Doug Phillips Shuns “Little Bear” Wheeler

What is the difference between this year’s Vision Forum catalog and those of the last several years? Little Bear Wheeler is AWOL. He’s not there. He’s simply disappeared from Doug’s catalog, and from Doug’s life entirely.

Hasn’t Little Bear Wheeler and his Mantle Ministries always been a major part of Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum catalog? Wasn’t his whole history section always centered around his very good friend, Little Bear? Didn’t they used to put on Father/Son retreats together? Weren’t they close personal friends?

Little Bear Wheeler and Doug Phillips only live a few miles apart. Why is Doug now refusing to have anything to do with Little Bear? What’s the big rift over? It’s over me. Us. The Epsteins.

I told a little bit of that story in a comment recently, but I didn’t name names. A few people have accurately guessed who I was talking about, in some comments that they posted here (which I didn’t approve). It’s probably just a matter of time before a lot more people figure this out too, so I am going to go ahead and tell some more of the story here, including the names. I have decided to come forward with Little Bear’s name because of what he did for us. Little Bear Wheeler went way above and beyond the call of duty. Little Bear Wheeler deserves to have homeschoolers know that he is a loving, selfless and biblically-minded man who is worthy of their support.

When we were first excommunicated, we went to visit Little Bear Wheeler’s church. This church was also in what we all called “the community,” a group of churches that all started from BCA. They were not church splits, but were started as a result of some differences of personalities. All four churches in “the community” loved one another. We all fellowshipped together often. But that all changed when the Epsteins were excommunicated. Then it all stopped. It stopped because Doug Phillips required that all the other churches shun us as well. But not everyone agreed with Doug, and that included Little Bear Wheeler.

We were upfront with Little Bear about our being under “church discipline” from the moment we arrived. Little Bear not only welcomed us with open arms, he immediately took time to find out what was going on and asked me over the next day. Being the history buff that he is, when I told him my story, he said, “This sounds just like the Salem Witch trials.” He then asked us to stay at his church for six months while he and the other three elders attempted to clear up the situation with Doug Phillips. We agreed.

It was a time of being greatly loved by this church and by Little Bear and another elder in particular, who took us under their wing and spent time with us daily. They did all that they knew to do to help us with our marriage. This in itself was in huge contrast with what we experienced at Boerne Christian Assembly where, rather than helping our marriage, Doug’s so-called “marriage counseling” only made things much worse. Little Bear and his elders also attempted to contact Doug many times for the express purpose of facilitating reconciliation. The problem was that Doug refused to cooperate.

Little Bear was one of Doug’s best friends for many years (see here and here and here), but when Little Bear took us in, Doug Phillips became extremely angry with him and refused to have anything to do with him and his family again. They were already scheduled to speak together at a Father/Son retreat six months after our excommunication, and although they spoke at the same retreat together, Doug absolutely refused to speak to Little Bear the entire time they were there. Little Bear even left a note for Doug under his door asking to speak to him, but Doug refused to even acknowledge Little Bear.

Although we only attended church there for six months, Little Bear and his co-elders worked for 14 months trying to get Doug Phillips to reconcile, but Doug refused even to meet with any of them. When Doug finally did meet with Little Bear, after some 14 months, Doug accused Little Bear of sinning for “fellowshipping with sinners.” Little Bear and the other elders did say that if they had it to do all over again, they would do the same thing. We are grateful to them.

Little Bear’s business/ministry, Mantle Ministries, was directly linked to Doug Phillip’s Vision Forum as well. They run in the same circles, they speak at the same conferences, and they sell some of the same products. They used to work together on numerous projects. Since Doug had the upper hand business-wise, Little Bear was very concerned that Doug would ruin him financially when we started telling our story through Ministry Watchman, and he was distressed at the thought of his name being made public. At that time, we decided not to publicly use Little Bear’s name, for fear of what Doug might do to him. We know that Doug is very much about vengeance, not just because of what he’s done to us, but what he’s done to so many others, as well. We didn’t want to see Little Bear hurt, but the fact is that Doug Phillips paid back Little Bear long before we went public with our story anyway.

I think it’s time to publicly thank Little Bear Wheeler for the incredibly selfless man that he is, and the kindness that he’s shown us. His charity has cost him dearly. He truly lives out the verse, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Little Bear loved us when we were beaten down and deeply disillusioned with the church. He loved us as a true under-shepherd of Jesus Christ at a time when we had grown skeptical of pastors. He tried all he could to bear our burdens. He welcomed those who were deeply hurting and had no place else to go. He even went so far as to continue helping us for eight more months after we left his church. Little Bear was willing to risk losing his friendship, and a profitable business relationship, with a man who had been his good friend for a long time. He truly loved God more than “mammon.”

Little Bear Wheeler is a truly honorable man, and this is the honorable man that Doug Phillips is shunning because of us. Little Bear Wheeler is now paying a heavy price for having done nothing more than loving and caring for us — for being pastoral. For fourteen months Little Bear Wheeler attempted to facilitate reconciliation between us and Doug Phillips. For all his charitable efforts, Little Bear has been subjected to a dose of The Phillips Treatment.

