Let me begin by stating that I have not read the new “Christian” novel, The Shack. In fact, I had never heard of it until about a week ago, which shows just how swamped I have been with school work and various other and asundry matters. Typically, I stay pretty aware of these type of things; however, I owe it to my culturally-savvy friend, Keith Krepcho, for bringing this book to my attention. I’m not going to bash it or tell you to shun it. I would rather have read it before I speak that strongly about it. However, I doubt that once reading it, my response would be any different. It’s hard not to trust Dr. Al Mohler’s well-informed thoughts on any given cultural issue.
Dr. Mohler, not too long ago, was also very unaware of The Shack. On a vacation, some friends asked if he’d read it, and if so, what did he think about it. At that time, Mohler had not read the book, but subsequently sat down and read all 200+ pages in one sitting (I still can’t do that, even on “easy reads”). Once he had turned the last page, Mohler was deeply concerned with respect to his friends’ referral to this book. Later, though, he finds out that his friends were not recommending the book because of their approval of it, but rather, they deeply desired for Mohler’s insightful critique of it due to the alarming nature of its presentation of Christianity, namely, the Trinity.
Apparently, William P. Young began writing this book as a story for his children. However, the manuscript was later picked up by a publisher after Young had already put it into press on his own dollar. The main character in the book loses his daughter who was raped and brutally murdered, and thus, carries a heavy dosage of depression and grief. At some point, the man receives a letter which ends up being sent from God, which tells him to go to “the shack.” There, the man meets the Trinity. Everything seems fine up until this piont, but here’s the kicker: God, who is referred to as “Papa,” is an african-american woman, Jesus is a Jewish man, and the Holy Spirit is also a female figure.
However, this weird and unorthodox presentation of the Trinity is not the only point of question regarding Young’s take on Chrisitanity. As the dialogue unfolds between the main character and “the Trinity,” heretical views of Jesus’ identity as the God-Man appear as well as other expressions that overtly disclose Young’s promotion of inclusivism and pluralism. This issue of man’s sinful nature is also dealt with in an “Osteen” fashion.
I’ll let you read the book and listen to Dr. Mohler’s radio program where he provides thoughtful commentary on the message of this book. What I want to do is speak just briefly with respect to what I felt when I heard how loosely some of the major doctrines of the Christian faith were treated in this story in conjunction with the overwhelming approval and praise of it by some leading Christians in our society.
On the front cover of the book is a blurb by Eugene Peterson which reads, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” Elsewhere, Michael W. Smith hails it as a life-changing book that has the capability of radically transforming one’s spiritual life before God. What I’ve noticed is that the thing about deception is that you don’t know you’ve been deceived usually until the deed is already done. And in this case, that’s what I observe to be occurring.
I walked into our seminary LifeWay just a few days ago and on the window glass on the doors were promotional materials taped up for the whole world to see, affirming this book in an extremely positive manner. What’s the deal!? I mean, does no one screen this stuff before it’s plastered all over the place, setting a snare for believers? What alarms me the most is the “Christian” response to other Christians who critique material that calls into question orthodox Christian theology as if the God who they want to express spirituality towards is somehow separated from his own personal identity.
Right now, The Shack is #8 on Amazon’s bestseller lists, and if you click onto its page, you will see that blogger Tim Challies is the first person who has left a review. Obviously, he disapproves of the book and regards it as “subversive” to orthodox Christianity. Yet, on his review you will see that currently there are 68 other comments. I scrolled down over a large part of them, and most of them were rebuking Challies for thinking that Christianity is only about “theological correctness.” Eventually, I had to quit reading the responses to Challies’ review since I felt my blood pressure rising. I wish Martin Luther was here. Our pesonalities are too much alike; I’m sure we’d be friends.
Where did Christians, or so-called Christians, ever get the idea that God doesn’t care how you view him? It seems to me that when Jesus declared so passionately before the Jews that “Before Abraham was, I am (Jn 8:58),” or “I and the Father are one (Jn 10:30),” that just maybe we ought to take his own personal declarations of divine identity to heart when we come before him desiring to live lives pleasing to him and for his glory. I was very disgusted by some of the comments on Challies’ review that said something to the effect: “Yeah, I kind of disagreed with his view of the Trinity, but you missed the point. Forgiveness and the gospel to all people was its true message and is the same thing that Jesus came to do. God is calling us to intimacy.” Statements like these clearly demonstrate not only that contemporary Christians have failed to truly grasp the essence of Christian theology, but even more so, the true meaning of the gospel. Is there any gospel at all without the Trinity? Absolutely not. What amazes me is that people honestly think that the gospel is somehow detached from God’s personhood. It seems to me that underlying most of the objections to reviews such as Challies’ have more to do with someone wanting to uphold his or her own take on spirituality rather than striving to see his or her God, Lord and Savior, served in purity and truth, with holy reverence and awe. Hopefully, one day, we will see flyers for books taped up on doors encouraging us to buy them that present a high and exalted God, who is glorious and is represented as he has revealed himself in Scripture, rather than promoting books that permit us to go home, kneel on our knees, and pray to “Papa,” the large african-american woman and somehow lead us to think that we have found the gospel of Jesus Christ.