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Archive for January 21st, 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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