6,000 Years of Earth History in One Hour (TBB)

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.

6,000 Years of Earth History in One Hour is the first of the “second tier” CDs in my Big Box. As I explained in my first post, these are CDs that examine practices or ideas derived from Vision Forum’s core doctrines (which were explored in the “first tier”). As it turns out, 6,000 Years is an appropriate start to the second tier, since Doug Phillips referenced it several times in some of the first tier lectures. Presumably, then, it contains important information that Phillips regards as central to his thought. So what is that information?

Of sheep, rules and homeschoolers

Phillips’ central claim in 6,000 Years is that homeschooling is the main application of the greatest commandment:

In other words, the greatest commandment in the whole world is to love God and the application is sheep-feeding. The greatest commandment in the whole world is to love God and the application is home education. The greatest commandment in the whole world is to love God and the application is family discipleship.

I’ve already dealt with this argument in brief here, but since Phillips made a more detailed argument in this lecture, I’ll take the time to present a more detailed rebuttal. Phillips’ “sheep-feeding” above is a reference to John 21:15-17:

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Phillips then couples these verses with Deuteronomy 6:5-7 and Matthew 22:34-40 to reach his conclusion:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40

My problems with Phillips’ reasoning begin almost right away. First, his use of John 21 strikes me as strange. The passage has obvious connections to Peter’s denial of Jesus (notice Peter says “I love You” to Jesus three times, just as he denied Him three times), and is thus a very personal exchange between Jesus and Peter. In other words, there’s no indication that the passage has any bearing on anything except Peter’s personal restoration. Phillips, however, compares Peter to parents who have good intentions but never follow through on them, and claims that Jesus is asking His followers to “feed My sheep if you love Me” – i.e., homeschool their children. This is, to say the least, a bit of leap from the actual text of John 21.

My second problem is with Phillips’ use of the greatest commandment passage. Though he briefly references “love your neighbor as yourself,” he spends most of the section focusing on “love the Lord your God.” Just like the lawyer who questioned Jesus in Matthew 22, he wants one commandment which is before all others. Jesus, however, gives the lawyer two commandments, which he sets equal to each other and without which the entire Bible unravels: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, when Phillips says this…

But God says, of all these things, if you want to know all these things, the most important thing, if you forget everything else – do not pass go, do not collect $200 – if there’s one thing you’re gonna remember and only one thing, remember this: love God with all your heart, soul and strength.

…he is wrong. To say that loving God is more important than loving your neighbor is to ignore not only Jesus’ plain teaching, but also passages such as 1 Cor. 13:1-3 and James 2:14-17 which make it plain that loving your neighbor is non-optional (as Phillips’ words above imply) and inextricably connected to loving God. In fact, James 2 seems to indicate that not loving your neighbor is a sign of false, dead faith! Thus Phillips’ minimization one of the two greatest commandments is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous to his followers’ spiritual health.

Third, Phillips’ notion that homeschooling is the main application of the command to love God is just plain eisegetical. He could perhaps claim that communicating God’s Word to your children is a very important application of this command, but this hardly makes it the main one and certainly doesn’t necessitate homeschooling. To read the modern politico-educational homeschool movement into Deuteronomy 6 is anachronistic and going far beyond the text.

SCA (Sermon of Creative Anachronisms)

512px-B_Escorial_18But if you thought Phillips’ treatment of Deuteronomy 6 was anachronistic, get ready for an even wilder ride, because he spends most of the last half of the lecture claiming that the Bible is the story of a great war between two different models of education:

But do you notice right from the very beginning, the first battle is a battle over education? Right at the very beginning? Because Satan comes down and Satan says to Eve, you can have knowledge your way. God says, no, you need to have knowledge His way. In fact, God is more interested in having a relationship with Eve than He is in having her eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve could eat of those things and eat of the knowledge, but God isn’t interested in that. He wants her to have a relationship with Him. And ever since then, brethren, as you trace the history of the world, the battle has been over two systems of education, and those systems of education are in sharp contrast one with another. On the one hand is a system of education that says, we’re gonna raise up the child in an efficient manner, we’re gonna train him to be a creature of the state, we’re gonna focus on the group. On the other hand is a type of education that says, we’re gonna be relationship-based. We’re concerned more about relationships than we are even about efficiency. The Hebrew model, the walk-alongside, the methodology of in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, versus the Greek model of we’re sending our child out. We’re gonna let someone else educate him. We’re more concerned about results than we are about anything else.

I bet you didn’t know that all that happened in the garden, did you? No one denies that God wants a relationship with His creation, but Phillips has taken this so far that it boggles the mind, especially in his description of the “Greek” model of education. The (barely) veiled references to modern public schools and collectivism are obvious. Unfortunately for Phillips, none of these things existed at the time the Bible was written! To claim, however subtly, that the Biblical authors were writing against political and educational theories that were first formulated in the 19th century (over 1800 years after the time of Christ, to say nothing of the prophets or Moses) is nothing short of ridiculous, and to interpret the entire Bible as a conflict between those theories and modern homeschooling is just plain irresponsible. This is eisegesis and anachronism of epic proportions.

