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Seven More Points About The Shack

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!)

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

240 Responses to “Seven More Points About The Shack”

  1. What I love about this whole Shack kerfluffle is that many of those who hate the book because of the theology love TV shows such as 24 – you know, the one that answers the burning question, “WWJT” (Who Would Jesus Torture)

  2. Thanks for the review. I’ve heard others tear this guy apart unfairly. The modalism issue is off base as well. I liked the book and agree with you about the fear of God missing. Thanks man. Much appreciated.

  3. Dac, why would you love the fact that people are inconsistent or even hypocritical? Not an approach of love to those people that would be in some sort of error. More significantly, however, their inconsistancy is irrelevant to the correctness or incorrectness of their views on the Shack. Your argument amounts to no more than a smug and superior ad hominen argument.

    regards,
    John

  4. To paraphrase CMP: Reading The Shack won’t send you to hell – so those who haven’t yet read the book should, IMO, withhold their criticism(s) until they have read it, since doing so will cost you very little in terms of time and/or money – you can buy it super-cheaply at Costco, or you likely have friends who will lend you their copy, or you can go to Barnes & Noble and read it for free in a chair or at their coffee cafe. You should be able to finish it in an hour or two, but to echo others here, IMO it’s not written very well (as in “literature”), so you may find the going tough at times. You will likely find things you like and things you’ll find theologically and Scripturally troubling (but the same could be said about Calvin’s Institutes). Personally, I was most impacted by Chapter 11, “Here Comes Da Judge.”

  5. I haven’t read the book, so I cannot fairly judge its contents.

    However, it seems to me there is a greater issue here. What do we read and what do we watch? It seems to me in our culture we have gone overboard on Christian books, DVD’s and the like. Does it strike anyone else here that they’ve almost become a subsitute for the Bible itself in some respects? Kind of like a non-threatening middle ground so to speak. We can read and study the authors who most agree with our opinion, and feel good about ourselves.

    I am a big reader. I read all kinds of books, however and I don’t want to pat myself on what I am about to say, believe me, or sound smug, but several years ago I found I was reading more books about Christianity than the Bible itself. What happened was that I eventually found I was moving more to a one sided view of God, by taking on the view of the author I was reading at the time as fact, rather than all the facets of God.

    That’s the danger I see, that it almost becomes an adverserial relationship between a ‘Christian’ book’s views, fiction or non-fiction, and the Bible. That happened to me when I began studying Calvinism versus Arminianism. One week I would be one and then the next book would convince me I should be another.

    When I gave up reading so many books about God and start getting deeper into the Bible, i could see the error of my own ways. I still read a lot of books. However, I have learned to take all of them with a grain of salt, because I know if I’m not careful I will wind up getting man’s and God’s opinion confused again.

    Scripture says there is wisdom in many counselors, but there is also confusion in too many voices.

  6. You keep saying that we shouldn’t rely on books like this to teach people basic theology. Maybe the church isn’t relying on books like this per se. But people are learning at least some of their theolgy from this book. People have stated so over and over. So I can’t help but think a book of this type has a very inherent danger to it. Many people don’t seem to be able to read it strictly as fiction, even though they may know it is, without at least some of Young’s theolgy rubbing off.

  7. I got a copy of the Shack for my Birthday, upon which my wife promptly pounced upon it and started reading it. So I will not be able to offer up an opinion on the book itself until she is done.

    However I would like to note that Young, like myself, is from the Christian and Missionary Alliance background. Most Alliance folks, like myself, hold to an Arminian theology, so yes we are going to have Arminian assumptions.

    I think the proper term for this is “Biblical assumptions”. :)

    But seriously though, although CMP and I have very different theological viewpoints on a whole host of topics, on the essentials we are the same, and I appreciate the fact that we can have some great discussions without acrimony on this site.

  8. Cheryl, I seriously doubt his theology in the sense you are still arguing (bad theology) is rubbing off. I would need some sort of illustrative proof of this (i.e. people becoming modalists, etc).

