You are hereShacked up With God (Part 2)

Shacked up With God (Part 2)

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By SuperSoulFighter - Posted on 20 May 2008

by John McPherson
This concludes my critique of William Young's novel. Mr. Young has presented us with a view of God that really, in my view, does not match the God who revealed Himself to us in the Bible. I'll get into some of the finer points of disagreement in this concluding article.This concludes my critique of William Young's novel. Mr. Young has presented us with a view of God that really, in my view, does not match the God who revealed Himself to us in the Bible. I'll get into some of the finer points of disagreement in this concluding article.
Young gets lost in contradictory profundities when Mack suddenly sits back down in the judgment seat and realizes that nothing to do with Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on the cross really reconciles his understanding of the infinitely knowledgeable, ever-Present (all-Present), all-Powerful God the Creator with his little daughter’s brutal, undeserved death. Here is how the nameless entity in the cave responds to Mack’s heart-wrenching confession of a lack of understanding: “But I still don’t understand why Missy had to die.” “She didn’t have to, Mackenzie. This was no plan of Papa’s.” Wait, wait, wait. The author has just finished introducing us to the transcendent, infinite God of infinite Love in the person of Papa, earlier. His “plans” are all-encompassing and infinite, supposedly. He knows all that ever has been and ever will be. So in what sense is this little girl’s murder NOT part of “Papa’s plan”? The Understanding Express has once again jumped the rails of logic and reason, here. “Papa has never needed evil to accomplish his good purposes.” THAT one remains open to Scriptural debate. [Isa. 45:7; Isa. 47:11] Later on in the story, we discover that this nameless entity is, in fact, Sophia – the embodiment of God’s wisdom (per the descriptions of her in Proverbs). What we DON’T see on display in this exchange between Sophia and Mack is any element of God’s true Wisdom as revealed in His Word. God's personal friends in ancient times consistently challenged Him concerning His actions and in relation to His Person and their understanding of His ways. In the story, Mack doesn't seem to have any such relationship with God, nor does that kind of relationship appear to be an option for Christians today.


The problem with Mr. Young's "god" or "Papa" is that he doesn't have the same commitment to a relationship based on trust and mutual respect that the God of the Bible does. Mutual respect. What a revolutionary concept. I believe God wants to be able to show respect to - and trust in - HIS PEOPLE as much as He expects to be respected and trusted BY His People. Obviously, because humans are so fickle and readily swayed from our commitments, God anticipates failure on our part. We don't anticipate the same from him, of course. And one wonders...IS there a possibility that God could fail His People? Uhoh. Now the red flags go up. What's John thinking now? Does he have to push the envelope so far? Yes, given the fact that David, the prophets and others question God's dealings with man in fairly blunt terms at times, I think we have the freedom to do the same. God is remarkably unoffended by this exercise.


Does God, on occasion, make mistakes? Let's check His Word and see. "12Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults." (Psalm 19:12) "5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Gen. 6:5,6)" "10 My defense is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. 11God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. 12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready." (Psalm 7:10-12) "9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." (Jonah 3:9,10)


Note that the indications in the texts above is that God is capable of changing His mind in response to acceptable human behavior - particularly when people repent in response to disciplinary measures, or even the threat of such action. The seemingly rhetorical question "who can understand His errors" in Psalm 19, above, may not, in fact, be rhetorical at all. God's perfection is involved with the immutability of His Person - NOT His actions and dealings with - and plans for - mutable, fallible, changeable man. In other words...is it possible that God makes some regrettable choices and decisions Himself? Regrettable from HIS perspective (such as is indicated in Gen. 6, above? He, himself, seems to indicate that this is possible. But there's another possibility involved with God's dealings with His people, when there appears to be failure on His part. I'll get into that in more detail in a bit.


One of the biggest concerns I have with this book is the position it takes on man’s God-given autonomy. This book advocates AGAINST human “independence”. Independence is “self-destructive” and, ultimately, evil according to Young. On a Biblical note, as I have shown in various articles here, God actually goes out of his way to ENSURE that man has the opportunity to make autonomous choices. Young has it completely backwards. The autonomous choices made by spiritually reborn people are prompted by their new natures, but both regenerated and unregenerated people have the divinely provided opportunity to make volitionally independent choices. Here’s how Young puts it, by putting these words in “god’s mouth”:


“Nobody knows the horrors I have saved the world from ‘cuz people can’t see what never happened. All evil flows from independence and independence is your choice. If I were to simply revoke all the choices of independence, the world as you know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning. This world is not a playground where I keep all my children free from evil. Evil is the chaos of this age that you brought to me, but it will not have the final say. Now it touches everyone that I love, those who follow me and those who don’t.”


“People are tenacious when it comes to the treasure of their imaginary independence. They hoard and hold their sickness with a firm grip. They find their identity and worth in their brokenness and guard it with every ounce of strength they have. No wonder grace has such little attraction. In that sense you have tried to lock the door of your heart from the inside.”


“Actually,’ Jesus started to speak but paused to throw one last skipping stone, ‘with [Sophia], everything is normal and elegantly simple. Because you are so lost and independent you bring to her many complications, and as a result you find even her simplicity profound.”


I came to hate the words “simple” and “simplicity” in their overuse and meaningless, trite application to truly deep, complex spiritual matters in this book. Young attempts to “dumb down” spiritual Truth for novices and those too lazy to study the Word of God for themselves. In so doing, he distorts that Truth rather drastically, and presents his own, personally invented “god” with an accompanying nonsensical relationship to, and purposes for, man. Note that Jesus supposedly considers Mack (a Christian and seminary grad) to be “lost”. One wonders in what sense Young views a Christian as being “lost”.


Unlike the Christian celebrities who endorsed this book so highly on its cover, I give “The Shack” two thumbs down, along with its insidiously anemic misrepresentation of the God of Israel. This book borders on outright blasphemy and certainly has a strong, sacrilegious element to it. Young, I believe, sincerely attempted to create a positive expression of God and His involvement with His People here, but his means of doing so actually degraded both. The scary thing is that his central character, Mack, is supposedly a seminary grad, and yet is simply clueless in his understanding of Biblical Truth. One wonders what seminaries are producing in terms of people supposedly capable of guiding others in their understanding of, and acquaintance with, God and His Word. No wonder the so-called “church” of today is in such big trouble.


SO. WHY would such a horrendous tragedy occur within a Christian family? Why would God’s people experience horrors like this? Now we get to the crux of the matter. Here is where we consider the other possibility, where seeming failure on God's part is concerned.


In real life, I see so many examples of tragedy visiting Christians and non-Christians in almost equal measure. Obviously, the primarily narcissistic, self-gratifying choices of non-Christians tend to bring more grief to them than the more self-less choices of many Christians. But why would Christians suffer some of the same horrors as non-Christians (non-Covenantal people)? There are several possibilities, of course, but among them I favor the view that because the God of Israel is NOT “omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent” but, in fact, is reliant upon His fallible angels to serve and protect His People (Luke 4:10; Heb. 1:4,5,7) – perhaps those angels fail in the performance of their duties from time to time. We know that the angels historically were required to give account of their actions to God (Job 1:6), and that they faced various challenges in relation to their abilities to perform their duties effectively on God’s behalf (Dan. 9:20-23; 10:10-14). It is very possible that there are times – somewhat uncommon but certainly real - when these great servants of the God of Israel fail to effectively protect His People. There are missionaries who die on the point of being rescued from their captors, others who are speared to death by the very people they feel God has “called” them to evangelize, before they even get the chance to share the gospel with those people…There are Christians who, in the middle of worshipping and praising God in a Christian rock concert “worship environment” in a modern “church”, have the floor collapse beneath them, severely injuring some and traumatizing scores of people present (a recent event here in BC, Canada). I see Christians participating in high-risk activities (like smuggling Bibles into “closed” communist and Muslim countries), believing that the God of Israel has motivated and guided them to do so, and will bless and protect them. In reality, God has no interest in this evangelistic process and effort and when His divine protection of them “fails” (per the Jim Elliott massacre/martyrdom), the ones left behind (like Jim’s wife, Elizabeth, and daughter) are left trying to pick up the pieces of a broken faith. In some cases, in other words, God's protection over His People might fail due to their being "outside of His Will". That would be one standard Christian response. The reality, however, is that God historically protects His People EVEN WHEN they have strayed from "His perfect will" and wisdom. I believe the more realistic, truer understanding of the situation lies in the failures of finite guardian angels. Angelic failure is not an easy concept to grapple with or accept - but I believe the Scriptures suggest that such a thing is most certainly possible. And that there is a measure of accountability introduced to their activities by God Himself (Job 1:6; Luke 4:10; Psalm 91:11). Something to ponder very seriously.


