The Shack by William Young

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Jac3510
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Re: The Shack by William Young

#46

Post by Jac3510 » Tue Apr 21, 2009 1:00 pm

The following is a critical review I just got in my email from a pastor who would be my own if I lived an hour closer to his church:

Reviewed by Dr. Mike Halsey, President
Free Grace Seminary

The Shack is a book by William Paul Young which has reached the pinnacle of success in the publishing world—a New York Times best-seller with three million copies in print and counting. One librarian says that he can't keep the book in the library. Church discussion groups spring up to bring their collective thoughts on The Shack to the table.

Pastors comment on the book from the pulpit. People report that they began to read the book and stayed up all night to get to the last period on the last page. Such testimonies speak of the power of the pen in the hands of a master writer. Barbara Tuchman, author and historian, said that she had a note posted above her writing table, “But will they turn the page?” People are turning the pages of The Shack.

The back-of-the-book comments hail the work as a masterpiece worthy of a literary hall of fame status, as Eugene Peterson ranks The Shack on par with John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Heady praise indeed. Blurbs tout the book as one to make the reader cry (it does), laugh, and repent. Another says that Young's work “has blown the door wide open to my soul.” Many report that their view of God has changed since reading the book and, as a result, their theology has changed. Some have written that nothing has impacted their theology as has The Shack. (Such comments are worrisome because theology is to come from the Bible, not from a book outside THE BOOK.)

The Shack is a theodicy, a work which seeks to defend God's goodness in the face of the existence of evil. There have been thousands of such works throughout history, but by couching his inside a story, Young has demonstrated the power of story to grab us and hold us in its powerful grip until the tale is told.

Preachers could learn a lesson from Young on this account, if they haven't learned it already from the power of Jesus' parables to hook the listener and make him think. And that's what Young does; through the power of story, he grabs the reader, doesn't let go, and makes him think.

The Shack is easy to read and the reader who is familiar with Mark Twain will see a resemblance between the way The Shack begins as paralleling Huckleberry Finn and its use of a folksy, colloquial style from the start.

The writer pushes the reader onto a roller coaster ride of emotion as he tells his story of a personal tragedy through the eyes of Mack, the father of a murdered girl. Mack experiences the emotions of bitterness, rage, confusion, anger, and tears over the loss of his daughter, an event called, “The Great Sadness.”

As with all books, works of fiction included, the reader must not read the book uncritically; the Christian is under the command to bring every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).

The Shack revolves around a meeting which Mack, the main character, has with God in the shack in which his daughter was murdered, and, at the meeting, God appears as a large, down-to-earth, black woman.

But in the Bible, God is never spoken of as feminine, but masculine, and is said to be spirit, not flesh. This appearance of God (called “Papa” in the book) to Mack is done to make him feel comfortable since his relationship with his abusive father was a miserable one, one which has had a negative impact on Mack all his life. When Papa speaks to Mack, she does so in a down-home style, southern and folksy, yet when the “theology” of the book is delivered by Papa, the vocabulary changes and is no longer colloquial.

The Trinity is portrayed in the book: Jesus is seen as a friendly carpenter, wears a tool belt, skips rocks over a lake and enjoys lying in the sun with Mack as they talk things over.

The Holy Spirit is made flesh as well; something never done in the Bible except at the baptism of Christ in the form of a dove.

Such a portrayal of the members of the Trinity begins to give the reader the impression that the book is man-centered, not God-centered. God is portrayed as One who makes man, Mack in this case, comfortable, whereas the Bible is the opposite in its portrayal. When Isaiah sees God, he sees Him as “high and exalted,” One who is “Holy, holy, holy . . . who commands armies . . .” whose “majestic splendor fills the entire earth!”

God did not make Isaiah comfortable; Isaiah's reaction to seeing God was, “I am destroyed, for my lips are contaminated by sin and I live among people whose lips are contaminated by sin. My eyes have seen the king, the Lord who commands armies.”

In Revelation 1, when John sees the risen Christ, he describes Him as having “fiery eyes,” “a sharp sword coming out of His mouth;” “His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace;” “His voice was like the roar of many waters;” “His face shone like the sun shining at full strength.” Such a sight does not make John comfortable; it makes the apostle fall “as dead,” Yet, Mack tells Jesus, “I feel more comfortable around you.”

The premise of the book is that Papa makes people feel comfortable; Jesus is one's “Buddy.” The sovereign majesty of the Trinity is omitted. It is the Trinity as pop culture would write large.

When Mack sees Papa, he sees scars on her wrists and these are meant to be the scars from the cross, which is to say that the Father endured the cross, but this idea is never substantiated by the Bible and has been condemned as heresy in church history because it was the Son who became flesh (Jn. 1:14), not the Father. God the Father didn't die; Jesus, God the Son, was on the cross, the Father wasn't.

Papa says, “We three (the Trinity) spoke ourselves into human existence.” But the Bible is clear that it was the Second Person of the Trinity who became true humanity at the incarnation, not the Father, not the Spirit. Such a depiction muddles the Trinity because God is spirit (Jn. 4) not human flesh.

A theme the book emphasizes is that there is no hierarchy among the members of the Trinity. But the Bible is clear--there is a hierarchy among the members of the Trinity and that there is to be one in the human race. Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane , “Not My will, but Your will be done.” Jesus speaks of His food being the doing of the will of the Father. The author of the book of Hebrews, quoting the Old Testament, writes about the Son, who said to the Father, “I come to do Your will.” The New Testament describes the Son at the end of His reign on earth as delivering His kingdom to the Father. To say that there is no hierarchy in the Trinity is to delete Philippians 2, a highly christological passage, from the Bible. Jesus said the Father sent Him, He did not send the Father. The book, in spite of the fact that the Bible speaks of the Father as the head over Jesus Christ in 1 Cor. 11:3, ridicules the idea of a hierarchy in the Trinity and that Jesus was obedient to the Father's will. The Bible does not.

There are hierarchies in the human race, God-ordained ones which we see in the command of both the Old and the New Testaments, “Children, obey your parents,” and the Christian is to “obey those who have rule over them.” The believer is to “render to Caesar what is Caesar's.” Without hierarchies of authority, the human race would descend into chaos.

As to the author himself, he claims that he is not a member of any organized body, by which he means a church. This means that he has removed himself from any biblical, face-to-face instruction by pastors and teachers and elders. In fact, there is an anti-church tone to the book, as all churches and leaders are stereotyped as “power-hungry,” and “rule-oriented,” interested only in head knowledge. Such an argument is a straw man. The book sees nothing positive in the church. One wonders if the author had connected with godly pastors and elders in a local church, would he have written the book as he did.

The book is dismissive towards a seminary education, as seminaries are seen in the same light as churches. Seminaries are stereotyped to be filling people with head knowledge with no application to life. The author ignores church history which records such highly educated men with evangelistic zeal such as the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and George Whitefield. Such a rejection of seminary training ignores hundreds of thousands of men who could have been successful in other fields of endeavor but chose to honor the gifts and calling of God in their lives, sacrifice their time, money and lives to attend seminary, to faithfully preach and teach the Word of God, and not only to win souls for Christ, but also to nurture them in the Lord and grow them in grace through discipleship ministries. Throughout the book, there is an anti-doctrinal stance as biblical teachings are cast as "religious conditioning" or "seminary teaching" (p. 93).

The Shack puts words in God's mouth to communicate unbiblical concepts and unbiblical divine attributes. For example, Papa tells Mack, “I don't do guilt and condemnation.” The concept promoted by the book is, “I don't punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment.” But Romans 1 says that sin is its own punishment because God has decreed it to be so. Paul, in Romans especially, spends many pages delineating the guilt of both Jew and gentile, concluding all as so guilty before God that their mouths are shut.

To say that God does not “do guilt and condemnation” is a pop culture God, “my buddy,” one who exists to make me comfortable. To read the early chapters of Romans is to see the guilt and condemnation of every member of the human race in living color on every page. Revelation's description of the Great White Throne judgment, Jesus' description of the division of the sheep from the goats, Christ's pronouncement to those who worked for their salvation, “Depart from Me; I never knew you,” all stand in stark contrast to the conversations in The Shack. Jesus spoke more on hell than any one else in the Bible. As detailed in Revelation, the Great Tribulation is a time of judgment and condemnation poured out on a planet and its people who have sinned and rejected the Son.

