Doug Phillips' Patriarchy & The Easy Way

A lot of people have flippity-flipped out over the fall of Doug Phillips, the founder of Vision Forum and a leader in a loose movement labelled "Biblical Patriarchy" either by its promoters or detractors, I can't remember which. Since Doug Phillips resigned after confessing to having an unconsummated but inappropriate relationship with a woman who was not his wife, his ministry/business (that description is not a condemnation) has collapsed.

There's been a lot of crowing over that. "Biblical Patriarchy" is being called a heresy, connections are being drawn between Phillips and truly wicked people, and I-told-you-sos and he-had-it-comings are flying thick and fast.

Yesterday, not for the first time, I clicked on a link about how wicked Doug Phillips and his teachings are, with links to material written by Mr. Phillips as proof of how evil he is. As I expected, because, again, not for the first time, there was nothing there. That is, the accusations were not proven by Phillips' content. It all would have had to be induced.

I am tired of hysteria, rage, whining, and gloating. And not just about Phillips and "Biblical Patriarchy". I'm tired of bitches being bitches. Sorry, Christian brothers, but there it is.

Lots of my friends like Mark Driscoll. I think that his blue jeans are lame and that his passion for MMA is distasteful and un-Christian.  I don't really like Mark Driscoll. But I despise those who try to drum up charges of this or that hurtful teaching or awful church policy as if it were Driscoll who had ruined your marriage or made you commit adultery or made you sit under some mean under-pastor.

When something with legs shows up, as so often with the leaders of men it does, these same people have been waiting in the wings for just this moment. A legitimate accusation of plagiarism emerges against Pastor Driscoll. This is worth exploring, and worth being addressed.

But then the carrion birds come in. "I told you so." "I always knew." And "of course Mark Driscoll is a liar, because [insert causa bitchis here]." Mark Driscoll is a liar because of, I don't know, his teachings on marriage, his teachings on women, his teachings on sexuality, his video screens and stupid t-shirts.

Crazy idea: how about you make your case that Mark Driscoll is a liar by arguing that he's a liar? Talk about the plagiarism story. Explore it. Work it out. With dignity and love and strong words. If Mark Driscoll has plagiarized, that is not a vindication of your anger at how he talks about masculinity or ecclesiology.

Doug Phillips has fallen. Remember orthodox doctrines of sin and forgiveness and grace? All the sinners of the Bible? It's pretty easy to argue that he should no longer be leading his ministry. Well, he resigned at the same time he confessed. And by the way, he confessed. You don't get to dismiss "Biblical Patriarchy" or whatever because of Doug Phillips' sin. You have to deal with it on its own terms. If it's wrong, it's wrong. Open your Bible and say so. You can even say it's pernicious and harmful and that Doug Phillips was wicked for teaching it. But don't start trotting out his sin as if it proved everything.


My family is a homeschooling family of seven (that's five kids). In our circles, we're under-childed. We live in an "underprivileged" downtown neighborhood and keep chickens. My wife hasn't had a job since we had kids. She's an artist, a painter. I do freelance work in this and that. We're weird and we hang out with weird people. Because of some things I'll say in the next section, I want to mention that we're not missionaries and we often keep to ourselves. We don't have some sort of super-Christian ministry. We simply do a life that requires pushing against the flow. My in-laws, by the way, hate it.

We have a few friends who enjoyed Vision Forum. They sold resources that were right in the wheelhouse of many large homeschooling families. So we got a couple of their catalogs years ago. We didn't like them. I specifically remember looking at the toys. The boys who modeled in the catalog got swords and armor; the girls got washboards. That annoyed wifey and me, so we didn't look at their stuff anymore.

Many of our friends continued to appreciate their stuff, and that didn't bother us one bit.

It may be that some Christians have the right to be angry at Doug Phillips. I haven't seen much righteous anger; what's floating around out there is almost exclusively vicious gloating.

I am unsympathetic to your story of how you were led astray by a book. You can dislike an author for writing a bad book, but you are responsible for your own folly. In your folly is a sin that needs to be forgiven. And it is possible that your lack of responsibility is fueling your bitterness.

Will teachers be held accountable by Almighty God for leading people astray? Absolutely. God will judge and vindicate. Look to your own household.


I mentioned hysteria, rage, whining, and gloating.

What bothers me most about these twa corbies attacks is that they are done by hearers, not doers. The man who attacks Mark Driscoll is the one who was disappointed at a Mars Hill small group, not the one disappointed after moving his entire family and failing in urban mission. The man who attacks Doug Phillips is the one who wants to be nice to his wife, not the man who homeschools eight children. (Go ahead, leave a comment about how you're a polychilded homeschooler who hates Doug Phillips.)

Pick out his bonny blue eyes.

It is not only ideas that have rhetorical weight. Actually, I'll go ahead and say that ideas have no rhetorical weight at all; they have rhetorical value. It is lives that have weight. The rhetorical weight of a man who works in corporate America, lives in suburbia, and has two children who both attend government school is pretty low. Sorry, pal. Doesn't make you wrong about something, it just...makes it less weighty.

I think we ought to have some admiration for Christians who try big things. I also think that if we're doers of big things we'll be much less bitchy about great men when they fail or go the wrong way. Don't you have better things to be doing with yourself than tearing Doug Phillips and "Biblical Patriarchy" down? But you don't, because you're living an easy life. Yes, you have to work and pay your bills, but you've never made any decisions that run counter to our culture's flow.

