The Shack Redux

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  1. Tim says:

    “The reason “The Shack” still gets negative attention is that God jumped out of the box and used something weird to accomplish His purpose.”

    Or maybe it’s because the book all but ignores God’s holy righteousness, completely downplays sin, and hints at universalism throughout.

    But hey, maybe that’s just me. 🙂

  2. Michael says:

    Tim,

    Perhaps…but I have yet to find someone who took those concepts away from the reading.

  3. TonyP. says:

    Praying for your back, Michael.

  4. Kevin H says:

    I have not read The Shack and so I cannot legitimately comment on it. However, I have a question that would be open to anyone’s thoughts.

    Is it possible that a book like The Shack can be simultaneously a blessing and have an overall good effect on one person and yet be dangerous and have an overall bad effect on another person? In other words, is it possible that both God and Satan can use the same book to serve their purposes in separate situations?

    I’m not trying to imply anything and I don’t have an answer myself. Just curious as to what others may think.

  5. Bob Sweat says:

    Michael

    I agree with your #2. I must have missed something in my theology training. But then again, I didn’t read the book as a theological discourse.

  6. Michael says:

    TonyP,

    Thanks…it’s popping back into place a section at a time. 😉

  7. Another Voice says:

    is it possible that both God and Satan can use the same book to serve their purposes in separate situations?
    ———————————————————-
    That sure is true of the Bible.

    I remember a discussion with an atheist about the sniper in Saving Private Ryan who quoted Scripture and asked God to guide his hands in war – sort of a modern David of sorts.

    The atheist thought Spielberg was portrying a religious nutjob who we should both pity and mock during the movie.

    Two sets of eyes – same character

  8. Michael says:

    Bob,

    I don’t think most people did…I’m sure if I went back and read it again I could tear it up, but I’ll keep what I got from it instead.

  9. Michael says:

    KevinH,

    I think so…

  10. Michael says:

    Here’s the bigger question in my mind.

    Why were so many people starving to hear about the love of God?

    Are we failing to communicate that truth?

  11. Shaun Sells says:

    Regardless of whether anyone liked the books, these lawsuits are a disgrace to the body of Christ.

  12. Kevin H says:

    Michael,

    In answer to your questions, the answer would seem to be that we are failing to communicate God’s love, at least to some significant degree. No one can know the mind of God, but to our finite minds it would seem odd that God would move so powerfully through something that apparently misrepresents Him theologically quite a bit. Why doesn’t He do it through something or somebody who is more theologically sound? Could we, who would think of ourselves as being more theologically sound, be a stumbling block?

  13. ( |o )====::: says:

    “Why were so many people starving to hear about the love of God?

    Are we failing to communicate that truth?”

    Hmmm, based on the posts brought by SHW I would say there will always be those who have such a warped understanding of the scriptures that they put up their theological clothesline of assumption and string up the verses to hang out to dry anyone who is willing to get entangled in the back yard.

    We’ve had centuries of such bad PR that when something like the Shack comes along and offers even the slightest hint at helping us work thru the horrors some of us face in this life the common person is struck that the church cannot seem to hint at such healing answers every sunday.

  14. Michael says:

    “Could we, who would think of ourselves as being more theologically sound, be a stumbling block?”

    That is exactly what I’m thinking…and I love doctrine more than most.

    I think I’ve spent most of my ministry loving it more than the people it applies to…..

  15. Tim says:

    “Why were so many people starving to hear about the love of God?

    Are we failing to communicate that truth?”

    That indeed, is the bigger question.

  16. Michael says:

    Tim,

    I’m just wondering if in our quest for doctrinal purity that we’ve missed the forest for the trees with this book…and I don’t see anyone else discussing this angle.

    It’s the bigger question that I’m asking myself, for sure.

  17. Tim says:

    Michael –
    I don’t know that we’ve missed the forest for the trees with this particular book. After all, for as much as the phrase is repeated “It’s a work of fiction,” there’s no disputing the matter that Young wrote it for his family to let them know what he thought about God. So yes – it’s a work of fiction, but it IS Young’s own theology. Thus it’s fair to criticize it from a theological viewpoint.

    But if in our quest for doctrinal purity we’ve missed out on the love of God, that is a true problem. I can’t help but wonder however, if we’ve missed out (speaking for evangelicalism as a whole…I don’t know about other denominations) on what “love” actually is.

  18. ( |o )====::: says:

    far too often we treat people like a new clerk at the counter of the restaurant who, when asked for some extra chips with the salsa says, “well, policy says I should charge you”…

    how does the customer feel?

    the experienced employee always says “let me see what I can do”, even if it means flipping an extra quarter into the till to cover the extra chips or saying with a smile, “mind if I charge you a quarter more?” 90% of customers will at least respond favorably and that seasoned service person knows he’s made the customer’s experience better, the tip will be larger and the customer will be back.

    Such common sense is lacking in most churches where the interaction is “my way or the highway”. People seek, engage and take time to speak of their struggles and the issues surrounding the imponderables are the ones where people lose their faith. Engagement with the individual is the model Jesus gave and to love them, even more than doctrine and truth, is what “the greatest is love” really means. it’s not about dismissing truth, but it’s about knowing a person and loving them enough to be able to have earned the ability to speak to their pain. We fail when we try to do this kind of soul work in a group dynamic.

    We, as ambassadors for Jesus, are given the opportunity to go out into the world as his representatives and we come off as policy wonks instead of rolling up our sleeves and listening and saying “let me see what I can do”

  19. DavidH says:

    Michael,
    Re: #10

    I don’t have all the answers (maybe no answers), but here it goes. People are starving for the love of God because, in all reality, we have a loveless culture.

    As this nation has become more and more secular, more and more people are driven by internal motives. However, people are led to believe that they altruistic and externally motivated. I believe this mentality has even infected Christian culture, in general terms, in this country.

    I think their are a lot of Christians – leaders and laity – who communicate the Truth. However, it gets lost in the mental filtering of the human brain.

    Another seeming reality – most people could care less about doctrine. When people could care less about sound doctrine, bad doctrine might be the only doctrine they see. Maybe we should pray for an author to come along who might write a novel that is doctrinally sound.

    Our faith must center on the person and work of Jesus Christ. I think if we can get that right then, maybe, the other puzzle pieces might fall into place.

  20. Michael says:

    “I don’t have all the answers (maybe no answers), but here it goes. People are starving for the love of God because, in all reality, we have a loveless culture.”

    DavidH…thank you for that…I have the same concern but haven’t found a way to articulate it in a coherent way yet.

  21. Em says:

    short term memory all gone… and i’ve given the book away and can’t even remember who i gave it to…
    but sitting here thinking about how a writer conveys the reality of a God all holy, yet loving and able to accomodate and save what He (generic ‘he’) created, in a work of fiction …
    Could Young have done so without anthropomorphizing the Eternal One? – dunno – But don’t we admonish each other with platitudes like “you’re the only Christ some will ever see?”. Big people, skinny people, white people, yellow people etc. God’s people so Christ-filled that He could work thru us as He was able to do thru Young’s character…
    Real love, God’s love is not a syrupy emotion – it is a force and we try to reduce it to an attitude or worse, a facade… i think – dunno …

  22. DavidH says:

    Michael,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    We have a nation that is set adrift. We are killing ourselves with, what headshrinkers call, “felt need.”

    It’s sad that Oprah is probably the most important religious leader in this country. I’m being serious on this. How many different religious gurus has she gone through. She has millions of viewers and they believe what she says. That’s what Christians are up against.

  23. Michael says:

    Em,

    “But don’t we admonish each other with platitudes like “you’re the only Christ some will ever see?”. Big people, skinny people, white people, yellow people etc. ”

    I’m sitting here wondering why I didn’t think of that…excellent observation.

  24. London says:

    Christians vs Oprah 😯

  25. Jim Jacobson says:

    “Perhaps the lesson here is that the message of “The Shack” was what God wanted to say to this generation…and He couldn’t get any of us to pass it on.”
    I think that language is a bit too dramatic. Just because a guy wrote a book that many people have been encouraged by, does not then equate the book with “what God wants to say to this generation.”
    Good book or not, Young is the author, not God.

  26. Em says:

    Michael, it’s hard to think when your back hurts 😉

  27. Michael says:

    Jim,

    My question is why they weren’t being encouraged by all of us doctrinally sound folks?

    If anything this book should tell us that perhaps our message isn’t being heard…and that people are thirsty for God.

  28. Another Voice says:

    I don’t want to sound too harsh, but maybe our 2010 concept of the love of God is the problem, and not a lack of presentation.

    For decades we have seen the gospel shared with the first comment being something akin (or exactly) to this: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”

    Is that how the underground church in Islamic Iran or Communist North Korea begins a witness?

    More to the point – is that how the Scripture presents?

    I can find many verses in the Bible where God’s love is directly equated to the cross..to the giving of the Son.

    Frankly, I don’t know a single verse in the New Testamet that promotes God’s love outside of the context of the cross.

    As Paul said “We preach Christ crucified”

    As he said again, “God forbid I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world”

    If someone wants to hear God’s love apart from the cross of Jesus, and the cross they too must take up daily to follow Him, then I am afraid I can’t help them with any other message.

    I constantly am asked how a God of love allowed XYZ to happen, and while I never pretend I know why horrible things happen, I point to the cross. I say THAT is how I know God loves you, and He will use this tragedy in your life for His purpose.

  29. Jim Jacobson says:

    Does being encouraged by something mean necessarily you were spiritually adrift prior?
    The idea that people are generally “thirsty for God”… Is that biblical?
    I’m just throwing out ideas… Btw, I feel your pain today, I’m home with a migraine.

    I’ve read that idea more than once this week,… That there are a lot of God seekers out there, and the church is failing… But then these verses come to mind:
    “as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” 

  30. His Kid says:

    We spend way too much time trying to understand and communicate truth instead of trying to *live* truth. And even that we can’t do in our own power. If we try to live truth we’re still living in legalism. It is only in daily dying to ourselves and submitting to the power of the Holy Spirit that we can *live* out truth. He lives *His* life through us. Those aren’t just words. It really happens. Do we believe it?

    So let’s fall at His feet in adoration and thankfulness for His love, forgiveness, grace and mercy. Let’s plead with Him to teach us how to empty ourselves of self so He can fill us to the brim with Him.

  31. Michael says:

    Jim,

    I’m a Calvinist…there are no God seekers.

    The people most impacted by the book that I have personal knowledge of are Christians.

    Last time I checked, I’m one too.

    Somehow we have not connected with the incredible love of the Father and it’s life changing when we do.

    We can either learn from the success of this book or we can dismiss it and the brethren that were impacted by it as being faulty in some way and keep doing what we were, I guess.

  32. BrianD says:

    Our society is different than North Korea and Iran. You can’t hold the persecuted church nor any other portion of the church in any part of the world up as the standard for all believers.

    Our society is also a loveless society. A lot of men don’t seem to get this. What made The Shack most valuable was something that appealed most to the heart, to the emotions. Most guys tend to understand logic, reason and the intellect much more. An argument or a speech, or a sermon, gets a point across to them much better than a story ever would. If the story is full of logical holes, the story will come across as foolish and a waste of time.

    For certain people, it was something that merely reading from a book, or pointing to a cross and saying “THAT is how much Christ loved you! Why on earth can’t you understand that?” won’t do to get across the message in a way they will hear.

  33. His Kid says:

    Do we truly believe Romans 8:28? *All* things. That means that God can use a really horrible tragedy in our life and still work it for our good. That also means that He can use a song written by a non-believer that has nothing to do with doctrine. And it means He can use a novel that may or may not hit the theological nail on the head. The Holy Spirit powerfully uses unexpected things in our lives to speak to us–if only our hearts are willing to listen.

  34. Jim Jacobson says:

    Well, I have not read it, so maybe I should shut it. I just recoil with either it’s God or the devil…. It’s a book. Not THE book.

  35. Michael says:

    His Kid,

    YES!