In the book, Mack must deal with the murderer of his daughter and is told that he must forgive him; he is told that if he doesn't, Papa can't forgive the killer. (“Mack, for you to forgive this man is for you to release this man, and allow me to redeem him.”) Does our forgiveness by God depend upon someone's forgiving us for wrongs we've done to them? Do we “allow” God to save someone who has hurt us? Do we “allow” Him to redeem anyone?” Such an idea is preposterous. A murderer who comes to faith alone in Christ only is forgiven by God, regardless of whether the family of the victim forgives him. This confuses sins against others with sins against God.

Free grace people will also note a confusing, muddled, inclusivistic subtext in the book. In The Shack, Jesus says, “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa. . .” There is never a suggestion or slightest hint in the Bible that Jesus is the best way to God. He said that He was the only way (Jn. 14:6). Such an idea of Jesus as the best way suggests there are other ways, maybe not as good, but other ways.

The confusion continues when Jesus tells Mack, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They are Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved” (p. 182).

“I have no desire to make them Christian” falls apart under the scrutiny of the Great Commission where Jesus gives the command to go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to observe everything He's commanded. The confusion is rampant when the reader contrasts the first part of the sentence (“I have no desire to make them Christian”) with the last part (“but I do want them to join in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my beloved.”) If Jesus has no desire to make people of other faiths Christians, or disciples of Christ, then we wonder what this "transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa" entails. What does it mean to be a son or daughter of Papa? Confusion.

When Mack asks Jesus, "Does that mean all roads will lead to you?" To this question, Jesus replies, "Not at all. . . . Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you."

Christ never said, “Most roads don't lead anywhere;” instead, He warned that most roads lead to destruction in Matthew 7:13 -14.

The statement is confusing in that it appears that Jesus is implying that He will find a person in any religion, reveal Himself to him, but not take him from that religious path. A key aspect of the book is relationship, but unfortunately, relationship trumps truth. A right relationship with God must be founded and grounded on the truth. Jesus said that those who worship God must “worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23 -24). When Jesus spoke of Himself, He said, “I am the way the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.” To worship apart from the truth means to worship a false god and bow the knee as Israel did to Baal.

The author says that he wants these things to be true; he wants the kind of God portrayed in the book. The reader must ask if what he wants and the truth are the same. Wanting something to be true does not make it true.

Is this all this important? Job 42:7 answers that question. God is angry with Job's friends and expresses that anger: “. . . . [God] said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” God is concerned that when we speak of who He is and what He has done; we get it right; we don't tinker with His character, with what He has said, or with what He has done.

Patrick Zukeran has written, “Young teaches key theological errors. This can lead the average reader into confusion regarding the nature of God and salvation. I found this to be an interesting story but I was disturbed by the theological errors. Readers who have not developed the skills to discern truth from error can be confused in the end. So, although the novel tries to address a relevant question, it teaches theological errors in the process. One cannot take lightly erroneous teachings on the nature of God, the Trinity and salvation.”

The average reader, knowing little or nothing about the Bible or the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone, would come away from the book with seriously erroneous beliefs about both God and the gospel. He would take from the book that God is the God of self-help; that He exists to heal my pain. Along the way, the reader would understand that doctrine is not important, nor is training in it. The book cartoons the character of God, omitting His holiness and justice, His outrage at sin and at the very least confuses and muddles the historic doctrine of faith alone in Christ alone.

What has been written in this review is by far the minority opinion of The Shack. The reader may be asking, “How can so many respected church leaders recommend the contents of the book if it presents what you say it presents?” “How can it sell millions and be in such error?” Those are very good questions

A book's truthfulness is not to be measured by how it makes a person feel. Feeling is not a reliable guide to the truth. Nazis may have gotten a good feeling from killing Jews, but their cause was evil, their “truth” a lie. A person may have a “good feeling” now, but will the book stand the test of time? To rank it as a “classic” is far-fetched. Will people still be reading The Shack a hundred years from now?

Respected church leaders who recommend the book have not made the Bible their standard, the filter by which they evaluate everything. The book is disarming, but the Christian reader must have discernment, even while on the emotional roller coaster. The Shack sneaks up on the reader, but the Christian needs to keep THE FILTER up and running. We must bring every thought into captivity to Christ. The only way to do this is to measure every word in the book by THE BOOK.
I'll confirm some of the direct quotes, but on the assumption that Jesus really says in the book that he has no desire to make anyone Christian and that he is the "best" way to get to God, it may as well be written off as heresy.

