Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Shack Is Coming To Town

It is official. The author of the wildly popular and best-selling book The Shack is coming to our town May 16-17, 2009. Click the link below for more information and an interview with the pastor that is bringing him to town.

The pastor who wrote this post stated:

“From my perspective, if you read this as a fictional story of one man’s speculation about God, it can be a powerful encouragement for experiencing or renewing your own journey with God through the Bible.”

Scripture has this to say about entertaining such “speculations”:

As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:3-5

Further, the scripture talks of those who became futile in their speculations (Romans 1:21), warns Christians to refuse and ignore foolish and ignorant speculations (2 Timothy 2:23) and to destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Last year my wife volunteered at the bookstore of this very same church where The Shack was (is) sold and prominently displayed. At that time it was communicated to her and the volunteers that due to a number of concerns people in the congregation were voicing the bookstore manager obtained a response from one of the pastors to help assist them for such occurrences. The response that came for public use by the volunteers from the same pastor who also authored the blog link above was as follows:

“The Shack is one man’s idea of an interaction with God through a fictional story. We recommend that people read it, not as a theological treatise on par with the Bible, but as a story to ignite the imagination and the heart for a very real God.”

The following contains most of, but not an exact copy of what I wrote to the church bookstore manager which was then brought before a couple of the pastors to review. I am sharing it with you as an encouragement to test all things by God’s word, including what I am writing in love and concern.

I am confused as to why The Shack would be recommended by a Christian church and sold in its bookstore to be read in the context of it just being “one man’s idea” of God as a tool to “ignite imagination and the heart for a very real God” when the book does so much to describe a false view of God’s nature. It is one thing to acknowledge that The Shack is “not a theological treatise on par with the Bible” but we should go further and realize that it is also contradictory to scripture in many troubling ways. First let’s start with what the Bible says about God and His nature and the Scripture from which we learn about Him.

· We are commanded in the Bible both to have an intimate relationship with God through the person of Christ (1 Cor. 1:9) and to know him truthfully.

· We are called to exhort in sound doctrine (Titus 1:9), to "speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1), and to have purity in doctrine (Titus 2:7).

· Such doctrines include the revelation of God, his nature, his calling, his sovereignty, his holiness, his majesty, his purpose for us, his redemptive work, and all other such teachings which are vitally important to us in order to properly understand God and to properly discern if the subjective spiritual experiences we have are true or false.

For instance, The Shack on page 205 is where God says to Mack, "My words are alive and dynamic-full of life and possibility; yours are dead, full of law and fear and judgment. That is why you won't find the word responsibility in the Scriptures."

· That is not true. In the New American Standard Bible “responsibility” occurs four times (Num. 4:16; 1 Chr. 9:31; Ezra 10:4; 1 Tim. 5:22). The NIV has it in 13 places. Even in Heaven we will be given responsibilities.

· God delegates responsibilities to angels (Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7) and to believers who will rule over cities, nations and angels (Matt. 25:23; Luke 19:17; 1 Cor. 6:2-3, Rev. 2:26).

· Even now we are to rule over the fish, birds and every living creature (Gen. 1:28).

· King David confirmed this mandate that we have been put in charge by God, of everything God made, giving us authority over all things (Psalm 8:6).

· The Shack should not imply that “responsibility” is evil in God’s eyes when it is good in His eyes (Romans 14:16; Isaiah 5:20; Eccl. 12:14).

· The Shack should not create a God that does not give “responsibility” as being a good God when it is the true and good God that gives responsibility as a His good gift to us (James 1:17).

· Randy Alcorn in his book “Heaven” (p222) wrote the following “We must learn to take Scripture seriously when it speaks of our reigning over the earth. By telling ourselves that we mustn’t interpret Scripture literally, often we end up rejecting it’s plain meaning.”

Here is another concern. Does God place expectations on us? Does he expect us to believe in him, to follow him, to seek to be like Christ, to love others, to worship him in truth, etc.? Of course he does. Yet, on page 206 Papa (God the Father) says, "Honey, I've never placed an expectation on you or anyone else. The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior to get the desired result."

That is not only false but a false view of God. The true God does expect certain things from us and it is not necessarily true that an expectation from God means he doesn't know what the result will already be.

· God knows we are sinners, yet expects us to be holy. God says, "you shall be holy, for I am holy," (1 Pet. 1:16).

· He makes the only way for sinners to be made holy through the Cross (Heb. 10:14, John 14:6).

