Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Confronts Two Current Errors About Church and Family

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 5, 2010 at 9:31 am

Over on the Reformed Baptist Blog, Keith Troop confronts two errors about church and family. In the second part of the article, he deals with the error of the “Family Integrated church” and the “Patriarchy” movements’ use of the terminology that the church is a “family of families”.

“So we have a situation in which two of the leading voices of the FICM recognize the problem with the “family of families” terminology, but sadly neither are really willing to stop using it. I find this deeply troubling, since the phrase is clearly not just problematic because it leads guys like me to misunderstand them as making a statement about the nature of the Church when they really don’t intend to do so, as Baucham suggests in the defense posted above. Rather it leads to problems among FICM advocates themselves, a number of whom I have encountered in pastoral ministry and who have clearly seen the term “family of families” as describing thenatureof the Church. And, frankly, I can understand why they have thought so, since this is a hard conclusion to avoid given the nature and grammar of the phrase when tacked onto the sentence “The Church is.” Thus, when they have consistently heard the mantra, “The Church isa family of families,” how does itnotsound like an expression about thenatureof the Church? And how, by the way, was such a problem with the language not foreseeable? I think we all know how a slogan can take on a life of its own, and this one has definitely done so.”

Read it here

  1. Thank you for noticing my article and posting about it here. I hope it will be beneficial to others.

  2. Keith,

    I totally agree with your assessment. Some of these brothers state that the terminology “the church is a family of families” is not describing the nature of the church, but then a FICM leader like Voddie Baucham inserts the word “family” in the very name of his local church and continues to insist on his church website that the church is a “family of families”. I honestly believe that the Family Integrated Church Movement is in serious error and promotes a system that erodes Baptist theology.

  3. In regards to the FICM, there is an extremely important issue at stake here which requires humble, precise, and biblically grounded attention: The souls of Christ’s sheep.

    People are being misled and ultimately led away from the body of Christ.

    The FICM is just a symptom of a larger issue. The issue is the decreased emphasis/teaching/understanding on the nature and role of the church. Tangential to this are some very vocal and increasing factions within the home school “culture” which ultimately supplant Christ and His church either explicitly or implicitly.

    If the main source of spiritual diet is any place other than the church, we have serious issues.

    We have 2 Tim 2-4 issues.

    The FICM and Home school conferences are not church, but unfortunately many come to rely upon them in an unhealthy manner. I’ve seen many leave the church once their disgruntled spirits are swayed to this “other” option.

    I attended a Kevin Swanson talk one evening with my wife and 3 kids which came about from a generous invitation. I had no idea what this guy was all about, but I had a good idea by the end of the evening. Let’s just say that I was not in awe by what was presented, but more so by what he did NOT say.

    The fluff, imprecision, and blatant omissions were remarkable for someone who has such a forum, but should I be surprised?

    If I can hear these things clearly, and I am not “Captain Theology”, why are folks like Baucham, DeMar, Swanson, or Phillips not examined or warned about more?

    The family, once again, has been elevated to idol-like status. Our chief end is to glorify God and to worship Him forever, NOT glorify the family and worship it instead.

    There is nothing wrong with “just being a church” and everything that blessedly goes along with it.

  4. Christian I love the last line the most! BTW what is “Captain theology?”

  5. That is the “Super Hero” who can quote entire books by memory, leap false constructs in a single bound, and is faster than a speeding hairy-tick.

  6. I just thought I would mention that my last name is spelled wromg in the above post. It is pronounced “troop” but spelled “Throop.” I don’t know how the silent ‘h’ got in there, but it has been in the family name since at least the early 15th century.

  7. I then I spelled the word “wrong” wrong!

  8. I appreciate why the FICM has not entirely abandoned using the phrase “family of families,” though as a charitable Christian concession to the brethren who deliberately misunderstand the meaning of that phrase, the NCFIC has removed the phrase from their web site and literature.

    I say “deliberately misunderstand” because the misunderstanding has been corrected over and over again, as even the featured article concedes and links to the Scott Brown article, which corrects the misunderstanding yet again.

    Calling this phrase a “mantra” is a disrespectful and unworthy attempt to ascribe unchristian, cult-like status to the FICM. It was one phrase in a sixteen-article confession statement, and has been replaced by two paragraphs which explain, yet again, the position of the NCFIC. The corrected heading of this article in their confession is: “The Church Is a Family of Believers that Includes Families.”

    If they decide to continue with the phrase “family of families,” which they have always understood as short-hand for the two paragraph explanation, then good for them! The clarifications and explanations have been made available to the church at large. If there are brethren who refuse to interact with that explanation, and prefer to dismiss them as “belated protestations,” and decide to continue to attack “dangerous” and “truth-distorting” strawmen and bear false witness against brethren, then that is their lamentable decision for which they will be held accountable by our Lord Jesus Christ, unless they repent.

    However, it is a phrase that has apparently struck a real nerve with pastors.

    It is a phrase that challenges the prevailing view among pastors who equate the kingdom of God with the church and equate elders with ruling princes or priests in that kingdom. It touches a nerve with those who have, in practice, abandoned the Reformational and Biblical doctrines of the priesthood of the believer and of man as the head of his own wife and children.

