Secondary Separation: Should Christian Brethren Ever Separate?

The concept and practice of so-called “secondary separation” is a divisive issue within fundamentalism. It is appropriate now, more than ever, to examine the matter in light of Scripture. What follows is an all-too brief survey of several respected fundamentalist leaders of the past 50 years on this very matter. Their views are briefly presented and analyzed, and some conclusions will be drawn at the end. Hopefully, this modest study will edify the body and exhort fundamentalists to be captive to the Scriptures, wherever they may lead.

At the outset, a brief definition of fellowship must be offered so we’re all on the same page going forward. Loosely, “fellowship” is defined as a union for spiritual purposes. More precisely, a partnering of individuals, churches, organizations or any other group for the purpose of promoting Biblical truth, based on a common spiritual foundation. Therefore, when we discuss a separation among brethren, we are really pondering the question, “With whom or what can I legitimately enter into a spiritual partnership with?” (Oats).

What in the world is “secondary separation?”

Ernest Pickering

A secondary separatist would be one who will not cooperate with (1) apostates; or (2) evangelical believers who aid and abet the apostates by their continued organizational or cooperative alignment with them; or, as employed by some (3) fundamentalists who fellowship with those in the previous category. (217)

Rolland McCune:

“Secondary separation” is the refusal to cooperate with erring and disobedient Christians who do not adhere to primary separation and other vital doctrines. (146)

Douglas McLachlan:

Familial separation is the unfortunate necessity of functional severance from members of the family who are true Christians, when doctrinal or ethical compromise creeps into their lives or ministries. (132)

John R. Rice:

Do you see that since this secondary separation is an artificial, man-made doctrine, in every case it must depend on one’s personal, variable judgment? How much better to follow the simple rules in the Bible. Since there is no clear-cut Bible teaching on the question, secondary separation is a manufactured doctrine that leads to great confusion. And, sad to say, it also leads to passing judgment on Christian brethren, judging people’s motives, and this leads to division and strife among people who really are serving the same Saviour, who believe the same Bible, who preach the same Gospel, and both seek to win souls. That is unfortunate and, I think, unscriptural. (228)

In light of the above, my own working definition of so-called “secondary separation” is this:

A secondary separatist is a Christian who will not cooperate with:

  1. apostates
  2. true Christians who aid and abet the apostates by their continued organizational or cooperative alignment with them
  3. true Christians, when a Scripturally defensible claim of doctrinal or ethical compromise creeps into their lives or ministries

This is a concise definition, and one all fundamentalists would do well to adopt. Many would disagree, and I believe they are wrong. John R. Rice, as we will see, draws his circle of fellowship around the fundamentals of the faith and allows very wide latitude within this boundary. His views may surprise many, especially fundamentalists of the Sword of the Lord vintage.

John R. Rice

Rice was strongly against secondary separation. His primary focus was revivals and soul-winning, and his theology on separation reflects this. For Rice, the threshold of orthodoxy was the fundamentals of the faith—period. Rice would accept any Christian so long as he espoused (1) faith and salvation in Christ, (2) the Bible, (3) the virgin birth, (4) blood atonement, (5) the deity and (6) bodily resurrection of Christ (182, 224). I have chosen to spend a great deal of time on Rice because I believe he speaks for a great many frustrated fundamentalists on this matter.

The important thing is, is a man for Christ and the Bible? If he is, and he makes no divisive issues and strife, then fellowship with him. So the Scripture teaches. That means I can fellowship with some who fellowship with some they ought not to fellowship with. (182)

[W]e have an obligation to have brotherly love and kindness and charity toward those who are weak in the faith, but just so they are “in the faith. (224)

Rice would likely separate from fundamentalists who were in favor of secondary separation, citing Rom 14:1 as support.

Listen, you are not to run with anybody if it means quarreling and strife and division and hair pulling and hell raising. Say to that one, “God bless you, but go your way, and I will go mine.” If there is going to be strife and no real unity and no real heartfelt joy and results for God, then sometimes we cannot cooperate with Christians who make strife over minor issues. They are weak in the faith and they make an insistent division over it. (184)

Rice decried what he saw as undue obsession with division at the expense of evangelism. Fighting modernism was not Rice’s main priority—evangelism was.

