November 24, 2017

Fridays with Michael Spencer: March 10, 2017 — On “The Shack”

Note from CM: Boy oh boy, did Michael Spencer ever get in trouble with the Reformed blogosphere back in 2008 when he recommended The Shack, the novel by William P. Young.

Well, last week it was released as a movie, and the doctrinaire sorts are having anxiety attacks once more. Tim Challies (who opined about its heresies the first time around) said that “watching and reviewing The Shack would be an unwise and even sinful spiritual decision.” Here’s his rationale:

My foremost concern with The Shack—the one that will keep me from seeing it even for purposes of review—is its visual representation of God. To watch The Shack is to watch human actors play the roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I take this to be a clear, serious violation of the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6). I will not see the film, even to review it, because I will not and cannot watch humans pretend to be God.

Never mind that that the biblical writers anthropomorphized God regularly, and Jesus in his ministry consistently portrayed God as a human being in his parables and illustrations. The imaginative bankruptcy of the neo-puritan mindset is once more laid bare.

Al Mohler seemed to miss the point as well, when he wrote in his critique:

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.

Mohler goes so far as to sound an alarm: “The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity,” he cries out. This little book and movie is such an egregious example of the lack of evangelical discernment, in his view, that it marks a crisis moment that must be faced.

Really?

Now, by all accounts I’ve read, The Shack is not a very good movie. The reviews pan it for being another Christianese attempt at cinema — Hallmark Channel quality at best. But that’s not really the point here. Nor, for that matter, was the book very well written. But that’s not really the point either. This is about the place — I would say the essential place of imagination and art in Christian expression.

Today, I have reproduced two of Michael’s posts about The Shack. One is his original review of the book, and the second is a follow-up that responds to the “doctrinal police,” of whom he wrote, “Sometimes I think some of the doctrinal police are about a foot away from saying any book that doesn’t just copy large swaths of scripture verbatim has no reason for existence.”

I know that posting two essays together (plus this introduction) makes for long reading. I think it’s worth it in this case. The thought-police must not go unchallenged in their attempt to banish imagination from the life of faith, when, indeed, it lies at the very heart of the matter.

• • •

Recommendation and Review: The Shack by William P. Young
by Michael Spencer

Well, well, well….it’s the little book that could. With about $300 of big-time promotion, William P. Young’s little novel, The Shack, is a multi-hundred thousand selling publishing phenomenon, with no sign of losing its momentum as it heads for the rare air of a million sales.

And along the way, Young’s imaginative, playfully serious account of one man’s weekend with the Trinity has apparently made a lot of “doctrine police” sit up and pay attention. Attention, as in, “heresy alert.”

According to its various critics, The Shack promotes the New Age movement, worshiping God as a woman, various major and minor heresies, and outright denial of the Gospel. Especially irritating to the critics is Eugene Peterson’s comparison of The Shack to Pilgrim’s Progress, a comparison that’s unavoidable to any literate reader, no matter what their theology. The rights to comparison of anything to Pilgrim’s Progress apparently have been misplaced.

I’ve been wondering recently why the doctrinal conformity enforcement contingent is so interested in the emerging church. One answer has intrigued me: It appears that many of those identifying with some aspect of the Calvinistic resurgence in evangelicalism are also tuned in, with at least one sympathetic ear, to the emerging conversation.

How many people listen to and read John Piper, but also think Blue Like Jazz is a helpful and useful book?

How many people listen to Mark Driscoll because they believe he is both reformed AND emerging?

How many bloggers have a sidebar that’s full of the reformed, but also visit the Tall Skinny Kiwi, Scot McKnight and various emergers?

How many people who treasure the classic Christian doctrine of the Trinity were captivated and drawn in by Young’s portrayal of a Trinitarian God in The Shack? Some of us were more invigorated in our Trinitarianism by Young’s book than by a shelf of theological explanations. When Mack opens the door to the shack and sees the Father, I wept. It may be cheesy and off base, but it was a marvelous moment where all kinds of things came together. It didn’t make me new age or a worshiper of a feminine deity. It made me a better Trinitarian Christian.

How many of us find the insistence that emerging voices are heretical and dangerous an exaggerated claim that goes too far?

How many Christians who have a reformation Gospel believe there is a lot of value in the emerging church conversation, even if it is flawed- deeply- in places?

In my review of The Shack, I made it clear that this is not a systematic theology, and that those looking for errors could easily find them. But it’s important to remember that Young was writing a theological parable of sorts, for his children, not for a seminary faculty. This was never the last word in theology, and it was, from the outset, an experiment in literary playfulness. If the folks who applaud the removal of Peter Enns want to go after The Shack, I’m sure it will be a short meeting.

Listening to Young in interviews, such as his two Drew Marshall interviews, the recent Tal Prince Live interview or his God Journey podcasts, it’s easy to see that this is not an emerging version of Phil Johnson. Young is about as agenda-less as anyone I’ve ever heard. He’s not trying to start anything or rescue evangelicalism. He’s reporting on the God he’s come to know and love. Like most people who dream of writing a novel, it’s full of his own journey to understand life’s most important realities. In his case, that takes us back to the shack for a journey of forgiveness and rediscovering God.

The critics are right to notice that this isn’t a polemical, contentious book at all. It is a book written to say that if we could see life from God’s perspective, life’s tragedies would not erase God’s love and reconciliation. It’s a book that says God is good, even if inscrutable. It’s a book that magnifies the wonder of Father, Son and Spirit.

The critics are correct that this isn’t a book about God’s wrath towards sinners, and if it errs, it does err in ignoring some of God’s character and going too far toward universalism. But if we are going to err, better to err on the side of grace. Young believes God is good, gracious and confidently, endlessly loving.

I’m sure the critics would strongly disagree with such a one-sided presentation.

When critics say that the book promotes worshiping God as a woman, they’ve completely missed the point. They might be a tad overenthusiastic. Young’s choice of imagery isn’t teaching theology or inviting worship. It’s trying to prod us, even shock us a bit, out of thinking of God as a set of handouts and into seeing God in surprisingly personal terms. Young isn’™t trying to start a church. He’s wanting you to rediscover the God who loves you. He HAS left out some of the points and subpoints of systematic theology. Tweak your setting accordingly.

And that leads to a final point. Young is a writer of fiction; a story-teller. The prodigal’s father, the unjust judge, the owner of the vineyard, the mother hen, the Rock, the lamb……all of these are literary explorations of God in the context of story, not pure theology. None of them can be taken beyond the boundaries of legitimate literary use. Pressed too far, they become– hang on — heretical. And they are all in scripture.

I’m not saying that we should excuse William Young of literary or theological error. I am saying that when theologians critique The Shack, they are likely working one genre against another and the results may be of limited help.

