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THE SHACK – In Defense of William P. Young

August 21st, 2008 · 15 Comments

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)

Throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater

Purpose Weekly, August 21, 2008

Vol. 2, Issue 30

For the last few weeks we’ve been talking about trusting God when the circumstances seem to warrant that you shouldn’t trust in a God who would let those kinds of circumstances happen. Stuff that’s too big for us to reconcile. Like, God loves me more than I can imagine and has only the best planned for me … and … my child was taken from me for no apparent reason.

How do you reconcile that? How can a God that’s supposed to love me allow such great tragedy and pain?

It’s beyond my ability to reconcile a loving and personal and all powerful God with all of the tragedy and pain and suffering I see in the world. If God is loving and personal and all powerful, why doesn’t He, in His love and power, put an end to this suffering and allow us to live in His care and peace and love? It doesn’t add up.

Either there isn’t really any kind of God like I imagine Him – He’s just been made up by man’s tradition. Or, if God exists, He’s really not as personal or loving or all powerful as we think He is.

Or.

The reason I can’t reconcile God’s love and man’s suffering in my mind is just that my mind isn’t capable of it. Not because the two ideas are irreconcilable; but because I don’t have the mental capacity to bring it together.

It’s like asking a first grader to solve a problem advanced calculus. It’s not like advanced calculus problems can’t be solved; we know they can. Just not by first graders. The problem of not being able to reconcile God’s love with man’s suffering isn’t a problem on God’s side – He’s already solved it. It’s a problem on our side. We can’t reconcile the two because we’re like the first graders’ trying to do calculus. We can’t do it because we can’t do it – not because it can’t be done. We’re not God.

That doesn’t help much.

What should we do every time tragedy comes into our lives or we’re witness to the suffering of innocents? Throw up or hands and say, “That’s God’s department.” “Nothing I can do about it.” “Too big for me.”?

I don’t think so.

God really is personal and loving. He cares intensely for you personally, not just mankind in general, you personally.

Suffering is a reality in our present situation. Babies die for no apparent reason. Innocent people suffer every day while evil people perpetrate atrocities against them.

God is all powerful. He can do anything He wills.

Then why doesn’t He will to prevent suffering and crush evil? And why won’t He let us in on the secret when He doesn’t? Why doesn’t He give us the answer to the calculus problem?  So at least, if we have to put up with the idea of God’s love and power coexisting with suffering and evil, we’ll understand it?

*****

Which brings us to THE SHACK, a book written and self-published by William P. Young. Mr. Young (his friends call him Paul, so I’ll be so bold) wrote this little book as a gift to his six kids. It wasn’t really meant for the world’s eyes, but, as often happens with ideas, some can’t be contained. I’m sure his six kids have read it, and by now so have a million others, me included.

It’s received a lot of praise from people who feel that their life was changed by its message. It’s also received a lot of flack from fellow Christians and theologians that don’t approve of Paul’s apparent unorthodoxy. For us non-theologians “orthodox” means “following traditional doctrine.” Paul’s story isn’t very “orthodox.” His critics throw in a few literary jabs too; just for good measure.

As a writer, Paul Young isn’t Hemmingway. But in his literary defense, I kept turning the pages – so did a million other people. That’s more people than have turned the pages of anything I’ve written. I’m guessing it’s more than his critics combined have written. People who live in little glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at people who live in big glass houses. If you want Hemmingway, pick up a book he wrote; then you won’t be disappointed.

What THE SHACK does do is try to answer the question. ‘Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?’ Here’s the story line from the back of the book.

“Mackenzie Allen Philips’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant THE SHACK wrestles with the timeless question, ‘Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?’ The answer Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!”

What does Mack find out? For one thing, God is a black woman. The book actually said “African-American woman.” But knowing a little of the author’s history, she could have been African-Canadian, African-Jamaican, or even African-African. The point made is the He (She) is black and a woman.

Does Paul Young really think God is a black woman? Probably not.

