Thursday, November 12, 2009

FICM Response to Reformed Baptist Critics

Back on October 16 I posted an entry entitled Reformed Baptists Address the Family-Integrated Church Movement. In it I gathered responses by Andy Dunkerton (one of the elders at Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Mebane, North Carolina), Sam Waldron (one of the elders at Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, and Professor of Systematic Theology at the Midwest Center for Theological Studies), and Jason Webb (a graduate of the Reformed Theological Seminary and a member of Grace Fellowship Church in Bremen, Indiana).

Since these articles were written there have been a number of reactions to them posted by Scott Brown on the blog of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches. So far Brown has written three parts of a planned four part series:

The Church is a "Family of Families" -- A History, Part 1

The Church is a "Family of Families" -- Part 2

In this post, Brown claims that his position is actually consistent with the Baptist Confession of 1689. For example:
It is a falsehood to say that the National Center for Family Integrated Churches advocates a “family of families” ecclesiology. In fact, our understanding of the nature of the church is consistent with the historic doctrinal statements of the faith including the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, and many other orthodox statements on the church. It is the same understanding I received as a young man when I was in seminary. We do not advocate a “family of families” ecclesiology. Rather, our ecclesiology is as rich and clear as the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 and the Westminster confession.
The Church is a "Family of Families" -- Part 3

In a post entitled "Family of Families" in the News, Brown indicates the fourth part of the series will offer "some insight on what we have learned from this experience."

Brown also responds to one of Jason Webb's assertions regarding the the Puritan approach in a post entitled Did the Puritans have a "Family of Families" Ecclesiology.

Somehow I do not think that this debate will be over any time soon, and it is clear to me that some of the key FICM advocates think that they are being badly misunderstood and misrepresented. But, while I think this may be happening to some extent, it also appears to me that they are responsible for much of the confusion themselves, most particularly due to their use of problematic language and an imbalance in emphasis on the importance of one's biological family versus the spiritual family that is the Church.

At any rate, I thought it only fair that I inform the blog's readers about what those on the other side of the issue have to say. I hope that FICM advocates continue to refine their position and the language used to describe their position, and I hope the writings of my Reformed Baptist brethren may be of assistance to them in this regard.

Update 13 November 2009

Scott Brown has posted The Church Family is a "Family of Families" -- Part 4, in which he gets into more depth about the relationship of the Church family to the biological family.

I still can't shake the feeling that what is in part a proper reaction to the destruction of family life in our culture has become an overreaction.

Update 17 November 2009

Scott Brown has posted yet another article in his series responding to Reformed Baptists objections. It is entitled The Church is a "Family of Families" -- Part 5 and is subtitled "What have we learned from this controversy over 'Family of Families'?" In this article Brown speaks to the way he believes FICM advocates have often been misunderstood and of the way NCFIC will make use of the phrase "family of families" in the future. Although he says that it no longer appears in current NCFIC literature and has been removed from their core document "A Biblical Confession for Uniting Church and Family," he also states that "We have no intention to abandon the use of the phrase or the concept behind it. It is a very important principle that undergirds a biblical understanding of church and family life."

So, while Brown obviously sees that the phrase "family of families" has been problematic when used as a descriptive term for the Church, so much so that it has been removed from all of the NCFIC literature, he nevertheless thinks that there is no need to abandon use of the phrase among FICM advocates.

Update 19 May 2011

I juts ran across yet another article by Scott Brown which seeks to clarify what he and Voddie Baucham mean by the assertion that "the church is a family of families." The article is entitled Is the church a "family of families?"



    Keith... We discussed this on the PB at the link above with a few board members who hold to the practice. I must say that I really appreciated pt. 4 of Jason Webbs contribution...

    It hits a major artery in the FICM discussion and adherence to the LBCF.

    Randy Snyder

  2. Thanks for the input Randy! And thanks for the links. I will be sure to check out the discussion at your forum.

    And by the way, for those who may read these comments, Randy's forum -- the Puritan Board -- is a great place for informed discussion about most any issue of interest to Reformed baptists.

