Friday, September 5, 2008

The Development of Christian Education-Oriented Affinity Groups and Intolerance of the Non-Reformed: The Shift from Dominion to Domination


Before addressing how the related interpretations of an hierarchical view of Calvin’s spheres of government and dominion (as opposed to the traditional interpretations of the sphere of family and federal headship) necessitate the Family Integrated Church (FIC), I would like to review a bit more about the development of Christian education options as related to the FIC.


The transition of the children of Christian families out of the public school system which became increasingly hostile to Christianity has been an interesting history, one that has offered two options: private Christian school and homeschooling. The original goals (circa 1970) of both groups were once common ones, primarily. All focused on providing Christian young people with a firm foundation in a Christian worldview without the pressures of indoctrination from the socialist and humanist influences within the government school system. I had the privilege of attending a Christian school at the height of the growing movement and wrote award winning essays about the desperate need for reformation among my own generation. I was inspired by the writings of men like Donald Howard and Francis Schaeffer, and the vision and mission were clear: spiritual and academic preparation of young people who would be well-equipped Christian ambassadors, effective evangelists of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The early writings concerning homeschooling also embraced this approach.



According to many in Reformed Circles, the writings of Rousas J Rushdoony influenced homeschooling (promoted as early as the mid ‘60s by the Moores) through the vehicle of Christian Reconstruction, a potent influence within the “Christian Right.” Christian Reconstruction derives from Theonomy, seeking to establish God’s law as the basis of secular laws (and all law). The symbolic focus of the controversies surrounding the retaining of displays of the Ten Commandments in court houses provides one of the more simple and obvious examples of this movement. Christian Reconstruction focuses upon early US history when laws were based solely on the Bible (e.g., South Carolina’s early state law that said “anything advocated as a liberty in the Bible is protected and anything illegal per the Bible is punishable), seeking a return to America’s original Christian law. Rushdoony stated that he did not advocate the strict intolerance of such as was seen in the early Massachusetts Bay Colony, rather redefining “theocracy” in terms of the law only. He believed that re-establishment of basic Biblical law in concert with the decentralized government through sovereignty of local, regional and state government (as consistent with the original system of the founding fathers) would create the ideal milieu of religious freedom, fostering reformation of the culture for Christ through evangelism.

It is commonly assumed to be a dictatorial rule by self-appointed men who claim to rule for God. In reality, theocracy in Biblical law is the closest thing to a radical libertarianism that can be had...

For any one institution to see itself as the political domain is totalitarianism...

No institution, neither church nor state, can equate itself with God and claim control of the public (or private domain).

RJ Rushdoony
Roots of Reconstruction, pgs 63 - 67

Under Biblical law, restrictions are few, liberties derive from God’s law (not the government and thus can only be restricted by the government), primitively summarized by the concept of the golden rule. It assumes a basic “do no harm” concept where the law serves to protect individual rights, not grant them. This view of law as a protector of liberty parallels today’s libertarian political philosophy (Lex Rex, “the law is king”), though today, it denies that God is the source of law. However, Christian Reconstruction creates some natural tension with those individuals or groups who do not embrace a Calvinistic and postmillennial eschatologic view, and some also criticize the principles of Theonomy as supportive of legalism similar to the Judaizers because it does emphasize the value of Old Testament Law.

While advocating his unique view of “radical libertarianism” provided for under Biblical Law, Rushdoony believed that Christian Reconstruction could glean much from the arguments posed by the Presbyterian ministers of the Confederacy. Perceiving their Southern, agrarian society as a type of ideal Christian society and economy, many perceived the War Between the States as a Holy one. The Confederate States opposed the North’s efforts to expand the power of the federal government, a concern also common to Christian concerns in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, the South strongly advocated homeschooling, another ideal that Rushdoony sought to promote. In the ‘70s in particular, Rushdoony encouraged the study and re-publication of the writings of these Confederate Presbyterian ministers in support of the cause of Christian Reconstruction, as well as the study of Christian agrarian works of Richard Weaver and works like “I’ll Take My Stand.” However, he did not agree with ALL of the principles included in these works, such as an authoritarian view of family that is found in some of these writings. I’m told by many who knew him that Rushdoony strongly rejected many elements of the Confederate package as a whole, spoke against authoritarian rule within the home (which opposed Christian liberty) and did not live by such principles himself.