When you see Little Bear at a homeschool conference this year, or one of his incredible retreats, please encourage him and let him know that he did the right thing in the eyes of God. His reward will be an eternal one.

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” I Cor. 3:11-15


353 Responses to “Doug Phillips Shuns “Little Bear” Wheeler”

  1. David M Zuniga Says:

    Bog! Bog??

    I meant “blog”. But it’s a considerable BOG, too, eh!?

  2. Joan Hathcote Says:

    Hi, Cindy…and Mr. Z, too…

    Mr. Z, your post may have been more nuanced, as you say, and Jen is probably perfectly OK with your constant input here, but still! Can’t you step back and see the bizarre irony of your questioning ANYTHING about this blog’s existence even as you continue using it, nonstop, to pursue your own pet topcs?

    Maybe an explanation was buried somewhere in one of your tax spiels, but whatever happened to your dramatic exodus of a week or two ago? I thought your daughter objected to your presence here. (And even if you’re posting as the Pope or some other alter-ego, it’s still YOU doing the writing!)

    Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Z…it’s nothing personal. Some of your stuff has been amusing and even informative. But when you hold forth, even in the most “nuanced” fashion, with comments questioning the worth of this blog, it strikes a sour note with me. All anybody has to do to see how committed you are to this site is to check out who has done the majority of the “talking” here lately. It ain’t Jen!

  3. Joan Hathcote Says:

    TOPICS! I meant to write, “pursue your own pet TOPICS.” Not sure what a topc is. Probably some exotic pet. Or a taxpayer-funded government acronym.

  4. Pape Blastus XVII Says:

    Truly, David Zuniga is “busted”, Joan my child. You’ve really touched on a sore TOPC* for him.

    *To the five others who are following this blog, the acronym that the Hathcote child so cruelly accuses Zuniga of (TOPC) is more commonly known as “Totally Obvious Party Clown”. Zuniga is guilty as charged; he stood in the hall for most of his school career in grades 4-6, for talking too much.

    Blogs are the perfect conduit for office-bound folks to do the same thing: stealing from their bosses, or in Zuniga’s case, stealing time from his clients and family.

    Please do not listen to her blasphemous charge, however, that I am an “alter ego” of anyone, least of all Mr. Zuniga! Do folks call Joe Ratzinger by that plain moniker any longer? Goodness no; he is Pope Benedict XVI!! And does he have any more biblical authority over his religious adherents, than my Illustrious Self has over the ‘Reformed Faith’ gaggle? No, indeed!

    Does Mrs. Hathcote have the temerity — the DISRESPECT! — to call him ‘Joe Ratzinger’? Of course not! She honors his official capacity over Christendom, as she should honor my official capacity: the highest national voice of reformation riding herd over the cats in the ‘Reformed Faith’.

    Yes, those cats bristle at the thought, yet I wear the jewel-encrusted fish-hat, and they do not. They put Chardonnay in the Tippy-cups, and I censure them for it and my spokesmen must occasionally wax long and eloquent about such things.

    Do not despise the ox, treading out the Tippy-cups!

    I have spoken.

  5. Karen Says:

    I don’t even know where to begin. As I read many of the comments you have written I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world you have wasted so many, many precious hours that you will never get back in talking to hundreds about this. Don’t you realize that God made Doug and knows him better than anyone else one the face of this earth. If you really loved Doug as Christ does it seems to me that you would spend your many hours in praying and fasting for him because God alone knows just how to bring a person to their senses. God also knows just what to do to protect the thousands of families across America. He doesn’t need your help!!!!! You need to be getting people to join you in a “Prayer and Fasting Chain” for the Phillips family instead of tearing them apart. [Even if what you said is all true.]

    God doesn’t tell us to tear down and beat-up one another . Yes we are to try and be reconciled with each other but if one party refuses than leave it in Gods hands AND GO TO PRAYER AND FASTING. God is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we could ask or think.

    Satan is having a “Hay-Day” and is thrilled with the confusion and bloody mess that is coming from this. My family and I have been greatly helped by the Vision Forum Ministry and many other people who have published books on the many areas regarding the family. I take what is good and leave the rest. All of you that have been hurt need to spend countless hours on your knees for the offenders and forget the Blogs. Remember you will give an account for every word you have said or written on the judgment day. I fear for your soul. God is very capable of protecting his children he doesn’t need you!!!!!


    • JR Says:

      For all of you who stumble upon this as I have, judgment is only for those who have not accepted Jesus as their personal savior. All of God’s judgment was taken out on the cross. When God looks at you all he sees is Jesus’ blood. Your sins were forgiven on the cross — past, present and future. We should do as Jesus and pray for one another and keep our big mouths shut. Good day.

  6. Mark Epstein Says:


    Paul said: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28-30)

    This was a word of warning to elders. Had any of Doug’s contemporaries held him accountable, then this blog would not be necessary. Had Doug held himself accountable to others, then this blog would not be necessary. Had Doug followed biblical conduct of a trial, then this blog would not be necessary. The bottom line is this: Phillips repeatedly violated biblical commands. patterns, and principles, he holds himself above the law, and his buddies are too weak-willed to confront him.

