Sociology: the Divine Imprint?

In lesson seven of The Truth Project, Sociology: The Divine Imprint, Dr. Del Tackett asserts that God instituted certain social systems and imprinted his divine nature on them. Tackett claims to see evidence of God’s imprint on six institutions: the family, labor, church, state, community and the relationship between God and man. In the seventh lesson, Tackett focuses specifically on the family and compares the social order of the family to the Trinity. Is this a valid analogy?

I have been approaching the lessons of The Truth Project skeptically. I am probably more “progressive” than most study participants including the other women in my small group. I guard myself against indoctrination and political propaganda. I am not interested in fighting cultural wars. But I do believe that as long as there is a biblical basis for teaching, there are nuggets of truth for the discerning listener.

The Trinity

Dr. Tackett started the lesson by talking about the God of order. I agree with Tackett that there is evidence of order in the design of the universe – the law of gravitation, the laws of motion, the amazingly ordered process of genetic replication. According to The Truth Project, “amazingly detailed reflections of God’s nature” are also “inherent in the social order.” Is there biblical support for the claim that God stamped his divine order on families?

The Christian Godhead is triune, three distinct beings united in One: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity is mysterious and difficult to understand. Dr. Tackett spent a few minutes explaining the Trinity, then went up to the chalkboard and attempted to illustrate it. First he drew a big circle. Then he drew a smaller circle in the upper left quadrant of the big circle, which he labeled as the Father. Next to the Father, he drew another circle in the right quadrant and labeled it the Son. Finally, he drew a circle at the bottom of the big circle and labeled it the Holy Spirit.

Tackett spoke about the roles of authority and submission within the Trinity. Jesus submitted himself to the will of the Father. The Son was sent from heaven, not to do his own will, but to do the will of the One who sent him. Quoting from the Nicene Creed, Tackett said that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, which may explain why Tackett showed the Spirit below the Father and the Son.

“But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.

John 15:26 Modern English Version

Tackett drew a similar diagram next to the drawing of the Trinity and labeled the smaller circles Husband, Wife and Children. He said that the family reflects the triune nature of God. When a couple marries, we say that the two become one. As Jesus submitted himself to the Father, Paul said that wives should submit themselves to their husbands (Ephesians 5:24). Tackett noted that in modern culture, submission is viewed negatively. Jesus demonstrated that it is good to be humble. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Philippians 2).

On the surface, Tackett’s comparison of the family to the Trinity seems reasonable. The Triune God embodies the best qualities of a family – union, communion, intimacy and fellowship. The members of a family are distinct but united as one. The concepts of authority and submission are found in the family and the Trinity.

And – this is truly amazing – drum roll, please – there are three persons in the Trinity and in the traditional family! Tackett sees threes all over the place. There are three primary colors. There are three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas. There are three realms – physical, spiritual and social. There are three parts to the atom: protons, electrons and neutron.

What’s wrong with this picture?

When you look more closely, you can see that the Truth Project’s analogy is rather flimsy. In keeping with Tackett’s obsession with threes, here are three problems I see.

1. Flawed Theology. The analogy diminishes the Holy Trinity. There is no real equivalency between children and the Spirit or wives and Jesus or husbands and God the Father. God sent the Holy Spirit to be present with us but the Spirit was with God from the beginning (Genesis 1:2). In his post, Truth Project 7: Sociology (The Divine Imprint), Elliot Ritzema says that Tackett gives the impression that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. People who believe in subordinationism believe that both the Son and the Spirit are subordinate to God the Father.

When you see Trinitarian relationships in anything but the Trinity itself, I think that you are treading on very dangerous ground, because you are making a parallel that the Bible itself does not make. The Trinity is mysterious, so comparing it to things that we know more about can be helpful at times. But comparisons are only just that: comparisons. When we really start to think of the relationships within the Trinity in terms of relationships within the family, we have diminished the Trinity. 

Elliot Ritzema

2. The Sin Imprint. All of us fall short of the glory of God. While Tackett acknowledges the “pathologies” that result when we disregard God’s plans (e.g. divorce), he doesn’t give enough weight to the sinful nature that is always present, even in unbroken families, even if our behavior doesn’t fall to the pathological level. Many families that appear to reflect God’s divine design have the imprint of sin – infidelity, spousal and child abuse.

3. An absence of grace. The Truth Project draws a line between those it sees as being on the side of truth and those who believe what it calls the “pernicious lies” of our culture. Tackett believes that the reflection of God in the social order is even “more indicative of the heart of the Creator than the marvels of DNA replication…” For this reason, Tackett, sees social order as a focal point of the Cosmic Battle between truth and lies.

I was uncomfortable the whole time I watched lesson seven. In a Focus on the Family sponsored discussion of marriage and families, I expected to hear Tackett condemn current culture, especially gay marriage. Thankfully, in a one hour DVD, there wasn’t time for Tackett to include a “lengthy discussion of the pathologies and issues within each social system.”

I believe that God has sufficient love and mercy for all of us. Tackett’s description of God’s divine imprint on the family leaves out singles, couples without children, and single parent families. Not all are meant to marry and not all are meant to have children.

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Hebrews 12:15, NLT

Nuggets of truth

There are nuggets of truth in lesson seven. It is not good for man to be alone. It is good for all of us to emulate the humility of Jesus. It is good to live in unity and to treat each other with love and respect. I also think that when the traditional family is loving and supportive, it is the ideal social structure for raising children.

When things go wrong in families, children are hurt. When Flash, a tattoo artist, tells his story, it’s really hard to hear. His mother wasn’t a mother; she was a monster. I will never forget the night my mom told us that she and dad were getting a divorce. I was twelve. I prayed to God pleading with him to keep them together even though the marriage was not a good one. My prayer was not answered. By the grace of God, we got through it and I learned something about love and forgiveness.

If I were to draw a diagram of the family, it wouldn’t be a single sphere. It would look like Olympic rings – interlaced spheres of different colors. Every family is different. Many families struggle to get it right. We’re all connected. We should look out for each other so that no one misses out on the grace of God.

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Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash