Excusing the Brother For the Sake of His Sister: Is This the New “Fresh Application” of Biblical Separation Principles?
The principles of separation as God communicated them to man through Inspiration are eternal, timeless truths. These truths have certain, non-negotiable applications in any generation. God said,
“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).Those are the Inspired principles that carry with them a clear application. There is no subjective decision to make. God meant, for all time, that believers are not to unite with unbelievers. God meant that we are to “reprove,” i.e., expose, rebuke, not be partakers in works of darkness or partner with those who do. Unless the intent is to force those passages into conformity with an agenda or contemporary trend there is no other way to redefine or reinterpret them to negate their clear and obvious meanings. When God said,
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,” (Eph. 5:11).
“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).There are applications of the principles of separation that transcend all labels. We have the Lord’s immutable mandates for how we, as a body of believers, are to address the disobedient and teachers of contrary doctrine among us.
“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,” (Romans 16:17-18).
When we find men who name the name of Christ hob-knobbing with unbelievers, who compromise the Gospel, who give Christian recognition to the enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18) they are in rebellion against God’s Word. When we follow the mandates to “admonish him as a brother” to convince him that he has erred and he refuses that admonition, remains unrepentant we are mandated to withdraw from, have no company with, mark and avoid him. We are obligated to obey the Bible commands toward the disobedient no matter what label, camp, denomination or seminary they are known by or identify with.
With the signing of the Manhattan Declaration1 so-called “conservative” evangelicals Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan and Kevin DeYoung (as well as a number of lesser-knowns in evangelicalism) irrefutably compromised the Gospel. To reiterate, they have rejected the admonition of brethren who love them in the Lord and remain unrepentant.
Pastor Dave Doran wrote (11/4/10) that his, “central concern is that faithfulness to the biblical principles of separation demands fresh application of those principles to the present challenges we face.” Is this how one begins to redefine the application of the eternal “biblical principles of separation?” Is this how one begins to accommodate contemporary trends for fellowship with men who have a track record of ecumenical compromises and doctrinal aberrations? I have identified several mechanisms being floated to redefine the application of separation. They are:
1) Redefining Separation for Alleged “Academic Contexts”
“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?” (Is There a Second Definition for “Separation” in Academic Contexts?)
2) Unity Around a So-Called, “Pure Gospel”
This, of course, is uniting under Calvinistic soteriology in the form of the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel. The trend appears to be as long as there is agreement on Calvinistic soteriology allowances will be made for aberrant doctrines and unholy ecumenical alliances.
“Have we and do we as Fundamentalists practice ecclesiastical separation because of concerns for a pure church or a pure Gospel? Does it matter which it is and is there any appreciable difference between the two? Is it possible this may be a purposeful narrowing of the definition of ecclesiastical separation, which if widely adopted by Fundamentalists would result in a paradigm shift in our practice of and fidelity to the God-given mandates?” (A Pure Church or a Pure Gospel: Does It Really Matter?)Certain men in fundamental Baptist circles have reduced the criteria for cooperative efforts and ecclesiastical unity to “purity” to the gospel (exclusively to the LS interpretation) rather than the faith, the body of Christian truth, once delivered. Thus a mechanism is in place to allow for cooperation with everyone they can place in the so-called “pure gospel” box, while at the same time widen the sphere of aberrant doctrines, worldly methods of ministry and ecumenical compromises they will tolerate and excuse among their new friends in evangelicalism.
3) Separation From Those Who Deny “Essential” Doctrines
Certain Baptist men are assuming the role of chief arbiters for what will be defined as “essential” doctrines. The issue here is not whether we believe in principle and application that the Bible is the Word of God from cover to cover, every book, chapter and verse. Decisions are being made, however, on what will be reduced to non-essential Bible doctrines to allow freedom to pursue fellowship with evangelicals. These decisions are being presented to this and the next generation to influence them toward filtering the Scriptures through a prism fashioned by men like Dave Doran and Kevin Bauder to close the loop on what should be considered the essentials for cooperative fellowship and ecclesiastical union with evangelicals.
