Archive | March 2017

(454) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: EVANGELICAL SCHOLARS STILL MISINFORMED ABOUT CREATION

The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures by D.A. Carson

A Book Review by

Lita Cosner

Journal of Creation 31(1), 2017865762_1_ftc

The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures is a significant contribution to evangelical scholarship. Edited by one of the foremost living Bible scholars with essays contributed from well-respected scholars from across historical, biblical, and theological specialties, this over-1,000-page book is weighty both in terms of its bulk and the level of its argumentation. There are many positive things that one can say about this book, which makes it all the more disappointing how it treats biblical creation.

Genesis: the lowest common denominator?

D.A. Carson makes the first comments in the book about creation vs evolution. He begins by contrasting Richard Dawkins and the new atheists with theist John Polkinghorne and pantheist Arthur Peacocke, the latter being “scientists who reject the philosophical naturalism of the new atheists, and find ways to think about the integration of scientific learning and fundamental Christian claims, including supernatural claims” (p. 34).

He continues on to note the need for “cautious skepticism” regarding scientific claims: “Not that many decades ago, PHRENOLOGY and EUGENICS were both almost universally espoused and commonly practiced. They were, after all, ‘scientific’. Today they are equally universally dismissed” (p. 35).

 

However,“… this stance does not sanction arrogant dismissal; it mandates respect, careful listening, evaluation, and sometimes patient uncertainty, as we refuse to be intimidated by the overconfident claims of some scientists or by the popularity of some nearly universally adopted theories” (p. 35).

So far so good. But he criticizes Christians who “appear to be utterly certain about how to read every line of Genesis 1–11”, and counsels:

“Frankly, in the light of the complexity of the hermeneutical issues raised by these opening chapters of Scripture, the question posed by Francis A. Schaeffer forty years ago is still the most pertinent one: What is the least that Genesis 1–11 must be saying in order for the book of Genesis, and the rest of the Bible, to be coherent and true?” (pp. 35–36).

However, it is difficult to imagne Carson arguing for this sort of least-common-denominator theology in regard to the Trinity or the Resurrection, but in fact the doctrine of creation is every bit as foundational for the Christian faith.1

That Augustine quote!Untitled copy

Another author, Glenn S. Sunshine, in his essay, “Accommodation Historically Considered”, quotes Augustine’s famous statement in On the Literal Meaning of Genesis to the effect that

“… it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn” (p. 245).

 

Sunshine says: “Augustine’s comments in On the Literal Meaning of Genesis are among the first to address the typical modern question of the relationship between the Bible and science” (p.246). However, this quote is MISUSED when people use it to argue against young-earth creation, because evolution does not meet Augustine’s definition of ‘fact’ in that quote, and he was himself a young-earth creationist.2

Science and Scripture

Kirsten Birkett in her essay “Science and Scripture” helpfully, accurately, and surprisingly explains the case of Galileo’s persecution as an instance of the church of the day being overly pro-science, i.e. pro- Aristotelian science. While there were very good reasons at the time for being cautious of accepting Galileo’s theory (Newtonian physics, which is critical for making sense of heliocentrism, was still in the future, for one). There is very little to dispute in this retelling,  and one hopes its appearance in such a substantial collection of scholarship will help to debunk the false religion- vs-science narrative.

Sadly, there is much less to celebrate in her discussion of chronology, the age of the earth, and the days of Genesis (p. 956ff). She notes that certain Jewish and Christian interpreters had non-literal understandings of the days in Genesis, but fails to examine the text of Genesis 1 to see if the grammar itself allows for such a non-literal view. She also does not mention that a LITERAL view of the creation days was the MAJORITY view throughout church history.

Birkett helpfully recounts the history beginning from the Renaissance of the attempts to create a chronology of the world, and the calendrical problems of the period that complicated things. However, disappointingly the conclusion was that “the Bible could not stand alone” (p. 960).

She also cites Isaac La Peyrère as an example of questioning whether Adam was the real historical first person (p. 960). His goal in interpreting Adam figuratively was to reconcile “Bible chronology with the longer ones of the ancient pagans, the American Indians, and the Chinese” (p. 961). This supports the idea that “church scholars were quite aware of claims to a long history of the earth and to various degrees were prepared to accept it” (p. 961). However, the example of La Peyrère shows that there were people who were not prepared to accept it; as she says:

“… as the ideas spread, they attracted violent criticism. … Calvinist Holland and Catholic France alike con- demned it. La Peyrère was arrested by the Inquisition in Brussels. His master Conde secured his release at a price of his conversion to Catholicism. He had to publish a retraction and died a pauper” (p. 961).

 

Is creationism ‘Scripture against science’?

Birkett discusses and dismisses young-earth creation without citing one prominent young-earth theologian or scientist (and while citing their critics exclusively). It is not a fair or a scholarly way to critique someone, so the kindest thing I can say about this part of her essay is that she needs to inform herself about the actual arguments creationists use—she seems unaware, for instance, that creationists have various ways of accounting for predatory structures (discussed on p. 968).

The bias in her examination of young-earth creation is even more apparent when compared to her analysis and criticism of John Polkinghorne, which cites many of his own writings. If Birkett had similarly cited biblical creationist scholars, one might have still disagreed with her analysis, but there would be less grounds for criticizing the bias of it.

