Preserving Some Truth

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Aaron Blumer's picture
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Preserving Some Truth

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On Friday and Saturday (January 7-8), more than three hundred registered attendees (and about that many more walk-ins for the evening service) gathered for a “symposium on biblical separation.” I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to be among them.

Though the event could be improved in some substantial ways, it was an important step toward developing a biblical separation model that (a) improves on what separatists have practiced in the recent past and (b) functions better in the current evangelical landscape in America.

A significant plus is that this more theologically grounded and thoughtful approach to separatism stands a chance of winning the acceptance of theologically serious young people within fundamentalism (but on their way out) or outside fundamentalism but still listening to its better representatives.

Host pastor Mike Harding described the goal as a “theologically robust” and “biblically consistent” separatism as well as “cultural conservatism.”

What follows is a survey of conference highlights followed by some analysis.

Conference highlights

The event began with two workshop periods of about an hour each. Due to a snow storm I hadn’t anticipated, I missed the first hour and walked in just as the second was about to begin. Since I was late, I just headed straight for the nearest workshop.

It turned out to be one in which Dr. Bruce Compton provided an analysis of Wayne Grudem’s view of the NT gift of prophecy (a non-authoritative and potentially erroneous cousin of the OT gift). Grudem’s view has been foundational for much of current non-cessationist thought about the gifts of the Spirit. Compton’s analysis was interesting and helpful and highlighted some of the unresolved problems with Grudem’s view. The session concluded with brief consideration of whether non-cessationism is a separation issue. Compton’s view was that personal fellowship with non-cessationists was not a problem, but that continuationism’s threat to our belief in a closed canon is serious enough to preclude some other forms of fellowship. He explained that this included avoiding ministry cooperation and pulpit cooperation with non-cessationists.

An evening double-header

The evening service began at 7 PM. I was encouraged by the quantity of teens and young adults attending. This was not one of those “old guys bemoaning how things aren’t like they used to be” events. The gray hair ratio was probably well below 50%.

To me, things had a noticeable “Bob Jones” feel as well. Maybe it was the giant piano on the unusually high platform or the duet Mr. & Mrs. Scott Aniol sang in the characteristic BJU vocal style (thankfully, not with the full operatic-amplitude vibrato I recall hearing so often in my BJU days). Maybe it was the relative scarcity of women in pants (there were a few here and there, I think, though I didn’t exactly make a study of it). Men involved on the platform were in coats and ties but I saw few elsewhere.

The BJU déjà vu passed when we sang two songs I’d never heard before by Chris Anderson and Greg Habegger (words projected on the big screen and sheet music in the conference binder). These were traditional hymn-structured songs but still clearly (to me, anyway) not set to music of the 19th or 20th centuries. I’d characterize them as thoughtful, doctrinally meaty and not short on pathos and warmth. We’ll definitely sing these at our church.

Chris Anderson was the first of the evening’s two speakers. His message on “Gospel-Driven Separation” (from Jude) set an excellent tone for the meeting. The high insight-per-paragraph ratio will reward taking the time to hear the mp3. Some points:

  • Jude 3: Jude was a reluctant warrior. His delight was in the gospel and he wanted to write a letter focused on “our common salvation.” The situation required that he write about contending for the faith instead.
  • Our own contention for the faith must begin with a delight in the gospel. “If we don’t defend the gospel, we lose the gospel.” But we must make sure the fight has not become our delight.
  • Jude urges the defense of the faith on every believer. It is not a fundamentalist thing. It’s a Christian thing.
  • Contending does not begin with separation. This comes late in the process.
  • Jude is not about separation from disobedient brethren (taught elsewhere). Our dealings with brethren in error do not fall under the Jude umbrella.
  • If we allow the fight to distract us from the faith, we experience a slow death.
  • We must delight in the gospel, defend the gospel, and advance the gospel (v.20-22).

After a song or two, Dr. Mark Minnick took the pulpit and preached on the topic of what the gospel is. Again, the audio is well worth hearing. This was the first message I’d heard by Dr. Minnick in person since the late 1980’s. I was encouraged to see that his love for people, love for the gospel, love for the Scriptures and love for teaching are undiminished.

Day two

Saturday’s first session belonged to a newly-bearded Dr. Kevin Bauder who noted that he was lecturing, not preaching. The topic was officially to be “A Fundamentalism Worth Saving, Part 1,” but rather than rehash the points of his 2005 address by that title (given to the American Association of Christian Colleges and Seminaries), he focused on what else (beyond defending the gospel and practicing separation) a future fundamentalism should do.

The rest of the lecture articulated a vision for a relentlessly—and comprehensively—thoughtful fundamentalism, one that concerns itself with all of life, especially the questions weighing most heavily on the society in which we live. A key component, he said, was to recover the Christian doctrine of vocation and stop viewing God’s call to business, science, medicine, the arts, etc. as inferior to God’s call to do the things we usually think of as “ministry.”

I can’t begin to say how encouraging I found that lecture. Where can I sign up? It’s true that the vision is far from the reality, but everything important begins with a vision. If we can get the audio transcribed, the lecture may appear here at SharperIron in written form down the road.

panel.jpg

Later in the morning, Dr. Dave Doran provided a thoughtful exegesis and application of Romans 16:17. A twenty-something young man told me later that this was the most persuasive case for separation he’d ever heard and that he was now far more open to the whole idea.

The discussion session

The highlight of the event for many was probably the afternoon “discussion session.” All the platform and workshop speakers were invited to the platform to discuss a series of selected questions.

Though the audio will probably be available shortly, you’d really have to see video to fully appreciate this session. The body language was at least as interesting as the verbal responses (and several moments in the audio will make no sense at all without seeing the interaction).

Several thoughts stood out in my mind when the session ended.

  • These men possess serious and thoughtful convictions. The discussion format was making some of them squirm but their willingness to be involved speaks well of their courage as well as their desire to be persuasive.
  • The old separation-by-category (or maybe separation-by-acronym, as Chris Anderson observed in his Friday PM message) paradigm doesn’t work anymore. There are too many leaders and ministries promoting and defending the gospel these days that just do not fit into the boxes we used in the 70s and 80s (it’s debatable whether the boxes worked well back then either, but that’s another subject). There seemed to be general agreement on this point, though Doran was most emphatic and Minnick most hesitant.
  • We need more of this. When the hour ended, there was a silence I took to mean something like “What? We’re done already?” It’s difficult to impossible to alter the schedule of an event of this sort on the fly. But I wished we could have taken a break and resumed the discussion for another hour.
  • We separatists have work to do. As a thoughtful conversation about separation—with no fear of anyone labeling anyone else a “neo” or “pseudo” for differing on one point or another, the discussion was important and encouraging. But it also revealed that though we’ve awakened to the deficiencies in the separation paradigm of the past, we do not yet have another paradigm to adopt in its place. Many questions remained unasked and unanswered.

Next time?

I came away with the feeling that more work toward a “theologically robust” and “biblically consistent” doctrine and practice of separation is too urgent to wait for 2013 when the next PTC is tentatively planned. I also believe that what we need now is not so much a conference as a work group of some kind that produces a document or two—not another “resolution” by a fellowship or association, but a document aimed at answering the questions most are actually asking about separation, developed through a process that is sure to attend to those questions. Ideally, the document(s) would have the support of leaders from multiple associations and fellowships.

Mike Harding suggested that the next PTC may be devoted to “cultural conservatism.” Either way, I look forward to how this event develops in the future.

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Paradigms

"But it also revealed that though we’ve awakened to the deficiencies in the separation paradigm of the past, we do not yet have another paradigm to adopt in its place."

Paradigms are nice. Through the help of a local OPC pastor, I am memorizing again my Greek paradigms. But William D. Mounce's, Basics of Biblical Greek (2009), is up-to-date and more helpful for me in 2011 than going back to my early 1990s paradigms.

It is good to evaluate what and where the fundamentals are under attack in 2011, which leaders and movements attract us because of their building us up in these fundamentals, and which leaders and movements are systematically seeking to tear the fabric of the faith down in our country.

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Cultural Conservatism

When I think of "Cultural Conservatism", I think of two places in our country: the I-15 Corridor and the Southern Bible Belt.

In the West, I think of all the General Authorities. I think of the magnificent music being piped from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I think of the robust activity of the Boy Scouts of America.

With the increasing fervor, I think of Sarah Palin and her Alaskan show! (chuckling).

I can't remember, how does Bauder define "Cultural Conservatism"?

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Paradigms... cultural conservatism

An enduring problem for fundamentalists (and other separatists) has been that separation seemed often to be arbitrary or driven more by intramural politics than by principle. Perfect consistency is never going to happen where human beings are involved, but a well developed paradigm/approach (well developed including a solid exegetical foundation) could go a long way toward helping skeptics take the whole idea of separation seriously.

On cultural conservatism... it'll be interesting to see where this goes. I know the folks involved in PTC are not of a mind to try to pass off alot of applications as Holy Writ. So that's not what it's about. But I don't know if they intend to involve Bauder in 2013 or not. I think it would be a mistake not to. But the problem is that, as far as I can tell, he stands alone among fundamentalists in his understanding of culture.
Many are willing to listen, but I don't know how many (a) understand or (b) agree.

What I think is really needed in that area--like the separation one--is venues where skeptics can interact with thoughtful representatives and gain a better understanding of what their thought process really is and where they believe it is founded in Scripture, etc. (At the same time, separatists and cultural conservatives can better understand their critics and how to talk to them persuasively).

So I just think more minimally-structured interaction on these subjects is a win win for all involved. Fewer lectures and sermons, more conversations.

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Links

audio is now available at the ptc site so I'm adding links to the article

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good

I agree, Aaron.

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Taking Separation Seriously

Speaking for the younger generation, I dont think that the problem is that we dont or dont want to take separation seriously. I take Scripture seriously and therefore (so I hope) I take separation seriously. I think my generation struggles with the old paradigm because for all of the separation talk there is little talk on how we are to be united in unity in order to fulfill what Jesus prays for in John 17 - that we would be one as He and the Father are one. While I realize John H. Armstrong has jumped the conservative evangelical ship, he makes a good case for this in his book Your Church is Too Small.

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Can I encourage the pastors

Can I encourage the pastors on SI to do something? Get together locally with the pastors of churches in your area to work some of this stuff out. This sounds like it was an awesome conference but at conferences like these, you are talking about these issues with men who you don't see unless you are at one of these national meetings. You will learn to work better with the men in your area by actually meeting with them.

Today, I particpated in a meeting in our area that was attended by Pastors that spanned the spectrums of fundamentalism. The subject of unity was a big part of what was shared. I left that meeting encouraged in the Lord.

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CPHurst wrote: ... because

CPHurst wrote:
... because for all of the separation talk there is little talk on how we are to be united in unity in order to fulfill what Jesus prays for in John 17 - that we would be one as He and the Father are one.

Two things...
1) The point about unity is a good one. Sep. is not meaningful, IMO, unless it ends something. If no unity or fellowship was there in the first place, it isn't "separation" if fellowship merely continues to not be there... though I do think it's valid to speak of continuing a separation that began at some point in the past.

2) John 17 is widely misunderstood. My own understanding of the passage is that Jesus is praying that all whom God has given Him will believe and thus be part of the whole, the "one." It isn't really about unity as we usually think of the word (visibly getting together or doing a project together, or an institutional joining, etc.). But other passages do talk about the unity of the faith (Eph.4 for example).

The John 17 passage w/more of its context...

Jn 17:20–23 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
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Further on Jn 17

I agree that it is widely misunderstood, although I wouldn't state it exactly the way Aaron does.

But note that the fulfillment of Jn 17 is the responsibility of the Father. He is the one petitioned, not the disciples, and he is the only one with the power to accomplish the task, given the ongoing issues the disciples have with the flesh. When redemption is complete, the prayer will be answered.

That isn't to say that we should give no thought to rightly relating ourselves to brethren, as you point out with respect to other passages. But even there, the unity is a state that exists more than a command to be fulfilled, as I recall.

Maranatha! Don Johnson Jer 33.3

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agree on recovering vocation

Quote:
A key component, he said, was to recover the Christian doctrine of vocation and stop viewing God’s call to business, science, medicine, the arts, etc. as inferior to God’s call to do the things we usually think of as "ministry."

I read a quote by J.I. Packer along these lines:

Quote:
Young people were conditioned to believe that only overseas missionary service and full-time pastoral ministry were fully worthwhile vocations; the value of other employments was merely that the money you made could be used to support missions and churches. Beyond this, let the world go by! Separation, understood as uninterested detachment, was the only proper Christian stance in relation to it.
The full text is http://www.chaleteagle.org/library/biblio/sec-23/bk002-for.htm here

I agree with Dr. Bauder and I hope we recover that doctrine of vocation soon.

Jason E. Schaitel MCP

co-founder FrancisSchaefferStudies.org

student at Veritas School of Theology

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Aaron Blumer wrote: 2) John

Aaron Blumer wrote:

2) John 17 is widely misunderstood. My own understanding of the passage is that Jesus is praying that all whom God has given Him will believe and thus be part of the whole, the "one." It isn't really about unity as we usually think of the word (visibly getting together or doing a project together, or an institutional joining, etc.). But other passages do talk about the unity of the faith (Eph.4 for example).

The John 17 passage w/more of its context...

Jn 17:20–23 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

But some of the unity must be visible before the world, or it will not fulfill the vision of Christ that the world will believe because of that unity (v. 21) and know because of that unity (v. 23). I think it might be safer to say that it need not be "institutional". I don't have to be in your association or denomination or club, but I must acknowledge and act as though other believers (as defined in Scripture) are actually believers, rather than make them pariahs because of some cultural differences.

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Only "Some" Truth?

The title seems odd here. I can hear some saying, "Yea, they only preserve 'some' truth". Some of us look at it the other way, some of what they're preserving is in the category of inviolable truth, other positions are as they even admit: "peripheral".

I'm interested in listening to the audio, and particularly the panel discussion. It is invaluable to listen in on such panel discussions, even if the open talk can be a bit dangerous.

It's interesting that there is still so many questions among the separatists, if people are so upset at the young fundamentalists who are leaving. If you have unanswered questions yourself, why not allow others to find some answers, even if it leads them a bit outside your quarters?

Just a few thoughts, but I'm hopeful that most of the conference was helpful in pushing real reform and thoughtful interaction by fundamentalists on these issues.

As someone else mentioned though, I do hope one of the topics they press at some point is the unity that Paul says we are to preserve, and the mutual recognition and welcoming expressed in the following verses I have taken as a motto for my blogging activities:

Quote:
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Rom. 15:5-7)

...eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ...until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.... (Eph. 4:3, 13)

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Title... and one major problem

Bob,
About my post title, I didn't really mean to put emphasis on "some." The conference was not comprehensive in its scope, so what I meant by "some" is two things: a) it was only about some ideas and b) it was not 100% successful in preserving even those. I see it as a really good start, but there are some huge gaps remaining.

One of them has to do with the local church vs. the larger group of all who believe in the gospel (aka "universal/invisible church," but some really choke on that terminology). One question I did not get a chance to ask was What does "ecclesiastical separation" mean in reference to independent Baptists who are in a state of non-cooperation by default (until they decide to join in some venture with other churches)?
(I owe Charlie for raising that one in another thread)

The Rom.15 and Eph 4 passages you quoted sparked my memory on that point because it's not clear to me exactly how admonitions to local churches to be unified within relates to how they are unified with other churches. Exegetically speaking, we usually take what's in epistles as being directed to relationships within local assemblies--but sometimes take them in a broader sense. I'm not sure off hand what the guiding principle is in deciding when it's one and when it's the other.