If you believe Young wants to tell you that you can walk on water, then it’s heresy. If you want to enter into an experience with Jesus that reminds us of his identity and power in a creative way, then it’s legitimate. If you think it’s corny, that’s fine.

Similarly, if you believe Young wants you to worship the Holy Spirit in the form of a small Asian woman, then he’s a heretic. If he wants you to think of the Holy Spirit in a way that emphasizes, on another level, what we all believe scripture teaches about the Holy Spirit, then he’s on legitimate ground.

You may find Young’s theology of the resolution of good and evil to be unconvincing. That’s fair, but it’s also fair that Young gets to play the game we’re all playing on that issue. It’s not like there’s a simple answer and no one is still trying to articulate something that speaks to us where we are.

Sometimes I think some of the doctrinal police are about a foot away from saying any book that doesn’t just copy large swaths of scripture verbatim has no reason for existence. The mixture of art and theological truth must be nerve wracking to those whose view of inerrancy and authority makes literary explorations of theology almost automatically heretical.

Sometimes it seems that rewording scripture into a few almost-identical-to-scripture lyrics is about all some Christians can take in the literary arts. Past that and they are talking heresy.

Frankly, tha’s ridiculous. Whether it’s literary, visual or musical, the arts should be evaluated artistically, not just theologically. I know this may hurt someone’s head, but there’s more going on than just fidelity to scripture. And if you judge everything by some standards of understanding scripture, then we’re going to have the same artistic culture as Calvin’s Geneva. In other words, get out the whitewash.

I will never praise The Shack in the terms some are using. I see many flaws at the level of writing and story-telling, as well as theology. But a disciple of Jesus who wants to write a novel for his children with the goal of opening their eyes to a possible life-altering relationship with the Trinitarian God of the Bible gets the green light from me. We should see the book for what it is and that’s all.

If certain conservative Christians are annoyed that someone out there is reading a book they don’t like, then here’s a suggestion: Write a better book. Starting a parade to tell us all we shouldn’t read this one is probably a good reason it’s going to pass a million copies soon. If you haven’t noticed, readers don’t like to be told what they should and shouldn’t read, but they have surprising affection and loyalty to authors who deliver a compelling and involving story.

• • •

Difficult Concept Workshop: Repeat After Me…”The Shack Is A Story”
by Michael Spencer

I just finished doing another interview about my writing on The Shack. My posts on The Shack have attracted a lot of readers, which is good, because if nothing else, The Shack is a phenomenon that needs to be discussed and better understood.

It seems that a willingness to denounce The Shack has become the latest indicator of orthodoxy among those evangelicals who are keeping an eye on the rest of us. It’s a lot less trouble than checking out someone’s views on limited atonement, that’s for sure.

Hear me loud and clear: it’s every pastor and Christian’s duty to speak up if they feel The Shack is spirtually harmful. I’d only add one point: it’s equally the right of those who find The Shack helpful to say so.

Obviously, The Shack isn’t for everyone. Like a lot of Christian fiction, it has a certain amount of gawky awkwardness. No one will ever call William Young a skilled wordsmith. I wouldn’t teach The Shack in a theology class, even though I find Young’s willingness to explore the Tritnity commendable and personally helpful.

(Oh….I probably would use The Shack to discuss whether the Trinity is a hierarchy, a belief that critics of The Shack seem to hold as essential.)

It’s the presentation of God in The Shack that creates the controversy with the critics and the buzz with the fans, but the longer I’ve talked about this story with other Christians, I have to wonder if all the focus on Young’s “Trinity” isn’t missing the larger point of the book- a point that many theological watchblogs don’t seem to see at all.

The Shack is a pilgrimage. It’s an allegorical account of one person’s history with God; a history deeply affected by the theme of “The Great Sadness.” It’s a journey, and overlooking what’s going on in Mack’s journey is a certain prescription of seeing The Shack as a failed critique of Knowing God.

I’ve come to believe that the most significant reason for The Shack’s early success- certainly the reason I picked it up- is the endorsement from Eugene Peterson on the cover, an endorsement where Peterson refers to Young’s book as another “Pilgrim’s Progress.” That’s not a random compliment.

The Knights of Reformed Orthodoxy like to talk about Pilgrim’s Progress as if it is Calvin’s Institutes made into a movie. In reality, Bunyan’s Book is a personal pilgrimage, one that illustrated his version of Christian experience and retold his own experiences.

Even Spurgeon realized that Bunyan’s theology wasn’t completely dependable. The loss of the “burden” comes after a long search for relief, a storyline that reflected Bunyan’s own struggles with assurance and obsessive subjectivity. Few pastors today would endorse a version of the Gospel that left people wandering in advanced states of conviction, unable to find any way to receive forgiveness. Bunyan’s particular personality has too much influence on his presentation of belief and assurance.

But what Bunyan does illustrate is valuable in a manner much different than a theological outline. He tells the story of a journey from guilt to forgiveness, the confrontation with worldly powers, spiritual conflict, imperfect fellow believers and the inertia and resistence within ourselves. We can measure Bunyan’s book by measurements of correct theology, but I believe most of us know that this isn’t the proper measurement for Pilgrim’s Progress. We should measure it as a presentation of one Christian’s life.

It’ a story of a journey.

The same could be said of many other books. Take C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. It’s the journey of grieving the death of a spouse. Along the way, God’s appearances are all over the map because the “pilgrim” is moving in his journey through “the Great Sadness.”

Be clear: I agree with Ben Witherington III that Young’s book could use a theological revision, but I believe his adventurous exploration of God’s character is set against “the Great Sadness,” not “the Great Theological Examination.” When someone analyzes The Shack and finds 13 major heresies, I’d suggest you look very closely at the list. Some are legitimate concerns. Some are brutal victims of context and some are not heresies at all, but the critic’s discomfort with the medium.

Young is talking about a God who draws you out of your hiding place. If I understand Young’s own journey, this is the primary image in the book: A God who invites you and meets in the the very place where “the Great Sadness” entered your experience in a way that you understand the love that comes to you from the Trinity.

This journey is what should capture the reader. In one sense, The Shack is a bit of Rorschach test, and if you put it in front of someone and what they see is “emerging church heresy!” and “God is a black woman,” then you’ve learned what that person was most looking for in the book: a familiar and historically orthodox affirmation of God and a similar affirmation of who are the good guys.

But what about those who look at the book and see Mack’s journey? The Great Sadness? The God who draws you out and meets you in the place of your greatest loss? What if that reader sees the theological awkwardness and occasional imprecision, but sees those problems in balance alongside Mack’s journey to self-forgiveness, resolution and renewed intimacy with God? Maybe that’s why so many people who know good theology STILL like The Shack?