· God expects us to pick up our crosses and follow after Christ (Matt. 10:38).
One more concern is Universalism. This is the unbiblical teaching that through the atoning work of Christ, all people will be saved. The book seems to hint towards that. On page 225 we are told by God, "In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship."

· If all humans are forgiven of their sins, then all humans go to heaven.

· This is the doctrine of universalism and it is a heresy that is contradicted by scripture (Mark 3:28; Matt. 25:46).

It is not wise to use fiction that contradicts scripture as it relates to God’s triune nature as held by the first century Christians through this very day. Fiction must walk in line with the scripture for it to be recommended not against it. And that would be the case no matter how talented the writer or how emotionally moving the story is. When emotions trump truth and the Bible and then are promoted as a way to know truth and the Bible better there is a problem. How can error help us know God better?

How can a false view of God’s Trinitarian and Saving nature in the work of God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ and God the Holy Spirit be recommended as a tool to know God better as depicted in this work of fiction? How is that any different than the fictional account of Laminates and Nephites promoted by Joseph Smith (albeit he promoted it as actual history) in the Book of Mormon? The Book of Mormon is certainly one man’s idea of interaction with God and I am quite sure that won’t be in Christian Church bookstore anytime soon. It appears that with The Shack, and the Book of Mormon as well, there is an emotional appeal that asks us to overlook the whether the fiction is based on the truth of the Bible. When that happens we overlook the Bible in view of our emotions. Emotions trump truth.

When this happens in other areas we know better. The spouse whose emotions lead them to commit adultery has ignored truth. Because they overlooked God’s word in favor of an emotional reaction they have discarded the truth because the truth to them is based on what feels right. A very dangerous thing. The result is sin.

Christ followers should regard the word of God as the final authority on all things and any supposed accounts of actual occurrences should be compared to scripture, not our feelings, wants, and desires. In the case of The Shack, the book falls woefully short of scriptural truth in many areas and has the strong ability to mislead people regarding God's nature, work, and plan for us.

Here are some other reviews of The Shack.

· When the prophet Isaiah and the apostle John caught glimpses of God, they were overcome with despair at their own unworthiness in the light of His glory. The same could be said of Daniel or Paul, or any number of figures from Scripture.

· Sadly, the author fails to show that the relationship with God must be built on the truth of who He really is, not on our reaction to a sunset or a painting.

· As Papa warns Mack, God is not who Mack expects He is. But He is also not what our creative imaginations make Him to be, either. He Is, after all, Who He Is.

· This story is meant to teach theology that Young really believes to be true. The story is a wrapper for the theology. In theory this is well and good; in practice the book is only as good as its theology. And in this case, the theology just is not good enough.

· Because of the sheer volume of error and because of the importance of the doctrines reinvented by the author, I would encourage Christians, and especially young Christians, to decline this invitation to meet with God in The Shack. It is not worth reading for the story and certainly not worth reading for the theology.

· The Shack has God say, “I don’t create institutions—never have, never will.” But Romans 13 says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Similarly, God created the institution of marriage and family, and the institution of the church, which is his bride.

· I know wonderful people who say they have been drawn closer to God through reading the Shack. When people feel closer to God, I wholeheartedly rejoice. But I fear some readers (not all, by any means) may feel closer to a God who is different than the God revealed in Scripture... If that’s the case, then they are not closer to God at all, just closer to a false God, an idol constructed in the image of our contemporary need for acceptance and resistance to repentance and submission and accountability.

· With the book’s repeated message that the Bible has been twisted by churches and pastors and seminaries (and yes, sometimes it has),… I’m afraid some readers will feel justified in further distancing themselves from both the Scriptures and the church. And some may read meanings into Scripture that the biblical text itself contradicts.

Due to the numerous shortcomings identified and the tremendous responsibility of pastors to

care and protect the sheep they should not promote this “fictional” teaching or the author who is teaching it through the medium of “fiction”. It is not the fiction that is the problem. There is biblical fiction out there such as Pilgrims Progress. It is the teaching the fiction of The Shack transports to the reader that should not be endorsed, recommended or promoted.

If you are a fan of the book I appreciate your taking the time to read and consider these concerns as they are provided in love for you and our Savior. Please pray for every church to be discerning in caring for the body of Christ. This book and others like it could be making its way to your church or bookstore. A number of people I know in different states and in their churches have asked me about this book and shared their concerns. It is so important to know God’s word because it is so important to grow in knowing God and discerning false and/or errant teaching. In love I pray this is of benefit to you.

Love, Rob-roy
(1 Thess. 2:8)