Reflections on "The Book" - Four Views on The Spectrum of Evangelicalism

Image of Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)
by Kevin Bauder, R. Albert Mohler Jr., John G. Stackhouse Jr., Roger E. Olson
Zondervan 2011
Paperback 224
The new Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism is being discussed in various venues such as Mark Snoeberger’s blog and by Kevin Mungons at Sharper Iron. In a few days, ETS will host a discussion on the book and its theme at the 2011 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Carl Trueman will be there serving as moderator along with coauthors Kevin Bauder and Al Mohler, both of whom I know and respect. Too bad Roger Olsen and John Stackhouse Jr. won’t make it, but they have their reasons.

While the book just came out recently, much of its content has been known among the Central faculty as Kevin has shared parts of it with us along the way, mostly his own material, seeking advice and help. He seldom needed it, quite frankly. When Kevin puts pen to paper, he is rarely outdone, and what little we might have suggested is so insignificant as to be of no consequence. I am, however, glad to have gotten a mention in a footnote. Thanks, Kevin.

I read most of the book on a flight to Romania the end of the last week of November where I am doing some administrative work for the seminary at our satellite campus. I finished the book this Monday. Let me weigh in with a few comments of my own.

1. First, there is really nothing surprising in the book. This is standard conversation that has been occuring in various contexts within the evangelical (including fundamentalist) world for several years now. The themes that both Kevin and Al herald I have been hearing from both for the better part of the past decade. It is nice to hear them talking to each other directly, but really they have been saying these things for quite some time now. I, for one, like Kevin’s “idea” of fundamentalism and, having worked for a time as an Emergency Medical Technician, Al Mohler’s “theological triage” resonates with me. In both emergency medicine and Christian theology, one has to sort out what is most important or one focuses on lesser problems to the neglect of more serious matters. We used to follow the ABC rule as EMTs—airway, breathing and then circulation. It was easy to focus in on a patient’s bleeding while missing the more serious occluded airway!

As for John and Roger, there are really no surprises here either. Roger has been pitching his “big tent” for a while now, and frankly, I think John’s take on evangelicalism (virtually echoed by Roger) is an accurate presentation. I recently read Doug Sweeney’s The American Evangelical Story (Baker, 2005). I am sufficiently persuaded that this is essentially the correct view of evangelicalism—you have to trace it to the Reformation and its descendents. Like the mighty Mississippi River that finds its headwaters in Itasca, MN, although it begins small and narrow, by the time it reaches the Gulf, so much other water has flowed into it to make it exceedingly broad and quite muddy indeed. I like David Bebbington’s quadrilateral, though I think it is enhanced with John’s, et al, addition of transdenominationalism as well as Roger’s fifth point—some sort of commitment to historic orthodoxy, vaguely defined. Evangelicalism predates the rise of the new evangelicalism and unless we understand this, the present day situation is hard to grasp.

Here I think Al especially is fighting a losing battle. He seems to want to reclaim what has clearly been lost since the death of the founders of the new evangelicalism—its ethos and identity. Carl Henry’s (et. al.) effort was clearly a Promise Unfulfilled. I do not think Al will succeed in resurrecting it. Where does this leave us—with Kevin’s idea? Well, yes, but I am persuaded few will be—persuaded, that is. Many will dismiss Kevin as simply obscurantist. Others will prefer not to engage his argument for pietistic reasons—it seems pattenly unChristian to separate from brothers. Still, without some form of separatism, there will be no way to separate the sheep from the goats.

2. This leads to a second conclusion about the book. Despite the book presenting four views, really there are just two. The book essentially offers a binary approach to the movement of the present hour, regardless of when one thinks evangelicalism began. Either evangelicalism is a centered set, or it is a bounded set. I know Al wants a centered and bounded set, which ultimately both Roger and John are forced to imply—not everything, after all, can be evangelical. But really, all attempts to put solid boundaries amount to some form of separatism—secondary at that. If you cut some cows from the herd, you are practicing separation.