 

Positive points

It is a shame that the book is so weak overall when it comes to the doctrine of creation, because in other respects it is quite good and contains a lot of worthwhile information. For instance, the historical chapters contain a lot of evidence that inerrancy is not a modern invention, but can be found as far back as the Patristic period, through the Reformation, and in every strain of Protestant thought.

Among the biblical/theological topics, Craig Blomberg’s “Reflections on Jesus’ view of the Old Testament” was notable. He asserts:

“When it comes to the inspiration, truthfulness, authority, and relevance of the Bible of his world, Jesus could scarcely have held to higher views. … He acknowledged Scripture’s divine origin as God’s word and words. He quoted from the Bible extensively and intensively. He affirmed the inviolability of its contents down to the smallest details. To whatever degree the contents of the Hebrew canon had solidified by his day, Jesus affirmed their unity but also their tripartite division. He interpreted the historical narratives in ways that suggest he believed that at least most (and probably all) of the events narrated really happened” (p. 696).

This necessarily has implications for the Christian’s view of Scripture:

“If we are followers of Jesus, we will want to adopt his view

Untitled copy 

of the Scriptures. He believed in their fully divine origin, reliability, and authority. Therefore, our view of the Old Testament should accept their complete God-given trustworthiness and claims on our lives as well. And just as nothing in the humanity of a person requires that a given writing of theirs contain errors, nothing in the humanity of Scripture logically compels us to find mistakes in it” (p. 699).

This, at least, is something with which biblical creationists can wholeheartedly agree!

There are also sections on philosophy and comparative religions, with which some readers will doubtless disagree (one may question the wisdom, for instance, of seeing the Buddhist sutras as a possible gateway to evangelism), but which are nonetheless informative and interesting.

 

Conclusion

A review of a work like The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures will necessarily fail to address the whole book, so one is forced to cover the topics most interesting to the readers of a given review. Unfortunately, this may give an unbalanced view of the book in that on the topic of creation, it is very disappointing for young-earth creationists to find that we have once again been misrepresented. But in other ways the book is very useful and contains arguments that are of use to young-earth creationists. Because of this potential usefulness, we shouldn’t completely reject books like The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, even if we wish the authors were a bit more well– informed about creation. The very academic and densely argued nature, however, makes it most suitable for specialists.

References

  1. See a critique of the same sort of argumentation in a popular-level article at Cosner, L., Timescale and theology, creation.com/timescale-theology, 28 June 2016.
  2. See Cosner, L. and Sarfati, J., Non-Christian philosopher clears up myths about Augustine and the term ‘literal’, J. Creation 27(2):9–10, 2013; creation.com/augustine-myths-debunked.

(453)EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: DEADLY DOCTRINES

DEADLY DOCTRINES IN YOUR CHURCH TODAY

DeadlyDoctrine-02

Image taken from http://www.challies.com/articles/how-jesus-called-out-false-teachers-and-deadly-doctrine

Deadly doctrines in your church today.  Tim Challies hits the target with his recent commentary on False Teachers and Deadly Doctrines.  He includes several blunt assessments of how Christians and the Church deal with these issues and the attitudes that come from them.  He looks at how JESUS dealt with false teaching with religious authorities as well as how that message was communicated to the crowds.  Very interesting!

How Jesus Called Out False Teachers and Deadly Doctrine

March 13, 2017 

It’s a good time to be a false teacher and to espouse deadly doctrine. It seems that today’s most brazen heretic will be granted a hearing and, in all likelihood, a book deal. Novelty is appealing, orthodoxy boring. It’s the ones who sound the warning and issue the challenge that bear the risk—the risk of being labelledhaters.” There’s more patience for those who smilingly subvert the truth than for those who boldly defend it. Conviction is a sign of arrogance, while humility is expressed in uncertainty. Love, it seems, requires us to bear patiently with any amount of error. And this kind of love, we are told, is modeled after Jesus. Jesus did not judge, Jesus welcomed all opinions, Jesus would have accepted different kinds of teachings—so long as those teachings contained love and hints of truth.

A quick scan of the gospels, however, shows that this impression is a far cry from the Jesus of the Bible. It shows that society has reimagined Jesus through the relativism of our day. When Jesus interacted with people who were seeking, wandering, or misguided, he was invariably compassionate. He answered them with patience and gentleness. But when Jesus engaged with religious hypocrites and false teachers, he responded with righteous fury and bold conviction.

Today, those who love the truth must learn how to show such bold conviction through the old discipline of polemicsthe practice of engaging in public debate and dispute. The purpose of polemics is not to score points or flex theological muscle, but to rebuke peddlers of error and to express concern for those caught up in their lies. Like the ancient heretics of Crete, today’s false teachers “must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:11). As we do this well, we imitate Jesus Christ who was a skilled polemicist.

We see an example of Jesus’ polemics in Matthew 23, where Jesus speaks to the crowd about the scribes and Pharisees. What unfolds in this scene is not private pleading but public censure. Jesus publicly addresses the deadly doctrine of these religious leaders for the benefit of their victims and potential victims. He holds nothing back. He does not make time to commend them for the things they do well. He does not temper his speech to give them the benefit of the doubt. Rather, he SPECIFIES their doctrinal error and unrighteousness actions, he LABELS them with STRONG but appropriate language, he WARNS of the consequences of their error, and he CALLS his listeners to REJECT the false teachers and their deadly doctrine.

