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Dangerous Doctrine: Sepratism

Dangerous Doctrine #2: Separatism and seclusionism: “It’s just me and God and that’s all that matters”.

Ok so this one is a fair bit shorter than my last instalment and a bit less formal and academic. This is because this is something that to me get’s a bit more personal, as the Christians around me don’t generally fall into the trap of Shepherding or being overly controlled, instead many of them go too far the other way. In doing so, they deceive themselves and their families, and because they have no one to “bring them back” when they begin to stray from true doctrine, they fall further and further from the body of Christ and from Christ himself. This isn’t the kind of deception that we talk about often, this isn’t deception from within; self deception. We have lots of examples of self deception in the Bible, from King Saul’s stubbornness, to David’s lust, both of these examples stem from not listening to the Godly people around them. We have Ahab’s refusal to listen to Godly prophets in his midst like Miciah, who, while he spoke negatively towards Ahab, his words were correct, but Ahab never listened. Then there is the rich young man who loved his own life and will that he was unable to give it up for the sake of salvation through Jesus Christ. These were all people who were not deceived by others but by themselves.
A great example of this comes from recent Church history. In May 2011 many Christians around the world prepared for the end. Some sold homes, quit their jobs, and got ready or the world to end. The one thing that all these people had in common is that they had stopped worshipping in local Churches. They were seclusionists. They believed that the Church age was over and that Christians should not worship corporately with other Christians. Instead of worshipping in Churches, they would worship at home and listen to Christian radio where they would come across Harold Camping and American Family Radio who taught that there seclusionism was right and that the end of the world was going to come on May of 2011. They had no one around them to correct them or convict them so they kept believing in this untruth. Their separatism caused them to believe something without being open to correction and conviction.

To recognize this doctrine in yourself or in the teachers and Christians around you (and yes this is important for the sake of James 5:20) here are some Biblical markers of this dangerous doctrine.
1: “Tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine”: Paul mentions a time when people will not put up with sound doctrine but will surround themselves with teachers who preach what they want to hear, what suits them. These are not people who are being deceived but rather they are people who are choosing to listen to deceivers. I’ve found that people who subscribe to a separatist view are often those who do not attend corporate worship or engage in congregational life. Instead, as the modern media age allows, they will go to the Christian book store and will pick out dvd’s a devotionals from their favourite authors and preachers and they will specifically pick titles that sound interesting to “them”. Whereas in the body of Christ, in a congregational setting, you will be confronted with various voices and various topics which may or may not be in line with what you find interesting or what suits your itching years. In this way, one of two things will happen, you will both be challenged and convicted by the Biblical teachings presented or you will be forced to exercise your discernment, both of which are marks of spiritual maturity. While someone who refuses to listen to the believers around them or to hear things other than what interests and suits them, will not mature spiritually, but will be “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine” by whatever is popular on youtube or at the Christian book store.

2: “neglect to meet together” separatists “neglect to meet together which is a direction violation of Biblical truth. Paul warns about this in Hebrews 10. He says that the reason we meet together is so that we can “spur each other on” towards Christ. If you read the other letters you get a clue as to what this entails and you find that in some cases this means that there will be rebuke and correction and other times there will be encouragement, but if we neglect to meet together we risk being those who continue to sin without correction. In this case a separatist may not even realize that they are sinning or they may be so caught up in themselves that they refuse to acknowledge the correction of the Holy Spirit, as was the case of king Saul. God, formed us into a body with Christ as our head for a reason, and the reason was so that we could walk together.

3: Spiritual abuse in the home. I’ve seen that a separatist doctrine and attitude can often be part of a larger pattern of control and, at times, abuse in the home by men. If a husband and father dictates a separatist doctrine on his household he is causing his household to “neglect to meet together” and therefore is causing them to sin. In this instance the husband and father maintain unaccountable spiritual and emotional control over their household. In this case husbands and fathers who force this false doctrine on their families do not allow their wives and children to grow spiritually and they make it impossible for them to use their spiritual gifts within the body.

4: an Increase of unreasonable fear and anxiety: In Matthew 10:28 Jesus tells us not to fear those who can kill the body but not the soul. Those with a separatist attitude are often obsessed with fear and anxiety about persecution and spiritual warfare. They often view any correction or conviction from someone around them as spiritual or personal oppression and they view just about everyone with suspicion. This, again, reminds me of king Saul, who had a constant unnecessary fear of just about everyone. In fact, when he was to be crowned king, instead of embracing, with confidence, the authority that God had given him, he cowered behind the luggage when he was called up on stage. God did not give us a spirit of fear according to 2 Timothy 1:7 he called us to go out and make disciples, not to build bunkers and hide from the world and our fears and anxieties. He called us to exercise in Godliness (1 Timothy 4:8) to work based on His call and His equipping. The separatist will, instead of going out and exercising the freedom and abilities God has given them, cower inside with a insecure view of God’s authority and goodness. These insecurities will then manifest themselves into false doctrines that lead people away from the truth of Jesus.

5: An inability to love and forgive: Often the reason that people stop meeting corporately with other Christians is because they have been wronged or offended in a church setting. Complete separation usually happens after this has happened in several different Churches. Because of a lack of understanding of God’s relational nature (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and the nature of the Body of Christ, instead of listening, forgiving, and loving, a separatist will simply separate. This is often a way to avoid conflict or conviction. The person separating can often be the one who harmed or offended, instead of dealing with the conviction they’ve received or think they will receive they simply separate and keep being angry. This also, then, leads to further fear and anxiety of other Christians. Jesus is clear that he wants his followers to love as he loved (John 13:34). How did Jesus love us, that “while we were still his enemies Christ died for us”. If you can’t sit with someone in the pew because of something offensive they may have said to you then I’d argue that you may not understand what it is to love as Christ loved. Love is important and forgiveness is important and these are relational qualities that can only be exercised if you are around other people.

About the author

Erik Liljegren

Erik Liljegren

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