The Fundamentalist Challenge for the 21st Century: Do We Have a Future? Part 4

The following is a portion of a paper Dr. Straub read at the Bible Faculty Leadership Summit last summer (he also read a variation at the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory last May). It appears here with light editing. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. -Editor

So what of the future for fundamentalism? Is there hope? (cont.)

3. A more theological view of separation

Third, I think we need to work toward better approach to separation. Our practice is often weak and sloppy. This is because our thinking is weak and sloppy. We don’t read widely or think deeply about much of anything. Theological reflection is rare among us. We want simple answers to complex questions.

This sloppiness may be seen in the way we practice separation. It is often harsh and inconsistent. It lacks thoughtful reflection and purposeful expression. But we are not alone in our weak view of separation. I think evangelicals are also weak in this area. They actually do practice secondary separation but they do so inconsistently.

When I was at Southern (2000-2004), I remember a conversation with Craig Blaising, now provost at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX. He rejected the notion of secondary separation and belittled it. Yet as I took my classes, it was clear that many Southern men actually did hold to secondary separation. Bruce Ware, Blaising’s close colleague in the graduate school, led the unsuccessful effort in ETS to oust Clark Pinnock and John Sanders, for open theism—the hyper-Arminian view of God. The unsuccessful efforts at the November 2003 meeting in Atlanta, in which the membership of Pinnock and Sanders was sustained because of an insufficient number of affirmative votes, demonstrate that Ware argued for a de facto secondary separation. I had occasion to sit with Pinnock and converse with him. I found him to be affable and courteous. He professed to be a believer and he affirmed inerrancy. Yet his theology is considered by many to be outside the acceptable bounds of Christian orthodoxy. Many, apparently, concurred, but the vote to remove him did not carry by the requisite 2/3 majority. In Sander’s case, the vote was closer—less than 25 votes were lacking. Though more than 50% of the membership wanted to oust him, his membership was not overturned.

I must also mention a presentation from the 2008 Shepherd’s Conference by Nathan Busenitz, an elder of Grace Community Church and John MacArthur’s personal assistant. Busenitz presented the doctrinal understanding of secondary separation held by the elders at Grace. I found much in the message with which I could agree. According to Busenitz, Grace would not affiliate with those who undermine the Gospel. However, I think he failed to grasp clearly is the true nature of so-called secondary separation, which he identified as separation from those who do not practice primary separation. Secondary separation is not simply a matter of separation over separation, but separation because of disobedience to the clear teaching of the Scripture. He argued that when practicing this secondary position one needs great wisdom in deciding what brother to work with and what brothers to break with. Many fundamentalists would agree. Bob Jones Sr. was fond of saying that “you go as far as you can on the right road,” which I heard occasionally applied to those in error. Work with a man if he seems to be going the right way. Where he is at positionally is less important than where his feet are pointed.

To be sure, many parts of fundamentalism have been hasty and ungodly in the quest for “purity.” We have spoken harshly without due care and attention and often before all the facts are in. Often we have not carefully weighed the facts. It seems to me that as we evaluate where a man stands and what direction his feet are pointed, we need to think of four levels of disobedience. Although they may all involve real disobedience to the Scripture, our response to them should differ in severity. Is the behavior flagrant, careless, ignorant or pragmatic? The answer will guide us in our response to the behavior.

Four levels of disobedience

Let’s take speeding as a mundane analogy. Speeders fit into these same four categories. There is the flagrant speeder. He has a radar detector in his windshield and a wanton disregard of the law in his heart. He speeds for pleasure or to escape the consequences of some other unlawful act. The common denominator of this type of speeder is contempt for the law. A second type of speeder is simply careless. He is driving along in his own world not paying attention, just doing what he wishes. He doesn’t worry too much about the law, only about what others are doing around him. Police love to stop these careless speeders; they are breaking the law. But they often choose to be lenient and let the speeder off with a warning.

A third kind of speeder is the ignorant speeder. This is a guy who for any number of legitimate reasons may not know what the posted speed limit is and breaks the law accidentally. He is still guilty, but if he can prove that the signage is ambiguous or obscured by brush or some other legitimate reason for ignorance, he might just beat the rap. The last speeder is the pragmatist—the end justifies the means. He’s got a wife in labor or is carrying someone else to the hospital. He has a “good reason” to drive fast and he hopes the cop, if he stops him, will understand. I can tell you though, from four years of driving an ambulance professionally, if you speed and cause an accident, you will be held liable. We were reminded repeatedly that, while we did not legally have permission to speed, most of the time the police would understand that we were on a life-or-death mission and would not interfere. However, if we caused an accident and someone was injured or worse, we would be in serious trouble. We could usually speed without fear of a ticket, but if we caused an accident, we would be in serious trouble.

Apply this to separation. There are some individuals who flagrantly violate the Word. They have an agenda and the Bible gets in the way. Or they think that separatism is just “someone’s narrow interpretation” and refuse to consider seriously the Bible.

Other believers are ignorant or careless in their associations. They have never been taught nor have they ever thought through the issues carefully. Or they may simply not appreciate the depth of disobedience the professing individual is involved in and they fail to separate out of ignorance. It is, to some extent, understandable.

Finally, there are those who think pragmatically. It’s almost a “greater good” defense in associations. Look at how much good Rev. So-and-so does. We cannot separate from him. It will hurt the cause. It is interesting that on the cusp of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, when the battle lines were just being drawn, Shailer Mathews, infamous liberal dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, was president of the Northern Baptist Convention. He had a banner made for the platform which read, “Let’s get together by working together and praying together.” Working together to promote denominational efforts was more important than the theological issues that divided the Northern Baptists1. Clearly there are levels of disobedience among us all and our response to varying levels of disobedience ought to be carefully measured. It seems to me that we should treat the violations of Scripture in different ways depending on who and what is at stake. This is not to say that, in the end, we don’t separate. But we ought to be slow to break fellowship in some of these cases to give time for instruction and interaction.

