Divided – Wow.Posted by RazorsKiss
A short review of “Divided”, with some questions for the folks watching or the folks who created it:
1) Is it honest to present this film as a young man trying to “find answers” – to say it “shocked” him – that this was somehow a “journey”? Is it truly the case that Phillip was not an FIC proponent when he made this movie?
2) The first section talks about his father already having questions about the youth ministry – is this a “neutral” perspective, as seemingly presented to begin with? In fact, his parents pulled him out of the youth program, and later on it is revealed that Scott Brown was influential in his parent’s move. Scott Brown is presented as an “author and pastor”, when he is the director of the organization putting out this film. The manager of operations for that same organization is listed as the writer for the movie, in fact. So, are we to believe this is some “exploratory” film?
3) Instead of directing his look at Reformed churches, as the FIC movement is generally Reformed, his first stop is a massive youth gathering, at what looks like a carnival atmosphere.
4) After several fairly typical answers, from evangelical young people, he goes into his own experience with youth ministry, and “dropout rate” of teens. Hardly a “neutral” perspective, is it?
5) A “Christian concert” (in his words) is flatly called ‘music of the world’. He sees “no distinction between worldliness and Christianity”. He gives NO argument for this, whatsoever. None.
6) “Young Earth or Old Earth” is unaccountably segued to, with no explanation, other than a very short Ken Ham spot about bible teaching. First, “young earth” is not a biblical position, that I can see, not that “old earth” is either. That terminology is a modern novelty, and hardly the test of “bible teaching”. More importantly, I’d make the test to be concerning ex nihilo, 6 calendar day creation. This precludes “Old Earth”, “Theistic Evolution”, and other nonsensical positions of the sort, while not diverging into speculation, as many modern “creationist” groups tend to do. Second, we are *never told what Christian denomination he is interviewing, at any time that I can see*. My position on the subject of creation is very clear, as you can see if you read elsewhere on this blog, and because I’m confessionally Reformed, but the way that “young earth or old earth” is made a doctrinal test, without the *context* of who is being asked even defined is troubling.
7) These kids are being asked, in the context of general evangelicalism, questions their elders fail just as spectacularly on in general evangelicalism. In what sense is this an indictment of youth groups in particular? It’s a non-sequitur.
8) Reformed churches, I’d imagine, would be the target audience of this video, given who it’s seemingly directed at, and the *actual* presuppositional commitment of the makers of the video. What would induce a typical evangelical church to abandon a practice in line with it’s stated doctrinal path? This video? Hardly. If it’s targeting Reformed church practice, why aren’t they addressing Reformed youth pastors or Sunday School teachers?
9) By this point, 17 minutes in, WHO is being addressed is still unclear. Who is your audience, director?
10) My one question remains – did the film maker *really* just set out to “find answers” here? As it seems to me, he has an actual goal he is setting out to demonstrate, and is not merely being an “objective journalist”. This is a persuasive film, not merely a documentary.
11) The complaint has been made about “worldliness” earlier – is this same standard being applied to filmmaking? Are we making a persuasive film under the guise of “neutral” reporting, or investigative journalism? As a presuppositionalist, I teach about pretended neutrality. That seems to be precisely what is going on in this film.
12) The amazing leaps of logic made by Scott Brown to link Plato and Rousseau to the Sunday School movement are truly something to behold. The ahistorical conspiracy theories made by the people they interview concerning Sunday Schools and link to a rogue’s gallery of “bad guys” is truly remarkable. If you do a bit of digging, you can find most of the same ideas in Rushdoony, and the modern theonomist movement. Would you care to tell some Reformed elders about this?
13) RC Sproul Jr and Doug Phillips are used as proponents, without, again, any examination of their background, or the “axe to grind” that we all know they have. The *producer* of the movie is interviewed, and not “For 1800 years the assumption was, children are with their parents in the meeting of the church, and parents disciple their children” – Here’s a few questions – where did you go to read? Where did you learn to read the Bible, in particular? Who had all the books? How did apprenticeship work, for instance? When did that start, historically?
