Harmonizes Separation and Unity
I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 1 John 2:21If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
It is important to note that consistency and logic (like omniscience, justice and mercy) are among the perfections of God. Lest you doubt the validity of this assertion, the Scripture itself teaches this. Jesus Himself said that He is "...the Truth" and later in the same gospel he states that God's Word is Truth (John 17:17). These statements, of course, would be utterly meaningless if it did not mean that Jesus was opposed to all falsehood. The conclusion we must, therefore, reach is simply that God's Word does not contradict itself. . . . God keeps his promises, does not lie, nor does God have the capacity to deny Himself. Since this means God cannot contradict Himself in what He says, does and believes, then He calls us to do likewise (Be truthful, holy, keep your promises, do not lie). God Himself, as revealed in Scripture, is the ultimate presupposition we have in being consistent and logical in everything we say and do, and this is especially true for those who would be teachers of God's word.
A Scriptural position on inspiration and inerrancy results in consistent or non-contradictory beliefs. For that reason, I can’t believe both in salvation by works and salvation by grace. Those two doctrines contradict each other; therefore, only one of them could be true. God is not going to contradict Himself, so we won’t get a right understanding of Scripture that results in any contradictions.
An Issue of Inconsistency
A huge number of both evangelicals and fundamentalists contradict themselves especially in one particular area of Scripture. They do this blatantly. Since no truth can contradict another truth, one or both of their contradictions must be false. That hasn’t stopped evangelicals and fundamentalists from regularly discussing how that they can force the contradictions to somehow fit together. And then this reflects on the nature of God. It makes Him deny Himself and thereby calls Him a liar. A professed "belief" or "truth" that contradicts something else taught in Scripture cannot actually be the truth.
Scripture is consistent, so part of believing it, and, therefore, God Himself, requires studying with the degree of diligence that would alleviate the contradictions. Leaving the incongruities cannot be the will of God and will not result in a right interpretation of Scripture. Instead, the inconsistencies will lead to a deviation from God’s Word in faith and practice.
Most evangelicals and fundamentalists have learned to ignore a major inconsistency. Some continue to struggle with the conflict between two major theses, yet tolerating the contradiction as part of their historic traditions. The discrepancy lies in their teaching of Scriptural separation and the doctrine of Biblical unity. Their beliefs about separation and unity contradict one another. Since they do, that ought to be tell-tale that they are getting something wrong, that they are missing something. These are both Biblical doctrines and they shouldn’t contradict. Later we will discuss exactly what is their precise failure, but first we will look at the kind of floundering and tangled, most often invented teaching that comes out of their error. Their Scriptural falsehoods lead to even greater twisting of the Bible.
The evangelical and fundamentalist discussions about this tension between separation and unity verge on the dissection of the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. The contradictions make the Bible impossibly complex. The Bible is simple when it is interpreted properly—everything fits together in a plain, very comprehensible way. That’s not what we get in these filibusters on separation and unity.
Kevin Bauder, a fundamentalist, illustrates the convolution and perplexity that result from the contradictions in a series he wrote entitled Thinking about the Gospel:
An indifferentist is a Christian who affirms the gospel but denies that the doctrines of the gospel must constitute an unbreachable boundary for Christian faith and fellowship. . . . Indifferentism is a serious error. While indifferentists do not deny the gospel, they do demean it. They diminish its importance for Christian faith and fellowship. If we take seriously 2 John 8-11, then indifferentism is truly scandalous. At minimum, indifferentists are woefully deficient in discernment and obedience. Therefore, they must never be placed in positions of Christian leadership or held up as models of Christian faith and practice.
Bauder is attempting to reconcile doctrines that contradict one another. Fundamentalists and evangelicals to a lesser extent have been trying to do this for decades and to live comfortably with the strain. Bauder coins new words to accomplish this. Notice that indifferentism is an error and scandalous, basically offensive or shocking. He doesn’t call it a sin. And his punishment for the indifferentist is prohibition from leadership and exclusion as a "model." You won’t find that in the 2 John 8-11 text, which actually says that the indifferentist has become a "partaker of evil deeds," and someone involved in those evil deeds, obviously without repentance, must be separated from. Bauder falls short of this—his indifferentist is a Christian and so his view of unity comes into play. Contradictions with Scripture occur. Bauder continues:
Another error exists that is almost the opposite of indifferentism. We could call it "everythingism." An "everythingist" is someone who is committed to the "literal exposition of all the affirmations and attitudes of the Bible, and the militant exposure of all non-biblical affirmations and attitudes" (this was George Dollar’s definition of "fundamentalism" in his History of Fundamentalism in America, published by Bob Jones University Press in 1973). While the indifferentist makes too little of the gospel and of fundamental doctrines, the everythingist makes too much of non-fundamentals, weighting these doctrines as if they were essential to Christian faith and fellowship.
