Unity, disunity, and breaking fellowship- a real life tale

 I received an email the other day. It was from a long-time reader/sometime commenter.

Hi there. Would you please be so kind and remove the comments (and my name) that I have made on your blog? I’d do it myself, but I don’t have the same email address anymore in order to do it. I also could not find your email address, hence this message in comment form.

Thanking you,

And then he included the links to 30 comments from two years ago. BTW, my email address is in the "About this Blog" tab at the top of the page. I asked in reply, May I ask why?

I do not share in your theology at all and don't want to be associated with it (the theology) in any way whatsoever. My comments were mostly non-theological, but I want them removed nonetheless.

If I am wrong, I want to know. If I need correction, I want to submit to it. I replied, "Thank you for your response. What is it about my theology that troubles you so greatly that you would go to these lengths to disassociate? Is there something unbiblical? Extrabiblical? Aberrant?" He responded:

I am 100% anti-Calvinist and don't want to be associated with it. Please remove my comments at your earliest convenience.

Ah. So that's it.

I replied that there was no need to go to lengths to disassociate from a theology that the Bible presents, even if one holds vehemently to Arminianism. The Bible is also clear about unity. I shared the verse from 1 Corinthians 1:10, noting it's one verse among many urging unity among the brethren. I said that it seemed an unreasonable request that would cause difficulties in the threaded comment stream, take an undue amount of my time, and that since we all make our own decisions when choosing to comment publicly in online forums, I sadly would not be able to fulfill the request. I said I was truly sorry he decided to leave on that note and urged that he was welcome to read or comment any time. His response was less than hopeful...and less than brotherly.

Elizabeth, really, I want nothing to do with Calvinism, and I am not interested in your defense of the philosophy of Calvinism, or whatever you like to term it. And I'm not interested in debating or arguing; I simply want my comments removed. You don't have to do it all at once, of course, but my request stands: remove my comments. Take your time with it; there's no rush.

The correspondence ends here.

Of course, bullies always change the argument to a straw man. I had not defended Calvinism but had made a biblical appeal to unity as described above.

There are all sorts of false teachers running around proclaiming the need for unity. But theirs is a false unity. Partnering with any other religion that's clearly false is not a unity. Pasting over deep doctrinal differences in order to promote a shallow harmony is not unity.

However, there's a unity that IS called for. The Bible is clear that among Christians there will be differences among us over minor or secondary doctrines, but that we are to be humble and love one another. Secondary doctrines are not salvation doctrines. Some call them "non-essential" doctrines, but I don't like that term because I don't like to think of any doctrine as being non-essential, though the meaning refers to the belief in the doctrine not being essential to one's salvation.

Essential doctrines are the ones we split over. Non-essentials are doctrines we do not split over. The website at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry gives the following advice about essential and secondary doctrines. The list from CARM.org includes an explanation, then gives examples of primary non-essentials and secondary non-essentials:
Primary Non-Essentials- (1 John 2:4). Denying these can bring one's salvation into question since the regenerate seek to live according to God's Word. Violating them does not automatically mean the person is not saved since Christians fall into various sins. However, abiding in sins with unrepentance would be evidence that the person is not regenerated. Examples: Moral integrity (Exodus 20:1-17). Fidelity in marriage in heterosexual relationships. The condemnation of homosexuality. Inerrancy of the Bible. Baptism is not necessary for salvation (Acts 10:44-48).
I might put inerrancy of the Bible as an essential salvation issue, but then again I'm not a theologian.
Secondary Non-Essentials- Any of them can be denied or affirmed, and regeneration is not in questioned. These are often Denominational Differences: 14) Predestination, election, limited atonement, and free will. 15) Communion every week, monthly, or quarterly, etc. 16) Saturday or Sunday Worship. 17) Pre-, mid-, post-trib rapture. 18) Premillennialism, Amill., Postmill., partial-preterism. 19) Continuation or cessation of the charismatic gifts. 20) Baptism for adults or infants. 21) Musical Instruments in church.
Breaking fellowship over a non-essential doctrine is a shame. Though I'm Reformed, pretribulation, literal Millennial Kingdom, soft dispensationalist, I would not break fellowship over the secondary non-essentials. I would hope that people would not break fellowship with me over those, either.

Good examples to me over the years have been John MacArthur and RC Sproul Sr.'s friendship and warm fellowship despite Sproul's no-rapture, preterism, paedo-baptism issues and MacArthur holding the opposite view. It's helpful to me to see them on a panel together, gently chiding and teasing in brotherly love but united over the essential doctrines.

