"...(L)et's heed Piper's warning not to fall into an error of secondary separation. There is no need for us to separate from Piper over such a decision."

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Aaron Blumer's picture

That's an interesting one. I think these guys practice some form of secondary separation themselves. All it is is the idea that brethren who disobey Scripture must be "separated from" in various ways (depending on the nature of the disobedience) in addition to separating from apostates. For example, hypothetically speaking, if Rick Warren announced that he is now embracing a homosexual lifestyle, I'm pretty sure some separating would occur! (Just to be clear, I have no reason to believe RW is going to do that... just hypothetical).

If that example isn't adequate, I'm sure a little imagination can come up with other forms of disobedience that would probably get you off the speaker list of even a DG Conference (the problem is that the list of things that get you off that roster is apparently too small)

Edit: Many assume that "secondary separation" means "separating entirely from someone who fails to separate entirely from someone I believe they should separate from." This is a really gutted view of the SS principle.

Jonathan Charles's picture

I had a conversation with Bob Wood, former VP of BJU about 8 years ago. Other pastors were in the conversation and were concerned with the reputation BJU had concerning the issue of secondary separation. He replied that while there were many speakers that BJU would not have on campus to speak, that leaders of the school often fellowshipped with these men in private. Even though BJU separated from Billy Graham, Bob Jones Jr. would still fellowship privately with Cliff Barrows. Also, while the school would not have John MacArthur on campus for chapel, bible conference, leaders in the administration also had fellowshipped with him in private. It somewhat relieved me to know that those who do practice secondary separation are cordial and even very friendly with some of the folks they feel they must separate from as far as being publically involved in each other's ministries. Does that make an individual or institution hypocritical (fellowshipping with someone in private that they would not in public)? I don't know, but it did remove for me the perception of harshness that I had about BJU.

JohnBrian's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:
Does that make an individual or institution hypocritical (fellowshipping with someone in private that they would not in public)?
Not at all. There are members of my extended family who I would not fellowship with in a ministry setting, but would fellowship with in a family setting. I even have some friends I would not have invited to preach in my church, nor would I have expected them to invite me. It seems to me that there are different forms of separation.

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JGHenderson's picture

The best discussion of Biblical Separation I've read thus far is Peter Master's booklet STAND FOR THE TRUTH. You can order it from the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London. I continue to appreciate Bob Jones Jr.'s booklet
Biblical Separation, written some time ago. In it he argues no such thing as "secondary" separation, just Biblical Separation. Captain Joe Henderson

Bob T.'s picture

First, I agree with the analysis about the way Rick Warren handles scripture.

Second, I agree with the analysis of what may happen when a church seeks to establish itself by duplicating the Saddleback model. One such church here was established by a former Saddleback staff member. It met in a High School and grew rapidly to about 1500 in attendance and held that for about 5 years. Today it no longer exists. I will no t go into what happened. However, it appears the model does not work in many areas. South Orange County in the 1980s was YUPPY land. Remember the term? It was also one of the fastest two growing areas in the nation. The other was Orlando, FL. The culture and growth were right for RWs vision. He became large enough fast enough to sustain the ministry. Went years without buildings for He then transitioned his ministry to some new emphasis to meet new needs. Today Saddleback has a credible emphasis on teaching that provides good establishment in the faith. Also here, a church of about 100 got a new Pastor who wanted to transition to the Saddleback model. They went fairly rapidly to about 300. Then the original people almost all left. The new people did not give enough to sustain the church. The pastor felt a call to elsewhere (via Verizon) and the church went out of existence. A larger church took over the building and established new church that is now about 75 but ministering well to the area it is in. So, I think RW does a great job at evangelism. He does preach a biblical gospel at his church. Saddleback does teach. However, there are some areas of theological weakness such as creation, His Saddleback model is not a model to duplicate. Learn from some of it but do not attempt duplication.

Third, my opinion of Piper is that there are many weaknesses in his ministry and theology. He is not a 6 day creationist. His view of Justification is wrong but ignored by loyalists. His view of Sanctification is problematic. He claims convictions but does not necessarily work them out in ongoing ministry entanglements. There is a difference in inviting someone to your church or conference and your ongoing associations in ministry. Every one is concerned about RW being at a conference with JP. How about JPs ongoing relationship with BGC, now Worlds Collide or Converge, or something like that. How about the relationship with BU. That's BU (Bethel University), not BJU. Piper seems to have followers and defenders who lack balance and perspective. One can read some books and admire the author. Many of Pipers defenders go way beyond that. There is an inordinate loyalty and failure to see where he is wrong.

