Sunday, August 31, 2008

Defining Our Terms and Expectations: The Family Integrated Church

A priest, a rabbi and a Protestant minister walk into a bar...

They order Buffalo wings to share, and the waitress brings them a plate of deep fried chicken wings that have been dressed with a sauce made of “Franks” hot sauce, butter and garlic. It’s served with a side of homemade blue cheese salad dressing for dipping and several sticks of celery. The priest, the rabbi and the minister are all quite pleased with the appetizer, noting if they had ordered this dish 50 years ago, the waitress would likely not have known what to say to them. They certainly would not have been served chicken with hot sauce, blue cheese and celery. Someone with a quick wit would have said “But buffalo don’t have wings!”

What’s my point? Ah, well. I understand from the urban myth or perhaps from a menu that I read on a restaurant on the East Side of Bethlehem, PA at least 25 years ago (the only place in the Lehigh Valley that served Buffalo wings at the time), this was an invention of a resourceful cook in Buffalo, NY who had few ingredients available and hungry patrons to feed. He made a concoction from the limited items available to him, and today, most everyone alive in the U.S. will be able to tell you what a “Buffalo wing” order represents. You might be served some variation on the dressings, but the basic food item includes chicken. If you ordered using the shorter term of “wings” at a restaurant bearing some day of the week in its name and were served beef ribs or fish sticks, you would likely be confused or quite dissatisfied.

A priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a Family Integrated Church (FIC)...

...just to visit and investigate the new phenomenon, just like the first time they met in the mid-eighties to sample the new-fangled “Buffalo wings” that a local restaurant had just started serving. Back when they trained in the early seventies, there was no such thing as an FIC. All churches had people of all ages in attendance, and the church was very much a big family within the Family of God. The term doesn’t really make sense to them in that respect.

So what can these clergymen expect to find at the FIC? When these three friends meet at a local diner and each orders a cup of black coffee, they get a plain, old cup of coffee. Aside from Bostonian tradition of “regular coffee” which comes with cream or “tea” in the South which is assumed to be tea served in a glass, poured over ice, hot beverages like coffee are pretty simple. But we postmoderns like everything to be complicated it seems, even our coffee. Do you want one of the four varieties of coffee in the thermal carafes, or do you want the barista to prepare one of about 20 variations of a basic coffee substance that can be prepared in a wide variety of ways? It seems like the FIC experience will be nothing like ordering coffee at the local diner but will be more like going into the local Starbucks (or now McDonalds) and telling them that you would like them to “surprise you” with any coffee beverage of their own choosing. I would guess that between serving size and variety, you could receive any one of 200 different items. As I noted in the previous post, however, it seems that if you ask faculty at Southern Seminary to apply the coffee analogy to FICs, they will likely tell you that wherever you go, you’ll get something very similar to a cup of the standard, good-old American cup of coffee without all the frills.

In the next few posts, I would like to examine the different aspects that undergird the concept of family integrated worship and explain why it is important, particularly to those who profess Covenant Theology or a Reformed Christian faith. One must understand these presuppostions before one can fully appreciate why family (and the head of the family) figures as central in one’s ministry or worship. And I don’t deny some of these concepts, just how they are ordered conceptually. Until then, I’d like to add another term to the analogies that I’ve offered here: patriarchy.

Patriarchy (“father rule” or “male governance”) forms the foundation of the FIC, a term also applied to those who profess and follow “Biblical patriarchy” both as a guiding concept and belief system. As previously noted, many professing Evangelical and Biblical Christians profess patriarchy and the FIC concept. Concerning the idea that it is wrong to assume that two or more groups that profess many identical foundational beliefs and use the same terminology and follow the same system of theology (Reformed, in this case), I would like to ask just how on earth a reasonable person can remain innocent of making these wrong assumptions? Is it not reasonable to expect a product called a plain, standard cup of coffee from a diner or even a coffee shop when that is what is advertised on the menu and that is what one orders? If a vendor serves something other than a hot beverage brewed from the roasted beans of one of the 90 species of rubiaceae coffea when I order “coffee” at a diner, how is that an error of judgement or a discernment problem on the part of the customer?

Are the descriptions of patriarchy and large portions of the foundational position statements hosted on CBMW and Vision Forum Ministries not advocating the same principles and concepts with identical language? How are they so different from one another that a reasonable person should have cause to distinguish one variety of patriarchy from another, particularly when they use the same terminology in the same way to discuss the same principles. Though the application and practice of the principles might differ, I assert that it is impossible to discern differences in the foundational principles of patriocentricity when no discernible differences exist.

Please review a small sampling of the similar language and concepts in these quotes.

Many Evangelicals Unwittingly Live as Feminists (Moore):

If evangelical homes and churches are to recover from the confusion of egalitarianism, Moore said, they must embrace a full-orbed vision of biblical patriarchy that restores the male to his divinely ordained station as head of the home and church... Moore pointed out that the word "patriarchy" has developed negative connotations, even among evangelicals, in direct proportion to the rise of so-called "evangelical feminism," a movement that began in the 1970s. But the historic Christian faith itself is built upon a thoroughly biblical vision of patriarchy, he said... A rejection of male headship leads to a redefinition of divine Fatherhood and divine sovereignty, Moore said.

Feminism in Your Church and Home:


"That's [domineering, demanding husbands] not what Biblical headship is about, and so it is distorted and that means you have danger to the Gospel itself...

I hate the word complementarianism. I prefer patriarchy but I'll use it contexually here."


[Evangelical feminism]" is an ideology that in the church in particular would undermine Biblical authority, with regard to how men and women relate to one another according to the Word of God, and would undermine the home and the church, in the way that they are articulating how men and women should relate to one another... I'm saying that their efforts in discipleship will be undermined... You are either a male Christian or a female Christian and you're going to live out the Christian life differently in a different context based that – based on the particular roles that the Bible has prescribed. And so discipleship is impacted. The structure of the home is impacted. The structure of the church is impacted. How we worship is impacted. Bible translation issues are impacted..."

Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy (Phillips):
Central to the crisis of this era is the systematic attack on the timeless truths of biblical patriarchy. This attack includes the movement to subvert the biblical model of the family, and redefine the very meaning of fatherhood and motherhood, masculinity, femininity, and the parent and child relationship. We emphasize the importance of biblical patriarchy, not because it is greater than other doctrines, but because it is being actively attacked by unbelievers and professing Christians alike. Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers. In conscious opposition to feminism, egalitarianism, and the humanistic philosophies of the present time, the church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions... Biblical patriarchy is just one theme in the Bible’s grand sweep of revelation, but it is a scriptural doctrine, and faithfulness to Christ requires that it be believed, taught, and lived.

Education of Daughters... (Phillips):

One consequence of the view advocated by Dr. Baucham, or those espoused by Vision Forum Ministries, is that egalitarians and feminists of all different stripes hate it... The idea that wives and daughters could be highly esteemed... but functionally and practically different from men, is largely incomprehensible to those who have been infected by feminism. An intelligent, wise, esteemed, entrepreneurial, dominion-oriented, keeper of the home, distinctively feminine woman of God does not fit into their feministic grids... And that is one reason why the whole key to the type of argument martialled by “Christian” feminists of various stripes against biblical patriarchy is rooted in caricature, mockery, scorn, and the perpetual building of strawmen.