Monday, July 21, 2008

Some thoughts regarding the Doctrine of Separation with regards to changing churches

A brother-in-Christ in Singapore, Beng, whose blog is still "in building mode" (and as such I wouldn't link to his post) had emailed me previously regarding my article on the Doctrine of Separation as found on my website, which I had replied cordially. However, it seemed from his blog post on the topic that the full message with regards to the Doctrine of Separation did not really get through, which I then clarified further.

What this post will be about though, will be more regarding the story behind my article rather than the article itself. As evidenced by this dear brother, there is a blind spot in my article which I did not notice at first, and that is that I have failed to establish the relationship between the Doctrine of Separation (Truth) and the manner in which this is to be applied practically. Or rather, the practical application of the teaching is there, but it is based on certain assumptions which I have failed to see that others do not share.

So what are the assumptions behind this article? It assumes that we Christians as human beings, being social creatures, by nature would desire to join a local church and commit to her. It assumes that Christians by nature detest conflict, and hope to avoid it as much as possible. It assumes that Christians by nature want to stay in a local church that they are in because of many reasons one of which is the friends they have in the church. It assumes, most of all, that the Christians involved are peace-lovers who desire to promote the unity of the Church.

These were the assumptions I had in my mind while I wrote that piece, because I was such a person in my former church. Even while I was not fed (the whole church was moving into the Third Wave Neo-Apostolic rubbish), I refused to leave the church, reasoning that I could be the salt and light working inside the church for reformation. In fact, my younger brother wanted to leave the church and have visited other churches then, while I was serving as a Youth Cell Leader. I have encouraged him to stay and try to make a difference in the church, that our responsibility was to pray for her and make a difference within her even though the darkness was deep. We were to serve in the church and show the deluded people there the Truth from God's Word.

All this of course changed when the Passion of the Christ/PDL conflict broke out between me and the church leadership. There was absolutely no way I was going to allow blatant heresies to enter to deceive the flock, although I was then still rather young and immature both in the knowledge of the Faith (having just embraced Calvinism about 1 year ago) and in conduct. But you do not need a ThD to know that it is heresy to say that we must add Tradition to Scripture for example (one of the heresies of Romanism), or that we must set as our faith target for the PD outreach ten times the maximum figure we can conceive as being possible (using as 'scriptural proof' the parable of the sower if I remember correctly). [After reviewing my former correspondence, I agree I was too immature in my handling of the situation and thus part of the problem lies within me, but I digress]

Regardless, the situation made it impossible for me to continue being in that particular church, and I left it in 2005/2006, never to return again. I had then read Jeffrey Khoo's book on the doctrine of separation (Don't ask me how I got the book; I can't remember either), but I wasn't getting the doctrine. Slowly however, as I was broken by the apostasy in my former church and being driven out of it, and in loneliness due to alienation from my 'friends', I was driven to Christ alone who strengthened me in those dark days. And out of that special time of bittersweet fellowship with God, I grew in my knowledge of God and of Scripture rather tremendously, and out of that experience my first book was written so that other sheep would not be likewise deceived by the heresy of the Purpose-Driven paradigm.

Anyway, this was the background behind my article of the Doctrine of Separation. The Doctrine of Separation therefore is meant for us to realize the need for separation when the situation demands it, especially pertinent for Christians who truly desire to stay in a local church already for various reasons, and for those who love peace and the unity of the Church. It is never applicable for church-hoppers who treat churches as if the church is the service department who must satisfies the needs of the customer — you. For such people, a good dose of Frank Turk's rather skewed articles on the subject would be helpful. That said, the doctrine of separation should be embraced by us because by nature we prefer not to separate at all over "petty things" such as doctrine. The Doctrine of Separation is therefore supposed to function as a guiding light not for schism but so that we would learn how to obey God in separating from heretics and compromisers in certain situations etc even when it hurts us to do so, whereas naturally we would prefer not to do such a thing.

This then is the background assumptions and my experience behind the writing of that article. So with regards to whether it is right to change churches, please do not quote me as saying that you must leave all churches with unorthodox doctrine and find a pure church (You might as well have a church of one since it is impossible to find a church where everybody agrees with you on everything!). The principles stated there are guidelines and are to be seen as that, not to be blindly applied to any church situation and as such probably causing schism. Whether you should or should not separate from any church or ecclesiastical body is a decision you are responsible to make between you and God, based on the guidelines as (hopefully faithfully) exposited from Scripture in my article.


Beng said...

Thanks for the clarification and explaining the background behind the article. Very enlightening and useful.

Church of one. Hmmm... how appealing... ;)

Daniel C said...


glad to be of service. And no, I don't think you will have a church of one; just one family =P