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.
Charles Spurgeon explained the problems of not practicing secondary separation,“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)
As Dr. John MacArthur stated last week in his Q & A with Phil Johnson“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)
“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.
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,