Thanks Andy et al for pointing out this binary reality. But anyone who reads the book with attention will see what we saw. It’s a tag team effort with Kevin and Al in one corner arguing for a theological understanding of evangelicalism vs. John and Roger arguing for a sociological one. That may be a bit over simplified, but I think this is the reality. It may surprise the reader to hear that I actually agree more with John and Roger than with Kevin and Al on this point. Not that I don’t wish for a theologically-defined evangelicalism. I just don’t think it has ever existed, nor will it outside of some other effort like fundamentalism or something like a qualified evangelicalism, e.g. confessional evangelicalism. John and Roger will neither confess to the satisfation of Kevin and Al nor will they voluntarily surrender the term evangelical. Call them what you will; they will call themselves evangelical.

3. This leads to a third conclusion, while secondary separation is a concept that three of the writers wish to finally reject, it seems that even they have their limits of fellowship. So, while Roger will fellowship with an open theist, he clearly won’t fellowship with a Mormon. Nor will the others. So what does one do with Richard Mouw who repeatedly apologizes for the ways evangelicals speak of Mormons as non-Christians and cultists? Witness the recent kerfuffle over the comments of Robert Jefferess’ anti-Mormon statement when introducing Rick Perry. Jeffress called them a cult and Mouw begs to differ. Mouw speaks of one Mormon elder whom he heard focusing on the death of Christ. The published theology of the CJCLDS is well documented and one public pronouncement does not make Mormonism “more Christ-centered.” Because Al, John and Roger ultimately won’t practice secondary separation, I think it is quite likely that it won’t be long before the big tent of evangelicalism also includes the LDS, especially if Mouw has his way! Mouw says he still has serious issues with Mormonism, but they aren’t a cult. What are they then? Al might never accept Mormons as evangelicals but its looking more likely that Richard Mouw just might, at some time in the future, and he is the president of the school where evangelicalism began, at least one form of it.

As for John, he thinks Brian MacLaren is a “brother.” I really wonder if John adequately grasps the gospel he wants to place at the center of his view of evangelicalism. Or maybe he has not read much of Brian to know him well. MacLaren hardly seems evangelical under even the broadest definition. Roger has a frankly an odd view of Roman Catholicism. They aren’t apostates, in his view, but he won’t fellowship with them either! I am left wondering why. And Al will (thankfully) cut off the open theists at the knees (figuratively speaking), which is essentially secondary separation (from “Christian” brothers). I met Clark Pinnock and enjoyed chatting with him at the infamous ETS meeting in Atlanta where he was almost cast out. I found him to be personally engaging and quite likeable—for a heretic!

4. Since no one ultimately speaks for evangelicalism and no doctrinal statement finally defines evangelicalism, there is little prospect that anything serious will come out of this book in terms of definite boundaries. Kevin’s issues were largely dismissed by his co-authors, which virtually assures this. I knew that Al would reject Kevin’s view of separation from the errant precisely because the SBC conservatives reclaimed the Alamo! Perhaps Al thinks that his conservative brethren can do the same things with the evangelical world. Good luck! We are already seeing what I call the Southern Baptistification of ETS. The SBC men now come in droves and there is a definite pulling to the right. Al and his fellows did practice some form of secondary separation when they voted to remove Clark Pinnock and John Sanders from ETS. So, now that he and Kevin actually agree on the idea of secondary separation (by the way, secondary separation has to do with both separating from indifferentists and/or separating from errant brothers). However, if evangelicals will not set boundaries, and I am persuaded they won’t (sorry Al) then it is up to like-miinded men to start something new with boundaries. Evangelicalism is sadly like the Baptist movement. No surprise here since Baptists of all sorts are a part of the evangelical tribe. But as Baptists have no Rome or 39 Articles, each individual Baptist gets to define what the term means to him or her! I once led a PhD course on Baptist theologians. One of the men to be chosen for study was William Newton Clarke, the father of American liberal theology. Kevin said to me something like, “I thought this was a class in Baptist theology!” Meaning if you are not orthodox, then how can you claim to be a Baptist? Well, sadly many do. I wish—oh how I wish—we could finally and completely cut the liberal element from the Baptist herd and finally deny to them the Baptist moniker. But we cannot. No matter how much we protest that they—the liberals—are not real Baptists, they will offer a long list of recognized names who proudly wore the Baptist label (even as Roger gave us a list or recognized evangelical theologians that might not be). These Baptists denied serious parts of the Baptist and Christian faith. Were they Baptists? Well … no and yes. The same can be said of many so-called (there I go) evangelicals. Are the open theists evangelical? Well, they think they are. Is Brian MacLaren? John seems to think he is. Sorry Al, since evangelicalism has no tribunal, pope, creed, secret handshake, etc., we will both lose our battles to set boundaries—your more broad ones or my more narrow edges.

