The Path That Rocks

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Is, or was, the emerging church merely a passing fad primarily for bored yuppies smugly unhappy with their conventional suburban churches and pining for a spiritual theater more hip and supposedly more relevant? One Sojourners writer, quoting a blogger, credited emergents for their contributions to “women’s issues, conversations about sexuality, environmentalism, anti-foundationalism, [and] social justice.” But those “conversations” have been mainly only that. Not for nothing do emergents usually insist they are not a movement but a “community” or an ongoing “conversation.”

http://spectator.org/articles/39523/emergent-church-no-longer-emerging

‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ was a favourite of ours when the kids were young. Now they are all adults, but we still find ourselves quoting Kronk or Ysma (his evil boss). Phrases like “wrong lever”, or “demon llama!!!!” may not seem at first glance to be very cogent, but it is amazing how many times you can use them appropriately throughout life’s crazy moments.

Firstly though I want to talk about the challenge to the Kingdom of God that the Emerging church is issuing. Contrary to the quote from the above article, the Emergent Church is not simply a passing fad. It may describe itself in soft-focus terms, but their agenda, or rather the agenda of the spiritual forces arrayed against us through them, is decidedly direct and specific. Often we don’t look much further than the outward packaging with new ideas (dress vs tights). Those who propose new ideas often use the false logic that anyone who disagrees with them is just afraid of them. For the immature in the faith and for those who are not working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, this jibe can be very disturbing. The first reaction is often to rise up and challenge it, which is exactly what the other person wants. If they can engage you in emotional polemic they can easily out-manoeuvre you through verbal intimidation, straw-man arguments and ad-hominem taunts. Rather than respond with anger and personal offense we need to be sure of what it is we do believe. We need to do some bible study, make sure we are confident in our own faith, and then realise that these new ideas being proposed by the Emerging church are not that new. They are re-packaged especially for the younger generation and it is the younger generation who are selling them, but essentially they are simply an attempt by our enemy to destabilise genuine believers.

The Emerging church is attempting to distract us with it’s own conviction that it has something we do not: coolness…relevance…..life. They are distracting from the very important issue that they actually have no relevance or life at all when compared to the New Testament teachings of Jesus and Paul. This ‘coolness’ is simply a smug and self-confident front. If you are able to puncture the veneer of this vainglorious new generation of hip believers with the truth, the smugness tends to evaporate. What you see in it’s place is instability, luke-warmness and a lack of genuine integrity. They are in truth a mile wide and an inch deep, and as we all know, when presented with a vast expanse of water the first reaction is often to feel overwhelmed and think you can never cross it. When you realise that you can actually walk through it without getting even your ankles wet, you can relax. It is all a mirage, an illusion, and as Kronk has amusingly illustrated, all that is needed is a ‘begone’ and the confusion is dispelled. OK, maybe it will take a little more than that, but I want to help break the spell. I believe that the Emerging Church uses language, visual and sound technology and the leaven of lies and half-truths to first of all seduce and then overwhelm others in order to deceive and confuse us. It is all too easy to be influenced by what you see and what you think you see. In fact, the world uses these tools to change minds and influence behaviour through marketing, advertising and social media. They are powerful and world changing. They are not however grounded in scripture and in the kingdom of God. They are grounded in the ways of the Father of Lies, and they will kill your faith and shipwreck your spiritual life if you let them. The good news is that the truth will set you free. Or to be more specific, and cogent…..

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8 (NKJV)

Much of the emerging church preaches false doctrines of ecumenism, dominionism, the social gospel, the prosperity gospel and new age ideas of God in everyone. This is bad enough but it becomes worse with an attitude of smug arrogance. Many of the pedagogues of the emerging church put themselves at odds with the established church and or established church doctrines and claim victim status. They are being persecuted by the traditionalists (down with the old guard) because the traditionalists are not open-minded. The traditionalists are oppressive, antiquated and stuck in their ways. Yet although ostensibly the Emerging Church likes to rattle the cages of the Established Church, what they are really challenging is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not the Bible per se that they hate, but the word of God and its final, all-encompassing and over-arching authority. Generally, the Emerging Church is not a fan of the establishment, and let’s call the gospel of Jesus Christ the establishment for this argument. Their smugness and elitism, as with all rebellious and lawless thinking, is a symptom of their belief in their own ‘rightness’ and self-assurance. Yet our foundational belief as Christians, as believers of the full gospel of Jesus Christ, is that we have no basis for our own righteousness, and we come in humility before the Cross to acknowledge the authority, holiness and righteousness of God.

My problem is that the emerging church pin-up boys and girls are mostly of the genX and genY demographic and are influencing younger Christians in this same worldview.

I find it interesting that bloggers and authors like Rachel Held Evans for example proclaim earnestly that they want to speak for their generation as though the younger generation in the western world are not heard from. For those who are not familiar with Rachel here is a quick summary of her influence from the Eastern Mennonite University website in America

“ Rachel Held Evans, one of the most influential and quoted persons in the Millenial generation of Christians, has been spotlighted by NPR, Slate, BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian (UK), The Times London, The Huffington Post and Oprah.com

http://emu.edu/now/news/2014/02/rachel-held-evans-is-coming-expect-surprising-insights-maybe-shocking-ones-from-this-popular-christian-blogger/

Here is a quote from one of Rachel’s recent blog posts

As I watched my Facebook and Twitter feeds last night, the reaction among my friends fell into an imperfect but highly predictable pattern. Christians over 40 were celebrating. Christians under 40 were mourning.  Reading through the comments, the same thought kept returning to my mind as occurred to me when I first saw that Billy Graham ad: You’re losing us.

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again…(though I’m starting to think that no one is listening): 

My generation is tired of the culture wars. 

We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.

This is not the 1950s. The young are heard from in every section of the media from the internet to reality TV. We hear your voices whether speaking singing, dancing, cooking, writing books or doing stand-up everywhere that it is possible to hear voices. In fact the younger generation has been heard from in every decade since the 60s. In Rachel’s case, if you read the Mennonite description of her career to date, you will see that she has a very wide readership, is being listened to by very influential people, including probably the most influential person on American television Oprah Winfrey, a 50 something. I think Rachel is maybe one of those types of people who like to create drama where there is none. She is being listened to and she is being widely distributed so others can listen to her. So what does she really want?

Like a lot of young seemingly mainly left wing politicians in this country, what you are saying is not resonating with the older demographic because frankly, we have been there and done that. The baby-boomer generation started the generation gap by protesting things like the Vietnam War, racism and sexism. What they spoke out about were genuine issues. The way they spoke out about it became overheated and probably more than a little tiresome for the previous generation who had already fought in the second World War and were emotionally exhausted, traumatised from 7 years of terrible and mind-numbing conflict and were sick of the continual turmoil. The war had not stopped the conflict. Had men and women died in vain? There always seemed to be something more to get in an uproar about, however righteous the cause. I will never forget my father, who had been a commando in the D-day landings and been badly wounded by schrapnel. He often would sit and watch the news and the look on his face was devastating. He would turn to the rest of his family and proclaim desperately “what is the world coming to”. Everything used to be so clear cut and understandable, now it was all falling apart. If the hippie generation wondered why nobody was listening to them, perhaps it was because they were so self-absorbed and focused on their own issues. Some of those issues were real and cross generational like racism, others were simply fuelled by drugs and the belief that the older generation had screwed up the universe and they were going to get it right.

Rachel Held Evan’s belief that the previous generation of Christians had ‘screwed up’ somehow and didn’t understand the need to embrace things like homosexuality as normal is taking things to a whole nother level. She has the same attitude at the baby-boomer generation, yet speaks as though this was all something new and revelatory and at the same time self-evident. She is getting frustrated that the rest of us aren’t getting her. She claims to be a Christian yet like so many emerging ‘believers’ they are not really sure what it is they do believe, they just know that they don’t want to go down the same path as the older generation.

The old paths are not what is holding Rachel Held Evans back. She, like many emerging church apologists is suffering from the issue of sin nature verses the Holy Spirit. They want to both embrace the flesh and the soulish nature and at the same time know God in the midst. That is not how this works. It has always been this way and always will. First you accept that we can’t have it our way, but God’s, and God’s ways are not determined by young minds re-interpreting the bible to make it mean whatever works for them.

We are not failing to hear the voices of the young people in this age. What the young fail to realise is that those who support the establishment are the young of 30 years ago who likewise tried to change the world by challenging the status quo. There is a lot to be said for institutions which can withstand the continual testing of younger generations who ‘just want to be heard’. The Younger generation who seem to be dancing to the Pied Piper’s tune of emerging church have a right to speak out on their own behalf, but they do not have a right to lead others down the broad path of destruction.

And in this I refer to the established church. When I say established church I am not talking about denominations or hierarchy, programmes, popes or priests and pastors. I am not talking about the institution of church which began with Constantine. I am talking about the kingdom of God, the body of Christ, those who believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, the son of God, the born again, the led by the Spirit and the bible believing word of God preaching gospel proclaiming and entirely annoying ‘fundamental-ists’ who refuse to allow the emerging church to poison all the wells.

Unfortunately, the blogosphere is a seductive beast. Somebody once said that Google is the great oracle of our time and likewise, blogs have an almost mystical appeal. They are an unprecedented means of publishing opinions which then garner popularity, praise and criticism based on their zeitgeist. You can be nobody in particular and become a celebrity overnight. In the same way, the emerging church has tapped into this celebrity culture and made media stars of its leaders and speakers. Rachel Held Evans is a perfect example of why the emerging church is so popular. She is young (in her 30s), female (and therefore empowered), engaging and puts her vulnerabilities out there. She is like a cast member of ‘Friends’ except ten years later. She engages others because she apparently tells it like it is, but all Rachel is doing is acting as a mouthpiece for the doctrines of the mostly older male vanguard. Previously I talked about the young speaking to the young. Emerging church leaders are a mixture of the young, and those seeker-sensitive types who speak to those younger than them in the same language. More specifically you are looking at the baby-boomer generation of Jesus freaks who became leaders in the wake of the 70s and 80s and are taking advantage of the power vacuum amongst the younger generation. They don’t act as parents or elders or teachers, they act as friends. This is all very comforting, and would be fine if they were simply just friends, but they aren’t. They are role models and they are leaders. They are leading these younger Christians down the broad path, or ‘the path that rocks’ rather than the path of righteousness.

And like Kronk, the younger generation are ‘sort of confused’ about what is right and wrong. In this video excerpt from ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’, Kronk, a minion of the evil Yzma, is listening to the discussion between an angel and demon on his shoulder. In trying to get him to go down the path ‘that rocks’, the demon has only two (rather than his stated three) points to consider. The first is that the angel looks stupid (ad hominem argument) the second is that the shoulder demon, is impressively athletic. As Kronk points out “what does that have to do with anything”. As the angel points out, maybe there is something to the fact that this demon is so good at standing on his hands. Even the elect are being deceived by the verbal gymnastics of those who wish to go down the ‘path that rocks’.

Rachel Held Evans appeals to the young and because she is a woman she is being accepted. Women are a perfect mouthpiece for the disillusioned, abused, minority groups out there who need acceptance. The GLBT community, those who grew up in authoritarian controlling churches and had authoritarian controlling fathers and pastors, women who are tired of being told they aren’t allowed to speak in church and many others. As a woman who belonged to all of these sub-groups except the GLBT (but had a mother and sisters who sympathised) I understand perfectly the appeal of the emerging church.

Incidentally, Rachel denies being part of the emerging church but either she doesn’t see who she is being influenced by or she is not being honest with herself. She is hanging out with the likes of Rob Bell, and attending conferences with speakers such as Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren. Evan’s views are very much in line with the emerging church, therefore she can’t really say she is not part of it. The fact that many emerging church writers and leaders don’t like to align themselves officially with the emerging church is something of a comment on the nature of the Emerging Church itself. They don’t want to offend anyone and they don’t like being pigeon-holed which makes them in their own eyes, amorphous and ‘part of the conversation’ which is a euphemism for “don’t label me cause I might change my mind”. This vague non-specificity is apparently very cool right now. It is better to have fluid views because let’s face it anyone with popular appeal generally ends up being proved wrong or fails publicly in some way sooner or later. If you have fluid views you can always say that you were ‘experimenting’ with whatever or whoever it is who ends up being publicly disavowed.

