Once upon a time a friend from church gave us a video about some amazing archeological discoveries by one man, discoveries he made in a matter of a few weeks or months that proved story after story in the Bible, no matter how many centuries apart those stories were. As my family watched the video I felt more and more uncomfortable. I could not believe what I was watching. I saw cracks and flaws in the logic, in the stories presented, in the recounting of this or that discovery. And about halfway through the video, one of our little girls, the fifth one, about 6 years old at the time, looked at me doubtfully and asked, “Could this really all be true? It doesn’t seem like it.” I had to agree with her. I told her, no, it didn’t sound right to me, either, it seemed very fishy, and we’d be looking into it. The other children looked relieved, they’d been wondering, too, but it took the youngest at the time to have the audacity to question whether or not the emperor was wearing anything. IT didn’t take long to find that we were not the only ones who had doubts, and that others had investigated and found very, very good reasons to call this person a charlatan and a fraud.
That video had been shared by our friend without about a dozen other people at church. Nobody else had questioned it. Now, happily, our friend was not angry with us when we shared our research and suggested it had all been a cheat. He was sad and disappointed in the maker of the video and in himself. It doesn’t always happen that way.
Why had our 6 year old spotted fraud when over a dozen very smart adults had not (some of them were actually engineers with the space program or with Boeing in other areas. Most of them had college degrees, unlike myself or my 6 year old child)? I don’t know and I’m not going to make a bunch of guesses, except to say that they had turned off their discernment functions for whatever reason.
There’s another fraudulent story out there on video. It was specifically marketed to homeschoolers. If you ever purchased the ‘documentary’ called Raising the Allosaurus from Vision Forum, you should probably read the links below. Actually, if you purchased anything or followed the ministry without ever feeling a twitchy sense of “Something here is not right,” you should read these articles:
This is the longest read, with the most information. It includes links to videos of interviews with various people who were witnesses to what actually happened vs what you were shown on the ‘documentary.’ I use those scare quotes on purpose.
This is a pretty good summary with a few pieces of new information, but it’s still not as comprehensive as the one above, and I never take anything I find on this site as true without confirmation from other sources.
In November of 2004, Terry Beh (he has written for World Magazine) wrote about the ethical issues and deception surrounding Doug Phillip’s creation of the myth of the homeschoolers who raised an allosaurus.
If you have the movie Raising the Allosaurus, and you’ve read the posts and comments in the links above (I know that’s a lot of reading), the images here make more sense, but even without them, I think there’s enough to tell that there was evidence in the video itself that the story being sold was a deception. If you watched this movie and didn’t wonder, you should be asking yourself why you missed the signs. I say that not in a meanspirited, critical, finger-pointing way. I mean this to be an encouragement toward more of my internet friends seeking to exercise their discernment muscles.
Full Disclosure: I never bought the video because I am a very devoted friend to a relative of Joe Taylor, who I believe was bullied and defrauded of credit and more by Doug Phillips and the DeRosa boys. But I also seldom purchased anything from VF until the end when everything went on sale for 75% or more off, because my spidey senses tingled with the very first catalog I saw. But it was only my spidey senses tingling, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what made me feel twitchy about it, so I didn’t say much to others. I think publicizing my twitches without something more factual to go by than those twitches is dangerously close to gossip. So, like Bre’er Rabbit, I just lay low.
Now, not everything ever published or sold by VF is junk. Even if it was never sincerely promoted by its leadership for one minute, even if was always only about personal gain, Paul had something to say about those sorts of ministries:
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.
…The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.
…But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,
If you learned something good, even if only because something said caused you to turn to your Bible for yourself as you questioned what you were hearing, be thankful for that and for God’s grace, and leave the rest behind you.
For any self-seeking, self-aggrandizing, and harsh judgement of others, they will be more than sufficiently condemned.
Why mention it now? Isn’t this just water under the bridge, or piling on? Well, I hope not. That’s not my intention. My intention is to use this to encourage you to use this as a learning opportunity. VF is not the only organization out there which is or was making merchandise of your souls, preying on the trusting, looking to market itself for those who wanted a leader.
This is not the first century nor, probably the last where Greedy, self-serving false teachers who, “…through covetousness… with feigned words make merchandise of” of others, who, ‘in their greed’ and ‘with fictitious accounts’ (such as Raising the Allosaurus?) exploit others and seek to make a profit from them. It’s not the only country where this happens. The Apostle Paul wrote the words I quoted in the previous sentence to warn believers of the first century (and all of us after) to beware of such teachers.
But you cannot beware if you are too gullible and trusting, if exercising discernment wearies you and makes you fidgety, if you would rather just accept what you hear and not worry about things that might not be ‘nice.’ Paul had words for people who avoided growing their discernment muscles, too. Some of them were babies, and he didn’t mean cute. He prayed for the babies to come to greater maturity. Some of them were people who wanted their ears tickled. It’s not just people who crave Christianity Lite who like their ears tickled, either. Some of us who yearn for the deeper, harder truths can be just as susceptible to that.
I mentioned those who would rather just accept a teaching without worrying about things that are not nice. Let’s just all love each other, they might say (I know some of them. They do say it). Love is good, but it’s not enough. Paul prayed that the Christians in Philippi would have love, but that their love also be informed by insight, wisdom, and discernment.
How do you get discernment? Try this.
P.S. For the curious, Vision Forum is the company I was talking about in the HSBLA controversy back in 2002, when I said:”… some of the prizes offered are not prizes I would use or recommend, either. At least one is a business I have refused to buy from for many years now, and I think my reasons are very good. But so what?”