    In other words, I agree… 🙂

  36. Josh Hamrick says:

    RE: The lawsuit – Money corrupts everything it touches. Don’t try to capitilize on your passion or the money will kill your passion. In fact, don’t try to capitilize on anything. Live a simple life enjoying the gifts that God brings your way. If your friend screws you out of some money, don’t take them to court. Smile and know that your reward is in Heaven, and your friend has inherited a headache. Forgive freely and move on. If you happen to come into a lot of money, give it all away. It is beutiful and tempting like Frodo’s ring, but will poison you everytime.

  37. papias says:

    I probably should read this book. Until then, I see it has impacted people positively, and that it was not written to stimulate the mind, but to prick our hearts?
    Man, I foud myself tearing up during Toy Story – so Im not sure whats gonna happen here.

    “There should be some objective evidence that reading the book has swollen the ranks of local Unitarian churches and led to countless cases of bad hygiene or whatever else it’s supposed to foment.”

    Love this comment! 🙂

  38. Another Voice says:

    Good words Josh.

    John Wesley actually made a ton of money in his life because of the publication of his sermons. He gave it all away.

    His earnest desire was that at death he would only have the money in his pocket at the time, with no other ‘stored up riches’ on earth.

  39. Em says:

    i think we’re going to have to live it more than ‘preach’ it in the days ahead…
    i’ve been hearing how the whole mindset of the human race is changing to one of detachment as children are being numbed to the real world via the virtual one… heard some comments from school teachers here, too and last night heard an RC priest in a Belfast(?) suburb commenting on riots that are fomented by some sort of ‘march’ … what he described was looking into soulless eyes of teenagers and younger rock and molotov cocktail throwers as he tried to physically stop them and assert his authority as a man of the cloth…

    there’s some software to be written, may God raise up a born-again game-creating genius and anoint him to do so … God v the soul seducing, mind sliming, heartless, solar powered preacher turned Wall Street Trickster who lives by the rule of gold… er something 😀

  40. Another Voice says:

    Our society is different than North Korea and Iran. You can’t hold the persecuted church nor any other portion of the church in any part of the world up as the standard for all believers.
    ——————————————
    Fair enough Brian. My point was larger than that though.

    The Bible is the standard, and I for one am not going to add to or subtract from what it says about God’s love, and how it says that love is demonstrated to mankind. God’s “plan for our life” on this earth should be persecution, if we live Godly. That is the promise. Jesus said we would be HATED. If somehow we aren’t persecuted, we are a very fortunate, blessed exception in the USA.

    Our nation is the biggest and best, most prosperous, and yes, most spoiled at just about everything.

    I hope we don’t think that OUR loveless problems are somehow greater than the people experience in other parts of the world. That’s just more of the same American self-attitude if you ask me.

    Maybe a second look at the oppressed nations is a wise thing in that regard.

  41. Babylon's Dread says:

    Let’s take all those guys who are suing and countersuing on a retreat to the woods and sit them down and ask them all one by one which one of them should go to hell over all this money conflict and which one should be forgiven.

    Whoever insists for real forgiveness for the others gets sovereignty over the money to split it however he will…of course we hold that tidbit from them till the meeting is done.

    Judge Dread

  42. Michael says:

    I’ve been a Christian for a long time and a pastor for two decades.

    I read books that I need help carrying and I have studied non stop as long as I’ve been in the ministry.

    I’ve read the Bible over many times.

    On a personal, private basis I still have a lot of difficulty embracing the love of God.

    I wasn’t raised with a lot of love and the notion of unconditional love in a loveless world is difficult to get my arms around.

    This book helped.

    Why is that so hard to handle?

  43. Another Voice says:

    I know I talk a lot here. Allow me to tell you where I am coming from on this. First, it has nothing to do with The Shack. It does have to do with how we present the love of God.

    One of the most successful books in promoting the love of God is Rabbi Kushner’s ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good People’ – he uses Scripture, albeit Old Testament only, mostly Job. This has been, and still is, a huge seller – going on 30 years next year.

    It is written because his young son died of an incurable disease, despite his prayers and faithful service to the God of the Bible.God didn’t heal his son. How could a loving, powerful God allow this (the age-old question)

    The conclusion is that God DOES love us – He just can’t do anything about our suffering .His is an impotent God.

    Millions have agreed with his conclusion.

    He did not know the cross of Christ.

  44. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    All I can say id that if people got a “blessing” out of the Left Behind series, I don’t know why they can’t be “blessed” by The Shack? Talk about bad theology marching directly into people’s homes, Left Behind wind the award. (and there were a bazillion volumes!)

  45. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    wind the award = wins the award

  46. Josh Hamrick says:

    I’m all for it, Michael. I haven’t read the book, but i read very little fiction anyway. I do, however, reserve artistic license for an author, poet, artist, musician, etc, to use abstract ideas to express his or her view on God in a unique way. From the reviews I’ve read, it seems no more blasphemous than Narnia, which I have benefited from greatly. Now, were the book intended as a theological dissertation, we should judge it as such, but as is, it should be taken as a fictional story that symbolically presents the author’s view of God.

  47. BrianD says:

    “Our nation is the biggest and best, most prosperous, and yes, most spoiled at just about everything.

    I hope we don’t think that OUR loveless problems are somehow greater than the people experience in other parts of the world. That’s just more of the same American self-attitude if you ask me. ”

    AV, I understand what you are saying and if the problem is with self-centered, selfish, immature people needing to get over themselves then yes, perhaps reminding them of what other Christians are living through in Iran will be helpful.

    But if you are dealing with people who feel like God hates them, and the world and the church hates them because they cannot do enough to maintain their salvation, and are struggling with that, implying that they are somehow spoiled rotten and that they need to man up and get over it because of what someone in Darfur is going through is NOT THE ANSWER. It may be the answer for you, but not everyone is wired like you, and some need to hear about God’s love in the way that Paul Young and Wayne Jacobsen and whomever else wrote it, rather than Pastor Mark telling you about North Korea and to get off your whining ass and do things in the name of Jesus to get over yourself.

  48. Michael says:

    AV,

    I agree that the love of God is represented in the cross of Christ.

    Where I’m rebelling like a madman is the notion I keep hearing that an experiential faith is unnecessary or even faulty.

    We’ve dried out the most passionate book ever written and we’re choking on the dust.

  49. Another Voice says:

    But if you are dealing with people who feel like God hates them, and the world and the church hates them because they cannot do enough to maintain their salvation, and are struggling with that, implying that they are somehow spoiled rotten and that they need to man up and get over it because of what someone in Darfur is going through is NOT THE ANSWER
    ———————————————-
    Of course not Brian. I hope you would not think I would pastor in such a way.

    My point is though that person you describe above is going to find their love through the cross and the grace of God.

    Look at your description of such a person again. God hates them? Maintain their salvation etc. The answer is the proper understanding of the cross and God’s grace.

    What evidence does someone provide as to why God DOESN’T hate them? – If not the cross.

    What else can you possibly tell someone, especially someone who has gone through so much misery and suffering.

  50. BrianD says:

    “Of course not Brian. I hope you would not think I would pastor in such a way.”

    I don’t.

    It’s in HOW you present the message of Jesus and the cross. All I hear, between the theological objections and people saying how poorly written the story was, is testimony after testimony of people who were drawn closer to JESUS and not Satan or Buddha or Oprah or some other false god over this thing.

    If a four-point sermon draws someone to the cross and helps remind them of God’s love, then preach it.

    If it takes a story to do so, then tell the story. That’s what I’m trying to get across.

  51. BrianD says:

    “The answer is the proper understanding of the cross and God’s grace.”

    It is indeed. And because people are wired differently than others, some will get it through an academic-type presentation (the sermon), some will get it through a song, some through a story.

    The Shack is a story…and one that a lot of Christians are drawing fruit from without abandoning what they know to be true.

  52. filbertz says:

    Michael, it’s hard to handle because the measures of our spirtitual health, vitality, and maturity are all screwed up.

    I deleted the rest of my comment.

  53. Jeff Stewart says:

    Michael …re your #10….”why were so many people starving to hear about the love of God? Are we failing to communicate the truth?”

    In my opinion one of the reasons is that far too often we have an issue focused church that turns people to themselves, rather than a Jesus focused church that turns people to Him, and His amazing love

    Great question, these are the kind of questions every leader needs to be asking……these questions are far more beneficial than the questions of a novels theological ramifications IMHO

  54. London says:

    Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!
    I had a big old long incredibly profoundly illuminating post typed out and lost it before I could hit “send”

    you guys will have to figure it all out on your own now cause I’m not re-typing it.

    DANG!!!

  55. Michael says:

    Jeff,

    Good point…that is part of the problem.

    I think the other part of the problem is that we don’t ask questions…we pass judgments on theological accuracy and think we’ve done our job.

    I kept asking people why they loved the book, why they were so impacted…and I learned how to be a better teacher as a result.

    We have to get comfortable with not having all the answers…

  56. Babylon's Dread says:

    Well no matter… as far as the love of God goes… the legal mess cancels the message. So the Shack will fail to convey the love of God in any coherent way to the masses.

  57. Jeff Stewart says:

    Michael,

    Amen to that, what a concept, pastors listening to people! hope it catches on 🙂

  58. Josh Hamrick says:

    You think so Dread? Even to the millions who have already benefited from it? I think God is perfectly capable of speaking through imperfect messengers.

  59. Michael says:

    BD,

    You may be right going forward.

    I see your movement differently because of this book…God may move in someones life in a way that I find unattractive or “wrong”…yet truly God touched them.

    I’m much less inclined to judge anothers experience by my own standards now.

    This book is literary crap…but it has born fruit for the kingdom.

  60. Esther says:

    Jim -“The idea that people are generally “thirsty for God”… Is that biblical?”

    As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. -Psalm 42:1

    It is for me.

  61. Na'amah says:

    #10 Michael
    Why were so many people starving to hear about the love of God?

    Are we failing to communicate that truth?

    #19 DavidH
    People are starving for the love of God because, in all reality, we have a loveless culture.

    a difficult reality and concept i have had to learn and accept in becoming more proficient and successful in my work is that the the majority of people tend to be intellectually lazy and/or incurious about truely investing time and discipline into most things. Even when it is to their personal benefit.

    Our society has been inculcated that “individual rights” or at least “MY” rights are of utmost importance, to 1st view all authority or structure as negative, when it really isn’t, and what my feelings/emotions are is what is “really” important.

    Paternalism within the business world definitely had its negative aspects, but there was a sense of ‘responsibility’ to employees that provided benefits. Sport teams were teams before the freeagent became the norm and yet i understand the ‘justice’ to the freeagent idea.

    There is part of me very thankful the ‘cultural expectation’ that everyone in the neighborhood is at church absolutely every Sunday and the one family that didn’t go isn’t “talked” about. Okay now, the family that always goes to church every Sunday is the one that’s often “talked” about. 🙂

    But there was a definite positive impact on our communities where people were told once a week ‘this is good, this is bad, don’t do the bad stuff (aka sin then)

    I think The Shack appealed to many because it offered an emotional contact to a concept of God that is clearly separated from any authority or structure. It may have even touched some enough that they will truely seek Him in a church structure. But it was not written well and it was a novel that does not require any discipline other than reading.

    I think people hunger for God’s love because we are created so. I think we have a ‘loveless culture’ partly because it takes time and commitment to experience and become a part of a community.

    It is not just about how Christian’s are not packaging and presenting the ‘food’ so it is appealing to those who are hungry for love. The Shack was ‘fast food’, which is delicious, especially if it’s the only thing you’ve eaten for an extended period of time.

    #13 ( | o )====+++ loved the clothesline imagery!

  62. Another Voice says:

    I stress again my comments thus far are not about The Shack.

    From where I sit, when someone thinks God hates them, I have nothing BUT the cross. It isn’t just that this is the best option on a list of several, but the only option.

    How dangerous it is, yet we hear it all the time, to point to temporal things that may be good in that one’s life as evidence of God’s love.

    “Look, you still have that wonderful child He gave you ” (until the child dies tomorrow)
    “You are in great health” (very temporary)
    “You have a great job” (I wouldn’t lead with that today)

    Here is my one comment on The Shack.

