“The church, if it is to be anything, it is to be absolutely distinct from the culture, absolutely distinct from the world, absolutely distinct from unbelievers,” said prominent author and evangelical pastor John MacArthur.
Speaking from the pulpit to thousands of fellow pastors at the Shepherds’ Conference, MacArthur underscored the biblical command not to be yoked with nonbelievers and to be a separated people.
“Paul demands a total break,” he said Wednesday at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., citing the apostle in the New Testament.
MacArthur, author of Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World, grew up in a fundamentalist environment. At that time, the word “separation” was a big word on the evangelical word list. Fundamentalists built high walls in terms of church conduct and relationships, he explained. If those walls or lines were crossed, the violator was vilified.
Even MacArthur was a victim of the highly separatistic fundamentalism. He recalled being stripped off of about 55 radio stations in one day when they felt he was behaving outside their parameters.
The fundamentalism back then was cruel and unbiblical, he said. And it was so cannibalistic that it consumed itself and disappeared.
But MacArthur feels there needs to be a “biblical (not traditional) understanding of separation” among Christians today.
“I think we are very much aware of the fact that there is a distinction between being a Christian and being a non-Christian,” he said. “I don’t think much of evangelicalism understands that. I think the line between a true Christian and a false Christian is significantly blurred.”
As Apostle Paul made clear to the Corinthians, MacArthur noted, Christians cannot live in both worlds – the world of righteousness and the world of unrighteousness, light and darkness, Christ and Satan.
Two millennia ago there were believers who blended Christianity and paganism with the intent of trying to make Christians more palatable and popular and less narrow, offensive and exclusive. It’s the same picture today as churches “import all the styles of the culture into the holy life of the church,” MacArthur lamented.
Such blending simply validates the culture and confuses the church, he pointed out.