Busenitz has a legitimate complaint of separatists in criticizing the way many fundamentalists practice it. Drawing a comparison with church discipline, separatism—he opines—often omits the issue of restoration. Fundamentalists give little thought, if any, to how to restore a wayward brother. While this is undoubtedly true in many cases, we should at least consider a comparison of primary and secondary separation on the point. In primary separation, our motive of withdrawing from false doctrine has less to do with restoration of the errant individual and more to do with protecting our own flock. Why would it be right to protect our flock from false religion and not protect it from serious disobedience?2 Still, restoration is important. Separatists often seem pleased to separate rather than grieved. Frankly, I never once enjoyed disciplining a child and I sure didn’t enjoy having to speak to a wayward church member. How can I treat a fellow believer with any less concern?

At the 2009 Shepherd’s Conference, hosted by the Grace Community Church, Phil Johnson gave what I think was a great response to Mark Driscoll and company’s recent penchant for sexually explicit sermonizing.3 Without actually calling for a breach in fellowship (secondary separation), Johnson loudly lamented of the “pornification of the pulpit,” arguing for an implied separation. He finds Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll’s behavior severely objectionable, and, I presume, if his effort to call Driscoll to repentance were to be unsuccessful he would consider Driscoll a disobedient brother. Surely he would not publicly rebuke him and then make common cause with him as though there was nothing amiss with his behavior. It seems clear that Johnson was arguing for action that would either pressure Driscoll to repent of his indiscreet pulpit work or withdrawal fellowship.4 This implied separation was further supported as recently as mid-April, when John MacArthur wrote a four-part blog entry for Pulpit Magazine website, entitled “The Rape of Solomon’s Song.”5 MacArthur compared the seriousness of Driscoll’s behavior to Spurgeon’s battles in the 19th-century Downgrade Controversy. “It is past time for the issue to be dealt with publicly.” He also questioned other evangelicals trying to correct Driscoll’s misconduct conduct through mentoring.

It seriously overstates the involvement of John Piper and C. J. Mahaney to say they are “discipling” Mark Driscoll. In the first place, the idea that a grown man already in public ministry and constantly in the national spotlight needs space to be “mentored” before it’s fair to subject his public actions to biblical scrutiny seems to put the whole process backward. These problems have been talked about in both public and private contexts for at least three or four years. At some point the plea that this is a maturity issue and Mark Driscoll just needs time to mature wears thin. In the meantime, the media is having a field day writing stories that suggest trashy talk is one of the hallmarks of the “New Calvinism;” and countless students whom I love and am personally acquainted with are being led into similar carnal behavior by imitating Mark Driscoll’s speech and lifestyle. Enough is enough.6

Again this is the evangelical right, but given the desire on the part of new-image fundamentalists for a closer identity with the evangelical right, I would assume that they would not object to MacArthur’s position.7 I would presume that in their desire to move closer to the right wing of evangelicalism, they would not object to the de facto secondary separation taking place, at least where Driscoll is concerned. The case of Mark Driscoll is especially pertinent. Driscoll is an orthodox believer, or so he claims. He holds a high view of Scripture, is a new Calvinist, a complementarian, etc. The issue with Driscoll is not theology but practice. It is this praxis that is called into question. The statements by Johnson and MacArthur are calls for public censure and ultimately calls to withdraw fellowship if the censures go unheeded. How could anyone censure Driscoll so severely and then make common cause with him? What kind of confusing message would it send if it were otherwise?

I want to believe that John Piper and C. J. Mahaney also reject the “pornification” of the pulpit, but neither man has been willing to publically rebuke Driscoll. I hope that Don Carson and Danny Akin are repulsed by Driscoll’s worldly interpretation of the Song of Solomon and his frank public conversations about sex. Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe Johnson and MacArthur alone feel the way they do, but I hope not.

What will MacArthur do? He obviously feels very strongly about Driscoll’s behavior and likewise about the non-action of Piper and Mahaney. What does Grace do after it takes such a strong stand against Driscoll? Will it make common cause with supporters of Driscoll? Won’t that ultimately mute MacArthur’s objections? For a consistent fundamentalist, the answer is yes. Driscoll’s behavior is egregious. Failure to rebuke him amounts to disobedience and warrants censure, as do those who become complicit in his behavior by failing to call him to account. With MacArthur on Driscoll, we are in whole-hearted agreement. The question remains—what if Driscoll rejects the criticism? MacArthur identified his worldliness—his grunge Christianity—in 2006 and that went unheeded. Things have only gotten worse. Will MacArthur reach a point where something more must be done? And what if Piper, Mahaney, Carson, et al fail to act? Will their non-action be seen as tacit approval? What recourse does someone have who sees this issue as one of testimony for the cause of Christ? Must one simply “grin and bear it?” It all comes down to consistency—the bane of us all!

If we understand separation in the context of church discipline, we have a clearer picture of what is to happen. I think that too many evangelicals and fundamentalists hang separatism in thin air without carefully grounding it in church discipline. Church discipline is the action of the church whereby it maintains its distinctive testimony by identifying and addressing certain censorious behavior in its members, calling for repentance. If repentance is not forthcoming, the church is mandated to censure the professing believer by publicly noting the behavior and withdrawing corporate fellowship. The goal is to maintain a clear public witness for the church, identify unbiblical behavior in the membership and warn the saints of consequences of sin.

In the same way, separation is designed to protect the larger Christian witness—the universal church. One believer or a group of believers, not necessarily in organic fellowship through a local church, nevertheless are called upon to censure egregious public behavior that violates clear biblical instruction. For example, Paul tells Titus what to do with a schismatic person: “have nothing to do with him” (Tit 3:10). Secondary separation addresses the behavior of a person outside the local assembly. To suggest that we can break fellowship with some in the context of a church that we have no mandate to disfellowship outside the church seems an odd approach to the Bible.

