Revisiting the Truth Project

Last fall I did a series of posts reflecting on the video series promoted by Focus on the Family called The Truth Project. It was a well-produced series that promotes, by my assessment, a foundational Christian philosophy that has gone on the offensive in recent years as it has lost steam in the face of the demise of modern philosophy. I continue to receive many hits from folks searching for information to the Truth Project and thought I would repost my most recent response to a Truth Project inquiry.

Someone inquired to my reaction to this link regarding Lesson 9 on the state. I offered the following thoughts:

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.


The Truth Project Twice More

We are nearing the end of our small group study of The Truth Project. Last night I watched the second to last installment about the “sphere of labor.” I did not get to see the last video about “The American Experiment” but have a pretty good idea of where he was going with it – a place I will be spending a great deal of time arguing against in the coming weeks. Essentially believing that America is a great last hope for the Gospel and we need to continue to try and “save it for God” or bring it back to God or whatever. Anyone reading this who has been here before knows that I especially struggle with such a perspective. I just finished reading Gregory Boyd’s book entitled The Myth of a Christian Nation. It is a great pastoral piece written to challenge and make people uncomfortable in dealing with their idolatry of nationalism. This problem is alive and well and way too often has gone unaddressed. I would like to say more about the book as I found it to be a poignant and sharp pastoral treatment of a topic that is all too often left in academia.

However, back to the truth project. I had many misgivings and much reserve in studying this material knowing that it was produced (or at least marketed) by Focus on the Family. I knew there would be some underlying agenda-driven points along the way. It met me squarely with this video on labor. Now, I do applaude the inclusion of this topic in the series. He is right that we too often do not speak of the place of labor in our theological framework. And for the first part of his video I felt he did a fair job of presenting a biblical perspective. Our role in work is rooted in God’s working in the Genesis account. God worked. He created us to work. Work is not inherently evil. The Fall did affect work (he states that the text shows it affected the ground, not work itself, which may be a semantical variation, but I don’t feel as though he gives enough credance here to the affect the Fall has had – he sure was adament that the Fall had affected our moral capacity in the rest of the series!)

When he moves away from Genesis, however, he begins some hermentuetical gymnastics to make his right wing political ideology fit the Bible. I found his use of the biblical text in this video to be incredibly selective and misleading and incredibly unfortunate. He loves the Old Testament where it talks about leaving behind the gleanings for the poor people to work – to ensure they WORK for their wages. The poor should not be given hand outs. OK, I’m with him there. Systematic rehabilitation is at the core of addressing the complex issues of poor – but little progress will be made by wood-working factories leaving the sawdust for poor people to collect and recycle (the “incredible” example he gives). But here, as throughout this series, he is showing an incredibly myopic and fundamentalist perspective of the text. The Bible says it, I believe it, let’s move on. He came across to me as a very well-intentioned (I don’t doubt his heart) white, middle class American who has taken little time to sit down accross the table from the impoverished families who are all out of “easy” answers. For Tackett, everything is flat. The poor need jobs; people with money need to make jobs so they will work. If only it was that simple!

This is, to me, one of the most frustrating aspects that frequently surfaces from evangelical Christianity – an utter disregard for the complex sociological and economic factors affecting the world. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but there comes a point and time when we need to put our Bibles down and learn from economics, sociology (and all other disciplines) and struggle and wrestle with how this impacts our understanding of the sacred texts. It is like Tackett has been unaware through this entire series how he has been shaped by these disciplines and through his life experience, and instead stamps his perspective as the way.

Unfortunately, his way doesn’t consider the fundamental economic program in the Old Testament. I have had disagreements with his teaching throughout the series, but felt as though it served as good discussion. Some of his statements and teachings in this series are downright misleading and un-biblical. I am flabergasted that he would spend 15 minutes of his hour long session on the gleanings passage and NEVER mention jubilee. Jesus reads from the text in Isaiah at the beginning of his ministry in Luke stating that he has come to fulfill this (in their hearing). Israel was intended to be built around the idea of redistrubtion of wealth – something he lists on the screen that the Bible teaches is a SIN! A sin! It is a biblical teaching! I’m not supporting socialism or anything like that . . . my point is that Tackett has allowed his culture to dictate his understanding of the text. The Bible does teach that this is a sin. It actually looks a lot like what the early church did. Jubilee forcefully redistributed the wealth every fifty years. I don’t believe that this makes everything easy to understand . . . but if you are going to have a Bible study you CAN’T spend a fourth of your times talking about the gleanings (because that fits into your Republican/Protestant work ethic ideology) and not address the jubilee (because that fits more into a Democratic/liberal sharing of wealth that you don’t agree with). Why else would he avoid this teaching? It is even more central to Old Testament theology? And of course he went to the Proverbs to uphold the value of work and all that. There is a lot to be wrestled with here, and he avoids the conflict altogether and instead presents our form of economy as though it is ordained in Scripture – it is not. It may be a better version than most or all other economies . . but it is not presented in the Bible (our economy is totally foreign to the biblical authors).

He makes the same mistake in the New Testament. He rushes to you don’t work you don’t eat and says . . . See, told you. But totally avoids Jesus’ fundamental teachings from the Sermon on the Mount – if someone asks for your tunic, give him your cloak as well. Tackett would say give him a job. Hey that’s great . . . but all I’ve got is a tunic and cloak. His poor use of the Bible in this episode shows that he is not a theologian working outside his field, mistraining those in the ways of his ideology.

He shows his card and the house of cards falls out from under him by a simple and seemingly harmless comment he makes off the cuff and on the side. To completely understand this you’ll have to know the general outline that he uses for his teaching. There are great foundations built on the nature and character of God, anthropological insights, supporting pillars of philosophy and others and on top are these spheres: labor, sociology, and others. His premise is that these spheres are the created order set in place by God with a purpose. It is when these spheres overlap into another sphere that sin enters. It sounds great, but it’s not biblical. The Bible nowhere lays out some created order that everything follows. This is where modernistic scientific models break down. Sure, there is some good in organizing things this way and it is a helpful way to talk about things that don’t get addressed enough. However, you can’t draw logical conclusions based on these faulty logic premises. That fails to see them for what they are. They are illustrates for the sake of discussion, not ontologically secure facts.

His comment is that the spheres of government (the state) and labor are different and that jobs can’t come from the state. Wait . . . was that John McCain or Dell Tackett. The Bible doesn’t say anything about that. He knows that, that’s why he quickly moves on, but if you’re paying attention, you can’t let him get by with that comment. His whole system breaks down if you begin to use it in that way. My postmodern mind was fatigued by trying to follow his thoroughly modernistic approach and application to Scriptures. It furthers my suspicions that The Truth Project is a thoroughly modernistic agent dressed up with some bells and whitles (there was a really well done and cool video at the beginning of this session depicting God’s creation), but riddled with the same issues that are being debunked by postmodernity.

In the end, Tackett offers too many answers, and not enough questions in an area that is very challenging and complex. I appreciate his willingness to address the topic, but wish that he would do so acknowledging his biasses.

The Truth Project and History

In our latest installment of The Truth Project, Dr. Del Tackett tackles the topic of history. After viewing the video, I have to admit that it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be (a thought shared by one of the others in the group I watched it with). He said, afterwards, “I thought there would be . . . I don’t know . . . more history.” The topic title is a little misleading.

Tackett camps out on the frequent Old Testament admonishment to “Remember,” looking at numerous passages where Israel was told to “Remember” different events of its life (Sinai, crossing the Red Sea, the Passover, etc.) Beginning here, Tackett states the imperative that we remember history correctly. He spends a good deal of time blasting revisionist history, offering passing insight into his conservative political position as he mentions secular liberals seeking to remember American history differently than the way it was written (basically taking God out of it).

I really like the premise of the topic. “Remember” is such a critical aspect of God’s desire for his people. I was astonished that in the entire topic, he didn’t mention the Eucharist once to my knowledge. What more key thelogical concept can there be t0 remembering than the communion celebration – “In remembrance of me.” This shocking oversight is troubling.

However, the bigger difficulty I had with the history session was its thoroughly modern intepretation of history. He spends a few minutes debunking post-modernism and its lack of a meta-narrative. There’s no doubt that the lack of meta-narrative in the postmodern world is cause for concern. However, I strongly disagree with Tackett’s solution, which is to hold on to a modern worldview . . . which I think pretty quickly unravels when considering this topic.

Postmodernism, we are told in the video, jettisons the larger meta-narrative in obsession for the smaller individual narrative of the individual. Instead of realizing the great opportunity this offers, Tackett and those contributing to the discussion, bemoan the situation. However, he offers no answer to the problems postmodernism has challeged. Instead, he utterly ignores them as though they don’t exist.