The other major question I didn't get to ask was whether we ought to see the term "separation" as referring to mere absence of fellowship (as KBauder has seemed to suggest more than once) or whether it is something more

  1. intentional
  2. communicated
  3. punitive/censorious

    For whatever reason, the organizers of PTC made the decision at some point not to take questions from the floor during the discussion. I think this was unfortunate and disappointing. But the discussion was still very interesting using the prepared questions. Its just that we didn't get to any of the ones that are on my mind--and I think others' minds also since these questions have really come out of discussions here at SI.

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More on Jn. 17

Aaron, I agree that the unity Christ is praying for in Jn. 17 is something that is done by the Father. But, Jesus prayed that the church would be one as He & the Father were. Are we to say that Jesus was just a passive recipient of the Fathers action in their unified relationship? While the Father may have had the leading role I think it is correct to say (and not merely conjecture or assumption) that Christ had a role to play in unifying their relationship.

Also, yes this is a salvific context no doubt but we are to show the world the unity we have with the Father through that salvation.

3 things show that this unified relationship is to be public.

1. In vs. 15 Jesus does not ask the Father to take them out of the world. So while Christ was going back to the Father to be in His presence He was not bringing His people with Him.

2. In vs. 23 Christ gives the purpose for this unity with the Father through Christ, "so that the world may know that you sent Me and loved them even as you loved me (ESV)." At minimum, one of the ways, if not the primary way, in which the world comes to know of this unity is how God's people love it our before the world.

3. There is no question that one of the major themes of the Gospel of John is Jesus' proclamation that He is God, has come from the Father and therefore has a unified relationship with the Father. This relationship was displayed in everything Christ did on earth. The church is to do the same - to show to the world the unity we have with God the Father as Christ did. It is public.

I dare say that the current separationist model is not able to incorporate Jn. 17 into it the way Christ intended the church to practice it.

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Quote: I dare say that the

Quote:
I dare say that the current separationist model is not able to incorporate Jn. 17 into it the way Christ intended the church to practice it.
I wonder if you might enlarge on this and give us your reasons for saying this, and how that correlates with the NT commands on separation.

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Commands on Separation

Larry, the other problem my generation has with the current separationist model is that we cannot see the Biblical basis for 2nd degree separation and so on. I am all for separating from those who water down the Gospel, who cause divisions and who deny the faith but I dont see the Biblical basis for separating from John Piper because he invites Rick Warren to his conference because Warren may associate with people I think I should hold at bay. In reference to Compton's statement that he would not have Grudem speak in his church or do ministry with him because he is a continuationist, I jut cannot agree with that and dont see how Scripture supports that period or in such a way that we all have to feel we have to do so or we are compromising the Gospel. If he or others dont want to because they cant in good conscience then that is fine. I think it would go along way if it was admitted that not everyone has to see it that way and that if you do engage in ministry in a way that they would not that we will not separate from you because of it.

The world of 2nd degree separation is where the heart of the issue lies for my generation. God wants separation from that which threatens the Gospel but He wants His people to be unified before the world. I dont see how this separationist model can accomplish this.

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2 replies to Aaron

Aaron Blumer wrote:
The Rom.15 and Eph 4 passages you quoted sparked my memory on that point because it's not clear to me exactly how admonitions to local churches to be unified within relates to how they are unified with other churches. Exegetically speaking, we usually take what's in epistles as being directed to relationships within local assemblies--but sometimes take them in a broader sense. I'm not sure off hand what the guiding principle is in deciding when it's one and when it's the other.

I'm not so sure our exegetically clear and convenient slicing and dicing works when we compare the church at Rome to our church of 250 normal folks. It's clear in Romans, for instance, that more than one assembly is being addressed. The New Testament often uses the moniker "church" for all the believers in a given city. Enter denominations, church splits, and independent groups run wild for 2000 years and the picture that emerges isn't a one-to-one correspondence, in my opinion. Ephesians was by most accounts written as a circular letter to more than one church. And Romans includes house churches (see Rom. 16).

Furthermore, the picture the NT gives me in a cumulative sense is not that one little assembly is all you need. Rather we find an inter-connectedness and mutual dependency, with some figures having more wide-reaching authority, apostles and others (like Timothy and Titus). I would say instructions on how to treat fellow Christians, should be followed inside and outside of what today we label a church.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
The other major question I didn't get to ask was whether we ought to see the term "separation" as referring to mere absence of fellowship (as KBauder has seemed to suggest more than once) or whether it is something more

  1. intentional
  2. communicated
  3. punitive/censorious


That would have been a great question to ask! That's been on my mind too. I think separation includes what you list above, and is centered on more major problems, like Doran mentioned in his message on Rom. 16. Being post-trib, disagreeing with congregational church rule, being open to the miraculous gifts being operative today, using contemporary musical styles, not holding to the KJB only -- these and other such points of opinion are not what Rom. 16 is envisioning as worthy of such censorious separation. Now these might naturally limit how we cooperate and work with others, but is that limitation really a separation element. I would say groups like my former church, Bethlehem Baptist where John Piper is the pastor, that they have limited fellowship with other churches and groups that disagree on some of the more peripheral applicatory elements of church life. But they employ Rom. 16 separation to groups and people who are directly and seriously impacting the gospel. Problem is, fundamentalist groups tend to view the "limitation of ministry cooperation" as separation. Then when someone doesn't limit cooperation exactly like they do, that person or church is not "practicing separation". When in fact they are by a more serious and elevated definition. It all boils down to a difference in the ministry cooperation, and how much differences we can allow. I would contend we can allow quite a bit of differences, and still not have Rom. 16 come to play. Rather we have Rom. 14-15 to guide us.

(Incidentally, how can the Rom. 16 passage really apply to the church at large if its focused to just one church, too? I think we have to be careful in couching directives in the epistles as applicable only to the believers in a local assembly.)

Thanks for the discussion, it is helpful to think through these things and get this written down.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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CPHurst wrote: Larry, the

CPHurst wrote:
Larry, the other problem my generation has with the current separationist model is that we cannot see the Biblical basis for 2nd degree separation and so on. I am all for separating from those who water down the Gospel, who cause divisions and who deny the faith but I dont see the Biblical basis for separating from John Piper because he invites Rick Warren to his conference because Warren may associate with people I think I should hold at bay. In reference to Compton's statement that he would not have Grudem speak in his church or do ministry with him because he is a continuationist, I jut cannot agree with that and dont see how Scripture supports that period or in such a way that we all have to feel we have to do so or we are compromising the Gospel. If he or others dont want to because they cant in good conscience then that is fine. I think it would go along way if it was admitted that not everyone has to see it that way and that if you do engage in ministry in a way that they would not that we will not separate from you because of it.

The world of 2nd degree separation is where the heart of the issue lies for my generation. God wants separation from that which threatens the Gospel but He wants His people to be unified before the world. I dont see how this separationist model can accomplish this.

I was struck by the following statement from Compton quoted by Aaron, too.

Quote:
Compton’s view was that personal fellowship with non-cessationists was not a problem, but that continuationism’s threat to our belief in a closed canon is serious enough to preclude some other forms of fellowship. He explained that this included avoiding ministry cooperation and pulpit cooperation with non-cessationists.

How does he think Grudem's view is a serious "threat to our belief in a closed canon". Grudem is miles from that. That seems to be a stretch to allow for having some reason not to fellowship with those people.

I would also agree with CPHurst here that in the fundamentalist structure of separation, there's a constant fear of being written off by others because you don't apply secondary separation like they would. Once you see enough of this bickering and intramural nitpicking, its enough to turn you off to that kind of thinking. Some catapult (or is the word now "leapfrog") out into who knows where in evangelicalism due to this. But some of us just end up seeing the label doesn't mean anything. We continue following Scripture and respecting our heritage, but realizing that much in fundamentalism is not praiseworthy. I've gone through a bit of a pendulum swing myself, and I'm not ready now to just throw the whole baby out with the bathwater. There are good things in fundamentalism too. But the partisan spirit needs to stop, and so I applaud efforts to figure out how separation should work in such a way as to be able to approve in many ways, at least, the good things God is doing with others not in one's own little box.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Quote: Bob Hayton wrote:

Quote:
Bob Hayton wrote: Furthermore, the picture the NT gives me in a cumulative sense is not that one little assembly is all you need. Rather we find an inter-connectedness and mutual dependency, with some figures having more wide-reaching authority, apostles and others (like Timothy and Titus). I would say instructions on how to treat fellow Christians, should be followed inside and outside of what today we label a church.

This would be an interesting discussion, though probably for another thread. Do you not see a transition period into this dispensation? If you are expecting the leadership functions to continue beyond Acts, are you also a non-cessationist expecting all spiritual gifts to continue as well?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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transition

Chip,

Yes I see a transition. No more apostles, I get that. But it should be instructive when we come away arguing for a complete autonomy and independence of churches. The NT doesn't show that or model that, exactly. Mutual dependency, and inter-connectedness can happen without apostolic figureheads. But some sort of denominational structure could work too to preserve this sense that we find in the NT.

I agree it's really another discussion, but I brought it up to try to show that just taking the unity passages and saying they're all focused specifically on the unity within each individual assembly, doesn't do justice to the NT as a whole or those passages specifically (in my humble opinion, of course).

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Thanks, CPHurst, Let me come

Thanks, CPHurst, Let me come back at you a bit here, hopefully with grace and tact, because I think this is important, and I welcome your response.

Quote:
we cannot see the Biblical basis for 2nd degree separation and so on.
Let me try to simply (not simplistically) lay it out how I see it.

1. Scripture unequivocally commands separation from apostates and false teachers (Romans 16:17-18). I think Doran is right that Romans 16:17-18 apply to truth with eternal ramifications.

2. Scripture unequivocally commands separation from believers who disobey the apostolic tradition (2 Thess 3).

Note: Neither passage is open-ended, applying to whatever personal preferences or convictions a person might have. There are clear lines in each passage. It is true that some want to apply 2 Thess 3 out three or four or five times. I reject that. But it seems to me that the principle is explicitly clear.

3. When someone fails to obey #1, then #2 comes into play.

I think “secondary separation” is a misnomer. In the above scenario, I am separating from the person in #2 because of the disobedience of person #2. That is not secondary. It is primary.

So let’s take your example (Piper/Warren/people I think I should hold at bay) though I am not comfortable with it for a number of reasons.

1. I think what you describe is not secondary, but tertiary, and I am uncomfortable with that.

2. I think it depends on the reason why you think he should be held at bay. I may not fellowship with someone over practical, theological, or philosophical reasons that are outside the bounds of Romans 16 or 2 Thessalonians 3.

3. If Warren has failed to obey the biblical commands to separate from false teachers or apostates, then Piper should separate from him. If Piper doesn’t, then Piper has clearly disobeyed the apostolic tradition in Romans 16:17-18.

4 Now the question is how do we respond to people who fail to follow clearly revealed apostolic teaching (e.g., #3)?

I would like to see your response to the scenario laid out in this way. If you think the scenario is wrong or misguided, I welcome correction on it. How you would answer #4.

Quote:
In reference to Compton's statement that he would not have Grudem speak in his church or do ministry with him because he is a continuationist, I jut cannot agree with that and dont see how Scripture supports that period or in such a way that we all have to feel we have to do so or we are compromising the Gospel. If he or others dont want to because they cant in good conscience then that is fine.
Wasn’t Doran clear that everyone doesn’t have to draw the lines in the same way though? Furthermore, did Compton say he wouldn’t have fellowship with you if you had Grudem? I didn’t hear him on that and haven’t read the notes yet.

Personally, I don’t think I would have Grudem because I think (1) he causes sufficient confusion so as not to be helpful, and (2) I think there are people who are more accurate who don’t have the baggage. I don’t think you should have Grudem for the same reasons. But what will I do if you have Grudem? The answer is nothing because you and I have no fellowship anyway. We have no meaningful unity so far as I can see. It’s not perjorative. It’s just the way it is.

Quote:
I think it would go along way if it was admitted that not everyone has to see it that way and that if you do engage in ministry in a way that they would not that we will not separate from you because of it.
I think that has been made pretty clear by some, though not all agree.

Quote:
God wants separation from that which threatens the Gospel but He wants His people to be unified before the world. I dont see how this separationist model can accomplish this.
John 17 is an interesting passage but I think it is being misused, or least made to bear some weight it can’t bear.

What does unity mean if it involves Wayne Grudem and me? Is the world really helped by the type of “unity” that is displayed by Wayne Grudem and me? I can’t see how. For unity to be seen, it must actually be seen. Wayne Grudem and I have no kind of way to have any unity. I am not against Grudem. I don’t know him. I think he is wrong on the prophecy thing, and I am not alone in that. I have recommended his Systematic Theology to people because I think it is a helpful volume. But that hardly seems to me to be the kind of unity John 17 is talking about.

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Quote: How does he think

Quote:
How does he think Grudem's view is a serious "threat to our belief in a closed canon". Grudem is miles from that. That seems to be a stretch to allow for having some reason not to fellowship with those people.
I don't think Grudem is "miles" from that. He affirms a closed canon, but I think there are some weaknesses that leave the door open. The question is, How important is that?

Quote:
Furthermore, the picture the NT gives me in a cumulative sense is not that one little assembly is all you need. Rather we find an inter-connectedness and mutual dependency, with some figures having more wide-reaching authority, apostles and others (like Timothy and Titus). I would say instructions on how to treat fellow Christians, should be followed inside and outside of what today we label a church.
Where do you see this interconnectedness in the NT, aside from apostles? I can only think of two instances, but I will wait for your response.

Quote:
Incidentally, how can the Rom. 16 passage really apply to the church at large if its focused to just one church, too?
I don't know why it would apply to the "church at large" differently than the individual church? We are talking about relationships between churches right? So that is an individual church issue. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you though.

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Grudem a threat?

I agree with Bob Hayden that Grudem is not a threat and far from it. I would have him preach in my church or do chapel in my Bible college or seminary. But I think there would be an understanding of what he might not speak on:) I am sure he would be respectful to that and thus we could join together.

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Grudem not really an inerrantist

Grudem is probably a signer of the statement on inspiration and inerrancy the evangelicals did a few years ago (or would likely affirm it if he didn't actually sign it).

But in order to avoid the problem of an open canon with ongoing spiritual gifts (specifically prophecy but also tongues), he has done two things:

1. He has dumbed New Testament prophecy down to mean just an impression that may or may not be true.

2. He has claimed that Agabus was mistaken in Acts when he predicted Paul's captivity and imprisonment (even though Luke specifically says Agabus spoke by the Spirit).

You can't have # 2 without having an error in Acts.

For corroboration, see his book The Gift of Prophecy. The reasoning in this book is really atrocious and as a result I don't recommend anything Grudem writes. I don't trust him.

Maranatha! Don Johnson Jer 33.3

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For Larry #21

Larry, here is my response:

1. I agree with the conclusion of #1 so we are agreed on that.

2. I do not see this passage as contextually related to the issue. The context is dealing with the return of Christ. Paul is urging Timothy to "keep away" from those who are "idle" in waiting for Christs return because this idleness "is not in accord with the tradition you received from us (2 Thess. 3:6 - ESV)." The "tradition" that Timothy had received was that of the teaching of working while waiting for Christs return. The tradition Paul speaks of here does not point to the core/central doctrines of the faith that Paul had spoken of elsewhere in the Pastorals.

NOTE: if we disagree on the meaning of this passage then we might have a hard time on the whole issue - or at least some of it.

3. Can you supply some other verses besides 2 Thess. 3 that we could both agree on being contextually speak to 2nd degree separation?

