Awhile back, Bojidar Marinov wrote an article for Christendom Restored denouncing “clan culture.” I wrote a two-part response to Marinov’s tomfoolery in which I steadfastly defended a Christian conception of clan as a natural outgrowth of the biblical family. (See part 1 and part 2 of my original response to Marinov.) More recently, Marinov has written an article denouncing the supposed collectivism of Peter Leithart. Much of what I said in my original response to Marinov would apply equally well to this more recent attack on clan and tribe, but I thought it might be worthwhile to add some additional observations here.
I should first note that neither I, nor any other kinist for that matter, would endorse everything that Peter Leithart says or teaches. Leithart has been as opposed to the biblical doctrine of the clan as an extension of the family as Marinov has. Readers should be aware that Leithart isn’t defending the kinist position in his post, “What’s Wrong With ‘Family Values.’” Any defense of Leithart should not be construed to suggest that kinists agree with Leithart on everything, because we do not. Kinists are on the front lines in opposition to those who would substitute the visible church in place of extended family and clan relationships.
The Nuclear vs. the Extended Family
Bojidar Marinov irrationally considers any identity beyond the immediate nuclear family as being opposed to the nuclear family. Therefore he denounces Leithart for blaming our current social crisis on the dissolution of the broader community in favor of a focus on the nuclear family. Marinov criticizes Leithart’s statement, “An exclusive focus on defending the nuclear family reinforces the social dislocations that created the crisis.” A key word in this sentence that Marinov ignores is “exclusive.” No one is saying that the nuclear family is itself evil or bad. All that Leithart is saying is that the welfare of the nuclear family should not be our sole focus in trying to fix the culture.
Kinists see no problem with defending the nuclear family and its prerogatives, so long as the nuclear family is considered a part of a larger community. Kinists are committed to a biblical concept of the one and the many. We have a legitimate human identity as descendants from the first man, Adam, but this doesn’t negate our racial, ethnic, or familial identity derived from our more proximate ancestors. Our identity radiates outward in concentric circles from our family to our clan, tribe, nation, race, and finally humanity. Our loyalty naturally increases as we approach closer relationships (1 Timothy 5:8). There is no reason to view loyalty to a broader community as hostile to the family, as Marinov often does.
Marinov explicitly excludes a multigenerational approach to family life. As in his previous article against “clan culture,” Marinov defines the family as “a father, a mother, and their underage children.” Is this definition biblical? As I argued in my previous response to Marinov, there is no biblical reason to restrict the definition of family the way that Marinov does. The Jubilee land law (Leviticus 25:10) explicitly uses “family” in a far broader, more tribal sense than Marinov would ever allow. Several times throughout the Old Testament narrative, the Israelites are told by the prophets what God has done for their “fathers,” referring to their ancestors who lived many generations ago. The house of the Rechabites also used this understanding of patriarchy and family by obeying the precepts of their long-deceased patriarch, whom they refer to as their “father” (Jeremiah 35). Tribal inheritance laws maintained tribal identity as a means of economic security, and defined family as being tribal rather than nuclear (Numbers 36). If extended family is irrelevant, why then did the patriarch Joseph require that his bones be removed from Egypt to be buried with his people (Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32; Hebrews 11:22)?
Marinov dismisses the concept of the multigenerational family as an “esoteric, occult connection to forebears and descendants,” but he never gets around to dealing with the way that the family is defined and identified in the Scripture. These examples clearly demonstrate that a multigenerational conception of family is entirely biblical and that the nuclear family must be defined as a smaller unit within a larger whole. This is something that historic Christendom clearly recognized. Our Christian ancestors diligently kept track of their extended familial relationships, using the words “house” and “clan” to refer to their multigenerational kinsmen.