There is enough in The Shack to give all of us plenty to blog about, so don’t expect posts to end anytime soon. But I’m wondering if anyone is understanding that The Shack isn’t selling because there’s such a hunger for theological junk food. No, there’s a hunger for someone to compellingly narrate the central mystery of God, the Trinity. There’s a hunger for a God who is reconciling toward those who have believed and then turned away because they can no longer understand a God who allowed “The Great Sadness.” There is a hunger for a God who comes into our life story and walks with us to the places that are the most hurtful.

In other words, the theological fact checkers are probably missing what is so appealing to readers of The Shack, even as they see some crimes in progress. It is a contemporary Pilgrim’s Progress, but the pilgrim is a not a 17th century puritan, but a 21st century evangelical. The burden isn’t sin, but the hurtful events of the past. The journey is not the way to heaven, but the way back to believing in a God of goodness, kindness and love.

If Paul Young writes a book of theology, it should be better than The Shack. But if he writes his story, it is The Shack. I don’t buy it all, and most people I’ve talked to don’t either. But that’s not the point. It’s Young’s journey that he’s recounting and we’re reading, and that’s how we’re reading it: a story.

Note to writers: When it comes to fiction, don’t listen to the critics who want to take you down for your theology. Tell the story that’s in you, whether it passes the orthodoxy test or not. This isn’t Puritan Massachusetts yet. WRITE THE STORY. The people who read stories as theology lectures are NEVER going to approve.

Comments

  1. If a story is written with a supposed Christian view then it should be judged on that basis also. I read this book and found it to be a waste of time for a few reasons.

    First, I couldn’t relate to the main character. He was just too weepy to suit my sensibilities but, hey, I never lost a child in that brutal manner, so what do I really know? Still, the author was not able to reach me.

    Second, I didn’t think that it was a compelling story. I’m sorry, but I guess that I am not empathetic enough to be taken by the story line.

    Thirdly, I was confused by the “Sophia” character. Where the heck did THAT come from? One minute we are talking with the Trinity, the next we are in a cave talking with a physical manifestation of…WHAT? WHO, exactly? What was this, thrown in with the Godhead?

    As for the movie, it was made to MAKE MONEY!!! Entertainment, NOT theology, so I cannot criticize it for its taking license with the theological underpinnings of the bible.! So, as a result, I will not plunk down $11 to see the movie, but maybe I’ll pick it up when it comes out with Redbox after Easter. In time it will fade away into oblivion, just like all of the other fruitless “Christian” movies. A momentary blip…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Sophia” is Greek for “Wisdom”, and is often associated with the Holy Spirit.

    • Yeah, Oscar. No one’s really advocating the movie here. We’re resisting the doctrine police.

    • I agree, Oscar. I read the book and was not bothered by the theology because I felt it was really just a plot tool for a very poorly written, poorly crafted story. The characters are one dimensional, the dialog stilted, the tone all over the place, and the reading level about low middle school. It’s kind of a Christian version of a cheap romance novel; poorly written & formulaic which people don’t read for the high quality or to challenge their thinking, but because it gives them some sort of satisfying emotional experience. In my humble opinion, a good novel, even one that contains all kinds of implausible things, conjures up a world in which you suspend disbelief because the world that is set forth is so compelling. The Shack never did that for me at all.
      I saw the movie promo and immediately thought that the movie had to be better than the book because the book was so bad!

  2. I agree art in religion is important. It is essential to the difficult task to breath new life and imagination into symbols neglected, over-used, and co-opted as propaganda and other nefarious purposes. I struggle not with the artistic approach of The Shack, but with the result. It presents the same tired symbols in an unorthodox way, but it is still the same tired symbols actually uttering the same old tired cliches (God would rather die than live without you). Good religious literature can talk about God without talking about God. Einstein was a professed atheist but often wrote about religion and the great mysteries inspired by the universe. Oddly, I find more of God in his words than those of the average evangelical. Perhaps The Shack is a starting point, but there’s a long way to go before Christian art gets beyond Hallmark-esque quality. To paraphrase Paul Tillich, the tired, worn, twisted, destructive images of god must die so that the God above god may be revealed. Artists willing to take on that challenge will break through the cartoon depictions of religion, as well as have their work cut out for them. At least stop using art to peddle religion like a carnival pavilion huckster. Write a book about the god killers, where the hero wages war against pious, sanctimonious creatures of pharisaic puppeteers that are really monsters in disguise. That should give Al Molar a genuine reason to get upset..

    • Robert F says:

      From what you are saying, and from the little bit of The Shack and its reviews that I’ve read, what seems to be the problem is not its use of imagination, but its paucity of imagination.

      • Michael’s critique (and mine) is very specific here. At the time, The Shack offered a picture of the Trinity and the involvement of Father/Son/Spirit in human life and tragedy that was uniquely different than what had ever been seen before. That’s the imaginative leap this book/movie takes.

        The criticism it received was for its theology not its artistic merit. That is an entirely different discussion. Those who are criticizing it as “heresy” are the focus of Michael’s critique. As someone with a profound literary mind, Michael rightfully took offense to those wanting to shut down freedom of literary expression under the form of theological policing.

        That’s what this discussion is about.

        • –> “The criticism it received was for its theology not its artistic merit.”

          Exactly. As a would-be author, I thought the writing SUCKED, but that’s for a whole different discussion and/or site.

          I slogged through the book just because I so rarely stop reading a book once I’ve started and once I got to them I found the theology and “Christian” parts quite compelling. Truth be told, I think Mr. Young should just pull those sections out and use them to write a separate book on theology.

  3. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    And if you judge everything by some standards of understanding scripture, then we’re going to have the same artistic culture as Calvin’s Geneva.

    Or the Soviet Union.
    Or China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
    Or North Korea.
    Or Talibanistan.

  4. Robert F says:

    I have no respect for the “doctrine police”, or their attempt to analyze this or any other piece of popular art or entertainment for theological correctness. But I read the first couple of pages of The Shack, then put it down because it was so poorly written that it was screeching in my ears. Since I want to continue to avoid the screeching, I won’t see the movie either.

    • Robert F says:

      Of course, that could just mean that I’m a snob when it comes to literary style.

      • Robert, you’re allowed to be a snob when it comes to Young’s writing. I read the book several years ago and enjoyed it, but I had to get past his poor writing style (I mean, it’s really awful). I described it to a friend as “the best poorly-written book I’ve ever read.” It could have been a truly great book with the help of a good editor. Oh, it would still have been controversial, but that’s part of its charm.

        • –> “It could have been a truly great book with the help of a good editor.”