    I am glad that you can find something useful from VF (we have as well), but a wolf in sheep’s clothing, that is running amok amongst the flock, requires a little more than “prayer and fasting.” The sheep need to be warned so they can run away before they are devoured by a ravenous wolf! Would you “pray and fast” after you departed a burning house or would you warn those in that house to get out and warn others not to enter?

    Spiritual life and death are at stake in this situation and THAT is the reality.

  7. Jean Says:


    A couple of years ago, we lived next door to an atheist couple and we spoke often and cordially about our opposing beliefs. They also watched how we lived, and after a time, they made the comment that we weren’t like “ordinary Christians.” I took the bait and asked why. The husband commented that it was his observation that most Christians’ idea of helping someone is praying about it, when sometimes, a little action is required. Somebody is having financial problems? Give them some money to pay the electric bill. Someone’s hungry? Bring a meal. Someone is lonely? Befriend them. We were, and are, praying, fasting AND acting Christians in our home.

    It’s good to advise believers to pray and fast, don’t misunderstand me. I have learned, however, that the Lord wants our active participation more often than not. He wants us to put ourselves on the line and get our hand dirty. And in the Epstein’s case, they would be taking the easy road out to just fast and pray. They have been willing to move into action. Thank heavens! They have done the right thing and others will surely benefit.

    Have a pleasant day,


  8. m*** Says:

    I just found out about this blog by a woman who took me in after I was excommunicated and ‘released to the devil’ by DP and BCA. My father has NOTHING to do with me or many of my siblings because of that man and his twisted teachings. We have been cut off to the point that we were even forbidden to see our sister before she died, when all we wanted was to say that we loved her. I am glad to see that someone is attempting to expose him for the smooth-talking liar that he is. I have actual letters from DP that say my current home church and pastor will fail, simply because they took me into their family. This among many other bizarre things. I was once brain-washed enough to worship that man and would have willingly drunk the kool-aid with him.

  9. Jen Says:

    m***, I was told wicked things about you, but now I have to wonder what the truth really is. I am very sorry for the way Doug treated you, but I want you to know that I have prayed for you EVERY DAY since you left, and your brothers and sisters as well. I am sorry your parents are still under his spell.

    You are welcome to tell your story here, if you’d like. I’ll keep your name confidential, if you want. Young women desperately need to hear your story. You have probably only seen this blog right now, but how Doug’s teachings impact young women in particular is being talked about all over the blogosphere right now. You have a powerful testimony.

  10. Cindy Kunsman Says:

    God richly and abundantly bless you, M***!

    I know what this is like and the people here in this forum receive you with great love and honor. (Quite frankly, shunning from some of these people is a BADGE OF HONOR!) It takes a great deal of time to see all you’ve endured in this way, and you need much love and support to get back up live after such an experience. Convey my great thanks and love to the person who “took you in.” God bless her abundantly also, as I already know and trust that God honors her care of you.

    I learned soon after leaving my group that the best thing you can do is read as much as you can about spiritual abuse and cult recovery. Email me if I can be of any assistance (click on my name) or recommend some resources.

    I’m so happy that you are away from Doug’s really terrible system and I KNOW that, with a lot of work and healing, you will be more blessed by God and intimate with Him than you ever were before all this happened. I can tell you that because I’ve been there. I rejoice for you (even if you aren’t in a place where you can’t do it for yourself…..yet).

    God richly bless you as He restores all that you lost and gives you a rich, new life in Him. Your experience is powerful, and God will use all of this in a powerful way. Your future is bright and hopeful.

  11. m*** Says:

    Thank you for your quick response! I am eager for the truth to be known as well and really really appreciate your prayers for me! I have heard many of those rumors about me and my husband and have been appalled and hurt. We love the Lord, are striving to live a life that pleases Him, and are attempting to raise our 5 month old daughter to know Him as the loving, gracious Father He is. Please feel free to email me personally anytime as I would love to fill you in on the real story of my life. Maybe if I wrote it out in one big email, it would be easier for me to say all I would want to say, then you could pray about whether you’d want me to post it. I will be praying about it as well. In the meantime I want to browse your blog and catch up on whats happening out there. Blessings!

  12. m*** Says:

    Thank you CK! I will definitely check out your link too. After my shunning, I wanted as far away as possible from all this mess…but now am encouraged to know that there are people out there like you and the Epsteins whose eyes are no longer blinded.

  13. Corriejo Says:


    “My father has NOTHING to do with me or many of my siblings because of that man and his twisted teachings. We have been cut off to the point that we were even forbidden to see our sister before she died, when all we wanted was to say that we loved her.”

    I am just sick after reading this. What kind of father has nothing to do with his own children? You must have done something really, really bad? But, the truth of it is, you most likely didn’t.

    Who prevents their own child from seeing their own sibling before that sibling dies?

    I am wracking my brain trying to find an explanation for this but I cannot find one.

