Archive for January, 2009

Statement of faith

January 17, 2009

So what do I hold to be true about God?

  1. God exists. This is obvious from the things visible in creation.
  2. God speaks to people both in the past and today. We have a true record of his past interactions with people in the Bible.
  3. Given points 1. and 2. anyone can gain true information about God and history from the Bible. Also, one can pray to God and He will hear us.
  4. God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. That includes me and you too, dear reader.
  5. God created mankind good, but the first man exercised his free will to disobey God, “the fall”. This event caused separation between God and men, typified by physical death, and God’s curse upon creation.
  6. God is one God in three persons. Father,  Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  7. Salvation from death is solely through faith in God. Abraham demonstrates this faith in God, in obedience to his will.
  8. Salvation from death is accomplished by: The death of Jesus on the cross in judgment for the sin of his Church. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead together with his Church. The Church is comprised of all those who have faith in Jesus as Lord.

So those are my brief points of faith. I have generalized and used few words, for the full story you should ask God and read the Bible for yourself.

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The Shack by William P. Young

January 10, 2009

The plot revolves around what I would call a tortured tragedy. An extreme tragedy that occurs in the context of the most undeserving situation. The main character “Mack” is a seminary trained Christian. While he is selflessly rescuing one of his children from drowning, his young daughter is kidnapped and later murdered by a serial killer. The murder occurs in the shack which gives the book its title, but the killer is not brought to justice.

The situation of this book reminds me of the question of the Sadducees to Jesus – “What if a woman marries seven brothers who all die? Who will be her husband in the resurrection?” This question puts forth a most exceptional scenario in order to cast doubt on a truth of Scripture – the resurrection. In the Shack, the exceptional situation is the horrible unsolved murder of an innocent, the truth in view is the holy character of God. How can God let this happen to a Christian father? Why do bad things happen to good people?

I found it strange that for a man supposed to be a Christian, Mack did not seem to relate to his dead daughter as one who was “hidden with Christ” in death. His despair over her death seemed to have ballooned into the sadness of those who have no hope. There is no mention in the shack of her being in a better place, just a self-obsessed hurt at her being removed from the earth. Should something as nasty as the book’s setting actually happen to a Christian, and Christian children do die, the consolation of the Christian is that those who die, sleep with Christ. For someone supposedly a seminary trained Christian, Mack did not strike me as one.

Into this setting, some years after the murder of his daughter, Mack receives a letter from “Papa” asking him to meet him at the shack. “Papa” is his wife’s name for God, and it transpires that the letter is from God calling Mack to the shack for a meeting. At this meeting God is revealed to Mack in a personal and conversational way. Mack meets with “the trinity”, three persons who all answer “I am” to Mack’s question: “Which one of you is God?” The personification of the trinity is unconventional. “Papa”, the Father, is a motherly African-American woman. Jesus, is a middle-eastern man, and Sarayu (the spirit) is an Asiatic woman. Envisioning “the Father” as a woman, is too strange for me, and smacks of cross-dressing God. The purpose seems to be to force Mack to think outside his “preconceptions”, but it achieves more confusion than clarity over the nature of Father God. The shack has very little relation to scripture, it is more prophetic in purporting to be a recorded “conversation” with God. The personification of the Father as a woman is unheard of in scripture, and contrary to scripture’s abhorrence for “mixtures”. Mack notes that “his seminary training” does not help him in understanding the trinity he meets in the shack. I would suggest that this is most likely because the trinity of the shack is too far removed from the trinity of the bible and reality. The difficulty of the shack is that it seems to record the words of God, but it is a work of fiction. Is it prophecy, speaking the words of God? Or is it false prophecy?

The Shack: “I don’t need to punish people for sin…It is not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it”.

(1Pe 2:13-14) Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

(Rev 22:12-15) “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

The Shack: “we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of relationship….What you’re seeing here is a relationship without any overlay of power.”

(1Co 15:27-28 ) For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

(1Co 11:3) But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

The Shack: I’m not really sure I have any logical ground for deciding what is actually good or evil, except how something or someone effects me….You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms…the good may be the presence of cancer or the loss of income or even a life”

(Prov 2:6-9)For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;

(Heb 5:12-14) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

The Shack: “Our desire was to create a being that had a fully equal and powerful counterpart, the male and the female”

(1Pe 3:1-7) Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives–when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing– but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands,as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

(Eph 5:22-24) Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

The Shack: Seriously my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to ‘be like Jesus’, it means for your independence to be killed.

(1Co 11:1) Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

(1 Tim 15-16) The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

(Mat 10:37-38 ) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

(1Pe 2:20) For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

The Shack: In Jesus I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.

(Joh 3:16-18 ) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The revelation of the Shack is not the revelation of God. It saddens me that such a book appears to have wide appeal in Christian circles. This seems to be a reflection of the lack of respect for scripture in today’s world. The Shack errs in the following particulars:

  1. Whereas the Shack has no hierarchy in the trinity, the reality is that the relationship between Father and Son is one of hierarchy. The distinguishing characteristic between Father and Son is that the Son obeys the Father. Because the Shack errs in removing hierarchy from God, it likewise errs in removing hierarchy from Man and society. The shack teaches absolute equality between the genders which is reflected in the envisioning of Father God as a woman.

  2. The Shack sees no need at all to punish sin because of the sacrifice of Jesus. In truth, only the sin of believers in Jesus was punished at the cross, the sin of the faithless will be punished in eternity.

  3. The Shack teaches that human “judgment” is a problem. Judging between good and evil is seen as only subjective to each individual. In truth the objective standard of God’s word unifies judgment into an absolute standard that is unknown to the Shack.

Further, the atmosphere of the Shack is one that is hostile to traditional Christian practice. Mack’s father is a abusive drunkard who is also a Church elder. Seminary training is seen as unhelpful. The Shack trinity basically ignores the bible.

In terms of the book’s question as to how can God allow bad things to happen to good people, I believe the Shack’s answer is in its direction to Mack: “You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms”. Once Mack is cured of his tendency to judge the murder of his child as a “bad” thing then for him “bad” things will no longer happen to good people.

In conclusion, the Shack is a book that purports to contain revelation from God, but instead errs in some serious particulars. Traditional Christian practice is associated with abuse and is seen as unhelpful to a true understanding of God. Even with some good elements demonstrating God’s extravagant love interspersed amongst the error, I cannot recommend this book to anyone seeking truth about God. Pick up a bible instead.

(Deu 13:1-4) If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.