Dear Anonymous,

I think most of the questions you raise are fair.

Let me see if I can try to address them, albeit not in the original order:

With regard to my motive, or rather motives, I'll say right up front that it would be disingenuous for me to claim the intellectual exercise didn't give me any pleasure. Of course it does; that's how I'm gifted, trained and, I believe, called. I enjoy doing the things I'm good at, and one of those things is the critical evaluation of certain artifacts of evangelical culture.

Maybe you should spend all your time attacking something that is worthy of attack, and heaven knows there are tons of them to pick from.

Some people are called and gifted to engage those ideas and attitudes which would attack Christianity from the outside-- Islam, for example, or radical secularism.

My own calling and gifts have placed me squarely in the position to prod the church, and specifically that branch of it known as north American evangelicalism, from within-- to encourage self-examination, intellectual rigor, and a general willingness to "test the Scriptures." When individuals or organizations within the church push bad teaching-- even with good motives, and I do believe Focus on the Family has good motives-- then they ought to be called to account, and as far as I can tell the behemoth of massed power and wealth that is FoF is accountable to exactly no one. But that's another blog post.

What motivated you to pay and go to the training seminar in the first place?

I mentioned what motivated my attending the training in the first place here:

Certain signs have led me to believe that the Truth Project's materials are going to make their way into the life of our parish, whether or not I have anything to do with it. So, I consider it my responsibility [as a member of the Discipleship Design Team in our parish] to vet the Truth Project to my satisfaction and issue [to the Design Team, at least] the appropriate warnings and correctives where necessary.


I was first introduced to worldview theory fourteen years ago, as a freshman English major at DBU. I was so enthralled with it that within two weeks I had decided to major in philosophy instead. In the intervening years, I have watched as the worldview concept filtered out into evangelical culture, and I have seen some people deal with it really well, and some people deal with it very poorly. So whenever I see anything coming down the pike which purports to deal with worldview, I hesitate to let it pass without making sure the people who produced it actually know what they're talking about, particularly if it's likely to affect my parish.

Also, I had help with the registration expenses.

Do you just like to be cynical?

I like to be cynical, but I don't just like to be cynical. Cynicism for its own sake is a waste of time and a good way to cultivate contempt for others, which is not my goal at all. Cynicism has its place, though.

Is your goal to make sure that all your friends believe this to be not only a waste of time, but also a venue of falsehood?

No; it is my goal to make sure that thousands and thousands of evangelicals believe this. Peter and I have actually tossed around the idea of working up an article together and pitching it to Christianity Today or Books & Culture (although the B&C audience probably doesn't need any convincing), or maybe even World-- I bet Olasky would at least give it a hearing.

Obviously (I hope) such an article would be considerably more polished and less ranting than what I slap up on this here personal blog.

I may not have a vast vocabulary with which I pontificate, but maybe my child-like approach to many things helps me view them in a clear manner.

Maybe. I would like to point out, though, that we are told to receive the kingdom of God like little children, not the Truth Project.

Just your statement of going stark raving mad…. It is a bit overboard don’t you think? No one is forcing you to watch these. Maybe you watch them with your own predisposed idea of what they are saying without really truly hearing what they are saying.

I am all for the appropriate practice of humility with regard to my own understanding. Believe me, I've done enough (and believed enough) extremely stupid things in my life to be aware of my own limitations. Every reader of a text encounters it within the context of their own commitments and assumptions. I am no exception to that rule (and neither, I might add, are children).

There's no such thing as a perfect prescription when we talk about our worldview glasses-- the nature of human finitude is such that we can never know the truth perfectly. This isn't the same thing as saying we can't know any of the truth, or that there is no such thing as the truth (if that were the case, what would be the point of this conversation?); merely that our encounters with it, while meaningful and important, are ultimately limited.

One implication of that limitation is the necessity, in any discussion of worldview, of carefully examining our own presuppositions and assumptions, our beliefs and commitments. Examination doesn't necessarily mean discarding those beliefs and commitments-- after all, we need some framework for making sense of the world, even if it's only provisional.

