Wednesday, November 16

Fundamentalism and Its Critics: A Response from Dr. McCune

In a previous post, I mentioned an inconsistency I had noticed regarding the response of some to Dr. McCune's remarks during a panel discussion at the recent ACCC convention. Dr. McCune has written this piece.

Dr. Rolland D. McCune is Professor of Systematic Theology at the
Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, Michigan. He has written many scholarly articles in the seminary journal, along with a recently published book entitled Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism.



FUNDAMENTALISM AND ITS CRITICS
Rolland D. McCune

November 2005

Judging from some of the response to the comments I made recently about the so-called Young Fundamentalist movement (some confess the name and some disclaim it, but it is likely to stick for quite a while longer), I obviously exposed several raw nerves and evoked some further ongoing expressions of deep-seated contempt, dislike, if not unrighteous anger, toward fundamentalism. Allow me to enlarge my general thinking a bit, at least on some of the public outcries, rebuttals, and obvious antipathy to fundamentalists and fundamentalism. These expressions are not only from the younger men and women within the general pale of fundamentalism but are made also by the uninformed, ill-informed, learned and unlearned, of whatever ecclesiastical stripe or movement. Fundamentalism has been a favorite whipping boy of religionists for a long time. But generally I have in mind those on the left fringes of fundamentalism but also non-fundamentalists within the broader evangelical enclave.

To begin, too much of the ever-recurring criticism of fundamentalism comes across to me as extremely wistful illusions that one has a right to be free from 60 years of fundamentalist history and exegesis in order to build a "Make Your Own Fundamentalism" kit. But that will not and can not hold up, for self-evident reasons. Exegetical and historical documents have a persistent way of intruding themselves into the discussion, and they virtually scream out their right to be recognized. To ignore this mountain of evidence is sloppy scholarship and thinking at its worst. I have concluded that for many there is no amount of exegesis that will ever convince them of the fundamentalist position on the subject of ecclesiastical separation. The exegetically based preaching, writing, and reasoning by fundamentalists of the last several decades on 2 Thess 3, et al., especially about separation from compromising brethren, is almost routinely met with a DOA response by those determined on a contrary course. Proposals are sometimes made that what is needed is a truly comprehensive formulation that must supplant the supposedly bob-tailed doctrine of the last five or six decades, or some fresh, new insights to inject into the dying old doctrine and practice. That gets wearisome after a while. While there is no separation-made-easy NT doctrine and practice, these new ideas neither improve the doctrine nor truly enhance the fortunes of those would-be fundamentalists who adopt them. And make no mistake about it, the doctrine of organizational separation is still "the dividing line" that separates fundamentalism from what Kipling termed the "lesser breeds without the law." A denial of that patent fact nullifies one's right to participate in the public arena on the subject, fundamentalists (young, old, would-be, won't-be) and non-fundamentalists alike.

Similarly, no amount of historical evidence will ever be enough to bring certain ones up to speed on the fundamentalist separatist position. They ignore, seemingly wilfully, the controversy with the new evangelicalism in the 1940s and 50s, insisting instead on going back to the great controversy with modernism in the 1920s as the paradigm for fundamentalism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. That will not stand either. Such historical leapfrogging and revisionism is inexcusable; there is an abundance of contrary evidence readily available. Now it may be that for some it is just plain ignorance of history. If so, I would recommend they do their homework on the subject. For the rest, I can only marvel at their disingenuousness toward the evidence, if not their gullibility for the misinterpretation and/or misinformation out there, or downright dishonesty with the facts of history. This also gets to be very tiresome to some of us with more experience, longer memories, and far more extensive research in the subject. How much time can we give, or slack can we cut, for those who manifestly don't, and won't, ever "get it?"