Here is a quote from one of her blog posts wherein she makes it perfectly clear that it is not politically correct for her to align herself with the Emerging Church.

As the book launch approaches, I’ve been warned by several advisors to avoid aligning myself with the “emerging church.” Identifying with this group will alienate potential readers, they say.  It will box me in and limit my influence, they say. It will subject me to unwanted criticism, they say.

While I’m no fan of labels—(and “emerging” or “emergent” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people)— it would be dishonest for me to say that I have not been influenced by many of the writers and speakers that are associated with this movement. In fact, I’m currently reading Brian McLaren’s latest book, A New Kind of Christianity, and plan to include an interview with him on the blog later this month.

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/changing

But then it is this deliberate commitment to changing ideas and experimentation which makes the emerging church ‘theology’ so destructive. They know what they don’t believe, they just don’t want to tell you what they do believe. It always comes back to the revolutionary goal of undermining the establishment without really having anything of substance to replace it.

As an aside here is Rachel’s blog comments policy…

“Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.”

It’s her blog, and she is entitled to delete whomsoever she pleases, its just that this policy is so emergent its not funny. OK, well it kind of is I mean I laughed. The last sentence says it all. “The definition of terms is left solely up to us.” This could quite easily be the motto for the Emerging Church, and if nothing else is enough to convince me that Rachel Held Evans is a voice in this community.

Emerging church doctrines however do not attempt to violently destroy the established church. In fact in many ways, the established church has done the destroying for generations. The Catholic church engaged in murder on a heinous scale, and destroyed anyone who didn’t recant their own egregious ideas or beliefs. The Catholic church has been psychopathic in its hatred of the outsider or the dissenter. The true church has always been killed or imprisoned by the establishment, and the emerging church is ironically becoming the very thing it thinks it is working against.

Who has the greatest growing church in the western world? The emerging church has the giga-churches, the air-waves, the music industry, the ear of politicians. In fact, we believe that the emerging church is simply another strand of the newly forming world church where there are no fundamentals of doctrine, no specific and strict beliefs, no exclusions, no sinners, no sin, no need to repent, no cross, no blood, no call to renounce the world, no boundaries. This new church includes all denominations, all religions in fact, and all ideas and theologies. The agents of this change are the emerging church leaders, the catholic church leaders, the new age leaders, and even the established protestant church leaders. All are falling prey to this non-doctrine doctrine and as long as you lay down your long-held bible based beliefs and join with the new world order, you will be accepted and loved. By the world. But as scripture tells us..

James 4:3-5

New King James Version (NKJV)

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and[a] adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

As I said though, the gospel can’t be re-defined because it is beyond temporal or worldly understanding. It is the word of God who is eternal, and his word is eternal and unchanging. How then can you define or even re-define terms when those previous definitions become out-dated if God’s word is unchanging. People don’t change, there is nothing new under the sun (from the Solomon, world’s wisest man), and therefore the only point to re-defining Christianity, our beliefs, the gospel, or the tenets of our faith is to insert something in there that wasn’t before…yourself.

 

Further reading:

Willow Creek and the Socialist Agenda

http://www.moriah.com.au/textarchive/nwo.htm

*See this excellent article for the examination of the attitudes of leftwing politics in Australia http://www.melbournereview.com.au/features/article/The-Toxicity-of-Smugness

http://standupforthetruth.com/2012/10/the-influence-of-rachel-held-evans/

http://spectator.org/articles/39523/emergent-church-no-longer-emerging

 

Long Stack – The Shack and Windblown Media’s Response

 

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That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Eph.4:14)

 

WINDBLOWN MEDIA’s RESPONSE TO IT’s CRITICS – A STUDY IN CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Those who have been captured by this story are encouraged to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so and not trust us or the ravings of those who misinterpret this book, either threatened by its success, or those who want to ride on it to push their own fear-based agenda.”

By Wayne Jacobsen, collaborator on The Shack

We knew it would happen eventually. Frankly we thought it would happen far sooner and in far greater quantity than we have seen to date. But we knew The Shack was edgy enough to prompt some significant backlash, which is why so many publishing companies didn’t want to take it on at the beginning.

I never thought everyone was going to love this book. Art is incredibly subjective as to whether a story and style are appealing. I have no problem with a spirited discussion of some of the theological issues raised in The Shack. The books I love most are the ones that challenge my theological constructs and invite a robust discussion among friends, whether I agree with everything in them or not in the end,. That is especially true of a work of fiction where people will bring their own interpretations of the same events or conversations. I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy the meat and toss the bones.

What is surprising, however, is the hostile tone of false accusation and the conspiracy theories that some are willing to put on this book. Some have even warned others not to read it or they will be led into deception. It saddens me that people want to use a book like this to polarize God’s family, whether it’s overenthusiastic reader thrusting it in someone’s face telling them they ‘must read’ this book, or when people read their own theological agendas into a work, then denounce it as heresy.

If you’re interested, read it for yourself. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you. If it helps convey the reality of Jesus to you, great! If all you can see is sinister motives and false teaching in it, then put it aside. I don’t have time to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the reviews I’ve read, but I would like to make some comments on some of the issues that have come up since I’m getting way too many emails asking me what I think of some of the questions they raise. I’ll also admit at the outset, that I’m biased. Admittedly, I’m biased. I was part of a team with the author of working on this manuscript for over a year and am part of the company formed to print and distribute this book. But I’m also well acquainted with the purpose and passions of this book.

What do I think? I tire of the self-appointed doctrine police, especially when they toss around false accusations like ‘new age conspiracy’, ‘counterfeit Jesus’ or ‘heresy’ to promote fear in people as a way of advancing their own agenda. What many of them don’t realize is that research actually shows that more people will buy a book after reading a negative review than they do after reading a positive one. It piques their curiosity as to why someone would take so much time to denounce someone else’s book.

But such reviews also confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error and for those I think the false accusations demand a response. Let me assure any of you reading this that all three of us who worked on this book are deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the Truth of the Scriptures and who have studied and taught the life of Jesus over the vast majority of our lifetimes. But none of us would begin to pretend that we have a complete picture of all that God is or that our theology is flawless. We are all still growing in our appreciation for him and our desire to be like him, and we hope this book encourages you to that process as well. In the end, this says the best stuff we know about God at this point in our journeys. Is it a complete picture of him? Of course not! Who could put all that he is into a little story like this one? But if it is a catalyst to get thousands of people to talk about theology—who God is and how he makes himself known in the world—we would be blessed.

This is a story of one believer’s brokenness and how God reached into that pain and pulled him out and as such is a compelling story of God’s redemption. The pain and healing come straight from a life that was broken by guilt and shame at an incredibly deep level and he compresses into a weekend the lessons that helped him walk out of that pain and find life in Jesus again.

That said, the content of this book does take a harsh look at how many of our religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules and rituals that have long ceased to reflect the Lord of Glory. Some will disagree with that assessment and the solutions this book offers, and the reviews that do so honestly merit discussion. But those who confuse the issues by making up their own back-story for the book, or ascribing motives to its publication without ever finding out the truth, only prove our point.

Here are some brief comments on the major issues that have been raised about The Shack:

Does the book promote universalism?

Some people can find a universalist under every bush. This book flatly states that all roads do not lead to Jesus, while it affirms that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. Just because he can find followers in the most unlikely places, does not validate those places. I don’t know how we could have been clearer, but people will quote portions out of that context and draw a false conclusion.

Does it devalue Scripture?

Just because we didn’t put Scriptural addresses with their numbers and colons at every allusion in the story, does not mean that the Bible isn’t the key source in virtually every conversation Mack has with God. Scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. They are reworded in ways to be relevant to those reading the story, but at every point we sought to be true to the way God has revealed himself in the Bible except for the literary characterizations that move the story forward. At its core the book is one long Bible study as Mack seeks to resolve his anger at God.

Is this God too nice?

Others have claimed that the God of The Shack is simply too nice, or having him in humorous human situations trivializes him. Really? Who wants to be on that side of the argument? For those who think this God is too easy, please tell me in what way does he let Mack off on anything? He holds his feet to the fire about every lie in his mind and every broken place in his heart. I guess what people these critics cannot see is confrontation and healing inside a relationship of love and compassion. This is not the angry and tyrannical God that religion has been using for 2000 years to beat people into conformity and we are not surprised that this threatens the self-proclaimed doctrine police.

One reviewer even thought this passage from The Shack was a mockery of the true God: “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation….” That wasn’t mocking God but a view of God that sees him as a demanding, self-centered tyrant. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself as the God who would lay down his life for us to redeem us to himself.

The words, “I don’t want slaves to do my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me,” are simply a reflection of John 15:15. Unfortunately those who tend toward legalism among us have no idea how much more completely Jesus transforms us out of a relationship of love, than we could ever muster in our gritted-teeth obedience. This is at the heart of the new covenant—that love will fulfill the law, where human effort cannot.

Does it distort or demean the Trinity?

One of the concerns expressed about The Shack is that it presents the Trinity outside of a hierarchy. In fact many religious traditions think they find their basis for hierarchical organizations in what they’ve assumed about the Trinity. To look at the Trinity as a relationship without the need for command and control is one of the intriguing parts of this story. If they walk in complete unity, why would a hierarchy be needed? They live in love and honor each other. While in the flesh Jesus did walk in obedience to the Father as our example, elsewhere Scripture speaks of their complete unity, love and glory in relating to each other. Different functions need not imply a different status.

This extends in other ways to look at how healed people can relate to each other inside their relationship with God that defines authority and submission in ways most are not used to, but that are far more consistent with what we see in the early believers and in the teaching of Scripture. It is also true of many believers around the world who are learning to experience the life of Father’s family without all the hierarchical maintenance and drama that has plagued followers of Christ since the third century.

People may see this differently and find this challenging, if only because it represents some thought they have not been exposed to before. Here we might be better off having a discussion instead of dragging out the ‘heretic’ label when it is unwarranted.

Does it leave out discussions about church, salvation and other important aspects of Christianity?

This is some of the most curious complaints I’ve ever read. This is the story about God making himself available to one of his followers who is being swallowed up by tragedy and his crisis of faith in God’s goodness over it. This is not a treatise on every element of theological study. Perhaps we should have paused in the story to have an altar call, or perhaps we should have drug a pipe organ into the woods and enlisted a choir to hold a service, but that was not the point.

Is this a Feminist God?

The book uses some characterizations of God to mess with the religious stereotypes only to get people to consider God as he really is, not how we have reconstituted him as a white, male autocrat bent on religious conformity. There are important reasons in the story why God takes the expressions he does for Mack, which underlines his nature to meet us where we are, to lead us to where he is. While Jesus was incarnated as man, God as a spirit has no gender, even though we fully embrace that he has taken on the imagery of the Father to express his heart and mind to us. We also recognize Scripture uses traditional female imagery to help us understand other aspects of God’s person, as when Jesus compares himself to a hen gathering chicks, or David likens himself to a weaned child in his mother’s arms.

Has it touched people too deeply?

Some reviewers point to Amazon.com reviews and people who have claimed it had a transforming effect on their spiritual lives as proof of its demonic origin. Please! How absurd is that? Do we prefer books that leave people untouched? This book touches lives because it deals with God in the midst of pain in an honest, straightforward way and because for many this is the first time they have seen the power of theology worked out inside a relationship with God himself.

Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?

It does not. While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn’t embrace UR as sound teaching and didn’t want to be involved in a project that promoted it. In my view UR is an extrapolation of Scripture to humanistic conclusions about our Father’s love that has to be forced on the biblical text.