    If it points people to the sacrifiial death of Christ at the cross, and the free grace of God, then praise God. Narnia does this by the way – very clearly

    Many, many people say Kushner’s book showed them the love of God. It of course did no such thing. it created an idol, and said this is god – much like Aaron making a calf

    I have had only one person in my entire congregation ask me about this book in two years. I have never said a word about it in a sermon, and I have no idea who has or hasn’t read it. It means nothing more to me than the Prayer of Jabez when it was the flavor of the month.

    If it blessed and ministered to anybody, then great! I’m sure not going to cry illegitimatcy to any blessing because it does not come through the ‘proper chanels’ A lot of people are blessed by Thomas Kincaid’s paintings too. And a lot of Christians turn up their noses there, don’t they?

    But my view on the cross and God’s grace remains firm.

  63. London says:

    I will say this though…

    It’s not an either/or proposal. Either sound doctrine or the love of God. At least not for me personally.

    I “wandered” a bit for a while and it was through the absolute determination and refusal of someone from here by typing all night long (literally) on instant messaging that kept me from leaving completely. Only because he could refute the crazy things I learned growing up about God by using logic and knowledge I didn’t have, I had to take another look at what I was walking away from. I didn’t know it at the time, but I suspect now that he did, but that night I would have left for good if he hadn’t been there.

    Not leaving is one thing, but coming back is another….

    It was the exact opposite approach that brought me back. Met a guy on a plane that’s a lawyer and pastor. He could have wiped the floor with me easily if we had gotten into a doctrinal argument. What he did was FAR more effective and in a way, he held the door open for me to come back in.
    He simply said “I don’t know” when I asked him questions that haunted me, that I thought I had to agree with in order to be “christian” in order to say I believed in God, Jesus etc…
    He is smart, maybe smarter than me even :mrgreen:, so I figured if he was ok with being a christian without knowing the answers to those things, maybe it was ok that I didn’t. And the best thing was, he didn’t feel compelled to make up an answer or have some twisted logic of how he got to that conclusion. It was ok for him to say “I don’t know about that…but what I do know is this…..” for instance, he didn’t know about the virgin birth, but he did know that all across the world, people of all cultures can accept that this little jewish kid was God.
    That was huge for me because it give me room to grow, took off the pressure of having to have every detail sorted before I said I believed and it gave me a different mystery to solve in a way that was contemporary and I could get my head around.
    I’ll be honest with you, if he had even attempted one time to convince me he had it all worked out, or he started “preaching” at me that day…I would have rung the call light and got re-seated so fast your head would spin.
    The thing that sealed the deal for me, and earned him the right to be heard by me from then on, was that he gave me space between flights, he didn’t try to sit next to me in the waiting room and keep pressing the case, he let me be. Then..when it was time to move to the next flight, he picked up my carry on luggage without asking and carried it to the gate for me. 😯 That NEVER happens in my world…ever.
    No one ever helps you out in that way…it was a small thing, but it was the perfect move at the time. I knew he wasn’t just full of words about God, but somehow, it had become part of who he was and that attached me to hear more about what he had to say about God’s love and God “wanting his kids to come home”…
    It’s the little things that catch people’s attention…

    It takes both things…words and deeds to get people who are “lost” (christian or not) to take notice and listen.

  64. Michael says:

    Esther,

    Good call!

    Wish I would have quoted that… 🙂

  65. London says:

    AV- no offense, well maybe just a little, intended…but if you had come at me with that approach a couple years ago, I would have completely blown you off and never listened to a word more you had to say.

  66. Michael says:

    If I had any sense I would close this thread with Na’amah and London.

    Very well said and very much appreciated to both of you.

  67. London says:

    hee hee
    I assume you meant my first post and not that last one huh? 😉

  68. Fred says:

    I didn’t read the book but your discussion reminded me of how Joseph was called a “righteous ” man when he was going to show mercy to Mary after he found her pregnant. He had full legal right to follow Law instead he was going to show her mercy and grace. Joseph was more like his Son than he would ever know.

  69. Michael says:

    London,

    That would be yes… 🙂

  70. London says:

    having said all that…there were lots of other people who were a “lifeline” when I was out wandering around…lots of them who just hung out and didn’t give into the desire to preach at me or “save me” or whatever…just hung out.
    But those 2 moments were pivotal.

  71. Steve Aspinall says:

    If it’s OK to join in, the interesting question (without prejudice) for me is whether a book like ‘The Shack’ is actually a placebo.

    A clever work of fiction, especially interwoven with psychology will naturally play on emotions and sensitivities and if that is how the writing works then it will produce psychological, maybe biochemical effects which can give the effect of, for example, ‘spiritual quickening’ (adrenaline?), anticipation, deep underlying truth, emotionalism both to create longing and also satisfaction, well-being – the ‘feel good factor.’

    On that basis, theoretically, the content of the same book could be theologically devestating, and psychologically satisfying all at the same time and the danger would be in how the reader then ‘takes’ the experience.

    We’re about to face this. We’ve got an Eastern European family in the church who were having, erm, personal difficulties, went home for a trip and came back wielding native copies of The Shack, having been recommended it from the pulpit. They’re professing that it has made a vast amount of difference and now want to recommend it to others. In terms of the theology and the background of the author, we wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. So the question remains whether or not other material which WAS doctrinally sound, or even perhaps entirely secular, could have the same effect – that in fact the content of the book is not the influencing factor, but rather either the anticipation of something which is then fulfilled by the emotional journey induced in the fiction, or indeed simply the ‘placebo’ effect – that the very act of doing anything affirmative induces anticipation which creates the illusion of therapy.

    God can, of course, use anything.

    But if we are acting on conscience, if we can do better than providing messages we can’t wholly endorse, or can’t supply without issuing caveats, then can the medium be replaced with something of greater inherent virtue?

    The ‘placebo effect’ / psychological manipulation potential is something I’ve not heard much about.

  72. London says:

    Steve, interesting because I wonder that very thing about alot of “christian” activities.
    How do we know the whole thing isn’t just one big “placebo effect”?

  73. Erunner says:

    Steve, How would you respond if somebody in your church began passing around a few copies of “The Shack?”

  74. Michael says:

    Steve,

    I don’t know…could be.

    All I know is that it helped me connect with God in a real way and changed not a wit of my conservative, Calvinist, theology.

  75. Na'amah says:

    #75 Michael,

    All I know is that it helped me connect with God in a real way and changed not a wit of my conservative, Calvinist, theology.

    lol because you are not intellectually lazy,have information, your rights and personal feelings are not what you base decisions on…you are suspicious of large structured authority i think :).

    I like #72 Steve A’s description of an emotional spiritual placebo. Which is what most people really want.

  76. Lutheran says:

    Steve A.,

    If you’ve been on PP before, my apologies. Welcome, otherwise.

    I had the same reaction that London did — if you want to parse out a book and look at its impact from just a psychological/emotional standpoint…well, what about church services and activities that are primarily emotional experiences? If it’s true from reading a book, it also must apply in other contexts. Actually, with a book, you can stop at any point and take in/ponder what you’ve read.

    I mean, the whole ‘spiritual quickening’ thing is a huge can of worms, seems to me. Good fiction will ‘move’ the reader. That’s what it does.

  77. JimB says:

    My initial thoughts about The Shack when reading it still prevail, it is a book about relationships. The book came on the heels of the onrush of popularity that Facebook had after its inception. The phenomenon of social networking caught everyone off guard. Many thought FB would appeal only to some or just be a wave that soon would crest. Hardly, it turns out that just about everyone from every kind of background has a deep need and desire for social networking. They may have a different group that appeals to them, but most people want to belong and have relationships with their desired group.

    Many Christians and even church leaders overlooked for a very long time the theological difficulties in The Shack because it ministered to a huge need in their life. Even now I think many are willing to live with the quirks of the book in order to embrace how in spite of it contradicting many key tenets of our faith, that people nonetheless are finding a personal relationship with God because of reading the book.

    This may be a little off of the track, but I think even the modern trend that is really based in mysticism of looking to angels in all things, praying to angels, sending angels to others, etc., is really based upon the fact that people are unsatisfied with the current relationship with God that they have and they think there is a better way to find that relationship.

    In the church today, many of us have gotten so technical in our theology, and want everyone to agree with our every tenet, that what we lost in the mist of everything, was the experiential aspect of knowing God. Experiential knowledge and relationship with God is what people need and want, and over emphasizing knowledge we in the church have largely been trying to give them God by figuring out and teaching them every correct doctrine and concept. We approach the head instead of the heart. Then, we wonder why churches are losing in attendance rather than growing…

  78. JimB says:

    London,

    Thank you for sharing your story, I needed to hear that!

  79. London says:

    I’ve got this whole plane ride experince on my brain today thinking about the impact of it because today a 23 year old Pakistaini kid, who had a heart attack last year, is getting on an airplane to fly to Ukraine for his first mission trip with a Ukrainian national kid I met because of this blog.

    Weird the effect not preaching can have huh? 😉

  80. London says:

    You’re welcome Jim.

  81. Michael says:

    “In the church today, many of us have gotten so technical in our theology, and want everyone to agree with our every tenet, that what we lost in the mist of everything, was the experiential aspect of knowing God.”

    Yeppers… 🙂

  82. Michael says:

    “you are suspicious of large structured authority i think ”

    I think you might be right… 🙂

  83. Babylon's Dread says:

    Basically we are talking something over 140 million dollars these guys are fighting over… but I am sure it is the principle of the matter.

    These guys tripped over treasure in the field and they are willing to steal all the other guy has to get it. Pretty clear what is going on here.

  84. Fred says:

    The way I see the arguments going on here is there is the side which wants all “Christian” things to be doctrinally “pure” and the other which wants to draw God more into humanity. I think both have merit and both have their difficulties.

    Some say books like this will mislead people about the nature of God. I think they can be right. What I have found is many (if not most) people, whether consciously or not, really want to build a god in their own image. The difficulty is God made man in His image, so does that make the former right or wrong? The problem lies in what and how we, humans, actually see ourselves.

    I believe it is easy for God to see His creation in His image because He is seeing it with complete purity and righteousness. He has no self centered desires (sin nature) to see creation in any other way. Now the difficulty is humanity can only see God filtered through the glass of sin and depravity, so our image of God is tainted by our desires of self fulfillment.

    The only answer to our ability to see God correctly is to cleanup that glass and reflection (of His image) through His mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. Unless we look at God through Jesus we will only see our human powered reflection as we try to find God.

    So is the lady (I am told) in the book a reflection of God’s patience, love, mercy and grace or is she a reflection of the author’s need and desires and not really God at all? I think the readers have to decide for themselves.

    Do I think the she is an accurate image of an attribute of God? Maybe, but that would also reflect how much God has cleaned the glass of my life, doesn’t it.

  85. Michael says:

    Fred,

    That was well done…my hope is to marry both sides, the doctrinal and the experiential.

    The Puritans did so for their culture…

  86. filbertz says:

    Smith didn’t write the book with some nefarious motivation…that idea reflects the bent of the critics…a plot behind each tree and under each rock. Kind of ODMish.

  87. filbertz says:

    sorry, Young, not Smith…getting my authors confused.

  88. Fred says:

    Michael:

    I’m a huge advocate of being doctrinally “pure” but I find too many people seem to want a short cut and find churches and people which have a doctrine in which they agree with. They want to be “spiritual” but turn from making a connection with the Spirit because it actually requires too much of them (falling on face so to speak).

    To me finding God is two fold, it is both learning who He is through His recorded scriptures and then struggling with Him in a very real manner through life. What I am finding is He will chip away and prune my life as I surrender to His truths when mine fail. As the dead branches fall I sure seem to see the sky a bit more clearly.

    What’s interesting is I have never really felt the need for a God with big arms, you know the kind which will curl around a person and making them feel safe and warm. My needs have always been a God who provides direction and guidance as I move through this life. Kind of like that compassionate coach or mentor who knows me more than anybody and will yell, kick shove and then congratulate me when I achieve what He knew and planned for me. “I told you that would work out well! It’s time for a rest.”

    Rest over, let’s get back to work.

    😉

    How blessed is He who spoke and this world leaped into creation!

  89. Steve Aspinall says:

    London,

    Interesting idea, and I’d say there’s a lot of that too, especially in the more ‘relevance’ and ‘event’ driven ministries. In a sense probably most of us are guilty in some way. Altering the tone of voice, changing the music tempo… Turning up the heating while speaking of hell and damnation.

