Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Shack-Heresy At Its Finest

Below is a reprint of a book review I did of The Shack a few months ago. I am reposting here today because I've noticed several folks finding my blog by a Google search using the search terms "Review of the Shack". If this review causes one person to decide NOT to read the book, I will feel that I have done my job.

One time, while watching an NFL preview show on HBO, I saw a comedian named Wanda Sykes do a short monologue on one of the games for the upcoming weekend. She said, “I have never been to Cincinnati, and I don’t ever plan on going, so I can say this with complete boldness—the Bengal’s stink”. I suppose that I would have to say the same thing about the pile of tripe that is The Shack. I am never going to meet the author and I am never going to read the book. However, I feel totally comfortable saying that I regret calling The Shack garbage in my previous post where I reprinted a review of the book. That was not the right thing to call it. I was wrong to call it that.

Calling it garbage was being far too generous. If I have garbage in my house, I can wait until the next day or so to take it to the dump (we have no city trash collection service, go fig). If my children walked into the room where we keep the trash till we’re ready to take it to the dump I’d be like “Come on, now. Get out of there.” If I found a copy of The Shack in my home I would probably burn the place down. If my children got their hands on the wretched thing I’d get industrial strength hand cleaner to wash their hands with. You know, the kind mechanics use after they’ve worked in grease. I mean, the things this man writes in this book go so far beyond heresy that it’s hard to believe that he actually wrote them. I’m not saying he’s not a Christian, or that he’s a bad husband or father. Heck, as far as I know he may be the Michael Jordan of the bar-b-que grill and give 10 hours a day volunteering at the local charity. But his book makes the Purpose Drivel Life (that was not a misspelling, I meant for it to look like that) look like Matthew Henry’s Commentary. I am going to take just a few quotes from the book and give page numbers. If you can in good conscience read the book after you see what’s in it, well, just make sure you don’t leave your copy on my doorstep when you’re done. I’d rather not have to take a jackhammer to my front porch because it had been polluted with that filth.

On page 120, the character who is written to represent God, a woman called Papa, says “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Huh? Do what? God doesn’t need to punish people for their sin? Ok, I must really need new glasses because the Bible I read says in Psalm 1 that the wicked will not be able to stand in the judgment of Almighty God but instead will be blown around like chaff. In Matthew 7, Jesus says that some people who thought they were all religious will be told to depart from Him because He never knew them. Time and time again He mentions that those folks will be in eternal punishment “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. The book of Revelation spells it out even clearer. In chapter 20 verse 15, it says anyone who is not found with their names written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire. This fire, it says in that chapter, brings torment forever and ever. While it is true that God provided the perfect cure for sin on Calvary in the vicarious substitutionary death of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is also true that God punishes sin. Therefore, what is written in The Shack contradicts clear biblical teaching. Regardless of any good anyone might find in there, reading the book is not worth it. I mean, who would look in a pile of cow manure to find a diamond. Boy, if I was going to do that, it would have to be a really big diamond.

Oh, but wait—there’s more. On page 182, the character meant to represent Jesus says “Those who love me come from every stream that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions”. Mack asks for clarification. “Does that mean...that all roads will lead to you?” “'Not at all,' smiled Jesus...'Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you'”. Jesus then goes on to say “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu (the character who plays the Holy Spirit).” Here is the problem with these two quotes. The first might not be something that would make you go “Eek” upon first reading. I believe God can save anyone anywhere. You don’t have to be a part of the right group to be saved. Could God save a Mormon? No doubt if that Mormon confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in their heart God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). I mean, they’d need to get out of their LDS cult and all because you can’t be a Christian and stay there. That’s a rabbit trail for another sunny day. However, what the character doesn’t do is say that there is only one way to heaven. In fact, the next quote from the character playing Jesus says “I am the BEST way any human can relate” (emphasis mine) to God. “Best” isn’t exclusive folks. When I’m at work, I have quite a bit of control over how I do my work. There are times where, when I have finished an assignment, that my supervisor will review it and say “Let’s do this”. Sometimes I find that what I did was good but their way was better. There may be a way to do the task even better than what my supervisor had suggested and that way might be best. So, if Jesus is the BEST way that suggests by the very way that it was worded that there are other ways that are not as good but would still do the job. Saying Jesus is the BEST way is a far cry from saying He is the ONLY way, which is what the Bible teaches.

Oh, but lest you think I’m finished, check out this little nugget from the author. On page 99, the character who is supposed to be God says “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood”. Dear reader, God the Father did not take on flesh and dwell among us. That was God the Son-the Word of God (John 1:14). Nor did the third person of the Trinity take on flesh—I mean, He’s called the Holy Spirit, right? Further, Jesus says in John 4:24 that God is a Spirit. Again, what we see is the clear distinction between the heresy written in The Shack and the truth written in God’s word.

In the end, you and I have to make a choice. Where do we stand? Do we stand with what Scripture plainly teaches or do we allow ourselves to entertain thoughts that obviously contradict scripture. My prayer is that you will decide to fill your mind with things that edify you and build you up as a believer. The garbage that is between the covers of the Shack will do neither.

82 comments:

candidchatter said...

I haven't read the book and chances lean in the major direction that I never will being that I haven't the time. But isn't it fiction????

I don't know, but fiction can take lots of liberties IMO.

Heidi

Joe Blackmon said...