In terms of family order, the resurrected writings of the two prominent Confederate Presbyterian ministers Dabney and Palmer, in addition to the desirable advocacy of homeschooling and decentralization of the federal government, also strongly emphasized an authoritarian-style patriarchal home (father as prophet, priest and king for his home as the “natural religion of family”); an opposition to women’s suffrage (decay of order that would promote the dissolution of the slavery system); and restricted activity for women based on a degree of ontological subordination (women seen as of lesser essence than men); and a divinely ordained, entitlement-oriented, hierarchical structure for society which included slavery. The writings of Benjamin Morgan Palmer in particular also include elements that suggest that men mediate salvation for their families within their function as family priest under a particular, authoritarian application of the Calvinist Doctrine of Federal Headship.

Upon my own examination of the texts of Palmer, the patriarchy now advocated in homeschooling parachurch organizations and within the Reformed FIC is merely a reiteration of Palmer in contemporary language. Eric Wallace references Palmer in his FIC concept within “Uniting Church and Home.” Phillip Lancaster’s “Family Man, Family Leader” does not reference Palmer at all, but seems to have every same topical element that Palmer’s “The Family In Its Civil and Churchly Aspects” contains, with a reinterpretation of Palmer’s concepts in modern vernacular with modern references. Read quotes here. In some ways, it seems that with the reintroduction of these Confederate Presbyterian texts for their value concerning decentralization and homeschooling, Rushdoony unwittingly opened a Pandora’s Box that those following a generation or two after him could not responsibly discern. The children of those whom Rushdoony trained as leaders in the Christian Right would later take those texts and apply them as though he intended them as a Christian panacea of moral imperatives on equal standing with the Word of God. For many, a type of national folk religion ensued called “Biblical patriarchy” and which birthed the “FIC,” primarily based upon the writings of these Southern Presbyterians. In practice of the concept, many FICs effectively operate with all the culturally irrelevant, totalitarian style of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, circa 1637. These groups, not known for love of Christian brethren, punish and retaliate aggressively against their dissenters and critics that are both inside and outside of their churches. While the Christian Reconstructionists of the past promoted a libertarian pursuit which sought the re-establishment of Biblical standards within civil government, many of those who follow today openly promote a system of authoritarian theocratic vision in both the civil government and within their churches.

Thirty years after the formal establishment of the Christian Right (Moral Majority), earnest young families must brave child rearing amidst cultural and moral decline, school shootings, a culture that has become increasingly more hostile to Christians, a traditional church whose numbers dwindle by the day, statistics that show a high level of apostasy among young people who were raised as Christians, etc., ad infinitum and nausea. Add to this the over-reaction and fear-mongering within certain evangelical parachurch organizations that define marriage as an adversarial relationship, redefine intramural issues of gender as essential elements of the Christian faith, gnostically declare those who don’t share their peripheral views as heretics or sub-Christian, and equate a woman preaching to the moral equivalent of sodomy. The patriocentric Doug Phillips apparently has a favorite saying: “He who defines, wins.” In the midst of legitimate and sober threats to family, we have fear mongering from groups that oddly declare themselves to be champions of the Reformed faith who redefine the landscape to promote their views of preference or personal interpretation as the only pure, responsible and God-honoring view of Scripture for the Christian. Ironically, most of these same groups that promote and predict fear and adversity also profess a Reformed faith, that which traditionally holds the highest view of faith in God’s sovereignty.