The simple fact is that there are big differences in their ministries but both JP and RW are both middle of the road mainstream Evangelicals. RW is not being invited to a Fundamentalists conference where there has been an emphasis or practice of separation that is being violated. Both are inclusive and inadequate in discerning ministry associations. Neither wants to be associated with Fundamentalists. This appears to be about a bunch of young Calvinists being shocked at the Guru of Puritan Calvinism getting a visit from the Guru of pragmatic evangelism, who may be a moderate type 3.5 Calvinist himself (which to many Calvinists is the same as 0 Calvinism). The new lights gathering with the old lights. Will Benny Hinn be there as the Guru of the Charismatics? :bigsmile:

Jay's picture

Quote:
At yet let's heed Piper's warning not to fall into an error of secondary separation. There is no need for us to separate from Piper over such a decision. We have plenty of latitude to disagree with him; let's do so with respect for him and for his long and faithful history of ministry to the church. The sky is not falling, the world will go on.

In a context like mine, I'm not really sure that I ~could~ "separate" from Piper. The extent of the relationship that Piper and I have is that I download his books and will occasionally download a sermon. So in what meaningful way could I "separate" from Piper?

If Piper and I were on a first name basis [snicker ], then, yes, I could - and probably would - separate from him because I think that Warren is not someone he should be providing with a platform, for all of the reasons that Challies delineated.

"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

Don Johnson's picture

Jay C. wrote:
Quote:
At yet let's heed Piper's warning not to fall into an error of secondary separation. There is no need for us to separate from Piper over such a decision. We have plenty of latitude to disagree with him; let's do so with respect for him and for his long and faithful history of ministry to the church. The sky is not falling, the world will go on.

In a context like mine, I'm not really sure that I ~could~ "separate" from Piper. The extent of the relationship that Piper and I have is that I download his books and will occasionally download a sermon. So in what meaningful way could I "separate" from Piper?

That betrays a flaw in the whole understanding of these arguments. It isn't really about separation for the average pastor or average person in the pew. What it is about is discernment and direction. Given what you know of Piper's actions past and present, would you be heartily recommending his work to people in your church? Would you be ambivalent? Would you counsel against using Piper?

It is a bit of a red herring for Challies to raise the "secondary separation" issue. That's not really the point.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Don, I disagree with what seems to be your line of reasoning. I believe that it is entirely possible to read and be encouraged by Piper's work and recommend some of his stuff - not all of it - without following him like some Led Zeppelin groupie. My appreciation for Piper isn't an either/or switch.

I'm thankful to BJU for the education that I got there in Seminary, but I'm not automatically sending my kids there because I attended...some people seem to think that I should. I think that's silly. Smile

"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

Jim's picture

My brief thoughts about separation - and I'm not sure if I'm correct!

For the individual Christian (Personal Separation)

  • There is the very real demand for personal separation unto holiness.
  • This would include the need to eschew certain practices, affiliations and relationships AND
  • Embrace other practices, affiliations and relationships
  • The number one relationship a Christian should have is being an active member of a local church (that itself is doctrinally straight (orthodoxy and orthopraxy)

Books, conferences, etc are not in and of themselves a separation issue

  • Reading Piper or Warren or even an outright heretic or apostate is not in and of itself a separation issue. I've read sermons by the Pope! That doesn't put me into a relationship with him or the Catholic church
  • I'm not convinced that attending a conference is a separation issue. Ben Wright makes (in my mind) a valid point here http://paleoevangelical.blogspot.com "Fundamentalists, Hear This: Not Everybody Thinks About Conferences the Way You Do "
  • On a personal note ... I'm not a big conference attender but I have been to Gothard events. That does mean I agree with him on much of anything!
  • If my hypothesis is correct (reading Piper, Warren, etc) does not put me in fellowship with them (and I think it is) - books are not an issue.

Within one's local church (and the local church has primacy - I appreciate Doran's thoughts here: http://gloryandgrace.dbts.edu/?p=295 )

  • The local church sets the boundaries and parameters of fellowship
  • Does a member error and persist in error as an unrepentant one. The church is to exclude that one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-12)
  • If I have an unresolved issue within my own local church, there is an established process to follow to address it (Matthew 18 .... etc)
  • Two believers who are in a right relationship with their Lord .... in the same local church ..... should be in fellowship with each other! (Or some point of the process above has either not been followed or has not completed!)

For the Church - Ecclessiastical Separaton

  • It's up to the local church to decide the limits of her own fellowship Examples
  • What missionaries to support
  • What speakers to invite in
Aaron Blumer's picture

Quote:
In it he argues no such thing as "secondary" separation, just Biblical Separation.

I'm not keen on that idea, myself, because I think it's important to distinguish between an apostate who has denied the faith and a brother who is, in one way or another (and not all equally serious) erred. Yes, it's all "biblical," so the term fits, but one is still not the same as the other.