Sorry, Bart. That can't be justified. Whatever the authors believe and says in interviews, if his literary Jesus says that he is the best way to heaven, and that he doesn't want to make people Christian, then this personally orthodox other has given people a false gospel. That's unjustifiable.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#47

Post by Canuckster1127 » Tue Apr 21, 2009 1:16 pm

Jac,

That's not the first I've seen claims of the nature and for every review and analysis that can be given by one authority I can, if I were inclined, give an opposing view from another that sees the comments in context and understands what Young is saying. Back and forth slapping up quotes to argue on authority won't accomplish much. I can probably find some condemnation of the book from sources whom you'ld be remiss to find yourself in agreement with, for that matter.

As I stated before, if you wish to have a conversation with me about it after you've read the book and are operating on having firsthand observation and contextual understanding, then you're welcome to do so. If you wish to accept the assessment of others you respect and forego the read, that's up to you.

You may well have difficulty with the book. Based on our previous discussions I might even predict that you might in some area based upon the manner in which I know that you approach things.

For my part, again, without apology and without embarrasment I appreciate the book, have found it to be helpful and edifying as well as challenging and I will continue to recommend it. If you, jlay or any others wish to affix the label of heretic to me, then that's fine. You won't be the first, and probably won't be the last.

blessings,

bart
Dogmatism is the comfortable intellectual framework of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is more decadent than the worst sexual sin. ~ Dan Allender

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#48

Post by Jac3510 » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:04 pm

Bart,

I checked the book out of our library and am going to see the context of the quotes I referred to about salvation. Personally, based on the direct quotes from the book, I don't see HOW they could be justified by any context, but I'm going to give it a shot.

The bottom line is that Jesus is NOT the "best" way. He is the ONLY way. I know the author knows that. I don't care what he knows. I am not interested in whether or not HE is a heretic. I am interested in what the BOOK says. I'm sure you agree that orthodox people can make unorthodox statements. If, then, The Shack -- the book itself, the narrative -- presents Jesus as only "the Best" way, then it should be burned (figuratively, of course).

If the "Jesus character" says that Jesus has no desire to make Christians out of us, then that's a lie. Jesus does want to make us Christian. Now, again, I'm going to check the context. But if that's the theology of the BOOK (the author's theology notwithstanding), then the book's theology is bad.

You keep wanting to go back to the authors as being orthodox. I've already agreed that I believe they are (they seem to be from what I've read). But surely you recognize that there is a difference in the theology of the book and their own personal theology. If not, and if the book's theology turns out to be heretical, then you--not me--are calling the authors heretical.

Now, hopefully, I'm wrong and the book does NOT say that Jesus is simply the BEST way, contrary to the stated quote. (After all, I can show you in the Bible where it says, "There is no god." But we both know that context is important there). But I can tell you plainly now:

If the theology of The Shack is that Jesus is only the BEST way to God--one of OTHER ways to God--then it teaches a false gospel whatever else the authors might personally believe.

Would that mean I consider you a heretic for liking and even recommending the book? No, and I expect that you wouldn't make such a leap. What I would call you a heretic for is if YOU told me that Jesus was only the best way rather than the only. Since you don't believe that, then I can't label you as such, nor would I want to. In any case, I'll look at it later tonight and examine the context so I can actually be fully informed.

edit: I just wish you would be so forceful in your defense of doctrine at times as you have been of Young . . . ;)
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#49

Post by zoegirl » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:54 pm

What saddens me the most is that American society is so illiterate and so naive in their thinking, so willing to accept things because they like it, that they rarely think through what they read. Thji sounds terribly harsh....let me elaborate

I can see, like BArt, that someone well-versed in theology, secure in their own belief in scripture, and solidly rooted in scripture would appreciate a book that is creative and unique. A book that presents, like Lewis, a concrete way to examine God. A book, like Job, that brings the issue of pain and fairness down to a more understanding level.

I don't worry as much about the woman issue. Lewis, in the Horse and His Boy, presents GOd as showing himself to the boy as a small cat, knowing that this image is what the boy can understand and handle.

Not having read the book, I wouldn't begin to cast aspersions on it. If I have time, I would read it. The quotes are worrisome.

It seems to me that for readers that have a solid foundation already upon scripture, it would be no problem.

FOr readers for whom this book prompts them to delve deeper into scripture, hey, wonderful.

