The Heresy of Separation
Updated and enlarged May 28, 2008 (first published December 11, 1996) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, email@example.com; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6).
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness ... from such withdraw thyself. (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
The entire world, secular and religious, is crying out today against separation. The Biblicist Christian who seeks to obey the Bible’s commands to separate from false teaching is mocked and slandered on every hand. With each passing year, the hue and cry against the doctrine of separation grows louder.
Let’s take a brief survey:
SEPARATION IS CALLED HERESY BY THE NEW AGERS AND BY THE WORLD
New Age is not merely a religious movement or cult; it is a spirit and philosophy that is permeating the secular and religious world in these end-times. New Age teaches that separation on the basis of religion, theology, etc., is an evil thing that hinders the evolution of the world. They teach that such separation is the opposite of love. Those who love will not practice separation, and those who separate are not loving. The December 1996 issue of “Emergence Online,” a publication of the Tara Center, Benjamin Creme’s New Age organization, contained the following statement:
“REMOVE THE WALL -- Each one of us has a wall around himself: a wall of resistance, of fear and anxiety. ... We know very well what takes place when there is a wall -- then we have resistance, conflict, everlasting battle and pain, because ANY SEPARATIVE MOVEMENT, ANY SELF-CENTERED ACTIVITY, DOES BREED CONFLICT AND PAIN. ... When we remove the division between the ‘me’ and the ‘you’, the ‘we’ and the ‘they’, what happens? ONLY THEN AND NOT BEFORE, CAN ONE PERHAPS USE THE WORD ‘LOVE’. And love is that most extraordinary thing that takes place when there is no ‘me’ with its circle or wall” (J. Krishnamurti, ‘You Are the World’, quoted in Emergence Online, December 1996).
Global oneness and breaking down every barrier that separates people is a theme that is repeatedly heard in the world today. Rock singers proclaim “We are the world.” Disney theme parks proclaim “It’s a small, small world.” The United Nations seeks to break down national barriers. International news organizations glorify global unity. All of this is a cry against separation.
SEPARATION IS CALLED HERESY BY ROME
The Pope, of course, has always considered separation heresy. The Waldenses, Albigenses, Lollards and other Anabaptist and separatist Christian groups through the centuries were charged as heretics. Force was frequently used to bring the separatists into the fold, and Rome’s attitude has not changed. It still considers itself the only true church in which the fullness of Christ and truth abide. It claims to be the “mother church.” Those who are separated from Rome are being wooed into the fold today through ecumenical gestures. In November 1964, during the Vatican II Council, Pope Paul VI issued the “Decree on Ecumenism,” which launched Rome’s direct and open participation in the modern ecumenical movement. Vatican II had also declared that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church:
“THIS IS THE SOLE CHURCH OF CHRIST which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care. ... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, SUBSISTS IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, WHICH IS GOVERNED BY THE SUCCESSOR OF PETER AND BY THE BISHOPS IN COMMUNION WITH HIM” (Vatican II, “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” chap. 1, 8, p. 329).
Having reiterated its dogma that the Catholic Church is the sole church of Christ, Rome then stated its ecumenical policy:
“The Church established by Christ the Lord is, indeed, one and unique. Yet many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true heritage of Jesus Christ. To be sure, all proclaim themselves to be disciples of the Lord, but their convictions clash and their paths diverge, as though Christ himself were divided. WITHOUT DOUBT, THIS DISCORD OPENLY CONTRADICTS THE WILL OF CHRIST, PROVIDES A STUMBLING BLOCK TO THE WORLD, INFLICTS DAMAGE ON THE MOST HOLY CAUSE OF PROCLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS TO EVERY CREATURE” (Vatican II, “Decree on Ecumenism”).
Rome has been very plain about its ecumenical position. It has only one goal, and that is to bring every church and denomination into its fold. It considers separation from itself to be contrary to the will of Christ. Pope John Paul II dedicated himself untiringly to the task of bringing the “separated brethren” back into his fold. He often spoke of “THE INTOLERABLE SCANDAL OF DIVISION BETWEEN CHRISTIANS.”
At an ecumenical service conducted at the Vatican in 1985, the Pope embraced the three non-Catholic observers and said, “DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS ARE CONTRARY TO THE PLAN OF GOD.”
SEPARATION IS CALLED HERESY BY THE LIBERAL PROTESTANT ECUMENISTS
The liberal ecumenical denominations (such as United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., United Church of Canada, The Church of England, the Uniting Church in Australia, and others associated with the World Council of Churches) boast of their broadmindedness. They can smile at practically any attack upon the Word of God or the Lord Jesus Christ. If a “clergyman” or “clergywoman” denies or questions Christ’s virgin birth or resurrection, that is tolerated. If he or she claims the Bible is filled with myths, that is tolerated. If he or she is an adulterer or a practicing homosexual, that is tolerated. There is one “heresy,” though, which is not tolerated, and that is the “heresy” of a dogmatic fundamentalist faith in the Word of God and the “heresy” of biblical separation.
