A New Calvinist friend of mine who is also a pastor have decided to promote the GDOP (Global Day of Prayer) 2010. His reasons for doing so were/are that they or the church are not officially endorsing the event, and that they are just coming together for prayer. He followed up with a remark that he "doesn't want to be an isolationist", a remark made with some firmness of tone to be sure.
Readers of my blog will have known that a group of us Reformed Christians have came together last year 2009 for prayer, held concurrently with the Global Day of Prayer yet separate from it. In my sharing then, I shared with the group my (and our) stand on the GDOP and why we are doing what we were doing. That the GDOP is an abomination before God is a fact, that prayer is good too is a fact, ... provided it is done properly. In my sharing, I have made reference to Eze. 14:12-23, a passage which those who are promoting the inherent virtue of prayer should seriously consider. Prayer does not work ex opere operato! Prayer is not inherently virtuous, but its virtue wholly depends on the object and subject and content of prayer. As it is written:
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him (Prov. 15:8)
The parallelism makes it plain that whatever the wicked offer up to God even their sacrifices or prayers are abominations to God. Therefore, even "Christian" prayer in and of itself has no virtue before God, unless it is done in Christ, through Christ and according to Christ's commands in His Word.
That being said, what shall we say to the fear of being "isolationist"? The problem here lies in from whence we get our approval, and where we get our doctrine of Christian fellowship from. If we truly maintain that the Scripture is the ultimate authority for all of life and doctrine, then whatever it teaches we are to obey. If Scripture teaches an "isolationist" attitude, then we are to likewise follow, for that is what the term "ultimate authority" means. Of course, anyone can wish not to follow that authority in that case, but then in that case Scripture ceases to be your ultimate authority — your ultimate standard of what is right and proper.
As I hopefully will get to discuss soon (in a future article), the focus of Scripture is on truth, not isolation or non-isolation. The entire focus of the separatist agenda is wrong because they separate for separation's sake, and are trigger happy in this regard.
My friend's firm concern therefore for not being "isolationist" belies a problem in his understanding of truth and unity. That is the wrong concern and sentiment to have. Our concern should not be with separating/isolating etc but about glorifying God. If in order to glorify God I have to be separate and be considered "isolationist", then so be it! Why do we bother about the sayings of men? Is our desire for popularity and maintaining our "Christian network" so important that we try as much as possible not to give offence even when such offence needs to be given? Do we fear men, or fear God?
It is most definitely tempting to be nice and be friends with everyone. In point of fact, if I want to be popular like Tim Challies, I would most certainly do the same and save myself being the target of "AODMer watchblogs". But at what cost? We Christians are not called to be likable, but godly. We will be persecuted for righteousness' sake (cf 2 Tim. 3:12); slandered and demonized even from within the visible Church (Jn. 16:2). Let's put it this way: If you desire to be loved by the world, to be well-liked, then don't even think of being a Christian, much less a minister/office bearer or aspiring minister of God's Word.
Christians in the early church were not killed as martyrs, but as enemies of the [Roman] state. They were ridiculed as cannibals, despised by the populace for their non compliance with the cultural practices of their day especially the pagan feasts. The worry of being "isolationist" was a non-existent luxury for them, for they already ARE "isolationists" by virtue of them not participating in the pagan rituals.
But you may retort: that only refers to the pagans, not between professing Christians. Such ignore the truths of Acts 20:29-30, 2 Cor. 11:13-15, 2 Jn. 9-11 among others like them. Imagine if Athanasius was to exhibit that type of facile reasoning in the face of professing Christians who were actually Arians, and join them in prayer to the one Savior eh... archangel Michael?
The resolution not to be "isolationist" therefore comes from the fear of men, whether knowingly or unknowingly. People who focus on the Word should not even be concerned about such matters. Rather, they would be more concerned about the glory of God and the magnification of His truth and then grieve over the sorrowful state of the Church, than He would be trying to gain the respect of backslidden churches and ignorant and deluded Christians. You don't affirm lost people, you seek to draw them to Christ who is the Truth. Similarly, you do not affirm backslidden churches, but grieve over them and seek to draw them to the true Christ and the true Truth. If they reject you because they are offended by the biblical message you bring, it is not because that you are "isolationist" but that they have rejected the Word of God.
My friend is thus sadly in error at this point. Knowing him, he is rather unlikely to change on this issue, but it is my hope that the Spirit will do what I can't do in this regard.
P.S. If you know who it is, please do me a favor and don't name the person.