    I have talked to dozens of people who have been affected by this book in that it helped them see God’s love and deal with a troubling evil. I would include myself in that bunch. None of us have moved away from orthodoxy in any area (even though none of us starts off perfectly orthodox as God is the only one who is perfect in truth).

    As well, I imagine that it is helping people to understand the orthodox view of God in its denial of modalism and affirmation of perichoresis. AS WELL, it makes a good case against open theism. AS WELL, it militates against the theology of Kurshner, whom many follow in their pain.

    There is just so much to commend about his presentation of cardinal issues of the faith.

  9. CMP,

    Yeah, they are seeing God’s love. But part of God’s love in the book is that He doesn’t need to punish people for sin and it is not His purpose to punish it–said in the context of a discussion on eternal punishment. If that is the way God’s love should come to be understood, is that in itself not a very significant problem?

    How can a book accurately give a picture of God’s love for people to adopt, when part of the picture given is that He doesn’t purpose to punish sin? Maybe people aren’t picking up on that statement and maybe it is not affecting them. But that is a lot to assume. And you and others have talked about the lack of the fear of God in the book. Giving people a one sided view of God is always a dangerous thing to do, is it not?

    Mbaker’s personal testimony above of how the books she read all affected her view of God for many years, is a case in point.

  10. Cheryl, I already discussed this with you and expressed disagreement about your statements about the “not punishing sin” stuff.

    But I could ask you this: How could someone grow in an understanding of God when he presents man as autonomous in acceptance of God. Man will aways feel as if they are the ones who are responsible for choosing God and thereby misrepresent God’s sovereign person and actions in their lives.

    You see, focusing on certian elements and making them more than they are can sound pretty good. But in the end, they are very dismissive and alarmist, especially of this book.

  11. There are other elements of the book that trouble me too. I just brought out one that I found very troubling and to me is quite blatant. Enough of this conversation for me. Have to get busy with other things here.

  12. From CMP’s earlier thread on THE SHACK:

    41. cheryl u on 19 Apr 2009 at 10:34 pm #

    Before I go any further here, I need to remind people that I haven’t read this book. I’ve read many reviews, extensive quotes, and talked to people who have read it–they have had widely differing opinions on it, by the way.

    From this thread:

    6. cheryl u on 20 Apr 2009 at 9:22 am #

    You keep saying that we shouldn’t rely on books like this to teach people basic theology. Maybe the church isn’t relying on books like this per se. But people are learning at least some of their theolgy from this book. People have stated so over and over. So I can’t help but think a book of this type has a very inherent danger to it. Many people don’t seem to be able to read it strictly as fiction, even though they may know it is, without at least some of Young’s theolgy rubbing off.

    9. cheryl u on 20 Apr 2009 at 9:51 am #

    CMP,

    Yeah, they are seeing God’s love. But part of God’s love in the book is that He doesn’t need to punish people for sin and it is not His purpose to punish it–said in the context of a discussion on eternal punishment. If that is the way God’s love should come to be understood, is that in itself not a very significant problem?

    How can a book accurately give a picture of God’s love for people to adopt, when part of the picture given is that He doesn’t purpose to punish sin? Maybe people aren’t picking up on that statement and maybe it is not affecting them. But that is a lot to assume. And you and others have talked about the lack of the fear of God in the book. Giving people a one sided view of God is always a dangerous thing to do, is it not?

    cheryl u:

    Per my earlier post, I recommend that people read The Shack for themselves before extensively commenting on it. Going by what other people say, even people one trusts, is (as we were taught in school) using secondary sources, and our research papers required us to use primary sources. E.g., we were not just to read and quote what so-and-so said that Winston Churchill wrote or said, but what Churchill actually wrote in the letter(s) under discussion.

    Of course, that will now make your comments a “secondary source” re: The Shack, but your ideas and comments about The Shack will then only have your filters, not yours + those of whosever article(s) you read. And in the case of The Shack, I personally found that I had to read it for myself to separate the wheat from the chaff and the concerns from the no-big-deals that some people were getting either worked up over or acting nonchalantly about (in my secondary-source personal opinion!).

