in the world to come.”

Romans 2:5-7 – Eternal life will be given at the judgment IF we continue patiently in well doing. [This is the same time that the wicked will receive eternal punishment – Matt. 25:46. Does this happen in this life?]

Revelation 2:10 – Be faithful until death and receive the crown of life.

In this life, we “have” eternal life in the sense of a promise or a hope based on faith. But we actually enter eternal life at the judgment if and only if we continue living faithfully till life is over. This is a conditional promise. We will be lost if we fail to meet the conditions.

The proof texts, used to defend “present possession” of eternal life, themselves state conditions to be met.

John 5:24 – He who hears and believes. But we have shown that one can cease doing these.

John 6:47; 3:16,36 – He that believes. But one can cease believing.

1 John 5:13 – V11,12 speak of those who believe on the Son, and life is IN the Son. But we can cease believing and fail to abide in Him (John 15:1-8).

John 10:27,28 – Hear Jesus’ voice and follow Him.

John 17:3 – Know God. But one can forget God, turn from Him, and cease to know Him (I John 2:3-6; Jer. 3:21,22; Psa. 9:17; 106;12,21,24).

Note also that saving faith requires obedience, and to cease to obey is to cease to have a saving faith – James 2:14-26; Heb. 10:39; chap. 11; Gal. 5:6; etc.

The fact life is “eternal” does not prove we cannot lose it. “Eternal” describes the nature of the life. It has nothing to do with whether it can or cannot be lost.

Example: Suppose someone offers me a watch guaranteed to work for 50 years, but I must do some task in order to receive it. It is still a “50-year watch” regardless of whether or not I do the job and receive it.

These passages discuss the reward believers will receive as a result of their current state. But they are not discussing what would happen if they change their state.

The passages are not intended to discuss everything about what can happen to a child of God. They are written to help us appreciate the blessings we have, or to encourage people to become children of God. But God does not put all His will in a single verse or passage. We are expected to study other Scripture. When we do, we learn that we ultimately receive the reward only if faithful. It is misusing these verses to teach from them something they do not necessarily mean and which contradicts other passages.

Consider the consequences if we used this reasoning on passages that describe the lost. John 3:36 says unbelievers shall not see life. Shall we conclude this too cannot change (like people argue on the first part of the verse)? If a person is lost, does this prove he can never change and be saved? “Once lost, always lost”? [Cf. John 5:24; Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26ff]

If we can see how unsaved people can change their state and become saved, despite such verses as this, then in the same way we can understand how saved people can change their state and become lost.

This same approach works with most other arguments for “once saved always saved.” Consistently applied to passages about lost people, the same arguments would prove “once lost, always lost.”

Jesus’ Blood Sacrifice Is Sufficient.

Some folks say that Jesus’ death is all we need to be saved. If we argue that there are things we need to do to be saved, including living a faithful life, they say we are denying the power of Jesus’ death.

We agree Jesus’ blood has the power to cleanse all sin. But the question is whether it cleanses conditionally or unconditionally. We cannot earn salvation, but are there conditions we must meet to receive the forgiveness?

Jesus died for all people. If His death is all we need, and people need do nothing at all, then all would be saved.

1 Timothy 2:6 – Jesus gave His life a ransom for all.

Hebrews 2:9 – By the grace of God, Jesus tasted death for all men (the extent of this is shown in v15).

John 3:16 – God gave His Son for the world because of His love.

1 John 2:2 – Jesus is propitiation for the sins, not just of Christians, but for the whole world. [cf. I John 4:14]

Romans 5:18,19 – By Jesus’ act of righteousness (His death – v8,9), justification came to all men.

If Jesus’ death is “sufficient” and “all we need,” then why aren’t all men saved, since He died for all? But we know that not all will be saved (Matt. 7:13,14; etc.). So there must be something that distinguishes the saved from the unsaved. There are conditions we must meet.

God is no respecter of persons.

Romans 2:6-11 – God distinguishes the saved from the lost “without respect of persons” or partiality. If Jesus’ death was all there was to it, then He must save everybody or else be a respecter of person. Instead, there is a distinction on the basis of our conduct – whether we work evil or continue in doing good.

Acts 10:34,35 – God is no respecter of persons, but those who fear Him and work righteousness are accepted. True, we cannot earn salvation. But there is a way God distinguishes between those who will be saved by His son’s blood from those who will not – our faith and works.