Since I don’t believe in UR and wholeheartedly embrace the finished product, I think those who see UR here, either positively or negatively are reading into the text. To me that was the beauty of the collaboration. Three hearts weighed in on the theology to make it as true as we could muster. The process also helped shape our theologies in honest, protracted discussions. I think the author would say that some of that dialog significantly affected his views. This book represents growth in that area for all of us. Holding him to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology.

That said, however, I’m not afraid to have that discussion with people I regard as brothers and sisters since many have held that view in the course of theological history. Also keep in mind that the heretic hunters lump many absurd notions into what they call UR, but when I actually talk to those people partial to some view of ultimate reconciliation they do not endorse all the absurdities ascribed to them. This is a heavily nuanced discussion with UR meaning a lot of different things to different people. For myself, I am convinced that Jesus is someone we have to accept through repentance and belief in this age to participate in his life.

Throughout The Shack Mack’s choices are in play, determining what he will let God do in his life through their encounter. He is no victim of God’s process. He is a willing participant at every juncture. And even though Papa says ‘He is reconciled to all men” he also notes that, “not all men are reconciled to me.”

Is the author promoting the emergent movement?

This guilt-by-association tactic is completely contrived. Neither the author, nor Brad and I at Windblown have ever been part of the emergent conversation. Some of their bloggers have written about the book, but we have not had any significant contact with the leaders of that movement and they have not been the core audience that has embraced this book.

That said I have met many people in the emergent conversation that have proved to be brothers and sisters in the faith. While I’m not nuts about all they do, a lot of the statements made about them by critics are as false as what some say about The Shack. They do deeply embrace the Scriptures. As I see it they are not trying to re-invent Christianity, but trying to communicate it in ways that captures a new generation. While I don’t agree with many of the conclusions they’re sorting through at the moment, they are not raving humanists. I have found them passionate seekers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who are asking some wonderful questions about God and how he makes himself known in us.

Does The Shack promote new age philosophy or Hinduism?

Amazingly some people have made assumptions about some of the names to think there is some eastern mysticism here, but when you hear how Paul selected the names he did it wasn’t to make veiled references to Hinduism, black Madonnas, or anything else. It was to uncover facets of God’s character that are clear in the Scriptures.

It’s amazing how much people will make up to indulge their fantasies and falsely label something to fit their own conclusions. Some have even insisted that Mack flying in his dreams was veiled instructions in astral travel. Absolutely absurd! Has this man never read fiction, or had a dream? Just because someone screams there is a demon under that bush, doesn’t mean there is.

We realize this would be a challenging read for those who see no difference between the religious conditioning that underlies Christianity as it is often presented in the 21st Century and the simple, powerful life in Christ that Jesus offered to his followers. Our hope was to help people see how the Loving Creator can penetrate our defenses and lead us to healing. Our prayer is that through this book people will see the God of the Bible as Jesus presented him to be—an endearing reality who wants to love us out of our sin and bondage and into his life. This is a message of grace and healing that does not condone or excuse sin, but shows God destroying it through the dynamic relationship he wants with each of his children.

We realize folks will disagree. We planned on it. We appreciate the interaction of those who have honest concerns and questions. Those who have been captured by this story are encouraged to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so and not trust us or the ravings of those who misinterpret this book, either threatened by its success, or those who want to ride on it to push their own fear-based agenda.

http://windblownmedia.com/about-wbm/is-the-shack-heresy.html

“The Shack is a Christian novel by Canadian author William P. Young, a former office manager and hotel night clerk, published in 2007.[1] The novel was self-published but became a USA Today bestseller, having sold 1 million copies as of June 8, 2008.[2] It was the #1 paperback trade fiction seller on The New York Times Best Seller list from June 2008 to early 2010,[3] in a publishing partnership with Hachette Book Group USA’s FaithWords imprint (Hodder & Stoughton in the UK). In 2009 it was awarded the “Diamond Award” for sales of over 10 million copies by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shack

In writing this post, I am assuming that readers are familiar with the ‘fictional’ work “The Shack” as referred above. Since the new movie of the book has recently opened around the world, it would be hard to imagine many who have not heard of it. If you are unfamiliar, there are a number of excellent reviews online which will give you a comprehensive understanding. It would take too long to précis the plot of the book, but the main gist is that a grieving father meets God in the shape of two women and a man in the shack where his daughter was murdered. The book centres on the conversation he has with God in the shack, and most of the controversy surrounding this book has been centred on the portrayal of the Trinity as female, or partially female, and the promotion of the heresy of Universalism.

In the article by the publishers Windblown Media, or more pertinently Wayne Jacobsen, there is a full scale reply to critics regarding the book. I wanted to address Jacobsen’s response as it contains a number of revealing attitudes which then present proof that neither the author, nor the publisher/author of this book and subsequent film are trying to enable Christians to grow closer to God they are simply out to make money from Christians.

I have wanted for some years to publish a dissection of Wayne Jacobsen’s “Is The Shack Heresy” and with the news that the long awaited film of the book is now out, I felt it timely to talk about this article. Apparently, Oprah Winfrey was considered for the part of one of the female leads (one of the Trinity as portrayed in ‘The Shack’) which doesn’t surprise me at all. She thinks she is a Christian and is certainly influential, but it doesn’t matter how many networks you own, you are still not God.

I will start by saying I have not read the Shack. I tried to read it, but after only a couple of pages, I began to feel very strange, as though I was being drawn into something which was stronger than me. I decided to go against the usual reasoning which says it is fair to read a work before you challenge it. What I am actually challenging here is this article rather than the book (although it amounts to the same thing) and the responses which I feel are far too tired and well-used. Unfortunately, in my experience, these responses are more often heard from the sorts of men who have catapulted Christians into the arms of works like “The Shack” in the first place.

While I have not read the whole book, I have read enough excerpts and enough critiques to make me very concerned. I am even more concerned about a film which will not stick to the novel, they never do, and will add other worldly elements to the script and therefore lead Christians even further down a whole nother path away from God’s word.

If I write a fictional story about you in which I represent you in a way which is not true to who you are, I am distorting how others see you. I may claim that it is fictional, but it still has real-life applications. This is the very issue which plagues celebrities, actors and others in the public eye. The media makes up stuff about them all the time. It may not be the truth, but for somebody who doesn’t know you, it becomes truth and for somebody who cares for you a great deal, it is insulting because it doesn’t portray you as you actually are. I would guarantee that if I wrote a story portraying you in a way which was both false and misleading you would get pretty upset about it. That is why people hate ‘The Shack’ so vehemently. It lies about God. You can’t claim that it is fiction and therefore you have the right to say what you like. On the Windblown Media site Wayne Jacobsen makes it perfectly clear that ‘The Shack’ was meant to be a theological work, with references to the scripture on just about every page. I have yet to see a theological work whose position in the library catalogue system is ‘fiction’.

Wayne Jacobsen in his article at Windblown Media fairly mocks those who read the criticism of the Shack but don’t read the book. People are told to read the book for themselves and not allow others to tell them what to think. But aren’t we being told what to think by Windblown? I have always been highly sceptical of any organisation which arranges it’s own in-house investigation of itself. The findings will always be coloured by self-interest. Therefore, Windblown actually comes across looking defensive and in fact the tone of the defense is pretty immature. It is the sarcastic rejoinder of the teenager who is trying to project sophistication and wisdom “Really, that’s what you got out of the book”, or even “You people really aren’t very smart are you”. It is snide, patronising and disingenuous.

We knew it would happen eventually. Frankly we thought it would happen far sooner and in far greater quantity than we have seen to date. But we knew The Shack was edgy enough to prompt some significant backlash, which is why so many publishing companies didn’t want to take it on at the beginning.

I never thought everyone was going to love this book. Art is incredibly subjective as to whether a story and style are appealing. I have no problem with a spirited discussion of some of the theological issues raised in The Shack. The books I love most are the ones that challenge my theological constructs and invite a robust discussion among friends, whether I agree with everything in them or not in the end,. That is especially true of a work of fiction where people will bring their own interpretations of the same events or conversations. I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy the meat and toss the bones. “

Jacobsen starts by saying “told you so” . Apparently the publishers knew it was going to cause controversy because it was so ‘edgy’. Hey, it’s a cool book and we knew it was going to cause trouble, that’s why we published it. But elsewhere in this response, he also claims that this book is only fictional and therefore people are making too much of it. Now you can’t have it both ways, either you use the defense (with a dismissive shoulder shrug) “hey it’s JUST fiction, you square dudes need to chill ax”, or you use the defense “hey we knew you square dudes needed to be shaken up a bit”.

The “I never thought everyone was going to enjoy this book” message is also more than slightly disingenuous. The revelation that the authors of the book were looking right from the beginning to make the book into a movie reveals that they knew darn well it was going to be widely read. It is controversial, therefore you publish it because it is going to sell despite the fact that many people will buy it because they know they aren’t going to like it. That is how marketers make money. It is my belief that those publishers who didn’t publish were more concerned with alienating their existing market of Christian readers who had traditional views. Those were probably publishers of books which sell really well in Christian book shops.

This book sold well everywhere and its position and longevity on the New York Times bestseller list affirms that it was making people take notice. It is not a book which would appeal to traditional Christians, and the authors knew that which is why they published it. Yet even for those who were always going to oppose the controversial portrayals of God and other theological issues, there was always the insistence that you have to read the book in order to be able to judge it. Well, it ain’t necessarily so. You don’t have to eat something in order to know it is poison. Yet, even if most of the Christians who were concerned about the book bought it out of curiosity, that right there is a huge boost in your sales figures.

They knew what sells as Jacobsen admits in this article. This is also affirmed by their insistence in a 2010 law suit that profits from the book be distributed according to authorship. See this LA Times article here. Young claimed he was the author, Windblown claimed they had just as much right to authorship and also that Young didn’t want the book made into a movie as they had originally agreed. Books, as we all know, which get made into movies (The Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter franchise for example) tend to sell well as books even during and after the movies, giving rise to further books and ultimately a highly successful and profitable market arises selling not only books and movie paraphernalia but spin off books from other authors, as well as fan fiction. It is a highly lucrative enterprise which every author dreams of entering into. Authors of books like this become billionaires overnight; not to mention the publishers, printers, agents and sellers of the book. .

I have no problem with a spirited discussion of some of the theological issues raised in The Shack. The books I love most are the ones that challenge my theological constructs and invite a robust discussion among friends, whether I agree with everything in them or not in the end,. That is especially true of a work of fiction where people will bring their own interpretations of the same events or conversations. I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy the meat and toss the bones

I don’t know about Wayne, but I prefer eating chicken without bones, and even the bones of a chicken, as every good chef knows, are used for making stock. So, chicken analogies aside, this statement reminds me of pre-pubescent boys pouring petrol down an anthill just to see what would happen when they light it.

The publisher states that he loves books which challenge his theological constructs. Yet in his next sentence he claims that this is especially true of works of fiction where people bring their own interpretations of the same events. This book is a work of fiction which discusses theological issues. In other words we are talking pretend stuff about a real person. The real person we are discussing is God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the most important real people in the universe, your maker, and your Lord. Where is the reverence and respect? You either do a fictional story about a real person who is by definition not that important because he is merely human so chill out all you people getting hostile out there, or this is a fictional story about a real person who is worshipped by millions around the world. Dang right this is going to be controversial Wayne. So stop pretending it is ‘just a story’ because you knew it was going to cause problems, remember? How did you know it was going to cause problems? Because nobody else would publish it? Wrong! Because your conscience was telling you that people wouldn’t like what was being said about God because it goes against the already accepted ideas of who God is. (The books I love the most are the ones which challenge my theological constructs) Which in layman’s terms (or cool dudism) means telling me what I believe about God is wrong. You can’t tell people that what they believe about God is wrong and then chastise them for getting hostile about it.

Wayne also tells us that he never views a book as all good or all bad. So, is he suggesting that ‘The Shack’ has some bad in it? If that is the case then he might need to explain why he hasn’t bothered to explain which bits he might think were bad? The bits which challenge our theological constructs perhaps?

It saddens me that people want to use a book like this to polarize God’s family, whether it’s over-enthusiastic reader thrusting it in someone’s face telling them they ‘must read’ this book, or when people read their own theological agendas into a work, then denounce it as heresy.”

Now back to the disingenuous thing. First of all Jacobsen tell us that he love books which challenge people’s ideas about God then he tells us that it saddens him that people want to use a book like this to polarise God’s family. Apparently publishing a book that you knew was going to be controversial isn’t deliberately trying to polarise God’s family. People are also apparently either too enthusiastic, and telling others they ‘must read’ this book, or they are denouncing it as heresy (because they read their own theological agendas into it). Now let’s deconstruct this. You have a publisher telling their reading public that it saddens them when the public who bought this book (proceeds going to Wayne Jacobsen et al) actually want other people to read it? I don’t think so Wayne. Remember, you knew it was going to be controversial, that’s why you published it because, remember, controversial books sell really well. Then they get made into movies. Then the authors of the book sue each other because they aren’t getting all the money from sales that they deserve. Because they are not only the authors of the book, they publish it as well. So, we aren’t going into hypocrisy overdrive here.

Then on the other side of the argument, Wayne also feels sad when people denounce the work as heresy. No, you don’t. You don’t feel sad. What you are feeling is the rise in blood pressure when your book starts selling like hot cakes because people denounce it as heresy.

Now Wayne starts to get a little tense. He doesn’t like it when people just accept other people’s reviews of the book. He would like the members of the public to read the book for themselves, preferably buying their own copy, which would increase sales.

If you’re interested, read it for yourself. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you. If it helps convey the reality of Jesus to you, great! If all you can see is sinister motives and false teaching in it, then put it aside

Now I am confused. You have two different attitudes conveyed in one paragraph. If this book helps convey the reality of Jesus then we think that is wonderful. Then the interestingly worded sentence, “If all you can see is sinister motives etc.” The words ‘If all’ suggests that Wayne is not as upset about polarising God’s family as he thinks he is. In fact he himself is polarising God’s family in this statement. Apparently you either read the book and see Jesus, or you read the book and see sinister motives and false teaching, and the words ‘if all you can see’ make it clear which side Wayne comes down on. So, you either get it or you don’t and if you don’t then we don’t care, just chuck the thing, but don’t get all hot under the collar about it.

I don’t have time to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the reviews I’ve read, but I would like to make some comments on some of the issues that have come up since I’m getting way too many emails asking me what I think of some of the questions they raise. I’ll also admit at the outset, that I’m biased. Admittedly, I’m biased. I was part of a team with the author of working on this manuscript for over a year and am part of the company formed to print and distribute this book. But I’m also well acquainted with the purpose and passions of this book.

Jacobsen’s attitude here is that of an overworked boss who has to take time to answer questions his staff have even though it is making him late for his dinner date. He also mentions that he is getting ‘way too many’ emails asking for his opinion. Why is this a bad thing? I would have thought this would signify, I don’t know, popularity, respect, or even just availability. However, he seems to find this kind of thing irritating.

What do I think? I tire of the self-appointed doctrine police, especially when they toss around false accusations like ‘new age conspiracy’, ‘counterfeit Jesus’ or ‘heresy’ to promote fear in people as a way of advancing their own agenda. What many of them don’t realize is that research actually shows that more people will buy a book after reading a negative review than they do after reading a positive one. It piques their curiosity as to why someone would take so much time to denounce someone else’s book. (my emphasis)

Jacobsen states that he hates the ‘doctrine police’ because they use words like ‘new age conspiracy’ or ‘heresy’ in order to advance their own agenda. And this is different to you advancing your own agenda of book sales in what way Wayne? Actually he answers the question with the next couple of sentences. Since he is so close to the publishing and writing business he gives us a lesson about why people buy controversial books. Hang on Wayne. Either you are saddened at people who ‘polarise God’s family’ or you are having a great day because your books are selling like hot cakes because of the negative reviews! You are right, you are well acquainted with the purposes of this book, and of the agendas of marketers and merchandisers. Conflict of interest is clearly not a problem for you.

The next paragraph is a master study in conflict of interest, and just conflictedness in general. Let’s look at it.

But such reviews also confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error and for those I think the false accusations demand a response. Let me assure any of you reading this that all three of us who worked on this book are deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the Truth of the Scriptures and who have studied and taught the life of Jesus over the vast majority of our lifetimes. But none of us would begin to pretend that we have a complete picture of all that God is or that our theology is flawless. We are all still growing in our appreciation for him and our desire to be like him, and we hope this book encourages you to that process as well. In the end, this says the best stuff we know about God at this point in our journeys. Is it a complete picture of him? Of course not! Who could put all that he is into a little story like this one? But if it is a catalyst to get thousands of people to talk about theology—who God is and how he makes himself known in the world—we would be blessed (my emphasis)

Jacobsen states that he hates that bad reviews confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error. What? In what way do bad reviews confuse people? People who want to know what this book is about (challenging theological constructs) will read both good and bad reviews. The bad reviews tell you what is bad about the book and the good reviews tell you what is good about the book, according to the authors of same. But Wayne hates that bad reviews confuse people who don’t want to be seduced into error, interesting language here. Wayne first of all tells you that he knows the book will be controversial but he loves books which challenge theological contructs so they published the book (which he helped to write). Then he tells you it saddens him that people are polarised about the book, and he hates when people write bad reviews because it confuses people. Right. He both wants people to see the book as good, even though bad reviews actually make the book (and future film) sell better.

Then he starts getting real upset and gets into defending his book. False accusations (and we know they are false why? Because they disagree with Wayne, the publisher and co-author) demand a reponse. Do they? Actually genuinely false accusations don’t demand a response, but your readers do, so you are going to keep everyone happy here by giving them what they want. Hence the diatribe.

So now we get the statement of faith. Jacobsen and his co-authors are committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the truth of the scriptures (truth and scriptures capitalised) who also apparently love to challenge theological contructs. Why? Because it sells books. Otherwise gentlemen, you would have kept your theological challenges to your emergent conversation around the coffee table and left off trying to merchandise them to ‘God’s family’ in order to make a profit through books and film deals (and out of court settlements) so get down off your religious high horses. Wayne states again gratuitously that he doesn’t have the whole understanding of God, and that his theology is not complete. So why get upset when somebody challenges it?

Wayne says that if this book is a catalyst for people to start talking theology (because lets face it accepted theology has been all talked out and new theology sells better than the King James – it also makes for a better film script) then that’s great. Now Wayne claims that this book is a catalyst to talk about who God is. How exactly? By presenting a completely different view of Him than the bible, then claiming that this is the same God? Well, that would surely lead people to just condemn the book out of hand. The ones sure of their faith I mean. The ones not sure of their faith are going to get confused and afraid of being seduced. Like the ones he mentioned earlier. The ones who are being led astray by those sure of their faith and condemning the book. So, is this book meant as a catalyst for discussion, or does Wayne Jacobsen et al really just want people to believe that this book is a great book which helps them get closer to Jesus?

I don’t think Wayne really knows what he wants, or at least he isn’t keen to be honest about it in these pages. If nothing else he is double minded, and scripture tells us that the double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Now we get some publishers blurb about this being a story of one man’s redemption. Apparently years of pain and grief are wiped away in one weekend’s retreat with Oprah Winfrey, and a couple of special guests. Really? I spent 15 years in a religious cult and spent 9 years trying to find healing and redemption, and in the end I went back to the scriptures and re-discovered my faith and the power of the gospel in a couple of weeks reading Romans. No lady spirit guides, no extremely cold dilapidated old shed and no controversial ‘christian fiction’ regardless of how well the rest of the world loves it.

That said, the content of this book does take a harsh look at how many of our religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules and rituals that have long ceased to reflect the Lord of Glory. Some will disagree with that assessment and the solutions this book offers, and the reviews that do so honestly merit discussion. But those who confuse the issues by making up their own back-story for the book, or ascribing motives to its publication without ever finding out the truth, only prove our point.

Now we are getting into even more confusion. One minute Wayne is talking emotionally about a couple of deeply committed Christian guys who are writing a little book about God and wanting people to talk about who He is and the way He manifests himself. Now he admits the content of this book takes a harsh look at how many religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules which cease to reflect God. Actually religion and rules never reflected God and were never intended to. So they never reflected God in the first place (talking third century and beyond now) and can’t then be suggested as having previously reflected the glory of God. A book can’t be both a little story which encourages people to talk about God and a harsh commentary on Christian institutions. You either have a theological book which critiques religion, or you have a parable type book which gently introduces the person of God into the lives of those who are hurting. Hurting people don’t need to be told that religion is bad, they already know that. Inflaming already hurting people against an institution which is only going to attack them further is a little gratuitous; again, the petrol down the ant hill.

I find it interesting that Jacobsen states that this book offers solutions to the institutionalised church. Which solutions were they then? Fantasy goddesses and a groovy middle eastern guy sitting in a humpy talking about God? Actually the answers are in the Bible already, and can be found by those who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ as is found in the bible. But then the bible doesn’t sell as well as the Shack, mainly because it isn’t as controversial….surprisingly.

Does the book promote universalism?

Some people can find a universalist under every bush. This book flatly states that all roads do not lead to Jesus, while it affirms that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. Just because he can find followers in the most unlikely places, does not validate those places. I don’t know how we could have been clearer, but people will quote portions out of that context and draw a false conclusion.

Okay now we get into the nitty gritty. Does this book promote universalism? This is an oft-stated perception of the book. Now if you are going to rebut an argument you need to use the proper method. You take quotes from the book as evidence for your argument against universalism, you rebut the argument with evidence not opinion. Wayne starts with a sarcastic and not very helpful put down. He states that this book says that all roads do not lead to Jesus. The book also says that Jesus is the best way to God. Both of these statements are not flat denials of universalism, they are well crafted non-statements. No, it is widely accepted that all roads do not lead to Jesus. But that is not what universalism is about. Universalism states that all people will be saved regardless of their spiritual condition (without having accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour). There is also the assumption that a loving God would not commit anyone to eternal punishment. There are plenty of reviews which cite quotes from the book which confirm this idea. On pages 119-120 for example ‘Papa’ or one of the fictional trinity posing as God says “I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it”.

Actual scripture, from the Bible, tell us in Romans 6:16 “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? “

I have just rebutted ‘The Shack’s theological error by using quotes from the Bible, the book of God’s actual words.

Yet Jacobsen doesn’t bother rebutting his detractors with actual quotes which prove his point. Now he is the co-author of this book, he could easily explain what he meant by these statements, instead he goes straight to an ad hominem argument. Apparently, opponents of universalism see universalists under every bush. Is this meant to be ironic? God saves everyone, therefore we are all universalists whether we know it or not, and hey, there will in fact be one under every bush because people are in fact everywhere?

Too much of a stretch maybe.

Jacobsen says that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. I have news for you, those who wander into sin are sinners who need to come to Jesus in order to be forgiven. If they cry out to him, he will come to them, but first they need to recognise their sin and repent of it. False beliefs, well, we all know those who have come out of heretical churches, so I am not arguing that one. But that is not what universalism says. It doesn’t teach that Jesus can’t save you whatever mess you may have found yourself in. Jacobsen has consoled himself by attacking his detractors by using the argument ‘people will always draw false conclusions’ without actually showing why and how these conclusions are false. Sorry, but you lost that one by default.

Does it devalue Scripture?

Just because we didn’t put Scriptural addresses with their numbers and colons at every allusion in the story, does not mean that the Bible isn’t the key source in virtually every conversation Mack has with God. Scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. They are reworded in ways to be relevant to those reading the story, but at every point we sought to be true to the way God has revealed himself in the Bible except for the literary characterizations that move the story forward. At its core the book is one long Bible study as Mack seeks to resolve his anger at God. (emphasis mine)

OK, now this is where Mr. Jacobsen proves that after years as a professional pastor (you know those dudes who make money off professing believers by taking advantage of that evil religious empire which Jacobsen hates) he still doesn’t know what the Bible says about God. Or does he?