HOwever, my biggest worry is for those readers for whom this elementary level of understanding theology marks the end of their spiritual and doctrinal journey. That scares me the most. But this issue is not isolated to "The Shack", but merely reflects a much bigger problem in the UNited States... a level of comfort in ignorance and mediocrity of understanding.

I do worry about those that say this book helped them build their theology. Even I, who love Lewis, wouldn't say that his Narnia books have helped my build my theology. Rather, having understood the theology in the scripture, I can enjoy his books even more because I can recognize the theology FROM scripture and the help me see it better or, perhaps more accurately, they are like beautiful colors that add to an already stunning sketch. If the shack can do that for someone who already has established their theologyu from scripture or helps someone recognize the themes in scripture, then great.

Bart, Does the author make any attempt at the end to clarify any issues? or to prompt the readers into the direction of scripture? For me, that would make any confusion easier to bear. If he, at the end, showed where he was creating the basis for Papa and Jesus.
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Re: The Shack by William Young

#50

Post by Canuckster1127 » Tue Apr 21, 2009 5:33 pm

The first five chapters of the book are presented as a form of realistic fiction. The primary portion of the book following after that are presented as a Wizard of Oz like transformation where the characters of the Trinity interact with one another and with Mack, the protagonist of the story. The book is a metaphorical representation of an 11 year path to healing that the author went through. It was written to his children to try and explain to them the transformation that had taken place in his life as a result of counselling he underwent to address sexual abuse he experienced as a child as the son of Missionaries (Alliance missionaries, the denomination which I used to serve it) placed in a Stone Age Tribe setting, additional abuse in the boarding schools he attended, a distant and angry father, and later in life coping with his own betrayal of his wife and children through an affair.

In addition to intense counselling he worked to come to a better understanding of who God is and how God wishes to relate to us. It's not a systematic theology. It's not a treatise on Soteriology. The book is purposely written to be provocative in several areas as a vehicle to prod and push people in their view and approach of God to see beyong the American, evangelical standard cultural fare of God as a Gandalf like figure who is distant and impersonal.

There is not an explanation within the book to explain the symbolism. There are many areas of the book that are purposely left vague and flexible as a literary invitation to allow the reader to enter into the book and experience things with their own story rather than being forced into a tight allegorical following of the Author's story.

Maybe it's a product of my education in Canada and my background as a book reviewer with a large focus on literature, but I'm constantly saddened and disappointed by the inability or unwillingness of many Christians to use their imagination and seperate themselves from literalism in the form of a novel and view and appreciate art and symbolism through the form of images and a story which is spun to take the reader on a journey beyond the obvious face value present.

The success of the book, while not in itself a justification of anything, is evident of the impact it is having and frankly I'm delighted that it's having the distribution and impact that it is. What is more, while being frustrated by the standard fare of the heresy hunters from the usual suspects, I'm actually happy for the virulence and criticism too, because it has only served to draw more attention to the book, increased its distribution and fanned the flames of its impact.

That's not aimed at you zoegirl. Again you'd have to read the book to understand it. I'm probably a bit biased because I identify with the author on several levels (I'll leave that to anyone who wants to try to work that out) and the book has had a powerful impact on me as I've read it and worked with others touched by it. Those who attempt to push it into the mold of the limitations of their own thinking and write that off in favor of pushing the book into the limits of their approaches miss the point. The book wasn't written for them however. It was written for me and others who need to be shown in a way that transcends abstract flowery language to understand the love of God shown through the metaphor of a well-written story.
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Re: The Shack by William Young

#51

Post by zoegirl » Tue Apr 21, 2009 6:31 pm

I agree with much of what you said, Bart. I would not summarily dismiss the book as not having value. It is a sad commentary on the critical thinking skills of our nation at large that they would be unwilling or incapable of critiquing the book and especially comparing it to scripture. I AM speaking here of those readers who read it AS authoritative and don't compare it to scripture. One would hope that, reading through the shack, that readers would be able to read through Job and much of the Old Testament (the part of the Bible that receives the most criticisms about the injustices of God) and be able to understand the nuances of the BIble. The shame would be that they don't, that they rest upon these first little metaphorical conversaations.

I would hope that the author would examine his writings to the point of realizing where readers, immature Christians perhaps, might draw the wrong conclusions. IN scripture we are warned as teachers not to mislead, the millstone around the neck...

