Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Applying Biblical Texts to Ecclesiastical Separation?

Recently Dave Doran, pastor and seminary president, wrote on his blog about a post by Lance Ketchum on ecclesiastical separation.  Ketchum had named Doran in a negative way in his article, and then Doran riffed on it with a very short essay with a link to an article he had written about a related passage.  Ketchum says that Doran isn't practicing biblical separation and Doran says that Ketchum isn't essentially interpreting and then applying the passage in Romans 16 correctly.  So what's going on here?

I had read the Ketchum post and didn't have any trouble with it.  I read the Doran post and thought it was unusual for him.  I like Doran in so many ways.  It seemed to be something little less than a pot shot, a hatchet job (to mix my metaphors) on Ketchum.  And Doran's name was mentioned by Ketchum.

Ketchum quotes our book on ecclesiastical separation, A Pure Church, in his article, but this has nothing to do with my post right now.  Doran really didn't touch what we were quoted on.  There wasn't enough of a context to the quotes to know what positions we would be taking exactly on the text.

Doran's post was so short, let me just quote the entire thing right here:

FWIW, I was reminded of this previous post when I read this article.

The genuine cause of biblical separatism is not helped by applying biblical texts about false teachers to brothers with whom we disagree. It may work to create controversy and generate heat, but my observation over the past 30 years is that it only works for the short term and then blows up. People who makes claims like this lose their credibility and their following, properly, grows smaller and smaller. Sadly, they interpret that as some kind of proof that they are right, but in reality it is simply a sign that they are unbiblically divisive. Even more sadly, because they wave a Bible verse and drape their false accusation in biblical garb, good people and assemblies are hurt by the confusion it causes.

Succinctness can be good....and bad.  I judge the latter here, because there isn't enough explanation for Doran to avoid failing.  I quoted the whole thing, so I could refer to it in this post.

The post to which Doran links, which you can pick up by clicking on the link I provide in my first line, deals with a misinterpretation or misapplication of Romans 16:17-18, that I have to say, I've never heard in my life, making it seem like nothing more than strawman.  He bashes a position I've never heard taken and doesn't tell us who he heard taking it.  Ketchum doesn't take it, so it doesn't even apply to Ketchum, even though Doran links to it like he does.  So we're bad there right off the bat.  Problem #1.

Then the major point of Doran is that Ketchum's article misapplies Romans 16:17-18 (and I think Doran may be saying, misapplies to me).  He uses the words "brothers with whom we disagree."  That is at least misleading.  Ketchum isn't talking about "disagreements," like non-biblical issues (Rom 14 ones).  Ketchum is talking about false teachers and false teaching.  Problem #2.

I wrote Doran about this, so I know now what he thought was the misapplication.  Ketchum applies Romans 16:17-18 to false teachers who are professing believers and Doran thinks that it should apply only to lost false teachers.  That's it.   Doran treats this like it is some egregious issue of interpretation or application.  I don't see Doran going after this kind of situation normally, but obviously his name and some of his closer friends were mentioned in the article.  He and they were involved with Mark Dever at a conference a few years back, and this got some hubbbub.

Is Doran right?  Does Romans 16:17-18 apply only to unbelieving false teachers?  If there are false teachers teaching something that is against scripture, we don't mark and avoid them, at least according to Romans 16:17-18?  I don't think Doran can prove his point.  He doesn't even try in the article.  Actually I think it applies to any kind of false teacher, and we're not always able to instantly determine whether the one doing the false teaching is saved or not.  Usually saved people, when confronted about false teaching, will repent, so you don't have to mark and avoid them.  The terms aren't a dead give-away to say that these are surely all unsaved people.  Problem #3.

The way Doran reads is that Ketchum was attempting to "create controversy and generate heat."  So this comes across like he is assigning that motive to Ketchum.  I don't think so.  I think Ketchum is concerned about the Bible being followed and obeyed.  He sees fundamentalism changing and he doesn't think in a good way, and he wants to do something about it, so he uses a lot of exegesis to do so.  Doran says bad exegesis with no proof, but Ketchum does in fact refer to scripture in a serious way to make his point, unlike ironically what Doran does.  Doran just blasts Ketchum without providing proof, except for a link that is a bridge to nowhere.  And I think the plain reading has Doran judging Ketchum's motives.  Problem #4.

