Saturday, November 2, 2013

Vision Forum and Friends: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Dear friends,

Welcome to my new blog visitors.  This has been a really high traffic post for me, with nearly 3,000 page views from November 1-12 and a total of over 7,000 by the end of May. 
There is a follow-up post linked at the bottom. Also, Vision Forum's non-profit ministry and profit-making business have since closed.   

Yesterday, the Christian blogosphere was abuzz with the news that Doug Phillips, founder of Vision Forum, had stepped down from his ministry responsibilities due to a lengthy inappropriate romantic relationship with a woman other than his wife.  The news saddens me, but doubly so because this ministry and others associated with it had set themselves as the standard of how to have "godly Christian families."  Unfortunately, because of spiritual abuse, legalism, racism and chauvinism at the core (in my opinion and that of many others), they have ended up destroying many of the families they sought to instruct.  It is true that I used to admire them and buy their books.  I got sucked in out of a desire to do things right in my family. Since then, I've had to dig out of the damage that I caused or allowed in my ignorance. I have already apologized to my own children, but to others whom I led into this mindset through my encouragements and endorsements, my sincerest apologies are due. 

And now, years later, what a tragic blow to the family of one of Vision Forum's own leaders. My heartfelt prayers are with them, especially his wife and children.

As I lay in bed in the dark and quiet of the morning, I thought about what went wrong.  I couldn't help but wonder if Vision Forum lost its focus -- if they put their vision on the wrong thing.

You see, when it's all about....

  • Roles and rules instead of love and liberty
  • The system instead of the Savior
  • Following Pharisees instead of following Fairest Lord Jesus
  • Controlling others instead of controlling yourself
  • The earthly father instead of the Heavenly Father
  • Silencing and shaming instead of giving voice to the victims
  • Intimidation instead of inspiration
  • Authoritarian dogma instead of authentic dignity
... then it's time to "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace."

There are many more articles on the web that you can Google.  I'm sure you'll get quite an education.

I'd also like to share some of the other posts in my Gender & Authority series.

That's enough for now.  I'd love to know what you think, so leave a comment below!

P.S. in April 2014: At the top of this post, I mentioned that I would be writing a follow-up.   Now there is a lawsuit and a flurry of posts on other sites.  Here is mine: On Patriarchy, Scandal, Abuse... and Grace.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles


  1. Terrific post, Virginia; I have so many folks I would have liked to relate to more deeply during our homeschooling years who were trapped in ties to legalistic thinking like this. I have a deep sense of loss about that. My insistence that these formulaic approaches are not just a distraction, but dangerous, has cost me more relationships, even recently. BUT there are a whole lot of folks who want to reset their lives to True North in Jesus, to move toward safety, health and Freedom in relationships, and who need love and support and encouragement while they deprogram and heal -- thank you for being a leader in that movement toward authenticity and healing in Jesus.

  2. I too, at one time, admired those who followed Gothard, or Phillips, or any of the other patriocentric homeschooling leaders. Watching those families, I truly believed my life/home/children would be so much better utilizing the rules, standards, regulations, etc. that these men had set forth. At the time, I had undiagnosed health issues (later I was found to have fibromyalgia & CFIDS) and for some bizarre reason my thinking was that if I could just get my act together, everything would be perfect. The damage my foolishness caused our family was almost irrepairable. We did loose our oldest son for almost 5 years due to a betrothal "gone bad". But God in His wisdom & mercy gave us back everything we have lost and so much more.

    I feel it is vitally important that those of us who have experienced the destructiveness of these patriarchal ministries continue to speak up, as you do. We continue to watch families be sucked in to these belief systems, and have lost dear & close friends because of it. Women, in particular, need to know who they are in Christ; that they are not just a subset of their father or husband, and they are FREE to hear from God for their own selves.

  3. Strong post! Wish all homeschoolers could catch the message. I do feel there is much more than being stated by Doug Phillips, and there is also a girl, woman on the other side of this story. What about her? I feel angry at first because of all the false teaching of this group and its leaders and materials they will continue to sell. I am not sure any adjustments will be made to their message because their message sells to families who so want to think there is a formula - a way of doing family "right." If there was a formula for leadership in the home - for daughters and fathers - for sons - for education - for women's roles, for (fill in the blank)......., we would not need a Savior! Formulas will always be easier than relationship, but formulas without relationship are destructive. Thanks Virginia

  4. I got somewhat sucked into it for a time but quickly realized this type of legalism was a major threat to my sobriety. That's really what saved me...none of this "Christianity" was anything like I witnessed in earlier days. It was toxic and works centered. Still, we took some damage and are still climbing out.

  5. Like good Bereans, I believe it is important to measure everything up against the Word of God. As in many ministries, there is a lot of truth and good things presented by those who teach biblical principles. Please don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Like the early church, it is easy sometimes to look to a "leader" instead of the Savior (think Paul, Apollos, etc.). Whether in our local church or with any other ministry, we must weigh everything carefully against the Truth of God's Word and see what does & doesn't line up. "There is none righteous, no not one." This holds true for all of us! We have seen many families sucked into making leaders or pastors heroes, thinking that somehow they have more of a revelation from God than "normal" people. Praise God we all have access to God's Word & Spirit! We purpose to apply the truth, and throw out all the "added" stuff. That said, there is a lot of great material out there, and as long as we don't become legalistic and lose sight of God's grace, we don't have to toss the stuff that is helpful because a leader made a bad choice (we can of course toss the extra legalistic fluff). It's not about the leader. It's about God's will for our families and walking in the Spirit. Thanks so much for sharing, Virginia!