When people claim that Jesus’ death is all there is to it and people do not need to do anything to be saved, they unknowingly make God a respecter of persons.

If Jesus’ blood saves by itself with no conditions to be met, then why is faith necessary?

In practice, everyone admits there are some conditions necessary to be saved by Jesus’ blood. Most people admit we must believe. Many agree we must repent and confess Christ. (See John 3:16; 8:24; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rom. 10:9,10; 6:3,4; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mark. 16:16; etc.) But these are simply conditions we must meet to receive the benefit of Jesus’ death. To admit this is to admit Jesus’ death alone, without conditions people must meet, will not save.

But if we agree there are conditions people must meet to be saved, then why object when we point out from the Scriptures that these necessary conditions include baptism and a faithful life? These no more deny the power of Jesus’ death than do faith, repentance, etc.

If you can recognize faith, etc., as necessary to salvation without denying the importance of Jesus’ death, then in the same way we believe baptism and a faithful life are also necessary without denying the importance of Jesus’ death.

The Bible expressly shows that there are conditions children of God must meet to be cleansed by Jesus’ blood.

1 John 1:7-9 – Children of God do sin (v8,10). To be cleansed by Jesus’ blood, we must “walk in the light” and “confess our sins.” To deny this is to deny the clear teaching of Scripture.

Acts 8:22 – A child of God (v12,13) who sinned was clearly told that, to be cleansed of his sin, he must repent and pray. It is Jesus’ blood that forgives. But just as there are conditions we must meet to be cleansed and become a child of God, so there are conditions we must meet to be cleansed after we are children of God.

Please note that we have many articles about related subjects on our web site. These include articles about the importance of obedience, election and predestination, original sin and inherited depravity, salvation by faith only, etc. Please see the list of links below.

(C) Copyright 1998, David E. Pratte
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My good friend Manny Silva posted this blog, in which he exposed the dangerous Quaker contemplative practice of “centering down.”

I’m sure many in what has become the “Emerging/Emergent” Evangelical Friends denomination see no problem with centering down. Plus the Evangelical Friends use the WordAction curriculum, which as Manny describes is starting to tout centering down.

Beware The Leaven Coming Into Your Church Curriculum

Posted on April 2, 2012 by reformednazarene

Colossians 2:8-12 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Reflecting God
is an adult Sunday School journal with daily devotionals written for each month by various writers, prepared by the WordAction company.  It is not only prepared for Nazarenes but also for churches that are in the Wesleyan tradition.  They state that: “WordAction is the world’s leading provider of Wesleyan Sunday School lessons and curriculum for children, youth, and adult Sunday School, as well as a leading provider of small group resources and devotional material for family or personal daily devotional times.”

I have read these lessons many times, and have used this or similar curriculum books in teaching Adult Sunday school classes.  For the most part, it has solid reliable material.  However,  a friend alerted me to this particular lesson, which I had not seen.  I am working on another edition that a good friend also sent me a few months ago to review.  So now its time for a word of warning, and a word of serious caution.  The caution is this: WordAction may possibly be gearing up to slowly start promoting contemplative spirituality practices that are at the core of the spirituality of the emergent church movement.

Here is an excerpt from the Feb 8 lesson titled Center Down (and for those who don’t understand this yet, I will explain what this means:

“The Quakers quiet their hearts and spirits before God when they gather for worship through a meditative state they call “centering down.”  When they rest in the Lord and “wait” on him, they believe that he will bring understanding, direction, and peace.”

In addition to serving God, Brother Lawrence, the author of the book “The Practice of the Presence of God,” advises that we stay in touch with him.  He said, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God.  Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”

This is a blatant promotion of mysticism!  And I point out the elitist-like last sentence that suggests that only those special people who practice and experience contemplative prayer will truly understand God!  This is the mindset of the mystics, that they are special.  My friends, I have come to the point in my last three years researching that anyone using the word EXPERIENCE must at least be scrutinized as to what he means by it when he uses the word!  It more often than not means an experience that is outside the bounds of Scriptural teaching.  Please remember this.  It is essentially a type of experience whose goal is to reach some kind of union with God.  And please note again what they said: “they believe.”  Not, “Scripture says”.

