Does the line keep moving?

Catching up on another loose end, I’d like to come back to the problem created by your friends’ poor choices regarding separation. I am thinking specifically of the Independent Baptist Friends International conference from back in April. My aim is not to stir up trouble for anybody, but to use this as an opportunity to think about the practice of separation.

I need to start by stating upfront a foundational assumption that I am making. You may not agree with it, but I am putting it on the table for clarity’s sake. I think it is an accurate and appropriate assumption, but you’ll have to be the judge of that. Here it is: given the long track record of doctrinal and moral messes at First Baptist of Hammond, there is no justification for ministerial cooperation with that church, its ministries, or its pastor. Like I said, you may not agree with me, but that is how I see it (and I am not alone on this one).

Given that assumption, then the presence of good men along side of Jack Schaap at the IBFI conference in April and the presence of good men on the platform of the Pastors School hosted by First Baptist of Hammond is problematic for me. These men are doing something that I believe is Scripturally wrong and this affects my ability to have ministerial fellowship with them.

Now, it should come as no surprise that not everyone agrees with me on this. My guess is that plenty of people in the FBF are prepared to overlook it. It is clear that speaking for the Pastors School in Hammond doesn’t get one excluded from Bible Conferences or have churches refuse to host your music seminars. And that reality raises the point that needs to be discussed and illustrates something that I’ve been saying for at least a couple of years now—what ripple ramifications should this have for my fellowship?

Once I have decided that someone is violating biblical principles and that I must withdraw or withhold ministerial fellowship from him, does the failure of others to go along with my decision necessarily mean that I must withdraw or withhold ministerial fellowship from them too? And does the same question come up at a new level after each decision? I believe I must separate from Pastor A because of his disobedience to biblical truth, but Pastor B isn’t ready or willing to do that yet. Must I separate from Pastor B too? If you say yes, then what do I do about Pastor C who won’t separate from Pastor B (even though he might separate from Pastor A)?

Let’s set aside the alphabet and talk real life. I doubt that many men in fundamentalist circles will stop having any of the good men who have spoken for or along side of Jack Schaap in to speak for them. They will ignore this or explain it away. They will say that these men have good reasons for what they are doing. They will minimize the theological and ministerial aberrations in Hammond. I disagree with them vehemently about this, but at the end of the day, they are making a judgment call based on what they believe to be true about the text of Scripture and the people involved.

Decisions like this always involve both of those elements—the text and its application to specific people and circumstances. I have good friends who are thoroughly committed separatists who will still have these men speak in conferences or in their churches or will serve with them on boards. It doesn’t make sense to me, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t need to make sense to me since they don’t answer to me. They answer to the Lord and their own congregations. I need to leave room for them to differ with me on this call or else I run the risk of making my conscience the standard for everybody else. I may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier,  but even I’ve got enough sense to know that’s not a good move.


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