Thursday, February 12, 2009

First Time Obedience and Unquestioned Submission as an Essential Component of Multigenerational Faithfulness Part IV: Theological Concerns

Examining a few of the theological concerns of First Time Obedience and unquestioned submission, a necessary and essential component of multigenerational faithfulness.

From Pages 110 - 111 of Voddie Baucham’s “Family Driven Faith”:
An even tougher lesson to learn is the principle of first-time obedience... [Baucham offers an example of counting to three for compliance, suspending punishment until the counting concludes at three as inappropriate permissiveness.]

This is a difficult principle to understand because we overlook the punishment our sins deserve and ultimately received in the cross of Christ (or will receive during an eternity separated from God in hell). However, whether God smites us immediately as He did Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) or appears to let it slide, we can rest assured that every sin receives just recompense (Romans 3:21-26). Thus, in the economy of God every act of disobedience is ultimately punished whether we see it immediately or not. That is why it is important to teach our children that every instruction is to be obeyed right away. As they get older, they may be allowed to enter into discussion about our instructions, but that discussion should follow an act of obedience, not determine whether or not they are convinced of our position...

We do not want our children to do what we say with conditions attached. We want them to obey, period. Learning not to repeat ourselves, not to yell, not to call the offending child by all three of his or her names, but to speak in clear, level tones and follow through... No, our children are not perfect, but they understand what obedience is and fully expect a consequence if they fall short of doing what they are told when they are told to do it.
Voddie Baucham on Corporal Punishment and Shyness in a Young Child from Under Much Grace on Vimeo.

Dr. Baucham goes to some length to tell us that God does not necessarily punish us right away for all sins, pointing out that the Absolute and Perfect Judge of the universe sometimes finds what we can only assume to be perfect reasoning for delaying punishment. Might that be for training us in discernment and adding to our knowledge, wisdom? Might He delay punishment in order to teach us of His faithfulness regardless of our performance so that we might know on a personal level that when we are forgiven much, we love much?

Maybe the chief purpose and end of living is much greater than mindless or coerced obedience, with love and trust as the focus from which joyful obedience flows without any concerns about fear of failure. Maybe the chief purpose and end of living is not even perfection. There’s an old cliche about life being about the journey and not necessarily about the destination. Though I think Baucham would agree that building and developing of our character serves as a paramount destination in life, for a great deal of our living and the circumstances of our lives focus not so much in accomplishment but in God’s using of those circumstances to change us. And sometimes this process reveals to us that our measures of accomplishment don’t ever match God’s measures and purposes at all. Is the grand measure of our success as parents weighed by obedience alone? One might raise creation’s most obedient child, yet they may be grossly lacking in character, ability, tenacity, confidence, etc... We may have a raised a perpetual child and not a man or woman. Yet so much patriocentric stock is placed in the obedience of the submission doctrines because of the overt focus on themes of authority, and children are oft raised to be little more than grown and undiscerning children.

I also do not understand this aspect of Baucham’s statement. He rightly explains that God very often chooses to withhold immediate consequences and the ramifications of our actions from us. And though Baucham does not point this out, we know that along with the negative, God also withholds some of the rewards and benefits of our successes. Baucham establishes that God’s world does not operate as an instant, “add water and stir” kind of world for anyone. Yet due to some logical leap that I do not understand and for reasons that he does not detail, Baucham uses God’s example of delaying consequences to declare that we should not conform to our Heavenly Father’s example. We should seek to be unlike Him in this respect. I don’t understand his reasoning or lack thereof. Should we not as parents seek to be like our perfect heavenly Father? The only reason that I can identify that Baucham offers in support of his preference for First Time Obedience (FTO) is his own personal preference. The examples that he draws from Scripture and the arguments that he presents in support of his premise actually speak against FTO. Unlike the perfect King of the Universe, Baucham expects the fallible parent to demand and obtain immediate obedience, at the risk of immediate punishment.

I find this whole passage as illogical as it can be and a completely unsupported argument, like some kind of emperor’s new clothes. I can imagine that Baucham would argue his complete departure from logic as my missing his point. But to be honest and clear, his justification demonstrates some huge flaws and holes that a couple of my friends would say could accommodate a dump truck. There is no argument about how we need to count the cost so as to not tread carelessly upon the Precious Blood of Jesus in our worldliness and flesh. There is no stressing of us to be holy because Jesus called us to be holy like Him. There is no sermon of how God surrendered to us His very best, even to the point of delivering His own Son up unto death, even the death of the Cross, so we should be ever more cognizant of the Price paid for us. Our living should then reflect our reverence and we should live with the ever present honor for exactly what Christ did for us by laying down His own life in our stead. That is markedly absent from Baucham’s directive. The only argument offered states that because God is gracious, holy and tolerant, we should be perfectionists with very low tolerance for failure, demanding of our children what God does not even demand of us. We should require even higher demands than God requires of us, and it is true because Baucham says so.