The frequently-heard "sinking ship, beyond repair, lost battle, hi-jacked movement, I think I might walk away some day" mentality about the fundamentalist movement also begins to sound a little adolescent and desperate. Such can often be interpreted fairly as old-fashioned whining, cries of wolf, or not-too-veiled threats of some kind. Hopefully, this is not the case. These notes are especially compounded when they are founded on the aforementioned assertions and argumentation based on out-of-touch exegetical and historical presuppositions. This is not to question anyone's right to say and think as he/she may wish (is America a great country or what?), but it does call into question their right to be heard. This is because their vitae/credentials often are short and their qualifications suspect to be so vocal and opinionated in public discussion. My comment on those who are contemplating a shift to whatever new movement, person, or association is that their abandonment of the "sinking ship" would be to board a "sunken ship" of whatever shape or design. I further urge again that their new ecclesial quarters not be termed fundamentalism or a form of hyphenated fundamentalism. That would be misleading and unfair to everyone, including themselves. I have never seen anyone leave the ranks of biblical, historical fundamentalism for a stronger testimony to the truth. The opposite is the case; the downward trajectory of the switch is usually quite discernible in a year or two.

Occasionally one hears the idea that the number of complaints against fundamentalism, or the alleged exodus of our brightest and best, is cause for a reassessment of the whole movement. This presupposes some kind of census theology, that the number of criticisms and/or dissidens determine a movement's lack of worth. But there are multiplied millions who object to Jesus Christ and the biblical path to heaven. These we rightfully dismiss as the thinking of determined unbelievers. The number-of-complaints objection bears no weight and is a worthless criterion of truth.

On those bases I have made the suggestion that for the critics within our ranks it is probably time for them simply to make the break with fundamentalism and get it over with. What is the point of staying in a fellowship that is so foreign to their aspirations and understanding of Scripture and history? This is not to indict, judge, and sentence particularly, or to single out especially, the younger thinkers in the general fundamentalist fold. But it does appear to be patently advisable for those who seem continually to be dissatisfied with the fundamentalist movement and who are still wallowing in some kind of anguish over the likes of J. Frank Norris, Jack Hyles, or others to whom they may point, most of whom are now dead. Isn't it about time for them finally to "get over it?" For some to say that they are fundamentalists and will always be fundamentalists, but then come perilously close to enunciating near hatred for the movement, is to engage in double talk and sheer nonsense. They appear to want to craft a new and different fundamentalism of their liking in distinction from the historic movement. May I remind us all that these were the precise thoughts of Harold John Ockenga, the father and high priest of the new evangelicalism: "Doctrinally, the fundamentalists are right, and I wish to be always classified as one" (Evangelical Roots, ed. Kenneth Kantzer [Nashville: Thomas Nelson,1978], p. 40). As well, the founding of Fuller Theological Seminary and the whole new evangelical experiment was an effort at "reforming fundamentalism." Merely clinging to some doctrinal "fundamentals" did not, and does not, constitute one a fundamentalist or give him a moral platform to cleanse the fundamentalist movement of its perceived structural sins.

To be sure, fundamentalism has had those who did not live up to its biblical and historic ideals, but so does any group--- evangelicalism, hyphenated evangelicalism, independency, et al. Even NT Christianity itself has more than its share of such. Is it thereby a "sinking ship?" It has been criticized by myriads of dissatisfied people, some even within its own ranks, has suffered numerical shrinkage, and is destined to continue doing so until the eschaton. But so what? What is that supposed to mean in terms of the legitimacy of the movement and its future? Obviously nothing. Is the servant greater than his Master in this regard? We have long inveighed against those who will not become genuine Christians because "there are hypocrites in the church" that they knew or heard about second- and third-handed. Why do we object to, and reject, that tired old unbelieving bromide? It is because hypocrites do not define Christianity. Neither do anecdotal incidents of inconsistency define fundamentalism, or any movement. Through the years I have witnessed plenty of disturbance among Bible-believing people that emanated from Hammond, IN and the "big-bus" innovations, as well as the rather unique church elder polity that came out of sunny California. Preachers have come back from various conferences all buzzed up by new proposals of some kind. Many faithful people have had to pick up the pieces of their churches after the tornado of new ideas or fads hit town, and I have been called in on occasion to help some of them regroup and forge ahead. It happens all the time. No movement or following of a skillful leader can escape its sometimes overzealous and/or unsavory devotees. This works both ways, for fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists alike.