Jesus Calls Out Their Doctrinal Error
These religious authorities were masking error as truth. Jesus confronts their error by telling the crowd, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:4). In the name of God, these leaders advocate a works-based system of righteousness that ignores and denies God’s free grace. Jesus gives them an example of their false teaching: “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath’” (Matthew 23:15). They have reimagined the faith so they can maintain a religious veneer even as they blatantly break oaths. They adapt their beliefs so they can remain righteous according to the letter of the law even as they violate its spirit. Jesus identifies this as false doctrine and addresses it head-on.

When we respond to error by giving it the benefit of the doubt, we come close to committing the same error as false teachers: masking error as the truth. Like Jesus, we ought to LOVE TRUTH and LOVE PEOPLE enough to CALL OUT ERROR for what it is.

Jesus Calls Out Their Unrighteous Actions
The religious authorities teach error as truth and, in consequence, act hypocritically. As Jesus warns the crowd of the doctrinal error of these leaders, he tells also of their ungodly actions. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). And again, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Matthew 23:25-26). Jesus lays bare the unrighteous actions of false teachers.

Some may find it difficult to reconcile Jesus’ love and his bold rebuke in this scene, but this betrays a dangerous tendency to separate God’s love from his relentless demand for truth. It dishonors God when we call unrighteousness good (Isaiah 5:20). It honors him when we, like Jesus, call unrighteousness evil.

Jesus Calls Out Their True Identity
Having called out their unrighteousness, he appropriately describes and labels the false teachers. In Matthew 23 alone, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” six times. Besides that, he calls them “blind guides,” “blind fools,” “blind men,” “whitewashed tombs,” “sons of those who murdered the prophets,” “serpents,” and “brood of vipers.” You get the point. Jesus does not shy away from calling false teachers exactly what they are. “Jesus meek and mild” sinlessly expresses divine wrath toward those who would speak truth in the name of error, who would teach doctrines of demons under the banner of heaven.

It is true that we must always avoid slandering someone by calling them what they are not. But it is equally true that when God is slandered by false teachers who claim to teach in his name, we must call them out for what they are.

Jesus Calls Out Their Coming Judgment
Jesus ensures his listeners know the full gravity of this deadly doctrine. He knows that adhering to such faulty teaching will have the most dire consequences, so six times he repeats the word “woe.” This is a word of divine judgment, of abject misery that portends a final, miserable end. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:32). They will not, and neither will those who submit to such odious error.

As we have explored throughout this series, false doctrine is deadly doctrine. It leads both teachers and hearers to destruction. It is good and loving to warn them of this destruction, so thatthey may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).

Jesus Calls His Listeners Toward Truth
Jesus exposes the deadly doctrine and unrighteous actions of these false teachers. He appropriately describes those who espouse it, and he lays out the consequences of such error. However, polemics is not merely confronting error, but also teaching truth. And orthodoxy is not merely knowing the truth, but also submitting to it. For these reasons, Jesus appeals to his listeners to turn away from the absurdity and inconsistency of error toward God’s truth. Contrary to the scribes and Pharisees who do all their deeds to be seen by others, Jesus tells the crowd: “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).

Continue reading – http://www.challies.com/articles/how-jesus-called-out-false-teachers-and-deadly-doctrine

 

(452) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: THE SHACK AUTHOR -WILLIAM PAUL YOUNG’S JUST RELEASED NEW BOOK

What do you think of these comments by Warren Smith on Young’s new book? – 

“Shack” Author Paul Young States in Just-Released Book—Christ Is “In” Every Single Human Being

By Warren B. Smith

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; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

YOUNG PUBLICLY ENDORSES UNIVERSAL SALVATION
In his just-released book, Lies We Believe About God, best-selling author Paul Young openly describes himself as a UNIVERSALIST. In chapter 13, Young would have us believe it is a “lie” to tell someone, “You need to get saved.”1 Young asks himself the rhetorical questions, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?”2 He answers, “That is EXACTLY what I am saying!”3 Young then goes on to teach that “every single human being is in Christ” and that “Christ is in them.”4 With this unbiblical teaching, one recalls how Young put these same heretical words in the mouth of his “Jesus” character in The Shack. He wrote:

God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things.5

THE TRINITARIAN LIE
Young would have us believe his trinitarian lie that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit inherently indwell everyone.6 This is exactly what the false “Christ” of the New Age teaches. In fact, it is the foundational teaching of the New Age/New Spirituality/New World Religion that has progressively moved into the world and into the church.

NEW AGE IN THE CHURCH
As I pointed out in my booklet, The Shack and Its New Age Leaven,7 the teaching that God is “in” everyone is a heretical New Age teaching that has been increasingly popularized over the last thirty years by New Age authors and teachers and heavily promoted by people like Oprah Winfrey. Sadly, it is also found in the books and teachings of well-known church figures like Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, Eugene Peterson, Leonard Sweet, and Sarah Young.8 And in a November 1, 2016 Catholic News Service article titled, “Pope Offers New Beatitudes for Saints of a New Age” Pope Francis, in a Catholic Mass in Malmo, Sweden, proposed a new “beatitude”—”Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.”9

WHAT WILL THE CHURCH DO?
Paul Young wanted to have a conversation about the nature of God, and that conversation is now front and
center before the church. Will pastors and leaders and day-to-day believers contend for the faith and fight the good fight, or will they let false teachers like Paul Young have their uncontested say and have their uncontested way?