I find it truly ironic that he accuses the “world” of myopia when that is exactly the problem I see inherent in his belief system in regards to history. He has a great moving moment in light of a painting of the Pilgrims and talks of the great sacrifices they made to follow what they thought of as God’s will – coming to America, expanding the kingdom he even says. What a great people they were, following God’s will even to the point of death from the elements. It’s interesting that he determines that this is the meta-narrative, the guiding story and following of God’s people that will lead no doubt to where he’s headed with the session entitled the “Great American Experiment” looming. It was God’s will that this nation was founded. Upon the great principles of God. Perhaps that discussion can be had in political circles – but NOT theological ones. I believe that the founding fathers of our nation are irrelevant to the proposition of the church and her relationship to the culture within which she lives. America has baptized the church instead of vice versa. We have become so incredibly self-centered in our discussions of theology and politics. We must repent and overcome this. This point is made incredibly well by Rob Bell in his latest book Jesus Wants to Save Christians (I plan to review that book when I finish it up.) Theologically, we have to deal with the narrative of all people.

What Tackett fails to acknowledge is that the Pilgrims landing on this shore began the process for a much more heinous narrative to unfold as one of the most persecuted and oppressed people in the history of the world who would be massacred. This, too, must fit into our metanarrative. It does not, I contend, fit into the picture that Tackett is painting of history. Instead, it is his perspective that is, indeed, myopic. He sees only the history of his own people, failing to incorporate the story of others . . . which is the great gift of postmodernity. It forces us to consider the story of others. We very well may claim to have a meta-narrative that others can fit . . . but, more likely than not, it will have to be altered in consideration of the others.

The world of postmodernism is not a clean and cut world and it makes those schooled in modernity, like Tackett, very afraid and worried, and, unfortunately, defensive.

And . . . a last just unbelieveable word. Tackett actually tells the audience that the only date he makes his seminary students learn is 1859 – the year that Darwin published The Origin of Species. Wow . . . and he’s accusing others of myopia?

Truth Project: Reflections from Treatment of Science

I’ve had a bit of hiatus from the blog, and that was partly intentional as I want to continue my discussion of Focus on the Family’s Truth Project, our church has been watching and discussing together. I missed a week’s post because the section on science wound up being done in two parts, and subsequently took two weeks to get done. So . . . I watched the second installment of science last Wednesday and finally had a minute to post a few thoughts on it here (you can find the methodology behind the lessons here).

The professor of the class has been erecting pillars upon the foundation of his opening three lessons (who is God, who is man, what is truth). The first pillar was philosophy and now we come to science (to be followed by history and then ethics).

I found his two parts on science very interesting . . . and peculiar. Boiling it down, Tackett goes through a dressed up cosmological argument for the existence of God. I find it interesting that he offers this “world view” as though it is new (I mean he points to Scripture, of course, but never ackowledges the long history of the cosmological argument, although he does really like Paley’s watchmaker argument). It’s nothing more than a fancy cosmological argument with cool graphics. This argument has long been a key argument for the existence of God for Christians.

Tackett attempts to throw new fodder in the argument by utilizing skeptics of evolutionary theory from the scientific community (who are not necessarily Christians). In general, I thought the series on science was pretty good – he begins by reading, “The heavens declare the glory of God . . .” from the Psalter, and looks at the many incredible mechanisms that make up life.

The unfortunate aspect of the sessions are his insistently argumentative and combative tone when it comes to those to whom he disagrees – and in science he finds his enemy in Darwin. On several occassions, as he has throughout this series, he mocks and laughs at those who do not believe. If he had left the tone worshipful and awe-inspiring of the created order God has made . . . I would have nothing negative to say in regards to these two weeks. However, Tackett cannot leave it at that. He must deal with the “perniscious liars” who “manipulate truth” and are basically out to get us. I, again, cannot follow the rationale that gets him there.

For Tackett, it’s basically a black and white issue. God created everything (nearly, if not completey) literally as it is portrayed in the Bible. Anyone who sheds doubt on this fact is a pernicious liar and the Evil One has overtaken them. When you get through the two-week lesson you are led to believe that anyone who believes is evolution is completely ignorant and totally misled by the lies of the world. He, once again, builds up a strawman and blows him down. I know it is impossible for him to treat everything in the area of science (it is telling that he limits himself to the Darwin discussion . . . we all know what is coming as we venture nearer the topics of the state and the American experiment – he’s already tipping his hand), but I feel as though he does a great disservice by avoiding the more difficult matters.