You might find it salutary to move to the country, have ten kids, exclude them from government school, and raise some chickens.

You might be benefited by leaving suburbia, planting an Acts 29 church, putting your kids in an inner city government school, and starting a community garden.

Either way.

The world is constantly seducing with an easy way. That doesn't mean that every hard way is right, but we ought to be suspicious of the normal way of life. Crazy radical Christians ought to get more of the benefit of the doubt, and a little less condescension. Maybe my wife wants to wear full-length skirts and do laundry by hand and bear seventeen babies. Did you ever ask her?

Here's why the rage: the ease of your life is being called into question. You're angry because you think that crazy Christians make you look bad. You're angry because crazy Christians seem to make demands of you.

Well, maybe they do. Don't get mad, little man. Get big.

Stop pecking at eyeballs. Tell me why you do the way you do. Tell me why you are where you are. If you don't know, maybe it's time to make a big decision.

And don't be surprised at how easily the haters will be able to tear it apart, and how viciously they will do so.


  1. Proponents of feminism would never admit that the "rhetorical weight of a man who works in corporate America, lives in suburbia, and has two children who both attend government school" is less weighty, especially when accompanied by a "wife [who] wants to wear full-length skirts and do laundry by hand and bear seventeen babies." This is the same crowd of hooligans who argue that a gender-transcendent God is theologically plausible. Some may not understand that the breakdown of the family unit has been framed by radical feminist ideals and principles. Unfortunately, the feminist-provoked breakdown of defined gender roles (with maximum fluidity for independent interpretation in the context of a marriage and/or relationship) has resulted in what may very well be the highest proportion of non-nuclear families in the history of mankind. That is increasingly detrimental for this ever-changing world and is highly unwise as a framework with which to have and raise children.

    Biblical patriarchy (I don't know much about it and this is my first time reading about BP) sounds like a return to familial idealism. It doesn't seem to condemn people of the 21st century to some Luddite existence and hearkens back to a simple time, one of intentional living and being voluntarily simple. The world has lost that zeal and it is up to us to instill a zest for living among our friends and colleagues once again. Feminism doesn't seem to mind the breakdown of the family unit. The movement also doesn't seem to mind that when women are brainwashed into thinking that society owes them something for "generations of oppression instituted by an evil patriarchy" it is okay to divorce your spouse, sue him for alimony and child support, and boldly go into the depths of independence while their children are raised without a father.

    Families are the basic unit of society. Feminism would not have you agree with that and would have its followers believe that individuals are what makes up society. Well, sure, technically that's true. But when individuals begin to follow a dystopian ideology that promotes the breakdown of the family unit, it becomes increasingly apparent that the movement is subverting itself and its purported priority of equality for women results in heightened expectations for women that they cannot possibly handle without the help of a spouse or partner. You know, like, with child-rearing.

    Biblical patriarchy seems to be one movement of a few now that symbolize a return to simplicity and upon preliminary review, it seems like a decent principle to endorse for the sake of promoting the growth of stable families and a humanist approach to the evolution of modern society.

  2. I get what you're saying here and I think it's on the mark.

    While not an exact parallel, I think a similar situation has come up with regard to the Pearl family teaching, quiverfull movement, etc. There is certainly a lot biblically wrong with those movements, but too often I have read stories of women who "escaped", without offering a single mea culpa. They say stuff like, I hit my kids because I was so brainwashed and my ex husband was evil. Rather than, I was an abusive mother until God convicted me. Which is especially troubling because if anyone is familiar with abusive family dynamics, you know that the abuse is always someone else's fault, never the abuser's fault. Like the bad parent will say, I hit you because you made me mad that you weren't eating, and you should have told me you had a stomachache because I might not have gotten so mad, so it's still your fault that you got hit. So women who blame the Pearls and their ex husband for their own abusive behavior haven't learned anything.

    1. You've hit the nail on the head. Thanks for reading.

  3. You sir, are all kinds of awesome. I have no idea who either of these men are, but your ideas are wonderful and your words are beautiful. It makes me very, very happy that there are men like you in the world.

    1. That's kind of you to say. Glad you dig the blog.

    2. While I agree (thank you indeed, Joffre), I find it somewhat humorous this comment comes from the pseudonym "Alchemist". Just sayin'.

  4. finally . a balanced perspective!! YAY!!- Lorinda

  5. Personally, I'm very disappointed. I was not a devotee of Doug Phillips (he's never been able to properly separate Law and Gospel), but I will admit he was an inspiration to me 7 years ago to make some major changes in my life... changes that caused me to focus more on my family than my career, and for that, I'm honestly grateful.

    I'm surrounded by people in my field who are professionally successful but personally and morally bankrupt. It has been getting to the point where I honestly wonder if it's possible to cultivate and nurture a successful, influential career and raise a godly family at the same time and equally well. It just always feels like, "something's gotta give."

    But Doug Phillips was someone who appeared (and I've always been keenly aware it is just appearances, even before the public fall) to have achieved what I desire for my family. Maybe, just maybe it's possible to do this. He seemingly had it all: blessed with family, children, honor, respect, wealth, influence, experience, adventure... all in abundance and he just pissed on all of it, and then lit it on fire.

    So I'm disappointed, and a little frightened (that something like this could happen to me), but maybe I'm also just a little more content with my particular station in life.


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