    You are obviously not a serial killer or you would be in jail.

    May God bless you and your baby daughter and all that are dear to you. I am so sorry for the pain you have had to walk through.

  14. Corriejo Says:


    Where is your mother in all of this? Does she agree with your father? Is she supportive of this treatment of you and your other shunned siblings?

  15. m*** Says:

    Thank you C for your kindness. I am actually in the process of writing my entire story out for Jen via email. I think it would make more sense to you if you read it as a whole. It may take me a couple days! After that, we will probably post it for all to read. I just want to be careful and prayerful about what I write. Mom is hurting thru all this (according to a source close to them) but doing what she believes is right and standing by her man. Please pray for them! I know they are in fact all hurting from the loss of my sister and more.

  16. Corriejo Says:

    “God also knows just what to do to protect the thousands of families across America. He doesn’t need your help!!!!! ”


    I take it you are not a reconstructionist or a theonimist and that you are against the war in Iraq among other measures put into place since 9-11 to protect the citizens of this country?

    God doesn’t need our help. We should just fast and pray. No involvement in government necessary. God doesn’t need us to protect all the unborn babies. He doesn’t need our help.

    I understand what you are saying but if you are to be consistent, God doesn’t need Vision Forum’s help, either. They should close the doors and stop trying to reform society. God doesn’t need VF’s help. If He wants VF’s brand of patriarchy to be *the way*, then He can do it all on His own. VF needs only to pray and fast.

    I sure hope if I fell into error and I was blind to danger, people would not take this fatalistic approach when it came to warning me.

    It may not be how you or I would handle it but I don’t know if we are the measuring stick?

  17. Cindy Kunsman Says:


    I look forward to hearing from you. If you ever want to get your story (or even just small annonymous elements of it) out there, let me know. I would be proud to post anything you want on my site.

    I realized today that we are working now to help all the others trapped in and suffering in patriarchy in the future. Someone has to experience problems and then talk about them, then write about them. We are among the first wave of people who recognize specific problems with Doug. If you look on cult sites like the Watchman Fellowship or the apologetics index, Doug and Lindvall aren’t on there….yet. But they will be, if only under the topic of Doug’s version of “patriarchy.”

    I look forward to hearing from you. Please consider documenting your story for the benefit of others who haven’t yet exited or for those who are too shamed to talk about their experiences with Doug. Because of the shame, embarassment and risk of gossip/touching God’s anointed, few people speak up about these types of problems in churches. You and Jen are just the tip of an iceberg.

    Hang in there. You are going to have a really wonderful life!

  18. Micah Gelatt Says:

    I have posted to other threads, so some may recognize me. 🙂

    I have a simple question, and perhaps could use some enlightenment. I ask this without meaning to belittle anyone, so don’t get your spiritual undies wadded up, please. 🙂

    I grew up in a very grace-based church and home, yet knew several people that attended legalistic churches. One thing I could never understand – How do people not only get sucked in to these churches with false teachings, but why on earth do they stay? How do people, in general (no on specific here) get so enamored by a human individual, and lose sight of the Word, and, as Francis Schaeffer put it…”true truth.”

    Enlighten me as to how this works, because I have never experienced it. I have only seen legalism from an outside perspective. 🙂

  19. Corriejo Says:

    Dear M,

    I will be praying for you and your whole family. I can only imagine what it must be like losing a child like this! I am sure it was devastating to your whole family.

    I am also praying that restoration can take place.

    I have a son who is almost 22 and I have 9 more children after him and I can’t imagine ANYTHING that would keep me from them. Even if they were in jail, I would go to them and love them. It sounds like you are walking with the Lord and attending church. What more could a parent want for their child!!!!

    I am just happy that my son goes to church and that he still walks with the Lord. I could care less if his walk looks just like mine and he carries on my “vision”. What matters is the Lord and how He is leading him. I don’t agree with everything he does or every decision he makes but I support him and I am proud of him. Heck. He probably doesn’t agree with every thing I do and every decision I make. 🙂 But, he still puts up with me.

    My heart just breaks for ALL involved. For your mom and dad and siblings….everyone!

  20. Micah Gelatt Says:

    I accidentally posted the same thing twice. I am an idiot. I admit it!

  21. Corriejo Says:


    You are NOT an idiot!

    “I have a simple question, and perhaps could use some enlightenment. I ask this without meaning to belittle anyone, so don’t get your spiritual undies wadded up, please. ”

    How dare you!!! [pick, pick]

    Good question!

    They get sucked in because they want to belong and be part of something that is special and to be closer to God and to obey Him.

    They stay because they see what happens to others who leave and if they leave they will lose everything. Many times it is a lot easier to stay and put up with things and pretend than it is to leave and lose the familiar. Some people find it very hard to pretend for very long and they need to be true to themselves and even the peer pressure can’t keep them from standing up and leaving. These are the “rebels”. Then there are those who try and solve problems by going to the leadership and they are the “divisive”.

  22. Sarah Says:

    “I am just sick after reading this. What kind of father has nothing to do with his own children? You must have done something really, really bad? But, the truth of it is, you most likely didn’t.”