That being said, it is perhaps a shame that a book like this, that draws so much on creativity and analogy, is so startling. I am reminded of some CHristians who still don't understand the charm and beauty of both the Narnia series and the sci-fi trilogy from Lewis, not connecting the Christian themes with the fantasy characters.

I do hope to read it so I can comment with moreauthority. I would not object to the creativity or analogy. I do object, at first glance, to the "best way". It almost seems like a measured way to describe Christ's work, as if the author was trying not to offend. It seems an unnecessary addition...."the way" would be sufficient.


I have, btw, the same criticisms of Rick Warren's book. I was more concerned with the *shock* and popularity at a book that, for the most part, simply goes over the basics of the Gospel (don't get me wrong there are parts that I didn't agee with). What it showed me is that people *Are* hungry for knowledge. It is up to us as Christians to be there when they have questions and to clarify when they have misapplied or misconstrued some parts of the book.
"And we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Jesus Christ"

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#52

Post by jlay » Wed Apr 22, 2009 6:16 am

The success of the book, while not in itself a justification of anything, is evident of the impact it is having and frankly I'm delighted that it's having the distribution and impact that it is. What is more, while being frustrated by the standard fare of the heresy hunters from the usual suspects, I'm actually happy for the virulence and criticism too, because it has only served to draw more attention to the book, increased its distribution and fanned the flames of its impact.
Impact.
Again, on one hand it is defended as fiction, and must not be overly critiqued. And on the other it is a book that is deeply impacting people's concept of God.
If one has the notion that God is some distant Gandalf figure, I can confidently say they didn't get that from the bible, but from bad religion. Bad theology does not remedy bad theology.
This also makes a blatant false attack that its critics are heresy hunters. I myself looked to the book with eager expectation. I was very grieved to have that expectation derailed with these issues. Are we not to be watchmen? Are we not to test the spirits? Are we not to be on guard for false teachers who would distort the doctrine of truth?
I am reminded of some CHristians who still don't understand the charm and beauty of both the Narnia series and the sci-fi trilogy from Lewis, not connecting the Christian themes with the fantasy characters.
Yes, but that is the beauty of Lewis' work. Because of his very purposeful use of metaphor and allegory, you don't have these kind of issues. One person can read it, as I did as a child, and just come away with a cool story. Another can read it, as I did as an adult, and really see the biblical meanings metaphorically woven in. It is an example of how Lewis took what he cherishes in the Bible and applied it to a fantasy story. As opposed to taking fantasy and applying it to god.
What it showed me is that people *Are* hungry for knowledge.
Perhaps. But as my grandfather used to say. No matter how flat you pat a pancake, it always has two sides.
People are also hungry for self-satisfaction. That is why Jesus is sold as some sort of mystical, "Tony Robbins" by many today. "Debt got you down, marriage bad, kids on drugs, want a BMW, low self-esteem? Just get jesus." The Shack appeals to the emotional needyism that has infiltrated the church today.
If the shack can do that for someone who already has established their theologyu from scripture or helps someone recognize the themes in scripture, then great.
Zoe, this is exactly where the point of contention happened for me. Without a biblical worldview, I wouldn't anymore have a problem with the Shack than I do with The Grapes of Wrath.
-“The Bible treated allegorically becomes putty in the hands of the exegete.” John Walvoord

"I'm not saying scientists don't overstate their results. They do. And it's understandable, too...If you spend years working toward a certain goal and make no progress, of course you are going to spin your results in a positive light." Ivellious

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#53

Post by Kurieuo » Sat Apr 25, 2009 5:00 am

I guess this is one book I have to now read to decide.

My concerns are I know narrative theology seems to be quite well endorsed in liberal Christian education whether it be in counseling or as a way to make audiences interested in otherwise deep theological topics. The dangers are real in the hands of a brilliant narrator. For narrative allows a person's critical filters to be brought down. It is after all "not real". Yet, much gets impressed.

I will reserve judgment until I read the book and then follow up here with my thoughts.

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#54

Post by Jac3510 » Mon Apr 27, 2009 10:48 am

Well, I went ahead and read the book. For full disclosure, I had a bad taste in my mouth before I picked it up, so my negative reaction could have been from some of that as well.

In any case, I didn't think much of it. The central tenant is simply, "You can trust God when it hurts because He is good." And I'll give kudos to the fact that it didn't try to run the "Great Good" theodicy at the reader, which I can't stand. I did very much appreciate the point that God does not orchestrate evil so as to bring about good, as if the end justified the means.

Unfortunately, to make that basic point, it presented God in what I see as a very unbiblical light. Forget the fact that it presented both the Father and Holy Spirit as humans (if you could consider Sarayu human)--you can get away with that in a story. I didn't even mind so much Young's presenting God as a woman. Again, whatever. However, the fundamental notion that there is no hierarchy in the Trinity is a grave error. Further, the logical extension from this, the notion that there is no be no hierarchy in human relations is wrong, and the further extension that there is no hierarchy between God and man is downright heretical. God is a God of order, and He has created a Creation of order and orders.

Further, the idea that both the Father and Spirit became human with Jesus is wrong. The Word, not Father or Spirit, became flesh. By extension of this, the idea that the Father and Spirit suffered with Christ on the cross deeply misunderstands, and ultimately denies, substitutionary atonement. For the Father must have someone to pour out His wrath upon if His wrath is to be propitiated. He cannot pour it out on Himself, for to do so, He Himself would have to take on Sin. Yet if He took on Sin, then He would have no basis on which to pour His wrath out on sinful creatures.

The final serious error that jumped out at me with reference to the Godhead was the rather irreverent nature with which it was portrayed. I think that it may have been intentional. I'll discuss that in more detail below. In general, though, while I understand that Young was trying to present the fact that we can have a personal relationship with God, the complete and total absence of the majesty and holiness of that God makes us wonder what kind of god he has in mind. Consider this: the Bible appeals over and over again to people look for that close, intimate relationship with their heavenly Father. And yet, in every instance in which they see God in His glory, what do they do? The closest thing to that reaction in the book is when Mack faces Sophia and she tells him that he is there for judgement. Then, Mack begins to fear, but it is only because he has misunderstood the judgment he is there for after all. In short, there is a difference in falling before God out of reverence of His holiness and falling before Him out of fear of judgment.

As it stands, Mack never fell before Him at all.

On salvation, the context of Jesus' saying he was the "best" way to relate to the Father and Holy Spirit doesn't help that statement at all. It clearly implies there are other ways. And Jesus' statement in the same context that he has no desire to make people Christians is in direct contradiction to the Great Commission. While there is no clear statement of the Gospel anywhere in the book, these kinds of things definitely broaden "the way" moreso than does the Bible. And on a related note, I can't begin to understand where Young got the idea that we must forgive our enemies if God is to redeem them. Is God limited by OUR choices?

Actually, it seems to Young that He is. One of the frequent themes of the book is God's self-limitation, especially concerning His knowledge, but not only that. While some theologians have talked of God limiting Himself in the Incarnation, very few have tried to argue for a general self-limitation as seems to be described in the book.

Finally, I had a problem with the anti-doctrinal stance the book took. Over and over again, seminary, theology, and even some strictly biblical doctrines (i.e., the Wrath of God) are dismissed. Those things should be ignored in favor of a simple relationship with God. I now understand what people mean when they say that the book challenges our presuppositions about God. Which ones? All of them. The presupposition that doctrine is essential is itself the primary presupposition being challenged. And yet, once doctrine has been cleared away, doctrine itself put in its place. It is a doctrine that says that all that matters is love. Certainly, love is important, but to make that the central theme of the Bible is misplaced at best.

The book strikes me, then, as heavy on understanding and relationship and light on Truth and Holiness. I can understand how this postmodern generation would love it. There is no Truth; only truth, and each has their own. What is important is that we all just love each other, because if there is Truth, then it must only be Love. Unity at the expense of truth . . .

In closing, however, I would point out one more strong point the book so clearly demonstrates, and it is related to my last criticism. We are in a generation that loves stories. Narrative theology, like Didactic theology, can be both extremely positive or terrifyingly negative. Conservatives would do well to learn to couch their theology and philosophy in terms of story and song. Liberals have long done it well. To that extent, I reject the criticism that people are getting their theology from a book rather than from the Book. Just because it is not an exegesis of any given passage, chapter and verse, does not mean that people are wrong in drawing theology from it. The question is only what is the theology being drawn? The Shack does a magnificent job delivering its theology in a very memorable and captivating way.

I'm just afraid that the message under the pretty wrapping paper is more venom than medicine.

