more reviews of The Shack

some big guns have turned their attention to Wm P. Young’s book, The Shack. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian has read it and Dr. Al Mohler is concerned about the discernment ability of modern evangelicals in light of the fact that this book is so popular among them.

If you remember my main concern with the book was its false portrayal of God.

my summary is:

I am afraid that if someone reads the Shack and falls in love with Papa, then all they have fallen in love with is a fictional African American woman who likes to cook and give hugs. They have not been led to God. They have not fallen in love with the biblical Jesus.
They have instead been distracted by an anthropomorphic three headed idol created by Wm. Paul Young.

Therefore, I was pleased to see Tim Keller say:

But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible. In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God’s statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn’t give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship. The reader of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah will learn that the holiness of God makes his immediate presence dangerous or fatal to us. Someone may counter (as Young seems to do, on p.192) that because of Jesus, God is now only a God of love, making all talk of holiness, wrath, and law obsolete. But when John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, long after the crucifixion sees the risen Christ in person on the isle of Patmos, John ‘fell at his feet as dead.’ (Rev.1:17.) The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.

I also very much enjoyed Dr. Mohler’s take. He points out the numerous serious theological concerns and wonders why so many people fail to see how the book contradicts Biblical theology.

here are some of the problems but be sure to read the whole article for others:

The relationship of the Father to the Son, revealed in a text like John 17, is rejected in favor of an absolute equality of authority among the persons of the Trinity. “Papa” explains that “we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity.” In one of the most bizarre paragraphs of the book, Jesus tells Mack: “Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”

The theorized submission of the Trinity to a human being — or to all human beings — is a theological innovation of the most extreme and dangerous sort. The essence of idolatry is self-worship, and this notion of the Trinity submitted (in any sense) to humanity is inescapably idolatrous.

The most controversial aspects of The Shack’s message have revolved around questions of universalism, universal redemption, and ultimate reconciliation. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were 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.” Jesus adds, “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, my Beloved.”

Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”

Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”

emphasis added.

I think the bit that I bolded above is why the book is so popular. self love and self worship has been honed to a fine art in our culture including our church culture. we like hearing ourselves say to each other “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it, people like you.”

We very much would like to believe that God believes the same thing about us that we believe about ourselves.


trade it all?

A friend of mine put this question up on Facebook last night:

Michael Irvin “would trade it all for 19-0” and wonders: What would you trade it all for?

a question like that crawls up into my brain and rolls around for a little while.

first of all the lawyer in me wants to explore the parameters of the question for a little while to avoid answering. what do you mean “trade it all?” what is getting traded? what are you left with afterward? family? fame? fortune? flea bitten fauna?

If “trade it all” really means all, then that makes the question a lot harder, because what is the use of getting whatever you are trading to get if you don’t have family with which to share it?

See the thing is that I know the right answer is “Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 13:44-45. But this is a case where knowing the right answer and feeling it seem to be two different things.

would I really give up everything in exchange for the Kingdom of Heaven? really? Or would I rather the answer be ten million dollars so that I don’t have to worry about money anymore? If the latter, then is financial security the idol that I trust more than God?

would I really give up everything in exchange for the Kingdom of Heaven? really? Or would I rather the answer be kids that turn out ok, get good educations, marry nice people and in turn have kids that turn out well? If the latter, then is family security the idol that I trust more than God?

would I really give up everything in exchange for the Kingdom of Heaven? really? Or would I rather the answer be health and a long life? if so, then is health and life on this earth the idol that I trust more than God?

would I really give up everything in exchange for the Kingdom of Heaven? really? Or would I rather the answer be ________________? If so then is ___________________the idol that I trust more than God?

See what I mean? questions like that end up rattling around for a little while. Maybe the answer is to stay off Facebook to avoid them. Maybe? :->


At our church, the Austin Stone Community Church, we are going through Genesis. So far the messages have been convicting and edifying.

Today Matt preached on the bigness of God and the closeness of God. God is both the sovereign almighty God who created the universe and everything in it and the friend that sticks closer than a brother. Whenever we emphasize one of the aspects at the expense of the other, we are not worshipping God, we are worshipping an idol we have created.