  13. cheryl, you state God’s purpose is to punish sin. How far will you take that? Was his purpose in sending Christ to separate out for himself a people to punish? Or to punish sin in Christ? Yes, that happened, but was it God’s purpose? As if Genesis should say “Let us create man in our image so he can fall and we can accomplish our purpose – to punish sin.”

    God’s wrath is real, and sin, in light off the devastation it has produced throughout history, must be punished. But it has been punished. In Christ. God’s wrath is satisfied – propitiation. All sin has been paid for and the door is open for anyone (whosoever) to enter. ( I think this is the majority position of the church, both historically and currently.) Those who choose not to enter will go to hell and be separated from God for eternity.

    But back to the “purpose” point – punishment of sin, though a part of God’s plan, is not his purpose – Titus 2:14 gives us the purpose: “to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

  14. John C.T. –

    It’s all in the Fe

    You can either laugh or cry about things like that.

    I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused.

  15. Dave Z,

    Of course God’s purpose in Christ is to save and redeem people.

    But try reading II Peter 2 or the book of Jude and then tell me that it is not in his purpose, even now in New Testament times, to punish sin when people do not receive that gift of redemption in Christ.

  16. I SAID sin demands punishment. Your passages about evil men and angels just restates that. They don’t speak to God’s purpose.

    So are you lumping The Shack’s author in with those described in those passages?

    Gotta run. I’ll check back in later today.

  17. CMP et al., how can one claim to impacted by the book’s good parts and not give credance to the assertion that the bad parts also have an impact? Perhaps not on you personally, but it’s not a stretch to believe that it will have a negative effect on some.

    In addition to the testimony of those who have been affected negatively by what they’ve read (e.g., Cheryl above), there is the fact that books with incorrect theology create a cultural milieu and general understanding of God that is incorrect. For example, one can readily observe that narrative books and movies, and the lack of correct teaching, has lead to the creation of a creed now dominant among teenagers that Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton have called dubbed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). In their 2005 book “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers” they reported on their study of religion and teenagers, which is the most comprehensive to date. Those two sociologists discovered that rather than transformative revelation from God, religion has instead become a utility for enhancing a teenager’s life.

    Literature that has incorrect theology can, and does, have profound effects on people, especially since most people — especially youth — are not equipped to sift through and properly separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Next point, in relation to those who criticize Cheryl and others for not reading through the entire book. That criticism might have validity if any of you could point out flaws in Cheryl’s writing that arise from not having read something in the book. If that were the case then the critics could say, “hey, you’re wrong on that, the author does something very different on pages xxx to xxx. You should go back and read the whole thing before continuing with your critique.” However, most everyone acknowledges that the book contains incorrect and unorthodox theology. The review by Geisler, a well respected and erudite theologian, is particular good on this point. Those facts provide sufficient grounds for the concerns and points Cheryl raises, and the fact that she hasn’t read the book but instead relies on the findings of others does not invalidate her points (you’d have to invalidate the findings of others, such as Geisler, that the book has wrong and unorthodox theology). It is entirely appropriate to rely on the work of others–this occurs in science and engineering and psychology and business all the time and is essential for those fields to advance.

    Therefore, you cannot hide behind your complaint, “oooh, Cheryl you haven’t read the book so I don’t have to engage your argument”. You aren’t off the hook. Her argument is that books with unorthodox theology have significant negative effects and so should be avoided, especially in light of the fact that our time on earth here is limited and there are other, better books to read.

    regards,
    John

  18. I read the book in full and was troubled by it. I know it’s fiction, but when you read Amazon reviews from folks saying it is as inspired as Scripture (and hear folks close to you say it as well), when everyone keeps saying it has changed their view of God and when people keep speaking of this book taking “God out of the box”, that sound to me like they are forming opinions and there is a real problem there.

