Since I wrote part one of this series on the Dever-Minnick interview, a mini-stir has erupted on the internet regarding an interpretation like mine of what Pastor Minnick said in his answers. The fundamentalist Baptist pastor on Vancouver Island in BC, Canada, Don Johnson, has written a few evaluations of this interview (here [before I wrote mine], here [afterwards], and here again). CurrentChristian, operated by fundamentalist Baptist pastor in Marshal, MN, Greg Linscott, has linked to my first post and quite a few comments ensued. Mark Dever himself has written a blog at 9Marks about separation, almost as if he has been reading the reaction to his interview. Quite a few comments follow his article by professing fundamentalists and others.
After all of the recent comments, I still hold to what I wrote in the first article, probably even more so. Some give Mark Minnick a pass because "doing interviews" is difficult. I wouldn't expect Mark Minnick to be as smooth as he is in a sermon from notes. He probably doesn't anticipate every question that Dever could ask. However, Dever's questions weren't some great mystery for someone who has been in the ministry for over 25 years. I'm accustomed to talking to people spontaneously about what I believe. I do it every week going door-to-door. Regular bold presentation in impromptu situations will prepare someone to defend his belief and practice. Should I assume that Minnick is rarely challenged about his beliefs, so he is not accustomed to defending them in a relatively hostile situation?
Minnick also knew what he was going to be questioned about. He could have readied himself with some talking points to potential questions. I would have prepared myself for several different likely scenarios, especially what to do with a Southern Baptist church, especially since Dever is, well, Southern Baptist. A BJU professor, David Beale, wrote a whole book on the subject, House on the Sand. What's the point of BJU publishing a book like that if it isn't about separation? I recognize it was published in 1985, and now the SBC is more conservative, but have the issues fundamentally changed? Is there any liberalism in Southern Baptist seminaries or on their mission fields? I know that one of the six seminaries, Golden State Baptist Theological Seminary, still harbors liberals that are still supported by the SBC cooperative program. The SBC also has moderates who fellowship with liberals. I would assume that Dever would want to know why Minnick wouldn't fellowship with him. Wouldn't Minnick be thinking about the same kind of thing in preparing himself to talk to Dever? My only two explanations for why Minnick did so poorly are: (1) He doesn't know what he's talking about, or (2) He was afraid. Neither of those are good choices, but I'd be glad to know what a third option would be.
My friend, Bobby Mitchell, independent Baptist pastor in Maine, made a good point to me over the phone that Bob Jones University has "owned" the issue of separation, like Maranatha Baptist Bible College once owned the local church issue among fundamentalists. When you thought of fundamentalists and separation, you thought of BJU almost instinctively. Of all the people who could answer a few soft-lobbed questions about separation, it would be a foremost BJU representative like Mark Minnick. If you read the transcript of Minnick's response to the last question of Dever (that you can read here at Don Johnson's blog), you will read something so evasive it is almost comedic. I don't mean that to hurt anyone's feelings or to take a shot at anyone. It is how it reads, almost like a skit in which someone is attempting to give a humorous example of evasiveness to illicit laughter.
You'll read among the comments over at CurrentChristian some from Dr. David Doran, fundamentalist pastor in Michigan and president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, who says that he believed that Minnick did a "great job" in the interview and that he did give an "answer" to Dever to his last question. I can appreciate the loyalty and friendship of Doran. I would likely appreciate that if I was Minnick, despite the incredulity of the support. It could provide a case-study for why it is difficult to get anywhere in a self-critique of fundamentalism. Doran says Minnick answered the question. I have to think that he meant "responded to" the question. Saying words doesn't constitute an answer, let alone a good one. He could have given a good answer, perhaps one unpopular to Dever and his crowd, although I don't think Dever would have been offended. I think it was what he wanted, really wanted, but could not get it from Minnick. As a result, Minnick gave a very poor representation for the importance of the doctrine of separation.
Minnick's Key Passages
During the interview Minnick focused on two passages of Scripture to teach Dever separation. Both of the examples were to explain to Dever separation based upon a principle of association---there are people and institutions that God doesn't want His people associating with. His first example was from 2 Chronicles 17-19 and the character of Jehoshaphat. Minnick points out that Jehoshaphat made an alliance with Ahab's son, Ahaziah, and it wasn't even for a spiritual purpose, but a commercial one, and yet God is angry with the association and breaks Jehoshaphat's ships to indicate his displeasure. Minnick mentions that God, Who had thoroughly credited Jehoshaphat until that point, said that Jehoshaphat acted wickedly in this.
Dever countered the first passage by asking if that means that Christians aren't supposed to work for a non-Christian company. Minnick, it seems, could have easily swept aside that bogus comeback, but he sheepishly retorted that his example showed that "alliances were important to God." Do you think that Dever doesn't already know and preach himself that alliances are important to God? I thought that the Jehoshaphat reference was fine to use, but Minnick should have been prepared to explain exactly how it applied to separation with something stronger than "alliances are important to God." So we were done with the very first passage, Minnick's locus classicus, liquified in one minute.
OK so on to passage number two, Paul confronts Peter in Galatians. Minnick starts off by establishing that these are two Christian brothers and even leaders. Peter had associated with Judaizers who corrupted the Gospel, so Paul confronted Peter to his face. I don't know about you, but I was thinking that moment about how great it would be if Mark Minnick would confront Mark Dever to his face. That would have been a very appropriate, immediate application of that Scripture. Anyway, Minnick says that Peter had given credit to the wrong side by not practicing separation. Peter accredits the Judaizers by doing so. Peter wasn't himself wrong on the issue, but he associated with those who were. This is significant, says Minnick, because it is tied to the gospel. Men are swept along with the hypocrisy, including Barnabas.
This is the one point in the interview that Minnick really did pin Dever. Dever is affected by the interaction and seems under conviction after Minnick shows this passage. This was the best of Minnick in this interview in my opinion. However, it was right then that Minnick could have really helped out Dever by going further and making the application. He didn't. He backed away, as if he was not comfortable with Dever's conviction and so he lets him off the hook.
The Final Question
Dever asks for admonition from Minnick when he asks him the final question, which is: “What would we have to do to change for you to be free to preach here?” Minnick evades the question. After a paragraph of stammering, Dever asks again: "Ok, so what do we have to do to change in order for you in good conscience to be able to preach in a church like this?" I'm thinking, "Come on, Minnick!" At the very end, Minnick hints toward an answer if Dever wanted to latch ahold of it, but Minnick never does actually answer the question.
What's the answer? How about "Leave the Convention"? That's a simple answer. Dever and Minnick both talked about relatives who had left the convention. Being in the convention keeps someone in fellowship with everyone else in the convention. Dever in the midst of the interview says that he stays in the convention so as not to lose the money that people had given and that is wrapped up in the seminaries and the buildings. This is complete pragmatism. Minnick could have pointed that out. What we believe is more important than the money that had been given and then, why not trust God? He also could have answered: "Separate from the false worship practiced and worldly practices of Mahaney. If you separate from friends, you'll shame them, and help them get right with God, which is far better for them. It's the most loving thing to do. If you couldn't join someone's church, doesn't that tell you that you can't be in fellowship with them either, based on their disobedience to the Word of God?"