Rejoinder to Voddie Baucham

Posted by on Aug 24, 2010 in Blog | 9 comments

Voddie:

Thank you for taking the time to read the chapter on God, Marriage, Family, and the Church in the second edition of God, Marriage & Family and for your blog post in response to it. You are a man of God, and I am deeply grateful for your ministry. In fact, I endorsed your most recent book!

I think it’s great that you and I seem to agree on the bottom line—you quote at length my positive and constructive prescription on how to move forward in encouraging family-friendly and family-oriented churches (though you prefer the term “family-integrated”).

We also agree on the inadequacy of a “family of families” theology. (I was told that this kind of language was removed from the FIC website a while back. That tells me that this language was indeed in use, and then removed, and that there must have been significant reasons why this was done.)

What we don’t agree on is whether the cautions and concerns I raised in my chapter were justified. At this point, I think there may be a misunderstanding. You read my comments as a critique of your church and your “movement” while in fact my purpose was to assess the theology of family integration. (If I had sought to write a critique of the “movement,” I would have given a history of it, named the major organizations and key individuals, and so on. But this was not my intention in the book.)

Here some questions remain. For example: Do you and others with whom you associate hold to, and practice, regenerate church membership? Is this vital biblical principle also followed in the observance of the Lord’s Supper?

You mention that I cite a non-existent blog post by Dr. Mohler. The background to this is that at the annual ETS banquet this past November, Dr. Mohler and I talked at length about family integration, and he and I completely concurred on some of the concerns I just mentioned. At that time, he was planning to post a blog on this topic, but apparently subsequently did not find the time. I had temporarily included a reference to this forthcoming post. When I found out that it was no longer forthcoming, I tried to remove the reference, but was told my book was already in press. Nevertheless, in that lengthy conversation, Dr. Mohler and I saw completely eye to eye on some of the above-mentioned, and other, concerns.

You also fault me for being second-hand in my research and for only using a few, and biased, sources (though I sometimes wonder if “biased” means that those sources don’t agree with you!). In large part, the problem I encountered in writing my chapter was the paucity of cogent scholarly defenses of family integration. I am not talking about blog posts here, or statements on websites, or other talks or personal conversations, but about sustained biblical and theological treatments in form of scholarly monographs or articles. If you know of such treatments, please point me to them, so I can include reference to them in future editions of our book.

We also disagree on whether the words “segregated” or “segregation” as regularly used by family-integrated church advocates is appropriate and helpful. (Merely citing an instance where I accommodate myself to the use of the word by family-integrated advocates does not substitute for an argument. By what legitimate logic can you justify a practice just by catching your “opponent” in doing the same thing?) I continue to think that this rhetoric is inflammatory and unhelpful and urge you and others to consider stop using it. It is this reactionary aspect that concerns me, because it defines a certain set of beliefs over against an “enemy” who “segregates.” Family integration is not the gospel, and traditional churches who “segregate” are not our enemy. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood; it is against the devil who seeks to divide brothers and sisters in Christ with regard to non-essentials of the faith.

Surely ministering to various age and other groups in the church is not all bad, and there are other ways to go about discipling our children than to do away with youth groups or even nurseries. As I mention in my chapter, we should distinguish between underlying biblical and theological principles and specific methods. When we start investing particular methods with biblical authority and charge others with lack of biblical fidelity because they differ with us on the matter of method, we are treading on dangerous ground. On my recent travels in Europe, I found that the North American controversy surrounding family integration is virtually unknown there, at least in the places I visited. One young youth minister did a wonderful job involving parents in working with the youth while being blissfully unaware of North American family integration debates.

On the whole, your response to my new chapter in God, Marriage & Family strikes me as a bit too reactionary and prickly (at one point you say I “attack” a “straw man,” a most unfortunate word choice). Even if you feel that my concerns do not apply to your church, or to most in the “movement,” if they are valid, and well taken, then they should be heeded. What is more, we agree on the positive agenda and on the inadequacy of a “family of families” theology! Do we also agree on regenerate church membership and its implications for the observance of the Lord’s Supper? I would be thankful to hear that we do. By all appearances, the debate generated by the new chapter in God, Marriage & Family has surfaced considerable common ground between us, and this is something for which I am deeply grateful.

