The Heavy Burden of Doug Phillips’ Legalism Leads to His Resignation From Vision Forum

When I first told my story about Doug Phillips, nearly seven years ago now, it caused a bit of a stir.  At the time, I felt like I had done nothing worthy of excommunication, I had exhausted all efforts to reconcile with both Doug Phillips and BCA, the church I was excommunicated from, and I had forgiven everyone in my heart of hearts.  The reason I went public with my story was because Doug Phillips was a very public leader in the homeschooling movement and was primarily responsible for the patriarchy movement.  This was not just a personal issue between Doug Phillips and me, this was a case of a very public leader who preached “Family First” everywhere he went, yet he totally destroyed and devastated my family.  I felt it was important to warn others that their number one leader in the movement was not really about putting family first (after God, of course).

Doug 4I was surprised, I suppose naively so, to begin to hear privately from person after person after person who told me stories of abuse by Doug Phillips and how he had threatened to harm their families, their career, and their church life if they did not keep quiet about what had taken place.  Any anecdote or story told within those circles was immediately put into the “gossip” category and was severely dealt with.  Legal means were often employed to keep people quiet.  I heard many stories of men “dressed in black,” carrying pieces (or so I was told), who used mafia-like techniques to make sure any and all stories involving Doug Phillips in any way other than idolizing him were decidedly dealt with, quickly and severely.

And so, when I was threatened with the same types of actions, as I realized how many people cowered in fear for their lives and their families’ lives, I stood up against such tyranny and abuse and fought for freedom from ecclesiastical terror.  Doug Phillips and his cohorts put up multiple websites about me, dedicated solely to attacking my family and me.  Many were outright lies; some were twisted truths, while others were simply about airing my personal “sins” for the whole world to see.  While that was not enough to stop me from telling my story about Doug Phillips truthfully and respectfully, it was enough to stop nearly everyone else from considering telling their stories publicly as well.  As I promised them all so many years ago, I will keep their secrets secret, but it was just all the more reason for me to proclaim to the world that Doug Phillips does not practice what he preaches.  And there is a time and a place to warn people against impending danger.

Statistics say that for every one person who writes a letter to the editor, or for every one person who writes a letter to a corporation, there are probably one hundred other people who feel the same way.  So, if a corporation gets one letter complaining about the taste of their peanut butter, for example, they may just blow it off and send them a voucher for a new jar of peanut butter.  But if they receive ten such letters in a short period of time, the peanut butter manufacturer will not think that ten people are complaining about their precious commodity, but rather that those ten are representative of one hundred people each, so that would be the equivalent of one thousand people probably feeling that same way.

I found those statistics to hold true for my blog.  For every one hundred readers, I had one comment, almost exactly.  It was eerily accurate.  But those were just the public comments.  I also received many, many private emails, especially that first year when I told my story.  In the first year my blog was up, I had over one million readers.  I also received approximately one thousand emails from people who were involved in patriarchy who had decided to leave the legalism and judgmentalism of patriarchy because of my blog.  If statistics hold true, and I do believe they do, that equates to about 100,000 families who decided to leave patriarchy because I told my story about the ecclesiastical abuse and tyranny of Doug Phillips.

If I could go back in history and be anyone I wanted to be, I have often dreamed of being Susan B. Anthony, because she freed women from the prisons of their lives then.  While it cost me nearly everything I had and nearly every friend in life, I believe God used me to be a modern-day Susan B. Anthony of sorts, leading women and their families out of the legalism and bondage of patriarchy.  And that made it all worth it.

Let me be clear that I am still strongly in favor of homeschooling.  I think that for a mother to be able to stay at home and raise her children and homeschool them is the best of all worlds for a child.  I believe that children should have two parents at home, that an intact family is a strong and healthy family.  I believe that husbands should love and cherish their wives, and wives should love and respect their husbands.  I believe that many, many of the things Doug Phillips taught in the patriarchy movement are good, valuable, honorable, necessary aspects of a strong family.

But it doesn’t come through legalism.  We don’t need a long list of rules to tell us how to love.  Doug Phillips wrote up several lists of “beliefs” that patriarchal families were to hold to, with each one being more and more restrictive.  Doug Phillips also insisted that the Law of Moses applied to us today.  I wish I could share with him the truth that Jesus came to free us from that bondage!

Love.  Or rules.

Which one binds us together?  Which one holds the family together?  Which one holds the church together?  Which one is written on our hearts now?

Early in my marriage, I committed adultery.  I repented from that many years ago, but what keeps me from committing adultery again?  Love?  Or rules?  Which is a stronger bond?

When we live our life by rules, which are just another form of legalism, we will stumble and fall.  We can’t help ourselves.  However, when we live our lives by LOVE, it is a whole different story.  Today, I don’t need a rule to tell me not to commit adultery.  Love for others keeps me from even thinking in that direction.  But even if I were to commit adultery again, love would bring me to repentance, not rules.

I still do not know why my adultery of 25 years ago was brought up in the excommunication, and why Doug Phillips found it necessary to tell the whole world about something I long ago repented from, but the Bible has a verse that seems rather appropriate to all this today:

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7)

Today, Doug Phillips announced his resignation from Vision Forum, a ministry and business that is the culmination of his life’s work, his passion and love that he has given himself fully to for the last twenty years or so.  I do not rejoice in this announcement, as I realize how devastating this must be for Doug Phillips and his family, but I cannot help but think that today, Doug Phillips is reaping what he has sown.

Here is his announcement:

Statement of Resignation

Doug 1by Douglas Phillips, Esq., October 30, 2013

With thanksgiving to God for His mercy and love, I have stepped down from the office of president at Vision Forum Ministries and have discontinued my speaking responsibilities.

There has been serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance. I have confessed my sin to my wife and family, my local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries.  I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not “know” each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.

There are no words to describe the magnitude of shame I feel, or grief from the injury I caused my beloved bride and children, both of whom have responded to my repentance with what seems a supernatural love and forgiveness. I thought too highly of myself and behaved without proper accountability. I have acted grievously before the Lord, in a destructive manner hypocritical of life messages I hold dear, inappropriate for a leader, abusive of the trust that I was given, and hurtful to family and friends. My church leadership came alongside me with love and admonition, providing counsel, strong direction and accountability. Where I have directly wronged others, I confessed and repented. I am still in the process of trying to seek reconciliation privately with people I have injured, and to be aware of ways in which my own selfishness has hurt family and friends. I am most sensitive to the fact that my actions have dishonored the living God and been shameful to the name of Jesus Christ, my only hope and Savior.

This is a time when my repentance needs to be proven, and I need to lead a quiet life focusing on my family and serving as a foot soldier, not a ministry leader. Though I am broken over my failures, I am grateful to be able to spend more time with my family, nurturing my wife and children and preparing my older sons and daughters for life. So, for these reasons I want to let my friends know that I have stepped down as a board member and as president of Vision Forum Ministries. The Board will be making provision for the management of the ministry during this time. To the friends of this ministry, I ask for your forgiveness, and hope that you will pray for the Phillips family at this time, and for the men who will be responsible for shepherding the work of Vision Forum Ministries in the future.

Doug Phillips

This is the difference between a life of love versus a life of legalism.  The rules were too heavy, too burdensome for him to bear.  No one could continue under all those rules and experience the abundant life God has for us.  This is very sad.

I pray that Doug Phillips will use this time to do some serious soul searching, not just in this one area, but in the burdens of life that he has put upon himself and his family and thousands of other families who have looked up to him for so many years.  Now is the time to reevaluate rules in favor of love.

Beall, I love you.  My heart hurts for you.

Someday, I hope to hear Doug Phillips preaching that not only does love cover a multitude of sins but that life is all about love.  Period.

Doug Phillips’ Fear Propaganda at the Ballot Box

Although the stated reasons for my excommunication were quite vague and broad-brushed, with no evidence given whatsoever, I believe the main underlying reason why Doug Phillips excommunicated me really had to do with politics. Well, that was the outward circumstance for an inward attitude. Four years ago, as we prepared for the presidential election, Doug Phillips took a very strong stand on why Christians should vote for Michael Peroutka, a virtually unknown candidate for the Constitution Party, the party of Doug’s father, Howard Phillips. For weeks and weeks before the election, we heard political propaganda pounded into us from the pulpit and through the discussion time of the men after the weekly sermon.

Now, I have nothing personally against Peroutka, and he may have been a very fine candidate, but there were many reasons why I was not going to vote for him. And since we live in a free country, and since Jesus bought our spiritual freedom as well, I certainly thought I had the freedom to vote for any presidential candidate I thought best. Little did I know at the time that by reason of my being born female, I was not to be afforded the privilege of freely choosing whom I wanted to vote for.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect on everything, it seems that one way that Doug Phillips can promote his political agenda is to keep women from participating, not only by stating that it is a sin for women to be in politics, but also that God does not allow women to vote. In Doug’s world, women are not allowed a college education where they might be exposed to political issues. In Doug’s brand of hyper-patriarchy, women are not allowed to have an opinion or a belief that is not their husband’s as well. When it comes to politics, that is a subject that is verboten to women and should only interest men.

A quick review of the last election run-in with Doug Phillips

Although Doug Phillips does not normally allow comments on his blog (which should be a huge red flag already — no dissent allowed), on this one particular occasion, he did actually solicit his readers’ opinions to a voting scenario he laid out between candidates A and B. Having previously spoken with one of the Vision Forum employees about my concerns regarding Doug’s views on politics, this particular employee had encouraged me to write Doug and express my own thoughts on the matter. I did not feel at liberty to do so at the time, but when this blog article came out just a few days before the election, I immediately jumped at the chance to participate. Of immense interest to me was a voting debate hosted by Doug Phillips and posted at the same time. I chose to respond to both.

Could I have responded any better? Of course! First, emotions were running high on both sides. Second, this was my very first attempt at taking a side on any issue, so I was not versed at all in the skill of debate. Third, as I look back at where I was spiritually then, I wince when I read that I wrote things like “Shame on you” to my elder. Although I meant it lightheartedly, it was not appropriate to say, and I was wrong for saying that. But was I wrong for writing it in the first place? Was I wrong for having an opinion? Was I wrong for voicing my opinion? No.

But I wrote my response and sent it off with my husband’s full blessing to Doug’s private email address so that no one else need know about it. Why did my response that Friday generate such a riposte then in return on Sunday? When Doug arrived at church that Sunday, shortly after the service had already started, I asked to speak to him outside. Very reluctantly, he agreed. As I apologized for gossiping about him a couple weeks earlier, I asked if he would forgive me. Rather than doing so, he qualified his forgiveness by asking if I would also apologize for writing him the voting letter. I did not see that I had sinned in doing so, and said as much. Refusing to forgive me for gossiping then, Doug threatened me instead, “You’re going to pay for this!” I had no idea at the time that this was a threat of excommunication. As I found out later, though, my sin was not in writing and sending the email, but in being a woman. I was told that the letter would have been fine if Mark was the one who had written it, even though his name was included and it was sent with his full blessing.

Much to my surprise, Doug then went inside to preach, but it was not the next chapter in I Kings this week. No, he pulled out my letter and began to read from it. As he would read each point, he would preach against it, point by point. He did not say my name, but I found it quite comical to see him so incensed by my letter that he chose to preach against it two days before the election. That was my first indication that BCA was no longer a church, but a cult.

Doug Phillips’ “Biblical” Principles of the Ballot Box

Super Tuesday is almost upon us now and Doug Phillips has released a new CD called “Biblical Principles of the Ballot Box,” available for a donation of any amount. I have not listened to it, but I do wonder if it is that sermon where he preached against my letter, point by point. Whatever it is, I am quite confident that I know the basics of what it contains. There is one thing I have noticed about Doug Phillips over the years: his positions do not change at all, but they do grow more and more extreme. So, I will relay his position according to the last election four years ago, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more extremes as we continue building up to the elections this November.

Is Doug still upset about my voting letter? In his blog entry last Monday, January 28th, he talked about Christians who are “fearful” of voting according to the Bible. Look at some of the hyperbole he uses in that article:

At stake is far more than the presidency. We can “win” an election, and yet sell our spiritual birthright.

As I have gotten into the habit of highlighting unnecessary language in Doug’s writings, it has become clear that much of his “vision” is fear-driven propaganda. Let’s strip away the rhetoric and see what he is telling us. First, if we don’t vote for the “biblical” candidate, we are like Esau, selling our “spiritual” birthright. And that is more important than the election itself. Wow. I don’t remember Esau selling his birthright for a vote for the wrong presidential candidate. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. But it’s kind of scary to think that we might end up like Esau, especially when we think about what God said about him: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I have hated.” Talk about a heavy burden. I thought this was the land of the free. I thought we were free to vote for any presidential candidate. When Jesus said He came to set us free, I wonder if He meant freedom except that He would lay upon us the burden of selling our spiritual birthright if we voted for the wrong candidate for president of the United States of America. That’s a pretty heavy fear tactic.

[W]hat matters the most is that the Church remains faithful to her Bridegroom by following the only infallible standard ever written for the selection of civil magistrates.

I suppose I would have to listen to the CDs to find what these verses are that detail exactly how we should vote in the upcoming elections. I agree that there are certainly principles we can find in Scripture, such as being careful of voting for those who promote murder through abortion, but most of the principles Doug is espousing here are certainly extra-biblical and have little-to-nothing to do with how we are really to vote. Perhaps this is the section where God does not allow women to vote either. However, if we look at Doug’s reasoning here, we will soon be quite fearful that we would be unfaithful to our Bridegroom if we vote for the wrong person. Now our vote is raised to the level of spiritual adultery. The fear level continues to grow.

Some believe that the Bible is silent on the question of what standards should govern the selection of a civil magistrate. But to reach this conclusion is to deny the sufficiency of Scripture, and to substitute autonomous human reason for biblical revelation.

Does the Bible tell us how to vote? Or are we given liberty in this area? Is this an area where God expects us to use wisdom or must we follow the dictates of Doug Phillips in our private voting booth? If I vote for a different candidate than Doug Phillips does, am I denying the sufficiency of Scripture? That sounds as bad as saying that every woman who works outside the home is blaspheming Scripture. That’s pretty serious stuff. Autonomous is a word Doug likes to use in conjunction with antinomianism, so this statement is effectually saying that if you don’t vote for the right “biblical” candidate, you don’t believe the Bible and you are an antinomian. More fear tactics.

Others are so fearful of certain outcomes, that there is little reasoning with them.

But nobody really likes to be called “fearful,” so let’s attack those who use logic and reason to sort through the issues and win them over with lots of honey instead!

They want to condemn their brethren by saying that a vote for X, is really a vote for Y.

Aha! This is taken straight from my letter to Doug! He does remember! In this case, I said that a vote for Peroutka was really a vote for Kerry, in that it took votes away from Bush. When an election is as close as the last presidential election was, if voters who would otherwise have voted for Bush ended up voting for someone who didn’t have a snowball’s-chance-in-hell of winning, that was one less vote for Bush for each person who voted for Peroutka. Simple math shows that taking votes away from Bush increases Kerry’s numbers proportionately. But is it really condemnation to point out the obvious? Or is it just more fear tactics to use a trigger word for Christians like “condemn”?

Their election fears seem sometimes to rise to a self-righteous hysteria, governed more by emotions than objective standards.

Self-righteous hysteria! I can’t say for sure, but if Doug is speaking of me here, my hysteria was rather calm in that I didn’t let anyone else know about it except for Mark and Doug. Of course, telling others that they are reaching the level of being hysterical is certainly going to win them over to your point of view. And then we have emotions versus objective standards. I listed objective standards all throughout my paper in opposition to Doug’s emotional stance for Peroutka. In fact, I don’t believe he liked it when I suggested that perhaps Peroutka supporters were so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good in this election. I had a very difficult time finding any objective standards in Doug’s position. This is just more fear mongering on Doug’s part.

The Bible has the answer to the ethical chaos of fear-driven voting, pragmatic voting, “ends-justifies-the-means” voting, and “lesser-of-two-evils” voting.

Fear, fear, fear.

It explores the blessing presented in Scripture to all who will enter the ballot box with supreme confidence that the Lord sovereignly reigns, that He is more pleased with our obedience than with our rationalistic, extra-biblical voting strategies, and that the greatest hope for America is not found in the outcome of any one election, but in the persevering witness of the Church as God’s representative in America, to uphold his non-negotiable standards and righteousness.

Perhaps Doug Phillips and I will vote for the same candidate this year, but it will be with two very different motivations. I am not driven by fear that I will lose my spiritual birthright if I vote for the wrong candidate. I do not think I will cease to believe in the Bible if I vote for the wrong guy. I won’t get hysterical or self righteous, but I might use a little logic and reasoning and seek to understand the issues.

I don’t think God has promised me any blessings for voting for “God’s” candidate. God is sovereign and He will put the person He wants as president in office, with or without my vote. But Doug does have one statement right here: “He is more pleased with our obedience than with our … extra-biblical voting strategies.” We haven’t looked at any verses in this short article on Doug’s extra-biblical voting strategies, but we will continue to look at his political ideas this year and we will find that they are, indeed, very extra-biblical. Jesus gave us freedom. We live in a free country. Please do not be under the bondage that you must follow Doug’s voting strategies or God will not be pleased with you. You are free to vote for whomever you choose this year.

But in the end, it probably doesn’t really matter what my opinion is on the matter because I am, after all, only a woman, and God doesn’t allow women to vote!

We went to a rally in Victoria, Texas today. We were told that the Constitution guarantees us certain freedoms. It was good to see people enjoying their freedom today.

Bankruptcy Buys Joe Taylor Time

Artifact’s sale may save Crosbyton fossil museum

By Henri Brickey | AVALANCHE-JOURNAL

Friday, January 25, 2008

A week after filing for bankruptcy and selling his prized mastodon skull, the owner of the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum in Crosbyton says he should be able to stay in business.

“We think we’re going to be able to continue business as usual and get this thing straightened out,” Joe Taylor, the museum’s owner, said Thursday.

Two weeks ago, Taylor, 63, was facing the possible closure of his museum due to a legal battle that left him in a financial strait jacket. The sheriff’s department was on the verge of forcing Taylor to sell his museum, which he opened about a decade ago.

Taylor’s only hope was to make enough money by selling his mastodon skull to pay his legal bills and settlement costs.

The mastodon skull, the largest ever found, was sold for $191,200 last week at an auction in Dallas. Of that money, Taylor will get to keep about $128,000 – almost enough to pay the $136,000 he is required to pay in damages stemming from a disagreement with a former colleague over discovery rights to an Allosaurus skeleton.

“This whole thing should have never happened,” Taylor said.

The $128,000 from the sale was enough to call off the sheriff’s sale,

though Taylor still has a few details to work out and still owes the remaining $8,000.

The ordeal began after a landowner outside Dinosaur, Colo., contacted Taylor in 2001 and asked him to oversee a joint dig involving a group of aspiring home-schooled junior archaeologists. The team found the Allosaurus skeleton, but soon afterward a debate began over who should be credited with the discovery of the fossil.

In April 2004, the two sides agreed to a settlement, which ensured Taylor would be paid $124,843 for his share of the Allosaurus, which was sold to a third party for $200,000.

Part of the agreement also stated neither side could disparage the other without facing a fine.

Between June 2005 and January 2007, Taylor made at least 20 attempts to explain what happened at the Allosaurus dig near Dinosaur through various posts on the Internet, letters and e-mails.

A mediator later found each of Taylor’s public postings regarding the dig constituted a disparaging comment, which in the end cost Taylor more than $130,000 in damages owed to the group he had formerly settled with.

The Biblical Family: Defining Patriarchy and Why God is Masculine

When I first set out to write a series of articles about “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” last June, I considered myself to be a patriarchalist, although I thought that Doug Phillips was a little extreme in some areas. When I first wrote the series, what stood out most to me was the fact that while most of the tenets looked sound to me, Scripture simply didn’t back them up. Since these were “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy,” it seemed imperative to me that they be backed up by the Word of God. That was my first shock.

As I began to process the comments, however, I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught that followed. As subject after subject was addressed first here, and then on other blogs and forums, God started exposing my own heart and I was forced to examine if all that I held dear was what God held dear as well. So many of my deeply treasured beliefs were slain on the altar of truth. Sacrifice hurts. This was not merely a sacrifice of my mind, but my whole life has been greatly altered as I’ve walked this path.

It seems that there has been nearly a relentless attack against patriarchy since I posted that series, and it has caused me to go to God’s Word, time and time again, to see what the truth is in these areas. However, the conversations that have ensued since then seem to be somewhat haphazard and focused on attacking patriarchy without providing any definitive alternative. My goal is not to offer an alternative, necessarily, but to dig even deeper and see what God truly has to say about this subject of the Biblical family. Doug Phillips presented us with a false dilemma of patriarchy vs. feminism or patriarchy vs. egalitarianism, but these are not our only options. In this series, I would like to examine what God really has to say about the Biblical family.

The first series about “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” was a very broad sweep of the Tenets as a whole, with a scattershot approach to examining them. As I sought to find a way to address those who desire to live only by God’s Word, and especially those who now see that this form of patriarchy is not actually God’s Word, I prayed for months about how to approach the whole subject. I think we shall go back to the beginning and take a good solid look at patriarchy first, finding what is worth keeping and rejecting what is extrabiblical. We will do this by examining each of the tenets, again, in more detail, one by one. Not only will we examine the verses used, but we may add some of our own. Then, I would like to be your interpreter for this journey. On the surface, much of what is written in the “Tenets” sounds good, but I know what it looks like in real life for Doug Phillips. That is the perspective I will bring. Others of you know what a particular tenet looks like from the viewpoint of other patriarchalists. That will now be welcomed here.

As you can see, I have changed the name of my blog to reflect a more general viewpoint. My story about Doug Phillips is still the foundation of this blog, but this blog grew in ways I never imagined one year ago, and I would like to be able to address the broader angle of patriarchy now. The underlying reasons for Doug’s behavior are his beliefs. Those beliefs are the root of what appears to be rotten fruit. But Doug Phillips is not the only one with those beliefs that end up putting believers into the bondage of legalism, or the false doctrines of theonomy and reconstructionism and dominion theology, or elevating areas of freedom and wisdom to that of absolute commands. I have noticed, however, that everyone who claims the name of “patriarchy” does not necessarily believe the same things. So when you post a comment, I would ask you to try to use more direct, attributable quotes and fewer general statements of “all patriarchalists” believe such-and-such. Feel free to give your opinion, but please state it as such. I think some unnecessary damage has been done by painting with too broad a brush at times. In order to make this a credible debate, we need to be careful to always be fair.

Even those who have stated that they believe in Doug’s version of “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” sometimes don’t realize that they really have a different point of view altogether. Probably the most significant aspect of this would be those who have personal preferences for certain aspects of patriarchy, but would never say that it is a sin if another believer did not adhere exactly to these areas of personal preferences. One of the main objectives of this series will be to clearly delineate which areas are strictly biblical and which are personal preferences and why. I am not at all opposed to someone having a personal preference that is different from my own, including those who call themselves patriarchalists.

Another goal of this series will be to show that we can believe and adhere to God’s Word in the area of the Biblical family without being a patriarchalist, and that there is no need to be called names such as “feminist” for believing the Scriptures. Although many on both sides of the issue have claimed to be complementarian, there are just as many who are quick to pull away from that label as well, stating that complementarians are really patriarchalists cloaked in less offensive language. I propose that we put all these labels aside now and focus on where we should be, as the Biblical family. Will we all agree? Probably not. But rather than just attack patriarchy here, I would like to now examine what God thinks. As stated in “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy”:

We view this as an accurate working document, and invite feedback from anyone as we attempt to improve this statement over time.

As Doug invites feedback to his document, I also invite feedback to my thoughts on digging deeper into these issues.

After we have thoroughly examined each of these tenets, I will move on to address any other areas of the Biblical family that have not been addressed in these tenets. If there is an area you would like to see covered, feel free to leave me a comment about it and I will put it on my list. Let’s begin with the very first tenet.

God as Masculine
1. God reveals Himself as masculine, not feminine. God is the eternal Father and the eternal Son, the Holy Spirit is also addressed as “He,” and Jesus Christ is a male. (Matt. 1:25; 28:19; Jn. 5:19; 16:13)

Matt. 1:25
and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
Matt. 28:19
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
John 5:19
Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

John 16:13
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.


When we examined this tenet the first time, I was really caught off guard. I have been so far to the right in my biblical thinking that I didn’t realize there were those who would disagree with this statement. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I do agree that God does reveal Himself as masculine. Jesus did not tell us to pray to “Our Mother, who art in heaven,” but He constantly referred to His Father. As the Son, Jesus is obviously masculine also. And John 16:13 clearly delineates the Holy Spirit as being masculine as well. If we believe in the trinity, then it seems to follow logically that the triune God-head would be not only the same gender, but that there might even be a purpose for declaring that gender to be masculine.

Doug Phillips, and and certain fellow patriarchs, apparently believe that the purpose of God stating His gender to be male has to do with it being the foundation of patriarchy. If Doug can establish that God Himself is masculine, and I agree with his basic assertion here, then we all know that God is superior, God is the head of all, God is in charge, God is the authority, and that God has many other characteristics that Doug will attempt to attribute to men only on the basis that God is masculine. This is a red herring. Doug is attempting to assert that patriarchy, in having the family centered around the man, is biblical because God is masculine. Nowhere in Scripture are we given this foundation for the family. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that because God is masculine, anything having to do with patriarchy follows. My whole excommunication got started because I called Doug on some logical fallacies. Now I will attempt to show that Doug is basing his whole belief system on logical fallacies as well.

It is my personal opinion that God refers to Himself as being masculine, in triune unity, because our relationship with God is mirrored in our marriages. God had a chosen people in the nation of Israel. He was married to them. Since marriage is between one man and one woman — God’s idea — God chose to take on the masculine role and had the nation of Israel take on the feminine role. This in no way emasculated the men of Israel at all. Then God divorced them. Now God has a bride, and that bride is the church. A bride is feminine, so God needs to be masculine. God planned this from before time was created, so He chose to take on the male aspect of marriage and gave us the feminine aspect of marriage. I hope to develop this more fully as we work our way through each tenet.

So, my conclusion regarding this first tenet is that while God is indeed masculine, this is superfluous to our understanding of the biblical family as a stand-alone proposition. However, I would allow for something like this:

1. God reveals Himself as masculine in His triune God-head, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As He has also set forth marriage as being between one man and one woman, therefore God is the [masculine] groom and the church is His [feminine] bride.

This is definitely a working document, so I welcome any and all feedback on this statement as well.

Defining Patriarchy

Since this is not as controversial as some of the other tenets, I would like to examine the use of the word “patriarchy” here as well. Since Doug always taught us to use only biblical terminology, I decided to look at all the Scriptures which use the word “patriarch.” Most versions only use it four times, but I did find that the ESV uses it six times, so we will use that version here:

Acts 2:29
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Acts 7:8-9
And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him.Romans 9:5
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 15:8
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,

Hebrews 7:4
See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!

Putting these passages together, we can clearly see that Abraham, David, and the twelve sons of Jacob are called patriarchs in Scripture. The patriarchs belong to the Israelites (Rom. 9:4-5) and the promises of the old covenant were given to the patriarchs (Rom. 15:8). I will confess that I at least thought Isaac and Jacob were patriarchs! Just for argument’s sake, we will include them as well. So, the Bible is clear that the patriarchs were all Israelites and the only Israelites that God calls patriarchs are Abraham, possibly Isaac and Jacob, the twelve sons of Jacob, and David.

If “the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy [is] an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions,” then why don’t we see the term “patriarchy” being used more frequently in Scripture? If even all Israelites were considered to be patriarchs, why don’t we see it? It is interesting to me that the only verses that use the term “patriarchy” are New Testament verses, all referring back to certain leaders in the Old Testament. The New Testament does not in any way affirm that “patriarch” was a current cultural term for men in the New Testament. If the New Testament is gospel centered, and it is, and biblical patriarchy is gospel centered, as Doug Phillips asserts here, why don’t we see any verses connecting the gospel with patriarchy? Likewise, if patriarchy is an essential element of gospel centered doctrine, where are the verses proclaiming it as such? I have listed all the verses in the entire Bible having to do with patriarchy and I just don’t see it. If patriarchy is God’s ordained pattern for human relationships, where is this taught in the Scriptures? If patriarchy is God’s ordained pattern for institutions, where can I find this? This statement: “Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions” appears to be without any biblical foundation at all. Although this is not one of Doug’s official “tenets,” it is stated as a foundation to why he even has these tenets of “biblical” patriarchy to begin with. I find his foundation to be on extremely rocky soil here and wonder how he can hope to build a whole doctrine upon a statement that has absolutely no basis in Scripture whatsoever.

But Doug believes that he who defines, wins, so let us give him a little slack and examine his use of the word “patriarch” a little further. I always use Webster’s 1828 dictionary when I define anything from Doug’s perspective because I know that is his favorite dictionary. So let’s check out the old Webster’s:

1. The father and ruler of a family; one who governs by paternal right. It is usually applied to the progenitors of the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, or to the heads of families before the flood.2. A learned and distinguished character among the Jews.3. In the Christian church, a dignitary superior to the order of archbishops; as the patriarch of Constantinople, of Alexandria, or of Ephesus.

Well, the first definition might apply to what Doug is attempting to define here, except for the fact that Webster mostly agrees with the biblical use of it. I don’t think the second definition is something Doug is wanting to encourage in the least. And knowing how much Doug detests anything remotely Catholic, I am laughing at the third definition! But let’s look at that first definition a little closer. Let’s pretend that Webster doesn’t agree with my biblical use of the term and let’s just examine the first sentence of definition number one: “The father and ruler of a family; one who governs by paternal right.” A ruler. One who governs. When we get right down to it, isn’t that what Doug is proposing here? Doesn’t patriarchy really empower men to rule and govern their families? As we examine each tenet in turn, let’s refer back often to this term and see if Doug did actually choose the correct term after all, and then let’s see if that is truly what men as New Covenant believers want to be known as — rulers.

Or maybe this is all just a propaganda appeal to tradition. We like hearing the heroic stories of the Old Testament saints. If we could just be like them …

And Doug Phillips is here to help you do just that.

Wall Street Journal: Showing Doug Phillips Grace in the Public Eye

[Update: One of the pastors who was interviewed for this article, Hershael York, has written about how his interview was taken out of context.  That is one of the reasons I refused to do an interview in the first place.  Whether the interviewer took my position or Doug’s position out of context, neither possibility was acceptable to me.]

I mentioned earlier that the Wall Street Journal had contacted me to tell my story about Doug Phillips. I refused to tell my story to the public, considering this to be a church matter, so they chose a different story, but wrote an article on the recently renewed practice of church discipline and shunning. Here are a few quotes from the article, but I highly encourage you to go read the entire article, by clicking on the title below.

Banned From Church
Reviving an ancient practice, churches are exposing sinners and shunning those who won’t repent.
By ALEXANDRA ALTER

On a quiet Sunday morning in June, as worshippers settled into the pews at Allen Baptist Church in southwestern Michigan, Pastor Jason Burrick grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911. When a dispatcher answered, the preacher said a former congregant was in the sanctuary. “And we need to, um, have her out A.S.A.P.”

Half an hour later, 71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10% of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff’s officer. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs.

The charge was trespassing, but Mrs. Caskey’s real offense, in her pastor’s view, was spiritual. Several months earlier, when she had questioned his authority, he’d charged her with spreading “a spirit of cancer and discord” and expelled her from the congregation. “I’ve been shunned,” she says.

Her story reflects a growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline, an ancient practice in which suspected sinners are privately confronted and then publicly castigated and excommunicated if they refuse to repent. While many Christians find such practices outdated, pastors in large and small churches across the country are expelling members for offenses ranging from adultery and theft to gossiping, skipping service and criticizing church leaders.

Scholars estimate that 10% to 15% of Protestant evangelical churches practice church discipline — about 14,000 to 21,000 U.S. congregations in total. Increasingly, clashes within churches are spilling into communities, splitting congregations and occasionally landing church leaders in court after congregants, who believed they were confessing in private, were publicly shamed.

In the past decade, more than two dozen lawsuits related to church discipline have been filed as congregants sue pastors for defamation, negligent counseling and emotional injury, according to the Religion Case Reporter, a legal-research database.

Courts have often refused to hear such cases on the grounds that churches are protected by the constitutional right to free religious exercise, but some have sided with alleged sinners. In 2003, a woman and her husband won a defamation suit against the Iowa Methodist conference and its superintendent after he publicly accused her of “spreading the spirit of Satan” because she gossiped about her pastor. A district court rejected the case, but the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the woman’s appeal on the grounds that the letter labeling her a sinner was circulated beyond the church.

(Quoted with permission.)

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Thanks to Cindy Kunsman for pointing this out.

Mea Culpa

But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord;
In You I take refuge;
Do not leave my soul destitute.
Keep me from the snares they have laid for me,
And from the traps of the workers of iniquity.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
While I escape safely.
Psalm 141:8-10

Many people have rightly encouraged me to seek to be integrated into a local church since my excommunication. That is easier said than done. Here’s a brief history of the last three years.

Church #1 — Living Water Fellowship. We attended there for six months, at Little Bear’s request, while he attempted to work with Doug Phillips to get him to drop the excommunication. We left because of severe doctrinal differences.

Church #2 — an OPC church. We went there with the intention of finding a church that was strong on Reformed theology and church governmental structure that allowed for appeals and basic rights for church members. After one month, we left when we were informed of some very extreme teachings in that particular congregation.

Church #3 — Faith Presbyterian Church. We went to another Presbyterian church for the same reasons as the last one and because the elders there promised to help us. Their requirements, eventually, were that we take down our story in preparation for going to Peacemakers with Doug Phillips. After three months of attending there, the elders finally met with Doug for several hours. The outcome of that meeting was that they told us to return to Doug and repent and pay restitution. When I inquired as to what I was to repent from, they said they didn’t know. So after several hours, the outcome of the meeting was that we were to repent, but they had no clue as to why? We left that church not understanding why Reformed elders would make such a quick and complete turn-about.

Church #4 — an independent Reformed church. We show up anonymously and don’t say anything about who we are, the excommunication, our story, anything. We did notice that we knew two families, one of whom was not speaking to us, but who was quick to speak to the elders on our first Sunday there. After our third Sunday, we received a letter in the mail asking us not to return. No questions. Just don’t come back.

Church #5 — an NCT church. I was sure this one would be different. I first approached the elders and was up front about everything. They welcomed me immediately and asked me to start attending that Sunday. I knew there were some people in that church who were not happy with my telling my story, so I offered to attempt to reconcile with those people first, so as not to cause a church split. Although the elders didn’t ask me to do anything at first, their demands began to grow and change on a fairly regular basis, until I couldn’t keep up with all the specifics of what was being required of me in order to attend this church. Finally, it boiled down to apologizing on my blog, which I did; then taking down my blog without any explanation, which I did, much to the great confusion of most of my readers; writing a letter of apology to Doug and all the BCA families, which I did; and having a gag on speaking about Doug, Vision Forum, or these issues. When I was first told what I had to apologize for, I said that I had not done those particular things, so I apologized for what I felt I had done. I will not say that I did everything perfectly in this last year of telling my story, so I was glad to give a heartfelt apology for certain things. But then they started applying a LOT of pressure. In the end, I was coerced into agreeing that I had done certain things which I did not feel that I had done. One of those things was admitting that I harmed Vision Forum or that they lost business in some way. I fought greatly against saying those things, but was heavily pressured into agreeing with them. I greatly desired to attend this particular church, so I acquiesced in the end. Here is the letter the the elders of this church helped me write that I sent to Doug and each family at BCA. They would have received this on December 24th.

My Dear Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

I have thought about you often in the last three years. I pray for you every day. I love you dearly and have many fond memories of our years together at BCA.

Doug, and brothers and sisters at BCA, I am really wanting to walk away from all of this. God has brought me to the end of my rope both emotionally, and by daily teaching me about grace. I am hoping that this repentance letter will help me put the BCA chapter behind us, and start anew trying to build my marriage, nurture my family, and have peace with Doug and BCA. Please hear my heart.

I have made many public accusations against Doug, some of which were clearly mocking in nature. I have vehemently spoken out against many of Doug’s actions towards me. This resulted in escalation and further division among the body. I recognize that I have ardently spoken out against Doug’s actions towards others. I have publicly accused Doug of using his blog for manipulative purposes. I have publicly criticized, and rebuked Doug. I have vehemently disagreed with Doug on many issues and aired it in a non-private, but public way. I have forcefully spoken out against the way Doug has handled many situations. Further, I have continually brought up many areas of disagreement with Doug personally, and I have questioned many of his actions, bringing doubt to a large public audience.

My actions have resulted in division in the body of Christ, especially in the community, for which I am both very sorry, and I turn from now. These actions have also resulted in harm to Vision Forum, for which I am also very sorry, and I turn from now. I realize that my actions have hurt Doug, the man, which goes further than objective disagreements. I turn from actions that bring hurt to Doug, who is my brother in Christ. I am sorry for mocking Doug regarding his mother and the catalog, and in other ways. I am sorry I used unnecessarily strong language when I accused Doug of having sociological cult-like behaviors and accused him of spiritual rape. This language is subjective, divisive and hurtful. I am sorry I wrote “Shame on you” to Doug when he was still my elder. I realize that I have not tamed my tongue (James 3:8), and it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it I bless my Lord and Father, and with it, I have cursed Doug who has been made in the likeness of God (James 3:9). I do not want to do this any longer, and I turn from it now. Further, I am sorry for continuing to hammer on Doug. That was, and is, not necessary. I am sorry for sending the emails to the homeschool leaders. I am sorry for passing out the journal articles at Arlington. I am sorry for not being respectful to Doug and to those at BCA and Vision Forum in this matter, and in other matters. I am ashamed of the wrong things I have been doing, and I turn from them (repent) now. Doug and BCA, I want to walk away from them, and I want to start my life all over again. Will you please, please, accept my apology, and my turning from these things to try and start over in growing in the Lord. Will you please forgive me?

I’m sure you know that I told my story about my excommunication online. When I first began telling it, my intent was only to talk about Doug, from which I have repented at this time. I did not want to bring anyone else’s name into it, and had planned on redacting all other names from my primary source documents, but there was a clamoring online to reveal all the names. I willingly gave into this and accept responsibility, but now I am very sorry that all the names were brought out into the public and I would like to apologize to B, R and J, R and R, B and D, M and A, K, and L, and anyone else, for bringing their names into the public limelight. If there are any I have forgotten, I apologize as well. Will you please forgive me for doing so?

In February of this year, something new began happening within me that has taken time to grow and produce fruits. What happened is that I was arguing online for theonomy. A retired pastor came along and challenged me and I was not able to answer his questions. This intrigued me and he offered to teach me about the Law. Since that was one of my favorite subjects, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to hang on to Jen’s beliefs and my presuppositions very badly, but I was also sold out for the truth of God’s Word. After many weeks of wrestling through God’s Word, often 8-12 hours a day, God finally convicted me that I was wrong in my beliefs and that I needed to line up my thinking with His Word. So I repented. This pastor then taught me how to study the Bible and how to interpret Scripture. I have since studied the Bible several hours a day for most of this year. That had a huge impact on my life, as you might well imagine. I came to realize that I had a veil over my heart, as described in II Cor. 3, because I was still living under the Law of Moses. Jesus fulfilled and abolished (made of no effect) that Law on the cross and gave us a new law — the one written on our hearts. I am not an antinomian either! I truly believe in obeying God’s Law. I also recognize that I am not perfect, and obedience must be worked into me.

So when that veil was lifted, God began exposing my heart and I found a lot of ugly things there. One thing that was particularly hard to own was the fact that I had become a pharisee in my legalism. When we’re in the middle of legalism, it’s nearly impossible to recognize, but when God brings us out of it, hindsight is definitely 20/20. Not only am I ashamed of my legalism now, but God exposed that judgmental spirit that went with it. I tried so hard not to judge others, but when I look back now, all I can see is judgmentalism. Judgmentalism is nothing other than plain old pride. Some of that judgmentalism was directed toward some of you. I am very sorry for judging you in my legalism. God has freed me from that spirit of pride now and I would like to ask your forgiveness for that as well.

In all the many hours of Bible study, I became very firm in my beliefs in the doctrines of Grace. I had not previously understood them fully and I’m glad to take a firm stance on that now. But I also discovered that not only do I not agree with various theologies and doctrines out there, but that there is a name for the theology I have come to embrace and hold dear. It is the oldest Christian theology known to be, having been around since the time of the apostles, but it has not been labeled as a specific theology until recently. New Covenant Theology is the theology of the New Covenant (New Testament). Jesus said, “This is the New Covenant in My blood,” so New Covenant Theology is centered on the work and person of Jesus Christ. We do not reject any part of the Old Testament, and in fact, often study the whole Bible, but I have learned to interpret the Old Testament by reading the New Testament. I never even realized that the key to understanding what the Old Testament says is to look in the New Testament. It revolutionized my biblical thinking!

I do not want a difference in theology to cause any more strife among the Body. Because of this I think it would be best if I did not return to BCA. I would like to say a proper good-bye. Change is hard but good and often necessary.

I wish the best for each one of you. I am grateful for all the years we had together. It is time for me to move on.

God has even given me a new name!

Merry Christmas and may God bless each of you with a love for the truth of His Word.

Jen Epstein

Combined with my public apology on my blog, I was truly sorry for certain things in the last year, although I think that many people were not clear about what exactly I was apologizing for. At this point, I’m not sure exactly what I was apologizing for! I was attempting to apologize for some of the ways in which I handled the whole thing. So, with these two apologies in mind, notice what Doug Phillips posted, in part, on his blog, only three short days later, and with Christmas in between:


III. Forgive Those Who Have Wronged You


Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)

In the course of a year, it is possible to build up many offenses and personal grievances at others. Left unaddressed, these grievances fester and grow. They turn the heart black and the body weak. They foster a spirit of vengeance and misguided self-righteousness. The short of it is this: Unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Bitterness curdles the mind and the spirit.

Fresh starts and new years should begin with forgiveness for others. Having a genuine spirit of forgiveness towards those who have wronged us is a mark of biblical Christianity. It is an evidence that we have been redeemed, and that we are praying lawfully: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Successful Christians are men and women who are free from bitterness. They have learned the principle modeled by our Lord Jesus Christ who, while suffering death at the hands of people he had never wronged, was able to say “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24). I have a dear preacher friend with a sterling reputation who was once grievously slandered. When asked about the wicked actions of the slanderers, he replied something to this effect:
Oh you don’t understand — I am far, far worse than my detractors realize. They may have gotten a lot of the specific facts wrong, but I am just thankful they don’t know how bad my heart truly is. God have mercy on me a sinner.

This man had victory over bitterness.

My father is another man who always appeared to have victory over bitterness. In fact, from my earliest days to the present, I have watched lesser men “twist the truths [he’s] spoken to make a trap for fools.”