Well, in my humble opinion, having some little old lady playing the character God is one thing. Saying that God doesn't punish sin and that Jesus is the best way not the only way is something entirely different.

Plus, there are more than just a few Christian leaders who are praising this as a great book to get to know God better. Makes me wanna go a few rounds of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots or have a big ol' pillow fight.

Grrrr.

St.Lee said...

But tell me.... what did you really think of the book? :)

Joe Blackmon said...

Lee

Makes me want to go challenge the author to a pillow fight or a round or three of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. Haa

Joann said...

I did read the book and had MANY issues with it including the ones you already mentioned. I found the way the trinity kissed uponed leaving & entering a room and the way the "Holy Spirit" was frolicking in the grass w/Mac very disturbing. The book was downright unnerving. God is my Father and I would like to keep it that way, thank you very much.

Joe Blackmon said...

Joann

Thanks for the visit and the comment. There are not words in my vocabulary for how mad just THINKING about the book makes me. If I read it, I'd probably expolde. Haa

Anonymous said...

It's a NOVEL folks! It has helped me (always a believer)understand the concept of The Trinity and to really understand that forgiveness is truly for oneself, not the one who is forgiven. I thought it was a beautiful book.

Joe Blackmon said...

Anon

Thanks for your comment. I concur that it is a novel. However, the novel teaches a completely heretical view of the trinity (i.e. God was on the cross with Jesus, there are no roles/order within the Trinity, etc) and its teaching on forgivness neglects a very important Biblical truth--God is holy and punishes sin. In fact, He punished His Son for sin. I maintain that I would love to go a few round of Rock 'em Sock 'em robots with the author.

Riley said...

"Do we stand with what Scripture plainly teaches or do we allow ourselves to entertain thoughts that obviously contradict scripture."
______________

So, I'm thinking "entertain" may be the key word. It doesn't say "believe", it merely says allow your mind to open up and think about someone's beliefs other than your own and not simply dismiss them. To be an educated debater, you have to be informed, equally, on both sides of the issue (or however many sides there are). Closing your mind to anything other than your view is simply bigotry, in my opinion.
Read the book, the whole book, or at least most of it, not just mere little snippets. Then we'll talk.

Joe Blackmon said...

It's not necessary to read the whole book to know where the author stands on these issues. I can debate the author's viewpoint because I know where the author stands on the atonement of Christ, punishment for sin, and the incarnation of Christ. Reading the filler material isn't going to make me more informed of the author's theology.

Therefore, I will take your challenge to read the whole book under advisement. I stand by my assertions because they are supported by the author's own words from his published book, thank you.

"Entertain", huh? Ok, let's have another at bat on that one. Why would I waste my time reading something that I know beforehand flatly contradicts scripture and its claims. Better?

Anonymous said...

Joe,

I've read the book and have had my own series of problems with it and some of the liberties it takes with Scripture. Additionally, I can respect others who will debate the subject, having read it. But to dismiss it without having read it, in fact being proud of not reading it, displays appalling insecurity.

Are your views so weak they cannot withstand debate? Why not read it and refute it once you know the whole thing?

Russ

Joe Blackmon said...

Russ

I am totally comfortable and annoyingly confidnet in what I believe. I still don't see how reading the "filler material" would benefit me or improve my understanding of the book. When the author has the character who is supposed not to represent God but to BE God saying things like "It's not my purpose to punish sin. It's my joy to cure it" I don't need to know the context of that statement to know that what the author wrote is heresy. Further, I have listened to an interview with the author and heard from his own mouth that the things written in book reflect his actual beliefs.

2nd of all, gernally speaking I have a lot on my plate reading wise so I'm a little selective in what I choose to read. It's not fear--it's time management.

Mike said...

Joe- I appreciate your zeal and your willingness to call a spade a spade! Heresy is Heresy, the fact the lukewarm American "Christian" churh can't recognize it, or have the kahoonas(sp) to speak out against it, only proves how prevelant sin is. Now I'M an intolerant ideolog, but I just got wind that my church is going to host a class on the inspirational aspects of this text, and I'm flat FIRED UP. I am constructing a presentation to our elders right now, to challenge them to execute their biblical duty and protect the church from bad teaching and heretical doctrine. To say "you have to read it..." is nonsense. I don't need to read the satanic bible to know that it is evil and wrong. I don't need to watch the entire movie The Last Temptaion of Christ to know that it is blasphemous and evil. I would have no problem if this book was being treated as fiction or just a novel, but it is being lifted up and praised, and studied and held as something inspiring in so many "Christian" churches that it makes me nauseous. I wonder how God feels, oh wait, He told us. See Rev 3:16 (I like the KJV for this verse, it says VOMIT!!!!) Don't water down your doctrine, don't try to be "relevant", God does not and will not ever change to "meet us" where we are. He doesn't apologize, and neither should we!

Carlos said...

