There is a great deal of confusion today among Christians regarding “primary separation” and “secondary separation”. Contrary to popular belief, primary and secondary separation in the past were practiced by more than just Independent Fundamentalist Baptists. I would say both primary and secondary separation were practiced by many evangelical denominations, during the years of approximately 1900-1942. That is, during the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy. (This article describes in detail the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy among Presbyterians. Similar conflicts were going on in many other denominations.)
Below I am providing excerpts from David C. Bennett’s excellent article about “primary separation” and “secondary separation”. Click here for the original text of his article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].
THE FUNDAMENTALIST & BIBLICAL SEPARATION,
by David C. Bennett, D. Min.
Being a fundamentalist and a separatist has historically gone hand in hand. Nevertheless, for some younger preachers of today there is no doctrine of the Christian faith that has alienated so many than this doctrine of ecclesiastical separation. Why is this? As one young pastor said “My generation didn’t go through the Fundamentalist-modernist battle; the fight over the RSV; the Billy Graham issue, etc.”
With that young pastor’s statement in mind we ought to consider firstly, what a Christian fundamentalist is? Professor David Beale wrote “Ideally, a Christian Fundamentalist is one who desires to reach out in love and compassion to people, he believes and defends the whole Bible as the absolute, inerrant and authoritative Word of God, and stands committed to the doctrine and practice of holiness. It is not even a mere literal exposition of the Bible. The essence of Fundamentalism goes much deeper than that. It is the unqualified acceptance of and obedience to the Scriptures.”
The second thing to bear in mind is; what comprises Biblical separation for a fundamentalist? Dr. H. T. Spence says that Biblical separation contains “…two sides: the horizontal, which separates us by the grace of God from sin, error, and compromise; and the vertical, which separates us in the grace of God unto purity, unity, and Christ.” If the separation from does not draw us in closer walk with the Lord it is not Biblical separation.
In the 1930 and 40’s the battles, of J. Frank Norris, Robert Ketcham and other “fighting” fundamentalists, were perhaps more evident for the clash was against those who openly proclaimed out and out unbelief and theological liberalism.
Then in the late 1940’s a theological name change was made when “NEW EVANGELICALISM” was coined. This name change “was born in 1948 at the convocation message delivered by Harold Ockenga in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. In that message, which was referenced in the forward to Harold Lindsell’s book, The Battle for the Bible, published in 1976, he said the following. ‘Neo-evangelicalism (Neo used interchangeably with New)…While affirming the theological view of fundamentalism, this address repudiated its ecclesiology and its social theory. The ringing call for a repudiation of separatism and the summons to social involvement received a hearty response from many evangelicals…It differed from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political and economic areas of life (Emphasis in the original).’” Rather than separation, an alliance between liberals and new evangelicals would continue.
Again it must be stated that the fighting fundamentalists such as J. Frank Norris, Bob Ketcham, W. B. Riley and others knew only too well who the “opponent” was. The adversary held the leadership positions of many churches, denominational organizations and schools. These liberals were very obvious for in their teaching and preaching they openly denied almost, if not every, cardinal doctrine of the faith. Separation was not a choice but a necessity if one was going to be obedient to the Scriptures.
The term “separation” can admittedly come across harsh, uncaring, unloving etc. etc. For example Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines separation thusly as the act of, “severing or disconnecting; disjunction; as the separation of the soul from the body. 2. The state of being separate; disunion; disconection. 3. The operation of disuniting”. These definitions set forth by Webster certainly fits the Biblical act of separation.
Undoubtedly one must be careful that their attitude is right toward others and there is not an attitude of superiority but rather an attitude of humility. Of course the personification of humility is the Lord Jesus Christ whom the fundamentalist should be following ever so closely…
Take a moment and think about it. The separatist position comes from the Bible, the Word of God itself! In the very first Book separation is seen through God’s division of “the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:4). [See also 1 John 1:5–7.]
On the second day God “divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament” Genesis 1: 7. Again division was necessary. On the third day “the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind” Genesis 1: 11…
In Deuteronomy 22:9 God [speaks about the separation of seed]. Peter picks up the importance of the seed in 1 Peter 1:23. Mixing the seed will produce unacceptable fruit and mixing spiritual truth and error produces unacceptable or bad fruit as well.
Following the teaching against mixing diverse seed the Lord then said “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together” Deuteronomy 22:10. God follows this Old Testament teaching in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17: “14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers… 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” The fundamentalist HAD to separate not only from the liberal BUT from the new evangelical as they continued to hold hands with the unbelievers and infidels.