Levels of fellowship and disassociation

There are levels of fellowship and levels of disassociation. I can drink coffee with most anyone—lost or saved. I cannot have fellowship with an unbeliever—“what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?” (2 Cor 6:14) The closer our relationship becomes, the greater the doctrinal agreement required. I can have good general fellowship with many kinds of believers at a table or across the fence in the neighborhood, but as a pastor, I cannot bring my church into a church-planting relationship with other churches who do not share my understanding of what a church is.

There are also levels of disassociation. I may choose not to work with someone for any number of reasons ranging from matters of practicality to matters of disobedience. Some forms of disassociation are simply issues of impracticality: I cannot work with an individual because he does not “fit” our program or schedule. In my opinion, these we ought to minimize and seek to work together for the greater good of God’s glory wherever possible. But in other cases, such cooperation brings doctrinal confusion. For instance, how could John MacArthur have a meaningful working relationship with Mark Driscoll unless and until Driscoll repudiates his conduct or MacArthur retracts his criticism? It seems like some form of separatism is likely to occur, even if that was not the intended outcome at the start. This is what secondary separation comes down to. It does not mean that we treat these brothers as lost but that we mark their behavior and disassociate for the greater witness of the Church.

4. A spirit of true humility

Finally, if we are to have a future, fundamentalists need to learn biblical humility. This is something we don’t talk about much. On the contrary, we see someone who acts in humility as weak or indecisive. We want men who will make stronger decisions and take decisive action. But the action needs to be expressed carefully, considering ourselves. The spirit of Galatians 6:1 ought to guide us in this: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Separation is the last course of action, not the first. It is the final resort for serious disobedience. Unity ought to characterize us, not separation. Yet it is most often what we are known for. Instead of “Together for the Gospel” we could call some of our conferences “Alone with My Agenda.” “There are only two of us left standing, and I am worried about you!” God deliver us from an Elijah complex. He thought he was the last man standing, when in fact there were 7,000 who had not bent their knees to Baal (1 Kings 19:9-18).

Now I will not tell you how to be humble. To learn humility take a long look into the Word of God. We offer no course in humility at Central Seminary. In most cases, humility is caught, not taught. I think this is one reason why it is so scarce in our movement. There are few men who model it and hence few to teach it. I also think this is one reason why our young men seek role models elsewhere. They fail to find serious Christians in fundamentalism so they look elsewhere. I know a man who is a model of this seriousness. He is a Southern Baptist. He is not a separatist. But he is a godly man. I praised him to a fundamentalist friend as a great professor. He had a fine combination of personal godliness and scholarly erudition. To this my friend balked. How could a Southern Baptist who was “disobedient” to separatism, as he defined it, be godly? Boy if that wasn’t an arrogant thought. He might as well have said, “If you don’t come to my conclusions, you are stupid!” Paul said I am what I am by the grace of God (1 Cor. 15:10). What do we have that we did not receive? Where would we be today apart from divine grace? Perhaps manifesting a little of the grace given to us by God might be a better way to hold our theological apartness. We need a Christ-like disposition as we hold to a biblical position.

So, does fundamentalism have a future? Some days I wonder. At times, I am not too hopeful. Then I go to class. What a privilege to work with the next generation of men committed to following Christ and proclaiming His Word. Where will they end up? Where will my son end up?

Notes

1. See Shailer Mathews, New Faith for Old (New York: MacMillan, 1936), p. 136.

2. For the full message see Nathan Busenitz, “The Dividing Line: Where We Draw the Line on Biblical Separation,” Shepherd’s Conference 2008, 7 March 2008. Available online here. Accessed 25 April 2009. You will have to register to get the free download.

3. If you are unfamiliar with the emerging church, see Jeffrey P. Straub, “The Emerging Church: A Fundamentalist Assessment” DBSJ 2008: 69-91.

4. Johnson’s message, “Be Careful What You Say,” preached 6 March 2009, may be downloaded free of charge at shepherdsfellowship.org.

5. See John MacArthur, “The Rape of Solomon’s Song,” Pulpit Magazine, 4 parts, posted 14 April - 17 April 2009. Available online here. Accessed 23 April 2009.

6. John MacArthur, “The Rape of Solomon’s Song,” Part 4. Available online here. Accessed 23 April 2009. At least one blogger sees this as evidence of MacArthur’s “fightin fundy turn.” See Art Boulet, “Mark Driscoll: a rapist?” Available online here. Accessed 27 April 27, 2009.

7. This emerging middle, as some new image men have called themselves, is defined as “the rapprochement of biblically-grounded, historical centers of two hitherto unconnected orbits of Christian fellowship: the ‘fundamentalist’ orb and the ‘evangelical’ orb.” Bob Bixby, “The Emerging Middle” Pensees 4 August 2007. Available online here. Accessed 23 August 2009.


