Preserving Some Truth

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.

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

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Todd Wood's picture

"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.

Todd Wood's picture

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"?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

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.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

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

CPHurst's picture

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.

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

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.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

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.
Don Johnson's picture

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

schaitel's picture

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

Mike Durning's picture

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.

Bob Hayton's picture

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.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

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.

CPHurst's picture

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.

Larry's picture

Moderator

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.

CPHurst's picture

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.

Bob Hayton's picture

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.

Bob Hayton's picture

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.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

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?

Bob Hayton's picture

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.

Larry's picture

Moderator

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Larry's picture

Moderator

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?

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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.

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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.

CPHurst's picture

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.

Don Johnson's picture

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

CPHurst's picture

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:)

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

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?

CPHurst's picture

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.

CPHurst's picture

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.

gdwightlarson's picture

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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."

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

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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