Would Paul have continued in fellowship with those participating in religious ecstasy at Corinth? No, of course not. That needed to stop. If the participants didn't repent, he would have withdrawn or avoided them and instructed others to do likewise. John Piper participates in the religious ecstasy of Passion 2013. He encourages people to "speak in tongues," and wants more of that. Writing a book isn't good enough. To obey God, you separate from him. It isn't just an odd-ball view.
I've been using John Piper only as an illustration. There are plenty of others. Is intellectual only faith or repentance a false doctrine? It is. You hear this taught among fundamentalists. You can't fellowship with those who teach this. I wouldn't have anything to do with Clarence Sexton and Crown College for this reason alone.
There is a lot to explore here in explaining why we separate or what we separate for. To start, it's best to consider what the Bible says, be clear about it, and then start to apply it. It's true that you can't understand separation without understanding unity. What is the basis of unity? Is it a few doctrines or many? Is it one core doctrine, everything the Bible teaches or something in between. Over at SharperIron, an article was posted about "essentials" that at the time of this writing has 266 hits. Meanwhile a debate in a sidebar about one church dropping the name "Baptist" received 4,460 hits. You would think that the essentials article would be pertinent or at least controversial, because the author wrote the following about essentials:
If God’s glory is the ultimate good, and if we understand that all things are designed for that end, then everything is an essential. What business do we have of declaring something as of greater or lesser importance when we have no comprehension of how those things contribute to the greatest good that is God’s glory? We have no tools for making such estimations (the Bible doesn’t make such distinctions, but rather points us constantly and simply to God’s glory). Paul tells Titus to “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Tit 2:1). The focus is not on the importance of a teaching, but on its accuracy or correctness. Ours is not to create a hierarchy of doctrinal importance; ours is to handle doctrine (or teaching) accurately.
He said "everything" is an essential. I believe that. And he ends the paragraph by saying that we don't try to determine what is important or not, what's fundamental, but just handle what it says accurately.
The discussion should not be whether it is important or not. If it's in the Bible, it's important. I agree with this position, because it is in line with what the Bible teaches. I don't know if the author has a practice on separation that matches this, but what he wrote is true.
We've read in the Bible passages that we separate over violations of biblical doctrine and practice---any of them. Why don't people practice this way? Why do they disobey this teaching, these commands? I said I would talk about those reasons. Disobedience to God is not loving Him. It is hating Him. It is quenching the Spirit. It is grieving the Spirit. It is dishonoring God. It isn't glorifying Him. That all sounds bad, so why do they go ahead and do that? And then they actually are more popular among evangelicals and fundamentalists for doing so. They attack those who say otherwise, even though they are just reporting what God said to do.
Is it because they can't understand the passages, the verses? No. They're easy to understand. The only way to squirm out of them, to justify not obeying them, is to explain them away, make them mean something else, twist them, corrupt them, handle them deceitfully. And then either attack or ignore whoever says you are doing that. Attack him by calling him names, going after him personally, and making him look like a quack. It doesn't change anything with God, because God knows what He said and meant, but scoffing is a generally successful tactic, which is why it is used.
The reasons people don't believe and practice the separation passages are (in no particular order):
You'll have a smaller coalition when you separate from people. You won't be as liked. People don't like it when you separate from them. When you are less popular, you look less successful. You want to be successful, even if you've got to admit it's a game that you're playing. When you are success, then you could say that God has been working on your behalf and it will even make you look more "spiritual" or in favor with God.
This relates to popularity. You can't sell as many books when people don't like you or you aren't considered successful. You won't have as many people in your college, which will hurt you financially. Your offerings will be smaller. Money will shrink, which will affect your standard of living. Even if you are not into the money yourself, it will affect payroll and paying other people's salaries. You keep disregarding the separation passages to meet payroll. You won't be invited to conferences, big ones, if you separate from the people who will invite you. You'll preach to less people, and that affects money flow. Much more could be said here.
By the way, if you don' think this is true, listen to the Minnick-Dever interview in which Dever point blank says that they stay in the convention so that they won't lose the buildings and property. Buildings trump obedience in separation. Don't think I'm saying this because I don't like Minnick and Dever. I like them both. I like a lot of what they had to say. This is par for the course, reading into this the idea that I'm saying this because I don't like them. I like them more than you if I'm helping them.
I have a hard time determining whether the bad theology comes from the popularity and monetary reasons (pragmatic ones), or whether they come from the bad theology. I lean toward the former, but it doesn't matter. Either way, you still get bad theology and disobedience to God out of it, and then the proceeding destruction. The bad theology is a wrong view of unity. True unity gets twisted. Of course, I think this comes out of a wrong view of the church, but that is a big subject that I have talked about a lot elsewhere. I'd rather not talk about it now, because it becomes a smokescreen for focusing on the separation passages. If unity is required between all believers, doctrine and practice will have to go, and it has. It has gone gladly in order to keep the fake unity likely for the sake of popularity and money.
If the bad theology comes first, I see it has happening as the following. Men have lost trust in the Bible. They don't believe they have all the Words, and they aren't sure they know what it all teaches. That lack of certainty then leads them to reduce what is essential for unity. If you can't really know, then how can you interpret and apply? You can't, so you give a lot of space for differences. I understand this as a teacher. I make up a test that has multiple errors in it. I'm going to be lax in my grading of the test. I can't mark something wrong that can't be known or is confusing. People are now that way with Scripture because they lack in certainty. This is a staggering in unbelief. The attack of truth in modernism and postmodernism have had their impact.
Sentimentalism or Inordinate Affections
Accepting bad behavior or false doctrine is the new magnanimity. The way to love people is to make them feel welcome and affirmed when they don't believe or do right. The new humility is accepting when people don't believe or practice like you do. Hey, it's OK if you are covenant and not dispensational, OK that you're amillennial and not premillennial, OK that you are infant baptism and not believer's baptism, OK if you wear pants instead of dresses, OK that you believe in women preachers, and finally that you are homosexual. If you don't think is happening through sheer sentimentalism and false humility, then you can go back under your rock or to your deserted island. If you separate over things, then you aren't loving. That's where it's at. And who doesn't want to be "loving?" Even if it isn't actually love, but fake love, to match up with fake unity.
God isn't being fooled by any of this, and He isn't excusing any of it because we've got our "reasons."
Maybe More to Come