Doug Phillips – New Paganism?
A number of years ago Dr. Albert Mohler spoke at an EMNR conference and in his talk shared a story about Bishop John Shelby Spong. According to Mohler, at the Lambeth Conference, Spong had committed a cultural and political boo-boo. He had been pressing for the ordination of homosexuals but was unable to get the majority to agree at the time because the bishops from Africa held firmly against it. In a moment of frustration Spong lashed out with, “The reason the African bishops believe the Bible to literally is because they have been so recently converted from paganism.” To which the Bishop from Uganda responded, “The reason Spong doesn’t believe the Bible is because he has so recently been converted to paganism.”
I have thought a lot about this exchange lately. It is easy for many of us to write off liberalism, the Emerging Church and Postmodernism as an embracing of paganism by church leaders and their followers. And, to be sure, it is. But, do some segments of conservative believers embrace other forms of paganism that may be promoted by some of their leaders? I would suggest this is the case with Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard.
Bill Gothard embraces and promotes the pagan view of authority as being the Christian view of a top down authority based on a misuse of the story of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-10. The story was about who Jesus was and His ability to heal long distance but Gothard makes it a story about authority and wrote in his Basic Seminar Textbook:
After the centurion asked Jesus to come and heal his servant, it occurred to him that just as life was structured around a “chain of responsibility,” so the kingdom in which God operates must have a similar structure of authority.
Jesus directly inverted this idea in Luke 22:25-26:
And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
Rather than the leader being less or not accountable and each one below them in “authority” being progressively more accountable to a larger number of people above them Jesus turned it around and made the leader the most accountable. God’s leaders live in glass houses and everyone else has Windex!
But how does this reflect upon or answer the question about Doug Phillips and Vision Forum? There are a number of areas that could be looked at, including his view of authority which, like Gothard’s derives from First Century paganism. We have looked at his promotion of his concept of patriarchy in our current Journal article, “Who Will Be First in the Kingdom?” (Vol. 13, No 2). Another area is Vision Forum’s view of women. How does it compare with First Century paganism?
Moya K. Mason points out in her “Ancient Roman Women: A Look at their Lives.”:
< < Although the role of women in ancient Rome was primarily child-bearing, women also played an important role in raising the children >>
In that culture aristocratic woman may have received some education but that was primarily for use in educating their children. Most women received little or no education. Men were the ones to receive higher education. It was considered a waste of time and financial resources to educate a woman in the same way. After all, her use was to have children and stay at home to care for them. The husband owned the wife and children. If she had a baby girl he had the choice as to whether the female child would live or die. He was more interested in having a son to carry on his name but the son too was property until he attained adulthood. The daughter could be sold or bartered with. She lived with the father until he decided to marry her off, or perhaps not marry her off and she was under his authority until he died.
Alvin J. Schmidt in his book Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization points out how the church elevated the status of women by addressing many of these issues. He also comments on the church having to go back and address this issue as various church leaders have reintroduced this pagan view of women back in to the church. As we look at Vision Forum are we seeing yet another attempt at bringing the pagan view of women back in to the church? In their statement The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy we read:
Until she is given in marriage, a daughter continues under her father’s authority and protection
But what of education? Like the First Century Romans, Vision Forum in their article ”Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” considers educating females a waste of time and money:
And does it really make economic sense to invest tens of thousands of dollars for a woman to get an advanced education (often having to go into debt to finance that education) that she will NOT use if she accepts that her highest calling is to be a wife and mother?
In his excellent book Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” Timothy Paul Jones addresses Bart Ehrman’s claim that some passages were modified to oppose women and Jews:
A handful of changes could potentially relate to the role of women in churches today. It appears that women played more prominent roles in the early church than they did in the later eras. As a result some scribes in late ancient and medieval times seem to have altered texts that seemed to place women in prominent positions.
For example, in the most ancient manuscripts of Acts 18:26, a woman named Priscilla seems to be the primary teachers of Apollos. Centuries later, a copyist switched the order of names, placing the name of Pricilla’s husband, Aquila, first. In Romans 16:7, someone named Junia – a woman’s name – is said to be “significant among the apostles,” but a later scribe turned “Junia” into “Junias,” a man’s name. In Acts 17:4, another scribe changed “prominent women” into “wives of prominent men.” In each of these cases, however, it’s possible to look at the manuscripts and recover the original wording.
Similarly, Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum is clear in their article ”Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” of the wrongness of a woman having an individual personal view and taking any sort of participation or prominent role which may be viewed as competing with her owner, er, I mean husband:
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.
Is Doug Phillips just the latest incarnation of this infiltration? I am not sure but it seems worth thinking about.