    I appreciate that I may be overreacting but I really think there are some major issues which need some frank discussion. (For the record, Left Behind beats The Shack into the dust – and I’m an amillenialist ;) )

  19. Dave Z,

    Please read the entire chapter of Isaiah 14. In there God repeatedly speaks of what He has purposed to do. Guess what? It is to bring judgment and punishment on sin! You might say that this was earthly punishment. However since part of the punishment talked about was the death of the offenders, I don’t believe that argument would hold up at all.

    John C. T,

    You said, “It is entirely appropriate to rely on the work of others–this occurs in science and engineering and psychology and business all the time and is essential for those fields to advance.”

    Thanks. I beleive that is a very valid point.

    And for any one that is interested, there is a reason that I have not read this book so far anyway. Several times when I have been in a place that is selling this book, I have picked it up, with the intention of maybe buying it. Each time I have felt a huge caution which I believe is from the Holy Spirit that has basically said, “Don’t buy it.” So I haven’t.

  20. Saying, “Sure the Shack has some unorthodox theology, but it also has some good stuff and it had a beneficial effect on my own life, but I can agree it’s probably not good for some” is like saying, “Sure, there are some objectionable and wrong aspects to viewing pornography, but as long as you only fantasize about your wife it has a really beneficial effect on your marriage—it did on mine–, but I can agree it’s not for some people”.

    regards,
    John

  21. So is The Shack now being compared to pornography (comment #21.)?

    Godwin’s Law….

  22. Cheryl, the point is that of “purpose.” It is not my purpose to punish my kids when they do wrong, yet this is something that happens. Sometimes out of necessary “built-in” consequences, and sometimes by parental fiat.

    “Purpose” is a very strong word that many people would have trouble with. Now, it does seem that there is a bit of a smokescreen going on here in the book, but nothing expressly denying judgement, punishment, and the terrible nature of sin.

  23. John, you that you keep brining up Geisler is very humorous to me as his book “Choosen but Free” has been reviewed by many Evangelicals as being expressly unorthodox, even Pelagian. I would agree with this. I love Geisler and appreciate so much about what he does in the areas of Prolegomena and Bibliology, but his views of sin, humanity, and salvation are unorthodox. Therefore, I find it funny that we are using one person who has been, as of late, acused of of heretic thought to condemn another who is being accused of the same. Suffice it to say, I think Young’s The Shack is much less problematic than Chosen But Free!

    I think it would be good to recognize once again here that none of us are perfect in our theology. Let us be gracious and try to understand how small of circles we create when we require everyone to nuance everything the way we do.

  24. CMP,

    So why does God repeatedly use the word “purpose” in Isaiah 14 in regard with His intention to bring judgement, punishment and death to evildoers? That is the word used in many versions I checked too, but not all.

    He declared right from the garden of Eden on that sin brings death. It was His declaration right from the beginning. How can we not say it was not His purpose to bring it about? That seems to me like quibbling over words.

    If He is a holy God that can not tolerate sin as we have all been taught and as the Bible says, why is it so difficult to say that it is His purpose to punish sin when it happens?

    And by the way, how come it is not your purpose to punish your kids when they do wrong? The Bible clearly teaches us that we should do so. If it is our purpose to follow what He has said, is it not also our purpose to punish our children when they do wrong?

  25. What do all of you do with the testimony of one like Douglas above who said this: “I read the book in full and was troubled by it. I know it’s fiction, but when you read Amazon reviews from folks saying it is as inspired as Scripture (and hear folks close to you say it as well), when everyone keeps saying it has changed their view of God and when people keep speaking of this book taking “God out of the box”, that sound to me like they are forming opinions and there is a real problem there.”

    Do you really think that there is nothing in this book that can change a person’s theology in an unbiblical way? Because people are being changed by it.

    And by the way, comments such as this, “So are you lumping The Shack’s author in with those described in those passages?” And this, “So is The Shack now being compared to pornography (comment #21.)?” are really not very helpful, and in fact come across as simply rather snide put downs.