Early in my life when I was still in government schools, I would listen to my own teachers criticize before my class the work my father was doing for the President to dismantle a government agency which was at war with the family. I read untruthful articles and saw derogatory comics on the pages of the Washington Post picturing him as a caveman for his “prehistoric” views. When my father was a leader in the Republican Party in Massachusetts, a gangster repeatedly threatened the life of his family. I remember being a boy and having my father shield me from homosexual picketers and protesters that would follow him and our family around at public locations.

Most painful and difficult for many to forgive is betrayal and dishonor. But that is a mistake. Betrayal and dishonor probably exist in the lives of most men. And why should any Christian be denied in their lives what past generations of Christians — and our Lord and Savior Himself — patiently endured? To our shame, most of us have been on both sides of that coin. From a son’s perspective, however, it is highly instructive to watch a father act honorably in the midst of such conflict. It has been a great blessing in my own life to observe my father nobly respond even in the face of barbs from former allies and friends, once loved and nurtured by him.

Eternally optimistic, Dad would always say: “Never be bitter. Life is too short. Thank God for your blessings. Press on!”

Bitterness comes from being unwilling to forgive. Bitter people are small people. They are unsuccessful people. They are people who cannot move forward. They are people who believe that the personal wrongs against them are so great that they — the offended — are entitled to do to their offenders what they pray the Lord Jesus Christ will never do to them: refuse to forgive.

Here is my recommendation: Think through every grief, minor and major, caused by others to you in the year 2007. Now add to the list any other personal offenses that continue to linger from past years. Write these down as bullets on a sheet of paper.

The first thing you will likely realize is just how many offenses are polluting your thought life and, probably, your spirit. This is a sign of latent bitterness. Bitterness will kill you. It renders you completely ineffective.

Now prayerfully walk through the list — bullet, by bullet. With each offense, remind yourself that the most despicable action taken against you by another utterly (and infinitely) pales in comparison to the least of your offenses against the Lord Jesus Christ.

And yet He has forgiven you.

Before 2008 begins, adopt a spirit of forgiveness towards your insensitive friends as well as your hateful enemies. Forgive your imperfect father for whatever it is you need to forgive him for (and pray to the Lord that your own children someday forgive you for your failures). Quit devoting untold precious hours to commiseration, mental replay of the wrongs done, and thoughts about just how badly you were wronged. Stop blaming everybody but you for your problems. Look to yourself. Once you start chronicling your own sinful attitudes and crimes against God and man, you simply won’t have time to worry about the wrongs done to you. You will stop being bitter, and you will start being thankful.

Wipe the slate clean. “Press on.” Forgive.

What excellent advice! When I saw this immediately after Doug had received my letter of apology, I was sure that he would follow his own advice, even as I chose to offer him forgiveness as well. But you see, the above advice about forgiveness is not quite complete. I like to think of Christ’s example to us. Christ paid the price for our sin. He offers us His forgiveness. All we have to do is believe Him and accept His forgiveness. Now, I am in no way saying that my offer of forgiveness is as pure as Christ’s is, but that is certainly our example. I have offered complete forgiveness to Doug Phillips, should he choose to accept it. I have also offered an apology for certain ways in which I have handled this public warning.

So did Doug accept my apology? Am I now a part of church #5? Or is there something in the water here in San Antonio, as Corrie so eloquently puts it?

In my desperation for fellowship with people in real life, I made a foolish mistake and compromised what I worked so hard for this last year. When I first started telling my story, I knew God was leading me to do so. In looking back over the last year, I have hundreds of testimonies from people whose lives have been impacted this year because I told my story. An interesting testimony that I have heard multiple times this year goes something like this: “I knew you spoke the truth because I lived it, too!” How many more similar stories are out there, but people are afraid to tell them? Or how many more comparable records of spiritual abuse are there in the patriarchy movement but the leaders are not public figures like Doug Phillips so they don’t feel the freedom to go public like I have?

Numerous Christians whose only goal was to glorify God in all that they do have been personally hurt and abused by Doug Phillips, and they now know they are not alone. I won’t tell their stories here unless they ask me to, but time after time after time, I’ve heard the same stories of Doug Phillips threatening Christians with lawsuits, threatening church discipline against those not even in his own fellowship and then going to their elders (often personal friends of Doug’s) and pushing for church discipline, and threatening men’s jobs and businesses and sometimes being successful in getting them fired. Most of these people still live in great fear of Doug. Countless times I’ve heard about people in these situations, or other conflict with Doug, who try to get an audience with Doug Phillips. We are not even talking about your average Christian homeschooler who just wants to speak to the Big Man, but people who already have a relationship with Doug and need to communicate regarding various issues, but they can’t get an appointment to meet with him or even speak to him on the phone. Weeks go by, and months, and I know of one man who tried for four years to speak to Doug about something, but Doug is always too busy. He will condescend to letting you speak with his “personal assistant.” He will send you a contract to sign before he agrees to speak with you, exacting promises that you will never repeat anything that goes on between him and you. He will have his lawyer contact you. And he will give you a list of sins you have to repent from before he will consider listening to you, but very rarely will he ever follow through in meeting or speaking with those he has offended, hurt, or abused.

Hoodwinked

Or maybe he will demand that you pay indulgences, only he uses the word “restitution.” After I sent my apology to Doug in a nice Christmas card, I heard that he would speak with me if I paid him $100,000 in restitution! Just to speak with him! I wonder why he didn’t put paying restitution/indulgences in his article on forgiving others? Well, I won’t hold this against him either, but I can’t be quiet when he continues to bully others, as he seems to have been emboldened to do even more since my story came down. Oh, the stories I have heard lately! This Edmund Burke quote keeps circulating in my mind: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

But surely I had done my part. I struggled immensely with taking down my story. I saw how many people were affected to change for the glory of God because of my story, yet there were those few who said I was sinning. But I desperately wanted fellowship also, a place of community to be a part of. I knew God had given me a ministry through this blog, yet I knew I needed to be ministered to as well. And I thought I’d found the perfect church again. Church #5 had everything I was looking for — 100%. So I took that as a sign from God to submit to the elders and do everything they told me to do, even though I did not want to and even though I knew it was causing great confusion among my readers. I was told that if I humbled myself, God would lift me up. So I humbled myself and took everything down without any explanation. I did everything those elders required of me in order to attend church #5, ending with the apology Doug and the BCA members received on December 24th. But, on December 27th, on the same day that Doug posted his article about forgiving others even though he had no intentions of forgiving me, I received a call from church #5 — “We quit.” No real explanation. I’d been had.

I’ve been working hard since that day to find out the truth, and I have a lot more information in general, although no specifics. I now see the pattern in all these reformed churches in San Antonio, or at least the last three, where pastors and elders fear men more than they fear God. These are men who believe in the doctrines of grace, who believe in the providence of God, yet they fear Doug Phillips. All I can say is that I understand. I, too, believe in the providence of God, so I must trust that God simply did not want me to attend this “perfect” church for some reason. When I hear of the intense pressure and coercion and threats that comes down from Doug Phillips, I suddenly understand why godly men fear man more than they do God and I won’t hold it against them.

Until my story, Doug was successful in bullying all other believers into being quiet. If I take my story down, how will other people who come behind us know the truth about this false teacher?

Dozens and dozens of God-honoring churches have been sharply divided, resulting in many church splits, due to the divisive teachings of Vision Forum’s Family Integrated Church movement. When Doug Phillips says that the church is to blame for most of the evil in the world, he brings a blanket condemnation to churches all across America. That condemning, accusatory spirit has invaded many good churches and many a pastor has found himself on the receiving end of a church member’s declaration that the way they do church is evil and wicked. Innumerable relationships amongst brothers and sisters in Christ have been unnecessarily destroyed, and great division has been wrought, in churches all across America for the sake of patriarchy. The ones left behind, those still reeling from the incredible hurt and pain due to the loss of dear friendships, now know that they are not alone. They now know that false teaching found a foot in the door of their church as well.

Countless believers who saw the folly of feminism thought “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” were actually biblical until we examined them here. There were even more who didn’t understand that what looks good in writing in “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” is not how it plays out in real life in Doug Phillips’ world. My story brought substance to the skillfully crafted wording of various patriarchy documents. Patriarchy on paper is not patriarchy in real life. Patriarchy in real life is patriocentric, as thatmom so aptly termed it. When people read the everyday details of my story, they see what life is really like when the patriarchal man is “king” of his castle. Are all men who claim patriarchy that way? No. But the type of patriarchy that Doug Phillips lives out is a misogynistic patriarchy and one every Christian should run far, far away from. Many men have repented in tears this year for having this top-down, authoritarian style of headship rather than the loving servant’s heart toward their wife and children. They saw their own hearts in my story.

Multitudes of homeschooling families were attracted to the nostalgia of the perfect life that Vision Forum seems to offer, and knew that there was a lot of truth in the message of patriarchy, but they also had a sense that something wasn’t quite right. They just couldn’t put their finger on it. Through my story, it was the little details here and there that resonated with their spirits and they had an “Aha!” moment — “I knew something wasn’t right!” The patriotism, the look of the ’50s when life was “perfect,” the glossy catalog, the exciting adventures, the charisma that Doug Phillips uses to persuade others that he alone has the corner on this market — all those perfectly polished outward appearances — yet they forgot to wash the inside of the cup. My story showed the scum and the filth on the inside of that shimmering chalice.

Then there were those sincere, dedicated Christians who loved Vision Forum and Doug Phillips and they didn’t want to hear that their hero wasn’t as perfect as they always thought he was. My story wasn’t enough to convince them on its own merits, but over time they observed the responses from Doug Phillips, his Vision Forum employees, the “leadership” of BCA, and Doug’s “independent investigators” and boys. Their behavior has been 100% consistent over the past year in not responding directly to the issues or accusations, in putting up numerous slanderous statements against us, in posting frequent blog articles that were indirect attacks against my family, friends, and many who comment here, in doing everything possible to prevent us from ever going to church again, and in slandering us and railing against us. That consistent, malicious, and retaliatory conduct has brought down another Christian idol among us and many came to see the real Doug Phillips behind the masquerade.

Hundreds and hundreds of God-loving families were bound up in legalism, and as they walked through these changes in my life this last year with me, they saw legalism in their own lives and they repented and found the freedom Christ has for us. How did they see that legalism? Through the details in my story. Did my story set people free? No. But my story was what resonated with people and what caused them to look at their own lives and their own families, and then the truth of God’s Word set them free. It is very difficult to identify legalism in your life. It was heart-wrenching for me to let it go. But as I walked away from it, others could see the harm in the legalism of my story as well.

When I first started telling my story, that was my whole goal — just tell my story. There were no issues to discuss, other than the unbiblical excommunication. I recognized that there were some signs of spiritual abuse, but not much. But after I told my story, the issues began surfacing one by one. Since my story was so public, I was forced to deal with these issues publicly as well. I remember earlier in the year when I made a comment like, “Of course I still believe in patriarchy!” Telling my story, though, necessitated digging to the roots to find out why the fruit was so rotten. We have just begun to examine these roots of patriarchy, legalism, theonomy, dominion theology, and reconstruction. Have you ever looked at the root of a plant and tried to determine what it was without looking at its fruit? There may be some tell-tale signs but it is extremely difficult to identify the root apart from the fruit. I realize now that if I solely focus on the root of these issues, without having the picture of the fruit ever before us, we will lose our perspective. And those who come along after I take down all the pictures of the fruit will not understand why we are examining what appears to be good roots. “Oh, those roots aren’t all that bad,” they might say. “There might be a little rot here and a few pest-eaten spots there, but overall they mostly look good. I don’t see anything to worry about.” My story is the fruit of what even a little rot and a few pests can do.

When we come to God’s Word, we all come with our own presuppositions. That is inherent in each of us, to one degree or another. When someone challenges our presuppositions, that can be quite scary. As my own presuppositions were not only challenged this year, but severely undermined and then completely upended, so were the presuppositions of those who hold to various doctrines such as theonomy, dominion theology, and reconstructionism. Many teachable Christians, those who were sold out for the truth of God’s Word over their own presuppositions, wrestled through weighing these particular doctrines and many repented from these false teachings that hold one in bondage. The results of these false teachings were evidenced clearly in my story and that is why people were willing to reconsider what beliefs they hold to.

So — I’m putting my story back up. I am very sorry for all the confusion I caused in taking it down. I tried very hard to reconcile taking down my story and focusing on just the issues, but I realize that it is impossible to separate them. In order to demonstrate the stark reality of each issue, I need to be able to point to my story. I will be writing about the issues, as I promised, but I will use examples from my own life, from my own story, to demonstrate why the issues matter, why the root is bad and what the fruit of that bad root looks like.

I tried to show grace to Doug by taking down my story. Sometimes when we go from one extreme in our lives, we tend to let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction and we go to an equally opposite, and equally wrong, extreme. In my haste to leave my judgmental spirit of legalism behind me, I forgot about the big picture. Yes, I need to show grace to Doug, but does grace cover up sin? Yes, I need to show grace to Doug, but does grace take the blame for another’s wrongdoings? Yes, I need to show grace to Doug, but does grace forget about all the other people out there who are being spiritually abused or who are caught up in Doug’s false teachings? Yes, I need to show grace to Doug, but doesn’t grace include holding public Christian leaders accountable? Doesn’t grace include shining the light of God’s Word on not only Doug’s teachings, but his public sins as well? I do love Doug, but I am not loving him by taking down my story. I appropriately showed him grace when I turned down an interview with the Wall Street Journal, recognizing that the secular media would write a biased piece and take Christian business to an unbelieving world. I confronted two women recently, lovingly, for allowing others to abuse them and their families without saying anything in response. I have to look in that same mirror and give myself that same advice. I guess I still have a lot to learn about grace.

If I don’t tell my story about Doug Phillips, who will? Even if others told my story, I am the one with the story. I am the only one who can give the personal testimony that God has given me. This is the testimony of what God has done in my life. I don’t need to hide my testimony, but I do need to be careful in what I say . I don’t need to cover up my testimony because someone else doesn’t like to hear the truth. I’ve been thinking a lot about King David. He was a murderer and an adulterer. He was a wicked sinner. But is that what we remember him most for? No. When we think of David, we think of the shepherd boy who dared to stand up against a giant when all the soldiers were too afraid to do so. I am that kind of a David. When we think of David, we think of all the psalms he wrote to the Lord, we think of a king who did what was right in the sight of the Lord. When we think of David, we think of a man after God’s own heart. I don’t know the exact meaning of that phrase “a man after God’s own heart,” but I heard recently that it may mean that David loved the Lord with all his heart and wanted to do everything he could to please the Lord. If so, that’s the kind of David I long to be. We also think of a man who quickly and wholeheartedly repented when he was confronted with his sin. He even wrote a psalm of repentance that was recorded for us to be able to hear his heart. And I want to be like David in that I quickly and earnestly repent when confronted with sin in my own life as well.

But why is the story of David’s sins, not only the murder and adultery, but others as well, recorded permanently in Scripture not only for a record of a public leader’s life, but for all the generations to read and hear about for thousands of years afterward? Why didn’t God erase that part of the story when David repented? Why didn’t He clean it up and only tell us the good parts about this man who loved God so much? Aren’t David’s sins part of his own testimony? Aren’t David’s sins part of the testimony of what sin does to us? Aren’t the effects of David’s sins far-reaching? Or perhaps we could consider the effects of Abraham’s far-reaching sins as well? Does God cover up our stories when we repent? Does God expect us to cover up our stories when we repent? Or does God expect us to cover up the far-reaching sins of public leaders who bring false teaching to unsuspecting, sincere believers? No.

So, I don’t need to hammer on Doug. That is the grace I need to show him. I don’t need to be nit-picky, as I sometimes was in my articles. That is the grace I need to show him. And I won’t be putting up all the articles I originally had here, since some of them were not done with the right attitude. I will also show grace in that I will revisit the articles and comments here and see if there is anything that is not glorifying to God. But I need to continue exposing Doug Phillips’ false teachings and I need to keep my story up to show the serious nature and effects of those false teachings. Just as Christ spent much of His time rebuking the Pharisees of His day, so God has called me to speak out against the modern-day “pharisees” of this world. Repent!

This past year has been an incredible growing experience for me. I’m grateful for all those who came along for the ride with me. I’m eternally grateful for all those challenged me in so many ways this year. And I’m grateful that God used my story for good. It really is true that all things work together for good to those who love Him. I’m grateful for the excommunication. Without this spiritual abuse, I probably would have grown into the Pharisee of all Pharisees. Without this story, I wouldn’t have been able to help other people who have been abused. Without this story, I wouldn’t have met all of you!

In my last article where I took down my story, I said this:

There cannot be peace at any price. It would not be possible to have a true unity based upon error, nor would it do any good to convince ourselves that we are in unity when we do not agree on the truths presented in God’s Word. … We cannot compromise, but we can love one another. Unity in fellowship does not always equal unity in beliefs.

Did I read what I wrote?!! My actions in my last article were the exact opposite of what I wrote! Peace at any price. How many of us do that? Many of us got together with family in these last few weeks; what did we do for the sake of keeping the peace amongst our family members? Do we compromise ourselves or our children to cater to one other person? I am guilty of attempting peace at the price of covering up the truth. Yes, I still live real close to Doug and many people from BCA and many Vision Forum employees. I still see them on a frequent basis. Just a couple weeks ago, I saw several hundred former “community” friends. The temptation to want “peace” with real life people, the temptation to desire fellowship at any cost (even if I compromise myself), the desperation to belong to a church where the truth of God’s Word is preached, is peace at a price that I cannot pay. I cannot enter into fellowship with other believers and pretend like there is not a false teacher out there in our midst. I cannot water down the truth of God’s Word so that I can be in some sort of agreement with those who lives are bound up in the false teaching of Doug Phillips. I cannot compromise, and I am sorry for doing so in my last article. I can love them, and I do. I can pray for them, and I do. And I can pray that God will provide a church for me who will not ask me to compromise in any way. I know there is one out there and I am praying diligently for that church. I do not have to agree with everyone in that church in order to fellowship with them. I am willing to love them where they are, but God has called me to speak the truth and I cannot compromise.

So, did I tell the truth in my last article? Of course. But I also told the truth in my story. Did I tell the truth in my Thanksgiving article? Of course, but it was confusing to people. I am writing about how Doug Phillips has spiritually abused my family and then I tell about some wonderful memories. To some, that article may have looked like I was negating my story. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Remember when I began my story with “the search for the perfect church”? Those first couple years at BCA were mostly “perfect.” Yes, I was not allowed to take communion, but there were still many really good memories, and most of that Thanksgiving article was about that early time period, that honeymoon phase for BCA. So, I will not post my Thanksgiving article so as not to cause any confusion. I don’t want anyone thinking that I am divided against myself!

But I think I need to address a couple things from my last article. I said, “I publicly apologize to Doug Phillips for telling my story online.” There are times to go public and there are times not to. My story needed to be told in public. I gave Doug every opportunity to repent. He did not. He has a pattern of abusing other Christians. That needs to be shown. He is teaching false doctrine. That is important not only to expose the false teaching, but also the false teacher. This apology was an example of “peace at any price.” I was wrong to seek peace, and fellowship, by compromising. (I guess I still have a lot to learn in my spiritual walk!)

I also apologized for Vision Forum experiencing a loss of business. I really cannot accept responsibility for that in any way. I never asked people not to support Vision Forum. I never asked people to boycott Vision Forum. I never organized or participated in a protest against Vision Forum or its products. I never did anything to purposefully harm Vision Forum’s business. I merely told my story. Doug’s response was quite telling to many people. And everyone made up their own mind on where they would spend their money. I did not interfere with Doug’s business in any way.

Mike tried to teach me how to interpret Scripture this year and one of the things that he taught me was that we cannot make a principle out of a story. I think I failed in that lesson in my last article. In trying to bend over backwards to justify taking my story down, I did just that — made a principle out of several passages from Paul that were miniature stories. Paul’s purpose in writing those epistles was not to expose specific false teachers. He did not say that was wrong either. The Bible does not say it is wrong to expose false teachers. In fact, we are told to do just that. That hermeneutic of drawing out principles where none exist resides deep within me and it will take a while to see where I am still being principially based in my thinking when I should be focused on the teachings of God’s Word instead.

Could I have told my story better? Probably. There’s always room for improvement. But just because I have a little overkill in places does not mean that I again swing to the opposite extreme and just kill the whole story. Talk about overkill!

I had been noticing some confrontation online regarding various aspects of the patriarchy movement that really concerned me awhile ago and I felt that some of the conversations were not glorifying to God. While we are certainly called to expose the false teachings, I do want us all to do so in a way that glorifies God. I say this because I felt responsible for starting to expose patriarchy and I didn’t want to see it turn into something ugly and un-Christlike and I was concerned about the direction I saw things heading. In my fervor to help calm things down a bit, I thought taking my story down might help. Peace at any price — not good.

So my focus is sharpened now and I’m sorry for any confusion I may have caused with all this. My spiritual walk is quite a journey and I got off course a bit last month. I’m back on track again now, and know that this is the ministry God has given me. I intend to fulfill this ministry with much love toward Doug Phillips and all those who have hurt me. I intend to show grace, but never compromise. I intend to expose the false teachings and the fruit that results from those teachings. I intend to start showing where we should go after we reject these false teachings. And I trust God to provide fellowship for me in His way and His time.

I took my children to a Christmas concert a couple weeks ago and we saw lots of old friends. Natasha wrote on her blog: “How much things have changed in the past 3 years. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a good or a bad thing. Then I see them, and not that much has changed for all of them, and I wonder if that’s a good or a bad thing. Or maybe it’s neither. Maybe it’s just life. Maybe it doesn’t have to be black and white, it just is.”

For all the Natashas out there who are torn between the past and the future, my story is there to remind you of the truth of the past. For all the Matthew Murrays out there, my story is up to show that not only is there sin in the camp, but that God has a way out. For all those who in any way relate to my story, know that there is a kindred spirit here who cares.

And to all my readers, I am sorry for all the confusion I caused in my desperation for fellowship. I purpose never to do such a thing again.

Doug Phillips Attacks Midwest Christian Outreach Counter-Cult Ministry: Vision Forum Staff Used for Libel Campaign

Misplaced principles

Several years ago I read a very disturbing book. It was so disturbing that I could not read more than a few pages at a time, and I had trouble sleeping every night I read it. The book was an examination of a very popular teacher, and it reported that not only were his teachings far from biblical but that he practiced things that I could not believe that any Christian could do. Even worse, most of my friends and acquaintances hung on every word the man said. That man was Bill Gothard and the book was “A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life” by Don and Joy Veinot and Ron Henzel.

Greatly distressed and wondering what to do to help my friends, I decided to turn for counsel to Doug Phillips, the pastor of my church Boerne Christian Assembly. I told Doug that I had read the book, that I was very concerned that so many members of BCA were caught up in Gothardism, and that I wondered what he thought should be done. I was greatly taken aback by Doug’s answer, as he said that although he didn’t agree with the way Bill Gothard got there, he did agree with Bill’s conclusions, and that was all that mattered. He also told me to just leave the matter alone and not discuss it further with other people. I was puzzled by Doug’s response, since he often taught that the ends never justify the means. I found out a little while later that he was already scheduled to speak and sell Vision Forum products at Gothard’s annual conference that year.

Fortunately, I didn’t let Doug’s response keep me from using my brain to find out that the authors of this book were also part of an apologetics ministry, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc., which provided teaching and training to pastors and laymen. At the time, I didn’t see how their work could have anything to do with me, apart from their exposure to Gothardism, which Doug had already forbidden me to speak of, so I filed them away mentally for future reference.

After I went public last December with my story of the years of ecclesiastical abuse my family suffered at the hands of Doug Phillips, I recalled the ministry of of Midwest Christian Outreach. I decided to contact them to see if they knew anything about Doug Phillips and Vision Forum. As it turned out, they had already received numerous inquiries about Doug Phillips and/or Vision Forum and were considering whether to conduct an investigation of them.

After that contact, I generally put MCOI out of my mind. When I didn’t hear anything else for a while, I thought perhaps they weren’t really interested in investigating Doug Phillips or Vision Forum. So when I found out a few months later that they were almost ready to publish a whole article about Vision Forum, I was very surprised. I was particularly curious to find out if they had uncovered and were reporting on another story of ecclesiastical tyranny similar to mine.

I received the article “Who Will Be First in the Kingdom” shortly before the Arlington homeschool conference. I was quite surprised to see that it was about Patriarchy. At that time, I was still in love with Patriarchy and had no intentions of giving it up. When I read the “Top 10 Biblical Ways to Acquire a Wife” in their article, I thought it was funny, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. How dare they make jokes about what I considered to be a sound biblical principle! In fact, the more I read the article, the more sick to my stomach I became. I realized Don Veinot wasn’t talking about any of the issues I had with Doug Phillips and Vision Forum at all. He was talking about areas that were near and dear to my own heart! However, I was not going to complain at all; I was just grateful that someone else was speaking up about Vision Forum.

The timing of publishing this article happened to be the same as when I was already planning on going to the Arlington Homeschool Book Conference to try to meet with Doug. I thought that passing out copies of Don Veinot’s article on Saturday of the conference would be a good back-up plan if Doug refused to meet me on Friday. With that possibility in the back of my mind, I asked Don Veinot if I could hand out copies of his article at the conference. He agreed. As it turned out, Doug did refuse to meet with me, so I did follow my back-up plan. Doug was not happy about that or about the contents of Don Veinot’s article, and you can read about what happened at the conference here.

It turned out that there were others who also didn’t like Don Veinot’s article. Brian Abshire took great offense at Don’s analysis of an article by Dr. Abshire posted on the Vision Forum website. Dr. Abshire and Don have exchanged several letters on the subject, and caused a lively debate. Perhaps because they hoped Dr. Abshire could deal with Don for them, Vision Forum did not contact Don Veinot directly until nearly three months after the article came out and long after he originally contacted them. At that time, Don was sent a 15-page letter describing what Vision Forum had against him and his ministry. Vision Forum subsequently sent a follow-up letter as well.

Personal attacks

A few weeks later, Don decided to send us a copy of this correspondence from Vision Forum because so much of what Vision Forum wrote to Don Veinot consisted of personal attacks against Mark and me, and Don thought we deserved to see them in case we wished to respond. I appreciate this old-fashioned courtesy very much, because the general lack of it is one reason Doug Phillips’ continual whisperings often travel so far without challenge.

When we received our copies of Vision Forum’s correspondence with Don, we immediately saw that it was very typical of the way they deal with critics. First, as usual, the letters are not signed by Doug. He gets someone else to do the dirty work. In the past, it has been a BCA deacon signing an attack on behalf of the non-existent “Session” of BCA, or Doug’s lawyer threatening legal action, or another prominent patriarchal figure such as Kevin Swanson or Dr. Abshire weighing in for Doug. This time, it was Doug’s long-time assistant, Wesley Strackbein.

Something else about the letters to Don that are typical of Doug’s MO is that, while they invoke the name of Christ, they are highly accusatory of the personal character of those they attack. They also employ guilt-by association tactics such as trying to taint what Don says by claiming he is associated with others (Mark and me) that they have already smeared.

Another characteristic of Doug’s MO that you can see clearly in the letters is an effort to avoid facing the main issues by changing the subject. Don’s article was entirely a critique of Vision Forum’s theology of patriarchy. If you don’t believe me, go back and read it for yourself. You will see that it relies for its sources entirely on publicly available information on Vision Forum’s own website. You will also see that it says nothing about me or about Vision Forum’s or Doug Phillips’ treatment of me. In fact, Don did not consult with Mark or me about any aspect of his article before it was published. That being so, isn’t it curious that most of Vision Forum’s 15-page letter was devoted to attacking Mark and me?

I think the reason for Vision Forum’s misplaced attacks is that this is their best (only?) ammo. They have no credible answers to Don’s theological critique. So they have to change the subject. The fact that I handed out copies of Don’s article was just the fig leaf of an excuse they needed to change the subject to what has lately been their favorite rhetorical whipping boy, the Epsteins. When I see this kind of thing I keep asking myself: Do they really think their followers are so stupid that they won’t see through the tricks?

I’m still not sure of the answer to that question. So I’ll write about things I do know. The main purpose of Vision Forum’s letter was to address two issues, what they called “Misrepresentations and Alliance with Renegades.” Since the supposed “misrepresentations” have some connection to Don’s theological critique, I’ll leave them to him to address publicly if he wants to. I’ll address Vision Forum’s effort to avoid the theological debate by claiming Don has allied himself with renegades. I won’t be able to address all of Vision Forum’s numerous errors and outright libels, but I will address a few of the main ones below, enough for you to get the point.

Renegade rhetoric

Vision Forum’s renegade rhetoric begins from the very start of the letter. So before you read further, make sure you’re sitting down and, if necessary, buckled in. You’re in for a wild ride. After identifying himself and thanking Don for taking the time to read the letter, Doug’s mouthpiece, Wesley Strackbein, immediately accuses Don of “join[ing] hands with a lawless couple who have become notorious for their prolonged campaign of gossip, lies, cruelties and deceptions” For stating that the purpose of the letter was to make peace, Wesley was off to a great start!

A few paragraphs further, he affects to soften the blow a bit by saying that “we also realize that unscrupulous individuals may have taken advantage of your good intentions or even sought to curry favor with you by manipulating you into believing that their cause is your cause.” Telling someone that they’ve been duped will probably not win them over either.

After stating that they are willing to disagree on many theological and practical issues, Vision Forum says that “we do not believe that this spirit of equanimity is possible if Christians resort to libel and internet assassinations” I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. The definition of “libel” is to publish in print an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his reputation. The key word in this definition is an untruth. If I have said anything untrue, why hasn’t Doug Phillips posted anything to the contrary? Not only has he not published any documentation disproving anything I have said, he has also not stated any place specifically where I have lied. That is because I have told the truth. Therefore, there is no libel. This line was directed to Don Veinot, but it carried clear implications for every other Doug Phillips critic as well.

The bulk of the letter addressed the issue of the alleged alliances with renegades, which Vision Forum summarizes as follows:

You Have Publicly Aligned Yourself with and Drawn Support from Individuals Who Have Been Excommunicated for Ongoing Unrepentant Sins and Who Have Demonstrated a Pattern of Continued Sinful and Lawless Activities Since their Excommunication, as Affirmed by Several Jurisdictional Entities

and was followed by: “Your active association with individuals whose pattern of egregious, sinful behavior is far-reaching, well-documented, and confirmed by the testimony of several distinct church bodies as well as a presiding Justice of a State Supreme Court.” I am trying very hard to figure out who these several jurisdictional entities are who have affirmed our excommunication. Jurisdictional must mean that they have jurisdiction over us. We have attended two churches since our excommunication for any length of time. We did not join either of these two churches. Does that mean that they still have jurisdiction over us? If so, is two the same as several? If so, how did they “affirm” our excommunication? Did they acknowledge that we were excommunicated? Yes. But we also acknowledge that. No one denies that fact. Did they review the evidence for themselves? One church did and Little Bear Wheeler then spent the next 14 months trying to get Doug to repent from excommunicating us. Faith Presbyterian did not ever review any of the evidence. Did they send us back to BCA? Faith Presbyterian did, and when we asked them what we were supposed to repent from, they had no answer for us. I really see no evidence for this claim that several jurisdictional entities have affirmed our excommunication. This fallacy is a faulty appeal to authority and designed simply to overawe Don with their impressive list of authorities.

As for a Justice of a State Supreme Court confirming anything about me, let alone my sinful behavior, well, Doug is really confused about his jurisdictions here, because although he has threatened to sue my husband and me, he hasn’t yet, so the jurisdiction of the state hasn’t been involved to confirm anything.

While such ignorance, if founded, is inexcusable on your part, it could explain how you were led astray to conspire with these renegades” And now Wesley lists only a “partial summary” concerning the “misbehavior of this embittered couple.” I will just deal with the items that address me, for the sake of brevity here.

Been excommunicated and adjudged to be treated as “heathen and publican” with the unanimous affirmation of a confessional church for ongoing (sometimes public, but always) serious sins, including habitual lying, revilings, and cruelty on the part of both husband and wife directly related to Mrs. Epstein’s past adultery with a Muslim which produced a child out of wedlock.

This is what I was excommunicated for? I was excommunicated for sins I committed before I was a Christian, now 17 years ago, and for which I fully repented a year later? I later put that repentance into writing and Doug Phillips agreed that I had fully repented. And now Vision Forum is stating that my excommunication and all my sins are directly related to my pre-conversion past. I’m pleased to see that Vision Forum has finally admitted in writing what I have said from the beginning. I am also pleased that, although Doug Phillips and Vision Forum do not appear to understand grace and the forgiveness of sins, the Lord did not need their mediation to give it to me.

Been reproved and admonished by multiple ministries, churches, and ministers for their unrepentant sins, spirit of vengeance, deceptions, etc.

The footnote states that these multiple churches are BCA, Faith PCA, and Living Waters Fellowship. I’m not sure who the ministries are, but I assume the ministers are the elders of these respective churches. I understand BCA’s stance on this very well. Faith PCA told us to reconcile with BCA first. When we asked what we should repent from, they had no answer. LWF took our side for a long time. We prefer not to speculate on why they had a sudden change of heart. Even so, when we asked them what “inaccuracies and misinformation” they were referring to, they had also had no answer. I do not believe I have done any of this in a spirit of vengeance. If I had wanted revenge, I could have gone public much earlier than the almost two years we waited, trying to reconcile. I spent much time praying about it and I still do, as I want to make sure my heart is right in all that I do here. I have been very careful with my words as well. If I had a spirit of vengeance, I would think it would be quite noticeable after all I’ve written here. As for the deceptions, I stand willing to be corrected on anything I’ve written on this website and elsewhere. However, in this charge, like the vast majority of such charges, Vision Forum has declined to offer any examples that can be tested or confirmed. Why? Because no such examples exist.

Been formally banned as a vendor from participation in conferences with FEAST, a regional home school organization, because of “unethical practices” including “deception” toward this group in the years 2005-2006.

It is true that Ruth Perez of FEAST issued a letter critical of me. She did not contact me first, however. And, as soon as I learned of the statement, I immediately wrote her a Matthew 18 letter, asking for more information about my alleged sins. She never responded. I don’t know if her long-standing association with Doug is the reason she has followed his example in making broad charges while refusing to back them up with specifics, but that is what has happened here as it did with Doug.

Of course, even if all of these charges against me were true, they would still do nothing to undermine or taint Don Veinot’s powerful theological critique of Vision Forum, which was the only point of the article in the first place.

Worked with “Christian” White Separatists to advance their agenda of gossip and lies against men and ministries.

The footnote here includes a link to a site set up to attack me by long-time Doug Phillips buddy, Matt Chancey. They may call him an “independent investigator,” but it isn’t so. The fact that Vision Forum was willing to lie about Doug’s relationship with Matt in a desperate effort to give the site some legitimacy is enough to know that it’s nothing more than a political damage control effort by this professional political consultant and long-time Phillips pal. It’s called “playing the race card.”

Been upbraided by a State Supreme Court Justice [for] activity which the Justice characterized as “vile schemes.”

Huh? I’ve never met a State Supreme Court Justice, nor have I ever had any dealings with one. Another misplaced appeal to the wrong authority.

Been exposed for their efforts in a conspiracy to destroy the good name of Christian leaders that has involved using the cover of proxy servers, writing under numerous anonymous and pseudonymous names, launching websites which perpetrated frauds, and even conspiring to spy on the homes of pastors like RC Sproul, Sr. and to interview neighbors under false pretenses for the purpose of gathering damaging information to be used in public smear campaigns.

Absolutely not. I have never been involved in a conspiracy to destroy the good name of any Christian leaders. I was a long-time donor to Ligonier Ministries. I felt a moral responsibility to investigate reports that the money I donated was being squandered. I found that to be true, and I posted several blog articles on that subject under my name. I make no apologies for that. In fact, I still pray for R.C. Sproul, Sr., although I no longer donate to his ministry.

Publicly (through the Internet and written correspondences they have widely distributed) called no less than two hundred men and women to repentance before their personal tribunal of justice. To accomplish these ends, they have trafficked in unrelenting gossip, have deliberately posted pictures of the Sproul family designed to humiliate them and have become a clearinghouse for gossip for anonymous internet assassins with an axe to grind. They have not only demanded the repentance of RC Sproul, Sr. and Doug Phillips, but of entire congregations, of multiple ministers of the Gospel, and of no fewer than ten members from their former local church whom they have charged with wrongs against them; and have called no less than three Christian ministries to repentance.

I have publicly called for the repentance of public figures who have sinned against me and refused all private efforts (including independent mediation) to resolve the matter. I’m sorry that this is a sensitive subject for Doug, but I think that’s probably because he has a guilty conscience. At least I hope so.

Been complicit in emailing numerous vindictive and false charges about Doug Phillips to home school leaders, government officials, and friends and business associates of Vision Forum as part of a coordinated campaign to besmirch Doug Phillips’ name and unlawfully interfere with business and ministry interests of which he is a part.

Mark and I wrote a carefully constructed letter that we emailed to homeschool leaders. Everything in it was well documented. Doug Phillips is welcome to provide his own evidence to try and counter any of my claims at any time. He has not done so, because there is no such evidence. So all he has left is this kind of strong rhetoric.

Mass-disseminated numerous outrageous and calumnious articles, including one which accused godly missionaries of complicity in the murder of Christians.

I have to give Wesley credit for variety in his choice of words to attack me, even though he does so in a letter supposedly about an article that I had nothing to do with. I don’t think I have ever before seen “calumnious” used in a sentence. I’m even a little embarrassed to confess that I had to look it up. Seriously, though, the footnotes to this charge keep referring to “Jennifer and other Ministry Watchman co-conspirators.” Clearly, Vision Forum is trying to turn all of its critics into conspirators and blame each act of “conspiracy” on every “conspirator.” I don’t know which logical fallacy that is, but I know it is one, or maybe two or three together.

Have posted offensive and inappropriate photo-shopped images of Doug and Beall Phillips on the Internet as part of their smear campaign.

I’m sorry that Wesley’s legalism has stifled his sense of humor. That’s not good for his health. I really don’t think this picture is that bad:

Have relentlessly ridiculed, mocked, and borne false witness against the women of Boerne Christian Assembly, both individually and collectively.

To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t said anything untrue about BCA women. As far as I know, I have not said anything true in a mocking manner. I have tried to be kind and fair in my portrayal of them, but I have used them as examples for my thoughts on how women are not valued as they ought to be in Patriarchy. I think the problem is that they have been led to a position that attracts the ridicule of the world, and I am being blamed for that.

Have conspired to secretly tape record conversations with the individuals they seek to defame.

Huh? I have no clue about what Wesley is talking about.

Have (between the two of them) operated, founded, or helped to establish no less than five attack-sites against Doug Phillips which have collectively published tens of thousands of words and untold hundreds of lies, while “exposing,” harassing, and defaming Christian ministers.

This charge begs the question. Doug says that what I say is a lie. I don’t agree, and I support what I say with documents. The length of those documents doesn’t matter, except that if Doug Phillips has done as much harm as I believe, then it makes sense that there would be many words needed to report on that harm. The truth is that all that Mark and I have written is far outweighed by the quantity of comments made by others on my blog, who share their own experiences with Doug Phillips or Vision Forum or offer their own theological critiques. In fact, so far there have been nearly 10,000 comments posted on my site. That’s a remarkable number for such a short time. Instead of blaming me for everything, Doug should ask himself why so many people besides me feel the need to express their concerns about him in public.

Staged publicity stunts (using [Don’s] materials), for which Jennifer Epstein was cited by police for criminal behavior.

My son and I passed out fliers on a back sidewalk until the police were called and all the commotion was brought to the front of the building. Standing on my First Amendment rights is not a crime last time I looked, but it is often a right that is trampled on.

Wesley ends this particular list by stating that “the evidence proving Mark and Jennifer’s complicity in unlawful and potentially criminal activity is voluminous, and we are personally in possession of hundreds of pages which document their role in a far-flung Internet conspiracy to discredit Reformed ministers and ministries.” Sometimes Doug gives me so much credit I have to be careful not to get a big head about it. When I take a reality check and realize that I haven’t actually done these things, I just have to shake my head in wonderment.

Wesley goes on to tell Don Veinot why his “alliance with notorious Internet assassins and church excommunicants is irrefutable,” naming all types of “incontrovertible facts.” These include Don giving me his “diatribe article” for me to use as a “publicity stunt” to “facilitate [my] campaign of hatred” and stating that I claimed that I was working directly with Don; I published private letters from Don on my website; and that Don allowed me to comment on his website, among other allegations of proof of our working together against Doug. I am sorry that I caused Don to sin by my posting a comment on his website. Maybe someone can help me find that verse in Scripture.

Finally, Wesley asks Don some questions about his alliances with “lawless individuals,” stating that he has been “in communication with the Epsteins’ small group of Internet malcontents [that’s you, dear reader] (some of which may be Mrs. Epstein under one of her multiple Internet personalities)…” and why would he “team up with unscrupulous individuals?”

Wesley ends his libelous letter by claiming “this letter is an attempt to restore peace. It is an olive branch…

I end this true article by asking you whether Vision Forum’s letter has really extended an olive branch or actually fired both barrels of a shotgun?

How I Became a Two-Fold Son of Hell

And How God Bestowed His Grace Upon a Pharisee Like Me

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Matt. 23:15

The word “Pharisee” means one who is separated for a life of purity. Oh, that described my intentions to the fullest as a believer. I wanted to be pure and holy. The Pharisees probably began with pure motives and good intentions. They so desired to please God. They wanted to love God with all their heart. They wanted to obey Him in everything they did. But even though the Law of Moses was rather stringent, there were still many areas of freedom, such as what it meant not to do any work on the Sabbath. So the Pharisees began to add to the Law, to make it even stricter than what God had intended, even going so far as to prescribe where one could spit on the Sabbath, for example: It was fine to spit on a rock because the spittle just sat there, but if you spat on the dirt, the dirt had to absorb the liquid, so that was considered work. Oh, we look at that now and laugh, but do we do the same things in our desire to be pure and holy? I know I do.

When we are truly sold out for Christ, it is a wonderful thing. It is a goal worth obtaining to be everything that God wants us to be. But in so doing, sometimes we lose our first love. Sometimes the pursuit of holiness begins to take precedence over our relationship with Christ. Sometimes the rules begin to rule in our own hearts. Sometimes we forget the grace of God toward us while we were yet sinners and we “work” to please the Lord. We don’t even realize it is “work.” We think that we are pleasing the Lord by living a life of holiness and obedience to him. And we may be. If our motives are right.

When we see a pattern or principle in Scripture, that can be a good thing, if we understand how to properly use it. There is much to be learned from these biblical principles. But there is a world of difference between using a biblical principle as a guide and using the principle to define sin. Some Christians have falsely elevated principles in Scripture to make them the equivalent of commands. When we see a principle in Scripture, I think it is intended to help us make wise decisions. Often people will call them guiding principles, and that they should be. They should be there to guide us in life, but they are not there as a rule of law for us. We get into trouble when we elevate even Scripturally-based guiding principles into a rule of law for our life.

