Truth Sold Separately

Disclaimer: This post is from the archives, and may not represent the current views of the author. It also may not be at all interesting to read. Continue at your own peril!

Please forgive me in advance for this, but I have a rant that I just need to get out. It’s driving me insane. Over the past few weeks I’ve been working my way through “The Truth Project,” a DVD series put out by Focus on the Family. It’s a series that attempts to lay out a comprehensive Christian worldview, and it talks about 12 areas: veritology, philosophy & ethics, anthropology, theology, science, history, sociology, unio mystica, the state, the American experiment, labour, and community & involvement. (I understand that it’s not entirely clear what some of those refer to, but that’s not really important. If you want to know, look it up online.)

Now you may be asking, what am I doing going through such a series? Well, I went home the weekend before Father’s Day, and my dad came to me and asked me, “Would you like to give me an early Father’s Day present?” I said okay, and he asked if I would watch this series. They had been going through it in their small groups at church, and so he wanted me to watch it as well, as he thought it was sure to answer the questions I had. This kind of made me angry. I had actually glanced at it before, since it had caught my attention sitting on the table in the house. I actually was interested in watching at least a few of the lessons. But the fact that he essentially guilt tripped me into watching it sort of frustrated me. Like, seriously, how could I say no when he asks for it as a Father’s Day present? I found putting it like that a little distasteful, really. But at any rate, since I really didn’t have too much of a choice, I said yes, I would watch it, and I took it back to school with me.

Well, I’m now over halfway through it – I just finished watching the seventh lesson of twelve. My dad had said it was very “intellectual,” so I would probably like it. All I can say is that it is one of the least intellectual things I’ve ever watched (at least as far as theology/philosophy goes, anyway). The teacher, Del Tackett, has three degrees, all of which have to do with computer engineering in some form or another, so you know he knows what he’s talking about. Wait, what? Why is a former director of technical planning in the US Air Force teaching me about theology? Shouldn’t that be done by, you know, a theologian or something? I mean, the guy’s not stupid, of course, but he’s not an expert in any of the twelve areas that he teaches about. So why is he doing it? In the lesson on philosophy, I wanted to shoot myself in the head. He talks about his first philosophy class that he took, and he said that the teacher mentioned how he couldn’t prove that the chair he was sitting on was real – and he looked around and said, “I’m paying for this?” But my question is…why then is he teaching a lesson on philosophy when he obviously has no understanding of it? Defining what we can know as true knowledge is one of the characteristic philosophical pursuits, and it’s an important one. His mischaracterization of Plato’s and Descartes’ philosophies made me want to jump in front of a bus.

But the inaccuracies I could forgive. No one, after all, can be an expert in everything, right? Of course, maybe we should all just stick to teaching what we are experts in, but perhaps Focus on the Family just doesn’t know any respectable philosophers or something. I don’t know. At any rate, what really gets my blood boiling about these lessons is his horrible dualistic view of the world. In almost every lesson he says something about how “this area is where the battle is the fiercest.” He is always talking about how “the world” says this and “the world” says that, but this is ridiculous. Do you think that the world is some homogenous viewpoint – one massive, singular culture? Of course not. “The world” is made up of Christians and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and Jews and Sikhs and atheists and agnostics and liberals and conservatives and libertarians and anarchists and monarchists and Marxists and capitalists and communists and utilitarians and pragmatists and deontologists and social contractarians and…well, need I go on? “The world” does not say anything with one voice. The world is a jumbled up mess of millions of individual opinions, and to try to display the fight as “us against the world” is the most naive, ridiculous garbage I’ve ever heard. And this is from someone who used to say the same thing. I simply realize now that this view of the world is incredibly ignorant. Of course, what he really means by “the world” is something like “the American liberal media.” He talks a lot about how the world tells us that we should follow our own desires and that outer beauty is what’s important and that God is not important. It sounds to me like his only view of the outside world is through television commercials. Here’s a newsflash: Most of the world is religious. Most of the world holds the same general values and commitments that Christians do. They value family, community, love, acceptance, and peace, and although they don’t do it because Jesus is inside their blood-pumping organ, they still find just as much family, community, love, acceptance, and peace. And what’s more, even the non-religious people find it too. Now, if Del Tackett wants to go on an anti-consumerism diatribe, that’s fine. I don’t think that consumerism or capitalism is the be-all end-all, and I fully support it. But don’t try to couch it in some hidden agenda that says, “Christianity gives us peace and love, the rest of the world has only misery and pain.” That is refuted by simply looking outside the window. The statistics prove him wrong.

