To be honest, when I heard that Doug Phillips stepped down from Vision Forum I was startled, even saddened. I was even more surprised when I found out why he decided to step down. His entire platform of having a multi-generational vision for your family rests on and assumes the existence of a strong marriage—as well as each spouse's faithfulness to that marriage. Yet the most startling thing were many of the blog posts and comments that I read in response to this now public situation. So here are my thoughts on the four types of responses I read and why they concern me:
1. Invalidating the Vision.There are camps in the body of Christ. Even within denominations. Recently the term "tribes" has been making its rounds to describe the same thing. Regardless—and right or wrong—there are camps in the body of Christ.
Doug Phillips is one of the leaders of one of these so-called camps. I've heard his camp referred to as the homeschooling movement. Other terms I've heard thrown around are biblical patriarchy, dominion oriented, family integrated, and quiver full. Love it or hate it, this camp continues to produce brilliant, noticeably mature, counter-cultural, and strategically equipped children—while the Church as a whole continues to lose youth at an unprecedented rate.
Some who identify with camps that oppose him have used this situation to attempt to invalidate Doug and his camp. There will always be those who are opportunistic when they hear of someone else's sin, and ironically will sin themselves. One of the great reminders in all of this is that none of us is above this. Apart from Jesus, none of us has a special ability to avoid certain sins. I even read one person who went as far as to claim that Doug's sin was the logical conclusion of what those in his camp teach.
While there are certainly doctrinal differences amongst camps, I would hope that one of the fundamental agreements would be that sin originated in the Garden of Eden, and that we've all been born into it and have been affected by it ever since. Not because I think so, but because the Bible tells me so. Those from within Doug's camp or from outside of his camp should all agree that this sin and all sin is rooted in our history outlined in Genesis 3.
I think it's important to pause for a moment and remember how far we did fall when sin entered the world. Part of what makes the cross so glorious is to understand the depth of our depravity. That's right, not someone else's depravity, our depravity.
If we invalidated what a leader stood for every time he or she fell or behaved in a hypocritical way, we would be left with nothing to stand on… ever. No theology would be safe. How many Christians have fallen into the sin of adultery while also believing in justification by faith? This would be a classic example of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Should we also throw out any of the Psalms that David wrote?
As Christians, we understand that truth remains truth no matter who is teaching, or how it is perceived by the person receiving it. We also understand that truth is transcendent; it's not built on the character of those who deliver it. Thank God!
2) Theological Beatdown. When people are confused and hurt it is a great time to let them know how terrible of a Christian they are for being confused and hurt ... said no one ever. However judging from some of the responses I read, it seems as if that is in fact what some believe—the beatings will continue until morale improves.
It is okay to be shocked by this situation, and it is okay if it takes time to process the information. Sadness is not an inherently sinful reaction. In fact, though he is not surprised, God is grieved by our sin. We are made in the image of God… complete with emotions! Various bits of information provided in various contexts will provoke different emotions in different people. Praise God for his design!
After watching the theological browbeating that had been taking place for all of those folks who were saddened and chose to voice it, I was extremely encouraged to read this piece by David Murray, which shows a theologically sound man expressing and articulating emotions he felt when he heard about Doug Phillips stepping down. I find David's experience and thoughts lining up closely to my own.
If you enter the virtual room to let us all know how awesome and smart you are, and of course how dumb we all are, you are falling prey to the same trap that got us into this discussion to begin with. No matter what level of education or what camp you're associated with, it is a grievous time when any man falls into sin! Quit wasting time and get on your knees.