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February 28, 2020

Dancing with Those Who Dance with Wolves -- Second Degree Separation

By Anthony Wade

Should we associate with those who enable wolves? No.


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until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. -- Ephesians 4:13-16 (ESV)

The above link is to another article that seems to want to marginalize discernment ministries. The author tried very hard to sound reasonable and on many points I agreed with him. The heart of the issue however he is simply dead wrong on. He is going to speak about what he calls "second degree separation"; which means Christians must disassociate themselves from those who hang around with false teachers. He muddies the waters quite a bit as he tries to downplay the seriousness of this matter. His examples are weak or perhaps offered to make those in discernment ministries appear petty. His scripture citations do not support his argument. The bottom line is if you use your name and ministry to support a wolf then you too need to be marked as such. I do not care about the delicate sensibilities of wolves. I only care for the sheep. So let us reason once more together:

Second-Degree Separation, promoted by various "Discernment Ministries," is influencing many Christians on social media these days. In theory, I believe such sites can serve a helpful purpose of exposing heresy and false teaching that is infiltrating the Christian community. Despite the insistence that public heresy needs to be handled by the process of Matthew 18, the Apostles in the first century were frequent in addressing public heresy in a public manner. Matthew 18 applies exclusively to a situation when someone personally sins against you personally (which is never the case in false teaching happening on a national level). The reality is, however, that many of these "ministries" are short on real facts and thrive on controversy, seemingly, for the sake of getting clicks and shares. Unfortunately, they often make the mistake Jesus warned us of by pulling out "wheat" who they consider to be "weeds." (See Matthew 13:24-30.) In fairness, a Bible teacher needs to be evaluated on his overall ministry and life rather than one small snapshot. The truth is, we are all human and make mistakes. If we were to apply the methods of discernment bloggers to Biblical characters, we would reject Peter as a lost cause for initially distancing himself from the Gentiles whenever the Judaizers showed up. (See Galatians 2:11-14.) Now granted, that was an error, and the Apostle Paul rightly rebuked him for it. But we need to learn how to "discern" the difference between a mistake and a heresy. Heresy is when someone is in error related to a core or primary doctrine. Peter had not denied the deity of Christ. He was just being a hypocrite. Christians (even Christian leaders) will make mistakes in their understanding and judgment. That is not necessarily a reason to tar and feather them for life. When rebuked, it appears that Peter probably corrected his error, and the Church rolled on. The "Doctrine of Separation" is a concept that is found in Scripture, although not named such. It is the idea that, under certain circumstances, Christians need to distance themselves from certain people (physically at times, but certainly in terms of close fellowship and endorsement). Amos 3:3 -- "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Ephesians 5:11 -- "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." -- Israel Wayne

I have never heard of Israel Wayne but his website seems to be promoting what is known as a "biblical worldview" which is generally NAR code speak for worshipping this country. The actual biblical worldview is quite simple. We are not of this world. We are citizens of heaven. We preach the Gospel so that God may save some from this world before He returns. Anything above this, which usually speaks to influencing culture, is simply unbiblical and carnal in nature. It is refreshing to see he correctly understands Matthew 18 as being for individual sin issues and that the Apostles addressed heresy in public. Unfortunately, he then dives off the rational cliff as so many discernment ministry critics do. This notion that discernment ministries are uninformed and driven by the desire for social media "likes" is patently absurd on its face. No one enters these ministries for attaboys because they are few and far between the insults and criticisms. What we do is point out when people use Matthew 13 incorrectly however. The weeds in this parable are not false teachers. The bible is clear false teachers are to be marked, exposed, rebuked and avoided. Discernment ministries do not dabble in mere mistakes as Wayne is right, everyone makes them. We are speaking about repeated and unrepentant heresies. When Joel Osteen preaches word faith or Joseph Prince preaches antinomianism, they are not making mistakes. They are devouring sheep. What made Peter's issue a mistake and not a heresy is his repentance of it. If he refused Paul's rebuke, he would have been treated by Paul as he treated Hymenaeus and Alexander the Coppersmith. The reason why the false teacher is branded for life is the refusal to repent. The bible assures us that their destruction is not idle. Wolves do not repent and they are not our brethren. For the sake of space, Wayne goes into first degree separation that says while we cannot avoid interaction with unsaved people we are to be separate from them. I take no issue with these arguments. Nor do I take issue when he speaks of excommunication and shunning within the church. He correctly sites scripture to disassociate with one who is disorderly, an unrepentant sinner, or disobedient to the word. He then unfortunately misses the mark:

'Preaching a False Gospel. Galatians 1:6-8 -- "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

A Divisive and Needlessly Offensive Person. Romans 16:17 -- "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."' -- Israel Wayne

The first few examples were correct because the scriptures dealt with individuals within the church. The verses from Galatians are not about that but rather about false teaching that has infiltrated the church. This requires not mere separation but a desire for such people to be accursed! The Romans verse is dealing with people who actually divide the church by bringing in destructive heresies. Mark them and avoid them. This is not a matter of reconciliation to then allow that person back into the fellowship. These are not merely divisive and offensive persons. They are again false teachers.

