Implementing Separatist Convictions, Part 1

by Ernest Pickering (1928–2000)

Considerable discussion is taking place today as to why so many younger men raised in the separatist tradition are failing to take a good position and, in some cases, are backing off from the fray. One of the major reasons, it seems to me, is that they are disgusted with the lack of discernment on the part of some separatists who cannot distinguish between what is truly crucial to fellowship and what is not crucial.

It is one thing to embrace Biblical truth concerning separatism. It is quite another to implement it in day-to-day relationships. While a person may possess good convictions, he or she may not be able to clearly discern the right course of action; and separatists do not always agree among themselves as to the proper response to a given problem. So we separatists need to give attention to how we implement what we believe.1

Guidelines for Determining the Extent of Cooperative Fellowship with Other Believers

A few questions are suggested by Scripture that will aid the sincere believer in determining the boundaries of fellowship.

(1) Am I honoring God by my fellowship? “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). When a believer remains in an apostate denomination, that believer is supporting the Lord’s enemies through his or her money and presence. Is that believer honoring the Lord by “staying in”? In all that we do we must earnestly seek to honor God.

(2) Am I aiding or encouraging someone to continue a walk of disobedience? The Bible clearly teaches that believers are to separate from apostasy. If a great preacher continues to remain within a group largely influenced by apostates and a separatist church has him speak, is this occasion helping or hindering others?

After Paul was converted, he went to Jerusalem, where he received the “right hands of fellowship” from James, Peter, and John (Galatians 2:9). Later, however, when Peter went to Antioch, Paul said he “withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (v. 11). Peter had not clearly enunciated that believers are delivered from the Mosaic law, so Paul undertook to correct his Christian brother. In this case, Peter repented of his error, and the purity of the faith was preserved. True fellowship demands confrontation when problems arise.

We can, in the name of brotherly love, employ men who are still in the apostasy. They can speak at our Bible conferences or write for our publications. But when they do, we are really telling them that their fellowship with apostates is not so bad after all. Having them participate with us is not the way to assist them from the path of disobedience.

(3) Will my cooperation with a person or organization give the impression that I condone a lackadaisical attitude toward apostasy and compromise? Did not the writer of Proverbs say, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13)? Is the support of apostasy, its publications, schools, spokesperson, and missions evil? If it is, do I as God’s child truly hate it? Or do I have softer feelings toward it? Believers cannot afford to have lackadaisical attitudes toward false religious systems that the Lord hates. Yet if believers continually fellowship with people who remain in these groups and support them, what are they saying by such actions?

(4) Will others under my leadership or influence be tempted to further compromise or be confused or weakened in their testimony because of my actions? Leaders are to be examples to other believers (1 Timothy 4:12). We must always ask the question, What is my responsibility to others? We cannot live to ourselves. We are responsible for our brothers and sisters as well.

(5) What long-range effects will cooperation have? Bob Jones Sr. often said, “Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.” It is a principle worth pondering and applying. We must consider what effects, good or bad, will accrue from a certain course of action.

Henry Parsons Crowell, a great Christian businessman, pondered the reason for the success of the apostasy within his own denomination and others. His biographer (who, incidentally, spent many weeks in personal conference with Mr. Crowell) gave this analysis of Mr. Crowell’s conclusions regarding the limits of cooperative fellowship:

Mr. Crowell finally realized that all attacks on faith were essentially the same; the discrediting of the Bible as the inerrant and perfect revelation of Truth and the Will of God. That was the Leaven of the Sadducees, whether it was the innuendoes of a maturing mind, or the broadside blasts of an endowed professor.

The integrity of the Bible, he felt, was the issue to be maintained no matter where it led! You can see in his own life just where it led him!

He began his Christian life by holding the Bible as true and authentic history. Then, he began to feel that his belief was a necessary qualification for every gospel worker.

Then he realized the case could be lost if it were not implemented at this point. No general worker should be kept on church pay rolls who did not accept the Bible as true and authentic history. Moreover, no one should be tolerated in high authority who did not accept the Bible as true and authentic history.

