Monday, September 8, 2008

How Patriarchy Necessitates Family Integrated Worship, and Why Evangelism is the Only Southern Seminary FIC Distinction

There are a host of practices associated with the Family Integrated Church (FIC). Previous posts already established a fairly extensive history of the FIC and its developments from within homeschooling-minded communities. This FIC concept stems upon a unique interpretation of headship and the writings of John Calvin (preferring a strong and often static hierarchy in terms of all relationships). Previous posts also described the influence of neo-confederate idealism on the Christian Reconstruction movement (a Calvinistic movement) and how those influences affected the growth of the homeschooling movement in most Reformed circles who created the FIC concept. As stated many times in the past on this blog and in other venues, the FIC is not a monolithic movement and is comprised of a diverse combination of associated principles, beliefs and practices.

They are connected however, in terms of beliefs in a rigid male headship and the subordination of women as the ontological lesser of men (of lesser essence physically and metaphysically per the classical philosophical understanding of the word). The teleology of woman (the divine purpose and design for woman) also deems her as a more limited creature (role, evangelism, etc.) as a consequence of her lesser essence. (Man is made in God’s image and woman is made from and after man’s image without transfer of the same spiritual qualities of the imago dei that only the male gender retains.)

The most basic fundamentals of the FIC:
  • Patriarchal dynamics within the family and the church (strictly hierarchical)
  • Focus on “top-down” leadership as a function of a particular interpretation of male headship (paternalistic view of church and family)
  • Limited operations and functions for women in home, church and society
  • Promotion, support and preference for large, homeschooled families Prejudice against “segregated” groups within both collective worship and church ministry, perceived as a cause of the progressive decline in church membership, particularly the subgroup of children
  • Presuppositions consistent with Covenant Theology/Doctrines of the Reformed faith
To further summarize, I believe that all of these elements can be traced back to one single element: an aberrant re-interpretation of Calvin’s doctrine of federal headship, stretching the understanding of Adam as the father of us all who introduced sin into mankind into idolatry of man’s traditions. The spiritually regenerate man becomes a new type of “improved”Adam (a new creation in Christ like unto Adam) who saves his family through works of the law under this aberrant teaching. The profound focus on the virtuous, salvific abilities of the paternalistic system and the focus on legalistic performance standards (finding an antinomian under every pew) brings their profession of this aspect of Reformed faith somewhat into question. Jesus is seen only as a type of catalyst that does not dissolve or obliterate our relationship to Adam (and our relationship to the law) but rather enables the Christian man to perform works of the law to progress and enhance his own sanctification (and thus that of individuals with his family because they are spiritually dependent upon him and his efforts to various extents, depending on the FIC in question).

In an effort to honor the law, idolatry of both family and the mediator of all things pertaining to family ensues. I’m sure that those who advance the FIC cause would willing state vehemently that they oppose idolatry and do not conform to it, yet this spiritual pride becomes quite evident despite the best of intention in this system. This FIC element is also consistent with Bill Gothard’s teaching wherein grace is viewed like the opus operatum, a mystical dispensing or infusing of power or merit that is earned through works and through right attitude, rather than a forensic application of grace as God’s unmerited favorable disposition towards the believer.

In this system, initial salvation by belief in and confession of Christ as Savior does come through faith; but thereafter, man participates and enhances his own sanctification process through works and faith together, partly dependent on following the law. Salvation in this type of system is thus works mediated and not entirely faith mediated. Pelagius taught that mankind was not ill-effected by Adam and thus did not inherit a sin nature. All men could thus achieve God’s will through his own virtuous moral free will without spiritual rebirth and guidance by the Holy Spirt of God. For that reason, I believe that these views are actually very functionally semi-pelagian because of the confidence in the abilities of the virtuous patriarch who redeems his family and self through works of the law. 

Patriocentrists do not deny the sin nature, but they consistently behave as though, with a certain degree of mastery over the sin nature, their works of the law mediate holiness and spiritual transformation for themselves and dependent others (rather than works being an outward expression of faith). Augustine spoke of the visible church (church members who may or may not be believers) and the invisible church (believers only whether members of an established church group or not). These traditional definitions, long held to accurately describe the church do not apply under an FIC concept. Because the FIC only sees the church as a family of families and not as a group of individuals as a part of one body, all ministry must flow through this “federal head” of the family. The Family Integrated System is thus family dependent.

