The “TBB” in the name of this post means that it is part of The Big Box series. If you’re new to Scarlet Letters, read the introductory post to see what The Big Box is all about.
Before we start, I’d like to apologize for the delay in publishing this installment of The Big Box. Tax weekend, trips to the other end of the state to pick up my first car, and fixing the sunroof on said car explains most of it, but The Wise Woman’s Guide to Blessing Her Husband’s Vision is also the first two-CD set in my Big Box and so there was double the normal amount of material to sift through. What this all adds up to is that I’ll be splitting The Wise Woman’s Guide in half – the “blue” half this week, dealing with Phillips’ ideas about men, and the “pink” half next week, dealing with his ideas about women. There will, of course, be some overlap, but as you might expect after last week’s lecture, the topics are distinct enough to warrant individual treatment.
Catch the visionLet’s start with Phillips’ most favorite topic in the whole wide world and one of his two core concepts for men: “vision.” This word appears not only in the title of the lecture, but also in the name of Phillips’ ministry, Vision Forum. His source for the word is made clear on his website, where he quotes Proverbs 29:18 in the KJV:
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
If this seems unclear, perhaps a different translation would help:
Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law. (NKJV)
In a footnote, the NKJV lists “prophetic vision” as an alternate reading for “revelation.” As it turns out, “vision” (in the literal sense) is not a bad rendering of the Hebrew in Proverbs 29:18, which is chazown:
…a vision, spoken of a divine vision or dream, specially a vision from God respecting future events, prophetic vision; generally a divine revelation; an oracle…
A look at other instances of chazown in the Old Testament shows that it’s frequently used in connection with prophets, or at least seems to refers to some kind of direct communication from God:
Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. 1 Samuel 3:1
Then You spoke in a vision to Your holy one, and said: “I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people.” Psalm 89:19
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concering Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Isaiah 1:1
Her gates have sunk into the ground; He has destroyed and broken her bars. Her king and her princes are among the nations; the Law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the Lord. Lamentations 2:9
As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:17
So what does Phillips mean by “vision”? He certainly uses the word a lot. He says that wives need to “expand their husband’s vision”; that a man and his wife should have a “unified vision”; and that it’s wrong for a wife to be the “visionary” of her family. However, in spite of all that, I haven’t yet heard him actually define this key word. I could hazard a guess based on the context of the above statements, which would be that “vision” is some kind of spiritual plan or goal for a family reached after lots of prayer on the part of the husband. But that’s only my guess, not Phillips’ definition.
One thing is clear, however, and that is that “vision” is an exclusively male prerogative. Phillips has stated several times, in several different lectures, that wives should not be “visionary” but should share their husband’s “vision.” He also claims that a lack of “vision” is one of the primary failings of today’s men.
So how accurate is Phillips’ vision of “vision”? If he’s using the Biblical definition (chazown) outlined above, then he runs into some problems. There were at least three women described as prophetesses in the Old Testament – Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4) and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14, 2 Chronicles 34:22). Since chazown is so closely connected to prophecy, what grounds are there for supposing that these women did not have the same chazown as their male counterparts? If they did, then clearly the “vision” mentioned in the verse Phillips uses as the motto for his entire ministry is something that God gave to women as well.
This is only reinforced by the New Testament, where there are yet more references to women prophesying (Luke 2:36, Acts 21:9, 1 Cor. 11:5). In fact, Peter takes this to be one of the main signs of the arrival of the New Covenant at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-18, citing Joel 2:28-29). Since Phillips stated last week that it was a “perversion of God’s natural order” for a woman to be the “visionary” of a family, what is Mr. Jones to do if his wife can prophesy but he can’t? Did God “pervert” His own order when He distributed spiritual gifts to the Jones family? (I’d also like to note that the only recorded prophetesses in the New Testament are all single women or widows.)
