Friday, October 16, 2009

Reformed Baptists Address the Family-Integrated Church Movement

Note: One of the blog's readers has informed me that the links to the articles by Jason Webb are broken and no longer working. I went to the blog where the articles were originally posted and discovered that they appear to have been taken down from the site. Perhaps this is because Jason has since published a master's thesis covering the same material. The thesis is entitled "The Family-Integrated Church Movement: An Exploration in Ecclesiology" and may be read in PDF form here. 19 May 2011

Recently there have been some good blog articles written by Reformed Baptists in response to the growing Family-Integrated Church Movement (FICM), and I would like to inform this blog's readers of some of them.

First, I would suggest beginning with the wise counsel of Andy Dunkerton, one of the elders at Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Mebane, North Carolina. He has written an excellent article entitled What Should We Think of the Family-Integrated Church Movement? In it he offers sound advice about the proper attitude and care we should take in evaluating the FICM, along with a solid frame work within which to evaluate such movements. Well done, brother!

Second, I would recommend reading Sam Waldron's article entitled The Relation of Church and Family, in which Dr. Waldron focuses on a primary issue I have often seen in the FICM, the issue of the relationship of the authority of the Church to that of the family. For example, after listing some "praiseworthy features" of the movement, Dr. Waldron warns:

All this being said, there are significant philosophical and practical issues raised by this movement that contradict a biblical ecclesiology and infringe on the rights and authority of the church ....

The church is not a collection of families, but a collection of believers. It is not an extension of the family, but a completely different and sovereign institution. The family was instituted at creation and is a creation institution, while the church in its present and final form was instituted after the work of redemption accomplished by Christ and is a redemptive institution. This means that the head of the household in virtue of his being the head of the household has no authority in the church. His rights and liberties as to church membership and as a church member are no different than those of his 20 year old son who lives at home but is also a member of the church. The family-based church idea makes some sense from a paedobaptist and Presbyterian standpoint. They often have held that only heads of households should vote in the church. They have always held that the membership in the church is family-based and composed of families. But family-based churches are a specific contradiction of a Baptist view of the church and make no sense within a Baptist viewpoint ....

When the church is seen as a distinct and sovereign institution under God, then its right and duty to fulfill the Great Commission in many ways beside the meeting of the church becomes clear. The elders of the church and their appointed delegates have the right to instruct the men, the children, and the women of the church in age-segregated situations. The Great Commission gives the church the right to evangelize and instruct the entire world and so certainly the children and wives of believers. It does not limit this instruction to church services. Only a specific, scriptural prohibition would warrant a man in refusing as a matter of principle to cooperate with the church in such attempts to evangelize and edify all those to whom the church is sent by the Great Commission. No such prohibition exists. In principle the choice to join a church is a choice to subject one’s wife and one’s children to its instruction. This is what church membership means—subjection to the authority of a specific, local church to fulfill its commission with regard to one’s children and one’s wife. In principle refusal to allow this in one’s absence represents a misconception of the nature of the church and her authority.

To sum up the church does not exercise authority over its members through the mediation of heads of household or as families, but as individual believers. Its authority over the women of the church is not exercised, for instance, through the head of the family. Its authority is direct. While children are under the care and authority of the family, parents of children who are members ought to be grateful for and recognize the right of the church to evangelize their children with their consent.
Again, I think Dr. Waldron has identified what I have found to be a primary issue in discussions I have had with FICM advocates in my own ministry, and he has offered a sound, Scriptural response.

Third, I would recommend reading a series of articles at the Reformed Baptist Fellowship Blog written by Jason Webb, who is a graduate of the Reformed Theological Seminary and member of Grace Fellowship Church in Bremen, Indiana. Here are the links:




In these articles Webb focuses on the nature of the Church and aims his critique at the common and misguided "family of families" understanding of the Church among FICM advocates. He deals primarily with the nature of the Church as a New Covenant community over against an inappropriate application of Old Covenant concepts to the Church by many FICM advocates.

To be fair, one prominent FICM advocate, Voddie Baucham, has sought to distance himself from some of the errors associated with the "family of families" concept, here and here. But he admits that this terminology – terminology which he and his church have helped to promote – is "enigmatic," and I think he fails to see how much the terminology has been taken by many common FICM advocates as descriptive of the nature of the Church. This is why I think Webb's critique is necessary and appropriate, Baucham's protestations notwithstanding.


Here Webb discusses the use of Biblical metaphors describing the Church (e.g. that of a family) and the need for care in understanding these metaphors. He also offers a good, brief description of the distinctive roles of the Church and the family.