In a straw man argument Jacobsen suggests that his opponents expect him to use scriptural references in the book to prove that his book has taken its key concepts from scripture. I don’t think that is their problem Wayne. Nobody expects a novel writer to use chapter and verse. You don’t see the books in your local bookstore labelled Christian fiction full of scriptures, Actually in the good ones you do. I remember reading Bodie Thoecne’s novels and the vast majority of them were fictional but they did occasionally quote the bible. But then they were just books intended to edify Christians not sell like hot cakes because they were controversial.

Apparently, according to Jacobsen, scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. Too many to mention by actual page number we assume. Not even one as an example? That’s too bad. It would have been helpful to rebut the argument with evidence. Apparently these scriptural references are reworded (I think your detractors would agree with that) in order to be relevant to the reader (what does that mean). According to Jacobsen, he and his co-authors sought to stay true to the way God reveals himself in the bible except for the (big important phrase)  literary characterisations which move the story forward. I find these euphemistic explanations entirely frustrating. A person attempting to explain a book which has already caused a lot of concern needs to be able to use direct uncompromising language which states in no uncertain terms what they book is about. Unfortunately, all I am seeing in these attempts at addressing issues are sarcastic put downs and generalisations without any proof texts.

popeye

Now, I am not a genius, but last time I read Jesus’, Paul’s, Peter’s John’s words or any one of the other authors of scripture, I did not see any large African women or small Asian women. How can you claim that this book promotes a biblical revelation of who God is when the only time we see Him is either in non-human form (as per Moses) or in the form of a thirty something Jewish man. No women, no other identities. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in this way, nor is Jesus. I am pretty sure that is quite straightforward, and that is what people have a problem with. You are representing the almighty in fairly arbitrary terms, certainly not in scriptural terms.

Apparently this book is one long bible study. You haven’t given us any evidence of that either Mr. Jacobsen.

Is this God too nice?

Others have claimed that the God of The Shack is simply too nice, or having him in humorous human situations trivializes him. Really? Who wants to be on that side of the argument? For those who think this God is too easy, please tell me in what way does he let Mack off on anything? He holds his feet to the fire about every lie in his mind and every broken place in his heart. I guess what people these critics cannot see is confrontation and healing inside a relationship of love and compassion. This is not the angry and tyrannical God that religion has been using for 2000 years to beat people into conformity and we are not surprised that this threatens the self-proclaimed doctrine police.

At last, in this section of the article we see some quotes from the book, but not to back up Jacobsen’s argument. They are quotes from somebody else who apparently didn’t like the way God was portrayed. Further on Jacobsen quotes John 15:15 but only to beat somebody over the head with it because they are apparently too legalistic and don’t understand his portrayal of God as Oprah Winfrey.

Does it distort or demean the Trinity?

This extends in other ways to look at how healed people can relate to each other inside their relationship with God that defines authority and submission in ways most are not used to, but that are far more consistent with what we see in the early believers and in the teaching of Scripture. It is also true of many believers around the world who are learning to experience the life of Father’s family without all the hierarchical maintenance and drama that has plagued followers of Christ since the third century.

People may see this differently and find this challenging, if only because it represents some thought they have not been exposed to before. Here we might be better off having a discussion instead of dragging out the ‘heretic’ label when it is unwarranted. (my emphasis)

In general, Jacobsen does not confront his detractors head on, unless he does it in a demeaning and petty way. Those who criticise his work are considered to be narrow minded legalists who want God to be portrayed in the same way he has always been. How dare they contradict Wayne Jacobsen who is lets face it a former pastor who went to bible school and has paid his dues. He KNOWS who God is. I think the problem people have with this Wayne is that, well, so do they. Nobody wants to see God portrayed in other than the way he is portrayed in the bible.

You want to both promote controversy (why?) and accuse those who don’t want to engage in this as being either pedants or cowards.

This is the typical attack that rebels like to use. At heart, I think Jacobsen, and he won’t agree with me, is a hippy. He wants to stir up the ants nest and have people discussing God, but he doesn’t want to simply ask questions, he wants to portray God as a woman first of all, but have this woman use words which God has never used in order to ‘move the story forward’, and promote theological discussion. I am also deeply aware, as a woman, that women have always been oppressed by institutional religion. They are the wives and mothers and have no other presence in the church. They are not meant to preach or teach or have any authority, yet in ‘The Shack’ they are being used as a picture of God. Perhaps this is allowing those who have a problem with father figures to see somebody other than a man. Excuse me but this is exactly the sort of gender confusion that the world is engaged in at present. Maleness and Femaleness are no longer relevant. Whether you are gay, transgender, or any other form of sexual deviancy, the point is that you love somebody else and they love you back, love is not dependant upon gender. Now this idea is being superimposed upon God.

What Young is doing perhaps unconsciously is seeing God through the 21st century’s young person’s lens (scuse the pun). We are all being forced to look through this lens whether we consider it perverse or not, and now God is being reflected back to us as a woman. Not just one, but two. God is two thirds female apparently. Yet since this book is fictional, and you can use the term fictional to mean imaginary and not real, then you can assume that this God is not real. The problem is, that they are trying to portray this God as a picture of the real God. It doesn’t work like that. Some have suggested that this book is as much of a classic as “Pilgrim’s Progress”, but even PP has some issues. The issue of a works based salvation perhaps. Why did Christian carry that burden with him nearly all the way to the Celestial City when Jesus tells us to come to Him and He will give us rest because his yoke is easy and his burden light. Not even Bunyan gets it all right. As is the way with metaphors and parables, they can be stretched beyond the point. A little goes a long way with types and shadows, and even Jesus only spoke in very short parables not many paged novels.

Jacobsen has already stated that he loves books which promote controversy, and as a publisher and future film producer, there are clear conflicts of interest, which he has partially admitted to. These conflicts of interest however have not been completely resolved. He tries to defend the book but does so by attacking his critics rather than by proving that what they are saying is wrong. I get the strong impression that this is another PR exercise. Except it comes across as being motivated by the authors own hurt that his book is not being accepted as a theological work.

He says again in the last paragraph that he expected controversy and planned on it. Did he? I don’t think so or the overwhelming sense of outrage and hurt which comes across from this article would not be so overwhelming. A little miffed perhaps, but not to the point of refusing to properly and professionally addressing the concerns. My conclusion is that Wayne Jacobsen et al knew that this book would be controversial and he knew that it would sell well. I think any other issue is beside the point. If this book was truly a work to encourage Christians and promote the gospel, it would not have been on the New York Bestseller List. We are either friends with the world or friends with God, but not both. If we are friends with God, the world will hate us. Not exactly the best conditions for creating either a best seller or a blockbuster movie.

Church Hierachy and Invalidation

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Invalidation can come in many forms.

You can be ignored or you can become enmeshed.  You can be attacked or you can be minimised. Whichever way you are invalidated it is always abuse.  It is abuse because you are being told that you do not matter, that your opinion, your personhood has no import, no impact on the people around you, that you are in effect invisible. You are being abused because the person abusing is the person with the influence and authority.  There is a power imbalance.  There is nothing more damaging to a human being than to be informed by the human beings they value the most that they are themselves value-less.  It creates a deep feeling of insignificance, powerlessness and depression.  Unfortunately, in churches, it also gives people the erroneous idea that God himself disapproves of them because the hierarchy disapproves of them.  This is the idea.  In the most abusive environments, the hierarchy stands in for God and therefore any communication with the congregation is purported to be from God himself.  If you buy into this idea you start to believe that the human being you support as pastor or elder is the conduit through which your relationship to God is realised.  Their acceptance becomes God’s acceptance, their disapproval becomes God’s disapproval.

Different church hierarchies tend to use different methods.

A patriarchal and authoritarian structure has more heavy handed methods of invalidating.  Generally they choose to invalidate the opposition without by isolating their group and any criticism from those within by abusing their members.  Women in general and wives in particular are seen as a threat in these structures.  They are a threat because the wives are far more perceptive than their husbands, and they have an intimate relationship with them.  They know all their dirty little secrets. So in order to control them women will be invalidated by being handed a gender role defined, they decree, by scripture.  Often these structures claim to be ‘the truth’ and they will therefore invalidate all other denominations as ‘other’, or in some cases ‘irrelevant’.  John Macarthur recently decreed anyone not reformed as ‘basically irrelevant’ and another reformed pastor added ‘and wrong’.  This kind of fascist approach to faith is not what we see in scripture.  The disciples knew the truth, they preached a true gospel and they condemned preachers of a false gospel, but they did not murder those who opposed them as Calvin did, or shut down genuine questioners in the church.  It seems all of Calvin’s children have a similar mindset to himself minus the bloodshed.  But this is just one denomination.  We have seen similar attitudes in other types of churches, notably those who embrace Latter Rain theology. But plenty of Baptist or even Pentecostal churches have this kind of heavy handed approach.  There are always of course the independent groups or minor cults. It seems to come down to the spirit behind the church itself rather than the denomination, but there certainly are some denominations which lend themselves to this attitude.

On the opposite end of the scale, the emerging seeker-sensitive church takes a different approach.  Their attitude to dissenters is just as self-righteous and just as invalidating but they are often much more subtle.  Rather than take on other Christians they are apt to take on ‘the world’ although how much change they are actually effecting with their political and social activism is yet to be ascertained. This is their stated aim.  They are not interested in being changed from within by Christ, they are more interested in changing things around them; in particular political or social problems such as poverty which they say is the responsibility of the church.  It is easy to see that their theology is skewed in this way in order to avoid actually being accountable to other believers and to God.  If they keep the focus on changing the world, they appear to be both engaged in the world and therefore powerful, and also ‘doing what Jesus did’ ie. feeding the poor. What they inevitably refuse to accept is that Jesus’ message was not ‘feed the poor’ it was ‘be saved from out of this perverse generation’. That has always been God’s message to His people and to the rest of the world.  He came to save our souls, not feed our bodies, although obviously He has also promised to feed us as a good Father and a good Shepherd.  For God though, relationship with Himself through His Son is the essence of His message.

In our experience the emerging approach to any opposition or even casual questioning is to either pretend you don’t exist or to embrace you in a warm fuzzy ‘we love you anyway’ conversation.  Here I should point out that others including ourselves have also experienced rudeness, rejection and shunning from individuals in the emerging church.  So they are not without their clumsy and immature attempts to avoid dealing with questioners.   The face they present to the world is a much more benevolent one.  They want to disarm  you and help you to understand that they are not about conflict, they are about peacemaking. So the conversation becomes moot and you are left hanging, wondering what just happened.  In effect, this is a form of enmeshment and gaslighting.  They convince you that you are the problem not them yet the genius behind their approach is that they maintain an almost hypnotic insistence that they are simply interested in embracing your views along with everyone else’s.  It is impossible to argue with somebody who refuses to recognise the differences between two opposing ideas. We are all the same, each person is valid, and in this apparently egalitarian theology what they are actually doing is invalidating everyone. Its like that statement ‘everybody’s special’ which essentially nullifies the meaning of special – that which embodies the idea of different, or out of the ordinary.  If you change the meaning of special so that it actually means ‘the same’, then the word has lost its specific meaning. Covertly changing the meaning of language has always been one of the methods that cults and or political movements have gained traction with their ideas.  It’s a classic bait and switch. It not only destabilises their followers, it confuses the enemy, and produces cognitive dissonance, an important ingredient in manipulating the masses.

In many ways, the emerging church theology as a whole is about enmeshment.  They wish to do away with opposition entirely. They don’t like to declaim their beliefs, they do not have a ‘theology’, there is no right and wrong and everyone’s ideas are valid. Or so they say.  In actual fact they are invalidating not just individuals but whole faith systems by homogenising all faiths into one.  There are no more boundaries there is just this apparently loving whole which revolves around….well they don’t like to define what it revolve around but often it is their Jesus, who in fact is not the biblical Jesus but a synthetic amalgamation of eastern and western mysticism which is embodied in an impotent, unilateral Jesus.  In fact, this Jesus is the forerunner to the Antichrist who will be worshipped by all religions.  If you buy into the emerging church anti-doctrine doctrines, you will inevitably lose any biblical perspective that you originally had.  The emerging church is actually a political tool of the movers and shakers of this world which uses the Marxist and Hegelian doctrines and methods of social and political change.  Hegel stated:

(the state)‘has the supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State… for the right of the world spirit is above all special privileges (source)

This is a quote from the same source above which describes Hegelian philosophy.

The Hegelian dialectic is the framework for guiding our thoughts and actions into conflicts that lead us to a predetermined solution. If we do not understand how the Hegelian dialectic shapes our perceptions of the world, then we do not know how we are helping to implement the vision. When we remain locked into dialectical thinking, we cannot see out of the box.

Hegel’s dialectic is the tool which manipulates us into a frenzied circular pattern of thought and action. Every time we fight for or defend against an ideology we are playing a necessary role in Marx and Engels’ grand design to advance humanity into a dictatorship of the proletariat. The synthetic Hegelian solution to all these conflicts can’t be introduced unless we all take a side that will advance the agenda. The Marxist’s global agenda is moving along at breakneck speed. The only way to completely stop the privacy invasions, expanding domestic police powers, land grabs, insane wars against inanimate objects (and transient verbs), covert actions, and outright assaults on individual liberty, is to step outside the dialectic. This releases us from the limitations of controlled and guided thought.

The emerging church above anything is a political force being used by the powers that be to manipulate and control the Christian church.  We are being manipulated into taking a political stand when Jesus did not tell us to be political.  His kingdom is not of this world, and when He returns very soon to claim His own, He will not be making any political statements.  His is the power and the glory forever and ever amen.  Therefore, our eyes should be on the returning King and not on changing the world which needs must deteriorate.  We cannot stop the sinking ship.  We are urged to love our neighbours, to minister to our brothers and sisters, and to love our enemies.  We do not gain anything in God’s Kingdom by endorsing political manoeuvres by religious leaders or by fighting social battles to help feed the poor. Yet this is the agenda of the emerging church.  You don’t count unless you are poor and either unchurched or of a different religion.  People of this nature are, by definition, more virtuous and need greater recognition and help than any Western Christian.  Yet the very people who espouse this idea are western Christians.  What is this but invalidation on a mass, and political scale.

In essence, and this is an exceedingly ironic fact, the emerging church purports to be the antidote to the patriarchal and authoritarian church theology and methods of preceding ages.  The leaders present themselves as non-authoritarian yet wise. However they still lead megachurches as professional Christians.  Their target is the younger generation who have not yet been established in traditional theology and are still easily persuaded.  They convince even older Christians that the idea of an imposing and angry God who ‘murdered his son on the cross in an act of barbarism’ is not biblical, that God is in essence Father Christmas and does not want to punish anybody in an eternal hell.  They therefore, in order to uphold this ‘theology’ need to invalidate the historical and biblical Christ and remake Him into a clappy-happy loving peace-nik neo hippy who embraces everybody and does not impose any expectation upon his people.

In essence, the emerging church invalidates everyone who does not agree with their version of the truth.  This is the same problem any hierarchical system has, they just have different agendas.  While many hierarchical church systems preach the gospel, they present a straw man god who is the ‘angry god’ that emerging church leaders love to impune.

There you have two sides to the argument.  The dialect is complete and  you must choose which one you embrace.

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.  Jesus Christ is neither a hippy nor a policeman, He is the Son of God, himself God and the creator of the universe, the saviour of all mankind who brings to us the gift of eternal life.  He neither condemns us nor tells us we don’t have to change, nor does he endorse socio-political ideologies.  He is not a change agent, He enables us to be born again.  He does not change our flesh, He makes us wholly new.  Neither approach is right, both approaches invalidate the individual, the theology of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ and blaspheme Jesus himself and His cross.

God does not condone abuse, nor does He endorse false doctrine.  A false teacher is twice accursed and their end is destruction, and we are told not to even greet such a one.  It is starting to look as though the life of a genuinely born-again believer and son of God in this world is that of a weary but determined soldier fighting the final battle before the return of Jesus Christ.

My encouragement is to stand fast, hold your ground and resist the Devil and he will flee.  That is our battle, that is our calling.  Jesus is coming!  Hallelujah!

 

You Can’t Serve God and Mormon

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Ligonier Ministries discussion

Steve and I listened to an informative video the other night.  It was a recording from the 2007 Ligonier Ministries conference.  I can’t post it because WordPress won’t let me but here is the link. It was a conversation regarding the errors of the post-modern liberal theology which has permeated the evangelical church over the last two decades.  The three men discussing this were Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler.  They were intelligent erudite and entertaining.  Each speaker in his own way had an eloquence which only professors at university who speak for a living could have.

We were enthralled and we also appreciated the wisdom of the combined years and experience that these men had.  Its actually a real shame that not many younger Christians appreciate the perspective that age can give.  The longer you live, the more you see because time has given you an understanding that you simply cannot have when you are younger.  It is almost impossible to explain that to a young person, and they will not appreciate what you are saying because you can’t until you age.  It’s a puzzlement.

I had heard of these men before but didn’t really know much about them.  As they were talking however, it dawned on me that their orientation seemed to be leaning towards Calvinistic beliefs. Sure enough, when I did some research, both Mohler and Sproul are firmly reformed in their theology.  Al Mohler is currently president of the Southern Baptist Convention in the States and is what is termed a ‘New Calvinist’.  R.C. Sproul  is a Calvinist theologian and founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries.  Ravi Zacharias is not a Calvinist I believe, but is well known as a speaker and author and apologist.

Ravi Zacharias in particular was very droll and charming and had a way of speaking which made you want to hear more.  He was more of a story teller than anything I think.  Their strong distaste and concern for the errors of post-modernist theology were helpful to us as we realised that the problems in the Emerging church have actually been around for many decades, even centuries.  Sproul even playfully suggested that Satan was a post-modernist since his lie to Eve “Did God really say?” was the essence of emerging thought.

But even as we listened to these gentlemen, something was not sitting right with me.   The more I listened to them, the more I realised that in actual fact a lot of their statements were wrong.  We are not Calvinists, and don’t agree with the five points of Calvinist theology, believing they are neither defensible nor biblical.  But while I previously mentioned the wisdom and experience these men have, there is also a disturbing arrogance which came with it, and its not the first time I have seen this.

John MacArthur, a popular Reformed pastor with his own Bible commentary, is another Calvinist of this stripe.  Yet there are many who have left his Grace Community church believing it is a cult due to the way they are treated and the utter refusal to brook any dissension.  These are two of the biggest pointers to spiritual abuse.  If pastors will not discuss concerns with members of the congregations or even visitors to the congregation, they are not allowing for the possibility of error.  And even if they are not in error, they should still be able to converse civilly with those who disagree with them or have concerns.  Not so John Macarthur.  There are more issues that I have with Mr. MacArthur’s theology and that of John Calvin, but I don’t want to talk about that here.

I wanted to mention how much these men were name dropping.  They talked about the various universities they had taught at and the various people they knew and it was like a very subtle competition. But you could see that they revelled in the fact that they were well known and sought after speakers.  There is nothing wrong with being famous, but it seems no human being can cope with it for too long without it going to his head.  My concern was that their fame had changed who they were as Christians. There was little in the way of humility and some of Sproul’s jokes were disrespectful to God’s word and fairly tasteless.

Added to this, there seemed to be a marked sense of being in a good ole boys club. and not only that but that they recounted incidents in which they had changed their minds on issues within a day or so of some great man or other telling them that they disagreed with them.

Al Mohler mentioned that he had held very strong egalitarian views on women in the church when he was at University and when he had stated these views to a visiting complementarian speaker whom he very much admired, he immediately (overnight) changed his viewpoint.  This speaker had told him that his (Mohler’s) views were an embarrassment and immediately Mohler decided to look into why it was that his hero of the faith felt this way.  When a young man changes his mind that quickly because a famous man tells him to, you can be sure that he doesn’t really know what he believes.  You can’t do a thorough study of either approaches to the subject of women in the church overnight, and in order to really understand what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church on this matter, you need more than a few hours prayer.  Mohler claimed that he had not been influenced at all by the words of the visiting speaker, yet evidence would tend to suggest otherwise.

Likewise Ravi Zacharias who seems to have slid into false teaching very quickly, told the story of his invitation by the Mormon Church to speak at the LDS Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City in 2004.  Initially he said he turned it down, he did not explain why this was.  But then he apparently was accosted by everyone from his wife to famous Christian authors and pastors like James Dobson, psychologist and founder of Focus on the Family and Charles Colson former counsel  to President Richard Nixon. These are not minor Christian celebrities. All of them told him to accept the invitation to speak, they told him that it was necessary for him to be there, presumably to preach the gospel.  Now not once did Zacharias mention what God wanted him to do, he was completely focused it seemed on what everyone around him, especially influential famous men, wanted him to do.  I do not believe he should have gone to preach there since scripture tells us to have nothing to do with false teachers. Not only that but Ravi Zacharias has a history of ecumenist preaching and attempting to ‘dialogue’ with false teachers, as though being friends will make other people more open to listening to what you have to say.  It didn’t do a thing for the Middle East conflict and will never do so.  You can’t be friends with people who hate your guts and want to destroy you.  It is the same when you are talking to a cult which has had a strong presence in the U.S. for many years and actually believes it is a Christian church.  They are not.  Ravi Zacharias was not preaching the gospel of repentance from sin, he was trying to compare notes about what they do believe.  They do not worship the same God or the same Jesus.  Why on earth would a cult want Ravi Zacharias to preach to them in the first place.  There is something profoundly disturbing in the fact that a false religion likes a particular Christian apologist’s messages. That tells me that Zacharias’ preaching is far too watered down to actually do anybody any good.

It is important to recognise a number of things here.  You can be preaching a false message and still be a great speaker and a charming person.  You can be preaching a false message about one issue and a true one on another issue.  And thirdly, even if, like Mohler and Sproul your theology is deeply flawed, you can still have biblical beliefs on a number of issues such as the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.  It is even more proof that we need as Christians in these last days, to test the Spirits, to keep our bibles with us at all times, and to do some research if we sense within our spirits that something just doesn’t sound right.

When Steve and I were in BCF, there were a lot of times when I knew something was wrong, I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  It wasn’t until we left that we were able to understand the gravity of the error. It’s too easy to sit passively and be entertained or informed, but you must always have your critical thinking cap on, first of all dowsed in the blood of Jesus Christ so that you will have the mind of Christ and you will know whether what you are hearing is right or not.

The Resistible Revolutionary

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Shane Claiborne’s understanding of the gospel seems a little skewed.

Here’s a quote of his from his book ‘Irresistible Revolution’.

“For even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practice it. We can believe in CPR but people will remain dead until someone breathes new life into them. And we can tell the world that there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death”.

And another one..

“Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of  my favourite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily”.

I flicked through “Irresistible Revolution” at our local bookstore the other day. I was going to buy it, but after finding quotes like these on just about every page, I wondered whether it was worth it.  I found Shane’s attitude of superiority off-putting.  Apparently nobody in the church but Shane and his fellow Red Letter Christians are getting it right, and this is never a good place from which to speak to other believers.  I spent a couple of decades in a cult which had the same exclusivity  and taught others to shun the outsiders.  It’s this exclusion of others that gives you a sense that you are right with God. It is so incredibly easy for people to fall into this delusion.  It’s why there are so many churches like that.  But Mr. Claiborne has fallen into the same trap. Unfortunately nobody can tell him that, because he seems superbly at ease with his critics, almost encouraging them. A person who has come to this place of sublime ignorance of his own fallibility is in a  dangerous place.  It is a place where you are so sure you can never be deceived, yet it is almost always the hallmark of those who actually are deceived.  It makes me think of  this quote from the character Sheldon Cooper from TV’s “Big Bang Theory”

“Howard, you know me to be a very smart man. Don’t you think that if I were wrong, I’d know it?”