My Example:

1. If we dont agree on the interpretation of 2 Thess. 3 then my response might be meaningless.

2. The issue of how to deal with Piper on Warren (assuming Warren deals with lets say Catholics) is that how far do you take it?

3. Do you see a secondary separation in Scripture? I think I would be ok with saying there is one kind of separation that has two parts and both are equally important. However, if I dont agree with your understanding of 2 Thess. 3 then we might be at an impasse here.

4. As far as Piper and Warren (or anyone else for that matter) is concerned then I think it depends on what circle of fellowship that person has with someone whom I would not fellowship with. If they speak at a conference together then I would be fine with that but if he were to have a liberal or catholic preach in his pulpit and Piper did not break fellowship with him then I would be having a strong conversation with him and if the disagreement could not be resolved then we would have to break ties.

NOTE: if this is example is tertiary then what is secondary separation? From what you say there is no secondary separation unless i missed something.
I would be interested to hear your opinion of how to handle the Manhattan Declaration.

Grudem issue:

1. If we were local how would you relate to me if I had Grudem in?

2. I think saying that since Grudem is not near you and you dont know him therefore you are not unified is missing some of the point. Imagine you were local to each other. Ask yourself if you two are holding forth and proclaiming the same Gospel?

John 17 issue:

Can you show me where I am wrong in my understanding and application on this passage? I am open to correction. I wish I could have been at this conference and I am looking forward to listening to the audio which I am sure will bring more discussion:)

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CPHurst, I think 2 John 10-11

CPHurst,

I think 2 John 10-11 also applies to secondary separation in the reference to sharing of responsibility for other's actions.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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2 John 10-11

Chip, this passage is dealing with separating from someone who directly denies (first degree separation) the incarnation of Christ (an Antichrist). This does not speak to how I should treat someone else who does allow this kind of person into their house/church. I dont know of anyone who would allow this kind of person into their fellowship or church period that would warrant me from breaking fellowship with them. This would be such a small minority of people whom most of us will not come in contact with or have to exercise this injunction. If on the off chance I had a friend who did allow this kind of person into their church to speak then I would separate from them if they did not denounce their action. I think it would be safe to say that the kind of people we are talking about separating from do not fit this bill.

NOTE: I know people who use this verse to say that they will not allow Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons into their house when they come to the door even to witness to them. This is another misinterpretation of this passage. 2 John is written with the house church in mind. This would mean there was much more room for open discussion among all the attendees and thus they were to keep these antichrists out - and for good reason. I would say that this applies to our churches today - we should keep them out.

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Present Day Examples would be helpful

I think it would be beneficial to see a list or single examples (with support) of present day people or organizations whom SI members think they and others should separate from based on noted Scriptural references.

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Thanksgiving for the progress

Quote:
I would also agree with CPHurst here that in the fundamentalist structure of separation, there's a constant fear of being written off by others because you don't apply secondary separation like they would. Once you see enough of this bickering and intramural nitpicking, its enough to turn you off to that kind of thinking. Some catapult (or is the word now "leapfrog") out into who knows where in evangelicalism due to this. But some of us just end up seeing the label doesn't mean anything. We continue following Scripture and respecting our heritage, but realizing that much in fundamentalism is not praiseworthy. I've gone through a bit of a pendulum swing myself, and I'm not ready now to just throw the whole baby out with the bathwater. There are good things in fundamentalism too. But the partisan spirit needs to stop, and so I applaud efforts to figure out how separation should work in such a way as to be able to approve in many ways, at least, the good things God is doing with others not in one's own little box.

So far in your discussion I've really appreciated Hurst and Hayton (Hayton's quote above). I've said it before--a lot of these issues surface as a local church hosts a speaker or a conference. Gets even hairier when it's a Christian educational institution whose constituents insist that the views expressed by their alma mater or the speakers brought in pass the litmus test of the individual or a small group of individuals. These folks don't agree to disagree. They make the molehill into a mountain and "tests of faith"--as Hayton says in his quote. I'm very heartened at the attempts to overcome the mistakes of the past without discarding any and all scriptural
injunctions. God grant us wisdom, humility, and patience as we try.

gdwightlarson

"You can be my brother without being my twin."

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I just read Scott's paper

I just read Scott's paper entitled "Preserving Truth In Our Worship" and I believe he raises some important points. At the same time, I know of homosexual churches in our community that have "preserved" conservative worship but are an abomination to God.

You also have many examples of groups and churches preserving conservative worship but drifting far from God.

So, while I could never be comfortable with an "anything goes" approach to worship, I am not sure I buy Scott's argument.

In Paul's letters to Timothy, there is an emphasis on the preservation of truth. Are there any examples in those letters where Paul taught Timothy that worship form was essential to the preservation of truth?

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Larry wrote: Where do you see

Larry wrote:
Where do you see this interconnectedness in the NT, aside from apostles? I can only think of two instances, but I will wait for your response.

I could turn the table and ask where you see total autonomy and independence in the NT, too. So the seven churches of Asia share letters and are viewed together, in a sense. The churches work together for sending money to Jerusalem. The churches of God have a tradition commonly held. Churches send representatives to go with the apostles and help them. Paul's work involves lots of pulling people from one place to another, and Timothy doing this for him and Titus that. The churches work together in Acts 15 to decide matters.

I think we aren't given a church government manual nor an ecclesiology book in the NT. We have to piece together what we see. Where do you see anything in the NT where there isn't apostles involved, really? I think they leave the scene, but that during their ministry they weren't setting up independent bishoprics, but mutually connected and sharing congregations. Congregations were normally considered to be city wide, and sometimes were almost assuredly meeting in several different groups but all considered one church, as in Jerusalem and Ephesus.

I guess another thought is when it says "Church of God at Corinth", do we really have that mindset when it comes to Minneapolis? The "Church of God at Minneapolis"? Is there an imperative built into this that we should be viewing other believers across church lines, as part of the true church of God in our city? Shouldn't that impact unity too?

I'm not necessarily working through all aspects of this, but I find that the local church only ideas and the Baptist autonomy, while helpful in many respects and useful in encouraging true body life happening in local assemblies, nevertheless can foster an ultra independent spirit which truly is at odds with what we see in the NT. The koinonia there is so much different than what we see today. We kind of take 850+ denominations for granted today, but can you really think that is the norm expected by the NT authors?

As for my Rom. 16 and local church bit, I am really replying to Aaron's bringing up the fact that Rom. 15 and Eph. 4 are addressed to individual local churches and so really apply only to relations with believers inside the local church. I'm arguing that this isn't the case, we should see these passages as directly addressing how we relate to believers that we know in our city and beyond, not necessarily just those within our own local assembly.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Multiple congregations but one church

Hi Bob,

Been following the thread, enjoying it very much. I have a request for one point of clarity. You mention...

Bob Hayton wrote:
Congregations were normally considered to be city wide, and sometimes were almost assuredly meeting in several different groups but all considered one church, as in Jerusalem and Ephesus.

Could you point to biblical evidence on this? Thanks. In Ephesus, it seems like there was only one congregation led by a plurality of elders, no? (Acts 20:17, 28).

Any help is appreciated.

BTW (shameless self-serving plug here): my book, The Titus Mandate (www.TheTitusMandate.org) releases later this month (based on Titus 1:5). In it, I do argue that the NT certainly does teach a comprehensive church government model called eldership. Perhaps you would consider reviewing it at some point?

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Catching up... or not

Thread got away from me, but I appreciate all the contributions. It's doing fine without me Smile

.... which doesn't mean I'll shut up, though.

Bob wrote:
(Incidentally, how can the Rom. 16 passage really apply to the church at large if its focused to just one church, too? I think we have to be careful in couching directives in the epistles as applicable only to the believers in a local assembly.)

This is why I wanted to talk about IFB and "separated by default" at the conference. It's clear to me that one area where we have work to do is figuring out how separation works/what it looks like in a local church and then also what it looks like in inter-church and para-church ministries. Several of Dave Doran's observations emphasized local church, but left me hanging as to how that would work when we're talking about groups like denominations, associations, schools, parachurch ministries, etc.

It seems to me that it is not possible to define "biblical separation" as "absence of fellowship" and retain an emphasis on it being driven by independent local churches. If it's something reserved for cases of apostasy--and is therefore openly censorious (even that word seems too weak)--then something larger than the response of individual local churches seems to be very desirable, maybe even necessary.

So "local" vs. "at large" remains a major loose end, seems to me.

CPHurst.. On John 17, would it be fair to say that our unity with one another should be as "visible" as Jesus' unity with the Father in the context? It seems to refer to a unity of essence not necessarily/primarily a unity of place or label or simultaneous activity. I think the point is worth pondering because today, people seem to feel that "unity" does not exist unless there is some kind of event where folks are physically together or officially acting under some shared label... "Together for ..." or ".... Coalition" come to mind, but are probably not the best examples of what I'm talking about.
If the unity in Christ and the faith exists, it exists before people congregate somewhere... and exists even if they don't congregate. So "gettin' together" doesn't really create or even necessarily display unity, though it can be a manifestation of it.

On the other hand, the "body" unity of Eph.4 is clearly local church and there it's clearly a matter of "members" all working together.

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Preserving the Truth or Tradition

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:
I just read Scott's paper entitled "Preserving Truth In Our Worship" and I believe he raises some important points. At the same time, I know of homosexual churches in our community that have "preserved" conservative worship but are an abomination to God.

You also have many examples of groups and churches preserving conservative worship but drifting far from God.

So, while I could never be comfortable with an "anything goes" approach to worship, I am not sure I buy Scott's argument.

In Paul's letters to Timothy, there is an emphasis on the preservation of truth. Are there any examples in those letters where Paul taught Timothy that worship form was essential to the preservation of truth?

Joe:

I've been working my way through the audio. "Conservative worship is essential to preserving the truth." Incredible! A position looking for a place to land or a ministry needing a reason to exist. I don't think many will buy into the arguments who are not already convinced.

Anyway if the preservation of the truth depends on us we're in bad shape. I thought it was already preserved and we are to proclaim it and contend for it. Of course we do guard the truth etc. but this issue seems like reading back into Scripture what has already been decided. You can't arrive at this position starting with Scripture. At best you can support this position as valid but in no way exclusive. It will connect with a segment of the Christian world but for reasons other than biblical ones.

Steve

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Interesting

Steve Davis wrote:
I've been working my way through the audio. "Conservative worship is essential to preserving the truth." Incredible! A position looking for a place to land or a ministry needing a reason to exist. I don't think many will buy into the arguments who are not already convinced.

Anyway if the preservation of the truth depends on us we're in bad shape. I thought it was already preserved and we are to proclaim it and contend for it. Of course we do guard the truth etc. but this issue seems like reading back into Scripture what has already been decided. You can't arrive at this position starting with Scripture. At best you can support this position as valid but in no way exclusive. It will connect with a segment of the Christian world but for reasons other than biblical ones.


I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only one with an raised eyebrow when I saw the title of that workshop.

My understanding is that Scriptural Truth drives Scriptural Worship (John 4:19-24), not the other way around. Scriptural Truth remains - no, endures forever - Conservative worship...well, that can mean any number of things depending upon culture, time, history, etc, which means that it is hardly a fixed set of principles or practices.

I've downloaded Aniol's presentation, but haven't listened to it yet. Maybe I'll be persuaded otherwise, but somehow I don't think that will happen.

--edit--

Quote:
Are there any examples in those letters where Paul taught Timothy that worship form was essential to the preservation of truth?

Pastor Joe, I can't think of any passages in the Pastorals where worship forms are proscribed.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Thanks, CPHurst. Here’s my

Thanks, CPHurst. Here’s my somewhat brief and jumbled response (apparently not brief enough because I have to post it in two parts). I think this is a very important discussion that needs to be had, and I would love to see some others contribute to it.

About 2 Thessalonians 3 (enumerated for ease of following):

1. The basis for separation is “our teaching in this letter” (v. 14). which includes far more than simply not working. It even includes eschatology, something most people don’t want to separate over. In fact, according to 2 Thess 2:1ff., it includes the timing involved in eschatology (The DOL will not happen until …). So if we are supposed to separate over “our teaching in this letter,” what does that mean?
2. Limiting Paul’s command to “not working” creates a sort of canon within a canon, where the command to ‘work” is more important than other apostolic teaching, and I am not convinced that is legitimate. In other words, I am not sure why we should separate from people who disobey the command to work, but not from people who disobey the command to separate. Why is working more important than separating over false teaching?
3. Furthermore, if “our instruction in this letter” includes separation from the lazy, then vv. 14-15 command rebuke and separation for failure to separate (again because separation from the lazy is part of “our teaching in this letter”). That is usually what is considered secondary separation. So it seems to me that the idea of secondary separation is clear (though I hate the term). The only issue is what are the issues for which it is appropriately enacted. This, to me, is where the heart of the discussion is.
4. In sum, I know of no reason why the core/central doctrines elsewhere are less important than working is, particularly given the commands in other places.
5. I suppose a lot does hinge on 2 Thess 3 though I don’t think that is a problem.

Quote:
I think I would be ok with saying there is one kind of separation that has two parts and both are equally important.
I think that’s what I would say. I don’t like the term “secondary separation,” as I said above. Though I don’t know what you mean by “two parts,” I mean separation from apostates and from disobedient brothers. I think both are clearly commanded in Scripture.

Quote:
If they speak at a conference together then I would be fine with that but if he were to have a liberal or catholic preach in his pulpit and Piper did not break fellowship with him then I would be having a strong conversation with him and if the disagreement could not be resolved then we would have to break ties.
So how is that not secondary separation, and what passage of Scripture would you use to support this?

If I understand this correctly, I think what you have just said here is the classic position on “secondary separation.” If person A has have a liberal or Catholic to preach, and person B has person A, then we separate from person A because he failed to separate from person B.

Right now, I know of a group of people in Michigan having a speaker that I think causes serious concerns. Were I a part of that group, I would make it an issue. This situation would cause me to have some conversations with people in that group about how this type of thing can happen. Now would I separate from someone over being a part of the group that has this speaker? Probably not if all over things were in line. But if there were other problems, this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. In any event, it is concerning.

The point is that here is a situation that causes concern that may or may not lead to "secondary separation."

Quote:
NOTE: if this is example is tertiary then what is secondary separation?
Again, while I don’t like the term “secondary separation,” (can I quit saying that yet?) if I understand you correctly, what you describe is separating from Piper because he didn’t separate from Warren who didn’t separate from someone you think you should hold at bay. That is you think you should hold at bay a particular person (primary), Warren (secondary), Piper (tertiary). Your discussion is whether to separate from Piper, not Warren or the person you should hold at bay.

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Response to CPHurst Continued

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I would be interested to hear your opinion of how to handle the Manhattan Declaration.
It would depend on other things. I think signing the MD was completely wrong because it gave some recognition of apostates as “Christians.” On top of that, I think it was totally useless.

However, I am not so naïve as to deny that there is a use of “Christian” as a social/cultural category rather than a theological one. One time on the train to Toronto, I talked for several hours with a young man who affirmed he was a Christian because his mother was Greek Orthodox. It wasn’t about faith; it was about a social/cultural identification. For someone from a Middle Eastern/Eastern Europe background that is far more significant than it is here, I think.

And if that was the reason one signed it—because they use “Christian” instead of Jew, Muslim, etc; i.e., as a social/cultural category—then I at least understand that. So if this were a pattern on top of other things, it would be a major issue. If it were someone who has an otherwise clear stand on the gospel, and who clearly explains their understanding of the term in the document, it might be a lesser issue.

So make no mistake: I think signing the MD was wrong. I have no relationship with anyone who signed it (that I know of), and so separation over the MD means nothing for me.