But I could even forgive that. I find the “us vs. the world” speech simplistic, but perhaps he really only means to attack the commercialism of our day and age. Fine. I’m not a big fan of corporate advertising myself. Even further than that, though, what makes me want to stick my head into a wood chipper are the various internal contradictions that he spews forth. You’d think that even if you were saying something completely wrong, like that the sky was green, you could at least keep yourself consistently wrong. But he can’t even seem to do that. The notes that I’ve taken have left me with a few wonderfully horrible examples. In Lesson 3, on anthropology, near the end he starts saying that the world advocates self-interest and following one’s own desires. He paints this in opposition to Christianity, which says that we need to reject our own desires and follow something higher than ourselves. Then, he shows a video clip of a person (I believe he was a counsellor or psychologist of some kind) who, before he plays the clip, he says is not a professing Christian. This person then goes on to say how “we need to find something transcendent to ourselves to make our lives meaningful.” Wait a second. So this person, who is not a professing Christian, is saying the exact same thing that a Christian would say? Isn’t this guy part of “the world”, though? How can Tackett in one breath say that the world says we should follow our own desires, and then in the next give an example of a guy from “the world” who says the exact opposite? Can he not see how ridiculous that is?

Here’s an even better example. This one literally made me laugh out loud. And then I died a little inside as it was so painfully contradictory. In Lesson 5, on science, at one point Tackett mentions how man has a tendency to see his own position. He gives an example of a football game where one group of people sees a touchdown and another group of people sees an incomplete pass. They both witness the same data, but they instantly reach different conclusions based on their own biases. Then, literally in the very next sentence, he mentions that the more data that come in, the more we see the glory of God, and that the evidence supports this. What?! How can he honestly say that right after saying that we tend to see our own positions?! How can he say that the evidence supports seeing the glory of God, when he just said that based on the same evidence, we can see radically different things? Don’t you think he might be just a little biased toward seeing God in creation? My goodness, if I had a thousand faces and a thousand palms, I still could not facepalm myself enough times to account for this contradiction. That short section is the ultimate epitome of stupidity.

So no, I don’t find what my dad said to be true. I don’t find it intellectual. In fact, I find it very anti-intellectual. Oh, he uses big words and defines lots of things and tries to appear intellectual. But at the same time he denigrates the men and women who actually use their intellect in the fields of philosophy, science, and anthropology (to name a few) and have come up with amazing discoveries about us, about the world around us, and about the nature of reality itself. I don’t think that anyone who starts a section about philosophy with the verse that says to be careful that “no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” can be called intellectual. Such a person has set up mindguards to protect himself from intellect. What disturbs me most is that the people who will actually be watching this series – Christians, mostly – will drink it up without even noticing the horrible straw men arguments, the dualistic generalizations, and the outright contradictions inside it. That truly frightens me. It frightens me to think that we may be producing yet another generation that fails to see the crucial importance of developing critical thinking skills. I don’t mean to say that no Christian ever thinks critically. But anti-intellectualism and critical thinking do not mix well, and to embrace one means to leave the other behind. I just hope against all hope that we as humans can see the necessity of critical thinking. But I guess that’s something that “the world” must be giving out nowadays.

11 responses to “Truth Sold Separately”

Cori-Beth

I haven't seen this series, but it sounds to me, by what you have said in this posting, that Dr. Tackett has over analyzed things and is making everyone think that he knows what he is talking about without exploring other points of views. I guess basically, that's what you were trying to say about the series in a nut shell.

Just my two or three cents.

Corinne

PS You dad did mean well. Obviously you are watching the series with a different perspective than him… Don't jump off of bridge after out of shear boredom! LOL

feeno

First of all you make me laugh. that whole Fathers Day guilt trip thing, yeah my Mom has put that rap on me before. But Dude your Dad is great, I see him working, whether he be right or wrong about how he got you to do it, or even if this series was dopey, his motive is based on pure love.

I really don't think I'm special, and I really love the church people, but I don't think I would watch any thing like that. I've never read any Christian books like "The Shack" or any "Left Behind" stuff. I don't listen to Christian music, I do like to listen to some preachers though, and I did go see the "Passion" with my wife when it came out. But by in large I'm not impressed with Christian "propaganda" type stuff.

I do however love reading/studying my Bible?

