“If I feel that my friend is being sinful by teaching that we should baptize infants, I will want to go to great lengths to show him that he is sinning and to see him repent and correct his error. But if I believe that his belief in infant baptism is something less than sin, I can appreciate his conviction while not feeling the need to emphasize repentance and correction.”
Challies reflects on error that is sin and error that is just error.
From its founding in 1941, the American Council of Christian Churches has dedicated itself to defending the fundamental truths of Gospel doctrine against Satanic attack and to promoting those truths in a world marked increasingly by apathy and even antipathy toward them. Sadly, the corrosive influence of weakness in the face of apostasy, as manifested in the so-called New Evangelicalism, has produced an appalling drift toward positions that have bargained away the hallmarks of the Gospel in exchange for wider acceptance and more popular acclaim.
The first decade of the 21st century has been a time of turning away from the separatist positions maintained not only by the early generations of Christian Fundamentalist leaders and those who benefited from their ministry but also by those who came before them, going all the way back to the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. The legacy of Billy Graham’s ecumenical evangelism and the NAE’s fascination with admitted advocates of universalism, such as Robert Schuller, have generated an atmosphere in which Joel Osteen and other purveyors of “evangelicalism lite” have been able to flourish.
Third, I think we need to work toward better approach to separation. Our practice is often weak and sloppy. This is because our thinking is weak and sloppy. We don’t read widely or think deeply about much of anything. Theological reflection is rare among us. We want simple answers to complex questions.
This sloppiness may be seen in the way we practice separation. It is often harsh and inconsistent. It lacks thoughtful reflection and purposeful expression. But we are not alone in our weak view of separation. I think evangelicals are also weak in this area. They actually do practice secondary separation but they do so inconsistently.
Editor’s Note: This article accompanies FBFI Resolution 09-03 and is reprinted with permission from the May/June issue of FrontLine magazine.
Pastor Robert Corso is facing a hard decision. Another Bible-believing pastor in his town has asked him to participate in a joint youth outreach emphasis. The difficulty is that Pastor Corso has some significant differences with the other church in terms of ministry philosophy and the practice of youth ministry. Although he does not wish to throw stones, he does not feel comfortable participating in the event. Pastor Corso is sure that some of his church members believe that he should publicly separate from the other church. Other members would see nothing wrong with participating, given that the gospel is more important than a church’s “parochial interests.”
Although there are times when a church must unequivocally separate itself from individuals and ministries, many times a pastor is faced with a situation like the one above. He does not believe that he has clear enough Scriptural warrant to publicly declare another ministry or minister to be “in sin,” but he does not think it prudent to involve himself too closely with that ministry or a particular project. The question is whether he has the leeway to limit his participation without officially separating from the other ministry. Are there such things as prudential limits on association that are different in nature from Biblical separation?
Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (January 1996), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA). It appears here verbatim.
I John 2:15-17 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Not long ago as two pastors were in conversation one asked the other if he could think of any practice not specifically forbidden in the Bible, that we avoid simply because it is worldly. Neither could think of one. We have come a long way.
Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (June/August 1987), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA).
Nearly four centuries ago the Puritan William Perkins drew a useful distinction. He suggested that there is a working difference between error and heresy. He wrote that error of itself is no ground for breaking fellowship, that any doctrinal discrepancy between two Christians means that one or both are in error. The Bible does not on that account command them to separate from each other. Heresy is another matter; heresy is error, but error that strikes at the very roots of the faith, and heresy is always grounds for breaking fellowship.
Scripture bears out this latter observation. Paul in 2 Cor. 6:14 commands us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and he follows the command with five unthinkables. John in his second epistle wrote, “For many deceivers are entered into this world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come (or ‘coming’) in the flesh” (2 John 7). Then in verses 10 and 11 he adds,
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.