Obviously, the "everythingist" is bad to Bauder. By his own admission, Bauder doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep everything that the Bible says. He says that he believes in that. With that in mind, this is hard to figure out. How do we determine what disobedience to the Bible is worth separating over? Why isn’t "everythingism" right? What are the fundamental doctrines and why is it that only those are the only ones essential to "fellowship"? That’s not what we read in Romans 16:17, 18, 2 Thessalonians 3:16-15, and Matthew 18:15-17, among other places. Again, Bauder is attempting to reconcile separation and unity and in doing so, he contradicts passages on both of them. This inconsistency should reveal to him that something is wrong in his interpretation of Scripture. Instead, he is willing to live with the inconsistency, even though he shouldn’t. Then he says:
Of course, very few people, if any, are pure everythingists. Almost everybody recognizes that at least some teachings are non-fundamental, secondary, or even incidental. Pure everythingism is hard to find.
Fundamentalists deny this, but their authority for their ranking of doctrines doesn’t come from Scripture, but as Bauder writes plainly here—the recognition of almost everyone. Their basis in doctrinal value judgments is populism—"it must be true because so many people believe it or are saying it." God told us to obey everything (Matthew 28:20, Deuteronomy 30:2). That may clash with the crowd, but it’s still God’s Word. However, that doesn’t jive with Bauder’s system of separation and unity. He concludes his essay with this rather ambiguous paragraph:
If we want a truly biblical Christianity, then we are going to have to avoid both errors. We are going to have to treat everythingists and indifferentists with about the same misgiving. Of course, in order to do that we shall have to become skilled at judging the importance of doctrines. We must develop special proficiency for discriminating fundamentals from non-fundamentals.
According to Bauder, the true position falls somewhere between indifferentism and everythingism. Why? It just does. He says so. Others would agree. They will continue arguing ad infinitum on what degree. The "separatists" will scold the "compromisers" and the "conciliatory" will castigate the "isolationists." The key, Bauder says, is to become "skilled at judging the importance of doctrines" and "develop special proficiency for discriminating fundamentals from non-fundamentals." How will you obtain these skills and this proficiency? What are the guidelines for success? That’s what we need to know, but Bauder doesn’t give an answer for it. We’re left with the sense that all we can do is to give it our best shot. After all, "we’re not perfect, just forgiven."
Joel Tetreau, someone who would profess to stand left of Kevin Bauder, but another fundamentalist, attempts to make sense of the contradiction by labeling various men and groups of men:
Today, I am convinced that Type B’s outnumber Type A’s. Once in a while, I get a note or a piece of communication from an angry Type A who tries to convince me that Type B’s are really just new-evangelicals who should leave the movement. I’ve always responded that they are actually closer to Hyper-Fundamentalism (type A+) than we Type B’s are to New-Evangelicalism (left of Type C). I have suggested that they should leave because the closer reality is that they have changed the face of Fundamentalism, not us. They aren’t used to this interaction. In the old days, Type A’s would bark at a Type B, and the Type B (or C) would leave. Those days are mostly over. In its place is a civil war. Hopefully, we will wage this with Biblical ethics. The war is mostly between A’s and B’s.
According to him, we need a "war" to stake out the correct position. This war between professing believers, he hopes, will be fought with "Biblical ethics"—perhaps no choke holds or hitting below the waist. His "Type A+" seems to be someone closer to Bauder’s "everythingist" and his "Type C" must be closest to the category of the "indifferentist." Apparently, Tetreau is striving for that important middle ground of fundamentalism, a completely even number of contradictions of each separation and unity.
Phil Johnson, a professing evangelical, describes the uncertainty about how to balance contradicting ideas or practices with an article entitled: Fellowship or Fight. He sums up his position when he writes:
Clearly, there are two extremes to be avoided. One is the danger of being so narrow and intolerant that you create unnecessary divisions in the body of Christ. The other is the problem of being too broad-minded and sinfully tolerant—so ecumenically minded that you settle for a shallow, false unity with people whom we are commanded to avoid or whose errors we are morally obligated to refute.