          As I was reading it, I told everyone who would listen, “If Paul Young had given me two weeks with this book I would’ve improved it 100%!” Alas…

          I’m semi-curious to pick up a more recent edition to see if he/someone has gone through and cleaned up his grammar and such.

  5. I was very surprised and pleased that my own daughter, an agnostic, read The Shack because I view it as “babysteps” toward Christianity, ideal for those with an open mind. She did like it. I did not press the issue with her since it’s like trying to hand feed a dove. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

    • Just as part of my spiritual awakening was “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which I find unlistenable today.

      • –> “Just as part of my spiritual awakening was “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which I find unlistenable today.”

        No….Seriously?! Me and my family just put it in our music rotation in our van and we STILL love it.

        • Heather Angus says:

          I love JCS too! I’ve got it on vinyl, and I love to listen to it. All except the fourth side of the two-record album. Can’t handle that.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            I have the vinyl, too, stolen from my sister…LOL.
            Yep, that was the funny thing about two-record vinyl albums “back in the day.” I remember several other double albums with spotty sides that would never get played.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          I have an odd relationship with popular music of the 1960s and ’70s. I never listened to it at the time, being raised a Bach and Mozart kind of guy. Then I went off to college and a guy there introduced me to the classics, starting with the Beatles and including JCS. It was quite revelatory–not religiously, but artistically. I don’t listen to JCS often, but if I am alone in the office I have been known to pull up a version on YouTube and crank it up.

          Speaking of which, there are quite a few productions on YouTube. This is my favorite, in part for the performance and in part because it isn’t merely the product of a camera set up in the back of the auditorium:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cTfdOQbTMc&t=365s

          Then there is this, which is a special case:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZbNjGdmxCw&list=PLTYEFtpAbbYpyvbmSfrBA7v3BPm1kzjiv

          • Rick Ro. says:

            The first link: Great stuff.
            The second link: Umm…umm… (Although the line, “I’ve been your right hand…thing…all along” is funny!)

            Speaking of the Beatles, I just put the Blue album back in our van’s rotation the other day and was telling my fifteen year old daughter that back when I was her age I would distinguish the “good” rock station DJs from the mediocre ones by whether or not they’d play the entire last-note fade-out of “A Day in the Life” all the way to the end.

            Beginning here at 4:21…
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usNsCeOV4GM

      • Ken Light says:

        I was greatly impacted by Jesus Christ superstar. I thought it was good until I became a Christian and the fundies convinced me it was bad.

        • I may have been a bit harsh. I still sing bits of songs from it. I just find a lot of things from the early ’70’s that I found fascinating back then a bit pretentious now.

          • Dana Ames says:

            I have the original “concept” album, done before AL Webber made it a big stage production. I actually pull it out and listen to it every once in a while. I think some of the songs are quite good, as songs from the ’70s. I don’t listen to it for theological purposes 🙂

            Dana

  6. “Imagination is a concentrated extract of all the forces of life.”. C.G. Jung

    So let’s get it out-of-the-way: of course there is evil imagination. There is fruitless imagination, useless imagination and so forth. So be it but there has never been a building built, a family born, or social movement formed without fruitful imagination. Among other things, imagination is seeing beforehand. It is foresight. It is ‘imaging’ the thing that can not yet be seen. It is by and large how we see the heaven or the kingdom which cannot be observed. We may want to call it something else but it is essentially the great and ever present gift of imagination. Properly cultivated and honed, getting past numerous errors and detours over a long period of time, it turns out to be the very eye of the spirit. It is the eye of discernment and the field of great joy and intimacy with the unseen, unknown and unheard God. It is one of our greatest gifts and assets but fundamentalism knows only it’s weakness and treats it with disdain. What a pity.

    • Imagination is by it’s very nature, play. That is part of the association with becoming “as children” to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    • (Imagination) is one of our greatest gifts and assets but fundamentalism knows only it’s weakness and treats it with disdain.

      The observation that art and imagination are severely lacking in Reformed circles is nothing new…

      Where’s the Beauty? The Absence of Art in Reformed Theology

      “Dyrness makes a number of observations about certain problem areas in Reformed theology:

      * The tendency to underplay the Incarnation;
      * Not valuing the arts or visual imagery;
      * The opinion that churches are not sacred spaces where one can go to pray outside of the Sunday worship; and
      * Not appreciating the importance of contemplation. Reformed Christianity wants a “To Do List” instead of a vision of God…

      (F)or most part Reformed churches and services are marked by a stark austerity that frames the preaching of Scripture.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        (F)or most part Reformed churches and services are marked by a stark austerity that frames the preaching of Scripture.”

        Purity of Ideology, Comrades.

      • Yes! It is extraordinarily rare for me these days but in times past when I would encounter that dryness it would stimulate a visceral reaction within me like a cringe. I would immediately want to head for the nearest exit. There is no preaching to that either as it will do the preaching and not the listening. Try to share some lofty ideas about imagination and brightness of spirit and you’ll get run out on a rail. Then you find out that gossip and slander are not included in the seven deadly sins. All manner of things will be said with sanction from the top. Very unpleasant business.

  7. Tim Challies’ statement that he won’t watch the film because of the Second Commandment doesn’t impress me. Did he say that about “The Jesus Film?” Or Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth?” How about Sallman’s portrait of Christ, or Michelangelo’s God & Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (“NO! I shan’t look! I should be blinded should I look!)?

    • To see the Sistine Chapel ceiling would mean he’d have to walk into the Vatican. Which for him would be analagous to Frodo walking into Mordor.

      I do wonder though how he processes those images of angels on Indy’s Ark, Solomon’s temple, as well as Ezekiel’s vision of the new Temple that also had angelic images?

      • –> “To see the Sistine Chapel ceiling would mean he’d have to walk into the Vatican. Which for him would be analagous to Frodo walking into Mordor.”

        Oh, gosh, that’s a funny line! Good one!

    • Well he’s at least somewhat consistent in his reviews for The Passion of the Christ.
      (Not that I agree w his take on the film…)

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Or, for that matter, George Buns in Oh, God!

      I initially assumed that his objection was to depictions of the First Person, but I just went to his site and see that it is to depictions of any of the three persons. So presumably the cheesy Caucasian Jesus with the well trimmed beard portrait that used to be well nigh ubiquitous in Protestant churches of any sort would sent him into conniption fits. Or how about one of those “Jesus praying hands” pictures? OK, those would send me into conniption fits, but on artistic rather than theological grounds

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        In this, Challies is in agreement with the Byzantine Iconoclasts and Wahabi Islam.

      • –> “…George Buns in Oh, God!”

        George Buns? LOL. Great typo. (Must be the porn version?)