As God spoke to the individual heart of such men as Bob Ketcham, J. Frank Norris and others “…each realized there were others of the same mind and heart as theirs. The root of their spiritual legacy was the preservation of the fundamentals of the Faith. Such a heart demanded a separation from the liberalism, modernism, and worldliness that had permanently polluted their places of worship and learning. A corporate organism was born; a movement arose across America during the latter part of the nineteenth century and flourished during the first four decades of the twentieth century.
In every Biblical movement there is always the inevitable tendency for a variety of factions to eventually emerge. There is the faction of the mixed multitude that attaches itself to the movement. There are also the individuals who personally leave the movement’s legacy. And then there are those who make shipwreck their Faith and thus begin to redesign the movement in accordance to their heart’s change. When this trinity of factions surfaces, and begins to erode the heart of the Fundamentalist movement, the term Fundamentalist changes in definition. The fundamentals no longer make the Fundamentalist, the organism becomes an organization, and the Fundamentalist becomes Fundamentalism. Thus the organization becomes more important than the fundamentals themselves. When such a transition is made, purity of practice is lessened in importance. The movement itself becomes a system of greater importance than its original heart. It affects everything: the personal life, the music, education, and the lifestyle in standards of dress and living. The reality of such a transition to take place in Fundamentalism destroys the heart of holiness, which is separation; and results in both the heart and the movement being redefined.
There is a movement among some of today’s fundamentalists who are mixing the seed of fundamentalism and evangelicalism. They (we will continue to call them fundamentalists) believe there is to be separation from the unbeliever and “new” evangelical of course, BUT, according to Central Seminary’s Kevin Bauder and some of his brethren, they believe the doctrine of ecclesiastical separation does not apply when it comes to the “conservative evangelical”. This designation “conservative evangelical” encompasses a wide spectrum of organizations and preachers.
Surprisingly or not surprisingly a Google search led to a blog entitled “Is This A Conservative Evangelical Blog?” In this blog the blogger says that “For most of my life, the words I have used most to describe my set of beliefs have been ‘Charismatic’ and ‘Evangelical’”. This man then seeks a definition for what he truly is and writes “The only other term I can come up with is “Conservative Evangelical”. He goes on to say that “as the bridges have been built (Emphasis added), and the neoliberal assaults have unfolded, I do think that bible-believing people from many different backgrounds have been finding that we have more in common with each other than we previously realized. The Internet and conferences such as Together For The Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and New Word Alive have all been a major force for that discovery.” So here we have a “charismatic evangelical”.
On the same blog a book written by this blogger has the recommendation of Southern Baptist Al Mohler, who Bauder considers a conservative evangelical. Bridges have and are being built and it is worth noting that what brings these “conservative evangelicals” together is; the GOSPEL! Just as the emphasis on missions, which is the taking of the gospel to others, brought the World Council of Churches into being so these organizations such as Together For The Gospel have been birthed under the banner of THE GOSPEL!
This is not a pick on Kevin Bauder paper but what he writes openly about, he must want people to read and therefore comments and judgments will be made. So therefore, to continue, Bauder says these “Conservative evangelicals are different from Fundamentalists, but they are not new evangelicals. New evangelicals were committed to a policy of re-infiltrating ecclesiastical organizations that had been captured by apostates. They wanted to live in peaceful coexistence with apostasy. They were willing to recognize certain apostates as fellow-Christians and to cooperate with them in the Lord’s work. These are attitudes that conservative evangelicals explicitly reject.” IS THAT SO?!
Who are some of these that Dr. Bauder considers conservative evangelicals and not new evangelicals? “Conservative evangelicalism encompasses a diverse spectrum of Christian leaders. Representatives include John Piper, Mark Dever, John MacArthur [see this 1999 article], Charles Ryrie, Bruce Ware, Bryan Chapell, Wayne Grudem, D. A. Carson, Al Mohler, Tim Keller, John D. Hannah, Ed Welch, Ligon Duncan, Tom Nettles, C. J. Mahaney, Norman Geisler, and R. C. Sproul [see this 2003 article]. Conservative evangelical organizations include Together for the Gospel (T4G), the Gospel Coalition, the Master’s Seminary, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (at least in its better moments), and Ligonier Ministries. These individuals and organizations exhibit a remarkable range of differences, but they can be classed together because of their vigorous commitment to and defense of the gospel.”
Al Mohler is one of Bauder’s conservative evangelicals and is a well known name among fundamentalists and evangelicals. Admittedly Al Mohler is a sought after speaker and is quoted by both religious and non-religious news outlets. However, remember, the key point of the new evangelical was “repudiation of separatism”. It would seem this is also the path of the “conservative evangelical” as well.