To his amazement, he saw that even with these precautions, faith was still losing the battle!

He realized that not only must faith be careful to select workers and leaders who are Bible believers; but these workers and leaders themselves must be intolerant of unbelievers in office! If they were tolerant it could bring defeat just as effectively as if they themselves were infidels. Therefore, faith must not support men in authority who, though they are themselves Bible believers, are tolerant of others in positions of trust and authority who do not so believe.

Mr. Crowell saw that the battle against the Leaven of the Sadducees was being lost in Christendom today by reason of—Tolerance toward believers who were tolerant toward unbelievers.2

Some General Considerations for Separatists

Separatists need to remember certain axioms as they wend their way through the maze of varied situations that they constantly face.

Some issues are complex

Fundamentalists and separatists are accustomed to seeing things in blacks and whites. For them (theoretically at least) there are no grays. From God’s viewpoint that is true. Our problem is that we cannot always tell immediately what is the right or wrong course of action in a given situation. Not everything is always crystal clear. Some separatists, quick on the draw and perhaps blessed with more discernment or faster spiritual reflexes than others, come immediately to what they consider the heart of a problem, draw the lines, and expect everyone immediately to step over them. Many factors, however, must be considered in approaching a problem. Some believers may still be weighing those factors and trying to determine the mind of God, while others have already “passed over Jordan.” Sometimes we give the impression that there are pat, easily accessible answers for every decision we must make regarding separation. That is not always true. Life is complex, and we must face that fact.

Personalities differ

Some people are by nature scrappers. They are not afraid to confront a situation immediately and take a strong, open stand. Some are by nature pugnacious and rather enjoy a good fight. Others who may possess separatist convictions are by nature more reticent to become involved in open controversy. They will follow separatist convictions when driven to a decision, but they will tend to avoid a confrontation if possible. Many of these differences are reflections of varying personalities. Separatists are people too! There are different kinds of them. In fairness we must recognize and accept that truth and be careful lest we, too, carelessly mark as a compromiser someone who may not approach a problem in the same manner as we do.

Contexts differ

One may see an issue a bit differently than another because of the context in which he or she is operating. We all tend to be influenced by our background and experiences, and we all have different points of reference. A separatist must try to see his brother’s point of view before acting too hastily to turn his back on him. This is especially true if a brother has maintained a consistent separatist testimony through the years but differs with someone else on some isolated question of implementation. We must be careful not to compromise vital convictions, but at the same time we must be big enough to allow another person to differ with us without rejecting that person.

(Read Part 2.)

Notes

1 In addition to the material from the first edition of Biblical Separation, portions of this article are from a later booklet by Ernest Pickering, Should We Ever Separate from Christian Brethren? An Examination of the Issue of So-Called Secondary Separation (Minneapolis: Central Baptist Theological Seminary, n.d.). Two former associates of Pickering have produced works from a similar perspective that discuss the implementation of separatist convictions. See Mark Sidwell, The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1998); and Fred Moritz, Be Ye Holy: The Call to Christian Separation (Greenville, SC: Journeyforth Press, 2000). See also the suggestions offered by Douglas McLachlan in “Implementing Authentic Separation,” Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism (Independence, MO: American Association of Christian Schools, 1993), 114–142. 

2 Richard Ellsworth Day, A Christian in Big Business (Chicago: Moody, 1946), 268–69.


Ernest Pickering (1928–2000) was a noted leader in American fundamentalism, having ministered as a pastor, seminary president, and leader in missionary organizations. He earned a ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary and was a 40-year member of the Evangelical Theological Society. This article is an excerpt from his book Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church, published by Regular Baptist Press. This book, along with his pamphlets, articles, and additional books, have widely influenced the fundamentalist and evangelical movements.

Republished with permission from Baptist Bulletin © Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.

4263 reads

There are 41 Comments

TylerR's picture

Editor

The very first thing I always ask myself after I meet a Christian, or run across a Christian organization, is "how much should I separate from him/it?"

Not ...

It's not Pickering's fault, but I am so very sick of this topic. I frame the matter positively; "what is it we agree on?" On a practical basis, I very rarely have to weigh separatist considerations in anything I or the church does. The only guest speakers who come in are men I know and trust. The books I give away are generously evangelical, and I'm more than willing to give a bit based on the author's expertise. For example, I recently gave away a book by Bill Bright on evangelism.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

WallyMorris's picture

Tyler: I'm sorry you're sick of this topic. Nevertheless, the topic is a reality in our changing secular and religious environment. Although it is not a topic I deal with all the time ( a caricature), it is relevant. For example, lack of separation is one reason why the SBC Conservative Resurgence is failing and the SBC is having to confront a mix of problems. Are independent Baptists immune from problems? Of course not. Can the topic be overemphasized and misapplied? Sure. But I think the issue will become even more important in the future.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Pickering's contribution has more to do with understanding evangelical/fundamentalist history than anything else, but a close second was/is his contribution to balance in the pursuit of separation. This piece will be a three-parter and by the end he is calling attention to many of the things that turned "separation" into an unhealthy and often self-defeating obsession in the 80's. 

I'm not sure whether or not "ecclesiastical separation" will become more important in the future. Possibly. But the context of Pickering's teaching was a period when modernism/higher criticism, and the rapid fall of the mainline denominations into it, forced a major organizational ("ecclesiastical") realignment. But once all the primary separating had occurred, there wasn't really anything substantial to separate from anymore. Everybody was organizationally sorted out. And still are.

So after that, the more difficult questions had to do, not with what Association of Whatever will or won't be under the control of theological liberals, but the more fringe questions of

  • a) what kinds of differences require completely severed relationships (and usually a lot of pulpit denouncing) between individuals and individual ministries?
  • b) short of completely severed relationships and lot of public denouncing, to what extent can people who disagree on this or that work together or appear on one another's platforms at conferences and what not.

There was never really much of a consensus on the above two questions though some subgroups tried to pretend they were the only ones with the right answers (and everyone else was some sort of "pseudo..." or "neo..." or "hyper..." something.)

Today... most of us are, I think, like Tyler, tired of it. But I think Wally is correct that there's never going to be a time when error doesn't matter and we can all "just get along." The first level separating was important, the later personal cutting off and denouncing was definitely overdone and often poorly done when not overdone. When Pickering was writing, that was already happening some, and he goes after it a bit.

I believe every generation of Bible-committed Christian leaders needs to re-prioritize its list of things that should and shouldn't interfere with cooperative relationships or should and shouldn't be causes worth uniting to work on together. Classic liberal theology is still around but there are also so many new ideological problems on the scene that might call for forming new alliances and severing old fellowships (hopefully this time without all the posturing, denouncing, and obsessing over the small stuff.)

Dave White's picture

Watershed: BBG & ABG

There's:

  • BBG = Before Billy Graham
  • ABG = Billy Graham
Bert Perry's picture

What's the evidence that separation is the reason that the Southern Baptist resurgence is failing?  I can name a number of issues they're dealing with, but that hadn't come across my radar screen.

For my part, I'm content with primary separation on the basis of the theological fundamentals.  I would suspect that a great part of Tyler's reluctance to embrace separatism is the tendency of many fundamentalists to have secondary and tertiary separation based on everything, from the theological five fundamentals to stands on cultural issues, right down to how one allocates the salad, dinner, and dessert fork.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

My tiredness has more to do with what people separate over, rather than the concept itself. What issues in the contemporary church need separation, today? Now, there's a topic for real application! How about the various flavors of "worker than thou" evangelicalism, for starters?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

What the "separating over finer and finer and then dumber questions" crowd of the 80's didn't realize (and maybe on into the 90's? I wasn't paying much attention anymore at that point) is that they were turning off (or at least greatly wearying) a generation to the whole idea of separation. The Law of Unintended Consequences afflicts us all!