Everybody knows God is a white man. Long white beard. Sitting on a big throne in heaven holding a stick that shoots thunderbolts at unfortunate earthlings who cross Him.

I don’t think Paul’s intention was to blaspheme God by making Him into a black woman for the story (As a matter of fact, he changes God into a man with a pony-tail at the end of the story. We’re not sure of His skin color; Paul doesn’t spell it out for us.)

Paul’s point (I think) is that we’ve put God into a box that’s comfortable for us, and Paul wanted to knock the box into pieces; or at least dump it’s contents out onto the floor so we could see a little bit of what God may really be like instead of at looking at the box and saying it is God.

Who knows? Maybe imagining God as a white man with a long beard, hurling thunderbolts down from heaven is just as blasphemous as making Him into a black woman. As least Paul had the guts to dump the box.

The story deals with love and relationship and forgiveness. And it does a good job at all three. Theologically it may have some points to argue; like the femaleness of the God character (the Holy Spirit is a woman too, Asian this time) and the lack of any hierarchy in the Godhead, or the soft sell on sin.

All good points, but this is a simple story about love and relationship and forgiveness. If you want theology go read Tillich (which you won’t, unless you’re studying for a theology degree, which if you are, you’ll be able to spend the rest of your life arguing about theology with other Christians).

Is theology important? Yup.

That is, if your theology is accurate. Otherwise it’s just empty words.

Am I saying, “Ignore the bad theology and jump into THE SHACK like it’s scripture”? Nope.

It’s not scripture, it hast its faults, but it provides some answers to hurting people trying to understand the love and relationship and forgiveness that God has made available in Christ. Something you custodians of orthodoxy should spend more time doing.

So in defense of Paul and guys like him, honest followers of Jesus who aren’t finding all of their answers in the current, infallible orthodoxy, here’s my advice: Give the guy some air. You people throwing the stones can’t even agree with each other.

Here’s my advice for everyone else: If you want to read a good story about love and relationship and forgiveness pick up THE SHACK. If you’re worried that the story doesn’t properly deal with the Godhead or the reality of Hell or punishment for sin, then find a theological treatise on those subjects. But while you’re reading them, keep an eye out for love and relationship and forgiveness.

*****

Ephesus was a pretty cosmopolitan place 2000 years ago. There were a lot of ideas about God (or gods) floating around in that city when Apostle Paul spent a little ink telling Jesus’ followers in the church there to grow up and get along.

In deference to Paul (not the apostle) and guys like him, I’ll quote from Eugene Peterson’s The Message.

“In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner of the Master, I want you to get out there and walk – better yet, run! – on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, on some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline, not in fits and starts, but steady, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.”

“You were called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift ….  He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, full alive like Christ.”

“No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for imposters. God wants us to grow up and tell the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He will keep us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16)

We could take his advice.

In Him,

Steve Spillman

Tags: God's purpose · Heaven · Hell · love · suffering

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tomi // Aug 21, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I agree with your concepts about the reason for the book and not getting all tangled up with the characterizations. However, I am involved with several people who are just now trying to understand the whole concept of their actually being a “God” and what He did for them and they have read this book and now have the most bizzare outlooks and ideas about who God is and the Trinity. This book should not concern a true believer, but it is not the kind of book I’d want a new believer or a “getting there believer” to read!

  • 2 Carol Van Drie // Aug 21, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    I must agree with Tomi. If you take the actual scripture you quoted from yourself “Tell the TRUTH in love…” imediately, that would deny the basic premise of your latest newsletter. I believe that your concern for “religion” and “church” has jaded the absolute NEED for the TRUTH about the gospel of Jesus Christ. This message of “The Shack” can be found in Francine Rivers stories (for example), try “Redeeming Love” or her “Mark of the Lion” series. These stories embody everything you mentioned “The Shack” supposedly does, and some yet so much more, while adhering to Biblical accuracy. It’s ALWAYS more when we have lessons about forgiveness, love, redemption etc., when the heart of the matter lies within God’s Word. That’s TRULY when we can learn deep, abiding lessons. Not from semi-Biblically accurate nonsense like “The Shack.”