His argument makes no logical sense, but it certainly reveals his personal preferences and those things about himself which he apparently disdains: imperfection. And he unknowingly gives us a window into the source of his own, unresolved shame through the heavy degree of personal, emotional and inappropriate projection of his own issues onto every Christian. This is not a Gospel message but one of works-based salvation, completely missing the whole point of unmerited favor offered to us precisely BECAUSE we cannot attain perfection. Through his own projection, he demonstrates the primary faults in patriocentricity: gross lack of grace, brittle intolerance for personal failure due to rigid legalistic standards of performance (a works-based salvation), miserable perfectionism as a measure of piety, and the self-centeredness of the system for those who find themselves in the privileged position at the top of the hierarchy.

Molly Aley points this out in her blog entry concerning FTO, and I encourage you to read her entry on the subject. She also comes to many of these same conclusions about the discrepancies that I find in this section of Baucham’s book:
God did not require physical punishment before receiving their repentance. Instead, he pleaded with them to change their ways so as to avoid the consequences that He did not want them to experience. He did not demand first-time obedience. In fact, when Yahweh pleaded with Israel above to reform, they were already pretty far gone (see Isaiah 1:2-4, 21-23 for a few details).

So even under the pale of the demanding performance-oriented Old Covenant Law, God still did not always parent the way the first-time-obedience-or-get-spanked teachers say is God’s way. It is wise to seek ways to teach our children to follow God’s good paths. But in so doing, it’s not wise to make authoritative statements about how God wants us to do that, when God Himself did not do it that way with His own children.
I addressed some of this in the previous post concerning Dr. Baucham’s statement about shyness and fear in a two year old, describing in audio sermons how he will stand and wait until parents compel their children to greet him in a manner he deems appropriate. He does not make the case in his book, but he does so in several audio offerings on child discipline and multigenerational faithfulness available online. I find this behavior to be an inappropriate expectation to set for most small children of 2 years of age. In fact, I know many adults that would be quite intimidated to greet Dr. Baucham in such a manner.

In summary, I would like to reiterate that in a previous blog post discussing “Family Driven Faith,” I noted the very narrow scope of Dr. Baucham’s standard of tolerance. I find his style far too authoritarian and too manipulative to be appropriate for that of a pastor. In reviewing these passages of Baucham’s book again with my husband and with several mothers who I respect and trust, they all commented on the brazen assurance with which he speaks, offering no grace or respect for any perspective that differs from his own. This is particularly notable to me in the last paragraph in the above quote wherein Baucham seems to me to reflect his own personal shortcomings and struggles with anger and intolerance, wrongly projecting them as universal problems of parenting. Everyone I spoke with found this quite offensive. Baucham defines his opinions as THE Biblical models, the most notable example being how his Family Integrated Church model serves as the “most Biblical” model, a thinly veiled condemnation of those who do not share his preferences and convictions. But this is quite typical of how those in patriocentricity relate to all those outside of their system, a practice of idolatry where the father within the home serves as the center of all activity. This is a practice of the pagan Roman paterfamilias and not a depiction of the Gospel.

From "Putting Voddie Baucham's Family Driven Faith Into Perspective":

Because the authoritative approach and the numerous fallacies Baucham uses to support his views frustrate me, they impeded my progress through the material...

I recognize this and see Baucham playing out this dilemma and its consequences in his book, sometimes projecting his perspective onto others using a misleading and authoritative approach...

Voddie Baucham, like Doug Phillips, has a great deal to offer the church, but his personal and extra-biblical preferences work like potent poison in practice for a great many people who found the full scope of these teachings to be devastating. Baucham’s book misleads, and though it contains many good elements, it uses bad logic and manipulation to force mere opinions and preferences as indisputable facts with either absent or unsatisfying “proven evidence.”

If groups like Gothard require such a high level of submission and the rejection of reasonable, rational credulity as a “leap of faith” as a demonstration of one’s virtue and as a means of accumulating grace as some meritorious benefit that one earns and accumulates for spiritual potency, is it all that unreasonable to understand multigenerational faithfulness any differently when addressing obedience in children? This gnostic view of higher living through works-based performance can only be paternalistic, and it necessitates authoritarian control across the lifespan. How could we expect otherwise from a group of people who believe that it is necessary not only to teach one’s children how to plan strategically with wisdom but to extend that into some type of ordering the events of life of one’s grown children through a 200 year plan? So much depends upon the appeal of the largely nebulous phrase of “multigenerational faithfulness,” because what it actually represents is a collectivistic system that systematically robs the soul of transcendence in Christ. It is a semi-Pelagian working of one’s way back to Adam through the catalyst of Jesus Christ by merely looking obedient based upon external and temporal factors. The system and those in it measure one’s heart by outward performance and appearance which can easily be feigned for the gaining of status, displacing the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer with works-based performance. Followers learn to chase the outward signs of holiness through a system of positive and negative reinforcement, and true holiness through the grace of Christ Jesus stands condemned as antinomianism.

The promoters of this doctrine of multigenerational faithfulness (who borrowed the term from someone else) hope that you will pay no attention to the men behind the curtain marked as “Biblical” so as to not pull it back to find the mechanistic workings of an authoritarian system. It is yet just another of man’s attempts to pull himself up by his bootstraps through yet another a works-based religion that claims “all things Biblical” as a disclaimer. Even the name of and reference to Jesus Christ often proves to be notably absent.
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