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm not opposed to the idea of separation, but I am tired of making conservative evangelicals the enemy. But, to the point, there are lots of obvious choices for separation today. I think of the subtle (and not so subtle) charge that white Christians are guilty of implicit, systemic racism. Of course, discernment is needed. There are different flavors of this idea. But, it's one example of an idea that needs to be viewed through the separatist lens by a careful pastor. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Craig Toliver's picture

The doctrine of separation was weaponized by some to:

  • Promote schools / denigrate other schools
  • Demonize ministries
  • Et cetera

The boomerang effect of such weaponization is that it exposed the hypocrisy of the name callers:

  • Eg. We separate from xxx who did not separate from BG
  • But we embraced racists & covered up sex abusers &  would not separate from KJVO heretics
Ron Bean's picture

From my perspective, separation from apostasy/liberalism/false teaching is one of the essentials of historic fundamentalism. Separation from brethren is not, yet it seems to have become a "fundamental" to some.

BTW, what amuses me is that I can remember fundamentalists in the 70's and early 80's who were a little skeptical of Dr. Pickering because of his friendliness with BJU because it wasn't a Baptist school!! He also had close friends who weren't Baptists or dispensational.

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

To be sure, some of most aggressive separatists were guilty of some inconsistencies. Not all of them. I was going to say it's hard to generalize about groups of independent people, but actually it's easy to generalize. It's just hard to generalize accurately and fairly.

What we have to acknowledge I think is that in any and every effort to do the right thing, there will be inconsistencies. That doesn't excuse the more egregious cases of "let's wink at this serious error while we publicly denounce this other (arguably smaller) error." But it should temper expectations. Nobody's going to get separatism right all time, any more than they're going to get anything else right all the time.

@Craig: I definitely got the same impression about some of what was going on in the 80s: the part about using separation as a tool to compete for constituents. I remember thinking, sometimes unkindly, sometimes probably fairly, "This guy is only bashing MacArthur because he's jealous of his success."

Dr. Pickering seemed to have a much better sense of proportion than many in those days (though there always were many who quietly did also, I believe). He seemed to see big things as big things and smaller things as smaller things.

Ron Bean's picture

When I was a member of the Northeast Regular Baptist Fellowship of Churches we invited Dr. Pickering to speak at a conference. It was a great conference and I was blessed by his preaching and fellowship. I remember some whispers about his connections with both the IFCA and then the GARBC as well as BJU. 

I had heard that he had been in Scotland in the 50's at the time of the Revival on the Isle of Lewis and asked him about what he saw. He had a slight smile and a twinkle in his eye as he said that it was a real revival but would be hard to explain to fundamentalists.

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

josh p's picture

At a church that I used to be a member of, he came to speak. This was decades before I was there but he stayed with a friend of mine. Speakers at the church often stay at my friend’s house and he mentioned that Pickering was the only one who spent the whole time in the back room studying.

Jay's picture

Nevertheless, the topic is a reality in our changing secular and religious environment. 

To be honest with you, I don't think this is going to become as big of a deal going forward because (as several have noted) the doctrine of separation was weaponized and misapplied and also because I think our culture's increasing hostility to all things Christian is going to push groups together to provide mutual support in some ways.  I'm not talking about joining hands with folks from the LDS or Watchtower, but folks in the CE or IFB orbits that have traditionally been antagonistic to each other.  I've struggled for years (going back as far as the Young Fundamentalist Survey) to understand why we need to be alert to the "Convergent Threat" when society's busy ramming things like homosexual marriage and "abortion-at-any-moment-from-conception-to-delivery-room" down our throats.

But maybe that's just my issue in my world.  I don't know.

"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

Joeb's picture

Maybe we the normals should separate from the Fringe IFB.  A new separation movement.  Just an idea and only kidding.  I’m in Tyler’s camp regarding the topic.  