    When I was in the cult I was in, I would venture a guess that about 75 or 80 or even 90% of what was taught was Biblically accurate. It was that small, small % that screwed me up and warped my concept of the Godhead. Anything at all that distorts, even in a TINY sense the Biblical truths about the Trinity is evil and dangerous. Satan wants us to be ambigious and “fluid” about the knowleddge of the Godhead because if we don’t worship Jesus Chirst IN TRUTH, then we don’t worship the Lord God who is our ONLY Savior.

    I sincerely, and deeply, with all my heart worshiped a non-trinitarian god when I was in the cult I was in. But I worshiped a myth, I didn’t know nor did I have a personal relationship with the ONE true living Lord and God who was and is the lover of my soul. If we don’t have that, then we don’t know God and if we don’t know God we are eternally doomed. It was just that one small thing that cult taught me that made the biggest and most damaging difference in my life.

    Next you might be trying to convince us, “If you want to know a God that makes you feel good and that can give you warm fuzzies, read Oprah’s book about god.” Where is the line drawn with all due repect Mr. Spillman? The line is drawn SMACK DAB IN THE BIBLE. If it’s not Biblically accurate – it’s a waste of our time and worse, it’s a waste of God’s precious time because we’re reading garbage and God-forbid, believing it. Maybe solid believers won’t be swayed by the inaccuracies in that book, but as Tomi illustrated, others may not be so blessed and be tempted to belive in “The Shack” and the author’s skewed version of God. Or worse, take that “knowledge” and land in a cult because they don’t know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just like I did.

    I think you have unfortunately missed the mark on this one because the book made you (perhaps?) “feel” good. I pray you will reconsider your assesment. But if not – may the Lord bless you and keep you regardless.

  • 3 admin // Aug 21, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Tomi & Carol,

    You’ve both brought up a great point. I’ve been around the theological block a few times and it was easy for me to discard the theological dross in THE SHACK and keep the message I saw as lacking in a lot of our fundamentalist tradition. That is the message of love, relationship and forgiveness.
    It might not be so easy for babes in Christ or those outside seeking answers to separate the wheat from the chaff. If I was too short on what I saw wrong and too long on what I saw right I apologize.
    I have a couple of concerns; those who are so stuck in their traditions and orthodoxy that they’ve got no room left for love, relationship and forgiveness, and those seeking or new to Christ who will swallow anything they’re given if it tastes good.
    You guys, by now, know me. And you know that I tend to beat on the first group and ease up on the second. God’s done a tremendous work on my spirit just to bring me back to an active life in the Body. It seems He’s not quite done yet.
    I’ve just finished responding to an extensive and detailed e-mail along the same lines (a little more critical I’m afraid) as your comments. In my response I asked for permission to include the exchange in the posts to this site. Like Paul and Carol said, we’re obligated to “tell the truth in love” (that’s the whole truth).
    With your love and patience, I’d like to spend more time on this; for the benefit of both the crusty fundies and the naive newbies.
    In Jesus,
    Steve

  • 4 Donna // Aug 22, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Wow. I was so glad to read your take on, The Shack. I also just read the comments about it. Sorry, Carol, but how can you comment on this book not having read it. If I had not been told about this book by a close christian friend of mine, and only gone on the flood of theological opinion about it, I would have missed out on a very entertaining, book about how wonderful God is. Which is what I enjoyed about other books I’ve read based on Christian concepts, such as the ones written by Francine Rivers, or even the Left Behind series. Lighten up people!I’ve got God’s word (Bible) to learn the truth, which is where truth is to be found! And thankfully, God lets me enjoy wonderful, “what if,” stories of gifted writers to allow me to wonder about the greatness of an unexplainable God. I enjoyed The Shack for what it is…. one man’s attempt to describe how wonderful it is to have a relationship with God, in such a broken world. I think you did a great job of comparing the controversy generated by this book, Steve. As a success, everybody has to critique it. I didn’t have the impression the author wrote his book to start a new improved/christian-like religion. As a believer of Biblical truth, I hope I am discerning enough to note my personal differences with his theology, as he uses his talent for God to answer difficult questions for his children about the God who loves us all. The dialogue was geat! I would recommend the book to anyone who wonders what it must be like to have a conversation with God! No, I haven’t replaced my Bible with Paul Williams latest nor do I take Oprah’s opinion as gospel, but hey….. if you’ve got a book to endorse for beachtime reading, it’s a whole lot better than Harry Potter.