Dr. Jeffrey Straub has served as adjunct professor at Central Seminary, as well as at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Moscow, the Ukraine, and Romania, at Piedmont Baptist College, and at LIFTS Institute, Kitchener, Ontario. He has been a senior pastor and church planter in Canada, and was a missionary among the Ojibway Indians in Wanipigow, Manitoba. He has had several articles published in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, as well as in Frontline. Dr. Straub is a member of the Evangelical Missiological Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the American Society of Church History. Dr. Straub is married to Rebecca, and they have 3 children. He enjoys books, golf, hunting, and fishing.
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There are 27 Comments

JGHenderson's picture

Thanks for this well written series. As usual, the issue of "secondary separation"is "where the rubber meets the you-know-what". Having come into Biblical, historic Fundamentalism by conviction, I'm always interested in this particular area. The
latest I've read is a booklet by Peter Masters of Spurgeon's Tabernacle in London called "STAND FOR THE TRUTH". Interestingly,
it was first out in l983. It's been revised in l996 and this reprint is from 2009. It's probably the best and most helpful discussion I've read as a layman. Looks like it was originally from the SWORD & TROWEL. You could get it from the Metropolitan
Tabernacle bookstore. I've observed Master's ministry for over 30 years. Anything he writes is "on course, on glidepath" as
far as I'm concerned. Captain Joe Henderson

dmicah's picture

i was under the impression this series of articles was to ask questions and lead to conclusions, not grind axes on Mars Hill. "Mark Driscoll is orthodox, or so he claims." Seriously?? Have you heard him expound for hours at a time on doctrine? Or do you just youtube his most outlandish comments?

His comments are egregrious. Really? When Paul told the church at Corinth that the jewish folk who insisted on circumcision for salvation should go ahead and cut off the rest of their sexual organ, was that outside of pulpit decorum? When Paul said that all of his achievements were counted as a rotting pile of feces, was that too much for sensitive ears? C'mon, the Bible is in and of itself rated R at best. I'm toning it down for SI's audience compared with the original language.

The series seems to ask some quality questions, but the answers have not been given exhaustive thought.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Dmicah,

In the article, Jeff said, "The issue with Driscoll is not theology but practice. It is this praxis that is called into question." That seems different than your reading of it.

Furthermore, as I read Jeff, I think his main point was not about Driscoll but about MacArthur/Johnson and Piper/Mahaney and the relationship between them. It seems to me that Mars Hill/Driscoll was a relatively minor point in that. It was merely the occasion to talk about fellowship and the implications of separation between MacArthur and Piper and Mahaney. I think the issue that Driscoll has crossed the line with his speech is beyond dispute. He even admits that. The issue is about how MacArthur's stance against Driscoll's methods will affect his relationship with those who do not share his stance against Driscoll's methods.

Perhaps another read through for both of us might clarify that.

BTW, it was Galatians not Corinth, and I think perhaps some original language work might be in order. The Bible is not "rated R at best." That is the kind of statement that causes one not to take someone seriously. Young fundamentalists have a hard enough time being taken seriously without making mistakes like that. Perhaps some better comparisons are in order.

dmicah's picture

my mistake on galatians and corinth...i have been back and forth in gal/1&2 Corinth all day....

However, despite the misquote, this was a diversion from the point. Paul used very rough language.

This comment "perhaps some original language work might be in order" is, well, baseless at best and condescending at worst. Paul uses the term emasculate/mutilate, i am not sure what apokopto could mean beyond "amputation/cut off" within the context of circumcision. "I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!" (ESV) Paul was employing caustic sarcasm regarding those who continued to preach that circumcision was necessary for faith in Christ and thereby causing them to stumble.

You really think the bible is tame? murder, gang rape, adultery, a worldwide flood, polygamy, dismemberment of dead bodies, angels of death, stabbings, betrayals, beheadings, crucifixion, genocide, hell/Gehenna...describing these things in literal terms is extremely graphic. I stand by the statement that the Bible is rated R at best. You are mistaken to not take my thoughts seriously. It's this mentality among old gen fundie's that limits their ability to communicate real world applications from real world biblical scenarios, leaving them irrelevant and antiquated to this generation. You may not agree that God's Word is graphic. You may not like my descriptor. I'd be interested to hear your line of reasoning instead of a comment that essentially claims my comments aren't worth your time.

And yes, you might want to take a second read, as i stopped counting at 17 times that Driscoll's name was mentioned. You thought that was a "relatively minor point." Sure it was an attempt at a supporting element to his separation comments, but 17 times comes across as an axe to grind to me. A couple of mentions that introduced the topic would have been sufficient. We all know he has said things that cross the line, imo, from the pulpit. However, MacArthur was blatantly incorrect on a number of matters in his series he wrote regarding the Driscoll issue. I had a private conversation with one of the influential pastors who has spent time reigning in Driscoll the very week the articles were published and he was frustrated by the series. These guys are speaking into his life and for someone who has never spoken to Driscoll personally to take a public potshot at him and those influencing him is kind of silly.

Further, we find Dr. Straub interpreting the entire incident as a potentially good model to follow for "implied separation". So again, i will argue that not only were the questions in this series not answered exhaustively, this last line of argumentation was based on a flawed conclusion regarding a set of incidents of which there was not first hand knowledge. This is not the clearest form of deep thinking that Dr. Straub was arguing for in the earlier parts of the series.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Thanks dmicah,

Quote:
Paul used very rough language.
Very infrequently, though. Phil 3:8 is in fact the only place where that type of language is used in that way, and my reference to original languages was a reference to the fact that there is a lot of debate about the nuance and color of the word in the time of Paul. It may not be the equivalent that some have made it out to be. I don’t think anyone objects to it’s teaching, or to Paul’s point about emasculation. But isn’t what is being done today by many far different? It is not the occasional strong word for the sake of making a point. It is a more frequent debasing of pulpit language in order to appear acceptable and “with it.” And it should lead us to the question, How did the men of old ever reach anybody if using this type of language is necessary?

Quote:
You really think the bible is tame? murder, gang rape, adultery, a worldwide flood, polygamy, dismemberment of dead bodies, angels of death, stabbings, betrayals, beheadings, crucifixion, genocide, hell/Gehenna...describing these things in literal terms is extremely graphic. I stand by the statement that the Bible is rated R at best.
I didn’t say the Bible was tame. I said it wasn’t “rated R at best.” All of these things occur, but not a lurid way, not in an R-rated way. Again, that’s the point … What’s done in the Bible is not what is being done by some others. I have no problem with a lot of what Driscoll has said. I have a problem with some of it because it isn’t R-rated so much as it is fit for a Jr-hi boys locker room.