In the exactly previous post to this one by Doran, he writes about what bothers him about blog debates, and #2 is:  "when a written text is defended or attacked by arguments that assume the ability to read the author’s mind."  So in his next post, he attempts to read Ketchum's mind in a blog debate.  Bravo!  His number one was treating arguments like they are an attack on a person, when they are an attack on a text.  What text did Doran really deal with?  Voila.  Nothing.  All he did was smack down Ketchum.  Problem #5.

Doran says that Ketchum makes a false accusation.  What is the false accusation?  Please, if there is confusion, let's clear that up!  No clearing up available with this essay.  Ironically, more confusion with this post than with what Ketchum offered.  I got what Ketchum was talking about.  Doran serves up ambiguity that then comes across as a smear job.  It is a smear job.  So, it is a false accusation against Ketchum about Ketchum making a false accusation.  If you are going to say someone is making a false accusation, you've got to do better than this, or you yourself are making one.  He says that Ketchum is losing credibility, being unbiblically divisive, and then being a con man by putting biblical garb over his sinful actions.  That's all very serious.  Doran seems to think that the sheer weight of his personality or self-perceived gravitas is enough authority here, all very much like the fundamentalism that I witnessed when I was in it.  Problem #6.

Ketchum is supposed to be concerned that his "following is growing smaller and smaller."  Ouch.  This is big with fundamentalists, their following.  They will lose a following.  I could riff on several posts on that.  That idea makes me sick.  Is Ketchum really concerned about his "following," so he writes an article to make sure he keeps it?  That sounds dastardly.  I would hope not.  I don't think so.  Problem #7.


Lou Martuneac said...


You suggested, "Doran just blasts Ketchum without providing proof, except for a link that is a bridge to nowhere. And I think the plain reading has Doran judging Ketchum's motives."

This (in bold) has been Dave's common reaction to those who raise virtually any legitimate concern and/or criticism of his doctrine or practice(s), such as the cooperative ministry with Mark Dever at Lansdale.

From my blog I am going to reference, cite portions from, and link to your article here fro my blog. You have done an analysis that IMO deserves a wide reading. I am hopeful Dave has given your thoughts here serious, prayerful consideration.


Jon Gleason said...

Kent, I could not give a blanket endorsement to Dr. Doran's approach to separation, his prophetic utterances about Dr. Ketchum's motivation, or his characterisation of this as about merely "brothers with whom we disagree," etc.

But I believe he has a point on Romans 16:17-18. When I compare Philippians 3:19 and II Peter 2, I believe Romans 16 is referring to those who are clearly lost.

Separation is still needed, as per II Thess. 3, I Tim. 5:20 & 22, and others, but Romans 16 isn't the best passage if we're even possibly dealing with erring brethren.

It just triggers debate about Romans 16 and whether they are actually brethren -- and distracts from the errors and how we should respond.

It is wiser to use passages about which there is no question, because even many separatists view Romans 16 as referring to the Mormons, JWs, etc, rather than the new evangelicals.

There are other passages that deal nicely with this. Titus 3:10 works. The warning of I Tim. 5:22 that incautious ministry endorsements can make us partaker of the sins of others is particularly pertinent.

In my opinion, Dr. Doran had a point, even if he obscured it with some extraneous rubbish.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Jon,

I'm fine with the idea that they are unbelievers to whom Paul is referring based upon word usage, which is Doran's take. I even think there are better passages to use for the particular application Ketchum is making. I'm not saying I entirely agree with it, only because some of the same language refers to believers in other contexts. I'm open to your sealing the deal on the lost. You reference Philip 3:19 and 2 Pet 2, probably about the unbelieving belly or appetite, something parallel there. I think that is the best argument for it.


Kent Brandenburg said...

OK, Lou.

Lance Ketchum said...

I think the text clearly refers to those causing divisions within the church. Numerous commentaries take this same understanding of the text (Biblical Illustrator, Adam Clarke, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, Pulpit Commentary). Although it could refer to the foundation of cults, they began in the church leading people out of the true church into another sect. This is exactly what Convergent Evangelicals are doing. This is why true Baptists must separate from Fundamentalism for it has been ambiguous doctrinally from its inception.

Lance Ketchum said...

By the way, I am concerned about my "following" -I Corinthians 11:1

Jon Gleason said...

Thanks, Kent. I can't conclusively prove my understanding of Romans 16, but the evidence seems that way. I'd not go to war on it.

Even if I came to be convinced otherwise on Rom. 16, I'd rather choose to fight on terrain where there is no real room for honest disagreement.

Anonymous said...


I am surprised at this post in light of the fact that we emailed back and forth about this matter. I am not surprised that you wrote something on it, but that you ignored my efforts to explain why I don't think I did what you say I did. I don't expect you to agree with me, but it seems you should acknowledge that we exchanged explanations and you find mine unsatisfactory.

