Archive for January, 2009

Let me say it up front. I see most movies after they have gone DVD. I hear most news from a biweekly magazine.  I find out how the ball team did after the season.  By the time I try it out it’s gained the adjective “classic”. That way someone can tell me if it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing. So a friend prevailed upon me recently to read The Shack by Wm. Paul Young, saying it was so good and profoundly affected her (couldn’t stop crying or laughing).  I had intended not to read it after several unfavorable reviews.  But she sent it to me and I agreed to read it, so I decided I could evaluate it objectively given the positive and negative input I had received.

          I was struck early in the story with how compelling his tale is, so real and wrenching.  But my first and subsequent contacts with “God” in the story compelled me in a different way.  Mr. Young’s theology is atrocious, in a word, unbiblical. I believe his misrepresentation of the triune Godhead is deepened by the heart rending story and the excellent points he makes about relationship, reconciliation, restoration, and spiritual strongholds. Because he does such a good job of dealing with these ideas many people may be accepting of or overlooking his falsehoods about God. You cannot have a proper or full relationship with a God who does not exist, a figment of Mr. Young’s and perhaps American Christianity’s imagination.

          Consider the following quotes and how they align with Scripture. Papa (the name he uses for Father God) says to Mack, “I don’t need to punish people for sin” (p.120).  Scripture says, “Your sins have made a separation between you and your God” (Isaiah 59:2); “I will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7).  Next he follows up by saying, “It is not my purpose to punish sin” (p.120).  It is His purpose for He is “the One forming light and darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these” (Isaiah 45:7).

          Young rejects authority structures as un-needed among Christians and nonexistent within the Godhead: There is “no need for hierarchy” (p.124).  Ephesians 1:10 says, “He purposed in Him [Jesus] with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times.”  Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent me” (John 9:4).  Hebrews 5:8 instructs us that “although He was a Son He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”  But Young has his Jesus saying, “We are submitted to you in the same way” (p.145), referring to sacrificial love.  But the Bible says, “He has put all things in subjection under His feet” (I Corinthians 15:27).  It is true that doing things for people out of a sense of obligation is not love but that does not negate roles and responsibilities.  As an example Young’s Jesus character says, “Fulfilling roles is the opposite of relationship” (p.148).  “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25); “Wives be submissive to your own husbands…so that…they may be won without a word” (I Peter 3:1).  Proper fulfillment of roles is a sacrifice of love pleading for relationship.

          Previously my mind and heart have flown caution flags at the idea of representing God in visual images such as “The Passion of the Christ.” This view was suggested to me by a former elder who pointed out that the second commandment warns against idols or images in the likeness of God.  I had thought little of it at the time and even thought it did not apply since the actor was representing the second person of the Godhead faithfully in the form of a man which He was.  But having read this erroneous account, red flags went up and I began to question all representations of God apart from Scripture, from a crèche to Aslan.  Then Young limits Jesus to human needs (hunger) and mistakes (like dropping a bowl of batter).  Jesus is not so limited in Revelation 19 when “He judges and wages war” (v.11) and “from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike the nations” (v.15).  And what of a mere human Jesus “when the doors were shut,…Jesus came and stood in their midst (John 20:19).  God is not represented as a Father and therefore a man as Young’s character suggests because “once the Creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering…an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence” (p.94).  Rather, it is in His nature because He is “Eternal Father” (Isaiah 9:6).  Jesus “was calling God his own Father” (John 5:18)  and that upset the Jews.  We are only a reflection of that, poor though we be, not the cause of it. Attempts toward gender neutrality destroy pictures God determined for both man and woman.  The woman is the picture of “His bride”, the Church, who “has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).  And picturing God the Father as a man or woman in flesh is mistaken for “God is spirit” (John 4:24). 

          So despite Young’s insights into relationship with God and among men the ultimate result I believe will not be closeness to God because people will be disappointed as they find God is not who they thought He was.  It results in a wrong view of ourselves as well so that his Jesus says, “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).  Certainly much referred to as Christian today is not, but it is not something to be ashamed of and retreat from.  Tremendous progress of the Gospel in and from Antioch resulted in “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).  Lord, do such a work in me that I am that kind of Christian.  Help us to be “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (II Peter 1:3).  Oh, Lord, give us that “true knowledge of Him” so that we might catch a fuller glimpse of Him and His promises.

