Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Comments on the reviews regarding The Shack

The following comments are based mainly on one of the reviews I read on The Shack, by William Young. You may read the review yourself to see where I am coming from.

I have read the reviews and the warnings. I think some go too far sometimes. If you can read this book and by doing so, come away with a fresh view of God's love, then the author as succeeded. This book can reach the lost or hurt, showing a way to still trust in God's goodness even in the midst of horrible situations. It brings the amazing mystery of the scripture in a way that helps the human mind grasp the rolls of each part of the trinity. It helps the human mind grasp what God's design for relationship is.

Reading, there are many concerns with the book's accuracy with the concepts of hierarchy and submission and with the details of the trinity. I don't see the "danger" everyone speaks of. Salvation issues are the only "dangers." If someone has accepted Christ and lives with some misinterpretations of scripture, it doesn't cost him his soul. I personally find MANY problems with the reviewer's take on forgiveness. Not forgiving is a personal problem that eats you up from the inside out, giving Satan a huge foothold. Someone else's repentance is between them and God. My forgiving can't possibly be dependent on their repentance. You could relate this to my submission to my husband. God tells me to submit. I am in sin if I don't. My submission is not based on my husband willingness or capability to lead our family as Christ leads the church.

About how God communicates, I do not agree with the reviewer once again. I do not believe Young is discounting scripture. He is showing disgust for how many in our modern world pervert the scripture, limit God through it, and miss out on relationship totally. There are many many Pharisees in our time today. The reviewer also ridicules Young's description of hearing and being led by the Spirit. Yes we have the Word, but a believer also has the Holy Spirit living in them. One can discern if they have truly heard the Spirit by comparing the message to scripture. In this way, scripture is the authority, but the Spirit speaks and moves nonetheless.

There are big concerns about the author not clearly stating the danger of a human not accepting the relationship God offers. One comment to this is that again, this is a fictional story about a believer, confused as he was. There was no need to convert him, so this topic was irrelevant. In addition to this, though, I love that Young is against the "religion" which is all law and cold and misses the gospel completely. God does love ALL of His creation and does desire ALL to come into relationship with Him. Young is right to say that all paths do not lead to God, but speaks of God's wonderful creativity in attempts to reach us. God tries many paths and ways to get through to us. God never gives up. We have the ultimate decision to make, though.

Seminary can be good. (It is human taught, and so not always good.) Studying the scripture is good. Fear is not. I think that sadly, many are missing the heart of this book, which I think God is very pleased with. God is alive and I think many are in danger of stuffing Him in a very little box. God is as alive and real today as He was in Bible times. God loves each of us today as much as He does Adam and Eve. If your view of God is all law, then yes, this book may be an exciting, fresh new view, allowing you to finally see God's heart loving you. If your view is already this, then you are going to simply enjoy this book as a fun read. There is nothing harmful in freshness when what was there before was inaccurate.

Overall, I felt fear in the reviewers tone throughout. I would have to say, I disagree most of the time. Where there are points that are unbiblical, I believe this book can do much more good than harm. I still recommend it very much.


Brandon LeBlanc said...

This book seems to have some serious theological problems, border lining on New Age bologna. And to be honest I doubt I would enjoy the story itself. It seems somewhat cliché and overdone to me, but I am a guy and occasionally accused of being cynical!

However, I read and really liked The Da Vinci Code and it directly subverted Christian doctrine. For all the outrage it was a really well written story. Fast paced and interesting. I would recommend it to people whose faith won’t be shaken by it. To me it was kind of modern day Indiana Jones in nature, and those movies are certainly fraught with unsound theology. And see no problem with anyone enjoying The Shack as a work of fiction. And in the case where a book has enjoyed the kind of popularity these two have it seems prudent to me as a believer to at the very least know what is in them so you can engage in the spiritual conversations they ignite. There is a very real chance it will spark the interest of a non believer and you should be able to talk to them about it. The best way in my opinion to do that would be to know the book in a way that allows you to appreciate its literary value and at the same time be able to clearly articulate the difference between the fiction and the truth of what scripture says.

That said, I would adamantly caution against what you said here, “This book can reach the lost or hurt, showing a way to still trust in God's goodness even in the midst of horrible situations. It brings the amazing mystery of the scripture in a way that helps the human mind grasp the rolls of each part of the trinity. It helps the human mind grasp what God's design for relationship is.”

I would absolutely not recommend this type of book to someone who is lost, hurting, trying to figure out the trinity (good luck), or grasp God’s design for relationships. If someone comes to you with those kinds of questions or they come up in conversation point them as naturally as you can to scripture or at the very least well written scholarly(and theologically sound) works on the subject. Giving them this book would only indoctrinate them with false information you would have to them convince them was wrong, and as the review you linked to points out the emotional nature of the story can easily cloud discernment.