It’s not safe, playing games with the Truth. It’s highly inadvisable to blame God for bad decision-making based upon an erroneous understanding of Him and His Word. But too many people would rather launch out in “child-like faith” without troubling themselves to do the hard work of carefully researching God and His Person in His Word, first. God has very little patience or respect for such endeavors and people,and I share His feelings in this regard. As I said, above, I believe that the God of Israel WANTS a relationship with us based on MUTUAL respect and trust (just like humans enjoy with each other, albeit imperfectly, in a best-case scenario). God can't really respect those who don't trouble themselves to really get to know Him on a very personal basis. And these same people can't really trust and respect God without going to the effort of acquiring that kind of intimate knowledge of Him. Such knowledge involves intensive study of His Word, first and foremost - no matter how tedious people may find this exercise. If you don't like that approach - go serve some other "god". You're not ready for a relationship with the God of Israel.


In conclusion, I have to confess that by the end of "The Shack" I was rather irritated and cranky. The thinking exposed in fictional form, here, is unfortunately quite typical of the misunderstandings guiding the beliefs of mainstream evangelicalism and Churchianity as a whole. The characterization of God in this book was more of a caricature than an accurate representation of the God of Israel. The sad reality is that “church” people generally view God in the terms presented here, and find the Biblical Truth concerning His Person, Will and Kingdom anomalous and even repulsive. When Biblical Truth is rejected in favor of sweet, adorable lies - there is a very serious spiritual problem at work among those who claim to worship and serve the God of the Bible. And it needs to be addressed in a very serious way.


Serving the Truth,


John McPherson

gracescarredhands's picture

Gd’day Mr. McPherson,

I see you've been busy over at The Shack!

In a post on the interactive forum you said:

"I just have to insert the brief, Biblically-verifiable comment that the "mystery" you keep referring to came to fulfilment and completion in Christ Jesus. The "mystery" everyone touts in relation to God's Person, work and Kingdom no longer exists. It only exists in the imaginations and hearts of those who are confused about the timing of the Kingdom's full manifestation and establishment. The hermeneutical approach required to look to the future for this event (and all related ones) yields a completely distorted understanding of the Scriptures as a whole, hence the "mystery" attached to the Word of God."

John, the futurist vs past fulfilment issue is barely relevant to the story. And to suggest that preterists are the only ones who fully understand the depth, breadth, height and length of God’s Purpose in and through Christ is blatantly wrong. Preterism is one aspect of biblical revelation. But even Preterists are deeply divided. There’s full preterists and partial preterists and some of the partial preterists believe their consistent brothers and sisters are heretics. And full preterists come in every theological hue. There’s Calvinists and Aminians and Pantelists and Universalists .. and that’s just scratching the surface. There are Preterists who have grown in faith through this teaching and there are Preterists who have turned from the Living God to atheism.

So, please, be honest. There is “no mystery for those who understand the timing of the Kingdom’s full manifestation and establishment”?! ??!! How can you say that? If there was no mystery there would be no division, no debate, no disunity. PP is a place where conflicting theological interpretations are thrown into the melting pot continually.

In fact, no one on The Shack understands where you are coming from anyway. You haven’t actually come out of the closet and told the posters you are a preterist. They are very much in the dark. I doubt that any of them have ever heard of Preterism. And if and when they catch on they’ll think you’ve lost your marbles or it’s a bad joke or you’re part of the end time deception. It’s inevitable.

John, I understand your passion, but there’s a time and a place. And there’s a way of communicating that opens the ears and makes the heart receptive.

I agree with Canuckster when he replied on the forum:

“You make claims of Biblical standards for the elimination of mystery and assert them as true without providing anything but your claim. There certainly is a level of mystery that remains attached to the person of Christ and the Godhead. .. God is infinite. We are finite. We are limited in our capacity to completely understand this truth even though we accept it by faith.”

And ..

“The way I see it, Paul Young and the Shack are in good company. He's reaching those people who are hurting and need this type of vehicle to break through the religious phariseeism that is still alive and well in the Church today. I prefer to take my stand with him and the impact of that ministry than the spirit of aggrandized intellectualism that those seeking to break down that ministry are offering.”

In regard to what we believe as Christians the Lord Jesus Christ is central. He is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and Ending.

Preterism is not the hub of Christian belief. It is a spoke in the wheel. And if it is not properly positioned in relation to the centre it will fail in its purpose. The core of our faith if Jesus. And the Plan and Purpose of God in Jesus is Christology. And Christology has everything to do with relationship. Our relationship with God. Our relationship with each other. And our relationship to the Creation which is sustained every moment by the Word of Christ.

John, you are not seeing clearly.

Preterism has become so big in your thinking that it has obscured the Truth. Treasure the precious things God has shown you and share them with a humble heart. Never assume that you know more than a brother or sister in Christ. If you learn first to sit humbly at the feet of others and receive from them the gifts of Christ they may be able to receive the gifts He has for them through you.

How great and wonderful is our God!

Gracescarredhands.

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Hi, Grace! I appreciate your carrying on a dialogue here with me separately from the ongoing exchanges at The Shack forum. We can delve into a few things that I'm introducing in a more or less reverse way over there.

John, the futurist vs past fulfilment issue is barely relevant to the story. And to suggest that preterists are the only ones who fully understand the depth, breadth, height and length of God’s Purpose in and through Christ is blatantly wrong. Preterism is one aspect of biblical revelation. But even Preterists are deeply divided. There’s full preterists and partial preterists and some of the partial preterists believe their consistent brothers and sisters are heretics. And full preterists come in every theological hue. There’s Calvinists and Aminians and Pantelists and Universalists .. and that’s just scratching the surface. There are Preterists who have grown in faith through this teaching and there are Preterists who have turned from the Living God to atheism.

I would agree that Preterism per se is NOT the "answer" in and of itself. It is not the end destination in Biblical understanding. But it's close. More specifically, it is the CONTEXTUALITY and the hermeneutical approach emphasized and employed reasonably consistently within the Preterist camp (the Full Preterist camp anyway) that is the key to removing much - perhaps most - of the confusion and "mystery" surrounding God and His Kingdom today. This is why I haven't introduced Preterism as a topic over at The Shack forum yet, Grace. I don't want people to immediately react negatively to what I have to say because it has an "ism" label attached to it. Yes, I'm confident that examining the Scriptures in a consistently contextual manner will yield a much more accurate understanding of God's originally intended meaning than any other approach. And that's what I'm leading up to, over there.

One further note of clarification in relation to these comments of yours. The "futurism vs. past fulfilment issue" is relevant to EVERYTHING, Grace. It is the interpretive approach underlying the past fulfillment view that unlocks one's understanding and provides access to a rational, logical perspective on God, His Kingdom and His means of interacting with man. Futurism has distorted this process so badly that modern Christians need a little "shock treatment" (e.g. some of the more aggressive comments I'm making over at The Shack) to awaken them to the fact that there are some very serious issues and flaws at the very heart of their faith. I'd rather prompt them into an awareness of that fact in this way, rather than see them flounder and fall when their misplaced, false beliefs crumble in a crisis situation.

In fact, no one on The Shack understands where you are coming from anyway. You haven’t actually come out of the closet and told the posters you are a preterist. They are very much in the dark. I doubt that any of them have ever heard of Preterism. And if and when they catch on they’ll think you’ve lost your marbles or it’s a bad joke or you’re part of the end time deception. It’s inevitable.

Exactly. Which is why, wisely, I am - for now - keeping that aspect of my beliefs and views "under wraps" (or "in the closet" as you put it) until we get a chance to examine some of the elements of God's Person and Being in more open, honest dialogue. The problem with introducing one's views as defined according to a particular movement or "ism" is that people immediately get defensive, believing you are trying to proselytize them or impose that particular brand of thinking on them. And that's not the case at all. So my approach at the moment, I think, is better. I'd love to "spill the beans" about my whole perspective, but that can wait for a bit.

I agree with Canuckster when he replied on the forum:

“You make claims of Biblical standards for the elimination of mystery and assert them as true without providing anything but your claim. There certainly is a level of mystery that remains attached to the person of Christ and the Godhead. .. God is infinite. We are finite. We are limited in our capacity to completely understand this truth even though we accept it by faith.”

