More Politics and The Truth Project

I have a million things to do, but I want to put a quick blog post up in my hopes of being a little more consistent. Since we’ve returned from our vacation, I’ve been pulled a million different directions and I’ve been working at getting focused – all the while, still adjusting to our new schedule with Mary Beth and Clark at the preschool from 9:00 – 12:00. It’s been a challenge.

I want to reference two different topics in this post.

First of all, more thoughts about politics. Recently I have spent some time watching some late night political talk shows. What a waste of time. Really! What a waste of time. Any Christian will have some explaining to do on judgment day as to why they wasted so much time in that arena. All the hosts are so extreme – regardless of the “slant.” There are so many things out there that are more profitable. Some people reading this no doubt watch those shows and are offended that I would make such a swift/all encompassing statement – but seriously, what is the profit? You are more “up on the issues”? I’ve felt that shortcoming lately. It’s easy to feel like you need to educate yourself to better debate the issues with friends and co-workers. The kingdom call us to a higher plane. If politically-obsessed Christians would spend more time creatively considering the crises of our world and the differences they could make in their own circles . . . I just have to think that is more profitable. Is there anything wrong with watching them? I’d say the answer is in that old adage: everything in moderation. If you want to watch a political show, fine. Pick one – just one, and do something more profitable with the rest of your time.

I plan to make a longer post in reference to Brian McLaren’s latest book I’m nearly finished with – Everything Must Change. It’s taken me awhile to get to it (I bought it last year at the zoe conference in Nashville – over a year ago). It’s an interesting work and I’ll post more later.

Two couples from our congregation spent a day in September attending a simulcast training presentation of Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project. We began showing the series the week we were in Maine – three Sundays ago. It is a 50 minute video presentation, followed by a thirty minute small group experience. The two families that did the training were over-enthusiastic about it and brought that excitement to our church in hopes of bringing more depth to our membership.

Unfortunately, I head up our teens’ small group on Sunday nights and that’s really the only night that we can be together. I had some doubts about how much the teenagers would connect with it, and it’s the only time we’re together, so I was reluctant to separate the teens out. Anyway, the bottom line is I don’t get to watch the videos with the rest of the church or participate in the small groups. There is a make up group during the week, and last night I attended that group watching the second video about worldview and philosophy.

I’ll say up front that I expressed (quietly) some concern . . . no, not concern, doubt – about the underlying philosophy The Truth Project would be coming from – before seeing, but implying from what I know about Focus on the Family and the teasers that we watched. Our membership is excited about the series, and I in no way wanted to damper that, but instead wanted (and still want) people to consider the presentations critically. A note about Focus on the Family – I think they’ve done some good things and James Dobson began with a good direction, but has gone a direction that I am not comfortable at all and his political lobbying has outweighed the message he began with. Extremely disappointing. So, their affiliation with FOTF drew initial skepticism.

I searched for some information online about The Truth Project because I was unfamiliar with it, and couldn’t find much. I did get a few hits praising it, but nothing real substantative, mostly passing references. I did find one substanitive blog in regards to it who shared concerns that I saw going in. If you are interested you can read his posts here. Maybe it was a bad idea to “jade” my own opinion before watching, but through some of his other posts I saw a similar theological outlook. So, if you see some repetition in my own thoughts below, I probably got them from him, and I think he was right on.

OK, so in reference to the second lesson:

It seems to me that the professor, Del Tackett, and the others involved in the series (R.C. Sproul, Os Guiness, Ravi Zaccarias, and others) are reacting to and struggling through a postmodern philosophical and theological shift that has already happened. This video highlights how unhelpful terms can be. “Postmodernism” according to Tackett is a false worldview that he groups next to “secular humanism,” “Islam,” among others. From my understandings, the philospohical foundations for this argument is not very accurate. Towards the end of the video the professor uses a chart which shows “Truth” on one side (what we’re all after) and all the other “world views” on the other side throwing their lies at us, decieving us.

That is foundationalism. If we could just see those foundations, just weed out all the manipulations and half-truths and lies, we’d only be left with “truth.” Tackett never addresses how we can do that when the only thing we have to work through are all those -isms and -ologies that shape our thinking.

He uses a box and some out-dated Sagan video series to illustrate the limits philosophy has put on its self. To see nothing outside the box leads only to despair and inner-conflict – Nietzche’s nihilism (though for some reason, he never mentions Nietzhe). I don’t like his box analogy. It’s much too simple and cuts a critical step out. I told our small group I think I’d compare it more to a Rubik’s cube. Sure, there’s something outside the box (something that every poll shows 95% of people believe, I’m not sure why he spent so much time rehashing a dressed up ontological apologetic) but while we are inside the box are we free to understand that something on our own? I know it freaks out those absolutists, but relativity is inevitable. The great thing about Truth is not that once we have it figured out we are transformed (which is what I hear Tackett saying), but it is in our search for it and our conversations with other in regards to it, we are transformed. Realizing just how little of it we really know.