Quote:
You are mistaken to not take my thoughts seriously. It's this mentality among old gen fundie's that limits their ability to communicate real world applications from real world biblical scenarios, leaving them irrelevant and antiquated to this generation.
It’s not that I don’t take them seriously. I don’t really think about them at all. I don’t even know you and I don’t recall ever reading anything by you here. My point was that you glossed over some very important issues like there is no other side. It came across like you were treating people who disagree with you with condescension because they think that pulpit language should have some measure of decorum. I know it is hard to communicate in this type of forum and it is easy to appear condescending or arrogant when in fact you don’t mean to be.

You may be right. My point was that you won’t be taken seriously because of the way in which you presented it, both in terms of what you said (lack of support, lack of recognition of ongoing debates, etc.) and the way that you said it (giving the impression of disdain for those who disagree with you). I mentioned elsewhere yesterday that for all the grief “old fundamentalists” take for their dogmatism, one-sidedness, “my way or the highway,” etc (and much of it is well earned), the young fundamentalists are often just as dogmatic and abrasive, yet without the years of experience. In other words, in some sense, the difference between the old and the new is the type of things that one is willing to be dogmatic about. It is often not “theology” vs. “cultural application.” It is two sides of cultural application.

Quote:
You may not like my descriptor. I'd be interested to hear your line of reasoning instead of a comment that essentially claims my comments aren't worth your time.
I didn’t make that claim. I was suggesting that a more developed and reasoned response would give your comments more reason to be considered.

Quote:
And yes, you might want to take a second read, as i stopped counting at 17 times that Driscoll's name was mentioned. You thought that was a "relatively minor point."
I stopped counting the word “and” at 54 times. Does that mean “and” was a main point? Of course not. I think it is fallacious argumentation to argue that way. And you probably agree.

What was the point of his article? It was primarily about a consistent view of separation and the fact that even non-fundamentalists practice some form of separation. The article explored the ramifications of that with respect to Driscoll, MacArthur, Piper, and Mahaney. So I think the article was about separation, not about Driscoll. Driscoll was only a sidepoint to that. It seems to me that his tactics were mentioned to mark out the reason for the comments about the relationship between Piper and MacArthur.

Quote:
A couple of mentions that introduced the topic would have been sufficient.
But would this have satisfied some? Wouldn’t the claim have been made that all he did was make accusations without showing any facts?

Quote:
However, MacArthur was blatantly incorrect on a number of matters in his series he wrote regarding the Driscoll issue.
This would be an interesting conversation. I would be interested to hear the evidence.

Quote:
These guys are speaking into his life and for someone who has never spoken to Driscoll personally to take a public potshot at him and those influencing him is kind of silly.
Driscoll is a public figure who is very influential, and these guys who are speaking into his life are, quite frankly, not doing a very good job, it seems. I have been listening to Driscoll since long before it was popular to do so. When I started listening to him, I think his church was under a 1000. Again, I am not troubled by a lot of what he says. I am troubled by some of it, and I have said that for a long time.

Quote:
So again, i will argue that not only were the questions in this series not answered exhaustively, this last line of argumentation was based on a flawed conclusion regarding a set of incidents of which there was not first hand knowledge.
I am not sure that Jeff intended to give an exhaustive answer, particularly in a three part series. But I am curious as to how you know there is not first hand knowledge, and what is the basis for saying that this is based on a flawed conclusion. What is the flawed conclusion? This is not the clearest form of deep thinking that Dr. Straub was arguing for in the earlier parts of the series.

Thanks again, dmicah

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Might be opening a can of worms on this one... which might be better as a separate thread, but what constitutes "rough language" is somewhat culturally conditioned. For example--no crudeness intended--there are a bunch of words in the English language for "feces," that being one of the more medical ones. Some are considered scatological and not in keeping with speech that is "with grace" and "seasoned with salt" (though I've heard some very godly farmers use one in particular that I'd never use myself or let my kids use).
Now all of these various words refer to exactly the same thing, so what makes one word acceptable and one inappropriate? The answer is conventional meaning. In every culture, there are words that have become favorites in certain contexts with the intention of being vile or shocking and offending the sensibilities of people with scruples. The culture determines what these words are.
All of that is a backdrop for my point: Jesus and the apostles did not use that kind of "rough language." Not ever. They used some very frank language and occasionally some graphic language but they did not choose the words that the culture recognized as belonging to low forms of communication or employed intentionally to be crude and offensive.
[br ] Edit: gotta throw one more point in... "R" ratings come from the MPAA, a very politically correct bunch of folks, apparently. There are some scenes in the Bible that would get the R for violence if you were actually seeing them (last few chapters of Judges comes to mind), but in the Bible you are not seeing them, you are reading about them. There's no way to apply motion picture ratings to written words in any meaningful way.

Joseph's picture

Aaron,

I think it is missing the spirit for the letter to speak of the inapplicabiliity of visual ratings for literary works. We don't have "ratings" for books as we do for movies, so dmicah used the one rating system we do have as an analogy, and I do not think that analogy is a bad one. I've heard many people make the same or a similar analogy. The idea is obviously that parts of the Bible are such that they warrant similar age concerns about who reads parts of it.

For one thing, not all of the Bible is fit for certain notions of "polite company." Certain passages, like the famous "all your sins are like . . . " from Isaiah are routinely mistranslated to not shock people: the text means, as many know, that our sins ar like a menstrual rag, which has a much more detailed and profound theological point than "filthy rags," because menstruation and its attendant materials made women ritually unclean, and thus Isaiah's point is much stronger than the sanitized translations indicate. I have not yet heard a pastor actually tell his congregation this (save Driscoll, actually, now that I think of it).

