Monday, March 12, 2012

My Verdict on "Concerned Nazarenes"

Dr. Carl Leth recently posted an open letter to Manny Silva as an article in “The Epworth Pulpit.” While I cannot speak for the accuracy of Leth’s comments on the websites, his overall tone and approach were quite refreshing. As I read the article and the comments that followed, I was faced with the clear distinction between Leth’s approach to conversation and Silva’s. Seeing the need to describe conflict from a Biblical perspective, I began writing this blog.

My original intent was to also include some Biblical foundations for Spiritual Disciplines. To start my research, I began reviewing several blogs and websites from Silva and the Concerned Nazarenes to attempt to ascertain what exactly the group identifies as “Spiritual Formations.” While I was able to accomplish this task in finding that the group opposes the use of prayer beads, prayer labyrinths, meditation, and lectio divina, I also found some other theological perspectives from the group that would make a conversation on these topics quite difficult.

Based on my findings, I came to the conclusion that my original blogging intentions would not suffice for such an occasion. Instead, I seek to make some of the issues quite clear in this “controversy.” If you were to read no further, you could simply read this next sentence to understanding my point: Theologically speaking, Concerned Nazarenes are not really Nazarenes. While they share the same name, they neither believe nor perpetuate the specific beliefs of the Church of the Nazarene. Please let this distinction be clear: I am in no way attempting to imply that the group is not Christian. On the contrary, I believe that this sub-community of Christians has a strong theological heritage within the history of the church. However, their theological beliefs are not from the tradition of the Church of the Nazarene.

The Concerned Nazarenes, in belief and practice, are more accurately defined as Fundamentalists. Stan Ingersol does an excellent job of describing the relationship between Fundamentalism and the Church of the Nazarene is his paper “Strange Bedfellows: The Nazarenes and Fundamentalism.” Although the Church of the Nazarene and Fundamentalism were birthed and developed in the same century and have been intermingled at times, there is a clear distinction between them. According to Ingersol, Fundamentalism is an extremely conservative branch of Christian Protestantism that emphasizes the literal interpretation of Scripture. Characteristic of this movement are separatism from and militant opposition against any tradition that does not adhere to its theological beliefs (Ingersol).

Wes Tracy does a great job at describing some of the risks & tendencies of Fundamentalism in this blog from “Holiness Today.”

Based on this description of Fundamentalism, the Concerned Nazarenes are undoubtedly Fundamentalist in nature.
1. Concerned Nazarenes believe that the Old and New Testaments are the inerrant Word of God and, in addition to theology, are accurate both historically and scientifically. This is evidenced on several of the group’s webpages/blogs.
2. The group has sought to separate itself from all other groups. Any group that practices faith differently than the CNs or believes differently than they do is wrong and, many times, heretical. The CNs regularly identify Roman Catholic, social theology, and “emergents” as heretics or, at least, in the wrong.
3. The means of communication from the CNs is quite militant. The comments on Leth’s article are evidence of this, but this fact can be seen in many of their publications and even in the means of distributing such publications.

Edwin E. Crawford explains in his online article “Fundamentalism and the Church of the Nazarene” that the 1928 and 1932 General Assemblies made clear that the Church of the Nazarene is not a Fundamentalist denomination. Fundamentalism, according to Crawford’s summary of Timothy Smith’s Called Unto Holiness, trace its roots from Calvinism. The Church of the Nazarene, on the other hand, is Wesleyan-Arminian.

