Scott Brown and the NCFIC Still Fail to Deal with the Key Issues

I was excited when I saw this post from Scott Brown this morning. I took one look at the title Air Conditioners and Microphones Aren’t in the Bible Either and thought, “Maybe, finally, these guys are going to deal with the linguistic issues that so plague this hermeneutic they fallaciously call “the sufficiency of scripture.” However, it was not to be.

First, Mr. Brown begins by saying this:

First, the primary argument of the NCFIC and the film Divided is not that youth ministry does not exist in the Bible. While we do observe in the film that the modern form of systematic, age-segregated youth ministry has neither precept nor example to support it in either the Old Testament or the New Testament, we do not rest our argument on this fact alone. What is more important – and this is the main point we want to make – is that all the positive commands and examples in Scripture call for the practice of age-integrated worship and discipleship in the church and the responsibility of parents to disciple their own children.

I mean, Scott Brown comes so close to the refutation of his position that, if it were a snake, it would bite him. First of all, as I have pointed out before, there are many things that the Bible only commands in one way, yet no one would ever dispute doing them another way. Consider, for example, the command to observe the Lord’s Supper. Everywhere in the Bible, the Lord’s Supper is just that: an entire meal. Does that mean it is wrong to only have bread and wine? As I mentioned in my last post, the Bible tells us to honor our father and our mother, and gives us certain examples of how to do that. Never, however, in any example is there a mother’s day, or a father’s day, or some other national holiday. Never is there the gift of a tie, or the gift of a new spatula. Since the Bible does not tell us to honor our parents in this way, according to Scott Brown’s logic, is it a sin to honor our parents in this way.

Secondly, it is a gross overstatement to say that “all the positive commands and examples in Scripture call for the practice of age-integrated worship and discipleship in the church.” First of all, as I mentioned before, there are many instances where the ages of the participants are not even mentioned. That strongly suggests that the Biblical authors do not place near the importance on the ages of the participants as Scott Brown and the NCFIC do.

Also, it is totally untrue that all “positive commands” for the church to teach “call for the practice of age-integrated worship and discipleship in the church.” There are many instances where the command to teach and preach the word has no command whatsoever regarding age integration versus age specific education. Consider the following list:

Exodus 18:19-20 “Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.

Where does it say anything here about whether this teaching is to be age integrated or age specific?

Leviticus 10:8-11 The LORD then spoke to Aaron, saying, “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations— and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.”

Again, where does it say to teach them in the context of age integration or age specific education?

Deuteronomy 17:9-11 “So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. “You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the LORD chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. “According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left.

I suppose one might object that this text is in the context of case law, but, it still involves the teaching ministry of the church, as it is dealing with the teaching of the church in difficult cases to decide. Again, where does it say that this teaching must be age integrated?

Deuteronomy 33:10 “They shall teach Your ordinances to Jacob, And Your law to Israel. They shall put incense before You, And whole burnt offerings on Your altar.

Again, where does this text say anything about the teaching being age integrated or age specific?

Romans 12:7-8 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness

Again, where does the text say anything about whether this teaching is to be age integrated or age specific?

1 Timothy 6:1-2 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.

Again, where in this text does Paul command Timothy to teach in an age integrated context?

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Again, where is there anywhere in this command the idea of preaching in age integration?

I could go on, but I think you get the point. The point of this whole exercise is to prove that that the statement, “all the positive commands…call for the practice of age-integrated worship and discipleship in the church” is absolutely false. Indeed, I would argue that *most* of the commands to teach do not even mention the issue at all! If one looks carefully at the scriptures, one can easily see that, in the vast majority of cases in the scriptures, it is not even an issue.

One might object that we do find commands for parents to teach their children [Deuteronomy 6], and for older people to teach younger people [Titus 2]. Again, this would only be relevant if we *always* had age specific education. Never do any of these texts limit the possibility of application of the command for the church to teach to only those specific contexts.

I would also point out that, even if all of the commands to teach were clearly in the context of age integration, you would still have to interpret that fact. All of the commands and instances of the Lord’s Supper are in the context of an entire meal; yet that has to be interpreted. All of the commands to draw water are in the context of pulling it up with buckets, not with water pipes that run into your home. That, likewise, has to be interpreted.

Deuteronomy 4:2 commands us not to add to or take away from the teaching and commands of Scripture in this regard. To engage the church in systematic age-segregated youth ministry adds to God’s instructions on how youth are to be taught and trained, and it takes away from God’s commands to parents to teach their own children (Deut. 4:9; 6:7).