Matt expressed his belief that most of the modern American Church overemphasizes the relational aspect of God.

A test of where you are on the spectrum is how you feel about II Samuel 6:1-9. If it makes you angry at God that He struck down Uzzah, then you don’t give enough weight to the all powerful holy and righteous side of God. If you wonder why God doesn’t strike us all down this very minute, then you aren’t fully trusting in God as the lover of your soul.

Well, are you worshipping God as He is or are you worshipping an idol of your own making?

coming attractions

courtesy of Jonathan Dodson, I ran across this post by Mark Driscoll and his recent encounter with ABC’s Terry Moran and the Nightline crew.

Sounds interesting. I wonder what the finished product will look like.

I sat down for about 30 minutes with Terry Moran and we talked about how idolatry underlies all sin, how it is rooted on the false promise of happiness, how it ultimately destroys, how it is often the result of turning a good thing into an ultimate thing, and how it shows itself in our culture in how we idolize celebrities, athletes, food, family, sex, money, relationships, and achievement – or rather, what we call American culture.

who do you trust?

Jesus said in John 10:10 that the thief came only to steal kill and destroy. By contrast, his purpose was to bring life and that life “abundantly.”

Jesus goes on in John 10 to assure us that he is a good shepherd. The proof that he is a good shepherd with the sheep’s best interest in mind is that he lays down his own life on behalf of the sheep.

do you believe that? Do I believe that? Do I believe today that Jesus wants me to have life and to have it abundantly? Do I believe that there is a thief and liar out there who wants to steal from me, kill me and destroy everything that I love?

If I believe it, or if you believe it, then why do we ignore what Jesus told us to do and how he told us to live? Doesn’t it follow that if Jesus has our best interests at heart, (which he demonstrated by dying for us even while we were powerless and sinners with nothing to offer back) then perhaps we should listen to him and follow his instructions for life?

Specifically, let’s talk about divorce. Unfortunately, several couples (I can think of five right off the top of my head) that I know are currently in various stages of this destructive act. Who hasn’t seen Mark Sanford’s slow motion public self-immolation?

All of us are at risk of taking steps down that path. So let’s think a minute about what our good shepherd who died for us so that we could have abundant life and his Father say about divorce. Let’s think about the counsel they left for us through Solomon. Then let’s think about the lie that the thief whispers in our ear. I have talked about these before here and here and I will keep doing so, because we tend to forget.

God hates divorce. Its that simple. God hates the promise breaking violent act of divorcing the spouse of our youth and the lackadaisical attitude it demonstrates about all of our promises and specifically the way that it demonstrates our faithlessness to Him.

10 Have we not all r one Father? Has not s one God created us? Why then are wet faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has beent faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For u Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant [1] of the man who does this, who v brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!

13 And this second thing you do. w You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 x But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord y was witness between you and the wife of your youth, z to whom t you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 a Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? [2] And what was the one God [3] seeking? [4]b Godly offspring. So guard yourselves [5] in your spirit, and let none of you bet faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For c the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, [6] says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers [7] his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and t do not be faithless.”

do you see the connection? Malachi says that in our marriages, God “mixes a portion” of His spirit in the union and that He was a witness (the most important witness) of the promise that we made to each other that glorious day when we swore to love one another through thick and thin, sickness and health, wealth and poverty till parted by death.

Ephesians 5 makes this allusion of Malachi’s specific to us in this age. God demonstrates His relationship with His people to the rest of the world in our marriages. Our marriages are God’s illustration to the world of Christ and the church.

He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because n we are members of his body.31 o “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, andp the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, q let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she r respects her husband.

