Separation in Academic Contexts

Almost two years ago, we kicked around the issue of practicing separation in academic contexts and put together the following statement regarding it:

DBTS is committed to perpetuating and practicing biblical separatism to guard the gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that there must be a clear line of distinction between those who embrace the gospel and those who deny it. Granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who deny fundamental doctrines of the faith is contrary to the Scriptures, harmful to the church, and dishonoring to God. We believe that we can, therefore, extend Christian recognition and fellowship only to those who hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We further believe that compromising the gospel through fellowship with unbelief is a matter of such serious disobedience that faithfulness to the gospel requires separation from those who practice it.

Since the local church is the pillar and support of the truth, guarding the gospel through biblical separation is primarily at the level of relationships between churches, ministries that serve churches, and those who are recognized as ministers among the churches. Separation is always gospel-related and practiced whenever issues of creed or conduct call into question a church, ministry, or minister’s trust in or faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Local churches should exercise great caution in regard to their cooperation and fellowship so that they do not directly or indirectly participate with those who deny or compromise the gospel.

As an academic institution designed for assisting local churches in training pastors, missionaries, and educators, DBTS is committed to carefully balancing our separatist commitments with the task of providing a thorough education. A seminary education will involve a student in research that includes a wide range of scholars from diverse theological and ecclesiastical backgrounds. Critical exposure to influential works is a very important element of an excellent education. Because interaction in an academic setting is not an ecclesiastical relationship, we do not believe that using works by non-evangelicals and non-separatists violates our commitment to ecclesiastical separation. On this point, we believe that we stand precisely where most separatist institutions have always stood.

The issue of academic lectures and presentations is a more difficult one for separatists. Using a book for a class involves no personal relationship; bringing its author in for a lecture series does. DBTS has exercised some latitude on this matter, based on the principle that an academic context and purpose is different from an ecclesiastical context and purpose. Inviting an acknowledged expert to lecture in an academic setting on a specific subject inherently narrows the relationship and does not qualify as a complete endorsement of the lecturer’s other beliefs and practices. The invitation should be evaluated on the basis of the task at hand, and, as with all choices regarding the use of educational resources, wisdom and discernment must be carefully exercised.

Disagreement over the application of separatist principles has been no small problem for fundamentalists and fundamentalist institutions, and this has been especially true regarding our academic institutions. Some separatist schools have granted more room on these matters than we feel at liberty to take, while others have felt less liberty than we do. While we share mutual commitment to separatist principles, universal agreement on applications seems unachievable. We desire to teach and model a biblical humility that will always be open to the counsel of those who care about us, will extend grace toward those who apply things differently than we would, and will graciously challenge our friends if we become concerned about their decisions.

We are grateful for our heritage as separatists and remain committed to the practice and perpetuation of biblical separatism. We, by God’s grace, will never fail to stand for the gospel and against apostasy and compromise with it. May God be glorified by raising men up who will stand firmly on the Scriptures in the face of the new challenges of the twenty-first century!

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