The Tentative Apologist
5/2/11 at 08:27 AM 7 Comments

Indoctrinated: Why you should not use Focus on the Family’s “The Truth Project”

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"The Truth Project" is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by Focus on teh Family. They spent over two million dollars developing and producing this video series of thirteen one hour sessions and they have spent lots more promoting it in churches throughout North America and around the world. It is thus with much regret that I have been forced to speak out against "The Truth Project" as an example of indoctrinational teaching, i.e. propaganda.

What justifies this stark assessment? I first viewed a couple sessions in September 2006 when the curriculum came out and I was shocked by the indoctrinational framework in the very first section on veritology. Del Tackett, the host, sets up an indefensibly stark framework between the people of truth (Christians) and the people of the lie (everybody else). At that point I decided that I needed to get back to this because I knew many people would be watching it. So in February 2007 I sat down and watched the entire curriculum, all thirteen hours, while taking extensive notes. Ugh, what a way to spend one's late winter break. I then delivered a paper on the topic at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in November 2007. After getting a great response on the paper from many evangelical scholars of like-minded concern, I came back and finalized the paper. Then I attempted to contact "Focus" in early December, asking whether they'd like a copy before I sent it out for review so they could respond. This certainly seemedd to be the Christian thing to do. Apparently they weren't interested for they never responded. But they did take the liberty of adding my email to their emailing list so for a time I was getting the latest updates on "Focus" and "Truth Project"!

In the summer of 2008 I finally sent the paper to Christian Scholar's Review for peer review. Then in the fall of 2008 I delivered a presentation on the topic at my seminary. In attendance was Brian Siewert who was at the time a regional director at Focus in Canada. While he found the analysis I presented disturbing, he didn't disagree with it. And in fact he informed me that the very next day he would be seeing Del Tackett in Winnipeg so I gave him a copy of the paper to pass on. As a result, I know Mr. Tackett is aware of my criticisms.

The paper was published by Christian Scholar's Review in 2009. For those of you you are interested, it is available to read here. I urge you to take the time to read the article and become informed on the serious problems with the curriculum. Remember that Paul commended the Bereans for testing his words. If we are advised to test even Paul's words, how much more should we be testing the words of para-church ministries like Focus?!

Sadly, I have never had a single response from Focus. I bother to include the backstory because inevitably there are people who will protest "You shouldn't criticize a Christian brother!" Needless to say I did all I could along the way to dialogue with Focus on this curriculum but to no avail.

At this point "The Truth Project" has impacted tens of thosuands of Christians who have been fed its simplistic, binary categories. So I would encourage you to read the article, familiarize yourself with the problems, and speak out when you see "The Truth Project" being used.

Two footnotes:

First, I also critique the curriculum in my new book You're not as crazy as I think.

Second, Os Guinness is interviewed as one of the talking heads in the film. This surprised and dismayed me given that he has been a solid defender of the importance of seeking truth and dialogue rather than indoctrination. Then I had dinner with Os in March 2008 at which point I discovered that he had not yet seen the curriculum. He was thoroughly dismayed when I informed him of some of the content. So his presence in the curriculum should not be taken as his approval of it.

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