August 17, 2017

AXIOMS OF SEPARATION (Introduction)

The late Dr. John Ashbrook, long–time pastor of Bible Community Church in Mentor, Ohio, wrote a little book called Axioms of Separation. The current publisher has kindly given us permission to serialize the book here on Proclaim & Defend.

Previously on P&D: Axioms–the Preface

Axioms of Separation
John Ashbrook

Introduction

One spring morning in 1940 my father and mother drove to the United Presbyterian parsonage at Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Father was on trial before a committee of the Presbytery of that denomination. In 1937 the United Presbyterian Church of North America sold its soul by joining the Federal Council of Churches. The missions in the Church had become increasingly modernistic. In Egypt, where the Church had one of its larger works, they had agreed with the government to hire Moslem teachers for mission schools. An increasing number of the preachers knew more about masonry than miracles. Dad protested all of these things. As a result he was brought to trial.

The Pastor at Reynoldsburg was the secretary of the Commission trying Father’s case. He had phoned Dad to say that, if he came to Reynoldsburg, he might see a copy of the decision which they would present to the Presbytery. The decision was that he should be dismissed from the denomination for refusing absolute loyalty to its program. Arriving at the parsonage, Dad asked if he might have the decision for a few hours to take counsel on it. He also had the foresight to have a photostatic copy made.

At the Presbytery meeting some days later the Commission reported that it had not been able to reach a decision. The members of that body knew that Father’s charges were correct. They did not like them either; but, in loyalty to the denomination, they had to judge him wrong. After they denied having reached a decision, Father rose, was recognized, and produced the decision they denied having reached. That day my father died as a denominational minister and was born a separatist.

I recall arguing with my father about the doctrine of separation on a Saturday evening in the spring of 1945. It was wartime. I was a serviceman stationed in the Chicago area. The bright spot in my week was attending the Chicagoland Youth for Christ Rally in Orchestra Hall on Saturday night. My father came to town and attended one of those rallies with another Navy buddy and me. The leader that night recognized the number of Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, United Brethren and Bible Church people present. Over refreshments after the service Dad began to point out that it was wrong to treat apostate churches as if they were the same as fundamental churches. I was angry, although I tried to hide it. I had gotten a blessing from the service, and I was sure my dad was wrong. What aggravated me even more was that I couldn’t argue with the Scriptures he gave.

Sometime later, in 1948, I sat in a classroom at Faith Theological Seminary taking a course called “Modern Religious Problems.” The teacher, a round-faced, affable man by the name of Carl McIntire, sat on the edge of the desk with a large Bible open. The first-year class, most of them service veterans, pressed him with arguments in favor of staying in the main-line denominations to rescue them. The class argued for Youth for Christ, cooperative evangelism, Billy Graham, Wheaton College and various local issues. He rarely gave opinions. He just used his Bible to give verses and principles. The Word of God cut down our human reasoning, our theories and our arrogance.

So, dear reader, if you get irritated at some of the things I point out in this booklet, I will take heart. I felt the same way toward those who pointed them out to me. However, as I write these words, looking back over thirty-seven years in the pastorate, I praise God for those who pointed me to the truth of Biblical separation. Separation is the doctrine which stands at the crossroads between fundamentalism and new evangelicalism. But for those men, I might have been a new evangelical.

There are two distinct areas in the matter of Biblical separation. The reason for both areas is the holiness of God. The first area is that of personal separation. That is a separation from the works of the flesh in which we formerly walked, to the fruit of the Spirit produced in us. Many a testimony has been tragically destroyed by a lack of personal separation. The second area is that of ecclesiastical separation. It deals with such things as separation from unbelief, apostate churches, denominations and disobedient brethren. This booklet deals with the second area.

This booklet is not meant to be an expose’ of men and movements. However, when it is necessary to illustrate points, I have used actual incidents, usually of my own experience. This may anger some. In the matter of separation, I have found that most brethren agree in the exposition of Scripture. But, when you begin to apply the doctrine to specific situations and individuals, the controversy comes.

This booklet is not a scholarly tome. You would have figured that out. It is a preacher’s booklet. I have not tried to be exhaustive in scope, nor explicit in detail. It is my hope that these words may arrest some pastors and congregations at the fork of the road between fundamentalism and new evangelicalism. It is my hope that some beleaguered young fundamentalists may read it and be encouraged that they are on the right road. If God uses it, even with a few, I will count my writing time worthwhile.

Next in this series: Axioms – Chapter 1 (Part 1)


Dr. John Ashbrook served the Lord for many years as pastor of Bible Community Church of Mentor, OH. His ministry made a strong contribution to Biblical fundamentalism.


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