Endnotes:
1. Chapter 13 title in Lies We Believe About God is “You need to get saved.”
2. William Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books; An imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2017), p. 118.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid., p. 119.
5. William P. Young, The Shack (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 112.
6. In C. Baxter Kruger’s book, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here Than You Ever Dared to Dream, in the foreword, Shack author William Paul Young writes: I want to say, “Thank you, and please read The Shack Revisited.” He adds, “If you want to understand better the perspectives and theology that frame The Shack, this book is for you. Baxter has taken on the incredible task of exploring the nature and character of the God who met me in my own shack” (p. ix). On page 49 of The Shack Revisited , Kruger writes: “For inside of us all, because of Jesus, is nothing short of the very trinitarian life of God.” C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream (New York, NY: FaithWords), p. 49.
7. To read this booklet, click here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=12290.
8.  I have documented a short history of how this deceptive New Age teaching has entered the world and the church in my booklet Be Still and Know That You Are Not God. The booklet includes quotes by each of these figures. To read this booklet, click here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17572.
9. Cathy Wooden, “Pope Offers New Beatitudes for Saints of a New Age” (Catholic News Service, November 1, 2016,).

 

This article is from http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=22361

 

(451) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: DR. DAVID JEREMIAH – CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE PROMOTES NEW AGE

DR. DAVID JEREMIAH ADMITS CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE PROMOTES NEW AGE

For years now, Lighthouse Trails (Research Project) has done extensive research and has provided articles and books on these topics for Christians to learn about these issues.  One author in particular, RICHARD FOSTER, and his bestselling book from 1978, CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE (COD) has been instrumental in introducing Evangelical and Protestant Christianity to contemplative practices that follow similar practices found in Eastern Mysticism and also associated with what was commonly called New Age practices.

dj_bioFor years, they have also attempted to warn the body of Christ and to discuss these issues with leading Christians in ministries ranging from authors, pastors, television and radio programs.  One example is DAVID JEREMIAH.  Years ago, Jeremiah authored a book on the New Age – so it was ironic that he would continually refer to contemplative authors, books, resources commonly associated with the New Age.  Before you cringe, keep in mind, many or these resources fall under the description of “Christian” or “Roman Catholic” and they include people ranging from early church saints and monks to popular contemporary authors.

In Foster’s first edition of COD, he stated that “we should ALL without shame enroll in the school of CONTEMPLATIVE  prayer.” Lighthosue Trails Research Journal (Volume 5-No.1 January/February 2017) states:

Since then, and largely because of the influence of that book, contemplative spirituality has saturated the church in no small way, and many Christians have truly “enroll[ed] in the school of contemplative prayer.” Through our research, we have determined that over ninety percent of the Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities (the places our future pastors are trained at) have, to one degree or always used textbooks either by Foster or ones that point to him).

They go on to say that a copy of COD sits on the bookshelves of most Christian pastors and leaders today. 

Many Christian leaders acknowledge that there are issues to be concerned about, many have stopped short of agreeing that this is a problem. This is despite the fact that many reputable apologetic groups have written about these concerns and problems associated with combining biblical practices with practices from other religions.

=> Fortunately, today we can finally say that DAVID JEREMIAH has now stated (in print) that Richard Foster’s COD promotes New Age spirituality. 

From the same LHT Newsletter, Here are Jeremiah’s own words from his book, The New Spirituality in the chapter titled “New Age Influence in the Church” (subtitled: In this lesson we see how the New Age movement is changing the church):

Sometimes false doctrine—and in the case of this present study, New Age ideology—gets into the church from within, and sometimes from without the body. Once it infects the church it can spread like an infection. . . .

DR. NORMAN GEISLER, Christian apologist, was attending one of the most respected, and largest Baptist churches in the country. He was astounded to hear the huge choir singing a song whose lyrics included:

I [meaning God] am the grass you walk in, I am the air you breathe, I am the water you swim in.” That is pure PANTHEISM. God is not the grass, nor the air, nor the water.

Those are all elements He created, and He is totally distinct from them. It is shocking that someone in the leadership either didn’t have the discernment to recognize what the lyrics were saying [or] was too busy with musical things to notice.  llBut that’s how New Age influence enters the church—when no one is watching.

Dr. Geisler has also made some notes on the contents of one of the best-selling Christian books of our day, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Geisler noted some 15 different places in the book where NEW AGE and MIDDLE EASTERN New Age and Eastern practices were recommended for Christians—things such as Transcendental Meditation, turning from “manyness” to “oneness,” meditating on the void (nothing), and others.

David Jeremiah acknowledges that once New Age ideology “infects the church it can spread like an infection.” And surely, we have seen this take place.

LHT states that – perhaps not too many pastors and leaders read David Jeremiah’s book, The New Spirituality. Perhaps they have no idea what David Jeremiah (and Norm Geisler) think about Richard Foster’s book. If you have a pastor, and you think he might have a copy of Celebration of Discipline in his pastor’s library (and he might even be quoting from it from the pulpit), you might consider printing this article and giving him a copy. Tell him, this time it isn’t Lighthouse Trails saying it but rather is a leader whom they most likely respect saying it.

This is GOOD NEWS!  Even though it has been a long time coming, hopefully this is another step in influencing Christians based on biblical discernment and discipleship and not on what is popular or what someone’s friend is reading. False teaching coming into the church from within and through the back door can be the most subtle, least noticed but most dangerous.  Criticism of these teachings can make one look overly critical but the real issue has to do with understanding God’s view – and the best way to do this is to open up your Bible.