The tendency to go to extremes appears in the matter of defending the faith and standing up for Christ and the Bible. Those of us who would defend the faith and expose false prophets are constantly urged to attack good Christians, to spend our time and energy in fighting good Christians who may not agree with us on some matters or may be wrong on lesser matters but are born-again, Bible-believing, soul-winning Christians. We have followed a simple course down through the years. We are against infidels and false teachers. We are for good Christians. (196)

Rice’s most passionate plea was for Christians to have perspective. The great division, he warned, is between those who are saved and those who are lost. “Let us face it honestly: Are we going to fight for God’s people and against Satan’s people? That is what we ought to be” (197).

Rice’s critique of secondary separation

Rice’s guiding verses on this matter were Ps 119:63 and Rom 14:1 (221). He outright denied that Scripture teaches separation from brethren. “No, there is nothing in the Bible like that” (224). He saw separation as an “all or nothing” proposition. He did not allow for the different “levels” of separation that Ernest Pickering wrote about, which we will examine in the next article. He defined the doctrine as follows:

But what is called ‘secondary separation’ means not only must the Christian be separated from liberals, modernists, unbelievers, but he is to separate from anybody who does not separate enough from unbelievers. (218)

Rice charged that Christians are commanded to fellowship and love other Christians (Jn 13:34-35), and this very love, not division, should guide Christians in this matter. Fractious, subjective battles among real Christians divide the body and hinder the cause of Christ.

But still the weight of the Scripture here is tremendous. We should love other Christians as Christ loved us. Our love for others ought to be such an obvious fact that people will know Christians are different. So only a very serious matter ought ever hinder the fellowship of good Christians who love each other. (222)

Most fundamentalists who uphold separation from brethren point to 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 as support. Their arguments will be presented shortly, but I ask Christians to examine the passage for themselves and reach their own conclusions. Rice expressly denied that 2 Thess 3:6-15 teaches secondary separation, labeling this “a clearly biased interpretation” (226). He maintained it merely taught that the disorder in question was eating without working (224-225).

Going back to his call for unity for the sake of evangelism, Rice protested that secondary separation resulted in arbitrary decisions. “Where can one draw the line? Unless he takes the plain Bible position of separation from the unsaved and the restrained fellowship with Christians who live in gross sin, one will make subjective decisions according to his own preference” (226-228). Fred Moritz dismisses such objections as a “smokescreen,” and calls for biblical discernment on the matter (84).

Finally, Rice appealed to examples of other Godly fundamentalists to bolster his case, men who did participate in inter-denominational fellowship for the sake of the Gospel, including Moody, Billy Sunday, R.A. Torrey, Bob Jones, Sr., H.A. Ironside, W.B. Riley, Bob Schuler and J. Frank Norris (228-234).

Rice’s work on separation was published in the midst of his very public falling out with Bob Jones, Jr. Any honest Christian will admit that views change with perspective, as hard-won knowledge, wisdom and experience are brought to bear upon tough issues. Perhaps Rice would have taken a harder line on separation earlier in his ministry. Regardless, a position must be evaluated in light of Scripture, not by the character of the man promoting it.

Rice’s plea for unity is appealing, but incorrect. He errs by failing to acknowledge different levels of fellowship and ignores Scriptures which clearly teach separation from brethren. In this respect, Rice epitomized a particular fundamentalist mindset which is antithetical to militant separatism. George Marsden remarked,

Antedating fundamentalist anti-modernism was the evangelical revivalist tradition out of which fundamentalism had grown. The overriding preoccupation of this tradition was the saving of souls. Any responsible means to promote this end was approved. (67)

Rice’s was a “big tent” fundamentalism, and given the nature of his revivalist ministry, perhaps it is understandable Rice was so inclusive about doctrine. He was still mistaken. I will survey several fundamentalist leaders who believe Rice was mistaken in the next article.

Works Cited

Marsden, George M. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991. Print.

McCune, Rolland. Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism. Greenville: Ambassador International, 2004. Print.