But hey, I'm big on theology and propositional truth . . . I'm the very guy that The Shack thinks is the problem in the first place, so who is suprised that I would challenge it?
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#55

Post by Canuckster1127 » Mon Apr 27, 2009 11:44 am

Doesn't surprise me that that is your response Jac, but I give you credit for reading it and thinking it through.

I stand by my opinion of it which is high.
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Re: The Shack by William Young

#56

Post by Jac3510 » Mon Apr 27, 2009 12:02 pm

And it doesn't suprise me that my response doesn't surprise you, Bart. My fear is that this book will further the divide between "intellectual" Christianity and "experiential" Christianity, in which those who insist on doctrinal truth will accuse those who do not (or have a different view of it) of heretical compromise, and those who insist on humility and a "living" relationship with God will accuse those who do not (or have a different view of it) of having a cold, dead faith.

You may have walked away from the book feeling uplifted. I walked away feeling like I was under attack for insisting on defending the truth of the faith that was once for all entrusted to us.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#57

Post by Canuckster1127 » Mon Apr 27, 2009 12:30 pm

I can understand that concern Jac. I'm definitely moving in my life toward the direction that you're expressing concern about, but for my part, I know you well enough and share enough concerns with you that I wouldn't presume to put you off into a box and presume to know your heart in that regard.

I think there is a powerful movement underway that The Shack is a sub-culture within, and I think overall it's a positive thing, but I understand very well, from my past associations and positions where those who have concerns about it are coming from. Excesses are possible and to be guarded against. In general however, I think it's a positive change.
Dogmatism is the comfortable intellectual framework of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is more decadent than the worst sexual sin. ~ Dan Allender

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#58

Post by Jac3510 » Mon Apr 27, 2009 12:44 pm

Bart, you know that I respect you tons. If I didn't know you, then rightly or wrongly, I would have written you off based on your support for the book a long time ago. But I've seen your discussions with others, and this is what confuses me, so perhaps you can help me understand.

How could you possibly endorse something that promotes wrong views about salvation, God, redemption, etc.? Because it wants us to trust God? But which God? Whose God? How do you know anything about God if things like His nature and plan are of secondary concerns? I don't understand how you could put that book in someone's hand, knowing that it teaches lies about God (or, most charitably, teaches that such questions are non-essential!).

I want to understand your thinking. I really do. I am completely and totally at a loss. And I am very afraid of this subculture that you talk about that I've been watching grow for years. When Truth is no longer the center of our focus, but instead "relationship," then how can possibly orient our lives? How can we say it matters WHOM we have a relationship with? Any answer that--including God--presupposes a certain level of non-negotiable truth, the very thing this book seeks to write off as unimportant.

Now, I believe that you DO understand my concerns. So you help me understand your side of things, because I can't see any justification for it whatsoever, and I really want to.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#59

Post by Canuckster1127 » Mon Apr 27, 2009 12:55 pm

Jac,

If I agreed with you on most of those points, I wouldn't put the book in anyone's hands. However, I don't agree with you on most of them in terms of what the book is teaching and apparently how you're reading some of it.

Have you read the thread I tied to earlier on this thread that is some of my commentary on the book? I have pretty extensive notes on how I read the book through the first 6 chapters and am going to work on the rest as I have time.

Maybe you should take a look at that before we recreate some of it here.

http://theshackbook.com/discuss/index.php?topic=2893.0

bart
Dogmatism is the comfortable intellectual framework of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is more decadent than the worst sexual sin. ~ Dan Allender

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Re: The Shack by William Young

#60

Post by Jac3510 » Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:24 pm

Sorry Bart, but my time is extremely limited. I didn't have time to read the book, but in fairness to the discussion, I went ahead and took the day to do it. Now, my problems don't come from chapters 1-6. They come from 6ff, the discussions between Mack, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Now, I've outlined my objections. Since you wrote the material, you can feel free to copy/paste what you wrote there here if you like, but I am not going to go wading (again) through a very long thread full of links to author interviews and book reviews.

I think I've made my charges very specific. Surely, if they have been brought up so many times before, and you have addressed them, it should be no problem for you to do a quick copy/paste. But it isn't exactly fair for you to ask me to build your defense for you. I took the time to read the book. I made my charges based on my reading of the book. I've backed my up my claims. If you think I'm mistaken, as you clearly do, then you can choose to respond or not, but you cannot ask me to sift through your piles of work to find your answers.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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