14) In what sense does the wholesale abdication of the authority of the elders to teach children apart from parental guidance have a historical basis?
15) Age segregation is “borrowing from an evolutionary platform” – can you demonstrate this, instead of asserting it? Would it be your assertion that, say, Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, is “borrowing from an evolutionary platform” by teaching church history or teaching through books of the Bible, in Sunday Schools? Would you like to tell the OPC, for instance, how “evolutionary” their Sunday Schools are? We’re waiting to hear the response to that, with bated breath. Further, if age-segregation is intrinsically evolutionary, is there a reason that Baptists, along with other Reformed denominations, have historically had a separate catechism for younger children? (Our church does as well.) Can Mr. Phillips demonstrate this breathtakingly daring assertion in any way, shape, or form?
16) Again, for a Reformed group, they aren’t exactly open about who and what they are, or who, exactly, they’re critiquing. Why is this? Why aren’t we hearing some specific critiques of *Reformed* denominations, or interviews of *Reformed* young people and adults in the making of this video? My modest proposal would be that, quite honestly, it wouldn’t make these practices look very bad. It’s much easier to go to an evanjellyfish “Christian rock” concert, call it “worldly”, then spend the rest of the video having “experts” making assertions.
17) There is a concerted effort to be “presuppositional” in this video, in one respect; however, it is founded on a false neutrality. There is no statement of a *presuppositional commitment* – you are drawn into that commitment *by* the video – but whatever good things they have to say are poisoned by the deceptive manner in which it is presented.
18) To be truly presuppositional, there would need to be a presentation of the commitments of the proponents making the video, a critique of the other position, which attacks the *strongest* proponents of the position, not the *weakest*, and the antithesis would need to be clearly and unabashedly presented. It has done none of the above. Instead of dealing with who would have necessarily have the *strongest*, and most *Biblical* approaches to the movements they are decrying, they pick off low-hanging fruit, without any identification of what SORT of fruit it is. If they’re interested in a GOOD answer, why didn’t they ask Ligon Duncan, James White, or R.C. Sproul why they have Sunday School in their churches? Youth ministry, I’ll grant, but if they’d read their Van Til, and paid attention to Church History, they’d know that MANY things with worldly beginnings were adopted and transformed by the Church. Take the use of “transcendental”, as an example. Why aren’t the people who could give them SOME sort of answer to their questions being asked? Why not ask R.C. Sproul what is meant by “not a program-driven church but an ordinary-means-of-grace-driven church”?
In short, while I do appreciate the look into “general evangelicalism”, and it’s problems, we already knew it had problems. That’s why most of us are Reformed. If you’re going to take a position with the implication that folks like R.C. Sproul are “borrowing from an evolutionary platform”, it would serve your position well to interact with something other than low-hanging fruit, and deal with the ones most likely to be able to critique your position after the fact. That would be the Reformed proponents of at least Sunday School. I’d invite you to take a gander at James White’s Church History series *he taught in Sunday School* and say that it’s “borrowing from an evolutionary platform” with a straight face. Making an argument after that should be easy.
For full disclosure, I attend a family-integrated church. I’m quite comfortable with the way they do things, and critiquing their practices is not, I repeat, NOT the intent of this review. What I’m not comfortable with is the manipulative, at very least, direction of this particular film; nor am I impressed with their commitment to a Reformed defense of doctrine, given the pretense to neutrality it bases itself around, and the utter disregard for dealing with the opposition’s stronger champions. I’m sure I could set up some great strawmen out of their general doctrinal context too; but that does not a valid argument make. Even if everything it said is true, which I’m by no means convinced of, they poisoned the well by dipping into methods we would call, again, at the very least manipulative. There’s my take. (Incidentally, while Challies’ now-infamous review might have been a bit more nuanced, and been researched a bit better, it was by no means empty of real content, or of valid critique. Another can be found here. A ready respondent to the FIC movement, as well, can be found in Sam Waldron, whom I wish the makers of this movie had interviewed.)