So, at the end of the day, what has been accomplished by this book? I want to be careful here, for I do not wish to disparage the labors of my esteemed colleague and personal friend Kevin Bauder. Several things come out of this book for sure. Zondervan has a new book to hawk and I am sure some are buying it, if only to read it and critize it for being too narrow or too broad. Also Kevin, Al, John and Roger have another title to add to their respective CVs. Evangelicals have something new to talk about at ETS this year and beyond, at least until the next theological skirmish distracts us. That issue may be on the table right now. Bruce Waltke, Peter Enns and others who deny the historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis want to retain the title evangelical also. But are they? Really? Here we go again.

I fear that talk is really all they (we) will ultimately do. We’ll have a conversation. This conversation too will pass when the next theological debate begins, and nothing will change. Unless, at ETS, Kevin and Al find they have more in common than they realize, and they formulate a plan for a new movement that is both centered and bounded to replace evangelicalism, even as it would move within the very broad and often-polluted stream that today is contemporary, fundamentalist, confessional, generic, big-tent, post-conservative, neo- and yet paleo-evangelicalism. But I’m not holding my breath! What would such a group look like? Might they publish a series of articles around a common theme across denominational lines? The series might be called The Fundamentals! Here we go again.

[node:bio/jeff-straub body]

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There are 19 Comments

Todd Wood's picture

"Because Al, John and Roger ultimately won’t practice secondary separation, I think it is quite likely that it won’t be long before the big tent of evangelicalism also includes the LDS, especially if Mouw has his way! Mouw says he still has serious issues with Mormonism, but they aren’t a cult. What are they then?"

1. He would probably say that Mormonism is confused in some areas and downright heretical in other areas. I simply judge to be wrong his declaration that Bob Millet (LDS) is a Christian.

2. It could be that LDS apostles (not just BYU professors) in future days will seek to have key meetings with American evangelical leaders.

Don Johnson's picture

Hi Jeff... you said:

Quote:
I fear that talk is really all they (we) will ultimately do. We’ll have a conversation. This conversation too will pass when the next theological debate begins, and nothing will change.

In my observation, that is the extent of the lengths evangelicals are willing to go when it comes to dealing with error. They seem to think that if they say, "Hey, McLaren is bad" or "Hey, we don't like open theists", then that is sufficient. When the battle was lost at ETS over the open theists, should those voting against them have stayed in or pulled out? The evangelical response is to stay in. They talked about it. That is sufficient. Quite frankly, I am amazed that self-professed fundamentalists continue to be involved in ETS.

Quote:
Unless, at ETS, Kevin and Al find they have more in common than they realize, and they formulate a plan for a new movement that is both centered and bounded to replace evangelicalism, even as it would move within the very broad and often-polluted stream that today is contemporary, fundamentalist, confessional, generic, big-tent, post-conservative, neo- and yet paleo-evangelicalism.

