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Can Christians Rebuild a Culture of Virtuous Boyhood?

An Interview with Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Ministries

December 9, 1999: The following discussion with Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Ministries was conducted live on a chat program by Mary Leggewie.

Doug Phillips is the Director of Family Vision [now called Vision Forum Ministries], a discipleship and training ministry located in San Antonio, Texas that emphasizes Christian apologetics, world view training, multi-generational faithfulness, and creative solutions whereby fathers can play a maximum role in family discipleship. Each year Family Vision holds Building A Family That Will Stand conferences, Apologetic Boot Camps and Father-Son Discipleship Retreats in various locations throughout the United States. Doug is the Adjunct Professor of Apologetics for the Institute for Creation Research. He joins ICR President, Dr. John Morris, as keynote at the Back To Genesis conferences.

Doug is the President of The Vision Forum, Inc. a publishing company based in San Antonio, Texas which publishes books, audio books and produces documentary films for the Christian family. Currently, they are producing the evangelistic documentary, Women and Children First: The True Story of the R.M.S. Titanic. In March of 1997 Doug founded the Christian Boys' and Men's Titanic Society, a national historical society for fathers and sons dedicated to the Christian ideal "women and children first."

Doug is a constitutional attorney who served the Home School Legal Defense Association for more than six years. At HSLDA he acted as Legislative Attorney and Director of the National Center for Home Education where for four years he trained home schoolers to effectively influence public policy. He organized and directed the Congressional Action Program, a nationwide effort to defend the home schooling family from federal threats. He has appeared regularly on the nationally syndicated Home School Heartbeat radio program. In 1994, he served as the editor of Capitol Chronicles and has written several works on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. He served for fifteen months in the Bush Administration as a Presidential Appointee under Secretary Jack Kemp of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In 1998 Doug co-authored the book Weapons Of Our Warfare with Dr. John Morris. He is the author of Robert Louis Dabney: The Prophet Speaks. He has been a guest on numerous radio programs and is the former host of the syndicated radio show Dateline Washington: News and Commentary from Human Events. His writings have appeared in WORLD Magazine, The Houston Chronicle, Education Reporter, Quit You Like Men, The Court Report, The Teaching Home, Home School Digest, Home Schooling Today, and Patriarch magazine. Doug received his B. A. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary. He studied law under Supreme Court nominees Judge Robert Bork and Judge Douglas Ginsberg and received his Juris Doctorate from George Mason University School of Law. Doug was a scholarship recipient of the Georgetown University School of Political Journalism and a 1985 graduate of The National Journalism Center. Doug was a member of the United States High School Rugby Football National Championship team.

Doug is a strong advocate of mentorship and has taught from his home an intensive college-level, independent course on apologetics, law, and theology to home school graduates. Doug and his wife Beall live in San Antonio with their four children, Joshua, Justice, Liberty, and Jubilee Phillips. Doug and Beall are members in good standing of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church. He is the son of Howard Phillips, Chairman of the Conservative Caucus and former candidate for President of the United States.

In the early Spring of 1999, Family Vision will launch the Witherspoon School of Law and Public Policy, a distinctively Christian and Creationist, five-day preparatory course for Christians interested in serving God through the practice of law and public policy-related vocations. Doug and his wife Beall live with their four children (6 and under!), Joshua, Justice, Liberty, and Jubilee near San Antonio, Texas. Their new baby is due in January!

Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Thanks for having me on, Mary. I'm a big fan of the work of PrestonSpeed [publisher of G.A. Henty books] and I'm glad to have this opportunity to chat with your friends on-line.

Mary Leggewie: Our topic tonight is "Can we Restore a Culture of Virtuous Boyhood?" Can you define the problem for us?