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I want to deconstruct the above quotes.  When I left the cult we were part of, I had to look again at the books and literature we had to read, written exclusively by the cult leaders, and understand what they were actually saying, as opposed to what we thought they said.  What I found was actually pretty revealing.  It opened my eyes. So much we took for granted actually wasn’t there.  What was there however was a horrendously boastful and arrogant assumption that not only were the leaders always right but any wrongdoing could simply be determined to be dealt with by themselves.  They were never accountable to anyone, least of all the people they destroyed.   I began to study other writings, such as those of George Orwell.  His “Politics and the English Language” is very good, it shows how words can be used to manipulate people’s minds and emotions.  This kind of language is common in politics, but just as common in advertising, religion, social movements or anywhere where human beings want to influence others.

I want people to think about what is being said, even if it is coming from a genuinely likeable Christian guy who looks a little groovy and seems to know how to fix the world.

Let me just say that I am aware I am taking these quotes out of a much larger context, but I have  studied Shane Claiborne’s message in other mediums and read exhaustive critiques of the book “Irresistible Revolution” by others. Mr. Claiborne I think has made his message clear.  These snippets are more about decoding language than they are about looking at Shane’s larger works, I think they are good examples of how his language is symbolic of a confusion of theology and a deliberately non-biblical gospel. Shane wants to start a revolution, not preach what has been preached before. He wants to remove landmarks and create new ones, not follow the ways of Paul and the other apostles.

First of all “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and then ignore one on Monday”.

Let me show you why this language is so powerful.  Like I said, the visual image of Shane is not that of a dangerous person who wants to lead you down a dark path.  He looks like a college kid even though he is now in his forties.  So you are lulled into a sense that here is a guy who knows a thing or too because he is not pretentious, nor is he a stuffy religious leader or pastor. He is not ‘pastor Shane’, he is just Shane. So we listen to Shane speak because not only is he not stuffy and pretentious in a religious way, he has kudos.  He is well known, people want to hear him speak, he must be saying something important.

But let’s look at what he says.  First of all he poses a question.  It is a question which puts people on the back foot because it uses language which nobody connects with church.  Jesus, a homeless man?  Yeah, I suppose he was. So if this statement is true then so must the other one be.  Yeah, we worship a homeless carpenter and then ignore a homeless drunk guy the next day.  You feel humbled, despondent, depressed even.  Boy, I just don’t know how I can call myself a Christian. But look at Shane, he lives with homeless people and the poor, he must know what he is talking about, I should be like Shane.  How could you argue with that?  An appeal to consider the plight of the homeless based on who Jesus was.

But wait…

Actually Jesus was not homeless.  He had lived with his family for 30 years as a carpenter, probably supporting His mother and  younger siblings after Joseph died.  His choice to leave home at 30 and begin his ministry was deliberate, and he did not have a home because the bank foreclosed or because he had been thrown out by his wife or because he could not afford one or because he was a drug addict.  He did not have a permanent home because His ministry was to move amongst the Jewish settlements preaching the gospel. He went and stayed with friends often, or asked to stay with those he talked to. He was not homeless, as in sleeping on the streets.  Everything he did was deliberate and was the will of the Father. I don’t think you can say the same thing about the guy in the street.

Neither was Jesus ‘a  homeless man‘ in the same way the guy in the picture is.  Jesus first of all is the Son of God, not just a man.  Claiborne seems to major on Jesus humanity and forget that He is holy, perfect righteous and just and not just a guy we follow.  So the message that Jesus is the same as the guy on the street is false and misleading.  We don’t worship a man, we worship God, and Jesus himself said to the Pharisees that if you can’t accept that Jesus is the I AM then you can’t be saved.

The question also implies that all Christians ignore homeless people.  This is not true either.  I find Claiborne’s sweeping statements about his brothers and sisters in Christ to be condemnatory.  The amount of emphasis he puts on actually living amongst the poor rather than doing what you can at the local soup kitchen etc is rather dishonest.  Shane can pick and choose how he responds to his own situation in whichever way the Holy Spirit guides him.  I don’t think it is Shane’s role to act as the Holy Spirit in people’s lives and giving others guidance on how to live.  Giving is done in response to the Holy Spirit, not some man who places himself in the position of being the leader of some kind of revolutionary new world religion which is replacing the tired old Christianity which people over 40 preach about.

Shane is taking upon himself a position and an authority that God did not give him. He is nobody’s pastor except those who fellowship with him. Otherwise he is simply a commentator, a guy with an opinion.  Somebody who is connected with others who have a name like Mother Theresa.  Lots of people have worked with Mother Theresa and they don’t all write books and go on speaking tours claiming to be ‘irresistible revolutionaries’. There is no ‘new move’ or ‘revolution’ other than the one that certain people wish to produce. But then this has always been the way with any revolution.  There are the revolutionaries, the agitators, the behind the scenes guys who get a hold of others like the university students (read Tailor of Panama it describes the whole thing) and the young seminary students who are tomorrow’s pastors. And then there are the plebs, the unaware, the moral majority who are just trying to eke out a living. Revolutionaries are rarely the dispossessed, they are the rich elite who agitate the easily manipulated (young idealistic impressionable).  That’s how revolutions start, and they end with bloodshed, always and the reorganisation of the universe. Order out of chaos has always been the method of the revolutionary. Out with the old order, in with the new. But hey, he’s a likable guy, its only the doom merchants who spew bile against likable guys. Nobody else minds, they are just happy to be part of something great.

And last but not least, the question uses the royal ‘we’. He says ‘we’ but he means ‘you’. He says ‘we’ to take the edge off his judgement of apparently all Christians. If he includes himself it means he is a Christian too. If he doesn’t include himself and says ‘you’ he excludes himself from Christianity.  He has to say ‘we’, it confirms the solidarity he has with his audience. However if you look at what he is saying, he can’t possibly include himself in this.  If he accuses himself of worshipping Jesus on Sunday and ignoring homeless people on Monday then he is denying everything else he has told you about himself and his community.  He doesn’t really mean himself or he would have to repent and in humility change the way he does things.  He has already told you he lives amongst the poor.  He already does the things he thinks everyone else should be doing.  So this is not a ‘we’ statement any more than “so where are we going for our holidays” is from a shop assistant who just sold you a suitcase. She is being patronising, so is he.

Shane is in a position of responsibility, being the leader of a community, an author and a teacher.  He is in a position of power and authority especially in the eyes of Christians.  It is also the reason why so many dislike Shane’s approach, and his message.  Shane likes to think that other people just don’t get him, and he encourages his followers to believe this to.  Its not that his critics don’t get him, its that they don’t reflect back to him the image that he wants them to see.  So while Shane is insisting that his way is Jesus’ way, in fact, it is not.  It is simply Shane’s way. It’s why you have to really listen and really read what he has said and not just assume things because he uses scripture intermingled with powerfully emotive language.  Really look at what he is saying.

“Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of  my favourite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily”. (my emphases)

Here Mr. Claiborne is making sweeping statements again.  “Usually”, meaning all the time, it is the normal thing, other people who see his community and want to applaud them and apparently live vicariously through them.  Even if he does say so himself.

This is a hugely narcissistic statement. Shane is saying that ‘people want to be me’ because they think I am superhuman. Really? So there are not just people who walk through and go ‘good for you guys like what you are doing’ and walk away and forget about them? Apparently others also want to live vicariously through them.  This is another extreme statement. How do you know that is the case?  And if so, why is it the case?  Only cults have these kinds of extreme reactions.  Nobody wants to ‘be’ the pastor down the road at the local Baptist church even if he is a great guy who helps people.  Nobody wants to ‘live vicariously’ through Christians they know even if those people are Christ-like.   Paul said ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ’ but not even Paul wanted others to be him, as he said later when he castigated those who were ‘of Paul’ or ‘of Apollos’.  Shane doesn’t actually say in this paragraph that living vicariously through them is a bad thing.  He has an almost ‘aw shucks’ response to these statements.  Yet even his rebuttal of these attitudes in the last sentence of the quote “don’t call us saints” is weird.  Dorothy Day was another political and social activist and journalist and became a Catholic. Her understanding of the word ‘saint’ is not what the Bible teaches. We ARE saints, the bible calls us saints.  It’s just a word meaning believers.  We are all saints.  And saints or not, nobody is dismissing anyone.  There is a really strong contradiction going on here.  One minute Shane is saying people want to be us, next minute he is saying don’t dismiss us. Nobody is dismissing Shane Claiborne and his works however he wants to skew this.  They are very definitely making a huge fuss about him as he has already stated.

There are some serious concerns in even these two simple quotes.  I haven’t touched on the other quote I mentioned. Shane states that even if the whole world believed in resurrection, nothing would change until you practiced it. OK, resurrection isn’t practised it just is.  One minute you are dead, the next you are alive.  You don’t have to do anything for somebody to realise something has changed.  When Lazarus was raised from the dead, people knew about it. Its why we know about the story two thousand years later.  When Jesus was raised by the Holy Spirit, His resurrection was reality changing.  We are raised to new life and we are called to walk in the Spirit, to put off the flesh and to walk in the Spirit.  The believers at Pentecost were immediately empowered by the Spirit and Peter in particular preached a powerful life changing sermon and thousands were saved in one day!  THAT is the power of the gospel.  Its Jesus who does the changing and its Jesus who gives the increase. It wasn’t Peter who was trying hard to be something, he simply changed. We don’t have to ‘do’ anything in order to prove that there has been a massive change in us.

I am reminded of a guy I knew at my church when I was a teenager.  He used to be a career criminal, a biker, a drug dealer, a vicious thug and generally nasty piece of work.  When he got saved, he had to be extradited back to Melbourne for trial.  The judge took one look at this guy, Terry his name was, and said ‘you’ve changed’. This judge knew Terry as he had come before him many times previously. Yet the judge could see straight away that something was different about Terry. So much had Terry changed that his very short stint in jail ended up seeing dozens of hardened criminals saved. These were all men who knew Terry.  They knew what kind of person he was.  When he got saved, his face changed, his nature changed, his habits changed, he was a new creation.  That whole prison was changed because of Terry and he continued going back to prison to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now Terry runs a church which helps the poor, the druggies and the down and outs.  He has set up a service which provides free food.  Not just for ‘the poor’ but anyone who needs a helping hand including the white middle class that Shane Claiborne seems to enjoy deriding. Nobody sees Terry’s work as being  useless or pointless or ‘not enough’.  Yet to Shane Claiborne, this kind of things is not acceptable.  I could go on and quote a number of things Shane has said in his books and speeches, but the heart of it is that he wants to condemn his fellow Christians because in his eyes, we are not doing what we should be doing.

One last thing about Terry.  He is well respected and recognised, but he is an old campaigner.  He is a conservative evangelical.  He got saved in the Assemblies of God church in Brisbane, and people in Australia have seen his face a few times in the media as they all seem to like him and treat him as the real deal Christian.  Yet, strangely, nobody tells Terry that he is a superman. When people look at Terry, they see Jesus, because Terry still looks like a scary biker.  He is a big teddy bear and a very genuine Christian.  But nobody wants to ‘be’ Terry or live vicariously through him. So what’s the difference between a man who loves Jesus and reaches out to the community in love and is seen by unsaved people as an actual Christian, and a man who has to convince others by teaching and writing books that he is a totally radical revolutionary for God.  What is wrong with just being an unassuming person whose life was changed by Jesus. Maybe Shane hasn’t met enough Terrys to realise that THIS is what it means to be saved.  Jesus already changed the world, and they don’t want to know Him.  What Jesus does is change people’s hearts and then through those changed hearts, other people are changed.  Not much has changed or is going to change because of the efforts of people who don’t really know what they believe and are trying desperately to get others to believe they are special.