First of all, the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) are a religious group that claims to be Christian, and they promote a weird doctrine that we have some sort of “Inner Light” within us.  The founder was George Fox, who at a young adult age, had a strong mystical experience.  He became convinced that “person requires no spiritual intermediary but can receive direct understanding and guidance through one’s own “inward light,” which is supplied by the Holy Spirit.” (Source)  He believed that everyone has a divine spark within them that can respond directly and personally to God.

The Inner Light, according to respected Quaker author Howard Brinton, “can be reached only by ‘centering down,’ to use an old Quaker phrase: that is, by concentrating our attention on the inward side of life where the soul’s windows open toward the Divine.…” (Brinton, 1953). “Centering down” means turning away from ego-driven pursuits, from selfish individual concerns, and allowing oneself to be moved by a spiritual intelligence greater than one’s everyday consciousness.  (Source: Paths of Learning.net)

Their most famous member today is perhaps Richard Foster, the modern day guru of contemplative spirituality, who believes that anyone (not just Christians) can be a “portable sanctuary for God”; who recommends contemplative prayer but at the same time warns that we need to pray a prayer of protection before participating; and also warns that novices should not do it.

So when they promote centering down, they are promoting a practice that is part and parcel the same as the practices of Eastern mysticism.  Here is a description of the Quakers’ practice of centering down, as explained by the Rev. Sue Annabrooke Jones on her website:

Meeting actually begins when all are joined in that silent “waiting upon God” that the Quakers call “centering down.” With mind and body stilled, members sit in deep contemplative silence together for one hour, each person attuned to his or her own inward light.
During a meeting someone may feel moved to speak. When this happens, it comes from a deep religious experience and a conviction that this experience must be shared. This spoken ministry, which is usually brief and simple, requires no response, and is intended as meditative seed for everyone else in the group. This unique cross-fertilization component distinguishes Quaker meditation from other forms of meditation which, even when practiced in a group, remain ultimately a solo activity.
  (Source: CosmicLotus.org)

Is this a biblically sound practice that belongs now in a Nazarene holiness publication?

And then there is Brother Lawrence. Who is Brother Lawrence?  He was a 17th century monk who “developed a technique–mostly through inspiration and intuition–which leads to results akin to those developed by the continued practice of either Zen or mindfulness meditation.” (Source: Lighthouse Trails)

He was part of the Carmelite Order, which was run by the very contemplative Teresa of Avila, another monastic practictioner who was also influenced by Jewish Kabbalic mysticism.  His “practicing the presence of God” as he coined it leaves much question as to how this can be verified as real or not.  It is not because it is too subjective, and leaves a wide open door for anything to be conjured up in ones imagination.

In his document, “Evangelicals Turning To Catholic Spirituality”, David Cloud describes the epidemic that is racing through the evangelical world, which is one of embracing more and more the monastic Eastern mysticism of the Desert fathers and early “church fathers”, although this clearly does not include the real early church fathers, i.e. the apostles themselves.  You will not find anything close to this that they ever wrote about in Scripture.  However, in this report by Cloud, you will clearly be disturbed by seeing some well known names of today who have favorably promoted some of these practices.  It is what it is, and we have to deal with the facts.

In Scripture, we are told that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  (Gal 5:9).  Satan attacks us from within, after he slips into our churches in disguise, often through the undiscerning and sometimes well meaning minds of many Christians.  I consider this an attack upon the church, even if the rest of this curriculum book is on solid ground.  We cannot allow Satan to grab a foothold in any way in our church literature, just as we cannot allow him to gain a foothold in our universities, churches and pulpits.

So beware, you have been warned to watch what you read, and judge it by the word of God.  Nowhere in Scripture are we taught to “practice the silence” and “wait for God to speak.”   Reflecting God is a wonderful sounding title, but this particular lesson truly does not reflect God, but rather subtly reflects the doctrines of demons being promoted in our denomination today.  Do not tolerate this for one second.  Do not compromise a bit on any of this.  This is being sent to the publishers of WordAction, so that hopefully with this warning, they will take great care that they are not becoming complicit in the infiltration of ungodly teachings in our Christian books.  No excuse will be acceptable for this.  I pray it was a mistake that will not be repeated.  But if so, it will be exposed again for what it is.

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