Quote:
1. If we were local how would you relate to me if I had Grudem in?
I don’t really know. All other things being equal, I would probably tell you I don’t think it is wise and I think it is unnecessary. I don’t know of any purpose that Grudem serves that cannot be served by someone else with less baggage. But am I going to break fellowship with you over it? Probably not.

But it’s tough. If you are having Grudem to speak on spiritual gifts, I am not going to announce it to my church and invite them to go, and were it a public invitation, I would explain why I am not announcing or encouraging our church to go. If you are having Grudem speak on the Christian and politics, I might not say anything about it, or I might announce it. I haven’t read his book yet so I don’t know what he says.

And if it became a constant pattern, it might affect public relationships. I really don’t know. For me, I hate dealing in these hypotheticals. It is almost never as simple as this. I am willing to grant more slack to people I know well who I believe are in line with me generally speaking. I am willing to grant less slack to people I know who don’t agree with me generally speaking. I am often willing to ignore people I don’t even know who have no impact in my church.

Quote:
2. I think saying that since Grudem is not near you and you dont know him therefore you are not unified is missing some of the point.
But what kind of unity do we have? If he and I have unity, then what does unity mean? It does not merely mean agree with each other about something, even if it is the gospel.

Quote:
Imagine you were local to each other. Ask yourself if you two are holding forth and proclaiming the same Gospel?
But I don’t see how this is unity. This is already assumed by the fact that they believed. All believers hold to the same gospel and are supposed to be proclaiming the same gospel. So it seems it would create a tautology of sorts here: Since you believe in the same gospel, be one/have unity. But belief in the gospel is what creates the unity, and Jesus seems to be talking about something else or Jesus would, in effect, be praying for something (that they may be one) that had already taken place when they “believe on [him ] through their word.”

Furthermore, the phrase “that the world may believe that you sent me” seems to establish a sort of apologetic purpose here. How will the world believe that God sent Jesus because Wayne Grudem and I — who have never met, live thousands of miles apart, have never spoken at the same place, have never been seen together, etc ,— How will the world believe that God sent Jesus because Wayne Grudem and I claim unity? (or take Grudem out of it and substitute one of thousands of other names in here).

So again I ask, if that’s unity, then what is unity? Mere agreement? To me, if it can't be seen, then I question whether it is what Jesus is talking about in John 17. To me that falls short of anything that seems reasonable.

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One Body & More on John 17

Aaron, the unity Christ had w/ the Father while on earth was evidenced through what He said & did. Christ visibly manifested His unity w/ the Father. I think that to demand the Father to be present in spirit form on earth as the only way to say our unity must be visible is to press the comparison too far and miss the point. Christ's unity w/ the Father was visibly displayed through all He did (ie - miracles & I am statements).

It seems to me that the concept of "independent" church has resulted in every church thinking they are it when it comes to proclaiming the truth. Independent means they are self governing not that they therefore dont have an obligation to fellowship w/ other like-minded churches. I think it would be more healthy for us to think of ourselves as all the church of Christ (not to be confused w/ the denomination) first. So, we should seek to manifest ourselves as the one body of Christ that we are invisibly and then along the way of we need to separate from a church then we do so. I think the idea of "independent" makes us think backwards.

Further, if we are the one body of Christ then we need to ask ourselves what the implications of that are beyond our local congregation. At what point is a local congregations habit of separating from everyone hurting the one body of Christ? No doubt we are to separate from apostates, those who deny the core doctrines of the church & the Gospel but with the way our churches separate you would think each church was the only one that did not do these things.

Aaron, are you saying that God does not want His one body to work together as best they can? That we are just supposed to think of ourselves as one in essence. Groups like the Gospel Coalition & T4G are trying to get together like-minded churches for the purpose of edifying, training & proclamation of the Gospel. I think this is a great way for the church of Christ to show to the love of the Father for us and the unity it gives us since we all share Christ crucified (Jn. 17).

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The logic of Secondary Separation

So on the way to church last night I was discussing all of this w/ my wife in the car. In doing so I think I might have figured out the logic of secondary separation (separating from someone who dosent separate from some they should) since I cannot find a specific verse that directly speaks to it and all the verses that have been offered thus far refer to primary separation (at least in my mind).

Here it goes:

Two undeniable foundational commands:

1. We are to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

2. We are to "avoid"..."those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught" (Rom. 16:17).

The argument - We are to deny fellowship with those who do not contend for the faith and cause divisions & obstacles w/ their teachings/behavior. The command to do so is itself part of the apostolic teaching. Therefore, anyone who does not practice separation from these kinds of people is to be some who I deny fellowship w/ as well.

The assumption here is that the command to separate from those mentioned above is itself part of the teaching we are to adhere to. To me this is the crux of the issue. If we say that the teachings of the apostles that we are to separate over are the core doctrines of the faith then the command to separate over them is not part of that core teaching and to my knowledge it has not been so historically.

A few observations:

1. If this were the case then there are very few to my knowledge that fit into this category.

2. I dont know of anyone (those others might know someone themselves) who would fellowship ecclesiastically w/ a faith/core doctrine denier such that I would have to deny fellowship w/ them for doing so.

So, beyond primary separation who is the current model for separation saying we should separate from? Has too much been made of something that would be rarely practiced?

I admit that my thoughts may be sketchy but I am trying to think out loud here so bear with me - I love the interaction!

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thanks Bob, A quick response

thanks Bob, A quick response ... Shorter than the last one.

Quote:
I could turn the table and ask where you see total autonomy and independence in the NT, too.
I would say all over. The only place in the NT where I can find authority outside a church is with the apostles. If we agree that there are no more apostles, then I think the entire weight of the NT shows independent congregations without outside authority. You don't see the churches of Galatia dictating what the church at Ephesus did, or the church at Philippi dictating the church at Thessalonica, even though they were close.

Quote:
So the seven churches of Asia share letters and are viewed together, in a sense.
This is one of the interchurch relationships I was thinking of. You have them exchanging letters (cf. Col 4:15, where they exchange a letter that is no longer extant). So there was a sharing of apostolic communication.

Quote:
The churches work together for sending money to Jerusalem.
Most independent church models recognize the value of this. Those are decisions made by the church individually, not forced on them from outside. The most that can be said is that other congregations are used as an example (2 Cor 8).

Quote:
The churches of God have a tradition commonly held.
Yes, but hardly what we are talking about here, is it? I would ask, as I did CPHurst, what is unity if it merely means that we have a common tradition?

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Churches send representatives to go with the apostles and help them.
Yes, again, recognized by all independent churches. And the practice of sending representatives to other churches is well established (ordination councils, mission trips, etc.).

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Paul's work involves lots of pulling people from one place to another, and Timothy doing this for him and Titus that.
Lots of it? Not sure about the amount. You mention the two main ones from twenty plus years of Pauls' ministry. So I am not sure that averaging one every ten years is "lots" but that's a side point. The main point is that this is apostolic authority, which no longer exists. I don't think any church today has the right to send someone to another church. You can invite my church to come and help advise (such as an ordination council). But I can't send a man from my church to come and straighten your church out. Your church would reject that, and rightly so. But that's exactly what Paul did with Timothy and Titus. So I don't think we can use that as a model.

Quote:
The churches work together in Acts 15 to decide matters.
This is the other example I was thinking of, and this is not practiced today. In fact most people reject the practice of this, as evidenced by the response of some to this conference. A group of men get together to make a case about how to "decide matters" of separation, and it is widely rejected by some. I am not saying that's a problem. But it sure seems to be a problem if you put a lot of weight on Acts 15.

Quote:
Where do you see anything in the NT where there isn't apostles involved, really?
I agree. And I think this does some severe damage to your point. Since everything you are using to argue for your position is based on apostolic ministry, if you think that the apostles are gone, then your authority is gone.

In Acts 6, you have authority given to the congregation to "select men from among you." In 1 Timothy, you have instructions given with respect to conduct in the local church, including officers, support of widows, elderly, ordination, etc. In Acts 13, you have missionaries sent out by local congregation and reporting back to the local congregations. So when you take the apostles out, everything seems to be local church oriented.

Quote:
I guess another thought is when it says "Church of God at Corinth", do we really have that mindset when it comes to Minneapolis? The "Church of God at Minneapolis"? Is there an imperative built into this that we should be viewing other believers across church lines, as part of the true church of God in our city? Shouldn't that impact unity too?
Several things:

1. I agree with your point about "church of God at ..." But how does that work today? We do not see evidence in the NT about how those various gatherings related to each other. So to say that we should have unity because they had it in the NT tells us nothing practically because we don't know how the assembly on the east side of Corinth interacted with the one of the west side of Corinth (or wherever they might have been).
2. Furthermore, if we are going to affirm that salvation creates the body of Christ, there is no way to have unity with the "church of God at ..." unless we are willing to say that doctrinal/ecclesiastical differences don't matter. In other words, I can affirm that some Presbyterians are saved and in the "church of God at ..." but I cannot establish church fellowship with them because of our differences.
3. I am not sure I see an imperative here.

Quote:
The koinonia there is so much different than what we see today. We kind of take 850+ denominations for granted today, but can you really think that is the norm expected by the NT authors?
No, not at all. I think the NT authors expected the multiplication of Baptist churches around the world. If we were all following the apostles expectations, this would be a lot easier. The denominations (probably in the tens of thousands, not 850+) exist because people differ about what apostles expected.

I have it on good authority that the Apostles were Baptists and expected all Christians to be Baptist. You ask me how I know? I would say I have a word of prophecy, but then people would separate from me and accuse me of being a non-cessationist, so I will just say I have a good feeling about this one. And I bet there is no way to know the difference :D. (And if you didn't think that was funny, then you need a sense of humor ... or I do ... It's really just a bit of good-natured ribbing.)

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CPHurst, If might quickly add

CPHurst,

If might quickly add something before we continue ...

Quote:
Two undeniable foundational commands:

1. We are to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

2. We are to "avoid"..."those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught" (Rom. 16:17).

I think this is one command, or the same basic command.

On 2 Thessalonians 3, the separation commanded in 2 Thess 3:14-15 is from brothers, so it is different command from the one you give above. 2 Thessalonians commands us to not associate with him so that he will be put to shame (a staggering command for a generation of "nice" people) but to admonish him as a brother. I do not think Paul would say something like that about the people in Romans 16:17-18.

Therefore, I think the two foundational commands with respect to this issue are:

1. Contend for the faith up to and including separation from false teachers and apostates (Jude 3, Romans 16:17; 2 John, 3 John, etc).
2. Separate from those whose lifestyle contradicts the teaching received from the apostles (2 Thess 3).

Quote:
The assumption here is that the command to separate from those mentioned above is itself part of the teaching we are to adhere to.
Doesn't this raise the question of picking and choosing which apostolic commands we are required to obey? I am sure you don't intend that, but it sounds like you are saying we have to obey/beleive the core doctrines, but the others (such as separation) are not core and are therefore some sort of optional. Again, I know you would not affirm that, but I wonder how you avoid it.

I too am profiting from the exchange and hope it is sharpening for all.

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More on 2 Thess.

Larry, are you saying that the command to separate from faith deniers is itself part of the apostolic teaching? In all three of the fundamental schools I have been I have never heard this taught or stated as what was historically defended.

I still dont see how the context of 2 Thess. 3 refers to the whole of the apostolic teaching like in Jude 3 & Rom. 16:17. 1 & 2 Thess. are discussing the teachings surrounding the return of Christ/Day of the Lord. The context of 2 Thess. defines the teaching they are to separate over as "what we say in this letter" (vs. 14). This refers to the incarnation (2 Thess. 3) & the teaching of the return of Christ (2 Thess.).

My point is that the people we would be separating from who would fall under the category of 2 Thess. 3:14 are few and far between such that I think we are making a mountain out of a mole hill (thought it is a command that we need to obey).

Further, even if I did see 2 Thess. 3:14-15 referring to the whole of apostolic teaching and that the command to do so was itself a part of that teaching I dont think I would have to exercise it very often such that so much discussion is warranted.

Again, some present day examples would be helpful that would fall under your understanding of these passages both of separating from faith deniers and those who associate with faith deniers. Historically, would Billy Graham fit your understanding of exercising 2 Thess. 3:14-15?

I am willing to expand my more narrow understanding of what the meaning of "what we say in this letter" (vs. 14) is to refer to the whole of apostolic teaching but I would like to be shown how one gets there. Also, show me how the context of Jude 3, Rom. 16:17, etc. include in the apostolic teaching the separation command. If it does then we have to redefine what we mean by core doctrines of the faith and I dont know when separation (as important as it is) was ever a part of that.

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SteveD wrote: Anyway if the

SteveD wrote:
Anyway if the preservation of the truth depends on us we're in bad shape. I thought it was already preserved and we are to proclaim it and contend for it.

I thought it was pretty obvious that proclaim and contend is what is meant by "preserve." We all know the the truth does not automatically continue to be believed. So the goal is to preserve it in hearts in minds.

CPHurst... on John 17 and Jesus' unity with the Father. I thought you might say that (His unity w/Father is visible in His works) and I agree. What this means, though, if our unity with one another is parallel, is that unity exists in essence first, and then comes out in actions. Which actions, is the question, but it seems like we needn't worry about that. I'm inclined to think that where unity is real, it cannot help but "show." But it is not necessarily going to show in recognized ways. Many saw Jesus' works and somehow failed to see the point. So how well people recognize unity when they see it is another problem... I don't think we need to go out of our way to make a show of something that is already there in essence just so it can be visible and people can go wow, know what I mean? (Not that I'm saying this is your view. I'm just illustrating a common thought process by taking it to a slightly absurd length).

On preserving tradition: It's interesting to me how often folk's observations about tradition are predicated on the idea that tradition and truth must be antithetical. That is, something cannot be both right and traditional. This is an interesting idea, but a case needs to be made for it. It's not self evident.

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Let's try this again

I do appreciate the humor, Larry. And I'm kind of thinking out loud here as I go, so let me try to rephrase what I've said.

I do believe in autonomy of churches, but what we see in the NT is association of churches through guided apostolic ministry. We don't see any examples in the NT that don't have apostolic ministry involved. So given our state of not having apostolic ministry, there remain questions as to how different individual churches should remain connected (or not). You can argue that if you take out apostles the churches are independent, and I could argue if you take out apostles some other connection would be expected to keep them interconnected.

I do agree that elder rule of individual churches is clear from the NT. But how the churches fit together, and how elders are appointed in various contexts is not exactly clear. Is a Presbyterian conglomeration of church synods with representative elders the way to go? Maybe. Is autonomy and all churches basically on their own in a free for all Baptist way, correct? It's possible. That is the level of church government that I find not clear in the NT.

I also agree with Aaron that unity is there, it is the essence of fellow Christ-followers. But it should be acknowledged and preserved as Eph. 4 says. "The Church of God at..." statements in the NT should help us to see that God sees all believers in a city a part of the true church. The implications of that would mean we shouldn't think that we have to evangelize the city on our own. We should seek out ways to recognize and glory in the work God is doing through others in our city. We will have natural limitations to how we can cooperate due to the inherited system of smaller assemblies that don't meet together in wider settings. But we can try to find ways to work together as much as we can, and change our attitude toward those not in our own assembly.

An anecdote helps with this. I was in a Independent Fundamental Baptist church in an area where there were few evangelical churches of any stripe, and even fewer likeminded Baptist churches. There was another IFB church with similar positions as far as we knew just a few towns over. Virtually no attempt was made to seek out fellowship with that church, and instead the attitude was preached and inculcated that this little assembly was completely sufficient by itself to carry out the Great Commission and do everything it needed to as a church. They were very local church only, mind you. This is how many IFB churches are, interconnectedness is avoided for fear of being polluted or being brought down or something. Yet Christ prizes unity in his prayer in John 17, and Christ views us as unified, and we are to maintain and preserve the spirit of unity for the sake of a watching world, and for the mutual growth in sound doctrine.

