19 February 2007

Sectarianism and Separation

by Phil Johnson

The Danger of Schism

ast week I began a series of posts by mentioning the ever-increasing number of denominations, church splits, and intramural sectarianism in the wider Protestant world. This not an issue Protestants can or should easily sweep aside. It is quite true that schism is a fruit of sin and unfaithfulness, and it has hurt our testimony.

The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for having a sectarian spirit: "Each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas,' and 'I of Christ.' Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:12-13). Later in the epistle he added, "For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one" (3:4-5).

Deliberately causing schisms in the body of Christ is a demonic sin—so much so that divisive people are not to be tolerated in the church. In Matthew 18, Christ outlined a series of four steps churches should go through in calling a sinning brothers to repentance. But when someone is schismatic, Paul says, that discipline process may be accelerated. He wrote in Titus 3:10-11: "Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned."

It's fair to ask, then, if schism is such a serious sin, why are there so many different denominations? The Protestant Reformation gave rise to Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, Congregationalism, Methodism, Episcopalianism, the Plymouth Brethren, the Open Brethren, the Closed Brethren, the Church of Christ, the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of God, the Assemblies of God, Holiness churches, Pentecostal churches, Dutch Reformed churches, Christian Reformed churches, Protestant Reformed churches, Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Sovereign Grace Baptists, Landmark Baptists, Independent Baptists, American Baptists, Southern Baptists, Freewill Baptists, General Baptists, Regular Baptists, Particular Baptists, and Strict and Particular Baptists.

And that list only scratches the surface. The Handbook of Denominations lists hundreds more.

Let's be honest: one can hardly blame non-Christians for being nonplussed by the variety. The pagan from a non-Christian society is not likely to look at Christendom and say, "Behold, how they love one another."

The Necessity of Separation

On the other hand, we who are Christians must understand that Christendom is not "the church." All who call themselves Christians are not true followers of Christ—and there's no reason we should try to make Moslems or Hindus think all varieties of so-called Christianity are truly Christian.

Just because a church or denomination calls itself "Christian" does not mean it is part of the body of Christ. That has been true even from biblical times. Consider, for example, the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. At least one was totally apostate and three or four others were already apostatizing. We know from Jesus' warning to the church at Laodicea that it is possible for a church to abandon the truth so completely that Christ Himself will reject that church and spew it out of His mouth.

True Christians must not fellowship with such apostate groups (2 Cor. 6:15-17; Eph. 5:11).

In other words, some degree of doctrinal purity is a valid prerequisite for organizational unity. It's simply wrong to set aside all our doctrinal differences for the sake of an artificial organizational "unity." This is particularly true of those doctrinal issues that are immediately germane to the gospel. In fact, the apostle Paul taught that so-called "Christians" who corrupt or compromise the utter freeness of justification are not to be regarded as brethren at all! He pronounced a curse on them (Gal. 1:8-9). The apostle John taught the same thing (2 John 7-11).

Since the major point at issue between Protestants and Catholic or Orthodox traditions is the gospel (particularly the doctrine of justification by faith—which is the very point Paul wrote to defend in his epistle to the Galatians), it is utterly fatuous to suggest that a show of external unity should take precedence over our doctrinal differences. It is tantamount to saying Christians are not supposed to be concerned with truth at all.

Is organizational solidarity what Jesus meant by unity? That's a question worth examining, and we'll take it up in the next entry.

Phil's signature


Colin Maxwell said...

I nearly believed your noticeboard graphic, until I saw the pastor's name. First thing on a Monday morning too.

Dennis Elslager said...

Sectarianism is a sin of pride...

Maybe this doesn't seem to fit but I do believe that God permits some of this in order to prevent a potentially worse sin of pride as it was in the case with the Tower of Babel. I think that it may take incredible humility and spiritual maturity for true born-again Christians to handle real Scriptural unity in Christ's Love. For once we think we have it we may be tempted to take the credit for it and sin against His Love as we look at ourselves and then take our eyes off of Him. God forbid!

God is Sovereign and if He wanted our unity to be revealed to this world He would produce it in His people to a greater extent than He is now. We all know there will be a false unity --based on lies from Satan- in the end times to be avoiding. It is sad but we see the affects of this potential even in "Christendom" today.

"that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life," (Phil 2:15-16)

May God grant the grace for His people --whatever subtitle they accept on themselves-- to shine in the unity of His "Spirit and Truth". For this is truly a work which only God could do for His own glory. And we look forward to the Day when all of this fleshly mix-up will be uncovered and removed from us as His one-people in His One Kingdom. I certainly do.

I look forward to seeing more of what you say on this. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

A great post, and I look forward to your future posts on the issue.
Certainly organizational unity with apostates is not possible (what relationship can light have with darkness?), but shouldn't there be some level of organizational unity among those which share a common gospel? John 17:20-23 mentions unity twice, both times linking it in some way to the Christian testimony of God and the sending of Jesus. And outward expression of unity through organization would seem to do a part of this. Or is organizational unity the equivalent of man's desire to look on outward appearances and miss the interior truth? John2031

Anonymous said...

Unity at all cost is not unity, but uniformity.

Unknown said...

Two remarks, one responsive and the other anticipatory:

1. Response: In the true "Lord's Prayer" (Jn 17), Jesus prays ". . . that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."

Given that the world believing that Jesus is the Christ hinges to some extent on unity, I don't think we can say that disunity is due to God's sovereignty. It is something He anticipated (Mt 7.21-23) but that does not mean He caused or desired it. He wants unity; He allows for disunity and gives us, as Phil explains, grounds for it.

2. Anticipation: If we are to divide over matters critical or pertaining to the gospel, some may raise the issue of lordship in the gospel presentation: should we separate from those who teach other than we believe?