Why would anyone argue that Joe needs to read The Shack in order to understand the heresy contained within the book? If the book was subtly promoting pedophilia, would Joe or anyone else have to read it to know that pedophilia is garbage? Of course not. So why then would Joe have to read an entire novel that is filled with heresy, in order to know that it isn't the kind of garbage he even wants to "entertain"? Perhaps Joe Blackmon is a little more discriminating than the average Joe. As a new believer in Christ of only just over a year, when I read The Shack, I found the book to be very disturbing. At that time I hadn't even read one book from the Bible, yet I had enough God given knowledge of the trinity to know that when I read the book there were times I felt sick to my stomach while the author described God in what I felt was a perverted manner. It's also important to know just how ignorant I was to matters of doctrine at that time in my life. I was unaware that there was even a controversy regarding The Shack, in fact the Pastor at our local church had recommended it for reading during one of his Sunday sermons; so my feelings that the book's depiction of God seemed perverted to me didn't come from a predisposed sensitivity to it's content based upon other readers reviews. It has only been in the last 8 months, since I have delved deeply into the holy word of God, that I have begun discernment with what I am being taught, and in this process I have come to realize all the forms of heresy that I had unknowingly been involved in when I was an ignorant Christian. Ignorance isn't any excuse and so it is our responsibility to constantly check back to God's word as the only authority for truth and to live by that truth, not any other. God's word is complete and if Joe were to never read another book in his entire life, other than the Holy Bible, then Joe could never go wrong. So I say, way to go Joe, and keep it up!

Joe Blackmon said...

Carols and Mike,
Ditto. Thank you for the encouragement, sirs.

Carlos, if you have a blog I'd love to check it out. Your profile isn't public, though. Hook a brother up.

timger said...

Hey Joe,

Sorry about the confusion, but my name is Tim Rector, not Carlos Sanchez. That gmail name wasn't mine, I've since changed my account to reflect my name and I've made my account public.

To answer your question, I do not have a blog as of yet, but maybe at some point in the future.

If and when I do start to blog, I'll be sure to let you know.

God Bless,

Tim

Joe Blackmon said...

No sweat, Tim. Thanks for the visit and the comments. I trust we are mutually encouraged, my brother.

B. Mourglia said...

Thank you for speaking truth!Heresy is heresy under the guise of entertaining, fiction, whatever. Paul warned of being swept up in false doctrine back in the day and nothing has changed. I would even submit it is the last days and this is the great falling away the scriptures speak of. Maranatha! Anyways-Thanks for standing up!

Joe Blackmon said...

B. Mourglia,

Thank you for your comment. I would not be surprised if this is the last days with the great falling away. Keep the faith and stand strong in the truth.

Mom said...

I have read the book and did find it very watered down Chistianity. The heresy statements that you posted could be argued as you took them out of context. God's will is that none should perish so it is true that He takes joy in healing sin. I do agree that the book makes it seem as if there is no punishment for sin. The one thing that really, really bothered me and I have to say is true heresy is when Jesus said that he was the best way to God. At that point I decided that this was not a book that I wanted to do a study on as was suggested in our study group. Unless is was to show how The Word is being twisted to tickle the ears of those who like being "Chistian" but don't want to really make the commitment to God.
Thank you for your comments they did reaffirm my belief that this isn't the new "Pilgrim's Progress" that it is being called by many in the churches today.

Joe Blackmon said...

Mom,

Thanks for the visit and the comment. I'm not so sure that I agree with what you said about the joy of curing sin being taken out of context. If that's all that the character said, perhaps. However, she said she doesn't punish sin. Therefore, when taken with the comment about joy in curing it, she has made a heretical statement.

I am glad you were encouraged. Thank you for encouraging me, sister.

Ron said...

Thank you for your lengthy review of the book. You are exactly the kind of person it was not written for. You don't need it. You have all the answers, know everything, and given your infinite wisdom, you can judge the entire work without even reading it. I, on the other hand, struggle with my faith every day, and feel fortunate to read a work with a broader perspective than geniuses like you who can quote the Bible in your sleep, but have no real idea what it means. The Shack which, unlike you, I have read, has a central message - that God loves man and is seeking a personal relationship with him. Are you against that?

Ron said...

P.S. I don't really care if you post my comment or not. I just hope you read it, and think (for a change). Ron

Joe Blackmon said...

Ron,

Pretty much without exception I allow all comments except those that contain profanity or address another commenter in the comments. I don't much care if people agree with me.

I certainly do agree that God is a God of love and that man can have a personal relationship with God upon repenting of his sins and professing faith in Jesus Christ. However, the quotes taken from the book and the interview that I heard with the man prove that his doctrine is heretical. I stand by my assessment.

Mrs. W said...

First, I will say that I really enjoyed the book, and it helped to strengthen my faith and my Christian walk. I will recommend it to everyone I know.

Regardless, I think the criticism of the book is wrong. It was not a "how to" book on becoming a Christian, so it seems unfair to pick it apart bit by bit and criticize it for not answering every possible question. It was a novel that deals with certain topics in the form of many conversations, not the Bible Part II. Many of the issues that people seem to criticize were not issues for me because I study my Word and I took the book for what it was. In the book it says, "I don't need to punish sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it, it's my joy to cure it." I did not read this entire conversation to mean that God does not punish sin--only that sin is death and is punishment in itself. There were discussions in the book about hell and redemption. Further, it emphasized that God wants to redeem us from this punishment, which is why Jesus was on the cross. As for the trinity, everyone looks at it differently, and it is a confusing issue. I believe that the trinity represents the three persons of God, which are separate but united as one. Therefore, it makes complete sense to me that if I envisioned God as a person He might also have the same scars as Jesus. It doesn't mean that God was physically on the cross with Jesus, but that they are one. People who are upset at their expressions of love by kissing or the idea of submission need to study their Bibles and stop looking at spiritual things with a carnal mind. Repeatedly throughout the book, God said it was all about Jesus, so I'm not sure how or where people got the idea that Jesus was not the only way to God. Jesus also said that all roads do not lead to Him in the book. The book seemed to try to remove the labels and rules and works that get people so bogged down (i.e., religion) and to focus instead on relationship, which people can forget. If you genuinely put into practice the relationship that the book discusses, everything else will fall into place.