Capitalizing upon the legitimate fears of earnest, Christian parents, many of these same groups market the perfect panacea to guarantee positive outcomes for their children and their churches, claiming that their plans and programs are perfectly representative and guaranteed by the integrity of the Word of God. Parachurch organizations have offered the cure for all ills within the church, family and society. They offer formulas and plans that express worthy aspirations and laudable values, complete with lots of soundbytes and modifiers that sing their virtues. They promote the appeal to authority and their “lovely families” as another potent evidence of their yet to be proven success, yet many movement leaders have either oddly absent or disavowed adult children that have rejected the patriocentric lifestyle (Lancaster's daughter, McDonald's son, Friedrich's son). Criticism of their programs becomes validation for them, because all those who “live godly in Christ Jesus suffer persecution.” Depending on need and the level of fear of the individual family, these programs become irresistible to those who are in desperate need of help and support. Families have a desperate need and desperate fears concerning the safety and success of their children, and these homeschooling-oriented parachurch organizations offer ideological systems that outwardly seem consistent, appropriate and divinely crafted to help them. The price of formulaic Christianity seems a small price to pay to guarantee the safety and best outcome for your children in a climate of cultural decay. These formulaic movements that preceded the FIC (Bill Gothard’s ATI, the Ezzos' “Growing Kids God’s Way” and the Pearls child rearing teachings) produced significant numbers of outspoken critics and contributed to some fatal tragedies. Like the FIC, these previous movements raised their preferences and moral imperatives to the level of significance and value as the Word of God resulting in issues of both heterodoxy and heteropraxy.

Roughly thirty years ago, Christians birthed their homeschooling concept with a mission of raising Christian young people who would be well-equipped to maintain, defend and mightily advance their Christian faith in the secular culture. Today, a predominant number of evangelical Christian homeschoolers now have or observe in others a mentality of survival that many ideological groups capitalize upon to promote an elitist, neo-tribal, separatist, pietistic agenda (if not that of evangelism for a particular, Reformed theology). Reformed Christian denominations formed around the needs of homeschoolers now perceive homeschooling itself as a vital if not essential element of Christian faith, and some of those denominations now consider other options for children to be SIN. These groups, riddled with a history of church splits, defrockings and PTSD among their survivors also engage in gnostic moral benchmarking within Christian homeschooling as determined by legalistic performance standards and acceptance of their patriocentric doctrines. Strict adherence to legalistic programs often EXCEED the standards of Old Testament patriarchy and often encompass ceremonial law traditions under the evangelical Christian heading of “Biblical.” And many of those who profess the oddest of these homeschooling and FIC traditions descended directly from the founders of the Christian Right and other leaders who participated in the original efforts of Christian Reconstruction thirty years ago.

In response to the aggressive and intolerant nature of so many FIC advocates, the non-Reformed denomination of the Fundamentalist Baptist Fellowship International passed a resolution in 2006 concerning the FIC concept (also termed Integrated Church Ministry), declaring it as schismatic and divisive. The highly intolerant, elitist attitude among the FIC-minded rejects Christian liberty promoting division among Christians rather than the love for one another by which we are to be known. It is a movement that has either purposed from its inception or has become for many FICs (not all) that which is bent on aggressive proselytisation of Christians who are not Calvinist, condemnation of sinners and the secular, and fear-motivated separatism to preserve piety. For a group of folks who supposedly champion God’s sovereign power to effectively convict the sinner and draw them to repentance, I find it interesting to watch them attempt to command the Holy Spirit’s work within the lives of those who hold to different views.

FBFI RESOLUTION 2006-03:

While recognizing that the family is under attack in our nation and in many churches today, and recognizing that choice to have (or not have) age-graded ministries is the prerogative of individual local churches as God directs them, the FBFI denounces the doctrinally errant and schismatic teaching characteristic of the Integrated Church movement for the following reasons:

  • It encourages schisms in local church bodies by encouraging its adherents to change the theology and philosophy of the churches of which they are members.
  • It does violence to local church authority, calling on local church members to leave their churches when the church does not bow the philosophical demands of the movement.
  • It espouses an ecclesiology based upon the family that is not based upon the New Testament but rather is an adaptation of Old Testament patriarchy.
  • It falsely lays the claim that the destruction of the family in the US is the solely the fault of age-graded ministries in local churches. We contend that this is a simplistic and therefore false accusation.
  • It espouses a postmillennial theology that is contradictory to a dispensational understanding of Scripture.
  • It is oddly inclusive, basing fellowship on a particular philosophy of ministry rather than the great fundamentals of the faith.