Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"This Is Not Grounds for Separation in Ministry"

That's Sam Horn's view of the priority of one's view on the Great Tribulation. Listen to it for yourself here, in his sermon from 5/18/08, "The Power of a Promise." Make no mistake, he's staunchly and passionately pre-tribulational. He just doesn't think it's grounds for separation. He doesn't even think it should be grounds for church membership. Brookside Baptist Church's statement of faith doesn't address the issue.

A survey of the statements of faith of other dispensational churches will reveal this doctrine is more commonly understood to be grounds for separation than it ought to be. I applaud Pastor Horn for his clear statement of his convictions on the matter, both concerning his personal eschatology and concerning his willingness to covenant together with those who disagree.


G-Harmony said...

I'm sorry, Ben- I must separate from one who applauds one who diminishes the importance of this eschatalogical truth.

It's been nice reading your blog...


terpstra4 said...

Are you aware of when oneness in eschatology became central to fellowship and association among those who believed in the authority and innerancy of scripture? I think it is quite common for specific eshatological details to be included in membership forms and church constitutions.

Ben said...

Terp (Tim or Steve?),

I'm not too sure. I have to imagine it's after the rise in influence of the Scofield Reference Bible, which was first published in 1909.

And of course, I don't think non-dispensationalists ever required this level of agreement. So I can't imagine Machen would have refused fellowship with historic premillennialists in the same way that dispensationalists would have.

But I haven't read much on this. Could be wrong.

Jason Wredberg said...

Bauder just wrote a really helpful article about this on SI... I would recommend it.


Dave said...

FWIW, it might be good to read up on the split among the Presbyterians that sided with Machen before you draw too many conclusions. One aspect of the split between the OPC and the Bible Presbyterian churches was the matter of dispensationalism and eschatology. The charge was led by those who argued that the Westminster standards would not leave room for the BPC position. IOW, it was the non-dispensational, non-pre-trib position refusing room for the other.

Ben said...

Would Machen have had the same level of opposition to the historic premil position? Since some dispensationalists advocated two ways of salvation, I can see why Machen would have rejected that in light of the gospel implications.

Donette said...

I'm curious what this actually means for daily ministry. I have heard plenty of "we don't need to separate over this" talk lately, but have yet to see it fleshed out in any earth-shattering relationships. The speech might have changed, but the actions don't seem to.

Ok, I realize that sounds really cynical, and I'm not trying to be too negative, but I do ask in all sincerity. How does saying that actually change the way you do ministry?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Isn't imminence all over the NT? Isn't it one of the most common teachings of the NT? Isn't it also one of the primary motivators for pure living in the NT? If we take it out of the clear column and put it in the doubtful, doesn't that result in less Christian purity? Doesn't separation protect a Christian doctrine and practice? Are we really unsure how it all is going to end? Could God not make that clear for us? Isn't it avant garde to be unsure on doctrine these days? If you aren't sure, then you're nuanced, sophisticated, and thoughtful, and if you are sure, then you are a plodding, Bulwinkle type of character? Actually you're George Bush culturally. It's fashionable not to know. You've got to respect my honesty---I just can't be sure and I'm going to let you know when it's too hard to figure out.

Dave said...

It is possible (even probable) that the OPC folks would have left room for premillism, but the pertinent point, in terms of the post, seems to be that they practiced separation over an eschatological position.

Ben said...


In fairness, the application of this principle, even if it is taking root, will take some time. These lines were drawn long ago, and engraved deeply in formal institutional doctrinal statements. Those things won't change over night even if leaders want them to.

Ben said...


I think I could answer yes to all your questions. I simply disagree with your presupposition that anything other than dispensational pretribulationism denies imminence. None of the amils I know would accept your presupposition. In fact, they'd argue that the amil position incorporates even more imminence than dispensational pretrib because there's not a 7-year period mandated between the rapture and the second coming.

That doesn't mean their position is better or that I agree. It does help us more accurately understand the amil position.

Ben said...


Do you think it was specifically the eschatology they rejected, or the overall system that they saw as incompatible with the WCF and even the gospel, in light of some dispensational teaching?

Dave said...

I don't think that really matters. The issue was whether separation should be practiced over a matter like this, and my point was to show that folks with a variety of positions in fact do count matters like this as important enough to limit fellowship, and even practice separation. I would assume whoever takes that position does so because they perceive that something significant is at stake.

For instance, I agree with you on the imminence issues, i.e., not only pre-trib can honor those texts, but it does seem that some alternatives do not. If one believes that imminence is so clear in the NT that it can't be ignored, then one might draw the boundaries there. It seems that the implication of this post is that it would be wrong to do so.

Personally, I don't have a problem with what Sam said (as reported), but I also don't have a problem with someone drawing a line on these matters either. Surely, if a church can require belief in the Christian sabbath, they can be specific about eschatological beliefs, can't they? :)

Ben said...


I do think that separation is unjustified in this kind of case if it's separation over a theological canard--as if people were mischaracterizing the imminence issue.

And yes, I do think we should separate from folks who don't hold the Christian sabbath. If people don't think we find our final rest in Christ, I would fear for them and their view of the gospel. ;-)

terpstra4 said...

. . . it's Tim

Doesn't the issue of fellowship/association in this area seem to be one of obedience.
Often the argument against the reformed view of salvation is it results in coldness to sharing the gospel. This could happen, if one only focuses on part of the truth, God's election. But an obedient believer also understands human agency in proclaiming the gospel, and the need for human obedience. If someone is post-trib, mid-trib, etc, they can still believe in an imminent day of the Lord, and thus practice obedience to the urgency of the message of the gospel. Their view of the gospel can/should guide our fellowship.