Puritan or Separatist? To Leave or Not To Leave

A person recently asked me what I though about the “downgrade controversy,” which was a doctrinal dispute that C. H. Spurgeon had with liberal members of his denomination. Ultimately, Spurgeon decided that separation from the doctrinal “downgrade” of his denomination was the best course. The question arises for us as to when it is appropriate to separate from a church or a denomination over doctrinal issues. For us as for Spurgeon, I think that the question is all about when it is proper to stop being puritans to become separatists (for the difference between the two, click here). Spurgeon believed that his denomination had become so compromised doctrinally that he had to stop being a puritan to become a separatist. I agree with him that sometimes a church or denomination can become so compromised that you cannot remain in fellowship. The question is when does a church or a denomination cross that line. For my answer to that question, I refer you once again to Dr. Mohler’s article, “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity.” We have to separate with people who deny “first order” doctrines, and we have to regard them as non-Christians. We have to worship in separate churches from those who deny “second order” doctrines, though we may still acknowledge them as brothers. We have to strive for unity in spite of disagreements over “third order” doctrines.

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