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R. C. Sproul Chimes in on the Manhattan Declaration

Sproul. Splendid.


31 Responses

  1. Splendid , Chris?

    Sproul says this:

    The Manhattan Declaration puts evangelical Christians in a tight spot. I have dear friends in the ministry who have signed this document, and my soul plummeted when I saw their names. I think my friends were misled and that they made a mistake, and I want to carefully assert that I have spoken with some of them personally about their error and have expressed my hope that they will remove their signatures from this document. Nevertheless, I remain in fellowship with them at this time and believe they are men of integrity who affirm the biblical gospel and the biblical doctrines articulated in the Protestant Reformation.

    And Dave Doran says this in a recent article:

    For the sake of the clarity of the gospel, believers and churches must separate from those who compromise the faith by granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith (Rom 16:17; Phil 3:17-19; cf. 2 Thess 3:6-15).

    Who is right? Who is splendid on this point?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. In his reason for not signing, Sproul argues that the 16th century Council of Trent stands as the Roman Catholic Church’s official doctrinal position. Considering some of the post-Vatican II discussion by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), I’m not sure Sproul is fair in that statement. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification produced in 1999 by the Lutherans and Catholics has some of the strongest and clearest statements which distance the RCC from its 16th century history. Consider the following:

    “We confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation. The freedom they possess in relation to persons and the things of this world is no freedom in relation to salvation, for as sinners they stand under God’s judgment and are incapable of turning by themselves to God to seek deliverance, of meriting their justification before God, or of attaining salvation by their own abilities. Justification takes place solely by God’s grace.” And further, “We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ.”

    Of course, the RCC clarifies its position by saying, “The Catholic understanding also sees faith as fundamental in justification. For without faith, no justification can take place. Persons are justified through baptism as hearers of the word and believers in it. The justification of sinners is forgiveness of sins and being made righteous by justifying grace, which makes us children of God. In justification the righteous receive from Christ faith, hope, and love and are thereby taken into communion with him.[14] This new personal relation to God is grounded totally on God’s graciousness and remains constantly dependent on the salvific and creative working of this gracious God, who remains true to himself, so that one can rely upon him. Thus justifying grace never becomes a human possession to which one could appeal over against God. While Catholic teaching emphasizes the renewal of life by justifying grace, this renewal in faith, hope, and love is always dependent on God’s unfathomable grace and contributes nothing to justification about which one could boast before God.”

    So while much good is said, they still argue that grace is bestowed when faith is made active–in baptism. My question is this–is it a violation of the Gospel that salvific grace is administered through a sacrament? Make no mistake–I believe they are wrong. Their understanding on that point, I believe, is unbiblical. But many saved Evangelicals believe unbiblical things. My question is whether believing that salvation is solely from God; believing that Christ, the perfect Son of God, died for the sins of mankind; believing Christ was raised to life, defeating death; believing that salvation is all a gift of God by his grace; and believing that mankind is incapable of attaining to salvation by any work, but only through faith–is that not enough? Is that not what we mean by “belief in Christ.” is also believing that God applies that salvation, solely won through Christ, to an individual through a sacrament, destructive to the point of counting it all as unbelief?

    Here’s why I ask– If the answer is yes, that it is destructive since they believe the conveyance of grace is dependent on an action by the individual, then must not every Calvinist also consider every Arminian as unsaved who believes that his praying acceptance of the gift is required?

    Note here that I’m not arguing from a position I hold. I have always considered the RCC rooted in its Council of Trent past. If for no other reason, the Manhattan Declaration has been good for all Christians to make certain in their minds of what exactly the Gospel that separates the saved from the unsaved is.

  3. I am terribly embarrassed for these men and by these men, believing that Doran is right; the gospel’s clarity is being obscured.

    Moreover, the issue that the Joint Declaration brings Rome closer to Protestantism is very inaccurate. First, the document is nothing but the thoughts of some Romanists, not official teaching of the Vatican. Secondly, the Vatican rejected the document, even going so far as to say that they cannot see how the document”s doctrine of original sin and similus iustus et peccator does NOT fall under Trent’s condemnation . [If you wold like to see a paper that I wrote on that, I would be more than happy to send to any one. Email me at ilyston@gmail.com].