The FIC rubric views father as the “federal head” of the family and a minster or elders as “federal heads” of the church. Based on the views taught by the patriocentrics and this paternally dependent view of family, if one holds to this novel interpretation of spiritual headship under the guise of male headship that is taught in the Bible as a strict diagram of hierarchy, then all Christians must follow a family integrated model. (!) The FIC thus appears to reject the concept of the “invisible church,” because it is so focused on outward appearances and proper hierarchy, denying many their rightful place within the invisible church.

The Family-Dependent Concept of Ministry Within the FIC
The FIC Concept Promoted by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) As previously stated, I endeavor to demonstrate how the Family Integrated concept professed by SBTS does not demonstrate itself to be unique from the basic beliefs, assumptions and many of the condoned or prohibited practices in the pre-existing FIC within other Reformed circles. First, I am not the first and only person to connect the FIC concept with Doug Phillips, Philip Lancaster, Eric Wallace and R.C. Sproul, Jr. I offer the FBFI statement, other discussions on the fundamentalist website “Sharper Iron,” and a private document sent by Pastor Jack Brooks to his Evangelical Free Church in America colleagues in his Southeastern District to warn them about his personal concerns about the factional and schismatic FIC ideology as three of many such examples.

The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy and the Confession for Uniting Church and Family appears on Vision Forum Ministries website for those who wish to review this formal depiction of the FIC, and this list of some of the more extreme practices of the FIC (“fringe” per SBTS) also includes some of the informal practices associated with that group. Second, let me also state again that it was the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) that came to the FIC concept years after Presbyterian and Reformed denominations created the term, even adopting it into their church mission and vision statements before the SBC ever acknowledged the FIC. The Southern Baptist Church and Home Education Association (SBCHEA) formed to “foster communication between Southern Baptist homeschooling families and the SBC,” but not until 2004. In 2005, the SBCHEA then endorsed the FIC model.

Per the Ethics Daily article reporting on the FIC, though he contended for the concept for many years within the SBC, Voddie Baucham co-sponsored an SBC resolution that advocated for home schooling as opposed to public, government school education, but not until 2005. Previous posts document some of this history and authors who wrote on this subject throughout the decade of the 1990s. And in 2006, the FBFI denomination had been so ill-effected by the movement that they passed a resolution denouncing the FIC, describing well that the FIC produces “an innate suspicion and distrust of, not to mention disloyalty to, their local churches and local church leadership.”

This would suggest that the FBFI experienced the FIC phenomenon on a fairly wide scale to be compelled to pass a resolution against the model. This suggests that though other Baptist denominations were well aware of the concept, but that the movement had come later to the SBC. What is SBTS’s purpose for creating an FIC focus and adopting it at Southern Seminary if they have no knowledge of, connection to or similarities to these other FIC groups?

What then qualifies SBTS as a source of expert training in the FIC model? According to President Al Mohler and Dean Chuck Lawless, the FIC concept was adopted in order further the Acts 1:8 Great Commission with “missions, evangelism and healthy, biblical church growth” at the forefront to thus reflect God’s gracious character “in all that is done” at SBTS. Mohler states that the “family ministry is at the very heart” of what they want to accomplish in local churches toward achieving the ultimate, evangelistic end of the Great Commission.Randy Stinson states in general terms that he wants to encourage spiritual growth and model it after the process that takes place within a family under male leadership, so one can assume that thse goals are consistent with the “fringe” model of the FIC. He also states that, as consistent with the “fringe” model, church ministries have become unfocused because of what he defines as age and gender “segregation.” It also seems women’s, youth and children’s ministries are to be merged, suggesting that groups that do separate for focused, age-appropriate Bible study or ministry do not conform to a “Titus 2 mold.” (???) Somehow reintegrating them will better achieve a Titus 2 model, yet Stinson states that all these groups should be integrated under the "unified vision" of the leadership of men. 

And drawing from the teachings of CBMW, one can infer that the FIC gender roles that Stinson recommends also conform to the “fringe” FIC groups. In Defense of Age-Appropriate Education I would like to say that in defense of Sunday School and other such ministries that I never saw them as interfering with unity but as a great means to carry the Gospel to as many people in the most effective means possible so as to minister the witness of the Good News of Jesus to them. In that context, it was not “segregation” but effective ministry.

Particularly with age-appropriate ministry, a child may learn to sit through a long sermon that is geared toward a much older crowd. (I remember as a small child, laying under the pew where my mother sat with a bag of Cheerios and a coloring book.) And to this day, I sometimes have images of flannelgraph pictures of Bible stories pop into my mind, as my teachers were kind enough to meet me like a lost sheep, bringing me a more meaningful message because it brought Jesus to me at my level of understanding. One of the longest and most meaningful relationships of my life, along with those within my family, is the relationship I shared with my Sunday School teacher when she prayed with me at the altar when I was five. She served as my Sunday School teacher many times after that day, and she modeled Jesus Christ to me over the course of my life. That relationship with her strengthened my faith, watching her raise sons as a widow and braving breast cancer, and certainly did not weaken it or cause me to turn away from Christ.

My mentor in Christian School who introduced me to the writings of the Doctrines of Grace (as such) served as both my highschool teacher, my youth group leader and the pastor that officiated at my wedding. I am infinitely all the better for their enduring witness and friendship in my life, not worse. In fact, I can’t imagine where I would be without all of these mighty testimonies that I came to know by virtue of age-appropriate Christian education.

 What DOES Makes SBTS Different? The only distinction that I can discern is that SBTS professes a desire to evangelize, something most of the FICs outside of the formal SBC advise against. In Karen Campbell’s most recent podcast series on “militant fecundity," she explains how that belief in the supposed “fringe” following of the FIC, those adopted children that are not biological are frowned upon in the FIC. She lists several teachings of Gothard and others about the negative view of adoption. What she did fail to mention was RC Sproul’s adoption of a son which the neoconfederate sub-group of kinists protested because the adopted child was of a different race and ethnicity, so the here is yet another example of the splintering that takes place within the FIC. (Not all the neo-confederate idealists are kinists, but all kinists are neo-confederates.) But also mentioned in this podcast on militant fecundity are Doug Wilson’s teaching to pray for the unborn of the non-elect to die in utero and allow the poor and destitute children of the non-elect to remain unclothed and hungry in the gutter. As previously stated, because male intercession interferes with the priesthood of the believer, so being born into the covenant community through Christian parents grants children a higher status than those who come to Christ in faith by conversion. Church membership through a blood relative by virtue of one’s birth (as God’s providence) supercedes the individual’s belief and profession in Christ which explains why so many FIC churches focus upon “militant fecundity.” 

Therefore, the children of believers always enjoy a higher status through this odd FIC-associated, sick twist on election, a view that is far more cruel than even the pagan concept of karma. This profession of evangelism as a goal of the FIC concept of SBTS serves as the only single identifiable factor that distinguishes the SBTS concept of the FIC from that of the patriocentrists. And it remains to be seen whether this stated “family centered” evangelistic vision of the SBTS version of the FIC produces the desired end of the Great Commision, proving whether this confession can overcome the rest of the problematic FIC system. Time will bear out whether the SBTS adaptations of the FIC will also become a warped tool of condemnation, aggressive proselytization of the non-Calvinist and a pious retreat from compassionate ministry to our secular culture.

 For the sake of both saint and sinner, I pray that it miraculously does not. From my experience and from the reports of so many others, this cure for our culture, our churches, our families and our beloved children proves to be worse than the disease. It’s proved far worse and operates far more quickly than the inconsistencies found in Gothardism, producing its painful, idolatrous fruit. People seem to cycle through the FIC mill into realization of the fallacies and aberrant teaching far more quickly than they do through the Bill Gothard experience, so I suppose that this is one of the many silver linings contained in this dark cloud. But judging from the already SBC affiliated FICs to date, they differ only from the pre-existing FICs in terms of expression of the desire for evangelism, but not in kind or function.
Lord God, please have mercy on us and deliver us from ourselves – from the traditions of our own making that work to make Your Word ineffective. Do a new planting in us, that we might be oaks of righteousness unto Your Glory rather than tombs full of dead men’s bones. Amen. Amen. And, AMEN.

Isaiah 61 [KJV]
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
May this become the final chapter of the story of the testimony of the Family Integrated Church! . ,