Doug Phillips Uses Virginia Tech Shootings To Promote Agenda

Doug Phillips Vision ForumDoug Phillips has posted a blog article about the Virginia Tech school shootings. Even I could have never anticipated that Doug Phillips was this cold and calloused. Even before the blood had been cleaned from the classroom floors, even before any of the funeral services had been performed, even as twenty gunshot-wounded students still lay recovering in their hospital beds, Doug Phillips was preparing another one of his “See I told you so!” sermons.

Just to ensure that his article received the widest possible exposure, Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum also emailed the article to thousands of recipients. Upon seeing Phillips’ article two days ago I was completely stunned and words failed me. Now that I’ve had a little time to absorb it I’ll try and communicate my thoughts about it.

Others, however, wasted no time in communicating their sentiments to Doug Phillips. One reader wrote in to say:

“Please remove me from your mailing list. The use of this tragedy by any organization to promote an agenda is unconscionable.”

After reading Phillips’ article I had exactly the same sentiment. What he has done is unconscionable.

Phillips entitled his article, On the Horror at Virginia Tech; Finding Eternal Hope in Present Sorrow. But how exactly does Phillips offer hope? He doesn’t. In point of fact his article is a rather gloomy and fatalistic “See I told you so.”

“When people ask: ‘Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?’ or ‘How can such a terrible thing happen?’, we must point them to the fundamentals. First, all of us deserve death and all of us will die.”

Now there’s some “hope” to offer a grieving mother and father who have just lost their son or daughter in a senseless slaughter! Saying such a thing to grieving families, or even to those who haven’t been directly impacted by the Virginia Tech shootings, like the millions across this land who are questioning, “Where is God at a time like this?”, isn’t a message of hope at all. Phillips’ article is likely to be interpreted by many as a message that God is cruel, unloving, uncaring, judgmental, and only too eager to destroy sinners.

This isn’t to say that I disagree that “All of us deserve death.” While being a valid theological statement, is this a message of hope? Are these words of comfort? Is this the Gospel of Jesus that Christians are to share with the disillusioned and suffering? No, it’s not, nor is it a message of comfort.

Tragedy and “horror” isn’t a time for preaching “fundamentals.” This is a time for mourning and, therefore, this should be a time of “comforting the afflicted”:

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2Cor. 1:3-4)

Doug Phillips pastors Boerne Christian Assembly. Pastors are called upon to provide “grief counseling” and even perform funeral services. I cringe to think of the “comfort” meted out by this man to his own church members should any of them ever have an hour of personal crisis.

Phillips says:

“Thousands will be deeply affected, probably for the rest of their lives. The most serious pains belong to the mothers, fathers, and sisters and brothers of the murdered victims. What shall we say to them? What are we to learn from these events?”

Those two questions address very different issues, or at least they should. But it’s clear from his article that Phillips would encourage us to take the practical and theological lessons that he believes we are “to learn from these events” (according to him), and “say to them” those same hard and ponderous theological “fundamentals.” I would submit that to do so would be to beat a wounded person over the head with a message that they’re simply in no position to hear. The harm and injury that could come of it could be catastrophic.

This would be an absolutely horrible time to be sharing any of the things that Phillips talks about in his article with those that mourn at Virginia Tech or, for that matter, anywhere else where unbelievers are present. For Phillips to call these shootings “God’s judgment” is anything but a message of “hope.” However, that’s one of the things that Phillips informs us that they are “to learn from these events.”

“Second, we must acknowledge that the rise of community violence is a judgment of the Lord.”

Can you imagine telling a grieving father and mother who has just lost their son or daughter, “What you need to learn from this is that this is the judgment of the Lord”?

Is this what Jesus did to Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died? Did he say, “This is the judgment of God. He deserved to die”? No, Jesus comforted them. “Jesus wept.”

Some of the things that Doug Phillips has to say in his article are worth hearing. But why does anyone need to hear them now? Phillips’ timing and his approach are absolutely atrocious. This isn’t the time for lectures or posturing. This is a time for grieving, and grieving people need to be comforted, not beat over the head with “fundamentals.”

