So what's Dan opining about? Chuck Swindoll has hosted a great many folks through the years, including Chris Anderson, on the blogroll at SharperIron, but he had at his Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, TX the modalistic singing group (which I had never heard of), Phillips, Craig, and Dean (PCD). I would guess that a group named Phillips would catch the attention of Phillips. The theologian Phillips asks about the singers Phillips:
I asked how a man can held up (sic) as a Christian leader in any sense when he is not crystal-clear on such fundamentals as the Gospel and the nature of God. And so I now am asking again: how can singers lead in worship if they are in any way unclear as to their understanding of the nature of God and the Gospel? Hello? what does "worship" mean? Does it matter what god we're worshiping, whether we are worshiping the same god as the worship-leaders? Does it matter what we are conceiving of as the basis of that relationship that underlies our worship?
Did he say "fundamentals"? Why haven't "fundamentalists" latched on to this and praised Phillips? I know why evangelicals are strangely silent. They don't know Ferengi. But fundamentalists are just running the opposite way. They don't want to be called separation Nazis. They don't want to be mistaken for fundamentalists. But it's clear that what Dan is saying here is that Swindoll should have separated from PCD for its modalism. He should not have fellowshiped with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reproved them. That, my friends, is separation.
As you read what Dan wrote, he is thinking like at least a fundamentalist, which is why evangelicals wouldn't want to touch what he's writing with a twenty foot pole. How do you practice biblical separation? (by the way, get our book to get solid exegesis and application about this doctrine) He's saying, at least, that men should not be leading in worship, singing or preaching, who are not orthodox on "the Gospel" and "the nature of God." He goes further to say that you've got to be worshiping the correct God or it is false worship. He's making worship a separating issue. And Dan doesn't get links to this one. He doesn't get mentions. He doesn't get favor. He's just wondering why it is that everyone makes a big deal about MacDonald and Driscoll inviting T. D. Jakes to the Elephant Room, but crickets about Swindoll inviting PCD to his church. He doesn't write this (I don't think), but isn't having modalists in your church worse than bringing one to neutral ground for clarifying discussion? Dan is just thinking and then expressing and questioning based on true principles in his theological construct.
I'm not saying that Dan Phillips is a fundamentalist. However, what he is saying that Swindoll should have done is what a fundamentalist would say he should do. If Swindoll did it, he would be acting like a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists take it further, but what Phillips writes about is Fundamentalism 101.
You who read might ask, "Aren't you not a fundamentalist?" That's is correct. I'm not one. But I'm not one for a similar basis as Phillips is arguing, that is, I don't think the Bible allows me to be one. I'm not core or gospel centered in my fellowship, but boundary directed. The boundaries of biblical doctrine guide unity and fellowship. That's how the Bible teaches it. But Phillips is arguing in the right way here.
How does Phillips differ from an evangelical here? An evangelical would handle it like James White did. I'm not saying that he was bad. He pointed out error. That's good. Evangelicals, at least conservative ones, will point out error. They will expose it. They will call for discernment about the error. They might write a book or several books about it. You know that what so-and-so believes is wrong. And then it stops there. Conservative evangelicals walk around saying, "Bad, bad, bad, bad. It's bad." Fundamentalists take it at least one step further, "Bad, bad, bad, bad. It's bad. We're separating from it. We won't fellowship with that." Fundamentalists actually take it a step further. "Bad, bad, bad, bad. It's bad. I won't fellowship with them. I won't fellowship with those who will fellowship with them." As Kevin Bauder calls them, "They're indifferentists." He quotes Machen about separation from the indifferentists, those who are indifferent to the corruption of the gospel.
That previous paragraph relates to Billy Graham. Billy Graham was an indifferentist. He was actually worse, but in the original separation from him by fundamentalists, it was because he was bringing Roman Catholics into his crusades. Bauder would say, and I would agree, that indifferentism confuses the gospel, actually itself corrupts the gospel. Of course, it disobeys God's commands to separate too, but that's another post. Swindoll, however, is an indifferentist here. He is indifferent to the modalism of PCD. It's probably just a "grace awakening" on his part, being very broad in his mercy, which he might say is like the character of God. He's showing mercy to PCD. Or as the new evangelicals said about Billy Graham, "He didn't believe like Roman Catholics. He was just employing a strategy to reach them." What Finney would call, "a new measure."
Fundamentalists today seem to be ashamed of separation, so even they don't catch the amazing thing that Phillips writes about. It is very different for an evangelical. It is out-of-the-mainstream. Phillips is just being honest, again, with principles that are innate to his study of the Bible. Perhaps he'll keep going with that. Fundamentalists wouldn't have PCD. Neither would they have Chuck Swindoll, because he had PCD. And evangelicals would call that "secondary separation." "If you start separating from people who won't separate, then where does it stop?" That latter is their argument. It's not really an argument, mainly an excuse.
So there you have it. Kudos, bravo, to Dan Phillips, an evangelical proposing separation!