Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tracing the Development of the Doctrines of the Family Integrated Church Movement

From a series of posts that appeared on the Under Much Grace Blog:

How Calvin's Spheres of Dominion Facilitate the Family Integrated Church

In the statement that Dr. R Albert Mohler, Jr. made concerning the appointment of Randy Stinson as a dean and a Family Integrated Church (FIC) specialist, he says that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) holds a

“family-centered vision
of church ministry.”

It was stated that this “revolutionary vision” of the seminary and for the seminary inspired them to formally adopt their focus on family integrated worship.

I find this term troubling, though it is not for terribly obvious reason. I admit that I do have a mild knee-jerk, emotional reaction to the sound of the phrase that Dr. Mohler uses here because of its subtle implications. Should church ministry be anything other than Christ-centered, and how does one mediate that ministry – to the individual -- or to the individual who is only seen as part of a family?

Here a particular, strict hierarchical interpretation of Calvinism’s and Theonomy’s spheres of responsibility competes subtly with the Word concerning how one views Christian ministry and how the church should best accomplish it. Dr. Mohler says “family-centered” but this need not mean that he believes in anything other than a Christ-centered life for the Christian. That is not my point, though I don’t like some of the implications, preferring "Christ-centered" with perhaps a primary focus of ministering to families instead of “family centered.” Among other things, I am concerned about whether individuals will miss ministry in favor of a family-only focus. Can an individual exist as an entity worthy of ministry apart from a family? How, by whom and by what standard is family defined? Within the next few blog posts, I shall explain the foundations of federal headship and how the doctrine forms the foundational rationale for family integrated worship.

The Spheres of Calvin and Theonomy

Government can be defined as that agency through which an individual or body functions and exercises authority. Theonomy ( theo and nomos or “god’s law” -- the study of the Word of God as the sufficient source of all human ethics) recognizes four spheres of government within which the Christian should endeavor to establish dominion : individual, family, church and civil. Personally, I find this to be a very helpful way of looking at how an individual relates to these different social spheres, but I do not always see them as falling in an hierarchical order under all circumstances.

Some who follow Calvin or Theonomy sometimes see the subordinate individual as confined to the next immediate sphere, perceiving and interpreting the world in such a way. And with all due respect to men like John Calvin if that is his interpretation, but I do not believe that this is always a Biblical approach. This concept and misapplications of it have opened up into several different problems in many Reformed teachings as a result of honoring Theonomy's conceptual framework over what we know to be true in Scripture. Conceptual models should help us understand Scripture and should not take precedence. The Bible first, then Calvinism or whatever other theological concept you might like to add as a tool to help you understand Scripture – and NEVER should the reverse be true.

What does an hierarchical ordering of the spheres of dominion look like in terms of evangelism?

There is a definite order to how we should go about evangelization:
  • Individual -- The first sphere of ministry is personal – and within this sphere, we experience spiritual rebirth and experience transformation by the renewing of our minds.
  • Family -- From then, our faith should flow forth from the individual sphere into the next immediate one: that of family (from sphere #1 to sphere #2 in the diagram).
  • Church -- As our families experience the benefits of faith, evangelism and the blessings of our faith will manifest in the next sphere of the church.
  • Civil / Secular -- As our churches are transformed and become more effective, our society (our civil and secular spheres) will experience the benefits of our faith.

This is significant, because taking dominion begins at the “grassroots level” and should never start with revolutionizing from the top down. To change society, we must first change ourselves, then our families, then our churches. The hearts of the people will change through faith first, not through politics, works of the law, or through legalistic conduct standards within the church (something akin to Roman Catholicism whenever outward rituals are employed to "infuse" grace or holiness). If you are RC, please take into consideration that I am not, and infused grace through works or sacraments was strongly reputiated by the Reformation, the theology from which these teachings developed.

Based on personality traits, belief systems or power motives (or a combination thereof), some individuals will naturally prefer to order the world more sequentially versus a personality that best makes sense of the world through random or non-sequential means. Both through personality assessment and through recent, fascinating advances in neurophysiologic imaging, we observe that human beings tend use or “prefer” one side of the brain over the other side. Those who favor the analytical Left Side of the cerebral hemisphere of the brain will also “prefer” hierarchical ordering because this is where these functions are located within the brain. (Neither sequential/hierarchical preference or a linear/non-hierarchical ordering of information is right or wrong, it is just different and often a consequence of anatomy, not necessarily feminism.)