    With the phrase “family of families,” those in the FICM are describing the nature of the visible church institution in a Biblically-sound manner. Biological families (consisting of saved and unsaved members) do attend the worship of the visible church together. And when they enter the door of the church building, that God-instituted family governance structure does not cease to exist, simply because they are now also operating, as a family, within the governing sphere of the church.

    Because of the very fact that many children of believers are not saved and are members of neither the invisible nor visible church, it should be all the more obvious that their discipline and discipleship (both physical and spiritual) are under the governance of their parents, not the elders of that church body.

    To Christian: The only source of our spiritual diet is not the Church, but the Word of God and His Holy Spirit. That was a shockingly unorthodox statement (unless you’re Roman Catholic), but very indicative of the church-worshipping, family-denigrating spirit alive and well in the visible church of Jesus Christ today.

  9. Bill,

    Sorry it has taken so long to respond here. I was on vacation and then playing catch-up after I returned home, and then there were some pastoral concerns that occupied my attention, so I just haven’t done much either with my blog or in response to comments about it over the past few weeks. However, I hope to offer a sufficient response to your criticisms now.

    First, I don’t agree with your assessment of FICM critics as “deliberately misunderstand[ing]” the common assertion that “the church is a family of families.” I especially disagree with your apparently describing my own criticisms in this fashion. I have been quite clear in acknowledging the fact that both Voddie Baucham and Scott Brown claim that their use of the phrase has been misunderstood, and I have interacted with Baucham’s clarification, in particular. But my whole point is that the language itself is so poorly chosen for communicating what they say they mean, and so capable of being misunderstood, that continued misunderstanding is unavoidable no matter how many qualifications they continue to make. And I specifically pointed out that a major concern I have with the language is the way that so many FICM advocates have themselves taken the it to describe the nature of the church. I have witnessed such in my own dealings with FICM adherents here in central Illinois. But I certainly don’t think they are “deliberately misunderstanding” the language either. I just think the natural sense of the language sounds like it is describing the nature of the church and thus often leads people to assume so. Thus I repeat that the problem is with the language itself and that the problem will persist as long as the language is used.

    Second, I take note of a case in point, namely your confrontation of me for having used the word “mantra” when I described the way the sentence “the church is a family of families” has been used by FICM adherents. I was using the word figuratively merely to denote “a commonly repeated word or phrase,” yet you took it to be “a disrespectful and unworthy attempt to ascribe unchristian, cult-like status to the FICM.” Now, I could just explain my meaning and then claim that you are “deliberately misunderstanding” me, but instead I recognize now that the term itself is capable of such misunderstanding, so I have changed it and opted for the term “motto” instead. If you go back and read my post again, you will see the change. But I also tell you now that I won’t use the term to describe the FICM language any more.

    See how easy that was? I recognized that the language itself communicated something I didn’t really intend, but rather than attack you for “deliberately misunderstand” me, I just changed the language and resolved not to use it any more. I really can’t understand why Baucham and Brown can’t do the same with their use of language that is so easily misunderstood.

    Third, the assertion that “the church is a family of families” is not just “one phrase in a sixteen-article confession statement.” It is a commonly used statement by FICM advocates (as Baucham himself recognized in the articles I linked to). And it is a statement that has led — and apparently continues to lead — many FICM advocates to misunderstand the nature of the church, at least if my own experience is any indication.

    Fourth, you have responded to my own language thusly:

    “If there are brethren who refuse to interact with that explanation, and prefer to dismiss them as ‘belated protestations,’ and decide to continue to attack ‘dangerous’ and ‘truth-distorting’ strawmen and bear false witness against brethren, then that is their lamentable decision for which they will be held accountable by our Lord Jesus Christ, unless they repent.”

    I can only say that the FICM language is itself misleading and patently open to misunderstanding that leads one to a false idea of the nature of the church and is thus truth-distorting and dangerous. This is not a straw man because it is true, a fact that this whole debate bears witness to. I therefore humbly submit that I have no need to repent of pointing it out. I do not believe that speaking the truth in response to such an issue is sinful.

    Fifth, I really don’t know who the rest of your comments here are aimed at. They certainly don’t describe either myself or any other Reformed Baptist pastors I know. I am wondering then why, for example, you have ended a response to me with a statement about “the church-worshipping, family-denigrating spirit alive and well in the visible church of Jesus Christ today.” Is it your intention to imply that I am such a person?

  10. Greetings Keith,

    Thanks for your response. I understand that you used the word “mantra” to mean “a commonly repeated word or phrase.” Now if you were to use the word “mantra,” in reference to the phrase “a family of families,” then I would know what you meant. (And you only had to explain it one time!)

    Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to do that with the phrase “the church is a family of families,” because you’d end up with a paragraph explanation. It’s not just a word that can be switched with another word with a similar meaning.