  4. Clarification to the above–
    1. Although “approved” by the RCC, the Joint Declaration (JD) has never been made official through edict of the Pope. So perhaps it is not the “official” position of the RCC.
    2. The anathemas of the Council of Trent have never been officially removed (although their removal has been argued for both by the JD and Pope John Paul II).
    3. What is meant by “faith” in the JD as reasoned by the Catholics is not “faith alone” but faith plus love plus hope, which is not technically opposed to the Reformation idea of faith alone, which embodied love and hope. But distinguishing these three is what opens the door to requiring good works as a means for grace (which according to them, does not earn justification, but merits it in the sense of requirement).

    Thus, still intricate distinguishing concept of justification.

  5. Dan,

    Here is the question I would ask — is Christ’s person and work sufficient for our justification or must we contribute to it by some action on our part? If the sacrament is necessary, then Christ is not sufficient, and then I believe Gal 5:2-4 applies with baptism as an act of law keeping.

    As for prayer, that is simply a way to call upon the name of the Lord. I don’t see that as a work or in the same category.


  6. Without question, biblical truth must be proclaimed and the gospel preached prophetically to our nation. But how could I sign something that confuses the gospel and obscures the very definition of who is and who is not a Christian? I have made this point again and again since the days of ECT. Though the framers of the Manhattan Declaration declaim any connection to ECT, it appears to me that the Manhattan Declaration is inescapably linked to that initiative, which I have strenuously resisted. More than that, this new document practically assumes the victory of ECT in using the term ‘the gospel’ in reference to that which Roman Catholics are said to ‘proclaim’ (Phil. 1:27).”

    I appreciate that excerpt from Sproul. It has been my opinion that the Manhattan Declaration (MD) is simply a not so thinly veiled Trojan horse to revitalize E&CT. No man who believes in the biblical mandates for separation from anti-God, anti-Gospel denominations such as the RCC should have signed on to the MD.

    Sproul knows the Scriptures and should know better than to follow the prior stand against the MD with this compromise with men who signed the MD.

    I think my friends were misled and that they made a mistake, and I want to carefully assert that I have spoken with some of them personally about their error and have expressed my hope that they will remove their signatures from this document. Nevertheless, I remain in fellowship with them at this time and believe they are men of integrity who affirm the biblical gospel and the biblical doctrines articulated in the Protestant Reformation.

    Men who know better should follow the biblical mandates to “admonish” (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15) and rebuke brethren who did sign on to the MD, which Sproul did. I’m grateful some others who have. If MD signers like Al Mohler refuse correction then believers have one option if we are going to obey the Scriptures, “withdraw” from him (them). Clearly Mohler, et. al., will not “ remove their signatures from this document.” Sproul is unwilling to make the necessary application of the biblical mandates that are irrefutably warranted.

    And we have men in IFB circles who publicly affirm their fidelity to the biblical principles of separation, including from brethren (2 Thess. 3:6-15; Rom 16:17) but, like Sproul, will excuse the actions of men like Mohler for the sake of fellowship with them.

    Where does the Christians FIRST LOYALTY belong; to the Word of God or to their friends and fellowships? That loyalty is becoming increasingly muddled in this present day.


  7. Andy,
    That’s the ambiguity of the RCC position. They would argue that Christ’s person and work is sufficient. The means by which God conveys salvific grace, so they say, is through baptism (or at least it conveys an “increase” in justification, whatever that means). But it is not earned by the baptized (again, so they say). That’s why I was saying that the RCC position seems to me a lot like the requirement some Arminian-types put on “the sinner’s prayer” — something that must be done but does not earn salvation. Would the consistent approach then be to consider Arminians not saved?

  8. Lou,
    I’m not sure that Mohler is creating a division or causing an obstacle as Paul indicates in Romans 16. Certainly Mohler’s position on the RCC is clear from statements made prior to and after his signing. While I agree with you that Sproul was right to approach Mohler (and Ligon Duncan) about it, I would not see that separation is “irrefutably mandated” based on Romans 16. (And 2 Thess 3:6-15 doesn’t seem to apply at all.)

  9. Dan:

    I appreciate the concern you raised.

    If this has been a first time, one time foray toward ecumenism by Mohler and the other signers we might have reason to be more understanding and patient. If the evangelical signers like Mohler were to receive the admonishment men like Sproul and MacArthur have offered (in public and privately) by renouncing and withdrawing their signatures then we would of course be encouraged and grateful.