Other texts that I doubt many want their children to read are those that use lurid sexual imagery, such as Ezekiel's discussion of women lifting their skirts, or his reference to sexual fluid. And the same goes for many other passages. I doubt most parents want to explain to their children what coitus interruptus (to use the polite Latin) is, but this is going to come up pretty early in a reading of the OT.

A movie does not need to be titillating or gratuitous in its depictions to warrant an R-rating; sufficient realism in violence, for example, will do the trick. The same applies to texts, and I think its clear that the Bible is quite graphic and not all of it is appropriate for people of all ages.

WilliamD's picture

dmicah: "You really think the bible is tame? murder, gang rape, adultery, a worldwide flood, polygamy, dismemberment of dead bodies, angels of death, stabbings, betrayals, beheadings, crucifixion, genocide, hell/Gehenna...describing these things in literal terms is extremely graphic. I stand by the statement that the Bible is rated R at best."

Oh please! The mention of gross sins is not the same as preaching with locker room humor.
For Paul to say he wishes they would just go all the way and castrate themselves is far different than using some gutter slang talk about it.

We all agree that Jesus, Paul and the others said some pretty hard things that upset people, but they upset them because their words attacked their unholiness. Driscoll makes holy people mad with his gutter talk.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Joseph wrote:
I think it is missing the spirit for the letter to speak of the inapplicabiliity of visual ratings for literary works. We don't have "ratings" for books as we do for movies, so dmicah used the one rating system we do have as an analogy, and I do not think that analogy is a bad one. I've heard many people make the same or a similar analogy. The idea is obviously that parts of the Bible are such that they warrant similar age concerns about who reads parts of it....

A movie does not need to be titillating or gratuitous in its depictions to warrant an R-rating; sufficient realism in violence, for example, will do the trick. The same applies to texts, and I think its clear that the Bible is quite graphic and not all of it is appropriate for people of all ages.


I don't think one can compare the content of books to visual media. It is one thing to say "She was naked" and quite another to look at a picture of a naked woman or watch a movie with nakedness. The Bible is not nearly graphic enough to earn an 'R' rating- the passages you describe would get a PG-13 at most. I was thinking of the passage where the guy chops up his concubine and mails pieces of her all over the place. But that's all it says- it doesn't describe the process of dismembering and the blood splatter and the sounds and smells etc...

But there is a difference between 'graphic' and 'titillating', and I think that difference puts Driscoll in the locker room instead of the sanctuary.

I thought the description of various kinds of separation was interesting, and we must admit that separation is probably the most difficult aspect of Fundamentalism to enact accurately and consistently.

Josh Gelatt's picture

dmicah does bring up an excellent point that the Bible is much more scandalous that our English translations suggest (steeped in the tradition of Continental propriety. For example, the "uncovered his feet" image in the book of Ruth---which was not a betrothal custom btw, no matter what our fundamentalist forefathers tried to say). We could go on and on. The Song of Solomon is riddled with sexualized language. It is not wrong, necessarily, to bring this to light. The nuances of the Hebrew or Greek text, which are sometimes a bit edgy, are generally downplayed in translation.

However, it is one thing to bring these to light during preaching. It is another thing entirely to take a somewhat sexualized metaphor and spend 40 minutes describing it in vivid and concrete terms. Scripture's word choice can sometimes be as sharp as the edge of a knife---whereas Driscoll takes that knife and actually plunges it deep. In other words, he actually ends up going much further--using much more scandalous language--that Scripture itself does.

If Evangelical (here using the term loosely to include Fundamentalists) preaching has ignored Scripture's more scandalous sections, Driscoll has gone to the other extreme in almost glorying in them. Perhaps we have made less out of those passages than context demands, but Driscoll has made more out of them than the text warrants.

I think discussion of "separating" from Driscoll is probably out of place (even more so is the idea of separating from Piper, et al for not separating from Driscoll). True, I don't think he is handling the word of God too carefully. But unless we are willing to separate from those fundamentalist brothers who ignored the text for years by giving us socially conservative moral rants instead of true expository preaching, then I don't see the point. We can't separate from one and not the other.

dmicah's picture

Larry and i took our discussion offline, but in response to the others who feel the Bible is not "titillating" or whatever that means....

Let me be the first to agree that gutter/locker room talk is not the same as direct and blunt explanation of imagery we see in the Bible. Paul directly prohibits coarse language and jokes and that shouldn't exclude the pulpit. But as to this discussion that the Bible should be read like a warm and fuzzy Dr. Seuss story...yikes. i really don't understand the reasoning you apply here. "We don't have ratings for writing" - Tangential - "Reading is not the same as seeing" - Fallacious - "Jesus didn't use 'that' kind of language" - Unverifiable.

I am not trying to be rude, but this is not logical reasoning. I understand that within contexts and cultures, particular words take on different colloquial meanings. (A lot of folk do not think of the "s" word as a curse, as Aaron mentioned) But this type of reasoning is called a pre-conceived notion bearing upon your logic. You (general you) would not say specific things, therefore, it must be wrong to say them. But think about it...within the first three chapters of Genesis, we have the Creator God telling two beautiful, completely naked people to engage in as much marital fun as possible. One extreme is this fad around the country that pastors should be preaching things that would make the editors at Cosmopolitan blush. The other is that we barely mention the non-procreative nature of sexual activity and focus solely upon the offspring. My argument, and the "Rated R" analogy to go with it, is that there is a middle ground. God wasn't embarrassed to document it, so we can have clear, direct, blunt, honest conversations that address and better explain a God who is willing to have relationship with sinful, messed up humans.

