Saturday, August 25, 2007


Doctrines that contradict each other cannot both be true. They can both be false or only one true, but not both true. Scriptural doctrines can't contradict each other. When they do, something is wrong in the interpretation. The correct understanding of separation will not deny a Biblical view of unity. Scriptural separation and unity harmonize perfectly. However, they don't among fundamentalists and evangelicals. This inconsistency results in varying mixtures of disobedience to both teachings. The fundamentalists tend toward violating their own view of unity more than evangelicals contradict the Bible on separation. As a means of compromise, the more liberal fundamentalists look to merge with the more conservative evangelicals by dividing the transgressions in an equal number between separation and unity. Bob Bixby calls this an "emerging middle." Conservative evangelicals see their violations of separation and move right. Moderate fundamentalists notice their infringement of unity and move left. They meet in the"middle," when there really is no Scriptural middle.

We don't have left, right, and middle when it comes to the Bible. We have right and wrong alone. We do what God says or we don't. It is as simple as that, despite the silly protests or silent-treatment you might get from the politcally inclined evangelicals and fundamentalists. A middle is nothing more than a mollifying gloss. Doctrine becomes a balancing act. It's like attempting to take the middle ground on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, we are to sort out what Scripture says and do it.

How the Doctrine of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Contradicts Itself

Two doctrines, both found in Scripture, that we must practice and that do not deny each other, are separation and unity. Evangelicals and fundamentalists teach that all believers make up the body of Christ. They say that the true church is all believers (You'll see this belief here, among many other places). Let's look at 1 Corinthians 12:25a:

"That there should be no schism in the body."

God's will is no schism (division, faction) in the body. For those who believe that the body of Christ is all believers, no schism in the body means that believers are required not to separate from other believers at all. On the other hand, Scripture teaches separation from believers. Evangelicals mainly just don't talk about separation. You'll rarely hear them use the word. Primarily, they'll say "purity," not separation. They know it contradicts. Of course, it contradicts with purity too, but separate sounds like something someone has got to do. They don't want to do anything. Fundamentalists, however, have a problem here. That's why it is mainly them writing the odd and tortured essays attempting to bring these two concepts together. They know that the Bible teaches separation from believers and yet we are to have no schism in the body. A couple of conservative evangelicals try to bridge their Snake River Canyon between separation and unity (Phil Johnson , Al Mohler, and Mark Dever). They're about all I've heard attempting to do this among the evangelical crowd.

So they're teaching on separation contradicts their beliefs about unity. At least one of them must be the wrong. Which one is it---separation or unity? They're wrong on both. They don't understand either unity or separation. They are continuously disobedient on both of these doctrines and, therefore, practices. We can't "balance" separation and unity. We practice both of them 100% Scripturally.

What's wrong in the practice of fundamentalists and evangelicals? First, evangelicals don't unify with every believer. Phil Johnson writes in his "Dead Right" essay:

So there clearly are times when it is appropriate to refuse to keep company with someone who is a believer, especially if that person is deliberately and incorrigibly disobedient to the clear instruction of Scripture.
Wait a minute! I know that this statement is loaded with qualifiers, but how can we avoid any schism in the body and yet separate from a believer? Separation is schism. That can't be right in a system that says the body of Christ is all believers. Of course, there's a way that evangelicals like Johnson will deal with this, which we'll mention again later. However, they contradict their own belief about the unity of the body.

Second, they don't separate based upon Scripture. We need to consider at least a few of the passages on separation for us to see this.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. . . . . And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Romans 16:17

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 1 Corinthians 5:11

Separation passages don't limit the Scriptural doctrines and practices that are a basis for separation. However, that is how evangelicals and fundamentalists deal with their transgression of this doctrine. They place values upon teachings in the Bible and rank them according to their perceived importance. They say that certain kinds of false doctrine, the false doctrine of lesser importance, must just be allowed as they relate to fellowship (unity) and separation, so we must just agree to disagree on their so-called "non-essentials." The evangelicals are dogmatic about having a taxonomy, more so than certain actual teachings of Scripture.