    However, with Mohler in particular, he has a history of movement toward ecumenism and honoring a rank liberal, which I have documented. Therefore, I do not believe benefit of the doubt can be extend and he has IMO become disobedient to the Scriptures that forbid the kind of disconcerting fellowship he has entered into.

    This is why I believe we are obliged to follow through on the mandates, such as 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15 in particular.

    FWIW, I think we have not seen the last of these kinds of compromises from men like Mohler, J. I. Packer, Duncan, et. al. There will be more. IMO, an obstacle is already in place and division is just around the corner.

    Kind regards,


  10. Lou,
    I went to your website and read your article. I appreciate that this is not a knee-jerk reaction but something which you had been researching and about which you had been communicating with Mohler. And, though I may understand Romans 16 a bit differently, I do understand the consistency of your position with regard to Mohler. (although I’m still confused as to how 2 Thess 3 applies — seems to me to be talking about a different issue, not Gospel compromise.)

  11. Dan :

    Thanks for the response and having read my article for further details on how and why I arrive at my conclusions. We’ll just have to disagree charitably.

    Were you aware there are two companion articles? They are, in order>>>

    Al Mohler Signs The Manhattan Declaration: Is This a Clear Case for “Gospel-Driven Separation?”

    I followed the first above with this, Al Mohler Signs TMD: Was This a First Time Foray Toward Ecumenism?

    BTW, I’ll be posting a third article today or tomorrow based in part on Sproul’s article and some of our discussion here. You don’t have to worry about any hot-lead coming your way. ;-)

    Yours faithfully,


  12. Here is what Catholic apologist Karl Keating says in Catholicism and Fundamentalism:

    “For Catholics, salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. Christ has already redeemed us, unlocked the gates of heaven, as it were. . . . He did his part, and now we have to cooperate by doing ours. If we are to pass through those gates, we have to be in the right spiritual state. We have to be spiritually alive. If a soul is merely in a natural state, without sanctifying grace, which is the grace that gives it supernatural life, then it is dead supernaturally and incapable of enjoying heaven. It will not be allowed through the gates.”

    So, getting sanctifying grace seems to be our part, consistent with the need to get such grace through baptism and other sacraments. Even then, our justification is only increased, as you note, meaning that we are not declared right with God when we place our faith in Christ alone and then imputed with Christ’s righteousness instantaneously. Instead Christ’s righteousness is slowly infused into us as we perform more the sacraments and do good works. So, really, I see that as a very strange concept of sufficiency.

    And, no, I don’t equate that with praying the sinner’s prayer, which I see as an expression of saving faith. Prayer is not a work that contributes to ones salvation, or justification, or righteousness. It is a way in which man may express his repentance and trust in Christ – by calling on His name for salvation. I don’t see this as an issue at all.

  13. Well, that statement by Keating certainly adds additional ambiguity to the RCC position. Nailing down what Catholics believe about justification is like trying to nail jello to the wall.
    And so long as there is such educated confusion from the RCC, I’ll be signing no TMDs, much less E&CTs.

    (BTW, I wasn’t really suggesting that the sinner’s prayer was a work. I was more trying to bring up the perspective that certain Catholics seem to promote–that baptism is merely “a way in which man [must] express his repentance and trust in Christ.” But, I’m done, at least for the moment, agonizing over whether when they say faith it means faith and whether merit means merit.)

  14. Wow. I’ve been away at a funeral all morning, so I’ve not been able to interact here at all. I’ve not even read all the comments, nor can I at present.

    Quickly, since I’ve been “marked” by Don (and may very well be avoided next), I will respond to him…

    Don, Sproul’s statement is surprisingly strong. He mentioned his disagreement with his friends who signed this. He said that he was and is distraught over it (“my soul plummeted”). He said that he thinks they were duped. He said that he believes that this was a serious misjudgment, but that he doesn’t believe that it reflects on their orthodoxy or (usual) orthopraxy. Thus, he has charged them, but he has not yet cut them off at the knees, believing (correctly or not) that this situation is exceptional, not normal. Yet, he even warns that his continuing fellowship with them is conditional (“at this time”), apparently meaning that if this becomes their standard MO, his posture toward them will change and he will discontinue fellowship.

    He may not be jumping as high (or as soon) as you’d like, but it’s a pretty remarkable statement, IMO. I’d think separatists would be encouraged by such a strong statement.

