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The Daughters of Patriarchy: Biblical Law, Legalism, and Grace

We sang it at day camp, and laughed and laughed.

"I just wanna be a sheep!!! Baaa baaa baa baaa . . . "
We danced around, baa-ing like the white woolly creatures on the poster with David, the Shepherd boy. Then we got serious and sang, "I don't wanna be a pharisee, 'cause they're not fair, ya see?" and asked our leader who the pharisees were, because we as kids knew the supreme angst of anything being unfair.

Now we are grown, and fairness is not the issue. However, pharisaical doctrine still affects us today—we, adult daughters and wives, who have emerged from patriocentricity, laboring and aching beneath the commandments of those who are not God.

The “L” word

• “We do not allow any worldly music into our home, which includes anything with a rock beat—even if the lyrics are Christian.” Remember this teaching from Bill Gothard?
• “We gave them counsel, and they did not listen. We will not fellowship with those who have rebelled.”
• “We must set ourselves apart from the world. That is why we let God plan the size of our family, cover and wear dresses, so that people will know we are Christians.”
• “We do not do the things the world does, such as have a bank account, or wear jewelry, or go to movies. These things are contrary to the Bible.”

Many well-meaning, good-intentioned families promote these ideas, and more. Some believe that one must attend a specific style of church, speak in tongues, observe principles of courtship or betrothal, perform specific methods of discipline, abstain from certain practices, wear or not wear a particular style of clothing, or live very definitive lifestyles, to truly live righteously.

Theonomy

Less pandemic than legalism but serious nonetheless, is the continued rise of Christian Reconstructionism. In his article, Moses' Law for Modern Government: The Intellectual and Sociological Origins of the Christian Reconstructionist Movement, J. Ligon Duncan, III writes,

Broadly speaking, a reconstructionist is "a Christian who believes it is his or her responsibility to challenge the anti-Christian character of society and culture. The reconstructionist sees it as an obligation to seek to change society in ways that will bring it into conformity with the teaching of Scripture." To further specify, we may quote popular Reconstructionist author Gary DeMar who says:

Reconstructionism is a distinctive blending of certain biblical doctrines. They are (1) personal regeneration, (2) the application of biblical law to all areas of life, and (3) the advance of the already-present kingdom in history through the preaching of the gospel and the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

My concern lies in the particular application of biblical law to all areas of life. For example, on the issue of capital punishment, in his article "Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence" Frederick Clarkson writes:
Epitomizing the Reconstructionist idea of Biblical "warfare" is the centrality of capital punishment under Biblical Law. Doctrinal leaders (notably Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen) call for the death penalty for a wide range of crimes in addition to such contemporary capital crimes as rape, kidnapping, and murder. Death is also the punishment for apostasy (abandonment of the faith), heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, "sodomy or homosexuality," incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, "unchastity before marriage."

According to Gary North, women who have abortions should be publicly executed, "along with those who advised them to abort their children." Rushdoony concludes: "God's government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them." Reconstructionists insist that "the death penalty is the maximum, not necessarily the mandatory penalty." However, such judgments may depend less on Biblical Principles than on which faction gains power in the theocratic republic. The potential for bloodthirsty episodes on the order of the Salem witchcraft trials or the Spanish Inquisition is inadvertently revealed by Reconstructionist theologian Rev. Ray Sutton, who claims that the Reconstructed Biblical theocracies would be "happy" places, to which people would flock because "capital punishment is one of the best evangelistic tools of a society."

The Biblically approved methods of execution include burning (at the stake for example), stoning, hanging, and "the sword." Gary North, the self-described economist of Reconstructionism, prefers stoning because, among other things, stones are cheap, plentiful, and convenient. Punishments for non-capital crimes generally involve whipping, restitution in the form of indentured servitude, or slavery. Prisons would likely be only temporary holding tanks, prior to imposition of the actual sentence.

People who sympathize with Reconstructionism often flee the label because of the severe and unpopular nature of such views. Even those who feel it appropriate that they would be the governors of God's theocracy often waffle on the particulars, like capital punishment for sinners and nonbelievers. Unflinching advocates, however, insist upon consistency. Rev. Greg Bahnsen, in his book By This Standard, writes: "We. . .endorse the justice of God's penal code, if the Bible is to be the foundation of our Christian political ethic."