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It raises an important point. "Separation" is so often talked about in the abstract. What does it look like? I think just about all of the separating already happened a good while ago, including separating from/among IFB groups. At some point it was decided that "separation" included frequent public denouncing... so people can always find a way to do more of that. But actual separating? There would first have to be a real connection to sever.

Ron Bean's picture

 But actual separating? There would first have to be a real connection to sever.

I was part of one of those ministries that loudly and regularly proclaimed their separation from people and organizations with whom they had no connection at all. 

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

TylerR's picture

Editor

I remember a pastor friend of mine acknowledging that Bob Jones was wrong about the JMac blood issue. "But," he said, "I'm still separating from him!" I asked, "Why do you need to separate from him if he doesn't know you even exist, and you'll never meet him?"

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joeb's picture

Wow me’s think these people who want to stand on their Separation Stool all the time and tend to think their a step above everyone else spiritually are just plain wrong.  To me that’s a big sign that a lot of skeletons are lurking in the closet ie Jack Hyles.  I’d beware of any church or Pastor who harps on this matter.

The above being said I’m probably going to separate from Bert now that I have gout and can’t partake in drinking a craft beer or eating shell fish anymore.  Even though I never personally met Bert and probably won’t unless he comes to the Philadelphia area.  Ahh I changed my mind Bert’s to great of a guy to separate from.  May my gout strike me down if I have a beer with Bert.     

 

 

Joeb's picture

Wally I thought the nail in the Coffin re the SBC’s drive to conservatism was the absolute immoral and alleged criminal sexual behavior of its two biggest leaders ie Paige Patterson and the Good Judge.  So how do you equate the SBC’s lack of separatism as the cause when the Fundamentalist elements appear to be totally corrupt.  That’s called not putting the blame where it belongs in my mind.  

It has nothing to do with Separation other than maybe the SBC should of separated from their Fundamentalist elements sooner.  Those elements were very similar behavior wise as Jack Hyles.  The red light should be if a Pastor or leader is moving toward legalism and being hyper judgemental of other Christians and non Christians and wanting to Separate from everyone outside his or her immediate supporters.  

In my mind the SBC made very positive moves electing the new President they did and wanting to separate from the Republican Party.  Plus they are acknowledging their mistreatment of their sisters in Christ.  

I see the Fundementalists who focus on separation and are involved in the Purity, Patriarchy, and Quiverfull Movements as being very dangerous. This groups Pastors and  Churches have serious problems. They time and time again end up in the funny papers and the human wreckage they leave in their wake is inexcusable.  Hence we need to separate from them.

It’s a shame because they have so so much to offer their fellow brothers in Christ.  From their music to their preaching.  I heard the one Pastor at a camp meeting on You Tube sing the Life Boat song.  It was absolutely beautiful and the setting made it a fantastic worship of our Lord. It was extremely inspiring.  

Tyler’s position is very very correct.  We should be focusing on what we have in common.  If the Fundamentals are covered how a man or women whorship our Lord is between them and God.  

I have a dear brother in Christ of mine who is a retired teacher in Scranton Pa and operates a Magic Shop.  He has been involved in magic for ever and inspired one Baptist Bible College Grad to pursue magic as a ministry. .  

My friend also participated in choir at a Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox Church which was singing classical  songs in Russian.  The head Priest at this Church was 100 years old and my friend said he had no doubt this man knew Christ as his Savior. In fact when a local IFB Church wanted to start a Christian School he invited them to use the Eastern Orthodox Church’s facilities for free, because he knew they preached the gospel.  In fact this Priest told my friend that as long as a group is furthering the cause of Christ that’s all the counts.  

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

About all I can say to that is that you would probably benefit from reading Pickering's entire book. You can get a copy here. Fred Moritz's book is also helpful to anyone who is interested in thinking the topic through.

Larry's picture

Moderator

If the Fundamentals are covered how a man or women whorship our Lord is between them and God.  

How did we conclude that how we worship is not a fundamental? Are you arguing that people are allowed to worship however they choose? Has God said nothing about that?

