Thursday, November 20, 2008

Back to the Shack...With Gas and a Match

"Jude 1:3-4 (KJV) Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. "

I started this off with Jude for a few different reasons. 1) I really would rather be writing about something positive or thought provoking (don't get me wrong, I do rather enjoy debating this book, but as far as writing...enough is enough) 2) I do see a real need for Christians today to "earnestly contend for the faith", especially when so many of our brethren are happily swallowing heresies and lies. 3) I do see "The Shack" as denying the "only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 4) I just flat love the book of Jude :)

September 25, 2008, almost two months ago as I sit here today, I wrote a review that just won’t die, about a book that just won’t die either. Just this past Tuesday, I received another request for the “detailed” notes that I took as I read the book. (Page references are currently being converted from the hardcover edition to paperback) I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve sent or printed that out for someone and that’s not even taking into account the emails I’ve received about the book. There hasn’t been a Sunday at church when someone hasn’t asked me about it. This thing has some serious legs.

The vast majority of responses have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Of those that just can’t fathom that this book is anything less than the second coming of the Bible, about half have eventually come around to see the book for what it is. Of those that remain steadfast in their love and devotion of “The Shack”, every last one, when faced with scripture and a gentle, common sense approach to the author’s words, I am faced with the same retort, time and time again. As I predicted in my original review…“But it’s fiction you big grump!”

It is in essence this that I want to address. Is “The Shack” fiction? ABSOLUTELY. Does that make it right? Safe? Nope and nope. It starts, for me, with the simple fact that I myself have heard the discussion amongst Christians as to whether or not it is in fact fiction. (Allegedly it briefly topped Amazon’s nonfiction list) I think much of the confusion lies in the prologue and epilogue of the book. The author takes the curious step of presenting this in such a way as to pound home the illusion that this isn’t fiction. Should he be held accountable because gullible people are being confused by this? Probably not, but when he presents the “writer” of the story as “Willie” when his own name is “William”, to me, is an outright attempt to deceive.

Secondly, there is fiction (Stephen King, JK Rowling, Anne Rice (pre-conversion), Dan Brown…etc) and then there is fiction such as “The Shack”. You can find all of those aforementioned authors in almost any bookstore, except Christian bookstores. You find their books, you know what you’ve got…a fictional story, meant only to entertain. Do they have agendas? You can hardly write without one. With that said, are any of them calling into question and attacking basic tenets of the Christian faith, while proclaiming to be a part of it? No.

Most people, go into a Christian bookstore with a certain level of trust and expectation. They go in believing that anything they pick up in there will be Biblically sound. They do not go in worrying that their purchase, especially when it is so prominently displayed and promoted, is actually a veiled attack against the things that they hold dear. Yet, this is “The Shack”.

I have often wondered, with some defenders of “The Shack” how they would react if I walked into a room and began calling into question the Holy Trinity, the NEED for Christ in salvation, the validity and truth of scripture, the presence of evil, and so on. I would be attacked in an instant. Yet because these messages are packaged in a box that makes you cry and makes you feel good, it’s a different story.

You’d be surprised, or maybe you wouldn’t, how many times, “But it’s fiction you big grump”, is immediately followed by, “Besides, it made me feel good.”

How troubling is that? I think about Christians, the things we proclaim to believe, and how little of a fight we’ll put up when it is called into question. “Besides, it made me feel good.” Is this what we have truly been reduced to? The easy path? The road most traveled? If it feels good, it must be right? I wonder about the apostles and Christ. How easy was any of their lives? How easy was their journeys? How easy and gentle was old Pops with them? But, I digress. But I do wonder, what makes us think two-thousand years later that we are somehow exempt?

Christ was the Son of God and God at once. The apostles, mere men, who devoted their lives to Jesus and His teaching in the face of hardship, pain, ridicule, destitution, and death. Yet they were not exempt, or spared from those lives. Christ was under such duress that He was sweating blood! And here we are today, where we cannot be bothered to serve our Lord and Savior most of the time. We ignore the homeless and hurting. We live contrary to those things which we purport to believe. We can’t be bothered to actually pick up the Book. The list goes on and on. We live lives that are a far cry from Christ and the apostles. Yet, when we read a fictional account, that not only calls into question all that they lived and died for, but also trashes it in some instances, it is okay and it is all right. It made me feel good. It made things easy. I’m living proof that God doesn’t always care about comfort and easy.

What He does care about is where your heart and mind lie. What He cares about is to whom they belong. What He cares about is where you’ll spend eternity. Much beyond that, I have severe doubts as to whether or not His cares match our own.

In closing, I’ve written what amounts to a bunch of rambling, certainly not one of my stronger entries. However, I have an “ace in the hole” that I was holding until the very end. The one argument even the most ardent Shack supporter, “But it’s fiction!”, proclaiming person has not been able to respond to. For this, I will call on one the words of one of the apostles…

2 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. "
Cantankerously Yours and Refreshed,
Me :)


Anonymous said...

Odd how The Shack is affecting even the most dedicated Christians. Did you know the minister at Southland Christian Church recently preached about this book and said that it literally changed his life?

Angel said...

At one time, I thought I might read it. I heard some ladies at church talking about it and they were really impressed. Then I read your first post about it and realized that it wasn't the book for me. After reading your second post, I am so glad I did not bother to read this book. I think it would have just made me angry. :)

Anonymous said...

I haven't finished the book yet, almost done. I find it humorous that christians consider it controversial. The author wrote the book for his children with the intent of just sharing a story. I'm sure he wanted to get some important points across to them about life and his faith journey. It is not some academic book to be dissected. When people ask what I think of this book I say that it will speak best to those who have suffered a tragedy. I know because the lessons the author drives home are all the lessons I learned after going through a tragedy in my life. The most important one being to Trust God in the midst of it all. Sounds very trite until you live it out and realize that all who suffer come to the same conclusion if they really hashed it out with God. And if they didn't they usually end up bitter. For those who have had no tragedy in their life, they call the book "lame" and "corny" and actually seem angry at the author for some reason. I have a bond with Paul Young. He's been through some stuff and he shares some answers with us. Answers you only get when you really wrestle with God. And they are biblical answers. I can see this book drawing many closer to God and healing some deep wounds.I believe God is using this book to do that. Isn't it obvious? There are lots of hurting people out there.
P.S. God can use anything he wants to use. I'm an example of that.

Rickelle said...

As someone who not that long ago was on their deathbed, I understand tragedy well. As someone who was told that their child was going blind, I understand tragedy well.

As someone who is still alive through faith and the amazing grace of God, I understand how God can work.

As someone who's son is not blind, nor going blind, I understand that absolute love, power, and grace of God.

Do you still want to suggest that I have not suffered tragedy? That I have not truly wrestled with God?

That God is not present in The Shack. I have no problem with it as a fictional work. However, when classes are springing up in churches studying it, I have a problem with it.

When the book is given to an unbeliever, a new believer, or someone who has suffered a tragedy and told, "Here is God." I have a problem.

When a Christian woman tells me to put my prayers in the Holy Spirit because "she" knows what "she" is doing, I have a problem.

When people begin to consider God not as a triune God, but as four, of which one is based on Eastern Mysticism, I have a problem.

My question to you friend, why would you need a ficitional book to find God? To know God? To relate to God? Is the Bible not good enough? Was Christ's sacrifice on the cross not enough for you to know, understand, and feel God's love?

The Cantankerous Christian said...

oops, I accidentally posted under my wife's account...The above was me :)

Marie said...

I do have a big problem with the "But it's fiction" argument. To me, when you have God telling you what to believe about God (even if it is an allegory), I think people still take it pretty seriously. And, a big danger that I see is that many people turn their minds off when reading fiction and yet they still buy into many of the ideas without evaluating their Scriptural soundness.
I'm not familiar with the Sophia movement, so all of that is new to me.

It’s been a while since I read the book. While reading, I wrote down the page numbers that I had questions on. This is just a QUICK look back at those things, so I’m not being exceptionally thorough. I guess I’m pointing out that I don’t thoroughly endorse the book – especially for people who are NOT firm in what they believe – about living above sin, that NOT all roads lead to God, etc. I did however gain some neat concepts from the book – about dealing with grief, about living in a loving relationship with God instead of living in fear/guilt constantly, and about not worrying about the future (When we worry about the future we tend to look at the future and NOT picture God with us. I’ve been trying to find where that is in the book and can’t, so if anyone knows where it is, will you please let me know!!! ).
I had my main problems on pages 99-100 (the discussion of Jesus and how his being the God-man worked – not that I really understand it completely but I didn’t know that I agreed with the author’s description), 177-182 (The discussion on the Church and especially how on page 182 the author lumped things together like being a murderer and a banker. I felt he switched verb tenses “were” and “are” possibly intentionally, but that it was a dangerous way to put things in one group.), 184 (when it was stated that God didn’t want our sorrow – “Godly sorrow leads to repentance and leaves no regret”, 192 (when it says that “We are now fully human” as if all of God is human now, but pg 201 says “I am truly human, in Jesus, but I am a totally separate other in my nature.” Jesus is the only person of the Trinity that became man!), 198 (The whole “You might see me in …” Definite Universalism! I do believe the whole earth is filled with His glory, but it’s not Him.), and 224 (God speaks of someone as His son that He wants to redeem. Only the redeemed are His children.)
Maybe I’m just writing this to protect my own image so I don’t sound like a Shack-lover. I don’t know exactly where to stand on the book. I feel I benefited from reading it, but I’m very cautious in how I recommend it to others. I agree with you that churches shouldn’t be offering classes on it and it shouldn’t be a huge focus in our lives. God’s Word is the one infallible source for us, but there are some things we can gain from other sources too.

Marie said...