Update 19 October 2009

I have added the fourth article in the series by Jason Webb ("The Family-Integrated Church Movement – Part 3" linked above) and corrected the personal information concerning him. Thanks to Steve Clevenger, pastor at Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, for the correction. (I hope I got his information right!)

Update 21 October 2009

Here is the fifth article in the series by Jason Webb:


Here Webb offers an historical critique from the standpoint of Puritan theology. He especially highlights the theology of Richard Baxter, John Owen, and the early Particular Baptists.


Update 29 October 2009
 
Here is the sixth article in the series by Jason Webb:
 
 
Here Webb offers a number of practical considerations, highlighting where those in the FICM have been right but primarily where they have been wrong. He also writes a conclusion to the series, ending with the following sobering words:
The only conclusion that can be drawn from the research is that the Family-Integrated Church Movement needs to rework their ecclesiology. They need to clarify their positions and their priorities in light of Scripture. Their ecclesiology does not bear up to the scrutiny of the Word of God; neither does their elevation of the family as a guiding structure for the Church. Christ is building His Church. The FICM needs to make sure they are not building with wood, hay, and straw.
After having read the entire series by Webb, I highly recommend it as a well-reasoned and Biblical approach. I cannot help but agree with his conclusions.

Update 5 August 2010

Somehow I missed this followup blog entry by Sam Waldron (posted back in January):


In this open letter Dr. Waldron clarifies some misunderstandings about what he had previously written, recognizes that the FICM is not monolithic and that there are more moderate branches, and offers some additional thoughts on why Reformed Baptists oppose the FICM.

Update 19 May 2011

Dr. Waldron has been writing a whole series of blog articles responding to the FICM here.
 
Update 2 May 2014
 
I just realized that I never added my own articles to this list, so here they are:
 
 
 

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting these, Keith. I seem to be running into this more and more. Not just the FIC movement, but an OVER-emphasis on family issues in general. (Not that family roles are unimportant of course...)

    Might take a day or two to find time to read all the links, but I'll get to it. :)

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  2. Hey! Do you think we've got all day to read that stuff? What about a short summary of each of the posts, like one of two sentences.

    I'm very interested in this, but I run a business, and have 7 children...

    N
    www.FatherDaughterEvents.com

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  3. Well then, Neil, I guess it will take you a little longer to read them all. But I think that is what you should do, if you are "very interested."

    After all, if you are "very interested," then you wouldn't want to settle for one or two sentences from me anyway, would you?

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  4. This family integrated church movement is very divisive. It is one thing for a church to choose not to have sunday school classes versus teaching that sunday school is from the pit of hell and is the root of the problems within the church and the cause of the destruction of the family. They believe that the church has supplanted the role of the father and that is why the church, the family, and the country is in the state that it is in.

    Those involved in the FICM believe that they are reforming the church. What they are actually doing is majoring on the minors and in the process causing much division within the body of Christ.

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  5. One of the issues that is frequently brought up in the defense of integrated family church services is that it is most in line with the regulative principle. Some opponents of the integrated method have even capitulated to this view by saying that Scriptures seem to teach this. However, I think that this is both untrue and unwarranted. As those who interpret the Scriptures historically, as well as grammatically, we must remember that the worship took place in the first century milieu. In that connection, it would seem that the following facts militate against adopting the integrated family position as presently advocated. While it may not destroy the view, it should call many back from extreme conclusion and force them to ask whether or not they want to follow the pattern of the saints in the OT and the NT. First, the temple worship did not permit women to go beyond the courts of the women. Second, the seating within the synagogues was according to age and prominence (Matt. 23:6; Mark 12:39; Luke 11:43; 20:6). The youngest of the people were sitting in the back and thus segregated from their families. Third, the men and women did not sit together, but they were separated from another, according to the long custom of the Jews. Fourth, Josephus tells us that only boys were taught in the Sabbath schools, writing at the time of Christ, and these Sabbath schools from all appearance were age segmented . This was not something that they took very serious, believing that Moses had commanded the practice. There would seem little doubt (in most minds) that Christ and his parents followed this pattern growing up. Fifth, we also realize that the early church followed the pattern of the synagogue for sometimes, notably, for example, James tells us that we ought not to have the poor sit on the floor, which strongly suggests that the pattern of the Jews was being followed in the church(es) of Jerusalem. When I put these facts together, and then I hear that segregation of ages is not permitted if we follow the regulated principle of worship, I wonder if there are any that will follow the pattern that we do see in the primitive church. I don't buy into their reconstruction of history. Rather, I believe it to an overreaction to the mess caused by youth groups and the voluntary self-abdication of parental authority in teaching children. I agree with the problem, but their solution is very questionable -- at best.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. I have added a note to the blog article above with a link to a master's thesis by Jason that covers the same material. Here again is the link:

    http://www.rts.edu/Site/Virtual/Resources/Student_Theses/Webb-Family_Integrated_Church_Movement.pdf

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  8. Thank you Mr. Throop.