Bert Perry's picture

Larry wrote:

If the Fundamentals are covered how a man or women whorship our Lord is between them and God.  

How did we conclude that how we worship is not a fundamental? Are you arguing that people are allowed to worship however they choose? Has God said nothing about that?

Well, what do the Fundamentals state about the proper modes for praising God?  Or the Apostle's Creed, or the Trinity, or the Solas?  They seem pretty quiet, hence the proper modes for praise do not seem to be a fundamental.

At this point, the claim is made that certain genre and instrumentation are sinful or unwise.  Even if I were to concede their points--I don't, but for the sake of argument let's assume I do--what we would have is a sin or wisdom issue, not a fundamental.  And as Joe notes, that would seem to have something to do with whether we should, or should not, be separating on that basis.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There has never been a definitive list of "the fundamentals." The reason is that various beliefs have always been assumed, depending on who you were talking to. For example, none of the lists of "the fundamentals" I've seen list "God exists."

So, to the degree we're talking about art forms, no, it hasn't been a fundamental of the faith. But the idea that we can't worship just any way we please... this has been clear in Scripture ever since God rejected Cain's sacrifice. It is a fundamental of the faith that God must be worshiped as He commands.

Jay's picture

So, to the degree we're talking about art forms, no, it hasn't been a fundamental of the faith. But the idea that we can't worship just any way we please... this has been clear in Scripture ever since God rejected Cain's sacrifice. It is a fundamental of the faith that God must be worshiped as He commands.

But that's the whole point, isn't it?  Does God command that we worship him via a specific methodology (instruments vs. praise bands) in the NT?  Much has been made about 'cultural fundamentalism' vs '<whatever> fundamentalism' on SharperIron, and I'll admit that I am at odds with many of our  fundamentalist friends on this particular topic.  So while, I suppose, you can say that 'it is a fundamental of the faith that God must be worshipped as he commands', that still begs the question of 'what is the worship that God accepts'? 

While many have tried to make that case, on this site and elsewhere, I'm still unconvinced that the Bible gives us a pattern to follow other than singing and making music.  I see several NT passages that talk about the spirit and having the right attitude when you worship God, but nothing about 'thou shalt surely worship the Lord with a bass guitar and cymbals' or something along those lines.  Maybe that's just me, but it is exactly why I take those threads so seriously.  If you elevate the use of CCM to a fundamental, then you're going to need to disfellowship people over it and say that they are not in the Kingdom of God.  Full stop.

I don't have enough Biblical warrant to do that.  People may say that I'm crazy, but that is exactly the end-result.  Someone who denies a fundamental is not a Christian.  Period.  The End.

Secondly, if we define 'fundamentals of the faith' as things that must exist for there to be Christianity (which is always how I've thought of fundamental issues), then it seems to me that making worship a fundamental either elevates a specific methodology to a core issue of the faith - as in, you cannot be a Christian if you listen to CCM - or it denigrates the truly fundamental issues (inerrancy  /infallibility of Scripture, trinity, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, person and work of Christ, etc etc) to lesser value by adding worship style to the mix.  I'm not prepared to do that either.

"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

EditorAdmin

But that's the whole point, isn't it?  Does God command that we worship him
via a specific methodology (instruments vs. praise bands) in the NT?  Much
has been made about 'cultural fundamentalism' vs '<whatever> fundamentalism'
on SharperIron, and I'll admit that I am at odds with many of our 
fundamentalist friends on this particular topic.  So while, I suppose, you
can say that 'it is a fundamental of the faith that God must be worshipped as
he commands', that still begs the question of 'what is the worship that God
accepts'? 

The answer to that is the same as many other much-debated question: each believer--especially those in leadership, who have to make decisions that will influence or bind many to some degree--has to weigh the evidence and the arguments and arrive at a position he believes to be most pleasing to and glorifying of God. ... and we have to do that with an a priori yieldedness, a willingness to do the unpopular, unappreciated, misunderstood, and mocked.