Reconstructionism has adopted "covenantalism," the theological doctrine that Biblical "covenants" exist between God and man, God and nations, God and families, and that they make up the binding, incorporating doctrine that makes sense of everything. Specifically, there is a series of covenant "structures" that make up a Biblical blueprint for society's institutions. Reconstructionists believe that God "judges" a whole society according to how it keeps these covenantal laws, and provides signs of that judgment. This belief can be seen, for example, in the claim that AIDS is a "sign of God's judgment."

Reconstructionist Rev. Ray Sutton writes that "there is no such thing as a natural disaster. Nature is not neutral. Nothing takes place in nature by chance. . .Although we may not know the exact sin being judged," Sutton declares, "what occurs results from God."

However, scripture reveals God's heart.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well . . . So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2)

Has it seemed that more emphasis is placed on “dos and don’ts” rather than on God Himself? Legalism teaches a different gospel and reveals a different Jesus. It denies the saving work of Christ on the cross; in essence, it counters the very heart of Christianity by insisting that we need Christ, and . . .

Scripture teaches that we need . . . Christ.

Let me illustrate this with Paul’s address to believers:
Colossians 2:6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Paul suggests that with fervent zeal to withdraw from the world, many actually live according to the principles of the world by subjecting themselves to legalistic regulations. These doctrines and commandments of men indeed look wise, he agrees. But they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. They do not save; they do not make us humble, closer to God, or better citizens.

Furthermore, when we rely on our actions, in essence putting faith in our works, our "obedience," our walk and witness can actually be hindered, become stumbling blocks within the Kingdom. Oh how often we forget, that our completeness dwells fully with Christ, and we do not need the unnecessary entanglements of Pharisaical law!

Judgmentalism

Claiming their way is the better way, the holy way, or the biblical way, adherents often gradually project these doctrines onto others and unwittingly spread a works-based gospel. The messages translate, “You are not as righteous as I, for you do not use this particular homeschooling curriculum.” “God wants us to abstain from worldliness. Since you do not, you are not obeying God, or living according to His will. Moreover, you will probably become a prodigal. We just pray for your soul.” “Living on a farm and being independent of the world is God’s way. If you do not agree, then you are either disobedient, or following the ways of the world.”

Not only does this limit God and how he relates on a personal level with each of His children, it also conveys damaging messages He never intended.This is especially catastrophic to women who struggle with learning who God is, seeking His will, and trying to reconcile what they see and hear with the word of God. I believe that God is angry when the hearts of those who love Him become weighed down with things emblazoned with His name—does this not take His name in vain?—and burdened with things that He has not established as essential to life.

Paul speaks against this behavior.
“ . . . but with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court, in fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” (1 Corinthians 4)
When the question of the law arises, I believe that Acts 15 presents a concise summation of our responsibilities as believers:
And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” . . . But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses.” . . . Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? . . . For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed, said Jesus. Yet legalism suggests He is not enough.

Conviction

While legalism is an insidious trap to make us stumble along the Way, it is important to have principles so that we may stand firm in the faith. We have been taught the importance of having a reason for the hope within as it relates to the questions and doubts of those in the world—have you considered the same for the attacks from those within Christendom?
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (1 Peter 3:14-16)

Conviction is an unshakable belief in something without need for proof or evidence, a firm, strong belief, the state of being convinced. It is of vital importance as Christians to have convictions, but we must be careful not to attach weight to them that God never intended. We must use caution in our application, for He never wants our convictions to replace Him. This becomes idolatry. Rather, He desires that we “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Gal 5:1

Many claim their lifestyle is designed to bring conviction to others. To convict is to prove, or find guilty of offense, to impress with a sense of guilt. This is strictly the job of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent. It is interesting to note that He convicts the world, without calling us to do so, and moreover makes a distinctive contrast between the world and His disciples, whom He guides through truth.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you”. (John 16)
As we hearken to the Spirit and learn to be sensitive to His voice, we learn discernment, the godly antidote to judgmentalism. Hebrews 5:14 . . . to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

The Law of Love

It can be overwhelming, facing the confusing teachings and bearing the weighty laws of those who advocate legalistic teachings, a return to mosaic law, and other works-based doctrine. Yet what does God ask from us?
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22
We are called to be lovers of God, lovers of others. This is the direct response of the Son of God to the staunchest, fiercest upholders of the law. But when behavior is elevated above personhood, we have been injured in a way that strikes against our Heavenly Father, for this rejects the precise reason He sacrificed His Son—to demonstrate that He cares not about our works, but for our heart.

