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Deborah 13: Servant of God

May 15, 2009

deborah13

Here are my thoughts on ‘Deborah 13’, a BBC documentary about a young girl named Deborah Drapper who has lived secluded from the outside world and pop-culture her entire life. Deborah is a devout Christian, along with her parents. She temporarily leaves her country side home and gets to experience what life is like on the outside with her older brother Matthew who is in college. Here are my thoughts, for what they’re worth. Keep in mind, I don’t know the big picture with Deborah or this documentary. Please take my assumptions about the documentary with a grain of salt as I lay out my thoughts.

(part 1)

(summary) Deborah and her siblings have no knowledge whatsoever of pop-culture or the “outside” world.

(my thoughts) Many Christians raise their children with no knowledge of pop-culture and wear this fact like a badge on their shoulder. There are some wonderful things which can come about from withdrawing from sinful scenes and situations. However, many of these types of people who are raised culturally unaware become socially awkward. They have little or nothing to add to people’s everyday conversations and are only most comfortable around their families – those who know their quarks and personalities best.

Jesus and the apostles shared the gospel in ways which found common ground with unbelievers. Many times Christians equate holiness to withdrawal from the “world”. Just like the movie ‘The Village’ demonstrates, sin is inside of us, not “out there”. Being able to find commonalities and interests with unbelievers is an extremely biblical and effective way to share one’s faith. For example, if she knew who David Beckham was, she would already have something to talk about with virtually every girl in Britain! Then she could tie it into a spiritual discussion and ask, “do you think famous people are really happy? What do you think makes us most happy? I think it is Christ for this reason…”

Sometimes Christians have the tendency to be people who have all the answers, yet have no questions. We can only converse about what we think is best for people and not offer much else. This is what I call “in-and-out” Christianity where there is little relationship building, that is until an “icky” unbeliever crosses over to looking like us.

(part 2)

(summary) In this clip Deborah goes evangelizing by way of handing out tracts and confronting people with God’s moral law, in particular the ‘Way of the Master’ method popularized by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron.

She asks her friend Phil if he shares the gospel. Phil says he’d rather get to know people. Deborah challenges him on this and says “what if they die tomorrow and ask you “Phil, why didn’t you preach the gospel to me?””

(my thoughts) The ‘Way of the Master’ isn’t entirely the way of the Master, Jesus Christ. Did Jesus use the law to reveal sin to people? Absolutely. However, when it comes to sharing God’s moral law or not, it’s not a matter of either/or, but both/and. Jesus revealed the to the rich young man his true covetous heart (2nd commandment) by simply asking him if he’s kept the commandments, but then also said to go and sell his possessions, which he struggled with. That’s all Jesus said. He refrained from talking about anything else with him. He never even mentioned belief, judgment, or hell to him. Even Jesus understood the art of sowing the gospel. The rich man’s heart was being prepared for a future harvest. The disciples didn’t come up to Jesus and say, “but what if he gets run over by a camel? Wont you feel bad that he might go to hell now?” We must use discernment about when to sow and when to harvest, and know Scripture well enough to do each of these.

Further, I will be the first one to advocate using the law in evangelism and I will always point out Rom 7:7 and how the apostles use the law in Acts 2 and 17. However, they not only use the law, but they first follow through with the art of contextualizing the law.

In Acts 2:14, Peter gets the Jews attention by constantly quoting from the Old Testament. In Acts 17:23, Paul got to know about the idols of the Greeks before he shared the gospel to them. They each shared the gospel on different terms and from different angles, dealing with particular sins and needs. The Jews searched for the Messiah from the OT so Peter confirmed Jesus to be their Messiah with the OT. Yeah, he was the guy you killed. Big mistake. That was the 6th commandment you were breaking too.

The Greeks worshiped false gods and Paul emphasized the 1nd commandment to them. Jesus, nor the apostles, went around using a cookie-cutter style gospel presentation like the ‘Way of the Master’. This method can have some very practical uses, yet is only one small side of the diamond of how we are to biblically witness. Further, we are not to merely witness the gospel to people, but get them plugged into local churches where they can be baptized and discipled with the full knowledge of God. Deborah’s parents have done a great job of discipeling their children and not pushed it off to some youth pastor or public school teacher to do so (causing the averse effects we see in society today).

(part 3)

(summary) The dumb moderator states “they use a traditional interpretation of the Bible”, while spooky music is being played in the background. Give me a break. I’d like to know what her “modern interpretation” is and see if it comports with Scripture as a whole.

The father states he is training his children for eternity. This is a great answer and puts most parenting today to shame.

Deborah and her family put on a puppet show for her community which proclaims the gospel of salvation.

(my thoughts) Any child would be absolutely blessed to be raised in a loving family such as Deborah’s which seeks to uphold Christian values. But again, many children who come from sheltered environments can have tendencies to become separatists, which is opposite of Christ’s behavior as He came to our sinful planet to seek the lost. Christ didn’t just go around and proclaim the gospel, but built relationships with sinners. He got to know them very personally, as did the Apostles.

