Friday, October 16, 2009

Gospel-Driven Separation

This past week (Oct 15-16) I attended the Mid-America Conference on Preaching, held annually by Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. This year’s theme was on the subject of gospel-driven separation. I want in this blog post to summarize what I heard as the main points of the conference. I would welcome clarifications or corrections regarding my summary from anyone else who was there or who may have listened to the messages over the Internet.

1. Not all errors are separation issues

    A. Separation issues are those issues that impact in some way the message or truth of the gospel (thus gospel-driven).

    B. The gospel in this sense should not be narrowly defined as just Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection but also issues that impact the gospel such as the apostolic witness, the person of Christ, future judgment, and certain behaviors.

    C. Issues that do not undercut the gospel are not separation issues but:

        • May still be exposed as error, even significant error
        • May still be contended for, perhaps even vigorously
        • May still impact areas of cooperation, fellowship, or interaction

2. If the error warrants gospel-driven separation, then:

    A. Consistent separatists will not fellowship with those who practice this error (i.e., they will always separate) – 1st degree separation

    B. Consistent separatists will also withhold fellowship from those who do not separate over gospel-driven issues – 2nd degree separation

    C. Inconsistent separatists (are these the Bauder/Machen Indifferentists?) do not always (i.e., maybe never, maybe most of the time – there is a spectrum here) practice 2nd degree separation (as defined above) BUT do always practice 1st degree separation

3. It is a gospel-impacting wrong to not practice 2nd degree separation (i.e., to be an inconsistent separatist), thus warranting (3rd degree?) separation but it is not a gospel-impacting wrong to not practice this level of separation. Therefore, lack of (3rd degree?) separation may be:

    A. Cautioned against as an error in judgment/wisdom
    B. May impact areas of cooperation, fellowship, or interaction
    C. The response depends in some measure on the nature of the inconsistency

4. Examples of non-gospel-driven separation errors (although there may be manifestation of each of these errors that do cross the line to undercut the gospel):

    A. Music
    B. Non-Cessationism
    C. Mode of Baptism/Paedobaptism
    D. Non-Young Earth Creationism
    E. KJVOism
    F. Arminianism

I’m not sure I captured point 3 correctly. At the very least, there are probably some terminology issues. If I heard Dave Doran correctly, he said that he would separate from (or not fellowship with) those who do not practice 2nd degree separation but would not separate from those who don’t practice that same level of (3rd degree?) separation. I take that to mean that lack of 2nd degree separation falls into the “gospel-driven separation” category, thus necessitating separation as from a disobedient brother.

The benefits of this method of categorization are that (1) it prevents the absurd notion of nth degree separation – there is a natural, gospel-driven end point; and (2) it allows evaluation without the increasingly irrelevant labeling (due to the fracturing of both fundamentalism and evangelicalism) that historically guided our separation decisions.

Labels: , ,