The Proof Is in the…Chalice?


Remember what I said about “patriolatry” two weeks ago? Well, it’s about to get a whole lot worse. Because unfortunately for anyone who still doesn’t believe me about patriocentric men acting as mediators between their wives and Jesus, I’m sorry to say hard proof of my theory has just arrived. On a communion tray, of all things.

(All right, to be fair, it didn’t just arrive. It’s actually been hiding in plain sight on the interwebz for a number of years. But last time I found it, I hadn’t listened to 19+ hours of Vision Forum CDs and thus hadn’t done a lot of thinking about the various devils lurking in the details of patriocentric theology.)

Here is the relevant passage from Jen Epstein’s blog. Epstein is a former member of Doug Phillips’ church, Boerne Christian Assembly, and in this post she describes a typical Sunday service. After getting word of Doug Phillips’ sudden resignation from Vision Forum last week, I decided to brush up on her account of her experiences at BCA, and in doing so I rediscovered…this:

Next came the Lord’s Supper, preceded by the second sermon of the day. One of the men would talk about some aspect of communion, generally lasting about fifteen minutes in length. Communion was limited to those who had been baptized as believers, full-immersion style. Sometimes the men passed the elements down each row, but later on, the fathers usually went forward and got communion for their whole family. The grape juice was served in medium-sized Dixie cups that the whole family could share. The men would take a chunk of matzoh to share with their family as well. It was left up to the men to decide who takes communion in their family. If the father was absent or if a woman didn’t have a husband, one of her sons could bring her communion, even if the boy hadn’t been baptized and wasn’t old enough to take communion himself. If there were no males in the family, one of the deacons would serve the woman communion. If you were not participating in taking communion, it was quite obvious to the whole congregation.[1]

Good Lord Almighty, where do I even begin with this travesty. Deep calming breaths, Hester. Deep. Calming. Breaths.

Let’s take this one little baby step at a time, shall we?

To start, let’s review what I’ve previously covered in my Big Box series about fathers and husbands being “priests of their homes.” First, we learned in How Modern Churches Are Harming Families that John Thompson, former head of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC), limits the priesthood of all believers only to men:

In fact, in a gathering of thousands or even hundreds, the priesthood of believers cannot function. There’s simply not opportunity for fathers to lead in worship, for fathers to lead in teaching, for fathers to disciple their sons.[2]

I then explored the consequences of this view, both in Thompson’s lecture and the Botkin sisters’ Strength and Dignity for Daughters, and concluded that logically, it must mean either that men mediate between their wives and Jesus, or that the concept of priesthood has been stripped of all its essential meaning (see here for a more thorough explanation). I also showed that the first option – husbands mediating for their wives – is probably what these speakers actually advocate, as the Botkin sisters have stated explicitly in conference talks that daughters cannot have a relationship with God without their father’s “umbrella.”

So how does all this relate to the communion practices of BCA? Well, since fathers are “high priests” of their homes, they intercede spiritually for their wives in a special way. That is, after all, part of the essential meaning of priesthood: priests mediate between us and God. Without a priest (i.e., mediator), the person for whom the priest is mediating cannot approach God. Logically, then, we must conclude that wives cannot approach God except through their husbands. Thus, since communion is probably the most tangible way of all to approach God, it must naturally never be given directly to a woman but instead to her priest-mediator – her husband.

But Epstein’s description above gets even more bizarre when we read that, in the absence of her husband, a woman’s son or brother, or one of the deacons, can give her communion instead. This goes far beyond even the idea of a “family priest,” and essentially turns men into a “caste” of priests, without whom women have no access to the Lord’s Supper. There are no apparent spiritual qualifications for this priesthood at all, as unbaptized persons who have made no public profession – in this case young boys, since BCA appears to be Baptist – can apparently still distribute the elements to their mothers and sisters. Instead, the only qualification we find in Epstein’s description is the accident of birth, the fact of having emerged from the womb with a penis instead of a vagina.

The final danger in BCA’s practice lies in this tiny little sentence:

It was left up to the men to decide who takes communion in their family.

I cannot imagine the gall, the nerve these men must have to practice this with a straight face. Paul’s instructions for the Lord’s Supper are quite clear:

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Cor. 11:27-31)

Let a man examine himself. Paul does not say, “Let the women among you first be examined by their husbands to see if they are worthy to take communion.” It is the woman’s responsibility, and THE WOMAN’S RESPONSIBILITY ALONE, to make sure she takes communion in a worthy manner. If she does not, her husband will not be judged for it; she will. To ask a husband to not only examine his wife’s heart for her, but make a judgment call about whether she is worthy to take communion, is to quite literally put him in the place of God, as only God can know the heart. This is also part of why excommunication has traditionally been reserved only for grave external sins.[3] These sins are so serious, so obvious to everyone that we do not have to search the person’s heart to know something has gone badly wrong. (See also 1 Cor. 5.) This does not, however, stop BCA from apparently giving husbands the power to functionally “mini-excommunicate” their wives, should they so choose.