  8. Christiane says:

    ” …. if we are going to err, better to err on the side of grace ”

    AMEN, AMEN, AMEN

    • Yes

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      I suspect that this is a big part of the objection. If you are Super Reformed and believe in a distinct body–and not all that large a body–of the Elect, then erring on the side of grace is a huge issue.

      This is the great conundrum of Protestant theology. If salvation doesn’t come through works, then there is a problem. How do we separate the saved from the damned? There are two basic solutions. You can jump through hoops to define “work” to exclude what it is you want people to do: accepting Jesus into you heart isn’t a work for reasons that are very complicated, filling volumes. This is the usual solution, but not entirely satisfactory. The Calvinist solution is to take the rejection of salvation through works at face value. Nothing you do or don’t do has any effect on whether or not you are saved. This leads to the issue that if only some people are saved, this is completely arbitrary. The Calvinist response amounts to “suck it up.” But there is another possibility: universalism. If you believe that nothing you do affects whether or not you are saved, and that God is love, then universalism is the inevitable conclusion. This is horrifying to the Super Reformed, hence the response any hint of universalism provokes from the Heresy Patrol.

      • The Calvinist solution is to take the rejection of salvation through works at face value. Nothing you do or don’t do has any effect on whether or not you are saved. This leads to the issue that if only some people are saved, this is completely arbitrary. The Calvinist response amounts to “suck it up.”

        Gotta give them props for consistency and being willing to go against the flow of public opinion…

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Oh, absolutely! These are, after all, the same people that churn out tedious tomes of rigorously reasoned systematic theology. In my youth I admired systematic theology in principle for just that reason, though I never managed to actually plough throw reading much of the stuff. In my more more advanced youth I have come to the conclusion that systematic theology is mostly irrelevant to the Christian life or the life of the church.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            –> “In my more more advanced youth…”

            My more advanced youth!! I’m going to borrow that!

          • >> I have come to the conclusion that systematic theology is mostly irrelevant to the Christian life or the life of the church.

            Would make a great epitaph, Richard, if a bit long. Maybe spring for a big stone.

  9. So, okay, back to the discussion of the Trinity as “community.” I’m hearing recently that God must be in community with himself in order to love. That is, love requires an object, and therefore the persons of the Trinity must have objects (one another) in order for God to love.

    Wrong. Love is not merely something that God does; God is love. He does not require anything or any one, divine or otherwise, in order to love. Therefore, a theology that God “must” be in community will have to look elsewhere for a theology of community.

    I’m afraid that the trending stress upon God as community is part of the heresy (there, I said it) that God the Son is eternally subordinate (willingly, joyfully, or otherwise) to God the Father. This is not Trinity; this is polytheism. There is a difference. If Christ is not eternally and equally God, as are the Father and the Spirit, we would not have monotheism, we would have a hierarchy in heaven, no better than the pagan systems. We could not say from Deuteronomy, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is one.”

    That verse, fundamental to our Christian faith, does not contradict the Trinity. It empowers it by telling us who Christ is. He is God, and always has been. Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

    While it’s important for our understanding of the Trinity to proclaim “Jesus is God,” I have found it more helpful to think of it this way, an epiphany gained from the subtitle on one of Michael Spencer’s other blogs: “God is Jesus.”
    https://jesusshaped.wordpress.com/

    • I’m afraid that the trending stress upon God as community is part of the heresy (there, I said it) that God the Son is eternally subordinate (willingly, joyfully, or otherwise) to God the Father.

      I do not see those two concepts as being remotely related, probably because I do not see “community” as being dependent upon hierarchical relationships.

      • I see it as the other way around for the ESS crowd (Eternal Subordination of the Son). Hierarchical relationships depend upon community, hence the stress on that.

        Interesting that The Shack is all about community within the Trinity, even though the ESS/New-Cal crowd may denounce it. Could be the female Father and the female Spirit that troubles them.

        More importantly (and this wanders off-topic) is that complementarianism gets some of its justification—or at least example—from a hierarchy in the Trinity, which depends on community within the Trinity. I think that’s why I’m hearing more about community these days.

        • I don’t doubt that ESS/complementarians are using the term “community” in such a way as to support their cultural/theological hobby horse. Doesn’t make it any less wrong… 😉

        • Dana Ames says:

          Ted, you’re so right that ESS fits the technical definition of “heresy.” There’s a lot we *can’t* say about the Trinity, this is true… And “community” is such a weak word – picked up on by those who have an agenda about male/female relationships, and who have likely never read a word of the Church Fathers on the matter (“too Catholic” – can’t go there!).

          Richard Twiss of blessed memory said, in a conference session I once attended, “God is one **because** God is three.” This is awfully close to the Greek Fathers’ understanding. Totally upends “systematic theology.”

          Dana

    • I’m still not convinced that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as a person/unique entity isn’t on shaky ground. Seems at times like a bad translation leading into fan fiction that had to be patched up with new doctrine.

    • “God is love. He does not require anything or any one, divine or otherwise, in order to love.” Ted, isn’t your statement antithetical to the very definition of love? Love in a vacuum seems not to be love at all. By definition I thought it was the free giving of yourself to another. Without an other it would seem closer to the much disparaged concept of navel gazing. I’m thinking it’s precisely the opposite. Because God is love we exist and are created for the very purpose of spending eternity in that love. No greater love has any man…

      • I agree that from our perspective, and by our definition, love needs an object—that human love is not meant for a vacuum, or it’s not really love but selfishness. So with that in mind, you are absolutely right, and yours is a practical as well as a compassionate definition.

        But for God, from his eternal perspective, he loved before the dawn of creation, before any object, because he himself is love and the source of all love since.

        Though he may not need others in order to love, I think he desires others, and that could be why he created us. But I’m not convinced he “needed” a community among the trinity, before he created heaven and earth, in order to love. That seems to impose something on God from our human perspective.

        I’m holding to the doctrine that God does not “need” anything, so my theology here may seem a tad inflexible. My pet peeves include adamant statements from well-meaning people (in my church, but also popular Christian authors) who say ludicrous things like, “God can’t…” or “God must…” or “God needs…” Those statements demote God to a human level.

  10. senecagriggs says:

    Without having read any review, some years ago I picked up the Shack and attempted to read it. I forced myself thru 3/4 of it and then gave up the effort.

    Women, if you read reviews – blogs – etc., appear to love it.

    Men, not so much.

    As it turns out, Young is a universalist [ all people will be saved ]. Doesn’t believe in the necessity of Christ’ sacrificial death.

    There are other significant issues – IF you care about Biblical theology/doctrine.

    If you don’t, well no biggie.

