In Part One of my questions to leaders and pastors, I submitted four questions and asked for anyone, including our General Superintendents and my District Superintendent, if they could give an answer to those questions, mainly, are these things good or bad for Christians? Most of the responses I received in Part One were from the usual emergent folks I have interacted with in the past. In my opinion, their defense of Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Rob Bell, and prayer labyrinths was weak, and they could not provide any biblical justification for defending these men’s works, or defending the use of a pagan practice like the labyrinth. The questions are still open to all who might wish to answer them with biblical support.
In Part Two, there will only be one question, to help everyone focus a little better and not be all over the map with different answers for multiple questions. It is in regards to the popular book, The Shack.
The Shack has been a popular book in Christian bookstores, and has been on the NY Times bestseller list for several years now. It is also very popular amongst non-Christians as well. Christian pastors and leaders, including Nazarenes, have recommended this book as a great missional book, or inspirational book. One pastor described it as being better than several years in seminary. Some have said it is better than the Bible, or that it has changed their lives more than anything else.
The question for our leaders and pastors today: Based on the excerpts I give you below, is The Shack a good resource for Christians, in terms of helping them be better Christians, and for learning good biblical doctrine? Or is it a book that is leading Christians astray with false doctrine and blasphemous statements against God?
Some will say that you need to read an entire book before you can give an opinion on its value or worthiness. I believe that is not the case, and that a Christian grounded in the word of God, can spot a phoney without having to read the entire book. However, I will say that there are many who have read it from cover to cover, such as Dr. Michael Youssef, who also preached a great sermon on it which I highly recommend you view. Here is the link: The Shack Uncovered.
(What is The Shack about? From Al Mohler’s review: In The Shack, “Mack”, who lost his daughter to a murderer four years before, meets the divine Trinity as “Papa,” an African-American woman; Jesus, a Jewish carpenter; and “Sarayu,” an Asian woman who is revealed to be the Holy Spirit. The book is mainly a series of dialogues between Mack, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Those conversations reveal God to be very different than the God of the Bible. “Papa” is absolutely non-judgmental, and seems most determined to affirm that all humanity is already redeemed.)
Here are four excerpts, and comments are by Dr. Al Mohler from his book review, The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment. I also recommend you read my post, “Thirteen Heresies in The Shack”, by Michael Youssef.
I look forward to eliciting a good biblical defense of why this book is a healthy, good resource for Christians:
1. “Papa” tells Mack of the time when the three persons of the Trinity “spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God.” Nowhere in the Bible is the Father or the Spirit described as taking on human existence.
2. In another chapter, “Papa” corrects Mack’s theology by asserting, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Without doubt, God’s joy is in the atonement accomplished by the Son. Nevertheless, the Bible consistently reveals God to be the holy and righteous Judge, who will indeed punish sinners. The idea that sin is merely “its own punishment” fits the Eastern concept of karma, but not the Christian Gospel.
3. In one of the most bizarre paragraphs of the book, Jesus tells Mack: “Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.” The theorized submission of the Trinity to a human being — or to all human beings — is a theological innovation of the most extreme and dangerous sort. The essence of idolatry is self-worship, and this notion of the Trinity submitted (in any sense) to humanity is inescapably idolatrous.
4. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”
Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you. “Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”
Dr. Mohler concludes:
The answer is not to ban The Shack or yank it out of the hands of readers. We need not fear books — we must be ready to answer them. We desperately need a theological recovery that can only come from practicing biblical discernment. This will require us to identify the doctrinal dangers of The Shack, to be sure. But our real task is to reacquaint evangelicals with the Bible’s teachings on these very questions and to foster a doctrinal rearmament of Christian believers.
Manny: I believe The Shack has somewhat become “a bible” of the emergent church. If you read it, read it with caution and biblical discernment. It can be dangerous and misleading, and lead you to erroneous understandings of God’s nature, of the atonement, of God’s justice, and other errors as outlined by Dr. Mohler, Dr. Youssef and other Christian leaders. For Nazarene emergents, this has nothing to do with whether these men and others are Nazarene or not; they are all looking at this book from a biblical perspective, not any other. I pray that those of you evaluating this book will determine to use discernment based on the Bible and its teachings, and not on someone else’s imaginations of who God is, or who the Trinity is. I believe that it is irresponsible of Christian leaders to recommend this book, but if I am wrong, I would like them to direct me to a better understanding of why they believe it is a book worthy as a good resource for Christians.