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 of Separation
SEPARATION FROM DISOBEDIENT BRETHREN
Continued from Part 2
AXIOM #6: GOD’S WORK DONE IN GOD’S WAY PRODUCES ONLY GOOD RESULTS. GOD’S WORK DONE IN MAN’S WAY PRODUCES GOOD AND BAD RESULTS. The newspapers and religious magazines furnish us with a constant chronicle of the good done by new evangelicalism. We read about thousands of decisions in the latest ecumenical crusade of Billy Graham or Luis Palau. There are glowing reports of the encouragement to missionaries at an EFMA-IFMA gathering. We read of Washington being swayed by a conference of Christian Businessmen or the National Religious Broadcasters. What do we say about these things? Is new evangelicalism now the official channel of God’s blessing?
Three observations need to be made. First, God has never called us to judge obedience by results. Christianity is not pragmatic. It is authoritarian, with God as the authority. God never has commanded us to cooperate with apostasy and then evaluate the results. Rather, God says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate.”
EVALUATING ALL THE RESULTS
The second observation is that, if something is to be measured by results, you must evaluate all the results. For instance, when new evangelicals breech the Bible principle of separation, the line between belief and unbelief is obscured. Attorney James Bennett was a prominent Christian worker in New York City in the days of Billy Graham’s first New York Crusade. I recall hearing him say that, before the Graham Crusade, the religious people of New York clearly knew which churches were fundamental and which were not. After the crusade, that line was erased. Erasing that line was not good, but evil.
Another result of ecumenical evangelism is that hungry-hearted souls are turned back into modernistic churches. Because their unbelieving church cooperated with the Crusade, it was recognized as a true church and now bears the imprimateur of the Bible-preaching evangelist. They were starving there before and have been steered back to starve some more. That is not good, but evil.
Another tragedy is that spiritual babes are left on the doorsteps of unbelieving churches. Do you believe in abandoning babies on doorsteps? Then how can you swallow sending those who have answered a Gospel invitation back to apostate Protestant or blind Catholic churches? In recent years the Graham Crusades have openly returned new converts to Catholic parishes. That is not good, but evil.
Another consequence of ecumenical evangelism is that people are weaned from service in their local churches. Who wants to sing in a volunteer choir of 15 when they have sung with 2,500 under a world famous director? Who wants to sit in a corner and teach a class of 5 when 4,000 came forward in the Crusade? That is not good, but evil. The stress of the New Testament is on the local church, not the ecumenical crusade. If you measure by results, all of these results must be considered.
RESULTS DO NOT MEAN IT IS RIGHT
The third observation is that results do not mean that something is the will of God. In Numbers 20, when Moses attempted to get water from the rock, he disobeyed the Lord by angrily smiting the rock twice. For that disobedience God refused to allow Moses to enter the promised land. But did Moses have good results? Yes, God graciously opened the rock and quenched the thirst of millions of Israelites. The good results did not justify the wrong way in which the thing was done.
Do you see this axiom? God’s work done in God’s way produces only good results. God’s work done in man’s way produces good and bad results.
In my service days I was exposed to some of the problems of navigation by compass. I was never good at that; but I did learn that a small deviation in course would end you up hundreds of miles from where you intended to go. Back in 1948, when Dr. Ockenga determined a course for new evangelicalism, he did not intend to make much of a correction. He just intended to repudiate separatism, to add some invigorating social involvement and win over some liberals with erudite dialogue. However, that seemingly small deviation from obedience has not led many churches to a safe harbor, but it has sent thousands over the falls of compromise to reunion with apostasy.
Richard Quebedeaux, a card-carrying new evangelical, described the state of the movement a number of years ago:
“Evangelicals of the left range from moderate Republicans to democratic socialists, if not Marxists. Most affirm the nuclear family [husband, wife and children} but are at the same time open to alternative domestic life styles, from extended families to communes. Just about all of the left evangelicals are feminists and support the ordination of women, egalitarian marriage [no Scriptural order in the family], and the use of inclusive language. The old evangelical taboos against alcohol, tobacco, social dancing and the like are almost universally condemned (as binding at least). Biblical criticism, used constructively and devoutly, is employed by a great many evangelical students and scholars of the left. They recognize the marks of cultural conditioning on Scripture, and their study of the Bible is informed by their knowledge of the natural, social and behavioral sciences.” [ ] are mine.
This paragraph clearly describes the destructive effect of new evangelicalism not in my words, but theirs.
As I write this booklet in 1989, we have witnessed 41 years of new evangelicalism. In 1948 when new evangelicalism took its divergent fork in the road it was thought to be a slight course correction. Now, many new evangelicals find themselves on a totally different road. Unless fundamentalists obey the Bible by separating from disobedient brethren we will find ourselves with them on a broad road, totally different from the one on which we set out.
Satan is always pushing his program. He is always inviting fundamentalists to cooperate, join, associate, infiltrate, dialogue and stay in. Thousands of fundamentalist pastors, churches, schools and missions have been sucked into his whirlpool of compromise. Defections continue daily. These men and groups might have been spared for glorious victories had they obeyed the simple Scriptural principle of separation from disobedient brethren.
Whenever I sit at breakfast and see the picture of the Quaker on a box of cereal I think of Henry Parsons Crowell, the man who built the Quaker Oats Company. He was a godly Presbyterian layman and a great benefactor of Moody Bible Institute. He lived through the days of the battle for the faith in the Presbyterian Church, USA. He left that body when the apostate Henry Sloane Coffin was elected Moderator. His biographer, Richard Ellsworth Day, wrote the following:
“He realized that not only must Faith be careful to select workers and leaders who are Bible believers; but these workers and leaders themselves must be intolerant of unbelievers in office! If they were tolerant it could bring defeat just as effectively as if they themselves were infidels. Therefore, FAITH MUST NOT SUPPORT MEN IN AUTHORITY WHO, THOUGH THEY ARE THEMSELVES BIBLE BELIEVERS, ARE TOLERANT OF OTHERS IN POSITIONS OF TRUST AND AUTHORITY WHO DO NOT SO BELIEVE … Mr. Crowell saw that the battle against the Leaven of the Sadducees was being lost in Christendom today by reason of — Tolerance toward believers who were tolerant toward unbelievers.” ((I am not sure if there should be some Inner quotes in this quotation. I have reproduced the capital letters just as they are given in Day’s biography. I could wish that every true believer in the Southern Baptist Convention would digest this quotation — with or without proper quotation marks.))
Crowell died in 1944, four years before the term new evangelical was coined. However, he perfectly described the new evangelical soft spot and saw that it was anathema to the preservation of the faith. Were he alive today we believe he would be grieved to see the institution to which he gave so much in the grasp of new evangelicalism. He expressed the truth of our axiom that we must separate from disobedient brethren who continue in toleration of unbelief.
Next in this series: Axioms – Chapter 3 (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.