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“What Is Truth?”



When Jesus was on trial before His death on the cross, Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea was questioning Him in order to discover why He was being accused.  Jesus gave Pilate answers and silence that must have seemed irrelevant to the accusations.  The apparent lack of correlation between accusations and answers pushed Pilate to frustration1 since he was trying to spoil the accusers’ design and release Jesus.  In the midst of the growing tension Jesus and Pilate have a verbal exchange of which the following is a small part:  “Jesus answered, ‘…for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’  Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’  And when he had said this he went out…” (John 18:37-38).  There is no evidence that he either waited for an answer or wanted one.

          There is a similar lack of commitment to discover the answer today so that we need to know it all the more.  “What is truth?”  The question is not simple and I believe it can be expanded into three questions.  How do we define the concept truth?  Does truth exist and can we objectively know it?  Assuming truth does exist, which set or sets of truth claims are true? 

          Several different dictionaries I referenced record that truth is “conformity to fact or reality.”  In other words, in order for something to be true it must be the original item or line up in visual (and 4 other senses) and verbal description with the original.  Josh McDowell points out that, for instance, lying is wrong not because my parents, my church, or the Bible teach it was wrong.  These sources report that it is true that lying is wrong, but they are not why it is wrong.  Neither is it wrong because it is illegal, it hurts someone, or feels wrong.  These perspectives are consequences of the truth that lying is wrong, but they are not why it is wrong.  McDowell’s concludes, “Lying is wrong because it is contrary to the nature and person and character of God,” which is “…God is true” (John 3:33).  He IS the original.  “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17) because it aligns with and accurately reports who He is.  Your parents, church, the law, your feelings, and their pain report truth when what they communicate corresponds to who God is.

          Answering the second question about whether truth exists and can we know it proceeds directly from whether or not the original exists and we can know it.  Jesus said, “I am…the truth” (John 14:6).  McDowell paraphrases this verse, “I have fidelity to the original”, which is effectively what Jesus said: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).  To Philip’s request Jesus said, “…He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘show us the Father?’” (John 14:9)  Jesus has complete fidelity to the original.

          But which truth claim or claims are true?  First of all, we can eliminate the plural because two opposing claims cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense (law of non-contradiction) in that the truth of one requires the falsehood of the other. If you do not accept this law of logic you have no truth claim, being self-contradictory.  As to which claim is truth, my best effort is to agree with all the believers past and present that “He who receives His (Jesus’) testimony has set His seal to this, that God is true” (John 3:33).

          The reason we know that Pilate did not want his question answered is because, if he had, the answer was standing right in front of him.  In a song by Michael W. Smith the refrain begins, “Ancient words ever true, changing me, changing you…”  And why do they bring change?  It is because, “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  This truth is not meant to merely be some awesome monument which at first sight is admired and afterwards ignored.  Being “living and active”, it either penetrates the pores (“and marrow”) of your being purifying everything it touches or it work hardens your exterior by relentless pounding until you are brittle and break.  The truth exists. You can know it.  You should pursue it.


1In order to see this frustration building it is helpful to look at all four accounts:  Matthew 27:11-26, Mark 15:1-15, Luke 23:1-5, John 18:28-19:16

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The more we see of God the more our praise will be raised and our lives be purified. Oh that this might be true of you and me:  

What praise can this feebled mind impart

          Or glory give to God

          But He commands the soul

Lift up words and life to make a start


Tell of wonders in the world abroad

          Of land, sea and sky

          Sing with the birds and waves

Praise with them, for silence would be odd


With the angels up above exalt

          See His untold beauty

          Awe at His purity

Oh a change in manner would result


Before God’s high throne see all that’s true

          Know deepest wisdom’s way

          Feel total power sway 

There have all that’s right and good in view

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Eyes on things above

Resolution or resolve?  The former is bound to fail in our own strength but the latter is a disposition to continue moving toward a target despite discouragements and failures.  Following is my desire for you and for me in this coming New Year, so that we will be so heavenly minded that God might use us for some earthly good:

Keeping your eyes on things above

Develop a hunger for Him

Dwell on what is good, pursue love

Less important things you should trim

So that all you do and you say

Your thoughts and emotions as well

Will point to the Savior we pray

Of His glory evermore tell


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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18


Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains