2/01/2009

Focus on the Family's THE TRUTH PROJECT

Does The Truth Project Have a Hidden Agenda? And If So, Is It Really Seeking "Truth?"

Many evangelical churches have been using Focus on the Family's new video curriculum, The Truth Project, taught by Dr. Del Tackett, in an attempt to educate their members in a Christian World View.

However, I think it would be wise for us to understand the manipulative slant that Focus on the Family gives in this video series.

Two bloggers that I just discovered take The Truth Project to task. Check out these insightful critiques of this series:

On not taking postmodernism seriously enough
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 philosophical 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, deceiving 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.
On the nature of Man and God
His (Tackett's) 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 essence of God: in theological jargon, a "functional trinitarian theology." This is where theology has moved in recent years, and to ignore it completely shows the reliance of antiquated, foundational modernistic philosophy underlying this entire video series.
On faith as it relates to science
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 occasions, 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.
On faith as it relates to history
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.
On how faith relates to work
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...
When he moves away from Genesis, however, he begins some hermentuetical gymnastics to make his right wing political ideology fit the Bible... 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.
On "Culture" being evil and the enemy of Christianity
One of the first things the presenter does, and continues to do throughout the video, is refer to culture in a negative light. Culture is portrayed as "anti-God"... I think culture needs to be critiqued and looked at objectively, but it is neither good nor bad on its own. A demonizing of culture leads to an unhealthy view of those outside of the Christian subculture. This creates a fear response and often paranoia amongst many of the Christian populace.
On the purpose of Jesus' incarnation
At the beginning the presenter poses the question "Why did Jesus come into the World?" His "class" gave varied answers, many of which could be justified scripturally, but he stated that they were wrong (he might argue that they were wrong in reference to his particular scripture reference, but he never made that clear). He uses Jesus' statement in John to build his case. "In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." John 18:37b
The video seeks to prove to the listener that Truth is the point of everything God ever did and that one is either for or against it. Much of his argument throughout the video relies on proof-texting. Henry Neufeld gives a good definition of proof-texting:

"By proof-texting I mean the use of individual scripture texts to produce apparent support for a doctrinal position without adequate regard for the contexts of the individual texts which may indicate differences and nuances."

To discuss the scriptural reasons of why Jesus came would not have helped his argument. He wanted to divide everything into black and white terms. Therefore, other reasons were not mentioned and the answers of his class were dismissed.

Here are a couple of other reasons Jesus came: (these are just a few of the more blunt ones; inferred would be much longer)
  • "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:17
  • "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15
  • "Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrew 10:9-10
  • "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10
  • "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me."John 6:38
These scriptures, and others like them, do not lend themselves to drawing a line in the sand... The purpose of this video was to bifurcate (his word) humanity to those who follow the Truth (by his definition) and those who do not.

Have you seen The Truth Project? What have you thought of it?

13 comments:

Rahab said...

"On Faith~as it relates to Science".....and being overtaken by the enemy having thoughts and perjection of great questioning....."I disagree greatly"..This infact shows a empty minded individual actually afraid of captioning the truth of what God has offered our world and intended, "after the fall of man with Eve"....lets be truthful and not throw into confussion by hypocrisy that God forbids anyways in the least....waste this is, of negative efforts too mindless chatter for those with great integrity wanting truthfulness and small answers.....God allows His open hand, and His open book for knowledge wanted and percepted by each who wants it!....Rahab

Cephas said...

If you're interested, there's a new web site called "The Truth Problem" which addresses, in specific, many of the factual problems in the series, as well as presenting some alternate (but genuinely Christian) viewpoints.

http://www.TheTruthProblem.info

Randy said...

I've been reading up on the Truth Project as it starts at our church this week. So far it's Lesson 9 that bothers me. It seems the Christian right has been co-opted by those who may not even be Christians that want to take everything back to the year 1800. Was it "nanny" government when Lincoln freed the slaves. How about when the Civil Rights Act was passed or unemployment payments began, etc etc. See the Acton Institute core principles and "Father" Robert Sirico who is quoted in lesson 9. Apparently income taxes are viewed as stealing.

Mike Beidler said...

Several weeks ago, I began my own series critiquing The Truth Project. Nice to see I'm not alone.

Holly said...