Those who are stuck in a 1920s definition of fundamentalism and/or whose focus is on the bad examples within its ranks cannot prescribe the beliefs, boundaries, and fortunes of the 21st century struggle of truth with falsehood. Mature minded and teachable fundamentalists, young and old, can see through all this. I would counsel the chronic complainants in our midst to begin to do likewise because they will find the exact same problems in their new ecclesial surroundings, whomever, wherever, or whatever their new-found fellowship may be. History and human experience, if nothing else, point unmistakably in that direction.

I have taught and worked in the seminary arena and have interacted with hundreds of young fundamentalist students for nearly 40 years. I am fully cognizant of the improvements we all can make and must say that I and my fundamentalist colleagues have been working with diligent self-awareness to upgrade fundamentalist scholarship in order to bring doctrinal, exegetical, and historical accuracy, text-based expositional preaching, and the formation of a biblical philosophy of ministry and doing church. Other fundamentalists could say the same. It is disheartening, therefore, to see and hear those who would discount our movement on the basis of a personal peeve, insult, or some other reason that is not really justifiable. And, quite frankly, none has been more contentious and uncharitable than some from within our own professing fundamentalist movement.

My response here may seem a bit forward and blunt, but after our movement has suffered more than 60 years of hearing essentially the same questions asked and the same objections made repeatedly, maybe straight talk by someone is appropriate. If so, I make my own appeal to the principle that the apostle Paul spelled out in his patient associations with the problem-laden and divided church at Corinth: 1 Corinthians 4:21.

27 Comments:

Blogger you don't want to know said...

Amen, Dr. McCune.

November 16, 2005 4:07 PM  
Blogger Scott Aniol said...

The straight talk was, indeed, appropriate. And appreciated.

November 16, 2005 4:52 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Very timely, Dr. McCune. Thank you.

November 16, 2005 9:49 PM  
Blogger Andy Rupert said...

Years of experience allow someone like Dr. McCune to speak with a whip as did Paul. I think this is very timely and regardless of the result believe that it needed to be said.

Arguing with non-fundamentalists has proven to be unprofitable for the most part. Sure, I hope some will choose to join us, but it would be best for many to leave. Church splits are not always bad.

November 16, 2005 10:07 PM  
Blogger Michael Riley said...

As always, Dr. McCune, you have my highest respect. I hold you in the same high esteem that you hold your systematic theology professor, Dr. McClain. I thank God for your ministry at DBTS, and I am proud to say that both my theology and church history are formed by your teaching. Thank you for helping us young guys see that there is no new thing under the sun.

November 17, 2005 12:53 AM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

With respect, Dr. McCune, in what ways would you assert that the definition of fundamentalism changed in the 1940's and 1950's? I don't see any historical evidence that the movement changed at all. The New Evangelicals separated from us, did they not? We did not separate from them. Of course, shortly after this period, fundamentalism began to withdraw from society in a more comprehensive manner with the establishment of our Christian schools and the elevation of external standards as a basis of separation. The issue became one of control and dare I say pride?

It's interesting that you suscribe to a "people do not have the right to be heard" mentality. It sounds very controling and, as you unapologetically admit, cavalier.

Is it not exegetically honest to recognize that there are legitimate points of disagreement with regard to the interpretation of so-called secondary separation passages?

Is it honest indeed to assert that while fundamentalism in many respects is indeed sinking, that all other venues are already sunken? Do you really believe that only fundamentalism carries the truth of the Scripture afloat today? All other ground is sinking sand?

The reason that I appeal to the 1920's definition of fundamentalism is because today the splintering of the movement has resulted in a lack of unity in its contemporary definition. Adding the KJVO position or defining acceptable music in a certain way, etc., has redefined the movement. The only revising of history that is going on today is with those who would make fundamentalism more narrow than its founders intended. Fundamentalism is a broad movement and should be kept as such, although I have some personal doubt about the usefulness of fundamentalism today due in large part to its seeming lack of purpose.