You are right that I think Ketchum misapplied the text. You are wrong that I am bothered about this because I was named--I am not even close to the central focus of his article. I was and am bothered by the fact that he is accusing believers of being false teachers who turn people away from the faith and of using the deceitful practices of false teachers. He does not quote me (that I can recall) and my name is only dumped into a list. It seems like you've read a little too deeply into my motives here.

I think he is wrong and being wrong like this hurts the case for genuine separatism. And, as I said via email, the second paragraph of my post is a general statement of what I think happens when we misapply texts. Read it again and not that I do not use Ketcham's name nor pronouns (e.g., he, him) that would indicate that I am making a comment about him. I moved from a specific instance of a problem (as I see it) to a generalization. Perhaps I did this awkwardly, but the lack of specific application to Ketchum means your assessment that I am judging his motives being read into my words, not out of them.

As for an illustration of the point I made in the post of mine to which I linked, look here: The line that fits most clearly is this one, "The men within Conservative Evangelicalism teach doctrine that is contrary to what I have been taught." Seems to fit to me.


Jon Gleason said...

Dr. Doran, if you did not intend to attribute motives to Dr. Ketchum, I apologise for my crack above about "prophetic utterances."

For what it's worth, I read it soon after you posted and was dismayed at the attribution of motives. It really does read that way.

I'm not sure what you gained by your comments about motivation, anyway. It brings cheers from those who agree with you, but only annoys those who don't agree. It can also annoy those who might or might not agree but who stop and say, "How would you know their motives?"

But I'm not sure what I gained by a sarcastic comment about it, either, and I again apologise.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Dave,

After I wrote the email, I expected that you would take down your post about Ketchum's article, because it reads like I described it. Others are welcome to determine that, because I linked to the article and quoted the whole thing. As I mentioned to you, I have no problem with your judging motives, just that you would provide a basis for it. You're saying you didn't judge them, but you are assigning that to Ketchum, despite your personal pronouns. That's how it reads. It does, even if you didn't mean it that way. If you didn't mean it that way, then you needed to clear it up, and you didn't. I wrote you first, so you would. I wouldn't have posted this if you had.

I don't think Ketchum is wrong. I've preached through the whole NT now, slowly, except for a few chapters in Luke, which I'm preaching through right now. Rom 16:17-18 doesn't say it is addressing believers or unbelievers. Can Paul talk to people like they are unbelievers, when they are believers? Yes, he does it all the time. The churches had mixed multitude, and you didn't know who was who, and even if they were disciplined out of the church, you still were merely regarding them as unbelievers, not judging them as unbelievers. That's not a significant point of Rom 16:17-18. The point of significance is that there were teachers, teaching false doctrine, who needed to be marked and avoided. If someone claims to be a believer (1 John 2:3-4) and might even be one, but keeps teaching false doctrine, do we not mark and avoid because he is a believer? The passage doesn't say, "Only if they are believers." I'd say that based on the context, there are plenty that say they are Christians, and even profess a true gospel, could even explain a true gospel, who fit the description Paul makes in Rom 16:17-18. Your proof to me in your email, which I didn't report, because it was private, was the use of skandalon by Paul in Romans and then by Jesus in the gospels. That exegesis doesn't prove anything, because out of a small sample size, Paul and Jesus both use skandalon to refer to believers. You replied nothing to that answer I gave you. I was saying that you go over the top on Ketchum, and I don't think Ketchum is doing anything to the degree that you are characterizing it in your post.

I still like you, but I have noticed what I think is some unnecessary intransigence on your part. I went private so that you could move on it without it being a big deal, and you didn't. I hadn't thought you would be this way, but in a couple of different events, it seems that you are. It shouldn't matter that it is my bringing it up, just like it shouldn't matter if it is your bringing something up to me.

As far as my judging your motives, I was simply saying you had cause for motive. You were mentioned in the article. You say it meant nothing. OK, but you have cause that is easy to see. It's about impossible to prove motive, but one can prove there is cause. You say you you assign no motive to Ketchum, but you do and without cause. It's how it's written. Anybody reading would think that. Some wouldn't care. And when motive is assigned, there is no cause indicated as to how this was his motive. None. Ketchum and you are equally tough, but he explains his and you don't explain yours. You say you have. Or that you didn't mean certain things. It's how it reads.

Anonymous said...

