The Shack. The love of God.

“I hear what you are saying with Job, and Romans 9, and I am just struggling with what do I really believe about all this. I don’t want to see God as a meticulous control freak, who reaks havoic on the lives of his children for some twisted purpose. As a parent, i would never do that to teach a lesson. There are times I would let my children fall in their own problems, to learn life lessons, but would protect them severly from the horribly painful ones. For example, I would not in a million years allow my child to endure sexual abuse, so that he or she can be used to help others in the future. I would fight like crazy to keep it from happening, regardless of what it is used for. I hate to see god as my father, who is going to plan for this to happen to me, so that he can use it later on in life. As a parent I could never do that to my child. also, the protection issue, if someone broke into my home and attempted to hurt my kids, I would fight, tooth and nail to protect them, i wouldn’t stand back and say, well lets see what lesson i can teach from this. So, looking at God as a parent, i don’t understand the view of meticulous control, predestination thing.
I have no idea if any of this makes sence, I am really just trying to figure out where do I stand in this relationship with God, as my Father? or God as my friend?”

I thought I would post my reply to this private email here, as I have much to say, and because I think my friend brought up questions that many Christians have.  And, because I think some of you will have some things to add. 

This was (surprise! 🙂 ) in response to the book, The Shack.  And whether or not the all loving God in the book is an accurate portrayal of Him.  Let me say from the outset – “God is love”.  He is the source of all true love.  The greeks had four different words for love – and the one “agape” refers specifically to the type of love God has for us, and the love we can have towards Him and one another, only when we know Him…  Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah, he says, because “I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”  Sulking Jonah did not want to preach a gospel of repentance – he knew that God would save the Ninevites – and Jonah wanted to watch them burn and die for their sins.  So – I am not denying the steadfast love of our Lord that never ceases.  Not denying His mercies that are new every morning.  Not denying that He loves us with an everlasting love.

I do not however love the god of The Shack.  Who says “Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.”  Or “I did not purpose Missy’s death, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use it for good.”  The god in The Shack says “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little diety insisting on my own way.”  He also says “I’ve never taken control of your choices or forced you to do anything….”

I think what Young is doing is trying to rebut the doctrines I believe.  But, I think the only real way to answer these is to go to the Word.  What does God say about Himself, and about His sovereignty and my responsibility?  I believe the only way to approach this is to go to the Bible, and see what God says about Himself.  We know He is a God of love.  We know He is merciful and full of grace – else He would not have sent Jesus to die for our sins.  Granted, many of the passages I want to quote are hard reads.  They don’t seem to reconcile themselves with the loving God our modern gospel presents.  To which I say – we MUST go to the Bible, by the power of the Spirit, with our eyes and hearts open, and reconcile our own impressions of God with who He says He is.  Sovereign.  Holy.  And motivated to act, for the sake of His name and for His glory.

Young says: “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little diety insisting on my own way.” 

God says: “Behold, I will stir up against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side: the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, governors and commanders all of them…. And they shall come against you from the north with chariots and wagons and a host of peoples.  They shall set themselves against you on every side with buckler, shield and helmet; and I will commit the judgement to them, and they shall judge you according to your judgements.  And I will direct my jealousy against you, that they may deal with you in jury.”  Ezekial 23:22-25  Why?  “you shall know that I am the Lord God.”  (v49)

“You shall know that I am the Lord” appears over 50 times in the book of Ezekial.  It is a common theme – and is mostly connected to His wrath, and His fury and His jealousy – because His people are whoring after idols.  He jealously desires our whole-hearted obedience.  And, when our adulterous hearts chase after idols, sometimes He hands us over to our enemies. 

I do not believe the bad in our own lives happens for much different reasons – that we may know that He is God.  I don’t think I have the answers friend.  As a Father, He by no means takes pleasure in bruising us.  ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him.  I believe that ultimately, it is through the deepest of sufferings that we most clearly see our Savior.  I think the pains of this life are for the exaltation of Him.  To draw us near to Him.  To teach us to rely on Him.  To prove Him faithful and beautiful.  To teach us lessons we do not yet know… May never know in this lifetime.  Sometimes yes, to teach others.   His reasons are always, always loving, you must trust Him for that.

So, if Job received the evil of the deaths of his children from God’s hand, from whose hand do we receive ours? 

Job did not sin when He said “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2v10)  Let us trust – not that God is scrambling to make good of evil – but trust instead a sovereign God who, for reasons deeper than we may ever fathom is making wise and loving decisions that seem to sting in our life on earth.

 

 

choked up…

So, in my latest attempt to get a handle on what is becoming so pervasive, even very close to home for me, I googled R.B. and his “the gods aren’t angry tour.” 

Couple of excellent summary blogs later, and I get into reading comments…..

“Hey, it’s easy to say “universalism is a different gospel,” but honestly, I’d like to hear an argument as to why.” 

And my heart breaks….  

