Second Degree Separation

I have been very saddened to read in the Christian media over the past few weeks of the attitude of some evangelical people towards others who are equally evangelical in their theology. And the reason for this attitude? The associations that some have made.

Now this may all sound very vague (and indeed it is!), but I don’t want to name names. It seems to me that there are those in evangelicalism whose sole function is to find and point out the errors in others’ beliefs and practices. Not only that, but they suggest that all of their readers should disassociate themselves from those who are perceived to be wrong!

Please don’t misunderstand me. When there are major Gospel truths at stake we HAVE to be clear – I believe it was quite right, for example, a few years ago to clearly state that the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement is essential to Christian belief and acknowledge that, sadly, some people had departed from that and could not be called evangelical. Even there, though, that has to be said with regret and sadness in the spirit of gently restoring a brother.

This is not that sort of issue, though. These are people who genuinely believe the truths of the gospel, but have associations with some of whom the accusers disapprove – guilt by association in other words. Indeed, Dr Martyn Lloyd – Jones is being cited to defend their position as he urged churches in “mixed” denominations to succeed. However, that did not stop him having fellowship with those who chose not to do so.

The scenario is as follows. Let’s call the accusers “A” and the accused “B”. A and B are both evangelical in their beliefs and practices. B, though, wishes to have fellowship with C. Now C are also evangelical, but belong to a group or denomination that is “mixed”; not completely orthodox in belief, not evangelical. That does not stop C being evangelical. One may question whether C is wise to be in a mixed situation, BUT that is a decision for them. As C is clearly in itself evangelical, there is no reason why B and C can’t be in fellowship.

In this scenario, A are accusing B of not being evangelical, even though there is no real evidence to support this, it is simply on the basis that they have fellowship with C. Therefore, A will not have fellowship with B, although B may well be willing to have fellowship with A.

Yes, I am pointing the finger at A – they are, in my view, being schismatic. As it is, they have a very small circle of associates, who seem to agree on absolutely everything from style of music to Bible version. These things are put on the same level as doctrines such as Christ’s divinity, death and resurrection as if they are a test of orthodoxy.

What I am asking is that we look at Scripture to find what is REALLY important and unite around that, and not over – emphasise these other things. Jesus prayed for UNITY see John 17: 21 – 23. One day all believers will be together in heaven in perfect unity. Surely that has to start on earth now.

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6 thoughts on “Second Degree Separation

  1. I absolutely get where you’re coming from but surely you’ve done slightly what you’re speaking against with your point about penal substitutionary atonement.

    There are some people who absolutely love Jesus with all their heart and serve him beautifully who hold to a Christus Victor view of the atonement but in line with what you said their views ‘put the gospel at stake’?
    Just some food for thought.

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    • Thanks for your response, Ferg. As far as I see it, it is essential that Christ took my sin in my place, otherwise on the last day I would be doomed. God is a holy as well as a loving God and cannot look upon sin, he shows his wrath against sin, it has to be paid for.

      Having said that, I agree that the Christus Victor view is important too, Christ did indeed defeat the powers of the Evil One on the cross. I don’t think the two views should be put against each other, they should be seen as 2 sides of the same coin.

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