April 22, 2010

Is There a Second Defintion for “Separation” in Academic Contexts?

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Do the Scriptures allow for two sets of standards for the definition and application of biblical separatism? Is there one standard for the God ordained mandates for believers in a local church and a different, moderated, redefined standard for believers in a ministry under the auspices of a local church?

We have just such a question to address from an article published by Pastor Dave Doran at his blog Glory & Grace. The article I refer to is titled, Separation in Academic Contexts.1

I am going to discuss the article in light of the following statement that appears at the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (DBTS) web site:

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary has faithfully prepared men for the gospel ministry since its founding in 1976. As a ministry of the Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan, it provides graduate level training with a balance between strong academics and a heart for local church ministry. Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary is-

•Baptist in Heritage
•Fundamental in Position
•Dispensational in Approach
•Local Church in Ideology 2
As we consider Separation in Academic Contexts we will keep a keen focus on the fact that DBTS is a ministry of a local church, that being Inter-City Baptist Church (ICBC). Dr. Doran wrote,
Since the local church is the pillar and support of the truth, guarding the gospel through biblical separation is primarily at the level of relationships between churches, ministries that serve churches, and those who are recognized as ministers among the churches
Should men be any less militant about “guarding the gospel through biblical separation” in the ministry of a local church than guarding the church itself?

The desire to have scholarship presented and/or accepted by others in your field has the potential to pull one away from the local church and toward an institutional focus. My concern is that this completely opposed to the biblical focus, which centers on the church’s role in maintaining sound doctrine and separation from error or disobedient brethren. I am not anti-scholarship. I believe in and support the pursuit of academic excellence! It should, however, play a subordinate role to the mission of the church. Unfortunately, there can exist a natural tendency in the institutional setting to make scholarship preeminent, creating an ongoing temptation toward tolerance of error in the pursuit of credentials, academia and recognition.

Whether Pastor Doran sees it this way or not, having conservative evangelical speakers, lecturers, etc., into the seminary is tantamount to having them come to Inter-City Baptist Church. If ICBC is the parenting agency and DBTS is a ministry of the church - it’s tough to reconcile the “academic freedom” his article seems to be seeking.

In his reaction to Kevin Bauder’s Let’s Get Clear on This Dr. Gerald Priest noted, “Kevin has been quite lavish in his praise of conservative evangelicals while castigating so-called fundamentalists.” Dr. Priest went on to make a statement that was quite direct on the danger of opening the gates to conservative evangelicalism’s Trojan horse. I feel it is thoroughly applicable to Dr. Doran’s new definition of separation for a local church academic setting to the kind of conservative evangelicals such as Bauder was, “quite lavish in his praise of.” Dr. Priest wrote,
What I fear is that we may be allowing a Trojan horse into the fundamentalist camp. And after a while, if we keep going down this track, any significant difference between conservative evangelical and the fundamentalist institutions may disappear.”3
Separation from believers who are disobedient is a loving response to their disobedience. It is a demonstration of our love for the Lord (John 14:15) and it is a demonstration of our love for the disobedient. It is through separation that the wayward one learns to hunger for communion with committed Christians and is both made “ashamed” (2 Thess. 3:14-15) and perhaps even attacked by Satan in the body that the Spirit may be saved (1 Cor. 5:5-7).

Pastor Doran says that “gospel separation is primarily at the level of relationships between churches, ministries that serve churches, and those who are recognized as ministers among the churches.” Doran leaves the door open to violate his own premise when he allows for a broadening of fellowship in order to allow some form of academic freedom or scholarly exposure. This premise is violated in 3 ways:
•DBTS is a ministry of ICBC,
•DBTS is a ministry to serve local churches,
•Dave Doran is a recognized minister in and among the churches.
Remember, it’s one thing to read a book critically. It’s another thing entirely to tacitly extend the hand of fellowship because a person is a “scholar.”

Exposing impressionable students to compromised Christian leaders and scholars is not only dangerous it is an act of disobedience.

Such actions fail to show love to the wayward brother now brought in as a teacher and fails to recognize that students, regardless of their age, are “impressionable” by nature or they are really not qualified to be called “students.” Paul gave recognition to “Alexander the Coppersmith” when writing to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:14). It does not appear that Paul was ready to have Alexander come as a guest lecturer at the School of one Tyrannus (Acts 19:9) any time soon.

