handling criticism

Tim Keller has some useful insights into handling criticism.

First, you should look to see if there is a kernel of truth in even the most exaggerated and unfair broadsides. There is usually such a kernel when the criticism comes from friends, and there is often such truth when the disapproval comes from people who actually know you. So even if the censure is partly or even largely mistaken, look for what you may indeed have done wrong. Perhaps you simply acted or spoke in a way that was not circumspect. Maybe the critic is partly right for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, identify your own shortcomings, repent in your own heart before the Lord for what you can, and let that humble you. It will then be possible to learn from the criticism and stay gracious to the critic even if you have to disagree with what he or she has said.

go check out the rest.

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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.

death to self-righteousness

the Gospel ends self-righteousness.

ht to Timmy Brister

learning vicarious suffering

courtesy of vitamin z, I saw this quote from Tim Keller:

“You need to get used to this reality. Once you become a parent, for the rest of your life, you’ll never be happier than your unhappiest child, because your heart is tied to your kids. That is a way of learning the gospel because before you have kids you don’t really know what it means that God suffers for your sins. He has to. He has to suffer for your sins, because when you have children you suffer for their sins. Your heart is tied up to them.”

the pursuit of happiness

Julie Neidlinger has a great post up about the pursuit of happiness resulting only in increased sadness. Check it out.

here is the last line of an excellent post:

And yet I still go after the carrot. The pursuit of happiness ensures that I will be anything but happy. I have what I need, but I’ve not taken time to figure out that it is enough.

The pursuit of happiness as presented by Julie is yet another aspect of The Lie that the enemy uses to cause us so much distraction, wasted time and misery.

UPDATE:

Like TIm Keller (quoting C.S. Lewis and Derrick Kidner) says “in the morning it is always Leah:

The second bit of bad news is, all life here is marked by cosmic disappointment. Cosmic disappointment. I want to say something quickly. Having read this thing and thought about this passage, I want you to know that I love Leah and I am protective of her in this story. But for a minute I have to tell you that she represents something very bad. One of the most fascinating things in the narrative is the way it turns on you, because here is Jacob saying finally, finally I’m going to have happiness in this life. Finally, finally I’ve got Rachel. But, behold, in the morning it was Leah.

And there is a very interesting little commentary written by one of my favorite writers, Derrick Kidner, and he puts it this way. Derrick Kidner says, “But in the morning, behold, it was Leah. This is a miniature of our disillusionment experienced from Eden onwards.” You know what he’s saying? He’s saying this is a miniature, a fact that everybody in this room needs to know, and that is this: No matter what your hopes for a project, no matter what your hopes for marriage, no matter what your hopes for love, no matter what your hopes for a career, no matter what you have hopes in, in the morning it will always be Leah. No matter what you think is Rachel, it will always be Leah. Nobody ever put it any better than C. S. Lewis in his chapter on hope. He says:

Most people if they really learn to look into their own heart [and that’s what I’m urging you to do right now] most people if they really learn to look into their own hearts would know that they do want and want acutely something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love or first think of some foreign country or first take up some subject that excites us are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can ever really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or failures of holidays and so on. I’m speaking of the very best possible ones. There is always something we have grasped at. There’s always something in that first moment of longing but fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse. The scenery has been excellent. It turned out to be a good job. But it’s evaded us. In the morning it’s always Leah.

Now the reason you have to understand that is because it’s painful to overhear people’s lives. You notice what I said. I didn’t say overhear people’s words, because people don’t say these things out loud. But you hear it in their life. You hear it. I overhear it when I see people’s choices. I overhear it when I see people’s attitudes, when I see what they’re doing. And that is this. You overhear people saying, essentially, Oh, I’m going to have such a career. I’m going to get myself a hunk. I’m going to get myself a babe. And I’m going to live in this place, and I’m going to live in this place, and I’m going to live in this place. And I am going to have a life. In the morning it’s always Leah. This is a miniature of the disillusionment which is our lot from Eden onwards.

HT tip to Reformation Theology

Gospel Centered

Dodson posted a bit from Tim Keller’s piece about what it means to be gospel centered. I am reposting that one, plus another one farther down in the article.

I do not simply mean by ‘gospel-centered’ that ministry is to be doctrinally orthodox. Of course it must certainly be that. I am speaking more specifically. (1.) The gospel is “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey” while every other religion operates on the principle of “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” (2.) Martin Luther’s fundamental insight was that this latter principle, the principle of ‘religion’ is the deep default mode of the human heart. The heart continues to work in that way even after conversion to Christ. Though we recognize and embrace the principle of the gospel, our hearts will always be trying to return to the mode of self-salvation, which leads to much spiritual deadness, pride and strife, and ministry ineffectiveness. (3.) We must communicate the gospel clearly–not a click toward legalism and not a click toward license. Legalism/moralism is truth without grace (which is not real truth); relativism is grace without truth (which is not real grace). To the degree a ministry fails to do justice to both, it simply loses life-changing power.

…..

So “religion” just drains the spiritual life out of a church. But you can “fall off the horse” on the other side too. You can miss the gospel not only through legalism but through relativism. When God is whoever you want to make him, and right and wrong are whatever you want to make them–you have also drained the spiritual life out of a church. If God is preached as simply a demanding, angry God or if he is preached as simply an all-loving God who never demands anything–in either case the listeners will not be transformed. They may be frightened or inspired or soothed, but they will not have their lives changed at the root, because they are not hearing the gospel. The gospel shows us that God is far more holy and absolute than the moralists’ god, because he could not be satisfied by our moral efforts, even the best! On the other hand the gospel shows us that God is far more loving and gracious than the relativists’ god. They say that God (if he exists) just loves everyone no matter what they do. The true God of the gospel had to suffer and die to save us, while the god of the relativist pays no price to love us.

The gospel produces a unique blend of humility and boldness/joy in the convert. If you preach just a demanding God, the listener will have “low self-esteem”; if you preach just an all-loving God, the listener will have higher self-esteem. But the gospel produces something beyond both of those. The gospel says: I am so lost Jesus had to die to save me. But I am so loved that Jesus was glad to die to save me. That changes the very basis of my identity- -it transforms me from the root.

emphasis added

here is Tim Keller’s part 1. very interesting distinction he makes between unnatural and natural church planting.

a bit of Tim Keller

Darryl Dash interviews Tim Keller here and here. they are short and interesting so go take a look.

here is a tease from part 1:

The evangelical Church is bitterly divided into groups that say, either we should change the culture “one heart at a time” by evangelizing individuals, or we should change the culture by penetrating the cultural institutions with Christians operating out of a biblical world-view.

Others say we will only affect the culture if the Church contextualizes—connects to people’s needs and concerns and serves the poor and needy—while still others say we shouldn’t be trying to change culture at all; we should just “be the Church,” because trying to change the culture inevitably corrupts the Church into the image of the culture.

Until we can break through these warring views and factions we are in trouble

go read against whom he thinks the different factions are reacting, and then go read part two for his proposed solution. fascinating.

hat tip to Between Two Worlds.