For example, Dr. Mohler wrote in his blog http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/04/23/this-man-was-no-moderate-the-legacy-of-cecil-sherman/ concerning Southern Baptist Cecil Sherman who died April 17th, 2010 at the age of 82.
[Bro. Bennett proceeds to provide various excerpts from Dr. Mohler’s blog, in which Dr. Mohler provides various examples of how liberal Cecil Sherman was. He cites examples of Dr. Sherman affirming evolution, denying an inerrant Bible, accomodating professors who deny the Virgin Birth.]
… By then [approximately 1981], Sherman was serving as Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a group of moderate Baptists who separated from the Southern Baptist Convention.” Here we have an out and out liberal working within a group that Al Mohler calls “moderate Baptists”!
It would seem the liberals are now the moderates and the moderates are the conservative evangelicals. Not once in this article did Dr. Mohler mention separating himself or the seminary of which he is president from the unbelief of Cecil Sherman! Not once was it mentioned that separation was necessary for spiritual and Biblical purity!
[Bennett goes on to give examples of how Dr. Mohler has not practiced separation, instead compromising with liberals.]
… [Dr. Nettleton] is now deceased but what he wrote years ago is still so very applicable today. Dr. Nettleton wrote “Today we are choosing between two alternatives. A LIMITED MESSAGE OR A LIMITED FELLOWSHIP. If we preach all of the Bible truths, there are many places where we will never be invited. If we join hands with the crowds, there will be limiting of the message of the Bible. Bear this in mind–it is the Baptist who lays aside the most! It is the fundamental Baptist who makes the concessions! Think this through and you will find it to be true. We believe in believer’s baptism. We believe in separation. We preach eternal security. We believe in the imminent coming of Christ. We consider it an act of obedience to reprove unbelief in religious circles. The Sadduccee and the Pharisee are to be labeled. But according to a present philosophy we must lay these things aside for the sake of a larger sphere of service.”
So it might seem that these fundamentalists, Bauder, Minnick and Doran, may desire a wider fellowship for at least the purpose of more speaking engagements even though it would in all probability limit their message. However, any preacher working out a separatist position whether ecclesiastical or personal should be motivated by the desire to “…do all to the glory of God” 1 Corinthians 10:31c. Our separatist position should be leading us to personal holiness for (1) God is holy and (2) He calls us to be holy, 1 Peter 1:15, 16 “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” …
As stated earlier Bible separation doesn’t mean one hates the new or conservative evangelical but it does mean to “withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (2 Thess. 3: 6). There is another passage not often used in the discussion on separation but is, I believe, very appropriate for the day in which we find ourselves: Luke 9:46-50.
The passage here in Luke and also in Mark doesn’t give a lot of detail concerning this man of whom John speaks other than he was casting out devils. This man was not in the band of disciples to which John belonged, the fundamentalists. He was an outsider, conservative evangelical? Jesus simply said if this man is not against us he is for us. HOWEVER, Jesus did not go and invite the man to come and join them nor did Jesus go and join him. The Scriptures do not tell us everything concerning this incident but as one reads the Scriptures no more is said of this unnamed man. The Lord Jesus nor did His disciples cooperate in any campaign or share any speaking event with this unnamed man BUT they were separated from him for whatever reason!!
Because I would not ask any of the men Bauder mentioned earlier as conservative evangelicals, to speak in my pulpit nor would I accept their invitation to speak in theirs, doesn’t mean I am better than they, nor that I do not appreciate their public stand on many issues BUT it does mean there are important doctrinal areas which prohibit such a public relationship between them and me.
As a missionary I must ask “Is the difference today between the Southern Baptists and the independents so miniscule separation is no longer an issue?” After awhile, one wonders why these independents continue to be independent if there is not that much difference. Why would one stay independent when you could be part of the largest Protestant organization in the USA? Why not do what Jerry Falwell did and lead your church into the Southern Baptist Convention?
AS A MISSIONARY I wonder why any of the students from Central, BJU or Detroit would go as a missionary with an independent Baptist mission board and travel all over the USA begging support when they could go with the Southern Baptist International Board of Missions and be sent to the field almost immediately. If a man can work with a Southern Baptist as so many independent mission board missionaries do why not become a Southern Baptist?
What do these men such as Bauder, Doran and Minnick have in common with Mohler and the other conservative evangelicals? Is it the Reformed theology? Or is it any Bible version other than the King James? Al Mohler uses the English Standard Version and even though Bauder touts the fact he uses the King James Bible for ministry he has written enough for all to know what he really thinks of it. As far as Minnick and Doran they are not lovers of the King James Bible or its Greek Text either.