"Separation from Christians Who Aren't Exactly Like Us. I have a friend who is an Independent Fundamental Baptist pastor. He told me he is friends with a local Southern Baptist Pastor who he believe is genuinely saved, even though they don't agree on Bible translation or on how much starch needs to be in your suit (I made that up"but I think it's an issue). When the SBC pastor was out of town, he asked the IFB pastor to fill in for him. He did, and all went well. But months later my friend felt a need to apologize to his congregation for doing so, because, in his words, "It sent the wrong message to my flock." I was stunned. "Sent what message? That those folks might be saved? That they may love Jesus just as much as your church does? That you might spend all eternity together in Heaven? That you ought to love them as brothers and sisters in Christ? Exactly what message do you think it sent?!" I really don't understand that mentality. Obviously, it's true in nature that "birds of a feather flock together." We all naturally feel more comfortable around people who think and act exactly as we do. It would be hard for me to attend a church exclusively full of young hipsters because if I tried to be hip, I'd probably throw my hip out! But, just because I'm not attending their church, it doesn't mean I should treat them with contempt or assume they are any less godly than I am, simply because they sport cool hairdos and drink lattes, and I don't. (I don't sport ANY hairdo"but that's beside the point!) I have many Christian friends who do not believe or live exactly the same way that I do. Some of my other friends may wish I would separate with them over doctrinal differences, but I will not, unless they are Core Doctrines. We may not start a church or ministry together, but we can still be friends. Immaturity is another issue. I'm not inclined to follow popular leaders who I deem to be spiritually immature (a student becomes like his teacher -- Luke 6:40), but I also need to avoid condemning someone who is immature and sometimes unwise. Remember that John Mark eventually became useful to the Apostle Paul, even though they parted ways for a while and didn't continue to do ministry together." -- Israel Wayne

Whether Wayne intended to or not this just muddies the water. I do not know any discernment minister who rails against hairdos and lattes. The issue must always be doctrinal. Now granted the latte drinking fauxhawk pastor at age 50 smacks of desperation to look relevant to the world. Regardless, someone like Mark Driscoll was never denounced for wearing a Mickey Mouse tee-shirt while he preached but rather that Mickey Mouse had better theology than he did. Likewise, no discernment ministry I have seen condemns anyone for being immature. The example provided make no sense. John Mark was not preaching falsely.

"Second-Degree Separation. Clearly, the Bible teaches the importance of Christians separating themselves away from others under certain conditions. What gets trickier, is the concept promoted in many Fundamentalist circles (which incidentally is the religious affiliation of most "discernment bloggers"), of second-degree separation. This is the view that we should not merely separate ourselves from sinful people, or those in doctrinal error, but also from anyone who associates with such people. Again there is a difference between being close friends with someone who teaches a false gospel (denying the core doctrines of the faith), and being friends with a person who is wrong on a lower-level doctrine (one that does not impact our salvation). Some of the issues on which true Christians disagree are issues such as: Method of baptism (sprinkling/pouring vs. immersion), Cessationism vs. Continuationism (are all the gifts of the Spirit in effect today), Egalitarianism vs. Complementarianism (roles of men and women in the home and church), Old Earth / Young Earth Creationism, Eschatology (end-times views), Bible translations, worship styles, etc. None of those issues are core doctrines that impact whether someone is saved. They are important (don't get me wrong!)! Someone is right, and someone is wrong in almost all those discussions. I am NOT saying those doctrines don't matter to us in our Christian walk. They do! But they will not save you. Faith in Christ alone will save you. So, you can be saved, and be wrong on many of these issues. Because we all feel strongly about these doctrines, it is hard for us to just "agree to disagree." On one level, I don't believe we need to do that. I believe we can discuss and even debate these doctrines"vigorously. But we need to do so with love, recognizing that this man or woman with whom we disagree is our brother or sister in Christ. He or she is NOT a heretic and should not be treated like one. That egregious denotation belongs to someone who denies the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, the Resurrection, etc. (doctrines that DO impact our very salvation). We should treat heretics quite differently from brothers and sisters (who are wrong on a point or two)." -- Israel Wayne