Further, it can become a danger if children do not feel like they are allowed to think for themselves. It can lead to sloppy Christianity or abandonment of the faith all together if one is never free to question what they believe and put it under the most intense microscope of scrutiny. Every Christian should question what they believe, so long as they do so with the intent to know truth. If Christ is the truth, then one will not fall away from Him, but cling to Him all the more, and for reasons developed by their own experiences.

Some lady was offended by the puppet show. She said it was “too in your face and over the top” because things such as sin and judgment were mentioned. OK. Then I’d like to ask her, according to who’s real moral standard is this type of activity wrong? God’s? Oops. I didn’t see anything overtly pushy about the puppet show. Children should be taught the gospel at a young age before they grow up with hearts of stone, especially in modern-day pagan Britain!

(part 4)

(summary) Deborah continually schools the moderator and takes her out to the wood shed with her apologetic answers. She seems to be able to defend the faith at 13 then most 4 times her age.

Deborah prepares to go into the city for the first time with her brother. Her brother is going to college and has already peered into the “outside” world. He gives her tips on what to expect.

Deborah and her brother discuss the Big Bang theory.

She arrives in the city and goes over to a house where some of her brother’s friends are hanging out and drinking.

(my thoughts) Every Christian believes in the Big Bang. Jesus Christ spoke, and “Bang!”, the universe came into existence. The Big Bang theory doesn’t necessarily state the cause of the universe, but advocates how there must have been a beginning to time, space, matter, and energy within our closed-system of a universe. All this is perfectly in line with Scripture. In fact, when the Big Bang theory was first brought up in the 70’s by a Catholic scientist, it was rejected for supposedly having “religious” leanings. Cosmologists before the 1970’s mostly believed the universe was eternal, or always existed. The Bible is the only major religious texts that speaks of a beginning, and has done so for thousands of years. So it was only a little while ago that secular scientists were forced to accept that the universe had a beginning, which agreed with Scripture. It still amazes me how Christians are very ignorant of these things, and fail to explain how these facts actually favor their worldview.

Deborah seems very timid and awkward when it comes to relating to unbelievers, at least based how it’s edited in the documentary. I personally do editing and video, so I know how easy it is to achieve the desired affect. Going off of just the video, she’ll nevertheless have ample opportunity to get to know more people. Some Christians act like they are holier than Jesus because they shun sinners, while Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax-collectors, gluttons, drunkards, and sinners. This is one of the dangers of being withdrawn from culture and society. It may turn you into a robotic Christian, not one who is as innocent as a dove and as clever as a snake.

(part 5)

(summary) Deborah goes shopping and critiques how virtually every article of clothing is not modest enough or is too promiscuous.

Deborah goes to a party. Her immediate thoughts are that the people in the party shouldn’t be drinking but confessing their sins. They could possibly walk outside, get hit by a milk truck, and would go to hell forever. Deborah then goes back into the house and begins witnessing firmly.

Some of Matthew’s friends want to meet Deborah and talk with her further about her beliefs. In their conversation Deborah mentions that the Bible says drinking alcohol is a sin. In addition, the two girls at the table kindly tell Deborah that she shouldn’t try to change them and only think what she believes is right.

(my thoughts) Modesty is great and that will make Deborah even more attractive in a 1 Peter 3 kind of way for some lucky guy out there in the future. So many girls today look like predators who are out to devour men with their looks. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice and have cool clothes.

Jesus went to where the sinners were. So much so that the religious crowd was freaked out by it. We should seek to build lasting relationships with unbelievers. We should engage sinners, while not engaging sin. Many unbelievers will be discipled this way.

Deborah shows her legalistic side when she touts that drinking is a sin or un-biblical. The only verse she quotes from, and can possibly quote from in Scripture to back this belief, is Proverbs 23. Yet, the context of this passage is clearly about being drunk. 1 Timothy 3:8 says elders are not to be given too much wine. It doesn’t say no wine whatsoever. Proverbs 104:14-15 and Ecclesiastes 9:7 view wine in positive terms. Jesus’ first miracle was to make wine. He probably was drinking wine during the Last Supper. Isaiah 25 says that during the wedding supper of the Lamb, there will be the finest and choicest wine for the saints. There are, however, Biblical restraints on drunkenness, such as in Ephesians 5:18.

This is the problem Christians have sometimes. Just because we own a Bible, we sometimes think we have the right to keep adding to it. We must always challenge our traditions with Scripture, and challenge our interpretations of Scripture with more Scripture.

Deborah does a great job of witnessing to her friends. There does seem to be an interesting subtle battle of autonomy vs. being a slave to Christ going on. If Deborah were raised with more experience of the “outside” world and culture, she may have more reasons to relate to them. Her gospel efforts are to be praised, however, she will be even more effective when she also learns to not just talk but listen, build relationships, and seek to sow the gospel in Britain, not just harvest it. Sowing doesn’t expect immediate results, entails great patience, great listening, and is in it for the long run – along side full out gospel proclamations.

(part 6)

(summary) Deborah has her first club experience. She finds it to be very loud.

