Phil was complaining about a celebrity syndrome in evangelicalism and using 2 Timothy 3 to slap it down. He wrote:
With regard to pastors and church leaders who promote and model innovative, worldly, self-loving ministry philosophies, "reckless [church leaders], swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure"—Paul wants Timothy to be a separatist: "Avoid such people" (v. 5). In fact the Greek term is active, aggressive: "from such turn away."
The bold on "be a separatist" was his. Phil was lathering up his fundamentalist fans with that particular emphasis---holding up the red meat to a pen of fundamentalist pit bulls. At Phil's blog, the term "separatist" is an unusual and inflammatory word. He knows that it sets off theological buzzers all over the place among those who read him. But it is true that 2 Timothy 3, there in the portion that he was referencing, does teach separation. That is in the Bible as something we're supposed to do right there. That's not an amazing thing. It's there. We're to do that. To separate. To be separatists.
So that's it? I'm only going to be positive? OK, you got me. That's not all I wanted to say. I was so surprised by Phil's use of "separatist" that I did a search at his blog to see how many times he used the word. I'm going to help you out. He uses it 5 times including the time above (here are the others: 2 in comments (1, 2) and 2 in articles (1, 2). That's why it should be surprising Phil used the word. But to show the greater surprise, he never uses it one time in the entire history of teampyro (his team blog) as an actual teaching. Of his two uses in articles, one is a quote by Dave Doran and the other is a description of Kevin Bauder. In the comment section, he uses it because someone else does first and he is answering the comment. He never uses it positively as a teaching, except for this one time that he uses it above in bold print. His compadres, Dan Phillips and Frank Turk, never use the word "separatist" (or its plural version) one time--numero zero. So Paul is commanding Timothy to "be a separatist," but we never hear about that practice until Febrary 10, 2012 on Pyromaniacs, despite all the bandwidth and discourse dedicated on that blog.
Since this is really Phil's first time of using "separatist," and then saying that we're commanded to "be a separatist" in the Bible, it really does make you wonder about what is the occasion. What event would result in such a rare mention? If it really has been a command from God in His Word to separate from such men that Phil describes, then why haven't we heard of it before? For all the exposure there has been of these types of men, why are we just now hearing about what the Bible says to do with them?
We really do have a lot to catch up on with Phil Johnson. We were supposed to be separating all this time. OK, so what is that? What is separation? How do we separate? We haven't been told about this particular requirement. And Phil doesn't help us, because he says nothing about it. He doesn't expand at all upon what this separation is or what it would look like. He never has. More so he has purposefully avoided being categorized with separatists, referring to others not in his own personal category with that title, as if he is not one. If it is commanded by God, then why has he run away from the designation? And he has---let there be no doubt.
Since Phil NEVER says separatist, you might think it isn't found in the Bible, and if it is, it is probably found in the one place that Phil EVER writes about it. But no. Being a separatist is all over Scripture. All over. It is part of the character of God. To "be holy" means "to be separate." God is separate---"hallowed be his name"---and He commands us to be holy. A lot of passages tell us why to separate, how to separate, and from whom to separate.
Why don't evangelicals separate? Lots of reasons. Bad ones. But not separating has been one of the means by which they have gotten to where they are. People don't like to separate. It's one of their least favorite things to do, even though Jesus talked about it a lot. And they leave separation out, and it helps them have the bigger crowds that are so important to them. Well, now things are so bad in evangelicalism, that the word "separatist" is finally used, is finally released from its grave clothes.
To end, again, I want to thank Phil Johnson for using the word "separatist." It's a nice start to the rest of his life.