McLachlan, Douglas. Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism. Independence: AACS, 1993. Print.

Moritz, Fred. Be Ye Holy: The Call to Christian Separation. Greenville: BJU, 1994. Print.

Oats, Larry. American Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Watertown: Maranatha Baptist Seminary, 2012. Unpublished class notes.

Pickering, Ernest. Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church. Schaumberg: Regular Baptist Press, 1979. Print.

Rice, John R. Come Out or Stay In? Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1974. Print.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

Thanks for this study, Tyler. I hope it will contribute to more clarity on the subject.

Jay's picture

Rice’s guiding verses on this matter were Ps 119:63 and Rom 14:1 (221). He outright denied that Scripture teaches separation from brethren. “No, there is nothing in the Bible like that” (224). He saw separation as an “all or nothing” proposition. He did not allow for the different “levels” of separation that Ernest Pickering wrote about, which we will examine in the next article. He defined the doctrine as follows:

But what is called ‘secondary separation’ means not only must the Christian be separated from liberals, modernists, unbelievers, but he is to separate from anybody who does not separate enough from unbelievers. (218)

Rice charged that Christians are commanded to fellowship and love other Christians (Jn 13:34-35), and this very love, not division, should guide Christians in this matter. Fractious, subjective battles among real Christians divide the body and hinder the cause of Christ.

But still the weight of the Scripture here is tremendous. We should love other Christians as Christ loved us. Our love for others ought to be such an obvious fact that people will know Christians are different. So only a very serious matter ought ever hinder the fellowship of good Christians who love each other. (222)

*****

Couple of brief points here:

1.  If I understand correctly, Rice's 'mushiness' on separation - and I think we can argue that Rice was a little too mushy on this (to put it politely) - eventually caused rifts between him and other Fundamentalists who were more stringent on separation.  This is a significant weakness in Rice's writings, but is understandable given his work as an evangelist.

2.  By failing to give serious diligence to what the actual Fundamentals are - outside of the 5 Point Deliverance - Fundamentalism as a movement has allowed itself to drift into an area where just about any significant issue became a cause for 'separation', whether merited or not.  Rice may have been weak on separation, but I believe that his fears for excessive and unjustified division have been largely borne out.  Look again at this quote:

The tendency to go to extremes appears in the matter of defending the faith and standing up for Christ and the Bible. Those of us who would defend the faith and expose false prophets are constantly urged to attack good Christians, to spend our time and energy in fighting good Christians who may not agree with us on some matters or may be wrong on lesser matters but are born-again, Bible-believing, soul-winning Christians. We have followed a simple course down through the years. We are against infidels and false teachers. We are for good Christians. (196)

3.  Separation does not have to be "re-discovered" - I think we'd all agree that there is a clear case for that - but has to be "re-applied". It has been argued several times on SI that separation can only work in a context where I have an actual relationship with the person separating from.  It's odd to argue for me to "separate" from someone like Piper or Kauflin (if I wanted to) when the extent of the relationship that I have with them is that I've listened to their sermons/lectures, read their books, listened to their music etc.  I know that some, because of influences or associations, will not have anything to do with these men, but I don't believe that there can be any real or meaningful separation from them because they, frankly, don't even know I exist.  If some reader on this site is living in Germany and emails me to say that they're going to 'mark and avoid me', I might try to understand why they feel that way or correct misconceptions, but it's not really going to affect me because I don't know anything about said brother outside of what he says in his email. Matthew 18 seems like it has to be construed as a punitive measure between friends or associates, not a carte blanche reaction to some other believer who just happens to be in our 'camp'.

I think that the true separation that we need to practice is described best in 1 and 2 Corinthians:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

...But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 11-13, ESV)

*****

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)

I hope this is helpful, and look forward to the next installment.

"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

Aaron Blumer's picture

I haven't read enough of Rice's POV yet but I wonder if he using the word "separation" itself more narrowly. If you understand "separation" to apply only what you do in the last step of the process--where the offender is classified as an unbeliever for all relational purposes--you'd be right to say there is no separation from brothers in the Bible.