I am challenging our friends, our brothers in Christ, to resist the movement toward embracing the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. To refrain from exposing impressionable students to men who identify with a movement that disregards the “biblical obligations” for Gospel-Driven separation.

Growing numbers of men in Baptist circles who identify themselves as biblical separatists are becoming desensitized to the egregious errors and disconcerting practices of the conservative evangelicals. Self described separatists are desensitized to the point of tolerating, excusing and allowing for aberrant theology, ecumenical compromises and/or worldly methods of ministry of conservative evangelicals that would thus far not be tolerated in their own ministry.

I am calling on brethren, who claim a heritage in and allegiance to the principles of biblical separatism, to live in absolute fidelity to those principles. To obey the God-given mandates whether they speak to unbelievers or our brethren.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” (2 Cor. 6:14-17).

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,” (Eph. 5:11)

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son, 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.” (2 John 9-11)

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us…. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother,” (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15)

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple,” (Rom 16:17-18).
Brethren, where does your first loyalty lie; to friends, fellowships and academic pursuits or to the Lord and His commands?


Separation in Academic Contexts, February 24, 2010 (accessed 4/20/10).

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (emphasis added)

3) Dr. Gerald Priest from an extended thread comment posted at the
pseudo- fundamentalist Sharper Iron blog, (accessed, 3/28/10).

See comment thread for an Appendix entry.



    In 1995 Dr. Doran wrote an article tilted, In Defense of Militancy.

    The Fundamentalists’ compelling belief that separation was a thoroughly biblical command, coupled with a deep understanding of the sinister nature of unbelief, led to a militant commitment to separation from those who disobeyed God’s command to break with religious apostates…. It seems to me that those who want to rid contemporary Fundamentalism of its alleged belligerence should watch the pathway carefully. The last group of people to take that path found it to be a winding road which ends up in a theological wasteland.”

    Is the defense of militancy waning? We may get a more clear idea from an upcoming article by Brother Doran on John Piper’s invitation to Rick Warren to speak at Desiring God.

    If this action, just as Al Mohler’s signing the Manhattan Declaration, is summarized as merely a “wrong decision based on bad judgment” and in light of loosening standards for biblical separatism in an academic and/or a conference setting within the ministry of local church, it may be reasonable to conclude that militancy is waning.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Brian Ernsberger4/22/2010 1:13 PM

    Bro. Martuneac, Thank you for your civility, and uncompromising stand. I have only recently come across you (first in the current Frontline issue) and through mutual contacts. Your critiques of the issues at hand among fundamentalists have been timely and greatly appreciated. It has been refreshing to see that indeed there are others of like mind beyond the little corner of the world in which I reside.

  4. Brian:

    Thank you for those very kind remarks. I'm humbled that you appreciate what I am trying to do here.

    Also glad to know you've been able to read my article in FrontLine magazine. I was asked to submit an article for the current issue on the coming Supra-Religion.

    This new, looser standard of separatism for academic or conference settings indicates to me that biblical separatism is being chipped away at and will contribute to the growing ecumenical mindset among certain segments of Fundamentalism whether or not some care to identify themselves with Fundamentalism.

    Thanks again,


  5. To All:

    Over the weekend a pastor in western Michigan submitted two comments, one of which deserves an answer. Had this pastor submitted his remarks for this thread in civil tones they’d appear here now. Nevertheless, the question I’d like to address, in revised form, was:

    Why does it matter to me what DBTS is doing?

    If DBTS were quietly going about the business of opening its doors and exposing its own impressionable students to dangerous influences, it would be of little or no concern whatsoever. Dr. Doran, however, has published his new definition for separation to accommodate conservative evangelicals in academic or conference settings in a public forum. His message, therefore, has the potential to influence and encourage others outside his own local church ministry to consider and adopt the same loosening standard of militancy.

    This public outreach, with an errant message, IMO necessitates a public response such as I have delivered here to:

    1) Warn the unsuspecting,
    2) Alert the impressionable,
    3) Defend the Scriptures and
    4) Call on men, including Dr. Doran and the pastor who submitted the question, to live in fidelity to them.