Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dumbing Unity Down and Excluding God

A couple of happenings prevailed for me to write something on the dumbing down of unity, biblical unity or actual unity.  One, I'm preaching through John for the second time, and I'm in John 17.  Two, I somehow was directed to Todd Friel on his Wretched radio program, where he said (between 1 and 2 minutes):
This is another example.  What you've got here is a Presbyterian and not a Presbyterian.  Ah, I'm not sure what John MacArthur calls himself, but he's not a Presbyterian.  In other words, he rightly baptizes believers.  He disagrees on this or that with R. C. Sproul, but listen to the relationship that they have.  This is a model.  We separate from false teachers.  We don't separate from those who disagree on secondary issues.  We love one another.
As an aside, if separation isn't love, then why would anyone separate from false teachers? Shouldn't we love them too?  If separation isn't love, and we love false teachers too, then we can't separate from them either.  Where does the Bible teach that separation applies only to "primary issues" and only to false teachers?

The biblical doctrines of unity and separation directly relate to one another.  You do not understand unity if you don't understand separation, and you don't understand separation if you don't understand unity.  Friel doesn't understand separation or unity.  The question is, what does the Bible teach about both?

One of the most amazing passages in the Bible, John 17 records the intercessory prayer of Jesus, closing out the upper room discourse.  Of the five things Jesus prays for others, one is unity, twice mentioned, first in verse 11 and then in verses 21 to 23.  God created man for unity, and once that was lost because of sin, He provided a way to have unity with Him.  Included for those in that unity with Him is also unity with others.

The prayer of Jesus in John 17 reveals the unity to be a practical unity and also one like the Son has with the Father.  The oneness between Father and Son in John is a unity in purpose and action in addition to a spiritual unity.  When Jesus said that He and the Father were one (John 10:30), He was saying that they had the same purpose and did the same work.  A major reason Jesus wanted unity was as a testimony to the world (John 17:21, 23).  The world would see that unity, so it couldn't have been just a spiritual unity.  The world had to see it and the world couldn't see a spiritual unity.

If you zoom forward to John's epistles, he starts 1 John talking about unity too, and how he talks in the first chapter mirrors Jesus' prayer in John 17.  He talks about fellowship with the Father that yields fellowship one with another.  That fellowship is described as walking in the light as He is in the light, which is also the basis of fellowship one with another.  Walking is practical.  The fellowship is dependent on the walk.  If someone says he fellowships with God and then walks in darkness, he is lying.  The walk is practical.

At what point is someone departing from the light of God?  It is anyway that he walks not in something, anything, that the Bible teaches -- that includes baptism.  Infant baptism isn't light.  R. C. Sproul doesn't walk in the light, so you can't have fellowship when he walks in darkness.

God doesn't fellowship with darkness at all.  When someone fellowships with, that is, unifies with someone who walks in darkness, he has unity with this person, but God doesn't.  God is excluded from fellowship with darkness.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not talking about salvation here.  If Sproul is saved, he's saved.  However, fellowship is based upon practical light.  That's how John reads.  That's the fellowship of the Father and the Son in John 17 and elsewhere.

The unity of the rest of the New Testament looks just like what Jesus prayed for and what the Apostle John recounts in his epistles.  This is not more clearly revealed than in 1 Corinthians 1:10.  Unity could be the theme of 1 Corinthians, except the opposite, the division of Corinth versus the unity God wanted and expected as described in 1:10.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Every passage on unity in the New Testament reads the same way.

Why is unity taught and practiced then in a different way than what the Bible teaches?  I see really only two reasons, one doctrinal and the other pragmatic.

The doctrinal reason is a wrong view of the church -- if someone believes the true church or the body of Christ is made up of all believers. If MacArthur sees Sproul as a believer, then he won't separate from him, because he would see that as factious. God wants no divisions in His body.  If the the body is universal, then an evangelical can't separate from any Christian.  This is a doctrinal reason why evangelicals don't separate.

Friel said we are to separate only from false teachers.  It's true we are to separate from false teachers, but not only from them.  That's far from all of what scripture says about separation. It either shows great ignorance or rebellion against what the Bible teaches about separation and unity.