It is not the first time I have wept over a different gospel.  The tears have flowed quite freely in the last few months – when I first became exposed to RB and the emerging church (a little slow, I know : )

My heart aches, when I sense that the gloriousness of Christ and what He accomplished on the cross is being diminished.  When His horrificly beautiful act of sacrifice that we must focus on (much like when we cannot take our eyes off a car accident)  actually gets cheapened – because the word sin does not even enter into the “story” of the Bible.  When man does not need a Saviour anymore.  When grace loses its greatness – for he who is forgiven much loves much, and let me tell you – the modern man has been forgiven very little in his own mind….  His mercy, His grace, is greatest, when I can cry with Paul, and Isaiah “Oh wretched human am I!  Chief of sinners!  Woe is me God!  And oh…how GREAT Thou art!  You have forgiven ME?  From THIS?  AH!!!!  God!!!!” 

I love my Saviour.  My Father.  His mighty saving hand accomplished more than I will ever, ever comprehend this side of heaven.  He is greatest, when I am smallest – like when staring up into the night sky, and you realise how infintesmal you are – only it is a greater, greater scale than that.  His holy condescention! 

Let us not blaspheme – by even whispering of another way to God save but through His Son, and belief in His blood.  Let us not cheapen His mercy by thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought.  And oh! let our hearts be awakened to the absolute awesomeness of Him who would call us friend, beloved, bride, son, daughter!

2+2=4

Fourth blog in 24 hours – I guess I can say my kids are co-operating, and with a quiet house my brain is whirring…

I have been reading a number of different blogs, so I can not remember where I most recently saw this logic come up.  Basically, it is the constant chatter that where we come from affects our perception on things, what truth we gravitate towards, how we are impacted by our upbringing in our understanding of things… that sort of talk.

But… 2+2=4.  Truth is truth.  And even if you are the guy who has always been told that 2+2=5 and you have to re-work your understanding, or grapple with truths a little longer to get them – that really does not change the fact that truth is truth, and absolute, apart from your perception.  It is not a matter of it being true for you but not for me… more like, it’s true, and I hope some day you get that. 

I love knowing some things for sure…. even if the depth of my understanding grows, it is still the same water.  I believe in the Trinity.  That is a solid truth for me.  As is the inerrancy of Scripture.  As is my trust that God is sovereignly in control of all things.  I know there is nothing I can ever do to deserve heaven.  I know God is infinitely above me…  I know that my only hope of salvation is Christ’s blood, poured out on my behalf.   So many other rocks of truth in my life, that my feet are solidly planted on… 

 

“For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”                    2 Corinthians 13:8

The Shack Chat.

So, a few of us have decided to get together and discuss a book called “The Shack” by William Young.  It is a novel, but full of alot of theology.  The bit I know of Jeromy , Jonathan, and Raquel, I know this should be some really interesting dialogue! Feel free to join in our discussions – even if you have not read the book, the content is worth chatting about.

The foolishness of man.

 

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”  Ephesians 1:16,17

I have recently finished Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches.  Enlightening.  Of the 5 authors, I resound with 2.6 of them.  I have sat down to blog regarding this book a few times, but wanted to wait until it was done. 

I think I get it.  In part.  The whole emerging church movement is so complicated.  They do not all agree with one another, except to agree to disagree, and have fun doing that.  Fine.  I love a good debate.  But, is God so very unknowable???  Yes.  And no.  As I have blogged in the past, He is so far beyond our understanding.  But, He has revealed Himself through His Word.

The irony is, that in the name of humilty, the EC claims the mystery of God.  The ironic arrogance of saying “Lord, You just quite simply did not give us enough to work with.  We know You will not share Your glory with mere Words, and so we look to the Holy Spirit to guide us.”   “We are learning to embrace the fact that we are all heretics and idolaters…. So we’ll enter into the dialectic of Christian dogmatics, but with a grain of salf…. we have decided to forgo contributing another espousal of another theory of atonement… You are invited into a mystery…. You are invited to lay down your theories and enter in….”  Listening to the Beliefs of EC, pg 164.  It is subtle, and I understand if you do not agree with me on the connection.  But I think there is a smug humility in saying we can not add to the theories dialogue, because we are all heretics at heart.  God is bigger than our hearts.  God has revealed Himself to us.

I love how Piper revealed my heart’s desire for some new word…

I  sat staring at nothing. My mind was full of the global glory of God. “I keep watch over the nations He had said this to me.”  It was not just that he had said it. Yes, that is glorious. But he had said this to me. The very words of God were in my head. They were there in my head just as much as the words that I am writing at this moment are in my head. They were heard as clearly as if at this moment I recalled that my wife said, “Come down for supper whenever you are ready.” I know those are the words of my wife. And I know these are the words of God.
Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites—this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me.

What effect did this have on me? It filled me with a fresh sense of God’s reality. It assured me more deeply that he acts in history and in our time. It strengthened my faith that he is for me and cares about me and will use his global power to watch over me. Why else would he come and tell me these things?

It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind—and your mind. We hear his very words. God himself has multiplied his wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us; none can compare with him! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told (Psalm 40:5).

And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota read Psalm 66:5-7. That is where I heard them. O how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible…. The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God. Let us cry with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your word” (Psalm 119:36). “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Grant that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know our hope and our inheritance and the love of Christ that passes knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:18; 3:19). O God, don’t let us be so deaf to your word and so unaffected with its ineffable, evidential excellency that we celebrate lesser things as more thrilling…..

