So Much More, p. 15-22 – Part 1: Father God

So did you guess that the title of this post was an intentional play on words, before even reading the post? Yes? Good. Then you grasp one of the foundational concepts of stay-at-home daughterhood (SAHD): that the line between human fathers and the Divine is murky at best.

Don’t believe me? First, review some previous SAHD material here and here. Highlights of the show include Doug Phillips issuing an “altar call” for girls to turn their hearts to their fathers, and Anna Sofia Botkin claiming that girls can take their fathers’ names in vain. Second, stay tuned, because there’s a whole boatload of bizarre headed your way that might make you change your mind.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER sorta not really but yes

After explaining that the hurting girls who visit their family all have one thing in common – a lack of close relationships with their fathers – A&E write this (emphasis A&E’s):

Is their missing relationship with their fathers the root of all their other problems? No, not the only root. But we believe, after years of studying both God’s Word and modern times, that the forgotten principles of fatherly protection and daughterly honor are the missing dynamic girls need in leading fruitful, stable, happy lives which will give honor to God. We do not believe that the father-daughter relationship is somehow more important or special than the mother-daughter relationship, or the father-son relationship, nor do we mean to breathe into this relationship a kind of super-special, mystical quality never seen in the Bible. But we do believe the father-daughter relationship is being more ignored and abused than other relationships in this generation, with disastrous and heartbreaking repercussions. Girls are hurting from the absence of strong, biblical relationships with their fathers, and repairing those relationships should be a priority for the young women of our generation.

This sounds to me a bit like A&E are trying to have it both ways. For the father-daughter relationship not being “more important or special” than other relationships, patriocentrists in general (and the Botkin family especially) seem to spend an awful lot of time talking about it. To be fair, this could spring just as much from their obsession with fathers in general, but I suspect that’s only one reason (another would be their heavy emphasis on female modesty and purity).

Whatever the reason, it’s obvious that the father-daughter relationship gets an unusual amount of airtime in patriocentricity, apparently at the expense of other relationships that seem like they should be just as important. For instance, I’m not the first to point out that, outside of statements about motherhood and childbearing, mothers are rarely mentioned in patriocentrist writings. You’d think they would be extremely important, since they’ll presumably be training their daughters in the domestic duties they’ll be expected to perform as wives. But instead, and yet again, the only figure usually mentioned in connection with domestic training is the father.

And if you’ll allow me a brief digression – since, after all, this is a book about daughters, not sons – why don’t patriocentrists ever flesh out the father-son relationship in as much detail as the father-daughter relationship? It is at least mentioned, which in general puts it ahead of mother-daughter relationships. But to my knowledge, we’re never treated to book-length dissertations like So Much More, explaining the precise theological underpinnings of father-son relationships. I find this odd, since training up the next generation of patriarchs and “visionaries” sounds like it would be an important thing. And I cannot recall a single instance in which mother-son relationships were brought up in my hearing.

Then again, perhaps this digression isn’t so irrelevant after all. The Bible contains all sorts of prominent father-son relationships. The track record for father-daughter relationships, however, is substantially scantier. In fact, for as important as A&E claim this relationship is Biblically, in reality you’re lucky to even hear daughters named most of the time, even though most of the major players undoubtedly had them. And when daughters do come up – Rachel and Leah, Dinah, Jephthah’s daughter – they and their fathers usually aren’t modeling A&E’s supposedly “normative” pattern.

Granted, I’m sure A&E would claim that those stories are here as bad examples. Perhaps; many of them obviously are. But the fact remains that the Bible gives very little airtime to father-daughter relationships, outside of a few regulations in the Levitical law (which we’ll deal with when A&E discuss them in later chapters) and two virtually identical verses in the NT (which aren’t solely about fathers and daughters, and which haven’t yet been mentioned in So Much More):

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

You’d think if Paul had wanted to elaborate on all the deep theological symbolism that’s supposedly embedded in father-daughter relationships, this would have been the perfect place to do it. And yet, he remains largely silent. I’m curious how A&E will deal with this…assuming they deal with it at all.

Mistaken identity

You may recall that Anna Sofia previously claimed fathers were God’s representatives on earth. This idea is fleshed out in more detail in So Much More (emphasis A&E’s):

The fact that God describes himself as a Father to us shows that the position of earthly father is like an earthly reflection of God. To understand God’s nature as our “Father,” we need to understand what a father is for and how we are supposed to relate to our fathers. This is why it’s so important to God that we show our fathers love, honor, and obedience. Matthew 25:40 tells us that doing well by others is how we do well by Him. God reckons it as love to Him when we love our neighbors, and He reckons it as honor and service to Him when we honor and serve those whom He gives us as His representatives.

There’s a lot of overlap here between the duties we owe to God our heavenly Father, and the duties we owe to our human fathers. In fact, A&E once again can’t quite seem to make up their minds. Are we supposed to use our relation to God to understand our relation to our fathers (as indicated by the first sentence), or our relation to our fathers to understand our relation to God (as indicated by the second sentence)? Is it both?

