7.13.2008

The Shack...caveat lector!

I am mostly finished reading the latest super-smash hit in 'Christian' literature..."The Shack".

I must say that I am thoroughly disappointed that this book is so popular. The premise of the book, of a man having a conversation with God after his young daughter was brutally murdered, is certainly compelling and had significant potential in illuminating the age-old problem of suffering and evil. The author, however, appears to have aimed for $ale$ rather than biblical accuracy or theological depth. Instead of delving into what it means to be a Christian in a world full of suffering, we get the same old 'emergent' fluff that we have been getting for far too long.

If there is one horse that is beaten to death over and over again it is that all God wants is to be our buddy, our peer. There are other horses as well. The cynicism with which the author describes the Church, scripture, Christianity, doctrine and theology is the same schlupp that we have read from Brian McLaren for several years now. It is time to get over it folks and move back to what we know to be true.

There are several reviews of The Shack available out there. I will post some following this rant.

Please, if you must read The Shack, at least know that while it has some interesting parts, it is, in the words of Mark Driscoll 'actually heretical'.

Here is the conclusion of a summary and critique by Tim Challies.

"Focusing on just three of the subjects William
Young discusses in The Shack, we’ve seen that
errors abound. He presents a false view of God
and one that may well be described as heretical. He
downplays the importance and uniqueness of the Bible,
subjugating it or making it equal to other forms of
subjective revelation. He misrepresents redemption
and salvation, opening the door to the possibility of
salvation outside of the completed work of Jesus Christ
on the cross. We are left with an unbiblical
understanding of the persons and nature of God and of
His work in this world.
But this is not all. The discerning reader will note
as well that the author muddies the concepts of
forgiveness and free will. He introduces teaching that is
entirely foreign to the Bible, often stating with certainty
what is merely speculative. He oversteps the bounds of
Scripture while downplaying the Bible’s importance. He
relies too little on Scripture and too much on his own
theological imaginings.
All this is not to say there is nothing of value in
the book. However, it is undeniable to the reader who
will look to the Bible, that there is a great deal of error
within The Shack. There is too much error.
That The Shack is a dangerous book should be
obvious from this review. The book’s subversive
undertones seek to dismantle many aspects of the faith
and these are subsequently replaced with doctrine that
is just plain wrong. Error abounds.
I urge you, the reader, to exercise care in reading
and distributing this book. The Shack may be an
engaging read but it is one that contains far too much
error. Read it only with the utmost care and concern,
critically evaluating the book against the unchanging
standard of Scripture. Caveat lector!"

For the full text of the article...go to Challies.com

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What I find most interesting is the constant back and forth between people who are apparently attempting to help people get to know and embrace Jesus.

I find most articles and reviews an exercise in futility as people try and "prove" their points and agendas about God and spirituality.

What frustrates me is how people who stereotype authors like William Young and Brian McLaren are unwilling to entertain the idea that those who they do follow theologically (because if you're honest your ideas and convictions about God did not emerge from within yourself but from the influence of authors and teachers and experiences you have had the privilege of experiencing throughout your life).

Although the author of the Shack is quite explicit about this being a fictional novel, it seems that many have taken it quite seriously. Tim Challies suggests that Young is doing theology regardless of whether it's a novel or not, and I suppose that's true to some degree.

Mark Driscoll suggests Young as promoting Modelism (That God the Father became the Son in the incarnation). He's an idiot to suggest this because the context of the book is post-resurrection, whereby Jesus is not on earth any longer! Perhaps Young's view of hierarchy is an over-reaction to his experiences, but his points should be taken as thought provoking as we consider the culture we are witnessing to in this day.

What is problematic to me is how people follow the Reformation more than they do the bible! They dig deep into reformation theology, which is packed with Scriptures, great debaters, theologians, pastors and many other intellectual people and then after reading all their opinions take those to the bible and say, just like many who have read the Shack, "Wow, I now understand God in a whole new way!"
Seriously...when will (some) reformation followers get off their high horses and realize, like the Apostle Paul, that if Christ is preached then let it be what it is (Phil 1:18). Of course, if you're a strong reformationist or calvinist then you'll have already thought the idea in your head that someone like Young could never really preach Christ because his theology is wrong.
Well, I hope God gives those of you who have your theology all figured out the resolve to stay strong till the end, because the rest of us are on a journey with our friend, yes, friend (and just because I don't mention that he is my Savior, Master, Lord, Deliverer doesn't mean that he isn't!) as we learn in humility (something which seems to be lacking in the two camps of theology previously mentioned) who Jesus is, the Father is, and who Holy Spirit is (yes, I intentionally left out "the" in front of Holy Spirit because Holy Spirit is a person of the Holy Trinity and we don't say "The Jesus" in some kind of unknown and unapproachable way).

Now, as a caveat (at the end, I know) it is not my intention to start an argument here about such topics unless it's done in and with an attitude of openness and humility.

-paulz

PS: I didn't re-read this so spelling mistakes and grammer issues are not intentional.

Vertigo said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Paul!

Open-ness and humility sounds good to me...

Regarding modalism...I think the charge is a pretty reasonable one given the text of the novel.

For example...

“Mack noticed the scars in her wrists, like those he now
assumed Jesus also had on his” (95).

“Don’t ever think that what my son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly.
Love always leaves a significant mark,” she stated softly and gently. “We were there together” (96).

and especially,

“When we three spoke ourself into
human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations
that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood” (99).