  15. Chris, you are dodging the question. You said “splendid”.

    Sproul specifically said he is not breaking fellowship over this.

    Doran says you must.

    Who is right? Who is splendid?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  16. Just stopping by for one comment, not a conversation.

    Don, you’ve created a dilemma where there is not one. Sproul is not saying that such actions will never lead to a break, but it is not at this point yet (in his mind). I did not say that such an action immediately demands a break (and all my training on sepration from fundamentalists has always spoken of patterns and directions, not single actions). The proper response cannot be decided on one act alone.

    My guess is that Sproul sees Mohler cleaning the liberals out of Southern as a counter-balancing type of evidence regarding Mohler’s views on cooperation with error. Likewise, he probably views Duncan’s efforts to confront the New Perspective and Federal Vision as counter-balancing evidence. For Sproul, that may be why he is exhorting at this point, but not withdrawing. I really can’t speak for him, but that’s my guess at why he’s said what he’s said.

    For myself, I’ve stated clearly that men like Mohler and Duncan have done something wrong based on bad judgment, not as a deliberate effort to advance a ecumenism which ignores gospel distinctions. To conclude otherwise would be to claim they are lying and I see no evidence of that.

    To be more direct about it, Mohler and Duncan do not believe they have given Christian recognition to men who deny essential doctrines of the faith. I disagree with them (as do you and a whole host of others). Mohler and Duncan clearly do not view what they have done here as being anything like what ECT was or what Graham did in welcoming liberals and Catholics to the platform of his evangelistic crusades. That doesn’t really affect whether it was a right or wrong move, but it does factor into how it should be evaluated and responded to.

    Don, you’ve made a poor attempt to play gotcha on Chris.

  17. Dave, thanks for the comment.


    Do you think this is just a gotcha game?

    I can see how Sproul might be thinking this is just one small move on the part of Mohler and doesn’t warrant separation as far as he is concerned.

    But from our perspective (by ‘our’ I mean ‘our common fundamentalist milieu), don’t you think his conclusions are less than splendid? Don’t you think that there is ample evidence on the part of Mohler in the past that this certainly looks like a pattern? Given your statement of fundamentalist philosophy, don’t you think that fundamentalists at least should be able to say, “hey, we can’t cooperate with you there … we can’t have fellowship”? Or at what point do we put your principles into practice? I mean, for you and Chris, at what point do we say: “You evangelicals aren’t doing right and you can’t expect us to hold you up as an example of godliness until you clearly change direction.”?

    Apparently for some we can still call evangelicals splendid, even if they won’t do this:

    For the sake of the clarity of the gospel, believers and churches must separate from those who compromise the faith by granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith (Rom 16:17; Phil 3:17-19; cf. 2 Thess 3:6-15).

    I don’t think this is a game, Dave. I think this is serious. I think that we have got to start sounding like fundamentalists.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  18. Dave (Doran, I presume):

    You wrote, “My guess is that Sproul sees Mohler cleaning the liberals out of Southern as a counter-balancing type of evidence regarding Mohler’s views on cooperation with error.”

    Sproul may see it that way, but how do you reconcile Mohler having just this past summer honoring former SBTS president Duke McCall who is a rank liberal and a contributor to the mess you credit Mohler with cleaning up?

    You also wrote, “ I’ve stated clearly that men like Mohler and Duncan have done something wrong based on bad judgment, not as a deliberate effort to advance a ecumenism which ignores gospel distinctions.

    You are surely aware that Mohler sat as chairman of the 2001 Billy Graham crusade in Louisville. Would you agree that any suggestion Mohler’s high-profile role in the Graham crusade did not advance a brand of “ecumenism which ignores the gospel” would be absurd? It was worse than bad judgment, it was an egregious example of what you have described as, “compromise (of) the faith by granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith.”

    This as well as signing the Manhattan Declaration should be responded to. The appropriate, warranted response is Gospel-Driven Separation! Wouldn’t you agree?


  19. Okay, this is where I get confused. Correct me if I am not following this right, but…
    1. Roman Catholic Church presents a false Gospel. We must separate from Catholics. –1st degree separation
    2. Billy Graham granted “Christian recognition and fellowship” to Catholics by inviting them on his platform. We must separate from Graham. –2nd degree separation
    3. Al Mohler sponsors a Billy Graham crusade. We must separate from Mohler. –3rd degree separation
    4. R.C. Sproul, though denouncing Mohler’s decision, remains in fellowship with him. We must separate from Sproul. –4th degree separation
    5. Chris Anderson calls R.C. Sproul’s decision “splendid.” We must separate from Chris. –5th degree separation
    6. ?? — Anybody still calling Chris a friend?? We have a number for you.