Mark Dever, the Southern Baptist pastor in the Washington, DC area, uses 1 Corinthians 15:3 as a proof text for a taxonomy of doctrine to decide what is worth separating over. It amazes me how sure they are that the text is propagating their kind of essential/non-essential teaching. If these kinds of classifications are found in the Bible at all, they could only be inferred from the text. Evangelicals are notorious for not requiring doctrine and practice based upon inferences, and yet, here they require it. In the John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist statement on Scripture, we read: "It is not legitimate to infer a meaning from a Biblical text that is not demonstrably carried by the words which God inspired." So go ahead and look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.
Dever preaches ("Discern Your Doctrine" message) that "first" (protos) means "most important" here. When Paul wrote "first of all," Dever is saying that the gospel is a more important doctrine than any other doctrine. He jumps from there to say that the gospel then is the doctrine that Paul would separate over. Dever would not say that we shouldn't separate over other doctrines, just that the gospel is more important than the other doctrines. Then he would say that it is easy to see that certain teachings are not worth separating over, like those mentioned in Romans 14.

What's wrong with all this?

1. The passages on separation, like the three above, don't limit separation to the gospel alone.
2. Protos ("first") doesn't for sure mean "most important," but also could mean "first in order," that is, that Paul would preach the gospel before he preached other doctrines. And then even if it means "most important" or "foremost," he might be saying that the the death, burial, and resurrection are the most important of any of the truths that he is teaching in 1 Corinthians 15.
3. 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4 doesn't provide any kind of taxonomy for separation, even if it were a more important doctrine than others.
4. A Romans 14 issue is a non-scriptural one. We don't separate over non-scriptural issues. That doesn't instruct us then not to separate over Scriptural ones.
5. The Bible doesn't mention anywhere a taxonomy of doctrines worth separating over. It isn't even implied anywhere. Neither will you find it taught in historical materials. (Phil Johnson has written on this and defended a taxonomy on separation, dividing only over the "essential" issues, which I have answered in this series of articles.)

Shouldn't this bother fundamentalists and evangelicals? Aren't they the ones who claim to get their teachings from what is demonstrable in Scripture? Don't they argue against many practices because they don't see them explicitly taught in Scripture? Why is it that they are so receptive to making something authoritative that isn't found in the Bible at all? Aren't they guilty of turning the teachings of man into the commandments of God?

The true position will be completely consistent on both separation and unity. The right stance on unity allows obedience to every Scriptural instruction on unity, and the correct view of separation will result in submission to every text on separation. We can embrace complete compliance to all that the Bible teaches on separation and unity. Evangelicals and fundamentals contradict themselves. Their doctrine can't be true. So, what is the truth? What doctrine will remain consistent?

The Correct Teaching on Separation and Unity: It Will Not Contradict Itself

The Consequences of Contradicting the Doctrines of Separation and Unity

Part Three Is Coming Soon.


William D said...

I couldn't disagree with the philosophy of separation and unity over disobedience to scripture. That is crystal clear. But should having a different understanding of the end times be considered disobedient? Many evangelical brethren sincerely believe that the KJV-Only position is idolatrous and therefore separate over it. Could this not just be preference in understanding rather than accusing others of disobedience in such matters?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I truly, and mean it as sincerely as someone can mean anything, that you are willing to discuss this, because most people won't touch it with a twenty foot pole. I think I know why, but I do know that they won't talk about it. And it is a contradiction in their system that shouldn't be overlooked---they do.

I am going to answer your questions, and hopefully in this next post. Someone else asked about the close/closed communion debate as another issue besides eschatology. Thanks.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

When you write, you're often very dogmatic, which is good and always gets my attention. But I also wonder how verses like these can be consistently applied to our lives along with dogmatic standards of separation:

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
(Matthew 12:30)

For he that is not against us is on our part.
(Mark 9:40)

And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
(Luke 9:50)

I also was thinking recently about Paul and Barnabas and the problem with Mark. In retrospect, wouldn't we say that both men did the right thing? If Barnabas had not continued working with Mark, he likely would not have been profitable to Paul later. (Paul had nothing bad to say about Barnabas later in his ministry. He mentions him while speaking of Mark.) If Paul had not shown the severity of Mark's actions, he again, would likely not have considered the ministry to be important. Both did the right thing while both doing different things.

Maybe my background drives me to see this, but I see this multiple times throughout Scripture.