Yours in the common cause of celebrating God’s good plan for marriage and the family and of affirming the centrality of the church in God’s work in the world today,

Andreas Kostenberger

9 Comments

  1. Dr. Kostenberger–

    I want to thank you for your helpful comments on the vital importance of marriage and family, as well as your healthy challenge to make certain that everything we do has a solid biblical and theological foundation. You have caused me to do some deep thinking and soul-searching! I am preparing to give a presentation at the upcoming FIC conference (mentioned above) entitled “The Household Through God’s Eyes” in which I am attempting to clarify the overall biblical theology of the household, so this exchange was very timely!

    First, a few comments about the excerpts from chapter 13 of God, Marriage, and Family posted on the web:

    –According to this excerpt . . . “At the same time, the local church leadership has the right and the authority to devise ways to disciple its members, including young people, that may legitimately involve gathering them together and instructing them in peer group settings. Using a peer group structure does not necessarily mean that the natural family structure is subverted but may helpfully complement and supplement it.” . . . it appears that the strongest biblical basis for age-graded or peer group ministry in the church is the authority of the church leadership, when we have ample biblical evidence that God’s people gathered intergenerationally (2 Chron. 20:13, Nehemiah 8:3, Acts 20:7-12, and Colossians 3:20 with 4:16 for starters). Further, as Eric Wallace points out on p. 49 of Uniting Church and Home, it is helpful to consider whether or not church leadership’s decision to pursue age-graded ministry may not be more influenced by 20th century social psychology and the relatively recently coined term of “adolescence” than any biblical considerations.

    –According to this excerpt: “In light of the above-mentioned passages in Scripture it should be noted that the New Testament application of the “household” metaphor to the church does not mean that it conceives of the church as a family of families, with individual family units constituting the primary structural backbone of the church, but as the broader base of the family of God where the older, more mature believers train up and nurture the younger ones.” you downplay the concept of family units being the PRIMARY structural backbone of the church, but later you do acknowledge that they are indeed the backbone: “Third, strong families are the backbone of a healthy church, whether traditional or family-integrated, so that even churches that are reluctant to embrace family integration in their entirety as a guiding philosophy may want to incorporate some of its helpful features.” This appears to be potentially contradictory, though I think everyone would agree that families are indeed a major backbone of any church.

    –You imply in your question that the FIC theology may be overly dependent on OT models here: “Do we understand and practice Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom and the New Testament teaching about the church? Or is our model predominantly or exclusively predicated upon Old Testament models?” This is a valid question, but I believe that there is ample evidence where OT principles are reinforced in the NT–for example, Genesis 7:1 is reinforced in John 4:53, Acts 11:13-14, 16:15, 31-34; and Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is clearly reinforced in Ephesians 6:4, etc.

    Second, at the encouragement of Eric Wallace, I have discovered that the term “household” is to be preferred to “family”–it seems to be a more biblical term, it is not as “loaded” a term in our culture, and it appears to be more inclusive and reflective of the broader definition the Bible gives as opposed to a strict “nuclear” family.

    Third, there are direct proponents of this movement that have been aware of the potential dangers of over-exalting the family unit. For example, Jeff Pollard gives a helpful message entitled “Family-olatry” here: http://www.chapellibrary.org/audio/conferences.php.

    Finally, I want to attach the current version of my notes for the September 10-11 FIC conference. I believe this reflects a balanced approach that shows God indeed has much to say about the household in Scripture, and that it has clear implications for ecclesiology, etc. Thank you again for helping to “stir the pot” in my own thiking . . . I would look forward to dialoguing with you, and I believe your presence at a conference like this would be most helpful.

    The Household Through God’s Eyes
    Share about Kostenberger debate—“Family of Families” not sufficiently Scripturally supported
    Critical for us not to just be practitioners, but develop a full biblical theology for why we do what we do

    The Household in the Old Testament

    Bayith = “household, family, those belonging to the same household, family of descendants” (BDB)
    Int Standard Bible Encylopedia—“The unit of the national life of Israel, from the very beginning, was found in the family. The house and the household are practically synonymous. . . . Human life is not a conglomerate of individuals; the family is its center and unit.”

    Genesis 2:18-24
    God said it was not good for Adam to be alone–
    God thought of Community before we ever did! (cf. Genesis 1:26).
    Adam eventually discovered this as well (v. 20).
    V. 23–a sense of completion, complementation
    The foundational relationship is one man and one woman (stronger than relationship with parents–v. 24).
    Marriage is the Foundational Household relationship . . . Children are not required.

    First use of bayith in its meaning as “household” in the Bible . . .
    Genesis 7:1
    God desires to save Households.
    God desires to save the world Through households.
    God views the household as the Primary unit of civilization. The irreducible unit . . . so why do we regularly splinter the household unit in church?
    As the Head of the household goes, so goes the rest of the household.