The entire point of history is to point us to God and His redemptive plan through Jesus, and thus the accurate and recorded stories of Scripture be they tame or graphic are pictures, images of real life. We can experience God with all of our senses. I don't think there's a Christian young man on the planet who has not vicariously experienced the concept of a hero by visualizing what it would have been like to be David on that triumphant day when he smoked Goliath. We imagine ourselves there, the heart pounding, the roar of the armies, the armor, the smell of battle. It is this visualization and intensity of the lives of the men and women in Scripture that allow us a glimpse into our own lives as God intervenes and intercedes. But we weaken the message if we forget that David literally beheaded Goliath and held this guy's head, dripping with blood, eyes half-open, in his bare hand as a trophy and a rallying cry. It's kind of a sick thought in the modern 21st century North American culture. Yet it is a mystery how can God could use the same hand to pen some of the most precious and prophetic words in the Scriptures. To say that preachers should sanitize stories like those is applying personal decorum standards onto the Word. I think it does our congregations a disservice.

Josh Gelatt's picture

dmicah, again you bring up a good point and I agree with much of what you say. However, I do want to point out a slight disagreement.

You mention David beheading Goliath. You go on to state that David "held this guy's head, dripping with blood, eyes half-open". Interesting, because the text doesn't say that. It just says: "Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled" (1 Sam 17:51). Of course, I'm not denying that his head was dripping with blood or that his eyes were half-open. I'm just saying that this is a prime example of going further than the text does. Not that this is necessarily wrong (in fact, in many instances it would be quite fitting), but since you ARE going further than the text then wisdom is needed in how one goes about that (or in some cases even if one should---particularly regarding sexual imagery).

I do agree with you that we should be somewhere in the middle between blatant locker-room crudeness and sanitized blandness in our presentations of scripture.

Thus:
1. Many times the Scriptural text implies something without actually saying it (e.g. Goliath's head dripping with blood).
2. It is not wrong, in principle, to make explicit what Scripture implies.
3. It is not always wise, however, to make explicit what Scripture implies (perhaps it had a reason to stay vague).

As a general rule, I try to follow the direction of the text. If it gets specific, I get specific in my preaching. If it stays vague, then I stay vague. It makes a subtle sexual allusion, my references to sexuality stay very subtle. If it gets very specific and graphic, then I allow this to come through (but usually on its own terms. If its already graphic, it doesn't need much explanation from me anyway). Add to this the reality of mixed gender audiences, young children in the services, etc---all to say that much wisdom is needed in these areas. Just because dripping blood may be implied in 1 Sam 17 doesn't automatically give me license to spend 10 minutes describing it in imagined detail on a Sunday morning to a bunch of families with little kids and sweet old ladies (but neither does it mean that there is no context for doing just that).

If you think that's bad, try preaching from Ezekiel 23:20 (or the entire chapter for that matter). I can almost guarantee you've never heard a sermon on that verse. Figure out how to deal with that publically and you'll get a gold star.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

dmicah wrote:
Larry and i took our discussion offline, but in response to the others who feel the Bible is not "titillating" or whatever that means....

Let me be the first to agree that gutter/locker room talk is not the same as direct and blunt explanation of imagery we see in the Bible. Paul directly prohibits coarse language and jokes and that shouldn't exclude the pulpit. But as to this discussion that the Bible should be read like a warm and fuzzy Dr. Seuss story...yikes. i really don't understand the reasoning you apply here. "We don't have ratings for writing" - Tangential - "Reading is not the same as seeing" - Fallacious - "Jesus didn't use 'that' kind of language" - Unverifiable.


How is saying "Reading is not the same as seeing" fallacious? For instance, reading "David committed adultery with Bathsheba" is different than seeing a depiction of David committing adultery with Bathsheba. It could also be presented visually in ways that allude to the event without showing the event. Two people looking longingly and meaningfully into each other's eyes as they climb the stairs and then close the bedroom door. The next morning they are drinking coffee on the terrace. Or you can take the Sharon Stone approach of leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination.

I think the Bible leaves ALOT to the imagination. I can't think of any passages I'd consider graphic. But then I'd be comparing it to Thomas Harris and Stephen King and Judith Krantz, whose writings are undeniably graphic and explicit.

There isn't an either/or here- it isn't that the Bible reads or should read like a warm and fuzzy bedtime story, but it is certainly not rated 'R'. It is blunt and factual, but leaves out the details that would make it graphic or sexually explicit.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

dmicah wrote:
"Reading is not the same as seeing" - Fallacious - "Jesus didn't use 'that' kind of language" - Unverifiable.

"Reading is not the same as seeing" - self evident.
"Jesus didn't use 'that' kind of language" (in reference to the terms a culture develops to be intentionally offensive to those with moral scruples), it would be disobedience to His own word if He did. (And Paul would be violating his own teaching--which you alluded to--if he did). No need to verify. Maybe you misunderstood what I meant by "that kind" of language.

Josh Gelatt's picture

Susan & dmicah,

Susan brings up a valid point and a distinction that needs to be made. Certainly the Bible refers to "R-rated" events (cutting up of the concubine, beheading of Goliath) and even X-rated events (adultery with Bathsheba), but those references, in and of themselves, are not R-rated or X-rated.

For example, I recently watched an old Bonanza TV episode with my children. In one scene, Hos was in the saloon with one of the dancing girls. He was trying to explain to his dimwitted friend that the saloon girl didn't really care about him, it was simply her job to "entertain" male guests. There was no explicit visible or verbal reference to sex at all, but of course we understand what the subtlety was alluding to. The scene, in a sense, referred to an x-rated event but the reference itself was PG.

Scripture does this all the time.

Josh Gelatt's picture

Staub makes the following statement that I didn't quite understand: "The unsuccessful efforts at the November 2003 meeting in Atlanta, in which the membership of Pinnock and Sanders was sustained because of an insufficient number of affirmative votes, demonstrate that Ware argued for a de facto secondary separation."

