Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Sticky Wicket: Secondary Ecclesiastical Separation

    Recently Robert had  a chance  to  personally ask 3 of today's  leading  reformed thinkers   if they knew of any books on the subject  of separation  (namely Dr. James White,  Dr. Steven Lawson, and  Phil Johnson).  All drew a blank.   Yet, if  we had a nickel for every conversation he's  had on this subject  over the years my hubby  could retire and  write a book on it himself.   So, SOMEBODY  pleeeease write one!
  We’re not talking about minor issues like music and worship style  or  differing  views  on eschatology and infant baptism.   We’re talking about men and women  crossing the line and going beyond the Scriptures to promote all sorts of aberrant teachings regarding the sufficiency of Scripture,  the persons of the  Trinity,  justification, sanctification, etc.  

  Strange Fire  did a superb   job of addressing  the problems with the Charismatic movement  but  now we need  equal clarity on  what to do about it  in our local  churches  and  personal associations  (vis-à-vis  the lady in 2nd John).     Whether it’s a pastor of a church or a little old lady in the pew (like me)  there's a  growing need for some practical instruction   on   where to draw the lines and when-and-how-we-should-we-say  “buh-bye" to joint  ministerial endeavors.   And what should we do  if there are no other church  options?
    At what point should we leave a church when  basic sound  doctrine is still taught but subtle influences from  bad teaching creeps in?   For example:
The women's ministry endorses books by say, Beth Moore,  Sarah Young,  or Joyce Meyer.    Or  the couples class uses  Mark Driscoll's book  Real Marriage.  
The church bookstore is starting to carry more questionable books.

The  organization/denomination our church belongs to has already slid down the slippery slope and our church leaders refuse to call it out.    With the exception of the Southern Baptist’s  grass-roots  about-face on the war over  the inerrancy of Scripture that took place 30 years ago, history proves that  most churches and institutions making compromises   will  eventually go the way of Harvard.
   These are very real scenarios  many of us  face  today and  not only do  we need answers,  we need pastors who aren't afraid to  protect us even if it means they won't be popular.  

   In our experience, secondary separation has  been  rejected  by mainstream Evangelicals  since our  early days in ministry with the IFCA (which stands for Independent  Fundamental Churches of America aka  I’ll Fight Christians Anywhere).    Secondary separation refers to  not partnering  in ministry with those who may be theologically sound themselves but who have no compunction about aligning themselves with  false teachers. 
 Dr. Martyn-lloyd Jones took this position when he declined Billy Graham’s invitation to  chair the 1963 Congress on Evangelism.
“I said I’d make a bargain: if he would stop the general sponsorship of his campaigns—stop having liberals and Roman Catholics on the platform— and drop the invitation system, I would wholeheartedly support him and chair the congress…but he didn’t accept these conditions.”(1)
    Charles Spurgeon explained the problems of not  practicing secondary separation,
“Where the basis of association allows error, and almost invites it, and there is an evident determination not to alter that basis, nothing remains to be done inside, which can be of any radical service.   The operation of an evangelical party within can only repress, and, perhaps, conceal, the evil for a time; but meanwhile, sin is committed by the compromise itself, and no permanently good result can follow. To stay in a community which fellowships all beliefs in the hope of setting matters right, is as though Abraham had stayed at Ur, or at Haran, in the hope of converting the household out of which he was called.” (2)
 As  Dr. John MacArthur stated last week in his Q & A with Phil Johnson
“You are living in the greatest  revival in the history of the church,  right now.  It outstrips the Reformation.   Vastly outstrips the Reformation.     It’s a revival of sound doctrine and reformed theology,  the sovereignty of God,  sovereignty of God in salvation, as we know  it,  Calvinism.   You are living in an explosion of reformed theology that is global... There has never been anything like it in the history of the world.   It is so far beyond the Reformation that it would be impossible to make a comparison because of technology.”  (3)
   So, the way I see it is   if we  don’t want to see this current Reformation come to a screeching halt then one of the things the church needs to do is  prevent the little foxes from spoiling vines.   

   Perhaps more churches should consider including a tenet like this church in Perth, Australia did in their doctrinal statement. 

      Ecclesiastical Separation

We believe the Scriptures teach that the believer shall be separated from apostasy as exemplified in ecclesiastical organisations which include radicals, liberals and those who sanction theological compromise. This belief is based upon God’s eternal principle of division between truth and error and His specific command to be separate from unbelievers and disobedient brethren. This truth is to be practised with an attitude of devotion to God, humility, compassion and yet with conviction, to create the proper condition and atmosphere for the main objective i.e. the salvation of the lost through the Gospel of God. We believe ecumenical evangelism, which involves apostates, violates the principles taught in God’s Word (Matthew 10:34-39; 18:15; 1 Timothy 6:3-6; Romans 16:17,1; 1 Timothy 2:16-18; 1 Corinthians 5:7-13; Titus 3:10; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 11:4,1; 2 John 1:9-11). (SOURCE)
1. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: From Buckingham to Westminster,” interview by Carl F. H. Henry,Christianity Today, 8 February 1980, p. 29   
3. Strange Fire Q & A: Answering the Critics  November, 17, 2013  


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  1. Robert needs to write that book, Diane. I'd buy it!

    I am getting less enamored with big name organizations. I fully agree that the gospel is essential but that should never be an excuse for turning a blind eye to aberrant doctrine or sin and abuse in the church. I hate to say it, but it seems so often that saving the face of the organization takes precedence.

  2. Persis - I've been begging him to!


Kind words are always welcomed.