When we discover principles in Scripture, we make our own preferences in life based upon these principles. After a while of living out these preferences, they may start to become convictions for us. After having our own convictions for a while, they can then be falsely elevated into convictions that we put upon others, often without ever meaning to do so. When we expect others to follow these same convictions, we elevate what started out as merely a guiding principle for life to the status of a command or law for us. To violate this “law” now becomes a sin. Sometimes these violations are even then elevated to the level of being an excommunicable offense. How did we get from a basic guiding biblical principle all the way to an excommunicable offense? I saw this happen in my own life.

These last few months were excruciatingly painful for me as I realized what I had bought into all these years. Until very recently, I was bound by legalism, but I didn’t know it. I have just recently had many “convictions” stripped away from me as I saw that God does not give us explicit commands in His Word regarding these areas. I am not advocating antinomianism in any way whatsoever; we are under the Law of Christ, and as such, there are plenty of commands for us to obey. We just need to be very cautious not to elevate principles to the place of a direct command.

Having been a part of the Patriarchy movement for seven years, even after our excommunication, I was surprised when some here started challenging this movement. These were not egalitarians or feminists, and they appeared to believe in biblical roles, so I didn’t understand what they had against patriarchy. I was suddenly faced with the realization that Patriarchy may not be as biblical as I’d always believed it to be. I loved the lifestyle of Patriarchy, in spite of my story.

When I first set about to write about patriarchy, my thoughts were that I would start by listing everything in patriarchy that I found to be biblical. The second part of that series was going to focus on what seemed to be hyper-patriarchy, or extra-biblical. As I read through the “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy,” I thought that, overall, they sounded fine. There were a few minor areas of concern, however, so I decided to look up those verses to see why that tenet was stated in that particular way. Expecting to find biblical language being used in the tenets, I was surprised to find that the first few Scriptures I looked up did not provide the biblical support I anticipated. As I looked into the Scriptural support further and further, I began to see a pattern emerge, a pattern of tenets without the requisite biblical support. Still, I reasoned to myself, these tenets aren’t really that bad in and of themselves. They just need a little more Scriptural support. Even after writing out all the lack of biblical basis found in the “Tenets,” I was blind to what it all meant.

I believe these tenets were originally written in 2001, which was a time when I found Patriarchy to be much more loving and not nearly as extreme as it is currently. While I am sure that many patriarchists still believe these Tenets as written, how they play out in real life has become a huge concern to me.

When it comes to God’s Word, truth is all important. I am sold out for the truth of God’s Word, even if it means that I have to make changes in life in order to line up with the truth of God’s Word. We naturally gravitate toward positions that favor our personal inclinations. Sometimes we do so without searching the Scriptures for ourselves. But a diligent search for the truth of God’s Word demands that we be willing to let God rip away our emotional attachments.

When we first attended a patriarchy church, I was attracted to the like-mindedness of the other families there. I had always had a strong desire to live in a Christian community with other people who believed the same things I did, who lived a similar lifestyle, and who worked and lived and fellowshipped together on a regular basis. I wanted more, so much more, than what a normal church has to offer. I wanted that New Testament church where they had all things in common, where they broke bread together daily, where they met together in homes to study and fellowship. I wanted to be with people who believed in following the roles for men and women that God laid out for us in His Word. I desired to be with families who wanted to stay together as a family and weren’t separated every time we walked through the doors of a church. I really wanted to meet other families who believed in a reasonable amount of training and discipline for their children, so that children are a pleasure to be around, and not terrors.

I also crave structure. I’d been in churches where they just “let the Holy Spirit lead,” and we never knew what was going to happen from week to week. That was too touchy-feely for me and I created my own boundaries instead. Although I don’t need liturgies, I enjoy a highly-structured format to the service. I like predictability. I thrived under the discipline of military life and was drawn to memorizing all the rules and regulations. I carried that desire over into real life as well, feeling safe inside my man-made boundaries. As long as I could see a solid reason for them, I was willing to submit to all kinds of rules, and delighted in having that same kind of structure at home. I never felt I was too extreme in all this, as I didn’t lay out a schedule for every adult and child in my family for every fifteen minutes of the day, as did some of my friends. But I still advocated basic time management.

So I didn’t know anything about Patriarchy when we first started attending this church, but I was so desperate for a “godly” church that I was willing to follow just about any set of rules in order to be a part of one. In fact, had we not gone here, I was ready to go to the Mennonite church the following week. I told my daughter that I was willing to give up my wardrobe of normal clothes and wear plain, drab dresses, no make-up or jewelry, and I would even wear a head-covering, if I could just find a godly church. When the elders started preaching on different aspects of Patriarchy and these different tenets would come up in everyday conversation, I thought this was what was necessary in order to be holy. I had previously thought that maybe I was the only person in the world who was concerned with holiness, but once I started attending this patriarchy church, I realized that I didn’t even begin to meet their standards of holiness. I arrived there full of pride at my own holiness, but I soon had that pride dashed, as I suddenly felt myself fall to the bottom of the barrel, spiritually, in comparison to these other godly families there.

I worked real hard to make the necessary changes to fit in. I wasn’t about to change just to fit in, though, so I set about to pray and asked God to reveal to me all the sin in my life. My husband did the same. Together, we began to listen to dozens of sermons by various speakers about this new kind of lifestyle. After each tape, we would discuss the message as a family, evaluating whether it lined up with Scripture or not. If we agreed that it was biblical, we would cry and repent and make major changes in our family. Looking back now, I can see that nearly all these messages were based on biblical principles, often taken out of context, rather than on direct commands of Scripture. We listened to most of these on a 6,000 mile cross-country trip, so we sometimes listened to three or four sermons a day. That meant three or four major changes in our family a day. That was pure hell for our thirteen year old daughter and she hated all the changes, but she eventually just got used to them, since everyone else at church lived the same lifestyle. So, it wasn’t too long before we were on par with the rest of the families at church regarding Patriarchy or, at least, as much as we could figure out without having it demonstrated to us. I did have some concerns about the level of submission that was taught and the emphasis on not allowing girls to attend college and some of the extremes for the women, such as not being allowed to introduce my own parents at church, but for the most part, they were small differences that I could live with. Or so I thought.

Years later, I told my story. And I was still dedicated to Patriarchy. In fact, I said as much in many of my comments here. I wasn’t even ready to give it up when I posted that series of three articles exposing how extra-biblical “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” really are. But God was ready for me to nail that coffin shut on that part of my life, so I believe that He led Corrie to post some articles here by Jonathan Lindvall. I said I didn’t want any off-topic comments on the “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” exposés, so I had some complaints about letting those comments stand. But as I read through those comments by Jonathan Lindvall, I suddenly realized that while the words on “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” sounded polished and full of vision, what Jonathan Lindvall was talking about was what my real life was like in Patriarchy. That hit me like a ton of bricks and I was forced to examine the fruit of Patriarchy in my life.

But something really significant happened along the way, something that made me willing to examine Patriarchy. The more I think about this particular experience in my life, the more I am able to empathize with those who are still caught up in Patriarchy, especially hyper-Patriarchy, and the more I understand why they just don’t see what we are talking about. As I share a really personal part of my heart with you now, I hope that this will help us to be able to pray for those who are still blinded to extra-biblical teachings of hyper-patriarchy.

As many of you know, Mike is my Bible study teacher. But we did not get off to a very good start last March when I argued incessantly with him about the definition of the words “observe” and “keep.” I don’t know why Mike gave me a second chance, but he began to systematically teach me about the Law of Moses in the Bible. I didn’t get it. I liked being under the Law, all the while insisting that I wasn’t actually under the Law, but was merely following the Law. We spent hours and hours and hours going through Galatians, but I just didn’t understand what Mike was trying to say. At one point, in exasperation, I said, “Do you know how many times I’ve read Galatians in the last several days?” Mike merely responded, “Not enough,” so we went back to the drawing board. I averaged 8-12 hours of Bible study a day for weeks, trying to find the truth. I knew my position was wrong by this point, but I wasn’t ready to concede. I had to be convinced of the truth; I had to see it for myself. So we studied many, many passages on the Law. And I still didn’t get it.

I woke up on March 25 this year at 3 in the morning with two words racing through my mind: authority and jurisdiction. All of a sudden, I realized that the Law has no authority over me because I am not under its jurisdiction. (I realize that this is a very simplified version of hundreds of pages of teaching. Mike also taught me later which law I am under.) Mike had been saying that all along, but my mind was blinded. As Mike encouraged me to go back over all the previous lessons again, I suddenly realized that I understood them all clearly. They were as obvious now as the nose on my face. What changed? Why did those two words keep my stomach in knots for weeks? Why did this Bible study consume my whole life? Why was I so driven to study about the Law of Moses, of all things?

I didn’t understand why then, but as I recently studied II Corinthians 3 again, a passage that Mike taught me in great detail previously, I saw something that explained the radical change in my life from that day I woke up shouting “Authority! Jurisdiction!” This passage is talking about the veil that Moses wore over his face, even as the glory was passing away, the glory that came from the Old Covenant, also called the ministry of death or the ministry of condemnation. Then it talks about how much more glorious the New Covenant is. Now look at verses 14-16:

But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

When I saw this two weeks ago, I noticed something new to me. Both thoughts are repeated twice, which gives meaning to the context. Before we look at that, though, we need to understand what the veil does. Verse 14 states that their minds were blinded and then goes on to show why. The veil over the heart represents a blind mind, one that cannot understand the Scriptures. The first idea expressed here is “the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament” and “when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.” Obviously God is not telling us that just reading the Old Testament causes a veil to remain unlifted. That wouldn’t make sense. The second part tells us that it is specifically when Moses, or the Law of Moses, is read. But does reading the Old Testament or even the Law of Moses cause a veil to be over our hearts? Let’s look at the other thought here to find out. Now we see that “the veil is taken away in Christ” and “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” When we turn to the Lord, when we are in Christ, the veil is taken away and our minds are no longer blind. Would it mean that when we became a Christian that we would still have a veil over our heart when we read the Law of Moses? No. Of course not. So, it seems to me that since the whole chapter is talking about comparing and contrasting the Old Covenant, that ministry of death and condemnation, with the New Covenant, the ministry of the Spirit and of righteousness, that that contrast is continued in these verses. When we turn to Christ, we are under the New Covenant; we are no longer under the Old Covenant. The veil of the Old Covenant is taken away in Christ. The veil of the ministry of death and condemnation is lifted when one turns to the Lord of the New Covenant.

So what am I saying? I now know that I lived under the Law of Moses. I tried to keep that Law. Even though that Law had no authority over me, no jurisdiction over me, I wanted to obey that Law of Moses anyway. I put myself under the Law of Moses and that is what this passage is referring to when it says “when Moses is read.” And so my mind was blinded. I could not understand the Scriptures. I thought I understood them, but Mike kept assuring me that I did not. And then, all of a sudden, that veil was lifted and my mind was no longer blind. I could see! I could understand! When? When I turned to the Lord. The passage tells us that the veil is lifted when we turn to the Lord, that our minds are no longer blind when we are in Christ.

Was I truly saved before that day? Maybe. Maybe not. I thought I was. I loved God with all my heart and I desired to please him. But I know of another Pharisee who loved God with all his heart and desired to obey God also — Saul, before he became Paul. And after his conversion, it was as if scales fell from his eyes and his mind was no longer blinded. He, too, was living under that old Law, the ministry of death and condemnation.

Legalism brings a lot of condemnation. Legalism is adding to what God has told us to do. Legalism places heavy burdens on us that God never intended us to carry. Legalism is the burden of the Pharisees. Just as Saul was a Pharisee before he came to Christ, so I was a Pharisee. The verse I began with in this article says that Pharisees make their converts into two-fold sons of hell. That simply means that the new Pharisees are twice as fit for judgment as those who taught them to be so legalistic. Why am I so dedicated to exposing extra-biblical Patriarchy? Because I am concerned about all the two-fold sons of hell that are being converted along the way. And sometimes, when we overcome particular sins of our past, we become zealous with a zeal against what we ourselves were bound up in. I was bound up in Patriarchy and I was bound up in legalism, and now God is birthing a zealousness in me to help free those who are bound, but don’t even realize it. I don’t have all the answers for those who are in bondage, but I’m willing to share what I know so far. Liberty is too sweet to keep it all to myself!

Doug Phillips and Brian Abshire Team Up Against Cult-Watch Journal Article

I think Doug likes giving me more things to write about. I just couldn’t pass up this latest blog entry from Doug:

(Here is the original article Doug is referring to.)

How to Respond to a Tale-Bearer: Dr. Brian Abshire Models an Apologetic of Sound Reasoning and Christian Charity for Family Reformers

A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector, with the authority and mandate to direct his household in paths of obedience to God. (Gen. 18:19; Eph. 5:22 – 6:4) A man’s authority in the home should be exercised with gentleness, grace, and love as a servant-leader, following the example of Jesus Christ. Leadership is a stewardship from God. (Ps. 103:13; Mal. 3:17; Matt. 11:29-30; Col. 3:21; 1 Pet. 3:7) The authority of fathers is limited by the law of God and the lawful authority of church and state. Christian fathers cannot escape the jurisdiction of church and state and must be subject to both. (Rom. 13:1ff.; Eph. 5:21; 6:4; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13ff.) Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy

The Bible rejects the egalitarian doctrine of feminism. It expressly teaches hierarchy within the home, including the servant-like, Christ-honoring leadership of fathers. It expressly teaches differences of roles and responsibilities between men and women (although there are many areas of overlap). (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; Tit. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-6)

The Bible does not, however, teach (a) the subjugation of women under the oppression of men; (b) the right of parents to brutalize or dominate children; or (c) the inferiority of women to men.

Nor does the Bible teach or encourage the notion that (a) women are barred from Christian ministry; (b) that the mind of a woman is inferior to that of a man; or (c) that women should not benefit from advanced training and higher education.

Yet the fact that there are no orthodox Evangelical ministries or preachers of note (of whom I am aware) who teach such things does not prevent immature, hateful, or merely misguided individuals from leveling all sorts of fantastical and sometimes humorous charges against ministries who fight for the biblical family and hold to historical Reformation views of male leadership within the church and home. (See the The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy, Marriage and Family in John Calvin’s Geneva, The Role of Women in the Church, An Exegetical Defense of Women as Keepers at Home, Making Wise Decisions About College and Life After Home School, The Blessed Marriage, Discipline: The Biblical Doctrine, etc., etc., etc.)

We at Vision Forum have raised serious objections to: (1) the working-woman philosophy of the late 20th century; (2) the cultural depravity of the modern university; (3) the feministic philosophy of the anti-complementarian, pro-egalitarian household leadership; (4) the culture of death and self-gratification, with its emphasis on closing the fruitful womb; and (5) attempts by liberals or vendetta-driven individuals to viciously mock fruitful mothers as baby machines, etc.

While raising these objections, we have also discussed and published material addressing: (1) alternatives to traditional college for both men and women; (2) the importance of cultivating the minds of both men and women to the fullest (for example, training both to be vigorous entrepreneurs); (4) the necessity of holding abusive husbands (and wives) accountable through the local church; and (5) the biblical imperative that men act nobly and sacrificially for women and children first. (See So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God, The Wise Woman’s Guide to Blessing her Husband’s Vision, Strength and Dignity for Daughters, Defending the Fatherless: How the Body of Christ Can Help Single Mothers, Suffer the Children: The Blessing of Imperfect Children, Raising Maidens of Virtue, etc., etc., etc.)

These positions may be distasteful to some, but they are neither novel nor innovative.

Furthermore, we have stood with those men and women who are part of the growing chorus of concerned Christians who are exposing the deception perpetrated by “Christian” leftists, Marxists and/or feminists of many shades, as well as Internet assassins, dishonorable tale-bearing gossips and blog gangsters who have unscrupulously attempted to silence real debate and lodge their opposition by aggressively bringing a false witness against defenders of biblical principles of patriarchy and by attributing to them views which they do not believe and attitudes which they detest, as part of an effort to objectify individuals by painting Christian mothers as mindless drones and fathers as wife-denigrating tyrants.

Such behavior is nothing new to Bible-based reformation movements. Within the last fifty years alone we have seen similar tactics lodged against six-day-creationists, home educators, advocates of the fruitful womb and parents concerned about the modern birth control ethic, and others seeking to recapture the historical biblical principles of orthodoxy and orthopraxy embraced by Church fathers and Reformers alike.

And we believe that the message of Scripture is as true and applicable today as it was when the words were first penned by divine inspiration:

These six things doth the LORD hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

But Christ’s message is not merely condemnation for the sowers of discord, the gossip-mongers, and the dividers of the brethren. Scripture exhorts a holy boldness for every mother and father who must endure the revilings of the Sandballats and Tobiahs (Nehemiah 4:1-7) of their day, while they as visionary parents seek to rebuild the walls of their family for the glory and honor of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel message:

Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. (Nehemiah 4:14)

Towards the Self-Government of Our Collective Tongues

Cults do exist. They are wretched abominations, which rightly should be denounced. But if people are going to raise the “C” word publicly, they had best be prepared to defend such a charge before the world, and if found guilty of defaming a legitimate work of Christ, they must be prepared to face the consequences which are rightly due to those who divide brethren and slander the servants of the Lord. Doug’s Blog, August, 2005

I wrote that comment more than two years ago, and I stand by it today. I stand by it because as a former attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, I have defended parents whose families and basic parental rights have been placed in jeopardy by reckless, talebearers who throw around such language before the world. (I watched innocent mothers and fathers undergo tremendous persecution at the hands of professing Christians who believed that it was weird and cultic to home educate.) I stand by it because, as Geoff Botkin pointed out, it is the tool of “infantile Christians” to send those brothers with whom they differ to the coliseums of the 21st century. I stand by it because one need only watch the news to see the comparisons that some in the Press are trying to make between Christians who teach role distinctions between men and women and militant extremist groups like the Taliban. Nor do we have to think hard to remember at least one case where American children were sent to their deaths by the Clinton administration because their parents were part of real cult groups.

Finally, I stand by my statement of more than two years ago because our ministry receives too many reports of mothers and fathers who are mocked, belittled, and accused of being “cultic” by fellow Christians, because these parents home school by conviction, or actively desire the fruit of the womb, or spank their children, or educate their college-age daughters at home instead of thousands of miles away at a defiling university, or embrace courtship and betrothal over the dating model when it comes to their children’s marriages, or believe men should be leaders in the church and the home, etc., etc..

This brings me to the heart of the article before you:

For all of the above reasons, I applaud men like Dr. Brian Abshire who help the Christian public understand the tactics of “infantile Christians” who lightly use the “C” word to discredit those Christians with whom they personally disagree.

I applaud him for many reasons, one of which is Geoff Botkin’s point: If men like Dr. Abshire do not take the time to address the reckless public name-calling of undisciplined, professing Christians, tension within the Body of Christ is likely to escalate. If the Body of Christ does not learn to control our collective tongues and be a self-governing household of God for the glory of Jesus Christ, there could be very hard days ahead of us. History is replete with stories of the inhumanity of professing Christians against professing Christians. It may very well be that the immature or unscrupulous “Christians” — filled with self-righteousness, intolerant of differences that clearly fall within the pale of orthodoxy — will be the ones who pave the way for a new wave of statist tyranny and destructive family intervention. And if the Lord is merciful, and none of this ever happens, we would be foolish to believe that there will be no spiritual consequences on a Church so immature that the viciousness among professing members towards each other exceeds anything directed at the world itself.

Dr. Brian Abshire Helps Christian Students, Parents, and Pastors Model a Charitable Response to Tale-Bearers and False Accusers of the Brethren

Enter Dr. Brian Abshire — pastor of Highlands Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Abshire recognizes that the plague of talebearing is a heartache to the Church, and that those who use the Internet to traffic in tale-bearing, as well as those who receive the tale-bearing, are guilty of breaking the Ninth Commandment.

He finds especially distasteful talebearers who use words like “cult” or “cultic” as a fear-mongering tactic and to attack the credibility of ministries, mothers, fathers, and pastors who reject feminism and hold to historic Reformation doctrines of the family. In fact, he finds their behavior sufficiently distasteful that he has authored a devastating response to one of them.

In the course of his article, Dr. Abshire defends himself, Vision Forum Ministries, and, indirectly, innocent men and women who embrace the same principles of family leadership, honor, and generational faithfulness advocated by the Reformers and embodied in documents like this.

In my view, Dr. Abshire’s article is a charitable, logical, and an accurate response to an individual who has set aside fundamental rules of brotherly conduct and journalistic integrity to traffic in accusations which are characterized by imprecision and falsehood.

And because this sort of behavior is becoming so very commonplace — especially on the Internet — articles like this are instructive. Dr. Abshire has given parents, pastors, and students a helpful model of how to respond to reckless, uncharitable, ungoverned Christian brothers who err by using the Internet and other means to bring a false witness against their neighbor in violation of the Ninth Commandment.

Specifically, Dr. Abshire’s rebuttal is quite instructive because he exposes the numerous basic fallacies, errors in logic, research omissions, unbrotherly conduct, lack of elementary principles of academic and journalistic integrity, and outright falsehoods employed by an individual who was unwilling to retract his accusations after being confronted in writing and verbally. And Dr. Abshire makes his case with manly firmness, but genuine Christian charity, ever willing to give the benefit of the doubt to an accuser who was most certainly not willing to do the same for him.

Below are just a few samples of the categories addressed by Dr. Abshire in his response:

Dr. Abshire on Equating Personal Differences with Cultic Teaching

…you declare Christian brothers to be teaching “false doctrine” when in reality, they are simply teaching something that you may not personally believe. You then imply that they are “cultic” using a pejorative term that you deliberately associate with heretics and false religion. This is NOT fair, equitable or honest; it is propaganda — it is the straw man argument. Simply because YOU disagree with an interpretation of the Scriptures (and as will be shown later, an “application” of the Scriptures) does not necessarily mean that those who propose it are “false teachers.”

Dr. Abshire on Accusation without Attestation

…most of your essay makes accusations without attestation; in other words, you SAY that someone believes “such and such” but provide no actual quotes from essays, articles, lectures, books, etc., where the person actually makes such statements. And since when you DO actually make an attribution, as in the case of my unnamed essay and you leave out important qualifying statements or ignore the context, it leaves me wondering just how accurately you have represented other people’s views.

Abshire on Talebearing, the “C” Word, and Willful Misrepresentation

You take statements out of context, ignore qualifying statements that actually DENY what you say we believe and implicitly call us “cultic” when our views are Right Square in the middle of historic Christian orthodoxy. I am afraid that I must say that it appears you either did not understand the issues, or you deliberately misrepresented our views for some reason…My point is that you declare Christian brothers to be teaching “false doctrine” when in reality, they are simply teaching something that you may not personally believe. You then imply that they are “cultic” using a pejorative term that you deliberately associate with heretics and false religion.

Dr. Abshire on the Duty to Perform Basic Research

There is a recurring problem in your essay; a failure to do basic research…It is basic scholarship that if a statement is controversial, especially critiquing another person’s view, you MUST show that this is what the person actually said. This you fail to do throughout your essay.

Dr. Abshire on the Misrepresentation of Actual Citations

…you write, ‘…women cannot be trusted as decision makers but are at their best when micro-managed by their fathers or husbands.’ You then give a long quote which has NOTHING to do with your assessment. The quote simply does not say what you said it says. In fact, the quote rejects autonomy, especially in regards to a girl following her ‘heart’ and affirms her trust in her father to help her make decisions on some basis other than emotions. Nowhere does this quotation imply, necessarily or otherwise that fathers are to “micro-mange” their daughters or that women are not trusted to make decisions on their own…Therefore, the question becomes this; if when you DO give an actual citation, your assessment is clearly contrary to fact, how can anyone trust your assessments when you do not provide the citations? You either horribly misunderstood the quotation, or you deliberately misrepresented it.

Dr. Abshire on Historic Doctrines vs. Modern Feminist Assumptions

…the view that you propose here is at best about forty years old, originating in Liberal universities and mainline theological seminaries in the late 1960’s and filtering into evangelical ones in the 1970’s…

Dr. Abshire on Tale Bearing, the “C” Word, and the Duty of False Accusers to Repent

Will you repent of your false accusations, or maintain them? Please remember-this is not an attack against you… you have publicly accused us of being cultic and teachers of false doctrine… If we do not believe it, then you have born false witness against us, breaking the Ninth Commandment and slandering the brethren. Therefore, you need to recant here, publicly and confess your sin to your readers.

The War against 1900 Years of Established Church Orthodoxy

Multi-generational faithfulness is not a new concept. Male leadership in the family, church, and state is not a new concept (Ex 18:21ff; Prov. 31:23; 1 Cor. 11:3ff; Eph. 5:23). Biblical femininity(Prov. 31; Eph. 5:22-24; 1Tim. 2:9ff), women as “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5ff) and helpmeets to their husbands is not a new concept. The duty of fathers to protect their daughters until they are “given in marriage”(Dt. 7:1-3; 1 Cor. 7:37-38) is not a new concept. The importance of seeking the Lord for children as His reward is not a new concept(Ps. 127:1-5). All of these are important elements of principles of biblical patriarchy.

These are not new concepts, nor are they concepts rooted in cultural traditions or pagan precedents. We maintain that they are exegetically defensible, biblical concepts rooted in the creation order itself, communicated through the dominion mandate and subsequent law revelations of God, and reflective of His transcendent character and eternal righteousness.

And the weight of church history and biblical scholarship favors these understandings.

Critics of these principles who claim to be Christian within the historical Reformation tradition, but who don’t want to be called “feminist,” have their work cut out for them. Because, in the end, they have to pick a fight with scholars and teachers far more astute than most of the best ones alive today: They have to pick a fight with the likes of John Calvin, John Knox, Martin Luther, and Martin Bucer— just to name a few. (Frankly, the positions adovcated by Vision Forum Ministries are mild and tempered compared to some of the conclusions advocated by these men.)

But these critics appear disinclined to do so. At least no credible individuals have done so to date. True, there is a spate of liberal university scholarship arguing for an anti-hierarchical, anti-patriarchal, anti-complementarian, pro-egalitarian view of Scripture. (And much of it follows the rules of civil dialogue and discourse.) But most of these individuals do not claim to be within the pale of the historic, conservative, reformation or evangelical tradition. They are liberals, and they are honest about that fact. They are honest about their feminism. Some of them are even excellent scholars — like Gordon Fee (Author of numerous books on evangelical feminism). I just happen to disagree with them.

My criticism goes out to those who pretend to be neither feminist, nor liberals, but who have adopted the premises of both and who resort to the type of disreputable tactics, which Dr. Abshire has rightly censured. These are the half-cocked and sometimes agenda-driven commentators. From such we have come to expect an avoidance of documented, confirmable facts, in favor of ad hominum attacks, caricature, and whopper stories which appear designed to present as freaks and cultic those proponents of family reformation who sympathize with the type of ideas summarized in the first paragraph of this article.

At this point, more and more people realize that there is a big difference between a sloppy diatribe, on the one hand, and a real argument marshaled by reputable sources who have done their homework, on the other. Brian Abshire’s exhaustive refutation of an episode of serious talebearing demonstrates that people who resort to shadowy tactics have disqualified themselves from the right to be taken seriously — at least until they clean up their act and turn over a new leaf.

Dr. Abshire’s article accomplishes one other important goal: It brings encouragement to fathers and sons, moms and daughters committed to family reformation — and there are many — who have been subject to unfair harassment or vicious talebearing. It should encourage them, not only because of his charitable spirit and reasoned argumentation, but because his article is a sign of what can be — reasoned, brotherly discourse for the glory of God.

Click here to view the article.

Vision Forum: God Does Not Allow Women to Vote

Lynn brought this up in a comment and I wanted to show the entire context of this statement on the Vision Forum website that “God does not allow women to vote.”

Until the twentieth century, Americans almost universally held to this doctrine of representation in some form or the other. The reason why women were not allowed to vote had nothing to do with women being considered “inferior” or “too emotional” (these values arose during the Victorian era and were themselves theologically and socially deviant) but rather because the husband and father was ASSUMED to represent the family to the broader community. By definition, there could only be ONE representative of the family just as there could only be ONE representative of the Human Race to God!

However, by the end of the 19th century, American Christians had largely stopped thinking in theological terms. Instead, an emotive, subjective religious “experience” (called Pietism”) emphasizing individual conversion replaced the comprehensive Christian worldview of the Reformation. As Christians failed to think biblically about all of life, they were unable to withstand either the new philosophies gaining ground in the universities or deal effectively with the changing social conditions of the Industrial Revolution. By the 20th century, American Christians saw the “height” of Christian activism as banning alcohol while at the same time affirming a woman’s right to vote. Both ideas were unmitigated disasters; God has not allowed the civil magistrate to outlaw wine and God does not allow women to vote (cf. 1 Tim 2:11ff). But by ignoring God’s law, American Christians both destroyed their own credibility (the Prohibition era is STILL a matter of public ridicule and repealing prohibition set the legal precedence for pornography, sodomy and the acceptance of other moral failures) and the integrity of own families.

In regards to a woman’s right to vote; if husband and wife are truly “one flesh” and the husband is doing his duty to represent the family to the wider community, then what PRACTICAL benefit does allowing women to vote provide? If husband and wife agree on an issue, then one has simply doubled the number of votes; but the result is the same. Women’s voting only makes a difference when the husband and wife disagree; a wife, who does not trust the judgment of her husband, can nullify his vote. Thus, the immediate consequence is to enshrine the will of the individual OVER the good of the family thus creating divisions WITHIN the family.

Doug Phillips “Excommunicates” Children for the Sins of Parents

Doug Phillips’ Peculiar Interpretation of “Covenant Theology”

When Mark and I were “excommunicated” from Boerne Christian Assembly in 2005, we were “disciplined” individually. In theory, we could be restored individually. In other words, if I were to repent of whatever it is that I’m supposedly guilty of (we’re still trying to figure out what that could be), but if Mark were not to repent, then I could return to membership in BCA and would not have to wait until Mark repents of whatever it is that he’s supposed to repent of. The inverse would also, supposedly, be true. This is born out in Section X of the Disciplinary Action Statement against us from January 23, 2005. It states the following:

X. Individual Discipline
For this purpose of this disciplinary action, both of you are being treated as individuals. Restoration of one spouse is not contingent on the restoration of the other. Your past and future conduct is evaluated on an individual basis. Either or both of you may request restoration of fellowship, and your request will be evaluated on an individual basis.

Mark and I were “excommunicated,” and we were excommunicated as individuals. Our entire family was not excommunicated. Our children were not excommunicated. Our children were not under any form of church discipline whatsoever. In practice, though, BCA has treated our children as though they too were excommunicated. BCA has shunned and punished our entire family. What sin are my children guilty of? None that anyone has ever stated. Only in the past couple months has anyone from BCA said anything about any alleged sins that my children are guilty of, and in both cases those alleged “sins” occurred just within the last couple months.

Joshua’s “sin” is that he assisted me with passing out fliers at the Arlington home school conference. Natasha’s “sin” is that she went to Vision Forum to assist the process server in identifying Doug Phillips, after Doug’s employees had already lied to the process server and told him that Doug wasn’t there. Also, shortly after that incident, one or more of Doug’s employees alleged that Natasha had “flipped them off.” Natasha denies this. However, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that Natasha did “flip off” Vision Forum employees. What does that have to do with the shunning and “discipline” that she’s been subjected to for the two years prior to that incident? The same goes for Joshua. Even if assisting me with handing out fliers at a home school conference were a “sin,” what does that have to do with the prior two years of shunning and “discipline” that Joshua has been subjected to by everyone at BCA? Doug is now grasping for excuses after the fact for punishing my children.

Shunning and punishing my children for my own “sins” doesn’t in any way inspire or compel me to want to repent. Just the opposite. Scripture forbids punishing children for the sins of the parents, and visa versa:

Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. Deut. 24:16

But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge. Jer. 31:30

The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. Ezek. 18:20

Even if Doug Phillips were capable of complying with my repeated requests to furnish me with a specific and detailed list of my sins, supported by evidence and testimony of witnesses (rather than the vague, unspecific, and unsupported general list of charges that I can’t comprehend how I’m guilty of such things, nor will anyone even attempt to explain the charges), punishing my children for my alleged “sins” only confirms the fact that Doug Phillips is an ecclesiastical tyrant — a bully. Isn’t this exactly what a bully does? Pick on and punish people who are smaller and weaker and unable to defend themselves? Bullies are also cowards, and it doesn’t get any more cowardly than what Doug Phillips has done, but to punish children when they’ve done nothing wrong.

After having spent five years of their young lives totally enveloped in BCA, and all their friends at BCA, and knowing very little outside of BCA, my children suddenly had all their friends and all their social lives ripped away from them. BCA members were ordered to shun Mark and me. However, in practice, they shunned us all. How has that affected my children? It’s been absolutely devastating to them. If my children pull through this with their Christian faith intact, it will only be by the grace of God. It certainly won’t be because of any kindness and compassion of Doug Phillips. There have been many times that I have genuinely feared for Doug and the judgment awaiting him. The Lord Jesus showed a very special care and compassion for children, and obviously he expects His under-shepherds to follow His example:

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matt. 19:14

In a very practical way, Doug Phillips has censured my children for no sins of their own. In so doing, he has hindered and undermined my children’s walk with the Lord. Doug’s unjust punishment of my children has seriously hampered their Christian faith. My children have greatly struggled with the implications of fellow believers treating them so cruelly, all sanctioned by a “pastor.” Unless Doug repents, he may one day pay a very heavy price for it:

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt. 18:6

If Doug Phillips would do it to my children, he can and probably will do it to others, as well. But he can only do so if he’s given other opportunities. It is for this, and other reasons, that I’ve gone public with my story. If I can do anything to prevent Doug Phillips from injuring the lives and undermining the faith of anyone else, and children in particular, I believe that I have a moral and a biblical obligation to do so.

Here’s a peek into just one weekend of my children’s lives. First, Natasha:

If there is one thing young ladies love to do, it’s to plan their weddings. For years, girls in their teens and early twenties will giggle and whisper and share secret plans for that special moment — someday. This is often a time of choosing bridesmaids and flower girls as well, and many girls make promises to one another to have each other be attendants in their weddings. This everyday scenario takes place just as often in Family Integrated Churches as well, especially where courtship is taught and practiced. But what they don’t plan on, maybe, is outside interference, outside meddling.

My daughter, Natasha, was very good friends with Little Bear Wheeler’s daughter, Aimee, for seven years. Natasha and Aimee fellowshipped and spoke often. Not only did they plan their weddings together, but Aimee was the one person who was there for Natasha when it seemed that all the other Christians were only interested in judging her. Being a pastor’s kid (PK) isn’t easy. It put Aimee in the spotlight, always under the scrutiny of other church members, both inside and outside her own father’s church. Natasha stood by Aimee through thick and thin. So when Aimee recently announced that she was getting married, Natasha expected that they would go through with the plans they had made for Natasha to be Aimee’s bridesmaid. Disappointed, but not really surprised, Natasha soon realized that Aimee’s attendants did not include her after all, but she was still looking forward to attending the wedding of one of her best childhood friends. However, Natasha’s invitation never arrived.

Seeing how desperately Natasha desired to go to her friend’s wedding, a mutual friend ran interference and was able to get Natasha an invitation to the wedding that was to take place on Saturday, July 28. Natasha was so elated! But that joy lasted only a few hours before being dashed by a phone call from Aimee, uninviting Natasha to her wedding. Devastated, Natasha asked why. It turns out that Doug Phillips’ “influence” (and meddling) reaches a long way. Apparently, some people at BCA read Still Fed Up and they weren’t pleased with the pictures of Natasha that the SFU boys stole from Natasha’s private website and posted on SFU. Then there was the false accusation that Natasha “flipped off” the Vision Forum folks when she was at Vision Forum, assisting the process server. These two incidents seemed to be enough to provoke Doug Phillips into convincing Little Bear Wheeler to not only ban the entire Epstein family from attending Aimee’s wedding, but also to hire policemen to keep us all out, on threat of being arrested if any of us showed up.

Natasha asked Aimee if she had ever given her reason to believe that Natasha would lie about flipping people off at Vision Forum. No, Aimee didn’t have any reason not to believe her, except that certain people from Vision Forum (Peter Bradrick was standing there the whole time) had stated such. Aimee didn’t know who to believe. Natasha asked if she had ever caused a scene before, and if not, why would Aimee think that she would do so at her friend’s wedding? Aimee had no answer except that a certain person had convinced her father that Natasha should not be allowed to attend. In the end, Aimee really had no choice but to submit to the edicts of Doug and her own father.

Natasha felt betrayed by the fact that shortly after our “excommunication,” Doug removed any mention from Vision Forum’s web site that Natasha had won runner-up in a Vision Forum writing contest. This was her first indication that she too would be punished for her parents’ “excommunication.” The punishment has continued to this very day, and from all appearances, she will continue to be punished for the “sin” of being an Epstein.

The fact is that none of the other Epsteins had been issued an invitation, and we wouldn’t have “crashed” Aimee’s wedding. There was no need for Doug to hire police officers to keep us out. Apparently though, he still believed it necessary to hire policemen for the sole purpose of keeping out just one twenty-year-old girl. This goes to show just how fearful Doug really is, and it’s that same fear that caused him to hire police and other “security” for his recent open house at Vision Forum.

Now to fourteen-year-old Joshua:

Joshua has also been very lonely since the whole family got kicked out of BCA. Joshua is very shy to begin with, but he did have a very good friend at BCA. He’s seen him a couple times at various events since January 2005, but averaging once a year to see a friend just doesn’t seem to fulfill those social needs. We have tried finding other friends, but other churches, which don’t seem to last very long either, haven’t had any boys close in age who were willing to be his friend either. He’s quite a likeable guy; we’ve just been stymied in our attempts to find even one friend for him.

So when our recent houseguest said that he would like to visit BCA this past Sunday, he asked if Joshua could come with him to keep him company. Joshua was so excited about seeing his one friend again that he was willing to risk pretty much anything for the opportunity to spend time with a boy his age for a few hours.

I asked Henry Johnson, our friend, why he wanted to visit BCA. Henry is Joe Taylor’s digging partner and works at the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum with Joe. Henry has witnessed Doug’s treatment of Joe and Henry is also the videographer who was with me at the Arlington Homeschool Conference in May. He saw how I was treated there. So I wondered why Henry wanted to visit BCA. He said there were a couple reasons. First, even though he knew what had happened to both Joe and me, Henry is the type of person to give someone the benefit of the doubt. I had also told Henry of the incredible sense of family (Family Integrated Church) that we felt for the five years we were at BCA. I had explained about how we would stay at church all day fellowshipping after the service. Henry had such a strong desire to a part of something like that all his life that he was grateful if he could just experience it, even for one day. I had described the service to him and it seemed like the type of church service Henry would greatly enjoy. BCA would also line up well with Henry’s own theology. Henry has not been able to attend church for a long time, for various reasons, so he was excited to be a part of a service like this, even if it was just for one day. Living out in the boonies, Henry gets lonely sometimes, so he, too, was looking for church fellowship for the day.

So, with much anticipation for a pleasant day, Henry and Joshua drove an hour to visit BCA. Accidentally parking on the wrong side of the building on someone else’s land, they were greeted cheerfully by Bob Sarratt, who asked them to please park in a different location. After pulling in next to a whole line of white 15-passenger vans, Doug Phillips got out of his van right next to them and Henry greeted him. Doug returned his greeting. When the church bell rang announcing the beginning of the service, Henry and Joshua made their way to the building to find a seat. As they passed the annex building, Joshua noticed Doug Phillips speaking with Mo Gill, one of the deacons. It soon became clear what they were discussing. Walking up onto the porch, Henry and Joshua greeted several of the men and young men there, who also greeted them in return. Joshua knew a couple of them very well and spoke for just a moment with them.

Shortly thereafter, Steve Ringer came up and asked to speak to Henry. Steve wanted to know why they were there. Henry explained that Joshua had a friend there and that Henry had come just to enjoy the service and to be with Joshua. Steve wanted to know if Henry was the man doing the videotaping in Arlington and Henry said that he was. Steve said that Henry and Joshua had “shown an aggressive nature” toward them, but Henry replied that he was only there to listen to the sermon, that he was not there with any kind of aggressive intentions at all. He explained that rather than taking someone else’s word for what church was like at BCA, that he desired just to worship with them for a day. “I have no desire to do anything else except listen,” he said.

At this point in the conversation, Wesley Strackbein joined them and said that Henry couldn’t be trusted to act in an appropriate manner, so he asked Henry to leave the premises. After verifying that he was indeed being asked to leave, Henry asked if Josh could just stay there and Henry would pick him up later. Wesley responded that since Josh is part of the same family that caused a great deal of harm to BCA, that even though he didn’t have anything against Joshua personally, that given Joshua’s family’s involvement, “covenantally, that would not be acceptable.”

The term, “covenantal,” is significant. We can only interpret this as meaning that since Mark and I had been excommunicated, all our children are “covenantally” subject to the same punishment. Unless Mark and I are restored to fellowship, all our children are to be treated as though they, too, have been excommunicated. For all practical purposes, Doug expects, and even demands, that all other churches treat us all in the same manner. An example of this is what happened to us at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA). We were initially all welcomed there. Later we were all asked to leave together. No option was ever afforded us to just bring our children to FPC, so that just their own spiritual needs for hearing the Word preached, and Christian fellowship, could be met. Just like BCA, FPC punished not only us, they punished our children, too.

Wesley Strackbein introduced Bob Sarratt to Henry as an elder for Boerne Christian Assembly. Although Bob’s name appears on the document that BCA wrote against us when we first went public, he was not an elder at that time, but he was a deacon. I also noted when I wrote my response to that article that even though Bob Sarratt’s name appears on the document that it had to have been written by Doug. It appears that Doug has since appointed Bob Sarratt as an elder.

Henry then explained that he had heard a lot about BCA and he wanted to come and share in their worship. Interrupting him, Bob Sarratt said, “That may have been the pretenses, Sir, but Joshua Epstein has been publicly crying out against this body, handing out fliers, being interviewed on the internet, and saying slanderous things, along with his family, and as such, he is not our welcome guest.” Bob went on to say that if the Epsteins wanted to meet with the leadership and settle all that that BCA would love to have us back. In the meantime, Joshua would not be allowed to stay and he asked Henry to leave as well. He said if Henry were there by himself sometime, he would be welcome to stay. However, since BCA was leasing the facility, they had the right to ask people not to stay if they were seeking to disrupt the meeting of the church.

Henry assured Bob that he was not there to disrupt anything but had only desired to quietly participate in the service. However, he said that he understood what Bob was telling him. Bob continued on that the Epsteins’ actions had proven time and time again that they must be there to disrupt the service. Bob went on to say that Henry was complicit in Arlington as well and Wesley said he had witnessed that as well. Again, Henry said that he understood that they didn’t approve of his videotaping at Arlington.

Then Bob asked where Joshua was. Joshua had been waiting several feet away, on the front porch, during this conversation. At one point, Doug Phillips and his son, Joshua, who is the same age as my Joshua, and who also used to be very good friends with him, passed right by Joshua Epstein, but refused to even look at or speak to him. It wasn’t as if they just didn’t notice; they had to have passed within just a few inches of him, and they had seen him as they walked up. There was no mistaking the obvious shunning of a fourteen-year-old boy. His own father had set the example. Like father, like son?