    M’s story is not isolated. The hyper-patriarchy movement destroys families and churches.

    I have a friend with a similar story. His parents’ bizarre treatment of him (terrible sin: not allowing his parents to arrange a marriage for him – when he was 24 and had lived on his own & paid his own bills since age 18) caused a church split. To this day, they rarely, if ever speak to him or his wife. He is essentially disowned.

    M, I am so sorry to hear the pain you have suffered. It is amazing that you are doing as well as you seem to be. God bless you.

  23. Alisa Says:

    “You and Jen are just the tip of an iceberg.”

    Unfortunately, it’s all too true. The stories really are endless.

    M, I applaud you for your courage and honesty. You are definately not alone. There are too many God-loving young people who are living fruitful lives while their parents refuse to acknowledge them.

  24. Alisa Says:

    “They get sucked in because they want to belong and be part of something that is special and to be closer to God and to obey Him.”

    Corriejo, well said!!

  25. Micah Gelatt Says:


    Thanks, Corrie.

    That explains some of the puzzle. What about those that truly believe the spiritual excrement being shoveled? How do they get so duped in a church of all places?

    Ear tickling, perhaps? Or, because this false doctrine makes them feel empowered? I guess I truly don’t understand that element – the many men and women who truly believe what they are shoveling and/or being shoveled…..

    “if the shoe smells, don’t step in it”

    (Corrie, it is nice to see another night owl…of, course my 3 pots of coffee and 4 packages of chocolate covered coffee beans is not helping……) 🙂


  26. Micah Gelatt Says:

    again, I think I just posted the same thing twice…

    yep…definitely a moron.

  27. CynthiaGee Says:

    I’m going to have a nice cup of coffee and go to BED… good night!

  28. Alisa Says:

    “Ear tickling, perhaps? Or, because this false doctrine makes them feel empowered? I guess I truly don’t understand that element – the many men and women who truly believe what they are shoveling and/or being shoveled…..”

    Micah, yes, the ear tickling first starts when they are flattered and affirmed that all the other tough, lone ranger, “counter-culture” are declared to be the “only” biblical choice. They’ve done everything right! They’re in the “in” crowd! “Hooray, for once I fit in!” So it starts that way.

    Then the slick “catch the vision” campaign comes into play. “You are already so close to looking like the family on our catalog, you just need these finishing touches”.

    By now, they’re hooked. Almost doesn’t matter what’s shoveled, apparently. But it keeps getting better, because now, dad doesn’t have to worry about making the “right” decision, or taking his leadership before God. He automatically is right, isn’t even capable of being wrong, since he is God’s appointed ambassador! He IS God to his family! Talk about being empowered. Any insecurity lurking deep inside every mortal man can be put to rest, if you just accept your “role”.

    But, I think Corriejo said it a lot better, and with a lot fewer words. =o)

  29. Alisa Says:

    By “other tough, lone ranger, “counter-culture”” decisions, I mean homeschooling, having a quiverfull family, not letting your daughters go to college but giving them the privilege of helping to support the large family and learning how to care for them, practicing courtship. Etc.

  30. LAS Says:

    “How do people not only get sucked in to these churches with false teachings, but why on earth do they stay?”

    Some of us were raised that way and didn’t know any better. And then continued because we wanted to be godly and have successful godly families and children, mistakenly thinking that that was the way.

  31. Jen Says:

    Micah, you asked a great question about why people get sucked into all of this. It is very interesting to read the answers here. I’m guessing there must be different reasons. I am working on an article now that addresses these issues. Now I’m motivated to finish it!

  32. Mark Epstein Says:


    I want to assure you my wife is not exaggerating when she says she has prayed for you everyday; she has been doing so for years during our corporate prayer time at night. Therefore, you have no idea how much joy fills my heart to know that you are not only walking with the Lord, but apparently have a very godly home life and loving husband, extended family, and church. To God be the glory!

    I do not know what you’ve heard about your sister’s funeral, but we attended it even though we were excommunicated. It was a lovely service – at church and graveside. Perhaps the following anecdote will give you some hope that you will one day be reconciled to your parents: After the church service, your father publicly hugged me, and your mother hugged Jennifer in front of Beall and the Phillips children at graveside. Your parents knew we were excommunicated but they chose to love us anyway. I know that it is often times far more difficult to extend grace to members of one’s immediate family, but please don’t despair. God is bigger than all of us and all of these tough situations, and you have already found a group of women that will love you publicly and privately.

    May the Lord pour forth His blessings upon you, your husband, and your new daughter.

  33. Spunky Says:

    Be careful in assuming that only hyper-legalistic churches have false teaching. I have seen a lot of hyper-grace based churches move into error as well. The consequences of their error may not look like those of the other, but the results are no less painful to those involved.

    I would strongly recommend The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn as a helpful explanation of why either extreme is out of balance from the “true Truth.”

    The world must see both grace and Truth. In that we are the become more like our Lord Jesus Christ, who embodied both grace and Truth.

