I think the conservative evangelicals and the fundamentalists are wrong on separation. I can understand a Southern Baptist like Mark Dever's frustration with fundamentalists. I would feel the same way about it if I were him. They're not consistent. They can't even explain their inconsistency and yet they want him to be a separatist like them. At the same time, I sympathize more with a Mark Minnick because he's right, Scripture teaches separation. They both have trouble because they both are wrong on the nature of the church. You can't be consistent on either unity or separation when you don't have the right view of the church. By the way, the correct view of any doctrine can be practiced consistently if it is correct. God by His nature is consistent. Something that is inconsistent does not reflect Him, so it can't be what He is teaching in His Word. That should be a big deal to these guys, but ultimately their traditions supplant Scriptural doctrine. They should humble themselves to consider a Scriptural ecclesiology, but they don't. God resists the proud; gives grace to the humble.
Alright, with that diagnosis out of the way, the big elephant in the room in the discussion is that the Bible is a book about separation---light from darkness, day from night, land from water, the godly from the ungodly, the living and true God from idols, righteousness from wickedness, truth from error, the sacred from the profane or common, the clean from the unclean, Godly wisdom from the wisdom of this earth, men of God from false teachers, the church from the world, God from Satan, the wise from the foolish, the tares from the wheat, the sheep from the goats, the kingdom of God from the kingdom of this world, the narrow road from the broad road, children of light from children of darkness, and more. I hope everyone reading gets the picture. Yet evangelicals seem to miss these. They might get upset when others say they do, but that's how it seems.
Recently Mark Dever posted over the separation issue. He seemed to be a little perturbed about being accused of not practicing separation. Fundamentalists and others came out of the woodwork to comment---fundamentalist leaders from Michigan (Dave Doran) and Minnesota (Jeff Straub), a few highly opinionated novices (think Bob Hayton, among others), a couple of armchair quarterbacks who mainly still play with truth in a test tube, and the ox-goad himself [I noticed the Straub reference to Shamgar), Don Johnson, entered the fray, albeit later wishing he hadn't. We had the mysterious CD Host, but I think anonymity can tend toward false bravado (he's now debating Frank Turk on behalf of ladies heading up churches). Of all the commentators, I did relate most and best to Don Johnson. Most of you readers would have already guessed that.
If I was reading the comments there attempting to understand separation, I would have had a difficult time. Most of it reads like seat-of-the-pants theology, a tremendous amount of speculation. Very little looks cut and dry. I guess that the fundamentalists are saying that Dever should separate, but it's hard to tell. Jeff Straub is not clear at all. If I were trying to find out if it would be OK to join or pastor a Southern Baptist Church, Straub would have me thinking that would be fine. And I guess that fundamentalists are fine with Straub giving that impression with his lack of clarity. I thought these things mattered to fundamentalists. Either I've been wrong about this or fundamentalists are changing. I do think the latter is true. The way it all reads is like a political discussion or fight in a political party, to get included what every group wants in their party platform. There doesn't seem to be an overriding document that can give clarity. Of course, there is. The Bible. That isn't being referenced much in the discussion.
To be fair or sensitive, maybe they aren't using Scripture because they think everyone knows it already, so just skip the verses and go straight to the application. We can't skip the Bible. To glorify God, we speak as the oracles of God. Mark Minnick told Dever in the interview to look up the passages on separation and study them out. That was good counsel. Everything in the commentary about separation should go back to the Bible. We do spiritual warfare with Scripture, pulling down strongholds, not with carnal weaponry but with the sword of the Spirit.
So the elephant in the room of the discussion are the passages on separation. I'm going to just list a lot of them, and this won't even get into all the Old Testament examples, Scripture replete with them. Ultimately we are to honor God and He is honored by the right response to His Word, one of faith.
Passages on Separation
Exodus 33:16 For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
Leviticus 20:24-26 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. 25 Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. 26 And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.
2 Kings 17:15 And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.
Ezra 9:1 Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
Ezra 10:11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.
Nehemiah 9:2 And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
Nehemiah 10:28 And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding;
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Psalm 6:8 Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.
Psalm 28:3 Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts.
Psalm 101:4-8 A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. 5 Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. 6 Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. 7 He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. 8 I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.
Proverbs 4:14 Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
Proverbs 24:1 Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.
Ezekiel 22:26 Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Matthew 10:34-37 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 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.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 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. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Galatians 1:6-9 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15 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. 14 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. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
2 Timothy 2:20-21 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
Hebrews 13:12-13 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
2 John 1:9-10 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. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
If evangelicals are so scholarly, then why is separation missing in their doctrine books or their presentations? Why aren't they developing a doctrine and practice of separation? I think that all of the lack of separation is for the same reason that Israel stopped separating like God told them to. I'm not going to get into the reasons, but someone who says they care about God's Word and is such a "help" to the cause of Christ by the opinion of others should be a separatist. You're not smarter when you don't separate, even if people say that you are.
Should we discuss how these texts should be followed? Definitely. When I read them, I don't think, "I need to separate less." I see, "Separate more than I do." We know, however, that we won't be popular when we do. None of the separation passages say anything about essentials and non-essentials, primary or tertiary. That's all made up by people who aren't planning on being consistent with what God said.
There are more passages than these and there are those that would guide us in how to do separation, how to separate properly. I don't believe we just cut people off. We should have a discussion with people. Separation is loving consistent with the nature of God, but love is also a separating love, or it isn't love. I find the typical tactic of evangelicalism and fundamentalism is not to talk, help, and then separate. They separate and you don't find out until you feel their cold shoulder. They ridicule and mock, tons of ad hominem, and it's OK with them, because they have a crowd on their side, a relative small one compared to the world, but enough to make them feel "right." It's interesting on this. People will say that you're mean if you say something, but if you say nothing and then just rip on people behind their back, you're loving. How is this Scriptural? To love, you've got to say something. I don't think it's good to keep saying something ad nauseum, filibustering people with talk. After awhile, you just let it go. That's where I can get in trouble, I know. I won't go further, but this is all under "how to separate."
Now go study. Now go separate.