I do not believe lordship is a necessary part of the gospel. Let me hasten to add, however, that any gospel presentation that does not consider and cover Jesus Christ as Lord over all, including (but not especially) His own, is a poor presentation of the gospel. What may have been known and understood about God two thousand years ago is not known and understood today. To share the gospel is to educate a very ignorant (in most cases) audience and one is remiss if the lordship of Christ is not taught, albeit (in my view) not required.

Solameanie said...


The thing with the notice board might well be a graphic here, but I have actually seen church signs spelling it out like that. I was so intrigued I almost stopped and asked the pastor if I could take a skin sample to have it analyzed at the nearest hospital.

I think Phil spells it out pretty well here. Separation over non-essentials is sin, but so many elevate non-essentials to core issues.

DJP said...

Aw, you left off my favorite: Primitive Baptists.

Scribe said...

Interesting article in today's London Times about how many Anglicans are going over to Rome, which is perceived as a being stalwart in the face of liberalism and modernism. The Tiber-crossers are willing to surrender Protestant doctrine for the illusion of unity and magisterial faithfulness.

Jon from Bucksport said...

Like others I am looking forward to reading your further comments on the subject.
I do want to interject at this point that this is one thing that the early fundamentalists did so well. They unified around the really important stuff and did not focus on differences of baptism, ecclesiology, soteriology, et al. Unfortunately much that calls itself fundamentalism today has lost this and if you are not Big-B baptist or KJV only or whatever you cannot be a fundamentalist in too many places. Much of modern fundamentalism has become simply sectarian.

LeeC said...

I left a GARB church over what I am pretty certain many here would agree were good reasons.

That week my family started attending another non-denominational church.

Two weeks later we became members there, only because there newcomer membership system took that long. Many of my friends from my old church who left alos and were still looking for a church asked me "wasn't that a bit soon?"

My answer was why wait? This church is a doctrinally sound, elder based church that excercises church discipline in the most loving of ways. Whats to wait for?

God commands we be an acvtive part of the body and be held accountable by our elders. He does not require us to make sure we are fond of the musc program, the colour of the pews, or even the style of preaching. These people are my brothers and sisters and I and joining them in fellowship.

The joining the new church was easy. The leaving the old one was not. And thats how I believe it should be.

Sharon said...

Nice companion to your sermon yesterday, Phil. I meant to ask you (or anyone else here with insight) . . .

When talking with a Christian who believes erroneous doctrine, at what point do you abandon 1 Peter 3:15 (But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear) and invoke
Titus 3:9 (But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.)?

amy & albert said...


Please help me understand your point here. You seem to say that schisms are bad and then come back to the fact that sometimes schisms are necessary for the purity of the gospel.

I completely agree with separation over essential doctrines of the gospel and fundamentals points of the faith. Certainly, one needs to properly define both the gospel and the fundamental of the faith and that's not a simple task.

However, your post gives examples of Christian schisms and the proliferation of protestant demononinations. Surely, "all" of those demoninations cannot be guilty of perverting the gospel.

I'm fairly confident that you will get there in your future posts in this series, but I think the point of your post is somewhat muddled.

Personnally, it's not the proliferation of groups within Christendom that bothers me as I completely agree with you that not all groups within Christendom are Christian. It's the proliferation of "Christian" groups that bother me.

It just seems to me that we (Christians) spend more time bickering with ourselves rather than cooperating with other Christians in being a salt and light to the world around us. It seems that we spend a whole lot of time trying to one-up each other. It's certainly a huge turn-off for me.

I'm a big fan for your blog, but I can't help but find much disunity in many of your posts, especially in areas not germane to the gospel. Not a very complete response, I know. Lots more I can say, but gotta get back to work.

I "am" looking forward to the rest of your series.

LeeC said...

I am not Phil Albert, but this might be pertinant.

When I was at my old church there came up an issue that my pastor, most of the deacon board and much of the church became convinced was unbiblical in our church. When this issue was brought up many immediatly got offended saying "What are you saying that this church has been in SIN for the past FIFTY YEARS???"

They could not grasp that EVERY church on this earth is is sin (not in total conformation with Gods Word and will)in some way and will be until Christ finishes perfecting His bride.

When I left they asked if I thought the church I was going to would be free from all the things I found odious there. I told them probably not, and if it was, I am certain there will be other issues that need to change eventually, but that IS THE WALK. just like Christians themselves the church is in a state of sanctification. I told them that my prayer is that the church I attend would be changing...always, that every three months or so you could look back and see how it had changed as it moves forward to conformity with Christs will for His Church.

Just like Christians as individuals are all different and have different areas where they need more work in thier sanctifiction, so is the various churches. One body, made up of many bodies, made up of individual peoples, all striving for Chrait likeness.

The Holy Spirit enlightens each of us as He wills to Gods truth, each in different measure.

I pray that makes some sense.

Cindy Swanson said...

I was going to comment about the article concerning Anglicans being urged to unite with Catholics under the Pope's leadership,then saw that "scribe" beat me to the punch. Am I the only one who thinks that story is major?

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is a big deal! But maybe for reasons other than just the Anglicans sliding further from the truth (assuming that is what you are thinking).
If the Catholics and Anglicans can patch up such historic divisions, how will the world now look at the "petty" doctrinal divisions of modern evangelicalism? Not that we are concerned about the world's view (truth trumps them), but I would imagine it would be a thorn in our side as we live in front of the world.

Phil Perkins said...

Phil Johnson,
Here's a question I asked you in an as-yet-unanwered email, but it is in line with your topic here. (I understand you're busy, too.) I see you push Tim Challies a lot. I used to recommend him as well. I quit that because he has recently plugged an audio form of the TNIV. When I asked how he could reconcile that with the scriptural admonitions to never alter the Bible, he simply got angry.

In light of the fact that the TNIV was purposely altered from the original to be more feminist-friendly, and in light of the fact that the Scripture strictly forbids such a practice, why do you still associate with someone doing and approving things for which the Old Covenant prescribes stoning and the New prescribes excommunication?

