My wife saw this article posted on Facebook. She sent me the link and asked my thoughts.
It may be helpful to provide a bit of background to the article so as to bring everyone up to speed.
Phillips founded a ministry called Vision Forum that published and sold Christian books and homeschool curriculum, as well as an array of really cool politically incorrect toys like Nerf swords, cap guns, bows and arrows, zip lines, and k-bar knives with compasses in the handle.
Somehow my wife and I got on their mailing list and at least twice a year we would receive their latest catalog. We both were amused by the catalog because along with the products Vision Forum sold, they seemed to romanticize the idea of living life during American colonialism.
For instance, Phillips would often use pictures of his sons dressed up in buck skin outfits and carrying flint lock rifles and his daughters in long dresses wearing bonnets. I even recall seeing an ad for a series of videos that taught you how to live as a mountain man or in some rustic fashion. Believe me, bearing any unforeseen apocalyptic event that turns America into a Mad Max like wasteland, I have no desire whatsoever to live like a trapper in the 1780s, nor any real practical use for learning how to build a canoe out of a birch wood tree. I love my bed and my air conditioning. But I digress…
We also felt kinda sorry for his kids, because Phillips had named them these quasi-American patriotic names like Justice, Liberty, Independence, and Constitution. And we thought we were out of the ordinary naming our kids after a Bible character and a famous person from church history.
I likened a lot of what Phillips promoted with LARPers. The difference being he put his Christian spin on everything and instead of dressing up like an elf prince or a dragon rider for just a couple of times a year for a Medieval festival, he never took off the fake, pointy ears and kept the costume on all the time. He genuinely tried to live out what he believed in everyday life.
Along with homeschooling, Phillips and Vision Forum promoted such things as large families, the integrated family model of church (which means there is no Sunday school or youth groups and your fussing kids sit with you all throughout church), the husbands are the head of the household, women are to be keepers at home, and theological dominionism and reconstructionism (see HERE to get some info on that).
Last October, Vision Forum issued a statement by Phillips explaining that due to a moral failure, he was stepping down as the president of the ministry. The statement was vague, but it was clear that he had cheated on his wife in some fashion, though he claimed it wasn’t adultery, as in a sexual encounter involving intercourse, but more of an “inappropriate” relationship with some unnamed woman, whatever that meant.
Needless to say, as the weeks went by, and the Vision Forum haters danced on Phillips’s grave, more info came out that his “inappropriate” relationship was with a nanny who lived with his family. I was more irritated that he never bothered to tell folks he had a nanny that helped his wife, but instead gave all the stay-at-home mothers the impression that his perfect Proverbs 31 wife did all the child raising and home keeping by herself.
Though my wife and I may share some of the family raising convictions promoted by VF and Doug Phillips, we have never been big fans of them. We certainly didn’t allow ourselves to be discipled by their views on life, considering them to be more of a curiosity than anything else.
While I find it tragic that Phillips’s behavior has brought reproach and shame upon Christ and his church, contrary to the author of the article I linked above, I don’t believe his adultery was “caused” by his so-called patriarchal ideology. Let me highlight a few of his main points of concern and offer a response.
Declaring God as solely (absolutely, literally, no-doubt-about-it) “masculine” is odd, really. He’s God. I find it just as odd as when feminists push the pronoun for God as “she.” Insisting on a gender for the creator of the universe is political, agenda-driven and theologically shallow.
It is just a matter of exegetical fact that God has revealed Himself as masculine and Rachel Held Evans can soak ten thousand pillows through with her tears, but that reality will never change.
In both Hebrew and Greek, biblical writers describe God as masculine. They also use masculine pronouns. God created Adam first and then Eve as his help-meet. Both Jesus and Paul confirm this created order throughout the NT. God sent His Son to redeem sinners. Jesus was a man, not a sexless Ken doll uniperson. To suggest that God isn’t masculine or that it is theologically shallow to say God is masculine denies the fundamental revelation of Scripture.
Whenever patriarchs would speak of “gender roles,” they really meant “gender hierarchy.” Women could never lead, and in some patriarchal circles they couldn’t even speak. I know patriarchal families where women are quiet mice, hardly the great women I believe God wants them to be.
It certainly is true there are a number of husbands who so dominate their marriage that they cow their wives into silent, eye-pleasing, false obedience. I have personally known a few over the years. Many of those couples have profound problems with their marriage, even several regrettably ending in divorce. But that doesn’t mean we abandon the divinely ordained roles of men and women that are intended for the family.