Matt. 18:17, maybe 1Cor.5:11 (see 1Cor. 5.2).

But sometimes there is a breaking of fellowship w/one who is clearly not being regarded as an unbeliever:   2 Thess. 3:14-15.

So Rice would be wrong to define "separation" quite that narrowly.

That said, I believe most use the term too loosely in reference to various kinds of non-cooperation that are not punitive or censorious.

(Part of the challenge for developing separation doctrine is harmonizing Matt. 18 with 2Thess. 3)

dgszweda's picture

Here is one question, I have that I don't hear talked about in fundamentalism and that is how Communion plays into the term "fellowship".  Many churches practice a type of Open or a Close communion (a few practice closed).  I have often viewed Communion as the most intimate type of fellowship.  This was something that Christ practiced and modeled, not with all of his disciples, but with his hand chosen set of disciples who would be the foundation of setting up His Church (despite Judas being there).  I read an article written by Jonathan Edwards in which he presented the same situation.  Without going into a ton of different avenues to answer this question, would you have communion with someone who you would practice secondary separation?  I am not talking apostates here, I am talking about someone like a Mark Dever, who is clearly a Christian, but may not align to some degree as yourself.  I have never seen this topic really discussed.

Aaron Blumer's picture

The communion question is a great test case for what people mean by "separation"--at least in some ways.

Kevin Bauder and others (maybe Dan Davey, Tim Jordan.... maybe Dave Doran, but I'm less sure of him on this point) have used limited fellowship language in regard to the conservative evangelicals. But if there had been open-floor questioning at those events (a couple of conferences a while back), the communion question would have been an interesting one.

So I'd find it interesting to know if "limited fellowship" would include or not include sharing in communion together if some situation occurred where that was possible.

My view: if we're going to stick close to the New Testament on separation (and be minimally creative with our applications), the separation occurs (in the case of professing believers) after a series of local-church-based steps and ends in a local church having "no company with" the disciplined brother/sister. Communion with one so disciplined would be prohibited.

So I suspect those who define separation to include "selective fellowship" would also share in communion. But we're getting pretty far from the biblical idea of separation at that point... which again seems to underscore the view that we ought to use "separation" in a narrow sense and not to describe selective cooperation.

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Several years ago, a Pastor wrote me and broke fellowship with me because I broadcast on sermonaudio.com.  He said that I was compromising by participating in a web site that allowed for such a wide body of churches.

 

At another time, a Pastor separated from me because I showed the movie "Facing the Giants" at our church ad did not mute the points in the film where CCM music was played.

 

This is one of the man problems people have with secondary separation today.  Much of what is called secondary separation is just nothing but unecessary division based on personal preferences and opinions instead of principles from the Word of God.

TylerR's picture

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:

Much of what is called secondary separation is just nothing but unecessary division based on personal preferences and opinions instead of principles from the Word of God.

I agree. Christians need to honestly examine an issue and determine whether the issue at hand is a clear teaching, implicit teaching, a Biblical principle or merely a personal preference. More on that in the next article.

dgszweds:

Without going into a ton of different avenues to answer this question, would you have communion with someone who you would practice secondary separation?

Communion is a local church event. Separation, in any form beyond personal, is ecclesiastical. If a church practices discipline on a member for some Scripturally valid reason, then he would not be allowed to participate in communion. Separation is rooted in the local church - too often people think of it as an almost arbitrary, personal decision. It is not.

Part of my goal with this series is to really clarify what is worth separating over. It cannot be about arbitrary, personal preferences. This is a terribly serious matter, and Scripture must govern any decision to separate from a Christian brother. I believe the term "separation" is thrown around a lot and mis-used. There are different levels of fellowship we all practice (more on this in the next article), without calling something "separation." Ernest Pickering wrote on this.

We have abused the term beyond belief by tossing it around so freely. Aaron's differentiation between "selective cooperation" and "separation" is right on the money here.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Mark_Smith's picture

This is a tricky one. There are denominations that use fermented wine for communion. I refuse to and I would not take wine for communion. That being said, I believe that a person could be a true believer and do so. So, if I refuse to take communion with them because they use alcohol but I believe they are believers, is that separation?