I know you associate with John MacArthur. He would never approve of things like the TNIV would he?

Do you?

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Good points, Phil. I'm interested in how you'll deal with this, especially in light of 1 Cor. 12 teaching "no schism in the body."

Daniel said...

why do you still associate with someone doing and approving things...

Do I smell another guilt-by-association tangent a'comin... ?

Phil Perkins said...

Yes, you do. Both Paul and John warned about it. The Old Covenant warned about it severely.

"If any man comes to you not carrying this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or even speak to greet him. For the one speaking to greet him has fellowship with his evil works."

And "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?"

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Phil Perkins said...

One more detail. It seems you think I'm calling PJ guilty. I'm not, yet. I'm trying to simply get an answer.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Stephen Newell said...

After having just examined the thread in question over at Challies', the word "troll" comes to mind. You were asked to cool it there. They're a bit more strict over here.

Phil Perkins said...

Well, folks, I'm still waiting for an answer and I have to get back to work. So, I'll just say this:

I'm fifty. Raised in a good Christian home. The thought of purposely changing the Bible from the originals for any reason, was just not even thought of. At age six I knew better. And I knew that anyone who even suggested it was whacked or not a Christian.

I am ashamed to say the unthinkable is now debated and even done. Does anyone think God doesn't notice?

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

FX Turk said...

Phil Perkins:

I'm not speaking for my beloved friend Phil, but while I am on-record as being against the TNIV as a study bible of any kind, the audio TNIV which Challies "pushed' is actually quite a decent thing to listen to. The actors reading -- almost all Black, which is its own kind of interesting detail -- really put it over the top.

It's like devotional reading -- for example, I don't think anyone is actively harmed by reading Max Lucado, unless they are only reading Max Lucado, and there are some things Lucado is pretty good at. In the same way, I don't think reading the Message paraphrase gets one blotted out of the Lamb's book of life -- unless that's what someone wants to call the "word of God" on a primary or exclusive basis.

The audio Bible is a great dramatic portrayal of the story of the Bible. It is not the Bible. In the same way that the last incarnation (heh) of the "Gospel of John" movie was taken from the Good News translation (which I think it not good enough to be used from the pulpit), it is completely fine for making a movie.

At some place, we have to behave as if we can understand how things can be used. A paraphrase is completely worthless for serious study of the Bible -- however, it may be of some use as devotional reading or painting the broad strokes of the story of Jesus Christ.

In that, the TNIV may have some use in spite of what I would agree with you are serious shortcomings in the philosophy behind the translation. One of those uses would not be "primary text for teaching from the pulpit"; one of them might be "one text used for dramatic reading for edifying entertainment".

Casting Challies in the outer darkness for endorsing the Bible Experience seems to be a bit much. Other people might have another opinion -- I leave that to them.

FX Turk said...

BTW, Mr. Perkins:

In your pinion, are there any uses, for example, for the Vulgate Latin which are legitimate to the faith?

That's a trick question, so consider it carefully.

Phil Johnson said...

Phil Perkins: "I know you associate with John MacArthur. He would never approve of things like the TNIV would he?"

Well, Tim Challies hasn't exactly given any kind of ringing endorsement to the TNIV, either. I presume you're referring to this post, where Challies said he liked a dramatic reading of the TNIV that was done by some Hollywood actors. Actually, he said, "the recording is done well and the dramatizations are really quite good. This isn't a product I am likely to use very often, but I can understand its appeal."

For that you think he would have been stoned under the Old Covenant?

I don't think so.

In case the point of my post was really that obscure, let me reiterate it here: Hyper-separation and hyper-criticism are as dangerous and seductive as compromise—and your comment illustrates the difficulty of keeping a clear line between the two. See also this post for my thoughts on the importance of balance. It applies to this issue.

Would you really campaign to have someone labeled a damnable heretic just because he gave a qualified recommendation to a single product based on a bad Bible translation? You seriously need to rethink that.

Scripture commands us to separate from unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-17); damnable heretics (2 John 7-11); and chronically unruly or idle brethren (2 Thessalonians 3:6). The only way you could justify a call for formal separation from Tim Challies over this post would be if you could make a cogent biblical argument that the TNIV is not merely an inferior translation, but that it is damnably bad—so evil that those who made it, all who use it, and anyone who recommends a product based on it has committed a sin so grievous that we must conclude that the person was probably never a true believer in Christ in the first place.

Absent such an argument, you ought to express your disagreement with Challies in a more rational and respectful manner.

Returning to a point I have made repeatedly on this blog: early twentieth-century fundamentalism failed practically at the very outset because fundamentalists never had any clear consensus regarding something so basic as how to distinguish between primary and secondary doctrines. If someone can't see any difference between something truly essential to Christianity (such as the deity of Christ) and belief in something that is about as far from "fundamental" as you can get (such as the notion that Scripture prohibits women from wearing slacks), then the term fundamentalist is a misnomer. Crackpot would be more fitting.

No English translation is so utterly perfect that a failure to use it is a damnable sin; and none of the well-known English translations is so thoroughly evil that you'll be damned if you fail to rise up and condemn every conceivable use of it. I recently mentioned that I came to Christ while reading the RSV. I eventually learned about the many deficiencies in the translation, but that didn't nullify my conversion, did it? Even today, if someone called me late one night while grappling with guilt and told me that's the only version of the Bible he owned, would I recommend that he read it anyway? I certainly would.

The tendency to elevate the issue of Bible translations to the level of fundamental doctrine (mostly by people who lack any knowledge of the original languages anyway) is, I think, graphic proof of how far militant fundamentalism has gone off the rails. And the swiftness with which some fundamentalists want to condemn those who disagree with them on this issue is a classic instance of the kind of sinful sectarianism I was referring to in this post.

