So I’ve spent the week at Oxygen 2014 sitting under, and publicly engaging, the preaching of men like Don Carson, Francis Chan, John Lennox, Paul Tripp, and Bryan Chapell. But what about separation? What about contending for the faith? Doesn’t the fact that some of these men hold to very different theology and some of them have hung out with guys who are really wrong on some stuff matter? How can I, in good conscience, attend, report, rejoice in, and even—I suppose—endorse these guys?

These are the sorts of questions most people here at the conference wouldn’t even think to ask. But which our readership might be more inclined to consider. And it is because I believe the motive of the question is good that I want to address it briefly here.

First, I want to affirm the biblical doctrine of separation from false teachers and those who live in open, flagrant sin. This is irrefutably taught in Scripture and is under emphasised in much of Christianity.

Second, it’s worth noting that the Hillsong crowd is not at this conference. I’m not saying no one here is into Hillsong. I’m just saying this is a different circle of people. The people here generally represent the mainstream of evangelical Christianity both denominational and independent.

Third, we must be wise enough and discerning enough to recognise that rallying together around the gospel does not imply agreement on everything and anything. It implies agreement on that around which we rally—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fourth, Scripture teaches that believers have unity—not should have… do have—in Jesus Christ. Unity is not uniformity. So hanging with people we disagree with is necessarily implied in the theology of the gospel. But unity is not avoidable and fellowship, therefore, is not optional.

Fifth, the things on which we are often urged to separate, and on which Fundamentalists tend to separate, are peripheral to the Christian faith. Music is peripheral. Dress is peripheral. Hair is peripheral. Ecclesiological structure is peripheral. Mode of baptism is peripheral. In fact, almost everything that we tend to fight about is peripheral. What is core is the doctrines of the gospel. The creedal mores of the Christian faith. Around these we can fellowship. Around these we must rally.

Sixth, isolation is stupid. It is killing pastors and churches and people. More than that, isolation is sin. It is a fundamental contradiction of the Christian gospel.

These thoughts are fairly brief, disjointed, and off-the-cuff. I’d love to interact over them in comments. I hope that you won’t assume I’m aiming at you. I recognise that you don’t have to attend Oxygen or even agree with attending Oxygen to agree with what I’ve just said or to be right with God. But I do hope I can challenge the common conceptions in conservative circles and start helpful discussion to God’s glory.

Grace to you.

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at


  1. Jeremy 14 August, 2014 at 6:50 am - Reply

    Glad you enjoyed the conference.

    A word of balance. Not everything is ‘peripheral’. If God included it in the Bible, it is necessary. I do get concerned when we segment the Bible into ‘essentials’ and ‘non-essesstials’. The gospel is one interwoven story throughout all 66 books.

    So yes, while I think it is great to fellowship with other Christians who may practice other modes of baptism – for example, I just think we should be careful to not imply that those things don’t matter. (and that may not have been your intention anyway)



  2. Jason Harris 14 August, 2014 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the comment Jeremy. I agree entirely. We should not conclude that because something is peripheral, it’s not important. Still, there is a degree of “doctrinal triage” that inevitably (I think) and appropriately (I think) takes place.

    My assessment of what is peripheral or central takes both clarity and centrality (distance from the cross/atonement) into account.

    So something that is clear and central is core to the faith and we must do “battle royal” for it.

    Something that is either clear OR unclear and distant from the centre is important (in terms of my personal conviction and obedience), but will not always be a hill worth dying on.

    When something is unclear and central, that is where the majority of our energy and discussion should be focused (in my view). These are matters of life and death both literally and for the faith. This is why I’ll die on the hill of baptismal regeneration but not mode of baptism.

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