As Bob Sarratt then approached Joshua, he told him that he had seen him protesting and bringing accusations against BCA. He said he had also seen Joshua “on the interviews and in the commentary.” Bob told Joshua that although he wasn’t personally excommunicated, that Joshua was complicit in the acts of slander and had had a very negative impact against BCA and therefore he wasn’t welcome there until that was settled. But that wasn’t enough for Bob. He continued, “We could call the sheriff’s department and they’ll remove you from this body and we do have the right as leasees. We have the domain of this property right here that you’re on.”

Again, Henry expresses his understanding, “I’m sorry we couldn’t stay, but I understand.”

But Bob Sarratt still isn’t finished with them and tells Joshua that he can’t come back until the excommunication of his parents is taken care of, as well as the issues that have arisen since the excommunication which “pale by comparison.” As Henry once again agrees, Bob has to threaten them one last time: “I’m going to have to ask you to leave or we will be calling the sheriff’s department and have them remove you.”

Henry finally shakes Bob’s hand and tells him he’s sorry and he appreciates it. After Henry shakes hands with Steve Ringer and Wesley Strackbein as well, Joshua puts his hand out to Bob Sarratt as well, who had already put his hand back in his pocket. As Joshua stands there with his hand out, waiting for Bob, Bob finally and reluctantly agrees to shake Joshua’s hand.

As Henry and Joshua walk toward the truck, Joshua remarks to Henry, “That was real Christian love, wasn’t it?” Laughing, Henry simply replies, “No!”

So what did this fourteen-year-old do to be openly shunned like this by Doug Phillips and his son? What did Joshua do to be threatened twice with calling the cops on him? How has Joshua slandered BCA? I seem to recall that slander involves saying something that is not true. When has Joshua protested and brought accusations against BCA? When was he interviewed and what commentary has he provided?

Joshua is my son and that is the real reason he was not allowed to worship at BCA on Sunday. Doug Phillips is the one who taught me to take my children with me wherever I go, so naturally I would have brought them with me to Arlington. I did not go there to cause trouble. I went there to speak with Doug. When Doug refused to meet with me, I used my time there to warn others about Doug Phillips. Since Doug encourages us to “teach our children real life,” that is exactly what I did. Joshua helped me pass out a few papers, legally, to some attendees. He was not interviewed by the police, nor did he protest, slander, or bring accusations against anyone. He has never done anything to cause Doug Phillips to think that Joshua will ever do him any harm. I have never done anything to harm Doug Phillips, nor will I. That is not why I am here. I am here first to call Doug to repentance (which I did for a number of months), and second, to warn fellow believers about a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I have never had any intention of bringing harm to Doug or anyone at BCA or Vision Forum, nor will I ever. These acts of calling the authorities, or threatening to call the authorities, are simply Doug’s overreaction to his own refusal to meet with a woman to discuss the issues.

Doug and BCA’s latest claim that they’re now willing to meet with us is just another ruse. For two years we attempted to meet with Doug. In every case we were told, “Talk to my attorney.” I’ve never heard of such a thing. In the first place, our “excommunication” isn’t an attorney matter. It’s a pastoral matter. Secondly, we weren’t “excommunicated” from Vision Forum, and Doug’s attorney is Vision Forum’s attorney. He’s not BCA’s attorney, nor does he even attend BCA.

Is it appropriate to punish the children for the sins of the parents? Under Doug’s bizarre interpretation of “covenant theology,” yes, apparently it’s totally appropriate, and it’s consistent with Doug’s views on covenant theology. However, it’s not in any way biblical. Perhaps in the future, I’ll do an exposé of Doug Phillips’ strange views of covenant theology.

And by the way, what were those sins again, those sins that I’m allegedly guilty of?

Doug Phillips Sets the Standard for Family Integrated Church

A Good Idea At Risk Of Breeding Legalism

Among the other things that Doug Phillips promotes through The Vision Forum and Vision Forum Ministries is “Family Integrated Church.” Doug Phillips originally founded the “Uniting Church and Family,” a website and annual conference for training patriarchs to start their own churches, often home churches. This idea, which he originally “borrowed” from Eric Wallace’s book “Uniting Church and Home,” was initially headed up by John Thompson. The name was eventually changed to the National Center for Family Integrated Churches and is currently headed up by Doug’s friend, Scott Brown.

Just what is a family- or age-integrated church? What makes it different from a traditional church with age-segregated programs for adolescents, teens, college-age, adults, etc.? Is it a rejection of Sunday School and youth groups? Are family-integrated churches typically only for homeschoolers? Are they all the same? Is this a new denomination? Is Doug Phillips the new pope of this movement? Do you have to have a personal invitation to get in? And what in the world do you do at a family-integrated church, since there aren’t any programs?

Several of my commenters have asked me these and other questions. I’ve also been asked to write an article describing what the family-integrated church looks like. In order to adequately address all these questions, I’ll probably have to write more than one article. For this first article, I thought what I would do is describe two different family-integrated churches, based upon my own extensive personal experiences with them: Boerne Christian Assembly and Living Water Fellowship.

First, I’ll share my own personal experiences in the family-integrated church that we were members of for five years, Boerne Christian Assembly, pastored by Doug Phillips. Next I’ll share my experiences with Living Water Fellowship, pastored by Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler. The comment section is open for others to share their own experiences, both good and bad.

On the whole, I think that the family-integrated church movement started out as a good thing. I believe that it began with good intentions. One of the reasons it came about was that men like Doug Phillips wanted to address some of the deficiencies appearing in more traditional “programmatic” churches. However, over time, I’ve noticed a troubling trend in the family-integrated church movement. Much like “Patriarchy,” the FIC movement has often proven itself to be legalistic and divisive. I’ve heard numerous reports of it even causing church splits. I’ve also heard that there are smaller churches with limited facilities that embrace the FIC model simply because their limited facilities prevent their being able to have Sunday School classes and other church programs. So they call themselves “family-integrated” merely because that’s what they’ve always had to do anyway.

With this first article on the family-integrated church, however, I’ll limit myself to my personal experiences of what it was like being in an FIC. I have many fond memories of our time at BCA, and I hope that comes out in this article. However, I’ve also come to see that there were many problems, inconsistencies, and even hypocrisies, and that too will be discussed in this article.

The first issue I shall address is the impression that at least some FICs give that they’re not particularly open and welcoming of “outsiders.” Some have gotten the impression that in order to be welcome in an FIC, you first have to meet a certain set of criteria. The criteria may often include:

  • Homeschool only
  • Patriarchy
  • No women working outside the home
  • No daughters in college
  • Full-quiver
  • Dress code: women in dresses only (sometimes with headcoverings), men in suit and tie only
  • Courtship only

Those who don’t meet the criteria may be permitted to attend, at least for a time. However, they will often be made to feel that they don’t fit in, and that will also be reinforced from the teachings in the pulpit. They will be expected to conform. Image is very important in many FICs. I might also add to the list of criteria — “family only.” By this I mean that a divorced woman would probably be made to feel uncomfortable in many FICs, even if she had divorced for completely biblical reasons. Again, this is an “image” thing, and divorcees wouldn’t fit the image. Likewise, a college girl, especially if living away from home, wouldn’t fit the image.

Based upon my Doug Phillips’ story, and my prior descriptions of Boerne Christian Assembly, several people have gotten the impression that Boerne Christian Assembly is a “by invitation-only” church. That isn’t exactly the case, although I can certainly understand why so many people would have that impression. My own experience was such that I could not find out any information about BCA without a prior invitation. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that BCA is by invitation only. Practically speaking though, if one of the BCA members doesn’t first extend an invitation to a prospective visitor, it’s highly unlikely that they would ever find their way to BCA at all.

Doug Phillips maintains an extensive list of family-integrated churches on his Vision Forum Ministries website, with a current figure of 524 churches listed there. However, you won’t find BCA nor any of the other churches in what we BCA members called “the community,” the four churches in the San Antonio area that had all come out of BCA, listed there. I always found it odd that Doug wouldn’t list his own church with an organization that he so strongly promotes. So unless you’re extended an invitation to attend, from a practical standpoint, it would make it nearly impossible to find BCA. Even BCA’s own web site provides no contact information or directions to the church. This is a very odd practice indeed for a church to have a web site with no contact information, or even a list of church officers. Indeed, the primary purpose of the BCA web site appears to be as a blog site for posting articles in response to my own articles. Doug Phillips himself told us that he wanted to keep BCA “small.” Failing to provide contact information is certainly a useful way of discouraging church growth.

As he speaks around the country, Doug Phillips often mentions the family-integrated church, and he implies that Boerne Christian Assembly is the “model” church for Vision Forum’s “Family Integrated Churches.” Most people find out about BCA because they hear Doug speak somewhere and find out that he also pastors a church. So they call or email Vision Forum to find out how they might attend BCA, or perhaps they already know someone who attends BCA and ask if they, too, can attend. With such a system in place, it would be easy for people to get the impression that BCA is a “by invitation only” church.

Upon arrival at BCA on a typical Sunday morning, after a lovely drive through the country, you will arrive at what looks like a Hollywood set for “Little House on the Prairie.” The tiny, white, country church has a huge grassy yard with several picnic tables under the oak trees. Across the street is a one room schoolhouse, which hasn’t been used for school for many years. Down the road is Little Joshua Creek, where we all went for baptisms, full immersion-style. Most men wear suits or sport coats. Most of the women wear very modest, long and full dresses. To visitors, it must seem as if they are stepping back in time.

As we’d arrive Sunday mornings, everyone is busy bringing their crockpots into the annex building in preparation for the “pot-providence” (we weren’t allowed to use certain words like “luck,” therefore no “potluck”) that would convene after the service. Many families drove an hour or more each Sunday, so it wasn’t uncommon to see a line forming at the outhouse prior to the church bell tolling at 10:30 a.m. Inside the church building, pews fill the very tiny room, from front to back, and wall to wall, with just enough room down the middle aisle to add a folding chair to the end of each row. Once you were in your pew you needed to plan on remaining there for the duration of the service, which generally lasted several hours (if not put on a schedule, Doug can be very long-winded). So if you needed to get up for any reason, it could prove to be quite a challenge squeezing through the tightly-packed pews. Each family was jammed very tightly into a pew. Large families are common at BCA, so some families took up two full pews. Tightly packed, the church holds about 125 people.

Church services at BCA usually began with about 30 minutes of singing hymns. We would often have several homeschooled young people playing instruments such as flutes, violins, or other stringed instruments. We always had a piano player and some of them were quite good. Three different men took turns leading the worship time. One young man, fresh out of Bill Gothard’s ATI and Alert, would give us the history of at least one hymn we sang each week. Another man, when he was leading worship, would pick one hymn each week to ask the men for biblical support for what was found in the lyrics. The men were on the spot to find Bible verses on the spur of the moment, as they never knew which hymn he would ask for verses for. After a while, I found myself really searching the text of each hymn, wondering what verses this hymn came from. We would usually sing one psalm from the psalter as well. Sometimes Doug Phillips would then lead us in singing Psalm 100, Puritan-style. He would sing a line and we would repeat it back to him. It was really old-fashioned, but I loved that part. Worship was a time of great joy at BCA, as everyone fully participated and sang with their whole heart.

We would have a short announcement time afterward, and it always began with, “We believe in a plurality of elders.” I could never understand that part since we only had one elder for several years, Doug Phillips, and even Doug was only in attendance about once a month at that time. As time went on we saw even less of him. Then we introduced our guests or, should I say, the men introduced the guests.

The men took turns giving the sermon. For most of the time I was at BCA from 2000 until the beginning of 2005, we heard expository preaching through I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, and I and II Chronicles. If Doug was preaching, he might preach on the current topic he was wanting to promote at Vision Forum. They recorded those sermons and then they were sold through Vision Forum. All sermons were recorded free for church members. Depending on who was preaching, the sermon was generally one to two hours in length, followed by up to an hour for the “discussion of the men.” This was my favorite time, even though I wasn’t allowed to participate. The men were allowed to ask questions of the preacher regarding the sermon. Charity was stressed at all times, so if a point of disagreement came up, it was expected that it be handled in a gentlemanly fashion.

For several years, “discussion of the men” was a great time of iron sharpening iron; but around the time of the 2004 elections, the atmosphere of this discussion began to change into a mutual self-admiration club, with the men generally just congratulating one another on a great sermon. This deterioration was a great disappointment to me. It seemed that this small amount of accountability was losing ground. This discussion time was also open for the men to bring up any other subject they wanted to discuss, although this didn’t happen very often. It was also an opportunity for the men to share what they learned from God’s Word that week, what they taught their families during family worship time, or to share a hymn or read some Scripture. Doug strongly encouraged these aspects of the men’s discussion time, but they rarely had anything of this sort to share.

Next came the Lord’s Supper, preceded by the second sermon of the day. One of the men would talk about some aspect of communion, generally lasting about fifteen minutes in length. Communion was limited to those who had been baptized as believers, full immersion-style. Sometimes the men passed the elements down each row, but later on, the fathers usually went forward and got communion for their whole family. The grape juice was served in medium-sized Dixie cups that the whole family could share. The men would take a chunk of matzoh to share with their family as well. It was left up to the men to decide who takes communion in their family. If the father was absent or if a woman didn’t have a husband, one of her sons could bring her communion, even if the boy hadn’t been baptized and wasn’t old enough to take communion himself. If there were no males in the family, one of the deacons would serve the woman communion. If you were not participating in taking communion, it was quite obvious to the whole congregation.

The following hour was for prayer requests and prayer. Every person in every family (except Doug Phillips) came to church almost every single Sunday, unless they were sick or out of town, so this was a time for everyone to get know each family a little better. We knew details of every sickness, updates on difficult situations, and prayed for many outside the congregation as well. This was often a time of just reporting on how God was Providential in our lives that week. Again, the men (and boys) were allowed to speak during the prayer request time. If a woman had a prayer request, she could write it down and give it to another man to read. Then the men all took turns praying for all the requests. The service ended with the Doxology.

There was an annex building next door to the church where all the women would immediately gravitate to get the “pot providence” lunch ready. Visitors were allowed to go first and everyone went through the line as families. There were several picnic tables set up outside (the weather in Texas is nice enough to eat outside almost year round) which were built by some of the boys. There were several tables set up inside as well. Some families ate together, but many didn’t. This was a time when many of the young ladies would take other ladies’ babies and take care of them and feed them, if need be, for the rest of the day. Some mothers wanted a day off and they were glad for the help. Some mothers, however, wanted their older children to take care of the younger children, so the moms could have a day off as well. I thought my children worked hard all week and deserved a day off, so I chose to take care of Alicia, my youngest, myself. My daughter Natasha took care of Honor Phillips nearly every Sunday for three years.

After eating, the children would mostly play outside for the rest of the day. Balls and sports were not allowed on the Sabbath, so the children had to be creative in how they used their time. They made up games and sometimes would bring activities to do together. Some of the young ladies would read books to the younger children or just hang out with the children, trying to keep some kind of order. The adults and other young people would mostly fellowship for the rest of the day. Women were strongly discouraged from discussing theology with men at BCA, although I often did with those men who were willing to do so. While the men would often discuss theology and points of doctrine, the women usually talked about sewing and cooking and child training, when we weren’t talking about how to be more submissive. It was sometimes frustrating to me that the women didn’t even want to talk about homeschooling methods. I almost never felt challenged or stimulated in my thinking during these fellowship times. I usually felt as if I had to park my brain on Sundays. We often wouldn’t leave church until around 5 p.m. Before leaving, we would all pitch in and help clean up.

For a couple years, however, we were given one hour to eat and clean up and then we would separate into a men’s meeting and a ladies’ meeting. The children were free to join us or continue playing, unsupervised. I don’t really know what the men did, other than talk about Scripture and church business. The women would discuss making plans to take meals to those who needed them. However, we also had to first obtain our husband’s permission, so quite often our meal planning didn’t get very far. We would sign up for various clean up duties. Then we would usually talk about how to be a Titus 2 woman or a submissive wife. No matter what the topic was, that was always the angle. We studied Titus 2, word by word. We talked about how “non-normative” Abigail and Deborah and other women in the Bible were. Sometimes women would read passages from books such as “The Excellent Wife.”

Since there was an apparent lack of hospitality among church members during the week (we certainly experienced this), we studied a hospitality book. After we finished the book, we didn’t seem to have much more hospitality than we had before. It wasn’t that hospitality never happened at BCA; it did — a lot — if you were in the right circles. There were certain families that fellowshipped with one another on a regular basis, like we did with the Shorts. But there were other families who never got invited to other members’ homes. If you wanted to eat with the Phillips, you had to be in their inner circle. During the week, however, the women and children often got together for homeschool-type activities and fellowship. Some of these were formal groups and co-ops, but often we just got together with friends.

We did have lots of group activities, however, where everyone was invited. While these do count as showing hospitality and having fellowship, it’s not the same as having just one other family other for dinner. We had lots of baby showers, we had big Fourth of July events, we got together for big events at Doug’s home, often revolving around special visitors. Some people have remarked that some of the events at Doug’s home for his VIPs were just a way of showing off.

A couple events that I especially remember were the “Dinosaur Party,” where Doug showed a National Geographic film about dinosaurs, pausing every few seconds to ask questions such as “Were you there? How do you know what color the dinosaur was? Did you see it change from a bird to a dinosaur?” etc. This picture to the left is when the men got together at the beginning of the year to read the Bible for a whole day. That is my son, Joshua, taking his turn at reading. We had a big party with the DeRosas after they had worked on the Allosaur skull for a while. We had a big party when the Guenther family came to visit from Germany. They talked to us about how extremely difficult it is to homeschool in Germany, legally or otherwise. They worked with HSLDA to set up a kind of legal foundation to help homeschoolers in Germany. As long as Doug hosted these events, nearly the whole church attended.

The Epstein family liked to celebrate the biblical Feasts at that time, and we also invited the whole church several times a year for these Feasts. Everyone came at least once, except the Phillips family. BCA has very much a “not invented here” mentality. Having a successful event meant that you either had to be Doug Phillips, or you had to be part of Doug Phillips’ inner circle. If Doug didn’t come up with the idea, or if Doug didn’t personally endorse the idea, the event generally wasn’t much of a success.

“Family integrated” means keeping families together for the duration of the service. This makes for some interesting challenges now and then. Each family did this differently. Some families worked hard at training their children to sit still for the three to four hour service each week. Others chose to take their children out if they got noisy. This usually took two different forms. Sometimes the mothers would take their babies or young children next door to the annex to feed them or just let them play. Sometimes the older children would take their siblings next door as well. There was no way to hear the sermon while over there, so the women would often sit around and chat while the children played or ate. This was not considered or called a “nursery,” as family-integrated churches don’t have nurseries. And then there were the families that just gave their babies and young children to other people to take care of for them during the service. Beall Phillips, for instance, gave Honor to Natasha to take care of, not just during the service, but for the whole day every Sunday. I used this as an opportunity to teach Natasha how to train babies and toddlers. Honor was a very well-behaved baby while he was in Natasha’s care and we trained him to sit quietly throughout the service.

Family integrated churches are opposed to church “programs,” “age segregation,” and “dividing families.” “Family integrated” implies keeping the family together for the Sunday morning worship service, as well as other church functions. But practically speaking that isn’t often the case, as we experienced at BCA. It was quite common that husbands were divided from wives, such as the “men’s meeting” and “ladies’ meeting.” Children were also often divided from their parents, especially if they couldn’t remain still and quiet throughout a three to four hour service; and the reality is that there are very few babies and toddlers that can. So they would be taken out of the service, often to be taken care of by members of other families. BCA didn’t have an official “nursery” with officially designated “nursery workers.” But practically speaking, if you walked over to the annex building any Sunday, that’s what you saw.

Although there were no rules for being a part of BCA, per se, it was the unwritten rules that were the invisible foundation. It was not a requirement to homeschool, but homeschooling was preached from the pulpit nearly every Sunday. If you didn’t homeschool, you would have felt very uncomfortable at BCA. It was not a requirement for women to never work outside the home, but being a keeper at home was constantly talked about, both formally and informally. If you worked outside the home you would have been made to feel very uncomfortable at BCA (the one exception was that some of the women were permitted to work at Vision Forum, although they apparently were never “hired”). There were no rules about what to wear, but if you are a lady and you don’t wear long, full dresses, you are going to feel terribly out of place. If you visit more than once and you aren’t wearing prairie-muffin dresses, there is at least one woman who will take you aside to teach you how to dress “appropriately.”

There were no rules about how you spent your time during the week or what kinds of activities you participated in, but most families did not participate in any activities outside of BCA-sponsored activities. Our family participated in community activities on a very regular basis and we were always disappointed that others from BCA did not enjoy these activities as well. The unwritten rules even extended to certain words that were not allowed, such as “luck” (as in potluck) and “deviled eggs” (they should be “angel eggs”). As one visitor recently put it, and as I heard from several visitors, “We only visited there one time and felt such an oppression that we knew we had to flee.”

BCA does not have church membership, but they do have a covenant, which in some ways is even more binding than traditional church membership. This covenant was not in place until BCA was about three years old. At that time, the men got together to study the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, which they had to agree with before they could sign the covenant. On Covenant Sunday, Doug preached a message on why covenants were biblical. While we can all agree that covenants are indeed biblical, many people did not see that God was telling us to covenant with one another in that way as a church body and many families left that Sunday. Those men who agreed to sign the covenant all came up to front, one by one, and signed a large scroll-like document with the written covenant at the top and lots of blank space for all the men’s signatures at the bottom, similar to the Declaration of Independence. The man’s signature bound the whole family, although the wives didn’t even know what the beliefs of the church were, unless their husbands chose to share that with them. The women weren’t permitted to read the Covenant, although Doug did read it to the whole congregation. This is consistent with Doug’s view that women shouldn’t be permitted to vote. They were just expected to go along with whatever their husbands decided, even though they may not be permitted to even know the details of what their husbands determined for the entire family.

There are lots of young singles at BCA. Most of these twenty-somethings still live with their parents. A number of young men work at Vision Forum. Some live with other families and some live on their own. When a young lady was asked, “What do you do?”, every young lady was expected to answer, “I serve my father.” What that means in real life is that she lived at home, and cooked, cleaned, and helped with child care, either for her own family or for another family with lots of young children. It was considered quite prestigious to especially be able to do this for the Phillips family. While young men were allowed to work, most of them either worked at home, with their fathers, or for Doug Phillips. Getting a college education for a young man meant doing it by correspondence or through distance learning. None of the young men actually attended college. With approximately 125 people at BCA, about thirty or so were of marriageable age. Yet, weddings were few and far between. Courtship was emphasized and often talked about at BCA. Yet in spite the numerous eligible singles, we never saw much in the way of courtship happening. Perhaps it wasn’t encouraged enough in a practical way because the young ladies were considered too much of a valuable commodity in taking care of other people’s children?

Most people in the church were what we would call “like-minded.” We had the same doctrine, the same lifestyle, the same values, the same convictions. We spent lots of time together, not only on Sundays, but often throughout the week, in various church activities. So with so many eligible young people, we would have expected lots of weddings to take place. But, sadly, there were very few. In the five years we were at BCA, with an attendance peaking at 250 when BCA was about three years old, there was only one wedding within the church and only a couple more who married someone outside the church. Year after year, these young people continue to remain single. Why? Are their personal standards too high?

BCA was a legalistic environment. I have noticed with legalists that when we start with what we perceive to be a “biblical principle,” that principle tends to grow into a “biblical conviction” over time. That conviction grows until it reaches the level of “sin” if not followed exactly. At this point, the details of this conviction begin to become more and more defined, until what started as a good principle is now a long list of dos and don’ts. I have watched this process happen with many young people as well, with the detailed list of rules becoming very prevalent in their lives at an extremely young age. As they grow, they become unwilling to change at all. They are unwilling to make different choices in life in order to accommodate a potential spouse. The list of requirements becomes so extremely tight that it is nearly impossible to find a suitable mate. So we continued to see large numbers of single young people at BCA, year after year, with the number growing each year with more reaching marriageable age than those getting married each year. I still believe that courtship is much “safer” than what so many young people encounter in the dating scene. However, I do have to wonder why, if it’s a “biblical principle,” it isn’t working out any better in a church pastored by one of its leading promoters.

Not all family-integrated churches are alike, however, just as there are many differences among all other types of churches. Even in our like-minded “community” of churches that were all off-shoots of BCA, there are many differences. Since we attended Living Water Fellowship for a while as well, this is a good church to show some of the many differences.

LWF is much more “contemporary,” particularly in its liturgy and form of worship. After we all brought food in for the potluck afterward (and yes, we were free to call it a “potluck”), we began with about 30 minutes of electric guitars and drums and contemporary Christian music. Many of the women and children also participated in a circle of Davidic dance in the back of the school gymnasium, where we met for services. Men were invited to participate, but most were reluctant to do so. Davidic dance is a form of dance that is supposedly patterned after how the Israelites in the Bible, such as Miriam and David, danced to the Lord.

LWF did not have a set pattern of worship after this. There were always announcements, sometimes of classes or Bible studies or prayer times, many of which were often for certain ages or men or women only, or just for couples. They weren’t as concerned about always keeping the family together all the time. Sometimes, Little Bear Wheeler or one of the elders would give a testimony of something God had done in their life that week. Sometimes, other members would have an opportunity to talk about something God was doing in their lives as well. This was not a random testimony time, but usually was planned ahead of time. There were also times when Little Bear would ask someone to speak about something in particular on the spur of the moment, such as when he asked Mark to speak about how God was dealing with his anger. Both men and women were allowed to speak during this time. This did not happen every Sunday, but it did happen often.

Usually, one of the four elders would then give a sermon (LWF believed in and practiced a true plurality of elders). Sometimes it was topical, sometimes it was expository. Little Bear often used video clips or Power Point to embellish his sermons. We also had many guest preachers/missionaries, something which was almost non-existent at BCA. Communion was once a month at LWF, while it was every Sunday at BCA. It was very short and sweet, with each person being served a pre-packaged communion cup of grape juice with a little wafer in a plastic package as the lid for the cup. Everyone was able to decide for themselves if they wanted to take communion. Baptisms took place in the swimming pool at the home next door, which belonged to one of the attendees. I don’t remember any occasion for sharing prayer requests; I think the elders would just announce if there were any needs, which they also list on their website. They did announce prayer requests via email as well. We ended with a short prayer time and another song before getting the potluck lunch prepared.

Since LWF meets in a large gymnasium, there was plenty of room in the back for moms with noisy children or babies. You would often see moms pushing strollers around in the back during the sermon or maybe nursing their babies, but they were always able to listen to the sermon. We were also able to use the school lunch tables for eating our Sunday lunch, so everyone helped put away all the folding chairs from the service and set up everything for lunch. We tried to leave one end of the gym open for the kids to play basketball when they were done eating. It wasn’t unusual to have a ball come flying through your plate at lunchtime! And it soon became quite noisy with approximately 200 people all eating and talking and playing ball. Sometimes, the older girls would organize activities for the younger children. I remember that all the children got together one Sunday and made homemade Mother’s Day cards for all the moms. Some of the young ladies helped the little ones and my disabled daughter make cards as well. There were buckets of toys for the children to play with and there were always children practicing “Heart and Soul” on the piano to add to the delightful cacophony amidst hours of fellowship.

LWF does not believe in membership or signing church covenants. There is no statement of faith that I am aware of. In fact, although at least two of the elders are ordained, one with the Assemblies of God denomination, they don’t have a set of doctrines that I know of. The teaching leans heavily toward Arminianism and dispensationalism. Some families claim to be Reformed; however, I have some doubts that they even understand what “Reformed” means. Although there are many like-minded people at LWF, practicing things like homeschooling and affirming stay-at-home moms, there never seemed to be an emphasis on it. It is just something that most of us naturally did, but not something that we felt obligated by the elders to do, or that we even frequently talked about, the way we did at BCA. It’s entirely possible that there were some who did not homeschool and that there were some women who worked outside the home, at least part-time. College was never frowned on, for either girls or boys. Large families (“full-quiver”) were not idolized, as they were at BCA. Dress was varied. There were just as many women who came to church in jeans and t-shirts as those who wore “modest” dresses. There was no dress code and, for the most part, dress was not an issue.

The four elders made it a point to “smell like the sheep.” I would spend time talking with, and even eating with at least one, if not more, of the four elders and their wives, on any given Sunday. The elders made themselves available. The elders didn’t act like anyone special. They spent time greeting and fellowshipping with everyone who came to LWF. I remember one Sunday when I was sitting at a table with the elders and deacons and a couple other women. We were all discussing theology. I remember even openly disagreeing with their position, but they didn’t condemn me or make me feel uncomfortable for doing so. It was such a joy to be included in meaningful discussions — and with men no less! LWF seemed more “Complementarian” rather than Patriarchal.

These elders were also available day or night. Little Bear and Al both called Mark nearly every single day while we attended there. When there were serious problems, I could call those men even in the middle of the night. I remember one occasion when I was in much fear at home. I called Al (Little Bear was out of town) and he told us to come over in an hour. When we arrived at around 8 p.m., the other elders and their wives were there as well, all prepared to help us, with only an hour’s notice. They stayed with us until midnight that night. They also immediately got us into marriage counseling, with two elders and their wives and another couple who was trained in marriage counseling, meeting with us and another couple every week at Little Bear’s home.

Relationships were a little different at LWF as well. Men and women and children of all ages were able to mingle freely and fellowship with one another. The youth, however, naturally gravitated toward one another, and although there was not an official “youth” group, they definitely hung out together on Sundays, much the way that kids would at any regular church, complete with all the typical bickerings and jealousies. Even though LWF holds itself out as a family-integrated church, in many ways LWF was just a “regular” church, where just about anyone would feel welcome. LWF lacked any of the legalism that we experienced at BCA.

BCA and LWF represent for me two different extremes of the family-integrated church movement. The one was legalistic, authoritarian, and all about image. The other was about grace, with caring and nurturing shepherds, and not at all concerned about image. Looking back on it now, it seems very odd that these two very different churches could be in “community” with one another, especially considering the two very different theologies represented as well.

One of my concerns with the family-integrated church movement is that there are probably far too many of the legalistic churches involved, and too few of the “grace” churches. In fact, by its very nature, the family-integrated church movement tends to attract the former, and the NCFIC’s own Biblical Confession for Uniting Church and Family is representative of that. The “Confession” is judgmental and condemning of non-FICs. In my next article on the family-integrated church, I hope to address some of those issues.

Doug Phillips’ Parallel Universe of Reformed Legalism

Peddling Legalism as “Reformed Theology”

“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13

God has been using many of my commenters to help push me into becoming a Berean. I still have a long way to go, but I’m excited about the things I’m discovering. As a direct result of this blog, I’ve also made some dear friends. By studying the Word together, those friends have also provoked me into looking deep into the perfect law of liberty. I especially want to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to our Bible study teacher, Mike, whose teachings have exposed a number of harmful, unbiblical and extra-biblical doctrines in my own life. I haven’t made Mike’s life easy. I know there are many times that I have frustrated and annoyed him. But Mike has always shown himself to be a gentleman and a scholar. I will always be indebted to him. Thanks, Mike.

In the past several months, I’ve found myself having to confront many of the beliefs that I had long held dear. I’ve come to recently recognize that some of my beliefs are rooted in legalism. Patriarchy is an example of this. Other examples include homeschool-only, dresses-only, etc. This has been hard for me to confront. I’ve had to admit to myself and to some close friends that I’ve not only been a legalist, but that I even like legalism. Legalism for me is safe. It provides me with a sense of comfort. Having a list of dos and don’ts to live by has kept my life orderly and structured, and given me a sense of security.

Being a legalist is something that I’ve long lived by. This is why I was drawn to a life of military service. Everything about the military is structured and regulated, a veritable legalist’s paradise. It’s also why I was later drawn to Boerne Christian Assembly. Legalistic churches attract legalistic members. I don’t blame Doug Phillips and BCA for turning me into a legalist. I was a legalist long before I arrived. Personal liberty and freedom have long been alien concepts to me. In the last month, in particular, confronting my own legalism has been a gut-wrenching process. God has been revealing to me, on an almost daily basis, new areas of my life He wants me to face head-on. This story is one of those areas where I had previously not seen anything amiss. Now I can plainly see it.

God has recently shown me how deep into legalism Doug Phillips and BCA are. Having been such a legalist myself, I couldn’t see it before. It’s no wonder God has so much to work on in my own life as I attempt to leave all my legalism behind. It hasn’t been easy. It’s also cost me nearly every friend I’ve had in San Antonio. We tend to make friends with people who are much like ourselves, which means that many of my local former friends are also legalists. Losing all my legalistic friends has been the hardest part, and even though they’re legalists, I still miss them. My public exposure of Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyrannies is, for my former legalistic friends, far more than what I had intended it to be. I thought it was just about exposing Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyrannies; but for them it was much more. For them, it’s an assault on the legalistic worldview that Doug Phillips represents, a legalism that they personally hold very dear.

Doug Phillips is revered by many legalists because he’s such a smooth promoter of legalism. No legalist, however, wants to see their own legalism as legalism; and so we never call it “legalism.” We call it other things. Doug Phillips is a very slick promoter, and so he dresses it up and disguises his legalism in noble-sounding pseudo-biblical terms like “Patriarchy.” It sounds even more biblical when he calls it “Biblical Patriarchy.”

Doug Phillips doesn’t stop there though. In some ways Doug is truly ingenious when it comes to promotion and marketing. It doesn’t get any more ingenious than to repackage legalism as “Reformed theology.” As one of my commenters, “T. Reformed” put it recently:

The very cornerstone of the Reformed faith are the doctrines of grace, rooted in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

John Calvin called Ephesians 2:8-9 “the hinge of the Reformation.” Martin Luther called it, “the doctrine by which the church stands or falls.” These leading lights of the Reformation also used the terms “Sola Fide,” faith alone, and “Sola Gratia,” grace alone. In other words it is only by faith, and only by God’s grace that we are saved, and nothing else, ever.

Doug Phillips claims to be Reformed, and his church blog says, “Boerne Christian Assemnbly Affirms the London Baptist Confession of 1689.” The LBC was taken largely from the Westminster Confession of Faith.

However, I don’t see how Phillips could be Reformed while also embracing Gothardism… Doug Phillips appears to be a very mixed bag of “Reformed,” and some other things like Gothardism, which would be incompatible and even a contradiction to the Refomed faith. It sounds as though Phillips holds to a pseudo-orthodox soteriology, except when it comes to “the perseverance of the saints.” If this is true then he doesn’t really qualify as being Reformed.

It never dawned on me until this week what a major coup it’s been for Doug to portray himself as “Reformed,” yet for all practical purposes deny the doctrines of grace. There’s a major disconnect between what Doug Phillips professes to believe and what he actually practices. I’m amazed that he’s been able to get away with it all these years. Doug Phillips appears to live in some sort of a theological parallel universe where legalism = grace, man-worship = honor, bondage = freedom, and ecclesiastical tyranny = church discipline.

Repenting is often hard, and my legalism is something that I’ve recently had to repent from. The fruit of my legalism has caused great harm, especially to my own family. I’m just now beginning to see its magnitude. I need to repent to my family, and especially to my husband, for my legalism. I’m not ashamed to do so, and I’m not ashamed to do it publicly, right here. Mark, children, I confess my legalism and I repent of it. Please forgive me, and please be patient with me as I continue to work through the process of walking out of legalism into a life of grace.

Because of my blindness to my legalism, there was a significant part of my story that I had earlier failed to tell. I didn’t perceive when I was originally telling my story months ago just how significant this part of the story was. I not only thought it was insignificant, I didn’t even see it. Now I recognize just how significant it is. As God continues to convict me of this and other things, there may be other issues and events that come to mind that I may need to go back and tell, things that I had earlier missed. I’ll add these to the sidebar in chronological order, e.g. “Chapter 4-B,” etc.

And now to the story.

Most people at BCA didn’t seem to want much to do with our family outside of regular church activities, so we were thrilled when the Shorts decided to befriend us after we moved nearby in the summer of 2003. We quickly got into a weekly routine of having dinner together at our home nearly every Friday evening, with their family often leaving around 3 a.m. We would enjoy a nice meal together and then Mark and Richard almost always took a long walk together. Richard soon volunteered to mentor Mark. As Mark and Richard walked and talked, the rest of us generally played board games together.

I appreciated Richard’s willingness to counsel Mark, as times were pretty tough then. However, it seemed to be a rather superficial relationship. Because we were having marital problems, I ultimately asked Richard and Reba to be witnesses for me when I confronted Mark in step two of Matthew 18. At this point, our relationship with the Shorts noticeably changed. Richard began to focus on deeper issues with Mark, and Reba proceeded to tell me that “the problems in marriage are always the woman’s fault.” This later became the very basis of the three counseling sessions I had with Beall and Reba. The entire focus on every meeting was on my “faults.”

“The woman is always at fault for all of the problems in every marriage” is a belief held strongly in many Patriarchal churches, like BCA. However, since leaving BCA, I’ve discovered that there are Patriarchal churches which also teach just the opposite. “All of the problems in every marriage are always the husband’s fault” is taught by R.C. Sproul, Jr. Neither position is biblical, nor are they even logical or consistent with the reality of any Christian marriage. Because husbands and wives are both sinners, the truth falls somewhere in the middle. However, Patriarchy, being an extremist belief system, lacks the biblical balance necessary to correct marital problems. In too many cases, Patriarchy just exacerbates marital problems. Telling a husband that “All of the problems in your marriage are your wife’s fault” is every bit as harmful as telling a wife, “All the problems in your marriage are your husband’s fault.”

In our own case, the Shorts approached our marital problems with the unbiblical presupposition that all of the Epsteins’ marital problems were “the wife’s fault.” Not only was this untrue, it only served to make our marital problems much worse. Whereas before, Mark had started to recognize that he had areas in his life that needed to be repented of, now he was being told that it was all my fault and, therefore, he had no need of repentance at all. When I was told it was all my fault, I knew this couldn’t be true. This only made it harder for me to begin to take responsibility for those things that really were my fault. This is the fruit that comes from such extremism. To this day, Mark and I are both still struggling with the aftermath of this.

For approximately eighteen months, we’d been having dinner together with the Shorts, on a fairly consistent weekly basis. One Sunday after church in January 2005, Mark and Richard took a long walk. But when they returned to church, something seemed quite different. Richard said he wanted to talk to both of us, which was quite unusual. He then informed us that he had come to the conclusion that neither Mark nor I were true believers. In his view, we were unsaved. I was quite taken aback, as I knew that I deeply loved the Lord and desired nothing more than to please Him. But that was essentially the end of the conversation and we went home from there. I was also confused over the fact that Richard and I had spent very little time talking. Most of Richard’s time had been spent with Mark, and I couldn’t understand how Richard could come to the conclusion that I was unsaved when he’d never even asked me about my faith.

That Thursday morning, January 20, 2005, Mark had what I would describe as very broken spirit and a contrite heart. He desired to repent and seek futher counseling, with a focus on marital counseling. Mark was convicted by the Holy Spirit that there were important areas in his marriage that he needed to work on. He emailed Richard Short asking if they could meet and talk about Mark repenting. Mark also emailed another man at church who was known for giving good counsel in difficult marital situations and he agreed to counsel us. The Shorts live only about a mile or two from us and Mark works only about ten minutes away from Vision Forum, where Richard Short works. The two of them could have easily gotten together at a moment’s notice. Distance never posed a hardship. However, on this occasion, Richard said that he would not be able to meet with Mark before Monday. He wasn’t even willing to talk to Mark on the phone.

I could not understand this because, at the time, I assumed that this repentance was the fruit Richard had been working toward all these months. In reality, it was entirely the work of the Holy Spirit, in spite of Richard’s counsel to Mark. Looking back on it now, I can see that Mark’s repentance wasn’t at all what Richard was looking to accomplish, just the opposite. Remember, “All of the problems in every marriage are always the wife’s fault.”

Later that day, we received a request from BCA “leadership” to meet with them an hour before church began that Sunday. They did not tell us what the meeting was going to be about, so I assumed that since Richard Short had told Doug that I wasn’t a converted Christian. I assumed that I was going to need to defend my testimony and offer a credible profession of faith. I looked up a plan of salvation and made sure I had all my verses ready to show that I understood and could explain why I knew I was saved.

When we showed up early on Sunday morning, however, they did not ask me to defend my faith. They didn’t ask me to give a credible profession of faith. That didn’t even come up. Instead, we were read the disciplinary action statement, which I’ve described before. Although we do not have proof, we are almost certain that Richard Short is the one who recommended our discipline and excommunication. Doug has stated that he did not initiate our disciplinary action himself. Someone was responsible for that, so it’s reasonable for me to assume that the party chiefly responsible for our “counseling,” the Shorts, were the responsible party. The other people present who agreed to discipline us knew nothing of our situation, save one man, whom I know did not recommend this discipline, but who went along with it in the end.

Richard Short spent many months with us, mostly with Mark, and then he comes to the conclusion that neither of us is saved. Immediately after Richard comes to this conclusion, we find ourselves together at church on a Sunday afternoon, but Richard doesn’t bother to share the gospel with us, nor even ask us if we understand it. Mark then tells Richard that he wants to repent, but Richard suddenly doesn’t have time for Mark, when he always has before. Although Richard has stated that he doubts our salvation, he pushes for us to be disciplined and eventually excommunicated. That Sunday morning before church would have been a good opportunity to share the gospel with us, or to at least ascertain if we were true believers at that time. But even though Richard doubted our salvation, and even though Mark offered to repent, Doug chose to discipline us instead of sharing the gospel with us.

And what gospel would that be? I am just now learning that it is the gospel of grace. Grace. That is an almost foreign word to me. I did not hear the doctrines of grace preached at BCA — ever. I never heard the gospel preached at BCA. I am not saying that they preached another gospel, but that they simply didn’t preach the gospel at all. What was preached at BCA? For the most part, the Old Testament was preached at BCA — the law. We spent years studying the Samuels, Kings, and Chronicles, patterning our lives after what we found there. And what did we find there? For one thing, Patriarchy. We spent an inordinate amount of time studying Patriarchy. For a legalist like me, it never really surprised me how often and how easy it was to find Doug’s version of Patriarchy in the Bible, even in the “non-normative” stories. Looking back on it now though, it does surprise me how many years of Sundays we spent studying nothing but the law, but never anything about the doctrines of grace. Now I can plainly see that Doug Phillips is not a Reformed Bible expositor, nor is Boerne Christian Assembly a Reformed church.

We did have topical preaching. It just was never about the doctrines of grace. Those sermons were long on vision and short on Scripture and practical application. Legalists are big on dos and don’ts. However, this doesn’t mean that legalistic preachers are always helpful when it comes to practical application. This was one of our biggest frustrations with Doug. He would never hesitate to tell us what to do, but he seldom ever had any suggestions on how to practically do it. If you asked for practical examples he usually couldn’t offer any. Doug’s sermons and teachings that are sold through Vision Forum reflect this as well. Doug Phillips is a pie in the sky visionary, a warm and fuzzy motivational speaker; but when it comes to practical application he’s got little to offer. Now combine that with the legalism and you’ve got a formula for disaster. “Do this, don’t do that. However, you’ll have to figure out all on your own how to do it. Don’t expect any help from us. If (and when) you fail, you’ll be filled with guilt and shame, and we’ll do what we can to help reinforce your guilt and shame. We might even tell you that you’re not even saved. Then we’ll discipline you.”