Phil Perkins said...

Actually, I was very polite to him. He simply got mad when I wanted an answer to the same question I am going to ask you.

Why is okay to produce, push, or use a purposely altered Bible version in light of Scriptural injunctions like these: Prov. 30:5-6, Deut. 4:2, II Timothy 3:16-17, and Revelation 22: 18-19?

If I misunderstand these passages, straighten me out. Remember that the Rev. passage promises hell to those who tamper with that prophecy.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Dennis Elslager said...

"They could not grasp that EVERY church on this earth is is sin (not in total conformation with Gods Word and will)in some way and will be until Christ finishes perfecting His bride." -leec

This rang well with me. And as it goes with each of as individuals so with the whole. We will all have sin until our bodies are redeemed. So His Body will have sin until He redeems His Bride at His coming and perfects Her. At this point She will have all of her individual parts changed to His likeness completely. Yet He will work a purification in Her up until that point by working in each individual part. This is where it really counts. What are you and I doing before Him as an individual to yield to His holiness by grace. "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." (Heb 7:25)

It seems to me that through God's Sovereignty He has designed division for the purpose of producing a further purified true and mature unity in His real essence and likeness. A pruning in His sight if you will. He alone has the facts on who is closely following His heart and truth. And as it goes with the individuals pruning process so goes the whole.

Pure Doctrine is not dead in Christ for it is Alive in this way... it reflects and emanates His Life and Likeness.

"Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you." (1Cor 11:17-19)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Perkins, perhaps you'd be more comfortable over here:

I think Frank and Phil have adequately responded to your inquiries.

Cindy Swanson said...

e. stevenson, thanks for your response to my comment. You make a very good point.

Phil Perkins said...

Phil Johnson,
Thanks for getting to me.

The very act of altering the Scripture is sinful is it not?

If one were to postulate that there was no doctrinal error in a purposely altered translation, this fact remains:

The very act of purposely altering it is shameful regardless of the end product.

And paying someone (Zondervan in this case) to lie is wrong(altering Scripture is lying, Prov. 30:5-6.) Notice the fellowship principle in II John 10-11. Helping a sinner to sin makes you guilty with him.

Two things. First, I do not mean that Tim should be separated from, necessarily. It depends on what he does. I will certainly not recommend him anymore until he shows a little more rational respect for the Bible. Zondervan is who did it and I know that. It's just that, when confronted with the Scripture, Tim would not deal with the issue.

Face it, if he's right, and I'm wrong, why not just say so and tell me why? I'll at least listen.

Second, I do not believe that the TNIV will wreck your faith, especially if you know what they did. That isn't the main issue. I certainly didn't say that. However, it could lead a novice into error having to do with gender roles.

Here is the issue: Zondervan purposely altered the translation for reasons that had nothing to do with the text. That is called editing, not translating. It is dishonest to edit a document and not say so. That sort of practice would not pass in a law firm or at a news bureau. In fact, it would not do in any organization handling information.

Zondervan even sold the kids' version without warning parents about the gender alterations. They have been dishonest and, to be totally accurate, their translation down plays the masculine to please certain folks.

That sort of behavior is forbidden to the child of God. In this I will disagree with you:

It is not sinful to be concerned over the accurate handling of Scripture. It is sinful to be nonchalant about it.

Why do we excuse this sort of sloppiness out of our translators? I can only say we lack a zeal for the Word. After all, the Bible demands accuracy from prophets, teachers, pastors, and so forth.

Finally, you seemed to assume some things that are not true. I know the languages and have taught them at the college level for about 5 years. No, I don't have an antiquated dress code for women. Socks are just fine if they match. There was a number of that sort of thing in there.

Again, thanks for getting to me.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Phil Perkins said...

Do you know how long it took me to figure what was wrong with your picture? Every time I scrolled, I thought I had a twitch in my eye. Finally, one day I looked at it long enough to see it blink. "Great! I'm not crazy!"

As to your concerns about translation philosophy--thanks. It's nice to know not everyone over there thinks I'm a hillbilly with a Bible and a straw hat. (I wonder what is said about R. C. Sproul, since he shares this concern.) I can't believe how little we care anymore. At any rate, you can see what I wrote to Phil. That will answer you, too.

I don't know if you read all my comments, but I'm shocked that this sort of thing is tolerated at all. Literally, when I was six, I knew you didn't tamper with the Bible. Now it's up for discussion and few will deal with it. Just look at this comment thread. Much more ink has been spilled trying to get the wild-eyed bible-banger under control than those that will even fake concern for the proper treatment of what was once called "Holy Writ."

Why? There is little zeal.

As to the Latin Vulgate, likening it to the TNIV is a bit of a stretch I think and you're over my head. What's the trick? I suppose it would be good for historical study into Catholic history and doctrine. The TNIV may someday be valuable to study Evangelical feminism as it occured in our time. I still won't buy it in any form for the reasons mentioned in my response to Phil. My great, great, great grandkid can someday study it for a class on 21st century gender role heresies in Western Christianity.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Discipula said...


Great post. Our pastor is doing a Sunday School class on church history and we discussed this very topic. He related that the true church is not denonminational but as the Nicene Creed states "one, holy, catholic and apostolic", with the faithful teaching of the apostles as the foundation. He said he has fewer problems with denominations if there is creedal agreement on the major items. The biggest problem he mentioned is the separatist mentality of so many churches which purposely cut themsleves off from the visible church, through ignorance or sin, denying the importance of the faithful teaching of the Church Fathers before us.

Just where do our Fundamentalist and Evangelical Separatists believe they would be without Augustine, Calvin, Luther etc.?? Bowing to Rome most likely, under non-apostolic doctrine.


donsands said...

"A worthless person, a wicked man,
He sows discord.