 

Likewise, I know people who believe NOT using wine for communion is wrong. Would come to my church and accept grape juice?

dgszweda's picture

TylerR,

 

I hear you, but thought communion was a good point.  Because an individual may not share a pulpit with someone over their belief in gifts, but they (and it seems most fundamentalist are probably in the Open or close camp on communion), are more than happy to make the communion line over whether you are a professing believer and someone who is not actively living in sin.  My view is that communion is a more intimate form of fellowship than pulpit sharing, although pulpit sharing is more public.  I would guess that most people would not draw the line in the sand over communion if Piper was in their congregation, but they wouldn't ask him to share the pulpit.  I think this plays into your secondary separation, because I see an inconsistency here.  I think we can all agree that an apostate is clearly separated over in both communion and sharing a pulpit.  And the same would go for someone within church discipline.  I am not sure we can limit communion entirely as a local church issue, since 1)open or close communion by its definition extends it beyond the local church, and 2) the same people who set the standards for communion (i.e. the leadership of the church) are really the ones that have the biggest concerns in terms of fellowship (by that I mean that a new member that goes to a CCM concert, is significantly less of a fellowship risk than the pastor or leadership endorsing a CCM concert).

 

I think if we don't have a clear line on what fellowship is, than how we can draw concerns of conclusion over separation?

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Didn’t the original fundamentalists stay in their denominations instead of separating?  It seems their original goal was to stay and fight for the historic doctrines of the faith.  To save their denominations, schools, missions for the truth and the Gospel.  And to save them from liberalism.  To only leave when all hope of saving the denomination was lost. 

Few know Fundamentalist J. Frank Norris was a Southern Baptist till the day he died, although he fought many things Southern Baptist, and participated very little in his later years.  He was kicked out of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, but not the SBC.  He gave to the SBC Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) right up to the end. 

On the other hand, John R. Rice left the SBC and encouraged others to do so.  But he maintained fellowship with conservative Southern Baptists and would print sermons in the Sword of the Lord by both living and dead conservative Southern Baptists. 
David R. Brumbelow

Jay's picture

IIRC, J. Frank Norris' position was that he was going to stay in there until they threw him out.  My understanding is that Al Mohler has taken the same position just a little bit further - he will stay in until they throw them out while not sending them one flat dime.  He is, in fact, is serving as a detriment to them because he is a net expenditure on their ledger.  It might be John Piper instead that does that - I don't remember which.  

I thought that was an interesting way to retard the Convention or Association that they were in, even if it's not the standard withdrawal move that most of us would make.

dgszweda: Our church practices open communion - anyone who believes on the Lord Jesus  as Savior and Lord, who has confessed that they have repented of their sin, and who is seeking to please the Lord in their life is welcome to participate.  The only time we 'bar' someone from communion is if they are in conscious and known rebellion against God (either by not being saved or because they have sin that they have not made right).

"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

Aaron Blumer's picture

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:

Several years ago, a Pastor wrote me and broke fellowship with me because I broadcast on sermonaudio.com.  He said that I was compromising by participating in a web site that allowed for such a wide body of churches.

At another time, a Pastor separated from me because I showed the movie "Facing the Giants" at our church ad did not mute the points in the film where CCM music was played.

This is one of the man problems people have with secondary separation today.  Much of what is called secondary separation is just nothing but unecessary division based on personal preferences and opinions instead of principles from the Word of God.

Without denying that these abuses are a problem, a view isn't truly represented by it's worst examples. It's like saying "Mammals stink and I reject them because there are so many skunks."

Joel Tetreau's picture

So I'm not a fighter - I'm a lover. However once in a blue moon I'm sufficiently moved as to put my brass knuckles on and head to a fight. This issue of secondary separation is a fantastic issue to consider as it relates to all things recent within the wold of fundamentalism and I'm thankful that Tyler had the guts to put his ideas down and to think out-loud. Good for you Tyler - as I always say - "Straight Ahead my man!"

1. Frankly - Joe you have the patience of Job. I'm just waiting for one of these "knuckle-heads" to tell me they are withholding fellowship because of things like the sermon-audio or watching a movie like Facing the Giants. I doubt I'll be the gentlemen Joe is on such an occasion.

2. I'm confident that on certain occasions it's time we fight back against brothers that are idiots in the name of separation.  Perhaps we tell them - look I'm separating from you because of your separating from me. That is your separation from me misses the clear teaching of Scripture by at least a mile. That means your separation from me is being Biblically schismatic. I'm warning you to "stop it" and if you don't our congregation and or group of congregations are naming you out and we are officially separating from you for being a Diotrephes....a schismatic....a heretic!  

I am tired and I mean really tired of good men worrying about certain "so-called" brethriem -  who use the secondary separation as a club to bully their way here and there. I don't know - there may be a time when we just look at one of these guys and say to them....."dude.....just go away already!"

Having said that:

3. Certainly there are times when we practice a kind of secondary separation - that can show up in a lighter version where not all koinonia is cut all the way to the more firm kind where we would not allow "communion" (by the way - I love that illustration).

4. While the idea of never practicing secondary separation seems separated from a New Testament reality (can you imagine Paul warming up to those who would practice koinonia with those he noted out as being a traitor to the gospel?), I think John R. Rice was concerned that the practice of secondary separation could end up on some kind of a slippery slope where fundamentalists would separate from other Godly men and ministries over issues that were far more "personal" than "Biblical." I'm very sure not only was John right on that end - he may have even been a bit "prophetic."

Straight Ahead!

jt

ps - by the way - just a little historical "aside" here - My dad when he was a BJ was also in the leadership structure of Southside Baptist Church back in the 60's and early 70's. Dad taught a massive College and Carrier Sunday School Class - when he had to miss a Sunday guess who was his substitute teacher? Yep - John R. Rice. That's a fun deal. If I remember correctly Pastor Handford's wife was a Rice. Small World - especially in fundamentalism. It amazing we all don't have a third eye right above our nose.....especially we who were born in Greenville!

Straight Ahead!

jt

 

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;

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

These have not been "worst" examples.  They have been typical examples I have dealt with repeatedly throughout my 20 plus years of ministry.

 

 

 

 

TylerR's picture

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:

These have not been "worst" examples.  They have been typical examples I have dealt with repeatedly throughout my 20 plus years of ministry.

This so sad, and un-Biblical. I hope this article, and the next one which follows, sheds some needed light on Biblical parameters for separation. 

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Joel Tetreau's picture

Joe,

Next time one of these guys contacts you - put me on a 3 way call with our "brother."

Straight Ahead!

jt

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;

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Sharpeiron is not practicing proper fundametlist seperatism, so I refuse to fellowship with Aaron Blumer. 

Joel Tetreau does not approve of everything on Sharperiron and while he expresses his concerns to Aaron Blumer, he still considers him a friend and maintains fellowship with him.

Scott Davis has fellowship with Joel Tettreau even though Joel refuses to take a stronger stand on Aaron.  So Scott is not fully obedient.

Dan Burrell fellowships with Scott Davis even though he has fellowship with Joel Tetreau who fellowships with Aaron Blumer.

So in the end, you end up with one person who sees most believers and most churches as compromisers.

 

And, you end up with a lot of factions and a lot of division.

 

How many fundamentalists camps are out there today who have nothing to do with each other and who give the impression that they are the last official remnant of the godly?

 

 

 

Dan Burrell's picture

I am definitely going to separate fellowship from anyone who has fellowship with me.

Heathen compromisers!

I'd tell ya' that I luvya' Joe, but if I did, you are likely to lose a lot of friends.  Therefore, I'm going to separate from you.

You're welcome.

Biggrin

 

Dan Burrell Cornelius, NC Visit my Blog "Whirled Views" @ www.danburrell.com

Anne Sokol's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

This is a tricky one. There are denominations that use fermented wine for communion. I refuse to and I would not take wine for communion. That being said, I believe that a person could be a true believer and do so. So, if I refuse to take communion with them because they use alcohol but I believe they are believers, is that separation?

