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.


  1. Isn't "Divided" a good name for the movie ... and the movement, as they recommend families leave faithful, gospel-preaching churches that don't subscribe to the FIC movement?

    Also, have you talked with any of the OPC pastors that have their churches listed on the NCFIC website?
    In His service,

  2. Cricket,

    I have talked with two pastors and sent my first article to other churches I know of on the list. I have received no responses to my article other than an implicit critique that skewered a straw-man.

    Perhaps if their parishioners knew what the movement stood for things would change.

    Recently a Scottish Presbyterian joined with an American Presbyterian body. He contacted me, astounded that any Presbyterian church would sign this NCFIC extra-confessional confession. My thoughts exactly.