Blogger Sunshinemary recently wrote a blog entry that defends Doug Phillips and calls his critics wrong on the topic of authority. But there are simple reasons why their calls to us to “repent” falls on deaf ears: The things they call us to repent for is right and true – not sin – to the best of our knowledge. And they do nothing to challenge our knowledge, to tell us things we do not know and that would change our view of right and wrong.
Her words will be in red, and mine in black. People she quotes will be in blue and in quotes.
Submitting to corrupted authority
Easy. We should, as far as is possible for us, not support corruption, or submit to it. Does your boss give bribes to get big government contracts? Never help him with that, but you could still treat him with respect in other areas.
In Modernity reframes all authority as “abuse”, Zippy Catholic writes:
Abuse of authority is pretty pervasive in human societies, because human beings are fallen creatures and we frequently abuse the things over which we are stewards…Liberalism has always used the fallenness of actual human beings in authority as a rhetorical means of attacking authority in general.
…rather than expressing outrage at actual abuse and attempting to get actual abuse corrected, distinguishing between legitimate authority/hierarchy and its abuse, authority/hierarchy in general is treated by liberalism as intrinsically abusive.
This nicely explains the gleeful reaction I’ve seen among a segment of rebellious Christian female bloggers to the recent resignation of Doug Phillips from Vision Forum Ministries after revealing that he had an affair with a woman not his wife.
No. We do not hate all authority, we hate usurping authority that is not yours to begin with. A simple example: The police has authority to enforce the law. But a policeman do not have authority to tell you to do a sexual act with him.
Pastor Doug Wilson wryly notes:
…this is one of those occasions where the enemies of the Lord can be readily identified. By their glee ye shall know them.
We believe Doug is an enemy of God’s sheep, and thus followers of the Lord will rejoice in setbacks to his sheep-killing work, Vision Forum.
First, since I’m often accused by feminists and certain Christians of not taking infidelity by husbands seriously, let me get this out of the way: Doug Phillips has sinned in a very serious way and it was right of him to repent and step away from his public ministry in order to put his own household in order. However, committing a sin, even a serious one, does not a priori nullify a man’s authority in every area of his life nor does it destroy the concept of authority itself, yet that is exactly what these women are arguing.
None of us say that sin nullifies a man’s authority in every area, or that authority does not exist. We say men do not have the kind of authority Sunshinemary (Sunshine? Sunshine is light, and extremely warm if you get closer – Satan often masquerades as an angel of light, and I hear he is going to a place that is extremely warm) think they do. Sin is evidence of why God was wise not to give them such authority.
One Patheos blogger, Libby Anne (who describes herself thus: “I was raised in an evangelical family, was homeschooled, was taught to embrace courtship rather than dating, learned that women’s place is in the home, and was highly involved in the religious right. College turned my world upside down, and I am today a feminist, a progressive, and a nonbeliever.” My take-away: do not send your daughters away to college.) writes:
So, will a story of one boy who turned out an atheist in college be a reason not to send boys to college? Perhaps, as so many conservatively home-schooled children leave the faith, it is evidence against conservative home schooling?
Phillips has spent decades preaching doctrines that cause real harm to men, women, and children. And now it turns out that his entire act was a lie and that he betrayed the very principles he was preaching. Indeed, this arguably happened as a result of the ideology he was preaching, and not in spite of it. Phillips needs to be held accountable for the damage he has done to the men, women, and children who have followed his teachings.
Indeed, unless Phillips steps down from Vision Forum Inc. and Boerne Christian Assembly, his resignation from Vision Forum Ministries is nothing but a charade and damage control.
Mr. Phillips is an elder at Boerne Christian Assembly. About Elders, 1 Timothy 3:1-16 says:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
It would seem that yes, a man should at least temporarily lose his authority as an elder in the church if he engages in a sin as serious as adultery. However, there is no reason why Mr. Phillips must do so publicly, as his church is not a public ministry in the same way that VFM is. It is entirely possible that he has stepped down as elder, but in any case, it is not legitimate for those who are not part of his congregation to demand to know that information. It is for the men of BCA, not the clucking hen-o-sphere, to decide whether Mr. Phillips is fit to serve as a church elder.
It is the task of the men and women in BCA to decide whether to remove him from his position as church elder or not, but as a man in public ministry (Vision Forum, writing), he should make it publicly known how he made restitution. As such, the bloggers was right to point out that according to his church website that still listed him as teaching elder, he gave the appearance of not following Biblical principles on this.
Vision Forum, Inc., however, is a business, not a ministry; it is Mr. Phillips’ place of employment. There is no Biblical reason why a man should automatically lose his employment just because he has sinned. It may be that his employer will choose to let him go – for example, if Doug Phillips’ presence at VFI causes the business to lose customers – but there is no overarching moral reason why a man must lose his livelihood and means of supporting his family just because he has sinned. Sinning does not automatically remove a man’s authority at his place of employment.
There is not really such a firm division between “business” and “ministry”, but “no reason … automatically lose employment just because he sinned” misses the point. If your sin was drug pushing, repenting would mean leaving your job as a pusher. Sinshinemary is responding to a letter that say: “Phillips has spent decades preaching doctrines that cause real harm to men, women, and children… Phillips needs to be held accountable for the damage he has done to the men, women, and children who have followed his teachings.” We never said all sinners should lose their jobs, but his job was peddling poison and promising health to buyers.
But the ladies go even further, saying that not only should he lose his authority as an elder and an employee but also his authority as a husband. In fact, the conclusion that these women wish to put forth is that husbandly authority itself is the problem. They use Doug Phillips’ confessed sin as evidence that the patriarchal (husband- and father-led) family structure laid out in the Bible is actually the problem: because Man sins, no woman should ever be under Man’s authority.
The idea that the patriarchal structure is “laid out in the Bible” is an assumption we do not subscribe to. We believe that one-sided authority from husbands is a problem exactly because we believe it is not from God.
…. At Spiritual Sounding Board, Julie Anne writes:
“The foundational structure of the whole Patriarchal philosophy is the man is in charge. This man has failed and now he says he’s going to focus on nurturing his wife whom he betrayed and prepare his older sons and daughters for life? Umm – – – that’s too fast.
It’s time to take a chill pill and drop the “I’m the king of the castle” role. It didn’t work before and it certainly won’t work now that there has been hypocrisy and at least emotional infidelity.
[…] I view the philosophy of Patriarchy to be flawed. No man should rule over his wife, own her spiritually, emotionally or any other way.”
Julie Anne is a Christian, yet clearly she is in rebellion against the authority of the Bible; in Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve:
Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
Christian wife, if you resist your husband ruling over you, then you are in rebellion against God and I call you to repent in the name of Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior.
Christian wives are no more in rebellion against God by resisting male rule than Christian farmers are rebelling against “the earth shall bring forth thorns and thistles” when they rid their lands of weeds. (Gen 3:18) The serpent (Satan) is not following God by hurting (“bruising the heel”) of the woman’s seed (humanity). (Gen. 3:15) All these things are descriptions, not commands to bruise humans, help weed to grow, or help men to rule. Sunshinemary should repent of proclaiming the results of the fall – sinning – as God’s command.
Even if this actually was a command, it would have been a command to Eve, not to us.
I asked Julie Anne and her readers:
“In what way does Mr. Phillips sin and subsequent repentance destroy the concept of Christian patriarchy? All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord. Every man and every woman has sinned; that fact does not nullify the marital and church hierarchy that God ordained in His Word.
A man is the head of his wife, and she is to submit to him and obey him. Sometimes he will make mistakes, need to repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and face consequences. That doesn’t mean that he is no longer the head of his family or that she is excused from obeying him.
Your boss at work is not infallible, either; does that mean you get to usurp your boss’s authority? Of course not.”
We say that husbands are co-workers who are wrongly regarded by so-called “Christian” patriarchy as bosses, and the fact that they are as likely to sin as as women shows why God was wise to not set them up as home priests and prophets in the way patriarchy suggest – why would God set a mere sinner up to be followed even when what he says is unwise or selfish? Some even say that patriarchy itself could make a man less respectful of his wife, and give him a sense of entitlement that encourages sin.
Their responses are quite telling: …
Even the men there are eager to follow the women into tearing down all forms of authority.
We are not tearing down all forms of authority when we call certain forms illegitimate lording.
Gary W writes:
“Mr. Phillips was not just some miscellaneous hanger-on within circles promoting male authority and dominion over women. He was and is a primary teacher and, I dare say, prophet, within “Christian” circles, of the concept of male authority and dominion over women . Reason alone predicts that a man who advocates what amounts to the domination of women by men, thereby objectifying them, will be particularly prone to marital unfaithfulness. Mr. Phillips’ confessed fruit, however complete or partial the confession may be, confirms that, whatever the dynamic, the fruit of patriarchy is rotten.”
No particular religion or authority structure makes men “particularly prone” to sexual sin.
