The orthodox Christian theology of Hadley Robinson

The Demise of Vision Forum

by Hadley Robinson

It was with great sadness that I recently learned of the demise of Vision Forum and its founder Doug Phillips.  It was a result of the same old, same old: man’s intractable foolishness with respect to sex, money, and power.  In Mr. Phillips’ case it was an unholy and illicit attraction to a young women in his church. 

He was the epitome of the home school family and someone I respected and even supported.  His humiliation and disgrace have affected a great number of Christians who have taken seriously their Biblical responsibility to educate their children rather than leave it in the hands of the gross heathen.  There are some who chose, to one degree or another, not to go the home school route but find alternatives to public education, especially at the elementary school level.  Suffice it to say, some public schools have escaped the clutches of the moral relativists, the depraved, the ant-Christian bigots, the Communists, the leftists, the environmentalists, and the rest of the devil’s brood.  Blessed is the parent who finds such a school.  They are rare. 

What sorts of things other than immoral conduct contributed to yet another disaster for the Church?

One can find some pre-cursors in the seeds sown during the Reformation.  Its humanistic origins – the worth, glory, and intrinsic nobility of the individual – have filtered down to this day in the Protestant church.  Nothing is shared to a greater extent among all Protestant churches than the concept of the lone crusader leading the faithful.  It is everywhere from the small independent church on the corner to huge organizations built around a single man like the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. 

The important aspect of accountability to the body of Christ is usually missing in these organizations regardless of their claims to the contrary.  Only the most egregious misconduct filters through their hand-picked “board members” and then it is done for the sake of self-preservation. 

Charismatic individuals drill the Internet and mailboxes with slick appeals for money – the mother’s milk of both politics and popular religion.  Women marry men based on nice sounding words without thoroughly checking them out.  A bit later, they learn the sad truth – they were deceived.  In the same way, they send money to organizations and people of which they have no personal knowledge.  Often enough these organizations are fronts for the personally ambitious who engage in scare tactics or some other sort of hubris.  “End AIDS and poverty in Africa.” “Save America from the Communists.” “Stop homosexualism.” “Evangelize the world.”  “I have the secret that will end all problems in the world.” And on it goes.  There is rarely any independent analysis of the claims and goals of these people.  All the while they take funds and talent from local bodies of Christ. 

It is amazing the extent of people’s faith and credulity in men and the Devil.  If some man says he loves some woman, it must be true.  If some charismatic leader says he can save the world with my help, it must be true.  If the Serpent says God is a liar, it must be true (the Eve Syndrome).  However, if God says not to worry about troubling events in one's life, it makes no sense at all (Mt.  6:25 et al). 

The Creator of the universe does not need anyone’s money.  In fact, the Bible is explicit concerning a man’s wealth: God gave it to him to take care of himself, his family, the ministers of his local church, and the poor that live around him.  His family includes his children and his heirs. 

There is nothing in Scripture that suggests that Christians are to support any sort of ministry outside of the local church.   The issue is accountability.   Unless some work for God is right under one's nose, it is likely that things are going on that would not meet with one's approval. 

But what is the Church?  Each Christian can only know the visible group of other local Christians with whom he sees and meets with regularly. 

But what does any of this have to do with the unfortunate Mr.  Phillips?

Simply, God the Creator did not give us the Church so we could marvel at it.  It is the sole organization on earth that has His love, His blessing, and His help.  It is the local and earthly connection a man has with his Savior and God – a sort of earthly kingdom while we abide in the closest thing to Hell we will ever know. 

Focus on the Family is not the Church.  Ravi Zacharias International Ministries is not the Church.  Campus Crusade for Christ is not the Church.  Institute in Basic Life Principles is not the Church.  Vision forum is not the Church. 

These organizations have all drained gifted men, women, and support away from the local Church. 

The worst aspect of all of them is that no one can accurately know what they are really up to, as with Vision Forum.  Who in the world suspected that Mr.  Phillips would train would jump off the tracks for the reasons it did?

The fall of this organization was not sudden.  Mr.  Phillips was not going along toiling for Christ with love and godliness and then suddenly had some lapse in judgment like King David.  According to World Magazine, the liaison with the young woman had been going on for years in one way or another. 

Could such a thing happen in the local Church?  Yes, but it would be more difficult to hide.  If Mr.  Phillips had been one of the pastors or elders of a church, his attentions to a young woman would have been far easier to notice. 