Here are some elements of distinction of the Church of the Nazarene from both Fundamentalism and Concerned Nazarenes:
1. The Church of the Nazarene believes that the Bible is inspired by God and is inerrant in everything needed for our relationship with God. In other words, it’s the prime and absolute authority on theology. Unlike Fundamentalism and the CNs, the denomination believes the Bible is a theological textbook, not a science or history textbook. However, even within the instances of scientific or historic inaccuracies, there are often theological points being made. Additionally, the Church of the Nazarene does not promote a modernistic (the philosophy, not “current day”) approach to miracles and the supernatural in Scripture. Simply, real people wrote the books as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit within history and were not themselves, all-knowing.
2. The Church of the Nazarene, while Wesleyan-Arminian in heritage, does not believe that other traditions are heretical simply based on the fact that they are different than its own beliefs. In other words, we believe that there will be Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Pentecostals, and a whole lot of other people who will be in heaven. There are central elements of theology that must be maintained (like those included in the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed), but there are different expressions within these bounds. On this note, I must reaffirm that fact that Concerned Nazarenes are Christians. Although I am distinguishing them from the Church of the Nazarene, I am in no way attempting to question their relationship with God through Christ.
3. Members of the Church of the Nazarene seem to go about conversations differently. The CN voice has obviously been quite “loud.” One does not have to go very far to find examples of lists of individuals or schools that have been blacklisted by the CNs. The unfortunate truth is that some (not “all” and probably not even “most”) have actually insulted and ridiculed individuals personally and in public. However, the majority of responses to these claims have been done in a much gentler tone. For example, although Carl Leth specifically pointed out some faults in Silva’s methods, he did not attack personally Silva by calling him names or insulting him. Leth intentionally offered his services to serve as a host to Silva and invite him to speak with members of the faculty and staff. He considered Silva’s concerns seriously and took action with the university chaplain and is continuing to act on his concerns with his teaching faculty. Quite simply, the Church of the Nazarene is not militant. We are not on a crusade to kill every theological tradition or belief that differs from our own.

Fundamentalism developed within the Church in response to the rise of modernity. This philosophical stance maintains that human reason is the source for all truth and that nothing can be true if it cannot be proven. Alister McGrath provides a great description of this interaction in his book, The Twilight of Atheism. Since science began to question the creation accounts in Scripture , the miracles, and even Jesus resurrection, the Church began by trying to defend Scripture and God. From this developed the theological premises of Fundamentalism. God is Sovereign (He is in control of everything) and He inspired Scripture inerrantly. To them, questioning Scripture is actually questioning the integrity of God Himself. Obviously, this is a serious and honorable stance. However, this response from the Church continued to drive a wedge between the secular and the sacred into what exists even today – the conflict of Science and Religion.

The world we live in is no longer defined by modernity. People are open to spiritual realities. And, as Ingersol points out in the paper mentioned above, Fundamentalism cannot adequately deal with such a reality.Wesleyan-Arminianism does not solve all of the “problems” with Scripture and Science. And, to be sure, it does not have everything figured out theologically. Even so, the Church of the Nazarene in its true essence is open to conversations about faith. The Bible will always remain as the source for all theological truth, but will not be used as means to be militant against other groups.

The grievances that the Concerned Nazarenes have brought to the table against individuals and institutions should not be automatically dismissed as irrelevant. However, by my observation, any attempt by these targeted individuals or groups to respond gracefully to the concerns has been greeted with closed minds and often public degradation by the CNs. On this note, I leave you with some verses that deal with resolving conflict and confronting sin or theological debate (I have bolded the words I would like to emphasize):

Galatians 6:1
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Philippians 4:1-5
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Exodus 18:13-19
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you…

Matthew 18:15-7
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witness.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Luke 9:49-50
“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus Said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Galatians 2:11
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

29 comments:

  1. Great post man! You hit the nail on the head here. The CN's biggest problem is trying to force fundamentalism where it historically does not fit. In a denomination that seeks to discuss differences rather than just publically scream heresy, the CN's tactics do not (and will never) fit in well. They're authority only comes from their interpretation of Scripture, which I am sure makes it much easier to demonize things they disagree with, however it sorely lacks in any real (and bibilically, ironically enough) form of accountability. I have said it before that they would probably actually be happier in a Fundamentalist church. They could be surrounded by people that hate all the right things :) Again greats thoughts here man

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  2. Well said Keith. You gentleness and spirit of conciliation are what drives individuals to examine their (our) beliefs rather than defend them. Had it not been for the CN's themselves I would never have stumbled across this post!

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  3. The problem with the concerned Nazarenes extends beyond theology. They are a group of pathological antagonists. They are not interested in reform and accountability, they desire destruction and division. In their view, the rest of the Church has ceded to apostasy and will burn in hell. Their negative views of God lead them to proclaim judgment upon the rest of the Church. Your article focuses on the tendency toward fundamentalism, which is one way of looking at the problem. I would just point out that there are other factors that contribute to this conflict with fundamentalism being one of them. Good job.

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    1. Admittedly, Concerded Nazarenes are closer to Fundamentalism than the COTN post 1940.prior to that there was no unified position. So, if they are not Nazarene, but antagonists, are you speaking of the Nazarene Church of today, pre 1975 television ban, pre 1955 hemlines and haircuts, pre-Wiley?

      Or is it the non-Wesleyan version today that disdains holiness? Aids and abets lawlessness by siding with illegal immigration, or excusing homosexuality as a natural birth condition?

      How is the current Nazarene Church "Chistian", yet alone the Nazarene Church of it's founders?

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    2. Admittedly, Concerded Nazarenes are closer to Fundamentalism than the COTN post 1940.prior to that there was no unified position. So, if they are not Nazarene, but antagonists, are you speaking of the Nazarene Church of today, pre 1975 television ban, pre 1955 hemlines and haircuts, pre-Wiley?

      Or is it the non-Wesleyan version today that disdains holiness? Aids and abets lawlessness by siding with illegal immigration, or excusing homosexuality as a natural birth condition?

      How is the current Nazarene Church "Chistian", yet alone the Nazarene Church of it's founders?

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  4. Interesting article...I just had a couple of clarifications to offer.

    First, you mention that Fundamentalism arose out of Calvinism and not out of Wesleyanism. Though that's historically true, we still should be careful not to overlook the historical connection between the Calvinist Moravians and John Wesley himself. My only point is that these are not entirely disconnected traditions. Even apart from Welsey's interactions with the German Moravians, both traditions (Calvinist and Arminian) were present within the Anglican Church in Welsey's day. All that's to say that some crossover between Calvinism and Arminianism might be expected in Wesleyan traditions.

    Second, I think we need to be careful when we define Fundamentalists as those who insist on reading the Bible 'literally'. We need to be more nuanced than that. I'm not sure it would be Nazarene, for instance, to argue that Jesus 'figuratively' rose from the dead. It is certainly Nazarene to read Jesus' resurrection literally, and therefore it follows that Nazarenes read 'some' of the Biblical pericopes literally. This may be where some of the confusion arises with this CN group.

    Finally, there is one passage that may be informing some of the behavior of CNs that you neglected to cite. I don't agree with the type of approaches and confrontations that you've highlighted, but still, to be fair, 1 Timothy 5:19-20 should be involved in the conversation when determining how one should confront what is believed to be 'sinfulness,' particularly among the elders of the church.

    "Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning" (1 Timothy 5:19-20 NIV).

    I am not a CN, I am not in sympathy with their concerns about the emerging movement generally, I am not in agreement that Genesis precludes evolution as a viable Christian theory of the development of life on earth, and I could go on. However, I thought that these clarifying points should be highlighted.

    Blessings,
    J. Thomas Johnson

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  5. J. Thomas,

    Thank you for your clarifying comments. Your point about literal understanding of Scripture is important, and I thank you for point that out. I was not trying to make a distinction between literal and figurative, but rather, I suppose, a literal word by word understanding versus a holistic look at the Bible. Select verses one word at a time versus the Bible as a whole. Additionally, the application of Scripture as a textbook for science and history instead of a theological text.

    No doubt that Calvinism and Wesleyans share common roots and heritage. Both are Protestant traditions stemming from the Reformation as brought on by Martin Luther and "Salvation as Grace through Faith." Of course, both traditions affirm the Apostle's and the Nicene Creed. However, there are some major differences as well.

    Thank you for pointing out the 1 Timothy passage. I missed that one. However, I still think we need to balance that approach with 1 Corinthians 4 (I believe it is) that says that the Church should not take their cases before "the ungodly for judgment." In other words, even if leaders should be rebuked publicly, it should only be in the presence of the Church, not before unbelievers. I am not sure if the world wide web is the best place for such a conversation. In biblical times, this would have occurred in person in front of the local congregation. It would not have been done by sending letters to all the churches talking about how wrong a particular leader was.

    Peace be with you,
    Keith

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  6. I'm not sure if you saw the comments from today, they were written after 4 p.m. But Manny's response to Keith is exactly what you're talking about and just made me laugh.

    http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/responding-to-dr-leths-open-letter-to-manny-silva/#comments

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  7. Manny did not want to continue in our conversation. He deleted my answer to his response. Let me summarize it here:

    1) The Bible is the authority, but the Wesleyanism/Calvinism conversation is relevant because it determines how one approaches the Bible.
    2) I didn't mention Spiritual Formation in my original post but was seeking to gain further understanding of Manny's position.
    3) The disciples dedicated 3 years of their lives to receive teaching from Jesus, Paul's ministry was dramatically shaped by his formal education, and the Old Testament is full of examples of people studying as "interns" (Joshua, Elisha, and Samuel for example). If you have the opportunity to learn from people farther along in their faith than you, why not take advantage of it?