Security and Dominion
Bojidar Marinov states, “Security is for cowards who don’t want to fight. Dominion-oriented men care nil about security; they want liberty to unleash their God-given potential and bring the rule of God to every area of life.” Incidentally, I find it more than a little ironic that Marinov is able to categorically denounce security after having moved his family to Texas. If Marinov really wanted to “take dominion” and eschew security, why not move his family to Zimbabwe, Haiti, or Mexico? There is plenty of insecurity (and presumably opportunities for dominion, by Marinov’s standards) in those countries. It’s certainly easy to denounce any type of security and extol his own bravery from the relative safety that is afforded by living in Texas. In his section denouncing security, Marinov never once cites Scripture. This is because the idea that security is inherently cowardly has no scriptural support.
It is true that many Christians nowadays try to take refuge in the idea that they are called not to change the culture but to preach the Gospel to sinners, as though the two concepts could ever be separated from one another. But Marinov is confusing security with unlawful comfort or respectability. Comfort can indeed become a serious problem when we sacrifice the truth of the Bible in order to stay respectable in the eyes of the fallen world. Jesus stated that Christians would be hated by the world for the sake of the Gospel (Matthew 24:9; John 15:18-22). However, this is not the kind of security that should naturally arise from the spread of the Gospel to the nations.
The Bible praises the true security that can come from God alone. Psalm 46 states that God is our refuge and our strength, and Martin Luther, inspired by this Psalm, referred to God as a “mighty fortress.” God promises that those who keep His commandments will dwell in safety and security (Leviticus 25:18-19; Deuteronomy 12:10; 33:12, 28; Psalm 4:8; 12:5; Proverbs 11:14; 21:31; 24:6; Isaiah 14:30). The heavenly Jerusalem is portrayed in Revelation as the eschatological perfection of security and prosperity. It is this type of security that we should eminently desire for ourselves, our children, and our families. Only a fool would categorically denounce security as cowardly, as if it were courageous and Christlike to place loved ones in danger. A major facet of this security is provided by God’s commandments, which protect the extended family and tribe, including principles like kin rule. There is absolutely no biblical reason to suppose, as Marinov does, that true security is opposed to dominion. True dominion produces a godly, enduring security that will ultimately find perfection when the Gospel is received among all nations.
Capitalism, Mobility, and Collectivism
Marinov praises capitalism effusively. The difficulty with his defense of capitalism is that he fails to define exactly what capitalism is supposed to be. Many people use the word “capitalism” to refer to a system of economics based upon private ownership of property. Yet this is an overly simplistic use of the word; capitalism is not the only system of economic thought based upon the idea of private property ownership. This is a tenet of capitalism, but it isn’t the only tenet. A major tenet of capitalism is individualism, and it is capitalism’s individualistic tendencies that should be contrasted with alternative economic systems of thought, such as distributism, which are likewise based upon the private ownership of property. Therefore, Marinov cannot simply appropriate all the benefits of private ownership of property, as though it were the exclusive achievement of capitalism, since this has historically not been the case.1
The issue of mobility was addressed in my previous responses to Marinov. I find it odd that Marinov focuses exclusively on the question of mobility in the account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. In Marinov’s view, we should ideally strive for a society of constant upheaval and movement. He advises men to “get your wife and your kids, put them on that Conestoga wagon, say good-bye to your town, and go west.” Is this really the point of the narrative on the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11? No. The fact that men had congregated in a metropolitan city for the purpose of avoiding scattering across the earth is mentioned, but the central issue isn’t mobility. What alarmed God and caused Him to intervene was not that the people were not adequately mobile, but that “the people is one” (Genesis 11:6). Instead of remaining in separate nations as they had been since the Flood, sinful humanity was trying to come together again as one people, physically and geographically united against God’s design (Deuteronomy 32:8-9). This is why those at Babel wanted to make a singular name out of multiple national identities.
