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[Off Topic] The Shack, a Review

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UPDATE:  Dear readers, the movie version of The Shack will be out soon, so I thought it might be a good time to dust off my December 2009 review of the book.

The Shack by William P. Young is an unlikely publishing phenomenon.  The book was first conceived as a private gift to the author’s children and a few friends.  Young’s friends were so thrilled with the manuscript they encouraged him to find a publisher, but after several publishers rejected the book, Young and his friends self-published.  Propelled almost exclusively by word-of-mouth in the evangelical Christian community, sales skyrocketed, and the book has been firmly ensconced in the best seller lists for many months now, with sales topping one million copies.  The Shack has also been a phenomenon in the evangelical Christian community, spawning websites and seminars and breathless blurbs such as the one by a theology professor comparing The Shack to Pilgrim’s Progress.

This Thanksgiving my wife and I took a trip to visit family in Clear Lake, Iowa, and we decided we would use our time on the road to see what all the fuss was about.  We popped an audio copy of the book into the CD player, and by the end of the trip we had finished the book, and I was deeply troubled.

The Shack is the story of Mackenzie Phillips, known as “Mack” to his friends.  Mack grew up in the Midwest, the son of an abusive Bible-thumping alcoholic father who beat him and his mother regularly.  Mack left home at an early age and after spending several years wondering the globe and attending seminary, he settles in the Pacific Northwest with his wife Nan and their five children.  On a weekend camping trip a serial killer abducts Mack’s youngest child, Missy, and takes her to an abandoned shack, where he murders her.  Mack is devastated by the loss, and sinks under “the great sadness.”  All of this back story is recounted in flashback.  The book’s narrative begins four years after Missy’s death, when Mack receives an invitation from “Papa” to visit him at the shack where Missy died.  Mack reluctantly accepts the invitation and travels to the shack where he meets God, who appears to him in three persons, God the Father in the form of a large black woman who invites him to call her “Papa,” God the Son in the form of a Jewish handyman, and God the Holy Spirit in the form of a small Asian woman named Sarayu.  Most of the rest of the book is a dialogue between Mack and these persons, in which Williams explores themes of the problem of evil (what theologians call the “theodicy”), the incarnation, the trinity, free will and determinism, forgiveness and relationships.

I can understand why The Shack has become such a phenomenon.  Williams is a talented story teller, and he weaves his theological discussions into the narrative deftly without allowing the story to get bogged down in dry theory.  Williams treats us to a profound discussion of the problem of evil.  How can a loving God allow such evil to befall His creation?  How can He allow innocents like Missy to suffer so horribly?  Surely He could have prevented Missy’s death, and by not preventing it when he could have done so easily, is He not in a sense responsible for it?  Papa tells Mack that evil is the inevitable result of free will.  God chose to limit Himself by giving man the ability to choose.  Man chose evil, and this has led to immense suffering, even by those who have not yet chosen evil themselves.  At one point Jesus says, “To force my will upon you is exactly what love does not do.”  And at another Papa says, “If I take away the consequences of people’s choices, I destroy the possibility of love.”

God allows evil because He allows love, which requires Him to allow us to choose.  God’ heart breaks at the evil His children have caused, but He will not intervene now in a direct way.  Instead, He will use all things, even man’s evil, to accomplish His purposes in the end, and in the mean time, Papa says, “You’ve just gotta trust my love.”

Here Williams echoes Dostoevsky in Brothers Karamazov.  The atheist, Ivan, spews at his Christian brother Alyosha:   ” Listen! if everyone must suffer, in order to buy eternal harmony with their suffering, pray tell me what have children got to do with it? It’s quite incomprehensible why they should have to suffer, and why they should buy harmony with their suffering.”

The problem of innocent suffering nearly drove Dostoevsky mad, and his Alyosha never attempted to rebut Ivan with a theoretical Christian apologetic; for Dostoevsky knew that all attempts at theodicy are ultimately unsatisfying, and in the end all we can do is confess that in this age we see through a glass darkly, and while we are waiting for the time when we shall see face to face, the best we can do is hope and trust in God’s love demonstrated to us at the Cross.

Williams’s discussion of the incoherence of relativism is spot on.  Sarayu asks Mack “what is good?” and Mack responds with a standard “the good is the desirable and the desirable is what I actually desire” relativist answer.  Sarayu responds that Mack’s standard is no standard at all, because things he once found desirable he no longer desires.  Therefore, if the standard shifts even within Mack, how could it possibly by used to judge among others, and any attempt to use a shifting standard must result in chaos.

Mack asks “Why do I have so much fear in my life?”  God answers:  “Because you don’t believe.”  Truly, if we believe what we say we believe – that we serve the all powerful and loving God who spoke and the universe leapt into existence at the sound of His voice – then why do we fear?

Williams’ discussion of forgiveness is perhaps the best I have ever read.  Forgiveness does not mean forgetting (how can it); nor does it mean that we cannot be angry and hurt at the wrong we have suffered.  Nor is it a once and for all event.  It is a process that begins with the choice to relieve the other from condemnation and judgment (to “take your hand off of their throat” as Williams puts it).  That choice must be followed by successive choices.  Every time the matter is brought to mind we must choose to forgive yet again.  Forgiveness is the choosing of the other, and in that sense it is little different from love.  And forgiveness is powerful.  Williams writes:  “Every time you forgive, the universe changes.”  Indeed.

But for all of its powerful insights and provocative images, at the end of The Shack I was deeply troubled, and I cannot recommend it, because The Shack is rife with error.  Indeed, the error in The Shack is perhaps the most powerful kind of error because it is mixed with powerful truth, which makes the error all the more attractive to the undiscerning.

Before turning to the book’s shortcomings, let me first say a word about a criticism of the book that I do not share.  Some commentators have attacked Williams’ use of the “Papa” metaphor as flippant or even sacrilegious.  This attack is not entirely fair, because Williams is careful to explain that his images of God are strictly metaphorical.   Any attempt to capture the character of God must necessarily be incomplete and metaphorical.  Nevertheless, if the author is able to use the metaphor to express more clearly some aspect of God’s character in a way that helps people understand, then it is a good thing.  There are plenty of reasons to be disturbed by The Shack, but its provocative use of metaphor is not one of them.

Now to the parts of the book I found troubling.

There are numerous technical heresies in the book, which others have documented, and I see no reason to replicate that technical discussion here.  Instead, I will point you to Norman Geisler’s excellent summary here.

Williams’ many doctrinal failures, troubling as they may be, are not, for me at least, the main problem with the book.  The main problem with The Shack it is that it is so completely infused with the zeitgeist, the spirit of our age.  It is no wonder The Shack is so popular.  Far from challenging the biases and preconceptions of our time, Williams panders to and reinforces them.  He tells people what they have been preconditioned to want to hear, and it is little wonder they are lining up in droves to hear it.  Let me give a few examples:

Emasculating God.  In our postmodern age manliness and masculine virtues are under attack.  Far from challenging that bias Williams gives us a feminine, even an emasculated, God.  It is no accident that two of the three images Williams uses for God are women.  Now the metaphor of God as a kindly black woman who bakes scones is not necessarily wrong in itself.  God is kind and tender.  But Williams errs when he suggests that is anything close to a complete picture, that God is only tender and kind.  God is also a consuming fire, powerful beyond our imagining, and fearsome.  When Isaiah encountered God he fell on his face and cried “Woe is me; for I am undone!”  Williams’ effete God is not the God of the Bible.

Anti-Church.  In his website Williams declares that he is not a member of any church.  This is consistent with his statements in The Shack in which he declares that God hates religion and has no use for churches.  This is absurd.  God clearly ordains and establishes the church in Scripture.  Leave it to Williams to suggest that Paul and Augustine and Martin Luther and Charles Wesley all had it wrong, that we need to throw out Scripture and 2,000 years of tradition and do it his way.  The spirit of our age tells us that traditional institutions – including marriage and the church and the family – must be changed to suit our more enlightened preferences.  Williams does not challenge that spirit; he bows to it.

Flirtation with Universalism.  “Inclusiveness” may be the only sacred tenet of postmodernism, and the spirit of our postmodern age simply cannot abide the gospel’s claims of exclusivity.  Jesus said that he is the Way and that no one can approach the Father except through him.  Now Jesus’ claim may be true and it may be false, but one thing it is not is inclusive.  Jesus did not say he is one way or, as Williams puts it, the “best way” to God.  Jesus said he is THE WAY.  “Christian” means literally “little Christ” and by extension a follower of Christ.  Williams’ God, who declares he has no interest in making people into Christians, is not the God of the Bible.

Ranting Against Hierarchy.  Postmodern theorists tell us that all narratives are about power relationships, and Williams keys off of this concept when he says that all hierarchies are evil.  Scripture tells us just the opposite, that God has ordained hierarchy in government, in the church and in the family.

I could multiply examples of Williams’ frothy postmodern platitudes, but you get the point.  Williams is a man of his times and he has no interest in challenging the spirit of his age.  In summary, I believe Geisler’s conclusions are apt and quote them at length here:

The Shack may do well for many in engaging the current culture, but not without compromising Christian truth. The book may be psychologically helpful to many who read it, but it is doctrinally harmful to all who are exposed to it. It has a false understanding of God, the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, the nature of man, the institution of the family and marriage, and the nature of the Gospel. For those not trained in orthodox Christian doctrine, this book is very dangerous. It promises good news for the suffering but undermines the only Good News (the Gospel) about Christ suffering for us. In the final analysis it is only truth that is truly liberating. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). A lie may make one feel better, but only until he discovers the truth. This book falls short on many important Christian doctrines. It promises to transform people’s lives, but it lacks the transforming power of the Word of God (Heb. 4:12) and the community of believers (Heb. 10:25)

41 Replies to “[Off Topic] The Shack, a Review

  1. 1
    JDH says:

    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; II Tim 4:3

  2. 2

    I got through about 100 pages of the book and had to put it down, so grating was it on my sensibilities.

  3. 3
    Berceuse says:

    Universalism doesn’t really bother me.

  4. 4
    DonaldM says:

    The couples group my wife and I belong to in our church decided this was the book they wanted to do. I had the same experience as Bill it grated on me. I had many of the same reactions as Barry outlines here. Its amazing how often people think they’ve gained some great new spiritual insight with a cleverly (and even entertainingly) worded attack on Orthodoxy as if by being unorthodox, its automatically true.

    For our next book, the couples group took my recommendation and we’re doing “How Now Shall We Live” by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey. Much better!! Much!!

  5. 5
    tragic mishap says:

    Thanks Barry I’ve not heard of this book but it was a good review. I’ve encountered some of this postmodern Christian literature in college from authors like Don Miller and Brian McLaren. I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t pose a huge threat to Christianity because there’s simply no substance to it. It’s a fad and will pass. It’s similar to the health and wealth stuff that used to be popular.

  6. 6
    Cable says:

    Reading the book was one of the most painful things I have done. There was some good imagery in the book but like Dr. Dembski I would have quite long before finishing it if it had not been the fact that I had told someone I would read it.

    Frankly I can’t stand this modern emphasis on spirituality. I think an atheist is easier to reach than someone who is “spiritual”. Many “spiritual” peopl don’t believe in truth at at all. They simply believe in their emotions.

  7. 7
    DonaldM says:

    Cable “Many “spiritual” peopl don’t believe in truth at at all. They simply believe in their emotions.”

    Excellent point!

  8. 8
    Barry Arrington says:

    tragic mishap at [5]. You are quite correct. The Shack is no threat to Christianity. But it may be a threat to individual Christians, or those who would be Christians, if they embrace its errors.

  9. 9
    Berceuse says:

    Cable, I agree. Today’s new age emphasis on spirituality and pluaralism is very irritating. Deepak Chopra is one of these offendors. Like you said with emotions, they’ll believe in, and stress the importance of, “love” and whatnot but prefer to stay in a nebulous cloud of metaphysical truth or non-truth. They refuse to dispense with the BS and adress the core issues of our ontological questions.

  10. 10
    tribune7 says:

    Why would he name the guy Mackenzie Phillips and the god-figure Papa? Did he work in any references to Cass Elliot?

  11. 11
    Zach Bailey says:

    Disappeared?

  12. 12
    Clive Hayden says:

    Zach,

    Yes, your sarcasm was not adding anything to the discussion.

  13. 13
    Barb says:

    I think it’s designed to appeal to those who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, that is, they don’t believe in or want any part of organized religion.

  14. 14
    CannuckianYankee says:

    I would hazzard a guess that Oprah will feature the book as a ‘must read.’

  15. 15
    halo says:

    Very good review Barry, I especially agree with the emasculating God bit.

    may I ask, are you Reformed and a Complementarian?

  16. 16
    riddick says:

    I guess I’m the heretic in the group. God does, in fact, hate religion. And the more organized, the worse it is. Jesus came to form an organism, not an organization (or a plurality of them).

    http://gracewalkministries.blo.....lgion.html

  17. 17
    selectedpete says:

    Barry – Thank you for this review and the links/references to Geisler’s work too. I fear that even Oprah would not endorse this book because she is so far removed from anything slightly resembling Christian doctrine now – she is fast becoming another, slicker Shirley McClain (who is, I am told, becoming a god as we speak). I am going to call this book for what it really is – insidious false doctrine that will mislead many and solidify their false impressions of the God of the Bible. A basic primer on the full range of the attributes of God through the Bible will stop this book cold in its tracks, but I fear most will skip that primer in favor of Desperate Housewives.

    DonaldM [7]: The Colson Pearcey work is great, and I would suggest adding Pearcey’s “Total Truth” if you have not already. Very well done. She also does a decent job touching on the evolution debate and features a foreward by Phillip Johnson.

  18. 18
    StephenB says:

    The name of the game is to emphasize all the “soft” virtues, such as compassion, kindness, tolerance, congeniality, tenderness, and inclusion, all of which are good, but demand little exertion, while de-emphasizing all the “hard” virtues, such as chastity, courage, valor, sacrifice, persistence, and righteous anger applied in proportion, all of which require sweating blood.

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    Many Christians seem to believe that the cross was only for Jesus Christ, whereas the cross is for all of us.

  20. 20
    IRQ Conflict says:

    riddick@16

    God hates mans religion. Not the Church that Christ built.

    Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    Hebrews 10:25 (King James Version)

    25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

  21. 21
    Brent says:

    Barry,

    Anti-Church. In his website Williams declares that he is not a member of any church. This is consistent with his statements in The Shack in which he declares that God hates religion and has no use for churches. This is absurd. God clearly ordains and establishes [T]he [C]hurch in Scripture. Leave it to Williams to suggest that Paul and Augustine and Martin Luther and Charles Wesley all had it wrong, that we need to throw out Scripture and 2,000 years of tradition and do it his way.

    Flag! Major, major equivocation. I am a missionary and I don’t belong to a church either. I don’t go to church. I fellowship! I meet with other believers who, together, form The Church, The Body of Christ. In scripture you may find the word “churches”, but always in the context of where Christians were wont to meet. I am The Church (or at least a part of it), along with any other believer, to the degree that I allow Christ to live in me.

    Riddle me this: How does any objective reading of scripture not conclude that our modern understanding of church is completely in line with what Paul roundly rebuked in I Corinthians 1:10~13? Make no mistake, The Church is real and firmly established of God, but we must not make the mistake of equating our current mish-mash of sectarian Sunday gathering for being a part of that true Church.

    Further, why do Christians assume that what happens, for most, at a meeting on Sunday mornings constitutes fulfilling some scriptural obligation? As far as I can tell, the only thing we are exhorted to do is to fellowship with other saints, and even this cannot be made a law. Sure, you can’t make eating a law either, though it is a very wise thing to practice. Nonetheless, even making what is most wise and prudent a law goes against what Christ nailed to the cross.

    If we continue acting as if attending some Sunday morning church meeting is sufficient to fulfill some obligation we have to be considered “in the faith”, we will effectively conclude that those who fairly regularly attend such meetings to be heaven-bound saints, when as yet they are still very much children of the Devil.

    To whit, would Young’s errors, which you nicely point out, be any less serious or null if he did, in fact (and for all we know may), attend a church meeting every Sunday, or Wednesday, or both?

    Leonard Ravenhill says:

    The fastest shortcut to Hell is down the middle aisle of the average church.

    I, unfortunately, couldn’t agree more, and I think this quote fits nicely with what you are saying in general.

    Thanks for the review, which is very good, but I cannot pass without noting our all too long inconsistancy of our use of the word church and The Church.

  22. 22
    Brent says:

    Oh,

    This is consistent with his statements in The Shack in which he declares that God hates religion and has no use for churches.

    Without knowing the context of the statement, but taking your word for it at its face value, I couldn’t disagree more with Young on that. Such a statement makes me wonder if Young has ever bothered to open up a Bible at all, not withstanding my above comments. Certainly God does and desires to use local churches, the gathering of His saints as the Body of Christ.

    The problem is that we should not assume that any particular local “church” is actually in line with God’s Word and will. I.E., Jesus having to knock at the door of “His own church” in Rev. 3:20.

  23. 23
    riddick says:

    Thank you, Brent, for your eloquent post at 21. We don’t GO to church, we ARE the church.

  24. 24
    Clive Hayden says:

    riddick, Brent,

    Thank you, Brent, for your eloquent post at 21. We don’t GO to church, we ARE the church.

    And we go to church. We do not forsake the gathering of ourselves together, as is the manner of some.

  25. 25
    Brent says:

    Clive,

    Yes, we meet together and fellowship as the Body of Christ.

    But, does the act of meeting together, itself, constitute adherence to this exhortation? On the face of it, sure. However we would be very naive and ignorant of the rest of scripture to think that we are having real and meaningful fellowship just by the mere act of meeting together.

    Didn’t Paul also speak of the Corinthians’ meeting together doing more harm than good (I Cor. 11:17~22)?

  26. 26
    Brent says:

    What is more to the point, however, is this: When are we The Church? When we meet together? When we give our lives to Christ? When we are healthy spiritually? When we are sick spiritually?

    It seems that I Cor. 12 indicates that we are a part of the Body of Christ, The Church, even when we are acting contrary to being a part of the body. We are placed in the body at the point of salvation. Fellowship—meeting together—is just one of many things that a healthy member of that body does, or at least should. The act of meeting together, however, is not what constitutes our being a part of the Body. It is, or at least should be, rather, a consequent of it.

    So, a non-believer walks in and joins a local church meeting. He “fellowships” with them. Is he a part of The Church? No! Even though he “went to church”. If he should attend for 30 years the situation would be the same.

    Anyway, I don’t know that we are necessarily at odds as I agree that Christians should certainly fellowship. For me the important thing for Christians to be honest about is that true fellowship doesn’t necessarily (rarely, I would say) happen in what most of us know today as church meetings.

  27. 27
  28. 28
    Timm says:

    Barry,

    Although there are couple of points in your review I don’t totally agree with, I think your review is excellent. It is a pleasure to read someone who doesn’t attack or demean another’s view of God, or the entity we have been taught to call God.

    If more people had your tone, discussions like these would be as pleasurable as the tone you set in your original post. Your intelligent presentation seemed to permeate the comments made to your post. On top of that, you are a very good writer.

    I read The Shack when it first came out and I was also somewhat uncomfortable with some of his characterizations. Frankly, I was surprised it went on to such commercial success – the last group of people I would have expected to embrace The Shack would be evangelical groups.

    BTW, the part of your commentary I don’t totally agree with is the emasculation of God. The monotheistic deity is Infinite. I believe this infinite presence has no limitations or boundary whatsoever and to view this presence as “him”, is to put a limitation on one who has no limits. I’m not trying to sound “new-agey”, but God isn’t male or female, God is both. Being limited by the tool of human language man must try to articulate this magnificent infiniteness with words. Words can not express the Truth about god, but it is all we have. Jesus himself articulated this Infiniteness as “Abba” (Father) so I could be wrong, but Jesus used the language of his day and culture to articulate in words something that words can’t adequately express.

    Also, I too doubt God hates religion. “He” might however disapprove to what man has made of many religions. The things that are wrong with religious beliefs systems are of man. The things that are right about them are of God.

  29. 29
    reconcile says:

    Thanks for the review. I’ve had ‘The Shack’ for over a year but neglected to read it because I feared it would be no better than most of the new age garbage I used to read years ago. And apparently so, based on your review.

    Just a few of points:

    Regarding “freewill” vs “determinism” – no matter which you believe, the existence of evil is surely God’s responsibility. Man may “choose it”, but God designed it into the creation as a possibility. Perhaps evil is necessary solely for faith to exist.

    Regarding “Universalism”: The Good News is that all men are raised. Whether or not some/all/none will be cast into eternal hell-fire can be debated theologically, but it is most definitely not the gospel Christians were entrusted with. The good news is “Life Assurance”, not “Fire Insurance”.

    Regarding “God hates churches”: It is simply man’s nature to turn faith into religion. Christians are no different from anyone else in this regard. I believe the author has in mind religion as a conforming entity to worldly power.

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    Timm, thank you for your kind words. I think you may have misunderstood me regarding the “emasculation of God” issue. I do not maintain that God is a man, but I do maintain that he exhibits perfectly all of the manly virtues. In The Shack Williams makes God into a wimpy new age scone baker. It is his uni-dimensional feminine-only god with which I disagree.

  31. 31
    Brent says:

    God must encompass feminine traits or He wouldn’t be infinite—something would necessarily have to exist outside of Him otherwise. Nonetheless, He determined to reveal Himself as masculine. I don’t think He needs us to come to His defense on this matter.

    Sorry if this reads terse. It isn’t in any way meant to be.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    Brent, I am not defending God. You are quite correct. He does not need us to defend him. I am resisting the propogation of error, a potentially very dangerous error.

  33. 33
    Brent says:

    Barry,

    I wasn’t directing that at you. I think I understood you and agree with your critique.

    I also want to mention that I wasn’t trying to say you were being deliberately equivocal in my post at #21. I just think there is a real need to rightfully divide the word when it comes to “churches”—the places where Christians meet—and “going to church, from The Church, the Body of Christ.

  34. 34
    Brent says:

    I also want to say thank you! Thank you for taking the time and being concerned enough for the faith to post things such as this. It is encouraging.

  35. 35
    Barry Arrington says:

    Thank you Brent.

  36. 36
    origin_surgeon says:

    I invite everyone to Paul Flyyn’s intriguing documentary about the Shack, and its issues of theology.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epEQv6-5u0U

  37. 37
    Marfin says:

    Brent The Church is both universal and local , those christians who were at Ephesus , or Corinth were members of the church local and universal.Letters to the church at Galatia,Thessolnica , the messages in the first chapters of revelations to the churchs at Sardis, Pergamum, etc.
    In Acts 14.23 the Apostles appointed Elders in every Church.Paul directed the church at Corinth to give on the first day of the week just as the church in Galatia.
    I could go on if you need more convincing.

