By Ryan Scott
This is the final post in a five part series. This post is a continuation of the review of the Concerned Nazarene's DVD. The first post can be found here.
By Ryan Scott
- There was almost no mention of the Church of the Nazarene.
If this is truly a DVD intending to speak to the Church of the Nazarene there should be more specific references. Using non-Nazarene speakers who spend a great deal of time disparaging and rebutting standard Wesleyan Holiness theology is not helpful to the cause.
- There was a distinct de-emphasis on Christ in favor of an over-emphasis on scripture.
The phrase, “the power of God is in the gospel,” was used with the explanation that the words and understanding the words are the most important thing. This elevates scripture to a position of power and authority over and above Christ himself. This gives too much credence to the words of scripture and particularly to our own interpretation of scripture. While scripture is the most important means of revelation and interpretation, Wesleyans hold that scripture is not the exclusive means, along with reason, experience, and the tradition of the Church. The speakers on this DVD kept saying that experience must be tested by scripture, which is quite true, but they seem unable to believe that someone would come to a different conclusion than they have made.
- There is an assumption that Christians cannot be discerning.
Time and again the speakers talked of conspiracies and manipulations with the assumption that Christians would be powerless to understand when they were being told something outside of their own beliefs or tradition. Surely there are people who can be tricked and led astray, but this DVD acts as if this is the normal position of Christians.
- There was a combative, ungraceful posture to the overall design of the DVD.
This critique applies specifically to the inclusion of Jon Middendorf’s name on the back cover of the DVD. Middendorf has been repeatedly attacked by name in a number of places by the Concerned Nazarenes. Christian disagreement is a practice of engagement and dialogue, not isolation and attack. The very brief coverage of Middendorf’s out of context statements does not warrant the prominence of his name.
- Much of the arguments were based on illogical conclusions.
The speakers demonstrated that some very liberal people, well outside the realm of orthodoxy, used specific buzzwords and then made the assumption that anyone who would use these same words must be as liberal and heretical as the first person. This is just not a sound logical leap. This guilt by association technique has gotten us in trouble countless times over the years. In his final conclusion, Sandy Simpson pointed out that while the emerging leaders have some good things to say, they also have some troublesome things to say. For him this meant throwing out the good with the bad, because Satan often sneaks the good in with the bad to deceive us. If this logic were extended, we would all have to be in perfect agreement all the time to respect each other’s opinion on anything.
As you can see, the fifth chapter is the one which got under my skin a little more than the rest. I appreciate the efforts of the Concerned Nazarenes to get these statements and opinions out to the public. I hope that they will take up opportunities to speak with other Nazarenes about why we disagree in some of these areas. While I have not read every book to which they refer, nearly every book they referenced that I have read was misrepresented in the DVD. This takes away from the credibility of the speakers. They often accused the emerging leaders of setting up straw men to knock down; this is probably true, but no different than the straw man arguments used in this DVD.
Perhaps the most troubling element of the DVD for me was the introduction. While it is relatively harmless upon first viewing, it is disheartening in light of the content of the DVD. I admit that Rev. Beverly Turner has every right to be upset with some of the contents; she should feel comfortable and secure in expressing her doubts about specific practices and beliefs, but to have an ordained elder endorsing a DVD that devotes so much of its content to contradicting traditional Nazarene doctrines and belief is very sad. I think we all would have been better off with a Concerned Nazarenes DVD that took a truly Nazarene perspective.
I do believe that there are legitimate differences that continue to need dialogue and discussion. Many contemporary issues, both practical and theological, require sound discernment and study with contributions from a range of sources and perspectives. I will not defend Brian McLaren or anyone else’s opinion on individual matters, but I do wish to stand up in favor of fair and honest engagement, rather than suspicious attacks. Without genuine unity and care for each other nothing will be resolved.