 

Likewise, I know people who believe NOT using wine for communion is wrong. Would come to my church and accept grape juice?

this has all already happened! just that those involved all spoke russian and not english. Christian culture has its similarities all over the world, I guess. .... Biggrin

**I will add to clarify: a pastor stopped using wine in his communion services, and the other pastors "separated" from him. .... It says "wine" in the original Greek, don't you know..... It also says "one cup," and they were also upset that he started to use individual drinking cups for communion. Tsk, tsk. slippery slope, you know, stop using wine, stop using one big cup, next thing we'll stop believing in a literal hell, etc.

TylerR's picture

We could all go on for hours about poor, ridiculous and un-Biblical examples of so-called "separation" we've seen implemented. All honest Christians should acknowledge a few truths:

1. Separation must be Scripturally based

2. Separation is an ecclesiastical issue. In this context, the grounds for Biblical separation are really not any different than the grounds for church discipline against a brother or sister in Christ. If you are willing to say you would separate from a brother, you must also be willing to say they would Scripturally qualify for church discipline.

3. There are also different levels of fellowship we all recognize. I could enjoy a cup of coffee with a Reformed pastor, yet I couldn't have him preach on Sunday morning in my church. Just because we implement common-sense restrictions on different levels of fellowship does not necessarily mean I am "separating" from a brother. 

4. There is an undeniable element of subjectivism here, taking into account the sinfulness of men and differing interpretations on doctrine.

Recall my own definition of so-called "secondary separation" from the article:

A secondary separatist is a Christian who will not cooperate with:

 

(1) apostates
(2) true Christians who aid and abet the apostates by their continued organizational or cooperative alignment with them
(3) true Christians, when a Scripturally defensible claim of doctrinal or ethical compromise creeps into their lives or ministries

Is a brother compromising doctrinally or ethically, or do I simply disagree with him on a matter of preference? Is the issue at hand over a Biblical principle which may allow for genuinely different interpretations? If the matter is not an implicit or explicit teaching of Scripture, we must be very cautious at this point. Too many fundamentalists have not been cautious, but impetuous - to the detriment of both the movement and the cause of Christ. 

 

 

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

josh p's picture

Tyler thanks for your article. My question is in regards to the third element of separation. The first is obvious as is the second. But I struggle to understand what the scriptural support for the third is or more specifically how to apply that. If we are to separate from apostates then we must separate from those disobedient brethren who refuse to do so. That much seems clear. But by what criteria do we decide if someone's theology is bad enough to separate from them? I believe this is where the idea of limited fellowship comes in. If a person is reformed then I am naturally going to have less fellowship with them. If they are charismatic then significantly less. 

But how do I say that their theology is so bad (even though they are fundamental in their understanding of the gospel.) that I am required to separate from them?

What types of errors would qualify? I can think of some errors that are bad enough that I would separate from an individual but they undermine the gospel itself.

Is this the type of thing you are thinking of?

TylerR's picture

I'll talk about this in the next article, which I have to email to Aaron tonight! 

There is an element of subjectivism in determining the parameters of fellowship. Nobody will be precisely alike on their applications. We have soul liberty in this matter, as we each strive to Biblically apply Scripture to our lives. 

1. Is the issue at hand an explicit or implicit teaching of Scripture (e.g. justification by faith)? If so, then separation is probably recommended. 

2. Is the issue a principle from Scripture (e.g. every believer must join a local church). If so, then separation may be appropriate. That's up to you!

3. Is the issue a mere personal preference (e.g. my own intense dislike of the phrase "soulwinning" in favor of "evangelism." Soulwinning assumes we are actually "winning" souls, not God. I think it's man-centered and really hate the term!) Some people would put use of CCM in this category. 

Too many fundamentalists are characterized by their willingness to separate from anybody and everybody. There is no matrix of explicit/implicit/principles/preferences for them. It is an all or nothing proposition. Such people are in serious error.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

"Too many fundamentalists are characterized by their willingness to separate from anybody and everybody. There is no matrix of explicit/implicit/principles/preferences for them. It is an all or nothing proposition. Such people are in serious error."

 

Bingo brother.  That was all I was trying to say.  Thanks for bringing these issues up.