Well, for anything like this to happen, you would find Kevin following Al's lead outside of fundamentalism into a world where the fundamentalist idea is a quaint anachronism. You won't find Al buying into any kind of fundamentalist approach. He would lose his 'influence' that way.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jeff Straub's picture

Don: I hate to even respond to this because it will likely drag me into a quagmire of back and forth tug-of-war and no doubt get me fried in someone's iron skillet . . .

But I was never too bright anyway. ETS is not a church. It's is not an association or fellowship or cooperative effort to do anything beyond present and listen to papers, usually on or about evangelical theology. Yes it is "Christian" evangelically defined, which means that they really aren't interested in open Bible deniers and atheists presenting papers. I can hear to cries now about whether or not open theists et al are really Bible deniers. Someone else can ride in that jousting match.

It is clear that ETS as a whole thinks in terms of "big tent" evangelicalism though doubtless Al and his fellows want it defined otherwise. Since evangelicalism has few boundaries and they are fuzzy, it is little wonder that the society reflects that same fuzziness.

What would "separating" from ETS do? I am no more "supporting" ETS by my participation than I am supporting big tobacco when I buy milk at the grocery store.

For what it's worth, I have delivered academic papers in several non-fundamentalist venues. These were also not churches or religious activities either. So I don't see why separatism becomes an issue.

Lest you think I am violating some sort of long standing fundamentalist practice, Monk Parker went to "liberal" schools for part of his education, at the encouragement of Sr., R. V. Clearwaters studied at the U of Chicago during the days of the infamous Shailer Mathews and Rolland McCune presented the fundamentalism view at Bethel. Were these men also compromising? We really need to get over this "if you breathe the same air" as a (neo) evangelical, you aren't a separatist mindset.

'Cuse me while I go dig out my kevlar suit and asbestos overcoat. Meh

Jeff Straub

Jeff

Jeff Straub

Don Johnson's picture

Jeff Straub wrote:
ETS is not a church. It's is not an association or fellowship or cooperative effort to do anything beyond present and listen to papers, usually on or about evangelical theology.

Just this:

So why even have a vote on Open Theism then?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jeff Straub's picture

To see if evangelicalism would become a bounded set . . . the answer seems pretty clear. Which ultimately argues against Mohler's thesis. But then you knew the answer already! You were just funning with me! :bigsmile:

Jeff Straub

CPHurst's picture

Jeff, do you feel Bauder adequately explained his position on 2 John 11 (pg. 40)? I think I agree with his basic interpretation of the verse but I don't think he explained it enough such that I wonder if I would agree with him (not that we have to see eye to eye on it). Given that it was the distinguishing difference between he and the other three did didn't spend much time defending it or giving good contemporary examples of how it would be applied. I think that is what my generation is getting hug up on. It's easy to use examples from the 40's-70's (like throwing Graham under the bus) but that dosen't help with today's people, schools and organizations. I feel like too many are riding on the examples of yester-year.

Dan B.'s picture

Craig, would you mind giving those of us who don't own the book the gist of Dr. Bauder's argument? Thanks.

CPHurst's picture

Here is the jist of Bauder's argument:

1. Christian unity and fellowship are centered around the gospel.
2. Christians are responsible to separate from those who deny the gospel (apostates) in doctrine at minimum and practice if it can be discerned (1st degree separation).
3. Some Christians do not do #2.
4. Christians who do not do #2 are considered to "take part in his wicked works (2 Jn. 11)." From this Bauder gets the following: ..."One thing is reasonably clear: Christians who make a habit of encouraging apostate teachers are hardly models of Christian discernment. We should treat them as people who have a share in the evil of apostasy. That is why fundamentalists separate from Christian leaders who will not separate from apostates...by refusing to break with apostates, such Christian leaders are losing reward by bringing themselves into fellowship with apostasy. The evil of apostasy becomes common property between them and the apostates (p. 40)."
5. Because of #4 Christians who respect the responsibility to steward the gospel are to separate from those who will not exercise #2 (2nd degree separation).

