Axioms of Separation–Epilogue

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.

(Links to previous articles in the series below.)

Axioms of Separation
John Ashbrook


On the evening of October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the list of his ninety-five theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. I do not expect this baker’s dozen axioms to have the impact of Luther’s theses. However, I do want to take the space to nail them up in one list. I trust that it will help some young pastor to review the list and find the principle he needs at the moment. Also, it will help those who want to argue to have one clear list with which they can joust.

  1. Scripture forbids us to have fellowship with unbelief.
  2. Scripture commands us to reprove apostasy.
  3. Scripture teaches us that we must purge unbelief if we can.
  4. Scripture teaches that believer and unbeliever cannot be yoked together in spiritual endeavor.
  5. Scripture teaches us to separate from disobedient brethren.
  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.
  7. Do not affiliate your church with any church, mission, movement or evangelistic effort which does not fully believe the word of God.
  8. Do not affiliate your church with any church, mission, movement or evangelistic effort which does not practice biblical separation.
  9. You cannot preserve a position without crusading for it.
  10. When in doubt, don’t join.
  11. Separation is not the answer to every disagreement between brethren.
  12. The Spirit of God has never led one Christian contrary to one word of the word of God.
  13. At any given time of church history God is most severe on those whom he is using at that moment.

I do not expect to have many new evangelical readers. New evangelicals would laugh at the very idea of trying to write axioms from Scripture. When Dr. Ockenga in 1948 called for “a repudiation of separation,” he was asking men to set aside careful obedience to Scripture and to rely on human judgment. Likewise, his “summons to social involvement” shifted men from Biblical definitions to the outlines of the social gospel as defined by sociologists particularly those of the National Council of Churches, whose definitions of social involvement have led them to the precipice of communism. When Dr. Ockenga expressed new evangelicalism’s “determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day,” he led the movement away from the allegiance to the Word of God. You cannot have theological dialogue with the infidels of apostate seminaries if you insist on opening the Bible and stating, “Thus saith the Lord.” The foundation of new evangelicalism shifted the whole movement away from an allegiance to the Bible. Christian Life Magazine, in a pro new evangelicalism article in March, 1956 stated, “the evangelical scholar does not stab a finger at the Bible and say, ‘this is it, take it or go to hell.’” The sentence is worded to be derogatory to fundamentalists; but, as a fundamentalist, I do put my finger on a Bible text and say, “this is it.” That is the reason a fundamentalist can have some axioms and the new evangelical can’t.

Every farmer takes care of his “line fence” because it defines the borders of his farm. If all line fences were torn down, things would go on fairly well for the generation which knew where the fence used to be. However, there would be trouble in time to come with generations who never knew where the fence used to be. New evangelicalism’s founding father tore down the fence and today’s generation can’t even remember where it was. Scriptural axioms to give guidance to the movement are impossible.

You have read this little booklet. I hope that you do not consider these axioms to be principles only for preachers. They are church principles for all of the Lord’s people. That may be one of our problems. We pastors have failed to impress these principles on our people. I have tried to write so that laymen can appreciate these axioms and encourage their pastors to take a stand.

Early in this little volume I referred to the great separation passage in II John. Let me quote verse 8 again.

“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought; but that we receive a full reward.”

What do we lose if we fail to practice the Bible principle of separation? John’s answer is that we lose our work, “those things which we have wrought.” It is only as we teach our people to be Biblical separatists that we can preserve our work. There are hundreds of churches across our nation which were once great fundamental works. However, the people did not know the basic principles. These churches are now in the grip of new evangelicalism. Some of them are on their way to reunion with the apostasy from which they once separated. If the pastors who were used of God to build those works were to return to their pulpits they would pronounce anathema on what they would see. Is it worthwhile to practice the axioms of separation? Yes. It is the only way to keep from losing our work in this generation or the next.

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.

Previously on P&D: