So I’ve spent the week at Oxygen 2014 sitting under, and publicly engaging, the preaching of men like Don Carson, Francis Chan, John Lennox, Paul Tripp, and Bryan Chapell. But what about separation? What about contending for the faith? Doesn’t the fact that some of these men hold to very different theology and some of them have hung out with guys who are really wrong on some stuff matter? How can I, in good conscience, attend, report, rejoice in, and even—I suppose—endorse these guys?
These are the sorts of questions most people here at the conference wouldn’t even think to ask. But which our readership might be more inclined to consider. And it is because I believe the motive of the question is good that I want to address it briefly here.
First, I want to affirm the biblical doctrine of separation from false teachers and those who live in open, flagrant sin. This is irrefutably taught in Scripture and is under emphasised in much of Christianity.
Second, it’s worth noting that the Hillsong crowd is not at this conference. I’m not saying no one here is into Hillsong. I’m just saying this is a different circle of people. The people here generally represent the mainstream of evangelical Christianity both denominational and independent.
Third, we must be wise enough and discerning enough to recognise that rallying together around the gospel does not imply agreement on everything and anything. It implies agreement on that around which we rally—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Fourth, Scripture teaches that believers have unity—not should have… do have—in Jesus Christ. Unity is not uniformity. So hanging with people we disagree with is necessarily implied in the theology of the gospel. But unity is not avoidable and fellowship, therefore, is not optional.
Fifth, the things on which we are often urged to separate, and on which Fundamentalists tend to separate, are peripheral to the Christian faith. Music is peripheral. Dress is peripheral. Hair is peripheral. Ecclesiological structure is peripheral. Mode of baptism is peripheral. In fact, almost everything that we tend to fight about is peripheral. What is core is the doctrines of the gospel. The creedal mores of the Christian faith. Around these we can fellowship. Around these we must rally.
Sixth, isolation is stupid. It is killing pastors and churches and people. More than that, isolation is sin. It is a fundamental contradiction of the Christian gospel.
These thoughts are fairly brief, disjointed, and off-the-cuff. I’d love to interact over them in comments. I hope that you won’t assume I’m aiming at you. I recognise that you don’t have to attend Oxygen or even agree with attending Oxygen to agree with what I’ve just said or to be right with God. But I do hope I can challenge the common conceptions in conservative circles and start helpful discussion to God’s glory.
Grace to you.