Lastly, people view God differently. To some, He is a father, a master, a friend, a doctor, a shepherd, or a savior. Why should you criticize a fictional depiction of one person's relationship with God as wrong? Who are you to judge?

Joe Blackmon said...

Who am I to judge? Do you recognize the irony of your question? By asking that, you are passing judgment, That is pretty funny. Thank you. After a hard day I needed a good laugh.

Anonymous said...

I have read the book and found it to be a most inspiring work of fiction! While the characterizaton of God as a black woman might be offensive to some...to others, it is exactly what they need. Don't box God into what you believe only. The hardest part of being a Christian sometimes is having other Christians brow beat you when your beliefs don't match up exactly. Yes, I know - you will have "an answer" and you will quote scripture...but so did the scribes and pharisee's that Jesus warned about. One can pick chapters and verses right out of the bible and promote heresy!

Believe what you will... share what you will...but don't preach for all of us who proclaim Jesus is Lord.

Joe Blackmon said...

One can pick chapters and verses right out of the bible and promote heresy!

You know, the funny part of this comment is that you're making that statement whilst defending the book The Shack which does exactly what you're talking about. Funny, funny, funny!! Thank you very much for a good old belly laugh.

Anonymous said...

I do have one problem with separating our lives into into two spheres. on one side we allow heresy and call it entertainment and on the other side we say heresy is wrong when taught. The bible say is James, "how can fresh water come out of the same well that has salt water?" The bible also says to fill our minds with whatsoever is TRUTH, and GOOD. The bible never says, "well, if it is fiction and entertaining then heresy and sin are ok." In fact Paul's views are quite strong regarding sin and heresy and says that we are DEAD to sin. Sin is not to have anything to do with us. He also says that we need to check everything against the bible to see if it is truth and if it is heresy (AKA not the truth) then we are to reject the message and the messenger. If he speaks one word of heresy then his whole message is tainted by it.

I also have a problem with every one saying we need to be open to other's so called "opinions" or beliefs... I am not sorry but Jesus declared that he is the ONLY way not a way. and if we claim to be "Christian" (or Christ-like) then we too, as Jesus is, must be closed minded to everything that is not Truth.

And lastly I would love to see more scripture in the posts. especially from those claiming that we need to be opened minded. That sort of thinking comes from the world not God or Jesus.

There I have had my rant. and no I have not read the book nor do I recommend it. I will however, having read this thread, read the book. not to be open minded nor for entertainment but to study it and to point out its heresy to those who favor it and hopefully save them from the heresy and death that lie within.

Cheers from New Zealand

Anonymous said...

woops.. I forgot one other thing.

God always describes himself as the father. we can tend to like a "woman" god but that just does not exist. We should all be offended at this. I am sorry but there is no "open box" when it is CLEARLY written down in a book called th Bible. The bible is not open and therefore neither should we be.

cheers from New Zealand

Joe Blackmon said...

Cheers

Thanks for the comments.

Monique said...

hi joe my name is monique and i am a christian goth i agree with you on that book the shack i have no idea why i read it but that is Blasphemy pure and simple. when I read it I had not heard about the contversy over it I could identfiy with the main character in the fact that I had lost my little sister to someone who killed her in a foster home but that is as far as it goes the false doctrine is rampant in that book so much so it should be burned

Joe Blackmon said...

Hey Monique,

I totally agree with the heresy part. Not so sure about burning books but that's a personal opinion. I just want to make sure Christians know what it's about and what's in it so they can make an informed choice as to whether they want to spend their time reading that tripe.

I can understand how you could indentify with the characters. The setup for the time Mack spends at the Shack is very compelling and I can't imagine anyone reading it that wouldn't be drwan in and empathize with the main character. To me, that's part of the danger.

Thanks for the visit and the comment. By the way, what is a Christian Goth?

Jonathan said...

Just came across this page. Well done on the review and comments, Joe. I know the Lord was working with you.

Is it really a surprise that people would embrace a portrait of God as something altogether different than that of Scripture? Of course not.

This is why I believe in the sovereignty of God, because people cannot embrace Jesus unless Jesus first touches them. Anyway, great post. Keep it up, bro.

—Jonathan

Joe Blackmon said...

Johnathon, I totally agree with you. Thanks for the visit and the comment.

Anonymous said...

This conversation is ridiculous. Does a true Christian need to read Harry Potter books to know that they are evil, let alone the whole book or series? Snippets can stand on their own pretty well. Is there anything in the book that contradicts these snippets (asking those that have read the book)? Or are you just being your usual open-minded, New Age, pantheistic selves? Our God does NOT have an "open mind" and He commands us to be of the same mind. I love knowing that He is absolute, and that there is only one Way, and one standard to become. You just can't deal with that in your rebellious nature and must make God and His gospel conform to whatever you think is easiest for you to follow (which isn't following at all). The book refers to Him as the "best", not the only. The Gospel of John refers to Him as the only. "I am THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life. NO man comes to the Father, except by ME."

Joe Blackmon said...

Anon,

Great points. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe,
(where you going with that gun in you hand)Sorry, I couldn't resist.The shack contains even more heresies than you'll ever know. Check out www.bewaretheshack.com
John K. Langemann has written a comprehensive book comparing the theology of the shack with the Bible.
The writers of the Shack are real sneaky.

Kirby said...

Which of you fully understands the trinity or the nature of God? I have been a believer for 30 years and still struggle to understand the trinity, even after many analogies offered by other Christians. God created us male and female, in his image. Does this mean that God has a feminine side? The Shack is fiction, not a second Bible. It is not meant to replace the Bible. I challenge you to come up with a better explanation of God's nature, his love and his forgiveness. I loved the book. I would not change my theology based on it, nor would I substitute it for scripture. I accept it for what it was meant to be. Which of you truly believes to have it all figured out? A little humility, please.

Joe Blackmon said...

Anonymous,

I'm gonna tickle my old lady. I caught browsing The Shack at Bookland. Haa

Thanks for your visit and your comment.

Joe Blackmon said...

Kirby,

After 40 some odd comments on this thread you're probably aware that your moralistic tirade isn't going to have much effect on my opinion. Now I'd be willing to bet if someone said "Your momma was a hoochie" and your mother was in fact a chaste woman you would get pretty hot under the collar and let the person who spoke such lies no in no uncertain terms that they had said something that was not true and you were offended. This man, in his book, makes claims about my God that are not even close to true. Don't act surprised when I rake him over the coals for it.

Peace out, boy scout.

Anthony said...

"God does not need to punish sin. Sin it it's own punishment."

It's hard to imagine a more contradictory statement. Which seems to make his philosophy of little value.

Jesus was punished for sin. He took our just punishment that would have come from God after the judgment. If sin was always and only its own punishment, we would never suffer from the natural results of sin because Jesus would have been hanging on the cross taking that "natural" punishment for us. (Unless the Shack teaches that Jesus' death wasn't substitutionary?) The fact that Jesus died is proof that God punishes sin beyond the natural harmful effects of sin.

Why should anyone want to read a book that is so flawed on a literary, philosophical, logical, and biblical level?

Joe Blackmon said...

Anthony,

Exactamundo, my friend.

joyfulann said...

Hi Joe:

As a Pastor here in Montana, I have many friends who just dont' get it. They do not realize that the slightest twist in truth means that the whole message is a lie. I keep trying to get everyone to take a look at how the serpent in the Garden twisted the truth just enough to get Eve to take a bite. The other problem is there are some who feel because the author is the son of missionaries that somehow means that what he is writing is based on Biblical and Scriptural truth. Thanks for standing up for what is right. Standing with you in Montana.

Pastor Pat

Joe Blackmon said...

Pastor Pat,

Frustrating, isn't it?

Thanks for the encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe.

God just IS and always have been (Read Genesis), we can try and explain this by saying that God is spirit,as the bible do, but I dont believe we fully understand any of it at all. What we do understand though is human concepts and even these concepts have horribly been twisted in this unjust and imperfect society that we live in.

We are human beings with limited understanding and intelligence, God meets us on our level with the Bible, His perfect word unfortunately interpreted by imperfect beings.

I fully believe in the Word of God and that the Bible is the absolute truth of the one and only God.

But do I always interpret the bible correctly and is there only one true interpretation of a verse and can a interpretation be different for every person? It seems like God has given us different personalities, different perspectives etc. Isn't the fact that there's different commentary on this blog just proof of the point Im trying to make?

Another example:

It's very easy for me to accept the portrayel of God as a Father (or more as "The Father"), my earthly Father is a sincere/God-loving, and God-fearing, man, that loves me unconditionally. But I know of a lot of people that cant relate to God as a father due to the fact that theyre earthly fathers did not love and accept them unconditionally or did not grow up with a father. Can you see why the image of a Father can be of some hindrance to believe in a good and loving God?

I believe that I very often dont understand the love that God has for me,it's very difficult to grasp. The authors observation,interpretation and imagination (is that not a gift from God?) of the Christ that I already knew and try to love wih all I have (First commandment I believe),helped me a lot in that regard.

"The Shack" meant a lot to me. I believe it helps me to interpret the bible more fully,with Gods love in the back of my mind.....always! Even when I'm reading difficult Old Testament scriptures which to my human intellect and understanding has the possibility to portray a God which seems to be in conflict with the One that made the Ultimate sacrifice out of love for all....

"Independance from God" is Youngs opinion on evil and Satan. Before you jump to conclusions ask yourself what your definition/comprehension of Satan is? Sin is being independant from God, thats why if we ultimately never go back to Him and our sin has blinded us to His truth we are left all alone and are removed from God (that's hell and it's far worse than our human minds can ever imagine).


SIN IS PUNISHMENT IN ITSELF.
Let me explain: if sin wasn't punishment in itself (and punishment it is, we are often just too blind, proud or ignorant to acknowledge it) but had good consequences then we would be serving a "malicous God that's trying to keep us from having fun". But we dont serve a malicious God, only a God that knows only how to love in all his wisdom and justice and that is alive to set us free from the binds that keep us from being in relationship with Him.

Its pointless for me to try and talk about the book when a lot of the people on this blog didn't read it and have no intentions to do so.