    Genesis 18:19
    V. 19 God spoke of Abraham’s children before he had any!
    V. 19–children AND household
    The household includes Everyone associated with that house. The Bible never had a “nuclear family” outlook on the household . . . the “typical family” picture is for marketing purposes, not biblical purposes!

    Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Joshua 24:15
    Joshua makes a declaration for his entire household–means that he fully accepted the responsibility for the spiritual direction of his household.
    The Head of the Household is responsible for the spiritual leadership and equipping of the household.

    Psalm 68:5-6
    God cares about the fatherless and widows (see also James 1:27).
    God sets the solitary in “households” (same word as in Genesis and Joshua).
    Each household is to be Inclusive toward those who are alone.
    Why adoption should be so important to us, as well as reaching out to single moms, widows, etc.

    Malachi 4:5-6
    Household restoration is the key to Revival and Reformation. We have revival when we have functional families!
    The Head of Household must turn his heart First.

    The Household in the New Testament

    Oikos = “the inmates of a house, all the persons forming one family, a household; the family of God, of the Christian Church, of the church of the Old and New Testaments” (Thayer)
    ISBE—“Households became the nuclei for the early life of the church. No wonder that the early church made so much of the family life. And in the midst of all our modern, rampant individualism, the family is still the throbbing heart of the church as well as of the nation.”

    John 4:53; Acts 11:13-14; Acts 16:15, 31-34
    You AND your household.
    Note repetition–household (v. 31); house (v. 32); family (v. 33—literally, “and all his”); house, household (v. 34)
    Reinforces principles of Genesis 7:1 in the NT.
    God intended Salvation to move through entire households, not merely individuals. Show Faith Like Potatoes clip . . .

    Acts 16:14-15
    Lydia was either a widow or unmarried.
    The Head of the Household may be a Single adult. And may be a woman!

    Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19-22

    The Church is to be a Household of households.
    Notice the oikos terms (see Family Worship book)—foreigners (paroikoi); members of the household of God (oikeoi); having been built (epokodomethentes); the whole building (oikodome); being built together (sunoikodomeisthe); for a dwelling place (katoiketerion)
    The larger Household is likewise to function in terms of household relationships—father, mother, brother, sister.
    We are simultaneously members of a household and the Household of God.

    Ephesians 5:21-6:9; 1 Timothy 3:4-5
    The Book of Ephesians is all about the Church, and when Paul gives instruction on how the Church is to be “lived out” (i.e. how to submit to one another); he focuses on the household (husband-wife, parents-children, master-slave—also part of the household). He focuses on strengthening this vital unit.
    The strength of a man’s household directly affects his effectiveness as a leader of God’s Household.
    The Household and the household are to be mutually Supportive.
    Whenever the household is weakened through age-segregation, usurping the role of the Head/Household, then God’s Household is Weakened.
    Daugherty quote (p. 89, then p. 86)
    Whenever the household isolates itself, then the household and God’s Household is Limited.

    Romans 8:14-17; Ephesians 5:25-27, 32; Revelation 19:7-9
    The household on earth simply reflects the ultimate Household in Heaven.
    There is only one Father and one Husband in Heaven. Protects us from idolizing our families . . . example of Steve Pollard baptizing daughter Emily—“Welcome, Sister!”

    What does this mean?
    –We must seek to strengthen Marriages. As the marriage goes, so goes the household.
    –We must envision households, not individuals, as the basic Unit. What would it be like to count households, instead of individuals? Individuals versus household illustration
    –We must embrace Each household, not just the nuclear family. God has never been limiting . . . our world is broken, and we must not assume that they must be completely “fixed” before they can be welcomed into our fellowship.
    –We must both encourage and challenge the Head of the Household to take the spiritual Leadership of the home. A primary discipleship focus should be on the Head of the Household . . . we have tended to ignore equipping the HoH’s and instead have gone after the women and children.
    –We must seek to enfold the Solitary into our households. Encourage households to be outward focused—starting with the Sunday fellowship time . . . so easy for solitary individuals to be overlooked.
    –We must believe for the salvation and discipleship of Entire households.
    Faith Like Potatoes scene . . .
    –We must promote the Church as a Household of households.
    Promote a “family” feel—encourage family relationships.
    –We must always point to the Ultimate Household.
    Worship should always remind us that we are still part of an Ultimate Household, for which all of our households are mere shadows.