God used the confusion of language and the resultant scattering to achieve this re-separation of nations, but the passage is not addressing the question of geographic mobility. Once separation had been achieved, mobility was not required or even necessarily desired. There certainly are morally acceptable reasons why someone might move away from his hometown, extended family, and clan. In the past, these decisions were not taken lightly, and there was never an implication that geographic distance severed family ties. Today, people move to escape family obligations implicit in our duty to honor our fathers and mothers. Many people move away without a care at all as to what becomes of their relatives, and the decision is made solely for the purpose of moving up a corporate ladder. Christianity has not been fueling this upsurge in rootless society, since this trend has corresponded with the decline in Christian moral values in the West since the Second World War. Mobility in and of itself is not necessarily a problem, but rootless wandering that harms the stability of multigenerational families is a very real problem. Indeed, rootless wandering was the very punishment that God pronounced upon Cain for slaying his brother Abel (Genesis 4:12). Does Marinov mistake this for a blessing?
Even when distant migration has occurred in history, it isn’t as though families decided to migrate without considering the concept of broader community. Pioneers expected that members of their extended community were likely to follow them, and those who traveled later knew that they were going to a place were friends and family members had already laid down roots. In studying the history of my own ancestors, I discovered that they were indeed significantly more mobile than most people have been throughout history. Many of my ancestors migrated from Switzerland to Germany and ultimately to the American Midwest. Other ancestors migrated from the Baltic States and Great Britain, settling in Virginia and North Carolina. The reason that this doesn’t prove Marinov’s thesis about migration is that my ancestors typically settled down and stayed put for several generations once they had moved. Another reason is that my ancestors intentionally moved around as members of a larger community rather than solely as nuclear families. The head of the household certainly made the decision to move, but families often moved together to places where families of the same ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and religious background had settled. In some cases, I’ve discovered that the same families have lived near each other for the past five centuries, even though these families have moved across different continents during the same period!
If Marinov’s view of the Tower of Babel were accurate, then it would be a sin to stay in the same place for more than a generation. Yet even in the days of westward migration, most people stayed in the same place that their ancestors had been for generations. It is strange indeed that Marinov is so enamored of the American westward migration, as though this brief period were emblematic of Christendom itself. Most of Christian history has not been characterized by such mobility. It’s certainly reasonable to assume that many westward migrants had morally acceptable reasons for leaving their homes and moving, but it is also clear from history that many did not. A major impetus motivating people to move west was the prospect of discovering gold and becoming wealthy. Many of these people ended up bankrupting themselves and their families in the process of trying to strike it rich, casting doubt on the notion that their mobility was some obvious, unmitigated good. On the contrary, forced mobility is often God’s judgment on His people for disobedience. The Babylonian captivity was revealed as God’s punishment to the Israelites for their disobedience, and the restoration to their homeland was promised and fulfilled to the faithful remnant. It is thus clear that Marinov’s praise of mobility for the sake of mobility lacks a biblical foundation.
Collectivism and the Covenant
Marinov states that those who are opposed to mobility are collectivists. Throughout Marinov’s writing, it is apparent that collectivism is a major issue he is trying to confront. But Marinov mistakenly believes that collective identity beyond the extent of the nuclear family is inherently evil, and should therefore be denounced as collectivism on par with socialist collectivism. The problem with state socialism is not that it promotes the idea of a collective identity over against individualism, but rather that it promotes an unnatural collective identity against natural ones. Classical liberalism, or libertarianism, promotes the individual as sovereign and contends that nations, tribes, and families (after all, aren’t nuclear families themselves a small collective unit?) are all social constructs that can be deconstructed. Once they are deconstructed, it takes only a short amount of time for Marxist state collectivism to fill this void left in the wake of libertarian individualism. But Marinov is an unapologetic libertarian; with his libertarian hammer, all social problems are reduced to collectivist nails. The reality is that the Bible, as argued above, sanctifies collective identity based upon extended kinship. It does not reject collective identity itself, but rejects the false, man-made collective identities of statism and socialism.