Friel says that MacArthur is a great model of not separating over secondary issues.  Baptism in this assessment, infant sprinkling, this false teaching, Friel is calling a secondary issue.  No infants are baptized in the Bible and no one is sprinkled.  Only believers are baptized and only by immersion. This isn't the only doctrinal perversion of infant sprinkling, but Friel says it is a secondary issue.  One could argue that infant sprinkling as a teaching has sent more people to hell than any other false doctrine in history.

If these men can't separate, then they have to redefine unity.  Unity is either only spiritual or it is only over the so-called important doctrines.  Scripture doesn't teach either of these.  These themselves are false doctrines and, therefore, false beliefs.  Unscriptural teaching isn't loving.  Unbiblical practices are not loving.  MacArthur isn't being a model of love by walking in darkness or tolerating a walk in darkness.

The pragmatic reason that these men don't separate and, therefore, don't practice biblical unity, is for the sake of their coalitions.  They have bigger crowds when they are more tolerant of more diverse doctrine and practice.  More people are accepted. That means bigger groups, more book sales, and greater popularity.  They see this success as significant of God's blessing or God's working through their lives.

The lack of separation and the dumbing down of unity will result in the propagation of more false teaching.  Darkness needs to be reproved (Eph 5:11). It needs to be separated from (2 Cor 6:14-7:1), including professing believers (2 Thess 3:6-11; 1 Cor 5).  God is love.  The only way to protect and practice biblical unity is by obeying also in biblical separation.  It isn't unity to get along with false doctrine and practice.  God doesn't.


Steve Rogers said...

Very good article! So many writing and redefining separation apart from scripture. I wonder if you would comment or write about how this article contrasts Cary Schmidt recent article on Subjective Separation. It reads to me like he is denouncing what he actually practices! Your thoughts?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for the comment. I saw that linked at SharperIron and read the article. I probably would have written on it, except that I'm probably sensitive to someone saying that I write only on separation. :-D I'll write on it though. Schmidt and that West Coast crowd has slid and slid and been criticized, made up all new rules without really explanation, and they expect people to just accept it. When they criticize, they say it's subjective separation, based on non-scriptural issues. Now they say that.

I've noticed that the Chappell/Schmidt crowd once had a problem with pants on women. They don't anymore. That abomination issue, I guess, is a new subjective area, where once it was judged as objective. This is what I'm talking about. Now you look at Paul Chappell's brother and son, and the essentially emergent church of his son, and that's just subjective, I guess.

It's also their pragmatism. They already pushed their Hyles philosophy further to get more results. Now it's getting pushed further. It shows you where pragmatism ends. I would have guessed apostasy for it in less than 100 years.

I see this a bow shot from Schmidt. He's saying when we don't listen to you at all, understand why. We're saying your criticism is just subjective. There are so many problems with that crowd that they shouldn't be followed at all by anyone who believes and practices the Bible, but they are so influential, even among those that are not that far away from what we believe. It's very sad.

Tyler Robbins said...

I must be out of the loop. I saw the Schmidt article, skimmed it, didn't think it really said much of anything concrete. I'd never heard of Schmidt, and I haven't traveled in circles where West Coast-esque folks travel for several years.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Schmidt's article is pretty typical thought of a West Coast style presentation. There is tenuous connection to scripture, but nothing developed, just enough to ward away the evil spirits. I'm not in the West Coast loop either, but there are men affected by him clearly among IFB. Schmidt was long time assistant, taking his philosophy to New England, but pushing the envelope further. They are getting criticized mainly, I would say, to his concern by the old Hyles crowd for dipping below the old standard. Maybe there are others.

However, Schmidt has now been tied into BJ and Steve Pettit. There is not a repudiation from the latter to the former. It's all whatever might "help," and Pettit traveled in those circles. He's obviously attempting to bring all these people together or ignoring the differences for them to be together. The common ground seems to be compromise. Some would say that is good and godly, more grace so to speak. It's just pragmatism. It didn't start with a study in scripture. It started with what needs to drop to keep our size.

Anonymous said...

Schmidt also just had a Steve Green concert at his church (where he recently became the pastor) in Newington CT. I guess that is part of the subjective.

This is the church where Tom Strouse had his seminary a few years ago, so it has slid a long way to go from Strouse to Steve Green.

Farmer Brown