Of course I've heard of focus on the family, but truly I pay no attention to those things. I like them, I hope they do well, I hope they "win" souls etc., but for me personally, not impressed.

But I will try to give my take on what maybe dude was trying to say about the world? All the groups you mentioned in the world are different. But what makes us all the same is that we all want to feed our flesh, not the soul. The world and sometimes even the Church is more concerned for the temporary things and not the eternal things, so we try to fill an eternal being up with stuff that satisfies our flesh, things like relationships, sex, sports, drugs, alcohol, fame, fortune, power etc. etc. And really if there is a god, the only thing that can fill that void, is God.

The opposite of the world's philosophy would be the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus didn't want us to stay away from the world, but what the world thought was important.

I like your rants, and I only wish I didn't understand them so well, I often roll my eyes at these sort of studies. But I can't roll my eyes at Jesus. I question everything in the Bible I don't understand, and usually, but not always, I will find an answer that will scratch my itch? But there will always be some things I just don't understand. But I can't denounce Christ because I can't figure out why women should be silent in the Church (not in my church BTW), or things about election or fully understand the trinity or why the OT God seems so
brutal?

I have questions and doubts probably like most folks, Christians included, and maybe you even felt like this once, but Christ is so real to me those doubts can be erased. Not because of blind faith, but because of his real presence.

Damn, we both got off a rant. every now and then it feels good to blow off some steam? Thanks for allowing me the space to do so.

I feel confident when I say this, and maybe God even wants me to say this(?) but whether God exists or not, as long as you seek the truth, I believe you will find it. But the real Truth starts with a capital T.

I will probably be e-mailing you with the fun/weird news I mentioned to you on Fri..
Until then I will be checking up with you over here at DT.

Peace be with you, feeno

Jeff

Corinne: Yeah, I think that about sums it up πŸ™‚ And yeah, I'll try to stay away from bridges and other tall objects haha…well that's why I explicitly stated at the beginning that it was a rant. Didn't want people thinking I was seriously going to blow my brains out over it…

Feeno: Oh yeah definitely, I understand that my dad's motives were good. I just didn't like how he approached it. I was actually interested in watching the series, but almost said no just because he laid it on me like a guilt trip. But either way, I guess he knows me too well πŸ˜›

I think that your generalization of "the world" is, really, just as bad as Tackett's, though. I mean, you say it with a little more humility so it sounds better (lol), but ultimately I think you're still generalizing incorrectly. The thing is that much of the world is still religious, and many of the world's religions teach some sort of dualistic deny-the-flesh beliefs. Not all of them. There are some who display just the opposite, but Islam and Hinduism definitely have some major themes of flesh-is-bad thinking. Buddhism is sort of there, but they tend to be more moderate. (Hindu monks tend to be more in line with asceticism, whereas Buddhist monks take a middle-of-the-road approach.)

On top of purely religious attitudes, I think there are certainly a significant number of people that would say that happiness is not found in ______. You can fill in the blank there, but sex, drugs, and rock and roll don't satisfy a large number of people, and they know it. They may not say that God is the only one that satisfies, but they may talk about something to do with relationships with others, or love, or compassion, etc. In other words, they're not caught up in the consumerist mindset of buy, buy, buy.

So there you go. I disagree, but I do so respectfully…just 'cause you're a nice guy πŸ˜€ I look forward to hearing about your news, whatever that is…cya 'round!

Keith

There is a new series out called "True U" also by Focus on the Family. It is equally as bad (I checked out the first sample video on their website). My aunt told me about it. Last year I gave up my fundamentalist faith (to atheism) after long study. The guy who teaches this one is Harvard trained scientist… works at the discovery institute. I like checking these out, if only for laughs, and to be informed if anyone should use them in conversation, etc.

Jeff

Hi Keith!

Wow, that does look pretty bad. Actually, it looks exactly like the Truth Project, only marketed towards high school students. I find it funny that when faced with the statistic of how many students are "walking away from the faith," their solution is not to engage the faculty and the scientific community with real evidence, but rather to provide supplementary material to students to tell them that their professors are wrong and stupid. Lol.

But yeah, I'd actually be more interested to watch this one, simply because it's got Stephen Meyer from the Discovery Institute. He's a big name over there. And although intelligent design is a worthless idea, at least Dr. Meyer can have some credibility, having worked as a geophysicist. That holds more weight to me than Del Tackett of the Truth Project, who formerly worked under the Bush administration (nothing against working in government, but it doesn't really display any expertise in science, theology, history, philosophy, or any other area the Truth Project covered).