I know I have borrowed much of this blog from Piper – but as I see the church looking for an understanding of what the Spirit is saying, sometimes (often?) apart from what He has revealed in the Word, I feel heartbreak. (“Dan holds to an authority in the Bible that I believe is better placed in the Holy Spirit” Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches – Pagitt PG.113)  I found myself repenting – as I read Piper’s blog, and realised that I too have neglected the Bible for some “fresh word” – when God’s Word is living and active in me, if I should just take the time to pray for His guidance through what He has already given us….

Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches – part one

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

I finished the book Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I agreed with (Driscoll and Burke); and am finding myself more open to aspects of this movement than I anticipated…  That said, the extreme end of things (Pagitt) is very disconcerting, and my thoughts at this time are to address the issue of truth…

Making a point in an EC conversation would be almost moot, if we do not agree on the supremacy of the Word in our theology.   Some Pagitt quotes:

“I understand the ‘Read the Bible get and get the meaning’ apporach is part of Mark’s own personal history of faith, but that does not give it crediblity as a theological system”  pg 44

“I hold that a reading of history ought to instruct us to create ways of thought that are useful but temporary.  Complex understandings meant for all people, in all places, for all times, are simply not possible.  Language, situation, specific issues, and people’s own preferences and insecurity all are involved in any belief system.  There is no way to make a statement of substantive belief with these kinds of issues being at play.  So one must make adjustments, even if they are slight, in order to remain faithful.”  pg 137

“If we hold that people are either right or wrong in their beliefs, and leave no place for faithfulness being understood as one being as right as one could be in their day, then we find ourselves standing above and not alongside those who have come before us (or are of a differing opinion near or far from us).  We would have to declare that there are simply those who are right, in full alignment with the “truth” and all others are to be condemned.” pg 138

“Without a temporary view of theology and belief, we are left having to condemn the different beliefs of those who have gone before us.” pg 137

I can not say to a man who does not trust in the inerrancy of God’s Word: “Well, God says this”, because God may or may not have meant that.  He may have meant it, but only to the people He was talk to.  He may have meant it, but only in that time or place.  I may not understand the context yet. 

Is God’s Word this complicated?  Why are the only ones who want questions, questions, questions, also the only ones who are adamant that we can not come up with solid answers? 

I want to say what God says about His own Word, and its signifigance, but I ( so very not sarcastically) want to know if that is sufficient….  Oh!  Let us not dare to trample His Word underfoot!  Let us not readily look for “a more contextual understanding of what the Spirit is saying to us in our day in order to live into it” (pg 125) at the cost of missing the beauty, relevance and need for what He said milleniums ago.  The word truth occurs 224 times in the NIV Bible:

“and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” Ephesians 6:17  Our only offensive piece of armor is the truth! 

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”  1 Corinthians 13:6  Interesting that the “opposite” of delighting of evil in delighting in Truth.

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:18  Oh – how much there is to gleam here!

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must (dei – it is necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper) worship in spirit and truth.”  John 4:24   Amen. 

We think we can do it.

“Theologically, the emerging church must wrestle with what the Scriptures say God has revealed about the uniqueness of Jesus in relation to the world’s religions.  Why must we wrestle with this question?  Because instead of helping people find their way home to Jesus as the only one who can save, we often put up barriers to belief by the way we communicate what Scripture reveals.”  John Burke, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches

 And then it struck me.  We think we can do it.  We (that is modern man, emerging church man) thinks that we are more responsible for the salvation of man than we actually are.  I think that so much of this boils down to a combination of man-centered theology, as opposed to a God-centered theology; and a poor understanding of the total depravity of man, and his need for the Holy Spirit to work in man.

“but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”  1 Corinthians 1:23-25

and consider the warnings of John about the false prophets: 

“for many false prophets have gone out into the world…. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.”  1 John 4:1,5

There is considerable danger in trying to preach a gospel that is relevant.  The world just might gobble it up.  This growth though, may not be an indication of anything more than the world loving a worldy doctrine.  God’s Word is folly to man.  Those who preach it will be persecuted (is the servant above his Master?) 

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”  2 Corinthians 2:15-17

The fragrance of death??  We are not commissioned to preach a gospel of warm fuzzies.  We are not commissioned to preach a gospel that is relevant, or speaks to our culture…. We are called to preach Christ crucified.  To say that man, in his total depravity, is sinful to the core, and needs a Savior.  Without Christ’s blood, you are going to hell.  God, so far above man, is worthy of all glory, laud and honor.  He is holy, and beautiful, awesome and worthy of praise!  He cannot look upon your sin, but in His mercy sent His Son!  Man needs God.  The fundamentals of our situation have not changed.  And, when we have preached Christ, we must also acknowledge the need for the Holy Spirit to regenerate those who hear the gospel.  Trust God for the increase!  Sow, and reap, and pray that He, in His sovereign goodness, might reach out, and awaken the hearts that you touch, that are dead to Him!