    Erunner… Hit them with a hammer, of course, then drag them outside shouting ‘heresy, heresy.’

    Jus’kiddin.

    In all seriousness, I’d have to ask them not to do it. None of our leadership are comfortable with it and it stands to reason that we’d want to be comfortable with something that has the appearance of being ‘accepted’ in the fellowship. I know we have flock that aren’t impressed with it either. They behave graciously, but look to the leadership to ask folks politely to refrain. It’s like school really… ‘you can do what you want in your own time, but when you’re at school…….’

    That kind of leads in to what Michael said…

    I’ve no doubt that you were blessed and unaffected by it. But you’re strong, and some say mature 😉 as a believer. We can’t always ensure that all the readers are going to be, and when it comes down to it, if you’d recommend it to some and not others, don’t recommend it at all.

    I understand the concept of wanting to get God into humanity, but it already happened, in the person Jesus once and for all. I just have the feeling that if we’re pointing to anything other than Him absolutely, in entirety, and in as broad and full a picture as we can, we’re selling something short, or holding something back, or giving Him PR makeover.

    Conscience has got to be clear on it, in order to believe in it, and believing in it is the key to getting it implanted in anyone else.

    Lutheran,

    I hear what you say. My concern about it is this… Fiction in all forms has an effect on us. The effect it has is to switch the mind into ‘entertainment’ mode. Like with TV we very quickly decrease our brain function and get locked into each word delivering us something, sentence by sentence, line by line, page by page, and being ‘fiction’ it promotes a disconnect in us which effectively means that all the information is going in but not being directly applied to anything. So in theory the content, the influence, could sit in the brain for hours, days, even weeks, before being sifted into an attempt to contextualise or ‘sort’ the data into associations and ultimately influences, and in that state the potential exists for information to begin shaping the way we think, because the fictional nature of it bypassed our ‘reasoning’ and opened our minds up even to things we would find naturally implausible or instinctively offensive. The brain can even sift this information while we’re asleep, and we dream…

  90. Steve Aspinall says:

    Fred, good comments for me to go to sleep on after a very long day.

    I feel like Jack Bauer.

    In every possible way.

  91. Michael says:

    “But you’re strong, and some say mature 😉 as a believer. ”

    If only you knew… 😉

    There is another point in that sentence though…I trust the Holy Spirit and the Father to lead people where they are supposed to go.

    I assume that they are indwelled by the same Spirit that indwells me and that Jesus will lose none the Father has given Him.

    In other words we’re free to risk…free to think about weird stuff and read weird people and we’ll still end up at home.

    We’re free…and we’re safe.

    I love that.

  92. i think that everyone here may be missing the boat…if God can speak thru an ass, why can He not use this book to reach His chosen? as my pastor said last week, we need to get people to the Truth, after that we can teach doctrine…so let us speak truth, God sent His only Son to die for us…He loved us that much…it does not matter how we get to that truth, the journey isn’t the answer, the answer is the destination…HIM

  93. Na'amah says:

    Michael

    “…my hope is to marry both sides, the doctrinal and the experiential.”

    what i am hoping to find and sounds like what Todd Hunter is addressing in his book, Giving Church Another Chance

    (Centorian is going to be so ‘pleased’ he takes a passage of The Shack to make a point)

  94. Another Voice says:

    London, I have carried many a lady’s luggage, and I certainly know how to leave someone alone with their thoughts.

    I have not advocated any ‘approach’ in this thread.

    However, I will not try to convince otherwise.

    I seek to minister to the individual..being all things to all people.

  95. Lutheran says:

    Steve A.,

    Boy. I’ve never looked at fiction that way.

    Do you have any evidence for your assertions? What if you’re reading nonfiction books or TV? Can that ‘stay inside’ one, too

    I tend to think that it’s the medium more than whether something is fiction or not. Think about all the poor folks who were brainwashed by Hitler’s speeches in the 1930s…that wasn’t fiction, but it was calculated. It wasn’t the medium — radio — but the content. Content can brainwash just as much as fiction.

    Like I said, with books, you can stop at any point and digest, agree, disagree, etc., with what’s said. We’re not just passive. With TV or movies, it’s images streaming by — but again, you can stop the tape anytime you want — shut it off and discuss with others, for example. Discussion and interaction with others are really important.

    I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you — but I don’t see the evidence for your POV. I mean, the Bible is full of stories and parables. I’d hate to not read people like C.S. Lewis and Garrison Keillor, Dante, Shakespeare, etc., etc., simply because they’re telling stories. The lives of millions would be much poorer!

    Switching the mind to entertainment mode doesn’t mean we’re not discerning — in fact, people are smart enough to know when it’s just a story. When it’s done, it’s back to reality.

    I still like the title of a book I once saw about fiction writing — “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit.”

    🙂

  96. London says:

    and AV you missed the point entirely

  97. Believe says:

    Michael, love your 3:46pm.

  98. Believe says:

    ….and double yeppers to your quote of Jim B at 3:07pm.

  99. Another Voice says:

    And you, mine, London.

    If you think my ‘approach’ is to ‘mop the floor’ on an intellectual basis with strangers I might meet on an airplane, again, I won’t try to convince you otherwise.

    I still have no evidence to tell you or anyone else that God loves you apart from the cross though…

  100. Esther says:

    “There is another point in that sentence though…I trust the Holy Spirit and the Father to lead people where they are supposed to go. I assume that they are indwelled by the same Spirit that indwells me and that Jesus will lose none the Father has given Him. In other words we’re free to risk…free to think about weird stuff and read weird people and we’ll still end up at home. We’re free…and we’re safe. I love that.”

    Michael, I think that is the wisest, and most faith-filled thing, I have ever seen you write. Very well articulated.

  101. Believe says:

    Esther, I beg to differ…it’s easily like the 4th most faith-filled thing he’s written…let’s not get carried away. 😆

  102. Believe says:

    …and LOVE the gravatar! 🙂

  103. Esther says:

    What? Wait a minute? I thought we were friends Believe? Are you saying we are not in perfect agreement on everything? How can that be? Can fellowship still be maintained given that we are not in agreement on something that I will concede is not paramount, but still, was worth you disagreeing on?

    Hmmmm….. I shall have to dig deep to find the courage to agree to disagree with you there, but I think we can manage it. Crisis averted.

  104. ryan couch says:

    I only read 3/4 of the book and then never got back to it…I’m bad that way.

    I’m not sure that our culture is experiencing a lack of “love” preaching…it seems to me that our the church over the last 30 years has been saturated with “God loves you” sermons, books, and music.

    It seems to me that what we’ve been missing is Jesus…the Person.

    Christians are very aware that Christ died to save their sins, but seemingly ignorant that He also lived a perfect life in our place. In other words not only did Jesus die the death we could never die, but he lived the life we could never life.

    The church seems to be very aware of God’s love for them but sadly in the midst of all of this talk of love we have missed the Person who embodies love…Jesus. In all of our preaching, writing, and singing about God’s love demonstrated on the cross we have seemingly lost the understanding that His love also compelled Him to live in the cesspool of humanity for 33 years so that where we have failed miserably He had complete victory.

    I think The Shack, despite its weaknesses, may have allowed people to see that God is not a metaphysical force who is transcendent…but a Person who took on the very humanity He created to vicariously grant to them what was impossible for them to achieve on their own.

    Jesus is what’s missing.

  105. Believe says:

    Esther, I am offended, how dare you challenge me publicly…you have my email, I suggest you use it.

    Also, the Bible couldn’t be more crystal clear on this issue. That was clearly Michael’s 4th most faith-filled writing and if you want to continue to disagree…I may have to disfellowship with you……….and you’re a woman.

    So there.

    🙂 😆 8) (JUST KIDDING!!!!) London, don’t hurt me about the woman joke…

  106. BrianD says:

    Excellent observations, Jim B!

  107. Believe says:

    I believe God gives us the opportunity at a glimpse into His perfect love for us through our own children.

    The love I have for them, the joy I receive when they tell me they love me, the pain I feel when they are in pain, the disappointment I feel when they disobey, the concern I have for them…the correction and instruction I offer them, the affection, the adoration, the patience, the kindness, the goodness, the self-control.

    I get a sense of how much God loves me….as I love my own kids.

  108. Linnea says:

    Re: the comments earlier this morning about The Shack resonating in a loveless society, I can’t help but think of 1 Corinthians 13 . Do we communicate the gospel as a clanging cymbal? Do we have special gifts that are not exercised in love? Paul says that of faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love. Love is a fundamental human need and because of life experiences, some of us have a hard time believing that anyone loves us.
    Is it a crime to dare to paint that love in terms someone can understand?

    I had a conversation at work with a gal who’s battled one type of cancer and who is now battling another. Work isn’t going well for her and she cried as she told me her story. I shared that I believed God takes care of us and loves us and she said “you actually believe that crap? I don’t even believe in God anymore”. Now, she is someone who might respond favorably to The Shack. Nothing I said this afternoon resonated with her.
    But, I will pray for Fran, and ask the God reveal Himself to her in a way that she can understand and receive, and on top of that, I’ll ask that God use me to help communicate His love to her. Now, I fully expect that He will answer that prayer in a way I would never expect.

  109. Michael says:

    Thanks, Esther, Believe.

    So….I’ve been at the skatepark a lot.
    Building trust, building bridges… looking for ways to serve these kids and maybe introduce Jesus.
    One kid in particular has responded…a really good kid with lots of talent, but a high risk of trouble someday.
    Today we got there late and another “Christian” had just left.
    The kid I’m trying to help politely told this holy lady that scooters weren’t allowed in the park and that is what her kids were riding.
    She responded with a dressing down that ended with her delivering a tract to him called “LOSER” and explaining that he was just that.
    My buddy and the other kids heard that Jesus hates them and is eager to cast losers like them into hell.

    I rarely get this mad anymore…but I’m sorely bent at the moment.

  110. Believe says:

    Michael, I feel you on that example.

    Many of us (me included) need to re-read how Jesus our Christ interacted with people.

    I try to often, so I don’t forget.

    Graciousness to the tax collectors and “sinners”…your new buddy. Not so much for the “religious” and self-righteous…that holy lady type.

    The example of that holy lady is not what’s it’s all about….and my guess from the example you shared about her…is that she’d be one of the Pharisees sneering down at the sinner…in her smug self-righteousness.

    Luke 18:10-14

  111. Believe says:

    …the one more in need of a “tract” was the holy lady.

  112. Michael says:

    Whenever Jesus becomes a weapon against somebody, you just blasphemed his name.

    Jesus was her big, mean, friend…and that will take some doing to unwind.

  113. Matt says:

    Maybe Chick Tracts could help us put one for the likes of her together. The need is clearly great enough.

    I’m thinking of a title…

    Maybe….

  114. Erunner says:

    Steve, Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. The Shack is a bit like menudo. I find people love it or hate it! 🙂

    I did read The Shack and enjoyed it. I wasn’t moved in any emotional way but enjoyed the story as purely fiction. I also read the Left Behind series and enjoyed it. Heck…. I used to love reading Mack Bolan! Thanks again.

  115. Matt says:

    Hey, I know. Give him a copy of The Shack. Nothing like God as Aunt Jemima to clear things up. 🙂

  116. Em says:

    Michael, by the grace of God you got there late 🙂

    i think i lost my avatar puppy 😕

  117. Michael says:

    Matt,

    I have a title, but I can’t print it here.. 🙂

  118. Michael says:

    Em,

    You know it! 🙂

  119. Em says:

    nope he’s still there… here… ? where am i

    God keep all close

  120. Matt says:

    Yeah, Michael, me too.

  121. JimB says:

    Thanks BrianD!

  122. Em says:

    just to be clear on my 117 … i was thinking about how does one approach this sort of person and it occurred to me that a man would risk explaining himself to officer friendly…

    there’s no safe approach for a man … but there are couple ladies here that could have explained things to her – poor lady, poor kids…

  123. Michael says:

    Em,

    You are right on…my guess is that Trey might have straightened out her theology so I wouldn’t have to. : -)

  124. In spite of all the controversy, I read the book when it first came out. I thought it was kind of benign, really. The only thing that bothered me was the premise around which the book was written: A man’s daughter is kidnapped and killed.