The question is, is "taking part in his wicked works" tantamount to being an apostate oneself (of the same level as the apostate themselves?)? Therefore demanding that I separate from them as if they were the apostate themselves. Bauder thinks that the apostasy becomes "common property between them and the apostates" and therefore the separation is justified.

My problem is twofold:

1. I agree that it would greatly strain my fellowship and unity with another brother 'A' down the street if he extended fellowship to person 'B' who I consider to be an apostate. It might strain it so much in fact that I could do almost nothing with brother 'A'. However, I don't see where I am

Quote:
commanded
to objectively separate from brother 'A' because of his fellowship with person 'B' the apostate. Is this some how implied or just the conclusion from other beliefs?

2. In his description of hyper-fundamentalists (p. 43-45) #3 is as follows: "hyper-fundamentalists understand separation in terms of guilt by association. To associate with someone who holds any error constitutes an endorsement of that error. Person who hold error are objects of separation, and so are persons who associate with them (p. 43)." I am willing to be shown where I am wrong on this but how is this not exactly what Bauder believes 2 John 11 is telling us to do? Bauder's assessment of 2 John 11 seems to be guilt by association/fellowship by greeting them (2 Jn. 10). It does not say person 'A' actually believes the apostasy but rather that they "take part" in it (though this is still very serious).

Jeff or someone else, if there is something I am not seeing please help me.

Larry's picture

Quote:
1. I agree that it would greatly strain my fellowship and unity with another brother 'A' down the street if he extended fellowship to person 'B' who I consider to be an apostate. It might strain it so much in fact that I could do almost nothing with brother 'A'. However, I don't see where I am commanded to objectively separate from brother 'A' because of his fellowship with person 'B' the apostate. Is this some how implied or just the conclusion from other beliefs?
How should believers respond to someone who participates in evil deeds? Can we act like nothing is wrong? I don't know of any NT evidence that participation in wicked deeds is just to be overlooked. What would your argument be that we can overlook or ignore someone who participates in evil deeds?

It seems to me that John's designation of "participate in evil deeds" raises the bar from "mere" theological disagreements over an interpretive issue. This, in effect, is a guy who sends a false message about the gospel itself by erasing the line of the gospel in determining boundaries of Christian fellowship.

Quote:
2. In his description of hyper-fundamentalists (p. 43-45) #3 is as follows: "hyper-fundamentalists understand separation in terms of guilt by association. To associate with someone who holds any error constitutes an endorsement of that error. Person who hold error are objects of separation, and so are persons who associate with them (p. 43)." I am willing to be shown where I am wrong on this but how is this not exactly what Bauder believes 2 John 11 is telling us to do? Bauder's assessment of 2 John 11 seems to be guilt by association/fellowship by greeting them (2 Jn. 10). It does not say person 'A' actually believes the apostasy but rather that they "take part" in it (though this is still very serious).
Kevin can speak for himself (as if he needs my permission), but I don't think 2 John 11 is about guilt by association. John calls it "participation," (koinonia). It is fellowship, not merely association. That seems to raise the bar. Elsewhere in the NT Paul applauds participation in various ways because of its impact on the gospel. Here John disapproves of participation for the very same reason probably--it's impact on the gospel.

I think the real question is what do we do with people who do not separate from those who do not separate from apostates. I know people want to jump on that as absurd "secondary separation." But take the label off of it and use John's language: What do we do when someone participates in evil deeds? Can we continue to have unchecked fellowship with them?

Jay's picture

CP - good summary; I think that's pretty much his entire argument.

If you have a minute, I'd appreciate your (and anyone else's) perspective on the differences between his and Al Mohler's sections on Fundamentalism/Conservative Evangelicalism and the differences. I read the first two chapters (and rebuttals), but I really need to go through and carefully re-read them because there was a considerable amount of overlap in my mind.