I'm having a hard time here. Why do I need to be defending the fact that we should be unified with other churches and believers? And people wonder why so many leave fundamental circles? The NT has numerous unity commands, and it reinforces constantly the spiritual unity which just IS when it comes to believers. And acting like we don't need each other or anyone else, how is this Scriptural?

When it comes to separation, Paul seems to only do it with tears in his eyes. That should be important, I think. Separation is reserved for grave and sobering matters. It's related to the big cardinal doctrines of Scripture. 2 Thess. 3 excepted, the separation passages all deal with weighty matters. 2 Thess. 3 could be what 1 Cor. 5 and Matt. 18 is referring to, and thus be more of an internal church issue. But it probably has a wider application. It refers to disobedient lifestyles, and the definition of disobedient lifestyle unfortunately is often in the eye of the beholder. So Rom. 14 helps us here too, in dealing with differing determinations of how disobedient a given person is.

Often it isn't that someone doesn't follow 2 Thess. 3 and so we need to apply 2 Thess. 3 to them. Instead it is that they are applying 2 Thess. 3, but they are judging the "disobedience factor" if you will, of someone to be at a different level than we'd like.

Brother A does questionable things in his lifestyle.
Brother B rates this disobedience as 1st degree level and applies 2 Thess. 3.
Brother C may know more information about brother A, or may know less information. He rates the disobedience factor as 2nd or 3rd degree and delays application of 2 Thess. 3.
Brother D assesses both Brother B and Brother C. His view of Brother A is 1st degree sin, so he thinks Brother C is disobeying 2 Thess. 3.
So Brother D then applies 2 Thess. 3 to Brother C, and we have secondary separation (or tertiary or whatever).

This gets convoluted fast. I think some of this is forgivable, but we need to be slow to enact this and should follow Scripture back to the Brother A level if we can in offering help. Our sinful tendencies let us jump to cutting someone else off far too quickly, I fear. Again Rom. 14 should help us to not judge too quickly those that take a different view of Brother A's sin level than we do.

I'm sorry to go on so long, but this discussion is proving helpful for me, and spelling it all out like this might help others.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Visible & Invisible Unity

Aaron, yes we are first invisibly united as we are united in Christ just as Christ was w/ the Father because they shared the same essence as God. But it dosent end there. Christs works manifested His oneness w/ the Father which is visible. I dont get the aversion here to this visible unity. Is it there or not? If so then we need to display it ourselves. Why dont we need to worry about what actions we need to do in order to show our invisible unity visibly?

Quote - "'I'm inclined to think that where unity is real, it cannot help but "show." But it is not necessarily going to show in recognized ways." If it dosent show in recognized ways then how are you defining "show" in the first sentence? The second sentence seems to cancel out the first all together. It seems like you are saying, "I know we are unified in Christ and we are to show it some way but its not all that important and dosent need to be physically manifested." Wouldnt something that shows be recognizable as such?

Further, the end of vs. 21 states the purpose/result of the unity believers share in Christ w/ the Father, "so that the world may believe that you have sent me." If the world is to believe this then they have to see it - it is visible.

It seems to me that there is so much talk of having to separate as commanded but not living out our unity publicly. If a local church is to live out its unity visibly to itself and to the world then why is the universal church to do no less as far as it can being that it is scattered all over the world?

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aversion to unity

CPHurst: "I dont get the aversion here to this visible unity."

Agreed. It seems that people have a hard time even admitting that the Scripture teaches us to prize unity. That seems like this makes for a sorry state in fundamentalism, if this is the case.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Defending Unity?

Bob: "Why do I need to be defending the fact that we should be unified with other churches and believers? And people wonder why so many leave fundamental circles? The NT has numerous unity commands, and it reinforces constantly the spiritual unity which just IS when it comes to believers. And acting like we don't need each other or anyone else, how is this Scriptural? "

Agreed as well. We are unified in Christ, we are to be unified in doctrine & we are to live out that unity. Unity is both a reality of our very existence as believers in Christ and we are commanded to live it out. So why do we have to defend this? Why does it seem like it holds 2nd place to separation? Why does it seem to get swept under the carpet?

It seems to me that we are to look towards practicing unity first and practice separation as we go along. We are unified first because it is a fact of our very existence as believers. If we cannot live out that unity w/ others because of their skewed doctrinal beliefs concerning the essentials then we need to separate from them.

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With that title...

I would have thought it was another KJV-only article Smile

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Steve, heaven help me if it

Steve, heaven help me if it had been the title of one......lol

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Wow … A lot has been said.

Wow … A lot has been said. Let me quickly respond, and pardon my brevity.

To CPHurst

Quote:
Larry, are you saying that the command to separate from faith deniers is itself part of the apostolic teaching?
Perhaps we are quibbling over semantics, but assuming that Paul is an apostle, and assuming that Paul wrote Romans 16:17-18, and assuming that Romans 16:17-18 does teach separation from faith deniers, do we not have to conclude that separation from faith deniers is part of the apostolic teaching?

Perhaps I am missing something in the question, but this seems self-evident. So please clarify for me if I have missed it here.

If you are asking if separation is part of the gospel, then no. It’s not. In response to your last paragraph, I don’t know anyone who has ever included in the core doctrines of the faith, but I may have simply missed it. But is it inseparable from the gospel? I think we have to say yes, because to affirm another means of salvation (i.e., to not confront a false gospel, to stand against it) is to actually deny the exclusivity of the gospel. So when we join in ecclesiastical partnership with someone who denies the gospel, we are affirming that they are an acceptable teacher, someone that we will stand alongside and help.

Quote:
I still dont see how the context of 2 Thess. 3 refers to the whole of the apostolic teaching like in Jude 3 & Rom. 16:17. 1 & 2 Thess. are discussing the teachings surrounding the return of Christ/Day of the Lord. The context of 2 Thess. defines the teaching they are to separate over as "what we say in this letter" (vs. 14). This refers to the incarnation (2 Thess. 3) & the teaching of the return of Christ (2 Thess.).
Let me ask it this way and see if this helps bring some clarity: On what basis do we exclude anything from 2 Thess 3? (I am not saying we should not exclude anything, but rather asking the basis for how we determine what is included.)

Let’s assume that incarnation and return of Christ are the only things taught, and therefore they are specifically what Paul means by “our instruction in this letter.” Can we then conclude that Paul means nothing else? Would Paul have a similar intent with the letter to the Ephesians or Colossians?

In other words, would Paul say, “Yes, I mean to separate from brothers who think the DOL has already come or who are lazy, but I don’t say that about people who think that we should observe holy days (Col 2) ”? In my mind, I have hard time seeing Paul limiting this command only to what 2 Thess says. It seems to me that the principle is broader if, in fact, all apostolic revelation is revelation from God. I think we have to treat it the same.

This is where I think we actually need a new paradigm for separation, or at least a new factor—that of clarity. We separate over things that are clear. That is why we separate over the idea that the Lord has already returned (preterism?; 2 Thess 2:1), but not over the timing of his future return. It is why we separate over the deity of Christ but not over church government. A friend of mine is actually very strong on this and I think he makes a good case. I have encouraged him to write the article and let’s publish it here at SI.

Quote:
My point is that the people we would be separating from who would fall under the category of 2 Thess. 3:14 are few and far between such that I think we are making a mountain out of a mole hill (thought it is a command that we need to obey).
It may be few and far between, but I would argue that this is a secondary proposition. Even if they are few and far between we still need to know what it is saying. Perhaps it is “few and far between” because we are improperly applying it. If we are waiting until we find someone who has quit their job to wait for Jesus’ return and is mooching off fellow believers in the interim, we will probably never apply it. But I don’t see any reason to limit it to that.

Quote:
Further, even if I did see 2 Thess. 3:14-15 referring to the whole of apostolic teaching and that the command to do so was itself a part of that teaching I dont think I would have to exercise it very often such that so much discussion is warranted.
The infrequency may mean it needs more discussion because it is so frequently not practiced. I don’t know, just throwing that out there.

Quote:
Again, some present day examples would be helpful that would fall under your understanding of these passages both of separating from faith deniers and those who associate with faith deniers. Historically, would Billy Graham fit your understanding of exercising 2 Thess. 3:14-15?
Sure, Graham would. He indisputably failed to obey Romans 16:17-18, and therefore he did not obey apostolic instruction. I actually think there is legitimate concern that at times, Graham actually taught a false gospel, such as when he appeared to deny the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation.

Quote:
Also, show me how the context of Jude 3, Rom. 16:17, etc. include in the apostolic teaching the separation command. If it does then we have to redefine what we mean by core doctrines of the faith and I dont know when separation (as important as it is) was ever a part of that.
As I started with, I think you are exchanging “apostolic teaching” with “core doctrines of the faith.” We must not do that. The apostles taught quite a bit that was not a “core doctrine of the faith.” But if Jude and Romans were written by apostles, and if they teach separation, then we have to conclude that separation is part of the apostolic teaching.

Again, I fear I am missing something in your argument because this seems so obvious. So please forgive me. Perhaps I need more clarification about the question.

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CPHurst wrote: I dont get the

CPHurst wrote:
I dont get the aversion here to this visible unity.
I am not sure there is an aversion to it. I am not convinced, at least for me, that we have even defined it yet. What is unity? What does it mean to be unified? And if Wayne Grudem and I have unity, what do we have and how is it visible?

Quote:
Further, the end of vs. 21 states the purpose/result of the unity believers share in Christ w/ the Father, "so that the world may believe that you have sent me." If the world is to believe this then they have to see it - it is visible.
And this is exactly the point I was making earlier. There is no way to see anything between Grudem and I. So how does my "unity" with him qualify for what Jesus is talking about John 17? Do I need to fly to wherever Grudem is in order to fulfill John 17? Obviously not, and I think you agree. So how can this unity be seen?

Quote:
If a local church is to live out its unity visibly to itself and to the world then why is the universal church to do no less as far as it can being that it is scattered all over the world?
Precisely because they are scattered all over the world. How could they have visible unity? I am really struggling to understand what that means.

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Quote: Why do I need to be

Quote:
Why do I need to be defending the fact that we should be unified with other churches and believers?
As I said to Craig, before we defend it, I think we first need to define it. When you say we should be unified with other churches and believers, what do you mean? Do you and I have unity? I don’t even know where you live (I haven’t looked at your profile, so it may be on there.) What is unity if you and I have it? What is unity if Wayne Grudem and I have it? What is unity if Wayne Grudem and I get it because he comes to preach for me one time? If we are to have unity, what should it look like and how will the world see it?

Quote:
The NT has numerous unity commands, and it reinforces constantly the spiritual unity which just IS when it comes to believers. And acting like we don't need each other or anyone else, how is this Scriptural?
But where are those commands applied as they are being applied here? I don’t see that in the Scripture.

From another of Bob's posts wrote:
Agreed. It seems that people have a hard time even admitting that the Scripture teaches us to prize unity. That seems like this makes for a sorry state in fundamentalism, if this is the case.
Does Scripture really teach us to prize interchurch unity? Or interstate unity? Or international unity? I am willing to be convinced, but I am going to need to see an argument from Scripture.

John 17 is, so far as I know, the closest and there is a number of questions that need to be answered about that.

Quote:
When it comes to separation, Paul seems to only do it with tears in his eyes.
I totally agree, and this was part of Chris’s point on Friday night.

Quote:
Often it isn't that someone doesn't follow 2 Thess. 3 and so we need to apply 2 Thess. 3 to them. Instead it is that they are applying 2 Thess. 3, but they are judging the "disobedience factor" if you will, of someone to be at a different level than we'd like.
I actually addressed this at my blog last week. And this is why I think separation is over things that are clear. We are not separating over unclear things.

Thanks Bob. Enjoying the interaction.

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Quote: In other words, would

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In other words, would Paul say, “Yes, I mean to separate from brothers who think the DOL has already come or who are lazy, but I don’t say that about people who think that we should observe holy days (Col 2) ”? In my mind, I have hard time seeing Paul limiting this command only to what 2 Thess says. It seems to me that the principle is broader if, in fact, all apostolic revelation is revelation from God. I think we have to treat it the same.

Larry,

This seems to be definitely wrong. People saying we should observe holy days, are expressly addressed in Rom. 14 and 15, and there we are not told to separate from them. So Paul says their position is wrong. Elsewhere he teaches a contrary position, but he asks for unity when handling relationships with those people.

So actually this example you bring up defeats your point, I think.

As for where unity is taught, it is taught in the places that emphasize a universal church and a fellowship that believers have one with another. Rom. 15:5-7 and Eph. 4:3, 13 are verses I've already quoted above too. We're also told to be at peace with all men, and to bear one another's burdens. We're to share with others and provoke to love and good works. And this is across any strict local church lines, in my view, as the church was defined as being as wide as the geographical location, even though we know geographies like Corinth and Rome also had house churches (which by definition are not as all encompassing as the entire geography they are situated in).

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Clarification on Separation

Larry, I agree with separating from faith deniers and in Graham's middle to later part of his ministry I would have separated from him both for stances he made and people he consistently joined with because I would have taken it as he agreed with them enough to having that much contact with them. To have a catholic as part of your evangelistic meeting team is to deny orthodox view of the Gospel so I would separate from him. Unfortunately I think this is an easy example though I am the one who brought it up. Come up with one that would hit home for most people with an area pastor.

Maybe I am confusing core doctrines with apostolic teaching but I thought we got the idea of core doctrines from the idea of apostolic teaching?

No, the command to separate from faith deniers is not a core doctrine of the faith because it is not part of the Gospel itself. It is a means to preserving ourselves and the teaching of the Gospel.

Like I said, even if 2 Thess. 3 was referring to core doctrines or even more broadly all apostolic teaching I think it would be a rare occasion when I would have to exercise it - thus, making the mountain out of the mole hill. I just dont know when any of may pastor friends would be allowing faith deniers to do ministry in and for their church. I would suspect that they had other underlying issues that would drive them to do this and thus there might be a primary reason with them that I needed to separate over.

Question: Here is a question for 2 Thess. 3:14. Is the disobedience that Paul is referring to (1) the disobedience of not working and thus being idle in waiting for Christ's return or (2) is it referring to being disobedient towards everything Paul wrote to the Thessalonians? If the first then this passage does not warrant person A from separating from person B because they will not separate from person C who is being disobedient. If it is the 2nd then we might be on our way to some kind of 2nd degree separation where person A would have to separate from person B because they will not separate from person C who is some kind of faith denier. Again, presently I dont know when I would have to apply this. Not to say that some would not have to do this but again, I think they are very few and far between.

If core doctrines are not synonymous with apostolic teaching then where are we told in the NT what the core doctrines are? Wouldnt Paul use similar language to describe them? Larry, if you think you are confused then I am right there with ya':)

Ok, forget Grudem since he is a hang up for everyone (though I cant understand why) just because you are not local to him.

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Quote: This seems to be

Quote:
This seems to be definitely wrong. People saying we should observe holy days, are expressly addressed in Rom. 14 and 15, and there we are not told to separate from them. So Paul says their position is wrong. Elsewhere he teaches a contrary position, but he asks for unity when handling relationships with those people.
Colossians 2 seems to be a different sort of teaching than Romans 14, doesn't it? I think the question in Colossians 2 is whether they are brothers or apostates. I don't think they are Romans 14 kind of people. Read it and see what you think. I see some significant differences.

