On the Problems of Rejecting Labels While Retaining Separatist Commitments


Running short on time, but I do want to follow up on yesterday’s post, so I’ll do so in bullet style:

  • One of my greatest fears in openly challenging our over-dependence on labels is that some will fail to distinguish between the label and the content. When I say that I will not make separation and fellowship decisions merely on the basis of the label, it is precisely because I no longer have confidence that the label accurately represents the truths that matter to me in these areas. The truths believed and practiced are what matter.
  • Rather than de-emphasize separatism, my position actually seeks to maximize it by focusing attention specifically on that subject rather than assuming it. IOW, to say that the label Fundamentalist won’t be the basis for separation/fellowship decisions is not the same as saying commitment to orthodox doctrine and biblical separation won’t be.
  • One of the significant limitations in discussing this subject is that it is almost impossible to do without actually referring to the pre-existing labels. Even more significant is the fact that, in my experience, a lot of people think of it as erasing the lines between two groups of people. It has absolutely nothing to do with erasing any biblically drawn lines. My point is that wherever God has drawn the lines, those lines must be maintained and over-dependence on labels is actually obscuring the lines at some places and adding lines at other places.
  • Those first three points should make it clear that I am in no way trying to make a case for some kind of third party or middle movement between two movements. I don’t know how to be any clearer about the fact that I think that there are not two movements from which a third movement might emerge. It’s a combo of sloppy history and ecclesiastical mythology that shapes that paradigm.
  • It is vitally important for understanding my argument to distinguish between the movement concept and positions on separation. To say that there are not two movements is not the same as saying there are not two positions on separation. I reject the current binary labeling system because the labels have lost their value, but I actually embrace a binary taxonomy regarding separatism. IOW, there are separatists and non-separatists.

The bottom line is that our fellowship should be limited to those who are fundamental in doctrine and separatist in their commitments. Others, with more influence than me, have proposed alternative labels, but nothing has stuck. Even if something did, it would have a limited shelf-life and would face the same problem as the current labels. So, let’s look more deeply and carefully than the labels.

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