  6. Virginia, your blog post is excellent. While I'm sad for the Phillips family and for the woman who was involved, I can't say that I'm surprised. VF teachings put men on pedestals (which leads to pride, which leads to falling) and they put women and children in the vulnerable position of being "under" those men. Under their control. What was Jack's line in "Sparrows," anyway? Something like "Sex, money, and power are the forces that drive every conflict…"

  7. Your comments make me smile! It's been a hard road for so many families stuck in the system, and I just want to see them set free.

  8. I remember seeing them at the homeschooling conventions, and feeling somehow left out, because their way didn't work out for our family. Now after reading these comments, I find I am so very thankful that our family was left out of it!

    We, too, were shunned by many of the homeschooling community, because we did not follow them. Good friendships were torn apart because of them. They have much to answer for...

    1. They do indeed have much to answer for. I can also think of ways God graciously steered me away from these teachings.

  9. There was a day, back when VF was just forming, when I believe Doug Phillips had a true vision--I believe he saw a problem with a society that threatened to destroy the family, and he stepped up to the plate as a voice box for the mission to preserve it. The words of this young father had passion and commitment--ideals we shared regarding our young family. As we continued to homeschool and saw VF grow, we saw it morph and change... and people get hurt. Although I do believe the root of its mission was still to preserve the family, it is run by man. Literally, one man. And as we've seen over and over through history, power corrupts. No man is infallible. Over the years, where my respect has wained for him as I heard more and more stories, I was happy to see the options for new ways to solidify the original plan, through encouraging filmmakers to take a stand for wholesome entertainment, patriotic projects (the WWII Normandy project), and other things like that. The connections VF had made stretched far. Looking at what has happened now, tells me one thing. The enemy is always prowling, seeking where he can rob and destroy. His mission is to rip out the heart of what is built to honor the Father. How can we not see that the enemy would attack and lay traps and tempt especially those who are in the limelight? Talk about a huge blow to all VF originally stood for... and all those associated with them are threatened to get pulled into the muck and doubted and questioned. What happened to Doug Phillips is heartbreaking and SOOO disappointing, like a sentry who fell asleep on guard and the enemy was able to sneak into the camp and do major damage. Men fall. I've seen it over and over in relationships all around me--in church and out. We are not perfect by far, which is why we need a Saviour SOOO desperately! If Doug Phillips has truly repentant and is reconciling with those he's harmed, good. However, the consequential damage he has done will be with him permanently. The picture I see is much broader than that though, and that is what really hurts my heart... They say if you take out the leader, the others will disperse. The enemy has won a battle, although we know he will never win the war. Even so, where he has wiped out a group that ultimately (although misguided at times) stood for the Biblical family, instead he has now cast guilt, shame, and doubt. Our country is already heading down a path that is bent on squelching the Christian faith... Where some have tried to take a firm stand against the erosion of our beliefs, now yet another is taken out of the fight, and the ripple affect of his sins are far reaching. We need to be praying that out of this can come good; that others will vigilantly stand in the gap and fight... that the enemy will be stopped from corrupting those who take that stand and from those who influence our children.

    1. Anonymous, I appreciate your thoughtful extended comment. There is much to think about here!

  10. If you have not read my essays on VF's 'Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy', please do:

  11. i have done lots of research on patriarchy/complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. I have read many blogs that espouse each "system" and why they believe their view to be the proper translation of God's word. Here is what I have found.

    The pat/comp blogs---
    1-- claim they have the exact truth of what god meant man to be and woman to be and what their roles are to be in life
    2-- they extrapolate to much detail what those roles are to the point of minutia and micromanaging. .and seem to put many more rules and requirements on women than on men
    3---many of them use only the english surface translation though there are some who make their case and points by using the greek word meanings.
    4--- if you disagree with them they say you are going against God, even saying a person is sinning if they do not follow pat/comp.
    5---they use their beliefs to make rules that would have every christian family look and live like a family from 1950's white america (honey, I'm home) --they do not realize that black/Mexican women have had to work in the homes of others for years as maids and cooks and that women in 3rd world countries live in little more than 1 room shacks and their life revolves around working outside the home in fields and going to market.
    6--- will block you if you disagree with them, thus not allowing for normal discussion of why or why not their views might be what god actually meant.

    on the other hand egal blogs
    1-present their case by telling what certain key words the ancient languages mean, many of them having been educated in those languages AND the culture of the time that scripture was written trying to give a view of what life was like at the time that scripture was penned. .
    2- they do not say you are sinning if you do not believe what they write -they simply present their evidence
    3- will not block you if you present a different opinion

    here is what one blog wrote to me after i told them why i did not believe in pat/comp teachings. They accused me of slurring them because i disagreed ----------------"(Mr. X has sought to faithfully study and teach God’s principles from His Word. “Patriarchy” is normally a slur to speak ill of the male-lead order God set up in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. “Legalism” is normally a slur for those that have standards stricter than we feel is necessary. Some of that may feel like micromanagement, but it is straight out of the Bible. Those that long to see the Kingdom of God come, and His will done, on earth as they read it in Scripture are drawn to Mr. X---- Others find him very offensive. But . . . he will never change.