I agree with you on the forgiveness issue as I think the option and power to forgive lies with the wronged party. I think the interpretation in the review is off. Christ asked the Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do” and scripture is pretty clear that Christ offered forgiveness without us asking for it. We are forgiven; we just have to accept it. Christ’s ability to forgive is not dependent on my action. Your illustration of submission is a good parallel. That said, an incorrect understanding of who God is, why we need his forgiveness, and how we get to Heaven all affect our salvation. Particularly the idea that God would need to be submissive to man in any way shape or form is very disconcerting. I’m not sure you could have truly accepted Christ without acknowledging God’s superiority and authority in its fullest.

Without reading the book it is hard to say whether or not Young downplays scripture’s authority. And I agree that the role of the Spirit should not be discounted. But as you said the scripture is what we judge the “leading” by. If they don’t match up then it wasn’t the Spirit, or we misunderstood. If the book lays out any less than that, or especially if it puts more emphasis on “feelings” versus the scripture itself it is a pretty serious error.

I disagree that fear is bad. We have a fear response for a reason. It is very practical both in earthly and spiritual situations. We should very much fear the wrath and justice of God we so richly deserve. If for no other reason than to properly appreciate the amazing incomprehensible love and mercy that saves us from it.

I also think it is dangerous to assume that God is pleased with a particular piece of fiction. And I feel that way about the Left Behind series whose theology I find to be much sounder. Fiction is all well and good. It can be thought provoking and spur on great debate. But there is only one book that we know God is pleased with and, just speaking personally, in the same way I don’t like to box what God can and can’t do I don’t like to speculate on what God may or may not approve of. If I know of someone who is too legalistic this is not the direction I would point them in.

In short I have no problem with people reading anything that isn’t sinful in its nature. And when it comes to spiritual fiction I think it is important to know what is going on and be engaged. If you enjoyed this book, great. If you know others who are solid in their faith and might enjoy it, by all means recommend it to them(I recommend Da Vinci Code all the time). But I would shy away from encouraging non believers or people searching for answers to read it, and I would shy away from assigning any theological value to it.

I hope this hasn’t come across as attacking what you said. I think it is great that you posted this and created a discussion. Just ask Kobi, I could go round and round on this kind of stuff all day! I’m frequently wrong and the open dialogue helps us all sharpen our knowledge and understanding.

Amy Mantooth said...

Thank you so much, Brandon, for taking the time you did to read and respond. I see how this should not be used to help the lost or explain anything. Scripture is all we need for that. You had really good thoughts. Thank you!

Amy Mantooth said...

I am obviously not a theologian. I admit to being naive about how this book could effect the world negatively. I approach life from an optimistic, glass half full, it will be okay sort of view. I am a Christian. This means that I am certain that I will spend eternity with God in heaven. I know this because I accepted Jesus Christ's gift of death and resurrection as payment for my sins. This assurance is given by reading the scripture, God's Word.

All that said, I loved this book personally. I did not read it, thinking how I could pass it on as a sort of evangelical tool. I read it for me. I loved how God met Mack right where he was in a way that helped him take down the walls keeping God out. God broke down every misconception Mack had, peeling away his hurt layer by layer. God knew Mack completely and what he needed to soften enough to accept God's love for him.

Although many out there didn't, I loved how the author had God reveal himself to Mack. The three characters of the trinity were wonderful as they related to Mack individually and yet as one all at the same time.

I believe God used this book in my life. It did not challenge what I already knew to be true in the scripture. It did, however, help me to relate to God more personally.

I respect and see what so many see as concerns. However, I still don't see this book as a danger. Even if some details may have to be cleared up later, I believe this book may be a huge help in some people's lives. I know some very loved but very lost people in my life. They are not open to me reading scripture to them. They have been hurt by the church and do not see God as loving or scripture as truth. If a story like this were to get into their hands, it could soften them enough to be open to spiritual conversation. That said, I will not be handing it out as an evangelical tool. My point is simply that I don't see any "danger."

I find different opinions very interesting and love book talks. This whole line of discussion is fun. Please continue to add your thoughts.

Amy Mantooth said...

I have to be honest right now. I told all of you that I didn't see any danger. I have to admit that I realized it tonight. Chris was reading the book and the girls came in and asked him to start reading out loud. He did. I tensed up, nervous about which parts he might read. So, I admit, that if the reader is young, naive, and doesn't know the truth well, I would not want them to read this. There, I said it! :o)