October 13, 2011

Secondary Separation - an article by Daniel Chew

In light of the rampant confusion on this issue, which has caused some pretty big blowups over the last couple years.  It is extremely ironic that it ends up separating friends, usually because the ones who don't actually hold to 'secondary separation' end up publicly attacking those who do and who go about trying to make a Biblical case for it.  So in light of the recent events in Chicago and James Macdonald's agenda with the Elephant Room, it might be good to return to a great article written by Daniel Chew about a year and a half ago.

Piper, Warren and the Doctrine of Separation
I have previously written an article on the doctrine of separation, which is indeed commanded biblically as per 2 Jn. 9-11. Those who refuse to separate from heretics are reckoned as being partakers of their evil deeds. As I have said on the issue of secondary separation:

Now, since these errant believers are not immoral, nor do they hold on to serious doctrinal error, such separation seemed strange and even sinful. After all, we as the body of Christ ought to be united, since Jesus did prayed for unity among believers, and that this unity is a testimony to the world that they may believe that Jesus is of God (Jn. 17:21). However, unity is not an absolute good, since unity with the world is an anathema before God. We are told in Rom. 12:18 to live peacefully with all, so far as it depends on us; or in other words, as much as we are able to. Unity is good, but unity is not something that we should work for, but something which we are to work towards. Put simply, unity is found in Christ, and we must be united to Christ, THEN united with each other, not the other way around.

The question is to be asked as to the rationale behind second-degree separation from compromisers of the faith. The rationale behind second-degree separation is the same behind that of first degree separation — holiness. Second degree separation is done because of holiness. As much as we should want unity within the body of Christ, unity is not to be purchased by compromising our obedience to God in holiness. When we collaborate with unbelievers in ministry, our witness for God is compromised, and that's why it is wrong to do so. Similarly, when we collaborate with compromisers in ministry instead of reproving them, we are sharing in their sins. Our witness for God is sullied, as we are then associated with the heretics they work with. Furthermore, by not rebuking them for their sins, we actually hate them rather than love these compromisers (Prov. 27:5-6).

Now, there are a few concerns with regards to this doctrine. The first is the example of the present-day group of Fundamentalists, who have embraced the doctrine of separation with an unnatural zeal, to the extant of distortion into separatism What, then is the difference between separation and separatism? Separatism is the promotion of the doctrine of separation to the extant that we are to cut ourselves off and isolate ourselves off from any taint of evil and/or compromise. In other words, for the separatist, the principle stated in Jn. 17: 11-16 should read "Be not of this world nor in this world " instead of "Be not of this world though in the world". Yes, to a certain extent, we should 'isolate' ourselves from the world (Jude 1:20-23), but such isolation is only with regards to holiness, not that we are to 'let the world go to hell'. What is the difference, then? We are to be holy in the sense that we do not compromise our own walk with God nor our witness before God, but we should be actively reaching out to others for God (Mt. 28:18-20; Jude 1:22-23), and the latter makes the difference between the two. Another thing distinctive of separatism is the fact that the doctrine of unity is neglected. Unity is important, and we are told to be united as much as we can (Jn. 17:21 ; Rom. 12:18). The working principle for all Christians is that we should be as united as much as it is possible to be so; not a unity at all costs, but we should desire unity if possible without compromise. Somehow, separatism neglects this and in fact may even promote schism, instead of asking us to preserve the unity of the church where possible.

The second legitimate concern is with regards to its implementation. If second-degree separation is practiced, then wouldn't this cascade into third-degree, fourth-degree, or higher degree separation, and if such, there would be no end and then wouldn't we have to separate ourselves from almost all Christians? This question, however, betrays a misunderstanding of the doctrine of separation in its implementation, which would be addressed here.

Read more at Daniel's Place