  26. Not a snide putdown, but a question.

  27. Cheryl, when you talk about “purpose” to judge sin, you are moving into a supralapsarian Calvinistic camp. While within the bounds of orthodoxy, I believe, I am not that strong of a Calvinist.

    I believe that God does not desire the death or judgement of anyone.

  28. Cheryl, I did not even realize that you had not read the book. It is kinda hard to take your critique seriously. I understand, however, if you don’t want to read it. If you are convicted not to, you should not. But I don’t think you are in a position to continue to evaluate it. Having said that, I think that even if you did read it you are set to see this book a certian way.

  29. If I plan to go on vacation tomorrow and am working to get ready, is it not my purpose to go?

    If I quit doing one job because I am out of time for it and need to move on to another, is it not my purpose to do the next job?

    If I am getting ready to leave the house to go to town and run some errands, is it not my purpose to do the errands?

    And, if God says that if you sin and are unrepentant, you will be cast into a “lake of burning fire”, or if you do not change your behavior in some specific area, He will provide consequences you will not like, is it not His purpose to punish??

    A dictionary definition of purpose that seems to be the one that fits here: ” A result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention”.

    When God intends to punish sin, is it not His purpose?

  30. No, not unless you are a supralapsarian. Are you?

  31. What’s a supralapsarian? Are they smarter than the average Calvinist? Now look, I have to go study a whole new word, but I have chores to do, thank you CMP for tempting me yet again to look at Wikipedia once more….

  32. CMP,

    “I believe that God does not desire the death or judgement of anyone.”

    I am not saying He desires death or judgment on anyone. That does not mean as far as I can tell that He does not intend (purpose) to bring it about if necessary. Don’t we all have to do things at times that we really don’t desire?

    And regarding your comment # 29, did you read what John C. T. said in comment # 18 above? I believe what he said had validity.

    If you said something in an article like, “There is no such a thing as eternal punishmnet for sin,” or maybe, “Of course Jesus sinned while on earth, after all He was a man wasn’t He?”, would I really have to read all of the rest of the article you wrote to know that what you had said was in error? That isn’t even logical. And like John C.T. said above, no one has been able to state that he said something else anywhere else in the book to negate this particular statement. You say he is not negating punishment for sin. That may be true. However, He is saying that He doesn’t need to punish it and that it is not His purpose to. That I do not believe, is true to what the Bible says.

  33. IIRC, in The Shack God’s ultimate purpose seems to be to save and redeem humanity, every last son and daughter of Adam, if possible (it’s been awhile since I’ve read it). To save them from sin and the effects of sin, including the effects that sin had on them with respect to situations, upbringings, experiences, etc., that caused them to sin in the first place.

    Is that unorthodox?

  34. CMP, your reply is merely diversionary and does not address the issues raised by either Geisler or me. That Geisler is accused by some of unorthodoxy on some points (which he disputes) is irrelevant to whether his assessment of the Shack’s unorthodoxy is correct. The points he raised in his review are all, as far as I can tell, within the realm of traditionaly orthodoxy and so his alleged unorthodoxy on other issues is irrelevant. On those points, that is those points on which he is traditionally orthodox (which include all the points in his review) he effectively demonstrates that the Shack is not orthodox. Hence, your reply does not effectively counter anything but merely (and incorrectly) derides those of us who have raised Geisler by tarring us with the brush of negative association (i.e., we are wrong because we associate with /rely on a theologican who is unorthodox in some respects.) Furthermore, as is evident from my comments, and those of others, Geisler’s review is a convenient shorthand way of referring to the theological errors in the Shack. Geisler is not the only one who has identified errors; many have. Consequently, your observation, while amusing to you, does not advance the discussion you started.