It is interesting that you would seem to equate someone studying Reformation documents with someone studying The Shack. It seems to me that regardless of the conclusions that one comes to (I understand God in a whole new way!), there is really no way to come to the conclusion that these documents are somehow comparable.

I realize that when Christ is preached, God works. God will very likely use The Shack for good. But that does not give us license to be careless with doctrine.

Here is the crux of my problem. 'Christianity' means something specific. It is a word that we use to describe a religion that has certain doctrines. To be a Christian entails that one assents to these doctrines. Examples include:
-the nature of Godhead
-creation
-sin
-redemption

Using the Trinity as an example, the doctrine that basically says there is one God in Three persons. If I were to deny the Trinity, as JWs do, I could still 'call' myself a Christian, but I would not be a Christian.

If we get these important doctrines wrong, then we are not preaching Christianity. We might be preaching some other nice tolerant relationship/religion, but it is not Christianity.

The Shack is a compelling read and it may very well serve to introduce someone to the Faith, and I have no problem with that. I have a problem with the fact that too many mature Christians think that it is a revolutionary way to understand God when we don't need a revolutionary way to understand God and furthermore, this new way is actually not in line with what the Bible actually teaches about God and how we can be properly related to him. (God does not call us primarily to a relationship *with* him. He calls us to be properly related *to* him. He is not looking for buddies, he wants sinners to repent.)

Tis late,

Bed beckons.

Peace!
cm

Anonymous said...

I can see how page 99 could lead someone to think Young is proposing modelism...touche. In the pages following, however, I think it's clear that he does not.

As for comparing reformation theology to shack theology...they're both theologizing nonetheless and therefore can be compared on that basis alone. However, my point is not so much in the comparison between these two varying theologies (if we can call them that) but rather that as much as someone reads the shack and then reads the bible differently is no different than someone reading a book about reformation theology and then reading whatever they've read back into the bible.

Perhaps my greatest apprehension in all of this is that reformation thinkers are very systematic in their idealizing of convictions as a primary source for their spiritual development; that through the usage of certain Scripture passages a conviction/belief is formed about who God is, what his nature is.

Biblical theology, on the other hand, shows us who God is, his nature and character, and out of that/those truth(s) we can discern whether or not we are reading Scripture properly as we seek to apply it in our context today.

Obviously this takes a great deal of study if one is to not only understand how God reveals himself throughout Scripture, but also in how we create systematic theologies that we can apply in our context and culture today.

Because these two theologies (biblical and systematic) have notoriously been misunderstood as far as priority goes, writers such as Young (who is arguably attempting to do biblical theology more than systematic theology) will be bombarded by (guess who) those who put more emphasis on systematic theology.

This is frustrating because both biblical and systematic theology are very important...however biblical theology is the first priority.

It is because of this that those who think God should be understood along certain lines become frustrated when someone writes something to spur on biblical theology and does not attempt to outrightly offer a systematic theology to the reader.

Something else one must consider is that the bible continually shows us how God works in whatever situation humans have chosen to create for themselves. Example, slavery. Does God support slavery? Would he today? Should we have slaves? Then why does God allow the Hebrew people to have slaves? Well, he makes sure that the Hebrews treat their slaves different than other nations, but why doesn't he make them abandon slavery?

And yet, today, we would be deemed heretics if we stood up and supported bringing slavery back to our culture.

This is the problem with systematic theology taking priority over biblical theology...it affects how you read Scripture.

Does this mean that God made a mistake to not call the Hebrews to a greater ideal; to abolish slavery? No. It means God worked in the situation to move it towards and ideal. And today we continue to attempt to understand what God would have us do in our context and culture; that we would not so much return to the way of life of biblical nations, but rather that we would embrace the meaning of God's commandments and not just the words.

This is party why many people today are more religious than they are about a relationship with Jesus. People read the Scriptures and apply the words either literally or as part of a systematic whole which describes a certain context and/or concern within the Bible. But if we took the time to not ask "what is God teaching us here," but rather, "Why did God call these people to this certain action or attitude?" Because the meaning of God's commandments are timeless and can be applied across history, whereby the actions God sometimes calls the people of the Bible to are not necessarily what we should do today.

Ok, too long. now i'm babbling.

-paul

Vertigo said...

I agree that there are people who abuse scripture to fit their own view of the world. A good example might be eschatology with all its colorful characters and theories.

It is important to read scripture in a way that you interpret vague scriptures in light of clear scriptures where the meaning is self-evident.

Young may be coming from the perspective of a biblical theologian, but he still gets things wrong. That is the problem with The Shack. The issue is not that he should be a systematic theologian, it is that he is wrong in what he says about the nature of God. He leaves open the question of whether Jesus is 'the way, the truth and the life' and that he is the only way to the Father. That in itself should be a red flag that Young has it wrong. But the problems identified by Challies on his blog go beyond that.

Anonymous said...

Having partially read the book in question now, I feel justified in offering a comment.

I don't know who I'm quoting (does that make it plagiarism?), but I think I read a blog quoting one of the guys from the White Horse Inn. Too much of what is written for Christians isn't actually Christianity, it's more like moralistic, therapeutic deism. IMHO, The Shack falls into that category. Not entirely wrong, but lacking sufficient truth (and arguably containing too much error) to be worthy of being called Christian.

L-A

Anonymous said...

This was really interesting. I loved reading it.