These six the Lord hates,
And one who sows discord among the brethern." Prov. 6:12,14,16,19

" ... false brethern secretly brought in (who come in by stealth ..)" Gal. 2:4

I was looking at this this morning with my wife, and we prayed that we would never bring discord, and yet we need to be very cautious. We need to be wary of these stealth-tares, that look like wheat, that cause the discord.
Seems the only way to "mark" them, or identify them, is to pass their teachings through the filter of God's Holy Word.

Dennis Elslager said...

Seems the only way to "mark" them, or identify them, is to pass their teachings through the filter of God's Holy Word. -donsands

This was a beautiful statement. I would add one thought to it which may be assumed here anyway. The fruit of how they "apply" Scripture is vital to our discernment as well. My family and some other friends we know have experienced that sounding doctrinally correct and living doctrinally correct can deceptively be 2 different things altogether. Be careful not to be fooled by "look alike" doctrine which is a cover for pride and control of others.

FX Turk said...

Mr. Perkins:

My question about the Vulgate comes to you for two purposes:

[1] To demonstrate that god can use a badly-flawed trasnlation of His word to call men to himself.

[2] To demonstrate that you are approaching this subject with a bias which ignores history and fact.

Let's assume for a second that the TNIV is entirely nefarious -- a premise which I think cannot be sustained. Is it possible for any nefarious deed to be used by God to reach His end? Why yes, it is -- it seems like the crucifixion of Christ is actually an entirely nefarious deed carried out by men of utterly vile motive by which God has given us a Savior.

So the assumption that the TNIV cannot be used for anything good is not necessary due to logic. However, you might retort that it is being used by one wing of liberal advocates to reshape the way people think about the Bible. And it is in that which we must find some substantive objection.

Listen: somehow, the Gospel survived Neitzsche and 20th century humanism. It survived the liberalization of the mainlines. It is surviving the SBC and it's stupid attempts to revive Prohibition and all sorts of legalism. Somehow, the Gospel survives the best attenpts of men to ruin it.

And in that, it survives the callow attempts of some to bastardize the text. Listen: the Gospel survived the Living Bible, and the Message. It will survive the TNIV.

And if some use the TNIV, for example, to produce dramatic presentations of the text, that's a lot better than GodSpell or Jesus Christ, Super Star.

I think your ruse that you "don't mess with the word of God" is a little overwrought. What has happened is that UBS has simply become a liberal organ -- and I think your view that it has something to do with Zondervan's funding is at least plausible. But in that, think about this: The RSV/NRSV has become the ESV. If you ask me, it is right for us to take the things which the "liberals" do well and not fear that we have somehow impeached ourselves. An in that, the largest problem for TNIV is that it is making the same kinds of mistakes RSV/NRSV made a generation ago.

The liberals are supposed to be smart guys -- and they're a generation behind? Let's use whatever they have done right here -- for example, making an utterly appealing dramatic reading of the bible -- and leverage it to spread the Gospel.

You could do it, you know. You could use this to get someone to hear the metanarrative for the first time, and then get them to hear the details at your church which is undoubtedly already perfect in doctrine because they actually listened. And they'd never know that the first time they heard the Gospel was in what can be called generously a "paraphrastic" form -- that is, in one kind of dramatic interpretation.

You know: rather than hang Challies out to dry for a half-hearted endorsement.

FX Turk said...

Note to devoted readers:

I think I just used the "like ministry" retort. Cany have a comment about that?

Phil Perkins said...

"So the assumption that the TNIV cannot be used for anything good is not necessary due to logic."

You're assuming I assumed that. Reread.

"God can and does use evil to accomplish good" is no excuse to do evil, even if I had said what you said I did. "The gospel survived Neitzsche" is no excuse to be like Neitzsche.

I know nothing about Zondervan's funding and said nothing about it.

You still have not dealt with the sin of altering the Scripture. Saying it is overwrought sounds good, but it doesn't deal with it. The Bible forbids it. Zondervan has done it.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

AuthenticTruth said...

Those who are the perpetrators of false teaching are actually the ones causing division. Titus 3:10-11, 1 Timothy 6:3, Romans 16:17-18 and 2 John 10 all deal with those bringing false doctrine into the church, and should be reprimanded promptly and if necessary, removed from fellowship and avoided. There is a call for biblical separation to preserve crucial doctrine. It is unfortunate, but it is sometimes necessary for a group to separate from a church or denomination. It is true that sound doctrine divides, but that division is necessary in order to maintain doctrinal purity. But it is also true that sound doctrine unites those who are genuine believers.

I do grieve over those who go out of their way to create division unnecessarily over issues that are really not crucial doctrines. That sort of division does not glorify God and is often centered more on pride. It is one thing to believe and teach according to one’s conviction, but it is another to go out of the way to separate and refuse to have anything to do with other believers over non-essentials.

I believe that true unity centering on the Gospel does indeed cross denominational boundaries, but NEVER at the expense of sound doctrine. That is why I am encouraged by such things as the “Together for the Gospel” conference, where men are gathered together even from different churches to uphold sound doctrine and the purity of the Gospel.

I am looking forward to the upcoming posts.

Al said...

Was it an ecumenical spirit that led you to link to Doug Wilson's blog?

BTW, how long has that been there?

al sends

Phil Perkins said...

Centurion and Phil,
I won't be able to get back here tomorrow until the evening. I have to go up to a hospital and tend to my dad.

So...thus far today, I was called a fundie who wants Tim stoned, doesn't know the languages, and won't let my wife wear socks, by Phil. And Centurion has told me everything I don't actually think.

You have still not answered this question: Why is it okay to produce, push, or buy a purposely altered Bible version in light of the biblical injuntions against doing such a thing?

To remind you: "Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you and you be proved a liar."--Prov. 30:6. "If any man comes to you not bearing this doctrine, do not receive him into the house and do not speak to greet him. For the one speaking to greet him has fellowship in his evil works." II John 10-11. "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you."--Deut. 4:2. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."--II Tim. 3:16-17. And "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book."--Revelation 22:18-19.