I'm sorry you agree with Canuckster concerning God's supposed "infinitude" - because you're both wrong. Yes, I can make that firm, dogmatic, conclusive statement without any equivocation whatsoever. That is Biblical Truth, Grace. Straight out of the pages of your Bible and mine. I can demonstrate that to be the case very readily and easily. And that's one of the key points I plan to make immediately, over at The Shack forum. That is one of the key areas in which Mr. Young strays far from the Truth in his fictional treatment of God. Canuckster's statement concerning our limitations in our ability to understand God's Being and Person are one of the points that I plan to address very forthrightly, directly and Biblically. Stay tuned.

In regard to what we believe as Christians the Lord Jesus Christ is central. He is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and Ending.

Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Old Covenant Mosaic "world" and spiritual economy, Grace. We need to be clearer in our expressions of these Biblical realities. That is what these names He applied to Himself mean, in Biblical terms.

Preterism is not the hub of Christian belief. It is a spoke in the wheel. And if it is not properly positioned in relation to the centre it will fail in its purpose. The core of our faith if Jesus. And the Plan and Purpose of God in Jesus is Christology. And Christology has everything to do with relationship. Our relationship with God. Our relationship with each other. And our relationship to the Creation which is sustained every moment by the Word of Christ.

No, Grace - Preterism is more than just a "spoke in the wheel". It is foundational to a true, accurate Biblical understanding of God, His Kingdom and life as we know it today. It is not the "hub of Christian belief" - no. Rather, it is the wheel itself. The design of the wheel. The central focal point of that wheel is Jesus. "Christology has everything to do with relationship"? I question that one, Grace. Christology has to do with the nature of Christ Himself and His Messianic mission and purpose. I think it has alot to do with the nature of the Kingdom and the timing of its full inauguration and manifestation. I think our understanding of who we are and our means of relating to each other and God is informed best by our understanding of God Himself - as a Trinity - and the nature of His Kingdom. Yes, understanding Christ Jesus and His role is also integral to this knowledge.

John, you are not seeing clearly.

I believe I"m seeing much more clearly than you are at the moment, Grace. I'm just being very forthright and honest here.

Preterism has become so big in your thinking that it has obscured the Truth. Treasure the precious things God has shown you and share them with a humble heart. Never assume that you know more than a brother or sister in Christ. If you learn first to sit humbly at the feet of others and receive from them the gifts of Christ they may be able to receive the gifts He has for them through you.

My heart's burden for my fellow Christians is that they reject the falsehoods with which their minds and hearts are consumed. To devote themselves to distorted, sacrilegious - even blasphemous - ideas about God is unacceptable. I would love to graciously, gently ease them away from futurism if possible. But I honestly think that approach would be far too time-consuming and, probably, fruitless in the end. My current approach may not work much better, but in the time crunch world in which we live today - people want the "bottom line" and they want it now. They want to know where you're coming from and what you honestly think. The Shack forum asked for an honest opinion on that novel. They didn't ask for strictly positive feedback and gushing, glowing accounts of how God has supposedly used this book in their lives. I have received a PM from one person already who agreed with me completely and couldn't even bring himself to post on that forum because of the overwhelming rave reviews the book is getting there.

I'm not at that forum to stir up trouble unnecessarily, Grace, for its own sake. I am there to stir people up by prompting them to re-evaluate their core assumptions about God. If Christians fail to do this, they have NOTHING of value to share with ANYONE. I really mean that. You're right in a sense. This has nothing to do, directly, with Preterism. But it has everything to do with theology and our interpretive approach to God's Word. Preterism maintains the most effective means of interpreting the Scriptures and I unflinchingly, unashamedly endorse it on that basis.

I can be alot less tactful and gracious than I have been thus far on The Shack forum, Grace - believe me. I am keeping the "kid gloves" on and will continue to do so, even amid the expected negative reactions I will get over there when I introduce the Truth concerning the God of the Bible within the next day or so. So hold onto your hair and your chair. It'll be an interesting ride, no doubt about it. I'm a veteran of many forums like this over the years. There is value in focussed, open dialogue - even when the heat rises. I'm one of those who doesn't "get out of the kitchen" when it heats up because I can handle it.

Thanks for your ongoing interest in these matters, Grace! Feel free to contribute your thoughts over at The Shack as well!

John

gracescarredhands's picture

Well, hello John…

I’ve been slow to answer your ‘Touching Base with Grace’ response because I’ve truly doubted the wisdom of arguing with you. I mean you no disrespect. In some ways I wish I had the time and energy and capacity to answer you line for line, for you truly deserve a proper response. But I am not equipped to do that well, and I reluctantly accept the fact.

But it’s OK because God has raised up some voices, here and at The Shack Forum, and they have spoken the truth more eloquently than I know how.

I do not intend to get involved in your discussion on The Shack forum because I do not like the arrogant manner in which you are pushing a personal agenda that is imo irrelevant to the discussion taking place. Thus far you have created more heat than light on the forum. I am afraid you are going to add to the misinformation that already exists in regard to Preterism and that’s a great pity.

However, I am grateful for Mr. Scott’s post. I am encouraged that not all preterists regard with disdain William P. Young’s attempt to communicate the love and intimacy of Father, Son and Spirit.

Whenever I visit The Shack Forum I am blessed and encouraged. And if I were posting there I’d have lots of good things to say about the book and the comments of posters. But your superior attitude and incisive judgement are offensive and threatening. You extend no hospitality and speak no encouraging words. The broken, hurt, grieving people who believe their Papa is ‘especially fond of them’ are deluded and The Shack should be used as fuel for fire.

And you expect these people to want to hear what you have to say about Preterism? You’ve got to be joking?!

But who are you, John McPherson, to judge? What makes you so superior?

Christology IS primarily about relationship, btw .. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. In His Beloved Son God has adopted us! Adoption is all about family and family is all about relationship. In the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus we were included in the love of Father, Son and Spirit.

"This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

Gracescarredhands.

Paige's picture

Hi Grace,

Just letting you know, the book is still on my "to read" list. I'll get to it ASAP (it is on order now). Perhaps I'll send you a private message here on this site to give my thoughts when I'm through. Thanks for your bravery in sharing here with us :)

Paige

gracescarredhands's picture

Hi Paige,

I would like to thank you for your posts.

I hope you enjoy the book. I am glad I read it. In particular I appreciate the theology that inspired The Shack. Whatever the short comings of this fictional story, it has drawn many people closer to their Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus.

In the past 10 years I have learned a lot about Preterism but my husband’s focus has been Perichoresis, or Trinitarian Theology. Over the last 6 months, however, I’ve read quite a few books and articles on Trinitarian Theology and I’ve been blessed beyond anything I imagined. It is joy to my soul.

If you are interested you might like to read the article by Baxter Kruger, “Bearing Our Scorn. Jesus and the way of Trinitarian Love”, on the Perichoresis website .. http://www.perichoresis.org/

Anyway, Paige, thank you so much for your encouragement.

God bless you in your personal life and as you participate in the discussions at PP. I always appreciate your posts.

Sincerely,
Gracescarredhands.

gracescarredhands's picture

Dear John,

You refer to God in your posts as ‘The God of Israel’. It is interesting that many posters on The Shack Forum refer to God as ‘Papa’, because He's become so personable, warm and close. And it is the testimony of many readers that their lives have been transformed. Broken hearts have been mended and people crippled by hatred, pain and grief have found freedom and forgiveness.

Who ‘heals the broken hearted and sets the captives free’? Is it not Jesus? The God of Israel?

I have almost finished ‘The Shack’. I have not felt comfortable with every aspect of the story but on the whole I have been blessed. But the book does not bless me half as much as the theology that inspired it!

John, the God we worship is a big, wonderful, multifaceted God. He is working in myriads of ways to bring glory to His Son and blessing to the world through Him. And by the Grace of God many sad and broken people have discovered through ‘The Shack’ a God who is ‘very fond of’ them. A God who is close and who loves them very much.

Repentance is a change of mind. And it seems to me that many folk who have read ‘The Shack’ now look at God differently. They don’t see an angry God any more. They believe God knows them and loves them and embraces them. And believing the Truth has changed them!!

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John. 17: 3).

How is Eternal Life manifest in an ordinary, sinful, broken life? In the fruit of the Spirit. In Joy and Peace and Love. And how does Joy, Peace and Love enter a human heart? Through a personal relationship with God.

At the heart of Trinitarian theology is God’s Plan to bring humanity into the circle of life that is Father, Son and Spirit. This was achieved through the Incarnation. Such is the Grace, Power and Love of the God of Israel.