Quote:
As for where unity is taught, it is taught in the places that emphasize a universal church and a fellowship that believers have one with another.
And where is that? I don't want to be pedantic, but I think it would be helpful to get the verse on the table so we can see them.

Quote:
Rom. 15:5-7 and Eph. 4:3, 13
I am reading right that people want to limit the context of 2 Thess 3 but want to expand the context of these types of verses.

Quote:
We're also told to be at peace with all men, and to bear one another's burdens. We're to share with others and provoke to love and good works. And this is across any strict local church lines, in my view, as the church was defined as being as wide as the geographical location, even though we know geographies like Corinth and Rome also had house churches (which by definition are not as all encompassing as the entire geography they are situated in).
Not sure this supports the argument. I will think about, but it I think you are taking some things that are dependent on being the same place and trying to apply to people that aren't in the same place. The whole "local church" thing is a big one. Even if we grant that it is as big as a city, it is still smaller than the universal idea right? And at least in a city, we can do stuff together.

Again, go back to the example of me and you. I really can't do any of these things with you in any meaningful way. I think the internet has made us, in some ways, redefine what fellowship and ministry participation is.

I need to quit here for the day, so I will respond to Craig quickly and then try to exercise some self-control.

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Quote: Come up with one that

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Come up with one that would hit home for most people with an area pastor.
I agree that Graham was easy. If you keep asking easy questions, we will get somewhere …

I don’t have a good example right off the bat because I do not see the need to run out and seek partnership with a lot of churches. If our paths cross, we evaluate things and see if we can work together in some way. If our paths don’t cross, I don’t even think about it.

So if you say, “Who are you secondarily separated from?” my answer, “I don’t know.” I don’t even think about it because it’s not really in my ministry right now. Perhaps in a different place it would be.

Quote:
Maybe I am confusing core doctrines with apostolic teaching but I thought we got the idea of core doctrines from the idea of apostolic teaching?
I think core doctrines (whatever they are) is a part of apostolic teaching, but not the sum total of it.

Quote:
No, the command to separate from faith deniers is not a core doctrine of the faith because it is not part of the Gospel itself.
So is the inspiration of the Bible a core doctrine of the faith? I think it is, but it isn’t part of the gospel itself. Or what about the unchangableness of God? I think that is pretty core, but it isn’t part of the gospel. I would break fellowship with an open theist or process theologian even if they affirm the gospel itself. This is why I think “the gospel” is perhaps a bit narrow for many things.

Quote:
Question: Here is a question for 2 Thess. 3:14. Is the disobedience that Paul is referring to (1) the disobedience of not working and thus being idle in waiting for Christ's return or (2) is it referring to being disobedient towards everything Paul wrote to the Thessalonians?
I think it is the second since “our instruction in this letter” is more than simply separating from the lazy man.

Quote:
If core doctrines are not synonymous with apostolic teaching then where are we told in the NT what the core doctrines are?
I think this is a good point, and it is why I am questioning how useful the idea of “core doctrines” are. Doran talks about things that tear at the fabric of the faith. I have typically talked about load-bearing doctrines, the doctrines without which Christianity falls to the ground. I think we can come close to some sort of agreement about what Christianity needs to be Christianity, but it is certainly broader than the gospel proper, I think.

But 2 Thess 3 shows separation over something that aren’t a core doctrine. The question is whether there is anything besides laziness that fits into that category.

Quote:
Ok, forget Grudem since he is a hang up for everyone (though I cant understand why) just because you are not local to him.
That’s why I want to broaden the discussion out to whoever – you and me, me and Bob, you and Bob, whatever. Proximity matters in terms of unity. More matters, but at least proximity does. And I think, at this point, it is misguided to assume that we have unity with everyone that we aren’t separated from for cause. I don’t think that is the case, at least if “unity” is something that the world is supposed to see and believe in Jesus.

So that’s why I say, What is unity? Because if you and I have unity, I don’t know how that will cause anyone to believe that Jesus is sent from God.

I will look forward to your response, but do my best not to respond today.

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Applying Unity and Separation

I'm just a bit confused about those who are asking how unity can be applied to Grudem and myself since we have no meaningful interaction and yet can speak of separating from Graham even though they have no meaningful interaction with him.
I guess I would assume Christian unity would be the default position rather than separation.

Enjoying the discussion so far!

Forrest Berry

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meaningful unity, meaningful separation

In some respects, unless we have some kind of link with another ministry or person, we can't really be united or separated from them.

But where a ministry directly impacts my own, I can make those kinds of choices.

Most of us have little or no direct connection or possibility of joint ministry with Grudem (the example used) so for most of us, other than deciding whether to use or recommend his books or not, there is little meaningful relationship to talk about.

The same is basically true about someone like Graham, except that his ministry is very wide-ranging. His team has sponsored evangelistic campaigns in my town (not him personally, but his team) and we regularly get invitations from his organization to participate in some event locally that is sponsored by his ministries.

Does that make it a little clearer?

Maranatha! Don Johnson Jer 33.3

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chipping in a little

I think Bob has put nature of the church-to-church relationship problem succinctly and helpfully in the first few paragraphs http://sharperiron.org/comment/24222#comment-24222 ]in this post .
That seems like a great place to launch a conversation w/a panel of guys like those who were at PTC (but with some additional leaders from GARBC, FBF, ACCC, etc.)

CPHurst wrote:
I dont get the aversion here to this visible unity. Is it there or not? If so then we need to display it ourselves. Why dont we need to worry about what actions we need to do in order to show our invisible unity visibly?...
Quote - "'I'm inclined to think that where unity is real, it cannot help but "show." But it is not necessarily going to show in recognized ways." If it dosent show in recognized ways then how are you defining "show" in the first sentence? The second sentence seems to cancel out the first all together. It seems like you are saying, "I know we are unified in Christ and we are to show it some way but its not all that important and dosent need to be physically manifested." Wouldnt something that shows be recognizable as such?

It's not an aversion to visible unity. It's just that efforts at visible unity are so often mistaken for actual unity and folks tend to assume that the absence of these programmed events = lack of unity.

I'm not really making a case here so much as explaining myself... To me it's a bit like being alive. You don't have to plan ways to show that you are alive. If you're alive, you breathe, you eat, you interact with your environment, etc. You don't have to wonder "How can I make the fact that I'm alive visible?" And the evidence of your life is there, though some may not see it. If you're sleeping or in a coma, someone who isn't looking closely might think you're dead.
So the reality of visible evidence and the perception are two different things.
(Like all analogies, this one is imperfect... but maybe its true that if the evidence of life is hard to see, sickness is implied... and so if evidence of unity is hard to see, some unhealthiness in the unity is implied. Not sure.)

So my point about unity is that it exists and it shows, automatically. We do not really have to contrive ways to show it unless the ways it naturally shows are deficient in some way. Are they deficient? I'm not sure. It's true that thousands of churches worshiping the same God, believing the same gospel, embracing 90% of the same understanding of apostolic teaching but operating mostly separately do not look unified to many observers. But they look unified to those who know what to look for. Do we need to contrive ways to look unified for those who don't know what to look for?
(I tend to think that cooperation should be driven by practical factors, not a desire to show unity--that is, work together when it is more effective at accomplishing ministry goals/"mission" than working separately)

And, as Bob asked where I linked above, is that kind of unity (essential unity) enough or is it supposed to extend to cooperation in multiple endeavors?

So it may be helpful--at least in understanding where I'm coming from--to distinguish between unity and cooperation. To me, cooperation is another form of unity (but unity is not its purpose) in addition to the unity we have in the faith. It's multichurch teamwork. But it's not clear to me that an obligation to be involved in this teamwork is taught in John 17. (Other places, like Acts would be stronger... but again unity--or its demonstration--is not the point there)

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The Unity for Which Christ Prayed

Great discussion. I'm just reading it today, having been busy with other pressing matters this week.

I have only one thought at this point. It has long bothered me when I hear fundamentalists say that the unity for which Christ prayed in John 17 was a spiritual unity effected by God, and therefore has no practical applications for Christians today, or something similar. It sounds to me like, "We can ignore the unity for which Christ prayed, and get back to our first and second degree separation unhindered without wrestling with the troubling implications of Christ's prayer."

What other area of God's will, revealed in Scripture, are we free to ignore? Doesn't Scripture teach that if God reveals something as His will (or His work), our posture is not to leave it Him, since it's His and not ours. Rather, we should make His will our will, and endeavor to cooperate with God in what He has revealed He is doing. Isn't the highest level of honoring God our desire to make His will our will? Am am I missing something in this analysis?

Warm regards,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

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I'll bite

I'll bite.

G. N. Barkman wrote:
It has long bothered me when I hear fundamentalists say that the unity for which Christ prayed in John 17 was a spiritual unity effected by God, and therefore has no practical applications for Christians today, or something similar. It sounds to me like, "We can ignore the unity for which Christ prayed, and get back to our first and second degree separation unhindered without wrestling with the troubling implications of Christ's prayer."

I don't know who is saying the whole chapter of John 17 has no practical application for today. Help me here, Greg.

Usually the discussion is spurred on by an angst concerning John 17:21. Rarely is it noticed that the verse teaches the mutual indwelling of God in God, and that this mutual indwelling is the unity Jesus prays for in the life of every believer.

If someone wants to mutually indwell me, then I guess they can try to apply this verse that way. But even my wife has a hard time getting inside me, if you know what I mean, and we're one flesh. It is better to see the answer to Jesus' prayer for us as the unity He has with His Father, and that we have a full spiritual unity with each other. Not an indwelling unity with each other, but an indwelling unity in the same God, and He in us.

The other Arminian angst here is that Jesus prayed something that we are supposed to answer. Somebody made that point earlier in the thread. But no need for angst, for this prayer of our Lord is fulfilled every time the Father sovereignly regenerates another lost sheep, and causes His Holy Spirit to indwell them.

BTW, the faith Jesus prays for the world is not the belief that we Christians are unified, but a faith that the Father sent the Son. This has yet to be fulfilled, but it will. It will.

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CPHurst wrote: Ok, forget

CPHurst wrote:

Ok, forget Grudem since he is a hang up for everyone (though I cant understand why)
Grudem is a charismatic which would remove him in some manner from some non-charismatic Evangelicals and fundies. That would be one reason I am sure you would understand. Secondly Grudem is not just a charismatic but a Calvinist charismatic. This combination may seem benign but this particular label, Calvinist charismatic, is an identity which has with it specific levels of fellowships within Evangelicalism which are based on very specific views.

Within the Augustinian/Calvinist/Reformed circle, charismaticism is rejected on many levels, yet tolerated and embraced in other places. For those rejecting it, it is not just charismaticism that is rejected for the sake of rejecting charismaticism thereby placing Grudem at a distance for some, rather it is the hermeneutic and theology upon which it is based which forces one to respond and interact with Grudem as a proponent of an interpretive practice not received by those who otherwise may share theological views with Grudem. It is a consequential separation due to a view and practice of Grudem's. Surely you can understand why non-charismatics are removed from a charismatic to some degree though they may share some or much of the remaining theology.

But do remember, it isn't just the objectionable position(s) of Grudem but the hermeneutic and theology which he embraces that lies behind such assertions; assertions which hold implications that eventually lead to very unacceptable theological constructs. I believe the link at the main article on Dr. Bruce Compton's coverage of Grudem on prophecy is worth a listen.

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Eph. 3 & 4

Larry wrote:
Bob wrote:
As for where unity is taught, it is taught in the places that emphasize a universal church and a fellowship that believers have one with another.
And where is that? I don't want to be pedantic, but I think it would be helpful to get the verse on the table so we can see them....

The whole "local church" thing is a big one. Even if we grant that it is as big as a city, it is still smaller than the universal idea right? And at least in a city, we can do stuff together. Again, go back to the example of me and you. I really can't do any of these things with you in any meaningful way. I think the internet has made us, in some ways, redefine what fellowship and ministry participation is....

Before I try to counter to this let me mention something about the balance of the scales tipping to separation rather than unity. I believe that in the world we find ourselves in, with its thousands of churches with no real interconnectedness and cooperation between most of them, intentional unity becomes somewhat odd and so a default isolationism sets in. The American situation of freedom from persecution, and good ol' American individualism also prejudice us toward a self-existant, sufficient idea of our individual local church. Add the history of sectarian fights and all that fundamentalism has endured from all quarters, and I guess it's little wonder that we have to defend the very idea of the "essential fact of unity" bearing with it a responsibility to act out that unity in visible ways.

It's interesting to read of Calvin trying to preserve unity and prevent further splits among the Reformed back at a time when only three or four Protestant church options were available in all of Europe. We are so far removed from that day....

Now tallying up the teaching on unity is a bit of a tall order, but just focusing on Ephesians 3 and 4 should suffice for my purposes. Given the setting I'll just try to draw a brief sketch and not get too detailed.

Eph. 3:1-13 The inclusion of the Gentiles into the "one body" of the Church, (alongside Jews equally), is the mysterious "eternal purpose" of God. And through this new reality in the universal church, heavenly beings can see the manifold wisdom of God.

Eph. 3:14-21 Paul prays for the Ephesian believers individually to experience more fully and to know more deeply the love of Christ, together in a shared experience with all the saints. And he prays for Christ to receive glory in the universal church throughout all generations.

Eph. 4:1-3 On the basis of this cosmic purpose of the global and universal church, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to walk worthy of their calling (shared with all saints), and to bear with one another patiently aiming to maintain this unity of the Spirit (that God is working throughout the universal church as described previously) in a bond of peace. A bond between their brothers in their own city, and a bond which extends beyond even (by implication in the cosmic nature of Ephesians as the wider context).

Eph. 4:4-6 As a further ground for this activity of living together in light of the unity of the Spirit, Paul lists how unified the Ephesians are with all the saints, they share one Lord, faith, baptism and one Father God. God being over all and through all and in them all, as well as in all believers.

Eph. 4:7-10 As a practical reality working out from this existential unity, grace was given to Paul and the Ephesians, indeed to all of us, according to the measure of Christ's gift that he gave to man in general. And this gift is tied into cosmic realities again as Jesus is ascended above all heavens, and filling up all things through this gift.

Eph. 4:11-16 The gift includes the offices of apostles and prophets and evangelists (all universal church offices, I would think), as well as pastor-teachers, and these men God has given the church (and by the way that means historical theology is important as the teachers of yester-year remain a gift to the church) are to equip all the saints for ministry-work and for mutual up-building of the universal body of Christ (as well as it's local manifestations). All of this with the goal of all of us attaining to "the unity of the faith", and knowledge of the Son of God.. leading to maturity and growth and experienceing the fullness of Christ, himself. Christ being the head joins the entire body, so it may grow and build itself up in love.

I would contend that yes, the local church is included in this picture. But everything about the context roots the local church reality in a context of global unity. And just as all believers want to have the fullness of Chirst and true knowledge of the Son of God, so too, they should all have unity of the faith and work toward unity with one another.

Since Christ is head of the universal church, what right have we to act as if our own church is all that matters in a given locale? Why ignore other gospel preaching churches and seek to do everything on our own without recognizing and finding ways to celebrate our unity in the faith with these other believers? The mentality is wrong, not just the practice. Yes it's easy to do nothing, given our current culture and background. It's easy to focus on our own church and act independently of others. Easy, but is it right?

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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John 17 Unity

Ted,

Several good insights. Thanks. I'm still not sure that this removes the "practical" application that because all born again believers are one with Christ, and one with each other in Christ, that we have a duty to reflect this unity, which is admittedly already accomplished by the work of the Father, in our relationship with other believers. At least we should give it every effort. Something like "as much as lies wihin you, live at peace with all men."