Why aren’t the doctrines of grace preached in a church that states they “affirm the Second London Baptist Confession Of Faith” and that Confession itself so strongly affirms the doctrines of grace? Actually, I never once heard the term “grace” used at BCA. As I come to examine the teachings of patriarchy, I am coming face to face with more and more legalism. Legalism doesn’t have room for grace. Legalism doesn’t have room for mercy. Mark begged Doug for mercy that particular Sunday when he asked him not to read the part of the disciplinary statement about my sins prior to my becoming a Christian. No gospel that Sunday. No grace. No mercy. Just the sound of the hammer falling. Judgment. Condemnation. Shame. Guilt. Legalism.

Legalistic churches are all about image. It’s all about maintaining appearances. The Epsteins posed some major problems for BCA. We didn’t fit the image. We not only arrived with marital problems, we were just foolish enough to believe that church is the ideal place to confront marital problems by receiving competent, biblical counsel. No doubt there are other BCA couples that have marital problems, too. However, even with their marital problems they still fit the image, and in a legalistic church that’s really all that matters. They maintain the image by keeping their problems to themselves. We weren’t smart enough to know how to do that, and we weren’t good at pretending. Mark and I are still useless when it comes to pretending. (Natasha is no better)

Our marriage posed a huge threat to the image that Doug was trying to maintain. I’m quite confident that the thought crossed Doug’s mind more than once that we might be headed for a divorce. Such a thought would terrify a man like Doug Phillips. A divorce in his church would have been devastating to his image, especially when he held the “Uniting Church and Home” conferences. Doug decided that he needed to get rid of us. The expediency with which Doug dumped us, and the unbiblical and unjust way he went about it, only confirms that the only thing he was interested in was maintaining his image of the perfect church — a church where every marriage is perfect — or at least a church where there is the appearance that every marriage is perfect. Doug couldn’t risk the potentiality of a divorce happening on his watch. The Epsteins were expendable, and so we were expended.

I’m now baffled, though, over how a church can excommunicate a couple shortly after they just said that couple wasn’t even saved.

I pray that as God continues to lead me on His path of grace that He would also show His grace to all those at BCA. May God deliver them as He’s now delivering me. God wants us all to be free from the bondage of legalism and condemnation.

Chalcedon Foundation Back-Pedals On Defending Doug Phillips

Chalcedon Foundation Lifetime Supporters Maligned by Chris Ortiz

Like one who takes a dog by the ears
Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him. Prov. 26:17

On May 7, 2007, the Chalcedon Foundation posted a lengthy article on their blog entitled In Defense Of Doug Phillips. However, the article stayed up just a matter of several hours and was hastily replaced by a much briefer two-paragraph article, entitled Beware Agents Of Defamation.

I consider both articles to be misleading and misrepresentative of the facts. However, I also have to wonder what the full story is behind Chalcedon yanking the first lengthy article and replacing it with the second very brief article? It would seem that the article’s author, Chris Ortiz, went off half-cocked and, recognizing his blunder, quickly decided to back up and regroup.

The first Chalcedon article would have been a major coup for Doug Phillips. However, it didn’t stay up nearly long enough for him to have been able to use it to his advantage. Had he tried to use it, and then found that it had suddenly been yanked, that could have been very embarrassing. The fact that it was taken down so hastily raises all kinds of questions. I don’t know if the removal and replacement of the original In Defense Of Doug Phillips article posed an embarrassment to Doug Phillips, but its appearance certainly didn’t pose any embarrassment to me. Therefore, I’ve reposted it below.

I do know that more than one person has contacted Chalcedon Foundation to express their displeasure over Chris Ortiz’ original article. Was Chalcedon responding to the pressure of these complaints from some of their own donors? It would appear so.

In his original article, Chris Ortiz acknowledges the long standing friendship between Chalcedon Foundation and the Phillips family. This friendship is obviously far more important to them than the facts in my case, but still not so important that Chris Ortiz isn’t concerned about how his original article, and even his current article, might adversely affect donor support for Chalcedon. It would seem that this friendship with the Phillips family isn’t of so strong a bond that it’s invulnerable to the pressure exercised by Chalcedon’s own financial supporters.

Here is Chris Ortiz’ hastily posted back-up-and-regroup article:

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Beware Agents Of Defamation

A letter has been circulating to various homeschool oriented groups and individuals that calls for organizations to disassociate themselves from Doug Phillips and Vision Forum. You may have received or read such a correspondence. As an organization that is friendly to the Phillips family and Vision Forum, we recommend that you disregard this correspondence and any and all web sites espousing such defamation and strife. The husband and wife team that sent this letter are currently under church discipline, and the accuracy of their personal complaints are contradicted by reputable ministries.

Please pray for Doug Phillips and Vision Forum that the Lord will dissuade these fellow Christians from this needless campaign. Since the letter calls for organizations to disassociate with Doug, I want to make clear that the Chalcedon Foundation continues joyfully in it’s friendship with the Phillips family and Vision Forum. I suggest you do the same.

I can’t imagine that Doug Phillips was at all pleased to see the above article hastily replace the original article of May 7. Nevertheless, the article has a far more inflammatory and misleading title than the original article had. I don’t consider it a minor thing to be accused of “defamation.” Chris Ortiz needs a dictionary:

Defamation: To damage the reputation, character, or good name of by slander or libel.

You can’t defame someone with the truth. You can only defame them by slander or libel. Mr. Ortiz fails to specify how I’m guilty of slander and/or libel. At no time has Chris Ortiz ever contacted me. However, I’m aware that he has been in contact with Vision Forum and even dialogued extensively with Matt Chancey. Apparently, Chris has been very eager to get Doug Phillips’ side of the story, and only Doug Phillips’ side of the story.

Here is Chalcedon’s original article:

Monday, May 07, 2007

In Defense of Doug Phillips
A letter is circulating within the isolated halls of the Christian homeschooling blogosphere that represents an appeal to the homeschooling community of both individuals and organizations to disassociate themselves from the “ecclesiastical tyranny,” and other assorted evils, of Doug Phillips, founder and president of Vision Forum.

I am responding to this letter only because the appeal is made to associated organizations that might “give him a platform from which he can promote his views.” The writer seeks to “protect the Christian homeschool movement” by isolating and relegating Doug Phillips “to the outer fringes where he properly belongs, and where he can do little harm.”

For a good many years, the Chalcedon Foundation, and the Rushdoony family, have enjoyed a mutually edifying friendship with Doug, his personal family, his father (Howard), and many of the fine staff at Vision Forum. Doug Phillips was a featured speaker in 2005 at our 40th anniversary conference and is a vocal endorser of the ministry of R. J. Rushdoony. Granted, I’ve rarely met Christian leaders that agree on every point, but the calling for Doug’s isolation is an unjust and immoral appeal. It lacks a Biblical basis, and despite the author’s denial, reeks of a personal vendetta.

The author of the letter is a woman by the name of Jennifer Epstein. Her and her husband Mark have both hosted and participated in a number of web sites focusing on Doug Phillips and Vision Forum (See Jen’s Gems, Ministry Watchman, and Ultimate Truth). The word count dedicated to “exposing” Doug Phillips is enormous.

Mrs. Epstein extensively details the problematic relationship with Doug Phillips at her blog, “Jen’s Gems: Exposing Doug Phillips’ Ecclesiastical Tyranny” — a rather odd title for a blog. I’m not sure how the “Jen’s Gems” part fits with “exposing ecclesiastical tyranny.” How is public exposure of a Christian leader a gem?

The account of the Epsteins and Doug Phillips is too detailed to cover here. Although that history is needed to understand the full context of any events, only Jennifer Epstein has taken the time to type it out. Doug has not. Therefore, the story is one-sided, and for that reason, no responsible Christian should respectfully adhere to her admonishment to dissolve a working relationship with Doug Phillips and Vision Forum.

The local church in which the Epsteins encountered Doug, and where Doug serves as an elder, did release a few official statements regarding the Epstein controversy. You can read them here. This is a disappointing and obviously painful history for all parties involved, but the efforts being made by the Epsteins to discredit Doug Phillips are irresponsible, in my opinion.

Let me say at the outset that I have no doubt that the Epsteins have experienced great personal pain brought on by themselves and possibly by the actions and treatment of others. Because we are not privy to both sides, we cannot make a judgment as to the nature of their case. We also shouldn’t need to. This is a private ecclesiastical matter that should not be burning up the blogosphere. That’s where I have a problem.

The Epsteins struggled severely for a good many years due to an act of adultery on the part of Jennifer Epstein that led to the birth of a child that they put up for adoption. This transgression occurred prior to the Epsteins becoming Christians, and Jennifer regularly insists that her sin is off limits for consideration by her husband, Mark, or anyone else that might criticize her. Christ has forgiven her, and so should everyone else. Fair enough.

However, years of anger had built up in Mark Epstein, and their marriage deteriorated to the threshold of divorce. Jennifer viewed the problem as primarily Mark’s anger over her past adultery. This is not surprising. Such a thing is no cakewalk for a man, as the Scriptures declare:

For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, thou that givest many gifts. ~ Proverbs 6:34-35

I have a very close Christian friend whose marriage finally ended in divorce for the very same reasons. His wife committed adultery with the worship leader of their local church. She repented of it, but he could never forget about it. This affected him emotionally, and soon others would accuse him of being bi-polar and in need of medication for his seasons of anger toward his wife.

Anger, like pain, is the indication that something is terribly wrong. Anger doesn’t linger, or increase, if there’s nothing to be angry about. It’s likely, with the Epsteins, that Mark was experiencing the lack of justice or restitution for the sins committed against him. Like my friend, asking him to forgive and forget was a tall order.

This is why God permits divorce for adultery. The “excommunication” is part of the restoration process for the offended spouse. Mark was not able to experience this. He continued to live with the woman that caused his personal pain. This only encouraged his imagination to replay his wife’s adultery. Giving birth to the child must have significantly compounded Mark’s heartache. But Jennifer decries anyone that mentions the “sin” which she committed before she became a Christian. Practically, this is an unreasonable request when it becomes the source of later tension that itself becomes the source of a local church conflict. You reap what you sow.

The season of their greatest struggle was spent at Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA), the home church of Doug and Beall Phillips. Jennifer provides a detailed account of her version of the transpiring events that prompted her campaign to “expose” Doug Phillips. The leaders at BCA emphatically deny these allegations, and two other churches provide their confirmations that seriously question the Epsteins’ allegations. Despite this, the Epsteins continue to defame the names of Doug and Beall Phillips as well as the ministries of Vision Forum and the associated National Center for Family-Integrated Churches.

Much of the accusation — as the title of Jennifer’s web site implies — is focused upon what Epstein describes as “ecclesiastical (and patriarchal) tyranny,” i.e. the oppression of women within the Christian home, and the suppression of Mrs. Epstein within the church. In one sense, Doug is absorbing the general criticism of all patriarchy adherents. This is hardly justified. The theological discussion of patriarchy should be engaged in a different forum by someone other than Jennifer Epstein.

As to the personal allegations, the evidence is circumstantial. Phillips denies these accusations, but he has not sought to publicly defame the Epsteins. He’s also not written a response to every detail of Jennifer’s account. I think this is wise. Since Doug is the face of Vision Forum, and the Epsteins intend to tarnish both, Doug must respond to this as any sizable organization would — with official statements. The more the Epsteins drone on about Doug on their respective blogs, the more this appears to be a personal vendetta. I cannot see what good they hope to obtain by this method.

Again, I am only responding for the sake of those few readers of this blog that are also familiar with Doug Phillips and Vision Forum. You are probably aware of the extended friendship between Chalcedon and Vision Forum. They have done much to introduce a great many to the work of R. J. Rushdoony. We know Doug. We don’t know the Epsteins. So, when I became aware of the intent of the Epstein’s letter, I felt it necessary to say something in response.

I’m sure the testimony of Mrs. Epstein regarding the painful path of her marriage is valid and her feelings real. I hope that she understands that regardless of Christ’s forgiveness, there is often a harvest for seed we’ve sown. I admire their attempts at making their marriage work, and I genuinely hope they can find the peace they’re looking for. I would caution them from redirecting their pain and bitterness from themselves to Doug Phillips. You cannot blame him for your history. Remember, none of this would have developed had the initial transgression not been committed. To lay their present burden at the doorstep of Doug Phillips is an unjust balance — something the Lord hates (Prov. 11:1).

The damage is done. She has sent out her letter and posted all the details on her web site. She has admonished Christian organizations like Chalcedon to disassociate themselves from Doug Phillips because of her personal encounter with him. This is faulty reasoning. The two things are not connected. She knows this. Therefore, to make it sound less personal, she has expanded the tarnishing of Doug Phillips by introducing other accusations.

She accuses Doug of being “insensitive and callous” regarding an article he wrote after the Virginia Tech shooting in which he suggested that students should be permitted to carry guns. She brings up an internal dispute about the veracity of a documentary entitled “Raising the Allosaur.” She accuses Phillips of being a closet racist because of his endorsement of the writings of R. L. Dabney. (Well, that would put a great many of us in the same light. I love Dabney).

Do you see the problem here? These are important issues, but they are also disputes over doctrine or debates over social positions such as slavery or the second amendment. They hardly warrant the sort of defamation campaign the Epsteins are presently pushing.

Therefore, there is no other conclusion than that the Epsteins are doing this for personal reasons. To say this has to do with protecting the reputation of homeschooling in general is beyond disingenuous. At one point in her letter she mentions the indelible issue of her adultery; that subject we’re all supposed to forget about:

Without any due process whatsoever, Doug Phillips unjustly excommunicated us for sins that we’d already repented of, as well as sins for which there wasn’t a shred of evidence to support. In fact, one of Doug’s charges against Jen was over a sin that she had committed years before she had even become a Christian, and years after she had repented of that sin! The Lord Jesus forgave her of that sin over seventeen years ago, but apparently Doug Phillips’ standards of forgiveness are far higher than the Lord’s.

This one was hard to swallow. The prose makes it sound as if Mark is making this statement, but if you read Jennifer’s whole account regarding her own marital strife, Mark was the one who struggled most with “forgiving” her:

“Mark continued to grow increasingly angry, threatening divorce almost daily, until one day it seemed as if it would become a reality. Retiring from 20 years in the Army, he had a job offer in another state and decided to leave us for good.”

“Things were becoming so bad at home, however, as the emotional abuse escalated to new heights and we began fearing for our physical safety, that I decided to formally approach Mark in March 2004 in the spirit of Matthew 18 as well, pleading with him to repent from his anger and to turn his heart toward his family again.”

For years his deep resentment resulted in constant anger, threats of divorce, and finally endangerment. However, this letter makes it sound as if Mark is bewildered at how Doug can’t seem to find forgiveness for Jennifer’s 17 year-old act of adultery: “The Lord Jesus forgave her of that sin over seventeen years ago, but apparently Doug Phillips’ standards of forgiveness are far higher than the Lord’s.” Are they kidding?

Folks, this is a private conflict that one party has decided to make public. And, if the principle of forgiveness is supposed to reign here, then why doesn’t Jennifer follow her own standard? If she can criticize her own husband for not forgiving her past sin, and she can criticize Doug for the same, then why can’t she simply release Doug as well and move on with her life?

She doesn’t want to. She wants justice! That’s what her husband sought all those many years. He was sinned against, and there seemed to be no penalty. Jennifer simply let her adultery and illegitimate child be washed away in the blood of Jesus and the adoption agency. Mark would have to forgive as Christ forgave. He struggled with that. There was no justice for him.

Yet, she will have her day of justice against Doug Phillips — even if she has to ruin his life’s work to do it. She claims she has sought reconciliation through proper channels on two different occasions. That’s well and good. In both instances, she says, Doug refused their offers of reconciliation. That’s also well and good. Then she says, “We’re not motivated by vengeance. We’re motivated by a genuine concern for the well being of the Christian home school movement.”

This logic does not follow. How does one go from failure to personally reconcile over a serious ecclesiastical matter to warning the public about a man’s beliefs about patriarchy, the second amendment, and reading an old Southern theologian that endorsed slavery? How does one make such a leap? Her personal conflict with Doug Phillips does not warrant a public defamation of his ministry.

The Epsteins want justice — plain and simple. They claim they’re following the Scriptures in approaching Doug Phillips. Now, Doug has left them with no recourse. They are going to a higher authority, i.e. the public! They should be going to God. It’s not their responsibility to extract this justice by their own hand. They are seeking penalties by defaming the Phillips’ name and hindering the work of Vision Forum. If you read their personal account, you’ll see the motivation is highly personal. Jennifer Epstein states the purpose for her letter to homeschoolers regarding Doug Phillips by writing:

“It’s vital that the most prominent of our home school leadership be men and women of impeccable reputation and strong moral character. We’re* very concerned that one of the most prominent of our home education leaders runs the risk of causing the entire home school movement great damage.”

I would agree. Impeccable reputation and strong moral character are vital. However, does this not assume that she is both an example of such an impeccable reputation and a clear judge of that same quality in others? She herself states that she is a part of the “home school leadership”:

“I’ve* been a Christian home educator for twelve years now and have been president of a local home school group for seven years. I’ve* been active in the home school community for quite some time and have helped to coordinate numerous home school functions and co-ops in the San Antonio, Texas area and have worked at many homeschool conventions.”

*Notice the change from second to first person in this last paragraph. Although the letter is signed by “Mark and Jennifer Epstein,” it’s obviously her letter.

I don’t think a woman suffering years from a crumbling marriage brought on by her own immorality, and facing church discipline, is an example of impeccable reputation and strong moral character. Therefore, she is on very weak ground to be spreading her side of the BCA controversy all over the internet. After all, I found out about this letter on a secular web site that regularly condemns Christian conservatives. These are sites that already war against homeschooling and regularly have men like Doug Phillips in their crosshairs. Mrs. Epstein has made a bold step in making these matters public. She better hope she’s right. The heavenly reciprocity may not be to her liking.

posted by Chris Ortiz at 5:02 PM

There is much that I can say about Chris Ortiz’ own personal interpretation of the events, aided of course by the input of his friend, Doug Phillips. However, instead of offering my own analysis of Chris’ articles, I’d like to open things up for discussion and comment. Readers are also welcome to ask me questions (as Chris himself should have done) about these two Chalcedon articles. Feel free to contact Chris Ortiz directly at theonomy@mac.com What I will say at this point is that I simply don’t understand why Chris Ortiz would want to drag The Chalcedon Foundation into this. It wasn’t his fight.

A Personal Note To Chris Ortiz: Chris, your donor relations skills are atrocious. Before you start attacking people and accusing them of “defamation,” etc., it would be smart to first look up their names in your own database just to make sure they’re not Chalcedon donors. Did you know that the Epsteins are Lifetime Members of Chalcedon? You do now. Because Doug Phillips spoke so highly of Chalcedon, we became supporters while we were members of Boerne Christian Assembly. I’m sure you also now understand why we will never again financially support Chalcedon. It’s not because of Doug Phillips. It’s because of you. Chalcedon has you to thank for that, Chris. Chalcedon also has you to thank for losing Cynthia Kunsman as a financial supporter. Chris, how many more donors will you cost Chalcedon?

Are “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” Biblical? Part 3

Part 3

This is the third in a three-part critique of The Biblical Tenets Of Patriarchy. If you haven’t read Part One and Part Two already, please do so before reading this article.

After posting Part One in this series, I came to recognize the centrality of Patriarchy to some homeschoolers’ entire “vision,” referring to Patriarchy as a “Gospel centered doctrine,” when it is nothing of the sort. Much of Patriarchy is just extra-biblical legalism, and legalism is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Christ is about grace, not legalism.

Why then do patriarchists claim that Patriarchy is “Gospel centered”? Certainly, Patriarchy is “centered” to something, but not to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Did Jesus or any of the Apostles ever teach Patriarchy? Did they ever command Patriarchy? No, in fact, the Apostle Paul explicitly warned the Corinthians that they should beware of anyone who came and preached “another Gospel.”

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! (2 Cor. 11:3-4)

Paul likewise gave a similar warning to the Galatians:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-9)

Some claims that Patriarchy is “Gospel centered” when, in point of fact, it is not. Patriarchists, just like the Judaizers that Paul proclaimed to be “accursed,” have added to and perverted the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what, then, is Patriarchy “centered” to? Patriarchy is “centered” around the family and, more specifically, around the “patriarch.”

Several years ago Rev. Pete Hurst of Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) preached a series of sermons on Patriarchy. Rev. Hurst had good reason to preach on Patriarchy, but that’s another story for another day:

Patriarchy: A New Legalism?
Patriarchy And Education
Patriarchy and the Family
Patriarchy and the Church

I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Rev. Hurst has to say, but as a pastor who almost had his church split over Patriarchy, he does have some good insights about how divisive Patriarchy can be.

Education & training of children

16. Education is not a neutral enterprise. Christian parents must provide their children with a thoroughly Christian education, one that teaches the Bible and a biblical view of God and the world. Christians should not send their children to public schools since education is not a God-ordained function of civil government and since these schools are sub-Christian at best and anti-Christian at worst. (Deut. 4:9; 6:6-9; Rom. 13:3-5; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15)

Deut. 4:9 – Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,

Deut. 6:6-9 – And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The favorite verses that support home education. While I agree that it is difficult to teach our children these things when they are not with us, I wonder if they fulfill the rest of this verse as well: “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Or maybe they just pick and choose the parts that they like.

Rom. 13:3-5 – For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

I’m trying to see “public school” in these verses. I think that is why they use these verses. It’s mighty hard to see it, though.

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

II Tim 3:15 – and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Since Timothy learned the Scriptures from his mother and his grandmother, this is an odd verse for the Patriarchy camp to use. I am sure that any child, no matter what form of education he has, can know Scripture from childhood. This verse doesn’t prove their point.

While I personally agree with this tenet, I find this biblical support to be very weak.

17. Fathers are sovereign over the training of their children and, with their wives, are the children’s chief teachers. Christian parents are bound to obey the command personally to walk beside and train their children. Any approach to Christian education ought to recognize and facilitate the role of fathers and mothers as the primary teachers of their children. (Deut. 4:9; 6:6ff.; Ps. 78:3-8; Prov. 1:8; Eph. 6:4; )

Deut. 4:9 – Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,

Deut. 6:6-9 – And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

I agree that this is a command to walk alongside children, but this command was given to Israel. We cannot confuse a command to Israel with a command to us as believers under the New Covenant. And if we are to follow this command, then we must fulfill the whole command: “And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

Ps. 78:3-8 – Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Again, this verse tells us that this law applied to Israel. We must be careful not to take Scripture out of context.

Prov. 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother;

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

It is the father’s responsibility to bring the children up in the training and admonition of the Lord, and as his helper, the wife does as well. While this tenet is certainly my personal preference, I do not see enough biblical support here to justify saying that parents are the primary/chief teachers of the children.

18. Educational methodology is not neutral. The Christian should build his educational methodology from the word of God and reject methodologies derived from humanism, evolutionism, and other unbiblical systems of thought. Biblical education is discipleship, a process designed to reach the heart. The aim is a transformed person who exhibits godly character and a trained mind, both of which arise from faith. The parents are crucial and ordinarily irreplaceable in this heart-level, relational process. (Deut. 6:5-7; Lk. 6:40; 1 Thess. 2:7-12; 2 Tim. 1:5; 2 Pet. 1:5-8)

Deut. 6:5-7 – You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Relationship.

Lk. 6:40 – A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.

If a student becomes like his teacher, this verse is clear support for only using teachers that the parents would want their children to emulate.

I Thess. 2:7-12 – But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy treated the church at Thessalonica as a father does his own children. This is a good example, but not a command.

II Tim. 1:5 – when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.

Timothy also had a good example growing up, but this is not a command.

II Pet. 1:5-8 – But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These are good things to teach and I can see that this verse is saying that knowledge should be built upon faith and virtue, but it does not say that there is no knowledge outside of faith and virtue.

I agree that we should be very careful what we teach our children. One thing we should definitely teach them is not to take Scripture out of context. A favorite mantra of some patriarchists is that education and its methodology is not neutral. If it doesn’t fit their description of the biblical form of education, they reject it. I just don’t see that in Scripture. There are definitely some methods that are more effective than others, but this premise is not supported by these verses.

Their Conversion

19. Since the educational mandate belongs to parents and they are commanded personally to walk beside and train their children, they ought not to transfer responsibility for the educational process to others. However, they have the liberty to delegate components of that process. While they should exercise great caution and reserve in doing this, and the more so the less mature the child, it is prudent to take advantage of the diversity of gifts within the body of Christ and enjoy the help and support that comes with being part of a larger community with a common purpose. (1 Cor. 12:14ff.; Gal. 4:1,2; 6:2; Eph. 4:16)

I Cor. 12:14 – For in fact the body is not one member but many. …

Since this verse is talking about the body of Christ, the Patriarchists are saying that if we are going to have others help us teach our children, it should come from the body of Christ.

Gal. 4:1,2 – Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.

This passage has a double meaning. It is talking about the oldest son who is going to inherit his father’s estate when the father deems he is ready. It is also talking about our relationship with the Lord and how we were under the Law before we came to Christ. This passage gives an example of a father using a tutor. So much for home education only!

Gal. 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This passage is talking about how to treat a brother who is in sin. This is not about helping teach someone else’s children.

Eph. 4:16 – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Yes, we can help each other out.

Since they used the words “it is prudent,” I will give them leeway on this one. I do not see any Scriptures here that say that parents ought not to transfer responsibility for the educational process to others. In fact, one of the verses in this section talks about a father appointing guardians and stewards. I am pleased that this section at least gives parents a little liberty to delegate.

20. The age-integrated communities of family and church are the God-ordained institutions for training and socialization and as such provide the preferred pattern for social life and educational endeavors. The modern preference for grouping children exclusively with their age mates for educational and social purposes is contrary to scriptural wisdom and example. (Deut. 29:10-11; 2 Chron. 20:13; Prov. 22:15 with 13:20; Joel 2:16; 1 Cor. 15:33)

Deut. 29:10-11 – All of you stand today before the LORD your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water—

A good example, but not a mandate for us.

II Chron. 20:13 – Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the LORD.

Another good example.

Prov. 22:15; 13:20 – Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him. … He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

This was preached to us a lot. We were told not to let fools hang out together unless we wanted them to become more foolish. Since foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, children are fools, and therefore should not hang out together. I always wondered why they didn’t separate the brothers and sisters in large families then.

Joel 2:16 – Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room.

Another example.

I Cor. 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

I guess the Patriarchists are using this verse to say that all children are evil and shouldn’t be with each other.

Since this is based on Scriptural wisdom and example, I am willing to give them this point. I just don’t know if it is strong enough to be called a “tenet,” though.

21. The Bible presents a long-term, multi-generational vision of the progress of God’s kingdom in the world. Christians parents need to adopt this perspective and be motivated by the generational promises of Scripture, and church shepherds need to promote this outlook within their flocks. By the grace of God, as fathers faithfully turn their hearts toward their sons and daughters and the youths respond in kind, the next generation will build upon the faith and improve upon the faithfulness of their parents. (Ps. 78:1-8; Is. 59:21; Mal. 4:6; Lk. 1:17; Gal. 6:9)

Ps. 78:1-8 – Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

This passage could be used to support telling our own children about the Lord.

Is. 59:21 – “As for Me,” says the LORD, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the LORD, “from this time and forevermore.”

This is the Lord’s covenant and what He will do. God has a multi-generational vision!

Mal. 4:6 – And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

Lk. 1:17 – He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

These are both talking about John the Baptist.

Gal. 6:9 – And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

While this is a good verse for perseverance, this is also proof-texting for trying to show support for multi-generational vision.

The problem here seems to be that patriarchists desperately want this vision, as this is foundational to many of their businesses. Look at that last part of this Tenet: “the next generation will build upon the faith and improve upon the faithfulness of their parents.” Anyone see any problems here? As parents, we are responsible to bring our children up in the training and admonition of the Lord, but that is where our authority stops. I am grateful for godly grandparents who care for and love their grandchildren, but this Patriarchy movement is really a power trip at this point.

Let’s think this one through logically. Dad and Mom get married and have ten children. They have this kind of vision. For argument’s sake, all descendants are half boys, half girls. So Dad passes his vision on to his ten children. These five girls, though, marry five boys who also had their father’s vision passed on to them, so the girls give up their fathers’ vision and go with their husbands’. So these five boys all have ten children each, five of which are boys, who now carry on Granddad’s vision. Five boys from the first generation and twenty-five from the next generation. Multiplying this, we would have another 125 boys in the third generation, and another 625 boys by the fourth generation, for a total of 780 boys in just four generations, all carrying on the vision of that first “Patriarch.” And if the Patriarch is the one with the vision, what does that make those 780 other boys? Are they still Patriarchs, too? Do you see why patriarchy is so important to these first generation Patriarchs? Wow! 780 men just following in your footsteps, following your vision. I know one patriarchist who has a 200-year visionary plan for his descendants. He has it all laid out in detail. And 200 years is much longer than four generations.

How does this practically play out when two families marry off their children to one another, but there are significant theological differences between the two families? For example, let’s take one Patriarch who is adamantly opposed to infant baptism (paedobaptism) and another Patriarch who is opposed to believer’s baptism (credobaptism) and anabaptism (re-baptizing paedobaptists as adults by profession of faith). The second Patriarch is a paedobaptist and his children have (presumably) all been baptized. Yet, his oldest daughter has been arranged to marry the first Patriarch’s eldest son. Will Patriarch II’s eldest daughter be required to be re-baptized before she can marry Patriarch I’s eldest son and renounce the paedobaptist beliefs of her father? Will their children not be baptized as infants? Presumably so. But won’t that likely cause serious theological differences between them? How can Patriarch II carry forward his “covenantal” and “dominionist” views generationally when his infant grandchildren aren’t baptized?

A father and his older children

22. Both sons and daughters are under the command of their fathers as long as they are under his roof or otherwise the recipients of his provision and protection. Fathers release sons from their jurisdiction to undertake a vocation, prepare a home, and take a wife. Until she is given in marriage, a daughter continues under her father’s authority and protection. Even after leaving their father’s house, children should honor their parents by seeking their counsel and blessing throughout their lives. (Gen. 28:1-2; Num. 30:3ff.; Deut. 22:21; Gal. 4:1,2; Eph. 6:2-3)

Gen. 28:1,2 – Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.

Here is an example of both a father blessing his son and giving him counsel about finding a wife. Should we use this as an example that men should marry their cousins?

Num. 30:3-5 – Or if a woman makes a vow to the LORD, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the LORD will release her, because her father overruled her.

This is a command that Moses gave to the tribes of Israel regarding vows.

Deut. 22:21 – then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.

This passage has some alarming implications for how we are to apply it today. Are the patriarchists recommending stoning immoral young women here? Why else would he quote the passage unless he intends that we are to exercise it?

Gal. 4:1,2 – Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.

This passage is talking about the firstborn son getting his inheritance, and how we are no longer under the Law when it comes to Christ.

Eph. 6:2,3 – “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

While I am not at all advocating that young people disobey their fathers (or their mothers), I’m not sure that these verses support Patriarchy’s viewpoint that daughters are to remain under their father’s full authority and control, living in their father’s homes, until they are married. If a family decides in favor of such an arrangement, that is not necessarily a bad thing in all cases, but neither is there a biblical mandate to do that. I’m especially concerned, though, with the implications of Patriarchy’s opposition to daughters receiving a college education, especially if it means that in order to pursue that education she must move away from home. Some patriarchists may not necessarily be opposed to distance learning for daughters. However, they still seem to view higher education for daughters as a waste of time, since in their view a wife and mother doesn’t need a degree. Patriarchists are especially opposed to a daughter moving out of the home to go study on a college campus.

In the same way that I haven’t seen the biblical mandate that daughters must live in their father’s home until they are married, I haven’t seen the passages that tell us that fathers are free to release sons from their jurisdiction to undertake a vocation, and prepare a home to take a wife either. Where does Scripture teach that a father is free to release his sons, but not release his daughters? This tenet seems to be more about control and less about what God’s Word instructs us to do. Also, to be consistent with all of God’s Word, this tenet needs to include mothers as well, since wives are to be their husband’s helper.

23. Fathers should oversee the process of a son or daughter seeking a spouse. While a father may find a wife for his son, sons are free to take initiative to seek and “take a wife.” A wise son will desire his parents’ involvement, counsel, and blessing in that process. Since daughters are “given in marriage” by their fathers, an obedient daughter will desire her father to guide the process of finding a husband, although the final approval of a husband belongs to her. (Gen. 24:1ff.; 25:20; 28:2; Ex. 2:21; Josh. 15:17; Jdg. 12:9; 1 Sam. 18:27; Jer. 29:6; 1 Cor. 7:38; Gen. 24:58)

Gen. 24:1 – Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” …

Gen. 25:20 – Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian.

Gen. 28:2 – Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.

Ex. 2:21 – Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses.

Josh. 15:17 – So Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife.

Judg. 12:9 – He had thirty sons. And he gave away thirty daughters in marriage, and brought in thirty daughters from elsewhere for his sons. He judged Israel seven years.

I Sam. 18:27 – therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full count to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife.

Jer. 29:6 – Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

I Cor. 7:38 – So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.

Gen. 24:58 – Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.

This Tenet is about “betrothal,” a system that is far more about a cultural system that was commonplace two thousand years ago, than it is about any biblical mandates. Patriarchists are seeking to reestablish a system whereby the father becomes the ultimate authority and arbiter on making the most important decision that his children will ever enter into — their marriage partners. Two thousand years ago this may have made a lot more sense culturally than it does today. Two thousand years ago sons generally took wives right from within their own communities. Sons also often took wives from among their own cousins. Today we know that such “inbreeding” often produces disastrous results. They also frequently took wives that were in their early teens (e.g. 14 year olds). Betrothals were also often arranged for a young man to take more than one wife. Today we know better than to encourage that. Not everything recorded in Scripture (polygamy, marrying cousins, etc.) can or should be interpreted as a biblical mandate for us today. God gave us an intellect and He expects us to use it.

Under Patriarchy’s system, the objective is not for a son to seek a wife that will please him, but for the prospective daughter-in-law to please and impress her prospective father-in-law so that she might obtain his favor. The father is in charge and the expectation is that he must be pleased with the choice of a spouse and that the spouse lives up to his expectations. If this is the objective before the marriage, why would it change after the marriage? In such a Patriarchal system, isn’t it likely that the father-in-law will continue to exercise control? One of the most common problems in new marriage is that in-laws meddle and interfere in their children’s lives. Patriarchists need to really add Genesis 2:24 to this section as an admonishment to fathers (and mothers) that when a young man does take a wife, he “leaves” his parents and “cleaves” to his wife. This is a reminder to parents that their married children are no longer under their control.

Although there is no clear mandate here of sons taking and daughters being given in marriage, there is a pattern. However, it is a great leap from giving and taking to fathers “overseeing” the process of their children seeking a spouse. If they happen to have a wise father and mother, then certainly they should seek the counsel of their parents. This tenet also attempts to describe what wise sons and daughters will do, although there is no biblical support listed for wise sons desiring their parents’ involvement, counsel, and blessing in that process; or that obedient daughters will desire their father to guide the process of finding a husband (but not their mother). This is clearly adding to Scripture.

The sufficiency & application of Scripture

24. Scripture is the believer’s sufficient guide for all of faith and practice, and Christians must believe and obey whatever it teaches and commands. The Bible provides the Christian — through precept, pattern and principle — all that is necessary to make wise decisions concerning the many ethically complex issues of life. (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3)

II Tim. 3:16-17 – All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

II Pet. 1:3 – as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

When Scripture gives us a clear mandate for how we should live our lives, we ought to obey. We can also gain much wisdom and understand principles from God’s Word as well. What we should not do, though, is take examples from Scripture and put them on the same level as being commands. That is the pattern that is described here. Showing a pattern in Scripture does not make it a command for us.

25. Fathers need to exercise discernment in the choices they make for their families and not simply drift with the cultural tide. Egalitarian feminism is an enemy of God and of biblical truth, but the need for care goes beyond this threat. The values of modern society are often at odds with those that accompany a biblical worldview. For example, fathers need self-consciously to resist the values of individualism at the expense of community, efficiency at the expense of relationships, and material well-being at the expense of spiritual progress. The world and the worldly church will cheer many choices that are detrimental to family sanctification. (Rom. 12:2; 1 Jn. 2:15)

Rom. 12:2 -And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I John 2:15 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

While this is an important biblical concept, I don’t understand what this has to do with fathers. Wouldn’t these same principles apply to mothers and children and all Christians? This is one of the problems of patriarchy — elevating the father above everyone else. This is simply adding to Scripture. And where is the Scripture that tells us not to be individualistic? I heard that so much when I was into Patriarchy when I had a thought that was different than the norm.

26. While God’s truth is unchanging, the specific application of that truth may vary depending on facts and circumstances unique to each believer. Also, those who are further along in sanctification will see some issues more clearly than those who are less mature. For these reasons great charity must be maintained between believers who have differences of application, and liberty of application must be respected. However, an appeal to the doctrine of Christian liberty must never be used in an effort simply to avoid submitting to what Scripture plainly teaches. Believers should also bear in mind that things which are lawful may not be expedient if the goal is personal and family holiness. The biblical rule in judging behavior is charity toward others, strictness toward oneself. (Gal. 5:2-3 with Acts 16:3; Phil. 3:15; Rom. 12:10; 1 Cor. 1:10; 6:12; 9:27; 10:23; Gal. 5:13)

Gal. 5:2-3 – Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

Acts 16:3 – Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.

This is Doug’s support that specific application of God’s truth may vary depending on facts and circumstances. It appears that he is trying to say that while one verse tells us that becoming circumcised requires one to keep the whole law, that there are also appropriate times to be circumcised as well.

Phil. 3:15 – Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

Rom. 12:10 – Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

I Cor. 1:10 – Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

I Cor. 6:12 – All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

I Cor. 9:27 – But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

I can’t quite figure out what this verse is intended to support — strictness toward oneself?

I Cor. 10:23 – All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

Gal. 5:13 – For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

I’m not sure what following the Second Greatest Commandment has to do with Patriarchy exclusively, but this is important to remember.

Are “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” Biblical? Part 2

Part Two

This is the second in a three-part critique of The Biblical Tenets Of Patriarchy. If you haven’t read Part One already, please do so before reading this article.

Critiquing The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy has been anything but a pleasurable experience for me. In fact, it’s brought me much sorrow. The reason why is because I’ve been such a strong proponent of Patriarchy. It’s not an easy thing to have to come to grips with the fact that I can no longer subscribe to a belief system that I had long held so dear. This isn’t to say that I now completely reject all aspects of Patriarchy. I still believe that certain elements of it may in fact be useful and even helpful to many families. Perhaps some of it is even biblical. However, I’ve also come to see that many elements of Patriarchy are, at the very least, extra-biblical, and perhaps even errant theology, if not heretical. As Bible teachers, patriarchists should be far more careful in “rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” (2 Tim 2:15)

Patriarchy leaders have pawned off Patriarchy as not merely being “biblical,” which even that is very debatable, but they have pawned off Patriarchy as being a “Gospel centered doctrine.” For a long time, I treated Patriarchy as though it was “Gospel centered” — that it was an essential and indispensable aspect of my walk with Christ. Now I recognize that it’s not “Gospel centered” and may even in some ways be contrary to the Gospel message, especially when it comes to the Gospel message of grace. I’m starting to see that many elements of Patriarchy are legalistic and, therefore, contrary to grace. Elevating any doctrine to a level of being “Gospel centered,” when the doctrine may, in fact, just be legalism, is Pharisaical.

Once again I would ask that any comments you post here only address “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy.” The authors have invited feedback on these tenets and I would like feedback on these verses as well. What do you think? Do these verses support these tenets as being biblical? Does the Bible teach these tenets? Which of these verses are on point and actually support a Tenet? Which of these verses are off point? Which of these verses are prooftexting?

When you leave a comment, to help us follow your thoughts, please address the Tenet number and the Scripture reference as well. If you have additional Scripture you would like to add to help Doug support these tenets, please do so. This is NOT a debate about personal beliefs, but only how these tenets can be supported biblically.

Family, Church, and State

8. Family, church, and state are parallel institutions, each with real but limited authority in its ordained sphere. As the keeper of the keys of Christ’s kingdom, the church is the central and defining institution of history. As the primary social group, the family is the foundational institution of society. (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; Acts 4:19; 5:29; 25:11; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13ff.; Eph. 1:22-23; 1 Tim. 3:15)

Matt. 16:19 – “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Matt. 18:18 – “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

And this is why it is vital that we take church discipline seriously. I reject the thought that elders have any authority over the status of another believer’s soul to unilaterally and unjustly pronounce them to be worthy of being a “heathen and a publican,” as sometimes happens. However, I do acknowledge that the true church of Jesus Christ is given authority here on earth to exercise the “keys of the Kingdom.” However, the keys of the Kingdom must always be used in such a way as to honor Christ. They must never be used or abused to seek personal vengeance.

Acts 4:19 – But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.

Acts 5:29 – But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.

This defines the state. I wonder if it could be used to define when we should obey God rather than an abusive elder or an abusive husband who ask people to sin as well, or who pronounce unjust judgments? I believe it does.

Acts 25:11 –“For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Here is an example of Paul using his rights as a citizen of Rome, but it is nothing more than an example.

Heb. 13:17 – Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Again, this is presumably referring to elders and how they are to lead and guide those in their care.

I Pet. 2:13 – Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,

Eph. 1:22-23 – And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

I agree that Christ is the head of the church, but I don’t see how this supports this “tenet” of Patriarchy.

I Tim. 3:15 – I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

It’s important that we conduct ourselves right in the house of God, but again, what does this have to do with the church, state, and family being parallel institutions?

Let’s see what’s missing here. Did we find any verses on family? If one of Patriarchy’s biblical tenets is that the family is the foundational institution of society, I would hope to see some verses to support this. And if family, church, and state are parallel institutions, I would think we could find that in Scripture as well. And what do they mean by “the church is the central and defining institution of history”? I thought history was HIS-story, not the church’s. Maybe history that doesn’t include the church is irrelevant. I think this point needs a lot of work.

9. Every Christian father and family ought to be a submitted and committed part of a local church, subject to the authority and discipline of the church through its elders. (Heb. 10:24-25; 13:17)

Heb. 10:24-25 – And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

One another. Not father. Not family. Just one another here.

Heb. 13:17 – Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

They sure do like this verse, these three elders who wrote this!

Why do these Patriarchs put words in here like “father” and “family,” when that is not what the Bible says? Is it just to bolster their claims of Patriarchy? I also notice that the discipline of the church is to be done through a plurality of elders, not just one.

