Family

The Reformed Catholic Family: Timeless Wisdom From A Westminster Divine by Blake Blount

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An Introduction To The Series on Building a Godly Home by William Gouge

By now I ought not to be surprised that an old Reformed churchman is a fountain of godly piety, encouragement, and conviction, but here I am again. William Gouge’s practical handbook on family life is a refreshing stream of water flowing from such a wellspring. Modernized in three volumes under the title Building a Godly Home, the book was originally released in a single volume as Domestical Duties, and it excellently presents the blessings we have in Christ, along with the duties we owe to Him and to one another in our homes. It’s just what you’d like to see from an honored member of the Westminster Assembly: warm, firm, attentive, fatherly, compassionate, biblical, and catholic. It’s a work worthy of rediscovery in all the churches of God.

To that end, I’ll be posting a series of excerpts from Building a Godly Home.

The first is the very opening lines of the book:

It has pleased God to call every one to two vocations. One vocation is general, in which certain common duties are to be performed by all men (as knowledge, faith, obedience, repentance, love, mercy, justice, truth, etc.). The other is particular, in which certain specific duties are required of individual people, according to those distinct places where divine providence has set them in the nation, church, and family.

Therefore God’s ministers ought to be careful in instructing God’s people in both kinds of duties; both those which concern their general calling and those which concern their particular calling. Accordingly Paul, who, like Moses, was faithful in all the house of God (Num. 12:7), after he had sufficiently instructed God’s church in the general duties that belong to all Christians, regardless of sex, state, degree, or condition (Eph. 4:1-5:21), proceeds to lay down certain particular duties, which apply to particular callings and conditions (Eph. 5:22-6:9). Among these particular duties, he notes those which God has established in a family.

With excellent skill he passes from those general duties to the particular ones, laying down a transition between the with these words, “ Submitting your selves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). The form and manner of setting down this verse, with the participle “submitting,” shows that it depends on that which was said before. Again, the fact that the word itself is the very same which is used in the following verse, shows that this verse contains the sum of that which follows, and connects the general to the particulars. This manner of passing from one point to another, by a perfect transition which looks both to that which is past and to that which is coming, is very elegant and frequently employed by our apostle.

Thereby he teaches us to pay attention to that which follows, while we do not forget that which is past. While we must give diligent attention to that which remains to be said, we must also retain that we have heard, and not let it slip. Otherwise, if (as one nail drives out another) one precept makes another be forgotten, it will be altogether in vain to add line to line, or precept to precept.

Let us not upon pretext of one duty, though it may seem to be the weightier, think to discard another, lest that fearful “woe” which Christ denounced against the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:23) fall upon our heads. As God is careful to instruct us how to act both towards His own majesty and also towards one another, so in both let us seek His approval. Remember what Christ said to the Pharisees, “These ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone” (Luke 11:42). The same Lord that requires praise to His own majesty instructs us in mutual service one to another. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).

As was the case throughout, I was struck by how pointedly this speaks to our modern moment, which is to say: pitting duties one against another to avoid the ones we don’t like is a timeless temptation. One of the two broad classes of duties Gouge identifies here often cannibalizes the other. In teachings on the sexes, for instance, it’s not hard to find folks denying that there are manly duties distinct from womanly duties; all are simply to “be like Christ.”

But while all are to be like Christ with regard to our general duties, we must also render our due according to the particular callings to which we are called. Likewise, I see in young men (myself included) a tendency to use particular calls to defend the Faith as a cover to their lack of general, personal holiness. It is a deadly poison. Let us all endeavor to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees and not think to discard one duty on the pretext of another.