For those who do prefer hierarchy, they may also apply the same concept of Calvin's spheres of government to their conceptual understanding of how the individual should behave within the larger society. They will likely follow a similar hierarchical pattern for conduct just as the Reformed concept of evangelism maintains because this is what comes easily and naturally for the Left-Brained individual. Those who do not possess headship (women and children) cannot transcend these spheres of dominion under this interpretation because of hierarchy. A woman cannot approach one sphere without her inclusion within the immediately lesser sphere (one of which is mediated by her federal head). This is the foundational argument for prohibiting voting for women as it would be interpreted as functioning within the civil sphere, out from under the authority of her family and presumably the church as well.

For this reason, Reformed beliefs do tend toward theocracy [late note/addendum 01Sep08: particularly when interpreted in this way], because under a theocracy, there is very little to no ambiguity between spheres of government. It's just easier. The government is all well ordered under the same law in a theocracy -- God's Law, presumably reducing miscarriage of justice and providing benefit for all people. On a functional level, when all spheres follow a uniform code, there is theoretically less logistical "mess." The spheres nest quite well within one another, and the power structure (per this paternal interpretation of the spheres) limits dissent. One can attempt to work one's way up the chain of command to address injustice, but at the lowest level, women and children are called to the virtue of submission to unjust authorities for the purpose of developing patience, character and perseverance. This strongly discourages women and children from voicing complaints and limits their opportunity to do so.

The next post will investigate the spheres and their implications for women, with the third post summarizing how family integrated worship can be seen as somewhat of a necessity when one strongly adheres to and espouses these ideals and interpretations.

06Mar09 Addendum:

Vision Forum -- a group that teaches that women should not/cannot vote according to the Word of God -- boasts on its website that the President and Founder's wife, Beall Phillips, voted on election day, 2008.

The Vision Forum Ministries article that taught that women should not vote, “Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” by Brian Abshire, has miraculously disappeared from
In case you don't recall all the hubub about this article, link HERE.

Vision Forum also altered the "Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy" sometime after December 2007 and prior to December 2008, changing the concept of the church as "a family of families" into a statement that now reflects that the church is "a family of families and singles."

The original "Tenets" that reflects "a family of families" appears HERE on the Internet Archive.

A further examination of the “spheres” of government or dominion will lay the foundation for understanding why a particular and increasingly popular interpretation of Calvin’s work and the work of some Theonomists necessitates family integrated worship. As previously stated, these spheres of government extend from the individual sphere into social spheres of family, church and then civil (secular) government – a grassroots approach only, from the bottom to the top.
Transformation in the life of the believer spills over into the sphere of family first, a sphere that is taught to be governed by a federal head in the person of husband/father or patriarch.

The preceding post mentioned a quote from Southern Seminary President Al Mohler that declared the seminary’s vision for a “family-centered vision of church ministry” when formalizing their Family Integrated Church (FIC) focus. As a seminary, bearing the tremendous and sober responsibility of preparing and guiding the ministers for the church, if one uses the conceptual framework of spheres as an hierarchical model for church governance, the seminary must consider all people who will benefit (directly and indirectly) from their ministry.

Sphere of the Church in Reverse,
Perceived as Hierarchy

All believers are members of one another, but they are perceived as components within the hierarchy of the spheres of dominion. Since the sphere of family falls immediately under the sphere of the church which then carries and mediates ministry to individuals, a family-centered vision for the seminary provides the best means of accomplishing this goal. The seminary thus supports the continual reformation of the sphere of the church (setting God’s House in order first) so it can be fully and expertly equipped to carry out the Great Commission. Hence, the “family-centered vision” and not a “Christ-centered vision”, when one considers the church ministry in terms of the four spheres.

Though these interpretations of the underlying beliefs concerning the spheres of dominion support the FIC, they are not mutually inclusive of one another. Please allow me to reiterate that the interpretations of the Reformed Faith that I describe here are not what “the father of modern Theonomy,” Rousas J. Rushdoony taught or advocated, often speaking against them in his “Armchair Tapes” series. (Please see this previous post.) Whenever Believers prefer man’s teachings over the Word of God and whenever human beings act as mediators between God and man, aberrations develop. Both FIC and non-FIC churches alike manifest some of these beliefs and practices, though the reader should understand that the beliefs themselves do not equate to doctrinal abarrency. Please also note that though these beliefs are very common within FICs, this in no way means that all FICs profess these beliefs or order their concepts as they are described here or that they manifest doctrinal error. The church divisions over doctrine, power struggles and many defrockings that characterize the history of the FIC attest to the varied wide array of desputed doctrines within the movement, wisely noted by the FBFI in their 2006-03 Resolution denouncing the FIC as errant and schismatic.