Rather than tossing out and changing how God has created men and women to function in the family, and ultimately the society, wouldn’t the better approach be to disciple those men who are misguided in this area of leadership? Confront and rebuke them about their abusiveness and exhort them to serving their wives and families like Christ does the church? I would also add a similar word to women who do similar things against their husbands as wives.
When my wife and I got married, she expected me to set the spiritual tone for our relationship and eventual family. Being the spiritually uxorious husband that I was, I wanted to meet her gender role expectations. She in turn also wanted to do the same for me as my wife. When we walked in the Spirit, serving one another with gladness, the gender roles God had designed for us naturally fell together. Train those men and women to seek Christ, be filled with the Spirit and God’s Word, serve each other, and they will naturally fulfill the roles God has created for men and women to fulfill.
I’m becoming more and more repulsed at the use of the patriarchal idea of “dominion.” I have always took the biblical term as more of a conservationist view of addressing the environment (its root from Genesis 1:28). Doug Phillips took this verse and ran with it, declaring it his Christian duty to take over all areas of society, government and church culture. Phillips’ idea of “dominion” was an extreme abuse of Genesis 1:28 into whatever the patriarchy movement wanted. The idea of patriarchs literally taking over the world has got to go.
I couldn’t agree more. However, dominionism is not a symptom of patriarchy, nor is patriarchy a symptom of dominionism.
Dominionism is essentially theonomic postmillennial reconstructionism of the Rousas Rushdoony/Gary North variety, and while I would agree that their theology is exegetically untenable and problematic for a number of reasons, the patriarchal view of the family structure is unrelated to it.
I’m a premillennial Dispensationalist and have nearly an exact opposite understanding that Doug Phillips has of God’s kingdom and His divine purposes as they play out in redemptive history. Yet I still believe in gender roles, husband leading their families, and wives being keepers at home.
I am also a presuppositionalist. One of the most well-known articulators of presuppositionalism was Greg Bahnsen, whose material on apologetic methodology I would recommend to anyone. He, too, was a theonomist and postmillennial dominionist, yet I am not going to toss out his apologetic theology just because I profoundly disagree with his theonomy.
People within patriarchal communities don’t seem to realize how controlling the ideology is. Children (especially daughters) are expected to stay within the home until married. Phillips discouraged military service, employment, even missionary work outside of the fathers’ direct oversight. Mothers working outside the home was akin to moral failure.
As a husband who decided with my wife, even before we got married, that the best thing for our family would be for her to stay home once she had children, even dramatically reducing the income we live on as a family, I couldn’t disagree more.
Doug Phillips lecherous behavior aside, why is it wrong to discourage my daughters from joining the military? Or pursuing a career? Of course I distinguish between “employment” as in getting a job that brings her extra income, but can be eventually abandoned when she is married and starts a family, and “career” which means she pursues a life course that keeps her outside the home, away from her family just so she can compete effectively with other males and make a ton of money.
I believe God has ordained gender roles. I believe His Word clearly teaches that women should be keepers at home and husbands the leader of that home. Why then would I NOT want to instill in my sons and daughters a desire to pursue the way God has seen best for men and women? The comments here come dangerously close to sounding like a femi-Nazi who believes women staying at home and raising children is akin to sex-slavery or something.
He then concludes with these remarks,
In a strange way, Phillips’ moral failing is an opportunity for home educators to re-calibrate their focus, turning away from the harmful ideology of patriarchy on toward a more wholesome perspective of faith, family and fun.
Who’s to say that the maligned ideology of “patriarchy” isn’t a wholesome perspective of faith, family, and fun? Because of Doug Phillips’s adulterous behavior? Richard Dawkins would take it a step further and say his moral failing is an opportunity for people to turn away from the harmful ideology of theism. If people would stop believing God is real and the Bible is His Word, well there wouldn’t be any women sexually abused anymore. Of course, we all know that is sheer fantasy.
What we can take away from the Vision Forum scandal is quite simple: Men are sinners. The ideology of patriarchy was no more of a reason for Phillips’s adultery as his belief in Scripture alone as his sole rule of authority. He gave an occasion for the enemy. If one does not heed closely Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12-16, well then anybody could potentially fall into the snare that Phillips set for himself by not guarding his heart.