A look at 180, a new book from the Nazarene Publishing House
What if your church or your denomination's official publishing house used denominational funds to print, publish and promote a book that extols the joys of rejecting biblical authority. That's right, rejecting the Word of God. This is exactly what many biblically sound Nazarenes are now experiencing.
The latest and perhaps one of the most visible signs of distress for Nazarenes is the release of a troubling new book through an arm of the Nazarene Publishing House. 180: The Stories of People Who Changed Their Lives By Changing Their Minds is a product of a Nazarene-funded entity called "The House Studio," which is listed under the covering of the Nazarene Publishing House in the 2010 General Board Reports of the Church of the Nazarene for the year 2009. (See: http://www.ncnnews.com/nphweb/html/ncn/article.jsp?id=10009016)
180 is a compilation of several authors, including Emergent leader and author, Leonard Sweet, Frederica Mathewes-Green (who, along with Sweet and Emergent godfather, Brian McLaren, contributed to the book The Church in the Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives), G.P (Graham) Taylor (author of Shadowmancer), and Baptist-bred biographer-turned-fiction-writer, Ace Collins. A few of the other contributing authors include Emergent youth speaker, Mark Oestreicher, Karen Spears Zacharias, Patricia Raybon (who has endorsed contemplative spirituality and favors Catholic mystics), Cameron Conant and Bob Buford, the founder of Leadership Network, (the suspected genesis point which spawned today's Emergent movement and its original leaders). Buford also served as the initial chairman of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, now known as "Leader to Leader Institute."
The promotion for the 180 book states: How does a fundamentalist become less conservative? What makes a person intent on marrying choose to remain celibate and enter the priesthood? How can a scientist give up believing in certainty? What makes an organ-playing pastor's wife hit the road with a band and her bass guitar?
These are all intriguing questions, sure to bring people into a fuller, more holy walk with Jesus, right?
Conant's chapter explains how he began his adult life as a conservative but when his wife left him he saw the "error" of his Republican ways. Mathewes-Green tells the story of how she migrated from the pro-choice position to become pro-life, which, of course, is actually a good thing. Taylor's part in the book was about how a dope smoking kid got straight - but like the majority of what 180 offers, there is no hint that God, His Son, His Spirit, or His Word had anything to do with the transformation.
Another contributor to 180 is self-described "professional adventurer" Melissa Jenks.
As a promotional sample of the book, Jenks' chapter was apparently sent to every Nazarene pastor in March, 2010, as a part of the quarterly "Nazarene Communicator." It was because of this mailing that a distressed Nazarene pastor called, making me aware of the book.
Jenks begins, "I used to believe that the Bible was true. Completely true-every single word. (In the words of theologians, inerrant.)
"I now believe that the Bible is true. Completely true-every single word.
"So what's changed? I no longer believe that in order to be absolutely true, the Bible has to be literally true. It doesn't have to mean that earth and life in it were created in seven days. It doesn't have to mean that Methuseleh lived 969 years. It doesn't have to mean that Joshua stopped the sun in the sky or that the streets of heaven are paved with actual gold."
Along with promoting feminism and the view that American Christians are a rather hopeless and self-centered lot, Jenks follows with the concept that one can be an evolutionist (like her) and a Christian, too; that beliefs are inconsequential to one's being identified as a "Christian"; and the conclusion that there are many people who reject the historic teaching of the Church but should be unquestionably accepted as real Christians.
Whether its called liberalism or Emergent, heretical or just plain goofy, these ideas are surely not within the bounds of authentic Christianity. In fact, as I stated in my March 19th e-update ("Where is the Leadership?"), notions like these more closely relate to the very lie that got us humans into this mess in the first place i.e., "Hath God Said?" (Genesis 3:1).
Then comes the book's most regretable chapter, authored by Nazarene university professor, Karl Giberson. It's called "Giving Up on Certainty," which is exactly what the author tells 180 readers he has done concerning the Scriptures. Giberson is one of the world's most noted proponents of the theory of "Open Theism,"* an evolutionist, and a professor at his alma mater, Eastern Nazarene College. (*Note that Open Theism hypothosizes that God does not know what the future holds.)
Giberson's chapter in 180 recounts a sad story simliar to that of liberal theologian, Marcus J. Borg. He retells how his experience in Bible college led him away from his previously held position of certainty that the Bible was true and gave him in return a profound intellectual uncertainty for the Word of God. Portraying textbook-like postmodernity, Giberson's contribution to 180 amounts to little more than a clear cut, egregious denial of the Bible. He claims to have made this change based on a series of events and teachings he received in college, including an old and baseless charge that assorted prophecies found in Scripture were actually fraudulent. I don't care how intellectual he may be or how many degrees he has, or how many doting peers he may have showering him with awards and prestigue. The question needs to be asked: What is this guy doing teaching in an allegedly evangelical school? How many more students will enter once-trusted Bible colleges only to have their minds twisted and their belief in God's Word shredded because someone who does not believe the Bible has been allowed to stand unquestioned before them as an authority?
In thinking of the Gibersons and Borgs and other assorted heretics that infest seminary classrooms all around us, I can't help but remember the compelling phrase Jesus used as He addressed the educated but empty hypocrites of His day. Just before calling them snakes, he said the converts of these false teachers become twice the child of Hell than their mentors (Matthew 23:15)! I think I know something of how Jesus was feeling about this topic but before I allow myself to go there and tell you what I really think, let me introduce a mother named Ann. She has experienced one of the worst nightmares imaginable for any Christian parent. Year after year, Ann trained her son up in the ways of God. When the time came she sent him off to Bible college only to find that some so-called "intellectuals," within the confines of what she thought was a solid theological institution, injected him with the seductive poison of apostasy, obliterating both her own life's work and her son's relationship with God.
Ann wrote me at www.ericbarger.com. She stated:
Thank you for your stand for truth and the defense of the Word of God which is now under attack through the emergent movement. This is being taught as the new post-modern "truth" at many so called "Christian" universities. I have a son who has been captured by this vain philosophy being taught at a Nazarene university. I am praying for his return to the truth of God's Word as he was trained up for 12 years at home and in school to affirm God's Word as absolute truth. The university taught from a New Testament book written by Bart Erhman, a self-proclaimed agnostic and academic expert in textual criticism. That class has derailed my son's faith.
I wrote back:
Thanks for writing Ann.I grieve when I hear reports like this. It is heart-wrenching. Hang in there and please let me know how it's going. Remember, you are not alone. There is a godly remnant inside the Nazarene Church who are fighting for your son and for other sons and daughters. Let me know if there is anything we can provide for you or do.
By the way, which Nazarene University did your son attend?
God bless you!