Doug Phillips This may seem like an unusual topic to modern ears. What, after all, does culture have to do with virtuous boyhood? I appreciate the sentiment echoed by Henry Van Til that, "Culture is religion externalized." By this, Van Til meant that culture is the outward expression of the true faith of any people. Nations that worship man and emphasize sensuality give expression to these ideals through their cultural icons. A Christian people, on the other hand, will develop a culture which distinctively reflects their love for God. ...
Now consider the culture to which our boys are daily exposed: They go to government schools that teach them that man is little more than matter in motion. They participate in recreational activities that train them to be physically rough with women. They watch television only to become fixated on spandex-clad, face-painted, professional wrestlers. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that our modern culture robs boys of their innocence by the age of 6 or 7 through constant exposure to sensuality and perversion. We've come a very long way from those early days of our Republic, during which time many books were written extolling the virtues of chivalry and manhood for young men.

Mary Leggewie: I'm pleased to see you also call public schools government schools! What role should fathers play in the process?

Doug Phillips The unqualified testimony of Scripture is this: Fathers are to walk beside their sons until the time of emancipation. In the Bible, "walking" beside a son implies a continuous process of nurture and training. Fathers are to cry out for the hearts of their sons. They are to teach them the law of God. They are to prepare them for marriage and for life purpose. They are to see them established in a trade. These principles are embodied in the famous Scripture passage of Deuteronomy 6, and are reiterated hundreds of times throughout Scripture. Needless to say, this cannot be done if fathers spend a mere 6 minutes a day (the national average) with their children.

Mary Leggewie: That is a sorry amount of time! And I'm tired of folks who constantly ask if we're not sheltering our children!

Doug Phillips The Scriptures teach that we should shelter our children from that which is evil and expose them to that which is good.

Mary Leggewie: I've got a good friend who says "we INSULATE, not ISOLATE our children!" Is there a Biblical doctrine of "play?"

Doug Phillips Absolutely. In fact, there's a biblical doctrine of everything! Recognizing the sufficiency and authority of Scripture for every area of life and thought is the first step toward rebuilding a culture of virtuous boyhood. It's interesting to note that the book of Jeremiah speaks prophetically of a day in which children will be laughing and dancing and singing and playing.
Richard Baxter, the great Puritan divine, wrote a chapter in his magnum opus, A Christian Directory, on the question of godly recreation. His thesis was simple: There can be no neutrality. Even play and recreation must be distinctively Christian in content and pleasing to God.
Let me elaborate by offering some of my own thoughts. We should not allow our children to do things in their pretend life that God would not be pleased by in real life. Consequently, I do not allow my children to run around the home pretending to kill each other. Also, a child's play life should reinforce the values and the character qualities to which he should aspire. If you want to raise a virtuous man, then he should get in the habit of treating women with deference in his play life.
One last thought for now: Historically, young men prepared for manhood by taking on manly responsibilities at an early age. In other words, boys took pleasure in being about the business of men. Consider David who learned the skills of music, animal husbandry, and self-defense at an early age---all skills which served him well during his adult life. Parents can learn a lot from David's father. It's time to turn off the Nintendo and teach our boys to find joy and recreation in manly endeavors.

Mary Leggewie: What role does history play in the development of the character of a child?

Doug Phillips To my way of thinking, there are only two subjects: history and theology. Everything else is a subset of these. Both are critical for the development of character in a boy. History teaches a boy to appreciate the Providential hand of God in the affairs of man, and gives him heroes to emulate.
In my own life, histories and biographies have served as the basis for my education. I can remember being 6 years old and receiving college-level history books from my father. He knew that, someday, I would be old enough to read them and appreciate them. In the meantime, he read them to me at the dinner table.

Mary Leggewie: Have the changing roles of men and women effected the loss of virtue on young boys?

Doug Phillips The changes have been nothing short of devastating. Except for a handful of Christian families around the country who refuse to be assimilated into the modern culture, most people, including most Christians, have accepted the feminist hypothesis that men and women should be treated the same. For more than 6,000 years of earth history, Christians and Jews have held to a worldview in which God established a hierarchy for the family. This hierarchy presupposed that man would be the protector and defender of womankind.

Doug Phillips The ultimate example is found in the person of Jesus Christ, who the Bible describes as a groom who willingly laid down His life for His bride. Modern boys know nothing of chivalry. In fact, they have been taught that androgyny and effeminacy are virtues. Consequently, before he reaches his teen years, the average boy suffers from a colossal identity crisis concerning who he is and what his role will be in society.
When was the last time you saw a boy tip his hat to a lady, hold a door for his sister, or rise when his mother enters the room? As recently as 80 years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a boy to disregard these basic courtesies of virtuous manhood.

Mary Leggewie: Isn't that the truth. People are always amazed to see my little 8-year-old son pull out a chair for me. It shouldn't be so rare! You have been an active proponent of home education. Will home education help to restore Godly family culture and virtuous boyhood?

Doug Phillips Yes, it will! It's true that home education is not an end in and of itself. You can, for example, home educate for the glory of the Devil. On the other hand, I do not know how one can faithfully honor the commands of Scripture without home educating. Scripture presupposes that fathers and mothers will walk alongside their children and communicate a Christ-centered worldview in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening.
The biblical approach to education is "Hebrew" in nature. This means it is relationship driven. Truth is communicated in the context of relationships. Primarily, parent and child.
The alternative approach to education is the "Greek" approach. Under this regime, relationships and family are sacrificed for efficiency. Thus, you have age-segregated, peer-based classrooms which are very efficient at catering to the lowest common denominator of academic and moral standards, but are utterly incapable of meeting the needs of the individual, far less communicating spiritual truths.
All this brings us back to your original question. To raise up godly sons and to rebuild the family, we must embrace God's methodologies. Home education is a critical component in this process.

Mary Leggewie: What about Christian Schools? Would you consider them an option?

Doug Phillips To the extent that Christian schools embrace the Darwinian approach to age-segregation, they will always fall short of the biblical model.

Doug Phillips Moreover, even the best Christian schoolteacher is utterly incapable of reaching the heart of a child in the way that God intended the parent to do so.

Mary Leggewie: How important is it that we teach manners to our boys? Some say "etiquette" is outdated.

Doug Phillips Biblical etiquette is a function of biblical manhood. Etiquette, or "manners," is an attempt by Christian civilization to show respect and honor for the hierarchies and relationships which God has established. ... Servants are to treat their masters with respect. Children are to honor their parents through their language and their behavior. Wives are to reverence their husbands, even so far as to call them "lord" (according to the book of Peter). Men who do not adopt proper standards of etiquette, are incapable of truly treating women as the weaker vessel, and of honoring them for the magnificent role God has given them in society.

Mary Leggewie: What should our response be to television?

Doug Phillips In our home, the television is affectionately called, "The Death Box." I continue to believe that carefully selected, God-honoring videos can be helpful tools for families. I mention this because I do not believe that the technology of the television set is the problem.

Doug Phillips The problem is that virtually everything on television is inappropriate for family viewing and displeasing to the Lord. No doubt, we could find some exceptions. For my part, I think the commercials may cause greater harm to young minds than even the television shows themselves.

Doug Phillips If we are going to rebuild a culture of virtuous boyhood, we need to separate ourselves from the culture of sensual boyhood, or violent boyhood, or occult boyhood. This means replacing the cultural atrocities of modern television with that which is "lovely, excellent, and above reproach."

Mary Leggewie: My husband and I went without TV for ten years, and when we finally got one, we were aghast at the change. No one else seemed to notice what had happened during that ten years! One year at a time, those awful changes had taken place, dulling the minds of viewers to the downward spiral!

Doug Phillips What you have described is the old "frog in the pot" applied to culture.

Mary Leggewie: Yes! Isn't that the truth! Would you like to explain that to our audience?

Doug Phillips Sure. How do you boil a living frog? Do you throw him into boiling hot water? Of course not. He immediately jumps out. The way to boil a frog is to put him in luke-warm water and gradually turn up the heat! Before he realizes what's happened, he's cooked.
The same is true for culture. Take homosexuality, for example. Years ago, it was not even discussed in public.

Mary Leggewie: And neither was heterosexuality!

Doug Phillips Then, television cautiously introduced the token comic homosexual. Next, homosexuality was discussed as a "normal" behavior.

Mary Leggewie: And, we, Bible believing Christians are now considered "intolerant!

Doug Phillips Finally, homosexuals were given television shows and forums through which they could actively proselytize their deviant behavior. It happened quickly, but it didn't happen overnight. First, we had to be desensitized to the sin.