JobK's picture

First, allow me to propose that Rick Warren is a far more problematic figure than Challies allows. I cannot help but thinking that Warren is given a pass by many simply because of his affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention. Were Warren a member of a more liberal denomination, or were he charismatic, his doctrines and activities would draw more scrutiny. (For the record, I feel the same way about Billy Graham.) Guys like Graham, Warren, Driscoll and now apparently Piper shows that being very successful and popular allows you to get away with a lot in these times.

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Greg Long's picture

Job, I sure don't think Challies is giving Warren "a pass", do you?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

JobK's picture

Greg Long wrote:
Job, I sure don't think Challies is giving Warren "a pass", do you?

You are correct in adhering to the truth on the matter that I raised ... Challies did not in fact give Warren "a pass" but rather did raise substantive questions about Warren and his ministry. However, I say that Challies only recited a few of the legitimate issues that others have raised with Warren. (You can reference [URL=http://put_url_here ]http://apprising.org[/URL ] and [URL=http://put_url_here ]http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com[/URL ] for more. However, I do acknowledge that those sites and others like them are themselves controversial.) Were Challies to detail some of Warren's other issues (which are known to Challies, as his stance towards Warren has been an item of discussion on his blog in the past), it would make statements like this hard to defend:

" But before I continue, let me offer one more word. John Piper inviting Rick Warren to speak at the conference is not that big of a deal. It matters, to be sure, but not enough to get too riled up. It's important that we put it in its proper context. Piper did not invite Robert Schuller or the Dalai Lama, someone who outright denies the gospel. Warren professes faith in Christ and professes an evangelical understanding of that faith."

Also, there is this piece which directly follows: "Furthermore, this conference is Piper's gig and he is free to invite whomever he wants (or whomever he is permitted within whatever structure there is inside of Desiring God). His house, his rules."

So ... had Piper in fact invited the Dalai Lama, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a Jehovah's Witness, or a Oneness Pentecostal, would Piper still be free to invite whomever he wants to "his gig" since it is "his house and his rules"? (To speak nothing of it actually being God's house governed by God's rules as revealed in the Bible.) If that is not the case, then what of the previous sentence? Is Challies making the decision to invite Warren more palatable simply by juxtaposing his name next to that of Schuller?

Just an example: Warren's professed evangelical understanding of the Christian faith apparently includes allowing Catholics, Mormons and Jews to attend his pastor training and church growth training sessions [URL=http://put_url_here ]http://www.usatoday.com/life/2003-07-21-rick-warren_x.htm[/URL ]
Warren says I'm not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won't try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?" he asks?"

Another comment from that piece: "Rather than threaten sinners with fire and brimstone, Warren says, "we believe in attraction evangelism. We believe in loving people into the Kingdom."

So ... while you were right in your objections, that Challies didn't give Warren a TOTAL pass, he most certainly gave Warren what practically amounted to one.

Instead of asking "why should we separate from Piper over Warren", the question should be "why SHOULDN'T we separate from Piper over Warren." With some of the things that Warren, Graham, Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd, Alister McGrath etc. have said and done, it begs the question of precisely what one must do in order to be no longer considered a "conservative evangelical." Well, I guess coming out in favor of abortion, gay rights and maybe universal healthcare would do it, but what else?

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Don Johnson's picture

Jay C. wrote:
Don, I disagree with what seems to be your line of reasoning. I believe that it is entirely possible to read and be encouraged by Piper's work and recommend some of his stuff - not all of it - without following him like some Led Zeppelin groupie. My appreciation for Piper isn't an either/or switch.

Ok, I think my brief comment might not be that clear. I've written something longer and will put it on my blog later tonight. (check oxgoad.ca in the morning)

For me, there is very little reason to recommend Piper and lots of reason to warn against him. But that isn't separation. And that's why I think Challies is missing the point (along with Piper, who brought 'secondary separation' up in his defense of his decision). Anyway, I'll leave it at that here and if you are interested further you can check out my blog.... but it will be tomorrow, I'm not quite done with the article.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

J Ng's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:
that leaders of the school often fellowshipped with these men in private. Even though BJU separated from Billy Graham, Bob Jones Jr. would still fellowship privately with Cliff Barrows. Also, while the school would not have John MacArthur on campus for chapel, bible conference, leaders in the administration also had fellowshipped with him in private.

Some might argue that those occasions in secret might not be properly called "fellowship"--cos

  1. where in Scriptures does it say it's okay we fellowship with disobedient brethren in private?
    fellowship assumes common ground rather than distance/separation.

    Or are we working on a nuanced cline here:
    1. no fellowship whatsoever
    2. limited fellowship, in private
    3. moderate fellowship, in semiprivate
    4. full fellowship, in public

    Or somesuch?

pastorwesh's picture

Quote:
Jonathan Charles wrote:
that leaders of the school often fellowshipped with these men in private. Even though BJU separated from Billy Graham, Bob Jones Jr. would still fellowship privately with Cliff Barrows. Also, while the school would not have John MacArthur on campus for chapel, bible conference, leaders in the administration also had fellowshipped with him in private.
Quote:
1.where in Scriptures does it say it's okay we fellowship with disobedient brethren in private?

