Thursday, February 10, 2011

2nd Statement by Daniel Chew (Affirmative)

My second statement for the debate:


In this second statement, I would like to further develop my thesis, especially interacting with what Frank has contended for in his opening statement.

As we can see, Frank’s main concern is that “the over-arching principle of the Christian life when it comes to ecclesiology is unity.” He does not dispute that sometimes separation is necessary from non-Christian organizations like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather, Frank seems to be contending for something akin to “mere Christianity” and “mere Christian churches.” In such a mere Christianity, all people in it are sinners and therefore we are to stay united in these churches and not separate from them.

The question to be asked of Frank is, “How do we define such a generic Christianity?” Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ and as such are outside the pale of Chalcedonian orthodoxy. On the other hand, popular “Evangelical” Word-faith teacher T.D. Jakes as a Sabellian modalist denies the Trinity. Will Frank agree that we should also separate from T.D. Jakes and all non-Trinitarians? How about Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, both of which deny the Gospel? What exactly is Frank’s criteria for defining what can be considered Christian and therefore not to be separated from, and what is not Christian like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and to be separated from? Or is anyone calling himself an “Evangelical” to be given a free pass?

The Confessional Reformed have recourse to the three marks of the true church as stated in our Confessions, which are amply supported with verses from the Scriptures. We are saying these marks are the criteria for distinguishing a true from a false church. It must be noted here that these objective marks refer to the practice of the church, not the stated orthodoxy in a confession of faith. It is the act of proclamation of the Word of God, the act of administrating the sacraments, and the act of church discipline that are the marks, not mere ink marks on paper or pixels on screens. This is thus probably the only instance whereby “deeds, not creeds” are proper in a Reformed setting.

Frank in his statement conflates the church with the people within her, but I will nevertheless address the point he raised.

The main appeal by Frank as I see it is that we should not be critical of others since all of us are sinners, and therefore we should not separate from fellow Christians. To be sure, all of us are indeed sinners, Christians included. But firstly, the main motive for the doctrine of separation has never been Pharisaic self-righteousness but holiness and submission to Christ’s commands. Just because everyone is a sinner does not mean that therefore we do not obey Christ. As an analogy, just because the judge and the accused are murderers does not mean that both are to be pardoned. Rather, they are both to be punished. So it is with Christ’s commands. The most that Frank’s argument can prove is that everyone is to be separated from including ourselves, not that separation is not to be done. We do not bring God’s Law down to our level just because we ourselves are lawbreakers, but we are to tremble before God’s Law and indict ourselves as we indict others!

Secondly, while we do not agree with the concepts of venial and mortal sin, not all sins are equal. Some sins are worse than others, like e.g. murder is worse than anger. Therefore, that all Christians are sinners does not mean that all sinners are equal and not to be punished. All sins are qualitatively equally wicked in God’s sight, but they are not quantitatively equal before God. Therefore, while the fact that we are all sinners means we cannot boast, that we are not equally sinful means that some sins are worthy of greater penalty even within the church.

One great weakness in Frank’s position is that it is incapable of dealing with wolves from within the church. Paul warns us that wolves will come out from within the churches (Acts 20:30) and Frank’s position of “You are a sinner, I am a sinner; we are all sinners” if consistently followed makes rebuke and church discipline all but impossible.

With this done, let us go back to our main thesis. I will further elucidate my argument for separation by looking at the practice of separation, which is where the rudder [sic] meets the road.

The Reformed Confessions’ standard of the three marks is to be applied to all churches regardless of outward profession. The impartial standard of God’s Word means that we are to be impartial, which means that it is wrong to judge “Evangelical” churches by closing one eye to her faults while scrutinizing the errors of Jehovah Witness kingdom halls with a magnifying glass. God does not play favorites! That a church is being called “Evangelical” or even “Reformed” is not supposed to function like a “Get out of Jail” card. If Rick Warren and Saddleback fails the test for example, it matters little even if Warren is “America’s pastor,” as if that meant anything to the Lord of heaven and earth! I am convinced and have written a paper on Warren’s distortion of the Gospel[1], which implies that Saddleback and Warren fail to have the first mark. This test could be applied to many “Evangelical” churches which may fail the test and therefore qualify as being false churches too. We must remember here that the marks are based upon the ACTS of the church not her written confessions.

Such application of the marks of a true church may be judged to be too strict by some, which is why in my opening statement I gave the example of the Puritans. The Church of England had a Calvinistic creed (the 39 Articles), yet the Puritans still separated from the national church. What the Puritans knew is that an official creed means little when the clergy did not actually agree with what the creed itself teaches, plus the Anglican Reformation stopped short of reformation of her practice. As it has been said, Anglicanism with its doctrine of the via media is a Church with a Calvinistic creed, an Arminian clergy and Popish liturgy. Those who judge the application of the marks of a true church to be too strict when applied to people like Rick Warren should rightly reject the Puritans too.

In the remainder of this statement, I would like to elucidate for us the doctrine of secondary separation, a doctrine which is certainly more controversial. The main text we would look at is 2 John 10-11:

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works

The idea of “receiv[ing] into your house or giv[ing] him any greeting” in 2 John 10-11 is a way to indicate in that culture a welcoming of the person as a teacher and his message as being acceptable. What I would like to focus on here from the indicative in verse 11 is that welcoming a false teacher implicates the person as taking part in the same wicked works of the false teacher.

The implication of this verse gives rise to the doctrine of secondary separation. As I have argued elsewhere, secondary separation is not separating from every person who does not separate from someone who sins in that manner of compromise, and doing this ad infinitum[2]. Rather, it is separation from the person in refusing to join him in compromising the faith and rebuking him accordingly.

How this is translated in practice can be thought of in the case of Pastor John Piper, an otherwise excellent Bible teacher who compromised with Federal Vision heretic Douglas Wilson in the Desiring God conference 2009, and Purpose Driven heretic Rick Warren in the Desiring God conference 2010. Secondary separation means that we are to rebuke Pastor Piper of his sin and to treat him as an erring brother under censor [sic], as he has according to 2 John 11 taken part in the wicked deeds of Douglas Wilson and Rick Warren. He is still at least a brother in Christ, but his compromise with heretics means that we are to censure him in hopes that he will repent one day, not to encourage him in his sin by continuing on writing open letters to praise him as if nothing has actually happened.

In conclusion, it is hoped that this statement has helped to elucidate the doctrine of separation in its practice and answer Frank’s objection to it.


References:

[1] Daniel H. Chew, Evaluating the Purpose Driven Paradigm: Recapturing the Vision of the Centrality of the Gospel, CREDO500 blog conference paper. Currently accessible at http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/ddd_chc82/CREDO500/Part1/23_PurposeDrivenParadigm.pdf

[2] Daniel H. Chew, The Doctrine of Separation. Accessed online at http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/ddd_chc82/theology/separation.html

4 comments:

Committed Christian said...

I agree that unity is important,but I affirm that there can be no true unity unless the essentials of the faith are affirmed in creed and deed. Separation is a principle in the OT and NT as you stated in your previous statement,and is related to the holiness of God,and to fail to recognize this is a serious error in many churches. A passage that comes easily to mind affirming separation is 1 Corinthians 11:18-19 "...when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized".

PuritanReformed said...

@Committed:

I personally don't know how much we can make of 1 Cor. 11:18-19 here.

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

Good stuff Daniel.

A quick note to something you said, "which is where the rudder meets the road."

Rudder should be rubber! lol

Blessings
Mark

PuritanReformed said...

@Mark:

eh... LOL. I'll get it changed in the final draft...