(450) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: WHAT THE SHACK GETS RIGHT (Review #5)

An interesting review of The Shack. Lita Cosner (of Creation Ministries International – i.e. CMI), asks what The Shack gets right?  Her point is that while the movie contains “bad theology” since many people will go to see the movie, it presents itself as an opportunity for Christians to share the truth of God’s word in addressing the problems in life discussed in The Shack.  It’s an agreement of the serious problems with The Shack but also it sees an opportunity to present the Gospel – which she states that The Shack doesn’t do. From someone who is a part of CMI, she makes some great points which fit in well with the response by both Christians and unbelievers that CMI receives on issues relating to creation.

What The Shack gets right

by

Published: 7 March 2017 (GMT+10)
Shack

It would be easy to write a standard, outraged review of The Shack. They portray God the Father and God the Spirit in human form, as females! They put words in God’s mouth that He never said! They substitute correct doctrine for mushy platitudes that sound like they came from Oprah!

All those things are true, and they’re all problems, and those problems have been very thoroughly laid out elsewhere in reviews of William Paul Young’s best-selling 2008 book of the same title, so go there and read about those issues.1 But we should ask, why did people find The Shack appealing in the first place? I think there are several reasons, and they should actually be encouraging for evangelical Christians. When we speak to people who have seen The Shack, when we understand why they were drawn to such erroneous material, we can show how the Bible gives a much more satisfying portrayal of God than The Shack ever could. In fact, if we’re prepared for these conversations, it could be a tremendous opening to discuss the biblical Gospel.

People suffer

When we speak to people who have seen The Shack, when we understand why they were drawn to such erroneous material, we can show how the Bible gives a much more satisfying portrayal of God than The Shack ever could.

Many people can identify with Mack, the main character, who is grieving the murder of his daughter. Raised with a veneer of Christianity, he struggles with the question of how could God be good, while allowing such evil things to happen? This is a frequent question we receive at CMI, and there are often emotional undertones, because unlike some other doctrinal questions, people aren’t asking a hypothetical, philosophical question. They are asking, “Why did my mom die of cancer?” “Why was my daughter born with a genetic condition?” “Why do I struggle with depression?” What is God doing when it doesn’t seem like He is hearing our prayers for help and relief?

This is a question a person has to confront if he lives long enough to experience loss or suffering of any kind, and Scripture gives a clear and comforting answer for grieving people. Unfortunately, you won’t hear it in The Shack. Instead, the movie gives vaguely NEW-AGE, UNIVERSALIST, FEEL-GOOD answers that may move someone to emotions with the convincing delivery of the actors, but which don’t actually resolve the fundamental problem.

To give the biblical answer, we have to take the focus off man, and put it on God, where the Bible focuses. The god of The Shack has his/her/their hands tied by Evil, a force outside god’s control, which exists as an inevitable consequence of human free will, and is thus part of the original creation. He/she/they can be ‘within’ evil events, working good, but he/she/they are ultimately powerless in the face of human actions. This is presented as noble, as God refusing to meddle with human choice, because God is interested in having friends, not slaves (according to the actor playing Jesus in the film). But this dichotomy has NO basis in Scripture—while Christ called His disciples His “friends”, there is an element of servanthood as well. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). God opens the way for us to have a relationship with Him, but there is no question about who is ultimately in charge.

Scripture presents a God who is sovereign over evil, and thus can promise to one day end all evil, and to work all things (even the worst things) for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This is a great comfort to people who are suffering. But just as importantly, Scripture presents evil as a corruption of God’s ‘very good’ creation. So humans, not God, are blameworthy for evil in the world, because evil was not part of the original creation, but came as a result of Adam’s disobedience.

People want a God who understands their suffering

One of the more powerful portions of the film was a conversation between Mack and ‘Papa’, where he asks where God was when Jesus was on the cross. ‘Papa’ reveals scars on his wrists identical to Jesus’, and says that what Jesus chose to do cost both of them dearly. While this falls under the heresy of patripassianism (the idea that the Father suffered with Jesus on the Cross), the fact that this is so powerful shows us that people want to know that God identifies with their suffering.

What is God doing when it doesn’t seem like He is hearing our prayers for help and relief?

Scripture clearly shows that in Jesus’ humanity, He experienced temptation and suffering, and can identify with us. The book of Hebrews has some of the most powerful statements about this. I encourage you to read the entirety of Hebrews 1-5 to grasp how the following verses fit in the author’s larger argument, but note his statements about the temptation and suffering of Christ:

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10)

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17–18).

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:7–8).

So we know that God can sympathize with our suffering, because Christ experienced it during His earthly life and ministry.

People want a relational God

Many are drawn to the portrayal of the fellowship between the Persons of the Trinity and their love for and enjoyment of each other. It is misleading to portray the Trinity as three people in relationship because it can never capture the fullness of the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity, because the three Persons are one God. As humans we can never fully comprehend what that’s like.

However, Scripture clearly portrays a deep unity and singularity of purpose between the Persons of the Godhead. During His ministry on earth, Jesus often went away to pray, and the high priestly prayer (John 17) is a glimpse into the relationships within the Trinity.

People want a relationship with God

One theme in The Shack is that the trinity portrayed there invited Mack into relationship with them. And again, there is a kernel of biblical truth there, because through Christ, Christians have a relationship with the Triune God where we are very closely identified with Christ. When we trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins through His death and resurrection, we are adopted into God’s family and enjoy the privileges of sonship and close fellowship with God. This will be fully realized at the return of Christ when believers are raised to eternal life, and the entire creation is restored from the effects of sin.