In the words of Baxter Kruger,

“The covenant promise, “I will be your God, and you will be my people” has been filled with “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom my soul delights,” and “Abba, Father.” The blessed Trinity has met the human race as it really is in its terrible darkness, embraced us and drawn us within the trinitarian life and light and love. Through suffering our scorn and curse, Jesus has filled the fall of Adam, and the old covenant with Israel, with his own relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit—just as it was planned before the foundation of the world.”

I have included a link to ‘The Shack Book’ Interactive Forum .. “Comments on how reading The Shack has effected me personally ..:” Do read the post by ‘Sharon’ on page 2 and the response by macjsavi on page 3.

http://theshackbook.com/discuss/index.php?topic=60.30

Is this not God at work .. the God of Israel .. ??

John, God bless you on your journey.

Gracescarredhands.

gracescarredhands's picture

John

Oh boy .. forget that last post ..!! It was nowhere near ready to send .. obviously!

I was trying to work out how to change the 'Plain Old Text' to HTML formated. When I went to OK I posted my comment.

Do you know how to change the format?

Aghh...

Grace ..

gracescarredhands's picture

Gd Day Mr. McPherson,

I see you've been busy over at The Shack!

On the forum you said:

"I just have to insert the brief, Biblically-verifiable comment that the "mystery" you keep referring to came to fulfillment and completion in Christ Jesus. The "mystery" everyone touts in relation to God's Person, work and Kingdom no longer exists. It only exists in the imaginations and hearts of those who are confused about the timing of the Kingdom's full manifestation and establishment. The hermeneutical approach required to look to the future for this event (and all related ones) yields a completely distorted understanding of the Scriptures as a whole, hence the "mystery" attached to the Word of God."

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Hi, Grace! Thank you for your gentle, kind, gracious comments and sincerity. I truly appreciate your sensitivity and gentle spirit. And I don't want to unnecessarily wound your spirit in any way. I sense a deep compassion in you and that heart for others ultimately has its source in our great Creator. I would, however, like to respond to the various points you've made, above.

You refer to God in your posts as ‘The God of Israel’. It is interesting that many posters on The Shack Forum refer to God as ‘Papa’, because He's become so personable, warm and close. And it is the testimony of many readers that their lives have been transformed. Broken hearts have been mended and people crippled by hatred, pain and grief have found freedom and forgiveness.

Who ‘heals the broken hearted and sets the captives free’? Is it not Jesus? The God of Israel?

God is a great King, Grace. He is THE Great King of all Kings. He rules over the eternal Kingdom of His People with love and grace, and yet we need to remain very much aware of the fact that He is the sole Authority in this Kingdom, and should be acknowledged and revered as such. He isn't just our "super-buddy" with super-powers when we need them. Yes, he desires to have an intimate, close, fatherly relationship with us. But He is also obligated to govern as King.

Your reasoning, above, is known as "deductive", Grace. You have taken various testimonials and anecdotal pieces of "evidence" and drawn the conclusion that the positive outcomes are a demonstration of the true God at work. This approach is assumptive and can result in wrong thinking and faulty conclusions.

I have almost finished ‘The Shack’. I have not felt comfortable with every aspect of the story but on the whole I have been blessed. But the book does not bless me half as much as the theology that inspired it!

John, the God we worship is a big, wonderful, multifaceted God. He is working in myriads of ways to bring glory to His Son and blessing to the world through Him. And by the Grace of God many sad and broken people have discovered through ‘The Shack’ a God who is ‘very fond of’ them. A God who is close and who loves them very much.

Repentance is a change of mind. And it seems to me that many folk who have read ‘The Shack’ now look at God differently. They don’t see an angry God any more. They believe God knows them and loves them and embraces them. And believing the Truth has changed them!!

In essence, Grace, your ideas and line of reasoning are utilitarian in nature. If it works - if it ain't "broken" - don't fix it. If touching, moving stories about fictional experiences enjoyed by fictional characters somehow bring people closer to "god", then just let it be. Let people enjoy these tales of magic moments with their "god" and thus develop feelings of enhanced "closeness" to "god".

The problem with this is that even though people may FEEL closer to God, Grace - they, in fact, are NOT closer to Him. This story moves their understanding of Him in the wrong direction - AWAY from the Truth. It's not "okay" for people to assimilate false doctrines and sugar-coated lies in the form of fictional treatments of God and His dealings with man - even if those fictions may seem like an ideal vehicle for "marketing Him". And that's what this boils down to. Another marketing scheme designed to "simplify" God and the means of enjoying relationship with Him, and lower the threshold of understanding and faith necessary to make His acquaintance. Right?

For generations - centuries, even - there has been a sensed imperative among Christians that we must heavily proselytize our neighbors, friends and mankind in general, in order to "usher in the Kingdom" and hasten the Lord's return. As Preterists, that imperative no longer exists. We know that the original disciples fulfilled the Great Commission within their lifetimes, and their "world" was fully evangelized, prior to Christ's return in 70 AD. We now live in an age and Kingdom much like the original Israelite Nation in some respects, in that non-Covenantal people are welcome to consider our spiritual economy and relationship with God, and if they like what they see, they are welcome to take the step of faith in Christ, thereby gaining access as one of His citizens. But there is no compelling reason for them to do so. There is no "hell" or final destruction for them to avoid. So this idea that we need to promote and market our faith and Kingdom in as attractive a manner as possible to encourage a new influx of adherents is misguided. Certainly, there are many miserable people out there who would benefit from a close relationship with God. But to cheapen that relationship and drastically distort Who He really Is is simply unacceptable. Regardless of who might seem to benefit and how, the Truth in relation to God and His Word is of utmost importance, and must remain so.

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John. 17: 3).

How is Eternal Life manifest in an ordinary, sinful, broken life? In the fruit of the Spirit. In Joy and Peace and Love. And how does Joy, Peace and Love enter a human heart? Through a personal relationship with God.

At the heart of Trinitarian theology is God’s Plan to bring humanity into the circle of life that is Father, Son and Spirit. This was achieved through the Incarnation. Such is the Grace, Power and Love of the God of Israel.

All quite true, Grace. But of course, there is much more to it - and Him - than that. To focus exclusively on the "grace, power and love" of God and then tack on a number of other false attributes in the process, is not permissible. We can't advertise a false "god" to people and pretend that this is the God of Israel that we are promoting. Whatever short-term benefits may be derived from presenting people with a false "god" for them to worship and serve, the long-term fallout renders it all null and void. It's really not worth the trouble. Better to remain true to the Truth and permit people to honestly consider for themselves whether or not they think this God of Israel is worth serving.

In the words of Baxter Kruger,

“The covenant promise, “I will be your God, and you will be my people” has been filled with “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom my soul delights,” and “Abba, Father.” The blessed Trinity has met the human race as it really is in its terrible darkness, embraced us and drawn us within the trinitarian life and light and love. Through suffering our scorn and curse, Jesus has filled the fall of Adam, and the old covenant with Israel, with his own relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit—just as it was planned before the foundation of the world.”

If you'll pardon my saying so...Baxter Kruger's statement is a disorientating mish-mash of ideas wrested from their true Scriptural context. Much better to rely upon the Scriptures themselves, rather than the ideas of theoreticians and theologians.

I have included a link to ‘The Shack Book’ Interactive Forum .. “Comments on how reading The Shack has effected me personally ..:” Do read the post by ‘Sharon’ on page 2 and the response by macjsavi on page 3.

http://theshackbook.com/discuss/index.php?topic=60.30

Is this not God at work .. the God of Israel .. ??

I'll take a look, Grace...but I have very serious doubts that this is evidence of the God of Israel's handiwork. One further comment (and I really hope this doesn't come across as nasty or anything) - reliance upon anecdotal evidence as a means of validating your beliefs is a very risky and weak approach to take, Grace. One can readily justify all kinds of things like substance abuse, various addictions and pretty much any mystical religion on the market as a means of making one feel good about oneself and life in general. I'm sure there are countless stories of how people "felt better" about their situation and suffering when engaging in TM or regularly getting stoned. Again, I'm not saying this to offend you in any way, Grace. I'm just pointing out the very serious flaw in heavy reliance upon testimonials as evidence of God's hand at work. Objective verification of all subjective experiences is critical. The only objective data by which these experiences can be measured is in the Word of God.

I trust that I've clarified where I'm coming from a little better. I'm not a callous, hard-hearted person, Grace. But I do love the Truth enough to set aside the human response to it and value it for its (His) own sake.

JM

gracescarredhands's picture

I am surprised by your posts on this topic, John. I have sat here as a silent visitor to Planet Preterist for quite a few years, and read many posts, including some of yours. But in this interaction I am getting to know you.