Jesus talked about divorce in several places two of which are in the Gospel of Matthew. In the sermon on the mount, he briefly touches on it. He did so more extensively in Matthew 19.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and r tested him by asking, s “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, t “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, u ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and v the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. w What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, x “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them,“Because of your y hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 z And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” [1]

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, a “Not everyone can receive this saying, but onlyb those to c whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs d for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

emphasis added

Jesus makes plain that it is our own stubborn selfish hard hearted rebellion that causes divorce. It is not God’s plan. It is not the “abundant life” that he came to bring us. It is a sop to our hard heartedness. You have to get that. Jesus says that the only reason God allowed Moses to put divorce into the law was because humans were hard hearted and that in the beginning it was not so.

now let’s turn to Solomon.

the Shack part IV (conclusion)

this is the wrap up of my series on The Shack. Part I, Part II and Part III are intended to convey to you that God is God.

The reason that I am so exercised about this book is simple. The god portrayed in this book is not the God of the bible. Papa is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Papa is not the God who delivered the Israelites from Pharoah. Jesus in the Shack is not that Jesus preached about by John the Baptist. Jesus in the Shack is not the Jesus who taught that unless we all repent we will all likewise perish.

I am afraid that if someone reads the Shack and falls in love with Papa, then all they have fallen in love with is a fictional African American woman who likes to cook and give hugs. They have not been led to God. They have not fallen in love with the biblical Jesus.

They have instead been distracted by an anthropomorphic three headed idol created by W. Paul Young.

God does love you. He loved you enough to send His only Son to die on your behalf and in your place. He planned for this rescue and reconciliation from before the foundation of the world.

The God who would do that for us when we had nothing to offer Him back is a God of great love and mercy.

But here’s the thing that is glossed over, ignored, and contradicted by the Shack repeatedly. God is also holy. God is also righteous. God is concerned foremost with His glory. God requires repentance of us in order to be restored into fellowship with Him.

Failure to repent and confess Jesus as Lord will result in perishing. This truth makes the gift of salvation even more glorious and that is why the Shack is so incredibly bad. If we aren’t that bad, then salvation means less. If God won’t really destroy us then we don’t really need to be saved.

worshipping a figment of our own heart

Since I read Dr. Roger Olson’s article attempting to relieve God of responsibility for the I35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis Minnesota a quote posted by Todd Bumgarner from John Calvin a couple of days prior to that has been echoing in my brain.

here it is:

Indeed, vanity joined with pride can be detected in the fact that, in seeking God, miserable men do not rise above themselves as they should, but measure him by the yardstick of their own carnal stupidity, and neglect sound investigation; thus out of curiosity they fly off into empty speculations. They therefore apprehend God as he offers himself, but imagine him as they have fashioned him in their own presumption. When this gulf opens, in whatever direction they move their feet, they cannot but plunge headlong into ruin. Indeed, whatever they afterward attempt by way of worship or service of God, they cannot bring as tribute to him, for they are worshiping not God but a figment and a dream of their own heart.
-John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.4.1

emphasis added.

then this morning, I see these quotes from Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity on Vitamin Z’s blog.

Where everything is measured by our happiness rather than by God’s holiness, the sense of our being sinners become secondary, if not offensive.”

“While the blood of martyrs is the the seed of the church, the assimilation of the church to the world silences the witness.”

There is a tendency to make God a supporting character in our own life movie rather than to be rewritten as new characters in God’s drama of redemption.”

“Far from clashing with the culture of consumerism, American religion appears to be not only at peace with our narcissism but gives it a spiritual legitimacy.”

“Like any recreational drug, Christianity Lite can make people feel better for the moment, but it does not reconcile sinners to God.”

It is not secular humanists but we ourselves who are secularizing the faith by transforming its odd message into something less jarring to the American psyche. This may mean, however, that precisely the most numerically successful versions of religion will be the least tethered to the biblical drama of redemption centering on Christ.

“‘Smooth talk and flattery’ is part of the staple diet of successful American religion today. And it is almost always advertised simply as more effetive mission and relevance.”

“I have no reason to doubt the sincere motivation to reach non-Christians with a relevant message. My concern, however, is that the way this message comes out actually trivializes the faith at its best and contradicts it at its worst.”

emphasis added.

Sounds to me like Michael Horton believes that many in the U.S. church today are worshipping a figment of their own heart rather than the God of the Bible. I am just going to have to read his book.