Although I agree that separation is indeed the sine qua non of fundamentalism, I find it disturbing that some, including you, will lead others to the plank over the issue of secondary separation. This is a legitimate debate. Our controversy with the New Evangelicals was not an issue of secondary separation; rather, it was primary separation. Why can't a fundamentalist today continue to be defined as a separatist if he does not concur with secondary separation? My thought? CONTROL, plain and simple. This approach, however, will not do. Many of us can exegete Scripture soundly as well. We see the elevation of application to interpretation and we see the foolishness of that demand.

As long as fundamentalism sees the purity of its movement to be found within a certain level of rigid separatism not conclusively proven in Scripture, we will remain divided. As such, this house cannot stand.

November 17, 2005 11:31 AM  
Blogger Mark Perry said...

Brian, it seems like there is a whole segment of Christianity who would heartily agree with your position: conservative evangelicalism.

November 17, 2005 11:41 AM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

Probably so, or left-wing fundamentalism maybe if I could actually define the movement, which I can't?

November 17, 2005 11:46 AM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

This is what I find so interesting about fundamentalism today. John R. Rice could associate with Assembly of God preachers and no one would dare not call him a fundamentalist. Today, however, if you don't hold to a strict secondary separation position, you can't be considered a true fundamentalist. That's revisionist, in my opinion. I like what Rice says to separate over "fundamentals not incidentals."

November 17, 2005 11:58 AM  
Blogger Greg Linscott said...

Brian,

Help me here. What is the difference bewteen the direction you are referring to and say, the trail blazed by Jerry Falwell and the folks at Liberty U, for one specific example?

November 17, 2005 12:33 PM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

What about Falwell and LU specifically? That they are or are not fundamentalist? I would have counted Falwell a fundamentalist for much of his ministry until he repudiated separation by associating with false teachers like Benny Hinn and Kenneth Hagin.

November 17, 2005 1:13 PM  
Blogger Michael Riley said...

To all here who value good discussion: please stop feeding the troll.

November 17, 2005 3:23 PM  
Blogger Mark Perry said...

Good point, Mike.

November 17, 2005 5:12 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Brian:

1. I don't think that you are talking the same language when you make your argument against secondary separation. Please read what Dr. McCune has written about the matter of separation and I think you will find that the term is not the point of debate; it is the idea. All separation is a matter of obedience and where you seem to differ with us is that we believe that separation is demanded when it comes to believers who disobey God's commands regarding separation.

2. If you will re-examine the debates about fundmaentalism that happened through the years, you will find that there were plenty of men who believe the John R. Rice departed from fundamentalism when he changed his position regarding the matter of separation from disobedient brothers. His basis for this was very weak arguments from a few texts. It is no surprise that both Jack Van Impe and Jerry Falwell appealed to the teaching of Rice as the basis for their departures from separatism.

3. You really need to re-think your assessment of Falwell in light of the published arguments on this subject (Fund Phenomenon; Dobson's In Search of Unity, etc), and on the basis of his praise for Billy Graham, etc.

November 17, 2005 7:33 PM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

Hi Dave,

I don't know who you are but I'll respond to your post the best I can.

You said,

"...I think you will find that the term is not the point of debate; it is the idea. All separation is a matter of obedience and where you seem to differ with us is that we believe that separation is demanded when it comes to believers who disobey God's commands regarding separation."

That is true, Dave. I have not been convinced from Scripture that I am to "separate" from people I do not know and have not confronted. I do believe in separation from disobedient brothers, after the biblically prescribed process of church discipline has been enacted.

You said,

"...John R. Rice departed from fundamentalism when he changed his position regarding the matter of separation from disobedient brothers."

Did Dr. Rice change his position on the subject? I was not aware of that.

You said,

"You really need to re-think your assessment of Falwell in light of the published arguments on this subject."

My assessmnet of Falwell is that he engages in fellowship with apostates. Am I wrong in not calling him a fundamentalist? Or are you saying he never was one to begin with?

November 17, 2005 10:50 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Brian, you said:

"Today, however, if you don't hold to a strict secondary separation position, you can't be considered a true fundamentalist."

Could you define for me a "strict secondary separation position"? If you mean what I think you mean, then you are mistaken in your understanding of fundamentalism, from the 1920s on. But I just want to be sure of your definition before I start throwing rocks!!!!

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

November 18, 2005 12:05 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Brian,

I don't have a problem with viewing separation as an extention of church discipline, but would argue that public disobedience does not require a process of personal confrontation (cf. 1 Cor 5). I doubt that you mean that you would not separate from Billy Graham because you have not confronted him or don't "know" him (I assume this means something like have a personal relationship with him). Obviously, we have a problem because we haven't defined the word separation here--I would take it as very broad, e.g., warning church members about the ecumenical compromise of someone who they might see on TV or receive info from in the mail; certainly to mean not participating in any cooperative effort with him. I don't know Billy Graham and have never confronted him personally, but I would clearly separate from him. Wouldn't you?

And Graham is a perfect place to show where Rice changed his position. In the 50s and 60s, RIce took a stand against Graham which called for separation from him. Since Graham was a brother in Christ, Rice was advocating separation from a disobedient brother. He published articles in the SWOTL by men opposed to the New Evangelicalism. In the 70s, he turned a new direction and began to argue that "secondary separation" was unbiblical. I will grant that some of his motivation was because its application was getting very difficult, but he went on record with a position that was poorly defended biblically, contrary to his actual practice, and opened the door for the path of compromise taken by Van Impe and Falwell (and others).

As for Falwell, your first post said that Falwell was not a fundmanetalist because of his connections to Hinn and Hagin (which I didn't even know about). My point was to challenge that by pointing you to Falwell's own published record prior to that time. He had repubdiated separatist fundamentalsm prior to the PTL deal. Granted, by your definition, he's a fundamentalist. But it is your definition that I disagree with. I do find reassurance of my view in that men like John Woodbridge, a thoroughly committed new evangelical historian, believe that Falwell broke from fundamentalism over to the evangelical position.

Brian, the basic point is that you are making the same arguments that were made several times before in the history of this debate. I certainly hope you won't take the next step, but historically it seems to look something like this: will this person professes to be a believer and manifests a genuine heart for God, so how can we separate from him merely because he has some doctrinal problems. No one ever decides that they want to embrace the enemies of the Lord; they just gradually lose the ability to distinguish the difference.

Please think about it.

November 18, 2005 8:23 AM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

Don,

You said,

"Could you define for me a "strict secondary separation position"?"

The example I would use is John MacArthur. One of the primary reasons I have been told I should "separate" from him is because he associates with Mohler who associates with Graham. The thing is, I don't associate with MacArthur. I have no reason to separate from him. How would I do it to begin with?

Dave you said,

"Obviously, we have a problem because we haven't defined the word separation here--I would take it as very broad, e.g., warning church members about the ecumenical compromise of someone who they might see on TV or receive info from in the mail; certainly to mean not participating in any cooperative effort with him."

This is exactly the issue, Dave. I remain unconvinced that the Bible prescribes a type of "separation" as you defined it. Separation, from every text I have looked at, is the result of church discipline. Sure, you can warn your flock; in fact, I would agree that we're obligated to as pastors. But ecclesiastical separation is a local church action that is designed to restore, Lord willing, a disobedient brother. Even in 1 Cor. 5, it is a local church that is taking the action of those within their midst. Granted, these categories are exceptions to the normal deliberative process and are on a fast-track approach.

My problem with the "secondary separation" issue being held up as essential to being a fundamentalist is that it is not a biblical concept as it being practiced today. In theory, secondary separation is really only separating from someone who doesn't separate. In the local church, that may be an issue which needs to be addressed from time to time. However, this has not been the practice of fundamentalists; rather, secondary separation seems to be more of a posturing, of creating an identity, even though we frequently "separate" from people we may never meet. I do not see biblical justification for separating over this kind of posturing. It is, in my opinion, an excuse to be more "holy" than others and to compare ourselves among ourselves. Someone once said that wasn't wise.