Variations on the Sphere of Family in the FIC

When interpreted as a structure of hierarchical order (rather than as a model for evangelism), women and children do not interact directly with the church but rather submit to a chain of command under their “federal head.” Note that “federal” derives from the same Latin word from which we derive “covenant.” The federal husband or representative is thus the “covenant representative” for his family. Paul speaks of the man as the kephale or head of the woman, and there are differences of opinion concerning whether the term refers to “authority/ruler” or “origin/source,” depending on how the text is translated and based upon one’s presupposition about the meaning of the passage. Those who prefer hierarchy will tend towards the “authority/rule” definition as this is how they best make sense of the world.

Under these more contemporary interpretations of Reformed Theology’s doctrine of federal headship however, not only does the woman precede from family through her federal head, (as Christ precedes from the Father within the economic aspects of the Trinity), she must also precede only from and through that origin in order to interact with any other sphere of dominion. The view of evangelism as proceeding from the individual into family and subsequently greater spheres applies very differently to women, because they are not seen as full individuals in the same sense and likeness of men. They are entities of the sphere of family only through the husband. (For this reason, marriage for women is “normative” if essential in many FIC churches.)

As she is not perceived as a separate and complete entity apart from her husband (a lesser derivative of the image of God), a wife must channel all of her activities through the various authorities that preside over the specific sphere for which that activity is appropriate, thus monitoring and restricting her ability to use her gifts in all of the spheres of human activity. All ministry of women must be governed and administrated through this chain of command, much like an enlisted person in the military must function within his chain of command as dictated by protocol within the established military rank hierarchy. Women, as with enlisted men, are separate, different, and inferior in role and function to the Officers. Whereas the enlisted man has a limited opportunity to raise his rank and station, women cannot ever rise to the “Officer Class” of this example. According to the view that women are ontologically (by essence) lesser beings than men, they lack the needed capabilities to function beyond the family sphere. In terms of hierarchy, a wife’s Christian witness and transformation in Christ function only to edify her federal head because she is ineffective and incomplete on her own. She may learn in quiet submission, and to learn and function outside of her sphere of family violates the hierarchy and is perceived as a type of insubordination against God’s created order.

In terms of receiving ministry from the church, wives within the hierarchy become entities that are dependent upon and within the family. The church, per the hierarchical view, becomes a family of many, many families over which the local elders preside. Men, as the heads of their families, become the focus of ministry in the local church, and ministry then proceeds from men to their individual family members. Church ministry is thus mediated by the federal head. As a consequence of this form of government, the wife holds no independent relationship to the church that is apart from the family or male headship. The primary source of spiritual edification for women (also for their children with whom they share many similar relationship positions) will NOT be her local Church (in the form of Elders and fellow saints in the Faith) but must come to her through the hierarchical order ending with her husband or a male deemed appropriate for this purpose by the local Church Elders. For this reason, in some FICs, the Lord’s Supper (a ministry of the local church) is offered to women only through their male head and cannot be shared with a woman apart from someone (male only) operating as her federal representative or her direct spiritual authority. (In her husband’s absence however, a woman may receive the host from one of her small children, if he his male.)

In 2002, the participants at the Federal Vision conference (also called "Auburn Avenue Theology") taught that membership in the covenant community through baptism was more significant to one’s salvation in Christ than was a personal confession of faith in and commitment to Jesus Christ. The group also formally advocated paedocommunion (any child baptized into the covenant community could partake of the Lord’s Supper without knowledge of or appreciation for the significance of the sacrament). Because the patriarch serves as an intercessor and mediator for his wife and children, he assumes the responsibility for determining who is worthy to partake, not the individual themselves. Thus an “age of accountability” concept for children becomes unnecessary. Many of these beliefs flow from skewed interpretations and applications of Calvinism and Theonomy, primarily because of the deceptive perception that sanctification is mediated through the federal head (the patriarch of a family). This mediation follows the hierarchical order descending through the spheres – before it meets the individual it must flow from the Church (this means the Church Elders) to the family (this means the patriarch of that family).

The covenant community itself holds and mediates some type of salvation in Federal Vision (and in other FICs), just as the patriarch mediates salvation for his family and those within his sphere of ‘divinely designated dominion.’ Exactly how and to what extent individual groups interpret the role and requirement for an intermediary and an intercessor between the individual and Christ varies widely, however the belief is present in many FICs and patriocentricity. Several Presbyterian denominations (RPCUS, OPC, PCA) determined the Federal Vision teaching as “Romanist”and defrocked several ministers as a consequence of teaching what was determined to be an aberrant view of the Gospel (including Douglas Wilson and Steve Schissel who were granted ordination under Wilson’s self-established CREC denomination). They also charged the Federal Visionists with sacerdotalism, an abuse of power on behalf of clergy by mediating aspects of salvation. This view has also been criticized as both obsequious and hegemonic because uses its institutions to formalize power and controls against rebellion through the dominant class within the culture.

A Few, General Comments in Contrast

I believe in the principle of male headship wherein a wife submits to her husband only and not all other men because it is expressly Biblical. For example, my single marriage vow to my husband and God and before many witnesses was “To submit unto my husband as unto the Lord” after Paul’s mandate found in Ephesians 5. My husband became my origin in an economic or functional sense (“economic” derives from the Greek oikos which means “house” and nomos which means “law”). My submission is based on my vow and obedience to the Word, not as a consequence of identity or lesser essence (ontology). Though I am under My husband’s authority, he is my place of functional origin, but is neither my despot nor my spiritual source of sanctification. I have both a relationship to the church as a vital part of our family under my husband’s leadership as well as a relationship to the church that is independent of him.

The church is not exclusively a family of families but also ministers to individuals apart from families. Husbands are called upon to model Christ’s love for the church through the manner in which they love their wives, but husbands neither serve as their wives’ means of sanctification nor as their spiritual mediators before God, occupying a place between their wives and the Lord that only a perfect Savior can fill. Rejection of husbands as mediators of spiritual sanctification based on a misreading of Ephesians 5 does not negate male headship. Rejection of this interpretation of Reformed Theology does not demand disdain for male leadership in the church as some people suggest that supposed “liberals” like me supposedly do. (This seems to be the standard comment regarding those who reject "hard patriarchy.") Ongoing spiritual sanctification comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and is not mediated to women or children through any agent other than Jesus Christ. Though husbands serve as protectors and providers for their wives in the economic sense and also support and nurture the spiritual growth of their wives, they are not the mediators of grace or holiness for their wives. Likewise, within the church, Christ alone mediates salvation and ongoing sanctification within individual Believers.

Is there any other Scripture that supports the concept that a woman has an independent relationship with the Body of Christ apart from her husband (not requiring his intercession for interaction within the Body?) I believe that Matthew 12:46-50 and Mark 3:31-35 indicate that in matters of Christian ministry within the Body, the affiliation of faith supersedes the relationship of the natural family. This does not give license to circumvent submission to my husband however, as marriage is considered a “creation mandate” in addition to the clear teachings of the Apostles. These synoptic Gospels explain how in response to being told that His mother and brothers desire to speak with Him, Jesus points to His disciples, saying that those who do the will of His Father are His family. Again, this does not dismiss submission to one’s husband, but it does indicate that spiritual salvation is not mediated through one’s earthly family since even Jesus’ own mother and siblings would fall within the limitations of this definition of family in the context of the circumstances described by Matthew and Mark. Jesus also alludes to Micah Chapter 7, also attesting that salvation does not come through one’s earthly family:

Matthew 10:34-36:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.

This understanding is in no way presented here as an argument contending with a woman’s submission to her husband within marriage but is meant to demonstrate that our natural relatives do not take precedence over our relationships within the Body of Christ. Covenant community membership does not provide either an additional means or a more significant means of becoming born of the Spirit. One must believe in one’s heart and confess with their mouth that God raised Christ from the dead, forsaking sins and following the act of obedience of baptism. The Scriptures do not support baptismal regeneration or infused grace through baptism but describe baptism as the outward expression and the “seal” of the believer’s confession of faith in Christ.

An upcoming post further expands upon how the interpretation of the "spheres of government and dominion" as a chain of hierarchy for the purposes of church government necessitates a family integrated system of worship.

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.


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.

How Patriarchy Necessitates Family Integrated Worship,

& Why Evangelism is the Only Southern Seminary FIC Distinction

The Non-FIC View of the Family in the Church~~~~~~~~~

Review of the Family Integrated Church Concept

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. FIC concept 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 serve 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 Make 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 seem to 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 adherents 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 silver linings contained in this very 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 and the testimony of the
Family Integrated Church!

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