To give you an idea of just how seriously Phillips takes his grand anachronism, let’s take a look at his description of the time of Christ:

Those Hebrew fathers, who had walked alongside their sons for millennium past, who had asked their sons questions, who had discipled their sons and their daughters, had adopted the educational system of the Greco-Romans. Did you know that? Did you know that it was during this time period that we had temple education systems built and school systems built for the first time? This time period. So it’s no wonder when Jesus Christ said, when I come, when John the Baptist comes to herald Me, here’s what’s gonna happen. Those children, whose hearts have been turned away from Me, are gonna turn back towards Me. Fathers are gonna re-embrace their responsibilities. The promises of God are going to be renewed. Families are gonna take this seriously again. And thus the hearts of these parents are gonna be turned back to their children.

Phillips is here alluding to Malachi 4:5-6:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

As far as I can tell, Phillips is (generally) correct about the establishment of Jewish schools in the 1st century (see here), but his implication that one of purposes of the Incarnation was to abolish said schools seems to be just another example of rank eisegesis, as I cannot recall a single instance in which either Jesus or John the Baptist said a word about schools. But Phillips isn’t done yet, and he nexts tells his audience of homeschoolers that they are the most important people in the world:

But here’s what’s very interesting in a Biblical view of history. Do you know that nations will rise, nations will fall, kings will come, kings will go, all these things will happen, and the focal point of all of history are God’s chosen people? The focal point of all of God’s people are Christians? The focal point of all of history, of everything that’s ever happened, are those people that God calls apart and calls by name. …

Here’s why you’re important. If the greatest commandment in the whole world is to love God, if the application is to pass on the promises by walking with our children continually, if a reflection of that is the turning of the hearts of fathers to their children and children to their parents, if all this is true, then the most important people in the world are the people who are doing that: you. …

Brothers and sisters, when you make the commitment to walk alongside your children, to pass on the promises of God, to teach the faithful news of Jesus Christ to your children, you have now become God’s restraining influence in a pagan civilization. …

The future of our civilization, the future of the family, the progress of the church of Jesus Christ, rests on the choices that you’re gonna make right now. Are you willing to make the sacrifices that you need? Will you embrace your children as your life? Because brothers and sisters, here’s the hard reality. It’s you, or it’s nobody. You’re it. You’re it. Why? Because somewhere, somehow, God Almighty decreed that you would come to a place and make a decision that you’re gonna give up your life for your children.

salt-shakerNotice first, as Phillips explains in the second paragraph, that his entire theory here is built upon faulty premises, as I’ve already shown. Second, in the third paragraph Phillips reveals that he thinks Christian who don’t homeschool are essentially “salt that has lost its savor” (Matthew 5:13, Luke 14:34-35) – or in other words, Christians who have become completely “useless” to do God’s work. They are no longer a “restraining influence” in their culture; or to use Jesus’ metaphor, they do not “preserve” their surroundings like salt preserves meat. This is a serious charge, and tells us that Phillips elevates homeschooling to a central place it should never occupy.

(As an amusing aside, later in the lecture, Phillips accuses school teachers, social workers and other supposed minions of the “Greek model” of education of having a “spirit of elitism.” That he says this only minutes after claiming that Christian homeschoolers are quite literally the most important people on the planet is so ironic that it needs no explanation.)

Family affair

Another central theme of 6,000 Years is that teaching your children history is important. It’s hard to disagree with Phillips on this point, at least when it’s phrased in its general form. However, some of his applications of this idea are troubling, especially when he talks about family history. For instance, one of Phillips’ claims is that the Bible traces history through genealogies and fathers in particular. Had he stopped there, all would have been well. But as usual he goes above and beyond, and claims that there is some kind of deeper significance in the genealogies per multigenerational faithfulness.

I’ve already dealt with these arguments here and here, so rather than rehash old material I’ll just make one observation. The only genealogies in the New Testament are the genealogies of Christ in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. So Phillips is correct to claim that genealogy is (spiritually) important if, and only if, he is talking about the genealogy that led up to and produced Jesus. Other than that, under the New Covenant, genealogy is moot as there is neither Jew nor Greek (Galatians 3:28) – which is probably why no genealogies except Christ’s appear in the New Testament.

The other way Phillips uses the Biblical genealogies in 6,000 Years is to support his very strict brand of young-earth creationism, which contends that there are no gaps in the Biblical genealogies and the age of the earth can thus be calculated by adding up the time spans listed in those genealogies. I don’t subscribe to this view and find it to be historically impossible for various reasons. However, since the purpose of this series is primarily to discuss the problems in Vision Forum’s teachings on gender, education and related issues, I’ll refrain from commenting on his young-earth views (extreme though they may be) except to point them out when they appear.

In the end, then, Phillips has proven once again just how distorted his “vision” is. (And in case you were wondering, no, he still hasn’t defined that key word.) Maybe he needs glasses, or a better prescription. The wildly anachronistic one he currently has is not serving him well.

4 comments on “6,000 Years of Earth History in One Hour (TBB)

  1. e2thec says:

    Very cool pic – where did you find that? Do you have any info. on the artwork?

  2. connor says:

    Hi, Ive been a lurker around your blog for a few months. I love this article and your entire site! Looking forward to reading more!

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