  2. Thanks, Joshua. Apology accepted. Thanks for wrestling with the issues and for being willing to dialogue with me.

  3. Brother,

    Thank you for the reminder to be careful with my words. Perhaps ‘assess’ for ‘attack’ would have gotten the point across without becoming an ‘attack’ itself. Please forgive me.

    In Christ,
    Joshua

  4. To those who posted a comment, thank you very much for entering into dialogue with me on this important issue. To Chris, thank you for your suggestions. To Joshua: When I speak of these churches, I don’t call or consider them “the” or “a” movement. And I didn’t have Presbyterians in mind. In fact, my comment wasn’t critical at all. To the contrary, I meant to say that my concerns may not apply to these churches, or only to a limited extent. You repeatedly use the word “attack” in your post. That’s a rather strong word. I believe “assess” would be a much better term. No one should be beyond biblical scrutiny in the spirit of the Bereans (see also Paul’s remarks in Gal 1:8-9). What you describe as an effect of my writing is more properly the way some (though by no means all) chose to respond to what I wrote. Finally, I believe I DO raise some concerns worth pondering. Even if they don’t apply to the majority of such churches, they may apply to some. If you feel they don’t apply to your church, that’s great! Let’s keep sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

  5. Brother,

    As a member of a family-integrated church I have watched with interest the dialogue here. I appreciate your willingness to engage on these issues and believe it is critical that we all, as believers, continue to discuss this question of how we are to follow the bible in our orthopraxy in church and home. I had a few questions about your chapter and the above rebuttal to Voddie and hope they come across with the brotherly spirit I intend.

    The first question relates to the following response to Voddie’s blog,

    —–“You read my comments as a critique of your church and your “movement” while in fact my purpose was to assess the theology of family integration. (If I had sought to write a critique of the “movement,” I would have given a history of it, named the major organizations and key individuals, and so on. But this was not my intention in the book.)”

    This is interesting considering this statement from the original article

    —–“Some family-oriented churches appropriately adopt general principles such as multi-generational ministry, evangelizing entire households, encouraging fathers to be spiritual leaders in their homes, and so forth, without being philosophically and theologically committed to the more reactionary and at times even extreme core tenets of family integration. The critique of these approaches below applies to these groups only to the extent that they embrace the tenets of the movement on a more foundational theological and ecclesiological level.”

    This statement identifies a specific movement that holds specific tenets. Moreover, it is a movement that embraces a specific theology and ecclesiology. The interesting thing is that the noted ecclesiology is not one claimed by the movement as a whole (except perhaps by Presbyterians who all claim such an ecclesiology independent of whether they are family-integrated or not). This ecclesiology is one supposed only by the movement’s detractors, such as Jason Webb, without any direct evidence of such a link or claim.

    If the point was to assess the theology of family integration, apart from a specific movement, I wonder where in the simple idea of family integration is there necessarily contained any such idea as the “Puritan ecclesiology” that is supposedly assumed?

    While I believe you that your intention was not to attack those in the ‘family-integrated movement’ your writing has had that very effect on those who self-describe themselves with the ‘family-integrated’ terminology. ‘Family-integration’ is a useful term that effectively describes the practice of, well, family integration in the worship practice of the church. The fact that it has come under attack by those who would try to redefine it (I’m not indicating that this is your intent, you’ve merely continued with a redefinition that someone else attempted) does not mean the term should be dropped as there isn’t another good way to describe the practice.

    I do appreciate your summation paragraph beginning, “What, then, is the proper way to conceive of the relationship between the family and the church?” and agree with you whole-heartedly in its’ conclusions!

    In Christ,
    Joshua Loyd

    BTW – I had never thought that the term ‘age-segregation’ might carry with it unintended associations with slavery… The first time I heard it I just thought it appropriately characterized the way we tend to do most things in our society (school, church, recreation, etc.). I noticed you used ‘age-graded’ but I wouldn’t have know what you meant by that so I’m not sure that would be useful outside of certain academic circles. Hmmmm…will have to consider.

  6. I have two suggestions:
    1. Dr. Kostenberger, please seek to sit down with Scott Brown and discuss the issue.
    2. Prayerfully consider attending the FIC conference coming up in Burlington, NC in September. Here’s the info: http://www.antiochfic.myevent.com/

    In Christ,

    Chris

  7. Our family attends a wonderful, family integrated church. We, as a fellowship, strive to minister not only to traditional families, but also single parent families, blended families (there are many), adoptive families, racially diverse families, etc. While I do believe your arguments against family integrated churches may be somewhat thin, I very much appreciate the civil, constructive tone in these exchanges. Thank you. Certainly, we FIChurches need to continually examine ourselves to be sure we are meeting the needs of our fellow Believers.

