Are You Really Looking for an Exit?

By Dr Paul M Elliott

Part 8 of a series. Read part 7.

Our current series addresses these questions: “My church is no longer true to the Word of God on essential Christian truths. What should I do? Should I leave? Should I stay and try to fight error? Will I be guilty of schism if I do either one?”

Some people adopt what they call an “exit strategy” attitude in the face of clear apostasy in their churches. But a recent example shows that often those who adopt this strategy aren’t really looking for an exit. Far too often, they’re looking for an excuse to disobey God.1

A Recent Example

Like the wait-and-see response we discussed in our last article, the “exit strategy” response is another proposed way to supposedly deal with apostasy that rests on the false notion that separation is somehow always premature. Perhaps I can best illustrate the foolishness of this response by recounting what happened earlier in this decade when the once-sound Orthodox Presbyterian Church (in which I was at the time an elder) demonstrated clear apostasy on the Gospel and the doctrine of Scripture.2

When churches and groups began leaving the OPC after its apostasy became obvious, some other ministers and elders who claimed to be sound chose to stay. They told those who were leaving, “We sympathize with what you’re doing and we’d really like to leave as well. But there’s no place to go, no sound denomination for us to join, and we will not opt for independent status, not even temporarily.”

Their unwillingness to leave an apostate body by opting for even temporary independency was specious. But when new, sound denominations began to form — partly in response to the lament of these men — most of them demonstrated their true position by simply shifting their ground. They began saying, “Well, if and when things get bad enough in the OPC, one of the new denominations will be part of our exit strategy.”

What is “Bad Enough”?

Their response raised the question, “What is ‘bad enough’ ”? So those of us who chose the Biblical course of separation from error challenged these men once again: If you take an honest look at the evidence, take an honest look around you in the denomination, what more is there to wait for? We repeatedly asked them these questions:

  • Will you wait until people in your own congregation have been infected with the neo-liberal cancer?
  • Will you wait until it happens to you yourself?
  • Do you, if you are a minister or church leader, not understand that you are no less susceptible to the influences of the neo-liberals and their errors than the general membership of your church?
  • Can you in good conscience lend your congregation’s (or your own personal) financial support to a body that long ago ceased to proclaim the one true Gospel to the exclusion of all false gospels?
  • Can you continue to give your people the impression, by remaining in the denomination, that it is sound and worthy of their support?
  • Do you not understand that Scripture commands you to set the example, as the apostles did, in leading your people to “come out from among them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)?

The Evidence

Years later, nearly every one of those men who said they had an “exit strategy” for leaving the OPC remain in their apostate denomination.

Today we are seeing the same thing repeated in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod (ARPS), and some Baptist groups.

By their own inaction, many men are demonstrating that they aren’t really looking for an exit. They’re looking for an excuse to disobey God.

Next: The Stay-and-Fight Response

References:

1. Material in this article is adapted from Christianity and Neo-Liberalism by Paul M. Elliott (The Trinity Foundation, 2005), pages 352-353.

2. The OPC’s descent into apostasy is fully documented in Christianity and Neo-Liberalism.

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