How can I biblically separate from John MacArthur, a man I have never met and do not associate with? Show me from Scripture. I'm not saying here that he is not a disobedient brother; I'm asking how I am to separate from him, biblically. How will my "separation" help to confront or restore him?

November 18, 2005 10:53 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Brian,

A few comments:

(1) You don't answer the question about Graham, but the implications of your arguments is that you cannot and would not separate from him. In what ways is he different than John MacArthur as it pertains to location or not being a member of your church? There is no difference. So, for whatever reasons you can or should separate from Billy Graham also supply the reasons for any other disobedient brother who is not a part of your local assembly.

(2) It seems that an implication of your argument regarding secondary separation would also mean that you would not separate from apostate teachers and ministries since they are not within your congregaton and subject to church discipline? I am sure you don't believe this, but on what principled ground do you distinguish the two cases? If the NT texts only apply to the exercise of church discipline within a local assembly, then the whole concept of ecclesiastical separation is bogus. BTW, is church discipline really ecclesiastical separation (a term which describes the relationship of ecclesias)?

(3) Your question about MacArthur is the wrong kind of question (sort of like, Have you stopped beating your wife yet?). The issue is whether there should be a breach of fellowship between someone like you and MacArthur. That question addresses the point of immediate concern--whether there should or should not be a relationship. The secondary concern would be something like how would this be implemented? Problems answering the second do not invalidate the first.

(4) Perhaps it would be good to think about the implications of statements that are not directly tied to church discipline contexts, e.g., Phil 3:17-19; Rom 16:17; 2 Jn 9-11. Don't these texts imply a broad responsibility to withdraw from those who are defective in some matter of doctrine or life? If so, then it establishes the principle that believers have a responsibility to choice wisely their companions and ministry models.

If I may, again, urge you to reconsider some of these things. I am concerned that over the past few months your positions have become more defined and strident against positions traditionally associated with ministry's like yours. You seem to be arguing yourself away from your heritage. Obviously, if you are convinced that such a move is demanded biblically, then you ought to do that. And that was McCune's point from the beginning. I think he was right.

November 18, 2005 11:48 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Brian,

Dave is right. You need to soberly rethink where you are going.

Now let me ask you another question. When Bob Ketcham refused to go back to the meetings of the National Baptist Convention, did he or did he not break fellowship with men who were true believers?

These events happened in 1928, the era of the 'historic fundamentalists'. The men involved walked away from brethren who would not join them in separating from apostasy. Were they right or wrong?

Your question about MacArthur reflects the fact that you have not truly understood what happened in the 20s. The events of the 20s established the philosophy of fundamentalism.

The reason we have difficulties with MacArthur is that he has been and is less discriminating about his associations than we would like. How would we separate from him today? We wouldn't go down the same path, hang with the same crowd, attend his meetings (especially when they are "ecumenical lite", like when he appeared on a platform with Franklin Graham, Anne Graham Lotz and Greg Laurie), etc. We wouldn't support him if he showed up in town to preach in a local evangelical congregation (as he has done here). We wouldn't recommend his books, at least not without a caution.

Why would we do this? To affect MacArthur? Hardly. To be a responsible minister to the flock God has given us.

You have influence over God's people, Brian. Your statements, associations, and so on will affect their spiritual lives. That's why we take these things seriously and mark out errors where they exist.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

November 18, 2005 12:15 PM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

Dave,

Is Graham a disobedient brother? Yes.

You said,

"It seems that an implication of your argument regarding secondary separation would also mean that you would not separate from apostate teachers and ministries since they are not within your congregaton and subject to church discipline? I am sure you don't believe this, but on what principled ground do you distinguish the two cases?"

I have been speaking to the issue of secondary separation. Of course, I would separate from false teachers! But tell me what that means in a NT context!

You said,

"BTW, is church discipline really ecclesiastical separation (a term which describes the relationship of ecclesias)?"

I have not been shown anything biblically to the contrary.

You said,

"Perhaps it would be good to think about the implications of statements that are not directly tied to church discipline contexts, e.g., Phil 3:17-19; Rom 16:17; 2 Jn 9-11. Don't these texts imply a broad responsibility to withdraw from those who are defective in some matter of doctrine or life? If so, then it establishes the principle that believers have a responsibility to choice wisely their companions and ministry models."