As the visible church has become bloated and is falling away like a black banana peel from the fruit, those who are sound and remain in the faith by standing on the essential doctrines need to demonstrate our love to each other in the cause of Jesus more than ever. We DO need unity. We need to unite around the essentials and monitor the non-essentials and remain faithful to loving each other until or unless the non-essentials in a person or organization become too wayward to overlook.

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” (Luke 9:49)

There were false teachers in the NT and there were many false prophets in the OT. In both Testaments, these false ones claim to speak in Jesus' name but do not truly represent Him. Now of this particular man in the Luke 9:49 verse, if he had not truly been one of His faithful, God would not have given the man the ability to cast out demons, and Jesus would not have answered by saying the 12 must accept him. Don't misunderstand Luke to be a verse that urges acceptance of false teachers. We still use discernment to determine false from true representatives of Jesus. The man in Luke 9:49 was true and Jesus said that he was part of the brethren because he was not against Jesus.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures says of this verse
suggested that the Twelve were not to see themselves as God’s exclusive representatives. Rather they should have rejoiced that the power of God was being manifested on earth by others as well. If they manifested that attitude, it would show that they were truly trying to be of service to the Messiah.
And this from pastor-teacher John MacArthur,
even though we might not agree with methods, we might not agree with style, if they're for Christ, we're for them, but with the proviso that they're really for Christ because they're committed to the truth. ~John MacArthur
Be committed to the truth first, and then be committed to all those who embrace the truth. Even us poor, deluded Reformed folk.

EPrata photo


How can the church achieve a true, biblical unity?


  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    I was wonders how unity works with organizations that support untruths related to the postmodern emergent movement. This never ending dialogue sounds very sincere in the name of Jesus but is so esoteric that it is hard to pin down where they are blasphemous. I can discern something that is off but explaining the double talk to someone else is difficult so that they get how dangerous it is. This is the problem I had explaining the If:Gathering conference to our previous pastor. We actually decided to stop going based on this among other things because we view it as a slippery slope but still kept our friends. Also, I was wondering if you knew of a blogger who watched and covered the If:Gathering 2016.

    1. Hi Emily, it's so, so, so weird you just wrote this. Because I was JUST reading thru all the hashtag IFgathering2016 twitter stream and looking at their Fb page! I had no idea their annual gathering had just happened, but the fact that David Platt was the main speaker there concerned me. I have been trying to find video.

      In my interpretation of the pertinent verses, such as "do not be yoked" and "mark those and avoid" etc, there is no unity with organizations that promote untruth.

      I write about the IF:gathering folks in a series not too long ago. You cold search for that on the blog. I see three issues with the IF:Gathering women, (at least three)

      1. The premise is false from the start. "IF God is real"???

      2. Their Social justice emphasis replaces the true Gospel

      3. The women's unbiblical lifestyle (feminist, forward, not biblical wives and mothers.) I spent a good deal of time on this one. I was and still am upset by the lie that one of them (I forget which) promotes herself as a stay at home mom BUT it's so that she can write books and in order to do that without distraction she sent her toddlers to daycare! Talk about a hypocrite.

      These women are media savvy and in quick order two of them found my series which was overall critical of their website (She reads Truth) their IF:gathering and their lifestyles. I engaged privately with both. One was angry-angry and would not take direction from me, an elder Titus woman. Very unChristian-like attitude. The second one was nicer and we went back and forth without anger but she still couldn't see my points and did not agree at all. Though I disagreed with her and she with me I respected her approach.

  2. Elizabeth,
    I was surprised by the comments of the "Commenter." My denomination is Southern Baptist and I am very conservative, holding firmly to solid, Biblical line-by-line doctrinal truth. Yet my favorite teachers/preachers are not all Southern Baptists, but include John MacArthur, Adrian Rogers, Dr. Michael Youssef, A.W Pink, Tim Challis, R.C. Sproul and many other Biblical conservatives. They have in common the desire of God's truth and not man's assumption. They are those who love and adhere to Christ's truth concerning Christian unity--not denominational partiality. Here's what John MacArthur says about true Christian Unity: John MacArthur, "A Plea for Unity," Code: 204, Scripture: Philippians 2:3

    "As Christians, we have been called to a life dedicated to looking out for the good of others and not merely our own well-being. That kind of commitment results in an awe-inspiring unity that is pleasing to God—true unity in the church. Yet too often, factions and selfish actions cripple the church, damaging its effectiveness. After hearing of bickering and self-centered conduct in the early church, Paul urged believers to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (Philippians 2:3)." Another excellent resource: John MacArthur's Sermon, "The Marks of Spiritual Unity, Philippians 2:2", dated October 16, 1988, Code 50-13.

