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-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,
•Baptist in Heritage
•Fundamental in Position
•Dispensational in Approach
•Local Church in Ideology 2
“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”
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.”3Separation 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.
•DBTS is a ministry of ICBC,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.”
•DBTS is a ministry to serve local churches,
•Dave Doran is a recognized minister in and among the churches.
Influencing Others Toward the Loosening Standard:
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 outside the ministry of ICBC. The principles of soul liberty and the autonomy of the local church would be the guiding principles. Dave Doran has, however, published his new definition for separation to accommodate conservative evangelicals in academic or conference settings in a public forum, his blog. His influence, furthermore, is given wider attention from Sharper Iron, which is dedicated to the advancement of conservative evangelicalism, its star personalities and conferences. Doran’s 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 what was once consistent **militant separatism. Bible believing Christians need and deserve to be forewarned of this influence and growing trend away from the God-given mandates for separatism and reminded of the biblical obligations to heed what God has said.
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).Brethren, where does your first loyalty lie; to friends, fellowships and academic pursuits or to the Lord and His commands?
“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).
*This article first appeared on April 22, 2010. Because of scheduling issues and breaking events this article did not hold the lead position at the head of this blog as long as I had first intended. Because of the importance and implications of what is being discussed I offer once more this expanded article for consideration and review.
**See comment thread for an important Appendix entry.
Please also continue to Appendix 'B' for a discussion of patterns of life, real or potential.
1) Separation in Academic Contexts, February 24, 2010 (accessed 4/20/10).
2) 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).