    I did find it interesting that “God” chose to drawn him to the shack thru a note in his mail box!

  125. London says:

    Wow Michael…what a great opportunity that woman provided for you by giving you an opening to talk about how Jesus isn’t a bully and help those kids see not all christians are raging lunatics who hate kids.

    Sweet!

  126. London says:

    I wish God would send me a note in my mailbox. How cool would that be??

  127. Na'amah says:

    #96 Lutheran um, allow me to be ‘self promoting’ @ #62 🙂

    “a difficult reality and concept i have had to learn and accept in becoming more proficient and successful in my work is that the the majority of people tend to be intellectually lazy and/or incurious about truely investing time and discipline into most things. Even when it is to their personal benefit”

    you do not ‘fit’ this description as the peeps in general at PP don’t. We’re discussing and thinking about all the various ways the message in The Shack has or has not impacted or could impact people. We consider what we may learn from the reactions to the book and how we can further His Kingdom.

    This is NOT the behavior of the majority of our population. Only 16% of Americans read one book each year from research completed in the 90’s. (just another statistic,dividing the annual consumption of hard spirits in our nation, every man, woman and child consumes 56 gallons each year. Someone is consuming my “share” of the liquor.)

    I read 4-5 books each week from a variety genres (why my kids gave me a Kindle for Christmas 2 yrs ago 🙂 said i looked like a “TOTAL” geek w my bookbag) So i am, as well as many here at PP are ‘consuming’ the books being purchased each year.

    There are those that ingest information via television,movies, radio, print, and urban legends 🙂 and just incorporate it into their “belief system” as facts (as people took the excellent FICTION/STORY of the DaVinci Code) There are people who ‘confront’ the actors of soap operas on the street regarding their character’s behavior in the soap opera.

    The personal impact on a person who usually does not read will naturally place greater value/meaning of the information from that one book they invested their time to read. The impact/value of a book will be diluted/balanced when you’ve read a greater number of books as well as the cummulative effect of all the other books/study/research in one’s history.

    This does NOT mean we have some superiority or greater personal worth. But we must consider the ability and choosing to read is not the ‘norm’ in Man’s history. (Why most religious instruction and taught history of a nation were in pictographs)

  128. Michael says:

    “Someone is consuming my “share” of the liquor.”

    I’m sure you’ll forgive me… 🙂

  129. Michael says:

    Na’amah,

    That was a totally different take then I’ve ever read…I need to ponder the ramifications of it.

    I think you’re right on…

  130. Na'amah says:

    lol Michael

    i am not adverse to consumption… i just know i don’t quite measure up to 56 gallons of hard spirits 🙂

    how is your back doing by the way

  131. Michael says:

    It’s sore, but I’m ok…thanks for asking.

  132. Na'amah says:

    you’re geographically too far Michael… in my ‘life travels’ i managed to obtain a registered masseues certificate as well. 🙂

  133. Michael says:

    Everything in my life is too far away or too expensive! 🙂

    That’s why I have to borrow your share of the liquor… 😉

  134. Na'amah says:

    okay… makes reasonable sense to me Michael, so i bequeath ummm, 25 gallons of my 56 gallon annual allotment of hard spirits to you.

    And you certainly do reside too far from ‘significant’ resources of possible, if not generally contracted respite/alleviation to general and/or urgent life stressors.

    Possessing an awareness of your geographical commitments…any possible future movement from the other end of the continuum?

  135. Bill Walden says:

    I gave a copy of The Shack to someone is is very hurt. I like the line where “God the Father” says…”I am especially fond of him”…and then “He” says it about different people as well.

    I was also stranded in an airport, and needed to give something Christian a someone I just talked to. Sure enough, the airport stocked The Purpose Driven Life, so I bought it and passed it on.

    Neither book is my favorite…indeed, lots of wrinkles, spots, and blemishes…but hungry hurting people aren’t so critical as we healthy folks. (tongue in cheek)

  136. Michael says:

    You never know what God will do…

    I have left all that in His hands, lest I make myself and others miserable.

    He will make happen that which is best.

  137. Michael says:

    Bill,

    You have no idea how much I loved that post…:-)

    You are a pastor…

  138. brian says:

    I always struggled with suing people, especially in the Church. Now I know, more sure now than in the past, I swim very near the shallow end of the faith pool, if I am even in the pool. Being a bottom feeder I could never bring myself to sue, we have had many opportunities do to real neglect and even fraud but we did not pursue it. In every event when I shared this in the church, the first response was “all you want is attention” and the second was sue them. That never made sense to me, I lack the spiritual insight others have been blessed with.

  139. Bill Walden says:

    Michael,
    I like your #43. That’s how it hit me too.
    It is usually hard to turn off the analytical, “is this correct doctrine?” part of my brain that holds me back in some instances.

    The book was like someone speaking in tongues, followed by a sweet interpretation.
    Uncomfortable at first, and then as I allowed myself to relax, I could receive.

    We kinda make it hard for ourselves sometimes.

  140. Bill Walden says:

    London…if you read this….I loved your #64.
    Great!

  141. Michael says:

    Bill,

    For some reason the book had a strong effect on men our age…

  142. Michael says:

    I only read the book because Bill Ritchie made me… 😉

    I kept telling him I didn’t read fiction and he just got more excited…it’s hard to say no to Bill.

  143. Bill Walden says:

    Nice chatting a bit.
    I’m gonna fall over and hit my head if I don’t go to sleep.
    Blessings….

  144. Michael says:

    Blessings, Bill.

  145. victorious says:

    How come learning from Jesus in the Gospel of John about living in the love of the Father as Jesus did and growing up in the love of Christ by the Holy Spirit is not simple enough and substantial enough?

    If I heard of more people finding themselves immersed in what God has already clearly revealed and given to us in His Word about Christ and the reality of the New Covenant as a result of reading the Shack I might give a listen.

  146. Na'amah says:

    Brian you intuitively know that suing another believer is not the answer. We are even instructed to address the issues away from the ‘court’.

    And one of the easist ways to deflect/defame another who is illuminating disobedience/sin in a church system or a family system is to identified the identifier as “disgruntled” and in need of “attention” in some manner or even worse…mentally ill.

    A ‘demand’ to ‘sue’ is made by those who think to intimidate, those who want authentic/factual evidence to provide them w both sides of the ‘story’ and those who truely think you have a legitimate and legal reason to act..

    I do not know your historical relationships within your church community. I do know you will be faced w powerful adversaries w/out alliances if you do not provide factual, concrete information to those who are willing to give you their ears. You also must be very clear w/in yourself what you ‘want’ and why you think you need to proceed. Will it in the long view further our Father’s work for the Kingdom.

  147. victorious says:

    “i think that everyone here may be missing the boat…if God can speak thru an ass, why can He not use this book to reach His chosen? ”

    Because God says clearly in Hebrews 1 that He has spoken through His Son; therefore God can cause an ass to enunciate sounds that come out in Hebraic sounding syllables but He never spoke through an ass. God spoke through and still speaks through the One who has a complete understanding of what He is talking about when He speaks to men about God:

    The Man Christ Jesus.

  148. dewd4jesus says:

    Bill great words. Yes, truly a pastor, able to not just teach but lead and relate in example.

    I think it’s very important to find in things the world is interested in or that become faddish in the Church, some way to relate to/segue from to the gospel. Same applies recently to Angel’s and Demon’s and all that Dan Brown crap. Really anything. Rather than searching for ways to negatively show them what’s wrong. Find something to affirm as being true, even if it’s the existence of good and evil, and use that as a springboard to telling them the Good News. Don’t make it about condemnation of anything, make it about what God’s done and got for them.

    I’ve owned a copy since the last thread on the subject. Have yet to read it. Just never found the interest in the midst of all I was reading at the time. But now will give it another try. For the reasons stated above. I don’t go into it expecting to get anything out of it aside from maybe an enjoyable story. Being that it’s written as “Christian Fiction”, possibly some truth that speaks to me as an individual, or possibly not. More than likely a number of things I disagree with or dislike in the “theology” expressed. But my experience of those who have read it other than here is just whacked out views of God that they came away with. Granted one of those being my former bipolar neighbor in full blown mania after reading it thinking she was “the queen of heaven”. And then, after being released from the hospital but no one would pick her up, standing in the hospital chapel screaming at the top of her lungs, “The end is near, the end is near!”, I’m kinda excited to read it 🙂

    But seriously, being bipolar myself (2 not 1 if u understand), it’s just for people like her, or that have simply been deceived by the world and mans ideas of the Church, that I want to be able to relate to what they’ve read/or seen and be able to give them a better/clearer understanding of Christ and His Gospel before we’ve parted ways. Even if they don’t know it.

    On the bipolar note – a bit of prayer wouldn’t hurt as I will be talking with the doc about trying something new. Amusingly it’s what my neighbor was on when she had that blow out. However currently not until Aug 6. My case manager is trying to get me in sooner. But, what helps me be functional enough to write this, also reduces my day to Slept from 1am until noon, became mentally functional around 7 this evening, spent that with my wife and then wrote this. Time to take meds again and go to sleep. And that’s on a dose that gets me about a third to halfway where I need it with the areas it helps with. Then sleep goes up to 15-16 hours and functioning doesn’t happen. Find my clearest times when I’m coming down for lack of a better term. The craziness hasn’t rebooted and the brain’s no longer in the fog.
    So, earlier appointment and right meds.

    Thanks 🙂

    Maybe you all are lucky. I’ve had lots to say about pretty much every thread this week. So happy for the cyber-resurrection of the PP. Great subjects this week Michael. And a blessing to watch you grow as the Lord shapes you.

  149. ( |o )====::: says:

    it find it amusing that there can be an assertion that “God cannot___fill_in_the_blank”

    God can, did, and will continue to use The Shack.

    It’s our opportunity to build upon an individual’s response to the book. If someone sees the mercy, compassion and love of God, for pity sake, don’t rob them of the insight, BUILD upon it, clarify it, amplify it so the resonance is Jesus.

    If the only song someone know is “Jesus Is Just Alright With Me” then don’t demand he stop singing, add to his songbook and teach him some new chords & licks!
    ( |o )====:::

  150. Na'amah says:

    Hear! Hear! ( | o )====:::

    i really liked your imagery w the clothesline entanglement 🙂

  151. ( |o )====::: says:

    Na’amah,
    Thanks.
    Perhaps time for a cartoon about it!

  152. London says:

    Walden…
    Thanks…

    shoulda started with “first…. I went to Napa…….” 😆

  153. dewd4jesus says:

    vic – Hey! Long time 🙂

    “How come learning from Jesus in the Gospel of John about living in the love of the Father as Jesus did and growing up in the love of Christ by the Holy Spirit is not simple enough and substantial enough?”

    AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!!!!!!!!
    We need to start listening to John.

    Peter the foundation
    Paul the builder
    and oh yeah
    John the Restorer

    We need to start listening to what John’s got to say and just taking the deep and simple truths to heart. All of the foundational and building block doctrines are there. Because it is there in the depths of His Love for us. Out of which flows everything we need to live the life He calls us to in grace and truth.

  154. London says:

    Saying that every one SHOULD only find about the love of god in the Bible is like saying there SHOULD only be pepperoni pizza. Just cause you like it that way, doesn’t mean every one will or that everyone will connect with God in the same way you do.

  155. Na'amah says:

    😀 London 😀 dang girl you do make me lol w your FireCraker comments

  156. brian says:

    Na’amah for what very little it is worth and it is worth very little in my experience, I did offer, times dates, names, documents etc. For example, my father died because his dr was a quack, all the fluff blown away that is why he died. Granted he was sick, and not a christian, which was ten strikes against him. We did not sue because he would have loathed that, he to swam in the shallow end of the spiritual pool.
    We as a family decided not to do that, weak on our point even pathetic, we had an advantage, a good suit and we dropped it. If you want to hear something really pathetic, all I ever wanted was an elder to come see my father before he died, something I did repent of after he died. But that is a different post.
    My father loathed being a bother, it was not in his nature. It would have made him sick if we would have pursued any type of legal action. This was the only way he could care for his family, he lacked many of the soft interpersonal skills. I dont offer this for emotional effect or even sympathy something I go to great extent to avoid. It just bothered me, it should not have but it does. I wanted justice for him, another thing I should never seek.
    Actually all I ever wanted was to hope my father did not think I was the piece of crap son I was. I failed him, with the gospel and pretty much everything else. It tears me up inside. It should not but it does.