  • 5 Phyllis Lorena Aguilar // Aug 22, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I have read today’s comment on “The Shack.” I have to comment to you that I am very disappointed in you for saying the book is ok. To me it is an abomonation to even say God is a she! Not only that but for you to even quote scripture out of the “Message bible” is just not even acceptable. The Message is written by a New Age believer. Note, I cannot even place a capital letter on the word Bible for to me that is not even God’s Word! It is a fake and I will not give satan credit for copying.

  • 6 admin // Aug 22, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Okie Dokie, looks like the conversation is started.
    I’ve been thinking about this one. How could I not?
    First – to everybody, thanks for commenting, pro or con. Without you there wouldn’t be a discussion.
    Second – understand this. I belong to Jesus Christ; I am a part of the same Body as you. I’m convinced that Paul Young is too, and for that matter, Eugene Peterson and millions of other followers of the same Jesus you claim as Savior. Whether you agree with everything they say or what people claim they say, if they belong to Him and you belong to Him, we belong to Him. Understand where the battle is, people. We Christians are so busy crucifying each other we haven’t the energy to spend on a truly lost and dying world. What do you think the world thinks when all they see is us setting up battle camps against each other?
    Don’t start crying “Ecumenist!” at me. I’ve seen Baptists who hate Baptists “for doctrinal reasons” and Pentecostals who hate Pentecostal’s for the same. We won’t even approach the Grand Canyon between Baptists and Pentecostals.
    Now you’ve got some poor guy in Oregon saying “where’s the love, relationship and forgiveness in Christ?” and he writes a little story about it which includes, what a lot of us (you caught the ‘us’ part, right?) think may be some pretty sketchy doctrine. But the question is still there; “where’s the love and relationship and forgiveness?” Apparently at least a million others want to know the answer to that question. Do you think that maybe, just maybe some, or a lot, or most of them are born-again Christians who have had some tragedy in their lives and we keepers of the orthodoxy haven’t provided answers as well as we should have?
    I respect you guys because you care enough to read and comment. Because I respect you, I’m going to make sure I respect your answers. Here are the rules:
    1. If you haven’t read the book – don’t bother commenting; you don’t know what you’re talking about. If your pastor or your friend or some guy on the radio said it’s blasphemy and you’re taking his word for it, ask him to comment. That is, if he’s actually read the book and not taken someone else’s word for it.
    2. If you haven’t read my letter that started all this, don’t bother commenting. I mean read it all the way through, not just scanned the top and assumed it was an unqualified endorsement of THE SHACK as scripture. It’s not. I tried to make that simple for everybody.
    3. Remember Who you belong to and give me and others the benefit of the doubt that we serve the same Master. Truth is truth, there’s no getting around it. But if you think you’ve got the patent you’d better be ready to “speak the truth in love” (you caught the ‘love’ part right?) so we can walk the same track together. At the same time take a good hard look at your own doctrine and your own life and ask, “where’s the love and relationship and forgiveness?” If you see anything lacking change your doctrine or your life; whichever one is screwed up.
    I love you guys and we share the same Body. If I didn’t and we didn’t I sure wouldn’t be doing this for a living.

    In Jesus,
    Steve

  • 7 B. Garza // Aug 22, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    I can’t believe there is such an uproar about this book (The Shack)!

