On charismatic indifferentism: http://t.co/Zl90DImCXM
— Phil Johnson (@Phil_Johnson_) February 7, 2014
I draw you to the term "indifferentism" used by Johnson. Here's the article to which he linked, a transcript of his session from the Strange Fire conference in October 2013. In that post he writes these two sentences:
They have basically settled themselves into a kind of comfortable indifference. . . . If someone thinks that attitude of indifferent passivity might be a helpful life-vest just in case there is a live baby somewhere in the turbid swamp of Charismatic sludge, think again.
I did a search at his blog and he hadn't used the term once. The only find was in a quote of Gresham Machen, fundamentalist, himself, the one who used the term as applied to the doctrine of separation. He used the term in a session defining evangelicalism in a reference to a usage by Lloyd Jones. Why now?
Johnson wants Charismatic teacher Michael Brown to separate from Benny Hinn. Brown says there is a baby, authentic Christianity, in the Charismatic bathwater. Johnson says there is no baby. Johnson is confronting Brown with the responsibility to separate. Lately I have read no greater issue on the Strange Fire radar than Brown separating from Hinn, repeated articles and tweets.
The term indifferentism is rather foreign to Johnson and yet now he's pulling it out to use it on Brown. Does it really matter if Brown separates from Hinn, as long as Brown believes the gospel? Hinn himself, by the way, presents salvation by grace through faith. Of course, I don't and wouldn't fellowship with Hinn and Brown. I've never been in fellowship with them, so I remain separated from them. But at what point does anyone separate from anyone? When does someone stop being indifferent?
Certain Charismatics seem to merit separation for John MacArthur and Phil Johnson. But how do they make that decision? How would Michael Brown have ever known when and how to separate? Is that a teaching we find from Johnson or MacArthur? It seems that it really would have been news to Brown to have understood that. It's just not the way of evangelicals. They don't talk or write about separation. They don't write books about it. They normally mock and ridicule separation.
The Strange Fire group nibbled around separation at their conference, especially Phil Johnson and Justin Peters. They didn't talk about it enough to give anyone any idea about what he was supposed to do. Does someone separate from all Charismatics? After all, there is no baby in the bathwater. Johnson is obviously hinting at separation with his use of "indifferentism." But who exactly should we separate from and how? Obviously, Michael Brown was supposed to know he wasn't to go on Benny Hinn's show. How was he to know that?
If we think about this in a principled way, the fundamentalist concept is to separate from someone who is apostate, who preaches a false gospel. To not separate from someone who preaches a false gospel is to commit indifferentism. So Johnson would be saying that Benny Hinn is an apostate and Michael Brown is to separate from him. Johnson would say that T. D. Jakes is an apostate and James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll should separate from him, instead of appearing in the Elephant Room. What about the Manhattan Declaration? What about Billy Graham?
And then, when it comes to the Charismatics, which ones do we separate from and from which ones do we not? MacArthur and Johnson say that John Piper is off limits (read Don Johnson's critique of this). He's just an anomaly. You can be together for the gospel with Piper and Mahaney.
It is my opinion that you don't hear about separation from MacArthur and Johnson usually because they don't want people to think they're fundamentalists. This has become a tough situation. Brown has to break fellowship with Hinn, and yet they don't want to be fundamentalists. It results in a lot of confusion. It muddies the bathwater, so to speak.
MacArthur and Johnson practice their own indifferentism. They too are indifferent in principle the same as Michael Brown. And if separation has been a Bible doctrine and if indifferentism has been wrong longer than Michael Brown has been around, then why are we just now hearing about it? I would like to hear an announcement that explains this change in teaching and in emphasis. Lay out how to separate. Show men how not to be indifferentists. And then be consistent. Johnson mocks the fundamentalists for their inconsistency. He might include himself in some of that mockery.
Here are some links to articles on indifferentism, I have written in the past (here, here, here, and here).