A Tale of Two Denominations

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” so goes the opening of Charles Dickens’ famous book “A Tale of Two Cities.”  That contrast between London and Paris brought to mind a similar contrast between two Christian denominations, one of which was featured recently on a Christian telecast.

Well, how should I phrase it?   How about, “This is the best of Christian times, and this is the worst of Christian times.”  Actually, for those in Christ all times are the best of Christian times regardless of the circumstances simply because Christ is the Victor, and because He lives, we shall live also.

 Pat and I received the Lord as young adults in a Nazarene church.  When the Gospel was preached our hearts were receptive and the Holy Spirit drew us to Jesus.  The Gospel is simple enough for anyone to understand, God planned it that way.  The difficult part is for us to receive it, believe it, and then to live it.

The “Best of Christian times,” for my comparison, began in 1993 when Dr. Albert Mohler was appointed President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship seminary of the denomination.  When Dr. Mohler first addressed the student body, a large number of students and faculty stood and turned their backs for the entire speech.  The gesture was in opposition to Dr. Mohler’s appointment because he represented a Biblical scholar who believed that the Bible was the inerrant, inspired, Word of God.  Imagine that.

For years a liberal element had been seeping into the Southern Baptist Denomination, especially through the Colleges and Seminaries where heresy almost always begins.  And, of course, they turn out pastors and church leaders who in turn take that back to the local churches.  At a young thirty-three years of age, Dr. Mohler began the task of turning the tide at SBTS.  He has done a remarkable job.  So much so that his impact has rippled through the entire denomination and its education system.

In one instance, a professor stood up publically to Dr. Mohler, and pronounced that the articles of faith and beliefs required of faculty were so many meaningless words, which no one really believed, including him.   Dr. Mohler’s response was, “You’re fired” (and this was before the “Apprentice”). The firestorm that incident created led to little since he had admitted publically to lying on a signed document of doctrine to which all employees must agree.  That was grounds for termination.  And so began the road back to God for the Baptist denomination.

Of course the battle never ends.  It began with Christ and it will never end until He returns.  The Bible predicts that not only will it continue, but also as history draws closer and closer to its final culmination, apostasy will intensify in these last days.  In the interim, we are urged to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”  (Jude 3b)

Well, how about “The worst of Christian times?”  I might add that this contrast is nothing new except that these two examples are at the forefront of today’s Christian news.  I go back to the Nazarene Church as the worst example only because it represents an entire denomination.  It may be unique in that perhaps two “Bible Believing” denominations may never have been in such contrast.  With the exception of long established liberal groups, most of the apostasy today usually happens in non-denominational, semi-independent churches with little oversight.

In doing some research for this article, I was surprised to learn the extent to which the Nazarene Denomination has been lured into the “emergent” movement.  At the heart of the emergent church is the same problem Dr. Mohler encountered with the Baptists.  That is, a denial in the inerrant, authoritative Word of God.  Simply put, they simply do not believe the Bible to be true.

It’s not that members are unaware of what’s happening.  There are a number of grass root movements trying to purge the denomination of the unbelieving elements.  The problem, however, is that the hierarchy does not have anyone like Dr. Mohler who is willing to lead the battle.  Consequently thousands of members are fleeing the fold as an easier alternative.  There is a group called the Reformed Nazarenes, and additional websites set up to fight for the church.  In contrast, there is even a site with the blatant title of “Emergent Nazarenes” promoting the heresy.

For those interested just search “Emergent Nazarenes” and you will find a plethora of sites with an abundance of intrigue, infighting, compromise and all out war from both sides.  Since the Nazarene church has been a very Biblically based, fundamental (in a good way) denomination, it is shocking to read about members who, in the pattern of “emergent,” deny Biblical miracles, adopt Contemplative Prayer, Spiritual Formation, liturgical practices, labyrinths, and on and on.  Again, the problems are rife in the Nazarene colleges where non-Nazarene emergent leaders headline lectures, retreats, and conferences.

It will be interesting to see what the future brings, whether there will be a house cleaning as in the case with Baptist Dr. Mohler, or a mass exodus as the Reformed Nazarenes set up shop.  A General Superintendent letter to churches from headquarters was a fence-straddle not wanting to offend anyone, nor wanting to take a stand.  That kind of fearful, weak leadership does not bode well.

According to Nazarene friends of mine, one a retired pastor and the other a current member, the beginning of the end for the Nazarene Denomination began in the early 1970’s when an official announcement from headquarters stated that speaking in tongues was from Satan.  Many Christians do not believe in tongues, but I can’t recall any of them ascribing it to the devil.  If I understand Scripture correctly, the unpardonable sin is attributing the work of God to the devil (Matt. 12:31,32).   Could they be reaping the effects of such a sin?

In times like these, prophecy from the Bible is relevant.  “Now the Spirit speaks clearly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits, and doctrines taught by demons.” (1 Tim. 4:1)  Maranatha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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