Mary Leggewie: What role has the reintroduction of the Henty series played in the home school movement?

Doug Phillips More than any other series of which I am aware, the Henty novels have given young men a passion for history. Henty has proven that parents need not give their children the latest froth and drivel to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. Boys, even young boys, are capable of reading and benefiting from substantial literature.
The boys I know who read a Henty novel, tell me that they must read a second and a third and a fourth. Their love of Henty drives them to study in greater depth the magnificent of heroes and histories found in Western literature. I appreciate the Henty series because it sets strong, masculine, and Christian men before the boys of this generation.

Mary Leggewie: There is no excuse to waste time on the "Goosebumps" books of the world when there is such good literature out there! And it's interesting that they are equally enjoyed by the girls, who hope for a future husband like the Henty heroes!

Doug Phillips Of course. I hear from many girls who find the stories thrilling. Wise fathers should consider reading them to the entire family.

Mary Leggewie: Why should parents build libraries for their children?

Doug Phillips My father used to tell me that I would be the same person next year except for the books I read and the people I meet. Throughout history, the best educated men have been self-taught. There is no way to underestimate the value of Christian literature in the life of a boy or girl.
I would recommend that all parents make it a life mission to select the finest books for their children and to give each of them a library at the time of their emancipation. My own father spent years building my personal library. When I left my home, I had thousands of hardcover volumes given to me by my father. Apart from the spiritual training he gave me, I consider those books to be the greatest inheritance I could have received.

Mary Leggewie: Tell us about the "Christian Boys' and Men's Titanic Society."

Doug Phillips The Christian Boys' & Men's Titanic Society was founded to promote the biblical understanding of "Women and Children First." Our goal is to study the many spiritual lessons which can be derived from the sinking of the Titanic and to apply them to our lives today. Of paramount concern is the idea that men should sacrifice on behalf of women and children.

Mary Leggewie: Do you have a personal interest in the Titanic as well?

Doug Phillips Yes, I find the story utterly compelling. It's the closest thing I know of to a modern Bible story. I have committed my life to serving God through the restoration of biblical family culture.

Mary Leggewie: I see from your Web site that the maker of the recent movie on the sinking of the Titanic gave an apology to the survivors and families of the victims!

Doug Phillips In a very real sense, the men of the Titanic represent Christendom's last stand.

Mary Leggewie: Is chivalry a Biblical concept?

Doug Phillips Absolutely. At the heart of the notion of chivalry is the biblical doctrine of male sacrifice. As noted earlier in this interview, this doctrine was embodied in the life of Jesus Christ who gave his life for his "Bride," the Church.

Mary Leggewie: Tell us about your latest project, "the All-American Boy's Adventure Catalog." I'm drooling over your catalog here in my schoolroom!

Doug Phillips The All-American Boy's Adventure Catalog is our attempt at inspiring parents to rebuild a culture of virtuous boyhood. In my travels around the country, what I have found that parents lack the most is vision.

Doug Phillips They know something's the matter. They don't like what they see. They don't like the attitudes they see coming from their children, but they don't know what to do about it!
The basic idea behind the All-American Boy's Adventure Catalog is that every thought, every game, and every activity of a boy's life should prepare him for manhood and be pleasing to the Lord. We have selected toys, tools, and books to fit into overall concepts designed to inspire and motivate boys to dream big dreams for God. So, for example, we encourage boys to study biblical revelation in the stars, and strap on jungle survival gear so they can pretend to travel with David Livingstone through Africa. We give them tools so they can learn the truth about the flood of Noah's day and search for fossils. We encourage them to pretend to demonstrate faith in the face of battle with Sergeant York, and to help Dad around the home with their very own boy's toolbox.

Doug Phillips For those attendees who may have studied Christian apologetics, I like to think of the All-American Boy's Adventure Catalog as Cornelius Van Til applied to playtime.

Doug Phillips Perhaps this quote from David Livingstone will help: "I have labored in bricks and mortar, at the forge and carpenter's bench, as well as in preaching and medical practice. I feel that I am not my own. I am serving Christ when shooting a buffalo for my men or taking an astronomical observation."