I believe it's a great shame and that youre missing out. It lead me to delve deeper and experience a childlike trust and believe in God that's more real than I have ever experienced and yes it's the same God as the one of the bible that we both, and the author, believe in.

Regards

Stiaan Engelbrecht from Sunny South Africa

Joe Blackmon said...

Stiaan Engelbrecht,

Thank you for the comments. Obviously, from my review and the comments I have made in the comment stream I totally disagree with you. However, there was a time where I might not have I suppose. We learn and grow as we go along.

Richard said...

Before I start, thank you for an interesting blog article. The discussion you have provoked is very illuminating and instructive.

But getting down to business :)

Firstly, did you read the book yet? Without revealing too much about the end, it's worth remembering that the literary form of the novel can use devices to change the meaning at different points of the book. In other words, it is narrative, not a list of theological points. I think the ending serves as a fairly large disclaimer on a lot of things that people are taking too literally in the main part of the book.

Second, it seems that some people are getting a bit hung up on imagery used. Yes the main character does meet a black woman called "Papa" who is symbolic of God the Father. It is explained in the book itself that these characters themselves are not God, but manifestations of God and done in this way deliberately in order clash with the expectations of the protagonist. [Compare with God speaking through Balaam's Ass.] In other words the book itself says that God is not a woman, only that a woman was used as the means to communicate with our main character.

Point three. The "Papa" character says "Sin is its own punishment". Does anyone really disagree with this if they think about it hard? This doesn't mean that sin will go unpunished! It means that the separation from God which sin causes is actually part of the punishment. This has long been part of orthodox Christian thinking. [It's even a theme in Pilgrim's Progress - are any of the evil characters actually happy?]

Later on in the book (again without wanting to spoil too much of the plot) Papa says that Mack should leave the justice thing to him, implying that there could well be some punishment delivered if required, but putting it beyond the interest of the reader.

On balance I would say that the message of the story is neutral on the idea of punishment of sin, it's simply not the purpose of the book to go into it.

And this brings me to my final point. People trying to read this as a theology book are completely missing authors intention. It's not about what does or doesn't exist or will or won't happen, or is or isn't. It's about healing. Whatever "God" wanted to show Mack it was done in order to move him on from where he was. All of us at various times believe things which are not true. Most of us will be believing some of those things now.

For this reason I take issue with all the people who say that if something isn't completely theologically sound, then it is either meaningless or heretical. If this were the case then there would be no books and no Christian community at all, since we all differ on so many things.

So let's look at The Shack with all its faults, realise that it's showing a fictional experience of someone at a particular time in their lives and not claiming to be the canon of scripture, take on board what we believe to be right for us, and leave what we don't.

Isn't that what the Holy Spirit is for anyway?

Tim said...

It seems interesting to me that your article is full of vitriol and opinion and no open-mindedness, no tolerance, no understanding or respect for the way others read the bible, and no grace.

Joe Blackmon said...

Richard,

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. First of all, here's the thing. Yes, it is a work of fiction but it was written to convey his beliefs to his children. So while it is allegorical in a sense, he also wanted to write in terms of what he believed.

Second of all, I'm not as wigged out about God being portrayed as a Black woman as a literary device as I am about some other things in the book. I recognize that it was done to challenge the protagonists assumptions. The scene with Balaam's donkey isn't quite the same thing but I'm going to let that one go.

3rdly, Papa doesn't just say "Sin is it's own punishment." The character says "I don't punish sin, sin is it's own punishment". That is WAY different. The first statement you could take to say "The consequences of sin are the means and method God uses to punish sin". That isn't an option with the second statement--the character who is supposed to be God says "I don't punish sin". Now, Wm Paul has said in a radio interview (link elsewhere on my blog) that God didn't punish sin on the cross and that the lake of fire in Revelation is for purification, not punishment of sin. So I see the point you're making, it's just not the same one that the author is making, methinks.

I understand that the book is not a theological treatise like a Systematic Theology. However, if someone believes something, as Wm Paul does, and writes fiction from that viewpoint, I got this itch inside my head that I can't scratch until I refute it. He made some points in the book that I just can't let go.

Thanks for the comment.

Joe Blackmon said...

Tim,

Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me".

Sounds pretty closed minded to me.

Anonymous said...

I understand the book is "just a novel"... but, sadly many are taking it for truth. In my humble opinion, the book simply dumbed down God... plus through in a lot of nasty language. I regret equally that Mr. Luther chose to quote anything from the likes of Wanda Sykes (a foul-mouthed heathen if there ever was one).

Gayle Patton said...

Great review! Would be even better if you would read the book. I found a whole lot more heresy than you mentioned. There are about eight major Christian doctrines misrepresented, several lesser teachings misrepresented and a whole bunch of New Age stuff.

Gayle Patton

Leslie said...

I got about 3/4 of the way through the book and couldn't finish it. I felt like I was wasting my time with trite material. It was poorly written and didn't hold my attention - in fact, I found myself increasingly annoyed by the content. I couldn't quite figure out why, but this blog conversation has been enlightening. I was having a visceral reaction to the heresy in the book, so it's no wonder I wanted to gag. Read it as a novel, some say. I'd prefer reading a well-written secular novel.

Joe Blackmon said...

Leslie,

I agree with you. "Read it as a novel." More like "Use it as toilet paper".

Sharon said...