10. The church is defined by its orthodox confession and faithful teaching of God’s word; by the presence of the Holy Spirit; by the rule of qualified elders; by the biblical administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper; by regular meetings for worship, instruction, breaking bread, and fellowship; and by the exercise of discipleship and discipline. (Gal. 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Cor. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:1ff.; Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:20ff.; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 5)

Gal. 1:8 – But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.

Would that include the “Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy”?

I Tim. 3:15 – I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

I Cor. 12:13 – For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

I Tim. 3:1 – This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.

There are actually verses that tell us about the role and qualification of elders in the church, but this isn’t one of them!

Matt. 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

I Cor. 11:20 – Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.

I don’t think I would have picked this one!

Acts 20:7 – Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

I Cor. 5:7-8 (These verses are not listed, but I heard them every week, so I know they are the ones they are referring to here.) Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

This is the verse that some elders use to use to say that we should have communion.

This section is very disappointing. I would probably agree with this particular tenet, but it is sorely lacking in Scriptural support. These are supposed to be “biblical” tenets.

11. Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church.(1 Tim. 3:5)

I Tim. 3:5 – (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)

The wording of this tenet is quite misleading. Based upon this verse, the first part of the tenet should read something like “An elder must rule his own house well.” This verse is not telling us that if a man leads his family, he will carry that leadership over into the church. This is kind of a weak verse to use to say that only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church, but I will give it to them. I would like to see much more Scripture on this point, however.

Now, here is where Patriarchy gets itself into trouble. Where does the Bible say anything about preferring male leadership outside of church or that such a thing makes a God-honoring society? Or where does it say that by having only men being in positions of leadership (in all of life apparently) supports God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church? Proof, men?

Men & Women: Spheres of Dominion

12. While men are called to public spheres of dominion beyond the home, their dominion begins within the home, and a man’s qualification to lead and ability to lead well in the public square is based upon his prior success in ruling his household. (Mal. 4:6; Eph. 6:4; 1 Tim. 3:5)

Mal. 4:6 – And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

What does this have to do with men working outside the home, or dominion, or ruling his household?

I Tim. 3:5 – (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)

Do you see the heavy pattern of ruling in this document? i am not even going to give them credit for “ruling his household” on this one because this verse is referring only to an elder’s qualification and has absolutely nothing to do with leading in the public square.

What verse tells us that men are called to public squares? To dominion? Beyond the home? That their dominion begins within the home? That prior success in ruling his household will qualify him to lead? That prior success in ruling his household will give him an ability to lead well? This one’s looking real weak.

13. Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, the bearer of children, and a “keeper at home,” the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home, although her domestic calling, as a representative of and helper to her husband, may well involve activity in the marketplace and larger community. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Prov. 31:10-31; Tit. 2:4-5)

Gen. 2:18 – And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

Prov. 31:10-31

Tit. 2:4-5 – that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Notice that this verse seems to be directed at young women.

Although I didn’t list everything in Proverbs 31, isn’t it interesting that in that whole passage and this partial Titus 2 passage, that the only word the Patriarchs choose to use to define a wife’s role is “homemakers” or “keeper at home.” It sure seems that the Proverbs 31 woman is out of the house a lot!

Which verse tells us that the woman is the bearer of children? I know that is true, but these are biblical tenets nonetheless. Which verse states that the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home? Which Proverbs 31 verse tells us that a woman’s activity in the marketplace and larger community is as a representative of and helper to her husband?

14. While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Josh. 1:14; Jdg. 4; Acts 16:14)

Gen. 2:18 – And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

While I agree that most women will get married, this verse does not support that. Patriarchy would have us believe that women were created only for the purpose of “helping” men.

Josh. 1:14 – Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them,

This verse is about the Israelites going to war, not about single women.

Judg. 4 – the story of Deborah

Some patriarchists’ favorite term for Deborah is “non-normative.” And in their book, anything that is non-normative is not biblically supported. It is a word that, to them, means that it goes against the normative pattern of Scripture. Therefore, patriarchists would not support what Deborah did.

Acts 16:14 – Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

Was Lydia single or married? She had a household; does that mean anything? And what does this verse have to do with the role of unmarried women?
Notice which passage regarding a young unmarried woman’s duties in life is clearly missing from this list.

Which verse tells us that women should not work alongside men? Which verse tells us that single women were created for a domestic calling? This tenet needs a whole lot of work!

Procreation

15. God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies to married couples, and He “seeks godly offspring.” He is sovereign over the opening and closing of the womb. Children are a gift of God and it is a blessing to have many of them, if He so ordains. Christian parents are bound to look to Scripture as their authoritative guide concerning issues of procreation. They should welcome with thanksgiving the children God gives them. The failure of believers to reject the anti-life mindset of the age has resulted in the murder of possibly millions of unborn babies through the use of abortifacient birth control. (Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 29:31; 30:22; Ex. 20:13: 21:22-25; Ps. 127:3; 128:3-4; Is. 8:18; Mal. 2:15)

Gen. 1:28 – Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Gen. 9:1 – So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.

God told Adam and Eve, and Noah and his sons (and their wives, presumably) to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. It looks like He also told Abraham. If I were a Patriarchist, I think I would have used the command to Abraham for this one. But I just don’t see that God gave this command to everyone. There are three distinct circumstances here, three distinct beginnings of a people, three distinct times when it was necessary to “multiply.” I think we should be careful when we claim that a command to someone in the Old Testament applies across the board to all Christians.

Gen. 29:31 – When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

Gen. 30:22 – Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.

Ex. 20:13 – You shall not murder.

Some Christians are unaware that some forms of birth control actually cause abortions within hours of conception. This is murder.

Ex. 21:22-25 – If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

This verse shows the value God places on the life of unborn child.

Ps. 127:3 – Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.

I don’t deny that children are a gift and a blessing, but that is not what this passage says. Biblical tenets require biblical words.

Ps. 128:3-4 – Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants All around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.

The man who fears the Lord will be blessed with a wife and children. Let’s not read too much into this.

Is. 8:18 – Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel From the LORD of hosts, Who dwells in Mount Zion.

Children. Plural. More than one. Isaiah had more than one child. Is this referring to literal children or the children of Israel? Does this verse tell us to have lots of children?

Mal. 2:15 – But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

In the Patriarchy movement, there is a heavy emphasis on having lots of children. I just don’t see the Scriptural support for it here. I wonder why they will say that it is the Lord who opens and closes the womb, yet we should have as many children as the Lord allows, and be fruitful and multiply? Which one is it?

Are “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” Biblical?

Part One

In recent months, I’ve found myself re-examining a number of doctrines and beliefs that I’ve held closely for years. I’ve learned many valuable things recently, including the need to critically examine what we believe and why we believe it, as well as to ensure that what we believe lines up with Scripture.

One of the things that I’ve long believed in is Patriarchy. I’m embarrassed now to have to admit it, but I came to believe that Patriarchy was biblical without ever first having done a critical examination on my own of the supposed “biblical” support for Patriarchy. I just took the word of certain Patriarchy leaders that Patriarchy is biblical. Recently, I started doing an examination and found that the biblical support for Patriarchy is actually quite weak, or at least the biblical support that is used in the official “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” is weak.

This isn’t to say that I believe that Patriarchy is necessarily un-biblical or anti-biblical. However, I am starting to wonder if much of it isn’t extra-biblical. I’m starting to think that Patriarchy probably falls more into the category of a personal lifestyle decision, rather than something that’s biblically mandated as many patriarchists would have us believe. Patriarchy is a personal lifestyle decision which may work well for some Christian families, but I no longer believe that Patriarchy is something that’s biblically mandated. Those who believe that Patriarchy is biblically mandated I would refer to as “hyper-patriarchs.”

Unfortunately, many of the hyper-Patriarchy leaders have attempted to make Patriarchy a necessary component of the Gospel message itself:

Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers. In conscious opposition to feminism, egalitarianism, and the humanistic philosophies of the present time, the church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions.

In other words, for the hyper-Patriarchist, Patriarchy is a “Gospel centered doctrine.” To not embrace Patriarchy is to reject the Gospel. I believe this is errant teaching, if not heretical. In some Patriarchy circles, those who don’t go along with their agenda are consigned to the status of a “carnal” or non-normative Christian. In many hyper-Patriarchy circles, to reject Patriarchy is to be “feminist” or “egalitarian.” For them it’s an either/or. Either you embrace Patriarchy or you’re an egalitarian feminist. However, I can no longer view this as an either/or position.

Even if Patriarchy can be supported biblically, does that make it mandatory for all Christians? I don’t believe that Patriarchy can be mandatory unless the Bible specifically mandates it. But from my read of the Scriptures, I see no such mandate.

In this article, what I’d like to do is examine a document prepared by Doug Phillips, Phil Lancaster and R.C. Sproul, Jr. entitled The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy. In the Editor’s Note to The Tenets it states, “We view this as an accurate working document, and invite feedback from anyone as we attempt to improve this statement over time.” I’m grateful that they have extended the offer to provide feedback. Apparently this offer is open to anyone. My goal is help them sharpen their iron here.

The Editor’s Note in The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy also states:

Central to the crisis of this era is the systematic attack on the timeless truths of biblical patriarchy. This attack includes the movement to subvert the biblical model of the family, and redefine the very meaning of fatherhood and motherhood, masculinity, femininity, and the parent and child relationship. We emphasize the importance of biblical patriarchy, not because it is greater than other doctrines, but because it is being actively attacked by unbelievers and professing Christians alike. Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers.

Egalitarianism and feminism are clearly humanistic philosophies, and humanists would not deny it. In my personal view, humanism often becomes an attack on biblical Christianity. There’s nothing new about that, nor is that a “crisis” that’s unique to “this era.” Humanism has been with us for many centuries, and we should always be prepared to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Patriarchists have attempted to “give an answer” to a number of important issues, including the cultural influence of humanism. However, as I’ve come to see, this is a reactionary position, and reactionaries often tend to become extremists. Rather than seeking balance, it is all too easy to take things to the opposite extreme. I believe that these views of Patriarchy are an example of this reactionism, and these views are extremist, rather than biblically balanced.

In principle, I agree that radical feminism and egalitarianism have done much to undermine the family, the church, and society on the whole. The easy thing to do would be to blame women, and I know from personal experience that’s exactly what some patriarchists do. But in my view, radical feminism and egalitarianism cannot be blamed entirely on rebellious women (“Jezebels”), and their penchant for doing so only further harms families and churches, rather than restoring them to biblical balance. Rather than being Patriarchal, this is just misogyny.

Feminism and egalitarianism cannot be laid entirely at the feet of women. Much of the blame must also go to men, men who are either abusive and tyrannical, or on the other end of the scale, men who abdicate their duties and responsibilities to be godly servant-leaders in their homes and churches. Egalitarianism and feminism are often a reaction to abusive or derelict men. The solution isn’t in more extremism — reaction to egalitarian feminism. The solution will come by restoring biblical balance. I believe that rather than being part of the solution, Patriarchy is part of the problem.

“The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy” make numerous bold claims about Patriarchy, including that Patriarchy is “Biblical.” The Tenets purport to be biblical because, supposedly, each of its doctrinal points is supported by multiple specific scriptural references. But as we shall see, quite often the scriptural references don’t make the case that patriarchists attempt to portray that they do. Many of the verses cited simply do not belong under the category that they were placed in because they have little or nothing to do with that particular issue. This may have been done in order to give the false impression that there is strong biblical support for the point being made, when in fact the biblical support may be quite weak, if nonexistent. Needless to say this practice of throwing Bible references like so much spaghetti against the wall to see what might stick, when many of those verses may have little or nothing to do with the “tenet,” is dishonest. Another problem that I discovered is that there has been quite a bit of prooftexting done in order to achieve the desired outcome. This, too, is just more dishonesty.

When I started going through the verses referenced in “The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy,” and I discovered these discrepancies, I found myself becoming very offended. I cherish God’s Word as holy and sacred, but these tenets do not seem to take God’s Word as seriously as I do. This is not a situation where Christians are conforming their lives to God’s Word, but rather they are conforming and contorting God’s Word to their personal preferences.

If patriarchists wish to continue calling Patriarchy “biblical,” then it seems to me that they need to work harder on finding Bible references that actually do support Patriarchy. If they’re then unable to identify specific biblical support for any of their “tenets,” then they need to withdraw those particular tenets entirely. Either that or they need to change their title to just The Tenets Of Patriarchy (my personal preference would be The Tenets Of Hyper-Patriarchy). It’s not for me to say that these aren’t the Tenets Of Patriarchy. I’m sure they are. I do think, however, that they haven’t made a very good case for saying that all these Tenets are biblical.

God as Masculine

1. God reveals Himself as masculine, not feminine. God is the eternal Father and the eternal Son, the Holy Spirit is also addressed as “He,” and Jesus Christ is a male. (Matt. 1:25; 28:19; Jn. 5:19; 16:13)

Matt. 1:25 – and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Matt. 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

John 5:19 – Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

John 16:13 – However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

So far, so good.

The Image of God and Gender Roles

2. Both man and woman are made in God’s image (their human characteristics enable them to reflect His character) and they are both called to exercise dominion over the earth. They share an equal worth as persons before God in creation and redemption. The man is also the image and glory of God in terms of authority, while the woman is the glory of man. (Gen. 1:27-28; 1 Cor. 11:3,7; Eph. 5:28; 1 Pet. 3:7)

Gen 1:27-28 – So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

I Cor. 11:3 – But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

I agree that God created man and woman in His own image. This isn’t said of any of God’s other creatures. Mankind also is unique in that we are the only of God’s creations with a soul. Mankind therefore has a special obligation to bring glory to God. I can only assume that these verses are included to show that the man is the image and glory of God in terms of authority. I’m not sure I understand the need to talk about authority structure in the section on being created in the image of God.

I Cor. 11:7 – For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

Eph. 5:28 – So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.

This is a good verse, but I don’t see how it relates to being created in the image of God. To me, this seems confusing to speak of mankind being created in God’s image, while at the same time talking about “gender roles.” Are we trying to say that since a man was created in the image of God, that he should love his own body, and therefore he should love his own wife? If so, this should be stated as such. This verse probably belongs in a different category.

I Pet. 3:7 – Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

This verse seems to support the statement that they share an equal worth as persons before God in redemption, not that women are subordinate or in any way inferior to men.

So, in this category, we find clear biblical support for nearly everything except the clause (their human characteristics enable them to reflect His character), which is meant to be a logical inference of what it means to be created in the image of God, although I find no clear Scripture listed for this. Since these are “biblical tenets,” I would like to see some Scriptural support for this as well.

3. God ordained distinct gender roles for man and woman as part of the created order. Adam’s headship over Eve was established at the beginning, before sin entered the world. (Gen. 2:18ff.; 3:9; 1 Cor. 11:3,7; 1 Tim. 2:12-13)

Gen 2:18 – And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

I think this verse is clear that God intended for wives to help their husbands. I like this translation; wives are comparable to their husbands. Interesting. I wonder how difficult it is for an undereducated wife to help a highly educated man?

Gen. 3:9 – Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

This was right after they both ate the fruit. Does this determine headship? Or is it just inferred here?

I Cor. 11:3, 7 – But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. … For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

I Tim. 2:12-13 – And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

If we put these Scriptures together, I think it is clear that the husband is the head of his wife, and that the wife is to help her husband. I’ve been taught to look at things in light of all of Scripture, so remember this point later on.

4. Although sin has distorted their relationship, God’s order of authority for husbands and wives has not changed, and redemption enables them to make substantial progress in achieving God’s ideal for their relationship. (Gen. 3:16; Eph. 5:22ff.)

Gen 3:16 – To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

Eph. 5:22, 25 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

This is basically sound, but this interpretation sounds almost defeatist to me that we can only make substantial progress in the marital relationship. What of those who aren’t called to marry? What hope do they have of their personal sanctification? In the world of hyper-Patriarchy, daughters must remain under the “headship” of their fathers in perpetuity.

The Authority of Fathers

5. A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector, with the authority and mandate to direct his household in paths of obedience to God. (Gen. 18:19; Eph. 6:4)

Gen 18:19 – For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

In context, God says here that He knew Abraham in order that Abraham should become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. This is a promise given specifically to Abraham. Is Patriarchy claiming Abraham’s promises for themselves? Is that why they call it Patriarchy? They want to be like Abraham? Abraham is certainly seen as the Patriarch in Scripture. Are all men commanded biblically to be patriarchs as well? If they are, then it seems to me that, in order to be biblically consistent, all men would have to do everything that Abraham did, including taking multiple wives (polygamy), have servants (slaves), etc.

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

This one applies to at least one aspect of this point. In light of all of Scripture, since a wife is to help her husband, I think it would include helping to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord as well.

It seems that Scriptural support is missing for a great deal of this particular point. Is the father really the head of his household? Is he the family leader? Is he told to be the provider? Is he to be the protector? I’m not saying that I necessarily disagree with this. I’d just like to see the verses for these since these are called “Biblical” Tenets.

This section is about the authority of fathers. Why is the husband part included here? Surely they don’t mean that a husband is to exercise the same authority over his wife as a father would over his children, do they?

6. A man’s authority in the home should be exercised with gentleness, grace, and love as a servant-leader, following the example of Jesus Christ. Leadership is a stewardship from God. (Ps. 103:13; Mal. 3:17; Matt. 11:29-30; Col. 3:21; 1 Pet. 3:7)

Ps. 103:13 – As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.

This verse speaks of the natural pity a father feels for his children, a prime example of prooftexting. Mothers, too, obviously pity their children.

Mal. 3:17 – “They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.”

These are not “tenets.” These verses are simply stating how things are. In fact, these verses are really about God’s attitude toward us.

Matt. 11:29-30 – “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus is gentle. This verse does not tell a man to be gentle. This verse does not even specifically tell us to be like Jesus, although certainly Jesus is our example. More prooftexting.

Col. 3:21 – Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

I Pet. 3:7 – Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Finally, we get to two verses that are direct commands to men. While I agree with this principle of men being a servant-leader, the Scriptural support here is very weak. I would think this section could be bolstered quite a bit with appropriate verses.

7. The authority of fathers is limited by the law of God and the lawful authority of church and state. Christian fathers cannot escape the jurisdiction of church and state and must be subject to both. (Rom. 13:1ff.; Eph. 5:21; 6:4; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13ff.)

Rom. 13:1 – Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

This verse says “every soul.” I wonder why in Patriarchy only the fathers are to be subject to the jurisdiction of church and state?

Eph. 5:21 – submitting to one another in the fear of God.

In context, this is a “one anothering” passage written to believers on how they are to treat one another. This has nothing to do with being subject to authorities of any kind.

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

If this is the passage that limits a father’s authority, then it is greatly limited indeed. I wonder why they don’t follow these limits.

Heb. 13:17 – Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

The word “rule” is this verse actually means “to lead or guide.” “Those” is probably referring to elders, hence this verse is talking about the church part.

I Pet. 2:13 – Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,

And the government.

I agree that fathers should be subject to governing authorities. I just wonder if the mothers and children and all men and women everywhere ought to be as well. Are you seeing the pattern here of the heavy emphasis on verses that seem to elevate men to a degree higher than God intended?

(The other tenets will follow later in a later article.)

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This is an interesting hermeneutic. Some patriarchists teach that if we see a “pattern” in Scripture, we are to follow the pattern. They teach that patterns in Scripture are as binding as direct commands, unless those patterns are what they would call “non-normative.” What I didn’t perceive while I was in patriarchy is the glaring weakness in this hermeneutic — there are so many “non-normatives.” They can’t clearly explain why there are so many “patterns” in Scripture that, in a patriarchist’s view, are non-normative. They can’t clearly explain why some “patterns” are “normative” and other “patterns” are “non-normative.” It just seems to come down to a matter of personal preferences, and twisting Scripture to comply with those preferences.

Just a few months ago, I probably would have looked at these verses and said that they did fully support these “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy,” and largely because I had unwittingly adopted this hermeneutic. However, because I’ve become involved in an intensive Bible study group, I’ve learned how to study Scripture more accurately and to more rightly divide the Word of Truth. I still believe that we must base our lives upon Scripture, but I no longer believe that we are commanded to live our lives according to all “patterns” that we find in Scripture.

We also need to differentiate between commands that are for us as believers today and those that were given specifically to others. Furthermore, just because God may have permitted the Patriarchs to engage in certain kinds of behavior four thousand years ago doesn’t mean that we too are permitted, let alone commanded, to do as they did. Just because God gave certain commands to Abraham does not mean that all Christian men suddenly become patriarchs as well. In fact, I find it quite arrogant that some men have decided that God is speaking directly to them when He commanded Abraham to do certain things in order to establish a new nation.

I do not see that God is suddenly establishing multitudes of new nations, all stemming from the new group of “patriarchs” today. In fact, even the definition of “patriarch” is quite arrogant to apply to a Christian father today. I like to quote from Webster’s 1828 dictionary to define terms because this is a favorite dictionary of patriarchists:

Patriarch:

1. The father and ruler of a family; one who governs by paternal right. Usually applied to the progenitors of the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, or to the heads of families before the flood.
2. A learned and distinguished character among the Jews.
3. In the Christian church, a dignitary superior to the order of archbishops. (Webster’s 1828 dictionary)

I wonder which of these three definitions applies to the “Patriarchs” of today?

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For this article only, I would like to request that comments here only address “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy.” The authors have invited feedback on their tenets and I would like feedback on these verses as well. What do you think? Do these verses support these tenets as being biblical? Does the Bible teach these tenets? When you leave a comment, to help us follow your thoughts, please address the tenet number and the Scripture reference as well. If you have additional Scripture you would like to add to help patriarchists support these tenets, please do so. This is NOT a debate about personal beliefs, but only how these tenets can be supported biblically.

Little Bear Wheeler Caves In To Doug Phillips’ Scare Tactics

Epsteins Grateful For Richard Little Bear Wheeler, But Disappointed

By: Mark Epstein

Immediately after our “excommunication” from Boerne Christian Assembly, we began attending Living Water Fellowship. LWF is pastored by Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler. Little Bear is also a prominent home school leader and had a long standing friendship with Doug Phillips and business relationship with The Vision Forum.

Living Water Fellowship has long been considered to be part of the informal alliance among four churches in the area, one of them being BCA. These four churches were known to us all as “the community.” In spite of our “excommunication,” we were openly welcomed at LWF, whose elders made it known to us that they weren’t in agreement with Doug Phillips over our “excommunication” and that they desired to see it overturned and our relations with BCA restored. Little Bear went so far as to tell us that he saw many similarities between our “excommunication” and the Salem Witch Trials. LWF wasn’t the only church in the community that had serious misgivings about our “excommunication,” and for a time our “excommunication” threatened to cause a split in the community, and in some respects it did cause a split.

Little Bear asked us to remain at LWF for at least six months while he and the LWF elders worked behind the scenes on our behalf. Though we had a number of theological differences with the teaching and worship there (LWF is Arminian and very Charismatic, if not Pentecostal), we kept our theological differences to ourselves and remained there in hopes that Little Bear would be successful in his reconciliation attempts. We stayed for those six months. But even after our departure we remained in contact with Little Bear and Al, and they continued in their reconciliation attempts for a total of fourteen months.

Elders Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler and Al Mendenhall sacrificially invested a great deal of time and energy in their attempts to work through the Doug Phillips’ orchestrated Star Chamber excommunication, including examining any available records. Little Bear and Al attempted repeatedly to set up meetings with Doug about our “excommunication.” Doug evaded all such attempts. Ultimately, it became apparent that Doug would never agree to speak with them about it. Doug had communicated his message loud and clear: The subject isn’t open to discussion.

In March 2006, Al Mendenhall asked me to quit copying him and Little Bear on my correspondence with Doug Phillips because Little Bear wanted to pursue restoring his personal relationship with Doug. That couldn’t be done if there was any appearance that the LWF elders continued siding with the Epsteins. We were informed that because of Doug’s position on the matter, the relationship between Little Bear and Doug had become quite strained. Doug was extremely displeased that Little Bear had welcomed us to his church with open arms, and even less pleased that the LWF elders had worked diligently for fourteen months to reason with Doug. Little Bear’s personal relationship with Doug Phillips had been not only completely cut off by Doug, but Doug had even become adversarial toward Little Bear, as evidenced by his refusal to even speak with Little Bear when they led a Father-Son retreat together in August 2005.

In spite of Little Bear and Al’s inability to broker reconciliation between Doug and the Epsteins, had Living Water Fellowship been a church that we felt ourselves in accord with, we probably would have remained there. However, because of the Charismatic worship and the Arminian theology (as well as some other serious theological differences), we just didn’t see how we could remain long term. So we left for good at the end of August 2005. However, we did remain in regular contact with Little Bear and Al after our departure. It was important to us to depart peacefully, and we did. We were grateful for the kindness and pastoral care they’d shown us.

My own attempts to contact Doug Phillips were met with a response that I would not be permitted contact with Doug, and that any communication must be only with Doug’s attorney, Don Hart. Needless to say, coming from a so-called “pastor,” this is a very strange and unusual demand. Don Hart is Vision Forum’s attorney and a Vision Forum board member. Don Hart isn’t even Boerne Christian Assembly’s attorney. Nevertheless, I complied with Doug’s edict. When I wrote my July 2006 letter to Don Hart, which asked Phillips and BCA for the specifics of our alleged excommunicable sins, because of Al’s earlier request, none of the LWF elders were given a copy of that letter. I asked for this list of sins so that we could come to a clear understanding of what specific sins we were allegedly guilty. I’ve always held that if we were indeed guilty that we should and would repent. Despite contacting Don Hart and receiving his assurance that he would speak with Doug about the letter, we never heard from Phillips, or BCA, nor did we receive a reply from Don Hart.

In November 2006, Jen and I had lunch with Al Mendenhall to obtain the return of some papers related to our excommunication. During lunch, Al told us that the leadership of Living Water Fellowship finally met with Doug Phillips and his so-called “leadership team,” which is now calling itself a “session” — a very Presbyterian term for a Baptist church (“session” is used to give the appearance of a plurality of elders, when in fact Doug was the only elder, and an unordained one at that). Al emphasized that Doug Phillips made it perfectly clear that he felt Al and Little Bear had violated the letter of the law by taking us in when Doug had declared us to be “heathens and publicans.” In return, Al and Little Bear made it clear to Doug that if Doug ever excommunicated anyone else at BCA, that Living Water would do the same thing all over again, taking them in and loving them in their sin, attempting to restore them to both God and man.

Despite Doug’s accusation that Al and Little Bear had violated the letter of the law, Al sincerely believed they had followed the spirit of God’s law, which is actually comprised of God’s grace and Christ’s atoning work on the cross, which Christ made clear during His earthly ministry when confronting the Pharisees and their graceless interpretation of God’s Law. On the other hand, not only do Doug’s words to Al and Little Bear stand as an indictment of Doug for legalism on steroids, his actions in our unjust excommunication and the vile and vicious actions of his proxies (e.g. Matt Chancey and the Still Fed Up boys) also indict Phillips for legalism as well; the combination of those words and actions serve to demonstrate Doug’s hyper-legalistic view of Holy Scripture. Doug’s view of Scripture is the root of the problem. Doug misused Scripture to justify ravaging and betraying sheep instead of loving, feeding, and caring for us.

Almost immediately after we began to tell our story a number of folks began to contact Jen offline inquiring as to the name of the church that took us in. Some already knew it was LWF, and others accurately guessed that it was LWF. Many others have also contacted Jen to offer their prayers and words of support. Jen has received numerous emails from people who have their own “Doug Phillips stories” of abuse and harassment. As much as we’d like to see these people step forward and tell their own stories, they’ve made it plain that they’re afraid to. Phillips’ treatment of Little Bear Wheeler only serves as a confirmation for their fears.

It seems a contradiction to some that there are those who support the Epsteins, but that they do so silently. On the other hand, it has never ceases to amaze me that many publicly vocal people have demanded transparency from the Epsteins (documentation, naming names, etc.), but have simultaneously found it quite acceptable for Phillips and his proxies to remain anonymous; to engage in ad hominem attacks; to fail to provide specifics; to avoid placing any source documents on the web (despite the claim they were actually referencing these documents); and to refuse to accept comments on their blogs so that they can be questioned about their allegations. Oddly enough, such behavior displays a wanton disregard for the biblical admonitions concerning the higher degree of responsibility associated with those who teach. However, in the upside down world of hyper-patriarchs and hyper-legalism this pattern actually does make perfect sense. Hyper-patriarchs and hyper-legalists are all about hypocrisy and double standards.

Despite a desire to leave Living Water Fellowship and its leadership out of the discussion, we finally made a decision to go ahead with an article about Living Water Fellowship’s involvement in our excommunication. When Jen did write her article, she took great pains to demonstrate the difference between the unaccountable Phillips at BCA and the plurality of elders LWF enjoys. Though we do have some significant theological differences we, nevertheless, do consider Little Bear and Al and LWF true brethren in Christ. Contrary to BCA, we see no evidence at LWF of cultish hero-worship.

Imagine our surprise, then, when Little Bear’s Living Water Fellowship placed a statement on their website declaring that our email to homeschool leaders in America contained “inaccuracies” and “misleading information,” and that it “discredits its authors.” Since we have taken great pains to be factually honest and accurate in everything that we have reported and commented on regarding Doug Phillips, we were eager to correct any possible mistakes we might have made. We had also spent a great deal of time on the phone with both Little Bear and Al during the writing of our story to make sure that we had every facet of LWF’s side of the story completely accurate. So we were determined to do whatever was necessary to go about setting any “misleading information” straight.

Another issue that startled us was LWF’s statement that “The pastors of Living Water Fellowship desire that it be known that no issue exists between Living Water Fellowship, Boerne Christian Assembly or its leadership.” Although it is true that there were not as many problems among the congregants of the entire four-church community as there were between the leaders of BCA and LWF, our excommunication ultimately split the entire community. There were several churches that formed from the original BCA fellowship. These were friendly multiplications of the body of the Christ and we often fellowshipped together. At the time of our excommunication, there were four churches in what we called “the community.” We would often get together for all day picnics/potlucks and most baby showers and bridal showers and weddings were four-church affairs. In fact, the week after we were excommunicated, there was a community baby shower. Little Bear asked Jen not to attend the shower so as not to cause division at that time. Unfortunately, that was the last community-wide event, as far as we are aware. Doug Phillips asked the other churches to honor his excommunication of us and that split the community grievously.

Furthermore, one of the larger issues between Phillips and Wheeler was Little Bear’s dressing down of Doug Phillips over the phone not long after we began attending Living Water Fellowship. Little Bear’s first attempt to talk to Doug about our excommunication resulted in many hurtful words between the two of them. Little Bear talked to us constantly about God’s love and loving one another. LWF’s motto is “In honor, preferring one another,” and Little Bear truly sought to live that out. He could not possibly justify “shunning” in light of that Scripture and he made it very plain to Doug how he felt about BCA’s dealings with us. Additionally, Little Bear personally told me that he was genuinely concerned he would lose his ministry to financial ruin if his name was dragged into the public dispute between Phillips/BCA and the Epsteins that erupted when Doug’s shills outed the “Jacksons” in November 2006. Our concerns for Little Bear were one of the main reasons why we tried to tell our story anonymously. We didn’t want to see Little Bear get dragged into it if that could be avoided. As we understand it, Ministry Watchman agreed to not bring Little Bear’s name into it.

Little Bear did have good reason to worry. For years, he derived substantial financial gains from his relationship with Doug and Vision Forum. The loss of that relationship would cost Little Bear many thousands of dollars. Apparently this was not the first time Little Bear felt his ministry was threatened by Doug Phillips either, and he knew full well how tenuous his relationship with Doug was. Thus, LWF posted a statement which allows for the inference or appearance of mutual agreement and friendly relations with the leadership of BCA. Unfortunately, this is disingenuous and it shows that Little Bear Wheeler has misrepresented the facts in this matter.

As Jen has noted in her posts, Doug Phillips resorts to a fairly standard play book: Demand the name of his perceived opponent’s ecclesiastical authority, threaten the opponent with church discipline, threaten the opponent with a secular lawsuit, threaten the opponent with the loss of their job through proxies, viciously attack the opponent with false ecclesiastical and secular charges, and smear the reputation of your opponent using any and all means available, including logical fallacies. And who are Doug’s opponents? Anyone who disagrees with him for any reason, or anyone who fails to obey his dictates (such as shunning the Epsteins). Needless to say, it is not too far fetched at all to think Doug Phillips could engage in the financial ruin of Little Bear Wheeler if Little Bear publicly took sides with the Epsteins. It’s bad enough to disagree with Doug in private, but it’s quite another thing to defy Doug publicly — as our readers have witnessed.

Al called me on April 26, 2007, just after Vision Forum and LWF released their public statements about this situation. Al invited me to lunch with him and Little Bear. In several subsequent phone calls, as we were attempting to set up a date to meet, Al kept using the word “restoration” in reference to what LWF was trying to accomplish between the two churches’ leaders. Of course, as the word “restoration” conveys, something obviously bad had to have happened to bring about a need for restoration. In the case at hand, it was a restoration of the personal relationship between Doug Phillips and Little Bear Wheeler, which was damaged when Doug “dressed down” Little Bear on the phone because Little Bear refused to shun us in accordance with Phillips’ demands, and which was obviously not restored in the least by this date; and the relationship between the “leadership team/session” at BCA and the elders at LWF, which was damaged as a result of Little Bear and LWF’s leaders taking in “excommunicants.” Both of these relationships were strained to the point of being completely severed during the prior two years. When I pressed Al to clarify why he said no issue exists between their two leaderships, he evaded answering any of my questions about the rift between Doug and Little Bear personally, and the rift between the elders at LWF and the “leadership” at BCA. He simply refused to talk about it. To state that no issue exists between them is ludicrous.

Al and I talked on the phone several times in the next few days, attempting to set up a lunch date. During those phone calls, Al repeatedly raised the issue of our websites. He made it perfectly clear that he thought they should be taken down. However, as I explained to Al, we already did that once for the purpose of laying the groundwork toward seeking reconciliation, all to no avail. I repeatedly pressed Al for the specifics of the “inaccuracies” and “misleading information” that he and Little Bear had alleged that we were guilty of. Al repeatedly dodged my questions about these details and refused to give me a straight answer, or even just one example. Furthermore, I told Al that Doug Phillips had his last chance to be reconciled outside of a full public apology, and public lifting of the excommunication, and that there was certainly a lot more that we needed to write about.

As Jen has asserted before, the answer to Phillips’ dilemma is simple: Doug Phillips — a man that threatens professing Christians with unjust and unbiblical lawsuits and church discipline, and who evidently is responsible for creating the fear factor in Little Bear Wheeler — simply needs to repent of his gross ecclesiastical tyranny and the aberrant behavior of his proxies which he has sanctioned. Moreover, Phillips owes Little Bear and the leadership of LWF an apology for the fear that Little Bear suffered when he thought Mantle Ministries would be financially ruined because he previously sided with the Epsteins. Al Mendenhall personally told me Little Bear feared losing his business when we spoke shortly after Phillips’ proxies outed Jared and Mary Jackson. Therefore, it is little wonder to me that Little Bear willingly posts a statement on his church website that he refuses to back up with any specifics of “inaccuracies” and “misleading information.”

When Al and Little Bear realized that we were not going to take down our blogs again, the invitation for lunch with Al and Little Bear was suddenly withdrawn, almost as suddenly as Little Bear’s renewed interest in developing a relationship with Doug again or, should I say, Doug’s renewed interest in developing a relationship with Little Bear. After Jen wrote an article exposing Doug’s wicked treatment of Little Bear, it didn’t take long for Doug to (presumbly) contact Little Bear and profess a desire to restore their relationship. Again, if there was no known problem between them, why the need for restoration? Little Bear was forced into making a decision at that point: continue to support the Epsteins, or attempt to recoup some of that financial loss he suffered at the hands of Doug Phillips when Doug turned on him and shunned him when Little Bear did the right thing before God. It became readily apparent that Little Bear thought he could get back into Doug’s good graces by being the one person to convince us to take down our blogs. When Al and Little Bear failed to keep us quiet about Doug’s ecclesiastical tyranny, they suddenly wanted nothing to do with us again.

I fully appreciate Little Bear’s desire to have his relationship “restored” to Doug Phillips, as we, too, have had the same desire. However, I’m deeply disappointed to see that Little Bear has placed his financial interests over the very biblical principles that he had previously stood for. For the many who have yet to come forward and tell their own stories of Doug Phillips’ threats (others besides Little Bear have had their financial interests threatened, and worse), I fully understand their reluctance. However, it nonetheless is a sad state of affairs when we come to a point of fearing a man more than we fear God.

For those who want to now raise the Matthew 18 objection, let me assure you we took steps to privately confront Little Bear and Al Mendenhall, the LWF leadership’s “point man,” on the issue of their public statement, via email and snail mail. Below is the text of the email and letters sent to both men, along with the July 2006 letter to Phillips’ attorney, Don Hart. Although Al accepted delivery of the certified mail containing the letter, Little Bear “refused” delivery of the letter. It would appear Little Bear is learning much from Doug Phillips’ evasion techniques, which is tragic indeed.

May 3, 2007

Dear Little Bear and Al,

This is a follow-up email to Al’s and my conversation this morning. Since you’ve told me you don’t read our websites, I am attaching the July 2006 letter that Jen and I sent to Doug’s attorney, Don Hart. This letter was written long before we wrote one word about the Ligonier lawsuit targeting Frank Vance. Moreover, as you can clearly see from the letter, we were willing to submit to Doug despite his malicious treatment of us. However, once Doug and Don Hart refused to answer us, it became obvious Doug was not interested in our repentance or reconciliation.

Just so we all understand what is at issue, let me summarize what I was attempting to convey to you, Al.

We sincerely want to know what “inacurracies” and “misleading information” was contained in our email to the homeschool leaders. If we know what is wrong, we are more than willing to correct it. Yet, it is important we do not speak in generalities. Jen and I do not do this on our blogs; we attempt to be precise and painstakingly honest in what we write, and we will not write anything we cannot document. Unfortunately, this is not true of Doug and, just as with Doug, we cannot repent of generalities. Doug refuses to provide specifics. For example, Doug says Jen must repent of her rebellion, but he provides no examples of rebellion. As Jen has repeatedly noted, an accusation of sin by an elder or any believer should be something along these lines: “Jen, on such and such a date, you displayed a rebellious spirit (or committed the sin of rebellion) when you did such and such.” Specific sins need specific repentance, but generalized unsubstantiated accusations of sin cannot be repented of. Does God forgive generalized confessions of sin? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) is a call to confess specific sins that we have committed against specific people, or against God Himself. God’s Son shed his blood to cover sin and God wants a believer’s heart to be tender enough to acknowledge specific sin against Him and our fellow man, as well as being willing to confess sin and repent when confronted by other believers for specific sin (Matthew 18).

Another issue we have with your public statement is the line that could be construed to infer that there are no issues between the BCA and LWF leadership. Al, you related to me today that what you really meant to say in your public statement is that while the LWF elders have nothing personally against Doug Phillips or any other leadership at BCA, that Doug Phillips does have issues with the LWF elders and his perception of how the LWF elders handled our excommunication. If that is so, I think the statement needs to include something that fully explains the need for Doug’s recent request for a “restoration process” between the BCA and LWF leaderships. If Doug has issues with the LWF leadership, then I think it is only honest of the LWF leadership to make this clear in their public statement. Obviously, there is a rift between you two or Doug wouldn’t be now be seeking “restoration” of your relationship.

Al, before we were cut off, I heard you say that someone told you Natasha flipped-off the Vision Forum employees on Saturday, April 21, 2007. I spoke with Natasha shortly after our call was inadvertently terminated, and she denies using profanity or flipping off anyone that day. I believe her and I do not believe her accusers. Phillips has multiple lies posted on his church blog, all of which we will be dealing with in the future. Gentlemen, please ask yourself this question as dispassionately as you are able: Why didn’t Doug or his attorney respond to our July 2006 letter? We waited until November 26, 2006, for an answer. We even called Don Hart six weeks after sending the letter to see if we were going to receive a response. Don Hart stated he had failed to give Doug the letter, even though they spoke together at the same conference only a few days after receiving our letter. Therefore, we graciously offered Don another two weeks to respond since our phone conversation took place during the time Doug puts his catalog together. Little Bear, Al, we leaned over backwards, yet Doug still just blew us off.

Little Bear, Al, I think the two of you need to step back and look at what is the real issue here — Doug’s pride. When Doug humbles himself, perhaps we can be reconciled. However, just so you know up front, this will not happen until Doug repents for his gross violations of the biblical standards required of a pastor and teacher. His unjust, unbiblical, and malicious excommunication of the Epsteins and the vengeful reading of Jen’s pre-conversion sins must be publicly repented of by Phillips, his deacons (including Bob Sarratt), and the BCA congregants. If Doug humbles himself, the Lord will lift him up. If Doug does not humble himself, I am sure the Lord will deal with him accordingly.

As far as any perception that I may have unwittingly given you of an “ultimatum,” I apologize if I came across in that manner, Al. Will you please forgive me? That wasn’t my intention, and I’ll be more careful in my dealings with you to not come across that way. As I’m sure you know, this whole process has been incredibly frustrating for us. Two years have come and gone and we’ve been unable to make any headway. We’ve done our best to be patient, but it hasn’t been easy, and I’m sure there have been times where our patience has been worn thin. Would it be possible for either of you to respond by this coming Monday, May 7, 2007, with the specifics of the inaccuracies and misleading information contained in our email?

Lastly, it is far past the time for Doug to display some biblical behavior. He supposedly is an elder. Therefore, Jen and I expect him to meet the biblical standards of eldership (1 Tim 3) and take responsibility for his egregious behavior. Gentlemen, Doug Phillips abused the sheep. He is accountable for his behavior not only when he is supposed to be ministering to the sheep, but in his personal life as well. He is an elder and he must meet a higher standard of conduct in this life. The evidence clearly shows that he’s fallen far short of that.

We look forward to your reply.

In His Love,

Mark Epstein

We’re surprised by what Little Bear has done. We’re surprised by this sudden reversal because not only does it demonstrate a lack of honesty on his part, it also demonstrates a lack of wisdom. Little Bear is as aware as anyone about Doug’s propensity of turning on his own friends should they ever disagree with him. Doug takes disagreement very personally, and he doesn’t just take it quietly. He retaliates with anything he can find to hold over you. If it involves a friendship, then he’ll terminate it and even shun you. If it includes a business relationship, he’ll terminate it. Little Bear should know that if Doug did it to him before, he might find reason to do it again. From here on out, Little Bear will have to work very hard to always be in agreement with Doug about everything. Little Bear has caved in and Doug knows it and he’ll no doubt use it against Little Bear again.

Despite the untruthful and highly misleading nature of Living Water Fellowship’s public statement, we will forever be grateful for the season we spent at Living Water Fellowship under the loving leadership of Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler, Al Mendenhall, Michael Bakke, and Doug Swanson. Their original willingness to stand for truth and principle will always be an inspiring memory of godly men relying on God and His Holy Spirit. Their willingness to patiently sacrifice their personal time and invest a godly love in a marriage on the verge of divorce stands in stark contrast to the abusive manner in which Doug Phillips chose to exacerbate the comparatively minor problems affecting our marriage in October 2001.