What wasn’t in The Shack

The most troubling error in The Shack’s portrayal of God was the omission of the Gospel. The god of The Shack forgives simply because he/she/they love. But the atonement which makes forgiveness possible is never clearly presented. ‘Papa’ says he/she does not have any wrath, but the God of the Bible must judge sin because He is just. It is only through Christ substitutionary sacrifice in which He paid for the sins of all who would believe that God is able to be both just and merciful in His forgiveness of sinners.

Talking about The Shack

Most of us will probably have friends and family who go to see The Shack, and while we never want to encourage bad theology, this could open up some opportunities to talk about subjects that rarely come up in conversation. If people mention liking the story, ask questions! What did they like about the movie? What did they think about the portrayal of God? Was there anything that struck them as unsatisfying or simplistic? While people often shy away from being ‘preached to’, they are usually very eager to share their views! Then that opens an opportunity for you to respond.

What people are attracted to in The Shack can also help us to emphasize the biblical truth about God. And so, while this was almost surely not the intention of the directors, this could open up tremendous opportunities for Gospel conversations.

 

This article was taken from http://creation.com/shack-movie-review

 

(449) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: THE SHACK – THE MISSING ART OF EVANGELICAL DISCERNMENT (Review #4)

The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment


02_TS-D17-01860_R2.jpgJanuary 27, 2010

The publishing world sees very few books reach blockbuster status, but William Paul Young’s The Shack has now exceeded even that. The book, originally self-published…

 

The publishing world sees very few books reach blockbuster status, but William Paul Young’s The Shack has now exceeded even that. The book, originally self-published by Young and two friends, has now sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into over thirty languages. It is now one of the best-selling paperback books of all time, and its readers are enthusiastic.

According to Young, the book was originally written for his own children. In essence, it can be described as a narrative theodicy — an attempt to answer the question of evil and the character of God by means of a story. In this story, the main character is grieving the brutal kidnapping and murder of his seven-year-old daughter when he receives what turns out to be a summons from God to meet him in the very shack where the man’s daughter had been murdered.

In the shack, “Mack” meets the divine Trinity as “Papa,” an African-American woman; Jesus, a Jewish carpenter; and “Sarayu,” an Asian woman who is revealed to be the Holy Spirit. The book is mainly a series of dialogues between Mack, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Those conversations reveal God to be very different than the God of the Bible. “Papa” is absolutely non-judgmental, and seems most determined to affirm that all humanity is already redeemed.

The theology of The Shack is not incidental to the story. Indeed, at most points the narrative seems mainly to serve as a structure for the dialogues. And the dialogues reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects.

While the literary device of an unconventional “trinity” of divine persons is itself sub-biblical and dangerous, the theological explanations are worse. “Papa” tells Mack of the time when the three persons of the Trinity “spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God.” Nowhere in the Bible is the Father or the Spirit described as taking on human existence. The Christology of the book is likewise confused. “Papa” tells Mack that, though Jesus is fully God, “he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being.” When Jesus healed the blind, “He did so only as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.”

While there is ample theological confusion to unpack there, suffice it to say that the Christian church has struggled for centuries to come to a faithful understanding of the Trinity in order to avoid just this kind of confusion — understanding that the Christian faith is itself at stake.

Jesus tells Mack that he is “the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.” Not the only way, but merely the best way.

In another chapter, “Papa” corrects Mack’s theology by asserting, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Without doubt, God’s joy is in the atonement accomplished by the Son. Nevertheless, the Bible consistently reveals God to be the holy and righteous Judge, who will indeed punish sinners. The idea that sin is merely “its own punishment” fits the EASTERN concept of karma, but NOT the Christian Gospel.

The relationship of the Father to the Son, revealed in a text like John 17, is rejected in favor of an absolute equality of authority among the persons of the Trinity. “Papa” explains that “we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity.” In one of the most bizarre paragraphs of the book, Jesus tells Mack: “Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”

The theorized submission of the Trinity to a human being — or to all human beings — is a theological innovation of the most extreme and dangerous sort. The essence of idolatry is self-worship, and this notion of the Trinity submitted (in any sense) to humanity is inescapably idolatrous.

The most controversial aspects of The Shack‘s message have revolved around questions of UNIVERSALISM, universal redemption, and ultimate reconciliation. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”

Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”

Put together, all this implies something very close to the doctrine of reconciliation proposed by Karl Barth. And, even as Young’s collaborator Wayne Jacobson has lamented the “self-appointed doctrine police” who have charged the book with teaching ultimate reconciliation, he acknowledges that the first editions of the manuscript were unduly influenced by Young’s “partiality at the time” to ultimate reconciliation — the belief that the cross and resurrection of Christ accomplished then and there a unilateral reconciliation of all sinners (and even all creation) to God.

James B. DeYoung of Western Theological Seminary, a New Testament scholar who has known William Young for years, documents Young’s embrace of a form of “Christian universalism.” The Shack, he concludes, “rests on the foundation of universal reconciliation.”

Even as Wayne Jacobson and others complain of those who identify heresy within The Shack, the fact is that the Christian church has explicitly identified these teachings as just that — heresy. The obvious question is this: How is it that so many evangelical Christians seem to be drawn not only to this story, but to the theology presented in the narrative — a theology at so many points in conflict with evangelical convictions?