Simply stated, the world, the traditions of men, teach that what you do is more important than who you are. Jesus teaches that who you are is more important than what you do.

Grace—the being of your heart

Legalism emphasizes behavior over heart, much like those who promote patriocentric, authoritarian parenting. Sweet sister, have you been defamed? Branded? Labeled as the rebellious one, the black sheep, the prodigal daughter? Do you stumble under religious requirements, doctrines of men? Are those close to you more concerned with your doing than your being?

Following the intense temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, He revealed His tender ministry to those who dwelt on earth. This is His purpose; His calling:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” (Luke 4)
Take courage, for Jesus hears your cries. He sees the oppression that keeps you exhausted and stumbling. He knows the silent aching, the brokenness within. He knows the fear that cripples you; he sees the concern and distress that plague your soul.

When the adulteress was brought to Him, Jesus did not give her something to go and do. Instead, He gave her something to go and not do . . . to go and sin no more. He came to lift burdens, not increase them. In Matthew 11, we are not told to "come and perform" or "to come and behave", but to come and stop doing, to come and rest. On the cross He did not say, "the work has begun"; He said, “It is finished.”

Accept His grace. Let all that hinders fall away. Enter the narrow way, that few find, which leads to life. Embark upon the path of sanctification, of freedom! For this is the walk of faith.

And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.
Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” Mark 5:34

The Curse of the Standard Bearers by Norm Wakefield

This article, written by Norm Wakefield, is a very poignant, refreshing look at family dynamics which become imbalanced due to patriocentricity, and provides hope and encouragement both to parents and children who have been brought up in such an environment. It is the first within a series of 8, which can be purchased here. I hope that my fellow quivering daughters will be as blessed as I am through these words.

The Curse of the Standard Bearers: When Idolatry Masquerades as Love by Norm Wakefield

The burden in my heart has compelled me to seek the Lord in how to minister to the growing number of families who are suffering the devastating effects of what I'll call The Curse of the Standard Bearers. This is no infrequent problem. Although I know of hundreds of tragic accounts, perhaps from heaven's perspective, there are tens of thousands. There may be dozens of relationships within your own circle of friends, church, or community which are not what they appear. All seems well on the surface, but if you could see what God sees, you would see these people need your love, encouragement, and prayers. Thousands suffer in isolation and fear from the curse of the Standard Bearers.

My heart goes out to the sincere, committed parents who are suffering disappointment, discouragement, hurt, alienation, and embarrassment from their children for whom they once had great faith and hope. Ten years ago they would never have thought their family relationships would be so dysfunctional and hurtful. Additionally, the stress from fear of how to explain it to their friends haunts them. They either are helplessly silent or hardened to the guilt of gossip. The misery, fear, and burden they bear must be overwhelming.

Equally, I empathize with the children of these parents, who in their heart of hearts, long to have a deep, meaningful, loving relationship with their parents. They want to honor, love, and gain the approval of their parents perhaps as much as their parents want the best for their children. Like their parents, there's no righteous way to talk about it to observant friends without sinning (gossip). Only those who have suffered the same dynamics in relationships can completely understand the frustration, bitterness, hurt, and torment.

My prayer is that this series of articles will be used of God to bring light into the darkness and liberation for the glory of God. May God bring a spirit of revival as relationships with both God and family members are reconciled.

In this article I plan to explain what I mean by my title. Then I've picked two testimonies out of hundreds to illustrate the dynamics to which many of you can relate or observe (one which I'll share in this article and another in the next). As I go, I'll try to explain the curse that has brought about such destruction. We know Satan has his hands in this kind of tragedy, and we need to know his schemes. Otherwise it continues, and others will fall into the same trap. In the following articles, we'll see the destructive attitudes and actions more clearly. Learning how to apply the gospel to these dynamics will be emancipating. Hopefully we'll discover how both parents and children may be set free from the curse, be healed and reconciled, and glorify God. At first, this may be a little painful, but I encourage those of you who are hurting that there is hope ahead. So let's begin with some explanations.

Who has control of the keys?

Tim Russert, moderator and managing editor of Meet the Press, included a powerful story contributed by Merabeth Lurie in his book, Wisdom of our Fathers. Her seven-year old little brother, Jim, liked to watch and "help" his father as he made such things as chandeliers from old wagon wheels and unusual light fixtures from copper bulbs that float in toilet tanks. While his dad was at work, Jim would use his tools to make his own creations, but wouldn't put them back in their rightful place many times.