I agree with some of your points. I do feel there is a lack of respect at some points in the book, but do not agree with your problem of calling God "Daddy." That is NOT a disrespectful term to me at all. I recognize that we all grow up differently and different terms can have different connotations to us depending on how they’ve been used in our lives.
I called a scholar who regularly reads the Bible in the original languages and teaches Greek and Hebrew and asked him for a translation of “Abba.” He basically said we don’t have one that fits exactly. He said many people use “Daddy” and he can’t say it’s wrong. He said “Father” doesn’t really get it either. Btw, this scholar is the man that I call “Daddy” and I have great respect for him and there has been great accountability to him throughout my life. My children call my husband “Daddy,” and it isn’t at all disrespectful. Believe me, they’d better not call him “Brad”, that would be disrespectful! Yes, when I see God, I will fall on my face in awe. But my relationship with God is multi-faceted. I respect & obey Him always, but I love Him and I cry to Him and He loves me and comforts me. Calling Him “Daddy,” although I admit I don’t actually say it a lot, would not be disrespectful for me, but endearing. He’s no Santa Claus or Grandpa to me. But He loves me with a love I can’t even fathom. Endearment does not imply disrespect.

The Cantankerous Christian said...

Ah, the daddy argument. If there is one point that people have wanted to debate me on in these pieces, it is that one :) The problem I see both in the argument and in the concept is the fact that those who would argue it are looking at it in human terms. You and another tried the argument with me, one even going so far as to imply that I must've had "daddy" issues growing up, that my dislike of it in reference to God had something to do with my upbringing. Couldn't be further from the truth.

It is simply a matter of respect and reverence for the Creator, who is decidely not human. My concern in the use of "daddy" is that we begin to humanize God. We begin to place expectations, beliefs, and feelings which can be dangerous. I mean, there are some pretty harsh retorts one could take with the concept. "How would you look at your "daddy" if he told you literally wipe people from their land?" "How would you feel if your "daddy" told you to sacrifice your child to see how obedient you were?" "How would you feel about your "daddy" if He allowed some of your "brothers and sisters" to spend eternity in Hell?"

What is the response? The popular one we hear an awful lot in the church to almost everything that "we" don't like is, "MY God wouldn't do that!" How much easier is it for us to say, "My daddy wouldn't do that!"?

Is God a loving Father of unimaginable love for us? Absolutely!!! And I agree, we all need to remember that and live into that far more than we do, however He is also a God who demands accountability.

Ultimately, I could care less what anyone calls God in their time with Him, that is between a person and their Maker. My issue is purely the humanization of God and the God we are all too often presenting not only to an unbelieving world, but also to our churches.

As for the translation of "Abba", I will agree at least partially with your "daddy". We don't have an exact translation in our language for the word. However, from everything I've read and researched, the word "Abba" is a word that denotes an emphatic crying out to the Father, such as "Oh Father!" I've yet to see anything that would lead me to believe that "daddy" is a fitting translation. With that said, obviously I'm open to be shown, but I just haven't seen it yet.

With all of that said, I do want to close by saying for anyone else that may be reading this, that I do consider Marie a friend and she is one of the most Godly women I have had the pleasure of meeting :)

Marie said...

Thanks for the compliment.
I wish we could talk in person. I'm not saying this unkindly. I like you too and I love your wife--I know her better! :) You keep me laughing on FB. ;)

I agree that God is NOT just our Daddy. As I said previously, He is multi-faceted. If I only use one word to describe Him, I've missed most of who He is. I agree He must be respected and He is a God who not only loves, but also judges. He is the Awesome Creator, the Healer, He is HOLY, He is just. He is MANY things. If I focus on Him only as judge I run into major problems in my relationship with Him too!!!

I understand your concern about focusing only on the loving side of God and agree with you. But I don't feel that in order to see God as holy and just that I can no longer call Him my Daddy.
One of the faults I find with your argument is that you say, "My concern in the use of "daddy" is that we begin to humanize God." but you already said that you don't even use the term "daddy" for your own earthly father. So, if you call your earthly father "father" and you call God your Father, you have in a sense done the same thing.
I don't have any idea if you have issues with your earthly dad (sure doesn't sound like it by the way you talk about him) as you feel the other person said you did. However, I think you have issues with the word "Daddy." That's fine! Different words have different connotations for different people. It's ok. But, if you are calling your heavenly Father and your earthly Father the same name, it seems you are doing the same thing you fear is dangerous for me to do. Just a thought...

The Cantankerous Christian said...

Ah, but see, I call my dad, "dad" and when referencing God, I choose "F"ather, which of course is all semantics in and of itself.

God is referred numerous times in the Bible as Father, which at least in my interpretation, has far different meaning than father. The concept of "daddy" or "D"addy, has no such distinction.

This is the least of my concerns with the book. I know that I spent alot of time on it in my initial piece, but what I was trying to relay was how this set the stage and mood of the book and I don't think anyone could argue with me the complete lack of reverence shown for God in the book. And his use of the word "daddy" whether intentional or not, does nothing but to feed into that.

I do regret focusing as much as I did on the "daddy" concept simply because I do now believe that it deflected attention from the more dangerous aspects of the book.

Anyhoot, sometime we'll have to really sit down and hash out this book over coffee :) It's amazing the way that the darn thing keeps finding its way into my path.

Marie said...

Aha! That makes more sense, not that I necessarily agree completely, but at least it fixes what appeared to be a hole in your argument. ;)
I plan to read your paper and the other article. It's been good food for thought. Thanks for discussing it with me!