When I attended the first video I was struck by three things: 1) the obvious political agenda, 2) the narrator spoke to 'bondage' and defined that as G-d's OT law -- but, Christ said that He is the fulfillment of the law, and 3) the fellow (can't recall his name) did some freewheeling drama reenacting how the devil challanged G-d when man was created; who would man be accountable to? - way too much liberty and speculation - maybe a lack of overall humility on the narrator's side. He was almost yelling at people - how odd!

Mike Beidler said...

Holly,

I had the exact same reaction to his synopsis of the Garden of Eden scenario. Waaaaaaaay too much speculation.

Be sure to visit my blog. Would appreciate your comments/observations there as well. (Of course, to avoid the charge of hijacking this thread, please elaborate on your thoughts here,, as well.)

Holly said...

Thank you Mike Beidler, I love your blog site! One of my older brothers was an F4 pilot during Vietnam (I'm 55 yo). We were not raised going to church, and Christ found me just two years ago. I didn't feel lost, I was very contented with simply having close companions, lots of fun, and my belief based in a N. American indigenous understanding of our Creator. When Christ called me away from that, I immediately recognized Him, and thought 'Wow! our Creator is Christ!' Since, I've longed to learn all I can of Him. Whether it means innerancy (sp) of the Bible, or Creation via evolution/instaneous - those debates are too lofty for me. Einstein was quoted as saying that he wanted to 'think like G-d,' and it seemed tongue-in-cheek. Isn't that the marvel, the mystery? We see Him, yet to grasp Him requires a child's eyes. Like you, I did gain a wee bit of insight through TTP. The first episode encouraged a special search of mine for truth. First, what within me recognized Christ? As one who regularly made fun of Christians, I was genuinely surprised. Next, I sought: what is faith?, what is sin?, why did Christ have to die?, and how can I learn of this great Jehovah? Where I decided to start was with the moment that Abram dropped his idols to follow Christ. What did he recognize? What are my idols? In TTP I did love the brief exposition on idolatry, I only wish it would have stopped there long enough for us all to learn more of just how stupid we all are when we subject ourselves to anything less than that humble servant from Galilee. He freed me from bondage: my indifference to His majesty, my willfulness, my denial that His perfect law meant my ultimate death - until His Beloved Son bathed me in Grace. I'm thinking that the Truth for me, is when I can grasp what Abraham understood. BTW, maybe it's my Indian background, or love of science, but there is a very unpolluted study of the Tzolkin Mayan calendar, hosted by Andi & Jag Steward. It isn't about predicting anything. It reminds me of the Chinese effort to develop a computer logic, they called 'fuzzy logic'. It challenges our concept of the mechanical universe. One of my favorite authors, Elie Wiesel (The Oath), likewise challenges every fiber of what I believe of myself, of humanity. So, as you can tell, I'm a neophyte who is exploring philosophy and Truth/Faith through a few unconventional means. You seem to love and appreciate growth. Again, thanks for your comments & website. Shalom!

Jeremy said...

I enjoyed this series. Someone finally had the strength and courage to stand up and speak the truth

Kim said...

I found this series to be very affirming of my faith and would recommend it to everyone!

Frank said...

We have become way to critical of the non essentials of Christianity. Nothing or no one is perfect accept Jesus. Give them a break at least they are taking a stand for ultimate truth. Doesn't seem like anyone else is taking that stance just criticizing those that do. If you want to help them pray for their ministry! Don't criticize it. I have seen it a few times and I greatly appreciate the time and resources they have placed putting this together.

Mike Beidler said...

So, Frank, you're saying it's okay that Del Tackett criticizes my beliefs in defense of what he (and apparently you) believe is "ultimate truth," but it's not okay that I criticize his beliefs in defense of what I believe is "ultimate truth"? Astounding example of hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

I just finished watching "The Truth Project." I very much enjoyed the series. Not once did I feel Dr.Tackett was condescending nor did I feel "yelled at." I do not feel he was criticizing anyone or anything just presenting the truth.
Hypocrisy? I am under the impression that hypocrisy is saying you believe one thing and then do what you say you are against. I do not understand why anyone would feel threatened by what Dr. Tackett presented.
Jeremy/Kim/Frank I think you get it. Donella Wood, 9-1-13

Dan said...

Great post and great comments everyone. Very helpful in considering what was said in the video series.