Thank you for bringing Scripture into this conversation. By the way, I believe you are right in your final statement to the extent that we need to choose wisely our companions.

I don't see how Phil. 3:17-19 applies to separation at all. I do see the value of warning people about the wrong choices/consequences of others. But I see no separation here.

Romans 16:17, however, does tell us to literally shun divisive people. Whether these were within or without the church, we don't really know, but we are commanded to shun them. I would not want to spend time with Billy Graham. This passage does not, however, answer my question about secondary separation. Shunning someone does nothing unless I have the ability to fellowship with them in the first place.

2 John 9-11 seems to be addressing apostates, not disobedient brothers. Again, the implication is "if they come to you" then I act. Then I separate.

I repeat: I unequivocably believe in separation from unregenerate false teachers and unrepentant sinning brothers. I believe in those. Yet, I continue to be cast as someone who doesn't belong in fundamentalism. That is baffling to me.

Don, you said,

"When Bob Ketcham refused to go back to the meetings of the National Baptist Convention, did he or did he not break fellowship with men who were true believers?"

Sure he did, but he had fellowship with him to begin with.

You said,

"You need to soberly rethink where you are going."

If anyone thinks I am approaching this topic from a cavalier or ambivalent perspective, you are dead wrong. I am concerned with one thing: knowing and living the truth. I see fractioning of this movement in large part due to this postering over who separates enough from whom? I have taken the time to study the passages over and over again. I'm not seeing where I need to separate where there is no relationship to begin with. I'm not seeing a separation without regard for restoration, at least in regard to unrepentent disobedient brothers.

How am I heading down a direction here? How am repeating the mistakes of the New Evangelicals? I'm not going to fellowship with Billy Graham. I'm not going to attend his crusades. I'm not repudiating separation. I'm calling for a biblical defense of this secondary separation. I have read Dr. McCune's writings. I have seen the exegesis of Minnick and others on 2 Thess. 3. I agree in large part with their interpretation.

I'm concerned about the direction some are setting for fundamentalism, yes my heritage, in regards to what I see as extreme separatism that is not biblically founded or illustrated.

I'm not trying to change anyone's minds. I'm trying to get this settled in mine.

November 18, 2005 1:36 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Brian,

I assumed that since we were discussing the application of biblical principles, there was no need to continually offer references to you. Perhaps this assumption on my part was mistaken.

I am confused by the request to tell you what separating from false teachers in "a NT context" means. I was trying to find out how your stated position of treating ecclesiastical separation as synonymous with church discipline works when dealing with something like the apostate church in town (something 2 Cor 6 would demand). I understood, perhaps mistakenly, you to mean that separation can only happen when someone needs to be removed from your assembly (that's why it can't be done toward Graham, etc.). This last post seems to confirm that impression.

I don't believe this concept holds up to the statements of Scripture or the normal process of application. When Paul warned believers (and it was incorporated into Scripture) about people like Hymenaeus and Alexander, wasn't he marking them out as folks to be separate from? I don't think he was troubled by hypotheticals about whether the readers would actually encounter these people. He was asserting a position that was consistent with biblical truth. That is what we do when we mark of Billy Graham. It isn't an exercise in futility; it is establishing the bounds of fellowship before they are tested.

Re: application, there is biblical warrant for identifying the implications of biblical statements and then acting accordingly. In the case of separation, the process works quite simply. One stream would be Bible statements about kinds of people and teachings that should lead to removal from the local assembly. The implication, then, is that the local church would act consistently with those principles in its relations with other churches, ministries, teachers, etc. It is contrary to sound hermeneutics and theology to demand that implications be ignored or that we must have a direct statement of something. (Such an approach would be distinctly non-trinitarian.)

I imagine we both have other things that can occupy our time. I have made the mistake of opening discussions on two blogs at once, so I better close out here and go tussle with the Unknowing gang.