Finally, let me just say that, as a Lutheran, this is no mere intellectual exercise relating to some esoteric point about the Atonement. My church teaches, almost certainly contrary to BCA, the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament. Thus, when Phillips bars women from taking the sacrament directly, to my ears, he is LITERALLY forbidding them from approaching Jesus without a male escort!

I cannot even begin to express how wrong and unbiblical this is. Even accounting for the fact that Phillips would not agree with me about the Real Presence – even though he views the elements as symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, it will not save him. The theological import is clear. Jesus, whether actually present in the elements or only represented by them, is off-limits to ladies without the menfolk. No penis, no sacrament for you. Sorry, girls. Testosterone has its benefits.

I hope, readers, that you can see what the above adds up to. This is a false gospel. Barring women from approaching Jesus, literally or symbolically, without a male to “cover” them, is heresy because it adds mediators between women and Jesus. In fact, if we had courtyards and warning signs, this would essentially be a return to the Second Temple.[4] And if that’s the case, then why was the veil of the Holy of Holies torn in two? Does the New Covenant actually mean anything?

And so, in closing, a notice from Hester. In light of this revelation about Doug Phillips’ church practices, I will no longer be qualifying or apologizing for any statement in which I call his teachings heretical, as I now have all the proof I will ever need to make my case on that point. You have been warned.

In the meantime, folks: RUN – don’t walk – away from Vision Forum and BCA!

[3]Catholics, on the other hand, cannot be excommunicated unless for some personal, grievously offensive act. Here, therefore, it is necessary to state with precision the conditions under which this penality is incurred. Just as exile presupposes a crime, excommunication presupposes a grievous external fault. Not only would it be wrong for a Christian to be punished without having committed a punishable act, but justice demands a proportion between the offence and the penalty; hence the most serious of spiritual chastisements, i.e. forfeiture of all the privileges common to Christians, is inconceivable unless for a grave fault. Moreover, in order to fall within the jurisdiction of the forum externum, which alone can inflict excommunication, this fault must be external. Internal failings, e.g. doubts entertained against the Catholic faith, cannot incur excommunication.

[4]In Apion 2.8; 103-109, Josephus gives a brief description of the layout of the Temple. He says that the Temple had four courts, each with restrictions on who could enter. The outer court open to all, including non-Jews, except menstruating women. Into the second court were allowed all Jewish men and menstrually-clean, Jewish women. Beyond the second court was the third court into which Jewish men could enter. Finally the fourth court was restricted to priests who were properly attired, which means essentially priests who were on duty. Josephus also indicates that only the High Priest dressed in his high priestly raiment could enter the inner sanctuary (adytum), by which is meant the holy of holies.

14 comments on “The Proof Is in the…Chalice?

  1. Jen says:

    Hester, you nailed it here! Really good observation that I totally missed. Sometimes you can’t see it when you’re in the middle of it. Thanks!

  2. Hester, I have been following this story, as well. I have been exposed to VF and their ilk over the years at home school conventions. Many years ago, a friend and I sat in on an ACE seminar (complete ignorance of what they were about) at the gigantic Arlington TX Bookfair — needless to say, we were horrified just minutes in, by the Stepford quality of their followers and creepy demo video . We couldn’t stand even 30 minutes of the toxin! After getting VF catalogs in the mail for years, I suspected, but couldn’t prove the connection between ACE (Bill Gothard) , Vision Forum (Doug Phillips), and Veritas Press/CREC (Doug Wilson). The one thing they all have in common is clearly a patriarchal model for church and home(school). They are the source of the stereotypical long denim jumper wearing, hair to the waist homeschool moms who drive 15 passenger vans. Obviously, the links to the quiver full movement and apocalyptic survivalism are there as well. All if this infuriates me because they take beautiful gifts from God (marriage, family, homeschooling, the Church) and contort/convert them into instruments of crushing abuse. Shame!

    Thank you for this post!


  3. It is sad to hear that there are groups out there like this, but the fact that you can write about it online and they cannot stop you is proof that they are losing the war. So the only question I have is, is it spreading in some places, where we need to stop it’s expansion somewhere, or how do we just need to rescue the men and women stuck in this worldview who are only multiplying through birth?

    • Hester says:

      Clearly they are losing the war in the culture at large; I think they were always doomed to do that and they’ve overestimated their influence from the beginning. As for expansion, unfortunately I can’t say that I see them losing ground in the territory they already hold. In my experience the people most likely to buy what VF is selling are well-intentioned parents from broken families, dysfunctional backgrounds, etc. who have overreacted and think they need to do things the “right” way for their children’s sake. They then find VF and latch onto it because it is a clear system that emphasizes the importance of dads, close-knit families, etc., and they never look past the surface to see the corrupt foundations. And when you present an alternative (Christian) way to them, they revert to extremes and can see no options between VF and their own unhappy backgrounds.