Evangelical observers have not been alone in asking this question. Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Timothy Beal of Case Western University argues that the popularity of The Shack suggests that evangelicals might be shifting their theology. He cites the “nonbiblical metaphorical models of God” in the book, as well as its “nonhierarchical” model of the Trinity and, most importantly, “its theology of universal salvation.”

Beal asserts that none of this theology is part of “mainstream evangelical theology,” then explains: “In fact, all three are rooted in liberal and radical academic theological discourse from the 1970s and 80s — work that has profoundly influenced contemporary feminist and liberation theology but, until now, had very little impact on the theological imaginations of nonacademics, especially within the religious mainstream.”

He then asks: “What are these progressive theological ideas doing in this evangelical pulp-fiction phenomenon?” He answers: “Unbeknownst to most of us, they have been present on the liberal margins of evangelical thought for decades.” Now, he explains, The Shack has introduced and popularized these liberal concepts even among mainstream evangelicals.

Timothy Beal cannot be dismissed as a conservative “heresy-hunter.” He is thrilled that these “progressive theological ideas” are now “trickling into popular culture by way of The Shack.”

Similarly, writing at Books & Culture, Katherine Jeffrey concludes that The Shack “offers a postmodern, post-biblical theodicy.” While her main concern is the book’s place “in a Christian literary landscape,” she cannot avoid dealing with its theological message.

In evaluating the book, it must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction. But it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied. Any number of notable novels and works of literature have contained aberrant theology, and even heresy. The crucial question is whether the aberrant doctrines are features of the story or the message of the work. When it comes to The Shack, the really troubling fact is that so many readers are drawn to the theological message of the book, and fail to see how it conflicts with the Bible at so many crucial points.

All this reveals a disastrous failure of evangelical discernment. It is hard not to conclude that theological discernment is now a lost art among American evangelicals — and this loss can only lead to theological catastrophe.

The answer is not to ban The Shack or yank it out of the hands of readers. We need not fear books — we must be ready to answer them. We desperately need a theological recovery that can only come from practicing biblical discernment. This will require us to identify the doctrinal dangers of The Shack, to be sure. But our real task is to reacquaint evangelicals with the Bible’s teachings on these very questions and to foster a doctrinal rearmament of Christian believers.

The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity. An assessment like that offered by Timothy Beal is telling. The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine.

This article can be found at –
http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/01/27/the-shack-the-missing-art-of-evangelical-discernment/

 

(448) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: ‘THE SHACK’ and WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT EVANGELICALISM (review #3)

The following is the third review of “The Shack” on this blog.

In 2008, William Paul Young wrote a book titled The Shack that was instantly a best-seller.  It ascended to the top of the best-selling lists (including the New York Times and Amazon), and like many successful books often do, it has now morphed into a movie.  The book omv5bmjm2nje0mjczov5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtu3ntm3mdi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777748_al_-1200x674riginally written as a Christmas gift for a family has sold over 20-million copies and become one of the top 70 books in the history of printed books.

Recently the trailer for the movie based on Young’s book was released.  The movie itself is set to be released in 2017, but the hype and anticipation has already started to build.  That’s to be expected when you have people like EUGENE PETERSON making statements such as, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” did for his. It’s that good!” [1]  To be honest, the trailer for the movie was greatly appealing and demonstrated a high quality that will likely be very successful.  Why should Christians be concerned?  What lessons can be learned from the success of The Shack that might help us all moving forward?

A Word About the Book—The Shack

The book itself demonstrates the fact that William Young is a good writer.  Through the use of written language, Young captivates the reader with masterful descriptions of mysterious theological subjects and doctrines.  This is always a wonderful way to teach the Bible and has long been employed by men like John Bunyan and C. S. Lewis, but in the case of The Shack, the teaching is sub-par, or to use the language of Albert Mohler in his review of the book back in 2010—”sub-biblical.” [2]

The book is based on the story of a man named Mackenzie (goes by Mack) and his encounter with the godhead following a horrible tragedy where his daughter (Missy) was brutally murdered in an old shack after being abducted during a family vacation.  Although Young tackles some very difficult subjects related to human tragedy, in his attempt to point people to God, he instead points people to an African-American woman named Papa (who transformed at one point into a gray-haired man), a middle-aged man named Jesus who was of a Middle-Eastern descent, and a small woman of Asian descent named Sarayu.  This is where things derail from the biblical theology tracks in an epic train wreck.

Like many books that become popular in evangelicalism (such as Heaven is for Real), when people are captivated by the emotion of hardship or tragedy, they’re often willing to accept the false teaching that walks through the open gates of their heart like a Trojan horse.  Although William Young is a gifted communicator, what he communicates about God in his book The Shack is simply not true and it’s heresy.  Therefore, no matter how his skill is with the English language and his ability to captivate his audience, if what he speaks isn’t true and if it violates the God of holy Scripture, we must avoid it.  Although the movie can’t be reviewed, what can be accurately predicted is that no matter how well the acting and production of the movie is—the stench of heresy is already detectable from a distance.

A Call for Christian Discernment

Heavenly tourism books have become widely popular within the evangelical community in recent years.  It seems that if one wants to be successful in the area of fiction and non-fiction, if a story can be captured about a person’s trip to heaven (or in this case – to a shack) where he or she interacts with God and returns to tell the vivid story with eye-popping details, it’s a sure recipe for success.  This is a lamentable fact, and one that the evangelical church must come face-to-face with (Prov. 15:21).