I am grateful you have taken the time to engage with one so incredibly ignorant and spiritually dwarfed!! We are coming from different places and our perspectives are worlds apart, but I am passionate about this topic, and willing to share my thoughts. I rarely post on this forum. My life is also quite busy and I do not have the energy, time or capacity to enter into most of the discussions that take place here. PP is for a common, simple person like me more than a little intimidating!

But then people like me are in the majority by far and it’s people like me who have been deeply touched by The Shack.

Anyway, I am humbled that you are willing to talk with me.

I spent the day with my husband, one of my daughters, and my two of my beautiful little grandchildren. My granddaughter is two and a half, has big blue eyes, and a big attitude as well! And my 17 month old grandson is incredibly cute. We drove through the Adelaide hills to a seaside town and had lunch. It is autumn and although Australia is in the grip of a terrible drought the season has broken and the hills are green. We passed little calves and lambs and I delighted in the glory of God’s wonderful world.

And for most of the day you were on my mind, John. God has brought our lives together and however brief the journey, there’s a purpose in this.

Anyway, it is late in the day, and the cold of evening is setting in. I am unwell so this post will be brief. I am sorry. I’ve asked the Lord to give me the space and time to correspond with you but if I fade away please know this was not my intention and I am truly sorry.

I value your opinion, respect your right to a different point of view, and delight in the mutual exchange of ideas. This is truly exciting because God is a part of the discussion. And anything is possible!

Aggressive debate and line for line point scoring is not my style, however, and I am hopeless at it!! If this is what you prefer I will sorely disappoint you.

I am not wounded by your post. Please don’t be offended but to a degree I am amused. Some of your assumptions are so wrong.

You said the God of Israel ‘isn't just our "super-buddy" with super-powers when we need them.’ Is that what you got from the book? I didn’t! And if you think I beliefe this .. absolutely not! I was brought up in the Baptist Church and understood propitiation, redemption, atonement and substitutionary sacrifice from a very young age. I was not brought up on an airy fairy gospel.

I am not ‘the sharpest tool in the shed’ but I am not biblically illiterate or simple minded, either! And I’d surmise from the letters I’ve read on the Shack forum that many of the folk who’ve read the book are far from ignorant, as well! And most of them are your family in Christ, John. They believe in God and in Jesus, the Son of God. And through The Shack they have been drawn closer to God.

How can that be bad? And how can this happen independently of the Holy Spirit? He has been given to the world to glorify Jesus and to bring us into relationship with Him. That is His Purpose.

And John, if a simple minded and unlearned person reads The Shack and finds the strength and grace to live a God dependent life, shouldn’t we rejoice? Who are we to oppose something so beautiful, so precious and so rare??!!

The faith of William Paul Young is founded on the biblical revelation of God’s Plan and Purpose for man in Christ. He wrote The Shack for his children. I believe he writes stories as gifts for the people he loves. This particular story found its way to a publisher. And it has had an impact beyond the wildest dreams of the author.

You say “But the god portrayed is NOT the God of Israel!! This is a god of the imagination, a ‘super buddy’ god who is nothing like the God I know.”

Well I guess He’s not.

But He’s the God William P. Young knows. And with the license of imagination, in a work of fiction, he’s tried to convey the intimacy and beauty of the Trinity. And because the Trinitarian God of the Bible has revealed Himself to us in the humanity of Christ, He has represented the relationship within the Godhead in a way that a child can grasp, as three persons who live in union as one, in a relationship of love, acceptance and face to face intimacy.

I located your posts on The Shack Book Forum so you know as well as I that the majority of posters are Christians. And because The Shack has been such an unexpected blessing many are hungry to understand more fully the “Papa” William P. Young knows. So they’re searching. And through the internet they are discovering some very interesting and different ideas about God. It’s like God used The Shack to plough some very hard ground so the seed that was planted could grow and thrive. Read the posts on the forum. That testimony is multiplied over and over ……!

You reject the ‘god’ of The Shack because you do not recognize Him. But many brothers and sisters in Christ do!

I have just finished reading The Shack and I just visited the interactive forum. And the book and the forum moved me to tears a couple of times.

The insights I discovered on the Chapter by Chapter threads blew me away. Perhaps you’re right, John. Perhaps I am simple minded and slow! Because readers of The Shack are ‘seeing’ things I was blind to in my first reading. And these insights are precious and powerful – and imo a sign of the Spirit at work in a wonderful, transforming dynamic. It was a privilege to read the inspiring responses of so many people and I copied so much that I ended up with a Word document 45 pages in length!

To be honest, I visit PP nearly every day, but it is not often I am uplifted and blessed in this manner.

It’s obvious we are not the same page, you and I. I believe a book that makes Jesus more real and transforms peoples’ lives is blessed by God. Only the Holy Spirit brings glory to Jesus and makes him real and precious to broken, angry, grieving, sinful people.

But I am not surprised that your critique is so harsh and judgmental. I am not surprised you think The Shack is dangerous. And it will not surprise me at all if accusations of heresy arise.

It is not uncommon for Christians to oppose with passion and conviction beliefs that are in conflict with popular doctrine. The whole Reformation movement is testimony to this fact. And you know it so well because you are a preterist. And the damage that is done .. well .. it’s tragic.

Anyway, you examined The Shack through the lens of a different Christology and you found it severely lacking.

Yet you and ‘Willlie’ have a lot in common. You believe in Jesus, worship the God of the Bible and have a passion for His Word. And you both have a story to tell that is a fire in the belly, an insight that has the power to change the world, albeit, in different ways.

You even mentioned this in a post on the forum when you said you “are part of a growing movement to correct the .. false futurist paradigm imposed on the "church" over the last few centuries”.

Over the years I’ve discovered that Preterists are by no means theologically homogenous. Preterists come in all ‘shapes and sizes’ when it comes to doctrine. Those on PP who have an exclusive appreciation of the saving grace of God in Christ are more likely to reject the Trinitarian theology that inspired The Shack. At the heart of the theology embraced by William P. Young is an inclusive gospel.

I leave you with a quote from a respected friend.

“Jesus' humanity is, as J. B. Torrance insisted, ‘vicarious humanity’. What becomes of him is not small-print, back-page news, which may or may not be relevant to us. He is the one in whom all things came into being and are continually upheld, thus what becomes of him has immediate implications for the whole creation. This fact should lead us to see with Paul that when Christ died, we died. When he rose, we rose. When he ascended, we were lifted up in him to the Father’s arms (see Ephesians 2:4-6; 2Corinthians 5:14ff).”

This is an incomplete response but I do not have the time to write more at present.

John, I hope you know that your Heavenly Father is ‘especially fond of you’!

God bless and keep you.

Gracescarredhands.

Scotty's picture

John,

I appreciate your efforts at reviewing "The Shack." Even though I do not share your evaluation of the book, I am not offended by it all. I personally enjoyed the book very much and was wonderfully touched by it. Do I favor all of the representations of God found in the book? No! But that really is the point of the book, and in fact, the irony of your review.

Clearly-and far more in the spirit of Hebrew narrative than our western inductive and deductive synthesis-Young is using story and metaphor to wrestle with the mystery of God (1 Tim. 3:16). I am more alarmed by those who say or imply that they have it figured out. For instance, John (to point out the "irony" comment I made above), to make your case about Young's book being an attack on the classical biblical truth regarding God's nature, you employ what most conservative scholarly sources would label a denial of classic trinitarian theology, when you deny the three "O's" : omniscience, omnipresence & omnipotence.

You are critical of Young's representations of God and how he has God dealing with the world's problems, yet, your explanation is to make God the victim of irresponsible angels. Personally, I would quantify this as far more detrimental to the persona of God than Young's representations of God. To suggest as you seem to do, that the bad things, like what happens to Mack's daughter, are the result of angels asleep on the job, doesn't exonerate God; he created them. Further, I would point out that this view is far from mainstream theology.

Young's portrayal of God as an African/Jamaican woman is clearly explained in the book two ways. First male and female were created in God's image, Yet the female aspect of that rarely gets mentioned. Secondly, God uses that form of appearance (an African/Jamaican woman) because the normal conceptual view of God - as Father - is an image that Mack has difficulty with because of his own bad dad. So God-who ultimately reveals himself in classic male figure in the book-chooses a disarming manifestation of himself so as to begin the process of confronting and interacting with Mack.

