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.
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.
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. 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. 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!
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.
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.