I received an email from a home school mother in Virginia about this article. She gave permission for me to post her email.

Dear Watchman,

I’m surprised that more blogs haven’t taken Doug Phillips to task over this. What he’s done is sick. A lot of people got that Doug Phillips’ spam email about the VT massacre. It looks to me like he deliberately sent it to a lot of home school families here in Virginia. Talk about pouring salt in the wound. I know I’m not the only one who’s outraged to get his spam. Just check this out from the Home Educators Magazine Yahoo Group.

RE: [HEM-Networking] Forward to Christian Homeschool leaders

Is this online any where?

This is so weird that this has come up now as I had never heard of Vision Forum until they added vahomeschoolers emails to their email list (unrequested) and we started getting spam from them. I then found out that Doug Phillips is a featured speaker at the Home Educators Association of Virginia convention this spring.

As a Va Tech grad, I was absolutely appalled at their response to what happened. Really, really scary stuff… you know that people that think like this are out there, but to actually have it show up in my inbox was eye opening. It is scary that these people are representing homeschooling.


I don’t know Stephanie personally, but she’s saying exactly what I think of this too. Watchman, thanks for what you’ve done. This Doug Phillips is a sick man. He needs to be stopped.

Doug Phillips: Will He Ever Be At Peace With His Brethren?

It was on January 16 that I received an email from Mark and Jen Epstein, requesting that we take our Doug Phillips articles offline. The Epsteins made this request in the spirit of seeking reconciliation with Doug Phillips.

At the time I was very sceptical that reconciliation was even possible with a man like Doug Phillips, but I also didn’t think it appropriate to deny the Epsteins their request. After all, what the Epsteins sought to accomplish by requesting reconciliation through Peacemaker Ministries was entirely biblical. Besides which, if things didn’t work out (and I was reasonably confident that Doug Phillips would do what he wound up doing), it would take me all of just a few minutes to put the articles back up.

In the end my scepticism was more than warranted. Doug Phillips sabotaged reconciliation. After exhausting all their other remedies, the Epsteins put all their “Exposing Doug Phillips’ Ecclesiastical Tyrannies” articles back up, and I put our own articles back up too. Now the Epsteins have come out with another chapter to their saga. This latest story only confirms just how incredibly vengeful and vindictive that Doug Phillips really is. The Epsteins have dropped some hints about this before, but until now they didn’t name names.

Now the Epsteins have named Little Bear Wheeler as the pastor they went to after they were unjustly “excommunicated” from Boerne Christian Assembly by Doug Phillips’ personal Kangaroo Court. Little Bear Wheeler isn’t just a nobody. Little Bear Wheeler is the founder of Mantle Ministries. He’s been active in the home school community for a number of years, and he’s a highly respected leader in the home school movement. Little Bear Wheeler has been active in the home school movement at least as long as Doug Phillips has, and probably longer. It speaks very badly of Doug Phillips that he chose to dis an honorable man like Little Bear Wheeler.

Pastor Wheeler suggested that the Epsteins attend his church for six months while he worked at facilitating reconciliation between Doug Phillips and the Epsteins. However, Pastor Wheeler actually attempted to do so for fourteen months, all to no avail. In the end he had no choice but to abandon his reconciliation efforts.

The Epsteins later moved on and then attempted to join Faith Presbyterian Church of San Antonio. FPC also attempted to facilitate reconciliation. The Epsteins appeared to have greater hopes in reconciliation through the FPC session than through Little Bear Wheeler because several elders at FPC are “certified Christian conciliators” with Peacemaker Ministries. But if Doug Phillips would spurn a close personal friend like Little Bear Wheeler, why would he treat the FPC session any better?

At least Phillips knew not to ignore the FPC session for fourteen months, the way he did Little Bear Wheeler. Rather than ignoring FPC’s overtures, Phillips decided he’d better waste no time. Rather than postponing one meeting after another for fourteen months, Phillips met with the FPC session promptly, but just like Phillips did with Pastor Wheeler, he called the FPC session “wicked sinners for fellowshipping with excommunicants.”