November 18, 2005 3:05 PM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

Dave,

I appreciate the exchange. I think the most significant statement in your last post is:

"That is what we do when we mark of Billy Graham. It isn't an exercise in futility; it is establishing the bounds of fellowship before they are tested."

If the purpose of separation is indeed the establishing of boundaries of fellowship before they are tested, then my premise is faulty. I need to look more into the "warning" and "marking" that went on in the NT.

I think I know who you are now, and hope that none of my remarks were disrespectful as I believe you are my elder. They were not intended to be.

November 18, 2005 4:17 PM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

I was not clear in my distinction of separation from disobedient brothers and separation from apostates.

I would view the former as more of a process while I view the latter as static. In the church, we try to resolve issues of disobedience through escalating confrontation. With apostates, we make no effort to resolve or compromise or tolerate. I think this bears out with the NT passages.

November 18, 2005 5:26 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Brian - the following is from your reply to me:

"When Bob Ketcham refused to go back to the meetings of the National Baptist Convention, did he or did he not break fellowship with men who were true believers?"

Sure he did, but he had fellowship with him to begin with.


I don't understand your answer, and I suspect that you are missing my point.

You seem to be arguing that separation is only legitimate when we are separating from apostates. Please correct me if I am wrong here.

My point was that Ketcham et al separated from true believers right from the beginning. The so-called "Historic Fundamentalists" practiced "secondary separation" in the beginning of the movement. I am trying to make the case that separation is not as narrowly limited as I think you are saying.

Is that idea getting through, whether you agree or not?

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

November 18, 2005 10:09 PM  
Blogger Brian McCrorie said...

Don,

My point was simply that Ketchum had fellowship with these men prior to his separating from them. I don't deny separation from disobedient brothers.

My point of contention with secondary separation is that we "separate" from people with whom we have no affiliation to begin with. Such separation seems needless and pointless and lacks biblical support, although I am seeking to understand why "warning" and "marking" people is considered separation by some.

I always thought that separation from disobedient brothers was the final act of a deliberative process established in Matthew 18 for a local church in an attempt to restore them to fellowship.

Dave brought up some biblical texts and I tried to address them honestly. I just don't see any biblical rationale for "separating" when there is no contact with the person being separated from. Seems to me to be more of a postering, many times to compare against others' posturing to see who is the most separated.

November 18, 2005 11:50 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Brian

Ok, I think I see what you are saying. A few comments:

My point of contention with secondary separation is that we "separate" from people with whom we have no affiliation to begin with. Such separation seems needless and pointless and lacks biblical support, although I am seeking to understand why "warning" and "marking" people is considered separation by some.

So are we talking about semantic confusion? I would suggest that the way we use the term 'separation' is to make it a sort of umbrella term that covers all of these other possibilities. It also appears to define a mind-set that will govern how a fundamentalist will function. It seems to me that you are trying to press the meaning of separation here too woodenly, and not acknowledging the current use of the term as it reflects our history.

I always thought that separation from disobedient brothers was the final act of a deliberative process established in Matthew 18 for a local church in an attempt to restore them to fellowship.

That is not what Ketcham did. He quit going to the NBC. There was no local church deliberative process. It wasn't a local church decision. It was his decision. I think you are wrong to attempt to limit this to local church only. I suppose that is a debate for another place. Perhaps I should look into your threads on separation passages on SI.

I just don't see any biblical rationale for "separating" when there is no contact with the person being separated from. Seems to me to be more of a postering, many times to compare against others' posturing to see who is the most separated.

I do agree that there is a lot of foolish posturing that goes on. I once got a letter from a guy whom I had never met informing me that he had separated from me. I tell you, I was so-o-o-o depressed!!!

I mention that to say that I completely understand this frustration. I am a separatist, a fundamentalist, and proud to identify myself as such. But we are often our own worst enemies. I think there are many in leadership in fundamentalism today who are labouring to minimize that kind of foolishness.

But I don't see that kind of foolishness as reason to give up on the concept. Or to jump ship!

Anyway, I do understand what you are saying a bit better, I think, and will interact with you more elsewhere I am sure. Blog on!

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

November 19, 2005 2:22 AM  

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