    Why do people gravitate towards legalistic churches?

    For the same reasons people gravitate toward hyper-grace based churches. They select the church that fits their lifestyle and choices at the given time in their life. The desire is the same, we just make vastly different choices in how we fulfill that desire.

    Asking why some gravitate toward legalistic churches is like asking why some people pick bacon over sausage?

    Both are hungry, and both products have similar nutrients that will satisfy that hunger, but each has a different structure and flavor that makes one more appealing than the other. So it is with hyper-grace and hyper-truth churches.

    “Why do some choose hyper-grace churches?” is an equally valid question that should be considered.

    It is easy to rebound from a church at one extreme to one in the extreme opposite direction. At first it seems so refreshing, but in the end a hyper-grace church deceives people into believing no life changes are necessary to follow Christ. But we know that’s not True. We know that in Christ, the old man has died and we are to put away our sinful desires. But if we are not reminded of this Truth, we are at risk of cheapening the very work of Christ on the cross. Faith without the accompanying works is dead. A similar case could be made in the opposite direction.

    May we all seek Jesus, and allow for a church that has room for both Grace and Truth in the same sanctuary. For it is in grace and Truth that we find Christ who was able to dwell with the sinner and lead him to Himself, without compromising the Truth of who He was.

    John 1:14

    And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

  34. Micah Gelatt Says:

    Spunky says,

    Be careful in assuming that only hyper-legalistic churches have false teaching. I have seen a lot of hyper-grace based churches move into error as well.”

    I never ASSUME anything, but this forum is about hyper-legalistic churches or movements, so the question should thusly be about that – and not hyper-grace based churches. I agree there is a problem going to either extreme, but my question is concerning legalistic churches.

  35. Micah Gelatt Says:

    I recommend The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaeffer, which, IMHO, a better treatment than Alcorn’s book. 🙂

  36. David M Zuniga Says:


    D’accord; it’s not only ‘Patriarch’ churches that ruin families; that crush and twist lives!

    I was a Roman Catholic until age 18, and I could write a book about the twisted, crushed lives of Roman Catholics.

    I was a Pentecostal for almost six years, and the ravages of that religious system could fill another book, if I had the time and you had the patience.

    I was a Baptiat for over ten years, and the same thing holds true there.

    The mystery of iniquity cannot be “solved”, except by the healing power of the Holy Spirit — grace, through faith. And that not of ourselves, lest we should boast.

    Christ. Only gain Christ, and you have Truth; and the Truth will make you free.

    Praise God.

  37. Spunky Says:

    Thanks Micah,

    I think that hyper-grace churches are no less “legalistic” than hyper-patriarchal churches. They cling to the notion that their doctrine is the ONLY way to go about things, and reject any sort of questioning of their beliefs. It is interesting in hyper-grace churches there is no grace for those who question their truth. I have asked “grace”based pastor what he believed one must do to be saved and he wouldn’t even give me a straight answer. In the church, they wouldn’t even announce a salvation of a new congregant. When I asked him why he refused to let the new congregant share their testimony, he became agitated and said that he didn’t want to upset those that don’t look at salvation as a decision to follow Jesus Christ. Yet this man professes himself that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to salvation he would not preach that Truth for fear of offending someone who believed diffently. And I was looked at as “legalistic” for thinking that we ought to tell them that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Yet, his idea that there isn’t just one way to besaved is seen as “grace-based” and void of legalism. Not so. His legalism just manifested itself in a different way. And this is a failry large “Christian” church in our major metro area.

    So examing hyper-legalism should include those that are heretical in either extreme.

  38. Corrie Says:

    “(Corrie, it is nice to see another night owl…of, course my 3 pots of coffee and 4 packages of chocolate covered coffee beans is not helping……) ”

    LOL!! Yes, I am a night owl. 🙂

    My vice is Diet Coke. Can’t drink coffee, it upsets my stomach.

    “Ear tickling, perhaps? Or, because this false doctrine makes them feel empowered? I guess I truly don’t understand that element – the many men and women who truly believe what they are shoveling and/or being shoveled…..”

    I think it is both but different reasons in different religious systems. Ear tickling maybe comes into play in the seeker-sensitive movements? Whereas empowerement comes into play in they hyper-patriarchal systems.

    Both systems make the person the center instead of God. Who wouldn’t want to be part of something where you get to call the shots, you are your own boss and you don’t have to account to anyone. The only difference between the two extremes is that the hyper-patriarchal system, where man is the center of his own personal universe and not accountable to anyone expects everyone to be accountable to him.

    I truly believe that if we take our eyes off of Christ and Him crucified, we will quickly find ourselves drifting off into a self-serving sort of doctrine where we are on the throne.

    If we are putting him first, there is no room for striving to be first or doing church our way because it is all about Him.

    Micah, thanks for starting this conversation. I think it is really helpful to examine the reasons behind.

    I joined ATI because I wanted to belong. I heard the promises that my family would be successful and that this is the way to obey God and that it was the “Cadillac” of home education, and I did it because I truly wanted to please God.