    • Women loved The Bridges of Madison County, too, which is, in my opinion, an equally awful novel. I think my gender needs to challenge themselves more…

    • Cedric Klein says:

      IF Young is a Universalist, and as he says, it depends on what you mean by that, then he is one because he believes in the Universal Efficacy of the Atoning Work of Jesus, not because Jesus’ Atoning Work is unnecessary

  11. I read The Shack some time after it came out but I don’t intend to see the movie for the same reason I didn’t like Superman on TV after listening to him on the radio. Superman was not some pudgy middle-aged guy wearing a floppy suit of long undewear. I prefer the accuracy of the imagination. Be that as it may, if the movie riles up the Doctrine Police it’s probably an endorsement and a force for good and for opening of closed minds. As to all those impugning the book as bad writing, I’m especially sensitive to bad writing and sailed thru the book without hesitation. I suspect what we may be dealing with here are precious sensibilities, if not outright snobbery. It’s a simple story for kids and others who may be dealing with the Great Sadness.

    There’s a lot of people here who strike me as dealing with the Great Sadness, and that may just be the human condition. There’s a lot of people here who strike me as believing in Jesus as an intellectual construct but not as God’s Messiah with all that implies, as believing in the Holy Spirit as correct doctrine but not as an active expression of God in their own lives. I think the two are connected, Great Sadness and intellectual understanding of God. The book is about both as unnecessary burdens that keep us separate from the Reality of God.

    Richard Rohr lately has been harping on his own version of Trinitarian doctrine, which I find as much bizarre gobbledy-gook as the Nicene version. Why Christians find it necessary to insist on teachings which outrage Jews and Muslims unnecessarily is beyond me, but I observe that insistence growing over the past fifty years and gaining strength. Perhaps it helps keep the Great Sadness at bay. Better that the Great Sadness might be healed in the loving Presence of God, however expressed and experienced in the moment. This book is one of those expressions, but maybe the movie will reach some who don’t read books.

    • to be fair, that Superman was a drunk…

      • George Reeves? One of my heroes!

        You wound me, sir.

      • >> to be fair, that Superman was a drunk…

        You probably had to be drunk to shoot those episodes. I remember plainly as a kid turning my head to horizontal and suddenly Superman changed from flying along thru the sky to standing up with his hands stretched out over his head looking upward and a big fan over his head making his floppy underwear flap. Also when he jumped out a window to fly somewhere, he obviously hit some kind of springboard to launch him. Sorry, Ted, life is hard.

        Nowadays I look for such shenanigans in theologians, some of whom may also be drunks, altho in their case it may be more drunk on power.

        • And Batman? You think they tilted the camera sideways to show him climbing skyscrapers with his Bat Rope?

    • –> “As to all those impugning the book as bad writing, I’m especially sensitive to bad writing and sailed thru the book without hesitation.”

      If you didn’t find fault with the changing tenses, perspectives and narrative voice, then you’re not as sensitive to bad writing as you think.

      –> “I suspect what we may be dealing with here are precious sensibilities, if not outright snobbery.”

      Not at all. The writing sucks. I can point to all the issues that I could’ve cleaned up if I’d been given two weeks as his editor. And I’ve read many a book with so-so writing, but none as poorly written (for a mega-seller) as The Shack.

      Truth be told, as someone who was at the time writing his own book, all I could think of as I read The Shack was, “Please, oh Lord, please….I hope my writing isn’t this bad.”

      • I’ll grant you the issues, Rick, but they didn’t bother me. It was not written as by a polished writer but as by an ordinary father devastated with losing his dearly loved daughter to unspeakable evil, and I found it authentic. The world right now is beginning to be exposed to that same satanic evil against children writ a million times as large. I expect many of those accounts will not be grammatically correct either, and you are talking with someone who can’t get into C.S. Lewis for the tedious writing. However I would rather be hounded by the Grammar Police than the Doctrine Police.

        • I agree with you on the crux of the story. Very compelling, especially when he got to the theological aspects of dealing with pain. That’s what made the mediocre writing so maddening for me; it was more of a challenge to get through (and ultimately get to the pay off). As I said earlier, I just wish I’d had two weeks of editing the book; it would’ve made it a much more solid read.

          Yes, Grammar Police over Doctrine Police ANY day.

        • +1

      • Truth be told, as someone who was at the time writing his own book, all I could think of as I read The Shack was, “Please, oh Lord, please….I hope my writing isn’t this bad.”

        Me too. I was writing a novel shortly before that and, unlike Young, I sent mine to an editor. She was brutal. The novel is now dead in the computer while The Shack got published and now they’re making a movie.

        I shoulda sent her Young’s book too, for comparison, but she’s probably seen worse.

    • Charles,

      I have enormous respect for Richard Rohr, as a visionary and poet, who goes some way towards describing a christianity as a way of being in the world, that I would love to practice. But I agree with you, about his formulations of the trinity. I’ve read most of ‘the Divine Dance’, and still don’t really know what, for Rohr, the trinity is, nor why this particular metaphor is so important for how we see reality.

      Regarding the trinity, I still don’t understand what relevance it has for my life. Unless, perhaps, there are other metaphors, expressing the same ‘reality’, that would communicate better for me.

      Rohr does raise many salient points, though. Such as, for example, ‘let’s all stop using the word ‘God’, until we figure out what it means.

      • –> “Regarding the trinity, I still don’t understand what relevance it has for my life. Unless, perhaps, there are other metaphors, expressing the same ‘reality’, that would communicate better for me.”

        Yeah, I think I’m with you there, too. Seems to be a human construct for a mysteriously divine “thing” that can’t be explained in human terms.

      • >> Regarding the trinity, I still don’t understand what relevance it has for my life.

        Ben, I too have enormous respect for Richard Rohr, but this whole business of Trinity as Divine Dance just seems out to lunch to me. There is a widely recognized law of three that operates thruout the Cosmos and thus would seem to originate with God, but Trinity will forever bring forth for me an image of Bishop Santa Claus punching Elder Arius in the face and thus deciding the outcome of the Nicene Council thru the Holy Spirit. Well, deciding after a number of revisions, presumably all with the Holy Spirit changing his mind for the better.

        I could handle Richard’s Dance a lot better if he didn’t insist on calling it Trinitarian. At the same time I recognize he is subservient, sort of, to a higher institutional authority and has to toe the line to a certain extent to avoid charges of heresy. Don’t get me started on the history of heresy in the church. I understand that Nicea was basically about coming up with a compromise universal formulation that would satisfy most people under a now regime of empire, and would provide a means of enforcement for the now state religion. If anywhere, this is where the train went off the tracks.