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  8. Yeah Manny generally doesn't like to let comments through that completely stump him. I guess I get it. Accountability can be annoying :)

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  9. I guess now I know that the "Keith" was you on the commment board. Your second resonpse uses your last name as well. I read all their blogs, but I don't see any point in commenting.

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  10. As a former Nazarene and a graduate from MVNU, I am saddened, but not surprised, by the controversy raised by the "Concerned Nazarenes" and the responses to it. The CN group does seem to reflect a more conservative theological point of view than is common in Nazarene circles, especially among those in Nazarene higher education. Their alarm at anything "emergent" does seem overly reactionary, as if there is no value in the spiritual formation tradtion, for example. However, on a basic level they have a point. When I was a student at Mount Vernon I had some religion professors that openly undermined biblical authority, advocated that God does not know the future, and embraced theological positions which were much less conservative than what I was taught in the large Nazarene church I attended back home in Canton, Ohio. That church was hardly fundamentalist or Calvinist, but it was unashamedly evangelical. (And I was told that Mount Vernon was among the more theologically conservative of the colleges.) Nazarenes are facing what has often happened in numerous denominations as more liberal theological positions gain control of colleges and seminaries, and then trickle down to the churches. Because the emergent movement seems to encourage theological relativism, it is quite understandable that it would be popular among some in the Nazarene church. The "Concerned Nazarenes" may be reactionary fundamentalists who don't reflect the central traditon of Nazarene theology, but that doesn't mean that they are wrong to see a serious problem with biblical authority within the Nazarene church. (The old-time fundamentalists of the early 20th century had enormous faults, but they were right that liberalism was a critical denial of historic Christian orthodoxy. Look at the theology taught today at denominational seminaries of the Presbyterian Church USA, United Methodist Church, and so on, to see where this can lead.) I have family members in the Nazarene church and I love the denomination and pray for true revival among the Nazarenes as well as in the church fellowship to which I belong. But seeing that there is a problem is important to dealing with theological drift.

    Steve, Birmingham, AL

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  11. Alec, I kinda wish I would have refrained from commenting as well. The conversation didn't really accomplish anything. Manny kept pressing me to "defend Spiritual Formation" and I was trying to talk about the sources he appeals to when making decisions about Nazarene institutions. We were in the same place but talking about two different things.

    Steve, thank you for your post. Identifying Concerned Nazarenes as Fundamentalists does not mean that everything they stand for should be disregarded. Some of their concerns are legitimate. It is often difficult to listen to their concerns though because of the means by which they express them.

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  12. @keith,
    I have read your post as well as Dr. Leth's Open Letter several times. Although I couldn't find Manny's initial letter/post that initiated Dr. Leth's Open Letter. Without it, it is difficult to discuss that matter specifically.
    What I would like to comment on however is your "verdict".
    I have honestly never read a more uneducated critique of this issue. You conclude that the problem with the CNs is that they are not really Nazarenes. I have been involved in this debate since the early 90's (beginning with an appearance by Tony Campolo at Kansas City first Church of the Nazarene amazingly enough) and this is a first I must say.
    I have met the CNs personally and while I do not count myself as one of them due to differing opinions on their methods I can personally attest to the fact that they are certainly Nazarenes to the core.
    Your interpretation of our Denomination's view of Scripture is simply wrong. I have had GSs, DSs, and pastors of significant Nazarene churches agree with this view of our Article of Faith regarding Scripture: "Plenary Inspiration" means theologically that Scripture is Divinely Inspired in its entirety and that it is wholly inerrant. Additionally, if you read H. Orton Wiley's writings on the subject, it is plain and clear this is what he believed. There is no question. To take the next phrase in that Article which is meant to be clarifying and say it is actually all encompassing makes the entire Article contradictory. And finally on this point, when a Nazarene says they take the Bible "literally" they mean they take it just as it was meant by the author. For you to suggest otherwise is ill-informed.
    Next you argue that the CNs want to separate themselves from all other groups. You have concluded this after a brief researching of their blogs. As I have mentioned before, I have been fighting this fight for nearly a decade. There is no way for you to fully grasp any of this debate much less come to any lucid conclusion after the short time you have been researching it.
    The very make up of their network militates against your conclusion. They have partnered with people of vastly different theological leanings in the united effort to battle emergent theology. While I feel they get caught up in methodology too much and react too harshly against terminology, that is not the core of the fight. They make the core issues very, very clear on their FB page. They are not separatists by any stretch of the imagination. That statement by you is completely inaccurate.
    Lastly, you claim that they are not really Nazarenes because Nazarenes have a gentler tone. Really?
    This just about left me speechless but after a day and a half of milling this over in my mind I think I have words. You clearly have no idea of what you speak. If I were you, I would take down this post, apologize to CN and wash your hands of the whole thing.
    Again I want to reiterate that I do not agree with some of the methods of CN but let me say this, when a person is ignored, vilified and silenced, they either give up or get louder. These have chosen not to give up and for that I commend them. If you want to see militant language and hate-speech, you need to listen to emergent nazarenes when they think they are speaking to their own. I have witnessed this first-hand in chats, message boards, emails and even in person. My appearance allows me to sit in without raising any red flags. I have personally heard a very influential and high up member of the Church of the Nazarene say that we need to ignore people who believe in things like the Creation like we ignore the Ku Klux Klan.
    (Continued...)