I can’t quite tell. What is clear, however, is that the above strongly implies that, since God is described as our Father and human fathers are His “reflection” and representatives, we owe our human fathers the same things we owe our heavenly Father. This sounds okay when this is limited, as above, to things like love, honor and obedience – after all, doesn’t the Bible to love another and honor your parents? But let’s back up a second. There are plenty of things we owe God that we absolutely do not owe our human fathers, and in fact must not give them. For instance, we do not owe our human fathers praise and worship, or prayer. In fact, God gets pretty upset when these things are offered even to other spiritual entities that are described as “gods” in the Old Testament, and we have Biblical record of an angel actively preventing a human from worshipping him. So it shouldn’t take a theologian to figure out that offering these things to another human, would be idolatry and an affront to God on the most fundamental level.

Now to be fair, A&E didn’t say to worship and pray to your father. However, they did blur the line between fathers and God pretty significantly, and have previously applied commands about humans’ relationship with God, to daughters’ relationships with their fathers:

Have you ever considered that the third commandment might be able to apply to God’s earthly representatives as well as to Him? Did it ever occur to you that there might be a way that a daughter can take her father’s name dishonorably? We can do this by attributing things to our father that are not strictly true. ‘Oh, my dad would never understand.’ Never. ‘Oh, my dad always does this.’ Or by failing to talk of his true wonderful qualities.[1]

I’ve pointed out before that this is an ancient and longstanding definition of blasphemy, so they are essentially teaching here that daughters can “blaspheme” their fathers. I wasn’t sure before if A&E realized that, but thanks to So Much More, I’ve now been enlightened, courtesy of a convenient footnote:

2. Blasphemy is defined in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary as “…an injury offered to God, by denying that which is due and belonging to Him, or attributing to Him that which is not agreeable to His nature.”

Webster’s definition of blasphemy matches perfectly with the Catholic Encyclopedia’s. In other words, A&E seem to know full well that what they are teaching, amounts to a claim that “blasphemy against your father” is possible. So I have to ask, why they didn’t they just come out and use the word “blasphemy” when they presented the idea in Strength and Dignity for Daughters? It would have saved time; it’s a heck of a lot more efficient to say than “taking your father’s name in vain.” If I may speculate for a moment, did they perhaps realize that this claim wouldn’t sell well to most average Christian audiences, because it would be immediately recognized as unprecedented and bizarre?

In the end, then, I’m left with two questions. First, since the distinctions between God and human fathers have been so blurred, how do we know when to stop? It may seem absurd to pray to your father, but remember that patriocentrists have already put extra mediators between women and God. If we carry the idea of male priesthood far enough, there’s little in principle to stop us from going there, and A&E give us no tools to determine how far is too far.

Second, since blasphemy was a capital offense in the Old Testament and has been a capital offense in certain periods of American history, I assume it would also be a capital offense in the theonomic system that some of Vision Forum’s past speakers have advocated. So will girls “blaspheming” their fathers – perhaps by “slandering” them with reports of abuse – be in danger of the death penalty if this system is ever implemented? I hope not. But after we’ve barred women from direct access to communion and applied the third commandment to human fathers, I honestly don’t think it’s inappropriate to ask this question.

Return of the hat trick

Remember the first post in this series, where I explored how A&E use their definition of legalism to put their critics on the defensive? They do the same thing in this chapter, only this time with father-daughter relationships:

“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). This doesn’t lessen the importance of your relationship with your father in any way. In fact, having a loving relationship with your father is one of the ways you show your love for God.

Imagine for a moment that a female critic approaches A&E with some concerns about their teachings. “My father sexually abused and molested me,” she says. “There’s no way I can ever look up to him, let alone have him be my ‘knight in shining armor’ and my confidante, and he certainly isn’t reflecting anything about the character of God. What will you tell girls with fathers like that?” (This is a legitimate problem for A&E: statistics indicate that incest is not as rare as they’d probably like to think.)

What would A&E say? Judging from the above, my guess is that they would tell their critic she doesn’t love God enough. After all, loving your human father is a way you demonstrate your love for your heavenly Father. Ergo, if you don’t love your human father, your love for your heavenly Father must needs be deficient in some way, and to improve your relationship with God, you should improve your relationship with your father. This once again gives them the upper hand rhetorically, as it enables them to mischaracterize their critics as deficient Christians, or maybe even false Christians, and thus dismiss their objections.

I know we haven’t heard the last of A&E’s dangerous and absolutist statements about father-daughter relationships – after all, there are eighteen chapters and two appendices in So Much More – but for the moment, I’ll leave it here, so we can move on to the other troublesome matters in Chapter 2.

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2 comments on “So Much More, p. 15-22 – Part 1: Father God

  1. Elena Tucker says:

    Could I please exchange emails with you? Much appreciated!

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    First, review some previous SAHD material here and here. Highlights of the show include Doug Phillips issuing an “altar call” for girls to turn their hearts to their fathers, and Anna Sofia Botkin claiming that girls can take their fathers’ names in vain.

    Beware, man, of claiming yourself God.
    (Even if it has such a DELICIOUS taste to those in power over another…)

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