Now, if my examples do not apply to the issue at hand, I'm sorry. But that's what comes to mind when I read this and the previous article.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Dr. Voegtlin,

The questions are good and they are things that we need to deal with, but again, they are verses that would need to fit with the verses that teach on separation. It seems that you are applying them on unity. I defined fellowship in some earlier comments and they would apply here. Jesus didn't say they were in fellowship with these people. Enough ambiguity comes with these texts with the gospel texts you referenced to not rely on them for our doctrine of separation or unity. They do give us some instruction.

You say I'm dogmatic. Definitionally, that refers to confidence that comes with infallibility, like the dogma of Cathlicism. I have confidence in the Bible. The separation verses are clear and there are several. We could go into a whole Biblical theology of separation and it would grow more clear. That is what our conference on separation will do for us, hopefully, and then the book. I believe Scripture is plain that God has been perspicuous, that we are to keep everything He said, and that a violation of what He said, unrepented of, is worthy of separation. You can throw up those gospel verses, but they don't undo the verses on separation.

I will deal with the Mark 9:40, since it is like the Matthew texts, and here is what I had in my sermon notes, easily accessible because I'm preaching series through Mark on Wed. nights.

"Undoubtedly, when Jesus spoke of receiving someone in His name, John's memory was jogged; a recent encounter troubled him. There had been a certain person casting out demons in the name of Christ. Undoubtedly, this person's ministry was successful—he was actually casting the demons out, doing so in the Lord's name. We should graciously support what is good—hold fast to that which is good, and live peaceably with all men. The prescription Jesus offers is that the disciples should not try to hinder people who are attempting to minister in the name of Christ—I usually say, "We're not their enemy." Just because they are not where we are at does not mean that God can't use them. We must be careful in our attitude lest we judge quickly—we want to take people where they are and help them go as far as they can, and that doesn't mean immediately rejecting people; people have to start with square one and we should be positive about the possibility. We can't allow the condition of the world and its opposition to us to poison our outlook about the grace of God and what He can do in people's lives, to where we become cynical and skeptical of everyone."

Regarding Barnabas and Paul with John Mark; this was one of the examples that Dever used as well. Here's what bugged me about that one, if someone would consider all of it. It wasn't a doctrinal issue. It was more of a personal issue. No doctrinal change had to take place to get them back together. It was also not a matter of conviction, but of personal preference. Personal preference, I do believe, can result in poor working relations, but we need some kind of reconciliation of those issues ultimately. No personal preference should keep us apart, even though it will at times be enough---a basic misunderstanding between two people---I believe, based upon Philemon, they should get a mediator. This is something that I have done in the past on different occasions, and in many instances been the mediator.

Bobby said...

The church decided that Paul was right. Barnabas should have submitted to the decision of the pillar and ground of the truth.

It is sad that Barnabas did not. Some try to make something of Barnabas going to Cyprus. They read into the text that he went there as a missionary. There is no such indication in the Word. Barnabas was from Cyprus. The fact is that he returned to his homeland.

He should have listened to his church and the man that God placed in leadership in his life. There is no indication that Barnabas made Mark profitable for the ministry. To state that he did is reading into the text what we hope or imagine.

Mark was later profitable, but there is no statement that it was because of Barnabas. From the facts that we have it would seem that he was profitable in spite of what Barnabas did.

Don't forget that Barnabas was Mark's uncle.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I do think when the church decides it is right; it is right, even if it is a personal issue. It is my belief that Barnabas was on the wrong side of the issue as well, but I don't believe that personal issues are an example of a reason for separation. For instance, if there is something that is not doctrinal but personal, I believe it is best that it not separate two like faith churches or men.

Bobby said...

I agree, Brother Kent. I really wasn't discussing the article, just the idea that there was not a right one or wrong one in the Paul/Barnabas split.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

I believe there is just as much reading into the text on the "Paul was right and he was the pillar of the church" rendition of the story also!

They were both separated by the Holy Ghost. One was not any better than the other.

If we say one was, what reason do have for doing that? --- More is know and written about him. If that's our criteria, we ought to be paying more attention to the big men with the big ministries.