“Believers and churches must separate from those who deny essential doctrines of the faith.” (Dave Doran: Contemporary Challenges for Biblical Separatism.)When you read the articles by and watch the movement of men like Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Tim Jordan2 and schools like Northland International University3 you begin to recognize, which doctrines have thus far been reduced to non-essentials. Doctrines such as:
• Separation has become a non-essential in spite of an apparent resurgence of new evangelicalism’s refusal to apply the obvious principles of separation from unbelievers and the disobedient.When men who claim a heritage in biblical separatism allow for, tolerate and excuse these things they have become non-essential doctrines.
• Cessationism of the Charismatic sign gifts.
• “Love not the world” (1 Jn. 2:15) will not be an essential when you can wink at and excuse the CCM/Rock-n-Roll concerts such as John MacArthur’s Resolved Conference.4
• Eschatology becomes a non-essential such as amillenialism, which is Mark Dever’s position who also said, “You are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view.”
“This ‘essential doctrine’ doctrine is invented for the purpose of fitting in with more people. It isn’t at all some kind of development of doctrine from scriptural exegesis…. It’s popular for selling more books, for being bigger, for opening up more speaking engagements, for a fake peace…. This is a subtle, new, and dangerous attack. I am reading the same kind of attack coming from professing fundamentalists. We should get our doctrine from the Bible. It’s ironic, but evangelicals and now fundamentalists are saying that, if it isn’t stated in scripture, we should allow liberty….” (Kent Brandenburg at his JackHammer blog, The “Essential Doctrine” Doctrine Is Just Being Assumed with No Proof, Oct. 2010.)We do not raise a question on a man’s belief in the verbal, plenary Inspiration of Scripture. We do, however, question why in this debate over fellowship with evangelicals that new lines of definition between essentials and non-essentials are drawn. This is not meant to be a clear, definite analogy, but it is worth asking: Does the Bible contain the Word of God, or is the Bible the Word of God?
4) To Castigate and Discredit Fundamentalists as “inconsistent.”
“…Kevin [Bauder] has been quite lavish in his praise of conservative evangelicals while castigating so-called fundamentalists. Yet he has spent very little time warning us about the pitfalls and problems of conservative evangelicalism.” (Dr. Gerald Priest, in reaction to Bauder’s Let’s Get Clear on This, March 2010).Some fundamentalists have been known to have some untidy alliances. Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran and some who have been influenced by them have begun translating that into justification for allowing evangelicals the same untidiness. Of course they do not clarify that the ecumenical compromises of the evangelicals are intentional, frequent and directional, while the sad associations with the extremists in fundamentalism are typically infrequent, often un-intentional and incidental. At the pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Iron5 Frank Sansone posted the following comment, which gets to the heart of the current strategy.
“His [Doran’s] comments [in Preserving Movements or Practicing Truths] on Vaughn speaking with Schaap and the Baptist Friends Conference are a separate issue from the T4G resolution. To use that connection to criticize the ACCC for the T4G resolution sounds an awful lot like the little boy caught in disobedience who excuses what he does by saying ‘but my sister did bad things too.’ Whether the sister did bad things is irrelevant to the issue at hand, namely, the brother’s disobedience.Let the Bible say what it says without the trappings of logic, redefinition or a “fresh application” to fit contemporary trends. Let us, without partiality, apply the principles of biblical separatism and hold accountable men who run rough-shod over the principles in their practice. Let us reject the new trend toward bringing up the sister’s errors to excuse the brother’s errors.
and it does not invalidate the one pointing out the brother’s errors… The one-time connection of JV and JS at a conference does not make for a pattern. Is it concerning? ABSOLUTELY!!! Does it rise to the same level as an ongoing movement [evangelicalism] that has consistently showed itself to be negligent in the area of Biblical separation? Not yet…. Should some speak up about JV and JS at the Baptist Friends Conference? Sure. I think it needs to be addressed - and Dr. Doran has rightly addressed it in other places. However, it is wrongheaded to use one error as a cover for another error.”Bringing up the sister’s errors does not excuse the brother’s errors-
1) The Manhattan Declaration
2) Kevin Bauder and Dave Doran to Join Mark Dever at Lansdale: Is This a Fundamentalism Worth Saving?
3) NIU Presents Grace Community Church Executive Pastor Rick Holland
4) “Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr. John MacArthur’s pastoral staff [Rick Holland], gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere.... Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.” (Dr. Peter Masters: The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness)
5) I Had to Ask: Does This Sharpen Me?