Sunday, November 11, 2012

Separation Confusion in So-Called Classic , Historical, or Traditional Fundamentalism

I feel sorry for fundamentalists.  Let me explain.

The Bible teaches separation.  It is clear.  If you want to know what the Bible teaches on separation, read A Pure Church, a 300 plus page volume with a full scripture index, and excellent exegesis of the appropriate and pertinent passages.  The teaching in the book does not deny itself.  It is consistent.  And it is being practiced by churches right now.  What the Bible teaches is always consistent.  God is one God and He doesn't deny Himself.  His teaching in His Word could not deny itself, because He doesn't deny Himself.  He couldn't, because He is one God.

There is a big branch of fundamentalism that calls itself historic fundamentalism, the true fundamentalism, with the other stuff false, what these self-professing 'historic fundamentalists' would contend is 'not fundamentalism.'  However, what these self-professing historic fundamentalists say is separation has always contradicted itself and the Bible itself.  I give them some credit for saying that separation is a biblical teaching and defend them for that, but they do not get it right, and I'm going to highlight a few contemporary, recent examples to make this plain.

Some might say "leave well enough alone."  Why write about it?  I would like for fundamentalists to think about what they are doing and change, submit to the truth for the glory of God.  I'm hoping that giving these examples will help them.  There are some, most likely, that it won't help.  They are bound to be non-separatists and were never separatists by conviction in the first place.

Before I get into my examples, I'm not saying that I don't think that some of these men have done good things.  I like a lot about what they do.  That's not the point.  The point is:  are they practicing Biblical separation?  Are they consistent in their practice of separation?

Example One

Independent Baptists, those who call themselves separatists, separated from the Southern Baptist Convention.   They remained separate from Southern Baptists.  They taught to separate from Southern Baptists.  Recently, independent Baptists have begun to fellowship with Southern Baptists.  You saw this with Calvary Baptist Church of Lansdale and its seminary fellowship with Mark Dever, Southern Baptist leader, by having him speak at their conference.  Calvary in Lansdale is moving away from this separation position as seen by a lot of decisions it has made, but there are many to whom this action is no consequence, other fundamentalists.

Scott Aniol, the head of Religious Affections Ministries, a historic fundamentalist parachurch organization, is also a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He is fellowshiping with that Southern Baptist institution under the cooperative program of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He joins in the ranks of Billy Graham and Rick Warren, the many liberals still in the convention, and the high percentage of unconverted membership in its churches.  The Southern Baptist Aniol will join FBF and BJU board member Mike Harding for his Preserving the Truth Conference.


Example Two

Chuck Swindoll is neither a separatist or fundamentalist.  He wrote the sine qua non anti-fundamentalist book, The Grace Awakening, in which he said that we ought to think of God in sweats, cut-offs, or a swim suit (p. 53).   But he is big and he is famous and he is a kind of Christian celebrity.  Fundamentalist Chris Anderson brags about his fellowship with Swindoll in their collaboration with some of the music that he wrote, being sung at Swindoll's church, Stonebriar Community Church.

Example Three

A group of fundamentalists, independent Baptists in Minnesota announce their fellowship with Phil Johnson for a men's meeting.

Example Four

John Vaughn, the president of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship preached with Clarence Sexton and Jack Schaap at the Baptist Friends Conference.

Example Five

Matt Olson, president of the fundamentalist Northland International University, revels in his fellowship between him and a Sovereign Grace, continuationist church.

Alright, enough.  This is becoming typical of what is called historic fundamentalism.  It isn't consistent with fundamental Baptist separation of the past.  Their practice seems to be going by the wayside.  And it is no wonder with the confusing position that these self-proclaiming historic fundamentalists take.

If someone holds to false doctrine or disobeys God's Word and doesn't turn from that, do we separate?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

"If you want to know what the Bible teaches on separation, read A Pure Church, a 300 plus page volume" How about just reading the Bible instead of allowing everything to be interpreted by man's reasoning? That would solve most of our problems.

d4v34x said...

I don't see the point of re-inserting Scott into the Example about Swindoll. That might easily be seen as an attempt to link the two unfairly.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Anonymous,

Is that how you handle every issue, just read the Bible? I wouldn't know, because you're anonymous, which is very convenient for such a comment. There is a Biblical basis to read more than just the Bible on any issue, and if you're actually interested, I would be glad to talk to you about it.