Doug Phillips had a marvelous God-given opportunity to impact our marriage for God’s glory. Instead he chose to betray us and squander the opportunity in the most shameful manner.

Cult-Watch Ministry Publishes Article Exposing Doug Phillips’ Connection to Bill Gothard

Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. is about to release the Spring 2007 edition of their Journal. The lead story for the Journal is an exposé about Doug Phillips entitled Who Will Be The First in the Kingdom?

MCOI’s practice is to post their articles in pdf format on their web site approximately three months after they mail out their Journal to subscribers. If you don’t already receive the MCOI Journal you can contact them and request to be added to the mailing list. They are a faith ministry and you may want to consider sending them a donation or perhaps supporting them on a regular basis.

Doug Phillips with Bill GothardMidwest Christian Outreach’s focus is “evangelizing and ministering to the victims of cults and spiritually abusive groups.” For over ten years, they’ve written extensively exposing Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other cultic and abusive religious groups, including Bill Gothard. Needless to say I completely concur that an exposé on Doug Phillips seems to be in order. In his article, Don also addresses some of the teachings of Bill Gothard (Don has written an entire book exposing Gothardism). This is entirely appropriate as Doug Phillips has been greatly influenced by Gothardism. Among other things, this includes Doug’s views on authority, Patriarchy, and courtship.

The author of the article and President of MCOI, Don Veinot, has given permission for me to post some quotes from his article. It’s a lengthy article, so in order to appreciate these quotes in the context of the full article I recommend ordering the Journal from MCOI.

Who Will Be First in the Kingdom?

As most of our readers know, the mission of MCOI is to look at the teachings and claims of popular movements and individuals inside the church as well as the cults, false religions, and false teachers outside of it. This mission arises from Paul’s mandate to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28-31 to guard the flock from false teachers who would creep into the church from the outside and from false teachers who arise from within. If they utilize Scripture to support their teachings, we try to determine how they use it, and whether or not they abuse it…

Evangelicals would be generally opposed to using cultic material containing extra-biblical, unbiblical and, at times, outright heretical teachings in our churches’ services, Bible studies or Sunday school classes. That is a good thing, but many churches do not have as good a track record when it comes to recognizing false teachers who arise from within. We tend to have a “black-hat” vs. “white-hat” mentality in this area: Cults, false religions, and false teachers outside the church are the black hats—the bad guys; and we can just tell our people to stay away from them. Evangelicals, on the other hand, are the good guys with the white hats; and what we believe is orthodox. As a result, however, many believers are not prepared to challenge and help cultists outside our doors or to evaluate false teachers or teachings within the church. Discernment, along with a good understanding of the essential, basic doctrinal teachings of the faith, generally is not taught in any depth in many churches. Due to this deficit, and because we tend to view Evangelicals as the “white-hat” crowd, there is a great deal of difficulty evaluating the teachings of teachers and groups who have a fairly orthodox statement of faith and are viewed as being on “our team.”

We ran into this problem when we first began looking at the teachings of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles in the 1990s. It isn’t his Statement of Faith in essential orthodoxy that is problematic; it is his additions, mis-/re-definitions, and other claims that moves him into “false teacher” category. He presents his teachings as “non-optional” truths that should be accepted by all. Many Christians are completely blind to the problem, which continues to result in division within churches and separation of family members. Many of his followers believe his allegations that all true Christians should unquestioningly follow all of his teachings, rules, and principles for living. After all, if his prescriptions are “non-optional,” are they not just suggestions, but rather commandments? Why do his followers seem to believe failing to obey his ironclad “spiritual laws” will incur the wrath of God? And who wants that? Those who question his teachings are viewed as spiritually inferior and even their status as Christians can be seriously doubted by Gothard’s hard-core followers. The peer pressure on those inside is oppressive, and independent thinking is strongly discouraged which has resulted in the painful devastation of many families and individuals within “Gothardism.” It turns out to be a very cult-like situation for many Christians who are just trying to please God and happen to get caught up with a false teacher.

The Courtship of “Edie’s” Father
Many times false teachers have a Bible verse, or collection of Bible verses, which makes their view sound not only plausible, but also mandated from the very mouth of God! Let’s take courtship, for example. Courtship as defined in these circles is winning the heart of the father who will assist the future son-in-law in bringing about the marriage to the young woman in whom a young man is interested. The idea is strongly conveyed that this sort of courtship or betrothal is found in the pages of Holy Writ and is, therefore, God’s mind and will on the matter. Well, is this concept taught in Scripture? It doesn’t really matter; for if the inspired teacher makes the assertion, then it must be true. Even if an example of this “courtship of ‘Edie’s’ father” was found in Scripture, does that mean it is God’s way for it to be done? Isn’t it true that not everything found in the Bible represents God’s will on a particular matter at all or, perhaps, does not hold true for all time and every situation? A few years ago, Ron Henzel, MCOI’s Senior Researcher, came across a satire of this methodology:

Top 10 Biblical Ways to Acquire a Wife
10. Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)
9. Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. (Ruth 4:5-10)
8. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)
7. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife. (Judges 21:19-25)
6. Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife. (I Samuel 18:27)
5. Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. (Esther 2:3-4)
4. Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock. (Exodus 2:16-21)
3. When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision, simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.” (Judges 14:1-3)
2. Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen years of toil for a woman. (Genesis 29:15-30)
1. Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you a rib. (Genesis 2:19-24)

We can’t imagine the 200 foreskins idea will actually fly in Twenty-First-Century America. Moreover, grabbing a POW doesn’t sound very practical either. Of course, this is a satire demonstrating how virtually anything can be made to sound right and biblical. First, we start with the false assumption that if something is recorded in the Bible, then it is God’s will on the matter. Next, we abandon the context of the passages and/or the overall context of biblical revelation in order to support our contention. Further, if we add the idea, preferably by implication, that true, obedient Christians will embrace and put into practice (without question) what we have set forth, we can impose our idea while effectively squelching any dissent…

Catching the Vision … Forum
Several years ago, we noticed Doug Phillips of Vision Forum was a speaker at one of Bill Gothard’s conferences. Of course, not everyone who speaks there is aware of Gothard’s false teaching on authority, circumcision, etc. Since then, however, we have received requests for info about Vision Forum via e-mail, regular mail, and phone calls. Suddenly, churches are having divisions and splits erupting as Vision Forum advocates insist that Sunday schools and youth groups be disbanded, and all church functions become all-family events. Anything else is being called unbiblical. Christian parents who do not home school their children are leaving some churches, because the Vision Forum home-schoolers are looking down on them and referring to them as “Canaanites.” We are well aware that followers can distort the teachings of a leader or organization, and they can do and say things that were never intended to be promoted. However, Vision Forum is growing in influence; and with so many requests for information about them, we decided we should probably look at their material that is available to the public. I started with their web site.

At first glance, Vision Forum’s web site looks more like a web site about American patriotism than anything about Christianity. As I read through the opening page, I came across this statement: “Vision Forum Calls for American Christians to Remember the Mighty Deeds of God at the Quadricentennial of Our Founding as Nation.” Well, I am an American patriot, and I do believe God has done some great works in this nation. However, is there a theme here? Is Christianity supposed to be evaluated mostly through the grid of patriotic Americanism? Certainly, this is not stated and may not be intended, but isn’t that how it comes across?

There didn’t seem to be a readily accessible Statement of Faith on the site, so I emailed Doug Phillips to request one. I received a response from Doug’s personal assistant, Bob Renaud, with a link to the Statement of Faith. After looking over this portion of the web site, I e-mailed Bob with several questions:

– Does one have to affirm Calvinism in order to be viewed as a believer?
– If a church holds to dispensational theology rather than reformed theology, would you consider it a Christian church or a false church?
– As you talk about a church teaching the “whole revelation of God,” would that mean that to be considered a Christian Church they would have to agree with your view of patriarchy?
– There are several forms of church government practiced, all claiming to be the biblical form. Are there any that you would regard as not biblical and if a church uses that form of government are they considered to be not a Christian church?

I have sent these questions via e-mail on January 6 and January 25, 2007; and so far, I have not received a response. This increases our concerns rather than lessening them. Is it intentional or do they realize that the language in this section of the web site comes across as implying that if one doesn’t agree with Vision Forum’s position, they are at the very least in rebellion to God’s revealed will?…

There are many things within the writings of Vision Forum which are good and biblical. They, like MCOI and many others, see the Church has not been strong in Christo-centric (Christ-centered) teaching for several hundred years, and false world views have captured the imaginations and minds of Western culture and even many in the Church. But as is so often the case, the more reasonable positions they take serve to draw in concerned Christians, and the very problematic teachings are added on top. Although there are constant assurances that women are equal before God, there are also constant reminders that her mind is the least important aspect of who she is and something which must daily be set aside. This is demeaning, and it is an absolute tragedy if a woman becomes truly convinced of this! Does this view ultimately accuse God of making a mistake? Why would He create women with a mind that they constantly have to work at not using?

A Patriarchal Gospel
Is patriarchy, as defined by Vision Forum, part of the “grand sweep of revelation” which Scripture requires to be believed, lived and taught in order to be faithful to Christ? Does Vision Forum practice patriarchy as it was practiced in Old Testament times, for we find no instruction on it in the New Testament? Are those who disagree with Vision Forum truly rebellious believers? These answers have to be “no.” Vision Forum asserts that patriarchy is “Gospel-centered doctrine.” If Vision Forum’s claim about the practice of patriarchy being “Gospel-centered doctrine” is true; then according to this thinking, if one rejects the Vision Forum view, one is rejecting the very Gospel!

It is true the patriarchs were rulers. Not all males were patriarchs, nor did they have the opportunity to become patriarchs. Patriarchs were tribal chieftains. The patriarchal father would typically pass his position of patriarch to his firstborn son. We have instances in Scripture where the family headship was passed to the second born, but the effect was the same. All of the relatives became, in effect, his servants and property. We see an example of this in Genesis 27 when Jacob deceived Isaac into giving him the patriarchal blessing that naturally would have been passed on to his firstborn brother, Esau. The result and full import of what this meant is spelled out by Isaac in Genesis 27:37:

But Isaac replied to Esau, “Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?” (NASB)

Sorrowfully, Isaac let Esau know that his hands were tied. The mantle of rulership had been passed on and now all of Jacob’s relatives, aunts, uncles, brother’s sisters, cousins, etc., including Esau, are to be Jacob’s slaves, Jacob’s property. The point is Vision Forum isn’t going far enough if their objective is to embrace Old Testament patriarchy! If they want patriarchy, they cannot simply pick and choose which elements they wish to leave out. Are tribal fiefdoms really supposed to be the pattern for the Church? Forget about wives submitting to husbands—all our relatives have to submit to Uncle Ned!

We find nothing in the Old or New Testament setting up any system of “Christian patriarchy,” nor making patriarchy “Gospel-centered.” If in order to be faithful to Christ we are required to believe, teach and live patriarchy as it was practiced in Scripture; then all brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., would have to submit themselves to the rulership of whomever son the patriarchal father designated as the new patriarch! Simply because a concept can be found in Scripture, does not mean it is ordained by God. And even if something was ordained by God for a certain place or time, that fact does not mandate the same for all eras and times. We have to discern and rightly divide (2 Tim.2:15) when we read Scripture…

The Israelites were allowed to practice polygamy and own slaves. Even though God did not command Israel to practice polygamy or own slaves, He allowed and regulated both. Are these practices mandated or even encouraged today?…

“Submit to One Another”
Most often at the core of these distorted authoritarian teachings is an unbiblical view of leadership. The Scriptures are clear that we are to submit to authority in such passages as Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13 and Ephesians 5. But what does that mean?

The biblical patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—had been called out of paganism, and so they continued practicing certain pagan customs. God didn’t change everything all at once. Their view of authority was a rather harsh top down structure. The one at the top was the boss, and all the rest were underlings—basically his servants. The disciples still harbored a similar view, and on several occasions were arguing over who would end up at the top of the authority structure. Who would sit at the right or left hand of Jesus? Jesus set them straight, however, and turned the authority structure on its head…

Christian authority is not merely a circumstance of birth order or gender, which bestows a position of power in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ, who as God, is the only rightful heir of all “authority” (Matt.28:18) demonstrated by His sacrificial life on how Christian authority is to be attained and wielded. Authority is earned by sacrificial living. We are all to focus on serving those around us. It also means that the higher one ascends to a position of leadership in the church, the more accountable they become to a larger number of people. Those who are truly leaders in a biblical sense live in glass houses, and everyone around them has Windex! It also means that those who follow do so because they are able to observe and trust those who lead (1 Thess. 1:5)…

The world around us is still mostly ordered in a top down structure. We in the western world enjoy more political equality and freedom than most, but authoritarian leadership as a concept is not dead. Our political leaders may claim it is their desire to “serve the people,” but we mostly see them jockeying for positions of good-old-fashioned power. The Church has some of these same problems. Many people seem to desire to be freed from responsibility by being simply “told what to do.” It eliminates the need to have a personal relationship with God and to diligently practice biblical discernment. And although we are aware of the many true servant/leaders in the Church, there seems also to be no shortage of “leaders” who are more than happy to rule like little kings. This type of leader becomes the mediator for his followers, and the followers simply have to hear and obey. God becomes merely the “big stick” the leader uses to keep everyone in line…

Christian leadership is about serving others—it is about servanthood. Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life” for all of us. Why don’t we get this? His headship over us is not overbearing or abusive—that is how the pagans understand authority! He loves us and wants what is best for us. He is gentle and humble in heart; His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:29-30). In the same way, as husbands are as the head in order to serve their wives, the wives willingly serve and follow their husbands. In good marriages, the husband is not threatened by his wife; and he builds into what she is doing. He would thank God for her mind, not only for her own development, but also as a great asset to him and to the family! In turn, there is not much she would not willingly do for him. Marriage is not meant to be a power struggle…

If all of us were busy considering others better than ourselves and serving each other in love, then the power struggles would end not only in gender issues but also in all personal relationships within the body.

Why is the pagan top-down view of authority promoted by Vision Forum so pervasive that it is present in most paragraphs in their “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy?” Even in Old Testament times, a man was wise who did not oppress his wife, but partnered with her for the good of the family…

There probably are many things Vision Forum does well. However, why would they allow this unbiblical and harmful authoritarian core or foundation, which as a result, eclipses whatever good things they may do? Don’t they realize that as they thrust their pagan and unbiblical view of authority on their followers, it will create stress and schisms on family relationships, relationships with friends and splits in churches? A refocus on biblical leadership and serving as Jesus Christ served is what is needed.

In recent weeks I’ve been giving much thought to the subject of Patriarchy, or as Doug Phillips and others call it, “Biblical Patriarchy.” This article by Midwest Christian Outreach only challenged me to more carefully examine a number of assumptions that I had long held about Patriarchy. Now I’m of the opinion that a great deal of it isn’t very biblical at all, nor is it “Gospel.”

In the near future, I hope to write some articles exposing why Patriarchy, according to Doug Phillips’ Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy, has a number of serious flaws. I believe that Doug’s views on Patriarchy played a major role in his “pastoral counsel” to Mark and me, and that “counsel” was injurious to our marriage. I also now see how his views of Patriarchy played a direct role in his “excommunication” of us as well.

Church Elders Criticize Epsteins But Offer No Viable Solutions

Jen,

I appreciate the productive email dialogue that I’ve been able to have with you. You strike me as a very reasonable person. This isn’t to say that we’ve always agreed on things, but where we’ve disagreed you’ve always done so cordially. In fact you’ve taught me some valuable lessons about the proper way to disagree with people.

I’ve had some ongoing dialogue with a number of Presbyterian Elders about your excommunication case. Even though many of them aren’t particularly familiar with Doug Phillips, some of them had been following your case closely, even before I mentioned it to them.

I’m in the PCA, so that’s been the primary extent of my discussions. We Presbyterians tend to take a lot of pride in our penchant for “Let all things be done decently and in order. ” (1 Cor. 14:40) All of the PCA Elders I’ve spoken with are in agreement that had you been in a PCA church this sort of thing probably never could have happened to you. This isn’t to say that PCA Sessions aren’t capable of doing some really foolish things, including pronouncing unjust excommunications. However, Presbyterian churches always guarantee your right of appeal to a higher court, all the way to the General Assembly, if necesary. This in itself often serves as a strong deterrent to ecclesiastical tyranny at the local church level. The only unjust excommunications that I’ve ever heard of in the PCA have occurred because the excommunicant didn’t promptly appeal their case to Presbytery. In other words they lost by default because they failed to appeal.

Presbyterian churches are also governed by a Book Of Church Order. BCO’s do a lot in the way of guaranteeing certain important rights to both church officers and members. This isn’t to say that Elders always follow their BCO. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t even bother to read it. But at least if they get out of line they can be called to account for it. The problem is that many church members don’t know their BCO any better than their Elders do. How can you hold your Elders accountable if you’re ignorant? You can’t, and this just serves as an invitation for ecclesiastical tyranny.

I’ve heard many people complain about Presbyterian polity, but the problem isn’t Presbyterianism but ignorance of it. Presbyterianism is a good system for holding everyone accountable, but it doesn’t work any better than the knowledge of the people functioning within it. It’s a lot like our U.S. Constitution. Most of our government officials are very ignorant of the Constitution, and the people are even more ignorant. Our constitutional system is a good system for holding our government accountable, but it’s only as good as our knowledge of it, and our willingness to hold our government accountable.

One of my main interests in talking to various church Elders about your case is to try and figure out what kind of a remedy there could be for you. Their responses to me have been dismaying. None of them have a solution. Most of them have just said, “Too bad they weren’t in the PCA.” Then I point out the fact that you briefly attended a PCA church earlier this year (Faith Presbyterian Church), and that FPC did nothing but “honor” the unjust “excommunication” of BCA and threw you out the door. Is this a problem with the PCA, or is this just a problem with one local PCA church who botched up giving you a review of your unjust excommunication? Hopefully it’s the latter. I can tell you that had the Epsteins applied for membership in my own PCA church there is no way you would have been treated like that. My Elders understand justice and they understand grace. They bow the knee to no man, least of all Doug Phillips.

In reviewing many of the comments on your blog, I’ve been amazed by the simpleminded statements that so many have made to you. But they’re far more than just statements. They’re advice. This advice has often been offered up as solutions, but the reality is that no one has offered you a viable solution at all, a viable alternative to what you’re already doing. What you’re doing now, and what you’ve been doing for months, may be your only real option, and even what you’ve been doing may not be a real solution. However, it’s a lot better than doing nothing. It’s a lot better than sweeping it under the carpet.

To paraphrase your detractors, “Get a life. You’re wasting your time. This is just dragging you and your family down. You need to just move on. Get over it. Stop being bitter. Just forgive. If Doug Phillips refuses to be reconciled with you, there’s nothing more you can do. Take down your blogs. Just put it behind you.” These statements are statements of denial, a denial of your predicament. Moreover, they appear to be intended to beleaguer you into taking your blogs down, which is of course exactly what Doug Phillips would like to see happen.

You’ve been censured with the most severe censure that a church can impose, excommunication. You’ve been censured and punished and, in my opinion, unjustly so. Phillips claims to have given you “due process,” but that’s clearly not the case. By definition, a Kangaroo Court is incapable of exercising due process. Due process would never permit a trial in absentia. Due process guarantees the right of self-defense. Due process guarantees the right to examine witnesses. Due process guarantees you the right to defend yourself, and a reasonable amount of time to prepare your defense. Due process guarantees the right to appeal. Due process guarantees the right to have specific, enumerated offenses presented with evidence and testimony, not vague unspecific categories of offenses that the accused can’t comprehend.

Phillips claims you were excommunicated on biblical grounds, yet he can’t specifically identify even one excommunicable offense, let alone provide the evidence to back it up. Phillips himself is the final court of appeal. Yet he won’t even permit you to even talk to him. “You’ll have to talk to Doug’s attorney” is an entirely unacceptable response for a pastor. No real pastor would ever refer an ecclesiastical matter to his attorney. As I understand it Don Hart isn’t even BCA’s attorney. Don Hart is Vision Forum’s attorney and a Vision Forum board member. Your excommunication has nothing to do with Don Hart. Phillips is hiding behind his attorney, using Hart to run interference and prevent you from speaking with him.

Phillips has rejected all offers of reconciliation. Where else are you to go to have your case reviewed? To whom can you appeal? You tried Living Water Fellowship. Apparently they were sympathetic and they tried to intervene, but Phillips refused to meet with their elders. Then you tried Faith Presbyterian Church. They, like LWF, initially welcomed you in, but their elders refused to examine and review your case. Because of this blot of “excommunication” you not only couldn’t be considered for membership, they told you to leave. This is the dilemma you face, and that you will continue to face until Phillips lifts his censure.

Your story reminded me somewhat of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Many have said that Hawthorne got the inspiration for his novel from the Puritan trial of Anne Hutchinson. Like Hester Prynne you’ve been accused of adultery, only in your case it happened fifteen years before you came to faith in Christ. Anne Hutchinson was excommunicated and exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for “blasphemy” and “lewd conduct.” No one could ever show how Anne was guilty of blasphemy, and her “lewd conduct” was over her having men and women in her house at the same time during her Sunday meetings (talk about “hyper-patriarchy”!).

Like Anne Hutchinson you’ve been accused of many vague and general things that your Pharisaical hyper-patriarchy accuser can’t provide any evidence for. Hester Prynne was ordered to wear a large red “A” on her chest, signifying “Adulteress”, a form of public shaming and humiliation. Little did anyone know that the child she was carrying was conceived by their own beloved pastor! Rather than allowing herself to be publicly shamed by a cadre of self-righteous Pharisees, Hester not only wore her “A”, she decorated it with ornate lace and ornamentation.

Jen, next time you go to a home school conference, whether Doug Phillips is there or not, I think you need to sew a big ornately decorated red letter on your chest. In your case make it an “E” for “excommunicated.” Just like with Hester Prynne, the Pharisees would like nothing more than to shame you into silence. Don’t let them do it.

Is there a remedy for your predicament? Justice demands a remedy for injustice, but Phillips refuses you one. He holds you in a form of spiritual bondage. Those who say, “Just get over it,” are living in denial of the serious implications of excommunication. Perhaps you could start attending a church that doesn’t have membership. That would be the easy way out. There are probably many non-membership churches where you’d be welcome. The problem is that there probably aren’t any Reformed non-membership churches, and it sounds like you’re Reformed. You need to be in a church that shares your theological beliefs. That excludes all the broadly evangelical, charismatic and certainly Pentecostal churches that don’t have church membership.

You already know what to expect if when you try to even just attend another church, let alone try and join another church, just as soon as they find out that you’ve been excommunicated. And they will find out because you’re just honest enough to tell them. LWF already knew of your excommunication. Apparently FPC didn’t. You did the honest thing by informing FPC, and no doubt any church in the future that you attempt to join you’ll also be honest with them too.

One of the church Elders that I’ve been dialoguing with epitomizes why I’m so frustrated. I’ll grant you that some PCA Elders are ignorant men. This particular Elder (I’ll call him “Gene”) isn’t. Gene is a very educated and thoughtful solutions-oriented man. I also believe him to be a man of strong personal integrity. But it’s also obvious to me that he’d just like to see this all go away. That’s probably the sentiment of the vast majority of Elders who know anything about your story. Few of them are likely to be sympathetic to you. They can’t help but be sympathetic to Doug Phillips. Many of them are guilty of making some major blunders themselves, and the last thing they’d want to see is one of their members blogging about their blunders, especially if it goes beyond mere blundering and includes outright tyranny. What you’re doing, Jen, scares them. So don’t expect to make any allies with church Elders. I can tell you that you haven’t with Gene my PCA Elder friend.

Although I’m frustrated by my dialogue with Gene, I also appreciate the fact that he’s at least been willing to dialogue at all. Many others have not been so willing. I’ll include below some of our dialogue (I’ll paraphrase some of his own statements, since he may not appreciate me giving you direct quotes). Because Gene had also made some comments in defense of FPC I had to address that issue with him too:

Gene: I don’t see any good coming out of the war of words between BCA and Mark and Jennifer. Both of them have forgotten Jesus’ words in Matt 5:11-12. They both sin as they refuse to be glad and rejoice at what the other party is saying about them.

Me: Wrong verse to apply to Phillips. Here’s the correct one: “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?” (1Pet. 2:20) Matt 5:11-12 doesn’t apply to Phillips because no one is speaking “evil against [him] falsely, for my sake.” Phillips is not suffering “falsely,” and he’s not suffering for Christ’s sake. He’s suffering for his own tyranny and duplicity. Perhaps Matt 5:11-12 applies in some measure to the Epsteins, but I think you’re oversimplifying things. I wish there were a simple answer, but I don’t think there is one.

This isn’t just a matter of the Epsteins being able to cease exposing Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyrannies. If they’d just been told to leave BCA, without being censured, none of this would probably be happening now. But Phillips is responsible for their present “excommunicated” status. That goes far above and beyond “men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” If we’re going to be consistent with our Reformed theology, Gene, then being excommunicated has eternal consequences.

Gene, you’ve told me that, as a Reformed Presbyterian, you subscribe to the Westminster Confession. Do you believe what it says about church discipline and censures? (WCF, Chapter 30):

I. The Lord Jesus, as king and head of his Church, hath therein appointed a government in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.

II. To these officers the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are committed, by virtue whereof they have power respectively to retain and remit sins, to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the word and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel, and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.

BCA placed the Epsteins in a catch-22, and FPC only confirmed the catch-22. Their only way out is “to return to the elders of Boerne Christian Assembly to express your true repentance with broken spirits and contrite hearts, including recognition that matters rightly belonging in the Church should not be aired in public via the Internet.” But what are they to repent of? From the time of their “excommunication” they have pleaded for a specific, detailed list of excommunicable offenses that they are guilty of, and they have continued for over two years to make that request. None has been provided, and I don’t believe one ever will be. The fact is it can’t be provided, and the reason why is self-evident.

Adding to the catch-22 is the fact that Phillips refuses to sit down and talk with them. Even if he could identify any specific and detailed unrepentant sins, he won’t permit them to talk with him about it. Every time they’ve attempted to talk with Phillips his reply has been, “Talk to my attorney.” Pastors don’t hide behind their attorneys, Gene. This isn’t a civil legal matter, it’s an ecclesiastical matter. How could such a man even be considered to be a pastor? Phillips has misappropriated the keys of the kingdom to consign the Epsteins to Hell. He’s tyrannically “excommunicated” the Epsteins, he’s refused to meet with them, he hides behind his attorney, thus making it impossible for them to ever be restored. Catch-22. FPC tells the Epsteins, “Go and repent.” Double catch-22.

If ever there was a plan devised that had the highest potential for causing a Christian to abandon the faith, this would be it. In fact it’s worked! Natasha Epstein has rebelled! FPC had a golden opportunity handed to it to restore some battered sheep and nurse them back to health. No one can with certainty make predictions about what would have happened in Natasha’s case had FPC done it’s Christian duty, but it’s reasonable to expect that she wouldn’t be where she’s at today.

Even a secular law court would never do to the Epsteins what Phillips has done. No secular law court would charge and convict anyone of general, unspecific, and ambiguous offenses. That would be unjust. Even a pagan judge wouldn’t be a party to that (at least not in America).

Gene, I’m in agreement with FPC that “matters rightly belonging in the Church should not be aired in public via the Internet.” I doubt that the Epsteins would argue what should be the proper way of resolving this dispute. This matter does rightly belong in the Church. The problem is that the Church has completely screwed this up. The Church unjustly “excommunicated” the Epsteins (if we agree that BCA is “the Church,” and based upon BCA’s cultish behavior, I don’t necessarily agree that it is “the Church”). BCA completely failed in its duties, and broke all promises to the Epsteins. So Gene, what are the Epsteins to now do?

Is this a case where they can merely apply Matthew 5:11-12? Does that resolve things? They’ve been “excommunicated,” and Phillips won’t permit that censure to ever be lifted. How are they to ever be restored to fellowship in any church while they’re under the censure of excommunication when there’s no circumstances under which Phillips will ever lift that censure? It’s ludicrous for FPC to tell them to return to the brute who unjustly “excommunicated” them and “repent” to him of things that they’re not guilty of, and things that are so broad, vague and ambiguous that they can’t even comprehend the charges. The Epsteins have no court of appeal, other than the court of public opinion.

Gene, the issue has never been about the Epsteins’ blogging, and I think you know that. They weren’t “excommunicated” for blogging. They were excommunicated because Phillips had it in for Jen. She disagreed with him that it was a “sin” to vote Republican, and Phillips threatened, “You’ll pay for this.” He’s certainly made them “pay.” The Epsteins didn’t start blogging until they’d spent two years exhausing every other possible remedy. They showed their sincerity in seeking reconciliation, and they showed good faith in submitting to the FPC session, by taking down their blog articles. What did that earn them? They got thrown out by the FPC session. Even if they now permanently took down their blogs Phillips will probably never lift the censure.

Gene, I don’t like the Epsteins’ blogging any more than you do. There’s got to be a better way. The problem is I can’t think of one. If I knew of one I would have written the Epsteins myself and requested they consider doing it a long time ago. The Epsteins strike me as very reasonable people, and I think they listen to reason. Give me some reasonable advice, Gene, and I’ll pass it along.

Gene: And that is my major problem with what Jennifer and Mark are doing — they do so from the position of individuals (excommunicated ones at that, completely without ecclesastical authority).

Me: Gene, the Epsteins were more than willing to stop the blogging, and they did, per the request of the FPC Elders. I doubt they’re blogging again because they want to. They’re blogging because FPC, the guys with the “authority” that they submitted to wouldn’t exercise it. You can blame the Epsteins about this all you want, but with authority comes responsibility (Jam 3:1), and a much higher standard.

Gene: Although I have serious doubts about the way BCA handled the Epsteins, I recognize that the excommunication was rightly in their court and that FPC could not pre-empt their decision.

Me: No way Gene! It was not “rightly” in their court. It was an absolute sham of a trial, a Kangaroo Court. One of the three marks of a true church is “the rightful exercise of church discipline.” How can you view one of the marks of a true church in such a trivial fashion? Study your history of the Reformed Church, Gene. Unjust excommunications and censures served as a significant catalyst for the Reformation. Doug Phillips is as big a tyrant as any 16th century Catholic bishop. Phillips has had far more influence than you’re aware of in his circle of “family integrated churches,” and his influence is tyrannical. There wasn’t a thing “right” about this excommunication. The FPC session, due to reasons and rationale which I can’t even begin to comprehend, sanctioned an unjust excommunication. The FPC Session could have elected to examine the facts in the Epstein case. They could have stood for the principles of the Reformation. They could have been champions of Christian liberty, but instead they turned a blind eye to injustice.

Gene: So, if blogging about sinful men as undershepherds brings glory to Jesus, blog away. If blogging about their failure to protect them brings honor to the King of Kings, blog away. I will stand up and admit that I am a sinner. The cross has already given us all a horrible reputation — the only critique of me is that I am so bad that only death can deal with it. But, the Cross says the best that anyone can say about us. It says that God chose to place His love on us at the cost of His Son and that His Son’s righteousness was enough for Him. Our own righteneouss is as offal and filthy rags.

Me: Yes, Gene, you and I and the Epsteins and Doug Phillips are sinners, and the cross condemns us as such. The cross condemns us all, and the cross can condemn us just on the general principle that we are fallen and have a sin nature. But when it comes to human affairs of justice, none of us are condemned for general sins. In the human realm we are judged and condemned for specific transgressions of the law. A consistent application of your logic would dictate that no civil court judge, and no church session, could ever sit in judgment against anyone, because they’re not perfect men themselves. However, they’re not sitting in judgment of any man’s “fallen nature.” They judge specific transgressions of the law.

The Epsteins have been absolved of their sins by the cross, but Phillips has “excommunicated” them for general and ambiguous sins, thereby repudiating the work of the cross for them. That’s not justice, it’s tyranny, but you seem to be rationalizing their “excommunication” on the basis that because they’re sinners they deserve to be excommunicated. In principle we all deserve death and Hell. While that may be a valid theological statement, it is not a statement about justice, nor does it trump ecclesiastical tyranny. The keys of the kingdom are not entrusted to the officers of the church to capriciously lock out sinners out of vengeance — “You’ll pay for this.” The keys of the kingdom should never be entrusted to tyrants, and when a tyrant appropriates the keys he is a thief.

Phillips is playing God, and FPC has confirmed Phillips’ tyranny by telling the Epsteins that they must return to BCA and “repent” of sins that they can’t even comprehend because the charges are so broad, vague and ambiguous that they don’t know what they’re supposed to repent of.

Jen, I don’t think Gene and any of the other church Elders that I’ve talked to even fully appreciate how foolishly and vindictively Doug Phillips has handled your “church discipline.” Perhaps you and Mark deserved some form of church discipline. I don’t know that. I’ve never been a BCA member to be able to witness how the Epsteins conducted themselves there. But one thing I’m confident of is that the way that you were “disciplined” was unpastoral, unjust, malicious and excessive.

Doug Phillips’ blogging response to your blogging (which you didn’t start doing until two years after your “excommunication”), both directly, and through his proxies (Mrs. B, SFU, etc.) has meant that he’s become his own worst enemy. I can’t imagine that any of the Elders that I know of would ever retaliate as Phillips has, if they found themselves in a similar situation. Yet, many of those Elders condemn you, even though none I have talked to can offer you a viable solution. They criticize you and yet they can’t offer even one viable alternative to what you’re now doing. If any of them ever do come up with a viable alternative, you can be sure that I’ll pass it along.

May the Lord bless you and your family,

T. Reformed

Will James McDonald Hold Matt Chancey Accountable For Railing?

Will Doug Phillips Hold the Still Fed Up Boys Accountable?

I Corinthians 5 lists some excommunicable offenses: “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” As part of his list of Kangaroo Court charges against me, Doug Phillips accused me of railing. I looked up “railing” in the 1828 Webster’s dictionary today and found this definition:

To utter reproaches, to scoff, to use insolent and reproachful language, to reproach or censure in opprobrious terms, to clamor with insulting language.

In the context of our “excommunication,” I’ve repeatedly asked for examples of any specific instances where I’ve been guilty of railing. Doug Phillips has yet to provide that.

In thinking about this again today, I realized that if anyone is guilty of railing, it is Doug Phillips. As I related in my story, Doug accused me of being a “whore,” a “dripping faucet,” “churlish” and “a Jezebel.” He had no basis to make such outrageous accusations. There is no better example of railing that I can think of than what Doug Phillips perpetrated against me.

In Doug Phillips’ hyper-patriarchy world, all of the problems in a marriage are always the wife’s fault. Because my husband had a serious problem with his temper, it must have been my fault. I just wasn’t submissive enough. If I were submissive, then I would have a happy husband and all the problems in our marriage would just suddenly vanish. Of course, Doug was wrong about that, and his accusations against me were equally wrong. If anyone is guilty of railing, it is Doug Phillips.

Corrie recently raised the issue of Matt Chancey and the Still Fed Up boys and their railing against me. Matt Chancey’s “Mrs. Binoculars,” in particular, is one of the best examples of yellow journalism and railing that I’ve ever seen.

The very premise of the site, “Mrs. Binoculars,” is laughable. Chancey has stated emphatically and repeatedly that the person behind the binoculars on the Ministry Watchman site is actually me! Chancey employed the equivalent of a cheap parlor trick by drawing a bright line around the nose of “Mrs. Binoculars.” He then superimposes a picture of me with the same line drawn around my nose. Remove the line and, presto! That’s supposed to be an “independent investigation?” Anyone who’s actually taken the time to compare the two photos, less the cheap parlor trick, can immediately see that the two noses are considerably different. The bright line around the two noses doesn’t help anyone to see that the noses are the same, but rather the line only obscures being able to see that the noses are quite different.

I am not the person in the masthead of Ministry Watchman. Yet, to this day Matt Chancey continues making an utter fool of himself by insisting that I am “Mrs. Binoculars,” and much of the rest of his “independent investigation” is equally foolish. In order to give the appearance of credibility, Chancey’s smear site is heavily footnoted and includes quotes from various documents and articles. But appearances can be deceiving, or at least they can be deceiving to the gullible. Chancey’s site is replete with logical fallacies (especially guilt by association), speculation and far-fetched conspiracy theories, and very short on evidence.

Let’s look at some specific examples of Matt Chancey and why he’s guilty of railing. Here are some direct quotes of his accusations against me and Mark:

  • “Jennifer and Mark would try to pull together every possible malcontent who had an axe to grind against Doug Phillips”
  • “Seeing an opportunity to satisfy her own revenge, Jennifer resolved to throw in with these men”
  • “the biggest organized Internet conspiracy to destroy Christian leaders in the history of the blogosphere”
  • “a cabal committed to discrediting the reputation of Reformed men and ministries”
  • “Jennifer and Mark Epstein have been caught working with racial bigots in a scheme involving lies, deceptions, and fraud, and they now face serious liability for their immoral and unlawful deeds”
  • “the perverse philosophy of Jennifer’s intimate colleagues—the Kinists—and their plan to rid America of blacks and Jews”
  • “the strategic alliance between a vengeful excommunicated couple, Mark and Jennifer Epstein, and two white separatists”
  • “white separatists who are among the worst racial bigots on the Internet?”
  • “the outrageous and unlawful behavior of this team”
  • “Jennifer Epstein’s many lies and scams designed to smear the reputation of Doug and Beall Phillips”
  • “they are still actively engaged in the conspiracy”
  • “their current posture of retreat is highly calculated and necessary because of their exposure and liability”
  • “Jennifer was adept at taunting, self-righteous posturing, extracting information from phone operators, and many other helpful skills for the campaign against the Sprouls.”

and last, but not least:

  • “the public record of how three bitter people became genuine Internet terrorists”

If I’m an “internet terrorist,” then what is Matthew Chancey? And this is just a very small portion of the many railings Matt Chancey has committed.

Until now, no one seemed willing to hold Matt Chancey accountable for his railings, least of all Doug Phillips. Doug and Matt are very close personal friends and Matt is anything but the “independent investigator” Doug claims that Matt is. With a single phone call, Doug could have put a stop to Matt’s railings months ago. Clearly, Doug must approve of Matt’s railings because Doug has even linked to Mrs. Binoculars from the Vision Forum web site.

But I’ve just learned that Matt Chancey’s little home fellowship, Reformed Family Fellowship of Birmingham, Alabama is joining a newly-formed Presbyterian denomination. So maybe now there’s some hope of accountability for Matt’s excommunicable offense of railing.

From: James McDonald, V

Sent: Saturday, May 19, 2007 12:37 AM
Subject: [ProvidenceFamily] Report from Presbytery….

Greetings Church,

Here is a quick report from Presbytery. Elders Evans and Price will have more details Sunday.

God has really blessed us as a denomination… We also received one church as a candidate body – Reformed Family Fellowship of Birmingham, Alabama. Some of you may know two of the families in this work – Matt and Jennie Chancey and Tom and Nan Keen. Our church will be their sponsoring body so, for a time, they will be a distant part of us! Please keep this church in your prayers.

James M McDonald
Pastor
Providence Church

One would hope that this newly-formed Presbyterian denomination, the Covenant Presbyterian Church Presbytery, started by James McDonald and eight other elders, representing four former RPCGA churches, would disapprove of Matt’s railings. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, but my gut tells me that not only will Matt not be held accountable for railing, he’ll probably receive a big pat on the back for it. After all, Doug Phillips and James McDonald are friends and fellow conference speakers.

And what about the boys at Still Fed Up? They too are guilty of railing:

  • “Ministry Lapdog covers up the fact that Jen Epstein–self-proclaimed prophet of integrity from Jens Gems and co-author of the articles on herself at MW”
  • “Now that they have been exposed as liars, who hid critical facts from the general public, who doctored documents, who attacked innocent people, and who spread gossip—and lets not forget this—who compromised all their integrity by turning their site into the personal web tool of Jennifer Epstein (whose credibility has been annihilated by her own words and actions”
  • “pretend to reveal secret information about the family life … so you can publicly vomit on a woman you hate with every fiber in your body—Beall Phillips”
  • “we are dealing with anonymous assassins, who don’t interview people they slander, who pick on women, who have been caught in dead lies, who have conspired to deceive and then who act like babies when they are not allowed to do the very thing that they do to everyone else”
  • “If you want to know what the blackmailers are saying head on over to the miniature watchdog site and wade around in it for a while.”
  • “you’re so busy fabricating documents, playing the role of multiple web-bloggers, and thinking up evermore deceptive ways to sew discord”
  • “it really is a lot of crap”
  • “everybody who has been following her trail of never-ending lies, publicity stunts, and very strange behavior knows that something is not right with Mrs. Epstein.”
  • “Except for three very angry women (Corrie, Cynthia, and Lynn)–and the various dozens of personalities under which Jennifer Epstein authors her own self-congratulations society”
  • “now this feminist, turned habitual liar, turned accuser of dozens, turned self-appointed prophet of righteousness—is behaving like a stalker.”
  • “So, Jen, does Little Bear now need to start saving money to buy a bright red costume so that he can join Bev and the Gang as they lie to you and your family into the paddywagon?”

Doug Phillips could put an end to it all with a single phone call. Quite obviously Doug approves of SFU, and the proof of it is that the SFU boys, some of whom acknowledge themselves to be “former Vision Forum interns,” are still regularly posting their railings. Doug has done nothing to discourage them, which they can only interpret as a green light.

I find it remarkably hypocritical that I was “excommunicated” in part for “railing,” a charge for which Doug Phillips has never provided a shred of evidence to support, and yet these young men have been given a green light to engage in railing.

Who will hold these railers accountable?

The Doug Phillips’ School of Logical Fallacies

From the time that my husband and I were “excommunicated” from Boerne Christian Assembly we have repeatedly requested that Doug Phillips provide a specific and detailed list of the excommunicable offenses of which we were found guilty. We don’t believe this to be an unreasonable expectation. After all, how are we to ever be able to repent of sins if we don’t even know what they are? Repentance of specific sins necessitates naming specifically what those sins are. We can’t repent of vague and broad generalities.

When someone is tried in a secular court, the charges are clearly and specifically stated, the charges must be supported by evidence and testimony, the accused has the right to examine their accusers, and the court functions according to established rules that everyone (especially the accused) has available to them. These are some of the most basic and essential requirements to ensure that justice can be carried out. Without these things there can be no justice.

To this day the best that Doug Phillips can do is to vaguely allege,

“Mark and Jennifer Epstein were excommunicated by Boerne Christian Assembly for habitual lying, railings, contempt of authority, cruelty, gossip, revilings, and other sins for which they were patiently and lovingly admonished by numerous brothers and sisters in Christ at BCA and their church leadership.”

Since that time we have asked for no more than what any secular court knows that justice requires: a specific, detailed accounting of our sins (excommunicable offenses), supported by evidence and testimony of witnesses. We’ve also asked for Doug to provide us the rules by which we were tried, since he claims that we received “Excommunication With Due Process.”

“Contrary to the claims made by this couple and the publishers of the defamatory article, the excommunication of the family followed biblical procedure consistent with our doctrine and confession, procedures which we believe to fairly represent the parameters laid out in Scripture.”