We do not know many details but where was Mrs.  Phillips over the years?  Was she that blind?  Did he have so much influence and power that he was above any scrutiny? 

Even our beloved Apostle Paul did not put himself above accountability to the ordinary brother in Christ (2 Cor.  8:19).   If Paul thought it wise to take such precautions for the sake of the Gospel's reputation, what about the rest of us?

In this sense, the local church with God-fearing leadership provides much safety to everyone.  Shepherds can shepherd and oversee.  They must do this for the sake of the sheep who, all too often, wander off. 

If anyone who ever lived could have started some personal ministry, it would have been the Apostle Paul.  How does “Paul of Tarsus Evangelistic Association” sound?  He relied not on slick marketing, fine sounding words, boatloads of money, or the wisdom of this world but on the raw Power of the Holy Spirit who could, among other things, raise the dead – physically and spiritually.  He did not need millions of dollars to hold crusades, run public media campaigns, or distribute millions of books on "how to become a Christian. "

It is bad enough putting money into the hands of men one knows well and may see every week.  Putting money into the hands of men we don’t even know personally?  Finding a godly husband on the Internet?  Hoping that the American public will elect a godly leader? 

Despite her blemishes and sins, God cares for the Church.  This is where the faithful should give their time, their talent, and their gifts.  At least there is some oversight.  The local church can decide if Focus on the Family or some missionary needs money. 

Sober and godly men of character, gravity, reputation, stability, love, faithfulness, and sense – while led by Spirit – can make better choices than any individual, especially the unfortunate women described in 2 Tim.  3:6.  Godly and trusted oversight is not possible from untested men or men who have dealt treacherously with the wives of their youth. 

The earliest Christian catechisms were adamant against people’s throwing money at anything and everything that came along.  The 2nd century Didache advised Christians to hold on to their money so tightly that it would get covered with the sweat from their hands.  Imposters, charismatics, frauds, lone-rangers, crackpots, and heretics were just as common then as today. 
Jesus needs money to do His work.  I will do His work for you if you give me money. 
Mr.  Phillips told the world,
Be like me.  Look at my wife and eight children.  If you just do what I tell you to do, you will also experience the same.  While you are at it, send money, buy my stuff to spread the message, etc. 
 But inside, he was a fraud, deceiving the young woman he “mentored”, including his church.  What is more, we now know Bill Gothard lived a lie for some unknown period, molesting dozens of women, even a 15 year old.  How did he get away with this for so long?  Could the pastor of your church molest women of the congregation for years and not be called to account?

In sum, mass marketing is a modern phenomenon with respect to the amazing breadth of its scope.  Too many in the Church are convinced of its value at the expense of the local church.  And the charismatic men who lead these organizations are more than content with the status quo – the money just keeps rolling in. 

What are we doing to prevent more tragedies like what happened to Doug Phillips and now Bill Gothard?  Jim Dobson scared people to death about the homosexual anschluss and in came floods of donations.  In the end what good did it to do except benefit the people at Focus?  Were things slowed down even by a small fraction?  Focus on the Family will not tell you that it was a failure. 

Where are the tens of millions who “accepted Christ” at the crusades of Bill Bright and Billy Graham?  If these people are true converts, how is it that our nation cannot understand something so simple as what marriage is?1  That partial birth abortion is acceptable in the United States demonstrates that this nation has become barbaric.  The people of the U.S. are no longer good. 

The Pharisee Gamaliel spoke the truth, “...if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.”  The non-church organizations are in a state of denial. 

But the Church will not fail – it will remain until Christ returns – maybe not here but somewhere.  If the local church had been doing her job for the last hundred years, maybe the United States would not be in the wretched moral state that it is.  If more pastors had the courage to confront sin in their congregations rather than excuse it, would not more of the heathen take note that God is with us (1 Pet.  2:12)?  As it is, we are a laughingstock.  The crusades come and go.  Where is the fruit – the fruit that lasts and lasts?

Give your time, talent, and treasure to your local church.  Tip O’Neil, a brilliant Democrat leader of the House of Representatives for decades said, “All politics is local.” We can add, “… and so is religion.”

1According to a recent item in the Wall Street Journal, some 70% of all Americans now think homosexual marriage is a good idea.