Boy, the people that really need the message that "The Shack" tells are all of you lost hippocritical souls. Hopefully someday soon you will open up your locked minds and see the light.

Joe Blackmon said...

Sharon, thank you for your enlightening comment. (/sarcasm)

Anonymous said...

I had decided a while back this book was not for me but recently someone asked me to read it so we could discuss it. I am half through it and I doubt I will finish it. The way God is portrayed just doesn't feel right to me, the whole book doesn't feel right to me. It's a shame that people need something like this to make them feel closer to God

Richard said...

People just are who they are; we all have different personalities. IMHO it's patronising, condescending and shows a lack of perspective to say "it's a shame some people need this".

It seems to me that some posters here feel that they can decide what is right for other people to read and find useful. This kind of snobbish "oh, you liked that" doesn't seem helpful to me.

Joe Blackmon said...

Richard,

I'm not sure how else to say this...I question the intelligence of anyone who can or would defend this book. Anyone who has any use for such heretical drivel as the pile of tripe that is The Shack is at a VERY dangerous place theologically and needs to do some SERIOUS bible study to discern what the Bible truly and clearly teaches.

richard said...

Joe,

To say that this has to do with intelligence is missing the point. At one time I might have agreed with you. Have I changed? Certainly, yes. Have I got less intelligent? No, I've just learned that truth sometimes can be found in unlikely places, and not to let intellectual snobbery get the better of me.

Joe Blackmon said...

Richard,

Good for you. I, on the other hand, am just stupid enough to be willing to live with the fact that truth, all of it, is found only in one place--the Holy Bible--and that anything that contradicts that as The Shack oh so clearly does is to be rejected.

By the way, the little hooks on the inside of the door, they were for you to check your coat, not your brain.

Tim Rector said...

Hey Joe,

I posted a comment on this Blog, way back. At that time you asked me to "hook a brother up", with my Blog, but I wasn't publishing a Blog then.

Now I am! So here it is:

http://timrector.blogspot.com/2010/06/tigers-trap.html

Chad said...

True, it is work of fiction. However, say someone picks it up who is not Christian or has fallen away from the faith. That person could view The Shack as true and correct Biblical Doctrine.

This is problematic because it portrays God as a "female father", promotes God's triune nature but belittles the separateness of the Trinity (Three distinct persons yet one God). and completely avoids the topic of Salvation by repentance and faith alone. It fails to support the Bible as authoritative too.

http://easttowestministries.blogspot.com

Joe Blackmon said...

Chad,

What you said.

joe

Joe Blackmon said...

Dennis left a comment. I deleted it because I didn't want a link to his blog on my blog. However, I wanted to make sure folks had a chance to read it so they could realize what a theological dufus he is.

If you believe God will punish people FOREVER, well, you are seeing and understanding God through human eyes and you don't have the simplest notion of what 'eternal' means and how the translators messed up the word 'aionios' when they translated it from the Greek to the English. Your God is worse than any devil or any Hitler or any Stalin. The carnal mind always sees God as The Judge. I guess Jesus' work on the cross did nothing? I guess Jesus is not the Saviour if billions will go to the fire forever. Adam was greater than Jesus. Actually, man's 'free will' is God because it is stronger than God's will for all men to be saved. You believe whatever they tell you and you read the Bible through condemnation-focused eyes. The Bible says you are under the law and the veil is over your spiritual (or lack thereof) vision. Pharisees talked like you did. GOD WILL SAVE ALL! GOD WILL BE ALL IN ALL. If He isn't then Jesus was a failure. God loves the world even if you don't and just want to escape through a rapture. I'll stay here and tell them how much He loves them. You run away to your literal heaven with gold streets. You've been bamboozled simply by your carnal mind.

Dennis, I don't have the time or interest in pointing out the obvious errors in your "theology" (snicker). Anyone with a 2nd grade education who has been in any Sunday School class can tell that you have no clue what you're blathering about.

Thanks for the comment.

Ron Livesay said...

I came across your blog today, and I appreciate your review of "The Shack." You make many of the same points I made in my own review. Following is an excerpt:

On page 110, “Jesus” makes a statement that is nothing short of heresy. He says, “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.” What? Jesus says he is the “best” way to God, thereby implying that there are other ways. Such a statement as this is by itself enough to relegate this book to the trash can. The real Jesus of the Bible would never have said such a thing. Instead, He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6, NASB). Notice the use of the word “the” instead of “a” or “the best.” Reducing Jesus to “a” way to God or “the best” way to God robs Him of His deity, His glory, and the value of His redemptive work.

Jesus also said, “…unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24, NASB). There is no wiggle room in that statement. Jesus did not give people freedom to “sort of” believe in Him but to also make their own way. He is the way. He is the only way. It doesn’t make any difference what anyone thinks or feels about it. If a person believes he can get to God in any other way besides through the Lord Jesus Christ, he is very badly fooled. This truth is further underscored in the Book of Acts. "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12, NASB).

Anonymous said...

Woe to those christians that do not cling to the scriptures. If only they would read their bible and make Gods word the number one authority in their lives. The shack is from the pit and is there to soften christians into accepting new age teachings. The christian arena is been bombarded with trash like this. Jesus told us to be carefull that none deceive us, warning us that many will come and deceive and many would fall away from the faith

Joe Blackmon said...

Anon (April 5),

Too true. Thank you for the comment.

rich said...