Audience question: What kinds if activities do you recommend for young boys participate in? What do you think about fencing?

Doug Phillips My dad used to say, "if you don't know where you're going, any train will get you there." I think the first step is to set clear goals for your sons. Your goals will dictate those activities which will really benefit your son for eternity. Personally, I've always wanted to learn how to fence. It's interesting that you ask this question because my wife and I are currently evaluating whether or not it would be a God-honoring investment of my time to learn fencing with my sons.

Mary Leggewie: So how do we give the children swords and armor and not expect them to "kill" each other?

Doug Phillips Precisely. This is something one need be very careful about. Let me tell you how we do it in our family. I teach my children the proper use of firearms and self-defense weapons. My children are allowed to pretend to kill wild animals in self-defense and to hunt for food, but not to kill each other. Once again, we will not allow to do in their pretend life what God would not want them to do in their real life.

Audience question: How do you think homeschooling will help to restore chivalry in our culture?

Doug Phillips Home schooling will only help to restore chivalry if moms and dads make it their goal to teach the proper relationships between boys and girls to their children. This means that there should be clear role distinctions in the home. It also means that boys should be taught to protect and defend their sisters.
I have a boy named Justice. I also have a daughter named Liberty. When Liberty was born, we told Justice that his job was to be the guardian of Liberty. This in fact, is the statement over the United States Supreme Court building.

Audience question: What about higher education and the homeschooled youth?

Doug Phillips Wow, that's a big one. There's so much to think about. But for now, let me offer just a few thoughts. First, college is not inherently wrong. However, having said that, I believe it's wrong for an individual far more often than it's right (today). Consider that there are two elements to any college "experience." The first element is the culture. The second is the classroom.
Students may survive the humanism of the classroom, but it is very difficult to withstand the massive pressure placed on them within the context of the college culture. The real question is, "Why should I go to college?" The vast majority of people who go to college do so simply because they don't know what else to do with their lives.

Mary Leggewie: I find your comments here amazing. I've come to the exact same feelings over the past 4 years of homeschooling!

Doug Phillips I have a two-tape series entitled "How to Make Wise Decisions About College and Life After Home School" which tackles this issue from a presuppositional and biblical perspective. Again, give us a call if you would like further information.

Audience question: What do you mean by "clear goals"? Are we deciding what they will do career wise at young ages?

Doug Phillips Absolutely not. Your question, I believe, has to do with a boy's play life. By clear goals, I mean specific character qualities and life objectives. For example, if I want my son to be steeped in the Word of God, I need to carve out a substantial amount of time for him to study the Scriptures so that he can grow in wisdom and stature.

Audience question: But God does approve of you allow your children to play war and kill each other in war?

Doug Phillips Clearly, there is justifiable warfare. At the age of 17, John Smith moved to the woods to practice military skills by himself. He pretended to be a warrior in battle. This play life prepared him to be a great leader, and ultimately to found Jamestown. To make a long story short, it seems to me that we have to take into consideration the age of the child and the specific training goals that we have for that child during that season of his life.
It may be appropriate, for example, for a mature young man who is planning on defending his country or simply defending his family to engage in activities that would be entirely inappropriate for a young boy, lacking in wisdom and discernment, to play. In any event, I stand by my initial proposition: We should not allow in our play life what God would not allow in real life. If God does allow something, and if it is appropriate in context, then it's an entirely valid object of recreation or play.
If I could make one last analogy: A wise parent will carefully determine what type of literature his child is ready to receive. I, for one, have no interest in showing my six-year-old the movie "The Silent Scream." He is not at a point in his life when he is ready to look upon the abomination of abortion. It is enough that he knows that life is precious and that killing babies is wrong. The day may come, however, when it would be appropriate for him to have a more intimate knowledge of the cultural battle he will be confronting as a man. These are challenging subjects, and they require prayer and discernment.

If you would like more information about the Vision Forum or the All-American Boy's Adventure Catalog, you can contact them at Vision Forum.

Many thanks to Doug Phillips for sharing his thoughts with us here at!

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