See you tomorrow night.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins. PS--I don't hate you guys. I've enjoyed your stuff for a long time. I just want to know why you tolerate this sin.

chuck grantham said...

The only truly bad bible is an unread bible.

But it is true, I get queasy when I find a moveable nu misplaced between the Greek new testament and the Greek old testament....

Phil Perkins said...

This may shock you. Not using the TNIV does not (I repeat "does not") make you have to use Jesus Christ Superstar or Godspell in your evangelism.


Phil Johnson said...

Al Sends:

I've had a link to Doug Wilson since the day I launched my original blog.

Phil Perkins: "I just want to know why you tolerate this sin."

What "sin" am I "tolerating"? You have yet to make a cogent, biblical case that anyone has "sinned," and I think you ought to guard your tongue until you do that.

Your argument seems to be that since Tim Challies failed to condemn a product that used the TNIV, he is in effect guilty of producing, pushing, or buying a damnably corrupted Bible. Moreover, you seem to be saying that my refusal to excommunicate him from my blogroll makes me likewise guilty. If that is in fact your rationale, should you not also practice (and demand) separation from me as well? And how many degrees into the chain of relationships does this great guilt by association extend?

Phil Johnson said...

PS: Incidentally, Phil Perkins, you were the one who brought up stoning and suggested that Challies was "approving and doing" something that would get him stoned in the OT economy:

"why do you still associate with someone doing and approving things for which the Old Covenant prescribes stoning and the New prescribes excommunication?"

If you didn't mean to suggest that Tim Challies is guitly of "doing and approving things for which the Old Covenant prescribes stoning," what did you mean?

Did you say you were banned at Challies? Given the way you have pursued this argument here, I can see why.

Al said...

Man... I am pathetically unobservant... Man!

al sends

Chuck said...

Perhaps we should separate from D.A. Carson as well? Carson has gone on record that he thinks the TNIV is an alright and uses it occasionally.

I'm not saying that I like the TNIV; nor am I saying that we should all turn our prayer mats towards Trinity and pray at sunup, noon and sundown. But I do think that while I may disagree with Dr. Carson (and boy does THAT look arrogant coming from me!), I don't believe he would willingly promote the use of a Bible that was, as is being said over and over, purposely edited and then lied out. All that to say, where is your proof that they actually altered the text and then covered it up? I think the translation stinks too, and believe it or not I read a lot of the criticisms of it when it first hit stores (esp. from Wayne Grudem), but I have yet to see evidence that it is the result of some vast left-wing liberal machinery and not simply bad linguistic theory.
Of course, that's about as much of an endorsement as Challies gave...

FX Turk said...

Mr. Perkins --

I think the place to start is for you to go and get a nice refresher course in effective communication.

Then, when you have that under your belt, come back and read your posts and the responses you got from Phil and myself.

If that doesn't clear it up, I'll take another pass at the matter.

Amen? God bless you.

Phil Perkins said...

Is it a sin to purposely alter the Scripture?

Then is it a sin to knowingly promote an altered Scripture version?

Examine Deut 18. The threshold is not damnable heresy. It is misrepresentation of what God has said.

Finally, saying these things is not rude.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Lou Martuneac said...


Your post was right on target. I have written on this subject as well from Jude3 Is It the Christians Duty to Fight for the Faith; and Romans 16:17-20 A Heart to Heart with Pastors & Christian Leaders.

The ironic thing is that the teachers of false doctrine will claim those who object and take a biblical militant stand are the ones causing division. They would be called loveless, combative, and divisive. You may be familiar with Dr. Mark Minnick. I cite him on separation in my book, and he specifically addresses the issues you have touched on. At the 1997 Mid-America Conference on Preaching Dr. Minnick preached a two part sermon from Romans 16:17-20. The title of his message was: The Scriptural Response to Teachers of Doctrinal Error. Here is a sample:

“It is not authentic teaching that creates the divisions; it is the contrary teaching that creates the division. They have got it just backwards. . . . Those who teach contrary to the body of revealed truth . . . are the ones who create the divisions and create the stumbling blocks.”

In Contending for the Faith Dr. Fred Moritz wrote:
“An objective study of the New Testament leads first to the conclusion that the New Testament teaches that there are times when local churches and believers must reluctantly take the action of separating themselves from other believers. The purpose of such separation is purity. The local church is to take the extreme action of separation from a disobedient brother when necessary in order to preserve its purity of life and testimony.”

Here is a paragraph I wrote that speaks to a concern I have:
“Christian leaders are generally willing to expose doctrinal error in denominational or fellowship circles outside their own, but there is a tendency to recoil when error is pointed out within one’s own sphere of fellowship. As shown earlier the Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders that, “…of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things” (Acts 20:30). It is not in keeping with the plain warning of the Apostle Paul to think that doctrinal deviation will not arise from within one’s own camp. We must not think that doctrinal deviation will not rear its head close to home.”

I would recommend two books by Dr. Ernest Pickering and a third by Dr. Fred Moritz on the subject of separation.
Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church
The Tragedy of Compromise: The Origin & Impact of the New Evangelicalism
Contending for the Faith

Kind regards,



James Scott Bell said...

I am mystified by the argument of Mr. Perkins here. It would seem his position would condemn all preachers of the Word, too. If I am expounding upon Roman 8:28 for example, and in an effort to embed it further in the hearers say something like, "The sense of the language here is that God weaves anything that happens, whether good or bad, into a pattern for the believer's ultimate good," am I guilty of violating Rev. 22:18? Or am I exempt just because it is done orally? Or if the sermon is printed out, am I then condemned?

Such a view is patent nonsense and unworkable in any meaningful sense, unless I am completely musunderstanding the sentiment.