  157. brian says:

    This is most likely the stupidest post I ever made, when I first became a “Christian” I always had this vision of us being a “family”. I agree now that is just asinine and that is being nice. I had this idea that we were a group of followers held together by some Holy bond. I now understand that view is basically stupid and pathetic, the Church like any other entity is a business, first foremost and always. All the emotionalism aside, we have a product, we are selling this product and that is basically what we are about. Now being the dumb A$$ that I am I totally reject that, you see, as stupid and silly as it is, I actually think he rose out of that grave. When one gets over the gag reflex at such feelings, just imagine if it was actually true?

  158. London says:

    nope..that’s not the stupidest post you’ve ever written :mrgreen:

  159. London says:

    Hahaha…that’s just cause every once in a while I like to remind them that I remember them back before they got all spiritual and stuff and used to be just normal joes. You’d never know it any more, but Vic used to have a pretty wicked sense of humour.
    He hides it behind bible words now…but he’s actually a crack up.

    Didn’t want him to think I was fooled too much by his seriousness. 😉

  160. dewd4jesus says:

    Brian-

    What I have to sell is free. But it will cost you everything to partake of it. Those who count the cost do have that Holy bond. The indwelling Holy Spirit. Unfortunately for most the cost is too high. And so you are correct unfortunately in your description of what we call Christian today.

  161. dansk says:

    I got to spend some time with WayneJ five years ago when he visited Albuquerque – that was pre-Shack, at least before the huge success of the book. It was out for quite a while before it took off, and Wayne was busy ministering the principles in small and humble gatherings before the book came out.

    Of course he is a gracious and good and godly man. Many credit his insights and example for their ability to work through the most profound personal adjustments in their Christian lives.

    I have no inside view on the current brouhaha, other than believing in the people involved.

    Good people get divorced, and good people have business disagreements.

    (However, let’s keep it real vis-a-vis The Shack – being “Ambiguously Christian Universalist” should bring one’s theology into discussion.)

    I just hate that schadenfreude impulse that springs up in my own petty spirit when I hear that a friend who has been enormously successful – more successful than me! 🙁 encounters some challenge. That’s what bothers me.

  162. Steve Aspinall says:

    Lutheran,

    To clarify, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with fiction. I’m not going to be one of the legalists who damns TV, shuns movies, condemns rock music, burns books. So very far from it, in fact, that I’d hate to take time away from cataloguing my movie collection, watching American Chopper (jus’ kiddin), thumbing through Sartre while banging my head to Marilyn Manson records 😉

    One of the principles used is called ‘the suspension of disbelief.’ And while I don’t have them to hand, there will be countless studies conducted on the effects, and it is for this very reason that Madison Avenue spends millions each year enhancing and pursuing their ability for subliminal product placement.

    Basically, when you’re being fed narrative and your absorption of it becomes automatic, like a stream, your mind effectively relaxes. You don’t need to think about anything… just absorb. Have you ever been reading a book and you’ve drifted for a moment while you’re absorbed in the story and suddenly you snap-to and say ‘wow… I don’t remember reading the last five pages’ so you go back and look at them and while you don’t remember the details, the thrust of the story rings a bell and you get all comfortable again knowing that you’re on track as you hoped.

    Or you read a book and couldn’t put it down because you were so gripped… There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Like you said, it isn’t the medium per se, but the content. And time became lost to you, because you were compelled to keep going… the stream was flowing and you were absorbing the content.

    There’s actually a proof of this concept that just ‘sprang’ to mind, which in itself shows how long ‘useless’ information sits in your brain for.

    About eight to ten years ago a friend of mine who was cutting edge with gadgets bought an iPaq handheld computer. He was excited and showed me this program which was the result of years of research. It was for people who would love to read books but can’t be bothered with reading because they’re daunted by lots of words on a page. You load a book into the program and hold the iPaq up in front of your face and using a rapid interval the program flashes one word at a time into your eyes while you sit relaxed and let the computer feed you information. It was called something like ‘SpeedReader Pro’ or something similar I think. You could tap the screen to pause, and it reminded me at the time of those futurist ‘big brother’ movies where man is sat in a chair, music playing, seemingly mesmerised, while images, words, information is just beamed through his eyes.

    The research is clearly ongoing, because a number of ‘speed learning’ courses have tried similar techniques, as well as the old ‘subliminal learning’ technique where you listen to a CD while you’re asleep because the brain is less distracted and implants the inbound information in a deeper place in your memory banks which makes it easier to retain, and more ‘natural’ or ‘subconscious’ to access.

    I don’t need to stir much of an imagination to point out the potential applications (and indeed sources) of this kind of research.

    Sit down to read an informitive book, or conduct research, and you’ll get a totally different result for a totally different reason.

    And it isn’t about demonising ‘fiction’, else you’re right, we’d be condemning the Bible for its parables. It’s about your approach to the content. You don’t usually come to the Bible to be entertained, but to be informed, so your mind doesn’t switch into the passive mode, because it is purposed on learning, absorbing, understanding – unless pastor goes on for ten minutes too long, and then we’re drifting again…. The metaphor in the Bible for want of a better term, is about conveyance of reiterated spiritual truth. It isn’t, per se, the first and sole presentation of that truth. Jesus frequently used ‘sound bite sized’ parables but brought the listeners attention back by asking rhetorical questions, personally engaging the listener, and expounding established Scriptural truth. Neither a film, nor a book delivers an allegory for a few brief moments and then looks you in the eye, asks you a question to make you think about the content, and personalises it directly to you. The events and characters are always remote and connected to by empathy or projection.

  163. Steve Aspinall says:

    London,

    “Saying that every one SHOULD only find about the love of god in the Bible is like saying there SHOULD only be pepperoni pizza. Just cause you like it that way, doesn’t mean every one will or that everyone will connect with God in the same way you do.”

    It CAN be that way.

    But you could also argue that this is EXACTLY God’s position. The Word purports to be the sole truth. It purports to be the ONLY living water. Jesus is the ONLY Lamb of God, the ONLY Messiah. The ONLY way, only door, only good shepherd, only….. you know what I’m saying.

    Whether you can convey something from that by another means is a question in many ways for the conscience. Christians have tried it and failed it massively for two thousand years. Alpha Course repackages Shack-esque spirituality and breaks it into bite sized serialisation and represents it to people. And millions of people have taken the course. Unfortunately we’re not seeing the same millions of people stay in good Bible believing churches, and begin to change their towns and cities. Church numbers decline, and for the majority the only thing they crave is more of the same, with nominal amounts of spirituality included. I can’t remember where I read it, but I read recently that research from the UK indicated that something like 60% of all ‘spiritually-curious’ Alpha attendees were something like 80% more likely than anyone else to follow up their course by doing a similar course with Muslims, with Buddhists, with Hindus, with New Age gurus, as an exercise in spirituality, if they were available, so that they had broad minds.

    Allegory like ‘The Shack’, devised by new-age leaning universalists who have issues with some of the more accepted characteristics of Biblical Christianity are in danger of being little more than Sufi mysticism. Because they are allegory, they could be about any God. The challenge on works like that is essentially this… strip the ‘Christianised’ set dressing out of the book (assuming that there is any), all of the ‘props’ that make the allegory ‘Christian’ – now, if you were told that the God of the Shack was the Christian God – a being of legend rather than the God of the Bible, would you come away ‘in touch’ with more of a sense of that God? If you were told that the God of the Shack was a Hindu deity, or Allah, would you come away with the legendary Christian God, or a warm fluffy notiong of a Hindu deity or Allah? Do readers come out of ‘The Shack’ with merely an ‘experience’ through clever emotional and psychological association of whatever they went into ‘The Shack’ with.

    Perhaps that’s exactly what ‘The Shack’ is a metaphor for… Perhaps if you go into The Shack with the Biblical Christian God and a strong faith and sound theology, you come out with the same things but having had some form of ‘experience’ in The Shack which makes you think that the virtue of ‘The Shack’ has been affirmed. The danger is that anything less than a preconception of the Biblical God under strong, sound Biblical doctrine will yield an ‘experience’ of something far less and compel the reader to pursue something potentially far more deceitful.

  164. Michael says:

    Sigh…

    God uses stories and songs and nature and little kids and whatever else He pleases to speak of Himself and clarify His word.

    He is a good Father and a Good Shepherd and He will leave the 99 to find the one who lost their way reading “The Shack”. 🙂

    He is able to keep what has been entrusted to Him and He hasn’t lost a kid yet.

  165. Steve Aspinall says:

    ““i think that everyone here may be missing the boat…if God can speak thru an ass, why can He not use this book to reach His chosen? ””

    To make a model of the ass would be a mistake. The ass is God’s exception.

    God chose his medium and his means. The Word, and us making disciples.

    I’m always cautious of the ‘throwaway’ nature of many of our efforts. I call it ‘whatever God wants he keeps’ Christianity, where we take all our random efforts, whatever seemed like a good idea at the time, and toss it all in the air, and whatever doesn’t come down with gravity must have been good stuff.

    I think we were called to better than that, to be more responsible than that, more stable than that.

    God can use an ass.

    If he does, it should be a shame on us. Because we should be doing the ass’ job.

    If God needs ‘The Shack’, then ‘The Bible’ failed. If he needs universalist new age authors, then Bible believing truth-committed evangelists and ministers failed.

    God CAN use all kinds of things. He can use Todd Bentley. That doesn’t make it a good idea to have Todd Bentley in all our pulpits and to make clones in Todd Bentley’s image.

    It is worrying when what God CAN make out of compromised, insincere, dishonest, lukewarm, liberalised medium becomes as much of a focus of the modern church as what God commanded his believers to do in purity, sincerity, honesty, burning with passion for the truth and totally devoted to the whole counsel of God and nothing less.

    If God, for example, can speak to someone through the music of a ‘homosexual Christian’ who believes that spiritual standing isn’t affected by his sexuality; if he can speak to someone through a universalist work of fictional spirituality; if he can speak through the indiscernible growlings of a ‘Christian’ death metal band slamming their heads; those things are arbitrary, and God being sovereign can speak to someone through The Satanic Bible, through a Danzig album, and through a homosexual secularist.

    Are we challenging God to do so? Why? Why isn’t the challenge reserved, like the ass, for the exceptional circumstances when nothing else will do. Yet many are not giving ‘The Shack’ out as a last resort… we’re talking about it as an initiation. We’re not using the ass because there’s no one else to say something, we’re using the ass because talking asses are an unusual thing to see and it would be a great hook for people, and if the ass can say something intelligent, well hoorah!

    Jesus said even the stones would cry out if the crowd were silent. Shall we start a movement where we watch the lost walk around aimlessly while we sit in their midst smiling at each other and saying ‘any minute now the stones will start speaking!’

    Do you buy them a newspaper at the airport and pray that God rearranges the words so that they can be conveyed the Holy Truth? Or pray that a Christian sits next to them at some point on their journey? Sometimes I wonder if we get obsessed with the idea of doing something, anything rather than just praying for God to do what we can’t do.

    But there’s a really dark flipside…

    God can speak through ‘The Shack.’ God can speak through Todd Bentley. God can speak through a death metal musician.

    So can Satan.

    God can speak through an ass.

    Satan can speak through a serpent.

    The difference is that God speaks a truth,

    Satan spins a lie.

    Both are compelling.

    Satan can’t speak through the Word. He can only distort it, add to it, subtract from it, twist it, reinterpret it, marginalise it, re-engineer it. God said he’d preserve His truth. He didn’t say he’d do the same for contemporary Christian fiction.

  166. Steve Aspinall says:

    Perspectives, Michael.

    I’m not a Calvinist, so in my understanding, you don’t knowingly give someone a roadmap to the wrong place because you presume that they’ll automatically arrive at the right destination regardless of which path they take.

