From Ben Wright:
Does Piper teach separation? He asks.
You be the judge.
Here’s just one relevant quote among many from today’s radio program:
When a person departs from the doctrine that the apostles had taught, Paul sees this as a greater threat to unity than the disunity caused by avoiding such people. If we say: How can that be? How can dividing from a false teacher who rises up in the church promote unity in the church? The answer is that the only unity that counts for unity in the church is rooted in a common apostolic teaching. Isolating false teachers—avoiding them—is Paul’s strategy for preserving unity that is based on true teaching.
You can see the whole manuscript here or download an MP3 here.
The bottom line? Unity is a sham unless it’s unity around truth. Piper discusses loving people and loving truth, purity for the sake of unity, a defined body of doctrine, and truth-based division for the sake of truth-based unity.
ht: Justin Taylor
“We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.”
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p. 53.
One can scarcely reflect at length on verses 10-17 without raising serious questions about the history of Christian denominationalism. There have no doubt been times when certain wings of the church have become so heretical or disobedient that faithful disciples have often pointed to the Reformation as the classic example of this, although some church historians wonder what would have happened if Luther had worked more patiently within the Roman Catholic Church for another generation, given the winds of change heralded already by Erasmus and arguable stifled by Luther’s tactical intransigence.
But surely the majority of Christian denominations, particularly the numerous subgroups into which most of the major branches of Protestantism have split, have been spawned at least as much by personal rivalry, animosity, and a spirit of intolerance, often along geographical or ethnic lines. As Snyder puts it, “Theological plurality has not been as much a problem as alienating behavior, a behavior which has developed a sense of uncompromising rectitude on the part of some people.”
Although I’m enjoying this commentary on the whole, these types of statements from evangelicals really bother me. Not to mention what he might be implying about the need for the reformation…
It seems that confusion in the areas of ecclesiastical and personal separation share a common cause, oversimplification. What should be a nuanced decision based on biblical principles turns into a simple one based on pre-established guidelines. It seems it is easier to categorically approve or disapprove than to practice discernment. Could it be that the way forward would be to recognize that undiscerning oversimplification in separation has negative consequences and continue to try to teach discernment as the guiding principle for personal and ecclesiastical matters? Would you agree or disagree? Why or why not? The implications of this would seem to imply that one who says that he intends to “take the high road” is often ignoring the dangers of such an approach, namely that he loses the practice of his discernment and establishes a rule of life that when applied to others does not flow from the principles of the gospel. It seems that “legalism” is a matter of what is the warrant behind one’s decision. One would hope such an approach would lead to a greater degree of holiness and love, not a lesser one.