This is clear. He says so; it must be. Again, the key is to avoid the extremes, stake out the middle ground. You can feel the struggle in his words. "This isn’t going to be easy, folks!" What makes it so difficult is that it is not only not taught in Scripture, but refuted by God’s Word. Phil Johnson represents his evangelical view of fundamentalism in his seminar entitled, Dead Right: The Failure of Fundamentalism. If you read carefully, you'll see his twist of Scripture in order to reconcile his own degree of contradiction between the doctrines of separation and unity. He writes:
In fact, I believe as Christians we have a duty to contend earnestly for the faith whenever vital gospel truths are threatened. I recognize that there is a core of truth that is absolutely essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and when someone’s teaching deliberately rejects or fatally compromises any of those essential truths. . . . I believe Scripture forbids us to have fellowship with people who deny essential gospel truths. . . . Scripture repeatedly makes clear that we are not to seek fellowship with people who corrupt the essential truths of Scripture—even if they claim to be Christians, and especially when they demand that we compromise our convictions or tone down our message in the name of unity.
His language is loaded with qualifiers that give him room to determine what in the Bible is "vital" and "essential." "Vital" and "essential" aren't found in passages on separation and unity. He downloads the words to fit his position. Nowhere does the Bible say that the grounds of separation are a "core of truth that is absolutely essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ." He as well as other evangelicals or fundamentalists have invented an unbiblical view that contradicts the Bible's teaching on separation and unity.
Recently a coalition of four well-known evangelicals have agreed to ignore sufficiently their doctrinal differences to come "together for the gospel." These four—Albert Mohler (a Southern Baptist seminary president), Ligon Duncan (a Presbyterian pastor), Mark Dever (a Southern Baptist pastor), and CJ Mahaney (a Charismatic pastor)—in reality come together for the five points of Calvinism. Supposedly, cessation of sign gifts (Mahaney), infant sprinkling (Duncan), and associations with Billy Graham (Mohler) aren’t sufficient considerations to break fellowship. Other popular evangelical Calvinists, like John MacArthur and John Piper, laud and support them for unity. In an elevation of Calvinistic soteriology, they choose indifference to eschatology (amillennialism or premillennialism), baptism (infant sprinkling or believer’s immersion), or charisma (continuationist or cessationist). They look for common ground and essentially ignore the rest for the sake of "fellowship," or do they?
Recently Mark Dever writes in an article on August 15, 2007 saying that he would not have communion (the Lord’s Supper, which is a test of fellowship) with someone who was not obedient in Scriptural immersion. How does someone separate his fellowship from his fellowship? He fellowships with paedo-baptists, but he doesn’t fellowship with them. He’ll get together for the gospel, but he won’t get together for the Lord’s Table. They can’t participate in communion because he says that they are clearly disobedient. However, these disobedient people, unrepentant, can preach in his pulpit, and he will gladly get together with them. Do you see the contradiction? If someone takes a Scriptural position, these types of contradictions will not exist. They reflect blasphemously on the nature of God and His Word. They obliterate the Scriptural teaching on separation and unity.
Discussions about the degrees of separation and unity are repeated everywhere and often among fundamentalists and evangelicals, "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). Formations of multitudes of groups and circles and fellowships come from an estimation of what is the appropriate degree of contradiction they’re willing to tolerate. Almost every faction is built around a particular personality or school. The adherents travel to conferences where sufficient agreement exists. They’ll never reach a solution, because of clear discrepancies in their doctrine. Some individuals are politically suavy enough to travel in several circles at once. They are able to accentuate an acceptable degree of diplomacy to fit into many groups, perhaps even brokering a unique skill or ability or success into adequate approval.
God’s Word does not contradict itself. The teaching in Scripture on separation fits perfectly with its instruction on unity. Men can practice Biblical separation and Biblical unity in a consistent way. God does not deny Himself. That isn’t, however, what we witness in most of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. They’re views of separation and unity are unscriptural; they’re wrong. If you follow they’re path, it’s one that ends in disobedience to God’s Word.
How the Doctrine of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Contradicts Itself
The Correct Teaching on Separation and Unity: It Will Not Contradict Itself
The Consequences of Contradicting the Doctrines of Separation and Unity
In part 2, we will reveal the contradictory teachings of fundamentalists and evangelicals that lead to this ongoing, never-ending debate and result in serious deviation from God’s Word. We will show plainly the position that will not contradict itself, so that everyone will believe it.