  167. Michael says:

    God not only preserves His truth, He preserves His people.

  168. Michael says:

    I’m a Calvinist…the Bible tells me He finishes what He starts.

    If I’m going to be the thought police for people the first thing I’ll do is throw out their TV’s…

  169. Lutheran says:

    ‘The Word, and us making disciples.’

    Steve A,

    Are you referring to the Written Word? Or what Lutherans call the inscripturated Word?

    Not to play devil’s advocate, but what did God use for the 16 centuries before the written Word was available to the masses?

  170. Lutheran says:

    Steve A.,

    I hope you’re not a nervous believer serving a nervous God.

  171. Em says:

    Michael,”God not only preserves His truth, He preserves His people.” an experiential amen

    hmmm, a couple years back i had a short conversation with a baptized-at-birth ‘church lady,’ – a good one i believe, who knew me waaay back when i accepted Christ as my Savior (59 years ago next month) – we hadn’t been in touch for decades… she commented, “well, i’m glad to hear that you have kept your faith thru all these years.” SAY WHAT! i wanted to lecture her on The Faith right then and there, but she was a church lady, after all – a keeper of the keys (to something) and really believed that you had to keep the faith.
    the years have taught me of God’s faithfulness, it’s all in Him.

  172. Michael says:

    Em,

    AMEN!

  173. Em says:

    P.S. FWIW – i haven’t come back to God as i see the end approaching … He’s been there all these years, in spite of church ladies and self absorbed preachers and life’s disappointments and tribbles… but now i ‘feel’ Him, almost see Him, hovering here – it’s what i’d wish for all of you – just look at what a beautiful God He is… search for Him with all your heart

  174. TonyP. says:

    Em,
    AMEN AND AMEN!!! Precisely Peircing Pontifications. 🙂

  175. TonyP. says:

    I know… “i before e….”

  176. Nonnie says:

    Em,
    I just want to give you a big hug.

  177. London says:

    Steve-
    “if God needs The Shack then the Bible failed” …what?

    Again…the pizza thing…If Pizza Hut needs Mushroom then Pepperoni failed…

    It sounds silly when it’s said like that huh? But it’s the same concept. You are trying to put rules on everyone else based of your own preferences. Some people get bored with reading the Bible. It is too long, it doesn’t make sense to them, they see a God that is ready to kill most of the population except his chosen few and they already that ain’t them, they don’t see the story line, whatever….

    But, they will read a fiction story that their friends are reading and maybe through that, get a taste of the love of God and then read more.

    In a free country, pastors don’t get to tell other adults what they can and can’t read.
    Yay America and Yay UK for that alone if nothing else…

  178. London says:

    Steve, have you even read The Shack or are you just “guessing” based on what others are saying?

  179. London says:

    “I can’t remember where I read it, but I read recently that research from the UK indicated that something like 60% of all ‘spiritually-curious’ Alpha attendees were something like 80% more likely than anyone else to follow up their course by doing a similar course with Muslims, with Buddhists, with Hindus, with New Age gurus, as an exercise in spirituality, if they were available, so that they had broad minds.”

    See, that’s where we differ. I don’t see that as a bad thing.
    When I was wandering around, I seriously contemplated whether or not I was buddist..still think they have some great attitudes and some things I could definately incorporate into my life so I’m not such a hot head some times 🙂
    I spent some time learning about other religions, what they believed, what they thought, how they were similar/different etc…all that stuff.

    I never talked about it on here cause I knew what the reaction would be. But, at the time, one of the guys from here had opened his own blog and had a “live blog” thing going on where folks in his congretation and others could get on line at the same time and just talk through stuff. It was fantastic until the “critics” and “scared people” came on and basically shut it down by belittling people’s attempts at sorting out their own walks.

    Because they did have open minds and good information and weren’t afraid of questions, doubts, experimenting, I pretty much worked that out of my system there. Probably if that hadn’t been available, I would have been so pissed off at people telling me what I could and couldn’t think or do, I would have just gone and done it out of spite.

    oh…and I like pesto on my pizza better than I do tomato sauce

  180. London says:

    oh and one more thing cause I have a bunch of stuff I’m avoiding getting done so I’m yakking on here too much.

    It wasn’t all the stuff I knew or had learned that got my attention in the end. It was something I could not explain, and still can’t that did it. A few weeks after the airplane ride where I me the pastor dude, I had the crappiest day maybe of my entire career (maybe). It was bad..and I was scrambling trying to sort what to do, I was physically exhausted due to lack of sleep, stressed about as far as I could go…it was really not good.
    I looked at my phone and had a vm from a number I didn’t know. It was the guy from the plane who told me that he was just thinking about me right then and praying for me.
    He later told me that he’d found my business car in his wallet and put it aside thinking I gotta call her some day and check up on her. “God told him” to do it right then….
    People in my office who worked for me told me that they could physically see a difference in me as I listened to that message, that my whole body relaxed and it was ok…everythings going to be ok. I don’t remember thinking that, but I felt it I guess..

    Then weeks later, something came up in his life that his wife had mentioned about one sentence of. One day I had this “feeling” that I HAD to call and check on him to see if he was ok. At that very moment, he was about to have a procedure done on his eyes to find out why he was loosing his site. He was about 2 minutes before the procedure and I had no idea about that. I just knew I HAD to call…

    So, I can’t explain that…I can’t explain alot of stuff after that either…that is what drives me back to Christianity over all those other religions I took a bit of time to learn about. Not all the hours of being preached at or told what to do or how to think to explain things to me in a way that was “air tight” logic.

    I can explain away alot of things using bible verses, well crafted logic and articulate phrases. I can’t explain away that.

  181. Believe says:

    London’s taking over the thread! 🙂

    …you’ve been hanging around me too long. 😉

  182. London says:

    Dude…I was talking to myself on threads long before you ever showed up.

    Don’t flatter yourself 😉

  183. SPQR says:

    “Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

    “Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it.

    The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.”Before the Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there.

    Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.”
    A.W. Tozer

  184. Steve Aspinall says:

    London…

    Pesto on pizza?

    I knew you were a heretic 😉

  185. Steve Aspinall says:

    London,

    I’ve read parts, only because I’ve been given a copy by the people who were told by a Pastor that it was the greatest, most Christian book they could read to help them get right with God.
    I’ve also read interviews, comments by the author, and read something of the author’s background.

    While I understand that there’s a set of hoops that some would like me to jump through before I lend a critical appraisal of any kind, I’m also aware that if I read the entire book, isolated myself from all third party criticism, and befriended the author personally and lived in his house for three years and then gave a critical appraisal, I’d just be told I’d misunderstood something.

    Ultimately it becomes an irreconcilable conflict of opinion.

    I’m assured this… I’m called on to act out of conscience and I believe there exists good reason for books like ‘The Shack’ to not be considered a contemporary of or alternative to Biblical exposition, the ministry of The Word, not do I believe we ought – or need – to look outside of The Word for how believers should be fed, taught, counselled, instructed, encouraged, protected and so on. We can admire sound works of allegory inspired by The Word, but when we recommend them for teaching spiritual truth, I simply believe we’re in a lazy and dangerous area in which we place too much stock in chasing the Spirit of the Times rather than the unchanging Spirit and Word of God.

    By not recommending ‘The Shack’ to people and by cautioning against them using it to derive spiritual value or an ‘experience’ I don’t believe I’m depriving them of anything fundamental – I’m sure God will speak through an ass, or even his Word, instead of a novel. He doesn’t need to be an avatar of a concept of God, He can be revealed through His Son and His Word – a revolutionary idea in the modern church, I know 😉

    “But, they will read a fiction story that their friends are reading and maybe through that, get a taste of the love of God and then read more.”

    More works of spiritual fiction? Yes, I’m sure they’ll read more of those. If only we could get them to read the Bible, though. Or some good exposition. Instead of fiction, experientialism and emotionalism.

    “In a free country, pastors don’t get to tell other adults what they can and can’t read.”

    Spoken like a true rebel 😉 The flipside is that in a free country, adults don’t get to tell pastors what they can and can’t say either, and we all end up having to act in conscience. If a Pastor asks a person in the congregation not to pass around a book of dubious spiritual value and dubious spiritual content from a spiritually dubious author, that seems to be a reasonable request… kind of like ‘don’t smoke in this public place because we believe that there are health risks to doing so, but if you want to go smoke in private you’re perfectly entitled to, but you have been warned about the risks.’

    The only thing worse than warning people against something that you believe is dangerous but which turns out not to be dangerous causing people to feel marginally cheated and deprived, is to fail to warn people against something that you believe is dangerous, and to have your worst fears confirmed but be looking at a mound of carnage.

    Adults can make up their own minds. You’re right. But by the same token if Pastors can’t warn against something in case it isn’t actually dangerous, they also shouldn’t be allowed to recommend something in case it is actually dangerous.

    I understand the dialectic underway on these subjects. But there’s also the danger that there is an air of assumption that Pastors are stupid, flawed, inexperienced, reactionary, idiotic creatures while the sheep exemplify the utmost discernment. I’m more inclined to believe that a Pastor has a better grasp on what a ‘sheep’ needs to hear about God than an author who is not a Pastor.

    And I’d be less than comfortable believing that God uniquely spoke through someone with an unverifiable spiritual history, an unverifiable ‘personal experience’, who is out of fellowship, appears to accept only the authority of his own feelings, senses and ideas for defining his spirituality, and is in fact a prime candidate for having invented his own god in order to reconcile his preconceptions with his presumptions.

    But that’s just me. There are clearly no others with these same doubts, so as always seems to happen, those without those doubts rule that care-free abandon is spiritually more virtuous than the alternative.

    Lutheran,

    Sorry but you’ve lost me in the technicalities of what Lutherans believe and so on. And I’m not one of those people who worships at the chapter in history where ‘The Reformation’ happens. I’m one of the lunatics who believes that there was no ‘gap’ in the availability of the truth, nor a ‘gap’ in the availability of God to Israel. The nature of the continual tradition of Biblical Christianity defying organised churchianity (Catholicism) tells me that either orally or in writing, God preserved his Word perfectly well and inspired men and women to stand on ground that was understood by the Apostles, supposedly ‘rediscovered’ by the Reformers, accepted by the evangelicals today, but was to all intents and purposes elusive in the age of Vaticanism.

    And being a ‘narrow way, few that find it’ kind of a Christian, I have no anticipation of masses and masses of believers during the Catholic era who managed without the post-Reformation Bible any more than I have the anticipation of the masses and masses of indigenous people who never heard of Christianity being ‘saved’ regardless. I don’t see that as an act of God’s unkindness or that he was withholding something to toy with people, as some have argued. Instead I see that man corrupted what he was given and sought something else, and got more than a thousand years of it, while people convinced otherwise were murdered and silenced for standing on that ground of resistance, small pockets who had another belief, who eventually gained the position they needed to be able to establish the resistance in freedom and change the colour of state religion.

    I think there have been believers throughout, with a true picture of Biblical doctrine and Apostolic teaching who were uncorrupted by Rome and unaffected by Geneva, by the grace of God.

  186. London says:

    Steve,
    Sorry, but if you cant even be bothered to read the whole book before telling people it’s evil, then I have to toss out your opinion on it as hearsay.

    I guess if by “rebel” you mean I have my own brain and use it to not just beleieve everything some guys with job title or “pastor” say and I’m not impressed by said title alone then yep! I’m a “rebel”

    truly, I dont give a rip what someone’s job title is…I respect prople’s character, not their job title.

  187. Em says:

    Pastor Steve,”I’m assured this… I’m called on to act out of conscience and I believe there exists good reason for books like ‘The Shack’ to not be considered a contemporary of or alternative to Biblical exposition, the ministry of The Word, not do I believe we ought – or need – to look outside of The Word for how believers should be fed, taught, counselled, instructed, encouraged, protected and so on. We can admire sound works of allegory inspired by The Word, but when we recommend them for teaching spiritual truth, I simply believe we’re in a lazy and dangerous area in which we place too much stock in chasing the Spirit of the Times rather than the unchanging Spirit and Word of God…..”

    amen to those words … however, just as in the bookstores 99%% of the titles could be tossed out if one could really focus on The Word, there are way too many men posing as students of and instructors in The Word (which is the primary job of a pastor IMO) who feed us just the same rambling, entertainment fluff as those authors on the bookstore shelves… some will get us there eventually and others are just plain bad… books and pastors

    just an observation from the pew 😉

  188. victorious says:

    Steve A presents us with a valid basis to remain cautionary and concerned about books such as the Shack.