After telling Jim the importance of putting things back, his dad decided to build a small tool chest where he could keep his best tools so Jim couldn't get to them. As Jim's dad worked on the chest, Jim watched and helped excitedly. When the lock was being installed, Jim asked, "What's that?" To which his dad replied, "It is a lock, so that in order to get tools from the chest you have to open it with a key."

Jim got a strange look on his face, looked up at his father, and asked, "Who will have the key, Dad?"

His dad paused for a moment, considered the look on his son's face, and wisely and lovingly said, "There will be just two keys, Jim. One for you and one for me."

What are you communicating about relationship?

Jim's dad wisely chose to yield his right to control his tools and set aside his standard of order to communicate value and love to his son. The workshop might be messier, but he had the heart and respect of his son - a small price to pay for a rewarding relationship with a special person in his life. Had Jim's dad valued the standard of neatness and orderliness above showing his son respect by allowing him control of the key to the chest, he would have "cursed" his relationship with his son.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the wisdom and love that Jim's dad had for him. Many family members communicate rejection, shame, and judgment by controlling all the keys of life for those they say they love and want to bless. They think they know what's best for those for whom they are responsible (and they might), and with sincerity and good-intentions demand the right to control all the keys. Without realizing it, in the name of righteousness and love, they place upon them the curse of the Standard Bearers.

Standard Bearers?

Who are the Standard Bearers, and why such a strange descriptive title? I use the term standard because sincere, religious people usually have many standards they consider important to secure significance, praise, and reputation before God and man. Everyone has some standards they practice, but the issue in this article is the level of importance and significance people place on those standards.

I use the term bearers because that is the image they bear to others: Living by certain standards is a true sign of righteousness and spiritual maturity. Others often think of them as almost perfect or Christ-like in their talk and appearance being impressed with the way they live for Jesus. But there is a subtle, yet significant difference between someone living for Jesus and Jesus living in them. Unfortunately, the emphasis of a Standard Bearer rests on the standards rather than relationship.

Standard Bearers have an inconsistent application of God's character toward His creatures. For instance, when trying to convince a non-standard bearer of his need to change, they communicate that God is very stern. Yet when they deal with their own sin, they apply the view that God is forgiving and gracious. There's a disconnect between how they think God sees the sins of others not like them and how He sees their sin.

A True Image Bearer

In contrast, a True Image Bearer focuses on relationship with Jesus and has one aim: to be a conduit of the life and love of Jesus Christ for the glory of God and to lead others to experience the same blessing of such a powerful, love-engulfed, grace-filled relationship. Although his life is lived with standards perhaps similar to a Standard Bearer's, the root and motivation of his life is different - he recognizes his lifestyle as a gift of grace through his relationship with Jesus. The true image of Jesus wasn't a life focused on standards, but a life focused on a relationship with His Father in heaven.

Consequently, a True Image Bearer doesn't demand that others live by standards to gain approval, encouragement, and affirmation. They're more interested in the process of relationship with the Holy Spirit for others. People who live in close company with a True Image Bearer know that if they were to disappoint them or have another view, they would still be respected and valued.

True Image Bearers respect the Holy Spirit and His right to move, transform, and convince others. They apply the power of the cross-work of Jesus to those who haven't seen the light they have and consider the judgment of others a holy responsibility for Jesus alone. They don't think the Christian life is "living for Jesus", but instead it is "Jesus living in them" (Gal. 2:20). When people are around a True Image Bearer, they usually sense the love and presence of Jesus.

Often Standard Bearers think they are True Image Bearers because they have good feelings about themselves due to their commitment to standards. To them commitment to standards is the expression of their love for Jesus. However, they are not unlike the Pharisees in Jesus' day who viewed themselves as the "separated ones." In their zeal to be distinct in a complex, godless Greek culture, they established oral traditions (standards) and considered them not only equal to the written Law, but more important. Their judgment of others and lack of love, forgiveness, and grace was condemned by Jesus repeatedly. A True Image Bearer would not look down his nose at, avoid, or judge those who don't hold to his or her standards. Instead, he lives in freedom and prays for and encourages others to treasure relationship with Jesus.