If that were true, then why won’t he specifically name the “doctrine and confession” that BCA holds to? We certainly knew that BCA subscribes to The Second London Baptist Confession Of Faith, but that Confession doesn’t at all address the specifics of the “Due Process” that Doug claims that he gave us. Where is the Book Of Church Order, the Book Of Church Discipline, or the Church Constitution that spells out how BCA was supposed to conduct a church trial? There wasn’t one, and as far as we know BCA has never had one, and they still don’t have one. If BCA has since adopted one, we’d like to examine it to determine if our “trial” conformed to it.

The fact is that Doug fabricated the “rules” out of thin air, and the rules didn’t in any way “follow biblical procedure.” Our trial was a Kangaroo Court, and no Kangaroo Court can render a just verdict.

In recent weeks, Doug Phillips has employed the “bandwagon” logic of trying to get as many people as he can to disparage us. Doug’s first bandwagon ploy was to publish the fact that our “excommunication” was voted on by the BCA congregation, and they voted unanimously in favor of Doug’s excommunication. Other than showing that BCA probably has a herd mentality, what does this prove? One of the things it proves is that our trial was a sham of justice. At least half of the BCA congregation were Vision Forum employees. Any votes from Vision Forum employees would have been a major conflict of interest. Not one of them was free to vote their conscience. To go against Doug might have cost them their jobs. They should have abstained, but they didn’t, and the result was totally predictable.

In recent weeks Doug has continued with his bandwagon logic. He obtained a brief letter from Living Water Fellowship which appears to support Doug. But again, what does this prove? Little Bear Wheeler would very much like to get back into Doug’s good graces. He stands to benefit financially if he can patch up the relationship. Just like Doug’s own vague allegations, the LWF letter doesn’t give us anything specific that we can work with. How are we to repent from such vague allegations as “the e-mail contained inaccuracies and misleading information?” We asked to meet with Little Bear and his elders so that they could give us specifics. They initially agreed to meet with us, but then they cancelled our meeting, and it doesn’t look like they’re now willing to meet with us at all.

Also now jumping aboard Doug’s bandwagon are Gavino and Ruth Perez. In their letter, this couple gave the impression that they personally knew me. Yet, that’s not the case at all. The Perezes allege, “Jennifer Epstein has engaged in unethical practices toward our own organization during the years of 2005 – 2006.” In a style all too typical of Doug Phillips, the Perezes fail to specify what my alleged “unethical practices” are. I’ve responded to Ruth in the spirit of step one of Matthew 18, but I didn’t write to Gavino, since I don’t ever recall even meeting him. Ruth Perez is the director of FEAST. I asked for Ruth Perez’s reply. She’s failed to do so, and so I’ll post my letter to her here:

Dear Ruth,

I’m very troubled by the ramifications of your recent public statement. Most people reading it would presume that you have had some sort of personal relationship with me. Yet, I think you know perfectly well that we’ve barely had any personal interaction at all. We have chatted only briefly at various occasions throughout the last several years, but we have never really even had what could be called any substantive dialogue about any subject. Aside from greeting one another when we cross paths, we’ve barely said much of anything to one another.

The only possible exception I can think of to this is an incident in which you called me to express a concern over a particular situation. I had been in the FEAST bookstore, showing some missionaries to Korea some books from your store that I recommended for homeschooling. Knowing that money for them was scarce, I recommended to them that they might be able to save a little money by buying some of the same books from CBD for substantially less. Apparently, my conversation with them got back to you. You called to tell me that FEAST had a price matching policy. When you made me aware of that, I immediately apologized to you and subsequently retracted my advice to my missionary friends to Korea and encouraged them to buy the books from FEAST. That is the only actual conversation of any kind that I can recall ever having with you.

Imagine my utter surprise, then, when I saw that you had written a defamatory statement about me and posted it on the internet. You speak as though you know me personally and that you’ve had sufficient interaction with me to make conclusions about my character, when the fact is that you barely know me at all.

Ruth, if I have offended you in any way, I would fully expect you to come to me in the spirit of Matthew 18, privately, and to have done that a long time ago. Ruth, I will not claim that I believe that I am without any faults. I am a frail human with many failings. Obviously I’ve done something to offend you. Just how long have you been carrying this antagonism against me? Why have you waited so long to bring your concerns to my attention? Actually, you didn’t really ever bring them to my attention at all, did you? Rather than confronting me in my alleged sins and giving me the opportunity to hear you, be convicted of the Lord, and repent of them, you paraded them out for the whole world to see.

Your actions cause me to suspect that you never really have had an issue with me at all, and certainly not serious enough to confront me privately about. More than likely your only real beef with me is my blogging about Doug Phillips. If your goal was merely to side with your friend Doug Phillips, without hearing the facts, you are certainly free to do so, and state that as your opinion. But to blatantly tell these falsehoods about me the way you have isn’t just unbiblical, it’s libelous. If I have done any of the things which you have accused me of, you must now provide specific and detailed evidence, not vague and baseless rhetoric.

I will list your public accusations against me and ask you to address each of them, point by point, by responding to me with specific and detailed testimony in support of your accusations.

1. The Epsteins are a disgruntled family.
2. The Epsteins decided to aggressively attack Doug Phillips and Vision Forum.
3. Email lies
4. I insinuated that HSLDA was critical of Doug.
5. I launched an all out internet/email war to destroy Doug and Beall.
6. Terrible accusations against them
7. I engaged in unethical practices toward FEAST during 2005-2006
8. Past offenses dealing with deception
9. My deceptive character was not unknown to you
10. Attacks on Doug Phillips
11. My self-appointment as a home school leader is misleading
12. I have a Charlotte Mason business
13. My leadership consists only of my customers
14. The Phillips battle false accusations from us.
15. We are a troubled family
16. We are bitter
17. We are full of hate
18. We were excommunicated for serious sins.
19. We have an email hate campaign

The accusations that you have made are the same kind of general and unspecific accusations, and the very same tactics, that Doug Phillips used against me and my family, and that he continues to use. Of course, Doug went far beyond what you have done, by “excommunicating” me and my husband, and shunning my entire family, including my children. We’ve been asking for a list of specific and excommunicable sins that we’re guilty of for over two years now. Doug has never provided it. Do you think that by joining Doug’s little chorus of, “The Epsteins are liars and unrepentant sinners,” without ever providing even a single specific example of our alleged sins, and not a shred of evidence, that you can help bolster Doug’s unsupported and vague accusations?

I ask that you now make your allegations with some specificity, and furnish the specific and detailed evidence to back up your accusations. If you’re not able to do so (and we both know that you can’t), I’m asking you for a public apology and retraction for the falsehoods and unsupported (and unsupportable) accusations you have told about me, and I am asking you to send that apology and retraction of your public statement to me, as well as to everyone you sent the original libelous comments to.

Please respond to me at your earliest opportunity. If I hear nothing from you by Monday, May 7, 2007, I’ll assume that your intention is to ignore this request.

Hopeful in Christ,
Jennifer Epstein

Doug remains popular with at least a few, and so I’m not surprised that the cast of characters on Doug’s bandwagon continues to grow. But bandwagon logic is still a logical fallacy. Doug knows that. Doug even teaches logic to his interns. However, Doug is also aware that even though logical fallacies are often dishonest, they still often work with large segments of the population. They often even work with people who should really know better, people like Christian home educators.

The Doug Phillips’ School of Yellow Journalism

Regular readers of this website will know that Doug Phillips has made strenuous efforts to stop my husband and me from reporting the truth about his ecclesiastical tyranny. Doug has tried to shut us up and take us down by launching personal attacks against us, spreading rumors, leaking pastoral confidences, and using his lackeys to do his dirty work for him by posting malicious and anonymous websites dedicated to fabricating falsehoods about us. The next step was an even broader smear campaign of employing the logical fallacy of guilt by association to try and taint us with the smear of racism. Doug Phillips’ latest attempt to discredit us involves wild and exaggerated criminal charges against not only my family, but against others who are critical of Doug because of his treatment of us. No one may dissent against Doug. No one may disagree. Or they will pay. Just like Doug said to me after I disagreed with his political views, “You’re going to pay for this.”To make his opponents “pay,” Doug has made lies and wild conspiracy theories part and parcel of his M.O. He has set this example for his friends and “former interns,” some of whom have been eager to join the fray. Matt Chancey, with his “Mrs. Binoculars,” has been posting yellow journalism for months, and Doug Phillips has endorsed it by repeatedly linking to Matt’s experiment in tabloid-style conspiracy theories and falsely characterizing his close personal friend, Matt Chancey, as an “independent investigator.”

Doug Phillips’ recent articles and latest charges have just handed me more to report on, not only exposing his ecclesiastical tyranny, but also exposing his duplicity. There’s so much more, in fact, that it’s getting kind of hard to decide what to write about next. I have several articles in the works, so keep checking in regularly. Today, I want to briefly address Doug’s outrageous accusations against some of my friends, and in particular the accusations that Doug has just made against one friend, David, attacked by name earlier this week on a Vision Forum webpage.

Before attacking David by name on the Vision Forum website, Doug carefully set the stage with an anonymous accusation on the Boerne Christian Assembly blog:

“In at least one case, a conspirator was apprehended and formally punished for helping Jennifer Epstein with an act of public fraud that included the misappropriation of government property and gross violation of cannons of ethics. This conspirator has currently fled the country to a non-extradition nation.”

The anonymous posting was reinforced by a whisper campaign that further set the stage such that, by the time David’s name was released, few would be prepared to consider him in a good, or even neutral, light. Without a name attached, the charges are outrageous; with the name, they are libelous as well. Note how Doug’s choice of language is carefully calculated to portray David in the worst possible light and make him out to appear to be a criminal on the run from the law. Words like “apprehended,” “public fraud,” “gross violation of cannons of ethics”, “fled the country”, “non-extradition nation” sure sound scary. But they aren’t matched by the facts.

To give some background, I was put in contact with David by a mutual acquaintance, who thought he could encourage us during a time we were not going to church. David did encourage my husband and me. He focused on urging us to keep going to the Scriptures for guidance in all that we did. He also urged us not to give up on God’s church but to keep looking for a place we could worship in spirit and in truth and be accountable to godly elders who could help us grow in the knowledge of Christ and in our efforts to be reconciled with Doug Phillips. One of the ironies of Doug’s current attack on David was that David was one of the few people at the time who discouraged us from going public and one of the few people who thought we should give Doug and those involved at BCA another chance. As a result, we delayed going public for longer than would have been the case without David’s admonition.

As I understand it, because David worked for an elected judge, he was an “employee at will” rather than a career public official. That made it easy for David to work flex time, meaning that his schedule could vary some each week so long as he did his work rather than clock in at a specific time. David took advantage of that flexibility to take a family member who has been ill for an extended time for medical care nearly every week and often more than once a week. David also worked from home on occasion when that family member was feeling particularly ill. The downside of at will employment is that it meant David could be dismissed without the level of justification required to dismiss regular government employees. So if you thought David had to have done something as bad as insinuated by Doug Phillips to get dismissed as a government employee, you are mistaken.

So what did David do? Although I have never met David or seen his office and have no inside knowledge of what he did at work (I also have not discussed with David the particulars of why he left the judge’s employment), I do know the limits of my interactions with David. As best as I can tell reading between the lines of the accusations Doug Phillips published on the Internet, David’s “vile” deeds justifying dismissal boil down to communicating with me using a personal email address during office hours and correcting a document from me, part of which was on his office computer. There’s nothing else he did that comes even close to the charges being made against him as the reason for leaving his work for the judge. And yet even reduced to this, the charges make no sense to me.

For example, given the fact that David worked on a flexible schedule, it doesn’t make sense to me to claim “that he edited, on State time.” As long as David did his work for the judge, he could take a personal break at the office and email me or anyone else or edit a non-work document. This is what Doug means by “misappropriation of state property,” the sort of thing that millions of government employees do every day without any criminal infraction. Doug’s “gross violation of cannons [sic] of ethics?” charge is also misplaced. Doug appears to be assuming that David gave me legal advice, but that’s not the case. David was careful in specifying that he would not offer me legal advice, and he didn’t. My husband and I had, and have, our own legal counsel. The “public fraud” charge seems to be a guilt by association tactic. Doug has already accused me of fraud, and now he wants to make David guilty of it as well by liberal use of the word “conspiracy”. The “extradition” claim is just the same: The only reason that no extradition is possible is because no crime justifying extradition has been committed.

So just what was David’s sin for which he had to go? Not for job performance reasons. Even Doug doesn’t try to claim that. No, David had to go because he committed the great sin of befriending me, and I was someone who Doug Phillips had decided to make his sworn enemy. The reality is that what little interactions David had with me from his office did not interfere with his work. The reality is that even if David had never used his office computer to communicate with me, and if he had only communicated from home, he might very well have had to go anyway, once it was discovered that he had communicated with me.

Doug Phillips is out for his pound of flesh, and anyone who in any way communicates with me is a potential target. Doug’s latest attack, his malicious and libelous criminal accusations, against a man who hasn’t even been in contact with me for months, shows just how far Doug is willing to go in harming others out of vengeance against me. It’s apparently not enough to get a someone fired if you can also kick him when he’s down.

But as bad as Doug’s behavior against David is, apparently Doug has been working overtime to make others pay as well. As Doug says on his church blog,

“At the time of this writing, yet another Jennifer Epstein collaborator awaits formal judicial punishment for behavior directly connected with the Epstein conspiracy.”

I’m not entirely clear about who Doug might be referring to. I have several friends and acquaintances who have helped me in this difficult time. Yet whatever they have done — whether prayer, encouragement, or spiritual counsel — Doug calls them “co-conspirators” with me, the “ringleader”. Given how preposterous Doug’s allegations are against David, I would expect him to make the same kinds of accusations against any of these others, too. One thing is certain, though: I know of no one who “awaits formal judicial punishment for behavior directly connected with the Epstein conspiracy.”

So, after filtering out the lies and exaggerations against friends and acquaintances, I’m left with the question: Why is Doug so desperate that he is pulling out all the stops to try and destroy everyone with any connection to me, however tenuous? Is it because his empire of lies is crumbling beneath his feet? Is it because the deceptions are all spinning out of control? Is it because fewer and fewer people will put up with the spiritual abuse anymore? Whatever the case, I’m convinced that Doug’s latest defensive attacks are doing more to undermine the remnants of his credibility than anything I can report about him.

Vision Forum: Culture of Deception by Doug Phillips’ Example?

“Mom, that was such a great birthday present!” ~~Natasha Epstein

Vision Forum’s widely advertised Open House on Saturday, April 21, 2007, promised lots of excitement and fun. With exclusive book signings, clearance specials, and workshops planned, this event portended a large turnout. Complete with refreshments and decorations and cops, it was a gala event.

Wait a minute! Did I say “cops?” What were the cops doing at a Vision Forum Open House? The last time we went to one of their Open Houses, there were several hundred people in attendance, but I don’t remember seeing any cops. In fact, I’ve attended many Vision Forum events and I don’t recall ever seeing any cops.

Oh, well, let’s get on with our coverage of this grand event. It seems that things were a little slow ’round about mid-afternoon. Vision Forum announced on their web site and their email list that Doug would be doing a book signing from 2:00 PM to 4:30 PM. Anyone who wanted to meet Doug should have had no trouble doing so between those hours. Then the excitement suddenly began to pick up. In fact, for Doug Phillips, things suddenly got very exciting. Exciting as in heart-pumping, adrenaline-rush “Oh no! What do I do?” exciting. They say that a man’s true character is best shown when the veneer of his superficial exterior is suddenly stripped away by an event that catches him totally off-guard. That’s exactly what happened to Doug last Saturday.

The significant thing that I want my readers to see from this story is the fact that not only is Doug Phillips a deceiver, and that he told a whopper of a lie, Doug Phillips has created an entire culture of institutionalized deception within Vision Forum. Not only did perpetrate a deception last Saturday at the Vision Forum offices in front of multiple witnesses, including his own wife, he orchestrated the broader deception by instructing his staff that were present to lie for him, too. They all knew that he was on the premises, but they deceived someone who came there looking for him with “He’s not here.” Like the “honorable” people that Doug has trained them to be, they were only too eager to assist with Doug’s duplicity.

The following is the story of two people who were in attendance Saturday afternoon with Doug Phillips, ever so briefly, prior to being escorted off the premises. The one was a legal process server. The other is my daughter, Natasha. At the request of the process server and his company, I have blurred their names on the official notarized legal affidavit.

This entire incident took place on Natasha’s birthday. She called to tell me that Doug had given her one of the best birthday presents she’d ever received. Natasha now wants to reciprocate Doug’s thoughtfulness by including her personal testimony in this article.

Process Server: “Location is a business, Vision Forum. I first arrived at 3:07 PM. It appears they were having an open-house style function to develop more business. A man wearing a yellow Polo-style shirt greeted me as I entered the main entrance. The man appeared to me to be a security person. I mentioned I had a delivery for Mr. Phillips and he directed me to a young man named Peter [Last Name Unknown]. When I told Peter I had a personal delivery for Mr. Phillips, I was escorted down a few stairs into a warehouse-looking storage area. A table was positioned sideways in front of where I stood. There, I met Joshua Wean, CFO for Vision Forum, Inc., standing with three ladies. He stated he could sign for anything being delivered. At this point I informed him I was a process server and needed to deliver to Doug Phillips personally. I was escorted by Peter and Joshua into an office, apparently so as not to disturb the function and to discuss the situation privately. A person dressed in a Hollywood Park Police Officer uniform also stood inside the office door as we spoke. Joshua insisted he was able to sign for all company business. I informed him that what I have is addressed to Doug Phillips, not Vision Forum, therefore, as a process server I could not and did not feel comfortable leaving the package with him, since I did not know the contents of the documents being delivered. I then stated, “All I need to do is hand Mr. Phillips the letter and depart. Mr. Phillips won’t have to sign for anything.” Joshua and Peter wanted to know what the letter was about. I stated that it had something to do with a dispute over a movie or video, but that I didn’t know the specific details since I hadn’t read the letter. (I had put the letter it into an envelope and sealed it, before making the delivery.) At this point, Joshua discussed scheduling the delivery for Sunday or Monday. I said it would be illegal for me to deliver the documents on Sunday; however, I would make a call to get permission for Monday. I made the call and was told the package needed to be delivered that day because Doug Phillips was supposed to be there. I asked if Doug was on the premises and Joshua stated “Doug was scheduled to leave at 2:00 PM for another engagement”. By this time it was already approximately 3:15 PM, well past the time that Joshua told me that Doug was scheduled to leave. However, I was suspicious about this, since I had been specifically instructed that my best time to catch Doug Phillips at the event would be between 2:00 and 4:30 PM. It was because of that information that I arrived at 3:07 PM, to make sure that I would make an attempt during the time specified in my instructions. Joshua then made a phone call. Based upon the content of the conversation, it appeared to me that he was talking to Doug Phillips. Joshua asked him, “Are you still here?” After a few moments while Joshua listened, a response was relayed through Joshua, who asked, “Where are the documents from?” I informed them that I didn’t know for sure, but I could open the letter in front of everyone to determine where it was from if that would be agreeable to Mr. Phillips. (I made this offer with the understanding that the person on the phone was Doug Phillips, and that he was giving his permission for me to open and read the document). It was relayed through Joshua that I should open and read the letter to find out who it was from. I opened the letter and said it was from Joe Taylor at Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum. After a few “OKs” and “That’s what I needed,” Joshua hung up the phone. Joshua then stated “Mr. Phillips is not here.” He also said Doug Phillips would not be accepting anything from Joe Taylor and that all documents needed to be directed to their attorney. Joshua looked up and gave me the info for the attorney on a sticky yellow note. Don Hart, 7389 FM 3405 Liberty Hill, TX 78642. I shook hands with Joshua and Peter, thanked them, departed and called my superiors.”

Natasha: “The process server came and went, and then a friend and I showed up and walked in the doors around 4:15 PM. The first people we saw were the Ringers. I spotted Doug right behind them signing a book. I only saw one other family in attendance. The Ringers kept staring at me and whispering, and right after that, Doug looked my way and immediately bolted into his office. Some guy I didn’t recognize followed him. Beall peeked around the corner and saw me and whipped out her cell and started talking on it while she looked at me a couple times. This all happened within 2 minutes of my walking in the door. As soon as that all happened I called the process server’s boss while I was still standing by the front door and she said the process server was going to call me. So I moved and browsed around and Peter Bradrick came and said hello to my friend and me. The process server called at that time and I told him that Doug was in the building but he was hiding and I gave him a description. He showed up a few minutes later and two little girls at the front door asked him to fill out some sheet to enter in a drawing, and then I showed him what Doug looked like in a video that they had playing on a TV in the lobby and he took description notes.”

Process Server: “Around 4:00 PM I received a call from my superiors, directing me to return to Vision Forum and meet with a young lady, last name of Epstein. I was told that Ms. Epstein knew for certain that Doug is at the function now and she could point him out to me. When I arrived at 4:15 PM, I met Miss Epstein inside the foyer entrance. She said that Doug Phillips had spotted her, recognized her, and immediately ducked inside the office to the right. Miss Epstein also said she was seen by Doug’s wife and would probably be asked to depart at any minute. Miss Epstein pointed to a video playing on the lobby TV. She said it was Doug, so I studied the video for a few moments.”

Natasha: “We stood there for about two minutes when Josh Wean and three other Vision Forum employees came over and Josh said that this was private property and was going to have to ask us to leave.”

Process Server: “Just as I was about to fully enter the main area, another man dressed in a yellow Polo-style shirt (security?) approached us, said that this was private property and that we would have to leave. As instructed, Miss Epstein and I quickly left the building.”

Natasha: “So we exited the building and I turned around as I was walking out the door and said, ‘Nice seeing you again, Josh.'”

Process Server: “Once outside, Peter, the man who asked us to leave, and another man stood in front of the doors as if preventing entry back into Vision Forum. I spoke to Miss Epstein and told her the parking lot was also considered private property and that we should leave before anything else happened.”

Natasha: “Then we walked over to the process server’s car and talked about it and he said there was nothing he could do at the the moment because private property trumped what he was doing and that maybe he could have someone else come over and give it to him now that he had a description and all. Peter Bradrick and two others stood outside this whole time watching us and waiting for us to leave, so then we got in our cars to leave.”

Process Server: “As I was driving away, Peter flagged me down to ask why I came back for a second time. I said someone had identified Doug Phillips at the function, after I had departed the first time, and was told they would identify him to me so that I could make the delivery. Peter asked who hired me to which I could not give him the answer since I did not know. I showed him the top portion of the letter addressed with Joe Taylor’s contact information. Peter then asked for my business card, which I gave him; then I drove away.”
__________________

The process server’s boss appreciated Natasha’s assistance in verifying that Doug was indeed on the premises, and visually identifying Mr. Phillips for the process server, since both the VF employees and Doug Phillips lied about him not being there.

According to the Texas Rules of Civil Process, a process server has every right and reason to be on a property to do the job they are appointed to do. As a lawyer, Doug knows that. Doug also knows that a process server is an “officer of the court.” Doug orchestrated a deception on an officer of the court.

What I don’t understand is why he was asking the process server to leave, based on the private property trump card, when he was supposedly conducting a business function that was open to the public.

With all Doug’s talk last week about Christian men needing to be armed, I wonder why he was so afraid of a 20 year old young lady that he felt the need to run and hide in his office when Natasha arrived. What also doesn’t make sense is why he would run away and lie, and have his employees lie for him, over a letter from Joe Taylor. Joe isn’t even suing Doug. But this kind of avoidance is SOP for Doug.

Doug’s deceptive actions, and the deceptive example he sets for his employees, should really make people wonder whether anything he says can be trusted.

Official Public Notice To Doug Phillips

Joe Taylor Invites Doug Phillips To Peacemaker Mediation

This past Saturday, April 21, 2007, Joe Taylor attempted to have Doug Phillips served a letter at Vision Forum’s offices. Joe didn’t want to give Doug an opportunity to ignore a letter in the mail, or refuse a certified letter, so a legal process server was hired to ensure that Doug would receive Joe’s letter.

Vision Forum’s web site had advertised their annual open house was taking place on April 21. Vision Forum also announced that Doug would be available from 2:00 through 4:30 PM for a book signing. This was the obvious logical time to have the process server come to Vision Forum. But Doug never received Joe’s letter.

The entire incident of the process server’s story is in itself very intriguing and was, at least for me and several others who now know the story, quite humorous. But to hear it, you’ll have to come back Monday.

Here is Joe Taylor’s letter to Doug Phillips, posted here as a Public Notice.

April 20, 2007

Joe Taylor
Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum
124 W. Main, P.O. Box 550,
Crosbyton, TX 79322

Douglas W. Phillips
Vision Forum, Inc.
4719 Blanco Rd.
San Antonio, TX 78212

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matt. 5:23-24

Dear Doug,

I apologize for this request being served to you during your busy schedule, but you are gone a lot, and hard to reach.

In addition, the recent judgment from arbitration with the Pete DeRosas and myself has only served to heighten the unresolved conflicts between you and me.

In 2003, you wrote me to complain of my privately exposing your “documentary” video, “Raising The Allosaur.” This review was not actually made public then. However, why shouldn’t it be? Every film that comes out is reviewed and often very negatively.

In your letter to me of January 20, 2003, as well as other correspondence, you have taken the position that my exposure of your video somehow makes me guilty of “slander” and that what I have done “would be actionable defamation in any court of law.” You have accused me of “speaking evil of brothers without working through the biblical guidelines for conflict resolution.” You have accused me of many other things as well, all without any supporting evidence. For example, you’ve accused me of “blackmail.” You’ve even accused me of “anti-Semitism,” a truly outrageous allegation. I have many hundreds of pages of evidence, not to mention hundreds of photographs and many hours of video tape that I believe unequivocally makes my case.

You accuse me that, “You have consistently and willfully refused to follow any biblical guidelines for conflict resolution, notwithstanding our repeated recommendations to you to do just this.”

Yet, many of the very things that you have accused me of are the very things that you yourself are guilty of. And contrary to your accusations, I tried many times to meet with you and practice Matthew: 18, which you so often and loudly demand.

I agreed to mediation with you and Pete DeRosa both. You agreed as well. The problem is that while Pete and I made an appearance and signed the mediation agreement, you never even showed up. And you, Doug, the one who was so insistent, never signed the agreement. Needless to say, nothing has truly been “resolved” by the alleged “conflict resolution.”

It appears to me that the mediation was more a means to silence me and prevent further exposure of un-Christian deeds than it was to resolve conflicts.

I’ve attempted to resolve my differences with you many times. The fact that you evaded signing the mediation agreement doesn’t mean that our issues are resolved or that these problems have just gone away. I’m sure that you’re more than aware of the need to address our disputes. The Word tells us, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom. 12:18)

Many friends and associates in the past several years encouraged me to sue you, but I did not because I thought you were a Christian brother. (I Cor. 6:1-8)

Your January 20, 2003 letter states, “We are committed to following biblical guidelines of conflict resolution, arbitration and church discipline.”

I’d like to give you the opportunity to prove that you are sincere about that by extending the offer to you to discuss biblically-based Christian conflict resolution with me.

I’m told that Peacemaker Ministries claims that both their mediation and arbitration are biblically-based. Decisions can also be binding, and it is recommended that we agree to the details of this in advance.

All I’m asking you for at this time is a simple written “yes, I will discuss this with you,” or “no, I will not,” answer. The details would be worked out later. Please have a written response in my hands by May 5, 2007.

My offer is genuine, and made in the interests of the whole creationist as well as the home school community.

Doug, there has been entirely too much strife between us. It should be put to an end. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Phil. 2:3

In the bonds of Christ Jesus,

Joe Taylor

If you don’t know the story behind this letter, you may read it here.

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

How Doug Phillips Lost His Vision for the Second Greatest Commandment

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35

Why is it that some churches can have right doctrine, right theology, the right values, emphasize the right Bible verses, have the right world view, and yet after only a short time of doing things right something goes terribly wrong? What starts out as something very special is soon corrupted.

When I first started attending BCA, Doug Phillips had just finished preaching a series of messages on “one another-ing.” The church had studied how to love one another, greet one another, care for one another’s burdens, be hospitable, forgive one another, serve one another, give preference to one another, admonish and exhort one another, among many other commands on how we are treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. We stepped in right as BCA had been saturated with learning the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

That first year there, I cannot recall any bickering or fighting or backbiting whatsoever. There was no gossiping and Matthew 18 just wasn’t necessary. There definitely was no judgmental spirit.

On my very first Sunday at BCA, we were invited the next day to a special event that was taking place at an IBLP conference. Lew Sterrett was going to be teaching the Sermon on the Mount by breaking a wild horse, so I thought appropriate attire, in August in South Texas, would be short shorts and a tank top (my values about attire were much different then). When I showed up, it quickly became apparent that ALL the other women were in long dresses, but no one judged me that day. Not one person said a word and many of the women came up and greeted me anyway. We were invited to dinner the next week at a home where the family did all dress very conservatively. Again, no judging.

So what changed? Why today are so many BCA women afraid to be seen in public in pants? Why do some women go out of their way to avoid those they know are going to say something about their choice of clothing? Why do some women feel it is their responsibility to tell everyone else how to dress? Did I miss that verse in the one another-ing list?

I really don’t know what changed, but I can point to some patterns that I noticed. The first situation that stands out in my mind regards leaders setting the example. The first year we were at BCA, Doug Phillips was present nearly every Sunday and he preached at least half the time. Church was held at his home and he would sometimes go down to the end of the road and stand there and greet everyone coming in. He was always a very gracious host and was constantly available. Since church at BCA was nearly an all day event, we were often at Doug’s home from 10 in the morning until 5 or 6 in the evening. Doug would set the example in loving one another during that time and was nearly always mixing with the brothers all day.

And then we moved. Or rather, the Phillips family moved, and so the church moved with them. That conference season, Doug had a sharp increase in speaking engagements, and he was gone quite a bit more than before. When he was home on a Sunday, he would usually still spend time with other members, but he seemed to disappear a while before most of us went home. It was only a matter of time until he would go take a nap on Sunday afternoons rather than stay and fellowship in his own home, or sometimes he would just sleep all day on Sunday.

By the time the church moved again, a couple years later, Doug Phillips was only showing up once a month. Now, I understand his ratio averages once every two months. The last year I was at BCA, on the Sundays Doug would actually show up, he would usually arrive late and would often leave immediately after the sermon, while the rest of us were still praying. Doug is now a Christian celebrity and has very little time to care for his flock.

So how much one another-ing is Doug Phillips practicing now? How much love does he show for the brethren? (We won’t even talk about the sisters in this article!) How much time does he invest in his sheep? It’s not like he’s just another traveling man in the congregation. Doug was our SOLE elder. Where was he? I think of Jesus’ example of being a shepherd when He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and they know Me.”

Pastors are often known as “under-shepherds,” meaning that they care for Christ’s sheep under His authority. Clearly, an under-shepherd should know his sheep and know them well. Did we know Doug? Did he know us? At first it really seemed that he did, and that he really cared for us. But as Doug’s popularity grew, and his travel itinerary intensified, he soon became a stranger to us. Doug not only no longer cared about us, it was apparent that his celebrity status had gone to his head. Doug started treating us as though he was better than us.

A particular speech I really enjoy giving is entitled, “How Do Children Spell Love? T-I-M-E.” As sheep without a shepherd, how does Doug show that he loves us? How can he possibly “one another” us when he’s not there? When he runs out the door immediately after the conclusion of the church service, rather than staying to fellowship and minister to his sheep, how is he demonstrating love?

Do you know how often Doug invited church members over to his home just to fellowship? I’m not talking about just church parties. He was great at putting on a party where he would be the center of attention. I’m just talking about having a family over for dinner. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that part of being an elder? There were 20 families at BCA. In five years, Doug and Beall never invited us over for dinner. They never invited 90% of the church over for dinner or fellowship. Doug talks about hospitality a lot and he has the interns over all the time and he has out of town guests over all the time, but he didn’t have his own sheep over, nor did he accept invitations from church members for dinner. Is that a biblical example of one another-ing?

Could it be that underneath the vision for Patriarchy, the vision for men leading their families, the vision for submissive wives, the vision for age-integrated church, the vision for correct doctrine and theology, the vision for music that glorifies God, the vision for doing “church” God’s way, that somewhere along the way, Doug forgot the most important ingredient – the second greatest commandment? Talking about love is a good first step. Spending TIME with people is living it out. Doug Phillips is so busy with his vision, he has no TIME for people anymore. Time equals love.

Doug Phillips Refuses Reconciliation With The Epsteins

“This is not about reconciliation; this is only about the Epsteins repenting.”

We were informed last week that Doug Phillips has refused to be reconciled with us.

Doug Phillips has rejected the peacemaking/reconciliation proposal that the elders at Faith Presbyterian Church of San Antonio attempted to facilitate. As I wrote previously, we were very encouraged to know that all the FPC elders have gone through the Peacemaker Ministries training and that several of them are “Certified Christian Conciliators.” We were led to believe that if anyone could help us, these men could. We also believed that Doug would be hard pressed to refuse to enter into Christian conciliation when it was to be facilitated by men who are certified with a conciliation ministry that is as highly respected as Peacemaker Ministries. Doug Phillips told the elders that there is only one way for the Epsteins to be reconciled with me; they must come to me and repent fully without any equivocation of everything that we excommunicated them for, and they also have to repent for blogging about me.

Doug Phillips told the FPC session that our blogging about him “hurt him.” We’re not exactly sure what that means (did we hurt his feelings?), but that’s obviously just a smoke screen and a means of shifting focus from the original issues. We weren’t excommunicated for blogging about Doug Phillips, so even if we were to now “repent” to him for blogging about him, as far as he’s concerned, it wouldn’t change anything anyway. He remains convinced of all of his original allegations against us, and he sees no problems with his Kangaroo Court excommunication of the Epsteins.

From Doug’s perspective, the Epsteins are 100% wrong, he’s 100% right, end of discussion. We have to admit to everything he accuses us of, we’re not allowed to accuse him of anything, and if we won’t do that, he won’t ever lift the excommunication judgment against us. In other words he seeks to hold us as hostages in a state of perpetual spiritual enslavement.

Although many others have commented that Doug’s behavior is “cultish,” we ourselves have avoided making those allegations. However, in the future we may not avoid making those kinds of allegations ourselves. Doug has now more than proven to us that he’s completely devoid of any character attributes that would qualify him as a shepherd, and it would seem that he does evidence all the character attributes of a (sociological) cult leader.

For those who’ve been following this story, you already know why Doug’s dictatorial formula for reconciliation can’t possibly work, and why reconciliation by such autocratic edicts is futile. Doug Phillips’ latest decree requires that we lie. We would have to lie because what Doug demands is that we confess sins and beg forgiveness of things:

  1. That we’re not guilty of and that no one can provide any evidence that we’re guilty of.
  2. That I committed years before I even became a Christian, and that I confessed and repented of years ago.
  3. That are so vague and ambiguous that we can’t possibly comprehend what they even are.
  4. That in the case of the few charges that we were guilty of, we confessed and repented of those things, but Doug excommunicated us any way.

In other words we’d have to lie. We’d have to bear false witness about ourselves. We’d have to break the ninth commandment. Furthermore, we’d have to lie by saying that our blogging about Doug is sinful. We have no such convictions and no one has provided any credibly biblical support to show that our blogging about Doug was a sin.

We didn’t take our blog articles offline because we believed that our blogging about Doug was sinful. We took them down only because the FPC session asked us to as a means of paving the way for reconciliation. They also told us to refrain from any further blogging about Doug and BCA, as well as commenting on other blogs, during the time they pursued peacemaking and reconciliation with Doug on our behalf. We complied with everything we were told to do (and no, we didn’t comment anywhere under aliases either). We complied fully with every single thing the FPC session required of us, and we did so without a complaint. In so doing, we hoped to demonstrate that we’re not rebellious and we’re quite capable of submitting to elders. We also wanted to demonstrate our sincerity in seeking reconciliation.

Obviously, though, Doug shares no such interest. During the time of our compelled silence, Doug Phillips’ close personal friends and “former interns” continued their assaults against us with a string of false accusations and weird conspiracy theories. It was no easy thing for us to keep quiet while we were being falsely accused. Our compelled silence only served as an opportunity to show the world Doug Phillips’ true nature. Doug Phillips is a master saboteur. When he was our pastor, we came to him for help with our marriage, but instead of helping us, he effectively sabotaged our marriage. In fact, he sabotaged our entire family. Our children have yet to recover from the betrayal they were subjected to by Doug Phillips.

It therefore came as no surprise to us that Doug would employ the services of his close personal friend and political hatchet man, Matt Chancey, and his “former interns” (often used as code language for “current Vision Forum employees”) in particular, to keep up a steady assault against us during our time of compelled silence, in an all too obvious attempt to sabotage our relations with Faith Presbyterian Church. With two phone calls or emails, Doug could’ve called for a cease fire. But continuing to smear us by his internet assassin friends and “former interns,” while he knew we had to remain silent, gave him a huge advantage. We believe, however, that many were paying close attention and that all Doug’s tactics really accomplished were to confirm what a bully he really is.

Not only is Doug a bully but he’s a politician. He was raised by a politician and has been well trained in political scheming. Tragically, it appears now that Doug Phillips has successfully sabotaged our formerly good relations at Faith Presbyterian Church. Make no mistake, it took more than a couple of attack-blogs by his friends and “former interns” to accomplish that. Doug himself was personally and actively involved in that.

Unless we’re provoked into making additional disclosures about that situation, we’re not likely to blog about FPC. At this point we’ll just say that we’re very disappointed with the FPC session, and their apparent lack of courage in standing up to a bully. We did warn them that Doug can be not only cunningly persuasive but that he will resort to threats and intimidation to get what he wants. It appears now that the FPC elders were cowed by Phillips in a similar way that the pastor of our previous church was cowed. He, too, attempted to facilitate reconciliation on our behalf, but he proved himself less than manly.

The only bright spot in all this is that it didn’t take two years like it did last time. Last time, Doug agreed to meet for reconciliation. In fact, he agreed multiple times, only to cancel every single meeting at the last minute. After 14 months of attempting to set up a meeting with Doug Phillips, he finally met with the elders of our last church, only to accuse them of sinning as well. We warned the FPC session of Doug’s MO of cancelling meetings and using intermediaries and blaming everyone but himself. FPC agreed with us that they wouldn’t wait around for months for Doug to make an appearance, and they agreed with us that they couldn’t negotiate with Doug’s intermediaries. Reconciliation can only occur with the parties who were directly involved in the original offense.

This time, after only a few cancellations, Doug actually did meet with the elders. But just like he did with the previous church session, he called the FPC session “wicked sinners for fellowshipping with and entertaining ex-communicants.” Apparently that may have been all it took to cow the FPC session.

We had been told not long ago, “Doug Phillips apparently expects everyone to have to shun you. If he expects the FPC session to do that he’s going to be disappointed.” In the end, though, it was the FPC session that bent to Doug’s will. Through political arm-twisting, or threats, or whatever other pressures he brought to bear, Doug Phillips “won.” Doug Phillips sabotaged our peacemaking efforts. But is Doug’s refusal of peacemaking and reconciliation really a “win” for him? We don’t think so. In fact, it’s likely to only hurt his reputation even more.

In spite of our great disappointment with the FPC session, we don’t intend to speak further about them. We therefore would prefer to not address any questions regarding FPC. Our blogging is going to remain focused on the problem, and the problem is Doug Phillips.

We won’t be making any more attempts at reconciliation with Doug Phillips. Having now exhausted every conceivable avenue of reconciliation with Doug Phillips, we believe that we have no choice but to re-post all our former articles.

More to come… soon.

Peacemaking: The Biblical Response to Our Conflict With Doug Phillips

To all our readers, greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose blood is sufficient to atone for even the vilest sins of any who truly thank Him for His righteous life and substitutionary death.

We’ve requested membership at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) in San Antonio, Texas. We have fully described our excommunication by Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA) to our Session of Elders. The Session has agreed to work with us toward reconciliation and restoration, and we have agreed to submit to their authority as ordained Elders.

There are certain terms and conditions that the Faith Session will place upon us to begin the process of restoring us to communicant church membership. In fulfilling these obligations, the Session will have evidence we are sincere in our desire to become members of Faith Presbyterian Church under the authority of their Session. The very first of those issues is that we demonstrate a willingness to be reconciled with our brethren at BCA.

Faith Presbyterian Church considers reconciliation and peacemaking to be a Biblical mandate for the whole Body of Christ. Several FPC members are certified Christian conciliators with Peacemaker Ministries. FPC has agreed to do everything possible to assist us in being reconciled with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly.

In the view of our elders, the fact that we are unlikely to attempt to become members of BCA again is irrelevant to the necessity for brethren to seek reconciliation with one another. Though we have made attempts at reconciliation before, perhaps with many of you fervently praying toward that end, God will be pleased to unite the injured parties together again in Christ and to demonstrate His peace before a watching and skeptical world.

In order to lay the groundwork toward reconciliation, the Session has requested we take offline any of our blog articles, links and feedback comments on any website of our creation, or under our control, that contain accusations against Doug Phillips, members of his family, or BCA. Although Ministry Watchman isn’t under our control, we will formally request that they likewise take offline the articles about us by Charles Fisher.

This request by our Elders was made primarily for two reasons:

  1. Removing accusing words from the public forum greatly increases the opportunity for reconciliation and restoration. Removing the accusations from the Web will allow each side to be heard without the on-going offense of public rebuke while pursuing private reconciliation.
  2. Removing the accusations from the Web will provide evidence that we are repentant, that we are willing to submit to the ecclesiastical authority of the Elders of Faith Presbyterian (PCA) church, and our willingness to allow those Elders to work with the leadership of BCA to restore us to communing fellowship within a local evangelical church.

In submitting to our Session of Elders, we will no longer comment publicly about our conflict with Doug Phillips, or others at BCA, on any website or blog, while the Session of Faith Presbyterian Church seeks the peace and purity of the Church of Jesus Christ through reconciliation.

We ask all our readers to pray for a successful reconciliation. Sin is not absent from any of us in this life, so please pray diligently for the Holy Spirit to move sinners to repentance at the foot of the Cross.

Pray also that the Lord would calm our fears. After what we’ve already been through, it’s not an easy thing for us to submit to church elders. We want to trust these men and to believe the best of them. They’ve shown themselves to be caring and compassionate towards us. We do believe that they’re sincere, and that they intend God’s best for us. But we have to admit that there are times that we still feel intimidated and afraid of a process that we’re unfamiliar with. This is, after all, the very first Presbyterian church that we’ve ever been in, and Presbyterians do things a lot differently from what we’re used to.

Our hope is that we will be able to soon report a complete reconciliation between the Epstein family and the brothers and sisters at Boerne Christian Assembly. At that time, perhaps web sites that once held accusations can be filled with rejoicing and details of revival in relationships, offering hope for others in conflict, and giving honor and glory to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the name of the Prince of Peace,

Mark and Jennifer Epstein