    “And I’d be less than comfortable believing that God uniquely spoke through someone with an unverifiable spiritual history, an unverifiable ‘personal experience’, who is out of fellowship, appears to accept only the authority of his own feelings, senses and ideas for defining his spirituality, and is in fact a prime candidate for having invented his own god in order to reconcile his preconceptions with his presumptions.”

    I believe he also helps us see the the underlying issue at hand in our pragmatic, in the moment culture where the mantra of “God can use anything as long as it seems to work within the framework of my perceptions” is the brandished sword of authority.

    The issue is this. What is our epistemology of God? In other words:
    What is the source of our knowledge of God?
    How do we interact with this source of knowledge?
    What are the expectations and outcomes in terms of personal and communal transformation in the personal (character) and social (love of (neighbor) dimensions of living?

    Also,
    What is the place of authority in the competing epistemologies of God and of humanity?

    Steve A redirects us to the correct source of a sustainable and verifiable knowledge of God and of humanity. The person of Jesus Christ

    “He doesn’t need to be an avatar of a concept of God, He can be revealed through His Son and His Word – a revolutionary idea in the modern church, I know ;)”

    With Christ as our Living source are their unsearchable riches in Him that provide for us everything we require for a full life centered around godliness sustained and nurtured by the Spirit of Christ; also known as the Spirit of truth? What say yee?

    We do not need to throw out the Shack, brand as evil the author of the Shack nor do we need to point out readers of the shack as pseudo heretics.

    But we do need to challenge and offer criticisms of a work of fiction that presents a picture of God that conflicts with the Revelation of God in the persons of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and His purposes amongst mankind.

    Jesus offers us an epistemology of God and requires of us an immersion into that Trinitarian life of God as His disciple(s) in order to gain that knowledge of God within the bounds and grace of His absolute authority. Mattthew 28:18-20

    I

  189. victorious says:

    London,

    “truly, I dont give a rip what someone’s job title is…I respect prople’s character, not their job title.”

    I respect Jesus’ job title and rejoice living under the rule of His authority precisely because of His proven and unchangeable character.

  190. London says:

    what does that have to do with what I saying Vic?

    It’s spiritualizing something that wasn’t spiritual so if I try to refute it, it looks like I don’t respect Jesus. So,I’ll pass on playing thanks.

  191. Steve Aspinall says:

    Em,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Like anything, a topic like this only becomes a discussion when people bring alternative and even diametrically opposed viewpoints, otherwise it becomes consensus and consensus is entirely untrustworthy because it can be influenced by the Spirit of the Times far more easily than the Spirit of God.

    Consensus tells us God doesn’t exist and we exploded from nothing by complete chance, and that just as our history is built on chance, our future is built on the same terminal uncertainty.

    As we chat on issues in the future, please don’t make the use of ‘Pastor’ to interact with me 🙂 It may be a part of the nature of my role in church, but it certainly isn’t my identity 😉 I hear ‘Pastor’ and I look round for mine… Steve will do just nicely, and make me feel far more comfortable.

    And yes, you’re absolutely right. I’m one of those terrible ‘judgmental’ (some call it ‘discerning’) people that walks into a modern Christian bookstore (and in England, that’s not like walking into a Chapel Store) and wants to cry at the sheer volume of dispensible rubbish that people are not only absorbing, but paying good money in order to be deceived, distracted, diverted, beguiled and mesmerised. In a sense it shames me that even non-believers will balk at the idea of a Christian minister reminding people all the books of his that they can buy, and it does raise a lot of questions. If a professional minister who ministers for a living and is paid to do so then writes a book during the span of his career, does he actually have a right to sell his ‘original’ work, or is he a shameless plagiarist who can top up his authority, his wealth and his apparent success by being able to sell a million copies of books he effectively wrote while paid to study and minister to his church?

    I’m not legalistic about that. I just think they’re interesting considerations, and if the church agreed together that the sale of spiritual books was no longer allowed, I wonder how many authors would still stand and see their message as being so vital, their research so needed, that they would give their time and resources freely to produce it knowing that they’ll receive no reward. It certainly raises questions about motivation. I’m sure that false doctrine spreads where the church is poor and no ‘Contemporary Christian’ culture exists, but does it spread so fast, does it spread so easily, when all people have to go on is the Word and where we don’t have a smorgasbord of cleverly packaged and marketed ways to ‘sell’ nonsense.

    Don’t get me wrong, I see the benefit of exegesis of the Word, of faith-building texts and exhortations, of apologetics and study books, of history and biography, of expose or informed warning, but on a singular basis only – that they are speaking truth.

    I have no problem with people reading Narnia books, or Lord of the Rings books, or George MacDonald fantasies and taking some spiritual truth from them. I cringe at hearing Christian parents call them ‘Christian books’ because they aren’t, and never were. They are the Christian-leaning worldview of the authors spilling into their process of inspiration and originality in creating stories, and while perhaps virtuous in their own right because they reflect interpretable spiritual truth, they can stand on their own right also without any Spiritual connotations.

    If people started giving away Narnia books or the Lord of the Rings so that people who aren’t Christians might become Christians, we’ve got a problem. And the authors would agree, because their books were never written with that purpose in mind.

    ‘The Shack’ is something else entirely. It intends and succeeds in reconciling the reader with a pantheistically compatible caricature of a benevolent but benign god. If it did not do so, it would have gone nowhere, because it is not an especially high grade of fiction nor a ‘mass-market’ subject matter. It appeals to a market for self-help allegory, spiritualisation and, sadly, the Christian market also.

  192. Steve Aspinall says:

    London,

    Sorry for provoking such a violent reaction.

    “Sorry, but if you cant even be bothered to read the whole book before telling people it’s evil, then I have to toss out your opinion on it as hearsay.”

    I’m afraid I don’t accept your comments. ‘Not being able to be bothered’ isn’t a consideration. It makes me out to be lazy and strips me of the valid right to say that I found no reason or virtue to proceed. It is a construct of your misrepresentation of what I’ve said and why. That’s presumably why you ‘have to’ toss out my opinion as if you have some noble obligation to some unwritten due process because of a failure of mine. Its rubbish, frankly. I’ve never come across anyone who felt compelled to continue reading a book that disappointed them in order to be qualified to say that it disappointed them and why.

    Also, I didn’t say anything about the book being ‘evil.’ That’s a rather hysterical reaction.

    I will also add that I’ve never read the Bhaghavad Gita, and reject it and condemn it wholeheartedly alongside The Satanic Bible, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the complete works of Aleister Crowley. I have read Mein Kampf, and reject that too. Did you read those before you rejected them, or do they still rank on your ‘must read before rejecting’ book list?

    “I guess if by “rebel” you mean I have my own brain and use it to not just beleieve everything some guys with job title or “pastor” say and I’m not impressed by said title alone then yep! I’m a “rebel””

    I’m not impressed by titles either, which is why I don’t use one. And I respect your right to have, and use your own brain. That doesn’t preclude the possibility that you might be using it badly.

    And again, the whole ‘they tell you what to think’ hysteria is tired and worn too. You have the right to think how you like, read how you like, believe what you like. You do not have the right to come to my church and say what you like, behave how you like, promote materials how you like regardless of how the leadership of that church feels about that. As in life, democracy only stretches so far before it runs into the brick wall of someone else’s rights, or another groups rights.

    The people in any number of churches have the right to attend classes in classical Satanism if they choose. They do not have the right to use the church as a ground to sell the mind-opening virtue of doing so. That should be self-explanatory.

    Otherwise we end up in the bizarre position, as I said before, that you have the right to distribute poison somewhere because you believe it to be medicine, but I don’t have the right to warn against your medicine, because I believe it to be poison. You get to state your case, I get to state mine, and you can only say that people are ‘making up their own minds’ when they are adequately informed that there are actually alternative thoughts on the matter.

    “truly, I dont give a rip what someone’s job title is…I respect prople’s character, not their job title.”

    Good O. You know nothing of my character and you know nothing of the author’s character, I presume. So what you’re effectively saying is that you are only a respecter of the people who agree with you. You can’t testify for the author’s character, but what you’re saying is that you don’t need information on that in order to make a decision. You don’t know anything of my character, and you’re saying that the fact that you don’t is a reason for you to have no respect for anything I might say.

    Fair enough. Hypocrisy, but fair enough.

    I’m clearly going to be happier discussing it with Victorious who seems to think that the ‘character’ has less to do with anything than whether something is Biblical or not.

  193. Steve Aspinall says:

    Victorious,

    “The issue is this. What is our epistemology of God? In other words:
    What is the source of our knowledge of God?
    How do we interact with this source of knowledge?
    What are the expectations and outcomes in terms of personal and communal transformation in the personal (character) and social (love of (neighbor) dimensions of living?”

    Are you asking this of me personally, or asking for a sort of general agreement of an intellectual rule or process?

    The latter I can’t give you.

    The former I can.

    I’ve read the Bible and I believe it. I’ve read the Words of Jesus, and I believe them. I’ve read what the people who knew Jesus had to say, and I believe them too. So as they weave their thoughts on the subject in and out and through the whole of the Bible, I take the whole to be an authority worth submitting to.

    I can’t make it sound more mysterious than that.

    I don’t believe that man has ever been entirely at the mercy of flawed human process in order to be given ‘the Bible’, or that ‘the Bible’ is a text that we arrived at by random processes any more than I believe that the Bible is an interpretable free-for-all that anyone can make a version of. I believe that there are academic processes and academic people which have both sought to ascertain as reliable a picture as possible of the closest we can get to an ‘authentic’ Word of God, and after that I simply believe it. I’m not a soul of high intellectual materialistic rationalism demanding complete and unequivocal satisfaction – near scientific – in being convinced of what I believe, and in believing the way I do I don’t recognise a need for any concession of doubt that any person professing the same belief in general should take the same source any less seriously or completely than that.

    From an intellectual point of view it would seem – whether the Christian is right or wrong – that a ‘Christian faith’ ought to be based on nothing less than the total, verbatim, serious, studied and committed approach to understanding and adhering to the ideas and instructions of the Bible – an authentic a version of the Bible as we can obtain, comprehensible without loss of integrity – with nothing added and nothing taken away. Ironically, Christopher Hitchens agrees entirely, and has expressed his disappointment with Christians who compromise those absolutes with liberalisations, embarrassed apologies for the God of the Bible, pantheistic tolerances and so on. Pick something to believe in, and believe in it wholeheartedly if the evidence supports it.

    I don’t condone blind faith in the face of contravening fact, nor do I condone the nurturing of doubt for the sake of possibility.

    In that sense, if the Christian faith isn’t accurately and divinely encapsulated in the Bible as the Word of God, then it isn’t going to be found elsewhere, so either the Bible is acceptable, or we’re simply inventing God in our own image and trying to piece together fragments of legends.

    The Word of God will, at all times, be indisputable truth – though man’s perception of it in the temporal realm may not be so absolute and as a result may require what some would describe as ‘leaps of faith.’ I can take those leaps of faith based on the life and teaching of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the Word of the Apostles. If they believed the rest, I can too. And if they were wrong, then I have nothing and can only believe on conviction, but it will be a wholehearted belief nonetheless.

    Some of the debates on what constitutes ‘The Word of God’ textually come perilously close to asking which version of Shakespeare is authentic, the Penguin 2010 Urban English Translation or the Collins Modern English Translation, over the Oxford Victorian English… Take as much of the original, stay as close to the original and translate as closely to the original as possible, and I see no reason why you shouldn’t be in a ball park of accuracy so tight that there should be no reason for great disparity in approach to the text. If the understanding of a section is wildly varied, then the conclusion must be that subjective interpretation has caused the skew.

    I’ve been asked by others in discussions of ‘epistemology’ and conflicting philosophies “so how do you take the Bible?”

    My answer is always the same. “Seriously.”

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