Saturday, November 2, 2013

Observers Respond to Doug Phillips' Resignation

As discussed in a prior post, Doug Phillips resigned from Vision Forum Ministries on October 30th, citing an "inappropriate" relationship with a woman. Several conservative Christian commentators have responded to his resignation with approval, but also with talk of Satan and "enemies".

First, in a November 1st post at Blog & Mablog, Doug Wilson was pleased that Phillips repented over his affair and stepped down from Visiom Forum Ministries. However, he condemned "the snark shown by those who see such things as an occasion for venting their spleen," calling such condemnation "entirely predictable." Wilson quoted 2 Samuel 12, in which the prophet Nathan rebukes David by saying, "“by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme . . .” Wilson claimed that the controversy would allow the "enemies of the Lord" to be "readily identified". (Hat tip to Love, Joy, Feminism)

Next, Christian reconstructionist Steve Halbrook, author of God Is Just: A Defense of the Old Testament Civil Laws, defended Phillips. In a November 1st blog post at Theonomy Resources, Halbrook anticipated that "many of those who hate Doug Phillips because he promotes biblical male headship will probably use this as an occasion to attack him." He urged observers to offer Phillips grace, as all people are sinners, he argued. Halbrook applauded Phillips for confessing his sin and taking responsibility for his affair by stepping down from Vision Forum Ministries.

I'm disappointed that Wilson and Halbrook seem more concerned about the criticism being lobbed at Phillips than Phillips' transgression against his family. Doug Phillips made a career out of celebrating marriage and family (or rather, Christian Patriarchy interpretations of marriage and family). If he was secretly betraying those principles, his hypocrisy should be criticized. By branding critics as haters and "enemies of the Lord", Wilson and Halbrook dismiss critics' legitimate observations about Doug Phillips and the Christian Patriarchy Movement.

Finally, in a November 1st commentary at HeadHeartHand Blog, David Murray argued that Satan targets a person's strengths and the foundations of a religious leader's ministry in order to damage Christianity and delight "the world".
"Does Satan attack our strengths or our weaknesses? Does he try to destroy us where we’re strong or where we’re weak? For most Christians, it’s usually our weaknesses that the devil targets. But for Christian leaders it’s usually their strengths, the areas they’ve built ministries upon, the moral and spiritual qualities they are best known for promoting.

Why? Why does the devil go for the citadel rather than for the little cracks in the wall?

Because the damage is so much greater, the fallout is more horrendous, the church is more discouraged, and the world is most delighted when a Christian leader falls in the one place he really planted his flag and made a stand."
Murray observed that the Devil allegedly attacks areas where particular religious leaders lead and speak out. For example, religious leaders who condemn pornography may consume porn, leaders who preach against materialism may have greedy hearts, and leaders who blast homosexuality may find the Devil "kindling that lust" within them. Murray indirectly points out what many observers have noticed for years: religious leaders often indulge in the very things they "doth protest too much" against.

Murray praised Phillips as a strong leader who promoted Christian family life, "courageously taking a public stand against the weakening of Christian marriage and parenting." However, Murray also expressed his doubts about Phillips' leadership, admitting that some parts of the Christian Patriarchy Movement had become proud and condescending toward dissenters.
"I must admit, over recent years, I did worry at times that Phillips’ leadership and some parts of his wider homeschool/full quiver/patriarchy movement were coming across as a bit arrogant and overly self-confident. Although I valued so much of what they were promoting, I’d grown increasingly uneasy at the somewhat condemning and condescending tone towards any who did not sign on 100% with that agenda. Sometimes I feared that the Gospel of grace seemed to be lost in the midst of all that we were meant to be and to be doing as Christian fathers and mothers."
Phillips' infidelity may serve as an opportunity for Vision Forum's allies to cultivate humility and self-evaluation, he hoped.

Murray's commentary was positive in some ways. He acknowledged flaws in Phillips' leadership and larger movement, encouraging grace for those who disagreed with the movement. He did not slam or silence dissenters, but rather looked askance at Phillips' movement for its condescension toward them.

However, Murray's focus on Satan troubled me. Blaming Satan for human transgressions is an easy way to lessen one's responsibility for immoral acts. I don't believe for a moment that a wicked cosmic entity cajoled Phillips into having an affair. Rather, Phillips made a conscious choice to indulge in adultery, and he bears full responsibility for that choice. Whatever fallout follows this debacle rests solely on human actors, not infernal ones.

As news of Phillips' resignation spreads, let's hope that commentators respond to the news by holding Phillips' accountable, not by deflecting attention elsewhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.