    I am somewhat surprised that a teacher of theology would find Geisler’s “Chosen but Free” to be more problematic than the Shack. Geisler’s free will position is within the realm of orthodoxy and is a matter about which thoughtful and Spirit indwelt Christians have debated for centuries without final resolution. However, the Shack’s unorthoxy is, unlike Geisler’s in areas where Christians have not disagreed for centuries or millenia. It is particularly telling that the Windblown website has a section titled, “Is The Shack Heresy? By Wayne Jacobsen”. If the book were merely ficition with the theology incidental to the story, the correct response would have been, “It’s fiction folks, get over it.” But it’s not merely fiction and it attempts to address theological matters and give as the correct response (in the author’s view). Consquently, Jacobsen makes an attempt to demonstrate that the Shack does teach correct and not heretical theology. This approach is in line with what the author wrote, ” I wanted my kids to enjoy a story and through the story to understand there own father better and the God that their father is so in love with.” He wrote it so that his kids could understand God better.

    No one goes to hell for reading something by David Duke or on stormfront.org (racists) either, but that doesn’t mean that one is well advised to do so. Both Deeprak Chopra and Eckhart have insights into life that are frequently true. They are also often very moving in what they write. That does not mean that they should be read by Christians in order to take away the good and leave the bad.

    EricW, you will note, if you read my post, that I did not directly compare the Shack to pornography. I did not say that the Shack was pornographic. I used a vivid illustration to make the point that reading something that contains wrong or harmful material is not justified just because it has a beneficial effect on me and I am not harmed by the bad bits. Furthermore, the reference to Godwin’s law is inapt (and inept) as I did not refer to Nazis or Hitler. I used an illustration that while vivid, is neither a stretch nor an extreme. Chrisians have, in fact, tried to justify the watching of pornagraphy along those very same lines, and some Christians have also asserted that they can be in good conscience both a stripper and a Christian.

    Finally, further to Cheryl’s points, on his blog “windrumors” the author quotes from an email to him, “I didn’t put this in my comment yesterday, but I want you to know that The Shack has been really instrumental in helping me forgive someone that I’ve been angry towards for years. I’ve prayed for so long that God would help me forgive that person, and I never felt like I could. While reading The Shack, I realized that that person is special and so loved by God, and I started feeling the anger in me drain away. I now think of that person with affection, which I never thought could be possible. How Sarayu works! This truly is a miracle.” How Sarayu works? Is that an appropriate response?
    regards,
    John

  35. Regarding comment # 31,

    If purpose is, as the dictionary says, ” A result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention”. Why is God’s intention to punish sin when it occurs not His purpose? Notice the defintion doesn’t say that He has to desire it, only that it has to be “intended, an intention.” Does He not have an intention to punish sin?

  36. John C.T.:

    I know you didn’t mention Hitler, but I mentioned Godwin’s Law as a principle/observation re: how threads/discussions can (d)evolve. And your comparing a person’s qualified comment about the value (or danger) of reading The Shack to a person saying something similar about reading pornography does to me in a sense compare The Shack to pornography, which does seem to be a kind of Godwin’s Law – i.e., eventually the opposing position will be compared to something like pornography. :D

  37. CMP, “Cheryl, I did not even realize that you had not read the book. It is kinda hard to take your critique seriously. I understand, however, if you don’t want to read it. If you are convicted not to, you should not. But I don’t think you are in a position to continue to evaluate it. Having said that, I think that even if you did read it you are set to see this book a certian way.”

    Why is it hard to take her specific critiqure seriously? Her main point is a limited critique, the validity of which does not depend necessarily on having read the book (see my post #18). It’s a cheap, and faulty, attack on her point and not responsive to her point.

    Furthermore, is there anything in Cheryl’s numerous posts on your blog site (on all the various threads) that indicates that she is so closed minded that her mind would not be changed if she read something? Not that I’ve read. We ALL come to books and movies and media with preconceptions and a certain worldview; that does not mean that we are incapable of overcoming them or of seeing past them. So again, another unjustified cheap shot at Cheryl.