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  13. (Continued...)
    The CNs are not perfect by any means but they are not the ones spitting vile hatred in this debate. Dr. Leth was very diplomatic in his attacks on Manny. But that is only one letter of thousands. You need to start evaluating things by their content not their tone.
    In closing, I am becoming more and more disenchanted with this idea that we, as Nazarenes, come from a Wesleyan Holiness Tradition. The reality is that Nazarenes believe little of what Wesley taught. The Episcopal Church is closer to what Wesley taught than we are. In fact Wesley himself told his adherents that he would leave them if they left the CofE. He never wanted to leave that tradition. He, like Luther and the Catholic Church, simply wanted to make the CofE the most Biblical it could be. He would not have approved of what happened with the Methodists and would have felt even further estranged from the eventual forming of the Church of the Nazarene. We are not Wesleyan. We are not Methodist. We are not Episcopalian. We are not Roman Catholic. We are Nazarene. We are not evangelicals. We are not emergents. We are not liberal socialists. We are Holiness. And we had better figure out what we believe or else we will no longer be Nazarenes.
    This fight is not over and it will not be won with dulcet tones. Our leadership better wake up before the whole thing crumbles under their feet and people speak of us as we speak of the Methodists and the Anglicans before them.

    Nyk Edinger

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  14. CORRECTION "As I have mentioned before, I have been fighting this fight for nearly TWO DECADES." Time flies, apparently.

    Nyk

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  15. Nyk,

    Thank you very much for your post. You are probably correct that some Nazarenes have "fought back" in the same voice. This is unfortunate. However, I have not experience inappropriate methods from Nazarene leadership in any public way.

    However, I stand by my observations of Manny Silva and the Concerned Nazarenes as an organization with Fundamentalist tendencies.
    I also stand by my explanation of Article IV, although I overstated my point in order to describe how it is different from how the Concerned Nazarenes understand Scripture. I in no way question its inspiration or that it is not inerrant about anything theological.

    Thanks!
    Keith

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  16. *I in no way question the inspiration of Scripture. I in no way question the inerrancy of Scripture in all things theological.

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  17. One more thought. When I say the Scripture is inerrant in all things theological, it is not that I (or the Church of the Nazarene) believe that God made errors in other ways in Scripture. Let me just make these points:

    *God inspired the Bible and it is the "living and active" Word of God.
    *the purpose of the Bible is to teach us about theology - what we believe about God and our relationship to him through Christ. Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God himself and the Scriptures reflect Christ.
    *The scientific or historic pieces in the Bible that do not match up with other facts are not erroneous, but are intentionally included as is to make theological points. For example, the mustard seed is not really the smallest seed in the world, but Jesus was making a point about the Kingdom of God in this way. This is not errant, it is intentionally theological.
    *There are many different manuscripts of each book of the Bible and each manuscript has slightly different records of the words themselves. We do not have the autographs (original copies). So, in this way, there may be some grammatical or spelling mistakes from one manuscript to the next. Some words are changed, phrases added, and some passages are not even included in each one. This fact does not question the reality, truthfulness, or goodness of God, but simply points out that God in working both through and in spite of man to make his Word known.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. I think Nicholas' comments on Wiley are interesting because I have heard it argued at Point Loma or NTS, I can't remember, that Wiley never understood 'inerrant' in the way do. It might have been Nazarene history and doctrine with Dr. Raser. But either way this is an example of things that might be ‘clear’ need a context. I trust the professors at seminary’s opinions because they worked with him and his successors.