The curse of the Standard Bearers

Let me introduce you to Marty, an individual whose life illustrates the curse of the Standard Bearers.

Almost overnight, Marty's life changed. His parents decided to become associated with other homeschooling families whose goal was to raise children with godly character. With the new direction for the family came more responsibilities and expectations from his parents. He already felt smothered by their efforts to make him into the type of young person who would give them a good reputation among their peers, but with the change came a tidal wave of standards and goals he felt were impossible to meet.

Marty didn't make it easy for them. In fact, he questioned them constantly as to why they had to live by all these standards of dress, social etiquette, grooming, facial expressions, entertainment, courtship, attitudes, education, and food. His honest questions brought accusations of rebellion and disrespect, which were not his intentions. Eventually, the conflict became so great that in order to protect their reputation, Marty's parents sent him to live and work with an uncle, hoping God would eventually open his eyes to see the blessing he was rejecting.

Marty's well-meaning parents were Standard Bearers. Without realizing it, self-ambition (lust for significance and success) and an idolatrous love of man's approval gained ascendancy within their hearts. The curse of the Standard Bearers rested upon them and all the relationships for which they felt responsible. Unwittingly, they looked to standard bearing as the solution to parenting Marty and to gaining significance and acceptance for the whole family. Instead of demonstrating a life lived in a relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and leading Marty to do the same, they were caught in the enticing trap of a form of religion. They quickly learned what standards were acceptable and not acceptable among those with whom they wished to connect and then commanded obedience from Marty.

At age fifteen and living at home, Marty knew he should obey his parents, but they never led him to deal with his heart relationship with God. Consequently, the parent-child relationship was always about responsibility and expectations. It's no wonder that Marty felt unloved, controlled, and unvalued. Living by rules and standards cannot build relationships based on God's love and grace. A form of outward obedience may occur, but liberty and love that comes from the Holy Spirit's work internally is overlooked.

Until Marty has a relationship with Jesus, his parents must teach, train, and demand honor and obedience (Eph. 6:1-4). However, once the Holy Spirit indwells him, Marty should be taught to walk by the Spirit in relationship with the heavenly Father. As Jesus told his disciples, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). As a son starts to walk by the Spirit, an earthly father should encourage his son's decision-making and guidance to come from a personal relationship with the heavenly Father, not himself. To the degree that the father makes the decisions and dictates the lifestyle of his believing son, to that degree he hinders his son's spiritual life. A father's role should decrease just as John the Baptist's role decreased when Jesus appeared (John 3:30).

Doesn’t this break your heart?

Many churches and hundreds of families have been destroyed by this curse. It doesn't have to be this way. Consider the glorious testimony to the grace and glory of the cross for a Standard Bearer to be honest and confess their idolatry and the sins of control, rejection, slander, and shame. It would glorify God, bring healing to the relationship, and teach the rest of the Standard Bearers what standard is really worth bearing: the life and image of Jesus Christ. Forgiving, loving, and forbearing with others as we trust God and encourage them to follow the Holy Spirit sets people free to find themselves through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Outward conformity to standards to achieve public praise and approval cannot please God.

First in a series

This article is the first in a series of articles dealing with the curse of the Standard Bearers and what it means to be a True Image Bearer. In the next Chariot, we'll take a deeper look into Satan's schemes and how sincere, zealous Christian fall into his trap. I invite you to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what God sees and thinks about how you relate to Him and to others when it comes to standards. Are you more concerned about His image or yours?

--Norm Wakefield

Special thanks to Anika for bringing this article to my attention.

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Christian Isolationism: Be Ye Holy?

Proverbs 18:1
A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.


Isolationism.

It is a response to the Biblical mandate to:

“ Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”

Or to be peculiar, as the KJV states in 1 Peter 2 and Titus 2.

What does this look like within a patriocentric family?

Obviously, this extreme form of separation is not practiced by all homeschooling or Quiverfull households. It is imperative, however, that we are aware and understand certain factors of this lifestyle, for untold numbers of Christian brothers and sisters promote the "righteousness" and "godliness" of this way, and many children are being raised in seclusion. It is impossible to calculate statistics due to the very nature of desolation and privacy, which is a right claimed with fervor by those who support this way of life. I grieve at the lack of godly balance and grace that wrecks havoc upon the lives--spiritually, physically, intellectually, and emotionally--of the ones who would be considered "the least of these" in such a family.