    Thanks Steve for the defense of this book; I found it VERY moving and inspiring. I gave 12 books away, and some of those recipients gave books away as well.

    This “blasphamous (sp.?)” book has deeply touched many individuals that have lost loved ones, and those with addiction problems. If you don’t like this book, get over yourselves and appreciate the fact that it HAS touched lives for the positive. If God can use a donkey….why not a fictional book?

  • 8 B. Garza // Aug 22, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    This is another comment from my bro-in-law, Joseph Appler…
    Joseph Appler – Mar 16, 2008
    LOVED IT! I like things that challenge and shake our “accepted/comfortable” concept of God. The part about expectations and responsibilites really struck me. Love transcends expectations and responsibilities. I don’t want to say more until more have read it. No spoiler here.
    Thanks for the recommendation.
    By the way, it usually takes me a long time to read a book because of busy-ness. Since I had a day and a half “resting” in the hospital, I was able to finish it in a couple of readings.

  • 9 Carol Van Drie // Aug 23, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Hi Steve, and thank you for your humble answer. I do feel I “know” you even if it is only through cyberspace. I also am confident that your heart truly is on the side of truth. I also know that as you said, you’re usually on the other side of this discussion.

    As to the comment from Donna. My answer to you Donna would be, do I need to actually read the Book of Mormon to know it is direct from hell? Do I need to read the “Satanic Bible” to know that it is Satanic? That is not necessarily to say “The Shack” is from hell – but I will pose this to you. How do we open the door to Satan? By a crack? Do we just allow a “peek” at what Satan has to offer? He doesn’t always cloak himself in horror and visual evil. He cloaks himself in Oprah books and Oprah-like icons and Tom Cruise movie star looks and great music to dance to by Madonna. Etc.

    I have read numerous reviews by trusted Biblical scholars/reviewers etc. and pretty much all the critics contend, “The Shack” distorts the concept of the Trinity (I am paraphrasing). That was all I needed to hear.

    I think there are countless other ways to receive the exact same message that the feel-good “The Shack” has to offer from Biblically sound sources. If you are personally strong enough as an adult Christian to read something that distorts the truth of the gospel, I am by no means judging you. That is your personal choice Donna and frankly none of my business. But Steve very openly and willingly invites our views on what he writes, so I offered my views on the matter. He graciously allowed me to air them and even more graciously discussed my views. That is a different matter.

    My very real objection is as I said before – the cult I was in only taught a very tiny percentage of garbage and it was that tiny percentage that kept me from a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It doesn’t take much to take us away from Christ. Even the elect. The Bible talks about even the elect being fooled. Who are we to say it CAN’T be by “The Shack?” It’s not the truth of the gospel, therefore it COULD be that “The Shack” that COULD lead even the elect astray.

    Yet still, it’s one thing for seasoned Christians to read that book (as I read the Book of Mormon without fear it would “convert” me. I read it to be better able to witness to Mormons). However, for unseasoned or weakened Christians and especially most importantly people who are still soul-searching – I firmly stand by the fact that the book can be very, very dangerous. And that is why I took issue with Steve for giving it a “thumbs up.” I however respect Steve very much, respect his writings and really appreciate his allowing this discussion.

    I remember a wonderful Pastor, one of the greatest Army Chaplains I’ve ever known ( I am an Army wife of almost 29 years) who said, “Sometimes we can be so open-minded our brains fall out.” He’s a good ole boy from Mississippi and I’ve always loved that saying of his!

    My caution is, be careful and hold on to your brains. In a manner of speaking.

  • 10 Robin @ Heart of Wisdom // Aug 24, 2008 at 5:48 am

    I wrote a lengthy review on “The Shack” addressing the controversies

    http://tinyurl.com/56garc

    If the focus of your faith is a relationship with God The Shack will be wonderful. If your focus is on legalism, then The Shack will disappoint.

    “The Shack” is not the Bible. It is one man’s view of Christianity. It is moving and inspiring. He reminds me much of Andrew Murray.