In the early 1950s World Council of Churches’ leader Lesslie Newbigin (a bishop in the Church of South India who helped form the WCC) published The Household of God (SCM, London, 1953). He divided Christianity into Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal. Newbigin called on Pentecostals to discard their separatist stance and join hands with the liberal ecumenical crowd:
“We must therefore assure our brethren of our willingness to learn from them in the fellowship of the ecumenical movement. ... We must tell them that in order to enter into the ecumenical conversation with us it is not necessary for them to abandon any of their distinctive convictions, but only to recognize us as fellow Christians sharing with them -- even though we be in error -- the same Spirit. WE MUST ASK THEM TO CONSIDER WHETHER BY DENYING ALL FELLOWSHIP WITH US, THEY DO NOT SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO IS IN THEM, AND WHETHER FAITHFULNESS TO THEIR LORD AND OURS DOES NOT ABSOLUTELY REQUIRE US TO SEEK UNITY WITH ONE ANOTHER.”
In June 1984, World Council of Churches leaders received Pope John Paul II to the WCC headquarters in Geneva. They conducted an “ACT OF PENITENCE,” SEEKING PARDON FOR “OUR DIVISIONS and for our failure to overcome them” (Evangelical Press Service, June 16-20, 1984). WCC General Secretary Philip Potter initiated the meeting with a prayer that it “be for all of us a step forward in our search for the unity of the church.”
In 1987 the National Council of Churches in America welcomed John Paul II to their nation with these words: “We join Pope John Paul’s conviction that CHRISTIAN DIVISIONS ARE “AN INTOLERABLE SCANDAL which hinders the proclamation of the Good News in Jesus Christ.”
This attitude toward separation among liberal ecumenists was illustrated when Episcopalians and Roman Catholics in Minnesota formed local ecumenical ties. A covenant was signed by representatives of both denominations, affirming the things they hold in common, and pledging members of the denominations to “ASK GOD’S FORGIVENESS FOR OUR SINFULNESS IN FOSTERING THE DIVISION OF THE CHURCH” (Episcopal News Service, Nov. 7, 1996). The covenant was signed by Episcopal Bishop James Jelinek and Roman Catholic Archbishop Harry Flynn in a solemn ceremony at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Minneapolis.
SEPARATION IS CALLED HERESY BY MANY EVANGELICALS
From our files we could pull hundreds of statements by Evangelical leaders who claim that biblical separation is wrong. The Promise Keepers movement was founded upon this philosophy. In an interview on the national radio program Promise Keepers This Week (August 31, 1996), PK Founder Bill McCartney said:
“Promise Keepers is going to have to understand that more and more Catholics are going to participate. And what every guy needs to do is, STOP LOOKING AT PEOPLE’S LABELS, and ask this question: ‘Does this guy know Jesus? Does he love Jesus with all his heart? Has he been born of the Spirit of God?’ And if you see that fruit, then QUIT MAKING JUDGMENTS. ... So LET’S NOT START CATEGORIZING PEOPLE. Let’s just allow God to be God and he can bless who He chooses to bless. And that’s how Promise Keepers is going to grow.”
McCartney does not believe we should make judgments and separate on the basis of doctrine, at least that is what he repeatedly states. As long as someone “loves Jesus,” we are to accept him and work with and fellowship with him.
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) promotes the same philosophy. The 54th Annual NAE Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 3-5, 1996, had the theme: “Reaching America: ONE VOICE IN UNITY.” Speaking before this convention, Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, used John 17 as his text, “That they may be one.” Stowell said:
“GOD NEVER INTENDED THAT OUR DIFFERENCES WOULD DIVIDE US. We belong to Christ so our mission and purpose are the same. If you belong to Christ you are lifted above the differences, and all else becomes secondary. Promise Keepers Clergy Conference in Atlanta showed the unity that is possible. ... WE MUST REPENT OF OUR ATTITUDES as I did in Atlanta. I WENT TO A MAN WHO HELD DIFFERENT DOCTRINES THAN I HELD AND APOLOGIZED because I never cared about him. Our differences are not that big, and we must realize this is what will build trust. Revival happens when God’s people network together. The world shall know we are one by our love” (“A Report on the 54th Annual Convention of the NAE,” Ralph Colas, American Council of Christian Churches).
Robert Webber, long-time Wheaton College professor and influential voice in the contemplative movement and the emerging church, says:
“We evangelicals need to turn our backs on the old separatist model” (Ancient-Future Faith, p. 86).