    You’ve objected to my statement that you have deliberately misunderstood the FCIM proponents’ use of the phrase “the church is a family of families.” Yet you admit that they’ve thoroughly explained their use of the phrase. You understand what they mean by the use of that phrase. You acknowledge that they believe they have been misunderstood. You believe they are brethren. Yet in your article you state this:

    “The second error is held by a small but growing minority of our Baptist brethren, even by some who would call themselves Reformed Baptists. This error is remarkably similar to the previous one and teaches that the local church should be viewed as a “family of families.” But the problem with this view is that, as with the previous view, the Church is viewed as being like the Old Covenant community in the inclusion of our children, whether or not our children are believers.”

    You acknowledge that they teach the local (visible) church is like a family of families. Then you state, or at least imply, that this causes the invisible, universal Church to “[be] viewed as being like the Old Covenant community,” which included believing and unbelieving children.

    But let me ask you a question: Does your local church only allow believing children in the door?

    Perhaps now you can understand why I say critics are deliberately misunderstanding phrase “the church is a family of families.” What else could it be? They know the FICM proponents are talking about the structure of the local church, not the nature of the invisible church, yet the critics continue to insist in article after article that this phrase is a statement about the universal, believers-only, invisible church!

    When you tell your family, “We’re going to church now,” do you stop and explain that that is really an inaccurate phrase, we’re not actually going to the universal body of believers in Jesus Christ (the invisible church), we’re actually going to the local, visible expression of the church? Well, maybe you do, but most people just say, “We’re going to church.” They have explained it to the family, and all involved know what is meant, and so they don’t feel a need to stop and explain it each time they use the phrase amongst those who understand.

    It is not “misleading” or “dangerous” to use the word “church” to mean the local, visible church. Nor is it misleading or dangerous to use the word “church” to mean the universal, invisible church. It’s unfortunate that we have one word in our language with two different meanings, easily equivocated. It is regrettable that critics have declined to keep the phrase in its context. But this cannot be pinned at the door of the FICM, despite your statement, “However, in my opinion, the confusion that has come about is their fault, for they are the ones who have employed such easily misunderstood language in the first place.”

    Perhaps you would be willing to suggest a different phrase that succinctly communicates their intended meaning more accurately, in a way that you feel won’t be misunderstood by others? It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, as they say.

    When I see articles critiquing the phrase “family of families” brought up over and over again on this RBF site, including after the meaning of the phrase has been corrected and further explained on the NCFIC web site and in article after article by FICM proponents so very thoroughly, as even their critics admit, I have to wonder what else is going on.

    The fact is, the FICM is bringing up some difficult and challenging issues. One is a jurisdictional issue. (What is the biblical jurisdiction of the church? What is the biblical jurisdiction of the family?)

    The other articles on this site regarding the FICM (not just yours, Keith) are filled with dire, yet vague, warnings about the “over emphasis” of the biological family “over” the church/spiritual family, as if there is some kind of competition going on. There is no competition. God has set the hierarchies, jurisdictions, and sanctions. Now we need to get to work with some sound Biblical exegesis instead of vague emotion- and anecdotally-based “emphasis” arguments.

    Another issue is a tradition vs. Sola Scriptura issue. (Are there current church practices that are humanistic and therefore should be discontinued?). These are the real, non-strawman issues that need to be exegetically debated amongst the brethren.

    Yet these real issues are being studiously avoided in favor of article after article implying that the FICM is theologically fishy, and implying that their continued use of the phrase “family of families,” must be because they don’t care about misleading people, the further implication being they have no real other reasons for wanting to continue to use the phrase. But that isn’t true.

    Scott Brown has “no intention of abandoning the phrase or the concept behind it,” because there is an important concept behind it (not the one the critics continually and disingenuously suggest, however) that this phrase is valuable shorthand for explaining. Brown states on the NCFIC site you linked to: “Our intent was not to redefine the church but to acknowledge that when a family comes to church, a separate jurisdiction is there that needs to be strengthened to be faithful to their biblical callings and commands that govern family life.”

    As Baucham explains in Part 2 of his response to the critics, regarding his local church, they had at least two reasons for the continued use of the phrase “family of families” and the use of the “Family” in the name of their local, visible church assembly. They wanted to 1) distinguish the structure of their visible church with the “corporate” or “neo-traditional” visible churches elsewhere in their town, with their programs, youth groups and age-segregated Sunday Schools; and 2) have a phrase as a springboard or teaching tool for equipping believing parents to evangelize their children and to use their home-hospitality and family outreach to evangelize others.

    The last paragraph of my comment was addressed to a commenter named Christian (“To Christian:”). In response to your article, after suggesting that some “factions” in the FICM and the home-schooling community were “supplant[ing] Christ and His church,” he made the remark that “If the main source of spiritual diet is any place other than the church, we have serious issues.” I don’t know from where he gets the impression that the church is the source of our Spiritual nourishment and/or is on an equal par with her Head (Jesus Christ). However, I know I get that impression from most churches I’ve visited, and I get that impression from this web site, too.

    To the Reformed Baptist Fellowship web site in general(This is not directed to Keith Throop): If the goal is to warn pastors and other Christians about the FICM, here is one suggestion: Respond—with Biblical exegesis—article by article, to the confession statement on the NCFIC web site. A series of 16 articles could be presented, each article taking on one article from the NCFIC web site.

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