In case we hadn’t all noticed, that is the sin that men in general, regardless of race, religion, creed, etc ad nauseum, are particularly prone to. We women have our own temptations; sexual sin is men’s. They can and do resist it, but they also fail to resist it sometimes and must repent and bear the consequences. Does that mean they should never have the authority to lead? Women sin, too, so by that argument, we also cannot lead. Who is going to lead? Apparently no one is supposed to lead and we are all just supposed to descend into anarchy. If you doubt that a lack of authority leads to an evil end, just ask yourself this: who is the original usurper of authority?
Who will lead? Easy. If you are a Christian, you let God lead. If you seek wisdom, you follow in the ways of whoever seems wise. If you seek to be an auto mechanic, you take your lead from people who are auto mechanics already. If you want to be very rich, you will be led by the way tycoons do business and invest. In other words, we follow the lead of those we judge is (getting closer to) where we want to be.
Even then, someone who is (for example) wise in money-making may be unwise in keeping relationships going, and you could follow someone’s lead in one area but not another. In a marriage as we egalitarians think of it, the husband will lead in those things where he knows better or have more to gain/ lose, and the wife will lead in those things where she knows better or have more to gain/ lose, and when they struggle to come to a conclusion – which many people can say never happened in 30 years of marriage – they will pray until God helps them to decide.
The evil end of eschewing the biblical hierarchy of authority is portrayed by this comment from Greg Hahn:
“I don’t know why Doug Phillips thinks he should go home and lead his family now, and get his accountability from the leaders at his church.
He forfeited all rights to spiritual leadership of anybody when he comitted the adulterous relationship, including spiritual of his wife. Having a penis doesn’t entitle him to lead. That’s what got him in this mess in the first place, along with his lack of accountability to her.
She’s God’s appointed help in life. He needs to submit to her, be accountable to her, and let her lead him through the process of restoration.”
Ah, so it turns out that the goal of rejecting the proper authority structure given in the Bible isn’t to have an absence of authority but rather to have an inversion of the authority structure. Several of Julie Anne’s female commenters quickly disagree with Greg, but what he is describing is how most men react to being removed from leadership; they will defer to someone else’s leadership. Women say they want egalitarianism rather than authority, but men simply do not function this way; they either lead or they submit, as Greg clearly demonstrates.
Greg said nothing about rejecting authority as defined by Phillips, but what one guy should currently do, according to him. It is remarkable how black and white patriarchy supporters think: Either you always lead in every decision, or you always follow. Either Doug Phillips should never submit, or all relationships should be matriarchies. There is no healthy balance of deferring and yielding to one another out of love, and following whoever is wiser in this particular area, with many things where leading and following is not needed as much as simple friendship and caring. It is as if they, even as married people, know less of healthy relationships than me, a single with Asperger’s Syndrome.
The patriarchy crowd clearly has a very unbiblical view of submission, if they react like this to a simple suggestion that a believing male should submit: All believers, according to the Bible, should submit to one another.
Dear Christian lady, your husband is imperfect and he will sin sometimes, but that does not nullify his right to rule over you nor remove from you the obligation to submit to him. There will always be authority and a leader in every home; if it isn’t your husband, guess what? It’s you. Do you really want to lead a submissive husband? If you do not, then stop resisting and rebelling and submit to his leadership.
Every facet of humanity has been corrupted by sin; nevertheless God commands us to obey imperfect earthly authority.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?
Considering that utterly nothing in the Bible say husbands should be authorities in the first place, that text says nothing of submitting to
men. His “right to rule” can’t be “nullified” if he has no particular “right to rule*.” And the example of how the very writer of this passage acted shows that you should not allow authorities to curb your good, meaningful actions.
Her whole discussion is a red herring, anyway. Even people who are complementarian – they believe in husbandly authority – speaks out against the type of authority espoused by Doug Phillips.
PS: If you want to know what some “Biblical” patriarchy supporters really think like – but would never be allowed to comment on the websites of those who sell Quiverfull Movement/ Christian Patriarchy/ the Stay at Home Daughter Movement/ Reconstructionism materials, reading the comments on the thread I quoted in red may be useful. For example, Sunshinemary claims there is no such a thing as marital rape. Couple that with a movement that say fathers should choose husbands for their daughters, a movement that tend to keep daughters emotionally immature, incapable of making decisions and not educated to make a living outside the home, and it becomes even worse. This kind of comments are not allowed on the sites of those who sell patriarchal books and DVDs and home schooling curricula, probably because it will scare away normal Christians who have some views on the love of Jesus and not lording it over others.
* In another sense all of humanity – male and female, adult and child – is called to rule the earth (Genesis 1:28). That responsibility is not nullified by sin or by place in a hierarchy.