Is this really much different than the many ways-some almost unbelievable(such as Balaam's ass, or a baby in a manger)-that God chose to manifest himself to man? After three years of non-stop interaction with the apostles, Philip had the audacity to say "show us the Father." Jesus responded "have I been with you so long and yet you still don't know me?" If there is a problem today, it is not with Young's efforts seeking to humanly grasp God's nature and relationship with us, rather, it is all of the theological treatises, creeds and commentaries stacked one on the other that do nothing but contradict one another and together bring no more clarity than Paul's simple declaration to Timothy (1 3:16). The reality is, the God not wrestled with in human terms and emotion is the God that cannot be embraced by humans - exactly what He wants. He is a relational God not a theological proposition.

John, let me be clear, I am not upset with you or your review. It shows me your own desire to know God more intimately; I honor that. I do hope you see however, that even you explain it in very different ways than classical theology does at times. I know personally many people who are being wonderfully touched by this book to know and approach God more intimately and successfully than they have been able to in the past; and not because they are shallow or indifferent as Bible students. Rather, they see in it, as do I, the human struggle to intimately embrace and enter into relationship with the God of Heaven and earth. Since my approach at that will always be flawed I extend grace to Young and you in ways we differ in that effort. I hope you will do likewise with me. I encourage people to read the book with an open mind. I believe that far more people will be brought closer to the God of the Bible as a result of reading it, than those who will be bothered by it. Just my opinion. Blessings brother!

Jack Scott

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Thanks, Jack! Your gracious response is appreciated. And I will respond in kind.

I appreciate your efforts at reviewing "The Shack." Even though I do not share your evaluation of the book, I am not offended by it all. I personally enjoyed the book very much and was wonderfully touched by it. Do I favor all of the representations of God found in the book? No! But that really is the point of the book, and in fact, the irony of your review.

I'm glad you weren't offended by my review. My criticisms were obviously leveled at Mr. Young's portrayal of God, and the ideas underlying the caricature created in his book. In my conclusion, of course, I extend the criticism to those who base their understanding of God primarily on fictional treatments of His Person rather than on the Scriptures, which is justified on Biblical terms. As you state in your closing comment, though - many of the people touched by this book are not "shallow or indifferent Bible students". If that is truly the case, then the dangers inherent in considering God from a distorted perspective will be mitigated somewhat.

Clearly-and far more in the spirit of Hebrew narrative than our western inductive and deductive synthesis-Young is using story and metaphor to wrestle with the mystery of God (1 Tim. 3:16). I am more alarmed by those who say or imply that they have it figured out.

I, by contrast, am more concerned with those who believe that God must remain - to a significant degree - a mystery to us. The "mystery" referred to in the Scriptures was a time-limited phenomenon belonging to the pre-70 AD "age". We now live in a "face to face" age, where God should be readily comprehensible to us in both His Person and dealings with man. Unfortunately, as you pointed out, theologians and commentators have made an absolute mess of the Truth due to the false presuppositions and Creeds via which they imposed false interpretations and understandings on the sacred text.

For instance, John (to point out the "irony" comment I made above), to make your case about Young's book being an attack on the classical biblical truth regarding God's nature, you employ what most conservative scholarly sources would label a denial of classic trinitarian theology, when you deny the three "O's" : omniscience, omnipresence & omnipotence.

Actually, Young's portrayal of God is more in keeping with "classical biblical truth" - or, rather, the "classical UNDERSTANDING of biblical truth". And that is one of the major problems I have with it. Young has simply re-hashed the same old nonsense concerning God and His Person that the Creeds enshrined in the false doctrines of the so-called "church". I don't deny God's existence and manifestation of Himself as a Triune Being or Godhead. But I DO take strong exception to the three "O"s. God is not infinite in these fundamental elements of His Being. He does not reveal Himself as having any of those characteristics in His Word, and is, in fact, limited by specific character qualities AND manifestations of His Person. In Christ, He even took on time limitations (past, present and future). The classical, traditional understanding of God is wrong. And if I'm the first to stand up and say so (I don't believe I am), then so be it. The theological "emperor" has no clothes on.

You are critical of Young's representations of God and how he has God dealing with the world's problems, yet, your explanation is to make God the victim of irresponsible angels. Personally, I would quantify this as far more detrimental to the persona of God than Young's representations of God. To suggest as you seem to do, that the bad things, like what happens to Mack's daughter, are the result of angels asleep on the job, doesn't exonerate God; he created them. Further, I would point out that this view is far from mainstream theology.

God is not the "victim" of His fallible angels, but He HAS chosen to limit Himself primarily to their involvement with us on His behalf. They are His representatives in relation to everyday interaction with us and protection. This may seem more "detrimental" to God's Person than Young's caricature of Him - but the truly insidious nature of an infinite, transcendent "god" (introduced to us in "The Shack") is that He is fundamentally unknowable. An intelligent, open relationship with Him characterized by mutual trust and respect is unattainable. Modern Christians traditionally create "loopholes" for God because "His ways are not our ways..yada yada yada". Essentially, we are supposed to have an intimate relationship with Almighty God based upon the "mystery" of His Person. That's a contradiction in terms, and leads to unstable behaviour and patterns of thinking. When non-Christians talk about so many "hypocrites" involved with the "churches" of today, what they are really seeing is people who are claiming to believe one thing and yet cannot actually live according to their belief in everyday life, as hard as they may try. William Young's "god" does not provide anyone with the ability to more consistently live according to his/her avowed beliefs.

Yes, my view is far from mainstream theology. Correct. I eschew mainstream theology and its nonsensical misrepresentations of the God of Israel. Theologians have botched the job of making God's Truth more comprehensible for the laity (not that it was really their "job" to begin with). Nowhere is this more apparent than in "The Shack".

Young's portrayal of God as an African/Jamaican woman is clearly explained in the book two ways. First male and female were created in God's image, Yet the female aspect of that rarely gets mentioned. Secondly, God uses that form of appearance (an African/Jamaican woman) because the normal conceptual view of God - as Father - is an image that Mack has difficulty with because of his own bad dad. So God-who ultimately reveals himself in classic male figure in the book-chooses a disarming manifestation of himself so as to begin the process of confronting and interacting with Mack.

As indicated in the first part of my critique of this book, I don't have a huge problem, fundamentally, with the "god" of Young's novel manifesting him/herself to Mack as an African-American woman OR as a Sam Elliott-type father figure, later. Obviously, God can manifest Himself in all kinds of ways including fire, various animals (in apocalyptic visions), etc. So the form Young's "god" appears in is not the issue here.

If there is a problem today, it is not with Young's efforts seeking to humanly grasp God's nature and relationship with us, rather, it is all of the theological treatises, creeds and commentaries stacked one on the other that do nothing but contradict one another and together bring no more clarity than Paul's simple declaration to Timothy (1 3:16). The reality is, the God not wrestled with in human terms and emotion is the God that cannot be embraced by humans - exactly what He wants. He is a relational God not a theological proposition.

The biggest problem today, actually, is the whole-hearted embracing of any new "hype" concerning fresh insights into God and His Person by Christian media and celebrities, thereby prompting people to re-examine their understanding of God on the basis of fictionalized, nonsensical treatments of Him. Christians have been raiding Christian bookstores for this novel. This is the latest "craze". Discussion groups are devoted to lauding the ideas presented therein, and sharing how these false concepts have improved everyone's relationship with God and understanding of life in general. Pardon me while I try to keep my lunch down.

I couldn't agree more, concerning God's being a "relational God" rather than a "theological proposition". Just as importantly, however, we must keep in mind that the Father seeks those who "worship Him in spirit AND truth". We can't neglect the Truth in favor of a cozy, imaginary relationship with a fanciful "god".

John, let me be clear, I am not upset with you or your review. It shows me your own desire to know God more intimately; I honor that. I do hope you see however, that even you explain it in very different ways than classical theology does at times. I know personally many people who are being wonderfully touched by this book to know and approach God more intimately and successfully than they have been able to in the past; and not because they are shallow or indifferent as Bible students. Rather, they see in it, as do I, the human struggle to intimately embrace and enter into relationship with the God of Heaven and earth. Since my approach at that will always be flawed I extend grace to Young and you in ways we differ in that effort. I hope you will do likewise with me. I encourage people to read the book with an open mind. I believe that far more people will be brought closer to the God of the Bible as a result of reading it, than those who will be bothered by it. Just my opinion. Blessings brother!