  8. Dr. Köstenberger

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. Also, whatever our disagreements may be, I am grateful that you took the time to address the issue of family integration in your book. I believe this is a reformation whose time has come, and people need to know what we are actually doing and how God is blessing it. Regardless of my opinion of this section, the fact that a scholar of your caliber would consider this fledgling movement worthy of consideration is indeed good news.

    You asked some specific questions, and I would like to answer them (though I wish I could have done so before the new section was written.)

    First, as to regenerate church membership, a brief visit to our church website would have answered this question in a number of instances: 1) by our unambiguous commitment to the 2nd London Baptist Confession of 1689, 2) by our mission statement, and 3) by clear expressions like this:

    We Seek Regenerate Church Membership

    Our goal is not to grow as fast as we can. Our goal is to grow as healthy as we can. We are very deliberate in our membership process. Every member of GFBC is carefully examined to determine whether or not they truly understand and have experienced biblical conversion. Our goal here is not elitism. We simply wish to avoid giving false assurance to those who are not truly regenerate.

    This is not only our stance; it is the stance of every FIC of which I am aware (of course, our Presbyterian brethren differ on the question of baptism/membership, but that is not an FIC issue). And yes, we do connect church membership and the Lord’s Supper (a distinction we make very clear every week)

    I must say your response to the Albert Mohler document is unsatisfactory. You cite Dr. Mohler a number of times. In addition to citing the conversation you mention here, you cite an actual article on his website. I gave the precise quote from your endnote where you give the link. Either 1) you meant to cite the conversation and inadvertently cited the link, or 2) you missed my point. Either way, footnote 17 has not been explained. You either need to provide the exact link, or cite the conversation and not the website. As it is you have left the impression that Dr. Mohler has addressed this issue in writing when he has not.

    I agree that there are few scholarly journals, articles,and books explaining the FIC, However, this does not explain why you would (as I noted) use Brandon Shields’s critique while ignoring Paul Renfro’s first-hand assertions (note, I did not say you had to agree with him, but it would have been more than appropriate to acknowledge him). Nor why you would not (as Timothy Paul Jones did in Perspectives on Family Ministry, seek out representatives of the theology/philosophy and get the information firsthand (I would love to have sent you my article on “Family of Families.”)

    As to the use of “segregation,” I do not necessarily disagree with you. My point (which you overlooked in your response) was that the word “extreme” is easily as divisive if not more so, and you used it in your chapter to refer to those of us in the FIC.

    Another question you raised both here and in your chapter was whether or not those of us in FIC churches believe we have found the ONLY way to do church. You wrote:

    Surely ministering to various age and other groups in the church is not all bad, and there are other ways to go about discipling our children than to do away with youth groups or even nurseries. As I mention in my chapter, we should distinguish between underlying biblical and theological principles and specific methods. When we start investing particular methods with biblical authority and charge others with lack of biblical fidelity because they differ with us on the matter of method, we are treading on dangerous ground.

    I could not agree more. That is why I addressed this very issue a number of times in my book, Family Driven Faith. For example, I wrote, “Again, we probably can’t all go out and transform our congregations into family-integrated churches. Nor do I think we need to.” Moreover, our church hosts two conferences each year designed for FIC and non-FIC leaders where we usually bring in a non-FIC keynote speaker to address these very issues. We have had Timothy Paul Jones, Donald Whitney, and Russell Moore, among others. We have never argued that ours is the only way to do church. In fact, the name of our fall conference is Semper Reformanda! Far be it from us to believe that we have “arrived”. Certainly we can confront the modern inventions of Youth Ministry and other systematic age-graded ministries without arguing that ours is the only alternative (listen to Michael Horton on the latest Whitehorse Inn [last 6:30] for an example of this from a non FIC perspective).

    Lastly, as to your assertion that my response was prickly, let me say that I am sorry. That was not my intent. Please forgive me if I have taken this too personally.

    VB

  9. Being a member of Grace family Baptist Church where Voddie Baucham is one of a plurality of elders, I read with interest this letter to him. Your statement “Family integration is not the gospel, and traditional churches who “segregate” are not our enemy. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood; it is against the devil who seeks to divide brothers and sisters in Christ with regard to non-essentials of the faith” is a beautiful reminder to each of us that those “in the Faith” are brothers and sisters in Christ. Our seeking after the righteousness of God must be done in the Spirit and not in the flesh, lest we fall into traps and schemes of our spiritual enemy.

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