Ron Bean's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:

Mark_Smith wrote:

This is a tricky one. There are denominations that use fermented wine for communion. I refuse to and I would not take wine for communion. That being said, I believe that a person could be a true believer and do so. So, if I refuse to take communion with them because they use alcohol but I believe they are believers, is that separation?

 

Likewise, I know people who believe NOT using wine for communion is wrong. Would come to my church and accept grape juice?

this has all already happened! just that those involved all spoke russian and not english. Christian culture has its similarities all over the world, I guess. .... Biggrin

**I will add to clarify: a pastor stopped using wine in his communion services, and the other pastors "separated" from him. .... It says "wine" in the original Greek, don't you know..... It also says "one cup," and they were also upset that he started to use individual drinking cups for communion. Tsk, tsk. slippery slope, you know, stop using wine, stop using one big cup, next thing we'll stop believing in a literal hell, etc.

 

And if it's the Lord's "Supper", why do you have it in the morning?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

jimcarwest's picture

Rice took a firm stand against the inclusive evangelism of Billy Graham.  He separated from Graham because Graham would not separate from apostates.  He loudly criticized Graham for being sponsored by committees that were composed of evangelicals and apostates, and he refused to cooperate with them.  Seems like Rice wanted his to have his cake and eat it too.

josh p's picture

Thanks for the response Tyler. I look forward to your next article.

TylerR's picture

Not sure. If I could find  way to view back-issues of Sword of the Lord, we could look at it. Don''t know if they're available. If anyone knows if they are, give a hollar!

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Steve Newman's picture

The controversial parts of this have to do with the third portion of your definition of "secondary separatist". 

Many of the disputed claims on both sides of the NIU controversies could be entitled "ethical compromise", even if they are not doctrinal compromises in one's particular book. I do definitely think there is an ethical element to it. Some have suggested that those separating from NIU have been capricious and inconsistent in application. While I don't deny that could happen, it could also be that the ethics of what is happening is what is found to be offensive and worthy of separation.

Chuck Bumgardner's picture

(Sorry to be so late with this comment...I had to register to comment and there was an inadvertent delay in getting that through.)

Because 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 has so often been used in discussions of secondary separation, I did a master’s thesis on the passage, studying it in the context of Paul’s teaching on church discipline elsewhere in the NT.  I mention that for two reasons:

1) In association with that work, I put links to a good bit of source material on my blog at http://cbumgardner.wordpress.com/resources-on-ecclesiastical-separation/. It’s been a few years since I did any updating, and many of the links in the “online materials” section are no doubt defunct, but there is also a print bibliography. That source material might be of interest in the present discussion.

2) Aaron, regarding your comment on 2 Thess 3:14-15 speaking of “breaking of fellowship with one who is clearly not being regarded as an unbeliever”: This is the most common interpretation of the passage in discussions of ecclesiastical separation. I tried to demonstrate in my thesis that this interpretation is actually a misconception of the “disorderly” discussed in the passage, especially in light of Paul’s practice of church discipline elsewhere in the NT. There is a very legitimate way of reading that passage which places it squarely in line with the other ones you mentioned.  I don’t want to lengthen my comment unduly, but if an explanation is of interest in the present discussion, I’d be glad to expound :-). You can read a summary of that position at http://cbumgardner.wordpress.com/2008/01/28/warn-him-as-a-brother-in-2-t...

Harmonizing Matt 18 with 2 Thess 3 is, as you noted, a challenge. (Indeed, trying to harmonize all of the various passages that reference church discipline has its challenges and may point to a bit more flexibility in the church discipline procedure than we might normally think.) My harmonization does have flaws, I’m sure, but I think there is a legitimate way to make the two passages fit together.

I will say that, in my view, it is important in this discussion to understand church discipline passages as such before we go about applying them to separation outside the church. Those are two different species of separation, and Scripture’s teaching about the former (church discipline scenarios) should not be uncritically applied to situations involving the latter (ecclesiastical separation more broadly speaking). This is not to say that such application cannot be made, but it is probably better made (from church discipline passages at least) less directly and more principally or by analogy.

 

CB

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