Mark 9:36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

Matthew 10:42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.

Matthew 25:35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Mark 9:41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. 42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—

A cup of cold water

Jesus took seriously the welfare of children, to the point of telling his disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."

In our culture, both religious and mainstream, we have adopted a very lax approach to the concept of offense, or offending. We bristle at certain words, taking offense. Ideas or manner of dress that we find distasteful offend our sensibilities. We are quick to take offense at even some very innocuous things--I confess I have done so myself, forgetting what is important in light of eternity and the souls of those created in the image of God.

It is interesting to study what it is, truly, to offend or cause offense.

Just a few results from thesaurus.com, words that can be used interchangeably with offend:
  • sin
  • anger
  • distress
  • pain
  • hurt
  • wound
  • abuse

Definitions from dictionary.com:
  • to irritate, annoy, or anger; cause resentful displeasure in.
  • to affect (the sense, taste, etc.) disagreeably.
  • to violate or transgress (a criminal, religious, or moral law).
  • to hurt or cause pain to.
  • to cause to fall into sinful ways.
The Jesus who beckons little children to come to Him is the One who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. He is the One who cares about the least of these, and who exhorts us to become as they. He is the One whom healthy parents should emulate, as He, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, tenderly knelt before His disciples and washed their feet.

Common Features of an Isolationist Lifestyle

Many Christian Isolationists feel a conviction to go back-to-the-land-- Agrarianism /Biblical Agrarianism / Agrarian Separatist Philosophy --to live what they consider to be a simple life, free from the materialism, secularism, and influence of modern culture. This is also closely related to Asceticism, which is the practice of "doing without" or "going without" for religious reasons. Many ascetics believe that most pleasures, many comforts, and modern conveniences are worldly and distract from the things of God, whereas hard work and physical labor are representative of righteous living. The drudgery of farm life is revered. Keeping busy, many reason, ensures that people simply will not have the time, energy, or inclination to live "foolishly."

Pooling strength and resources, some agrarians reside in intentional communities, groups of like-minded individuals who live, worship, and work together, sometimes even school their children together. Even with this abbreviated level of relationship, the community as a whole, as an extended family, remains largely sequestered from the world except for what is necessary interaction for survival. While religious communities such as the Amish lead such rustic lives, the FLDS is one that does not, necessarily, operate in this manner, although other factors still apply.

While not all isolationist families are tucked away in rural areas, a common feature between them and their urban counterparts are the levels of disconnection and disassociation from the outside world. It is a purposeful withdrawal, and nearly always for strict, religious reasons.

At its core, while blanketed with scriptures that admonish separation from the world, Christian isolationism is about control. In these families, the parents, usually the father, strictly monitor books and other media allowed into the home, including news-feed and news-sources. Many do not allow Internet or television; it is common for such families to rely upon shortwave radio for "unbiased" reflections regarding "what really goes on in the world." In the name of godliness, for training in righteousness, practically every element in life, from the making of simple decisions to how much "free" time a child is allowed, is governed with alacrity.

Beliefs, thoughts, ideas, and other elements of psychological grooming are carefully guided to reflect popular family tenets; again, this is ensured through selective influence. Limited social interaction guarantees against unwanted persuasion. Proponents see this as godly sheltering, a responsible obligation of conscientious, biblical parenting.

Indoctrination, secrecy, and fear are some of the biggest factors that contribute to, and promote, isolationism and the isolationist mentality.

Isolationists are generally quick to draw upon their rights for privacy and freedom of choice when their way of life is called to question. "It is none of their business" is a frequent rationale. Any mistreatment--or perceived harassment--is relegated to the spiritual element of persecution or spiritual attack, a "test". Secrets and secrecy abound. Many follow conspiracy theories and speak rebellion against the government. Fear is used as a method of control and manipulation, while simultaneously many patriocentric isolationists dwell under fear themselves--fear of losing their freedom, fear of being "found", fear of Y2K, fear of losing children to the world.

An even smaller number of Christian isolationists join militia and kinist organizations (WARNING: potentially offensive link).

Although not confined to isolationism, homeschooling is a prevalent feature. Many families are Quiverfull, and several espouse Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionist philosophies.

Most of these characteristics, taken singularly or within the bounds of a healthy, humble, truly Christ-like environment, are in and of themselves, good. Whenever fear, imbalanced control, and absence of accountability are prevalent within isolated, patriocentric familial units, there is just cause for alarm.

