Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pulling Apart the Ambiguous Terminology of the FIC: “Multigenerational Faithfulness” (The First of Many Posts on the Topic)

I’ve read much about this term “multigenerational faithfulness,” a loaded language phrase created by those affiliated with the Family Integrated Church (FIC) and used extensively by those affiliated with Vision Forum including James McDonald, Voddie Baucham and RC Sproul, Jr. Though I cannot find the use of this specific phrase on any websites related directly to Doug Wilson or the CREC, they do promote and practice the same core concepts using the term “covenantal succession" or some variation of that instead.

To the best of my understanding from the research that I’ve done on the topic, the term became popular in the ‘90s within religious leadership training circles making reference to the work of Rabbi Edwin Friedman. Friedman applied Murray Bowen’s Family Systems Theory to churches and synagogues in his book “Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue.” Murray Bowen, a psychiatrist, pioneered the systems theory of family, and his work provides the whole basis for my arguments and the information posted on the website “Overcoming Botkin Syndrome” which counters the teaching of the Botkin family. The paradigm of family taught by Geoff Botkin and his daughters (Vision Forum affiliates and members of Doug Phillips’ local group) define what Bowen theory classifies as the epitome of family dysfunction, so it is highly ironic that Vision Forum and their following have adopted this term as their own. Vision Forum despises all things related to psychology and psychiatry because they believe that the original foundations of the discipline came from Darwinian assumptions and can therefore only be opposed to that which is Biblical. They deny that statistically validated scientific approaches to mental illness or learning disabilities (objective science and not theory based) or findings based upon the objective data obtained through advanced brain imaging and neurophysiology have value because it falls under the general category with Jungian and Freudian psychology. Diseases of the brain with behavioral implications are seen to be sin-based, so they reject these disciplines from which their own precious terminology of “multigenerational faithfulness” originated.

I wonder if Vision Forum started making application of the phrase knowingly, whether they knowingly copped the term from Christian leadership seminars or whether someone heard the terminology used in these circles and did not realize where the term actually originated? With all of the stealing of intellectual property within the camps of the many self-declared leaders in homeschooling, I’m not inclined to believe that adoption of the term was coincidental. Federal Visionists’ plagiarism precedes them, Raymond Moore’s White Paper cites those who profiteered from his work, and as just one example, many believe that Eric Wallace deserves the credit for the concept of “uniting church and family” because of his book and because of his refusal to appear at a Saint Louis homeschooling conference many years ago.

Vision Forum’s paradigms of family actually exceed many points of legalism within traditional Judaism as described by Maimonedes, bearing striking similarities to the pagan paterfamilias of Roman culture and the household codes from the writings of ancient philosophers like Aristotle’s “Books of Politics.” Considering the origins of the “multigenerational faithfulness” term in conjunction with the pagan origins of the patriarchal practices of Vision Forum, their own extra-biblical teachings fit far more applicably into a taxonomy with psychology, social science and more fundamentally, anthropology. Men like Michael Kruse argue and openly admit that the so-called “Biblical patriarchy” derives directly from the paterfamilias, from Aristotle and the writings of the Rabbis of that day. If you find my claims doubtful and you feel the pressure of milieu control, I challenge you to read the Christian leadership materials from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Murray Bowen’s work, Rabbi Friedman’s work, as well as the structure and practices of the paterfamilias to prove me wrong. Compare that information to the teaching of the Botkins and what I’ve posted on the “Overcoming Bodkin Syndrome” site. I challenge the readers here to search these matters out for themselves to corroborate the facts.

Those who promote this model of so-called “Biblical patriarchy” need to be honest with their following. They should state openly to their following that their teachings do contain much Biblical material, as they aspire to live with full conscience before God and in obedience to God’s Word. But in addition, they need to be ethical and state that their model also conforms to secular societal traditions as well if not more so than it does to that which is exclusively Biblical.

I don’t find anything wrong with the fact that Vision Forum’s model classifies as something of a social science or an anthropology of family. In that sense, one can argue that they are their own type of Social Darwinism, the connotative term that they so zealously decry, since these social sciences also originated within (but are not necessarily reflective of) naturalism, materialism and Darwinian thought. Depending on how a person validates truth and what style of hermeneutics they use (and do not just profess in theory only on their website), they can rationalize that their beliefs are purely Biblical through a various number of ego defenses, essentially believing their own contrived press.

Some religious schools of thought like those followed at Vision Forum reject all that is believed to be secular and is therefore declared evil, yet other more objective approaches do not assign ethical value to all things secular. Many practices we engage in as believers and interact with in our daily lives are secular and non-religious (i.e., indoor plumbing, houseplants, kitchen curtains), but their absence in the Bible does not classify them as unbiblical or non-Biblical and therefore something to denounce, mark and avoid. Many schools of Christian thought would note that some practices absolutely spring from that which is defined for us in the Word of God but that other practices and traditions that we engage in while in the world and not of it are banal, mundane and non-ethical.

All human thought is affected by and reflects an individual person’s ethics, but thoughts concerning practical matters that are based upon objective facts are intrinsically non- ethical. How one ascribes meaning to those facts may or may not become ethical as reflective of the worldview and reasoning of the thinker. For example, a discussion of the mechanics of indoor plumbing, how to install it and how to maintain it has no intrinsic ethical weight. That indoor plumbing does function because of the constancy of physical science which is a study of our material environment. A description of what we know about the mechanics of physical law (buoyancy, Boles law and other physical facts about the dynamics of water, pressure and gravity) are not intrinsically ethical, in and of themselves. How we understand and make sense of the basis of those physical laws, how we pursue understanding those physical laws and our choices regarding problem-solving in an attempt to understand those physical laws most definitely derive from our ethics and have worldview implications. The factual, objective information regarding the details of the mechanics of the physical world can be observed and can have meaning for both the Christian and non-Christian, and though these matters are “secular” (non-religious), the fact that they are secular does NOT mean that they are intrinsically ethical and therefore evil.

Check back over coming weeks for more on “multi generational faithfulness,” a topic I’ve been collecting information about for a few months but have a renewed interest in since reading Voddie Baucham’s use of the term in his book. How amused I was to see that Karen Campbell has also started her own series of blog articles detailing her own thoughts about the term and how those who follow Vision Forum’s teachings use and apply it. Karen seems to be a fine example of an evangelical Christian homeschooler -- and one that exemplifies the concept (with homeschooled grandchildren to boot!), yet I’m sure those who use the term would deny that it applies to her. Perhaps they might say that what she’s taught her family to be faithful unto is skewed because she rejects the teachings of patriocentricity. Read more at www.thatmom.com.