FX Turk said...

Mr. Perkins:

The answers to your question, in order, are --

[1] I need an example to understand what you are asking

[2] see [1]

[3] Deu 18 is talking about false prophecy -- not about (for example) translating the Bible from Hebrew to English, or into any language.

[4] What is rude is your inability to hear what is being said to you -- there comes a place when it seems obvious someone isn't listening. You want a yes-or-no answer to a question which is itself problematic. If I asked you right now, "Have you stopped beating your dog?" can you answer that yes or no? What if you never beat your dog? What if you don't have a dog? In the same way, what if Challies has not sinned and the TNIV is not what you say it is -- can your question be answered yes or no?

Please -- engage this subject with more than an eagerness to uncover the real apostates. Maybe the problem is that you don;t understand the problem -- in which case, you might learn something if you engage in a more-than-superficial way.

FX Turk said...

That would be the Lou Martuneac, by the way, who rejects the Lordship position on salvation -- that the faith which saves is a faith which sanctifies.

The rest of us are heretics in Martuneac's view -- so before anyone jumps into his boat, make sure you're willing to row where he's going with this.

And what's the irony? That Lordship salvation is a damned heresy, but then not separating from us Lordship types is also damnable heresy. It's amazing how many rules these guys have to obey in order to reject the lordship of Christ in salvation.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

I do not believe that the separations and divisions in Christendom are really all that complex, when you boil it down to several key questions:

1) Was the East or the West correct?

2) Was Luther or Calvin correct?

3) Is Lutheranism correct, or Enthusiasm [and all their heirs today]?

4) Is liberal mainline Christianity correct or historic Christian orthodoxy?

You can pretty much put all existing church bodies into four categories with these questions.

For what it is worth.

Lou Martuneac said...

Dr. Mike:

You asked, “If we are to divide over matters critical or pertaining to the gospel, some may raise the issue of lordship in the gospel presentation: should we separate from those who teach other than we believe?”

To your question: “…should we separate from those who teach other than we believe?” I am only assuming you are sympathetic to the Lordship interpretation of the gospel.

In So Great Salvation Charles Ryrie wrote, “The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is a false gospel and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9), and this is a very serious matter.”

Lordship advocates believe men who preach less than “whole-hearted commitment” and “full surrender” to the lordship of Christ for salvation preaches a false gospel. Since the gospel is a major doctrine and should never be compromised or compromise tolerated; isn’t this an issue that men on both sides of the position ought to conclude that the Bible necessitates separation over?

You also wrote, “I do not believe lordship is a necessary part of the gospel….To share the gospel is to educate a very ignorant (in most cases) audience and one is remiss if the lordship of Christ is not taught, albeit (in my view) not required.”

Most Lordship advocates would read that and say you are then preaching a weak, watered-down gospel.

I have raised and written on Lordship controversy. There are many areas that men can disagree over charitably and still fellowship with one another. The gospel, however, is not one of them. In my opinion, because it is the gospel, and the Lordship interpretation frustrates grace through its man-centered demands for the reception of salvation, it is a separation issue. Because of my convictions on this matter I would not work in cooperation with or lend my support to any man or organization that holds to Lordship Salvation.

For the record: I do not stand for or tolerate the so-called Easy-Believism that is found in some circles, and would in no way fellowship with that crowd either.



donsands said...


You mentioned how Paul warned of wolves entering in in Acts 20.

Would one of the wolves doctrine's perhaps refer back to Paul's thoughts in verse 21: "Testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

Here the Apostle states the simple truth of repentance, and faith in the Lord. In other words Paul preached to trun from your sin, and believe Jesus is Lord.
And no one can do this, unless the Holy Spirit enables him.

God has mercy on whom He will, and His grace is sufficient to take a wicked heart of pride, and melt it nto a heart that is sorrowful, and confesses it needs to repent, and cries out to the Lord for forgiveness, which is only found at the Cross, and from a risen Lord of lords, the Savior of the world.

Phil Johnson said...


1. You're veering off-topic.

2. That's not a proposition I'm putting on the table for debate; it's a word of caution. Heed it.

3. If you use the comments in this blog to shill for your book one more time, I'll ban you permanently. Perhaps you haven't noticed, but your incessant self-promotion of your book became a joke about 3-4 months ago. It's not funny anymore.

To sum up:

Keep the ads at your own blog. Keep on topic here.

C.T. Lillies said...

I think I just used the "like ministry" retort.

That was ALMOST like ministry. Unless you're a Baptist and then blogging is a sin...don't you have a better mission field Frank? Like your church membership roll?

How was that?

Hey I know it was Off Topic but I got a lot out of reading the comments here about the different versions. Thanks a bunch guys.

"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

Lou Martuneac said...

Dear Phil:

In all sincerity I want to address your post to me.

In my first post in this thread (in reply to Authentictruth) I referenced books by Drs. Moritz & Pickering and cited Dr. Minnick’s sermon. Each of these speak to the subject of the thread.

In the two comments I posted here nowhere did I name or refer to my book, other than say, in my post to Aurthentictruth, “I have written on this subject as well from Jude 3…” I named two chapter titles, (which I will refrain from here) with no mention of the book. For those who do not know me those could have been term papers from a college class for all they know. In the same post I wrote, “Here is a paragraph I wrote that speaks to a concern I have.”

Out of respect for your known wishes I made no mention of a/my book and I was deliberately being careful not to promote my book.

Authentictruth wrote what I thought was a very good piece and I shared some thoughts with him and the readers.

Dr. Mike raised a question on the LS issue as it related to subject of this thread. Dr. Mike raised a very valid concern and I shared my take on it. In the post to Dr. Mike I wrote, “I have raised and written on the Lordship controversy.” Again, no mention of a/my book, I refer to Ryrie’s book, but that is all.

