Monday, November 30, 2015

One Stop Shop for Recent Dabblings on Separation Among Evangelicals, and then a Fundamentalist

In my post last Tuesday, I wrote:

As has become the norm now, all conversations about separation come with long discussions about where to draw the line, what is worthy of separation.  I’m going to write more about this in my next post, but for now, you often hear that only certain doctrinal issues are worth separation.  This is not a biblical concept and at best it will throw a speed bump on the runaway ramp.  I’m saying that it is an embarrassing half measure at best. 

A new, very popular idea within evangelicalism and fundamentalism is essential or first order doctrine, that matches up with the older idea of the fundamentals of the faith, that provided a basis for the movement of fundamentalism.  The essentials, first order doctrines, and the fundamentals all relate to teaching about the practice of ecclesiastical separation (if you want a biblical understanding of the doctrine, get our book, A Pure Church, here or here).

If you read here regularly, you know I've written about the above a lot.  I'm writing on it again, because I've seen three different presentations on separation in the last few weeks to a month, and this has reared its ugly head again in three places that are at least on my radar.  I also want to make reference to a fourth place that says something significant and positive that seemed to avoid comment almost anywhere.  I explained in the previous article why I believe we suddenly see treatments of separation from unusual sources.  First, let me tell you what I saw and read and make brief comments on each of those.  Not necessarily in this order, first I saw a youtube video from James White's Dividing Line program, where he was defending his "catholicity" with Charismatic Michael Brown, a prominent defender of the Charismatic movement and continuationism.  In other words, while many conservative evangelicals are taking separation from the mothballs, James White doubles down against it.

As is so often the case with White, really normal for him, he does not defend his position from scripture.  He mocks his critics (appeal to ridicule) and uses multiple logical fallacies as a means of defense.  You will not get a biblical defense, only one based on his own authority, his own opinion (appeal to his own authority),  Another is argument by personal incredulity, where Jame White just can't imagine something to be true, so it must be false.  He concludes that whatever point disagrees with him can't work in the elevated world of apologetics in which he travels.  If a questionable person supports even one of his opponent's positions, he will present that like they are in this together, which is an association fallacy.  This and more is obviously good enough for most of his audience, which shows the sad state of affairs even in conservative evangelicalism.  He gives no biblical defense again, however, for the "small 'c' catholicity" he advocates.

The Grace to You blog at its website has been doing a series on separation, including Separation, Purity, and ThanksgivingFundamental Doctrines Cannot Be Denied, The Fundamentals Personified, Getting the Gospel Right Is Fundamental, The Ancient Fundamentalists, Is the Apostles' Creed All I Need to Believe?, The Decline of Fundamentalism, The Rise of Fundamentalism, Is Fundamentalism Really a Dirty Word?, Separation, Purity, and Halloween, Separation and Purity, and The Gospel in a Hostile World.  Grace to You went from zero to one hundred in a few seconds, going from saying about nothing on separation and then suddenly piling on.  Where was the doctrine before this?  Why does it suddenly appear?  It seems obvious that GTY is dusting off separation for usage, knowing that it might "need" it now.  It's always been in the Bible.  It didn't just appear this year, but GTY seems to know it must get up to speed or it will look like it is performing this biblical task willy-nilly without warning.

Number three linked at Sharper-Iron, but it was an article about separation, which linked to a now famous, 2005 go-to piece by Al Mohler, and a conversation ensued there on the subject.   You would find a lot to digest and very typical of the give and take on separation today among evangelicals and fundamentalists with few exceptions.

The last of these was very surprising.  It's something I've written on quite a few times, but I had not seen myself, and it came from Mark Minnick the last day of August this year.  No one would have known, I don't think, that it was on separation, by reading the title, which was "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)" -- kind of innocuous.  However, Minnick is writing about separation.  Read it.  Minnick is arguing that churches, believers, are commanded to separate over a number of different issues, broader than just the fundamentals, and also for disobeying the command to separation.