On that particular topic it's pretty obvious that are extremes almost everyone would reject. That alone is proof positive that the issue isn't amoral or completely up to the whims of individuals and congregations. We instinctively know that it matters, though many try to claim otherwise.

(I'm personally not aware of anyone saying that lovers of CCM are "not in the kingdom of God." But if people are saying that, they don't deserve to be taken seriously.)

Bert Perry's picture

We can concede the notion that there is no definitive list, however, without abandoning the original premiss of the Fundamentals; that there are a number of doctrines which are so important that if one denies that doctrine, one can safely assume that person is not in Christ.

Given that the current status of the "traditional music" argument is stuck in the mode of "can we define it as sin or unwise without resorting to guilt by association fallacies?" (answer: no), I think it's safe to assume that it's not a "fundamental" in any coherent sense of the word, except for the category Jim Peet notes; "everythingism".  And when everything is a fundamental, nothing is.

(and again, I detest most CCM because it is lyrically and musically deficient IMO.  I just don't want to bar the door to modern genre based on logical fallacies)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

(I'm personally not aware of anyone saying that lovers of CCM are "not in the kingdom of God." But if people are saying that, they don't deserve to be taken seriously.)

This is a good point and may have helped me clarify my thinking.  So here's my logic:

  1. CCM (however defined and utilized, which is an entirely different discussion I don't want to get into) is such a threat to the people of God / church that "we" (whoever we are) will separate over it.
  2. Truly biblical separation is only warranted for sin issues, not matters of personal preference or polity.  But maybe I'm thinking too much of Matthew 18 and not enough about 1 Peter 1:15?
  3. Therefore, people who listen to CCM or who bring it into the church (a la "the Convergents" from that Frontline article however long ago) pose such a threat to the body of Christ that we must separate from them and treat them as 'not in the church' per Matthew 18.

Maybe that's sloppy thinking on my part, but it certainly seems to be the dynamic that is commonly taught and defended. 

"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

GregH's picture

Jay wrote:

(I'm personally not aware of anyone saying that lovers of CCM are "not in the kingdom of God." But if people are saying that, they don't deserve to be taken seriously.)

This is a good point and may have helped me clarify my thinking.  So here's my logic:

  1. CCM (however defined and utilized, which is an entirely different discussion I don't want to get into) is such a threat to the people of God / church that "we" (whoever we are) will separate over it.
  2. Truly biblical separation is only warranted for sin issues, not matters of personal preference or polity.  But maybe I'm thinking too much of Matthew 18 and not enough about 1 Peter 1:15?
  3. Therefore, people who listen to CCM or who bring it into the church (a la "the Convergents" from that Frontline article however long ago) pose such a threat to the body of Christ that we must separate from them and treat them as 'not in the church' per Matthew 18.

Maybe that's sloppy thinking on my part, but it certainly seems to be the dynamic that is commonly taught and defended. 

Help me if my logic is wrong. However, it seems to me that if you accept these two premises, you have to accept the conclusion:

1) CCM is wrong (ie sin).
2) A person that continues in sin is not saved.

Conclusion: People that continue to listen to CCM are not saved.

Am I missing something? If not perhaps that is why some feel the need to separate from those that accept CCM.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There are at least three factors that should prevent using that passage that way:

  1. Nobody can determine how long = "continuing" in that sense.
  2. Not all sins are equally serious. This assertion is somewhat controversial, but shouldn't be. All sin matters, but all sins are not equally weighty.
  3. The passage almost certainly assumes that the sinning person knows he/she is sinning. It's not about matters of conscience believers see differently. See Rom 14.

Item 1 raises the question, what's the point of the passage then? A good question. It must be answered in the light of other passages, including Rom.14.

As for those who believe use of "CCM" (whatever exactly that is now) is a sin, it isn't necessary to infer that they believe those who use it are unbelievers, if they haven't said that's their conclusion.

There are practical reasons to refrain from ministry cooperation of certain types among ministries that have differing positions on musical appropriateness. That's really not "separation." 

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.