J Ng, are you saying that you believe that MacArthur is a disobedient brother?? Just wondering?

Serving the Savior, Pastor Wes Helfenbein 2 Cor. 5:17

Jay's picture

Don's article at oxgoad.ca is up. It's really good, and I'd recommend [URL=http://oxgoad.ca/2010/04/05/its-not-about-separation/ checking it out[/URL ].

Here's a taste:

Quote:
So why should I care about who he invites to Desiring God? What difference does it make to me? What, if anything, should I do about it? Should I comment to anyone, should I make any criticism to anyone, should I discuss it with anyone? Should I blog about it?

All of what I have said so far assumes that I agree with Tim Challies in his evaluation of Piper’s decision to invite Warren to Desiring God. Well, I do agree. Challies says the invitation was wrong. I think Challies is right, Piper is wrong about this. It is a foolish decision, especially given the kind of influence Piper has in Christian circles.

But I think Challies final comment, dismissing ‘secondary separation’ is irrelevant and misses the real significance of Piper’s error.

Here is how I, as a local pastor of a small church should look at this situation:

* Piper is demonstrating tremendously poor judgement in this case. Read Challies for a lot of good reasons why this is so.
* Piper has, in fact, shown similar poor judgement in inviting others in the past (Mark Driscoll – twice! – is perhaps the prime example).
* Piper’s poor judgement belies a number of things he has written in his own books. Which speaks louder, words or deeds?
* Piper’s books and sermons are widely available. The people in my church can and do ask me about them from time to time.

THEREFORE I should be extremely careful about recommending Piper as a reliable source for my people to develop their spiritual lives. I shouldn’t recommend attendance at his meetings or support his gatherings by pointing my people to the online resources. And so on…

The point of this error is that Piper’s judgement is certainly open to question. This error is very significant, even evangelicals are criticizing it and using the “s” word in the discussion (“separation”).

"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

J Ng's picture

Quote:
J Ng, are you saying that you believe that MacArthur is a disobedient brother?? Just wondering?

No, not personally. I was simply probing the principle at play here. It could be somebody else, indeed--plenty of examples!

Matthew J's picture

Okay, practically speaking this issue does cause me discomfort. For example, I appreciate Al Mohler (especially his book reviews-that man is a machine with reading and reviewing) but when he signed the Manhattan Declaration, I felt queasy inside and decided to remove his site from my ministry blogroll put out by our church, but still kept him on my personal blog. Now I know that Al Mohler has no idea I did that and he could care less and he shouldn't care. But from a pastoral perspective, I was concerned that the people within our church (understand the vast majority are first generation Christians with no axe to grind and to them fundamentalists and evangelicals are the same thing-I have no desire to teach them categories, but instead want to warn of false teaching and teachers on a case by case basis) could be swept into an ecumenical mindset since the MD was so public and i used it as an illustration of separation. Now, I appreciate John Piper and love to hear him preach. I don't always agree with him, in fact, some of his holiness preaching causes me to search the Scriptures not sure of his position. But I have to admit he loves the Scripture and is at least consistent. In my heart, I am undecided as to whether I should remove him from the blogroll. Not to "punish" him or issue some childish retort, but rather because I am concerned about his discernment in this area. I have no intention of ever speaking to Piper, I have our local assembly to worry about. I see inconsistency (as many have already noted) and was deeply troubled by his statement that he doesn't care what a guy holds in his left hand if right doctrine is in the right hand. I don't want that message being received by the flock God has given me leadership over. So in a practical sense, if I practice any kind of separation from Piper and Mohler it is purely on a local, practical level. It is about protecting the church that God has placed me as the undershepherd over because I must give an account for how I lead God's people. Separation becomes very practical for me and when we start thinking of separation as some kind of protest or "take that" then we have missed the whole point. At the same time we are using Piper's book "Don't waste Your life" with our youth. I endorse the book whole-heartedly, yet the recent events have given me pause and I am seeking truth in action with the whole matter. Knee-jerk reactions must be guarded against in any situation.

Rick Franklin's picture

Without regard to the merit of Challies' opinion piece, if he believes that Piper and Warren are overtaken in faults (a belief shared by most members of sharperiron, including myself), does he, in the spirit if not the letter of Matthew 18, have an obligation to approach Brothers John and Rick privately before criticizing them publicly?

Rick Franklin Gresham, Oregon Romans 8:38-39

Bob T.'s picture

Of course not. It is not a one one sin towards another in a local church. It is a public matter involving many.

Rick Franklin's picture

That was my error: Matthew 18 would apply when ". . .thy brother shall trespass against thee. . ." I was thinking of Galatians 6:1.

Rick Franklin Gresham, Oregon Romans 8:38-39