The Gospel Coalition has made quite the proposition suggesting that a novel source of enlightenment awaits the Church in the most unlikely of places: Barbie. Their article confidently boasts, “Why ‘Barbie’ Matters for the Church.” Indeed, amidst centuries of church history, doctrinal councils, and rigorous biblical exegesis, it seems we’ve inadvertently overlooked the profound spiritual insights that might be gleaned from Hollywood’s take on our favorite plastic protagonist. A remarkable oversight, truly. How did Augustine or Luther, the Apostle Paul, or even Jesus Himself, miss that?
When John wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 John 2:19), he set a clear benchmark for understanding departures from the faith. Yet, as we dive into the contemporary landscape of “New Evangelical” discourse, it becomes alarmingly clear that certain sects of Evangelicalism are more inclined to rely on cultural artifacts rather than Scripture.
Enter this perplexing article from The Gospel Coalition titled Christians Should Welcome the Conversations ‘Barbie’ Sparks which astonishingly holds up the 2023 Barbie movie as a barometer for addressing perceived cultural issues within the church. As one unpacks this strange thesis, it’s hard not to be astonished at its overt obsession with worldliness.
The article makes the claim that “of the 40 million people who’ve stopped going to church over the last 25 years, 10 percent say they left specifically because of misogyny.” Now, setting aside the potential pitfalls of self-reporting and the often nebulous definition of “misogyny” in modern discourse, let’s dig deeper. The statistics are probably correct—this is probably what women are saying. But the insinuation here is clear: the church is failing women. But is this truly the heart of the matter?
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If we’re to be guided by Scripture (a novel concept, I know), it paints a slightly different picture. People may stop professing to be Christians, and people may stop going to a building they call “church.” But people don’t depart the faith because of interpersonal disputes or perceived societal wrongs. Rather they leave these institutions because they were never genuinely rooted in Christ, to begin with. They do not depart due to a lack of cultural relevance or because they felt slighted, but because, as John aptly put it, they were “not of us.”
To ascribe the departure of millions to the singular issue of misogyny is not just a simplification, but a deviation from Scriptural truths. By this logic, if we just fix this one issue, we’ll have them all rushing back, right? That seems to be the motive behind the social justice movements of some denominations. Yet, Christ Himself told us that the path is narrow and few find it (Matthew 7:14). It’s not the church’s alignment with modern-day cultural issues and values that keep the flock, but its alignment with Christ.
Then, there’s the bewildering claim: “The Barbie movie invites a conversation about our identities both as individuals and as men and women together.” Really? The same Barbie that, for generations, has been critiqued for propagating shallow, materialistic values? The suggestion that this Hollywood creation could provide profound insights into our God-given identities is nothing short of comedic.
The article eagerly points out: “There’s a significant thread throughout the Barbie movie that ponders creation and Creator, the relationship between Adam and Eve, and the question of all questions: What are we made for? Spiritual and anthropological questions abound in the film, but answers are hard to come by.” One can’t help but wonder: are we genuinely seeking deep theological answers from a cinematic rendition of a toy? The creation narrative of Adam and Eve, the profound mysteries of our purpose—these are themes that theologians have grappled with for millennia and the Scriptures provide the only satisfactory answers to. It’s somewhat befuddling to imagine that a Hollywood production about Barbie might hold the missing pieces to these age-old puzzles. The scriptures offer us depth and revelation—perhaps we’d be better served diving into those waters than wading through the kiddie pool of pop culture for spiritual enlightenment.
Finally, we’re advised to “resist too-fast and too-easy answers to complicated questions.” Ironically, turning to a secular movie to address complex theological matters seems to be precisely that—a “too-easy” answer.
How curious the trajectory of the modern church, increasingly captivated by the shimmer of pop culture, while the treasures of enduring truth gather dust. And The Gospel Coalition, never particularly sound and founded on the pillars of pop culture and social justice activism, seems to have drifted even further from its already wavering course. Instead of drawing from the wells of biblical wisdom, we now sip from the shallow puddles of cultural novelty. One can only anticipate what’s next on the horizon—perhaps a theological exposition on the latest social media trend? Oh wait, we’ve already done that. Truly, these are heady times in Evangelicalism.