    If she had critiqued the writing, or the character development, or the plot, etc. without reading the book, then you might have a justification for your complaint if you could show from the book that she was wrong. One should note that Young did not intend to write well or to “follow the rules of writing” (as he puts it). His chief aim was to write down his own thoughts, including thoughts about God, for his children. His thoughts about God is one of the chief focii of the book, one of its central points and themes. Therefore it is highly appropriate to critique the theology in the book. For you to demonstrate that Cheryl’s point is wrong, you’d have to show from the text that the author does not say what she claims. Which you have not done.

    regards,
    John

  38. EricW, the point about Godwin’s law, if it is to be extended beyond Nazi references, is that a comparison to Nazi’s is both extreme and conversation ending (Since the holocaust is so extreme, there would be nothing greater or worse to compare it to). My use of the pornography illustration was neither extreme nor conversation ending. Hence calling it an example of Godwin’s law is “not appropriate in application” (inapt) and “Displaying a lack of judgment” (inept).

    regards,
    John

  39. Godwin’s law
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Comparisons to Adolf Hitler are an example of Godwin’s law.Godwin’s Law (also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies)[1] is an adage formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states: “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”[2][3]

    Godwin’s Law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the reductio ad Hitlerum form.

    The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases in direct proportion to the length of the discussion. It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued,[4] that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact. Although in one of its early forms Godwin’s Law referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions,[5] the law is now applied to any threaded online discussion: electronic mailing lists, message boards, chat rooms, and more recently blog comment threads and wiki talk pages.

    The probability that The Shack will be compared to something extreme like pornography increases as a thread discussing and arguing about the book grows longer. Hence I think my “Godwin’s Law” remark was neither inapt nor inept.

    regards,

  40. CMP –

    I am loving this so much. Again, what a breath of fresh air to find a more reformed, Calvinistic thinker as you liking The Shack.

    Again, I think Young did accomplish his main purpose in presenting the relational nature of our Triune God. I think he had a couple of side points – no doubt he leans toward universal reconciliation and presented something near that case. I also think he wanted to see a few of the religious get their ‘knickers in a twist’, and he was successful.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  41. As asked early what one was…isn’t this what TULIP teaches in Unconditional election? Perhaps I misunderstood. What would this have to do with The Shack? And is The Shack a veiled attempt at theology teaching or reinforcement? Hmmm, perhaps a good thing I never read it then.

    I am currently reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles again for like the 50th time, a novel dealing with theology and social law accompanying it. Good story and shows just how narrow minded some Christians could become.

  42. Eric W,

    To say that there is truth in The Shack doesn’t eliminate the fact that there are also problems.

    For some years I was in a church situation where the common teaching was “eat the meat and spit out the bones.” The only problem with that kind of teaching is that there are always those that don’t know the difference between the bones and the meat! (Think young children and a plate full of boney fish.)

    When truth is mixed with error it can have a very deadening effect. People see the truth and don’t stop to look for the error. Or they are so gradually drawn in that they don’t recognize the bones any more.

    And believe me, I know how exhausting it is from personal experinece to sit under teahcng where you know there are going to be “bones” and having to sit there on the constant alert, wondering when the next one is going to appear and wondering if you have the discernment to really know the difference. For some time, I was swallowing some of those bones believing them to be meat until the Spirit started showing me where all of this stuff was going. And I also sat there week after week and saw people that I knew and loved be sucked into stuff that had no Biblical basis in reality at all.

    That is probably part of the reason I have such a huge problem with books like this. I know how easy it is for any of us to fall for a lie and to have to go back to square one and sort it all out with the Bible all over again. I don’t wish that on any one. It is an extremely painful experience. And if I can warn people of dangers in any of these area that are out there today, I want to do it.