Anyone can accuse anyone else of "reading into" their hopes. And the anyone that is accused can always respond to the anyone who accused that they are the ones "reading in." Which is what has just happened here :-)

If it doesn't say, there are many possibilities.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Dr. Voetglin,

I'm going to let Pastor Mitchell give you his exegesis, because I'm not sure what his exegesis is. My guess would be that God gave apostles to the church, and since Paul was an apostle, Barnabas should have listened to him on a personal matter, just like someone should listen to his pastor on a personal issue such as that.

My view on personal issues not being separating issues is that they are non-scriptural issues. Certainly sin can be involved, and that is worth separating over, but sin can get settled by confession and reconciliation, like I mentioned before.

I've thought for awhile that Paul had a right to send John Mark home over what he saw was a temporary character deficiency, like dismissing an employee for always being late. Barnabas seemed to want it to go another way perhaps because he was a relative.

Bobby said...

Ac 15:36 ¶ And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

Notice the facts.

1. Barnabas "determined" to take John Mark.

2. Paul thought it not good.

3. There was contention between them .

4. Barnabas took Mark (his nephew) and sailed to Cyprus (his homeland).

5. Paul chose Silas and departed and they were recommended unto the grace of God. That was the same way that Paul went out the first time with Barnabas. Ac 14:26 "And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled."


Barnabas made a determination that Paul did not agree with. Barnabas took his nephew and went to his homeland. There is no mention of this being in accordance with the will of God or the will of the church. There is no further mention of Barnabas doing anything for the Lord after this.

Paul was sent out of the church with Silas.

The church agreed with Paul in the decision. They sent him, but they didn't send Barnabas. Barnabas should have submitted to this, but he chose to return home.

To try to make Barnabas a church-planter or disciple-maker in Cyprus is to add to the Scriptures. To state that he prepared John Mark for the ministry is conjecture. I have heard men even preach that later as Paul sailed by Cyprus he looked from the ship and felt bad over the division. Where is this in the Bible?

This wasn't a personal issue. This was a matter in which the leader of the missions team in the church at Antioch made a decision, the church agreed with him, and so Barnabas left. It is a sad case.

It has nothing to do with bigger is better or any such notion.

Where did I say that Paul was the pillar?

I simply said that Paul was the leader ordained of God. That is obvious from reading the book of Acts. What started out as Barnabas and Paul became Paul and Barnabas.

I have simply showed the facts and the facts speak for themselves.

I contend against the notion that we can turn the passage into "Well more church planting was done because now there were two teams!!! Praise God that Barnabas was a kind and patient man who kept on training a young preacher! Growth by division, Amen!!!"

I don't know if you do that, but I've heard it preached.

This is practical, brother. If Fairhaven had John Kenderdine leading the missions team in Cambodia and the man with John did not want to go the same direction as John and the church agreed with John, but the other fellow just went back to his hometown, how would Fairhaven Baptist Church regard that man?

This stuff happens and I think we need to look at this passage and consider it as an example.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Pastor Mitchell. Excellent. I think it is bullseye, what you've written here. One thing. When I say personal issue, I'm talking about something that was based on an evaluation of John Mark personally. Barnabas personally disagreed with Paul. I'm speaking of this as an issue that relates to the actual post on my blog.

They use the Barnabas issue as something that relates to the ranking of doctrines, a taxonomy of doctrines for the matter of separation. I say that personal issues are not a matter of separation. That's all. I don't think it was a personal issue that Barnabas left the field with John Mark. I don't believe he should have. Do you understand?

For instance, let's say that I didn't like the style in which you wrote what you just wrote. I thought that you could have been more understanding about what I meant by "personal issues." I shouldn't separate over something like that. We are responsible to stay together, get it reconciled on those types of things. We don't have a Biblical basis to separate on something that is just personally oriented. I think in fundamentalism, people are more likely to separate over personal issues than they are over doctrine. They would call it epistemological to make it sound much deeper.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I just read my post, and from reading it, I think I should add one more point. What I think was a personal issue was Paul and Barnabas' evaluation of John Mark. I did not say, as I said in the above comment, that it was only a personal issue that Barnabas left. I think he was wrong to leave---and that's where you do great work in exposing this in your above exegesis. There we go. Now I think I'm done.

Bobby Mitchell said...

