This note is from Jeff Phillips Some of us have already mentioned that there were positives which we gained from our time at FCC. One example of this for me is the teaching Steve gave on the principle of government. Ironically, it was his teaching of this principle and his and Bill’s lack of living out the principle that led me to leave the movement. Let me explain.
Steve had heard someone teach on biblical principles and condensed everything into a booklet he called Principle Method for Building a Christian Generation. There were seven principles, one of which was the principle of government. In a nutshell, this principle states that there are four spheres of government: the individual, the family, the church, and the state. Each sphere has its own property and purpose, and there is an ultimate form of punishment in each one. One of the points Steve drove home about the spheres was that the authority in each should not be usurped by another sphere. For example, it is the purpose of the family to educate children. Thus, it is wrong for the state to usurp this role and educate children. Likewise, it is the role of the church to speak the truth of God’s word to the other spheres of government. Thus, it would be wrong for the state to take on this role. This is a good application of the separation of church and state. I believe this is sound teaching and still embrace the principle of government.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, Steve and others championed this aspect of the principle in word but not in deed. In Tampa, my second son was regressing in his development around two years old. We were concerned that he might be autistic (he was, and we got the diagnosis a few months later). He could not communicate (he could say a few words, but that is different from communication) and would become very frustrated at times. In his frustration, he would scream a lot. To be sure, sometimes his screaming would be an act of defiance and disobedience, but not all the time. Bill told me that I needed to spank him every time he screamed. At first, I did, against my conscience and to my shame. When I began to push back on this and assert my concern that my son’s behavior was not always rebellious, I began to “get into trouble.” The bottom line is that I felt Bill was not allowing me to exercise authority concerning my own children’s discipline. It felt like it was either his way, or it was the wrong way. This violated the principle that Steve taught us so thoroughly.
I asked Bill one time, is it possible to receive counsel from my pastor about a matter of opinion (NOT biblical truth), and then to take that counsel before the Lord in prayer with the fear of God, but then to arrive at a different conclusion/opinion from my pastor. He never answered my question directly. His response was, “You are not going to tell me how to run my church.” When I responded that wasn’t what I was doing, that I was appealing to him, he said, “Nice try.”
Another aspect of the principle of government was violated (in my opinion) by Steve as well. As I wrote earlier, the principle states that there is an ultimate form of punishment in each sphere. For the individual, it is hell. The family has the rod. The church has withdrawal of fellowship. And the state has capital punishment. Steve taught that every act of disobedience was to be met with the rod, i.e. a spanking. Yet, this is the ULTIMATE form of punishment in the family. We don’t execute everyone in the state sphere every time a law is broken, nor should we use the ultimate discipline of spanking for every disobedient act of a child. One of my seminary professor has written a great book on this—Wise Parenting: Guidelines from the Book of Proverbs (http://www.amazon.com/Wise-Parenting-Guidelines-Book-Proverbs/dp/1572933526/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314290297&sr=1-6).
These inconsistencies in the application of the principle of government gave me one impetus for removing myself from the church in Tampa and the greater FCC movement. Let me just add that if you are married man and have children, there is no one higher than you in authority in your home except God. Never let a man usurp that authority from you. –JLP