Ephratism and Shakerism: False Conceptions of Christian Separation -- By: Homer A. Kent, Sr
GJ 2:1 (Wtr 61) p. 15
Ephratism and Shakerism:
False Conceptions of Christian Separation
Professor of Church History
Grace Theological Seminary
The New Testament clearly teaches separation from this present evil world on the part of the Christian. A classic example of this teaching is 2 Corinthians 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” A study of the context of this passage shows that this separation involves both doctrine and practice. The true believer can have no part with the unrighteousness and darkness of this world. Paul’s question in the passage, “What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” implies only a negative answer. Our Lord set forth this teaching when He asserted that His followers had been chosen out of the world (John 15:19). Thus they were expected to be separate from it and overcomers with respect to it. The Apostle John spoke of true believers as those who are overcomers as far as this world is concerned (1 John 5:4–5). The appeal of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments is to the effect that God’s children should be holy even as God is holy, clearly implying separation.
It is inconceivable that those who have received the life of God in their souls should continue to be enamored of this world and its sinful tendencies. They have a new outlook. It is upward toward God and the things of God. They ought to be living the risen life looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of their faith as the center of their interest and the goal of all their hopes.
Recognizing the truth with respect to the matter of separation, it also remains true that there is a fanatical interpretation given to it which is wholly apart from its correct meaning. Some have emphasized the physical aspects of separation to the practical exclusion of the spiritual. Thus we find in the early days of the church a sizable group of individuals who took such a dim view of the world and what was transpiring in it that they “left” the world to live in caves and similar places of isolation in order to preserve their holiness and to show their hatred of the world. The cases of Paul of Thebes, and Antony of Alexandria, and Symeon the pillar saint are representative of this attitude. Paul is said to have lived in a cave for ninety years. A spring and a palm tree nearby provided him with sustenance until his death in 340 A.D. and, according to tradition, during his later years a raven brought him daily half a loaf, as the ravens ministered to Elijah. More fabulous in his zeal for holiness was Antony...
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