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

CPHurst's picture

Jeff said:

Quote:
How should believers respond to someone who participates in evil deeds? Can we act like nothing is wrong? I don't know of any NT evidence that participation in wicked deeds is just to be overlooked. What would your argument be that we can overlook or ignore someone who participates in evil deeds?

I am not arguing that we overlook this participation. As I stated, my unity and fellowship would be greatly strained possibly to the point of not being able to share in either of those with them thus implying that I do recognize it.

I don't think the issues is that John is "raising the bar" to something. The context has to do with major doctrine to begin with. Namely, the incarnation of Christ.

Jeff said:

Quote:
I think the real question is what do we do with people who do not separate from those who do not separate from apostates.

This is the point of my discussion.

Jeff said:

Quote:
But take the label off of it and use John's language: What do we do when someone participates in evil deeds? Can we continue to have unchecked fellowship with them?

2 Jn. 11 tells us clearly what to do with apostates. It also tells us that those who don't separate (not give a greeting to) "share in his wicked deeds." What it does not say is how we are to respond to those who do give apostates fellowship and therefore "share in his wicked deeds." It identifies what they are but not how to deal with them.

I am not saying a case can't be made for 2nd degree separation but I don't think it comes from this verse. So what is the case and logic from other Scripture (again, not implying that there isn't one that can't be made)?

Larry's picture

That was actually me, Charlie, not Jeff

Quote:
I am not arguing that we overlook this participation. As I stated, my unity and fellowship would be greatly strained possibly to the point of not being able to share in either of those with them thus implying that I do recognize it.
So are you saying you recognize Kevin's point? Because my initial reading of you comments was that you questioned it, and you still seem to be questioning it at the end of this post. Sorry if I am misunderstanding you.

Quote:
2 Jn. 11 tells us clearly what to do with apostates. It also tells us that those who don't separate (not give a greeting to) "share in his wicked deeds." What it does not say is how we are to respond to those who do give apostates fellowship and therefore "share in his wicked deeds." It identifies what they are but not how to deal with them.
If apostasy is a "wicked deed" (noted by "his" evil deeds), and most agree that we should separate from him because of his evil deeds, what should we do with people who participate in "his evil deeds"? Are they not the same "evil deeds"? Why would our response the "evil deeds" be different for one person than it is from another? John seems to equate them does he not? So if it is clear that we are to separate from the apostate because of his evil deeds, should we not also separate from those who participate in his evil deeds?

That seems like a pretty tight case from Scripture and logic.

Quote:
I am not saying a case can't be made for 2nd degree separation but I don't think it comes from this verse.
How could it be made clearer than this passage? I ask that honestly. I just don't understand the confusion here. You seem to be saying that we must separate from the apostate because of his evil deeds, but we don't have to separate from those who participate in the same evil deeds. Again, if I am misunderstanding, then please forgive me.

Perhaps in sum, it seems you are saying that though the evil deeds are the same, we must separate from one but not from the other. Am I reading you correctly? And if so, why must we separate from the one but not the other?

Don Johnson's picture

CPHurst wrote:
The question is, is "taking part in his wicked works" tantamount to being an apostate oneself (of the same level as the apostate themselves?)? Therefore demanding that I separate from them as if they were the apostate themselves. Bauder thinks that the apostasy becomes "common property between them and the apostates" and therefore the separation is justified.

My problem is twofold:

1. I agree that it would greatly strain my fellowship and unity with another brother 'A' down the street if he extended fellowship to person 'B' who I consider to be an apostate. It might strain it so much in fact that I could do almost nothing with brother 'A'. However, I don't see where I am

Quote:
commanded
to objectively separate from brother 'A' because of his fellowship with person 'B' the apostate. Is this some how implied or just the conclusion from other beliefs?