    The Shack encourages us to walk in God’s love (because of Christ’s sacrifice) and allow God to work through us minute by minute through out the day in every relationship.

    Bottom line- Don’t worry about yesterday or fret over tomorrow. Enjoy God now. He has it all in control

  • 11 Robin @ Heart of Wisdom // Aug 26, 2008 at 8:07 am

    I just had to pop back in after I read your comment to critics. Great advice, read the book before you blast it. Remember that we serve the same Master.

    I got a lot of email “you’re going down a slippery slope” too. (But I get that when I don’t use the original KJV that Paul used too LOL.)

  • 12 admin // Aug 29, 2008 at 6:55 am

    I know some of you guys, and you know I know you. Some of you that strongly disagree with what I wrote and some of you who strongly agree with what I wrote.
    I trust your heart and your faith because I know you – on both sides. As we continue to discuss this, if we do; we’ll keep this last and final rule in mind:
    “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:2-5
    P.S. I’ll try to follow my own rule.

  • 13 admin // Aug 29, 2008 at 6:57 am

    As promised, Here’s the first “anti” e-mail I received from last week’s letter:

    Steve: Normally I agree with your material but believe you are seriously off-base here. The Shack is horrendous. Doctrine is important and I could cite a dozen things wrong with the Shack.

    The following things come to mind:
    Jesus is never identified as the Christ. Where is the blood in this book?
    There is no need for a savior because everything was forgiven already
    No sense of judgment coming
    Universalism – No Hell
    Communicating with the dead is forbidden by scripture
    No self-assessment by Mack thinking that what he is seeing could be deceptive
    Hinduism and New Age throughout the book
    Belittlement of fundamentalist Christians and their doctrine
    Lack of holiness, treating of the Trinity in a very glib manner
    Book of Job addresses these issues, even there the answers are elusive
    I’m sure I could think of more. Yes, there is mushy love and all that stuff in the book. God is loving, gracious and forgiving. But when His call for holiness and final judgment is not only denied, but ridiculed, Mr. Young is seriously in error and I wouldn’t want to stand in his boots before the Holy God.

    It is OK to have thoughts and prayers to God but when you started telling millions of people about it, you better make sure it squares with scripture. I think the Young’s concept frees people up to imagine God however they would like to do so. Create your own God. Tremendous risk in doing this.

    The book is brilliant from a marketing standpoint. Everyone has a tragedy in their lives somewhere in their past. Everyone wants an explanation for why something happened. Well, scripture doesn’t promise that always in the here and now. Some people have to live with absolute terrible things, events, tragedies, health problems, unwanted divorces, death of a child, etc but they don’t go and corrrupt scripture in their quest for explanations. The answer is to trust and have faith in God that these trials are for absolute great reasons that may not be revealed until the next life.

    What makes the book especially bad is it is being read by Christians who have near-zero biblical literacy and boom, all of a sudden it is tantamount to scripture. They are sucked in by this stuff. Most people want to redefine judgment and accountability to God away from their beliefs. Gives them justification for whatever choices or viewpoints they make.

    Please Steve, send out a retraction of this article and tell the truth.

    Respectfully,
    XXXXX

  • 14 admin // Aug 29, 2008 at 7:00 am

    As promised, here’s my response:

    XXXXX,

    If you’ve read me long, you know that I’ll hold to scripture before I’ll hold to man’s ideas of what scripture says or ought to say. That door swings both ways. I have no more respect for lousy orthodoxy than I have for humanist ‘new-age’ re-scripting of scripture. If it’s not the truth it stinks. For years I was profoundly disappointed in the shortcomings of men who purported to represent God. I wanted Christ but not the church. I saw it for the institution it’s become and not the Body of Christ. In His mercy, God let me hang in that position for quite awhile before He reeled me back in and let me know that if I claimed Him as my Lord I couldn’t divorce His Body, the church, no matter what I thought about the mess men have made of it. I’m committed to Him and to His Body; not to man’s doctrine, whether it’s old and accepted or new and untested.