    Hopefully, the "commenter" will continue to study beyond what they have misunderstood and will seek a deeper understanding of God's call for Biblical unity and not denominationalism.

    Kay Cude

  3. Hey Elizabeth,
    Check your email because I just sent you a link to watch If Gathering until tomorrow. My sisters friend hosted and she forwarded me the link. Looking forward to your review. I am one hour in and wow the message is not of Christ but social gospel. The first hour is self bragging and racial reconciliation.

    1. Hi Emily, I just got the email. Thank you.

      I had written about the IF:gathering women in Dec 2014/Jan 2015 and was saddened due to their social gospel focus and felt their narcissistic tendencies confused them and their followers. I looked at their Facebook page today and they were all aglow with their own quotes which they pasted over their own photos. Every. Single. One. And not a scripture in sight. So, I am even more saddened to see they have not repented nor shifted focus to Jesus since that time.

      I can't promise to listen tothe entire thing, I am headed ot bed (early to rise for work) and sometimes I work extra hours in the after school program when they ask. So if I don't have a chance to listen, that is why. I am interested in Platt's speech. I mentioned today on the way to church to my friend that Platt was a speaker and he was shocked and more than a little surprised and sad to see he has taken up with the social gospel God-doubter ladies.

  4. Hi,
    I just listened to Platt's talk and he was great. He mentioned the full gospel, hell, wrath and how we need to share the good news where we are positioned. So this is where I get confused because I know Jen Hatmaker and Ann Voskamp and Jennie Allen have questionable views so is this organization tainted or misguided?
    He is 2hours and 10 minutes into the video.


    1. Hi EMily,

      I listened to Platt also last night before bed. His speech was wonderful and in my opinion it deserved all the accolades I saw for it on Twitter. It was the full Gospel.

      You're right, it IS confusing when a good teacher participates with those who aren't saved or teach falsely or are otherwise handling the word of God poorly. There are commands about being unequally yoked and though the command us usually used for marriage it actually means do not be unequally yoked in spiritual endeavors. So the verse should be applied to situations exactly like this one. Doing so confuses the sheep and lends credibility to bad organizations.

      If you read Michelle Lesley's review of Kay Arthur, she discusses this in the middle of the essay. We were all confused as to why Kay did a few conferences with Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer. Michelle knows someone close to Kay and the reason is that Kay knew PS and BM were wonky in their theology and tried, as a Titus 2 elder woman, to take the younger ladies under her wing. However, the ladies would have none of it, so Kay stopped. This wasn't made known though and it caused not only confusion for the sheep but credibility to Moore and Shirer. Her essay is here and Michelle talks about why it isn't a good idea to be on the same panels as the false ones:

      It was not wise for Platt to go there but I have to at least say that if anyone needed the Gospel it's people who follow Hatmaker and her posse.

  5. Hi,
    Do you have a good article or blog that gives practical ways to disciple or share the gospel in various seasons of life? I am a homeschooling mom of four (ages 2-8) and wonder how I am to do that. I believe my first ministry is to teach and train my children the whole counsel of God but recently my daughter who recently became a Christian asked me why I was not sharing the gospel with others. Ouch! Honestly I'm in survival mode most days and while ideally I would like to share the gospel with those around me it is difficult and not practical with four littles in tow. My personal heart cry is "What is enough right now?" and "How can I be intentional with my family life in also sharing the gospel?"


    1. Hi Emily,

      LOL, Kids, huh!?

      Ask your daughter how she became a Christian. Who shared the word with her, and b hearing so believed?

      You're right, your first duty is to your children. The Great Commission said to go and make disciples, and you are. Charles Spurgeon's mother did. John Mark the scripture writer was discipled by Eunice and Lois, his mother and grandmother. Motherhood IS discipling. You ARE sharing the Gospel by teaching it and living out the commands.

      Here is a good blog abut your question. Here is the introduction

      Many women feel like they are a failure when it comes to doing stuff for the Lord, because they are too busy raising a family. You hear of a sick neighbor that you should take food to, but your own children need something to eat first, and once you feed them, you are exhausted.
      There is a fundraiser coming up and you feel like you should help out, but your littles are taking up all of your time. Then the deadline passes and you feel like a failure.
      At the end of the day you feel like you’ve hardly had time with the Lord, much less time to do anything for him. You feel like you are failing the “great commission” and just aren’t doing anything to help reach the lost.
      Witnessing to others as a stay at home mom, just looks impossible at times.



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