    Certainly I am not saying that we ignore all this. The Gospel is the Gospel, and Christians must proclaim it and defend it. But once we demarcate between those who proclaim the Gospel and those who proclaim a false gospel, then we in the Gospel camp review on a different plane. We review among each other to correct and encourage. And we review to mark and separate. The marking and separating that the Bible proclaims appears to be upon those characterized by acting in accordance with selfish interest—“idleness” and for “their own appetites.” Somewhere down the line we have to recognize that the Bible is not merely a rulebook, but rather it encourages all of us to practice sound discernment. That’s why we talk with someone on multiple occasions before practicing church discipline. We are concerned with correcting wrong actions, yes, but also with turning the heart toward pursuit of Christ rather than self.

    I think that was exactly Sproul’s point in how he handled Mohler’s signing. He encouraged and corrected based on his understanding of (1) the falseness of the RCC Gospel and (2) the wording of the MD in which he determined that a signer was saying those words “we fellow Christians.” But in his encouragement and correction, he did not mark and separate because in his discernment of his friend he found a person not acting for his own selfish interests, but rather a person he deemed holding a true Gospel and with the desire to pursue Christ in his actions (even though Sproul considered those actions wrong). And I think Sproul made a splendid (though difficult) decision to publicly flog his friend for bad judgment but not to break fellowship with him because his intent was still to pursue Christ.

  20. Done and Lou,

    Your angst over even a refreshingly bold statement like Sproul’s makes it seem very much like the separation issue for you has less to do with biblical fidelity and more to do with maintaining and “us and them” turf distinction between self-identifying fundamentalists and everyone else. Rather than appreciating Sproul’s stand against ecumenism and insistence that fellowship with even orthodox friends will be hindered if their poor decisions continue (or even allowing someone else to appreciate the statement), you insist on looking for a loose thread to pull.

    I’ve not given a thumbs-up to everything said or done by Sproul (or Mohler, or Driscoll, etc. —seems like we’ve been here before). I’ve simply expressed appreciation for a strong statement that argues eloquently for the sort of separation which fundamentalists believe is required for the sake of the gospel, both from unbelief and from perpetually disobedient brothers.

    It seems from what you say on your blogs and elsewhere that everyone is compromising but you. Probably because of Calvinism. Mark and avoid me, already. Seriously, please use your own blogs to question everyone’s fidelity and discernment.

  21. Dan,

    I think this statement from Sproul is right on:

    “The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of using studied ambiguity in order to win over opponents.”

    Though they may massage language (as you’ve noted), the thrust of what they’re putting forward day by day and year by year in their parishes is antagonistic to the finished work of Christ, be it the Mass’s perpetual sacrifice of Christ, the idolatry of transubstantiation, or their sin-removing baptism, etc. These errors are much more grave than mistaken notions regarding how faith and repentance are expressed (e.g. the sinner’s prayer), especially since Scripture does command sinners to call on the name of the Lord for salvation.

  22. The fact remains that those who recognize false teachers partake in their sins. Surely, we seek humbly to warn, correct, and encourage those who have a pattern of orthodoxy.

    However, when there is divisiveness over Scriptural truth, we cannot merely sweep it under the rug because of the track record, nor can we mitigate the truth that they partake in the sins of the false teacher — we are to follow the teaching of Scripture.

    There is an implicit recognition of a false gospel. Mohler has been admonished more than twice. We are to reject him for Christ’s sake and for the gospel’s sake.

    We can quibble over these matters as if it were some theological point that we are totally detached from to us, s if we were merely arguing over some theoretical point, but we will do it to our peril, seeing the warnings of Christ in Revelation and 2 Cor. 6 are direct and serious.

    We can also seek to qualify and caveats to something to the point that the obvious is now drowned by an over indulgence of scrutiny.

    These signers are wrong; and they must be rebuked. Now the question is whether men within their denominations are real men of God who will stand up and rebuke them and call them out to the carpet for their actions.