    Also, I think it is important to remember that when the Church Fathers use 'inerrant' they meant just what Nicholas said:

    when a Nazarene says they take the
    Bible "literally" they mean they take it
    just as it was meant by the author. For you
    to suggest otherwise is ill-informed.

    The Fathers meant the meaning that author meant. So that means that there are metaphors and images in the Bible that aren't literal. If the author of Genesis 1-2 meant them as poetically/ theologically and not scientifically, then that is the 'literal' meaning. The difficulty is finding what the original author meant. It is this issue that it seems many fundamentalists are unwilling to accept. It is as if all scriptures are scientific and written with historical accuracy in mind. When I don't think that is always the case.


    Also Nyk, I agree with you that Nazarene's are increasingly becoming less Wesleyan. For better or Worse. (Probably a little of both) I also think their becoming less Nazarene in many ways. Of course Nazarene has meant many things over its 100 year history and various locations, but we are in a process of change right now. Again this change as good and bad things, but we are quite different from when we started.

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  20. I just want to caution against taking figuratively events to which Jesus referred to as factual events (the global flood, etc). The general tone I get (particularly from the comments) is one of condescension toward those who are inclined toward a literal interpretation. Truth is truth, but perspective and presumptions matter. Just make sure you're giving deference where deference is appropriate.

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  21. Keith,

    I appreciate your thoughtful response but you still stand by your accusation that the CN's are Fundamentalists even though you have nothing to provide us that lends any credence to that charge. That doesn't make any sense.

    For both you and Alec, please investigate this for yourself. Don't simply read what others (Seminary Professors or otherwise) are saying about this Article of Faith or what they think Wiley meant, go read Wiley and Wesley in their own words. It is pretty plain writing and they do a good job of explaining themselves clearly. Here is what I found when I went and actually read what they wrote on this topic, but again, don't just read whit I write here, go read the actual writings yourself. It is vitally important to the future of our Denomination.

    "Plenary inspiration" (the term that has been brought into question in this debate) means it is without error in its entirety. That is what it means. That is what Wesley taught. That is what Wiley (who was the architect of the statement) taught. That is what the Scriptures claim. You cannot have something that is Divinely inspired that is wrong.

    Wiley says that inspiration itself denotes inerrancy and I wouldn't disagree.
    When you put plenary and inspiration together they mean "that kind of inspiration which excludes all defect in the utterance of the inspired message."
    That is the definition. "excludes all defect" means inerrant.
    This is what Wiley explains;
    "By plenary inspiration, we mean that the whole and every part is divinely inspired...we conclude that the Scriptures were given by plenary inspiration, embracing throughout the elements of superintendence, elevation and suggestion, in that manner and to that degree that the Bible becomes the infallible Word of God...(')superintendence,(') by which is meant a belief that God so guides those chosen as the organs of revelation, that their writings are kept free from error."
    (Scripture is) "infallibly preserved from all error,"
    These quotes from Wiley, the first and foremost Nazarene Theologian explain in clear terms and leave no doubt that the Nazarene church, by stating our belief in plenary inspiration, believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the whole of Scripture, which is all 66 books of the Old and New Testaments and everything contained therein.

    Wesley says in response to someone who wrote that the writers of the Bible "made some mistakes",
    "Nay, if there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth."
    In fact, the person Wesley was responding to presented the exact idea that you are presenting, that is, that Scripture is inerrant only in areas of salvation and Wesley wonders aloud if this person might be an atheist. Wesley had no room in his theology for this idea and neither does Wiley.

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  22. Wiley defines inspiration as having three elements; superintendence, elevation and suggestion.
    Wiley says that superintendence must be present in ALL inspiration. Wiley defines superintendence as the fact that God guided the writers to such a degree that the writings were inerrant. So Wiley says that inspiration alone makes what was inspired infallible and inerrant.
    He backs that up by adding the word plenary to inspiration to assert that fact that he believed that all of the Bible and EVERYTHING contained within it was inspired and therefore infallible and inerrant.