One query for those in the "bible is the highest authority" school of thought: by whose authority have you decided this? The bible is a collection of books arrived at by tradition and ratified by an ecumenical council in about the 4th or 5th century.

For 400 years after the death of christ there wasn't a single bible, so how did those Christians avoid going off the rails, how do you know they arrived at the right bible (or even that there should be "a bible") and by what authority (higher than the bible itself) did they decide on it?

Joe Blackmon said...

Rich,

I would suggest the following links as my answers:

This book reivew (buy the book)

An analysis of the canon as opposed to non-canonical books

rich said...

So academic historical research and intellectual textual research is your higher authority?

Joe Blackmon said...

No, academic historical research and intellectual textual research helps shed light on and helps be better understand my higher authority--the Bible?

Rich said...

OK but what I'm asking is which authority can you point to that tells you that the Bible is all the things you believe it is?

Joe Blackmon said...

The study I've done of scripture and the research I've done into the history of scripture both give me confidence the Bible is what it claims to be-the inerrant word of God.

rich said...

So if other scholars study the bible and related documents and don't come to the same conclusions, what makes you right and them wrong?

rich said...

Just to expand my point a bit.

It seems to me that if the Bible is some kind of authority, that something must be responsible for telling us what the Bible is (e.g. which books it consists of) and how to apply it to ourselves (its purpose).

I am of course familiar with 2 Tim 3:16
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness"

Glossing over whether this is intended to be self-referential, this of course doesn't help define what exactly "Scripture" is - there are many adherents to other religions who will point at their Scripture and say the same things about it. And their scripture may even claim to say the same things about itself.

So we are left with a collection of writings, and in the end we have to rely on our choice of biblical scholar to either approve or disapprove the veracity of the each part and its appropriation as "Authority".

It seems that there are 3 (at least) approaches to "authority" in the Christian world, those who emphasise the pre-emininence of (a) The Bible (b) The Church (c) Ones own intellect and reason and (dare I say it) experience.

Those who say the Church is the highest authority (generally Catholics and Orthodox Christians) can actually claim Christ as being the one who started off the church and vested it with authority. The problem there is that its authority is tainted by many of the actions of its past.

Those who point to the Bible as being self-evidently its own authority always seem to have to use either the tradition of the church (in establishing canon etc) or intellectual treatise (such as the ones you listed earlier) to try to back up this assertion - so they rely on (a) or (c).

That then leaves us with our own reason and understanding. And yes the bible does mean something to me, and you and many other people, but the reality is it means different things because we all come with our own approach, and (bringing things back to the topic of this blog) The Shack seems to be once persons own experience of how God and the Bible relates to them.

Joe Blackmon said...

Rich,

Your last, longer comment showed up as "spam". I don't know why. Anyway, when I clicked "Not Spam" so I could publish it, the comment went poof. Sorry about that.

Anywhoo, as interesting as this whole exchange has been and even though I've really grown as a person because of it (/sarcasm), I think I'll just give you the last word simply because convincing you or anyone else is really not all that important to me.

In all seriousness, though, thank you for disagreeing without being disagreeable. I appreciate that very much.

Corrie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe Blackmon said...

My friend (snicker) Corrie decided to leave a comment. However, she also decided to included profanity so I had to delete the comment, copy and paste it, and repost it to edit out the profanity. She writes:

I find the author of this blog incredibly ignorant and closed minded. I'd rather take my chances with the sinners than be stuck in heaven with the likes of him. This type of idiotic rambling is exactly why most nonbelievers refuse to even attempt to get to know Jesus. Jesus enjoyed people from all walks of life. His best friends were some of the worst sinners. And he happened to severely criticize sanctimonious ******** such as yourself. You probably won't even have the [guts] to approve this comment since I see you have made it to where only pre-approved opinions are allowed out, however I hope you one day get a wake up call. People like you are a detriment to the Christian faith.



Um, yeah. Your command of the English language is prosaic. Really, it is. You should consider a career as a poet. Or perhaps journalism is more your bag.

Anywhoo, Jesus ate with sinners but He told them the truth. He ate with sinners but He didn't join them in their sin.

You know, it would be much more interesting if you'd just try to offer an argument from scripture as to why any point I've made in this review is wrong.

:-)

mike said...

i read the book and found it to be quite entertaining and i enjoyed it very much. i also felt that it paints a picture of a loving god. i find it very funny how many people are freaking out about it. the foundations of your religiosity are being uprooted and it kills you. i laugh. jesus is my lord and savior and he is all i need. i'll let his spirit guide me in my life. the main idea here is grace. god punished sin on the cross. enjoy your freedom in christ and the desires of your heart will change. his spirit will change you from the inside. its all in the bible. read it.

Gerard said...

Hmm - to read, or not to read. It probably depends on individual circumstances.

I felt obliged to read "Memnoch the Devil" by Ann Rice because my lovely daughter told me it "answered all the issues" about God for her!

It is the only book that has EVER deeply shocked me - not because of the obvious sex, profanity etc., etc., but because the author skillfully wove a plausible alternative interpretation of the "facts", and my daughter was sucked in. Rather than try to counter each argument she put up, I read it and was able to enter a proper conversation with her.

I haven't felt the need to read "The Shack" (like you, I have plenty of more useful things to do), but would certainly do so if the need arose.

I much appreciate the effort in, AND openess of your site. Gerard