        So I sorta skim Richard these days and hope it’s not too long before he gets back to real matters. Yes, Jesus is real and represents God fully and yes, he is Messiah. Yes, God speaks with us in words or otherwise thru His Holy Spirit. Yes, these are given to us to help us return to Union in the Presence of God. Yes, this is an interactive process. And no, as you say, slightly altered, “Regarding trinitarian doctrine, I still don’t understand what relevance it has for my life.”

    • “Superman was not some pudgy middle-aged guy wearing a floppy suit of long underwear.”

      You take that back! When someone says ‘Superman” I flash on poor George Reeves instantly. (And Adam West for Batman dontcha know.) These latter day buff tortured Super people freak me right out.

  12. The Shack- Young wrote the book as a story to his children to explain the horrendous abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of supposed Christians who ran a missionary school. He actually never intended to publish it; he just wanted to explain to his children what he suffered and WHY he wasn’t bitter against God. People need to cut him a large, nay YUGE, amount of slack. The fact that he sees God as a loving Father after what he went through… is amazing grace. In my opinion, this isn’t getting the attention and priority that it should. And all this dispassionate theological evisceration that is taking place, frankly, makes me angry. Dude—he was sexually and physically abused as a young child and has come through that with his faith intact—what have YOU come through that compares to THAT. If you don’t like the book or the movie then STFU and move on to something else. Cut the man some slack, show some compassion, and don’t add to his pain… I told you it makes me angry. Consider these points:
    1. Justice vs Love First of all, Young reveals to his readers that Justice, God’s idea of Justice, isn’t punishment at all, but reconciliation. ?Here, the critics are confusing punishment with Justice. If Jesus died for everyone’s sins, why would they still need to be punished? God doesn’t want to punish us, He wants to RECONCILE us to Him.
    2. Here, the critics try to say that Young espouses the “all roads lead to heaven” idea, when actually he says the opposite. In the book, Jesus is asked if this is true. No, he says, but he will travel any road to find us. Isn’t this true? Weren’t you headed down the wrong road and Jesus came SEEKING you?
    3. If God does not submit to us then what is free will? And without free will, all the best minds agree: There is no love. But we know God is love.?Again, here a biased lack of nuance is present. God does not submit to us because he wants to but because our ability to make our own mistakes leads us back to him, thereby revealing our need of his saving grace. We should not ask God to submit to us, but he does. How do you think Jesus ended up on the cross?
    4. The Bible has become an idol. We know this because people have given it one of God’s names: Word of God. Only Jesus is the Living Word. The Bible is words inspired by God to lead us to Him. I have noticed a disturbing trend among Christians to treat the Bible the way some Muslims treat the Koran.
    5. God completely revealed, Jesus, was casual and relational with his followers. John quotes Jesus as saying, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,”, and “I only do what I see my Father doing”, and “I and the Father are one.”
    6. Young does not seek to change God but to help us to understand more fully who God is. God is our co-sufferer, always with us through our suffering, a God who understands suffering and a Lord who will one day reconcile everything and everyone.??Agree with the book/movie or not, but no need to lie about what it says. I could quote a few scriptures about that. Too many self-righteous pharisaical Christians are bearing false witness against William P. Young—not cool.

    • Good stuff, Mike!

    • I’ll jump on this positive bandwagon! I read the book pretty ravenously. I think I read it in a day and a half. I thought it brought up concepts and possibilities about God that seemed unusual and out of the mainstream. I thought it would be a great book for somebody who was searching for answers to really difficult questions. I don’t know anything about the movie but certainly did enjoy the book.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        If my book ever gets published you’ll have to give it a try, Chris. My hope is that it tackles some similarly interesting concepts and possibilities about God in non-cliched ways, and I think it’ll be helpful to someone searching for a possible answers to some really difficult questions, especially “Why does God allow evil” or “If there’s so much evil, can there be a God”.

    • Heather Angus says:

      Thanks, Mike! I agree entirely. I didn’t really care much for the book, but my response wasn’t based on theological grounds. I read that “13 heresies” post that Michael Spencer linked to, and found enough (lousy) theology to gag a gargoyle.

    • +1000

      • Mike you make me want to keep on here with such a comment. Those after give me some hope. I’ll just repeat some. I read it the book in 24 hour period. Just couldn’t put it down. Like I read the trilogy of Tolkien. Probably did that in a week. Only thing is I have never read either one since. Doesn’t matter. I can’t put either one down for any reason as I’m not a scholar on writing. My teacher in poetry was so boring I couldn’t stay awake and the monotone of the rules put me in a coma. I failed and pretty much said the hell with it. You put things as to the + 1000 and the comments after hold me to hope. Thank you

  13. In addition to the theological aspects that have been brought up via Michael Spencer’s posts, mainly centered around the personification of the Trinity and whether that’s heretical or not, there was this recent review by David Mathis at “Desiring God” which focused on a DIFFERENT theological reason to avoid seeing The Shack: that the protagonist never seeks God via the Bible!

    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-does-the-shack-say-about-your-pain

    From the article:
    —————-
    “The problem of pain is the most profound focus of Young’s story, but what lies beneath the surface in essentially all the problematic parts are widespread false assumptions about how we hear God speak today. Where do we go to hear God’s voice? Again and again, Young points away from Scripture, and in doing so, he well represents what is assumed today by many professing Christians.

    “We do not need a wilderness shack to hear from God. He gave us his word, through his appointed prophets and apostles in the Great Book, and he gave us the Spirit to illumine and apply our hearing. In short, the voices in your head are not God; they are you. If you want to hear God audibly, then read the Bible out loud.”
    —————-

    What the…??? If you want to hear from God audibly, then read the Bible out loud!?!? What planet does this guy live on? First, that’s not the only way God speaks to people, and second…that would make a REALLY HORRIBLE book and/or movie! I don’t want to spend $12 on a book or movie just to read or watch a guy reading the Bible out loud and then having his AH-HA moment!

    I encourage you to read the Desiring God article. It’ll make you laugh and cry at the same time.

    • What the…??? If you want to hear from God audibly, then read the Bible out loud!?!? What planet does this guy live on?

      That would be the truly reformed planet. Piper. MacArthur, et. al. Especially if they’re cessationists like JMac. The Bible gets elevated to God-like status all the time. Love, charity, not so much.

  14. If you want to hear from God audibly, then read the Bible out loud!?!? What planet does this guy live on? First, that’s not the only way God speaks to people…

    For a really hard-line Reformed person… it IS. Trust me. I used to be that person.

    • A friend of mine actually posted that article on Facebook, I believe in support of the article and that notion “the Bible is the only way to God.”

      I gently pointed out that for people and Christians damaged by churches and Christians, the Bible is sometimes the LAST place a person will find God, and that in fact many, many people find God in the most unusual and unexpected places, like a shack or a desert.