As you read Minnick, who is enmeshed at BJU, how does one explain this (click on link)?

Enough for now.  I'll perhaps come back to write on some of these later.


James Bronsveld said...

I was able to rejoice in many of the things Mark Minnick wrote in his article. The remaining question I have is (as is the case in mainstream evangelicalism that may be waking to the issue of separation) whether the recognition of separation over the minor issue of not working for a living will translate into the costly application that must necessarily arise from his conclusion. As a Baptist pastor, will he separate from the Fundamentalism that makes baptism by immersion a non-essential? Will his article, or the GTY articles, be followed with a series on "What separation actually looks like"?

Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism have often been great at nailing down theory but pathetic at making application. Just as an example, see how many of them are unafraid to publish commentaries about or to exposit the epistles of II Peter and Jude (with all the warnings about false teachers and their licentious grace), without identifying such men or doctrines in their own midst.

As the old philosophy goes (not that it has been verbalized as such), "Preach separation to keep the right wing in your church from leaving, and don't practice separation to keep the left wing attending."

Kent Brandenburg said...


Well stated and right on. You hit right on the mark there.

d4v34x said...

I suspect that Minnick would say (and I'd lean toward his belief) that, just as there are levels of doctrine, there are levels of fellowship.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi D4,

Maybe so, but he doesn't enunciate that in the article, and is writing something very close to what we write in A Pure Church, almost identical, maybe because it's just an exposition of scripture, and that's what scripture teaches. When someone represents scripture, he gets what Minnick is asserting. He says, Separate over "minor areas," including over not separating.

Jim Camp said...

It is my opinion, (we all know the vast value of opinions!), that the sudden & unexpected
return of the doctrine of separation among those who so roundly denounced it is due
to gay marriage. Major doctrinal error (TD Jakes), seemingly less important doctrinal error (all the Charismatics), & practical error (all the SBC); are openly ignored & excused away as inconsequential. But when the guest speaker has gay marriages in his church, or gay membership, it is worth separating over. If my opinion is right, the debates in their comment sections will begin to be over "How many gays is too many gays" - a sort of new version of which doctrines are important enough to separate over.

In similar fashion, a preaching meeting I know of went from yearly sermons on "We've got to save America & bring revival", to almost every sermon on "persecution is coming".

Farmer Brown said...

Due respect to Jim Camp, but I disagree. This is actually a Greek tragedy, or comedy I suppose, depending on your point of view. It is a fight between flawed gods.

The reason for this sudden change is the pervasive Humanism that is the mark of "Christian Culture". Humanism has always been the god of this crowd.

The whole idea of "agree on the fundamental and disagree on the rest" is humanism. It elevates the one who decides those things to judge of what is Holy and what is common. That makes that decider the god.

They decided that certain doctrines were not worth defending. Their children, people, and co-laborers took that god-like power and adopted it, ran with it. Only that ran further than the original gods wanted to go. It is the old story, Daddy is a social boozer and defends it, so the son is a drunk and defends it while dad condemns it.

The new gods have reduced the list to below what the old gods can tolerate. The only choice is to either submit to the new gods, or fight with them. At no point in this will either of these groups of gods submit to the one true God.

Don't deceive yourselves that this is separation. It is not biblical separation, anymore than one group of high-school girls not talking to another group is biblical separation. It is just a fight between flawed gods, and the weapon of choice is selected scriptures.

Tyler Robbins said...

Folks, when even Roger Olson is calling for separation (, you know that things are getting serious!

Kent Brandenburg said...


This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I agree with Jim and Farmer Brown. I truly am the good cop.

Jim, I think that "homosexual Christians" is one bridge too far for non-separatists.

Farmer Brown, I believe that foundationally it is humanism, where they have taken the place of God, it's true, but they aren't thinking on that level, just the superficial level that Jim mentions.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tyler, Even Roger Olson. Wow. I'll read it. I'm guessing he's calling for separation from Lordship proponents for frontloading works and denying grace. Going to read.