As the psalmist declared in Psalm 119:66, we as God’s children should long for clear, controlled, and robust discernment.  Since the Scriptures are God’s Word and the church is “a pillar and buttress of truth,” we must be able to “guard the good deposit” that has been entrusted to us (1 Tim 3:15; 2 Tim. 1:14).  Therefore, laziness when it comes to biblical truth has no place in the church of Jesus Christ.  There’s no reason a book like The Shack should find its way to the top of best-selling lists by the help of the Christian community.

Lessons to be Learned

Early in 2016 I was preaching in a conference held on the campus of a large Southern Baptist Church.  Between sessions, I was given access to their library and coffee shop area where I could read and pray.  As I browsed around the bookshelves, the paradox of evangelicalism was apparent on the shelves of this church’s library.  On the same shelf separated by just a few books were two very different books by two very different authors—Sara Young’s Jesus Calling and Paul Washer’s The Gospel’s Power and Message.  This is where we are as evangelicals, so long as Jesus’ names is used or the title contains Christian vocabulary, it’s readily received and granted access to the local church’s library.

Lessons to be learned from The Shack and other heavenly tourism books that fall into this same category are numerous.  There are far too many lessons to learn than I have time and space to mention, but one noteworthy lesson is—doctrine matters.  If we attempt to teach the Bible with stories, illustrations, anthropomorphism, and humor, that’s wonderful, but those stories, illustrations, anthropomorphisms, and humor must be communicated with theological precision.  We don’t want a surgeon operating on us who has been guilty of medical malpractice, and that same principle is true when it comes to those who teach us the Bible.

This successful book that boasts of Christian theology presents an inaccurate view of the Trinity, reverses the masculinity of God into a feminine goddess, denies Jesus of His sovereignty as a member of the godhead, and maligns the proper understanding of the Holy Spirit.  One of the core errors of the book is the improper understanding of submission and a rejection of Trinitarian hierarchy.  It seems that there is a constant imbalance and misunderstanding of the roles and relationships between the members of the Trinity throughout the book and certainly will be played out in the movie.  Tim Challies concludes in his thorough review of The Shack back in 2008, “Overall, I had to conclude that Young has an inadequate and often-unbiblical understanding of the Trinity.” [3]

In one scene, Jesus poked his head into the dining area to inform Papa that he had put the tools they would need just outside the door.  Papa thanked Jesus, who kissed him on the lips and left out the back door.  Where do we ever see Jesus informing the Father of anything in the Bible?  In another scene, Jesus communicates the following to Mack:

Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.

If that’s not bad enough, Jesus goes on to communicate another ancient heresy to Mack by saying, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus continues by saying, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

Mack responds to Jesus, “Do all roads lead to Christ?” Jesus then provides an answer that points to universalism—“Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”  The answer to Mack’s question is an obvious rejection of verses such as John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 that teach the absolute exclusivity of Christ.  Jesus doesn’t travel down the road of Mormonism to find people.  Sure, Jesus can find lost sinners anywhere, but to suggest that “those who love” Jesus come from every system that exists is a tragic error. To communicate that Jesus doesn’t want to make anyone a Christian is a tragic mistake, and to teach people that Jesus wants to “join us” in our transformation into sons of Papa is a reversal of roles.  Jesus is sovereign and we respond to Him.  We love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19).  This book, although celebrated by many Christians is an anti-Christian book and will subsequently become an anti-Christian movie.

One final take-away that we must learn from such books and movies is that God has one primary method of delivering His revelation to us and it’s through holy Scripture.  To bypass the Bible and learn about the Trinity through The Shack is to do yourself a great injustice and the results will be catastrophic.  God has a proper and fitting revelation of Himself, and He has unveiled that glorious revelation in the pages of sacred Scripture—not The Shack or any other book like it.  ANCIENT MYSTICISM has crept back into the church in our day, and unfortunately it’s widely popular.  Why not just come to know God, true Christian theology, and a proper response to the deepest human suffering by reading God’s book—the Bible?

Indictments to be Received

The success of The Shack is a true indictment on the shallowness of mainstream evangelicalism.  The church is not only called to evangelize the world with the gospel, she is also called to have biblical discernment.  That lack of concern when it comes to understanding the Bible and the core essential teachings of Scripture among many evangelical Christians should bring about great concern.  When bookstores, even Christian bookstores, are willing to peddle books like The Shack and other sub-Christian titles, we should be greatly concerned. Albert Mohler writes:

The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical ChristianityThe popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine. [4]

A further indictment must be centered on the pulpit in the evangelical church today.  Christians, if taught properly each Lord’s Day from the pulpit, would detest such books as The Shack.  If robust teaching was the common diet, books like The Shack would be so unsuccessful that a movie producer wouldn’t give it a second thought—because in his mind he needs the evangelical church to buy tickets to watch it.  Therefore, when the pulpit is shallow, dysfunctional, and sub-Christian—you can expect the people to crave that same type of entertainment.

Pastors guard your people by telling them the truth.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, please make the movie version of this heretical book far less successful by staying home.


  1. Statement by Eugene Peterson can be found as a glaring endorsement written on the front bottom of the paperback version in most cases.
  2. Albert Mohler, “The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment” [accessed 12-4-16]
  3. Tim Challies, “The Shack” by William P. Young [accessed 12-5-16]
  4. Mohler, “The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment” [accessed 12-4-16]

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