This is an area of theology I am extremely interested in, but unfortunatley, have difficulty communicating. This makes my interaction through this video series a challenge. I think I will be going back through Grenz and Franke’s book Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context. This was my first exposure to the topic and highlights the divide alive and well in “evangelical theology.” Tackett is more espoused to the D.A. Carson’s and Millard Erickson’s (this divide can be easily seen in Erickson’s response to Grenz’s book Renewing the Center which he aptly titled in opposition: Reclaiming the Center.

In other words, the disagreement and problems that I see coming in this video series are not something I just made up. It is reflective of a broader issue of doing theology in a postmodern context in a post-rationalism, post-absolute world – the world of fragmentation as Grenz and Franke refer to it. I’ll end with a quote from Grenz and Franke highlighting the trouble with Hackett’s criticism of postmodernity:

“Clearly postmodernism cannot be dismissed as nothing more than a deconstrutive agenda that stands in stark opposition to Christian faith and thought. On the contrary, there is much evidence that suggests that the postmodern context has actually been responsible for the renewal of theology as an intellectual discipline after a period of stagnation under the weight of mdernists demands concerning the acquisition of knowledge. Freed from teh constraints of modernity, postmodern concerns have spawned numerous new theological programs.” (p. 22)

If you have seen The Truth Project, I would love to dialogue further about it. I am excited to be having this dialogue in our church and appreciate these two couples wanting to be challenged and wanting to challenge our folks. I hope we are all up to that challenge.

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3 thoughts on “More Politics and The Truth Project

  1. “I know it freaks out those absolutists, but relativity is inevitable. The great thing about Truth is not that once we have it figured out we are transformed (which is what I hear Tackett saying), but it is in our search for it and our conversations with other in regards to it, we are transformed. Realizing just how little of it we really know.”Very well said! What absolutism doesn’t want to admit is that whoever claims it is just claiming a relative perspective. What makes it more dangerous than admitted relativism is that, as Walter Brueggemann stated, “Absolutism invariably leads to denial”.

  2. Thanks for the post, Randy and the link. I looked over the information and it lays out Tackett's premise in regards to the role of the "sphere of the state." In some of my other posts on The Truth Project, I've critiqued this "sphere" understanding to the Bible. It is Tackett's understanding that the Bible somehow maps out this grandiose social order. Now, I'm the first to acknowledge there is a great order and scheme behind the great creative God, but I'm not convinced that he isn't over playing the cards on this one. Foundational to his argument (again, a philosophical underpinning that I've already rebutted in this post) is the idea that God has created blue printed confines within which the state must operate. His case point is a handy one considering his conservative realpolitik. Why not consider the question, "Can the state murder unjustly?" His case study on can the state steal is simply his case against the welfare state. In his argument he chooses the relatively obscure story of Uzziah. Now, Uzziah's in the Scriptures and I also believe he should be considered. But, it could hardly be argued that Uzziah somehow represents an exemplary story of the core identity of Old Testament social ethics. A broader and more fundamental Old Testament example would be Leviticus 25's teaching of the year of Jubilee. Every 50 years the state of Israel was to forcibly redistribute wealth. It's not often termed that way since it sends up so many red flags, but is that not exactly what happens? Those who had become imprisoned were to be freed. Those who had lost everything were given a fresh start. Those who had accumulated too much had to give up their excess. Interestingly, Tackett makes strong statements about the Bible's teaching making it being an overstepping of the role of the state to do exactly what Israel was commanded to do (and later reprimanded by the Old Testament prophets for not doing!) And this is no obscure law on the edge of the Torah – this was fundamental to it's economy! By no means am I claiming that this solves any discussion . . . however, it blasts major holes in Tackett's arguments and shows him to be rather inept in his presentation by not dealing with the most glaring shortcomings of his overgeneralization. One other aspect of the notes I'll comment on is the listing of the states and their leaders who have shown "obvious overstepping of the state's authority." It's a list of the notable notorious world leaders: the worst of the worst – Hitler, Stalin, etc. While I am in no way comparing these evil empires with the American empire, I do think it deserves mention that the United States and other Western empires are not allowed a free pass. Millions have died at the hands of American militaristic campaigns. Again, I'm not in any way denying the blessings of our country. However, as Christians we are called to be prophets, standing back from the culture and acknowledging God when we see Him, acknowledging sin when we see it. More Christians need to acknowledge America is an empire. The only empires in the Bible were staunchly addressed in the Bible (be it Rome, Egypt, etc.) We must not give America some free pass. Tackett's theology here is a house of cards created to avoid real critique and consideration of prophetic implication for the new empire in which we find ourselves. Thanks again, Randy for you comments, I'm going to post this as my newest blog entry as well since it's been awhile since I've commented on the Truth Project.

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