    Lastly, there are two specific things that Wiley makes a point of in his writings in regards to inspiration that would not commonly be included in "things necessary to our salvation". He makes a special point of stating that the truths and facts of the Creation and the antediluvian times had to be inspired. And in his view, inspired and inerrant are synonymous. Additionally, the things mentioned in Timothy in regards to Scripture being inspired have no relation to salvation per se.
    Wiley believed all Scripture was inspired and that all things inspired were infallible and inerrant. And that is what he wrote in our statement.

    It is sad that a small group of people (some rather powerful) have chosen to redefine the meaning of plenary inspiration and thusly have thrown confusion into what we believe. Thereby forcing us to reconsider the language used in our statement to keep it from being twisted. I wish someone had been on the ball twenty or thirty years ago when this shift in thinking began to take hold.

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  23. Sorry this all took me so long to get back to but I hope you will look at this issue seriously and not simply make sweeping and unsupported accusations toward fellow Nazarenes who care about what the Nazarene church teaches.

    Nyk

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  24. Thanks Nyk,

    I agree with you on your understanding of inerrancy. It's not that I think that there are mistakes in the Bible. It is an inerrant theological work. When there are historic or scientific inconsistencies, I do not think those are by mistake. They are the intentional work of God to say something theological through the specific writer. The Bible is a work that must be seen and used in its entirety and not just single verses or passages isolated from others.

    Identifying the Concerned Nazarenes as a group with Fundamentalist tendencies in no way brings to question their legitimate concern for the denomination or their devotion to God, as I made clear in my original post. Additionally, the actions and beliefs that have pointed me to this observation are also cited in the original post with scholarly essays as their backup. However, I will admit that not every Concerned Nazarene is as vocal as Manny Silva.

    Please let it be clear that I do not mean to say that the Concerned Nazarenes should be dismissed entirely or their concerns not considered. I am simply stating that the methods they use often connect more to the Fundamentalist theological tradition. I believe that the CNs have many valid points of concern, but these valid points are often lost in their theological method and their means of communication.

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  25. Keith,

    That was not your point in your original post.

    "If you were to read no further, you could simply read this next sentence to understanding my point: Theologically speaking, Concerned Nazarenes are not really Nazarenes."

    That was your point. And I have gone to great pains to show you that they are indeed Nazarenes and not only such but Nazarenes who have a more accurate view of Nazarene beliefs concerning the authority of Scripture than those who they are debating regardless of their TONE, which I have stated I don't really subscribe to but I have also made the point that the other side is far, far more violent in their rhetoric than the CN's ever have been.

    Wiley never made a distinction between theological matters and other matters when it comes to inerrancy. He went out of his way to specifically point out the Creation story as well as the Flood story as absolutely inspired and therefore inerrant in every detail. These are the first two parts of the Bible to be called into question by those who would posit your view of our statement.

    You say "When there are historic or scientific inconsistencies, I do not think those are by mistake. They are the intentional work of God to say something theological through the specific writer." Do you not see how ridiculous that is?
    God, who has all knowledge, deliberately inspires writers to write historical or scientific facts that are wrong to make a theological point? Really? Must we suspend all reason because we have not the faith or the guts to believe God's Word to be true despite what fallible and biased human thinkers state as "facts"? I guess we must.

    By the speed of your response you clearly did not heed my call to actually read Wiley and Wesley so I would again ask you to do that before making any more arguments on this topic.

    Nyk

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  26. The primary purpose of the original post here was to distinguish the position and methods of CNs with the Church of the Nazarene at large. While I am willing and prepared to continue the conversation about Biblical inerrancy (in light of Wesley and Wiley, but also the plethora of other theologians who have formed our theology since then), I do not believe this is the most conducive environment for such conversations. It is too easy to misunderstand one another or to say things in ways that we would not do in person. I have found that it is hard to keep the words "let your gentleness be evident to all" in blog comments. While I agree with a great deal of your position, I still stand by my conlusions. I am open to continued conversations if you believe they would be helpful.

    Keith

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  27. If anyone is following the comments on this blog, I just wanted you to know that I have written several blogs concerning the inerrancy of Scripture in the past several weeks.

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