Eh? Maybe I'm just not getting this. How is this secondary separation? Ware was asking the group (ETS) to separate itself from proponents of Open Theism, which it obviously failed to do. It would ONLY be secondary separation if Ware then separated from ETS for refusing to separate from Pinnock/Sanders.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think what he might mean there is that Ware's efforts were themselves a secondary separation effort, though they didn't work. Somewhere in there Dr.S remarked that he doesn't see "secondary separation" as applying only to separating from those who fail to separate, but rather, applies the term to separation over disobedience vs. over deviation from the fundamentals of the faith. Hence the Driscoll matter.

Josh Gelatt's picture

That certainly seems to be a non-standard way of defining 'secondary separation'---and since those who oppose secondary separation do not define it that way, it seems somewhat odd to ignore their definition, give the term a new definition that ensures they would fall under it, and then sit back and claim, "see, they really do practice secondary separation".

Since defining one's terms is rule #1 for rational discourse to occur, and this is not done consistently, it seems his entire argument is flawed.

A. Many New Fundamentalists reject secondary separation.
Aa. They define "secondary separation" as separating over failure to separate.

B. But, these same New Fundamentalists separate over matters of disobedience to scripture.
Bb. I define "secondary separation" as separating over matters of disobedience to scriptre.

C. Therefore, these same New Fundamentalists really practice secondary separation.

Doesn't this just simply result in a word game designed to produce a predetermined end in mind? After all, I could say "I define a Republican as anyone who is registered to vote". Sure, I've just increased the numbers of the Republican Party, but I've kind of cheated a little. Since Democrats wouldn't accept that definition, it wouldn't really be good logic to try to say to them, "no really you are because that's how I define the word".

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm not sure his definition is that unusual. I'd have to dig up my reading on the "secondary separation" debate to see (and it's been a long time) but it seems like the case for it has always been a "separation from disobedient brethren" line of reasoning, with "failure to separate from apostasy" as an example of disobedience. So failure to sep. from those who fail to sep. has always been--for many--an example of "secondary sep" and not really the definition.
And I seem to recall that at least some of what I read on the "against" side, worked with that definition as well and argued that the passages involved should have a much more narrow application (in Thess. for example, the argument I read was that these verses apply only to church members who refuse to work when they could... and are then disciplined).

So my impression is that Dr. Straub's def. is not novel. In any case, terminology aside, the debate between evangelicals and fundamentalists has been whether separation from disobedient brethren is warranted (in contrast to sep. from apostasy), regardless of what one chooses to call that kind of separation.

Josh Gelatt's picture

I think I get that explanation. What I still don't get is how the example of Ware counts as "de facto secondary separation", since Bruce's charge was precisely one of unorthodoxy. If anything is an example of "primary separation" (or whatever we call it), this would seem to be it.

fsansone's picture

Josh,

I think definitions are in order to help clarify things. I have often found that people tend to mistake secondary separation and second-degree separation.

While I do not have time for a polemic on the legitimacy of these, let me at least try to clarify with some simple definitions (hopefully) and some additional comments as it relates to this thread.

Primary separation - separation from unbelievers (II Cor 6:14 ff)

Secondary separation - separation from disobedient brothers (2 Thess 3:6)

1st-degree separation - one person separates from another

2nd-degree separation - one person separates from another because the first person did not separate from another

So, if we are to take this understanding, most Fundamentalist (historic) and Conservative Evangelicals would agree with primary separation. (Although not necessarily mainstream Evangelicals/New Evangelicals - e.g. Billy G.).

Fundamentalists would affirm explicity so-called Secondary Separation, whereas many conservate evangelicals would either limit separation from other believers to 1) a local church context or 2) a specific issue - e.g. laziness as Aaron pointed out.

Further, while we (Fundamentalists) do not like the term second-degree separation, we believe the practice of so-called second-degree separation is entirely appropriate, yea, Biblically necessary since the person who has failed to separate where separation was required is therefore in disobedience and thus this disobedience would require our separation from them.

In regards to Dr. Straub's point, many conservative evangelicals have argued that there is not a Biblical mandate to separate from disobedient brothers. (Mainly by limiting the teachings regarding separation from disobedient brothers in one of the two ways mentioned above.) However, while they would deny a Biblical mandate for separation from disobedient brothers, they have often times shown themselves willing to separate from disobedient brothren in some of the ways Dr. Straub has indicated. In other words, their position is that the Bible does not demand "secondary separation", but their practice is that they sometimes practice "secondary separation" - and thus, the charge of inconsistency in this area.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for Fundamentalists to also be inconsistent in this area - usually in the exact opposite direction. We argue that the Bible does declare the necessity to (at times and in particular situations) separate from disobedient brethren, yet too often when someone who has been a "friend" is shown to be in disobedience, and there is a lack of separation from that disobedient brother.

Hope this helps.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Josh Gelatt wrote:
I think I get that explanation. What I still don't get is how the example of Ware counts as "de facto secondary separation", since Bruce's charge was precisely one of unorthodoxy. If anything is an example of "primary separation" (or whatever we call it), this would seem to be it.
I'm afraid I don't know enough about the case to help much there.

@Frank... good to see you back. I think alot of folks just never use the term "2nd degree" because they see it as just a particular form of secondary. But I can imagine situations where the distinction would probably be helpful to talking about it clearly.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't remember seeing that one before. Interesting. "Confessionalist" is apparently intended to be the "right' one on that table, I guess.
Much in the "new image" column does not fit the YF's I know and have read.

fsansone's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
@Frank... good to see you back. I think alot of folks just never use the term "2nd degree" because they see it as just a particular form of secondary. But I can imagine situations where the distinction would probably be helpful to talking about it clearly.

Aaron,

Thanks.

FWIW, I agree that what is called 2nd degree separation is just a particular form of secondary separation.

Frank

Joel Tetreau's picture

Hey Frank,

Welcome back. We've missed you man!

Joel

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

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