Monday, March 12, 2012

Reductio Ad Absurdum: Conservative Evangelicalism Meets the Doctrine of Separation pt. 3

This is part three of a series.  It would help to have read parts one and two first.


At the beginning of the video that I posted in part one of this series, Todd Friel dialogues with Phil Johnson about a contemporary situation or issue in evangelicalism with a conference called the Elephant Room.   They are bemoaning the error of the leadership of the Elephant for inviting speakers to the conference, whom Phil later calls heretics.  At 6:45 in the video (watch here), Friel asks Johnson, if invited, would he go to speak at or participate with the Elephant Room.  Johnson says, "No," and explains the differences he has with those men that would lead  him to decline the invitation.  What is this refusal of an invitation?  What is this exposing of men who are inviting these "heretics" to participate with them in this conference?  What is this?   You know that they think that men should reject the invitation.  They think there is something wrong with either joining or inviting "heretics," but what is it?  Are we to assume that the audience knows why someone shouldn't attend?  What is the scriptural basis for refusing?  This would be a great opportunity to lay out the doctrine of separation.  Scripture talks about it and gives sufficient teaching to know what to do.  Lacking in discernment is lacking in an understanding of what the Bible says about when, how, from whom, and for what reasons to separate.

Johnson says first that the reason for not inviting a couple of the men, and what made inviting them wrong, was that they had methodological differences.  One of the men, a Perry Noble, has used the rock song, Highway to Heaven, as a special for an Easter service in his church.  That was the most obvious reason that Todd and Phil thought he should not have been invited to the Elephant room.  They didn't say why that was wrong, but they did say that it was a violation worthy of non-attendance and non-inviting.  A methodological difference, by the way, is not the gospel.  It isn't even a doctrinal difference.  It is a difference in the way someone practices.  I don't know of a Bible verse that says that a church can't use a rock song in their service.  Is that "teaching for doctrines the commandments for men?"

At about 8:40 or so, Johnson explains why you can't have a man like T. D. Jakes at your conference and he spends a little time breaking down 2 John, saying that you don't invite someone like that into your house or even give him greeting.  He also says that in Galatians 1 we see if someone preaches another gospel, let him be accursed.  A little after 9:30, Phil says that it assumes that you are not to welcome someone like Jakes as a brother.  He doesn't say how someone doesn't welcome someone as a brother, but that it is something we are to refrain from doing with a false teacher.  And the Elephant Room did welcome him.  Now this could have been separation that Phil Johnson was talking about, but he never used the word.  It is an aspect of separation, however.  You don't accept invitations to participate with false teachers who preach a false gospel.

At about the 27 minute mark, Friel begins engaging Johnson about what's worth battling over.  Johnson says that you couldn't get him to debate about eschatology, just not worth it.  Everybody else likes to argue that, but not him.  They aren't talking about separation here, just on what's worth even quarreling about.  This is where discernment becomes about figuring out which doctrines are important and which ones aren't.   Truth is a gradation between important and not too important and Friel and Johnson say that discernment is figuring out where to place them on that chart.  At about 29:20 Johnson says that the "rule of thumb is that the closer it is to gospel truth the more its worth kicking up a fuss over."  Friel asks, "Essentials?"  Johnson answers, "Yes, essentials."  And he continues by saying that the biggest failure of the early fundamentalist movement was that it didn't show the difference between fundamental and secondary doctrines.

Then comes the part transcribed in part one.  We hear no clear doctrine of separation.  The word isn't even used until we get to the problem of "hyper-separation" that Friel suggests to Johnson.  An evangelical audience is not familiar with the scriptural verbiage of separation, the passages that teach it and what they require for obedience to God.

Evangelicals don't practice biblical separation.   The conservatives, like Johnson, are practicing some form of separation.  He wouldn't join the Elephant Room.  He didn't call it separation, but it is.

The conservative evangelical knows about separation.  He knows he should separate over the gospel.  He knows he should separate over more the gospel.  But he doesn't know what that is.  And perhaps until he does, he won't talk about separation at all, except to put down those who do separate.

No comments: