Here are seven more points about The Shack to amend to my review a couple of days ago. (I did not really want to do this, but I should have known this was coming!)
- Concerning the supposed bad attitude toward Christians and the church: First off, there is no problem being critical of the church. If I remember correctly, Christ was pretty critical of it in the book of Revelation. Also, if we rejected everyone who does such, then we better take another look at the reformers. Besides, (and most importantly) the bad attitude expressed in the book was BEFORE his encounter with God. At that time he also hated God!!!! Things changed…that is the point of the book! We have no knowledge of Mack’s attitude of Christians and the church after his “recovery.”
- Statements in the book may indicate that Young is an inclusivist (i.e. Christ is the only way to God, but the Gospel is not the only way to Christ). If so, I would think that this is the closest position that he holds to that pushes the orthodox line. In doing so he would join C.S. Lewis, the whole Catholic Church, Thomas Aquinas, Gregory Boyd, and others. I am not an inclusivist, but there are some very good people who lean in that direction.
- Concerning the charge of modalism: this concept could not be denied any more clearly in the book. From the book: “We are not three gods, and we are not talking about one god with three attitudes, like a man who is a husband, father, and worker. I am one God and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely one.” It does not get any better than that! Then it says that “we were all in Jesus” during the incarnation. Then people forget that he has clearly just denied modalism and go ahead and make the charge. This is silly folks. We have to be more responsible when evaluating such things, at the pain of tarnishing reputation in a completely ill-founded way. This statement “we are all in Jesus” is very orthodox considering the context in which he has denied modalism. He is just being more Eastern in his expression here, following the Great Cappidocian Father (whom I am sure people could take out of context and blast as modalists too—sigh . . .). We need to understand a concept called perichoresis or mutual indwelling (look it up). In this very orthodox way of describing things, there is a very real sense in which the person of the Trinity mutually indwell one another—they are all in each other while remaining separate persons. In fact, if you were to deny this, you would be unorthodox!! Ironically, I think that Young’s orthodox theological astuteness might have caught many people off guard.
- Remember, anytime one tries to personify God there are going to be issues with those who want to take it too literally. We don’t get a free pass by simply saying it is fiction, I know (and advocates of the book need to quite using the “its fiction” card to liberally). But you try to write a fictional about the Trinity. Better, just think too long about the Trinity. You will end up with some type of unorthodox nuance. That is why I said in my original review, I wish he would have been a little more apophatic about things. However, I don’t have any suggestions on how to present the Trinity and stay out of danger. The only ultimate solution is not to describe the Trinity at all!
- We should never be relying on books such as this to educate the church in basic theology. If we have gotten to that point where someone is in danger of misreading this and becoming a modalist, shame on us. But let us not simply attack these type of books. Let’s just use them to illustrate and stretch us. There will never be a perfect analogy of God—ever!
- Let’s face it, people just get uptight when something gets too popular, ala Left Behind. If it is too popular, Satan must have inspired it. I get tired of this mentality. I say lay off Left Behind and lay off The Shack. Both present a certain theology, both have elements that good Christians are going to disagree with, but neither are THAT dangerous. Just make sure that people are properly discipled. If they are relying on either of these books for their discipleship, again, we have big problems.
- I would have loved to have seen more of the fear of God in this book. I know Christ came to sinners with a message of love and forgiveness. Yet when Isaiah saw God he fell apart. He could have (should have) included both, but focusing on one is not necessarily heresy.
Look, I am not saying I agree with all of this dude’s theology. I could take him apart piece by piece with the significance of his Arminianism assumptions and make it sound as if what he is teaching is going to topple the faith, but that would be dishonest and lack wisdom and perspective. All I am saying is that I don’t see any major line being crossed.