Of course, the idea that it is somehow taking away from God’s commands for parents to teach their own children is false, as the Bible also commands the church to teach. Scott is setting up a false dilemma-it is either the parents who teach, or the church who teaches. The problem is that the church commands both to teach. Second, that is a gross abuse of Deuteronomy 4:2, as, very clearly, the who rest of the Bible was added to that text after the time of Moses. The text is very clear: “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding[מְצַוֶּה] you…” The context is the *commandments* of God. Remember, we are in the context of law. The only way this would be relevant is if I said that Sunday Schools or Youth Groups were binding by command. It is actually Scott Brown who is violating this command by binding to the conscience of God’s people the idea that they cannot have youth groups and sunday schools!!!!!!!!

Again, the issue is Scott Brown and the movie Divided confusing meaning and significance. Sunday schools and youth groups are *applications* of the command for the church to teach, and thus, it deals with the significance of the text, not its meaning. Yes, you will not find mother’s day or father’s day; you will not find gifts of neck ties or kitchen utensils to honor parents. Likewise, you will never find railings at the edge of the upper deck of a baseball stadium. In fact, all applications of the law in Deuteronomy 22:8 in the Bible have to do with roofs, not the upper deck of a Baseball stadium. Does that mean it doesn’t apply to the upper deck of a baseball stadium simply because it is not specifically applied that way in scripture via command or example?

Second, our subject is that which is plainly and irrefutably taught in Scripture regarding how youth are to be educated. The Bible is clear about this matter, and it gives the full range of that teaching including who, where, why, what, and when. It is the Bible that tells us what is central. When you split youth up according to age, you are doing something that is contrary to the explicit, revealed commands and patterns of Scripture.

Scott Brown is simply making another error in pragmatics here. He ignores the fact that commands can rule out all other options for all time, or it may not. For example, let us say that I am teaching a class, and one of my students whom we will call “John” is struggling. I know that Larry is very good, and at the top of his class so I say, “I want Larry to help John with is work.” That is clearly a command. However, would it be wrong, if another student will call “James” sees John struggling with his homework while sitting all by himself, and goes over and helps him? Would it not totally contradict what I said since I said that *Larry* was the one who as to help John? No, it would not.

Again, the issue is not really the meaning of the text; it is what the text is intending. Scott Brown assumes that the intent of the Apostle Paul is to command a particular context of teaching to the exclusion of all other possible contexts. That he must exegetically prove.

Mr. Brown continues.

The film Divided is focused on the responsibility of the church and the family to understand and follow the biblically-mandated methods of discipleship. To claim that we can set aside these scriptural methods and employ our own methods because we do things and use means not mandated in Scripture in other areas of church life is a generic fallacy.

First of all, no one is saying we can “set aside” these commands. What we are saying is that we must understand what these commands are trying to accomplish, and apply them accordingly. Scott Brown seems to be totally oblivious to the fact that this is how human language works. I will use another illustration. Let us say that you get a job at a department store, and your boss gives you a job to do at the end of the day. He points to three racks at the end of a display, and tells you that these racks need to be put away at the end of the day. So, for four months, every day, you put the same three racks away. Then, after this, a fourth rack appears. Here is the question: should you put that one away too? According to Scott Brown, no, because, if what your boss told you is sufficient, then you should leave the fourth rack there. As anyone can see, you will get disciplined if you pull a stunt like that.

The real problem seems to be that Scott thinks that, if the scriptures are sufficient, then they must only allow for one option. That is total nonsense. The scriptures can be sufficient, because they do not view as important or significant whether age integration occurs at all points in time. The point is that the scriptures give significantly less importance to the ages of those being taught then Scott Brown and the NCFIC does.

Third, methods and means of discipleship are in a different class than microphones and computers. Discipleship methods are defined and commanded in Scripture and are matters of Law (i.e., God’s revealed will that we are to obey), while things like microphones, computers, and film are matters of technology (i.e., practical tools we can use as means to carry out the Law of God). In regard to technology and other practical aspects of church life (where we meet, the length of our meetings, type of seats we use, etc.), these are matters of liberty that are under the biblical guidelines for the practice of liberty. This means that Scripture must be consulted to see if they contradict anything that Scripture maintains.

First of all, I think you can already tell what I am going to say about this, and that is that this is totally arbitrary. Why aren’t the methods and means of discipleship just that: methods and means? Why are they a matter of God’s law, and not the way in which we carry out the law of God, which is for the church to teach? He might reply that there are commands that relate to the way that we teach. I agree, but there are commands that relate to almost every area of the Christian life. Scott Brown wants the Bible to give him a simple one-possibility answer to every application of the word of God, and language simply will not abide it, because that is not how language functions.