  15. Did anyone see RISEN? We got Gandalf-Jesus with dreamy dark eyes and a sparking smile and disciples who all went through the movie looking as if they had just shared a bowl of some particularly fine sinsemilla. Anyway THE SHACK movie has barely made it’s budget back. The rule is a movie has to make two and a half times its budget to start turning a profit so these dire warnings of widespread spiritual corruption seem misplaced.

    • I kinda liked “Risen.” I liked the idea of a centurion being tasked with investigating the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Some of it was hokey, yes, but it was better than I was expecting.

    • Yep. Somehow, American Christianity survived *The Last Temptation of Christ*, it will likely survive this (if only to be done in by suicide later on…)

      • That Other Jean says:

        “The Last Temptation of Christ” was another case of much ado about nothing all that shocking and controversial.. I took my kids to see it when they were teenagers–through hordes of protesters who hadn’t actually sat through it. Another phenomenon that would have died a quiet death, if not for the fuss made about it.

  16. Marcus Johnson says:

    I really have no desire to see The Shack, so I’m really annoyed by all the denunciation the story is getting from a theological perspective. Don’t these folks understand that once evangelical leaders condemn a piece of art as heretical, then I HAVE to go see it, even if it’s horrible?

    Just saying, I could be doing better things with my time. Stop labeling things as heretical, fake Christians! I can only fit so much music on my iPhone, books in my library, movies on my to-watch list…

  17. When the book came out, unfortunately I was in lay leadership at an independent “community” church (e.g. SBC affiliated but a bit kinder).

    This was the fourth book in a few years that I felt forced into reading because the people in the church who got their news and views from Christian radio had been whipped into a frenzy about it. And then they constantly wanted to know what *I* thought of it, especially the portrayal of the Trinity (of course, because that’s what all the fuss was being whipped up about).

    The other three were:

    The Prayer of Jabez (every similar church in our region felt they had to “try” the Prayer to see if it “worked”)
    The Purpose Driven Life (’nuff said)
    The DaVinci Code (Was this book really from the devil? And was the RC Church really doing all that stuff and deceiving people in those ways? Somehow our congregants believed both statements were true, which I found fascinating.)

    Anyway, in hindsight the most interesting part about these exercises in mass hysteria were that the rank-and-file folks already believed everything the Christian media types said, and really were only asking local authorities like me what we thought so they could test our theology for purity.

    What a waste of time for all. How many people ended up being hurt when their views did not align with “the authorities'” decrees? I always felt I was dodging bullets in those days, just by trying to get people to think for themselves. Sigh.

    • Oh, Vera, I’ve had the same experience!
      I read The Shack because a dear lady from church, who was courageously battling cancer at the time and has since passed away, loaned it to me and told me how wonderful it was. What could I say?
      I managed to escape the Prayer of Jabez, thankfully. That one seemed to die down pretty quickly.
      I finally read Purpose Driven Life and wasn’t maddened or awed by it, but totally didn’t see what all the buzz was. I am sure, though, it made a crap ton of money for Rick Warren & his church.
      I thought the DaVinci Code was pretty much worthless drivel. Oh, yes, it kept you turning the page, but too many people thought the conspiracy stuff was real. Seriously? And it was silly conspiracy stuff & I had figured out who the bad guy was long before the ending.

      There is a huge Christian marketing complex out there that promotes what they want sold but most Christians don’t want to believe that. What song gets played on your Christian radio is there because of agents, and marketing people, and the need for the artist and the recording label to always entice you with the newest, better song. It’s the same with Christian books & global leadership talks. If they can’t lure you in with something new, they won’t make money. If your Christian song needs are satisfied with your old Larry Norman LPs, their business model isn’t working.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        –> “I managed to escape the Prayer of Jabez, thankfully.”

        I SAID the Prayer of Jabez to ESCAPE the Prayer of Jabez craze. It worked, I guess!

      • It always seemed to me like folks would just swallow anything they were told, because it came from a “trusted Christian authority.” And also, in the case of Jabez and similar books, that they were willing to believe the Bible contained hidden magic formulas no one had ever discovered before.

        • Nah, sorry I surely would never believe that the shack had anything to do with theology and it was just a way that someone needed to see it. I found it never to be a Bible study. The person even stated such. Never said he was a great writer. I think regardless I could not put it down. Never read it again . Swallow from the sink can be really hard to drink . Sorry. ….really. …..I read Rick to and wild at heart but they were not for me close to the shack.

          • I think we crossed signals. I meant that people in the world I knew had preconceived ideas about the book because they believed what the authorities on Christian radio had told them they should think about it.. So they never gave it a chance. It was the same for the other three books in my church. Some they were told they had to love, others they were told they had to hate. So… they did.

            • I’m sorry we did cross signals. It is hard here sometimes between the lines. Yet i didn’t mean no harm either way I was just testifying on what I saw and didn’t mean any harm. I surely see what you last posted as being somewhat of a problem.

  18. Burro [Mule] says:

    The only contact I’ve had with The Shack is discussing it with my brother, who feels alienated from mainstream Christianity because of an inability to comply with its pelvic rules, but still wants very badly to believe on some level. I told him that the view of the Holy Trinity in The Shack was very close to the Orthodox view, esp. in the non-vindictive sense. He still believed that such a God wouldn’t send anybody to Hell. I told him that the Orthodox God wouldn’t, but that some might just end up there anyway because the way they had acted all their lives rendered them incapable of enjoying the Orthodox God.

    It didn’t help. He doggedly continued to think of the whole affair of Heaven and Hell in terms of rewards and punishments, and clung to his Universalism. Contrasted with the Western pissed-off god my brother seems determined to believe in as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Olivia Butler is an improvement.

    I think there are a lot of people out there like my brother.

  19. Andrew Zook says:

    Challies – “To watch The Shack is to watch human actors play the roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

    If this bothers you, then the Incarnation bothers you… Jesus is now, at the right hand of the Father, in glorified human and divine form – He ascended, scars and all… One wonders sometimes if the Calvinist bent and it’s emphasis on penal substitution is a way to denigrate the Incarnation? Kind of fits with this class summation of Jesus Christ’s time on earth: birth, DEATH/CROSS*, resurrection… (*=Most Important)

  20. Dana Ames says:

    For an interesting version of the Puritan classic, look up “Pilgrim’s Progress Liam Neeson” on YouTube. It’s definitely low budget, but not terrible. Decent acting saves the thing, as well as keeping close to the original. A very young Neeson has a large role – Evangelist – and enters at about 4:30. Made in N. Ireland, so Neeson’s home territory, with lovely scenery..

    Dana