Monday, August 15, 2011

Some illogical apologetics of Divided the movie

Many proponents of the family integrated church movement use a number of similar arguments. One article, at Theonomy Resources, though short, is a representative sample in which to analyze the common line of reasoning, especially in defense of the movie Divided.

First of all, the author contends that "From my experience, the reaction [to the movie] has either been positive..." or negative. "The other reaction has been that of anger and a rejection of the premise put forth in the movie." This is a false dilemma. There is a middle reaction in which viewers agree with much but disagree with some of the solution (such as this review). And rejection does not necessarily entail "anger".

Second, the author continues by painting the detractors of this movement as being "entrenched in a model...for so long." This fallacy is more subtle but no less real: ad hominem circumstantial. This is an attempt to discredit the detractors of this movie by insinuating that they are predisposed to reject the movie.

Third, the author throws in vague, equivocal language, hiding the real differences between himself and more moderate voices: "We need to seek out in all we do to be true to scripture. 2 Tim 3:16-17..." Mr. Konvalin most likely does not mean that we need to "seek out in all we do" a given passage in the Word of God. Surely he is not contending that there must be positive Biblical warrant for reading, writing or drawing? Likely he means that the Word of God informs our decision but does not micromanage all the details of life.

Fourth, he conveniently sweeps 2,000 years of Christian educational history with incredible ease: "Without dealing with the validity of each of these statements [of age-segregation in history] the issue is not what others have done, as helpful as that may or may not be, but what Scripture says." But the movie itself brought up the question of history. It contended, with only assertions, that modern youth ministries (vaguely defined) have their historical roots in Plato and Rousseau (who actually preferred homeschooling).

Fifth, the author throws in for extra measure the slippery slope fallacy: "If the professing church gives up the sufficiency of Scripture in the area that the movie Divided touches on, what is next?" Any issue of disagreement between Christians can be quickly dismissed with this unhelpful assertion.

Lastly, the meat of the debate is brought to the fore. The article summarized a common argument in these debates: "At the end of the day, the issue at hand is the sufficiency of Scripture, and age segregation is just one of the results of not holding to Scripture as sufficient for all areas of life."

This is the coup de grace. The author really believes that those who disagree with this narrow issue are denying the biblical pattern at this point. Yet it is one thing to write that there is disagreement on how to apply the sufficiency of Scripture but quite another to throw all detractors under the bus.

In fact, this is not an argument but a rhetorical flourish. It is a red herring. This is not the issue unless arguing with someone who denies this doctrine. He has offered no argument that the catch-phrase "sufficiency of Scripture" leads to the conclusion in debate. Both Baptists and Presbyterians believe in the sufficiency of Scripture but end up with different results. Traditionally, neither side of the debate doubted the other side's commitment to the Bible. They simply disagree on detailed conclusions within a common doctrinal basis.

In fact, this dubious rhetoric appears to hide a hidden premise: the regulative principle of education, which is defined as all methods and means of discipleship invented by the brain of man without His own express commandment is wrong. This is likely the real issue (I write likely because the elements of the argument are there but never pulled together). At the least, the equivocal phrase hides a different definition of the sufficiency of Scriptures than commonly understood.

If proponents of this idiosyncratic movement wish to convince others of their views, they should dispense with the polemical rhetoric and deal with substantive issues. Only then can more light than heat be generated in the online debates.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Colorado homeschooling organization endorses questionable documentary

Recently a friend brought to my attention an email notice update from Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC).  Below is an excerpt:

"CHEC is excited to bring you this movie [Divided] for two reasons. First, we believe it's an excellent and revealing look at the modern youth ministry model in the light of Scripture. See more in the description, below.

Second, CHEC could win $1,000 by having the most people watch this movie. Just click on any of the pictures or links in this section of the email, and watch the movie in the browser window that opens!"

CHEC presented this film at their summer conference a few weeks ago. I watched that movie and wrote a review (here). Some of those closest to the leadership know of my analysis of the movement and its factual errors. Although I did not cover much detail in the review, the concerns are deep enough to label the movie "questionable". It includes unsubstantiated claims that easily misguides the average Christian as witnessed on a public forum (here).

Since this Christian organization has much influence in Colorado, what they promote will have much weight for many people. It thus behooves this organization to be careful in what they promote.

The following is the description of the movie from their email:

"About the movie DIVIDED...

There is a crisis. Christian youth are rapidly leaving evangelical churches for the world....DIVIDED follows young Christian filmmaker Philip LeClerc on a revealing journey as he seeks answers to what has led his generation away from the church. Traveling across the country conducting research and interviewing church kids, youth ministry experts, evangelists, statisticians, social commentators, and pastors, Philip discovers the shockingly sinister roots of modern, age-segregated church programs, and equally shocking evidence that the pattern in the Bible for training future generations is at odds with modern church practices...He also discovers a growing number of churches that are abandoning age-segregated Sunday school and youth ministry to embrace the discipleship model that God prescribes in His Word. "

Yes, the movie does a good job of documenting terrible, horrendous and, frankly, scary youth ministries. Families ought to be warned about them.

But then the movie takes a turn with an unreliable history section ("Philip discovers the shockingly sinister roots of modern, age-segregated church programs") which omits the practice of age-segregation among godly Christian churches and families from at least the time of the Reformation. Omission of such an important fact makes this less a documentary than it is portrayed.

And the claim of the "sinister roots" is a fallacious claim because it is arguing that the origins of the modern  youth ministry is not in Christian churches but unbelieving leaders of the past. Even if this is true (and not substantiated in the movie), it is a genetic fallacy: something's origin does not necessitate its moral wrongness (Aristotle formalized and popularized the logic Christians use for instance).

Furthermore, the film does not highlight (or mention) that there are churches who "embrace the discipleship model that God prescribes in His Word" while using age-segregation. This kind of rhetoric creates a false dilemma where in fact there is another option. And it does not document alternatives that are just as valid.

Blame seems to be laid at the feet of a program (age-segregation) but not people. Many families are willing to throw their kids to youth groups instead of rolling up their sleeves and disciple their children.

Overall, the movie was disappointing with its fallacious arguments and omissions. Yet, it will bring many people to question what they are doing with their youth ministries and that is a good thing. Maybe that is the goal of this endorsement.