I believe that people will most likely find the Bible even more incomprehensible after absorbing Young's ideas, and will find it easier to maintain a "relationship" with an imaginary "god" if they focus exclusively on more fictionalized explanations of Him and rely heavily on paraphrases of the Scriptures in modern terminology. Any Bible students who are NOT "shallow or indifferent" will most likely stray in that direction if they buy into Young's ideas. The self-contradictory "god" of "The Shack" has no direct correlation with the God of the Bible, Jack. I'm choosing, deliberately, not to mince words here because this is actually a rather important issue. I think it's critical to make that distinction. Those who aren't immediately aware of that fact are, perhaps, not as well-acquainted with the True God of Israel as they may think. Perhaps that's the most valuable aspect of Young's novel. It can provide a bit of a "litmus test" to determine how close one's understanding of God really is to the Truth revealed in His Word.

And that's more than just my opinion. That's the stark reality we are confronted with between the covers of our Bibles.

Blessings upon you also, Jack!

JM

Scotty's picture

Thanks John for your feedback and the spirit it is given. I feel no desire or need to go point for point - back and forth with you because already I can see the danger of the implication/inference game.

The problem with litmus tests, John, is their shelf-life. If you're prone to that sort of thing, yet a diligent student, I would wager you would fail some your own more recent tests. My response was not to suggest I embrace all of Young's representations of God. I don't even believe that Young's purpose was to write any kind of a systematic treatise about God's nature. I believe it was more a homiletic tool in seeking out ways to describe the human inability to grasp God, yet needing to.

Be that as it may, I would recommend a more generous treatment of others who disagree with you on this, and less broad generalizations of their knowledge, given that your own view of God, largely supported by your novel view of Angels, which you seem a bit less than dogmatic about, places you far outside the understanding of a lot of people even leading thinkers within Preterism.

Your implication of my knowledge of God being deficient is clear and I gladly admit it. Your assertion that the mystery of God is only a last days phenomenon stretches credulity. Tell me John, Have you mastered the mysteries of the Universe as well? If so, you could solve a lot of argumentation between the Vaughn/Martin vs. Frost/Barfield camps (smile). Equating seeing God face to face with having God all figured out by study and there being no more mystery... in the same spirit of not mincing words, is absurd. Scripture never even comes close to suggesting that we will totally comprehend God, even beyond physical death.

So If your point is to suggest Jack's knowledge of God seems to fail the litmus test - well OK! Problem is Jack has already found errors and unfounded assumptions in the litmus test.

John I appreciate your zeal for God and share in your desire that God's nature not be impugned. But if your articulated points about God are the truth, whole truth and nothing but, then the number of people who pass your test and measure up is probably pretty small.

Yet with Love to your passion
Jack

SuperSoulFighter's picture

I believe it was more a homiletic tool in seeking out ways to describe the human inability to grasp God, yet needing to.

The "human inability to grasp God". I have a problem with this, Jack. I'll get into this in a moment.

Your assertion that the mystery of God is only a last days phenomenon stretches credulity. Tell me John, Have you mastered the mysteries of the Universe as well? If so, you could solve a lot of argumentation between the Vaughn/Martin vs. Frost/Barfield camps (smile). Equating seeing God face to face with having God all figured out by study and there being no more mystery... in the same spirit of not mincing words, is absurd. Scripture never even comes close to suggesting that we will totally comprehend God, even beyond physical death.

I might tackle that debate, Jack - at your tongue-in-cheek invitation ;) ! I have tackled thornier problems than that, and come to some very interesting conclusions and means of resolving them. Just ask Ward Fenley :) ! But have I mastered the mysteries of the universe? Of course not. Do I have a thorough grasp of God's intrinsic limitations? Yes, according to His clear revelation of His own Person and Being in the Scriptures, I believe I do. And this is where I must introduce the real problem I have with this whole discussion and the perspective maintained by Creedalists and those holding to an "orthodox" understanding of God.

If God the Creator truly created man's mind, soul, capacity for speech, language and communication and THEN He went to the trouble of revealing Himself to man using human language and terminology - wouldn't you agree that for Him to remain fundamentally incomprehensible to man is an indication of outright failure on His part? That, in essence, is what you're saying Jack. That the supposedly "infinite God of the Bible" failed in His efforts to make Himself known to man. That is what mainstream theologians are saying also. That is the direct implication of all teachings involving a supposedly triple-O God. In fact, a "transcendent god" who is so "other" that we cannot possibly comprehend Him and His Being is really indistinguishable from the unknowable "god" of the Muslims - Allah - or the pantheon of pagan Hindu "gods" who exist to be served and feared, with no personal relationship anticipated or involved. The "Nirvana nothingness of infinitude" that the Hindus hope to someday achieve would be the rough equivalent of the triple-O "god" advocated by mainstream theology. It's just that theologians don't understand the logical, natural outcome of their thinking and beliefs. Nor do they see the blatant contradictions between the actual Scriptures and those beliefs.

You can see where this is really a rather critical point of controversy, Jack. I don't mean to berate or browbeat anyone into acceptance of my view by any means. But I do think this issue should be given rather serious consideration by all.

tom-g's picture

John,

Is it all right in your version of the truth if I see no reason to worship the God of Israel but choose to worship the God of the gentiles instead? Would that be defined as idolatry, and which one is the false God? Or is it possible your article is an exercise in ambiguity?

Tom

Virgil's picture

Tom, what is your criteria for determining which one is the true or false God? I am curious how you make the determination?

tom-g's picture

Virgil,

The simplest and clearest propositional truths of the criteria for determining who is the true God is found in 1 Timothy 3:16. When coupled with assenting to agree with the confession of 1 Timothy 3:15 that I am a member of the house of God which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, this is the God that was manifest in the flesh and preached on to the gentiles that I worship.

Tom

Virgil's picture

So, the one who was revealed in flesh, vindicated by the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed in the word, taken up in glory...this "one" is not the god of the gentiles? Why would he be proclaimed "among the nations" then?

tom-g's picture

Thank you Virgil,

You are repeating exactly what I have been saying to John right from the very beginning.

Tom

SuperSoulFighter's picture

And I still don't see the Scriptural basis for what you're saying, Tom. Perhaps we should examine the Scriptures more closely together.

14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.

1 Tim. 3:16 (above) appears to be your Scriptural basis for identifying God as "the God of the gentiles" Tom. Is that correct? This needs to be established before we move on.

tom-g's picture

John,

I have repeatedly said that it is my presuppositional faith in the absolute propositional truth of scripture that is the basis for everything I believe.

The scripture very clearly reveals the name of the "One Lord" of the declaration "Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord". The name of that "One Lord" is Jesus. That is the name that is above every other name. That is the name for which every knee bows, in heaven, in earth, and under the earth. That is the name of the God of the gentiles that I worship.

The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of that one Lord Jesus and I am a member of his Christ.

From the beginning of time when the "One Lord" began to reveal himself to man he has had many names. Only now with the revelation of the fullness of the mystery has the "One Lord" finally revealed his name Jesus as the name that is above every other name by which he has been known.

Your continued use of identifying Jesus, the "One Lord", by one of his prior names not only brings shame on him but also makes his gospel of none effect.

Tom

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Hi, Tom. Thanks for responding to my query concerning your usage of the title "God of the gentiles". Your answer, unfortunately, is somewhat indirect and incomplete.

I have repeatedly said that it is my presuppositional faith in the absolute propositional truth of scripture that is the basis for everything I believe.

Sadly, when your presuppositions aren't based on that "propositional truth of scripture", Tom, your faith is misplaced and adrift in a sea of speculation. And that's what I'm trying to point out. 1 Tim. 3:16 does NOT identify Jesus as the "God of the gentiles". In fact, nowhere do we find Jesus identifying Himself by that title. Nor do we see His disciples/apostles applying that title to Him. I'll help you out here. The only evidence of anything remotely close to that title being applied to Jesus is found in Rom. 3:29, " 29Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also". Is that text what you have in mind, Tom? If so, I can understand where you would get the idea that is some kind of title applicable to God. We can explore that further if you like.

The scripture very clearly reveals the name of the "One Lord" of the declaration "Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord". The name of that "One Lord" is Jesus. That is the name that is above every other name. That is the name for which every knee bows, in heaven, in earth, and under the earth. That is the name of the God of the gentiles that I worship.

Let's see how Jesus identifies Himself to the Jews.

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)

Hmm..that sounds an awful lot like Jesus identifying Himself directly with the Tetragrammaton title delivered to Moses via the burning bush. I believe Jesus went out of His way to reveal Himself as the God of Israel, Tom - as YHWY incarnate. Yes, that Old Covenant revelation of Himself was incomplete - but as the original manifestation of God to man, that title identified certain eternal characteristics of God that form the fundamental elements of His Being and role. He is the God of His Covenant People - NOT of the entire human race. He is not the God of those who refuse (or fail to through ignorance) worship and serve Him as their God. He is the Creator and sustainer of life, yes. But He is not the King of all of humanity. And He is certainly not the God of non-Covenantal people (i.e. "gentiles", metaphorically speaking, per our current spiritual economy).