  3. Keith we are having another good thread on this topic again. Pastor Fred Geco makes some good points.

  4. I just returned from the Sufficiency of Scripture conference in Cincinnati and have to say it was quite a surprise. I am a Reformed Baptist and a member of an ARBCA church and am aware of the ARBCA general discussion in 2008 regarding the Family Integrated Church movement. The main speakers at this event were Doug Phillips, Scott Brown, Kevin Swanson, Voddie Baucham and Paul Washer. I have to say that these men are among the best preachers that I have ever heard and JASON WEBB’S assessment is seriously flawed and ill-informed.
    There were just under 3,000 people in attendance. The messages were biblical, reformed and consistent with our London Baptist Confession. It’s a shame when Reformed Baptists attack each other (it makes me embarassed to be in an ARBCA church). I never heard one attack on ARBCA during the entire conference, including in my personal discussions with Scott Brown. In fact, Scott had nothing but nice things to say about his discussions with Sam Waldron and communicated to me that any doctrinal questions and misunderstandings that may have existed between Sam and the NCFIC have been cleared up.
    Apart from some doctrinal nuances that I am still working through regarding NCFIC distinctives, I have to say that the orthopraxy I see in their leaders and with those in attendance is far more impressive than what I’ve witnessed in other Reformed Baptist groups. My only conclusion is I’ll take orthopraxy any day over dead orthodoxy. The future of our families and children are at stake and it’s high time that ARBCA churches join the reformation of the family and keep themselves from drifting into total obscurity and irrelevance.


  5. Well, as you have noticed, I have posted here an article listing some of the FICM responses to the Reformed Baptist criticisms to which you have referred, so I think I have been fair. And I am demonstrating the same fairness by publishing your comments here.

    But I will also say that I don't think either Waldron or Webb were off the mark on everything. I think they made some good points that have hit on some of the same issues I have seen among FICM advocates at times. But I have also noticed that some of their leaders have been doing a better job of qualifying their statements of late, so there has been some good that has come out of the critiques they have received. I suspect that there has been and will be some good that will come out of the FICM critiques of others as well.

    Here I want to make something clear, though, namely that it doesn't really seem fair to me represent Reformed Baptists who have disagreements with the FICM -- ARBCA in particular -- as being on the "attack," when FICM advocates have been quite critical of the rest of us for some time. Surely they can't keep leveling such criticisms at the rest of us and expect no responses, can they?

  6. Pastor Throop,
    Thanks for posting the articles on the Family-Integrated Church Movement and the FICM's responses. I think it has been good for everyone to clarify the issues. All of us are fickle creatures, so prone to misunderstanding (me very much included) I hope that it all works out for the greater glory of Christ-which I'm sure it will. Thanks be to God!

    I just wanted to say that I certainly am not on the "attack" against the FICM. I don't have any sort of personal grudge against Scott Brown or any of them. They confuse me and concern me at times, but really I would sit down and have dinner with them tonight:) I count them as brothers in Christ and that surely should put a great deal of differences to rest, especially when we think of the Incarnation and death of our Lord. I hope they would say the same for me.

    By the way I understand that you have Mr.Drye as one of your co-elders. His son Dave was my best friend in college and one of my groomsman and I his. I love him and Nicki so much and have many wonderful memories of them (I actually was responsible for introducing them!). My in-laws are up near Morris, IL, but we've never had the opportunity to visit your church. I would love to get down their sometime.

    Merry Christmas and God bless!

    Jason Webb

  7. Jason,

    Thanks for chiming in here. I just want you to know that you never came across to me as one who was on the "attack" anyway. You struck me as one who is very concerned about some of what the FICM has been saying, and I happen to share most of the same concerns.

    Yes, George Drye does serve with me as an elder at Immanuel. In fact, he may just be the best man I have ever known, and his knowledge of Scripture is incredible. I have known him for about 16 years, since Dave was in junior high, I think. And we have served together as elders for many years as well.

    Thanks for writing the series of articles addressing the FICM. I think you did a very good job of highlighting the crucial issues that need to be discussed.