Let's review the issues he presents first. Method of baptism is not a crucial doctrine, although baby baptism is heretical because it teaches the removal of original sin. Cessationism or continuationism I agree are not crucial but the abuse of the gifts never occurs in a vacuum. It is always accompanied by false teachings. Eschatology can differ. While I know the bible teaches women are not to preach or teach with authority over men, I can be friends with someone who disagrees with that. Bible translations are trickier because people who use the Message, which is not a translation, do so because they are immersed in false teaching. Any solid teacher would caution listeners to not use false sources such as the Message. Worship styles may sound benign but so much heresy is found in modern worship and you do not want to be supporting such heretics as Hillsong, Bethel, IHOP or Elevation. By the way, bothers or sisters caught up in heretical teachings are to ministered to in love so that they might come out from the darkness. Discernment ministries expose the false teacher, not their victims.

"Contending for the Faith, or Just Being Contentious? A favorite passage of many of these discernment bloggers is: Philippians 1:27-28 -- "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God." We are called to "strive for the faith of the gospel," but Paul also warns us: Second Timothy 2:23-26 -- "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." What is the difference here? I think it can be as simple as asking, "Is it a Gospel issue?" If it is, we need to call out those promoting a false faith as being heretics. If it isn't a salvation issue, we gently seek to present the truth, with the hope that those who are in error will see their mistake and realign with the truth." -- Israel Wayne

I hesitantly agree because this sure seems to whitewash false teaching a bit. Specifically those that associate with them. For example, Francis Chan was the darling of the evangelical world until he shared the stage with heretic Mike Bickle and proclaimed how much he loved him. Dr. Michael Brown defends everyone from Bill Johnson to Benny Hinn. Is Israel Wayne suggesting that does not matter because it should. Who we lend our credibility to does matter. Who we lead people to does matter. It is useless to the body of Christ to write a book against antinomianism and then say that Joseph Prince is a good brother in the Lord, as Michael Brown did. No he is not. He is a voracious wolf and now you are enabling him to devour more sheep. Call it second degree separation or whatever you want but Michael Brown and Francis Chan are more dangerous than the wolves they protect.

"Examples of Second-Degree Separation:

Case #1: This week I was told by a Christian woman that she would have nothing to do with a certain Christian woman author (who is a Complementarian, believing women shouldn't be pastors), because she had once spoken at the same conference with a different Christian author who is an Egalitarian (who believes that women can be pastors -- although she isn't one herself). I'm pretty sure the two authors aren't even friends, but they did speak at the same women's conference.

Case #2: I was once told by a reader that they would never have anything to do with me because I had an article published in a Christian magazine that also ran an article (in the same issue) from a man the reader considered to be a "heretic." The other man (an older Southern Baptist gentleman"that I never met), said, "We should be still in prayer and Bible reading and contemplate and meditate on the Word." The reader insisted to me, on the basis of that statement alone that the man must be caught up in a contemporary mystical fad called, "Contemplative Prayer" (a movement that incorporates Eastern New Age practices into spiritual disciplines), since he used those words. This reader considered Contemplative Prayer to be a heresy, and therefore the older man (who had probably never even heard of that fad), must also be a heretic since he used buzzwords associated with it. Since the magazine published the "heretic," the reader was canceling her subscription, and she wanted me to know that she would warn people against my "ministry" as well.

Case #3: One young-earth creation (YEC) ministry (Ministry A) refused to carry the products of another (YEC) Christian author/speaker (Ministry B) (whose products they like and agree with), simply because that author carries a book by a third (YEC) (Ministry C), who disagrees with Ministry A on a scientific theory about how the earth shifts under the ground. Ministry B's materials don't have anything to do with that topic, and that is CLEARLY NOT a salvation (or even doctrinal!) issue, but it's enough for Ministry A to not work with Ministry B, even though they agree on everything in his product line." -- Israel Wayne

If the only issue is speaking at a conference that has female speakers I agree that is not a deal breaker. When Francis Chan speaks at "The Send" with Todd White and Lou Engle however, that is unacceptable. Case number two is a bit murkier. I am unsure if one appearance in a magazine with someone else who extolls the heresy of contemplative prayer is enough but if you consistently write for Charisma News for example, that is again unacceptable. I used to have my material posted on a very popular discernment ministry. Once they started espousing unchristlike behaviors and NAR dominionist tendencies I stopped despite the loss in viewership. Who I lead people to matters. Case three sounds way too nuanced.

'Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels. These petty separations harm sound Christian leaders and ministries when they are maligned, or when Christians refuse to support them or even fellowship with them over the slightest nuances of doctrinal disagreement. When they do this, "discernment ministries" (churches and individuals), ARE committing the sin of being divisive. We are warned in Romans 16:17 that we are to directly avoid (first-degree separation) people who do this. I think that means, we should stop reading their blogs and sharing their posts on social media! Spiritual Pride - I truly believe much of this mentality is based in spiritual pride. Rather than having a heart that longs to see healing and reconciliation, many people want to tear down, cast out and shun. That isn't the heart of Christ. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for contending for sound doctrine! Both the Core Doctrines AND the Lower-Level doctrines need to be addressed. I have had many spirited discussions with my brethren over issues on which we don't agree. But I always seek to leave that conversation with a desire to understand them better and love them more deeply. I know I don't always walk this out perfectly and I'm sure people will find examples of me being a hypocrite on these issues. But if we don't watch it, we risk being like the Galatians church: Galatians 5:14-15 -- "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 15But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another."' -- Israel Wayne

Again, the division comes from false doctrine, not those who point it out. Wayne seems to be complaining about problems that do not really exist. The true discernment ministries are not concerned with third party book sales of creationists. The remedy Wayne offers here indicates his true end game which is to end discernment. He has tried to sound reasonable but in the end he remedies these made up problems by broad-brushing every discernment ministry. Discernment ministries do desire to see healing and reconciliation but only of the wounded sheep. We wish to see them healed of the false teaching and reconciled to the body of Christ. What Israel Wayne advocates for is healing of wolves and reconciling them back to the sheepfold and to that I say let them be accursed. If he is truly only speaking about petty issues than it should not have taken six pages to say so and the end conclusion would not be to avoid discernment.

"Third-Degree Separation. If we carry the mindset of second-degree separation far enough, we will get to where we can't support a Christian bookstore because they carry a book that isn't doctrinally pure. Or we can't attend a church because they sing songs (even if the songs are good) from a worship band whose church is in error. Or we won't attend a good conference because one of the twenty speakers believe differently than we do about speaking in tongues. It's ridiculous"and unscriptural. Ephesians 4:2-6 -- "With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Truth is vital. I'm all about truth. But truth without love is like a resounding gong, or a clanging symbol (see 1 Corinthians 13:1). We shouldn't abandon truth for the sake of Christian unity, but we should always strive for Christian unity because the truth of the Bible tells us to. Over the years, I have always been impressed when someone comes to me directly with a concern about something I have said, or something they've been told that I teach. Oftentimes, they have received bad information, or sometimes we can discuss the matter and find that we are truly on the same page after all. It was a mere misunderstanding. Going to direct to the person or ministry with whom you have questions is not only Biblical, it is wise. That is not always practical or feasible, and sometimes what is being taught publicly is abundantly clear from hearing an entire sermon or reading a complete book. But our posture should always be to believe the best (1 Corinthians 13:7), and to seek unity and restoration from error to truth. Ephesians 4:13-16 -- "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."' -- Israel Wayne

Unreal. The scriptures he cites do not support his cause at all. True unity is only found in doctrine. Supporting worldwide heretical ministries such as Hillsong and Bethel works against the cause of Christ. It is almost as if he is ok with light heresy. Minor disagreement seems acceptable to him. I am not saying we leave church over the slightest small differences but these things still matter. A church that sings "Oh How He Loves Us" or "Friend of God" is probably not preaching the solid Gospel or else they would be convicted. If I saw a conference with 20 good speakers and one raving heretic -- I would not go! Of what fellowship does light have with darkness? None! The Christian bookstore example is silly. I am not getting the vibe that Israel Wayne is really all about the truth. It seems like only on glaring issues is he so. The bible says to not allow even a little leaven because it goes through the entire batch. The verses he cites from Ephesians are the key verses today. We strive to achieve doctrinal unity so that we might not be thrown here and from by every wind of false doctrine. This was quite a long piece to essentially say that we do not need to separate from leaders or teachers who refuse to dissociate themselves ravenous wolves. Despite what Israel Wayne says, the bible says we absolutely must.

Reverend Anthony Wade -- February 28, 2020

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.