Instead of picking up on the positives one can see in the world, the searching that continues to go on in science (this was no doubt put together before Ben Stein’s movie, Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed), and there are great steps being taken by the science community as they continue to see the incredible world. Tackett does allow for micro-evolution, however he never mentions it in the actual presentation of the two sessions, but only in the post-script seen in the second session. No doubt he’s afraid to open that can, and instead prefers to simply push it aside.

With Tacket, I see the long-held antagonism between the church and science. He is quick to mention how science was birthed from the church, but conveniently ignores the incredible persecution brought on by the church once science showed the church’s error. Are we beyond that? Could that not still happen today? Charles Darwin has left an indellible mark in science that led a 19th century scientific revolution of near Capernican caliber, surely incorrect on many accounts (how much of Galileo’s original findings were later shown to be inaccurate), but tipped a very important domino . . . and they continue to fall to this day.

While I found this session to be closer to where it needs to be, I still left disappointed with the avoidance of the the difficulties in faith and science. Too often the church portrays a message that says, “Yep, we have it all figured out, if you would just get your head out of the sand, you’d see it too.” This is exactly what Tackett says. Only the sand is the perniscious lies sold to them by Satan. Why not be up front with people ackowledging the ambiguity of the creation story? Is he not familiar with the ancient near eastern parallels with that story, or does he wish to avoid their sure controversial implications? What about the neaderthals that keep popping up? That seems to fit with Darwin better than Moses. These are the things that we are all exposed to regularly through media, and yet he wants us just to ignore it all because it is all misleading and slanted and lying.

Surely there is a middle road here: to acknowledge the incredible wonder that is seen in creation. One of Tackett’s favorite passages in this series is in Romans 1 where Paul talks of how God has clearly revealed himself in his Creation. Tackett takes that to mean that if you can’t see it you are an idiot (though he never comes right out and says it). I think he can season that with salt better and ackowledge that we are all seeking for meaning and fulfillment and just maybe we’ll see it in creation first, and have to back into a faith in God . . . and that’s ok.

Truth Project Reflections

I have seen a few more installments of the Truth Project without comment, choosing instead some political reflections. Tonight, I should finish reading Shane Claiborne’s and Chris Haw’s very impressive Jesus for President, so I’ll rejoin that topic soon, but I did want to get back to a few thoughts on the Truth Project.

The last two installments of the Truth Project dealt with the two age-old questions of “Who is Man?” and “Who is God?” Interestingly, as least to me, he began with “Who is man?” before addressing “Who is God?” While not wanting to downplay the help these videos may be for many, I continue to be troubled by the underlying premise of much of the teaching. I’ve spoken previously about the underlying foundationalism from which the teacher comes. It continues to be a problem for me. For Del Tackett, the instructor, the world is laid out in black and white terms: good and evil. If something is not good, it is evil. This is why, in his “Who is God?” lesson, he states he began with man rather than God – man is evil and we have to understand that before looking at the nature of God.

I was more troubled with his teaching on man than his teaching on God stemming mostly from his Calvinist leanings which run counter to my tradition (suprisingly, and a little alarmingly, however, few of our members seem to notice any fundamental difference in perspective). I don’t doubt that there is something to be learned in Calvinism, however, I cannot support the total depravity which was, in essence, the teaching in this video. Man, so stated the video, is inherently evil. This was the fundamental lesson of this session, and I cannot uphold such a view. I believe the Bible teaches that man is inherently good! Created in the image of God. Now, Tackett does acknowlege this in kind of a side comment at the end of the video as if to acknowledge the shortcoming of his own theology of anthropology.

What I found especially ironic about this session was the underlying premise was that man is inherently evil and therefore, nothing of the world is to be trusted. And yet, he paints himself into a corner at the end, because he accuses humanity of all the ills and leaves no hope – we messed up and we have to wait it out until Jesus comes back and fixes it all. What of the already of the kingdom!? He never addresses it. How then shall we live? (We’ll get there, we’ll get there, I’m sure he would say, but you cannot separate the praxis from theory, and here the theor is flawed).