I am going to take one more stab at this then leave it alone and leave you all to judge as you deem best. I've gone back to read my post and I sincerely do not see the point that Kent and Job are making regarding me judging anybody's motives.

I never mention motives. I talk about actions and what those actions may do (e.g., generate controversy) and what I don't think they do (work short term, but blow up). I call the misusing of biblical texts ultimately divisive. I talk about how people explain the fact that they maginalize themselves. Where do I speak to anybody's motives?

Further, Kent, you misread and/or misquoted the post which preceded the one you have critiqued. I did not say that we should not judge people's motives; I said that we should stick to what they have said without trying to do mindreading or defend what was written by reasons not in the text of what was written (e.g., I know he can't mean X because I know him).

As to whether Romans 16 refers to false teaching that leads people to condemnation, I suppose we have to leave it at the level of disagreement. As I said in my email, I believe that Paul's languaged (particularly the use of skandalon) elevates the teaching to matters well past doctrinal differences among believers.

I notice that you didn't address the fact that some folks are using the text in the way that I said they are. I really am befuddled by the effort to make this a matter of me judging someone's motives rather than disagreeing with his actions. To critique actions in terms of their possible effects is not to question motives.

I find it hard to apologize for something that I don't think I did. Those who follow my blog know that I have very clearly and quickly corrected mistakes that I have made, so I will rest my case with appeal to that.

Well, you've helped Lou out with a post, so there is something positive to be gained from all of this, I suppose. I was feeling a little neglected by him lately.


Anonymous said...

I assume the particular phrase in which you believe Doran is assigning motives is "It may work to create controversy and generate heat" since that is the one you quote in your post. You take that phrase to imply purpose--i.e., "it successfully accomplishes the purpose of creating controversy and generating heat." However, it could just as easily read as result--"though the person may have different purposes, such as calling people to faithfulness, it actually only works to create controversy and generate heat."

That reading, combined with Doran's statement that he was not intending the second paragraph to be directed at Ketchum but to be "a general statement of what I think happens when we misapply texts" makes it look like you are not only misreading Doran's words but are yourself assigning false motives to Doran.


Lou Martuneac said...


You wrote, “I think he is wrong and being wrong like this hurts the case for genuine separatism.”

First, like Kent I believe Dr. Ketchum’s interpretation of Romans 16:17-ff is correct. The passage can and is at times necessary to make application to believers within the body of Christ.

Second, you have redefined the principle of separation as if the God-given mandate for separation is a Gospel-Driven, a Gospel-Only application. Your new definition for Separation in “Academic Contexts” for expanded fellowship and cooperative ministry, then your fellowship and joint ministry (at Lansdale) with New Evangelicals like Mark Dever who teaches aberrant theology, is on faculty at Gordon-Conwell a flagship New Evangelical school and who promotes the CCM/RAP music genre in his own church.

In 1995 you wrote an article titled, In Defense of Militancy.” In recent years we clearly see a huge and widening disconnect from what you do in practice of separation to what you wrote of separation in 1995.

Add these things up and IMO they identify you as one who hurts the case for authentic biblical separatism.


Kent Brandenburg said...


There is denotative and connotative meaning. If you diagram the sentence, you can find deniability there, but it reads like judging of motives. He says he wasn't, but it reads like he is, and it is still there reading that way, unless someone comes over here and reads that Dave Doran says, "no, he wasn't judging motive." It doesn't read like result because of the word "work." If it "works" at stirring up controversy, that sounds like you wanted it to "work" that way. The way it reads is, I needed a text to bash these guys and this one doesn't work for that, but I can take it and force it from its context and then it will work for my intended purpose, that is, to cause controversy. I want to cause controversy, so I'll even force passages from their context to get that done. If it were result, it wouldn't sound like anyone was trying to make it work for any particular reason. He was just exegeting, was without intention mistaken, and it turned into unintended controversy and flames.

Using "they" instead of "he" gives grammatical deniability, but it doesn't sound like one is talking about a different person. I used "one" here because I wasn't talking about Dave, even if I sounded like I was, but a generic person, so don't judge "one" to mean Dave. If you get my drift.

Dave says he wasn't judging motives, so he wasn't. I'm fine with that, but I'm still not fine with it sounding the way it did.

Let me write another example here as if it was about Dave Doran.

Dave Doran preached with Mark Dever, the Southern Baptists.

People preaching with Southern Baptists might work to generate enthusiasm among young fundamentalists who are disgruntled with present fundamentalism, but my observation over 25 years is that it will result in building the Southern Baptist Convention and hinder the practice of biblical separation.