    Related to this issue, I do have a question and a proposal if you would be so kind to contact me: pastormathis at gmail.com

    thank you again,

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  9. Thanks Mr. Throop.

    Some of the amazing beliefs of this movement not covered elsewhere are in my article at Wes White's site. Here is a cleaner link to the article, What is a Family Integrated Church?, a critique of their new confession:

    http://www.weswhite.net/2011/04/family-integrated-mathis/

    for the peace and purity of the church,
    thanks,

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  10. Thanks for the cleaner link, and thanks for the articles you have written. I have only skimmed them for now, but they look excellent. For the blog's readers, here is a follow-up article Shawn has written in addition to the one he has already mentioned:

    http://www.weswhite.net/2011/05/rejoinder-family-integrated-churc/

    I also recommend reading the comments section following these articles.

    I hope to read them more closely myself later.

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  11. Keith,

    I do not know your policy here, but if you are interested I can send you my short review of A Weed in the Church if you are interested. I believe my own research (there are Presbyterians who have joined this movement) is complementary to Dr. Waldron's work. I especially focused on the history of education and homeschooling which contradicts the claims of many in this movement (as found on my blog, ChristianNurture.blogspot.com)

    thank you,

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  12. Greetings,

    I have articles about Mr. Phillips' views and a review of Mr. Brown's A Weed in the Church:

    1. Mr. Phillips: http://www.examiner.com/christian-perspectives-in-denver/christian-homeschooling-conference-who-is-doug-phillips

    2. A Weed in the Church:
    http://christiannurture.blogspot.com/2011/05/weed-in-church-review.html

    3. Uniting Church and Family at WesWhite.net

    Thank you again,

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  13. Greetings,

    I have a review of the fic movie Divided and the book A Weed in the Church on a new blog:

    http://familyintegratedchurchmovement.blogspot.com

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  14. Hello again: A public discussion about Family Integrated churches and like matters is being hosted in Colorado. It will be recorded and posted at sermonaudio.com

    "You are cordially invited to a panel discussion at Park HIll Presbyterian Church on April 2, 2012, at 7 p.m. entitled "The Family in Crisis: Three Pastoral Responses." In a discussion moderated by the Rev. Greg Thurston, the Revs. Kevin Swanson, Shawn Mathis, and Matthew Kingsbury will present their views on how the Church should respond to the difficulties faced by Christian families today, interact with one another, and take questions from the audience. Held in conjunction with the next stated meeting of the Presbytery of the Dakotas, this evening is intended primarily to further discussion within the presbytery. As this is a matter of great concern to all the Churches, however, we earnestly desire the interest and input of all the brethren."

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  15. I have a preliminary statement on the FICM begun on February 1, at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Covenant-Reformed-Baptist-Church/209898478268.

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  16. I appreciate the thesis that Bro. Jason Webb has written. Comparing my knowledge and interaction with FICM advocates in regard to their teachings [which vary slightly with different groups] and Bro. Webbs work I perceive there is a misunderstanding by Bro. Webb of the proper theological holdings by FICM leaders [Doug Phillips, Scott Brown, Voddie Baucham, etc..] in regard to the Covenants. To understand their positions more clearly listen to audio series titled: The Great Debate Over Baptism and the Covenant by: William Einwechter which Doug Phillips recorded/produced.
    They all hold to a credo-baptist position which they see as congenial with Covenant theology and therefore understand that it is only regenerate individuals which are under the New Covenant and not Families. I do not agree with all of the FICM's positions, I agree with Bro. Webb that they need to clean up some of their theological language however on a whole, we should support this movement within the Reformed community.
    Doug Barger
    Founder
    Indiana Baptist Historical Society

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  17. The Baptist church was established in the Netherlands in 1609 by John Smyth. According to Baptist history, Roger Williams established the church in the U.S. in 1639 in Providence, Rhode Island. In the U.S., Southern Baptists are the most widely known members of the religion, but there are other sects in the country. There is no hierarchy in the church, and each congregation makes its own rules. However, there are some basic Baptist beliefs and practices that apply to most of the churches.

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  18. Although these men were leading figures in their Baptist groups, it is hardly accurate to cite any one man as establishing "the Baptist church" in any particular country, since their are many different Baptist groups with different origins in virtually every country in which they are found. What unties Baptists is not a particular founder in an particular country, but rather a set of Biblical principles upon which they all agree. Here is another link where some of the key distinctives are listed:

    http://www.allaboutbaptists.com/distinctives.html

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