But we do need to be aware of that framework. That awareness, coupled with a proper humility in matters of our own knowledge, ought to be firmly in place before we begin an exploration of other worldviews. So believe me, I don't play a minute of those DVDs before I pray for discernment and wisdom and charity-- especially for charity, because I believe a hermeneutic of love is one of the best hermeneutics of all...but that's another blog post.

Incidentally, the phrase "stark raving mad" is an instance of hyperbole, although I do find it pretty frustrating to consider how much of the Truth Project's success depends on its having a largely uncritical audience. But that's why they have me. :)

With so many different articles, beliefs and issues that could be worthy of our time to criticize and argue with, I find it ironic that you are taking so much time to pick apart something that is not anti-God, anti-Jesus and can be a great tool to help us evangelize the world!

But that's just my point-- I don't think it is a great tool. While it isn't all error, on balance it's more harmful than helpful. In fact, I think it's actively pernicious (hi, Kimberly!). I think that vast numbers of people internalizing the creeping Platonism and the ill-advised commitment to Enlightenment categories propagated by the Truth Project could do grievous harm to the church and her cause.

And here we come to what ultimately motivates me: I love these people. I do! The evangelical church is the one in which I was reared and in which I came to faith in Christ. Much as I like to make sport of certain cultural oddities of evangelicalism, and as much as some of their peculiar blindnesses drive me up the wall, at the end of the day these people are my family. They are my brothers and sisters and, in the particular area of discipleship, I believe I am called to their care. I love evangelicals, and because I love them I refuse to consign them to the consequences of bad teaching.

11 comments:

Hairline Fracture said...

Hear, hear!

Kimberly said...

So proud of you for continuing your use of the word pernicious.

Makes me have happy warm fuzzy thoughts.

Also, I wonder that people don't want to make themselves known when they criticize something. I mean, we all know what YOU think, and you put yourself on the line. Seems like there would be a more productive discussion if people were open.

Betty Beguiles said...

Excellent post! I'm a Catholic myself (I bet you and I could have tons of fun and get in quite a bit of intellectual exercise exploring our theological differences) but I agree with your assessment of the Truth Project, though I bear Focus on the Family no ill will either. Keep fighting the good fight! :)

M. Robert Turnage said...

Pet peeve of mine - when people describe themselves as child-like. Usually when someone says that, I correct them by going, "Don't you mean childish?"

Other than that, you've said everything I would have said.

Recovering Sociopath said...

Kimberly, I think I know who it is, and my guess is she just doesn't want to create awkwardness when she sees me, which is fairly often. Also, back before the days of OpenID I would frequently comment anonymously on blogs-- not because I didn't want to put myself out there, but because I couldn't be bothered to go through a registration process.

That being said, the first thing I did when I saw the comment was to disallow anonymous comments! It's a touch discomfiting not to know whom I am talking to.

Recovering Sociopath said...

Betty, thanks!

I did my graduate work at a Catholic school-- the University of Dallas-- and I cannot overstate what I owe them in terms of my intellectual development.

Betty Beguiles said...

What a coincidence! My husband's studying there. He'll receive his graduate degree in a month.

Not. A. Moment. Too. Soon.

Four children combined with a husband who has a FT job and graduate studies can be intense!

PeeJay said...

Dr. N. would be proud!

Melanie said...

I can totally see why my friend Veronica likes you. Want to hear something else that would make you go stark raving mad? We currently attend a Four Square denomination which means we embrace the gift of prophecy to a ridiculous extent. Not my husband and I personally, mind you, our denomination. Anyway, I've lost count of the number of times I have heard from the pulpit this statement, "I asked God what He wanted me to say to you today, and He told me this." You should visit sometime and our skin can crawl together. Also, we sing the song, "I Am A Friend of God" a lot. I take GREAT pleasure in sitting that one out.

happygeek said...

I don't claim to be a theologian, just married one but I am starting to really learn more about serving God with all of me, including my mind.
I love reading your blog because it gives me a perspective that I haven't always heard before but resonates deeply with me.
Keep teaching. There are many of us listening.

Kim Pospisil said...

I thought I was alone in this world among believers who didn't use their brains and believed what anyone told them. I am constantly amazed at how many Christians today are blindly lead by their own media sources. Thanks for sounding the trumpet. I hope you write that book soon. I think our brothers and sisters need a wakeup call.