What is the purpose of church discipline, and of excommunication as the most severe form of church discipline? According to the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Chapter XXX

Of Church Censures

I. The Lord Jesus, as king and head of His Church, has therein appointed a government, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.[1]

II. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the Gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.[2]

III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the Gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.[3]

IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the Church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.[4]

Rather than acknowledging that church discipline is for the benefit of the sinner, to bring him to repentance so that he can be reclaimed by the church, Doug Phillips treats church discipline as a means of accomplishing his personal political agenda. Doug Phillips told Jen Epstein, “You’ll pay for this” and that’s exactly what he did. Church discipline isn’t about making someone “pay for this.” It’s for the purpose of bringing about repentance and reconciliation.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith (which was derived from the Westminster Confession), which Doug Phillips claims he subscribes to, makes it plain that church discipline decisions are to be made by church officers. Church discipline isn’t done by mob rule and Kangaroo Courts. It’s not something that’s put to a congregation to decide by majority vote, especially when the majority of a church are the pastor’s personal employees, as was the case at BCA (many of the BCA members were Vision Forum employees).

When other church officers have attempted to reclaim the Epsteins for the church of Jesus Christ, Doug Phillips has sabotaged those efforts through intimidation and allegations that having anything to do with the Epsteins makes them “wicked sinners.” Phillips’ objective isn’t about reclaiming the Epsteins for Christ, but relegating them to a perpetual state of punishment by shunning. Even the Epsteins’ children, which were never charged with any sin and were never the subject of church discipline, have been punished by Doug Phillips and the entire BCA congregation, by shunning. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses, which are notorious for shunning, know better than to do that.

The church of Jesus Christ is to be an instrument of Christ’s grace and mercy. Doug Phillips appears to know nothing of mercy. Rather, he is driven by entirely by personal agendas, and vengeance is one of his tools of that agenda.

What has Doug Phillips accomplished in the process? Did his vengefulness improve his reputation? Was anybody (besides Matt Chancey and his “former interns”) impressed? Has his church grown? Have sales at Vision Forum improved (the answer below)? If Doug Phillips had more common sense than pride he would have told the Epsteins, “It’s been two years since I disciplined you. Two years is long enough. We don’t want you back at BCA, but I’m pleased that you want to make yourselves accountable to a session of church elders. Accountability is good and they’re in a good position to examine you and determine your fitness to become members of their church. They’re in a good position to minister to you and help your family. I mean you no ill will, so go in peace. I won’t interfere with your plans.”

Doug Phillips didn’t need to agree to reconciliation, but he also didn’t need to sabotage the Epsteins wanting to become members of a Reformed church. Instead, Phillips undermined the Epsteins’ hopes of becoming FPC members and he even called the FPC session “wicked sinners for fellowshipping with excommunicants.” Are the FPC elders “wicked sinners”? That seems doubtful. What seems far more likely is that Doug Phillips is a self-righteous Pharisee.

I received an email from Ann. She gave me permission to post her email, provided I don’t use her full name. Ann has some good insights and I think her email deserves to be posted. Her email also addresses the question, “Have sales at Vision Forum improved?”

Dear Ministry Watchman,

I’m on Vision Forum’s email list and have been for a long time. If you ever order anything online from them (and I’ve ordered a lot of things from them before) you’ll wind up on their email list. In the past few months, including since prior to Christmas, I’ve been amazed by how many emails I’ve gotten from Vision Forum. Some weeks I’ve gotten an email from them almost every day, and practically all of them are sales discount notices. What gives with Vision Forum? I’ve never seen anything like this from them before. It’s obvious that their sales are way down and they’re getting desperate.

I don’t know if there’s a direct correlation between all the “exposing Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyranny” articles and the fact that Vision Forum is having to beg for orders. If there is then I hope that he comes to his senses and changes his ways soon. I’d hate to see Vision Forum brought to their knees. Doug Phillips still has some good things to say. He just needs to repent of being such an arrogant jerk and start serving the Lord and the Lord’s people in humility.