But anyway, just something to shake your head about, I guess. Thanks for stopping by, Keith. I'd love to hear about your story from fundamentalism to atheism if you wish to share it. Cheers!

Jeff

Keith

Hey Jeff,

I got the True U first DVD pack in the mail yesterday. My aunt actually bought it and had it sent to me. If you like I'll let you borrow it after I watch it. I have watch the first couple of the lessons and it is alright so far because for the most part he is going through some pretty basic things of how people gain knowledge, etc. It is still pretty easy to refute what they say but it is still neat to hear. It looks like this is only the first in a series they plan on doing. This is the only one that is released so far by the looks of it. My favorite part so far was when Del Tackett in the introduction said that a certain "framework" (the big bang) will be discussed because it is the best way to defend the faith. He said it was not their intention to dissuade anyone who wishes to hold to a younger Earth (like he does himself), just that it was the best tactic. I thought that was funny, because it's like saying "you can still believe the Earth is flat, but when talking to others out in 'the world' you have to talk as if it were a sphere"!

~Keith

Jeff

Lol that's interesting…I guess it makes you sound less crazy when you at least give off the impression that you agree with modern science. Of course, I'm sure that impression must only last for a few minutes at best, but still. Makes it seem less ridiculous πŸ˜›

Interesting stuff. Good luck on getting through it…

Kelly

Jeff,

After reading the above…I would say you definitely see yourself in your own position and that if you let more “data” in as Del suggests you might understand what he is getting at. You definitely have your mind guards up. What he is referring to is exactly what you are doing. You have hardened your blood pumping organ against the truth and choose instead to believe in your “self”.

Let your guard down and watch it again!

Jeff

Kelly,

When you tell me to “let my guard down”, I can only assume you mean something like “stop thinking about it so much!” I evaluate arguments based on reason and evidence, and if this series actually had presented any I would have tried my best to evaluate it in an unbiased fashion. But unfortunately, he offered little more than trite clichΓ©s about “the world” and quoting a lot of scripture. That’s not evidence. That’s not reasoning. That’s not “data”, like you say. That’s just preaching. So no, I’m not just going to “let my guard down” in order to evaluate it with less stringent criteria than I evaluate any other facts about the world. But thanks for the suggestion.

autumn

Hey Jeff,

I’m curious if you’ve read the Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. My father in law lent it to me to read and I’ve finally gotten around to it in the last few days. I was very disappointed for a few reasons. I went into it with an open mind but also with the inability to shut off my critical thinking muscle. I thought, “This will be great! I’ve looked at a lot of evidence from both sides from all different sources but it’s nice that someone put it all together in one book.” WRONG. I was open to examining all the evidence again from both sides and seeing if I perhaps came to a different conclusion (instead of atheism) based on good evidence and arguments. Unfortunately, it seems to be a very biased book: the author is already Christian WHILE he’s doing the interviews, out of 13 interviews, 13 interviewees are Christian, and any evidence from the other side is only brought up to these Christians to throw out the window. Not once does he ask someone who thinks differently and asks them why they do – he asks the Christians what other people think and why. Ugh. Truly frustrating. I understand why my father in law thinks this book has strengthened his faith – Lee found “smart” people to confirm everything he already believes and presents counter arguments as “weak” and easily torn down – never once confronting someone who stands by those counter arguments. I think it’s unfortunate. Believe it or not after that rant, I’m actually curious if you’ve read it and what you think of it.

Jeff

Hi Autumn,

Yes, yes I have read that book! And I agree completely with your assessment of it. The intro suggests that it is trying to be some attempt to objectively assess the evidence and examine arguments from both “sides”, but Strobel then only ends up presenting one side of the issue. I don’t necessarily mind a book being biased in one direction, but it’s frustrating when it pretends to be unbiased. And you’re right—the atheist viewpoint is only brought up as a punching bag to be brought down by the interviewees (and these viewpoints are sometimes straw men arguments that misrepresent the actual atheist argument).

I think you also bring up a good point about getting “smart people to confirm everything” that you already believe. I’m convinced that books like this are written more for a Christian audience than for anyone else. Books like this make Christians feel justified in their beliefs, and feel like they have good arguments to bring up in discussions with non-believers. The books might be able to convince someone who was on the fence, but they would certainly not convince a non-believer who has taken the time to examine the arguments already.

Anyway, long story short: I feel your pain πŸ™‚

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