D4,

That was a typo of sorts---I wrote that line under the wrong example after I was already done, and then didn't go reread to catch the error; it's corrected now. However, I don't know how much it helps, really. I guess you're saying that the fellowship with Swindoll is worse than the Southern Baptists. I could always hope that you yourself were consistent in judging fairness. You seem to be selective about coming to someone's rescue in this regard in my recent experience.

d4v34x said...

I'm sure there are Southern Baptists and Fudnamentalists alike who think it is helpful to picture God in a swimming suit. But Swindoll has his a name-recognition-shock, at least in certain circles. Glad to see accident edited out.

As for the rest: It is always difficult to judge one's own fairness. I've probably acted inconsistently to one extent or the other over the years, months, weeks, what have you.

Anonymous said...

"Is that how you handle every issue, just read the Bible?" I can not believe you said that. The attitude that we can not know God's will without the leadership of some religious ruler is what gave us the Catholic system and the dark ages. And, by the way, I will remain anonymous because I have had enough of the abuse that is heaped on anyone who would DARE question any of our illustrious Baptist leaders.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Anonymous,

You don't talk to a pastor? You don't read any books outside the Bible? You don't have any other teachers, but the Bible? These aren't abusive questions. The Bible itself is sufficient and Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim 4:13, "bring the books." What are your thoughts about Paul? This isn't an abusive question. And the 'illustrious leader' idea, regarding me, is just false.

D4,

If we have an anthropocentric imagination, we can't separate all that is true, good, and beautiful, because God is one. Those who separate the three for their own pragmatic purpose, emphasizing one at the sake of another, forsake the whole. If it's all about God, you don't pick and choose.

Anonymous said...

I have a question, honestly, not argumentatively. Do you think you should not fellowship at all with a church that differs a little in belief or practice? How do you know what is too much difference or what is acceptable?

KM

Kent Brandenburg said...

KM,

Every doctrine of Scripture is worthy of separation, because that's how the Bible reads. We differentiate an interpretation of a particular word or phrase or situation in the Bible from a doctrine. And then a church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, determines the lines of separation, who it will fellowship with. Of course, there is also the matter of "what is fellowship?" Our book answers all this, by laying it all out from Scripture.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Kent,

I agree that there is inconsistency. However, a couple of points on your list of examples:

1. I don't think all the examples are parallel - You are making a pretty broad attack, but the cases are not all the same.

2. Your list of cases highlight the difficulty I see in using the term 'separation' to cover all of these examples. To me, you are either separate or you are not. There is no in-between. But you may limit collaboration/cooperation with some for good biblical reasons.

3. It does take time to sort some things out. Some incidents may not be consistent with fundamentalist teaching, but the participant might not have thought the issue through at the time. Subsequent behaviour would hopefully correct such errors, especially after interaction with concerned brethren. So while there might be a problem with an incident, unless it is a pattern (or unless there is a straightforward announcement of a change of protocol as Tim Jordan has done), then we need to wait and see what direction the guy is going.

Ok, I'll quit with that... I said a couple and gave you three. I hate when I do that...

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

Don,

I know example four is out of place in this list, but it is indicative of the problem with this kind of fellowship. I would think that John Vaughn would be more concerned about being consistent than any of the other four, but it isn't possible in fundamentalism.

Don Johnson said...

Kent,

Do you insist on perfection? Have every one of your decisions on separation/cooperation been absolutely impeccable? You don't look back on any mistakes you made in associations in the past?

With respect to Dr. Vaughn, he chose not to repeat the mistake the following year. He recognized that an error was made.

It is possible that some of the other examples might turn out the same. I hope so, but not too confidently. They seem much more indicative of a direction that is being taken rather than a single instance of an error.

Finally, I realize that God's standard is perfection, but I am grateful that God's grace covers my imperfections.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

Don,

I don't really blame Dr. Vaughn for the decision, as much as the position on separation that results in such inconsistencies.

I think a Biblical position should be considered. Yes, people make mistakes, and they even hesitate from cutting people off, giving them an opportunity to change. I wouldn't say that patience with people is a mistake. Again, the issue, as far as this post and as far as I'm concerned, is what is the Biblical position. Inconsistencies will always occur when it isn't Biblical, and there ought to be a curiosity as to what is wrong.

With no Biblical basis for whatever its list is, fundamentalism separates over a short list of doctrines and practices. And you can see that the list is growing shorter.

Hardecker said...

I didn't know that about Scott Aniol.