    The truth is that I was much more in line with the word of God BEFORE I joined because my mind, heart and thoughts were stayed on Him. After I joined, my mind, thought and heart was stayed on formulas, methods, and what I DO and not what I am because of Christ.

    I also enjoyed your thoughts on headship/submission. I am still on the “complementarian” side and I think your views come much closer to what God intended for marriage.

  39. Cindy Kunsman Says:

    About WHY we get caught up in SPIRITUAL ABUSE:

    If you go to, drop down to “Deception, Dependency and Dread”, to start with. When you walk in the door, they keep their weird doctrines out of view. These groups also cycle from very controlling to laid back and recruitment often cycles based on the degree of control used at the time. “Love bombing” plays into things also, which falls under the thought reform technique of “milieu control” as defined by Robert Lifton. (See my website for more, also). People are especially vulnerable to the love bombing following a major life event, especially a traumatic one. A good samaritan can seem saint-like, for example (especially if you’ve been beat up in another church). All unresolved pschological trauma plays a significant role in recruitment into a cultic system.

    As I’ve said in this forum before, there is also a very subtle and gradual process (through communication from the pulpit and through socialization) of dulling of critical thought that takes place. Serpents avoid direct contact, keep their tactics hidden and they slither in cracks in the foundation rather by pounding down your front door. Subtle language changes or buzz terms change thought, just like Satan did in the garden (“Thou shalt not SURELY die…”). All he can really do is twist language and distort, so these tactics essentially remain unaltered since the beginning. They use pharasaical word games to create DEPENDENCY.

    DREAD kicks in then after the group begins to play on your fears from a position of influence in your mind and esteem of them. We all have sinned, and that existential guilt is essentially accessed and manipulated. As Christians, we want to honor God with pure hearts and clean hands, and this desire is exploited and used against us. We have all sinned and still sin as a function of being in our flesh, so we are all vulnerable to this. (To deny that we are puts us at even greater risk, but realizing and admitting the possibility gives us the benefits of wisdom.)

    Also, groups make it (however subtly) very difficult to leave (Zimbardo talks about this). Our human tendency to be consistent keeps us there, compounded by what Johnson and VanVonderan call “sweat equity.” (You’ve invested financially and contributed to the life and activities of the church, you make friendships that you risk losing if you leave.) Then you get the whole schpiel about how leaving will render you reprobate and essentially apostate, although this is a distortion that comes along with the influence that the thought reform has predisposed you to believe. Even if the group doesn’t promote the idea of the loss of your Christianity, it usually suggests that things will never be as good for you elsewhere.

    It is good to note, specifically from the literature on cults, that it is our human tendency to want to solve our problems of the past. Robert Lifton states that unresolved and lingering conflicts from our earlier development (especially in our family of origin) is perhaps the most significant predictor of cult suseptibility. A restating of what LAS wrote above can be Lalich’s concept of “bounded choice.” Like the story about the elephant tied to a stake all its life, when that rope breaks, because he’s never ventured out beyond the boundary set by the rope, he can’t even conceive of the possiblity. This is true for many, especially those with a poor standard of comparison and why people “cult hop.”

  40. Cindy Kunsman Says:

    NOTE TO m**** and others:

    When I offered to use my site as a forum to post people’s stories, I did not mean to say that I would post anything without the full consent, collaboration and corroboration of that person.

    I’m totally new to this blogging and website stuff, and I’ve realized that many people copy and paste text and stories from one site onto another. In the two weeks that I’ve had a website, some of my content has been copied and displayed already. I’ve copied some posts here for my personal benefit and reference, but to copy them for the sake of posting them (making them easier to access) is a different matter. I resolve not to do that without consent. I’ve been so riddled and ridden with fear resulting directly from fear in my own experience, I know personally what that’s like. I wont do that to anyone.

    Please feel welcome to contact me via my site, but know that I wont divulge anythign without consent.

  41. Cindy Kunsman Says:

    I wanted to post this above, and didn’t, in my mini-tome:

    About liberty and legalism…

    I spoke to my best friend in Maryland yesterday and I told her about this forum. We talked also about how Gothardism and the legal-like preach salvation as if it were a one-time deal. The word used most frequently in the NT has a tense in the Greek that means was saved, currently being saved and will be saved all rolled up into one word: aorist tense. We don’t buy hell insurance and then open a new account with God so that we can earn merit by our works (not negating the importance of works, however and the resultant “dead faith” without them). We are being saved at all times and on many levels. We have been taught (however sublty) that salvation pertains only to our eternal fate and ownership of self. The text doesn’t limit the application. Life in the spirit is beyond our ability to even comprehend, per Paul to the Corinthians.

    In discussion of the subject of legalism and shame in the group where we met and endured for a time, my friend and I pondered the same questions about why we ever bought into the mess. I mentioned all the work and effort that the leadership puts into enforcing and policing policy and doctrine as just strange and needless. She added that “once you see shame for what it is and you know what it’s like to be free from it, YOU NEVER WANT TO PUT IT ON ANYONE.” You want others to be free.