Amen. Agreed.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

First, I'm sorry about the "pillar" misread. You said the church agreed with Paul, and Barnabas should have listened to the pillar and ground of the truth (you meant the church). I thought you meant that Paul was the pillar, etc. My mistake.

Secondly, the Scriptures tell us hardly a thing about any of the apostles (Nathaniel, Andrew, Matthias, Matthew, Thomas, etc.). To conjure that Barnabas had a good influence on Mark because Mark ended up being profitable to the ministry is only supplying the natural understanding of the facts (from the Bible) about Mark. He left, then later, he was profitable. The Bible says he was with Barnabas inbetween. Barnabas must not have been a bad influence on him. These are biblical facts also. Paul never speaks badly of Barnabas. That is a biblical fact also.

Thirdly, while this is very practical, let's leave it there and keep the personal aspects out of it. If you really want to know what I think Fairhaven Baptist Church would do in this situation, call me. (219) 926-6636. But don't use what you think my church would do to beat me over the head and make a personal point.

Maybe I should not have responded that way. Maybe you didn't mean it that way. But it is the way I am catching the drift of things right now.

Also, I understand that my point doesn't essentially matter to the point of the post. I guess I was confusing things. That happens a lot with me. All that to say, sorry for hijacking the comments on this post.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Here's my evaluation of this. I think it is a worthwhile thing to talk about---this Paul and Barnabas issue. Obviously it wasn't what my blog was about and it is true that I don't like what I'm writing about to be hijacked, but I'm fine with the subject.

Pastor Mitchell may come across stronger than what others might want. I'm sensitive to that, but I'm probably less bothered about it than others because I think I know him. I believe that He wants to sort through Scripture and do it. He requires you (me or anyone else) to bring good stuff from the Bible that will put it down and he will back down. I've never seen him not do this. However, if you don't bring suitable stuff, he won't back down. That's where it can be difficult. As most know, I'm not much of an agree to disagree person either. I think it is possible; however, and I may not always be the best example, to say things in a way that shows that we think the best of someone and believe that they want to practice the truth. I believe that Dr. Voegtlin wants to.

Now, on the Fairhaven issue, I totally thought that Pastor Mitchell was simply using Pastor Kenderdine as an example because he knows Pastor Kenderdine, his church sends financial support, and so it was 100% hypothetical. It fits the Barnabas/Paul paradigm perfectly. I don't think any of it was personal. I am not and I don't think that Pastor Mitchell would be aware of his example being a real-life situation. I'm still not assuming it is, but it seemed like that Dr. Voegtlin, you may have thought that Pastor Mitchell was touching on something real. I don't think he was. I viewed his illustration completely ambiguously.

Anyway, I would be amazed if a personal point (beating someone over the head) was being attempted on my blog. I think he would have done that on the phone or by private email anyway.

Regarding some of what Dr. Voegtlin said, I think that it means something that nothing else is said about Barnabas after this. I don't think we can make too much of it, but I think a point is there.

There we go.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

OK, thanks.

Bobby said...

Kent Brandenburg said:

"Now, on the Fairhaven issue, I totally thought that Pastor Mitchell was simply using Pastor Kenderdine as an example because he knows Pastor Kenderdine, his church sends financial support, and so it was 100% hypothetical. It fits the Barnabas/Paul paradigm perfectly. I don't think any of it was personal. I am not and I don't think that Pastor Mitchell would be aware of his example being a real-life situation. I'm still not assuming it is, but it seemed like that Dr. Voegtlin, you may have thought that Pastor Mitchell was touching on something real. I don't think he was. I viewed his illustration completely ambiguously.

Anyway, I would be amazed if a personal point (beating someone over the head) was being attempted on my blog. I think he would have done that on the phone or by private email anyway."

Bobby Mitchell replies:

Absolutely right.

JK is a good friend of mine so I was introducing a hypothetical that I thought would make sense. I haven't spoken with Brother Kenderdine in months so I'm assuming all is well with him, Fairhaven, etc.

Matter of fact, we had special prayer for him and the work there this past Thursday during prayer meeting. He is one of our favorites around here.

Jerry Bouey said...

Mark also spent time with Peter in Babylon - so the influence in the ministry could just as easily have come from Peter.

1 Peter 5:13 The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.