Counterpoint: Critiques Of Aimee Byrd’s Proposals by Shane Anderson

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A compendium of online critiques of Aimee Byrd’s proposals, sometimes called “thin-complementarianism”:


“My Christian Sisters and the Pence Rule (Why Aimee Byrd Is Misreading Scripture)” by G. Shane Morris:

“Byrd’s categorical mistake should be getting clearer, now. The grace of union in Christ does not abolish or supersede the natural distinctions of male and female, husband and wife, brother and sister. It adds to and sanctifies them. Given her apparent reading of the sibling metaphor as abolishing or superseding the biological realities that make close male-female friendship so fraught, it’s fair to ask why she doesn’t follow liberal theologians in taking Galatians 3:28 (‘There is neither Jew nor Greek…slave nor free…male and female’) as an abolition of all natural distinctions between the sexes within the church. Does Byrd (who is an otherwise conservative Protestant) support female presbyters and pastors? If not, why not? There is, after all, ‘neither male nor female’ in Christ Jesus!”

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/troublerofisrael/2018/04/my-christian-sisters-and-the-pence-rule-why-aimee-byrd-is-misreading-scripture/


“Why It’s Very Difficult For Men And Women To Just Be Friends” by Wendy Wilson via The Federalist

“Byrd doesn’t seem to want to give men a say if their perspective contradicts hers, nor does she seem willing to give women who support measures like the Pence rule a fair hearing. Like secular feminists, she is adamant that such safeguards objectify women, reducing them to temptresses while reducing men to predators.”

https://thefederalist.com/2018/05/29/difficult-men-women-just-friends/


“Book Review: Why Can’t We Be Friends, Part I- Houston Is There A Problem?” by Peter Jones:

“Do we have a problem? Yes. But it is not the one Mrs. Byrd assumes. The problem is in a different direction. And if you assume the fire is going out but it is burning hot your solution will only make things worse.”

https://singingandslaying.com/2018/07/16/book-review-why-cant-we-be-friends-part-i-houston-is-there-a-problem/


“Book Review: Why Can’t We Be Friends, Part II- What Exactly Is She Proposing?” by Peter Jones:

“Once we understand her proposal we see what a fundamental, sea change Mrs. Byrd is recommending. She is upending 2000 years of church teaching and practice as well as the teaching and practice of most human societies, on how men and women should interact.”

https://singingandslaying.com/2018/08/21/book-review-wcwbf-part-ii-what-exactly-is-she-proposing/



“A Sexual Or Asexual Public Square” by David Talcott via First Things:

“A Complementarianism that is so thin that it limits itself to a single point circumscribed within two narrow spheres does not do justice to the fact that “from the beginning God made them male and female.” This mysterious and unique human partnership of male and female extends to every part of our lives; it is not limited to small cloisters.”

https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2015/09/a-sexual-or-asexual-public-square


“Natural Complementarians: Men, Women, And The Way Things Are” by Alastair Roberts:

“I have identified three different areas where an unhelpful narrowing of focus can be seen in Byrd’s piece. First, she fails to attend to the pronounced empirical differences between men and women as groups that Stanton highlighted. Second, she handles historical understandings of gender roles as if unalloyed ideology, rather than as practical attempts to respond to and address prevailing social realities, realities that arose in part on account of natural differences between the sexes. Third, she restricts her biblical analysis to an unclear term in relative isolation, rather than seeking to ascertain the larger biblical picture. At each of these points, she limits the part that nature, empirical reality, and scriptural narrative are permitted to play in the conversation. As these dimensions are marginalized, unchecked gender ideologies are given ever freer rein. Christian teaching on the subject becomes ever more of an abstraction, slipping its moorings in concrete natural, historical, and biblical reality.”

https://calvinistinternational.com/2016/09/13/natural-complementarians-men-women/


“A Few Brass Tacks On ‘Christian Teaching’” by E. J. Hutchinson

“Have our natures been warped and deformed by sin? Of course; and even when renewed they continue to show its effects. But they have not been obliterated by sin. Our condition, then, makes all the more needful, first, a greater attentiveness to our irreducible and indestructible and natures and, second, a renewed vigor in Christian reflection upon those natures, precisely because human beings are otherwise prone to attempt the impossible: to reduce and destroy our natures.”