  38. 38
    DebianFanatic says:

    The English word “church” should have never appeared in our Bibles; it should have been “congregation” or “assembly”, like was the case with Tyndale’s earlier English translation. You can thank King Jimmy for the word “church”, which supported long-established tradition, and written English tradition established 51 years earlier by the Geneva Bible, but which does not support proper principles of translation. “Eklessia” != “church”. “church” is a crossover word that comes from a different base word, “kuriokon” (“the lord’s”), which I believe is not even used in the New Testament, but definitely not used in reference to the body of believers.

    Most versions of the Bible still mistranslate “ekklesia” with this word (the WEB is one of the rare exceptions), but they do translate it properly in Acts 19:32, where it’s applied to the mob intent on killing Paul. As a friend of mine points out somewhat tongue-in-cheek, instead of rendering the phrase in Rom 16:16 as “churches of Christ”, his favored rendering would be “mobs of the Messiah”.

  39. 39
    Florabama says:

    Someone gave it to me last year and I read it. I am steeped in reformed theology (Presbyterian) for the last 40 years and have a degree in religion and a very high, orthodox view of the sovereignty of Almighty God and of the Trinity and scripture, but I didn’t find the book as troubling as you describe, Barry. In fact I liked it very much and have recommended it. I just throw in some caveats about the theology with my recommendation.

    But what’s fascinating about this discussion here at U.D. in light of the recent discussions of Dr. Demski leaving I.D. (and I note Dr Demski commented @2) is that, as a biblical creationist, this is exactly how I treat I.D. I fully support I.D. in spirit and in wallet (having sent quit a few checks to Discovery Institute over the years) even though not everything that comes out of I.D. jives with my theology, but that’s OK. I simply take the good and give due consideration to the other with the inner assurance that it will all pan out in the end. As long as we’re moving in the right direction, we don’t all have to agree on everything. Lewis pointed us to “Mere Christianity,” and I note that Dr. Demski pointed us to Mere Creation[ism]. As long as someone is in the ballpark on the basics, then I count them an ally, and we all need to remember that fighting with our allies is not productive. As the lines of our “culture war” are drawn more sharply than ever, fighting each other is the last thing we need to do – a point that I made to Mr. Klinghoffer last week about his article on, as he put it, the “bromance” between creationists and Darwinists.

    I really liked the main thrust of the book, which was that there is always reconciliation between God and man – a point that I think the church needs to make preeminent – and the auxiliary point that all people (Including Dawkins, Krauss, Meyers, Hillary Clinton et al) are Imago Dei — made in the image of God. Both of those points need to be in the forefront of the church’s dealings with the culture, I think the Shack made those points well even if it didn’t get much else theologically right. Those points are worth saying and the fact that the Shack has become a phenomenon is a good thing, and as someone who believes in the complete sovereignty of God, not an accident.

  40. 40
    Phinehas says:

    I haven’t read The Shack, so feel free to take the following with a pinch of salt.

    What bothers me the most from the reviews I have read is how readily Young seems to eschew Biblical revelation in favor of internal experience. My mind can’t help but turn to the 2nd commandment when I hear people say, “Well the God I believe in…” I wonder whether the progressive version of crafting graven images with our hands might be crafting comforting images with our minds. It smacks of idolatry. The God who IS must surely be more important than whatever I believe. And how could there possibly be a method for understanding the God who IS that is more trustworthy than His own inspired word? Turning to personal beliefs based on internal experience over the Bible seems the height of arrogance to me.

  41. 41
    rvb8 says:

    This is an absolutely fascinating post, thank you.

    Brent, I grew up Catholic, and even as a child I felt it odd that the Church had such a business like structure.

    What you describe as fellowship in the Body of Christ is perhaps the most appealing doctrine in Christianity I miss.

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