    It proves a point. The legalist and the very controlling legalist with the motive of paternalistic protection of we poor, unenlightened dregs must not have experienced liberty and freedom themselves. Or they forgot. God sets us free and gives us liberty, and we just say, “Okay, God. I’ll take it from here.” We cant even comprehend our own hubris, and jump back into what we know best: earning merit, earning grace, earning honor. As Veinot says in his new article, it comes from the top down in abusive churches. God designed true freedom and liberty to come from the bottom of who we are to spring up like a fountain and rise.

  42. Micah Gelatt Says:

    Very helpful stuff, indeed. Let me clarify. When I say I am from a “grace-based” church I am referring specifically to a doctrinally sound, independent bible church with no room for ear ticklers. (we have a special room for them whereby we hit them on the ear repeatedly to remove any notion of being tickled…just kidding!) I wanted to clarify so that no one could lump me in with any spiritual weirdness. It’s not like our church engages in blood-letting or anything. Well, at least not every week. 🙂

    For those that have been caught up in hyper-legalistic churches, I appreciate your candor and answers. Growing up, I had many friends in neighboring fundamental Baptist churches with some rather strange legalistic tendencies (fundamental = short on FUN, really DUMB, and plenty of MENTAL).
    I always thought it so strange that they were so focused and concerned on “looking” like some Leave-it-to-Beaver Christian with a perfect nuclear family, happy kids that always say things like “golly gee-willickers”, and all of the rest of the stereotypes that go with it. Yet, I was taught that Christ was radically counter-cultural, preaching NOT a message of conformity (which tends to dominate legalistic settings) but a message of “swimming against the flow”, to use a worn-out euphemism.
    Also, I was always taught to filter EVERYTHING against the Word. Then after going to the best Christian college in the world – Bryan College in Dayton, TN – it just reinforced my worldview. So, I was just curious, having never been caught up in it myself, what is all involved in that process. Kudos and thanks to those who answered, and have been there.

    By the way, the Sunday School (yes, we are a church who has Sunday School – the horror!) class I taught this morning was about having the zeal and passion of Elijah and John the Baptist. I am fired up now. WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    Sorry 🙂

  43. Corrie Says:

    “By the way, the Sunday School (yes, we are a church who has Sunday School – the horror!) class I taught this morning was about having the zeal and passion of Elijah and John the Baptist. I am fired up now. WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”


    Just don’t lose your head over it. 😉

    The sermon that we heard this morning was on Manasseh. It was VERY good.

  44. CynthiaGee Says:

    In the Anglican churches, we get a triple dose: an Old Testament reading, an Epistle, a Gospel reading, and a sermon that might be about any of the above, or even all three. Today we heard about Elijah and the “still small voice” (which was really strange because I had just used some of that story in a discussion going on on another list), Galatians 3:23-29 (…. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus), and the Gospel where Christ healed the demoniac/crazy man, which dovetails nicely with the recent discussion here about NPD.

  45. DesiringToDiscern Says:

    Since when did Little Bear Wheeler leave his church, business (Mantle Ministries) and tours ? 😦 As per FB Former Elder – Teaching Pastor at Living Water Fellowship/Landmarks of the Faith Tours/Mantle Ministries
    2003 to 2013

    • Jen Says:

      DesiringToDiscern, Little Bear and Doug Phillips had a rift in their relationship, but Little Bear has his own church and his own business. However, at the time, many years ago, Doug Phillips was promoting Little Bear’s business through Vision Forum. It was very sad to see the rift.

      • DesiringToDiscern Says:

        But Little Bear recently left his own church and business according to his FB ???? Retiring? from ALL of it ?

        • Jen Says:

          DesiringToDiscern, I do not see that on his public Facebook (we are not FB friends), but I just went to church there (for a memorial service) last Sunday and I did not get that impression at all. In fact, they are planting a new church in Colorado, so it seems that he is expanding. If there is something else, please copy and paste it here.

  46. DesiringToDiscern Says:

    Can you see his ABOUT? on FB Probably just a mistake 🙂

  47. Sandra Clark Says:

    My only interaction with Beall and Doug Phillips was in 2002, I think it was, when I spoke with them at a homeschool conference held at Promiseland Church in Austin Texas. I had just gotten divorced and was asking their views on divorce. They both clearly communicated to me that once you are divorced, you may never remarry. I recall them being very harsh and not compassionate at all. Now that the ugly truth of Doug’s extramarital sins are out in the open, I wonder if they both feel the same about remarriage. I am very sorry for his wife and children.

    Regarding Richard Little Bear, I used many of his Cassettes and VHS tapes and books while homeschooling my children, and very much enjoyed seeing him in person at a small church in Illinois just over the river from our home in St. Louis sometime around 1998. I was struck from the first moment I saw him in person that he was “on fire” for the LORD. I met him again after I was divorced and no longer able to homeschool; this was at this church in Bulverde, TX, around 2008 I believe. He and his wife and the whole church group there were very welcoming, and compassionate and non-judgmental.

    God bless LIttle Bear and his family and their ministries~

    Sandra Clark Moser Clark

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