      Unfortunately I have a sinking feeling that Phillips may actually gain credibility and influence after this latest kerfuffle by lying low for a little while and then coming back a “changed man.” American evangelicalism loves sob stories.

  4. Jeff S says:

    Well done, as always. And I’ve appreciated your fairness with them throughout your posts; your assertion here of heresy is more than fair- you’ve given them much benifit of the doubt.

    As a point of clarification about communion, I cannot speak for Phillips, but if he follows in the Reformed tradition, Communion is more than symbolic. While Reformed believers reject the Lutheran notion of consubstantiation (that the presence of Christ is added to the elements), they nonetheless believe that Christ in his deity is present in a special way during communion. In fact, Reformed believers consider communion and Baptism to be the “means of grace” that are made available to believers trough the church. To bar someone from taking communion is to bar them from the faith, essentially. It doesn’t mean try aren’t saved, since only God can deal with people at the invisible level, but thy are being treated as unbelievers and separated from the visible church.

    So you are very much correct in the seriousness you attach to this: they only allow women the means of grace provided by the church through a man. That is a VERY serious distortion.

    • Hester says:

      Yeah, this was pretty much the last straw. I finally ran out patience with these guys when I read about BCA’s practice here. And hopefully I’ll be seeing a friend (who hasn’t shown any sign of knowing about Doug’s resignation) today or tomorrow and make every effort to explain this stuff to her (and, no, don’t worry, this isn’t putting our friendship at risk).

      Thanks for the clarification on Reformed theology. Interestingly until I read Epstein’s description of BCA I had assumed Phillips was some kind of Presbyterian (i.e., he believed in infant baptism). Apparently not, so I then assumed he went with the symbolic view. If I find out he does believe in some kind of presence I’ll amend the article. Though he doesn’t exactly talk about communion theology a lot in public…probably because even your average Baptist who doesn’t believe in any kind of presence will know something is deeply off about BCA’s practice.

      A point of “counter-clarification” 🙂 – Lutherans don’t use the term consubstantiation to refer to our own position. Apparently it was actually first applied to it by John Calvin in an attack on Lutheranism. The preferred term is usually “sacramental union.” Here’s a Lutheran pastor explaining the difference – I don’t know the blog so I can’t vouch for anything else he says, but this is on point. He actually quotes a Reformed guy about 2/3 of the way down who agrees that consubstantiation is not the proper term.

      • Jeff S says:

        Ah, now THAT is new to me about “consubstantiation”. I find it hard to believe that Calvin came up with such a big, convoluted sounding word (j/k- please don’t throw things at me!)

        It’s hard to say what Phillips actually believes regarding communion- there are certainly many points where he veers off track regarding Reformed theology (for instance, I think Reconstructionism is completely at odds with historic Reformed theology) and the “symbolic” view of communion is the most popular among evangelical Protestants today.

  5. Julie Anne says:

    My brain reacted strongly to that specific part in Jen’s post as well and I shared about it with a good friend, got myself really worked up about it, tried to imagine what if a single woman was attending (had no family), then what? Would some man be assigned to her to determine her eligibility to receive communion? Yea, it’s a train wreck – – men deciding their own rules. It’s blatant heresy.

  6. Hester you are spot on. It is heretical to say that a woman cannot take communion without the mediation or assistance or a male. It is Rome in another guise.

    And I agree with Jeff S that you have been extended exceptional benefit of the doubt to VF in your writings about them, and you are right in declaring them heretical. Their travesty and misuse the sacrament of communion is irrefutable proof that they are heretical.

  7. […] “…I then explored the consequences of this view, both in Thompson’s lecture and the Botkin sisters’ Strength and Dignity for Daughters, and concluded that logically, it must mean either that men mediate between their wives and Jesus, or that the concept of priesthood has been stripped of all its essential meaning (see here for a more thorough explanation). I also showed that the first option – husbands mediating for their wives – is probably what these speakers actually advocate, as the Botkin sisters have stated explicitly in conference talks that daughters cannot have a relationship with God without their father’s “umbrella.” […]

  8. Shawn Mathis says:

    Thank you for highlighting this gross and egregious error. It will be added a list of questions for the friends of Doug over the years: how much did they really know about the man?

    • Hester says:

      Did you see my follow-up post about Voddie Baucham and his church Grace Family Baptist? There’s something in GFBC’s doctrinal statement that specifically refutes what I’m now calling “patriocommunion” ala BCA. He doesn’t, however, call it heresy and refuse to align himself with those who practice it (which I think is the only proper response to patriocommunion). In other words, he doesn’t come down hard enough.

      What I take away from this, is that patriocommunion is widespread enough that some members of the FIC feel the need to specifically distance themselves from it in their statements of faith. So I find it hard to believe that Doug’s friends were in the dark about his communion practices.

      • Shawn Mathis says:

        I did not read it yet. That is good to add to my future article. I’ve talked with others who were in the patriarchy/fic movement to one degree or another and they say it is more wide-spread then people may know. Typical evangelicalism: something new, something different.

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