https://calvinistinternational.com/2016/09/15/men-women-nature-christian-teaching-two-responses-aimee-byrd/



“A General Response To Aimee Byrd” by Alastair Roberts via The Calvinist International

“By far the most significant point of difference between us, presuming that we are not speaking past each other, concerns the relationship between our natures and God’s moral command. I see a very close bond between nature and virtue. Virtue is the realization of the appropriate telos of our nature and is about us attaining to the full stature of what we are. It isn’t merely about obeying external commands. Virtue is seen when man is fully, truly, and gloriously man and woman is fully, truly, and gloriously woman.”

https://calvinistinternational.com/2016/09/15/men-women-nature-christian-teaching-two-responses-aimee-byrd/


“Can’t Men And Women Be Friends?” by Winfred Brisley via The Gospel Coalition

“While Byrd offers a thoughtful consideration of biblical siblingship and rightly draws out heart issues, on this point I fear she goes too far. Though our sanctification enables us to avoid sin, so long as we remain in our fallen state, the possibility of any particular type of sin won’t be removed. It’s certainly possible to go so far in trying to avoid sexual sin that we become pharisaical, potentially hurting others as well as ourselves. But it’s also possible to be overly optimistic about the likelihood of refraining from sin, particularly when placing ourselves in precarious situation”

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/why-cant-friends/


“Men Of Straw” by G. Shane Morris via Breakpoint

“Aimee Byrd of Carl Trueman’s popular ‘Mortification of Spin’ podcast recently shared how ‘triggered’ she is by the ‘pervasive’ emphasis on masculinity in the evangelical church. In reaction to a Patheos blog post by one pastor who advised men to give firm handshakes and limit how often they touch other men’s wives, Byrd heaps 1,600 words of scorn and 1950s caricatures on the very idea that we need to raise men to act differently from women. This is the same Aimee Byrd, by the way, who thinks the ‘Mike Pence Rule’ is ‘pickpocketing purity,’ and argues in a recent book that men and women ought to have more frequent and intimate one-on-one friendships with one another (what could go wrong?).”

http://www.breakpoint.org/2019/01/men-of-straw/


Bavinck: The Unanimous Opinion Of The Reformed Regarding Covenant Children by Shane Anderson

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Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Volume 4, p. 56 

“Reformed theologians unanimously agreed on the following points:

  1. That the benefits of the covenant of grace were usually distributed by God in connection with the means of grace; hence regeneration is in connection with the Word;
  2. That God, however, is not bound to these means, and hence he could also take an unusual route and regenerate and save especially young children without the Word;
  3. That he, as a rule, worked that way in the case of children of believers who were taken by death before reaching the age of discretion;
  4. That the baptized children of believers who were part of the life of the congregation had to be considered elect and regenerate until the contrary was evident from what they said and did; and
  5. That this however, was a judgment of charity, which must indeed be the rule for our attitude toward these children but cannot claim to be infallible.

On the other hand, from the very beginning there was disagreement over whether the children of believers, to the extent that they were elect, were regenerated already before, or in, or only after baptism.  Some—like Martyr, a Lasco, Dathenus, Alting, Witsius, Voetius, Mastricht—tended to favor the first view.  But the majority—Calvin, Beza, Musculus, Ursinus, de Bres, Acronius, Cloppenburg, Walaeus, Maccovius, Bucanus, Turretin, Heidegger, and others—left the question undecided.”

Covenant Succession: Parenting In Faith by Hans Saunders

The doctrine of covenant succession (whether or not I knew it by these terms exactly) drew me to the reformed faith. The language of sonship, of heirs, of family, of promise, of generations, of covenant, stood in stark contrast to casting a lot and hoping it just happens to land in the lap. Nurturing our little ones in the faith rather than herding them towards it.    

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