He picks on Maslow and his teaching of the hierarchy of needs. Quoting miscellanious fragments from Maslow, Tackett once again sets up the strawman to show that Maslow is misled and all his teaching is hogwash. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but he often jests and makes fun of the theory (really he only disagreed with Maslow’s aim in the hierarchy of needs – that man’s chief aim is self-actualization – something that he’ll hang onto and through synedoche make represent all the teaching of world) but due to his extreme dualism, he throws the whole thing out and says – “What do you expect? He’s of the world!” If only discernment was that easy! Instead, it seems to me that Paul would have an Athenian moment here. Your pyramid of hiearchy is good . . . though misguided. God is a God who has already actualized you. You are good by nature! Created in the image of God! To acknowlege total depravity, to me, allows evil to triumph good. No, there is nothing that can trump the good in us, that is what gives us hope now! Living out our faith right now, allowing the image that is within us to trump the cries and desire of the flesh – is that not the point of Romans 8!

The fact of the matter, there is much good (even biblical?) in Maslow’s theory. Why must we throw all out, accusing all non-believers of having false motives because they are caught up in some scandal trying to work against us? While this series is dressed up with cool graphics and masquarades as intellectualism, it still remains highly critical and skeptical of all higher learning! After all, the “liberal” academy is after us! I believe that if we uphold the things presented in this video, we will essentially cut ourselves off from communication with higher learning. I’m especially curious to see the next two videos (both on science). At this point, I can’t seem him being too enthusiastic about the direction of the sciences.

There is much more I could say on this video, I’ve said too much already, but I want to also comment on the next video on the nature of God. I found his approach to the question, “Who is God?” very disappointing if not just totally random. He asks the quetion and then never answers it. I mean, after all, how could you answer it? But, I would say he never even really addresses it. He has this long pastoral discourse on God being a jealous God which was sentimental and fine, but I found it random and wasn’t sure how that fit into his main discussion of who is God. He never mentioned the communal aspect of the trinity as portrayed in Scripture. This is fundamental to the nature of God and as far as I’m concerned if you are only going to give one shot (one hour) at the nature of God and never address that aspect, I’m just puzzled. It continues a very worrisome theme that has been there throughout – a theology that is almost entirely individualistic.

His discussion of sin was largely individualistic (our choices). His discussion of God was entirely individualistic (our own personal relationship). The remaining “pillars” that he sets out to address in the end of this series (economy, work, politics) are going to be malnourished because of this complete ignoring of the communal aspect of the essense of God: in theological jargon, a “functional trinitarian theology.” This is where theology has moved in recent years, and to ignore it comletely shows the reliance of antiquated, foundational modernistic philosophy underlying this entire video series.

With all that said, it’s probably going to connect to the modern thinkers in churches (50 – plus), but really miss those of us under that age. It raises some big time questions about the direction churches that work from that philosophy are headed.

Divergent Emergent Perspectives

I ran across this clip on Youtube today searching for emergent discussions. I found it interesting since both RC Sproul and Ravi Zaccarias are featured in the discussion – I never did figure out who the third guy was, but the link for the video on youtube references it as a Ligonier ministry – RC Sproul’s creature. These two are prominently featured in the Truth Project, and their perspectives were unfamiliar to me before our time with the Truth Project. With our congregation in the midst of the discussion, I know find it important to better inform myself. Admittedly, most of the reading that I do is focused among emergent-type authors. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that I am part of churches of Christ who aren’t really evangelicals (though some of us are looking more and more like them), but find ourselves, for the most part, of of these kinds of discussions.

So . . . a few thoughts on this video clip. The speakers unfairly use Brian McLaren as their dartboard picture. He’s an easy target, no doubt, due to what is quickly becoming a prolific writing resume and his widespread appeal in the Emergent Church. However, he is better seen as the representative pastor of the emergent movement as opposed to the theologian and thinker. He is these things, but not nearly at the level of others. In large part, this area of theology is slowly gaining momentum in the academy. Better conversation points should be noted with N.T. Wright, Stanly Grenz, and John Franke, among others.

The end of the clip shows the climax over the issue of homosexuality and the “audacious” claims of McLaren. I don’t want to post at length here, but the last thing I wanted to do was to share in the standing ovation of the crowd. The sharpness and condescending tone of their remarks were also unfortunate.

The relativist perspective they caricature is never seriously dealt with but cast aside in reference to extremist points. The one point they make that I feel needs further conversation among “evangelicals” is the accusation of the emergent movement as conservatives (theologically) finding of liberalism. There is some truth in this for much of what I read. I think the conversation at large is not confined to this, but it is a contributing factor. However, as a true postmodernist, I have to say that I don’t find much help in those categories they loosely throw around. Anyway, for what it’s worth, this video explores the reaction conservative evangelicals are having to postmoderns.

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.