Doctrine of separation

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The doctrine of separation, also known as the doctrine of non-fellowship, is a belief among some Protestant religious groups that the members of a church should be separate from "the world" and not have association with those who are "of the world". There are many scriptures in both the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible that provide the basis for this doctrine. For example:

  • Amos 3:3 – "Can two walk together except they be agreed?"
  • Ephesians 5:11 – "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness…"
  • II Corinthians 6:14 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers..."
  • John 17:13–16 "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it."

Different groups vary widely in what to them constitutes separation. Additionally, there is a distinction between first and second degree separation. For example, many Christians want to live in a way that is distinct from the typical lifestyle of the world (first degree). This was supported by Dennis Costella when he said "We are in the world, but we are not to be a part of it."[1] Others would claim that not only should one separate from the world, but also from those Christians who would not separate themselves from the world (second degree). Believers in second degree separation believe that Christians who are tied up with "the world" are themselves guilty of apostasy for their failure to adequately separate.

Practices and areas that should be separated under the more strict interpretations of the doctrine of separation include:

  • Mental Life: Thoughts, reading, attitudes
  • Physical Life: Dress, physical contact, entertainment, speech
  • Social Life: Friendships, courtship, career
  • Spiritual Life: Personal devotional life, fellowship with other Christians, the Church

Examples of Application[edit]

Reaction to John Piper's Invitation of Rick Warren[edit]

When John Piper invited Rick Warren to a Desiring God conference in 2010, blogger Daniel Chew called for a form of second degree separation. "The biblical view of Piper's actions in light of 2 John 9-11 is to view Piper's actions as making him partakers of Warren's evil deeds. In this light, Piper is to be rebuked for this decision of his. Separation from Piper in this light would be along the lines of refusing to participate in the DG2010 conference, and a reticence in promoting Piper as a person of godliness and especially discernment."[2] This form of secondary separation through refusing to endorse John Piper was also advocated by the blogger Lane Chandler who stated "While I do believe Piper has many great things to say and I greatly respect him as someone who has a record of standing up for biblical truth, nowhere do I believe we need John Piper. In other words, if I don’t send someone to John Piper that does not equate to I don’t send them to God."[3]

Application against Mark Driscoll[edit]

R.E. Palgrave criticized Rick Warren because he "has close associations with Mark Driscoll",[4] implying that the Doctrine of Separation should be applied to Driscoll.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dennis Costella, "What Does The Bible Say About Separation?" Accessed August 17, 2013.
  2. ^ Daniel Chew, April 03, 2010 "Piper, Warren and the Doctrine of Separation", From his blog "Daniel's Place – (Reformata et semper reformanda)" Accessed August 17, 2013.
  3. ^ Lane Chandler, "My Cards on the Table Regarding the Warren/Piper Situation" April 9, 2010. From his blog "Lane's Blog" Accessed August 17, 2013.
  4. ^ R.E. Palgrave "The Right Direction?: An examination of where the New Evangelical policy of no separation from those associated with error and apostasy has led the theological college WEST." page 6. Accessed August 17, 2013.

External links[edit]