Cordially,
Greg

G. N. Barkman

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John Calvin and Christian Unity

Ah, yes . . . that day from which we are so far removed! You know why, don't you Bob, that so much unity existed during Calvin's day? The Catholic Church and all Reformed Churches were state churches. Whoever tried to start a new group that he felt was more along the lines of the Bible was burned alive, or beheaded, or drowned, or tortured to death, or branded, or maimed, or thrown into prison where he stayed until he died of a disease. So much for the love of Jesus securing unity in those days! Martin Luther admitted that the majority of the people in the churches of the Reformation were not in heart true believers in Jesus as their Lord. They were drawn or held to the Reformation out of other concerns than the Spirit of God dwelling in them. Frankly, though I will agree that the disassociation experienced in American Christianity is unfortunate, there is more true Christian unity there today, than was present in Europe in Calvin's day. I am a great lover of Calvin's Institutes and his commentaries, and my volumes are well underlined and noted, but please do not wish those former days on me again! Ever!

You have well-reasoned points from Ephesians, and they are worth interacting with.

Jeff Brown

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Reply to Jeff Brown

Great point, I must admit. What I was getting at was Calvin lamenting the disunity between Lutherans and Reformed in his day, and the counsel he gave to Knox and others to permit some things they didn't like (vestments, and other high church trappings in worship) so as to still maintain unity. And yes the state church is not ideal in my view, either. Still we independent church folk could do a better job at working together realizing that small compromises and allowances for differing opinions on lesser matters are not a sell out to the cardinal truths of the Gospel.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Community

I was thinking about this thread while talking to a friend who drives 45 minutes to church. Others I know drive 1 to 1-1/2 hours to church.

In the olden days, logistics defined much of how people interacted, did business, and attended church. It seems that today people don't live near their church, their place of employment, or regularly do business where they live, so all sense of community is gone, and the cooperative spirit and community church is gone with it.

Just seems to me that it could be a contributing factor regarding how churches view cooperation today. Not deep doctrinal thoughts here, just mental ramblings. But about a year or so ago my husband and I decided to attend a local (literally) church, and that was one of the reasons- to be part of a church in our community where we live and work, and get some of that sense of community back for our family. It certainly feels like a good place to start.

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Community

You bring up a great point, Susan. Think about this too, many times people drive that far to find a church they agree with on all points or that they are comfortable with. The churches near them are weaker and not as good. Do you think that maybe if they stayed in those churches and tried to help and work for growth and change, that maybe they would eventually become better churches? Instead, we leave them for greener pastures.

In fact, we end up having people jump from church to church, always looking for the perfect one, as if that just happens completely independently of their involvement. Never satisfied they move on, and the churches are the worse for it.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Susan and Bob

Susan and Bob, I concur with your remarks about the locality of the local church. Paradoxically, the more global we become, the more fragmented, it seems. I am most familiar with the history of the Reformed churches, but I believe a similar story holds for all the older European denominations.

From about 1565 to a bit after 1725, there was a tight consensus throughout the Reformed churches about doctrine and practice. Some tensions existed, of course, mostly between Anglicans and the rest or between proponents of various polities. Nevertheless, the congruence and cooperation is remarkable. The Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Synod of Dordt, Westminster Standards, both Helvetic Confessions, and French Confession are nearly indistinguishable in doctrine, despite the fact that they span a century and all of Europe. Some Reformed churches and schools hold to all the first 4 for their doctrinal standards. The Synod of Dordt, though a Dutch affair, included representatives from all of Europe except France, where royal decree prohibited attendance. The Westminster Assembly included over 150 people representing all of England and Scotland. Despite some disagreements, they composed one of the most coherent systems of doctrine ever created.

So, even though they had no telephones, airplanes, or cars, these churchmen were far more conscious of the theological scholarship and state of the churches throughout the world than we are. We are incredibly self-absorbed and near-sighted by comparison.

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Comments and questions

A couple of comments and questions about the conference:

The word “Christian” was nowhere to be found on the PTT website nor is it usually present in the labels we give ourselves. I suggest we always call ourselves “Christian” first and then, if we really have to, follow with other labels, after all none of the other labels are in the Bible! This would be good for us first, as a reminder of what we really are, or should be, Christ like, and as an identifier for those not familiar with our “name calling”.

From the history of fundamentalism we are told that there was and still is, if I am not mistaken, a trend among some against too much education; I now see a trend toward too much emphasis on a lot of education. A question raised in my mind from one of the presentations is as follows: of two highly educated scholars who have differing interpretations of the same Greek text, which one do I, regular, non-Greek knowing Christian, believe?

I understand the need for scholars to interact and exchange ideas and I understand that there are different levels of education Christians have and that some things are over my head (this discussion may be one and I may be sorry later that I wrote this!) but could it be that some of these topics are not really what the regular church goers are struggling with or maybe even care about? Just maybe and in some respects, is Christian academia loosing touch with the regular Christian Joe?

If not now, in times past, would the statement made in the discussion session that “repentance is not part of the Gospel” have been reason for harsh separation?

I wonder what Christians in China or Darfur or Iran or Saudi Arabia would say of our topics and our discussions?

Gabe

“Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1st Timothy 1:2

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Reply to Gabe

gsm wrote:

From the history of fundamentalism we are told that there was and still is, if I am not mistaken, a trend among some against too much education; I now see a trend toward too much emphasis on a lot of education. A question raised in my mind from one of the presentations is as follows: of two highly educated scholars who have differing interpretations of the same Greek text, which one do I, regular, non-Greek knowing Christian, believe?

I understand the need for scholars to interact and exchange ideas and I understand that there are different levels of education Christians have and that some things are over my head (this discussion may be one and I may be sorry later that I wrote this!) but could it be that some of these topics are not really what the regular church goers are struggling with or maybe even care about? Just maybe and in some respects, is Christian academia loosing touch with the regular Christian Joe?

There is always the possibility that academia is serving its own interests rather than those of the church. That said, as someone embarking on a life of Christian scholarship, I'd like to share a few thoughts on the other side of the scale. First, American Christianity has long been influenced by several prevailing American trends -- egalitarianism, populism, and pragmatism. Most Americans share these three traits at the level of their attitudes, even if they reject the developed philosophies they represent. All three can work against developing the intellect.

Egalitarianism tells us that all people are basically equal, and though there are manifold benefits to this impulse, it can easily become a force that seeks to tear down any hint of excellence, legitimate or not. [Alexis de Tocqueville noted this in his justly famous Democracy in America. ] Populism is the tendency to weight the beliefs, needs, and preferences of "the common person" as more correct, legitimate, or proper than those of other classes. So, populists are naturally suspicious of anyone exhibiting extraordinary knowledge or skill in an area. Pragmatism, in its popular form at least, is the belief that ideas are to be tested by their usefulness. In its more vulgar expressions, it comes with the corollary that ideas for which no immediate use presents itself are useless, even wasteful.

Now, I believe that the biblical model of church discipleship is anti-egalitarian, anti-pragmatist, and not particularly populist. It is anti-egalitarian in that not anyone can be a teacher: it requires both divine calling and human aptitude. It is anti-pragmatist in that it does not begin with human curiosities and questions (though it does get there), but in the reality of what God has displayed in Christ. In fact, unregenerate people don't know what they need to know, and they don't feel the need to know what they need to know. When they become Christians, these sensibilities need training. Distinguished from populism, Christian truth is not to be identified with majority sentiment or the ideals that will be received eagerly by the "middle class."

So, your question "could it be that some of these topics are not really what the regular church goers are struggling with or maybe even care about?" evidences traces of these sentiments to me. I'm not convinced that regular church goers know what they're struggling with. I don't know that they care about what they should care about. Reading this link about the http://michaelhyatt.com/the-100-bestselling-christian-books-of-2010.html 100 Bestselling Books of 2010 tells me that American Christians want to be secure in their finances, charismatic in personality, and happy in their marriages. Legitimate desires, but hardly a God-transfixed vision of all things.

In all areas of learning, the teacher works to overcome not only the students' ignorance, but their lack of perspective. They want to be engineers, but they don't see the point of differential calculus. They want to be medical doctors, but they don't think they need chemistry. It's a general rule that you don't perceive the usefulness of a given field of study until you've acquired some proficiency in it. The teacher's job (like a Chinese mother?) is to get you to that point, where you're sufficiently equipped to keep learning on your own. My first year of Greek had almost zero actual effect on my life. Year two was a bit better, and every year since has reaped exponential dividends.

gsm wrote:
If not now, in times past, would the statement made in the discussion session that “repentance is not part of the Gospel” have been reason for harsh separation?

Well, historically speaking, yes. This happened in Scotland in the 18th century, and is called the Marrow Controversy. It ended up splitting the Church of Scotland. http://cavman.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/considering-the-marrow-controversy/ Here's a link .

gsm wrote:
I wonder what Christians in China or Darfur or Iran or Saudi Arabia would say of our topics and our discussions?

I really don't know what they would say, but I don't think it's relevant. The challenges facing unstable, martyr nations and established Christian cultures are very different. And, as much as we must respect the faith of the martyrs, being persecuted isn't a qualification for ecclesiastical leadership.

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Reply to Charlie on History and Scholarship

Charlie,

Great points you've added in your last two points. On your first post, I wanted to demur a bit and say that there has been some togetherness and unity shown of late that can approach (in a limited sense), that displayed in the time period you surveyed. The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy comes to mind. But part of our problem is a few more centuries full of ever more numerous differences between Protestant churches and more distance from a one state-one church reality than they had then.

ON your second post, I particularly amen the pragmatism points you make. I think that Gabe's comments are sincere but represent a pietistic emphasis in American church culture too, which prizes the heart over the head, rather than affirming both spheres as important.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Let me chip in here quickly

Let me chip in here quickly on a few things:

To Forrest (#57) regarding Grudem and Graham, I think the difference is two –fold. First, Graham’s ecumenicism is/was a direct affront to the gospel inasmuch as he recognized unbelievers as worthy ministry partners without confrontation and rebuke and inasmuch as he sent “converts” back to churches that were/are no church at all since they did not have the gospel. Grudem has not done that, to my knowledge. Second, Graham is much more widely known and it is likely that most people in our fields of ministry are familiar with Graham and have never heard of Grudem. Therefore, comments or explanations are more necessary when something is more central or more threatening to our ministry.

To say that Christian unity is the default position is true, but again I ask (and I hope someone will chime in here), what is unity? As I have said, if Grudem and I have it, or Graham and I have it, or you and I have it, what is it? For me, at least, I am still not sure what you mean when you say “unity.” It sounds like “agreement.” But I agree with Catholics on some things, and I agree with JW’s on some things. I even agree with Muslim’s on some things, but I have no unity with them. Yet I disagree with Presbyterians on some things, and disagree with Bible church people on some things, and I do have unity with them.

Furthermore, I would suggest again that the unity of John 17 is visible unity. Whatever it is, it has to be seen.

To Bob (#63) on Ephesians and unity, let me enumerate a few things:

1. The present situation with communication has brought a world that I do not believe the apostles ever imagined. I think it would be inconceivable to them that unity would include the things we are talking about. To them, it was all local because that is what was possible and that is what was seen. And that is my point, largely. Unity, in order to be meaningful, has to actually be seen. You say it yourself when you speak of bearing it out in visible ways. But I don’t see any responsibility to go and seek visible unity with people who are far out of my ministry realm.

2. The passages you reference in Eph 3-4 are, to me, all so obviously local and so obviously not universal that I don’t think they support your point at all. I thought of responding to each individually, but I don’t want to take the time to do that. I just don’t see the universal church in that, in terms of visible unity, at least in terms of Paul’s intent. Paul was not, so far as I can tell, saying anything about how the Ephesians should relate to the Philippians or the Galatians, or the Romans, or us. He was talking about how the Ephesians should relate to each other. You invoke 4:11-16 and speak of offices in the universal church, but I can’t attach any meaning to that at all. I think apostles are the only offices with any “universal church” applicability, and that is a unique situation that does not exist today. The others are all local in nature. Reading from some pastor or teacher of the past does not make them a universal church officer and is not biblical fellowship or unity, so far as I can see.

3. As far as being the only gospel preaching church in our community, or acting like it, again I focus on ministry context. I was preaching on this yesterday on Mark 9 and the exorcist who was “not following us.” There are many gospel preaching churches and we are not enemies with them. But in Mark 9, that guy didn’t have unity with the disciples, and Christ’s message was essentially “Leave him alone.” Christ didn’t say, “Yes, you’re right, he’s not following us. Let’s go seek him out and get him on our team.” Or “let’s have a conference and invite him so that others will see we have unity.”

4. I suppose my default is too some too narrow for some, but I struggle to see that biblical commands for unity have any meaningful application to relationships that don’t exist and have no reasonable way to exist. To me, John 17 has a visible ongoing feature where the ongoing relationships of life show a life-transformation in which old barriers and issues are removed, in way that can only be explained by the power of Jesus. That is the same point of Ephesians 2. And having a one-time meeting with some teacher, or attending a conference, does not show that.

To Greg (G.N. Barkman, #64) I agree, but I am not sure what you mean by “reflect that unity” outside of our local ministry contexts? How do I reflect unity with you? Am I commanded to do that? Does the NT teaching on unity really mean that we participate in the same online discussion forum? There are people on SI that I am cordial to, and have a conversation with, with whom I cannot imagine anyway to participate in ministry. Yet we are both believers and will be in eternity in heaven together. But practically, we can’t participate in ministry. What do I do about that? Do I compromise what my conscience tells me the Bible teaches?

To Gabe (gsm, #70), two things: First, the statement “repentance is not part of the gospel,” as used in the conference is not really debatable, I think. The gospel is the good news that Jesus died for sin and rose again. Repentance is the response to the gospel, which I think was explicitly stated. I think this is the historic position. If not historic, it is at least the biblical position, precisely speaking. But I think the confusion comes from using “gospel” imprecisely, so it begins to include all manner of stuff.

Second, the question with regards to what other Christians would think is helpful, but a bit misleading I think. I would suggest that we must address the issues we are facing. The Christians in Darfur, Sudan, China, etc., are all facing different issues. Now, do they need teaching on these types of things? Certainly they do. But they need application in different areas, and perhaps teaching on some different areas. That’s not to say that we should be preoccupied with these things. I think Chris’s point from Friday night is well-needed: We need to delight in the gospel and talk about it. Separation is a necessary step, but not one that we delight in. So the fact that other Christians might not talk about a particular topic does not mean it isn’t relevant for us.

In sum, I think a more biblical vision of unity involves visible participation in ministry efforts. I don’t think NT “unity” or “fellowship” is something like the Chicago Statement, or a conference. I don’t think it is merely agreeing on doctrine, or professing the same faith. I think it is actually participating in ministry.

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G.N Barkman wrote: What other

G.N Barkman wrote:
What other area of God's will, revealed in Scripture, are we free to ignore?

I explained in some earlier posts that it's not about ignoring God's will but about understanding what that will is, and specifically, what Jesus actually meant in John 17 when you take it in context.

Surely the fact that all who believe posses an actual unity--whether visible or not--is indisputable. But the question remains whether intentional displays of this unity are called for in the NT.
They are certainly not called for by Jesus' prayer. He was asking the Father to do something, not instructing us to do something (and as I pointed out earlier, the "something" has to do with shared faith).
I'm open to the possibility that other passages make that case, though I have not yet seen a persuasive one.

So... much hinges on understanding the difference between actual unity vs. displays of unity/cooperation. These are not the same thing and we really need to stop using the word "unity" to lump these different things together. It's not helpful to understanding the teaching of Scripture. You have unity and you have cooperation. The latter can exist without the former (as in the case of the old Billy Graham events... he was cooperating with men and ministries who did not share his belief in the gospel: cooperation without unity.) And the former can exist--does exist--without the latter. I have unity with thousands (millions?) of believers I've never even met.