I don’t think Shane Claiborne understands the gospel. It makes me tired.  I don’t think he knows Jesus as well as he thinks he does. I don’t think anyone can talk the way he can about the church if they love it with their whole heart the way Jesus told us to.  “Love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself”.  Loving your neighbour doesn’t just mean the poor.  If your neighbour happens to be poor then you can help them. But giving people stuff doesn’t mean you are a great Christian or that you have been transformed by the power of the blood of Jesus.  Genuine transformation is its own advertisement.  It always has been, for centuries before Shane was born and will be again until Jesus returns.  I don’t need somebody like Shane to tell me how to live, and I don’t like, even from a cursory glance what Shane preaches.  I don’t believe he has been transformed or that he understands the new life of Christ or he wouldn’t say these things.

If people are wondering if there is life before death  they need to see the new life of Jesus Christ.  Not in your works, but in the actual difference in your face.  There is a difference in people who know Jesus because the Holy Spirit has made them a new creation. I can testify to this for myself and others I know who have been changed by Jesus. I have seen and heard many testimonies from brothers and sisters who were miraculously saved and changed.  It is this change which makes others know and see the powerful reality of Jesus Christ. If you have changed, then you will do things differently. But the change comes first, then the actions.  People like Shane have always tried to make it the other way around, and all they do is lay heavy burdens on believers who try and get it right in order to impress others. The key to all of this is understanding your sin and the cross.  We don’t worship the cross, we worship Jesus. We just understand the substitutionary atonement of the cross in that Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary to take away the sin of the world. I don’t think Shane understands this at all, not in a personal way, because I don’t think he knows Jesus.

I have seen men who have this kind of power before.  Plenty of people want to follow and imitate charismatic men who manipulate and shame others in subtle and clever ways. The followers almost NEVER blame the leader for making them think they have to do stuff to be saved, they mostly blame themselves.  They try real hard to get it right, to impress the leader and to look good to others, but in the end they are dead spiritually because they have put the leader in the place of the Holy Spirit and their faith in Jesus, and Jesus alone has been eroded. People who follow Shane seem to do so with utter devotion. Shane can do nothing wrong, nobody is allowed to criticise Shane because if you do then you are part of the fundamentalist traditional church who just want to shut him up because they ‘just don’t get it’.  That too is dismissive and trite.

I don’t see Shane Claiborne preaching the gospel to people and seeing them saved.  I see Mr. Claiborne trying to get in the way and tell everyone else in the church not just how to ‘do church’ but how to ‘do life’.  I don’t find this either revolutionary or irresistible, in fact I find it rude and abusive.

Absolute Truth ?…. Absolutely

 

bell-and-winfrey

Swamis Winfrey and Bell deep in private emergent conversation being broadcast to millions

‘Two men say they’re Jesus – one of ‘em must be wrong’ – Mark Knopfler


I have debated the wisdom of talking about this subject.  It reminds me of those unanswerable questions that atheists like to ask Christians to prove how smart the atheist is.  “Can God create a rock so big that even He can’t lift it?”  Bwahahahahahahahaha.


Yes. He created you.  Who are as hard to penetrate as a rock. And if you don’t repent and turn to Jesus who is your saviour and your creator, you will end up in a place where even God can’t save you or lift you out because if you ignore salvation when it has been made evident to you, you will  have nobody else to blame for your own demise.


So back to the subject of this blog post.


Those who say there is no such thing as absolute truth will be the first to be outraged at somebody else’s lies about them.


When people say there is no such thing as absolute truth it is a subjective statement. There is no absolute truth to them. Which is fine. Except the proponents of this idea rarely keep it to themselves, they want to ensure everyone else believes it too. What disturbs many Christians is that the people asking these questions about absolute truth often identify as Christians.  Are they deluded? Or are they not born again?  Either way, they do not have the truth, so they don’t recognise the truth.  We are being taught as a church not to question the post modernist emerging church preachers and writers, because if we do, we are to be dismissed as hopelessly traditional.  This is a loveless doctrine, a cruel message to those who believe they are brothers and sisters.  Don’t discard other believers, but don’t kid yourself either. There are such things as false brethren. Scriptures tell us there will be many whose love of God will grow cold towards the end.  If you change the goal posts however, and insist that the Bible is no longer an authority and God’s word is what they believe it to be, they can say whatever they like. In their own churches. Just don’t expect everyone else to simply fall in line, or accept the insult that you are ‘not relevant’.


Much Emerging Church theology,  is imbued with this version of ‘truth’. It is in fact the foundation stone upon which further false teaching is raised.The Bible no longer retains its God ordained place as the inerrant Word of God except for those who want to use the parts of the inerrant truth that apply to their personal agendas. To them,  Jesus’ words  are important, but only some of them. Jesus’ words are also more important than other parts of the Bible, and from what I have read of the origin of this phrase ‘Red Letter Christians’ by Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, the concept of ditching the bits which are not ‘relevant’ is not a problem. In fact it’s kind of hip, cool and radical. And relevant. Relevant is important.


Mostly, emerging church ideas have appealed to those disaffected by traditional church.  I know how these people feel, I spent 15 years in a religious cult and when we came out, we were extremely disaffected.  We have spent many years since rebuilding our faith from the ground up; the ground of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, not the ground of heretical theology or eisegesis.  I am sorry but there is no other way around this.  You can’t have subjective theology.  We spent 15 years being immersed in one man’s subjective theology. Coupled with intense brainwashing techniques and the daily threat of losing one’s salvation, we came to view the Bible as prison bars, and did not partake of the wondrous gospel of freedom and salvation.  After we exited the cult, we found it too easy to move towards emerging church theology. It sounded so different to the equally heretical authoritarian savagery we were used to. After about 12 months however we began to smell a rat.  We have since learned to study the Bible, research the ideas and not just accept them, and compare them to what the Bible actually says.  It’s hard work, but at the cost of your spiritual walk, you tread carefully.  We have wasted too much time assuming a pastor actually knows what he is talking about, or the printed page would never contain error because the writer is a ‘christian’.  We have since learned there is a huge difference between a follower of Jesus and a man who is born again.  There has to be a change, a transformation.  If that man’s life does not add up, if his words sound great but his actions speak volumes which contradict the words, these are red flags.  Attend to them, they are important.


For many Emerging church authors there is an overemphasis on ‘living as Jesus did’, yet there is also a terrible lack of genuine understanding of theology. Apparently Bible study is only for people who know what they are talking about, like many of these pastors and authors.  They actually present post modern gnosticism.  You have to come to them to understand the truth because they know stuff you don’t know.  This is the lure of the cult.  They will always give themselves away by majoring on minors, thinking they are offering you something new and different.  All they are doing is offering you something different to the actual gospel. Selling everything you have to give to the poor is good. Repenting of your sin not so much.   Did Jesus tell everyone to sell everything and give to the poor, or only that rich guy? Funny how some emerging church preachers take the alleged giving to the poor mandate and forget the ‘don’t do your good works before men’ mandate. It kind of casts aspersions on the speaking tours and authoring books thing not to mention the mega-star status in certain churches that some preachers have, and Tony Carpool (drat autocorrect – you know I am going to leave it there)  in particular is probably one of the most well known Christians on the planet. Especially to Bill Clinton for whom Tony was the ‘go-to’ guy for moral dilemmas.  Which is kind of embarrassing I would have thought. Its a shame most politicians and high profile religious leaders don’t have the normal level of sensitivity to embarrassment the rest of us have.


I recently read this blog post from Rachel Held Evans (an emerging writer) who laments how difficult it is to try and be Shane Claiborne (an emerging leader who set up a ‘new monastic community’) whose big push is focused on living with and ministering to ‘the poor’.   She tried and she tried and it didn’t work.  I think there might be a message here for people like Shane, an author and popular speaker who seems to attract young people like Rachel because Shane appears to be living in such a ‘radical’ way. So she follows men and finds that following human beings makes you crazy, because inevitably, man-made teachings and communities will fail. Sure you can learn a thing or two from these guys, but as Rachel admits, its more than that, she is wasting her life in a repeating spiral continually trying to hoist herself up with being ‘of’ somebody else rather than simply being a daughter of the most High. She is not living a life supplied by the Truth, Life and Way called Jesus Christ, she is following a man who kind of seems like Jesus, but who manifestly isn’t, especially as a Red Letter Christian who denies that the word of God is Truth.


We don’t subscribe to sweeping prescriptions from people who claim to be Christians but actually mock and deride genuine believers because we believe in Hell, Judgement, Salvation by the blood of Jesus and Repentance from Sin. According to Rob Bell we are irrelevant.   John Macarthur, the epitome of a conservative fundamentalist mega-church pastor with similar enviable credentials to Mr. Carpool and friends,  claims we are also irrelevant because we are not of the Reformed tribe.  Or more specifically the Reformed variety who believe John Macarthur to be the epitome etc.  You can’t please all of the people all of the time. .


In fact it’s kind of ironic.  John MacArthur is a creditable nominee for the position of Emerging Church Anti-Matter Man. Yet his position on relevancy is the equivalent of Rob Bell’s.  They keep using that word.  I don’t think it means what they think it means.  Relevant to what or who?  To God?  It would take a massive amount of arrogance to reject more than half of the body of Christ simply because they don’t accept John Calvin’s flower power theology, especially when Calvin himself would be taken for a pathological homicidal maniac if he killed 50 people just because they didn’t agree with him in today’s paradigm (another emerging hip word).


Those who claim there is no absolute truth clearly know nothing about mathematics, physics or geometry. If the truths contained within these sciences are not absolute and unchangeable, we would not be able to build skyscrapers, fly planes, make computers or heal sick people.  Sure we get it wrong, which means that we don’t know all the truth there is to know about those things.  It still proves that there are a lot of absolute truths we can work with, with absolute certainty.  Ask Oprah, who while still cheerleading for apostate ‘progressive’ pretend Christian leaders (like Rob Bell and Karl ‘leather’ Lentz), maintains that there are some things that she knows for sure.  Oprah, my friend, that’s absolute truth.  You need to work out whose side you are on.


There are absolute facts which are true which do not change and will never change. Like God’s word (Isaiah40:8). Therefore there is absolute truth.


All of life is based on rules and laws which are based on absolute truth. Killing another human being is wrong. Those who do so are arrested, tried in a court of law and sentenced. This is just one of the absolute truths which govern our society. If we had no absolute truth, society itself would devolve into The Lord of The Flies with nukes.


More importantly, the police do their work based on the innate understanding that human nature, left to itself will devolve to its lowest common denominator in Judges 21:25 “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” without the rider of “as long as nobody else gets hurt”. We know from personal experience that there are a LOT of people out there who will hurt other people because they enjoy seeing other people’s pain.


As far as I can see, there are only two reasons why a human being would come to the conclusion that there is no absolute truth: because it suits them, or because they are nihilists. To become  a nihilist, they have become so disillusioned with life that they believe there is no structure, no authority, no dream and no ideal which can inspire or inform their decisions.  Life to them is a jungle, or more accurately an illusion, in which no man alive can tell another what to do because nothing is real. In essence, nihilism is really just a storm in a mental teacup.  And I have seen some mental teacups.  Here’s one for starters.


mental tea cup.png


Whatever a human being defines reality as being, they still have to live in the world.  The world runs according to  universal rules – water finds its own level, night follows day, MacDonald’s hamburgers taste the same wherever you are, nobody understands what women want (not even women) and cats always want out as soon as you let them in.  You can claim there are no absolute truths and therefore that only parts of the bible are accurate and not others, but you will face God at the end of your life if not before and have to give an account for your thoughts and actions.  I would want to be pretty darn sure of what I believe regardless of what that is if I were you.  And the best way to know what God thinks is to look in the Bible, because it is our litmus test of false doctrine. Get rid of that and you no longer have false doctrine.  Easy peasy….and broad is the way.