So What is Wrong with It?


Many within remote families or communities lack balanced, healthy accountability among those in leadership or authority. This is inherently dangerous, for all of us have been tainted by the Fall; left unchecked, an imbalanced leader can exert terrible desecration upon those in his care.

Often, women raised within isolation find themselves battling issues of fear. Some lack the necessary skills to make basic decisions. Many struggle with social anxiety. Others, who choose to leave their sheltered upbringing, find themselves ill-equipped to handle practical elements of day-to-day life. While mistakes are a crucial part of learning, many women have been raised to believe that even simple blunders elicit the wrath of God, and therefore writhe in shame and self-condemnation.

But the deadliest ramification is a polluted gospel.

Although rarely stated as such, implications remain that the gospel and the Christian life are rooted through faith in a works-based religion, rather than grace-based salvation through faith in Christ. This poses serious stumbling blocks to a walk with God which can take years to overcome.

1 Peter 1:13-19
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Peter suggests that it is the aimless conduct received by tradition from the fathers from which we are redeemed; from aimless conduct which appears holy but is relegated to "ignorance", to "former lusts", and to "unholiness"! Holy conduct, according to Peter, is to "gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." It is not living a life marked by extreme forms of asceticism, isolation, or religious works!

At its foundation, isolationism promotes misplaced faith. This, in essence, is idolatry.

Benefits of Isolationism

Is all isolationism bad? Those who live an agrarian lifestyle generally learn wonderful skills that benefit both their own families, and the world--such as the extensive growth and maintenance of farmland, gardening, and animal husbandry. Many know how to preserve food, through canning or drying, and storing. Because a key conviction is to be independent of the world, many have a vast knowledge of survivalism which can be vital.

There is a lovely element of purity of mind within some children who grow within isolation; they exhibit freshness, a wonder that is beautiful to see, and the faith that Jesus commends so strongly. Many Christian families place emphasis on Scripture, which instills a strong biblical foundation in the lives of their offspring.

Debt-free living is common within such families. This is a tremendous blessing, enabling them to use resources with more freedom than those who struggle with financial matters.

But is isolationism scriptural?


Biblical living is a delicate issue among Christians. Ten individuals can interpret a single passage ten different ways. It is essential to seek the wisdom of God while following what He has laid on our hearts, and I believe that almost every family who sets out upon a separatist path does so with a desire to obey and glorify God.

It is possible to live a balanced life sheltered from the evils of our post-Christian society, but the conventional application of most isolationist families promotes an extremist, fear-based form of sheltering. Jesus prayed in John 17, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one." When increasing numbers of families who strive to love and serve God continue to extrapolate themselves from the darkness which overwhelms the land, where will the light so shine?
Matthew 5:14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

Light shining within light has little effect. A beacon in the night draws the attention of all who have eyes to see.

Just as Jesus withdrew from the multitudes to find rest, solace, and communion with His Father, there are times when we need to find sanctuary and stillness, becoming recharged for the war which rages all around us. This is a critical aspect of our Christian walk. But to intentionally keep ourselves unavailable to the ones our Lord came to seek and save is like burying our talents in the sand:

Matthew 25:25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
"I was afraid," said the servant.

Anything based upon fear is set upon a shaky foundation, for fear is the opposite of faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God.

For those Raised in Isolation

If you have been insulated from the ravages of the world, it can seem like culture shock to finally emerge from isolation, can it not? I am working on an article addressing some of the issues that women face as they come out from isolationism and extreme conservativism.

for further reading:

Agrarianism

The Good Shepherds
A Process Driven Life
Center for Agrarian Homesteading Education
Christian Agrarianism
Christian Exodus
Biblical Agrarianism

Asceticism

Christian Asceticism: Breaking Consumerism's Hold
Asceticism
Ecological Asceticism: A Cultural Revolution

Separation

Christian Separation
Biblical Separation
The Christian and Worldliness
Engaging the Culture: Mennonites Can do it, Too (pdf)

Child Sheltering

Sheltering Children: God's Mandate to Holiness, part 1
Sheltering Children: Parental Responsibility for Influences, part 2

Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism

Christian Reconstructionism, Dominionism, and Theonomy
Dominionism and the Rise of Christian Imperialism
Christian Reconstructionism
The Reconstructionist Movement on the New Christian Right
The Rise of Dominionism