Perhaps the most egregious error that Marinov commits is his reduction of the covenant exclusively to nuclear families. Concerning the covenant Marinov writes, “There is no one else covenantally significant in the life of the family except the husband and the wife.” Marinov states that the source of this audacious claim is the Song of Solomon, though he never actually cites anything from the book itself. The Song of Solomon does have a great deal to say about conjugal love between spouses. There is no doubt about that, but this is an odd book to serve as a foundation for such a bold claim about the nature of the covenant. The reality is that while the marriage covenant is certainly implied in the subtext of this book, there is no explicit mention of covenants as such, and there is no reason to think that the Song of Solomon is the be-all and end-all of the biblical teaching on the covenant. A simple analysis of what the Bible teaches about the covenant renders Marinov’s claim that the marriage relationship is the only relationship of covenant significance obviously preposterous.
The Bible teaches that the covenant relationship is established not only with individuals (Isaiah 56:3) and nuclear families (Joshua 24:15), but also with nations. We read, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). The psalmist exclaims, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12, cf. Deuteronomy 4:7). God made His covenant with Abraham and his seed for generations to come (Genesis 17:9). God’s covenant is made with us, and with our children as well (Acts 2:38-39). Jesus commissioned His disciples to evangelize the nations (Matthew 28:19), rather than merely individuals or families. All of these passages show that Marinov grossly misunderstands the nature of the covenant. The family and individuals are certainly important in the covenant; there is no denying that. But it is equally clear that God takes His covenant relationship with the nations very seriously. It is simply not true that only the relationship between a husband and wife is covenantally significant.
Marinov has once again demonstrated his own libertarian, neo-gnostic, and individualistic misunderstandings of biblical principles. It is truly a wonder that so many in the theonomic Reformed community find him to be so compelling. Marinov likes to cite Rushdoony as a theologian who purportedly agrees with his position. But the reality is that Rushdoony understood the error of men like Marinov long ago. Rushdoony writes,
When the ultimacy of the particulars, of the many, becomes progressively more and more immanent, and less and less transcendent, then unity is denied as both bondage and fiction to the same degree as particularity is affirmed. Conversely, when unity moves from a transcendental to an immanent reality, particularity becomes an oppressive violation of true order, and the suppression of particularity becomes a necessity for the realization of social order. The validity of the immanent one and many, and of the creaturely one and many, is maintained only when the reality, primacy, and ultimacy of the transcendental one and many are clearly and sharply maintained, upheld, and defined.[2. The One and the Many, p. 215.]
Marinov is unable to reconcile his view of the nuclear family as the sole “fixed reference point” with a proper understanding of the one and the many. Instead of seeing nuclear families as components of a larger, multigenerational whole, Marinov pits the nuclear family against the extended family. The end result is that, in order to defend his view of the irrelevance of the traditional concepts of race and nation, the family itself must be redefined. Consequently even children are no longer a part of their families once they come of age! One has no covenant relationship with his parents or other relatives after he is married because, according to Marinov, only a relationship between husband and wife is covenantally significant. This radical redefinition of the covenant is most certainly not Reformed, but Anabaptist at best.
If Marinov’s perspective on the family is correct, why is it that the disintegration of extended kinship hasn’t brought about a healthy situation for the nuclear family? There is no doubt that extended clans are disintegrating in postmodern society. Marinov himself admits as much in his previous article, even celebrating this fact. Why, then, does this correspond with the rise of divorce, juvenile delinquency, apostasy, sacrilege, and general immorality? The reason is simply that Marinov’s view of the nuclear family is false. The nuclear family isn’t in opposition to the extended clan or tribe or nation; it is a component of these larger identities and distinctions. Marinov insists that “to challenge the world, the community must be broken into little pieces, just like Jesus’s body was broken, and those little pieces are the nuclear families” and states, “This is how Christendom is built.” The Bible teaches no such thing. The actual historical Christendom knew better, and so do we.
- For more information on the contrast between and definitions of capitalism and distributism, see Thomas Storck’s “A Distributist Looks at Capitalism and Socialism” and “Capitalism, Distributism and the Hierarchy of Human Goods,” in addition to David Cooney’s “Is Distibutism a Form of Capitalism?” ↩