As you can see in the chronology of the thread Centurion raised the LS issue (and) in regard to me, and I had not even posted anything about LS up to that point. By the time I posted my comments to Dr. Mike- Centurion had already posted to me and only then did I see it.

In his post above Centurion distorts my position on sanctification. If I had posted a reply to correct him, then we might have had a problem. Out of respect for your wishes I let it go. If Centurion wants to take it up with me online elsewhere, he knows where to visit me.

I saw Don Sands wrote to me. I also took a pass on that one.

I know you did not want threads going off-topic, and in point of fact; I was not the person who took it to what you feel is off-topic.

Now, if you feel my placing my blog site address at the bottom of a comment is a problem I’ll respect your wishes on that too. I happen post it following nearly every comment I post at various sites.

Bottom-line, if you feel a discussion of LS is off-topic in this thread; then shouldn’t any one who posted a comment on the subject be similarly warned? I was not the first, only or last to bring LS into the discussion.

I trust this is well-received.


Phil Perkins said...

Three things:
1. On Deut. 18--So your position is that only prophets are forbidden from misrepresenting what God has said? Is that right?

2. I'm sure most of your readers understand the questions just fine. And many will understand why you hesitate to answer them.

3. Disagreeing with you does not make me rude. Reread the blog rules.

If you really think I've called for a criminal act against Tim, call you ought to call the feds. My words went out over state lines. If I'm picked up you've proven your point. If not, you simply smeared a brother.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Gary Douglas Wright said...

I enjoyed the post. But then I went on and read the comments section. God help us! That's a fine example of why the Church is in such a desperate situation currently. We have to be wise (James 1) as to what issues are worth dying over (Reformation) or are worth only taking a break from the relationship (Paul and Barnabas).

I must wonder if I'm worse off after having read the comments. When is it okay to waste such a precious gift of time to read such silliness?

And if I might give my subliminal message to all parties: Romans 14, Romans 14, Romans 14.............

These issues are not worth dying over, and certianly not worth arguing over when it is apparent that neither side is really considering changing their position.

This is why I debate with myself if Blog's are worth the trouble.

okay, I'm better now.


Dennis Elslager said...

Gary's words:
I must wonder if I'm worse off after having read the comments.

At first, I thought this topic may be interesting to hear more of from others. But for the most it did not seem too edifying.

Sharing about a topic for learning from one another is a good thing. But there seemed to be more confrontation on this than I expected here. I understand this can happen on any forum where anyone can share. And that not all will be sensitive to there own fruit as they speak. I have failed in this many times myself and wish to know more of God's grace to "speak the truth in love". I am sorry not for speaking truth but for lacking the wisdom and love of how and when to speak it. For this, I am still working on amends as He works in me. God IS Love, even in all the accurate expression of His pure Truth of His Gospel. I pray things will go better later.

Knowledge can be an unruly beast, especially when it is accurate, but when Love is Soveriegn over knowledge it is tamed to care for every souls put in contact with it.

"We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies."

"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."
Gal 5:25

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."

I am seeing this as perfectly on topic. For if this truth from God's Word were obeyed we would have much less "Sectarianism and Separation"

Phil Johnson said...

Perkins: "If you really think I've called for a criminal act against Tim, call you ought to call the feds. My words went out over state lines. If I'm picked up you've proven your point. If not, you simply smeared a brother."

You are actually the one doing the smearing.

1) I have never accused you of "calling for a criminal act." I asked you if you really believed Tim would have been stoned under the Old Covenant for what he did. You indicated that you believed precisely that. I've quoted your words again. Why don't you reply to what was actually said, and drop the histrionics?

2) You have accused me of endorsing the TNIV. Where did I ever do that? Quote the actual words.

Phil Perkins said...

Phil Johnson,
You're right on the misquote. I apologize. I was reading too fast and made a false assumption. More on that later.

As to the OC and the correct punishment for Zondervan and those that promote their mistranslation, it all depends on how the priests would look at Deut. 18--literally or letterally. Letterally, no. It was addressed to the congregation and the topic was discerning true and false prophets. If taken literally, you will have to balance the fact that it dealt with prophets, not translators against the fact that the sin dealt with was falsely reporting what God had actually said.

What still remains are these two facts:

1. We are dealing with a sin that, at least for the prophets, earned them death. So it is serious. It is not a trifle. Those who do it and those who promote it knowingly are without excuse. In fact, in Revelation we are told it guarantees hell for the soul that does so to that particular portion of Scripture.

So when you excuse this sort activity and when Tim promotes it, you are trifling with something eternally serious. You must make the case that the prohibition in Revelation 22 does not extend to the rest of Scripture. If you can make the case that the penalty is only for the Revelation, you still have a lot of work to do, because there are a lot of prohibitions against altering or misrepresenting what God has communicated.

2. We are not under the Old Covenant. We must deal with it in a way appropriate to the new circumstance of the assembly. What is clear is the fact that sweeping it under the rug is wrong.

Finally, as to my delay in answering you, as I related Monday, I am dealing with an ailing father as well as my regular business. He's doing fine. Thanks for asking. You did not answer my email and I didn't jump to conclusions about your motives there. Please extend the same courtesy to me. And you have not yet answered some of my questions. I would still like to know if your boss would agree with using the TNIV. And, unless I missed it, you still have not answered whether or not you think altering Scripture is wrong.

I won't press you on this further.

As to the "endorsement" issue. You have, throughout this discussion, held that the threshold for non-use of a translation is "damnable heresy" and the subject has been the TNIV, thus excusing it for use. If I have misunderstood that, tell me. It is my position that one is not to encourage the sin of another.

Now back to my misquote of you. Again, I apologize and will do so even more publicly in a moment at one of my blogs. You were exactly right to ask a correction of me. And it would be wrong for me or anyone else to perpetrate that falsehood knowingly.

Do you not think God deserves the same consideration? He says He does.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.