Doug Phillips and the Internet

1 Nov

Late this week Doug Phillips, the leader of Vision Forum Ministries, stepped down from his position as leader of the ministry and canceled all speaking engagements after acknowledging an emotional affair with a woman not his spouse. Phillips’ sin is a terrible tragedy. He has deeply wounded his wife and children and will have to rebuild his family relationships. He has broken trust with his fellow believers in his local church and with those who have followed his teachings. It is a terrible thing all the way around.

Phillips is no stranger to controversy. Vision Forum is noted for its strong views on the family and for ties to Reconstructionism or Dominion theology. Phillips was a master marketer, putting out a glossy catalog filled with gender-role oriented products for boys and girls and lots of teaching materials for parents.

Phillips is popular with many home school families and is particularly influential among families who hold to so-called “biblical patriarchy.”

The bottom-line is that very few people who know anything about Doug Phillips have a neutral view of him. Those who disagree with him theologically or who have seen things in him in the past which they don’t admire about him are likely to pile on at a time like this, linking his present sins to his past character and/or his theological persuasion. Those who love and admire Phillips will look at his sin as serious but forgivable and will likely pray for him and his family even as they are grieved over what has happened.

Those who love Phillips will see his letter of resignation as a humble attempt to demonstrate repentance while those who do not admire Phillips will see his letter as manipulative and self-serving and probably covering up something much worse.

Meanwhile, we know very little of what actually happened. All we know is what we have been told but off we go full speed ahead with our assumptions, positive or negative. We believe what we want to believe based on which jersey we wear. The whole idea of wearing jerseys is another article but for now I just acknowledge it as a reality with which believers live.

The phrase the internet has the most trouble with contains only three words . . . TIME WILL TELL. Doug Phillips is not restored to his family because he wrote a nice letter or because he resigned some positions. His character is not reshaped in godly ways because he quit taking speaking engagements. Is what he did a step in the right direction? It certainly seems better than what a lot of other Christian leaders in sinful situations have done, but TIME WILL TELL.

The internet is great for getting information in hand quickly but it is also often a place where thoughtful engagement is outpaced by knee-jerk conclusions drawn from presuppositions rather than real evidence. I for one will be waiting and watching. I will try to pray for Phillips’ wife and children, for Phillips himself and for those he influences. I pray that these events would be somehow turned to a redemptive purpose, even though they are devastating for all involved.


Disclaimer: I’m not saying it’s wrong to ask questions. But waiting for real answers rather than making up answers of our own is the challenge.

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