Many of you may remember that back in March, I had a number of posts and exchanges with some folks from Central Christian Church in Mesa, Arizona. It was precipitated by a blog post of associate pastor Jeremy Jernigan. It had to do with their embracing of the New York best seller, The Shack by William P. Young.
I began to write a comment on the blog post and soon decided that it might be better to send an email directly to pastor Jernigan in an effort to warn him of some of the problems with this book in a more personal manner. (This is because my family had been members at Central for nine years and my concern was for the body and friends I still had there). His response was ultimately another post that was an attack on evangelists like myself calling our model of outreach "Spam Evangelism." Why Jeremy made this leap is a mystery to me-except that he may have followed my link and found out what I was all about and decided to come from that angle.
Recently, Central had the author of The Shack as a guest for an interview. Strangely enough, this took the place of the regular weekend services- nine of them to be exact. Perhaps I shouldn't speculate, but I have a feeling that they had record numbers turn out for the event.
As I expected, the blogs of the various pastors and their loyal readers were beaming with rave reviews of their new hero. Below are a couple of exerpts.
From pastor Jeremy Jernigan:
"And it wouldn’t be right to mention this book without a reference to the few who so loudly protest it. Here is my advice to you if you’re reading my blog: if someone tells you to stay away from this book, ask them if they’ve ever read it themselves. Their answer may shed some light on the “credibility” of their opinion. Then read the book. You’ll probably love it. If nothing else, it will get you to think about God in ways you’ve probably never thought about before.
To sum it up: hurt people found God this weekend and some religious people “were pissed” (to quote Paul). Reminds me of when Jesus preached."
From Pastor Danny Dodson:
"I must say that I am dismayed and frankly ashamed of some of the attacks and criticism this brother has taken for writing a fictional story as a gift for his children. How brutal some of these critics have been and many of them by their own admission have never even read the book. To post and share such close-minded opinions when you haven't even read for yourself that which you criticize is as hypocritical as one can be. There are many things we Christians should stand strong against and fight against. The Shack isn't one of them. "
Frankly, I'm surprised that the best they could do to defend their position was to throw up this strawman argument of "If you haven't read it, your not credible." They really should know better.
I want to thank Rob-roy for submitting the following response to this position. It is to the point, well written and most importantly, delivered with love.
Thought this would be helpful for many of you who have been asking me questions about various objections you come across. One of the objections that comes up again and again over the years is that to have credibility to comment on a book or movie a person must have seen or read all of it. Reading or seeing part of the book or movie is not credible enough to take comments seriously we are told.
For instance when the Da Vinci Code book and then the movie came out it seemed that it was a prerequisite to have read the whole book or have seen the movie to have “credible” comments and concerns. Or even raise questions. Cleary it is not always a credibility issue to make a decision or express concerns about material such as books or movies based on a sampling of the material.
Another example is this. How much water needs to be tested in order to get a reading? All of it or a sample of it? Is it fair to gauge the entire water supply based on a sample? If the sample shows bad water do you dismiss it because it did not test the whole water supply? You would take the results seriously at the very least.
Recently the latest book to enter the fray is The Shack. Let’s use it as the latest example of this tactic. Some Shack fans have claimed that the critics are not credible unless they have read the entire book (though the majority of the reviews are by those who have read it all). The fans of The Shack who would denounce, question or dismiss the credibility of critics who have not read all of The Shack contradict themselves when they also claim to not believe the Muslim Quran or the LDS Book of Mormon to be words from God if they have not read those books entirely.
Most Christians reject the Gnostic Gospels not having ever read them. Same with the extra biblical writings of the Apocrypha. And they do so never having read those books in their entirety. Does that mean they are not credible in denying the Quran and Book of Mormon? Hardly. Just means there is a double standard at work.
How many times have a seen various churches bring in former LDS or Jehovah Witnesses or even Atheists. Not one time have I heard one of them or the church leaders encourage members to read the Book of Mormon, The New World Translation or Darwin’s Origin of Species or they will not be credible when the reach out to their lost friends who are LDS, JW or Atheistic. What we get is a few samples of the falsehood shared with us about these teachings from credible people and not a call to read those false teachings and decide for ourselves. And here is the point. We can read those books. We are not told not to read the books. We are told however that they are false. Not to read them as truth. And in the course of the class the parts that are the most false are highlighted. That is what many have done in love with The Shack and concerns about it changing the Gospel delivered once and for all by God in His word.
Another example. Every person I know categorically rejects and encourages others to reject the Satanic Bible. And yet none of them have read that version. None of them. They have read parts that are extremely revealing and have heard from others who have read all of it. Apparently though that is not enough. You must read all of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible or you are simply not being fair or credible.
Based on this logic the vast majority of people at modern churches have credibility issues. The overwhelming majority of professing Christians have not read the entire bible and yet they promote it as God’s word. Wait a minute? To be consistent should there be a credibility check? They should then not profess to be Christians or get baptized having not read all of what they claim to be God’s word right? And yet we know that the overwhelming majority of people saved are saved before they have read the entire bible. Not after.
God can reveal enough light from His word to convert someone without reading it all and then grow them as a result of conversion by having them read the rest for the rest of their lives. Conversely, God can reveal enough error and lies from a book from reading portions of it without needing to take it all in.
I only need a taste of liver and onions for me to stop eating it. It doesn't take eating the whole thing to determine it tastes awful. I don't have to watch all of a movie that starts out offensive in order to determine if it really is. What is interesting is that most people decide not to see movies based on the clips which provide only a sample of the movie. In fact most Christians will not watch R rated movies (or PG 13 either). Why would they be so shallow as to rely on someone else’s review and rating or short samples of the movie to make such a decision? Shouldn’t they see the whole movie first before deciding whether they should see the whole movie? Of course if they do that it is too late. They would have already seen the movie they were trying to determine whether they should see or not. That is the false dilemma of credibility that is created where otherwise the person is not making a truly informed decision right?
Do I need to take meth, cocaine or cyanide to decide for myself whether they are good for me? I think I can be credible in telling others to stay away from meth based on a small sample of information from brief news stories without reading The Journal of American Medicine five volume set on the subject.
The “credibility” spin obscures the point that there are legitimate biblical questions about many parts of The Shack (and Quran, Book of Mormon, Satanic Bible, insert latest fad here) that have been brought to light and no real answers have come. The diversion about credibility does not deal with important concerns and is itself contradictory when applied to the large majority of the Christian culture.
Remember, in the garden God said don't eat of the tree. Eating of the fruit of that tree was bad news to say the least. God made it clear His word was sufficient and they had His word on it. He did not say try the fruit and decide for yourself if it is bad. That was Satan's tactic.
It’s fair to ask someone if they have read and/or how much they have read about the book they are commenting on. It is also fair to address and answer legitimate questions without resorting to “read the book and decide for yourself”. Playing the credibility card does not deal with or answer the serious concerns loving Christians have about the false teaching contained in The Shack and the impact on their brothers and sisters in Christ (and the lost). To be concerned about these things and be quiet…
Now that would be a credibility issue!