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Repentance at PTC

Larry wrote:
Repentance is the response to the gospel, which I think was explicitly stated.
Yes, it was.
Minnick was a bit confusing I think... or illustrating the confusion that exists among fundamentalists. He wanted to be able to say that the gospel is a small, distinct set of ideas and simultaneously say that it encompasses everything Jesus' taught and lived (which really means all the teaching of Scripture if you think it through... it's the "word of Christ").
So he described a model where you have a central core set of beliefs that are necessary for justification, and a broader set of beliefs including all the teaching of "the Gospels" (it seemed important to him to link "the gospel" with "the Gospels")--and these both constitute "the gospel."

So when repentance came up, he denied that it was part of the gospel (the core of ideas you believe for justification) then amended his statement to say that repentance is part of what Jesus taught so it's part of the "gospel" in that sense.

I think Kevin Bauder's approach (not part of the conference but in several Nick of Time essays) is better in general. If I remember right, the idea was that you have the core tenets of the gospel (1 Cor.15) but also have several necessary implications of it--ideas that cannot be denied without effectively denying the gospel (even though you may insist you are not denying it). He identified both the core and the necessary implications as the standard for "separation" (in the sense of rejecting apostasy).

But Minnick's understanding of what "separation" is seems better to me than Bauders. He made several observations that indicated that he sees the action properly called "separation" as intentional and punitive. It is a rebuke, not just the presence/introduction of non-cooperation/non-fellowship. Doran seemed to see it this way as well.

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Aaron, I agree that Minnick

Aaron,

I agree that Minnick was confusing at that point. I also think part of the confusion is the broadness of the way we use "gospel." There is no agreement on how to use it, so probably better just to explain how we are using it.

But think of it this way: Jesus' words in Mark 1:15 are, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

For the moment, take out the issue of what the "gospel" was here, and the whole kingdom idea and focus on the last: "Repent and believe the gospel."

It seems that here, Jesus affirms that the gospel and repentance are two different things. He doesn't say "Repent and believe which is the gospel." The gospel is rather the object or the content or the basis (however you want to say it) of repentance and belief. It seems that Jesus makes a pretty clear distinction, and it's one we all make.

I think Dever in his book on Personal Evangelism makes this point as well, that we confuse "evangelism" (telling the good news) with a number of things including the response to the good news.

So, the word "gospel" is used a number of different ways both in the NT and in our context. Perhaps, it's easy to get lost in the details and fine distinctions, and miss the point.

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John 17 Unity

Larry and Aaron,

Thanks for your response to my John 17 comments. Both of you helped clarify the issues that need to be addressed, correctly pointing out that my comments did not indicate what form unity should take.

I may have been addressing a "problem" that is uncommon to most, but was large in my youthful experience. I heard preachers, on more than one occasion, say that the unity for which Christ prayed in John 17 was effected by God, and was already accomplished, and therefore we do not need to concern ourselves with it. I think such comments must have been a response to criticisms of the doctrine of separation. Critics, I assume, must have said something like, "We can't practice separation because the Bible commands unity. Don't forget that Jesus prayed for unity in John 17, so we must work at unity, not separation."

My posts were to point out that I know of no other doctrine where we could correctly use that kind of reasoning. If I were to say, "Since God has elected His people from all eternity, and has promised to bring everyone of them to Himself in time, therefore I do not need to concern myself with evangelism," I would be labeled a heretic, and rightly so. What God reveals He has done and is doing becomes the revelation of His will for His children. We are to be working with God to accomplish what He tells us He is sovereignly doing in this world. If He is unifying His people, then we are to be concerned to work with Him, not against Him, to accomplish His revealed purpose.

As to the nature and forms of unity, it is obvious that I cannot have organizational unity with every true believer, whether obedient or disobedient believer. It is humanly impossible. My post had more to do with attitude than details. I do not think John 17 unity requires that I seek to engage in ministry partnership with as many believers as possible. I think it requires that I endeavor to avoid intentional separation from as many brethren as possible. Obedience to Scripture requires that I separate from some of my fellow believers, if indeed they are true believers. Only God knows the heart perfectly. But my attitude should be toward unity in affection as much as possible. Similar to, "As much as lies within you, live at peace with all men."

G. N. Barkman

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Local-Unviersal

Larry,

Forget about inter-State or inter-Country unity. Go ahead and think locally. Think Eph. 3 & 4 in a local-universal sense. Does the language and teaching in those chapters naturally fit with just the people inside the boundary of your local church? Or can't you see something wider than that in Ephesians? Some of the verses in chapter 3 are foundational for belief in a universal sense of the church. Ephesians is where many of the proof texts explicating that doctrine are found, by the way. Do you not believe in the universal church? That would explain some things.

But back to your situation. In your town. We've admitted (I think), that Ephesus was a large city with groups of people scattered around all called one church, with a large group of elders overseeing it all. And then there is your church in a city where there are likely many other gospel-preaching churches (Presbyterian and Bible to be sure, but likely even others), within a relatively close distance. Can you admit that Ephesians 3 & 4 would have something to say about how you view those other churches, the solidarity you have with them in Christ, and may it not push you to work with them in ways you can to express and work out this real unity that you share with them in Christ?

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Quote: ...say that the unity

GNB wrote:
...say that the unity for which Christ prayed in John 17 was effected by God, and was already accomplished, and therefore we do not need to concern ourselves with it.

That is pretty much what I'm saying, except for the already accomplished part. It is in progress and won't be done until all who are going to believe actually do.
But it isn't possible to get an obligation to "organizational unity" out of Jesus' prayer and do justice to the text and the context.
The application of that prayer could go several directions, the most obvious being a revelation of some aspects of how we ought to pray.

I'm still not entirely clear on what your view of unity itself is.

  • Does unity exist where people believe the same thing or...
  • Does unity not exist until those people get together under the same roof or join the same organization or cooperate in a project together?
  • Do you disagree with my idea that actual unity is a distinct thing from cooperation?

I'd add now that it's also a distinct thing from "organizational unity." People can join an organization and not really believe. Sometimes openly. So getting into the same outfit does not create unity between people who do not have the same faith. By the same token, in my view, two people can have the "unity of the faith" (Eph.4) and never be in the same organization.
So my point is that organizational membership and cooperation are independent from unity.

But your post introduces a third thing (or maybe we're up to four now?): the absence of strife and fighting is yet another thing we often call unity. We're on more solid ground here because the epistles sometimes call it unity also. But this is unity in the sense of harmony in (usually inter-personal) relationships. It presupposes unity of the faith and calls for mutual respect and love.
But mutual respect and love do not create unity of the faith. Again, they are independent things though unity in relationships ought to go hand in hand with unity of faith.

So "unity" in that sense (treating eachother right): yes, I believe the NT calls us all to it and that this applies outside local church boundaries, too. (But John 17 isn't where we find that)
The problem is that many call for this kind of harmony in situations where there is no actual unity of the faith and the result is that either a) the effort fails or b) it succeeds but it's a sham. It's barely skin deep.

Bob wrote:
the solidarity you have with them in Christ, and may it not push you to work with them in ways you can to express and work out this real unity that you share with them in Christ?

Not speaking for Larry, but for my part, I think this is a weighty question... but not one with an obvious answer. For me, joining in projects together hinges on questions like these...

  • Is there some way that doing this project together will make it more effective than doing it separately?
  • Are there differences in ministry philosophy, emphasis, etc., that commend doing the project separately?

So to me--so far--I've not been driven by the question "How can we find ways to make our unity more visible?" I haven't found an obligation yet in NT teaching that we need to go after demonstrations of unity for demonstrations of unity's sake.
But my mind is not settled on the question by a long shot.

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John 17 Unity

Aaron,

No, I do not disgree with your idea that actual unity is distinct from cooperation. Nor do I understand where you picked up the idea that I believe John 17 obligates us to organizational unity. I thought I stated that I do not believe this. Apparently I wasn't clear enough.

I believe John 17 obligates us to an attitude that manifests a spirit of unity, that is, love and good will toward other Christians as much as possible. In broad generalities, perhaps we can say that one of the weaknesses of Evangelicalism is that it exalts unity so highly that it seems unable to strongly defend truth if it perceives unity to be threatened. Conversely, one of the weaknesses of Fundamentalism is its tendency to exalt truth above unity so much that it seems unable to practice unity if the slightest disagreement develops. This is an attitude, a mindset. It is not the same as organizational unity, nor ministry partnership, although it may well influence decisions that impact these areas. I recall someone saying on a previous SI post, "Try unity first." I think that's the correct Biblical attitude. Separation may become necessary, but let's work hard to avoid it if at all possible. Some Fundamentalists have developed an attitude akin to, "He was ready to fight at the drop of a hat, and he'll even drop the hat." Surely John 17, as well as numerous other NT passages forbid such an attitude.

Cordially,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

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Greg, perhaps you can word

Greg, perhaps you can word this a different way -

Quote:
one of the weaknesses of Fundamentalism is its tendency to exalt truth above unity so much that it seems unable to practice unity if the slightest disagreement develops

but I had to stop and read it twice when I came to it. Surely, are not saying we can ever give to much priority to truth, right? I mean, what basis is there for Christian unity without truth? Any diminishing of truth MUST diminish unity, since the structure cannot stand if the foundation crumbles or disappears. I cannot conceive of any way in which we might say the exaltation of truth is a bad thing. Now, honestly, I think I might know what you are trying to say here, but I don't want to put words in your mouth.

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Exalting Truth

Chip,

I agree. We cannot exalt truth too much. Perhaps my thoughts were not well conceived and stated. But the doctrine of Christian unity is Divine truth. Perhaps what I should have said was something like this:

One of the weaknesses of Evangelicals is that they tend to exalt the doctrine of Christian unity to the neglect of defense of the faith. One of the weaknesses of Fundemantalists is that they tend to exalt the doctrine of separation to the neglect of the doctrine of Christian unity.

I am encouraged to see this issue openly discussed on SI, and in various other Fundamentalist forums. Thankfully, many now recognize that there is a problem. Identifying and addressing the problem accurately will no doubt require much discussion. In the past, the prevailing attitude seemed to forbid honest discussion of the issues of separation, at least in my experience. Now, thankfully, that is changing. Thanks for extending this helpful discussion.

Cordially,
Greg Barkman

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Thought that was where you were going

Greg, I understand and agree. We cannot claim to exalt the truth when we neglect, or even refute, a portion of that truth. It's interesting, though, how important it is to some people to try to make unity happen. I have always felt that unity is a function of truth. Consequently, I do not really see it as being something we work to make happen as much as something we enjoy when it happens. It's like being wet is a function of being in the water. We don't have to work to get wet, we just have to work to be in the water. Being wet is the natural, inevitable result of being in the water. In the same way. if I strive for truth, unity will happen with those who are also striving for truth. And, as a corollary, disunity will naturally happen with those who are not striving for truth. Truth is the core value and emphasis; unity is the natural, inevitable byproduct of truth.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Unity Happens

Chip,

To your latest post, I both agree and disagree. I agree that unity is the natural byproduct of truth. The more truth we agree upon, the greater unity we enjoy.

The danger I see is that of setting myself up as the standard of truth, and recognizing unity only with those who agree with me, or at least closely agree with me. From a purely practical standpoint, a certain amount of this is inevitable, for the reasons you stated. Unity of this nature just "happens" when I come into contact with those who agree with me. However, that can also lead to arrogance and condescension. For my part, I try to remind myself regularly that I do not have a corner on truth. Other believers understand some areas of truth better than I, and if I am wise, I will endeavor to learn from them. If I "separate" myself from everyone with whom I do not agree, I will stagnate. I will also fail to recognize and exercise the unity God has created with every born again believe in Christ.

Warm regards,
Greg Barkman

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Greg, a couple of thoughts

Greg, a couple of thoughts struck me as I read your last post, but I will come back to those at another time. First I want to ask a question. I am curious how you would describe

Quote:
the unity God has created with every born again believe(sic) in Christ
as you see it played out in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5?

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Unity of Believers

Chip,

As I understand I Corinthians 5, those who persist in living in immorality are not to be considered as genuine believers by the visible church. Verse 11 says, "not to keep company with anyone 'named' a brother." He is a "so-called brother," which is to say that he calls himself a brother, but the church does not consider his profession valid. The church refuses to call him a brother. That is why he must be put out of the church. The church's relationship to him must match his actual condition.

When he is put out of the church, the church will have no more responsibility to him as a Christian. Then he will be treated as an unbeliever to be evangelized. That's the jist of the "inside/outside" language of vs 12, ie. "inside" the visible church vs. "outside" the church.

Kind regards,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

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Greg, looks like everyone has

Greg, looks like everyone has abandoned us!

Ok, this is a little bit of a rabbit trail, but do you see 2 Thess. 3:6-15 in the same way? Here, it is clear it really is a brother, and it is clear they are still treated in some special way because of their brotherhood despite losing full fellowship.

Thanks for interacting with me on this.

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II Thess 3:6-15

No, this is a different situation. It is corrective discipline within the local church, not excommunication from the church, as in I Corinthians 5. This man is considered a brother, but a disobedient one. Specifically, he is guilty of sloth. He will not work, and is a gossip. (I'm writing quickly and recalling from memory, as I'm due at a budget meeting in 15 minutes.)

His sin is not one of the serious sins resulting in excommunication (if confrontation does not bring repentance and change) listed in I Corinthians 5 and 6. Apparently he doesn't fall below "bottom line" behavior for a Believer, but he needs to be corrected.

That's all for now. More later if needed.

Warm regards,
Greg Barkman

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Well Greg, my fantastic

Well Greg, my fantastic example is laid to waste. Perhaps another thread on the nature of church discipline would be in order for further discussion of that rabbit trail. My own take is that the man in 1 Cor. 5 is a brother, as referenced by Paul. We are seeing a working example of Matt. 18 discipline there. Furthermore, I would argue the person identified in 2 Thess. 3 is a candidate for Matt. 18 discipline and censure, just like 1 Cor. 5, if he remains unrepentant after confrontation.

The point I was trying to make is that in the case of church discipline, I may still be spiritually united to the erring brother or sister, but my unity is practically limited by the sin present. This goes to the heart of posts 83 and 84.

Whew! Back on track.

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Chip Van Emmerik wrote: Greg,

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Greg, looks like everyone has abandoned us!
Ok, this is a little bit of a rabbit trail, but do you see 2 Thess. 3:6-15 in the same way? Here, it is clear it really is a brother, and it is clear they are still treated in some special way because of their brotherhood despite losing full fellowship.

Thanks for interacting with me on this.


Got swamped.
I personally think the 2Thess situation is quite a bit diff. from the Rom.16.17 situation, but I do think it is an example of unity of the faith working out. The separation occurs as discipline but is never--in this case--seen as separation from apostasy.

I found the unity vs. truth exchange very interesting. The tension is an interesting one. There is an inverse correlation between the exhaustiveness of the truth that unifies and the number of people that exist to be unified. That is, the the more truth you agree on, the fewer of you there are to agree on it. If you take it all the way in that direction, it's "just me and you and I'm not too sure about you." But the reverse is also true. The bigger the tent, the less truth there is truly uniting its occupants. We could all get together under the banner "We love Jesus," and even include a fair number of Buddhists and Muslims, know what I mean?

So there is a real need for discernment as to how much truth/which truths to be slushy on in order to cooperate, fellowship, demonstrate visible unity, etc.

(Which is why I think we are hearing more emphasis from guys like Bauder and Minnick on the gospel as the boundary of separation.... though we are not seeing complete agreement on what we're including in the term.)

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