It seems there is a good amount of talk these days about people “collaborating.” Both collaboration and cooperation are legitimate and good words. To collaborate means to “co-labor, or to labor together.” To cooperate means “to operate together.”
However, there is a negative connotation to the term “collaborate” as well. My father is the sixth of seven children and one of two boys in his family. I never met his older brother, my Uncle George. He was shot down while navigating a cargo plane during World War II. The Germans took over a number of countries in their World War II advances, such as France. Those who opposed the Nazis were called the Resistance. Those who worked with them were called collaborators. It is perhaps because of my personal history and the fact that I most often heard the term collaborate in this context, that I tend not to use it. Again, I acknowledge the word is a legitimate word.
The question really, is not, do we collaborate or cooperate? All of us do, all the time. We do so in our families and our churches, and with other members of the family of God. The question is, “With whom do we collaborate?” My fear is that some sincere men, in a desire to have less division and more unity—a desire which I fully understand and embrace—may inadvertently co-labor in situations that are not wise, nor ultimately helpful to the cause of Christ.
This is characterized by the word, belief. The term fundamentalist is not a Bible term. It came into being after a movement called German Rationalism (which was really just liberal unbelief) arose, infected our universities, and found its way into some of our churches. Men stood in pulpits and declared that the Bible was not the infallible, inspired Word of God; that Jesus was not born of a virgin, and that there is no such thing as the bodily resurrection.
The question arose: What is necessary for a man to be an orthodox believer? Five fundamentals of the faith were identified (the virgin birth, the inspiration of Scripture, the blood atonement, the bodily resurrection, and the deity of Christ). Meetings were held and books were written to promote this Biblical position that had previously existed, but now was called by the name fundamentalist.
A liberal is simply one who denies the inspiration of Scripture, the deity of Christ, His bodily resurrection, and His blood atonement. The word that characterizes the liberal is the word unbelief.
For a long time, these were essentially the only two positions. A man either believed, or he did not.
When it became apparent that unbelief would not be well-accepted in some churches, the unbelievers became more clever. They said they were not really unorthodox; they had a new kind of orthodoxy. They gave new definitions to our terms. They would say, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God as we are all sons of God.”
“I believe that the Bible contains the Word of God.” Or, “I believe the Bible becomes the Word of God as it speaks to me individually.”
Or, “I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, but it is a spiritual resurrection, not a bodily resurrection.
The term to describe the Neo-Orthodox is unbelief disguised: using the same words and terms we use, but assigning to them different and unscriptural meanings.
Please note that this not a pejorative term; it is the term that this group took for themselves. Dr. Harold Ockenga, who has been called the Father of New Evangelicalism, said, “We need a new evangelicalism.”
In the early days, new evangelicals were also called the intellectual fundamentalists. The new evangelical originally believed like the fundamentalist. But he felt that the fundamentalist had isolated himself by separating from the unbelievers. He had robbed himself of an opportunity to influence large segments of society. And so, the new evangelical said, “While retaining our orthodox beliefs, we must have fellowship and cooperation with those who do not share those beliefs.”
The term for the New Evangelical is belief compromised. The new evangelical abandoned the biblical doctrine of separation for a practice of infiltration.
The principle of influence. While it is true that I am to be an influence for righteousness in society (salt and light), it is also true that I am not to allow society to influence me.
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.—1 Corinthians 15:33
As an example, let’s suppose that you have a cold and I don’t. If you cough on me, might I catch a cold? Certainly. If I cough on you, would your cold cease? Absolutely not. The Bible is clear on this matter:
If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.—Haggai 2:12–14
For the first 20 years of his ministry at the Cleveland Baptist Church, Dr. Roy Thompson deliberately refused to have a Christian school. He said, “I want my young people in the public schools; being a witness and winning unsaved teenagers to Christ.” But he changed his position. Dr. Thompson explained, “For 20 years, I put my canaries into a cage with sparrows to teach the sparrows how to sing. At the end of 20 years, I had no singing sparrows. But I had a whole bunch of canaries that would only chirp.”
The principle of inheritance.
This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry. So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers. Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance. Even as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad.—Numbers 36:6–10
I find it intriguing that God’s instruction to the daughters of Zelophehad was that they could marry whom they wished, but must marry within their own tribe, lest they lose their father’s inheritance.
I have a wonderful inheritance. My dad never heard the gospel until he was twenty-one years of age, and the first time he heard it preached, he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is now ninety years old, and from that moment has served God without ever looking back. I have inherited from him great truths, which include the gospel, the importance of being separated from the world, the authority of the Word of God, the inspiration and inerrancy of the King James Bible, and a host of others.
It is true that there are saved people who do not believe all the things that I believe. Surely, there are people with whom I will share eternity who would differ with me on matters such as baptism, the local church, and the extent to which we must be separated from our worldly society. They are not my enemies. But it is not wise for me to get too close to them. I’d better be careful about collaborating with those who have significant differences with me, or I may lose my inheritance.
The Bible teaches separation, not infiltration.
Collaboration often results in compromise. When new evangelicalism was founded, every new evangelical believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Now, some of them don’t. Read Harold Lindsell’s book, The Battle for the Bible, written by a new evangelical to caution new evangelicals about this serious defection from truth. See also Francis Schaeffer’s book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, which deals with a similar concern.
Note that some who began as new evangelicals now have now become universalists, not willing to acknowledge that those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus will spend eternity in Hell.
There are many things about the late Billy Graham which I admire. He stayed faithful to his wife, he was honest in his business dealings, and he preached a clear gospel. And yet, the new evangelical approach he took did affect him. I heard, on the Detroit station WJR, an interview he had with J. P. McCarthy. McCarthy said to him, “You say that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. But what about people who have never heard of Jesus? What about people in Africa who lived and died without ever knowing about Him? Did they all go to Hell?”
Billy Graham said, “J. P., I would not say that. God is very fair and God is very just. And I would certainly not say that all those people would die and go to Hell.” (The answer to the question is in John 1:9: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” God will make the light available to all who desire it. But the answer to the question, to be biblical, must include John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” and Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
The question is not whether we should collaborate, but with whom we should collaborate. The Bible is extremely clear on the importance of our associations. This is both by principle: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17) and by example: read the story of Lot, Peter, and many others. When we fellowship with those who have significant differences from us, we seldom strengthen their stand, but we often weaken ours.
Separation can lead to isolation. There are those who seem to keep “adding to the list” of things for which they think we must separate. Now, a conference that once included such diverse speakers as Lee Roberson, John Rice, Bob Jones Sr., Jack Hyles, and Lester Roloff, seems impossible. Now, there are those who would separate from a man because of a book he has read or recommended, or the fact that he uses a “connection card” instead of a “visitor card.”
I read a statement by Michael Kinsley, a liberal, in the Weekly Standard many years ago. “The difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals are looking for heretics and conservatives are looking for converts.” For example, it is difficult to find a pro-life liberal who is accepted and embraced by their fellow progressives.
My goal is to stay strong; to be cautious about that to which we expose ourselves, but to have the mindset that does not look for an opportunity to cut someone off, but an opportunity to bring someone to the truth.