July 21, 2011

Divided The Movie - a reasonable but incomplete conclusion - and poorly supported

I had a long post all written up, needing editing badly, but it seems Challies has already posted my thoughts.
Tim Challies' Review of Divided the Movie

In particular these paragraphs are the ones with which I sympathize:
"It is beyond dispute that young people are abandoning the church, but the heart of this problem is not youth ministry or Sunday school. The heart of the problem is that many young people are being raised in homes and in churches where the gospel is absent. They are being raised by hypocrites and are rejecting that life of hypocrisy. I see young people abandoning the church and, though I am saddened by it, I Am Unalarmed.

The sad irony of Divided is that this film and the movement it supports will undoubtedly cause plenty of its own division. And, indeed, it must! It majors on the minors, making family integration the pivotal and central doctrine for the church. It identifies a genuine problem but attempts to solve it in a way that elevates methodology instead of the gospel message. It’s a destructive message wrapped in a poorly-made documentary. The church would do well to ignore it."
Backing up a bit into the middle of his article, Challies says:
"These leaders claim that the Bible clearly teaches that we must not age segregate. Ever. The classroom is a pagan creation and so too is the Sunday school. Leclerc goes so far as to claim that the mass youth exodus may just be God’s hand of punishment upon the church for our active disobedience in ignoring what Scripture teaches."
YES - to an extent they are right -- but I would only make the caveat that the disobedience being referred to in the movie is the disobedience of fathers to teach their children, rather than farming them out to someone else. That is not the disobedience that is resulting in this mass exodus. The original disobedience which caused MEN/PARENTS to abandon their posts in the first place is what Challies spoke of in the two paragraphs I first quoted. Pastors and teachers changing, obscuring, and corrupting the gospel to please unregenerate people and gather a crowd.

I want to quote a bit from his article "I am unalarmed." with a little bold emphasis added by me:
Let me say from the outset that it is tragic when any child abandons the faith; let’s not downplay this. What is equally tragic is that so few of them really had much of a chance to encounter the true gospel—the only gospel that saves. Looking at the evangelical landscape in the United States (where these studies were performed) and in Canada, I see that the majority of children, and probably the vast majority of children, are raised in churches where what they hear is a false gospel or a gospel that has been emptied of all that makes it the power of God for salvation. We should not be at all surprised that children abandon this kind of a counterfeit gospel as soon as they are able to. I would do the same.
If 7 in 10 young people leave the church it may well be because 7 in 10 parents are not immersing their children in the gospel from a young age. They are not preaching that gospel to their children and they are not living as if that gospel is true. That may be an overstatement, but I do not want you to miss the point. Many, many children, a disheartening number, are raised to believe they are Christians by parents who just as erroneously also believe that they, the parents, are Christians. Many more are raised by parents who never model the beauty of gospel living. Such children barely stand a chance.

I have been in churches for my whole life, and what I have observed is that the Lord is faithful. The Lord works through the gospel. And where is the gospel? It is in [some] churches. And it is in the families that compose those churches. Where the gospel is absent, we should not be surprised that children abandon the faith en masse.

Of course the Lord is sovereign and the Lord has purposes that are all his own. The best of parents—parents who have lived lives that exemplify gospel living—have seen children fall away. The Lord offers us no absolute guarantee that he will save our children. There is no magic formula we can use. But what is true and easily observable is that the Lord tends to work through families, from one generation to the next, and that where the gospel is present, he tends to save. Why would we ever be surprised to see the Lord working in environments that are drenched with the gospel? And why would we ever be surprised to see the Lord not working in environments where the gospel is absent?"
I am quite sure you will be getting a lot of flak for this, Tim, but please be encouraged that you are not alone, and there is a (probably smaller) group of people who are noticing the gaping hole left in the movie. I thank God that you see it and are attempting to point it out.