And I could keep going.

Jon Gleason said...

Ed, if you are a friend of Dr. Doran's, you might suggest to him that he could change the wording to "may have the effect of...."

If he says that is what he meant, I'm sure it is what he meant.

But I suspect Dr. Doran wants to communicate effectively. "May work to..." implies purpose, especially if we consider the rest of the sentence -- "it only works for the short term."

Even after Dr. Doran commented here that he wasn't talking about Dr. Ketchum's motivations, I still thought he was talking about motivation (generally, not Dr. Ketchum's) with those words. It is very unclear.

Anonymous said...


I don't know you well, but I don't think you would support the hermeneutics you employ here when studying the Bible. You admit that the words Doran uses could be read the way I noted. You are inclined to read them a different way. How could we determine which is the correct reading? In Scripture, we would seek to discover the original meaning by seeing how the author employed similar words/phrases in other places in order to get as best we can at authorial intent. When a sentence can be read two different ways, we would take the reading that best matches the context and usage of the author.

Here, we have a sentence that you admitted could be read both ways, but you believe your reading is correct. Fortunately, we have the author to tell us what his intention was. Twice in the comments here he has stated what he meant--which backs my reading of the sentence. You continue to insist on your reading in the face of the author's clarification.

At worst, Doran employed ambiguous terminology that could be misinterpreted--as noted by the fact that you did not get his meaning. You think he should take his post down or clarify what he meant. To be consistent, you should take this post down here or clarify that you were wrong when you criticized Doran for judging Ketchum's motives. Whether or not Doran does what you think he should, you would be wrong not to follow your own advice.


PS I don't think the word "works" carries the idea of purpose that you want it to. Again, I think you're reading that meaning into the phrase. For example: I try a new tactic for a sales pitch. You ask me later "did it work" and I reply "It worked to get me thrown out of the office." Was it my intention to be thrown out of the office? Not at all. And I could keep going.

Anonymous said...

Okay, really my last comment...

Kent, your example perfectly shows my point--I don't think what you wrote is an attack on my motives, but a statement about what you believe comes from certain actions. I read what you wrote and think, "that deserves to be considered" not, "he is attacking Doran's motives for speaking with Dever." Your statement does not raise the motive issue; it questions the wisdom and outcome of my actions.

Seriously, nothing about your illustration reinforces your point, but sure does do so for mine. I wasn't concerned with Ketchum's motives. I was disagreeing with his actions and with similar actions that often speak up in defense of the Gospel.


d4v34x said...

Hi Bro. B.,

Just to clarify, the notion of connotative and denotative meaning really has reference to individual words. You probably want to use something like express and implicit for your case.

And your other example at the end there reads to me just as Dr. D. says he intended his to read. A specific example and then a general statement about the result of the type of thing of which the specific is the example.

Just one reader's reading.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Army lost on a fumble, driving for a winning score. Ouch. 11 straight for Navy. At the hotel in Fishkill now.


Actually I was showing only that the way Doran's post read could be read easily different than he said it meant. I said I was fine with his not judging motives, but that since it sounded very much like it, it should be cleared up. I showed how it could sound like that with my examples. I agree that you ask the author. And again, I don't have a problem with judging motives in the sense that there is cause for motive, but I saw no cause. Only saying. Oh, and I don't think your "works" illustration was bad, because it was sarcastic. It didn't "work." It sarcastically worked, so you wouldn't use "work" unless you were being sarcastic with that example, and I don't think Dave was being sarcastic. I think Dave would say that he was simply applying the principle to anyone, not to Ketchum. That's how I'm reading Dave right now, so you might be misreading original intent yourself.


Thanks for trying to clear it up. Basically most of the problems disappear if you meant it like you say you meant it, but do people know you meant it that way, and you don't have a comment section at your blog? I do here, where things can get cleared up in public. I think someone said something about sunlight being the best antiseptic. This post was sunlight with its open comment section. I'm not saying you have to have one, but then posts like this get written. I still have issues, but someone can read all this and make up his mind.


I don't really mean express or implicit, because they don't seem to catch what I am meaning. Maybe those are the best words, but they didn't work. So I went on the spur of the moment with what best expressed what I was attempting to get at. Thanks though. Maybe you can give me even better words, since your a wordsmith.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Clearwaters use to teach that liberals laid their "eggs" in the Norhtern Baptist Convention, as a cuckoo bird will in the nest of another bird. Maybe the "New Evangelicalism" of the late 20th century has laid "eggs" in the fundamentalists of today?