    I’m assuming you’ve read THE SHACK and not just heard about it. And I’m assuming you really read my letter all the way through without being blinded by what some people would consider as an unqualified endorsement. Some of your bullet points are valid and I agree with them. “Theologically it may have some points to argue; like the femaleness of the God character (the Holy Spirit is a woman too, Asian this time) and the lack of any hierarchy in the Godhead, or the soft sell on sin.” “Am I saying, ‘Ignore the bad theology and jump into THE SHACK like it’s scripture’? Nope. It’s not scripture, it hast its faults…”

    Some of your points, in my eyes, aren’t valid. This book, from what I see was in no way ever intended to cover a broad spectrum of theology. But what I did see was Young’s treatment of the scars left from Calvary and the incomprehensible price paid for man’s redemption. As to “Belittlement of fundamentalist Christians and their doctrine”; if fundamentalist Christians were really fundamentally Christian, then I doubt books like THE SHACK or movements like the ‘emergent church’ would ever see the light of day. These people are sincere and they’re looking for answers and the fundamentalist church, in many ways, has failed to provide them. The Word hasn’t changed. If we’ve failed them we’d better look at our own adherence to it.

    Hopefully you understood the point of my sub-title “Throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater.” Those who, in their naïveté would accept THE SHACK as gospel, I wanted to ground a little. Those who, in their hard hearted fundamentalism, threw the entire message contained in THE SHACK away as apostasy, I wanted to open their eyes a little.

    After I read THE SHACK I read some of the reviews praising it and a lot of the reviews criticizing it. I also read Paul Young’s own thoughts of what has happened since THE SHACK and the backlash. A few of things I’m convinced of:

    1. Paul Young loves Jesus, he’s not a Universalist and he believes that the only way to salvation is through Christ.

    2. A lot of us are more threatened by someone coming against our religious traditions than we are by them coming against the truth itself.

    3. The institution of the church has, in many ways failed the true church – you, me and every other believer that has put their faith in Christ.

    4. Because we’re human we’re apt to institutions. If the institution of the church is an inescapable reality, we’d better make sure it doesn’t fail the true church, the Body of Christ.

    5. There’s nothing wrong with the ‘fundamental’ part of fundamentalism. We’d better preserve and teach good doctrine, in love, to the entire Body of Christ. That includes those who are so wrapped up in tradition and cultural orthodoxy that there’s no room in their hearts for love and relationship; and it includes the newbies, who are starved for love and relationship, but think they have to create their own orthodoxy because they see the old one as failed.

    If you and I and Paul Young are followers of the same Christ, it’s our job, according to Paul in the 4th chapter of Ephesians to travel that road together – “tell the whole truth in love.” You and I e-mailing each other doesn’t benefit the Body at all. We’re part of the same Body, not parties in opposing camps. A lot of the Body is so steeped in tradition they’ve got no room to love others in the Body, let alone the lost. A lot of the Body is so new and ignorant of good doctrine that they’ll consider anything that feels good gospel. I’d like to have this discussion in public. Would you be open to posting this discussion on the website, open for comment? It may actually show the Body and the world that we believers aren’t a series of opposing camps, but truly one in Christ.

    Give it some thought and prayer. By this lengthy reply, you know that I care deeply about the weight of your response.

    In Christ,

    Steve Spillman

  • 15 Jerrie // Aug 30, 2008 at 5:54 am

    I am so grateful to hear you stand up for the whole body, no matter how broken we are…I too sayed out of church and still today dont undersatnd why seemingly mature christians do not open their eyes to the whole hurting body .. God is returning for a Body without spot or blemish .I use that a lot , throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Why are people so narrow minded? Get the word of God in your heart and love your neighbor and speak the word of God and watch this church change . I havnt read the book yet,but I was talking to a man last week who said it did wonders for him . I want to get it for my hubby.And of coarse read it too…Keep on standing for what you know is right and let the not so right go bye bye!Lets learn to walk in love….

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