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Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals

January 9, 2012

Should fundamentalists separate from conservative evangelicals? That question lies before us in this particular article.  For the sake of these articles on separation, I have defined a conservative evangelical as one who does not separate from a professing believer who maintains close fellowship with an apostate.  The command to separate from apostates is clearly revealed in the Bible.  The need to separate from those who fellowship with apostasy is also laid out in Scriptures. The answer to the question of our relationship with conservative evangelicals must also be found in the Word of God.  Logical, sentimental and practical answers are not sufficient.  Only an answer from Scriptures will suffice.

Finding a clear, concise answer to this question in the Word is rather challenging, since the universal response to apostasy in the Bible was absolute separation.  We find no clear examples of ongoing fellowship with apostates, much less the other levels of separation that are now being discussed.  Where then do we turn?  I believe there are a few Biblical principles that must direct our thinking.  The principles that apply to this situation are of two different kinds, principles of unity and principles of purity.

Unity argues that these brethren (and whatever else can be said, conservative evangelicals are clearly brethren) should be treated as brethren.  In reference to one who was not a disciple but was casting out demons in Christ’s name, Christ instructed his disciples, “He that is not against us is on our part.” Christ prayed in John 17 that all those who would believe on Him would be one.  In 1 Peter the saints scattered throughout Asia minor were instructed to, “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren.” The New Testament reveals a definite principle of unity amongst believers throughout the church. Not just within the local body, but between all believers.

Purity argues that these brethren should be separated from lest their compromised fellowship lead others into fellowship with disobedience.  This is no idle concern.  Thoughtful observation of the last 60 years of church history in America will find many have been set adrift through their fellowship with those not separated.  However, practical observation is not the standard or the rule.  The Bible issues some clear commands regarding purity. In 1 Corinthians 5:11 Paul enjoins the believers to not eat with one is living in persistent sin.  The one who refuses to separate from “new evangelicals”- those who fellowship with apostates- are in sin.  They are clearly not heeding the commands of separation, such as the one found in Romans 16:17.  (As an aside, it seems to be a silly thing to apply the commands of separation only to those things found specifically listed in a particular verse.  The list of things from which we are to separate runs the gamut from laziness to immorality to idolatry.  Not to mention the entire book of Romans. Seems kind of silly to say Paul gives us a short list of 8 things from which we are to separate and that is all.)  In 1 Corinthians 15:33 Paul teaches concerning the resurrection.  In addressing the false doctrine, he warns about the danger of fellowship with those hold to wrong doctrine.  Pauls states that we must not be deceived, wrong companions will undermine right living.  Our relationships will impact our righteousness.

The challenge then is to rightly apply these two sets of principles to our relationships with conservative evangelicals.  First and foremost, we must not begin to suggest that these ones are not truly Christians.  We cannot refuse to recognize them as brothers.  Our words to and about them, as in all our relationships, must reflect the love of Christ.  Our words to and about them must also reflect that we are joined together in Christ.  Rather than anger and venom being directed towards them, there needs to be deep concern and sorrow over their disobedience.  However, as a result of their disobedience we cannot minister with them as if nothing was wrong.  The result of their sin is a circumscribed fellowship.  We acknowledge their relationship, but we limit its scope and application lest we or others be drawn into similar disobedience.  In the end, while I greatly appreciate the work done by many of these ministries, I cannot join with them, I cannot relinquish the pulpit to them, I cannot have the same kind of relationship with them that I would have with one who is fully practicing Biblical separation.

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