Perhaps an objection could be raised that when Phillips says “vision,” he does not mean prophecy. I’m actually inclined to agree, but this only raises more questions for him than it answers. If Phillips is not using the Hebrew definition of “vision” in Proverbs 29, then where did he get his definition? What is his definition, anyway? And why is he redefining chazown in the first place when it seems to have a clear Biblical meaning?
Phillips also states in the lecture that a man’s vision cannot be properly executed without a wife because a wife is a man’s “completer.” This is yet more evidence that, no matter how much Phillips talks about a supposed “gift of celibacy,” he does not practically recognize one in any way, as the above statement makes it logically impossible for an unmarried man, even one “gifted” with celibacy, to fully or correctly carry out his all-important vision.
(A brief side note before we move on: to give you an idea of just how important “vision” is to Phillips, he uses 1 Peter 3:1-6 to instruct wives to submit to “visionless” Christian husbands who “don’t get it” and attempt to win them over via good behavior. However, it is quite clear that the husbands described in 1 Peter 3:1-6 are unsaved. In his defense, Phillips does recognize this fact and state that a “visionless” man can be a Christian, but the fact that he would even make this comparison disturbs me and in any case, tells us a lot about the centrality of “vision” in his theology. I plan to explore this in more depth next week.)
A man with a mission
Phillips’ other core concept for men is that of “mission.” He claims that men “define themselves by their mission” and then explains a man’s “mission” as follows:
He is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth, to serve God, to make disciples of nations, teaching them all things whatsoever I commanded.
I take issue with this definition not because of its content, but because of its implied limitations. It’s not a man’s mission to serve God. It’s a human’s mission! And the same goes for the other parts of Phillips’ statement. The phrase “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” is the answer to the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s famous Question One:
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
Reading the questions that follow, however, it’s clear that “man” here is intended to mean “humans,” not “males.” As for the Scriptural references, God commanded both Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (in fact human “multiplication” requires both sexes) and gave them both dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28) – and I don’t know anyone who would argue that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) applies only to men! Phillips has done here what he did in his lecture on manliness – taken universal virtues and commands and limited them only to men. It seems to be a bad habit of his.
Another idea Phillips talked about a lot is that of men “extending their influence” and “expanding their borders.” Like “vision,” what this means is never quite made clear. I would assume it has something to do with the idea of “dominion” (another of Phillips’ favorites – see last week’s article), but whatever it is, the wife seems to be the main vehicle through which it occurs since she is her husband’s representative (this will be discussed in more depth next week). Phillips also seemed to connect it strongly to the idea of honor, and claims that if a man’s subordinates (wife, children and servants – yes, he actually mentioned servants!) honor him, they will receive honor themselves and thus bring honor on the entire household.
Throughout The Wise Woman’s Guide, Phillips tried to give his female listeners insight into the male mind. This resulted in some long but valuable and revealing statements. Let’s deal with them one by one.
God designs a man such that his emotional and spiritual constitution flows from the creation principle of his jurisdictional headship and creation commission. In other words, God first established man. He created man with purpose to do work, to have dominion, to be the head over society. And so man understands himself in terms of that. That’s how he was created. It’s how he was designed, it’s how he thinks, it’s built into him. Everything that lifts him up in that capacity helps him to be a better man. Everything that tears him away from that capacity emasculinizes [sic] him and rips him up. He has been designed to work. He has been designed to lead in the context of faithfulness to his Creator, as a dominion-oriented husband, as a father who provides, protects and serves as a priest. Any attack on any aspect of that ultimately minimizes and marginalizes the man and his masculinity.
As you can see, we’ve already dealt with many aspects of this description (priesthood, dominion, etc.), so this time let’s look at the broader meaning. Phillips is essentially arguing that men’s masculinity and psychological health are threatened when they are not allowed to lead in most (if not every) aspect of their lives. They lead in the home, they lead in the church, they lead in society (i.e., everything that is not the church or home). For a more detailed picture of what this means, here are the relevant sections of Vision Forum’s Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy:
8. Family, church and state are parallel institutions, each with real but limited authority in its ordained sphere. As the keeper of the keys of Christ’s kingdom, the church is the central and defining institution of history. As the primary social group, the family is the foundational institution of society.
11. Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church.
14. While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women.
As you can see, this goes much deeper than wives submitting to their husbands and debates over the ordination of women. Phillips is saying, sans sugar coating, that women are never supposed to lead men, in any area of life. In fact, he even goes so far as to say that women should not normally be the “functional equals” of men. He does not limit these statements to the church and home. He really is saying that it is wrong, or at best inappopriate, for women to be above or equal to men. He really is saying that all women, all the time, in every area of life, should be subordinate to men in some way. At least, that’s the only reading I can get out of Point 14 above.
This is hardcore, chemically pure patriarchy, straight, no chaser. As such, it is not in line with the beliefs of more mainstream complementarians – many of whom, at least at the popular level, enthusiastically embrace and support Vision Forum. In this author’s opinion, they would do well to re-examine that position.
How to cut off your husband’s head
On to the other quotes:
How many of our dear wives today are very, very good at critiquing and picking apart every single problem their husband has and think nothing of sharing that with the community and that is a reproach to their husbands. When a husband knows that his wife is critiquing, is criticizing before other men, it puts a dagger in the heart of a man and it twists it and the man wants to die. If a woman’s countenance is such that her countenance demonstrates that she is grieved, she is unhappy. She’s not happy with her husband, she’s not happy with her life. It’s like a dagger in the heart of a man that twists and turns and kills that man’s spirit because wherever he goes, his wife stands there as an ever-present example, ‘I am miserable. I am unhappy. He doesn’t make me happy.’ You might as well just take the sword and lop off his head.
This quote worries me for a number of reasons. What kind of “criticism” is Phillips referring to? Constant, vicious nagging and fault-finding? Constructive criticism? Anything said publicly by a wife that her husband perceives to have put him in a negative light? The answer to this question will affect how we treat the last part of the paragraph about the man’s reaction. If he reacts this way to constant, mean-spirited nagging, then I can understand; most women would probably react the same way to a nagging, mean-spirited husband. However, if he reacts this way to constructive criticism or simply any unflattering statement (especially if Phillips’ idea is extended to private criticism, which I don’t think is impossible given that he advises women to “speak in the language of submission” to their husbands at home), then we may have a problem on our hands. In fact, the above paragraph would be the perfect tool for an abusive husband to shut down his wife’s reporting of his behavior – as it would, after all, be quite a “reproach” if the general public found out that “godly” Mr. Smith was beating his wife behind closed doors.
I’d also be interested to know whether Phillips extends these same protections to wives. Are husbands allowed to talk about their wives’ problems to other men? I would hope not, but since other major patriarchal leaders have prescribed church disciplinary procedures for wives’ domestic failings, the question seems to be a valid one.
There’s something you need to know about men. Women desperately need to be loved, and God commands the husband, ‘Love your wife.’ Men need to be reverenced. A man’s understanding of who he is, his mission, his ability to execute his responsibility to God, presupposes responsibility and authority within the context of the household. Where there is no reverence, he cannot be a man, and he knows that. He may not even articulate it, it may not come together, but in his spirit, if he is not honored as the head, the whole world falls apart. He becomes broken in his spirit and less manly…
My objections to this quote are similar to the previous ones. This once again could breed needless insecurity in men, and play right into the hands of an abuser who demands that his wife respect him in spite of his crimes. It also repeats the tired and simplistic theory that men need respect and women need love – when in fact it should be clear to us that both sexes need respect and love, not one or the other. In fact, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say that love without respect is not real love at all.
Before we close, let’s review what I am not saying. I am not saying that wives should run down their husbands, or that they should go out and indiscriminately blab about all their marital problems. What I am saying is that Phillips seems to have worded his statement broadly enough to allow abusers to control their wives’ behavior (though I do not think this is what he intended to do), and that both men and women should love and respect their spouses.
To be continued next week…when we see how the other, “pink” half lives.