For example, the teaching of the word of God should come with gentleness patience correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God might grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth [2 Timothy 2:24-26]. That is clearly a command. However, would anyone seriously suggest that Jesus was wrong to speak to the Pharisees the way he did in Matthew 23? Jesus said some very harsh words to some of the people who opposed him. The point is that, even in this command, one needs to use wisdom as to know how to apply it. One needs to know exactly what the command is intending to accomplish, exactly what its contextual background is, and thus, then bring that in to our context and background. This requires wisdom, and not looking for the Bible to give you one easy answer.

In sum, Scott Brown still has failed to address the issues of pragmatics. Scott assumes certain pragmatic functions of commands, never proves them, and then accuses us of contradicting what scripture says. Scott Brown violates some of the most basic principles of language in order to hold up his man made doctrinal tradition which calls age specific discipleship a sin. All of this rhetoric “the sufficiency of scripture,” “contrary to the commands of scripture” is a red herring for the fact that he is adding to the word of God: forbidding something that scripture has not forbidden.

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6 Responses to “Scott Brown and the NCFIC Still Fail to Deal with the Key Issues”

  1. becky Says:

    hmmm…your link to Scott’s post doesn’t seem to be working.

  2. otrmin Says:

    becky,

    I fixed it. I work in html, and I put in all of the tags, but forgot to insert the link. It should work now.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  3. Dave A Says:

    I think Scott Brown is trying to salvage his position and still try to at least appear that it is a sound Biblical argument. More people who have spent some serious time studying the Bible and it’s original languages need to keep showing the NCFIC its errors. I personally think that is why many Pastors have shown reservations toward this movement and why the NCFIC is directing their rhetoric toward individual families instead of through the Pastoral leadership of local Churches. It is telling that many of the NCFIC followers just take what Scott Brown and Doug Phillips say at face value and never fully check it out. People are alot like sheep. Scott mentions a few passages and then makes big statements with no actual scriptural support for what he just said, but it sounds so compelling, does it not?

  4. Shawn Mathis Says:

    Two things of note for those who want to be informed of this (mostly one-sided) debate:

    1. Public dialogue with Mr. Wolfe of Wolfe Ministries. He defends FICs. I question him. Starts today:

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f117/dialogue-family-integrated-church-proponent-mr-wolfe-69184/

    2. Blog dedicated to FIC issues, allegations and errors:

    http://familyintegratedchurchmovement.blogspot.com/

  5. me Says:

    I would stand to say that it is wrong to reduce the Lords supper to the saviors sampler. Further, if mothers day practices are a cop out for truly honoring your parents or in any way supplant the biblical guidelines, it is wrong to observe it. in the same way, the gathering is not the problem it is the segregation of the family by age and the focus on activities rather than true orthopraxy. if we tried to strip these elements the whole program would dissolve, so at that point, why have it?

  6. otrmin Says:

    me,

    The problem is that all of this is totally arbitrary. For example:

    I would stand to say that it is wrong to reduce the Lords supper to the saviors sampler.

    Why couldn’t I say that it is wrong to reduce discipleship to age integration? This is especially the case since 95% of the time, the Bible gives no significance to the ages of the people being taught. Such an emphasis upon the ages of the people involved would need to be demonstrated exegetically.

    Further, if mothers day practices are a cop out for truly honoring your parents or in any way supplant the biblical guidelines, it is wrong to observe it.

    Of course, I have said all along that youth groups need to teach, and hence, actually apply the command for the church to teach. Also, there is nothing in the church engaging in age specific education that contradicts the intention of the Biblical authors. Hence, it is not wrong to observe age specific education.

    in the same way, the gathering is not the problem it is the segregation of the family by age and the focus on activities rather than true orthopraxy. if we tried to strip these elements the whole program would dissolve, so at that point, why have it?

    There is nothing in the intention of scripture that prevents age specific education. Also, while there are many youth groups that are not applying the command for the church to teach, there are many that are. The point is to go back to scripture, and show that youth groups and Sunday schools are based in the command for the church to teach. If we are actually applying the command to teach, then there is no problem at all.

    Also, I don’t believe that Scott Brown and the NCFIC hold to orthopraxy. I believe they have an incredibly simplistic view of language, and what they think is orthopraxy is simply tradition of men.

    God Bless,
    Adam

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