    Let us set aside the labels and the wrangling over ‘degrees of separation, and let us weep and pray that this sin will not be to the fall of many by making the light of the gospel dim for the sake of our society.

    O, when will we learn that the gospel produces morality–not a unity surrounding assertions. Look at the history of moralism predating the great Evangelical Awakening and see the parallels.

  23. “Done and Lou”

    double entendre?? :-)

  24. Dan:

    And I think Sproul made a splendid (though difficult) decision to publicly flog his friend for bad judgment but not to break fellowship with him because his intent was still to pursue Christ.

    OK, Mohler has a history pursuing Christ, but at the same time he is tolerant of and will compromise the Gospel by lending his name and cooperation to the enemies of Christ, which the Graham crusade and signing TMD irrefutably demonstrates.


  25. Dan:

    And I think Sproul made a splendid (though difficult) decision to publicly flog his friend for bad judgment but not to break fellowship with him because his intent was still to pursue Christ.

    *OK, Mohler has a history pursuing Christ, but at the same time he will compromise the Gospel of Christ by lending his name and cooperation to the enemies of Christ, which the Graham crusade and signing TMD irrefutably demonstrates.


    *Replaces previous.

  26. Chris,

    I am not interested in defending turf. I am pointing out that according to Dave Doran, there are several groups that we can’t work with if we are going to be pursuing the purity of the gospel. I think Mohler falls into that category for one. He has compromised the integrity of the gospel by calling folks Christians who aren’t. Dave also argues that we can’t work with disobedient brethren who give aid and comfort to such. {That is my understanding of Dave’s position, he can of course speak for himself and clarify my understanding.)

    As a consequence, I am simply asking you whether Sproul’s article is truly splendid?

    He acknowledges that men like Mohler and others have seriously compromised the gospel, but he explicitly declares that he will remain in fellowship with them anyway. How is that splendid?

    I am not marking you in any way, just asking you a question.

    Now, I’ve asked the question three times in this thread at least. There isn’t much else to say. I’m not going to keep on asking the same question.


    May the Holy Spirit grant you grace also.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  27. Chris:

    FWIW, I have publicly recognized and expressed my personal appreciation for Sproul’s concerns over the MD and the signatories. I also commended MacArthur for his initial recation.

    However, I cannot agree with giving Mohler benefit of the doubt since this is not his first time indiscretion toward the RCC and ecumenism, which I have documented. IMO, there will be more of this from Mohler. (Not to mention Duncan and the others)

    Scripture holds us to a high-standard of fidelity to what is there on separation from unbelievers and/or withdrawing from the disobedient brother. We have only one choice and that is to obey what is there. Mohler’s signing the MD has IMO put him in the class of the disobedient. Had it been his first and only foray into this kind of compromise he’d be deserving of benefit of the doubt.

    Furthermore, Mohler has not shown any remorse over or repentance for signing the MD or his previous ventures in this direction, including his chairmanship of the 2001 Louisville Billy Graham crusade.

    These things, this pattern should be enough to warrant more than simply “admonish” him, which he has thus far rejected; don’t you think?


  28. Sure, Timothy, we may weep and pray over sin. But discussing proper pursuit of Christ is no quibble over theological points. I would think it materially important to our pursuit of proper relationship to Christ and each other. Differences and discussion of those differences about our walk should not be placed aside because it might offend someone. I learn from others. For them to remain silent means I must simply trust to my own imaginings—ugh. As Christians in pursuit of Christ we should not get offended (most often pride) because someone disagrees with us, even when the disagreement is sharp. I disagree, for example, with Lou. I don’t even know him, but based on his writing, I can happily embrace him as my brother in Christ. I don’t have to make him agree with me for fellowship to continue, but I likewise would not want him to slide by my comments without expressing his disagreement. It benefits us all through this type of refining process where perspectives possibly not thought of or properly appreciated may emerge.