Deborah is said to have a tendency to talk about hell too often when witnessing. The dread of hell seems to be the driving force as to why she wants to share it with others. Who wants to go to hell?

(my thoughts) I can’t stand clubs either. I would probably like clubs in Britain though because they might play more electronica music and not just tasteless gangster music like in North America. But it’s a good thing to find out what you do like to do socially, if clubs aren’t your thing. I like to go to coffee shops, breweries, and even bars sometimes to have a few beers and shoot some pool.

When it comes to the gospel, it is certainly a message of bad news before it is a message of good news. This is so the good news is actually understood as good, not hypothetically good. Deborah’s understanding of this, and her conviction to share these truths, set her far above the countless pastors, preachers, teachers, and so called evangelical Christians today whom water down the gospel.

However, I think she may need to recap on John 17:3. The greatest good of the good news isn’t to escape hell, but moreso to know, see, and experience Jesus Christ forever – the eternal solution to our hearts eternal longing. I could be wrong, but I wonder if she knows and preaches that hell is not just separation from God, but is God’s very own eternal wrath. Many Christians today aren’t aware of Rom 5:9 “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

There is also an existential aspect to the gospel, not just an acquittal of judgment aspect. There is a relational restoration, hence being redeemed, and brought back to that which we were intended. In fact, it is precisely because we are pardoned from God’s wrath that we can experience such a spiritual dimension of the gospel. The gospel says we aren’t just saved from Christ (whom the Father has given all judgment to), and by Christ, but ultimately to Christ (John 17:3). To miss out on Christ is also an aspect of hell, because we become like the worm — or completely unlike that which we were intended.

Conclusion:

BBC obviously tries to make this film look like the result of Christian fundamentalism which takes the “fun” out of fundamentalism and puts the “mental” back into it. This is to be expected since Britain has essentially abandoned all of its rich Christian roots and replaced them with “whatever”. Fill in the blank with “crap” or “pure evil” if you will. But it is good to try and look at this documentary through a Biblical lens. That is what I intend to do.

Overall, Deborah is a very blessed, bright, and passionate young girl. She has profound potential for the Kingdom of God which is exciting. Britain could definitely use some more Christians like her. While no Christian is perfect, you will know them by their fruit. She certainly has much fruit.

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6 comments

  1. Cameron,

    Thanks for this review. I had many of the same thoughts when I saw these videos a few months ago. Notwithstanding some of your more extreme comments (the “retarded predators” line, for example, LOL), your review seems fair, balanced and Biblical to me.

    I would note one further balance. We should remember that Deborah is only 13. I think some of your criticism of her methods is toned down a bit by keeping in mind that she hasn’t yet developed the spiritual maturity that can only come with time. She’s off to a great start, though! When she becomes more balanced with time and experience, she might be one incredibly powerful witness (even more than she already is).

    I would also add that her older brother shows an incredible lack of discernment. He seems to be faltering in his faith, perhaps. To me, he appears to be torn between two worlds. But for him that might also be part of the maturing process.

    Yor critique of the “Way of the Master” evangelism approach is spot on. I like what you said about that. The Way of the Master is good, but it’s not comprehensive. I said something similar on my site when I was studying the story of the Rich Young Ruler. Deborah’s very strong commitment to this system probably reflects her training and the lack of maturity and balance already mentioned.

    Overall, I was touched by her story, and also put to shame by her boldness. Here story has encouraged me to be more serious in the way I reach out to others with the Gospel.

    Grace & peace,
    Derek Ashton


  2. Thanks Derek, I’m going to go through and edit a lot of my reponses and add to it. This was kind of a quick response that I put up here. I would like to take some time and mention some of the things you said such as her age, how all Christians mature with these things over time, how her boldness certainly does put me to shame as well, and how she is definitely off to a great start.


  3. Hello, I stumbled on your blog through an atheist bloggers post. I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian and this reminds me a whole lot of what we were told to do in the past history of our church. Moving to the country was said to be the best thing you can do. When I was a kid I lived in in New York City and much of the reason why we never attempted this move was because of the big financial drawback it would have on us as immigrants to the U.S. It’s a great ideal, but not always possible for some. I see that it benefited young Deborah though. She has cultivated a character that will stand out. Kind of like the modern day “John The Baptist.” Pretty cool.

    However, I do see why it isn’t anything to brag about like you said. For one thing, sin is a heart issue and not an environmental one. Like you said, “many Christians equate holiness with withdrawal from the ‘world'”. Our environment is only the product of what’s ‘within’. Lucky for Deborah though, her family has taken a peculiar interest in contributing positively to that factor in her life.

    Alot of this reminds me of what I was taught as an Seventh-day Adventist Christian. I’m really intrigued by her lifestyle and her witness. Kind of inspires me to try and do the same thing for my kids someday. Cool blog.

    Blessings.


  4. Great review!

    We’re linking to your article for Religious Documentaries Thursday at SeminalCinemaOutfit.com

    Keep up the good work!


    • Very cool! Thanks.


  5. […] excerpt from the review at Restore the […]



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