SEPARATION IS CALLED HERESY BY MANY CHARISMATICS
The Charismatic movement is the neo-Pentecostal movement. Old-line Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God were separated from other groups on the basis of doctrine until recent decades. The Charismatic movement, on the other hand, has, from its inception in the 1960s, been extremely ecumenical and inter-denominational. It has been one of the chief instruments in these last days for breaking down doctrinal divisions and creating of a one-world church. The attitude toward doctrinal divisions that permeates the Charismatic movement was illustrated in 1975 at the Fifth International Lutheran Conference of the Holy Spirit. A Catholic cardinal and a Lutheran pastor publicly embraced before the 12,000 in attendance and asked for mutual forgiveness. Lutheran Pastor Donald Pfotenhauer asked Cardinal Leo Suenens to forgive Lutherans for their sins against Roman Catholics, “so the Lord may release His Spirit upon us” (F.E.A. News & Views, Fundamental Evangelistic Association, November-December 1976).
At the 1975 Atlantic City Conference, a Roman Catholic charismatic meeting which included many non-Catholics, Catholic priest John Bertolucci led in prayers for the healing of church divisions. The scene that followed is described by a participant:
“Protestants were asked to stand and Catholics who were next to them were asked to seek forgiveness from their Protestant brothers and sisters for all the pain and hurt caused by their church’s office over the past 400 years. We Protestants did the same ... This night became, for all of us, the time when the Lord chose to heal 400 years of hurt, pain and division between the Catholic and Protestant churches” (Thomas Twitchell, That They May Be One, Logos, 1978, pp. 137-138).
Twitchell ended his book with the exhortation to “hold our leaders, shepherds and ourselves accountable to do all we can to bring together the body of Christ -- today” (Ibid., p. 216).”
Influential Episcopalian Charismatic leader Michael Harper, writing in 1978 of Christ’s return, stated: “THE CHURCH MUST FIRST BE UNITED. It is as inconceivable to think of Jesus returning for a disunited Church as it is to an unevangelized world” (Christian Life, August 1978). In his book The Three Sisters, Harper called for the unity of Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Roman Catholics. “I must confess to a deep longing to see these sisters reconciled to each other; to see them openly united in Christ and the Spirit; learning from each other and humbly listening to each other” (The Three Sisters, p. 11).
SEPARATION IS CALLED HERESY BY MANY NEO-FUNDAMENTALISTS
A new generation of fundamentalists has arisen which has rejected the militancy of its forebears. These neo-fundamentalists still claim to be fundamentalists but they sound like and they act like New-Evangelicals. Two key examples of this phenomenon are Jerry Falwell and his Liberty University among independent Baptists and Cornerstone College and many of the other schools and missions associated with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.
Interestingly, the belligerence of the Neo-Fundamentalist toward the old-line fundamental separatist is even more vicious than that of some of the other groups. Consider a statement that appeared in Jerry Falwell’s now defunct and misnamed publication “The Fundamentalist Journal.” The author labels the old-line fundamentalist who seeks to practice separation from error and compromise a “pseudo-fundamentalist” --
“Pseudo-Fundamentalists craft their doctrines and rules carefully. THEY BUILD MASSIVE WALLS OF SEPARATION AROUND THEMSELVES and take great pride in standing ‘all alone,’ besieged by wickedness from without and compromise from within. They set themselves as the ultimate standard of orthodoxy and stand prepared to cross swords with any who attempt to breach the walls. ... What should we do? We must take the whole armor of God, and IN HIS MIGHT COMMAND THAT THE WALLS BE BROKEN DOWN, and walk through into the light of day. Fundamental Christianity, strong and robust as ever, must not succumb to these modern-day Pharisees who find contentment only when they effectively mute God’s church” (Daniel R. Mitchell, “The Siege Mentality of Pseudo-Fundamentalism,” The Fundamentalist Journal, February 1987, p. 59).
The hour is very late. The end-times spirit that will produce the one-world Harlot church described in Revelation 17 is moving powerfully. The pressure to “give up and join in” with the ecumenical movement is increasing with each passing year. Great numbers of men who once stood firm against ecumenism are weakening. There is less forthrightness in the preaching, less clarity in the identification of error.
May God give us boldness to stand! The man who has the mindset and testimony of the sweet Psalmist of Israel will not be able to join hands with anyone who errs from the Word of God: “Therefore I esteem ALL thy precepts concerning ALL things to be right; and I hate EVERY false way” (Psalm 119:128). Biblical love requires biblical hate. Biblical unity requires biblical separation. A wise pastor once said, “I you refuse to limit your message, you will be required to limit your fellowship.”
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