    Secondly (and here is an important consideration to this discussion), the listing of separation degrees was not meant as a joke (or rather, just as a joke) to portray insignificance. The right determining of the Gospel and identifying of false gospel are of absolute importance. I believe my listing was faulty because it implied that separation from false gospel and separation from fellow Christians should be conducted along parallel lines. Separation from apostasy is called for by Scripture. There we have no disagreement. But when we evaluate fellow Christians, I believe the Bible teaches us that elements of our approach should change. And here we all basically agree as well (to an extent). But (concerning that with which we disagree), I would not, for example, separate from Billy Graham because he made some bad judgment calls concerning putting the wrong person on his platform. I would, however, separate from Graham because of the reason he put those people on his platform. He himself made statements confusing the true Gospel of Christ, broadening its narrow gate. That, to my understanding, is the cause for separation from a fellow Christian who appears intent on pursuing God. (There are, of course, other reasons for separation from Christians who are not intent on pursuing God. But those don’t bear in this discussion.) But when another Christian who is clear about the Gospel and intent on pursuing Christ determines his activity differently from how I determine mine, I believe I may rebuke and exhort (like Sproul did) but I won’t separate (as in shun from fellowship) until the Gospel comes out from him in confused fashion. It is about the Gospel that we separate, not degrees as to how well a person’s action, in our opinions, may possibly potentially perhaps confuse someone else. That is not a biblical mandate. I may believe that Mohler was absolutely wrong for signing the MD. And I think it biblically right to let him know. But if he doesn’t see it that way and if he is absolutely clear on what the Gospel is and if he desires to pursue Christ, I will let him stand before his Master for judgment. But once he starts saying that the false doctrine teachers may be right too, the Gospel issue is compromised and the line is drawn—that’s when my Master tells me to mark.

  29. Dear Dan,

    I agree that we should talk about it, and I don’t think that our relationships to our brothers in Christ is something of little significance. Yet, I find that your answer is what I am seeking to get after.

    You will not react to the disobedience to Mohler, except to admonish him, stating that his actions do not warrant it. Is he a partaker of the sins of others by acknowledging them as Christians? Has he been admonished previously? What greater confusion can there be in our day? [I believe that Lloyd-Jones was correct when he asserted that the great issue facing us today is who and who is not a Christian.]

    Do what you wish, but for my part, he is worthy of separation at this point, as well as a host of others on that list. I cannot imagine a man of the stature of Mohler to be ignorant of the purposes George and others. To think so is a bit naive on our part.

    I do not separate over this or any other issue with glee or some tightly spun notion of separation. It is with sadness. I dare say that we have minimized this issue of separation because of the battles of yesteryear. However, there are the texts before us, squarely looking at us and calling us to obey Christ in the face of friends, foes, and professional ease.

    Humility is greatly needed, but it must always begin with obedience to Christ. It can and is often used as a cloak of indecision, inactivity, and blatant disregard of Scripture. Is such worthy of the title of such a godly virtue?

  30. Timothy:

    I do not know you, but I sure do appreciate what you are communicating here. Your last (just above) is powerful, right on Scripturally, and stated in charitable terms.


  31. Well, Timothy, I find little in what you say with which to disagree. First, I agree with Lloyd-Jones. Next, I agree that identifying true Gospel is greatly confused today. I also certainly do not believe that you or any other Christian in true pursuit of Christ would separate from another Christian with glee (and if I implied that, I apologize). I agree that humility is needed, but is often a cloak of indecision and disregard of Scripture. Additionally, I agree that the Bible does speak to us about separation. In all, I do not think we disagree at all in general concepts.

    Our point of disagreement is in what those passages of separation tell us. I interpret it rather narrowly to say that we are called to separate from Christians who twist the Gospel from clear biblical declaration. You say Mohler’s actions do this twisting. But you say so contrary to his open declaration of the biblical Gospel. You argue that we should ignore his preaching (perhaps assuming it all to be lies?) and interpret his act of signing as showing what he truly believes–acceptance of false gospel. I just don’t think he’s running this massive duping campaign. From all he’s said and written (that I’ve seen or heard), I think he understands and believes the Gospel rightly. So, admonition is the right response for a bad decision. If in his response, he says, yes, I am by signing this agreeing that Catholic and Orthodox understanding of the Gospel is sufficient for salvation, then I’d get out my Sharpie marker. But he doesn’t seem to think so. So I’m not going to shun him until he comes around to my view of that action.

    From your last paragraph, I guess I also need to apologize for the perception I must have made that I thought I was taking the path of humility while others were not. I do not for a moment doubt the sincerity and humility and all around integrity of everyone involved in this discussion. And I promise you that I’m not trying to use humility to hide indecision, inactivity, or a blatant disregard of Scripture. Holding a differing interpretation does not automatically mean disregard of Scripture, blatant or otherwise.

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