The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of that one Lord Jesus and I am a member of his Christ.

Your terminology is way out of context here, Tom. I would appreciate your defining "kingdoms" and "world" with supporting Scriptures, please (since your presuppositions are soundly grounded on Scriptural propositions according to your statements, above) and also explain how you are a "member of his Christ" with accompanying exegetical analysis of the relevant Scriptures. Thanks in advance!

From the beginning of time when the "One Lord" began to reveal himself to man he has had many names. Only now with the revelation of the fullness of the mystery has the "One Lord" finally revealed his name Jesus as the name that is above every other name by which he has been known.

Your continued use of identifying Jesus, the "One Lord", by one of his prior names not only brings shame on him but also makes his gospel of none effect.

I'm sorry you feel that Jesus' Covenantal role as God and King of His eternal spiritual Kingdom of Israel brings shame on Him, Tom. I'd like to see Scriptural substantiation for the idea that Jesus rejected that title and role at some point in His ministry and life. Do you know of any place where He stated that He is no longer the God of Israel and that that title should never again be applied to Him?

Take a look at Rev. 21:9-27, Tom. Note the identification of God's capital City as JERUSALEM, and the emphasis placed on the twelve tribes of ISRAEL as the means of access to it (their tribal names posted on each of the twelve gates to the City).

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

6 Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. (Rev. 22:6) Wow. Look at how John, under the Holy Spirit's inspiration, identifies God in that verse there, Tom. I don't see Jesus' name appearing in these texts, but I do see God being identified as the Israelite God. Jesus' name appears farther down in vss. 16-21. Do you honestly think, on the basis of the texts I've just cited, above, that Jesus would be offended at being referred to as "the God of Israel"? Check out the Israelite references in Gal. 4:26-31, Heb. 8:8-13 (clearly identifying the Christian New Covenant Kingdom as "the house of Israel and Judah"), Rom. 9:6-8, etc.

I honestly don't believe you have a leg to stand on on this one, Tom. I really mean that. Saying that I "bring shame on Jesus" by identifying Him as the God of Israel is way way off-base, Scripturally. It's time to get off of your high horse and re-acquaint yourself with His Word. Thanks for taking the time to review your beliefs and the presuppositions forming their foundation, Tom. As you review them, in the light of the actual Scriptures, please be prepared to replace them with Biblical ideas and beliefs. Choosing to ignore and deny God's Word actually DOES bring shame on Him, Tom. I would recommend you avoid it in future.

Sincerely,

John

tom-g's picture

John, sorry you continue to view the scripture through the veil of unbelief and rejection of the revelation of the mystery of Jesus as the "One Lord" and God manifested in the flesh.

You need to repent and believe the gospel that Paul preached as the apostle to the gentiles. Even an angel from heaven is commanded to preach no other gospel.

You need to repent and believe if you have not confessed with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord; if you have not believed that Jesus is the "One Lord", our Lord God who was manifest in the flesh; if you have not believed that it is the church of Jesus, the living God, that is the pillar and ground of the truth; if you have not believed that it is the name of Jesus that is above every other name; if you have not believed that it is at the name of Jesus that every knee bows in heaven, in earth, and under the earth.

And finally John, if you have not believed that there is no other name, except the name of Jesus, given under heaven whereby you may be saved, you need to repent and believe the gospel according to the revelation of the mystery that Paul preached.

Tom

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Hi, Tom!

Is it all right in your version of the truth if I see no reason to worship the God of Israel but choose to worship the God of the gentiles instead? Would that be defined as idolatry, and which one is the false God? Or is it possible your article is an exercise in ambiguity?

I'll try to treat these comments as though they are sincere. It's fine with me if you choose to worship a false "god" - but bear in mind that there are consequences to devoting oneself to falsehood. Those consequences involve misery both in this life and the next.

If you were a devoted worshiper of the true God and then abandoned Him for a lesser "god", then yes - that would be idolatrous in the old, classic sense. The false "god" would be the one who does not identify Himself as YHWH - the great "I AM" - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. False "gods" also do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, according to the Scriptures.

Is it possible your questions are an exercise in ambiguity? Or do you have some sort of direction you're headed with them? I'm honestly curious, Tom.

tom-g's picture

Definitely not ambiguity.

I am in the kingdom of the God of the gentiles that I worship. My God currently rules and reigns in his kingdom as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords at whose name, which is not a Tetragrammaton, every knee bows in heaven in earth and under the earth. He is my high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek and sacrificed his life for my sins.

Worshiping the Tetragrammaton God of Israel, who is none of those things, would be the worship of another god before my God of the gentiles and would be idolatry, which I personally choose not to do. The God I worship has the name of Jesus and he is the Lord and the Christ and the head of the body of which I am a member.

So no, the God of the gentiles is definitely not an ambiguous God, he is the one true living God.

Tom

SuperSoulFighter's picture

How interesting that you refer to Him as "the god of the gentiles", Tom. Why do you prefer that designation?

And by the way...I would agree that His New Covenant name is Jesus Christ. I was referring to Him by His Old Covenant, original revelation of Himself. The "name that is above every other name" is, indeed, the name by which He should be worshiped.

Paige's picture

John,

Do you believe that God was FULLY manifested and FULLY revealed under the Old Covenant?

Paige

SuperSoulFighter's picture

No, Paige. I don't. His revelation of Himself under the Old Covenant was via many symbolic, figurative items pertaining to Israelite worship of Him. These items both revealed AND obscured His Person. They were an imperfect representation of Him, and part of the "mystery" which was done away with in 70 AD.

His revelation of Himself under the Old Covenant was accurate and true, but His revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ was far clearer, more compelling and, ultimately, transformative for man.

tom-g's picture

John,

Your answers are the reason I choose to worship the Lord Christ Jesus, the God of the gentiles, and not the Lord Christ Jesus as he was known imperfectly and temporarily as the Tetragrammaton of Israel in a covenant that was not able to save anyone.

Tom

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Exactly, Tom. Jesus' pre-incarnate revelation of Himself as YHWH was according to an imperfect, temporal covenant. It accurately revealed certain aspects of His Person, but it was incomplete and shrouded in mystery.

I still don't understand where you get the designation "God of the gentiles" for Him, though, Tom. Perhaps you could elaborate further.

tom-g's picture

John,

If you do not see the truth of what you have just said, I do not see how I could explain it any clearer for you.

You admit that in an imperfect and temporal way Jesus revealed himself as YHWH to Israel before he finally revealed himself perfectly and eternally to the Gentiles and the world by his real name of Jesus. But you continue to want to identify him by his imperfect and temporal name rather than his real, eternal and perfect name of Jesus.

When all of the imperfections, types and shadows, prior identities and impermanence are finally cast aside the one true living redeeming God, our Lord Christ Jesus stands revealed.

Why would you choose to revert back to types and shadows looking through a veil that has been done away with in Jesus?

Tom

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Let's just back that train of thought up the tracks a little, Tom. I think you ended up on the wrong track somehow. The conclusions you're drawing from my statements are unwarranted.

I said that Jesus was/is the perfect, complete, ultimate revelation of God to man. He was the God of Israel incarnate. At what point do you see Him re-defining or re-identifying Himself as "the God of the gentiles"? He came to establish a SPIRITUAL Covenant Nation - SPIRITUAL Israel. He remained the God of Israel in that sense. He was the Jewish /Israelite Messiah - a Hebraic term. His eternal Covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel was an eternal one involving spiritual progeny/descendants. And the Scriptures bear this out to a T. Go back and take a look at my article on "The Seed of Abraham", Tom.

I would like you to take a look at a passage, please, with your objective thinking cap on, and tell me what you think this incident in Jesus' ministry indicated. Pay particular attention to Jesus' own words.

21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
23 But He answered her not a word.
And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matt. 15:21-28)

Jesus sure doesn't sound like the "God of the gentiles" according to His statement in v.24, Tom. And I tend to take Him at His word. I hope you do too. He very much sounds like the JEWISH MESSIAH (which, in fact, He was). Now consider what He did for this Gentile, Canaanite woman in spite of the fact that the primary focus of His ministry and purpose was the house of Israel. Why did He do this? Why didn't He just send her away, like the disciples were prompting Him to do? This isn't a trick question and there is more than one "correct" answer (or partially correct answer).

John

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