On Jen Epstein’s blog there are comments now about how Doug Phillips is retaliating against Mr. “Little Bear” Wheeler. Phillips has dropped Mr. Wheeler from the Vision Forum catalog, and he won’t even talk to Mr. Wheeler any more. It’s all over the fact that Little Bear welcomed the Epsteins into his church. Phillips is punishing Little Bear financially for not shunning the Epsteins. Now I’m seeing blog comments calling for a boycott of Vision Forum.

I don’t think an official boycott is necessary. It’s obvious that VF is feeling the sting already of families like ours using good stewardship over our finances. Probably all Jen Epstein or anyone else really needs to do is suggest that people exercise good stewardship by not supporting abusive ministries. I see that Jen did that on her other blog with Ligonier Ministries. Jen used to financially support them but now it sounds like she no longer does. It’s a question more of exercising biblical stewardship, not boycotting.

Our family is probably a lot like other Christian families. We’re careful to not financially support Christian ministries and businesses that get themselves embroiled in problems that they could have easily avoided. Doug Phillips is a controversial man, but it’s not controversy that we run from. What we don’t like are troublemakers, and Doug Phillips is obviously a big troublemaker, and very arrogant one too. It looks to me like just about every problem he’s gotten himself into was of his own making. The Ministry Watchman article exposing Phillips’ “Raising The Allosaur” video fraud is a good example. I deeply resent the fact that he used home schoolers to push his personal agenda with lies and lined his own pockets from it. I’m sad to say that we purchased that video. We won’t make that mistake again.

I’m impressed that the Epsteins offered Phillips a biblical way out of his conflict with them. I’m bothered that he refused their offer. It tells me a lot about what he’s made of. The man isn’t fit to head up a church, and he’s not fit to head up a Christian ministry. I’m not taking sides with the Epsteins. I’m sure they’ve made alot of mistakes along the way, but I also don’t think they deserve to be treated this way. No one deserves to have done to them what Doug Phillips has done to them.

In her latest article Jen Epstein has pointed out that Little Bear Wheeler also has a ministry to home school families, and that he sells a lot of the same items that Vision Forum does. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that Little Bear has been selling those items for a lot longer than Vision Forum has, and that rather than finding unique things to sell himself, Doug Phillips went into direct competition with Little Bear Wheeler by selling a lot of the same exact things. Given the choice our family will patronize Little Bear Wheeler rather than Doug Phillips. Needless to say, we also won’t be ordering anything ever again from Doug Phillips.

I’m also going to make a point of not attending any conferences where Doug Phillips speaks. I’m also going to send those conferences letters telling them my objections to their having him speak. I’ll send you a copy of my letter and you can post it if you like. Please just don’t use my full name. We’re very active in home schooling and even exhibit at home school conferences. I’m sure that Phillips would like to use his influence to hurt us (like he’s hurt Little Bear Wheeler) if he knew I was going to write some of the conferences he speaks at. If others would like to use my letter to send to home school leaders that they know they’re welcome to do that. If you have a big list of email addresses for home school leaders I’d like to get a copy of it.

I don’t think it’s right for any home school groups to be giving a man like Doug Phillips a platform to promote his personal ambitions. He’s become too much of a liability. I think a lot of home school groups don’t even understand Phillips’ agenda and they need to know about it.

Thanks for everything you’ve done.


Doug Phillips’ influence in the world of home schooling is considerable. Ann is well justified in her concerns and it makes a lot of sense that she wants to email home school leaders. I don’t have an extensive email list like what she’s asking for. If anyone does and they’d like to make it available, please email it to me and I’ll pass it along to Ann.

I hope that one day soon Doug Phillips will get smart and find a way to be at peace with his brethren. Doug Phillips has a lot of potential to do many good things for the church of Jesus Christ, as well as for Christian home schoolers. But unless Doug Phillips repents he also has the potential of doing us all great harm.