Dr. Bauder says “Other fundamentalists do not necessarily draw the lines where I do…. [and] might very well choose to separate from me. That, too, is part of the judgment that they must make, and I must grant them liberty to make it. I am not the one to whom they will answer. For my part, the dictum is pretty simple. Let us separate where we must. Let us fellowship where we can. Let us love one another withal.”
It is to be admitted that fundamentalists have in all probability never agreed on every issue or person with whom they should separate or cooperate. It was interesting to read that in 1959 John R. Rice “…and Bob Jones, Sr. held a series of one-day rallies in different parts of the country in an attempt to explain the separationist position to the wavering, and Jones urged that The Sword [of the Lord] be made ‘the official organ’ of separatist fundamentalism. Meanwhile, Rice made new, younger, friends. One was Jack Hyles, who in 1959 had become the pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana; another was Curtis Hutson, who eventually became Rice’s successor. A third was Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
In 1971, Rice planned a ‘great world conference on evangelism’ that would bring together the various strands of fundamentalism. But Bob Jones, Sr. had died three years earlier, and his son and successor, Bob Jones, Jr., objected to the inclusion in the conference program of two Southern Baptists, W. A. Criswell and R. G. Lee, whom Jones considered ‘compromisers and traitors to the cause of Scriptural evangelism.’ (It did not help that shortly before Jones, Sr.’s death, Criswell had referred to him as ‘a senile old fool.’) Jones also opposed Rice’s insistence that there be no criticism of Billy Graham (and presumably, neo-evangelicalism) at the conference. Rice argued that his position on separation was the same as that held by Bob Jones, Sr. and that there was ‘nobody living in this world who was more intimately acquainted’ with the late evangelist. Not surprisingly, Jones, Jr. disagreed, and he and Rice engaged in an exchange of views about separation–Rice in The Sword of the Lord, Jones in a pamphlet, ‘Facts John R. Rice Will Not Face.’ To Rice the importance of soulwinning trumped what he considered minor disagreements among Christians about biblical separation. (Emphasis added)
The upshot was that Rice’s planned conference was postponed and then canceled. In November 1971, Bob Jones, Jr. and Bob Jones III were dropped from the cooperating board of The Sword [of the Lord] to be replaced by Jerry Falwell and Curtis Hutson. In 1976, Jones, Ian Paisley, and Wayne Van Gelderen organized their own “World Congress of Fundamentalists” in Edinburgh. Unlike the split with Billy Graham, however, Rice’s refusal to agree with separationist fundamentalists like Bob Jones, Jr. and Ian Paisley only enhanced the growth of The Sword. By the mid-1960s, the paper had more than recovered its losses after Rice’s criticism of Billy Graham; in 1974, circulation of The Sword of the Lord was over 300,000. Rice had been a major participant in shaping the two most important divisions of late twentieth-century fundamentalism, the split between fundamentalists and neo-evangelicals and then the creation of two fundamentalist factions: Rice’s more sentimental and irenic; Jones’s more academic, doctrinal, and confrontational.”
Note “soulwinning” was John R. Rice’s emphasis as to whom he would fellowship just as the Gospel is Mohler’s. For Clarence Sexton’s Independent Baptist’s Friends International it is worded as “…an effort to promote…World Evangelism.” Kevin Bauder and supposedly Dave Doran and Mark Minnick are much the same for they would fellowship with any who have a “vigorous commitment to and defense of the gospel.”
Whether it is called soul-winning, preaching the gospel or world evangelism all three actually are covered under the term proclaimed as the Great Commission. History has shown that working together for the sake of the Great Commission leads to ecumenism and the eventual surrender of certain Biblical principles, of which one is surely to be Biblical separation.
Time marches on! Separatist men, schools, mission organizations and churches sadly all too often with the passing of years throw aside Biblical ecclesiastical separation for the high and lofty goal of reaching the lost with the gospel. However, the Bible is not fluid and the passages teaching separation continue the same. Consider John 15:19; John 17:14; Romans 12:2; Romans 16:17; 2 Corinthians 6:14–18; Galatians 6:14,16; Ephesians 5:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:11-12; James 1:27; James 4:4; 1 Peter 2:11-12; 1 Peter 4:1-4; 1 John 2:15-17; 1 John 5:19; Proverbs 4:2, Proverbs 4:14-15.
In closing we must remember the Bible path of separation, both personally and ecclesiastically, will be both narrow and much less travelled! NEVERTHELESS IT IS THE ONLY PATH of true obedience where sweet fellowship is found with the dear Saviour and His small flock!
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