  43. Michael Teeter April 20, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Cheryl,

    I think you are missing the forest for the trees with your criticism. You are right that it is God’s purpose to punish sin in the dictionary sense that he wills it to happen. Yet I think there is a broader question of whether or not punishing sin is what he desires to do and what the ultimate ends of the punishment is. It seems to me that God does not want to punish sin as God would rather have a world where people didn’t sin. Furthermore God’s purpose in punishing sin is not merely to punish sin. If you think about it in terms of children no parent punishes their children purely for the sake of punishing them. They punish them so that they will hopefully learn and not commit the same errors in the future. Of course God’s punishments can be far more severe, but again it seems clear in most passages that his punishment is not without a purpose greater than the punishment itself. God for instance punishes Israel on many occasions, and yes many Israelites die as a result of these punishments, but the purpose of the punishment is to bring Israel back to God.

    God also seems to provide both active and passive punishment. For example if you sleep around with a different person every night and get an STD it seems ridiculous to say that God is punishing you in an active sense. Rather God simply created a world in which sinning would result in natural consequences. Now this is not to say that God never actively punishes people, but it seems to me at least that the obvious punishments people get for the sins they commit are the built in ones, by which I mean the punishments that are a natural consequence of the action taken.

    As for eternal punishment this would get into the whole Arminian vs. Calvinism and “hell is locked from the inside” debate and I’ll stay away from that. Suffice to say the book does not seem to deal with eternal punishment and certainly doesn’t deny it.

  44. Sigh. EricW, first, your wikipedia article only refers to comparisons to Nazi’s or Hitler and does not indicate that other types of comparisons fall under that law (likely for the very reason that I raised, which is that Hitler is the most extreme comparison). Second, I did not compare pornography to “The Shack”. I compared modes of reasoning. My point was that the same reasoning that leads some to say that reading “The Shack” is OK is the same sort of reasoning that leads others to say that viewing pornography is OK. I used a stronger example than earlier comments, because the earlier comments did not use effective examples or the concerns were being “pooh poohed” as not substantive enough or not proved. My example served as a stronger illustration of the real danger involved in a particular way of thinking. You have not, however, demonstrated that my example is extreme, unecessarily extreme or conversation ending. Since my illustration did not use comparisons to Nazis or to Hitler, was not an extreme example but one within the bounds of reality and one that actually occurs, and did not end the conversation, your allegation that my illustration is an example of Godwin’s law is unfounded and incorrect.

    regards,
    John

  45. Well said, Cheryl.

    regards,
    John

  46. Godlose’s Law:

    This law (or rule) states that whenever mention is made of Godwin’s Law, the probability that there will be a discussion re: the appropriateness of referring to Godwin’s Law approaches 1.

    regards,

  47. Establish distinctions, as a way of avoiding seeing connections? Or being responsible for making them? Could be accused of various logical fallacies like … 1) establishing a distinction, without a difference.

    2) Does G’s (Godwin’s) law apply only to Nazis? Are no such thoughts or principles generalizable?

    3) Sophistical analytical parsing and other forms of obscurantism of course, have been long used by theologians and holy men, to escape mobs with pitchforks. And to that extent, that is a useful skill. An appropriate, heristic tool for theologians.

    4) Still … the habit of never making your point clear … in some ways, dooms academics to obscurity.

    5) So that in the end, it is a rather sterile game. If pursued too far, it dooms one to ineffectuality.

    6) So should someone begin a discussion, on the discussion, on the discussion of “The Shack.” The meta-commentary?

    7) That might descend into infinite regress? And ever more chronic ineffectuality?

    8) Or a life of the spirit, that never touches the earth?

  48. The spirit that “ascends” to Heaven allegedly, but who in His Abandonment may be said better to have descended? (To fill all things of course).

  49. cmp

    this thread has driven me back to being disgusted

    I think this is where I tell you “I told you so”

    Keep up the good fight

    David

  50. Hey CMP,

    I serve in a small church geared toward the urban poor as well as the homeless. I had an interest in teaching the people who come to our church , and especially the leaders, a few week teaching on basic christian doctrine. I already checked out your material under ‘store’. I was wondering if you had any other recommendations on either workbooks or books that you would recommend that goes over the essentials of the faith as well as the unorthodox views throughout history that I could teach? Either I go with somekind of workbook or I will have to get on mircosoft word and make my own packet. Thanks.

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