Personally, I think that some of the confusion at this point is the result of trying to use the same terms to describe different actions. 'Separation' from apostates is a duty because there is nothing in common. 'Separation' from brothers, who are giving aid and comfort to apostates, isn't total. We acknowledge their orthodox testimony, but won't cooperate with them in religious endeavours. The degree to which we do this depends on the degree to which the person is entangled with apostasy (or, in my opinion, other errors). Some are so enmeshed that there is no practical way a fundamentalist can have any fellowship / cooperation. Others are less entangled. To some degree there might be ways in which we could cooperate with such.

Kevin does speak of possibilities of some such limited cooperation with some whose associations might be somewhat problematic to fundamentalists. Well, in principle, I agree that such is possible, but I think I would tend to be much more cautious and skeptical than he would. I disagreed with his participation in the Lansdale Conference last year, for example. I agree that we should encourage men like Dever towards a more fundamentalist stance, but how to bring it about is fraught with difficulty.

CPHurst wrote:
2. In his description of hyper-fundamentalists (p. 43-45) #3 is as follows: "hyper-fundamentalists understand separation in terms of guilt by association. To associate with someone who holds any error constitutes an endorsement of that error. Person who hold error are objects of separation, and so are persons who associate with them (p. 43)." I am willing to be shown where I am wrong on this but how is this not exactly what Bauder believes 2 John 11 is telling us to do? Bauder's assessment of 2 John 11 seems to be guilt by association/fellowship by greeting them (2 Jn. 10). It does not say person 'A' actually believes the apostasy but rather that they "take part" in it (though this is still very serious).

I haven't read the book (plan to eventually) but from what you say here, I think this is an inconsistency in his argument. I don't think there is that much difference between so-called "hypers" and Bauder at this point. Where "hypers" become hyper is when they start making the issue of separation / non-cooperation / limited fellowship into something other than fundamental doctrines (which are more than simply 'the Gospel', IMO).

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

CPHurst's picture

Larry, before I say anything else help me with these questions.

1. Do I have to separate from the pastor or church who does not separate from an apostate in the same way that I have to separate from the apostate themselves?

2. Is the fellowship with the apostate that is being described defined as giving voice to their apostate beliefs in any setting or specifically the local church? Or is the fellowship the simple act of doing anything with them that is gospel related whether in or outside the local church?

3. Isn't fellowship implicit by definition in the term association? I don't see how they are unrelated no matter how lose they are.

I think what I am wrestling with is is the person who will not separate with the apostate one in the same with the apostate?

Larry, can you give me a contemporary example or two of public figures who you would share orthodox beliefs on but would separate from because they entertain apostates in the kind of setting that 2 John is describing?

Larry's picture

Quote:
1. Do I have to separate from the pastor or church who does not separate from an apostate in the same way that I have to separate from the apostate themselves?
I obviously can't dictate to your conscience what to do. But to me the answer to this is found in my understanding of what John says about "participating in his evil deeds"? Does John say the deeds are the same deeds? If so (and I think the phrase "participating in his [the apostate's ] evil deeds" makes clear that it is the same evil deeds; whatever the apostate is doing the person is doing), then I think we treat them the same. If not, then perhaps we don't.

How do explain you the phrase "participate in his evil deeds" if they are not the same deeds? And if they are the same deeds, why would not the response be the same?

Quote:
2. Is the fellowship with the apostate that is being described defined as giving voice to their apostate beliefs in any setting or specifically the local church? Or is the fellowship the simple act of doing anything with them that is gospel related whether in or outside the local church?
I doubt very seriously that any of the apostles would hang their hat on the "local church" argument. All of this is certainly true in the local church. How much more true is it outside the local church where the exposure will be much greater? City wide crusades (such as Graham's) brought far more attention than any single local church. It seems strange that the apostles would condemn something less visible and not condemn something more visible.

Quote:
3. Isn't fellowship implicit by definition in the term association? I don't see how they are unrelated no matter how lose they are.
Not as I understand what you were referring to with the "guilt by association" statement. We have seen people at various places use this argument with respect to recommending a book, being a part of ETS, or attending or graduating from a particular school, participating in a debate, being asked to offer an contrary viewpoint, and so on. So until I know exactly what someone means by "association" then I can't answer that. On the other hand, "participation" is pretty clear; they are joining in some gospel or ecclesiastical venture where some level of agreement is implied.

Quote:
Larry, can you give me a contemporary example or two of public figures who you would share orthodox beliefs on but would separate from because they entertain apostates in the kind of setting that 2 John is describing?
Not really. I haven't thought about it much. I don't spend much time entertaining hypotheticals, and I don't know that much about what goes on out there. I haven't had occasion here since my first spring (1999) to entertain the subject practically. Back then I was asked to include our church in a city wide men's function of some sort that included every church in the city, including the local RC priest. I said I couldn't do that. The organizer said, "He's only leading in prayer." But that was more than enough to exclude me because they were platforming a man who believes different things about the gospel. Our names being on the same docket implied a level of agreement that simply was not there.

Larry's picture

Upon further reflection on your last question, I would say James MacDonald has done this with T. D. Jakes. He has entertained an apostate that he should separate from. Therefore we should separate from MacDonald. MacDonald is participating in his Jakes' evil deeds by calling him a Christian brother.

I have no real problem with inviting Jakes as a non-Christian to a dialogue in which he will be confronted with the biblical teaching so others can see. But MacDonald is backtracking on his backtrack now.

So we should separate from MacDonald. Except I have nothing to do with MacDonald. So "separation" means nothing.

What will I do if you don't separate from MacDonald? Again, probably nothing since you and I have no connection anyway. And that is where the whole separation thing becomes a bit tenuous. We are frequently talking in hypotheticals as I am here and they really don't actually mean anything.

But to play the hypothetical out, if you are in agreement that MacDonald is doing an acceptable thing in calling Jakes a Christian brother, than I think you are wrong and I would separate from you. But is that mandated? 2 John applies it to what you should do with MacDonald since MacDonald is participating in evil deeds. It does not say what I should do with you, or whether you are participating in evil deeds since MacDonald does not deny the doctrine of Christ (in the specific instance).

And it certainly doesn't say what I should do with someone who doesn't separate from you. So stretching this out into multiple steps of association seems hard to be supported by the Scripture. And it gets pretty weird after a while.

Scripture mandates certain levels of separation and I think 2 John 11 is pretty clear about who is committing evil deeds.

CPHurst's picture

Larry, I was discussing this very situation with my wife last night. I want to go to one of the local sites to watch it but I am also concerned about Jakes being there and McDonald calling him a brother. Driscoll has publicly identified him an anti-trinitarian but McDonald has not (that ought to be interesting:)) Further McDonald is part of TGC which I very much like and attended part of the their conference last year. Not sure what I am going to do yet.

I also agree that separation would mean nothing in this case because you are not even "associated" with him anyways.

I agree that the 1st & 2nd person are both responsible for the evil deeds.

As your hypothetical indicates I don't think there is any warrant for separation beyond 2nd degree.

What if I say I don't agree with McDonald that Jakes is a brother in Christ but I still want to attend the event? Would I still be sharing in his evil deeds. Jakes will be given the opportunity to speak his mind/views but he will not go unchecked on some things. That is after all part of the point of the Elephant Room idea right?

Larry's picture

I don't think there is any legitimate argument that mere attendance at something, even if you are going in order to be helped by it, is any kind of violation of biblical separation.

Jay's picture

I agree with Larry - to go to an event to hear anyone speak does not automatically mean that you're "associating" or "endorsing" anything, and therefore separation can't really occur. It's easy (and convenient) to argue that if someone attends an event, or reads a book, or whatever, then they are 'associated' with that thing, but I don't see how anyone can legitimately argue that you're 'fellowshipping' or 'associating' by going to it.

On the other hand, if your conscience is troubling you about whether or not you should go, then I would avoid it, in keeping with Romans 14.

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

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