Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Straining out gnats and swallowing camels

'The Shack' by William P Young, is a favorite of mine that has come under fire by some well known people within the evangelical community in America. Yes, the shack makes some theological statements in the book. And No, I wouldn't agree with every theological statement in the book. But this is a story, not a theological treatise on the Trinity. It is a story that reflects God's care for his children even in the midst of our sin, pain, and suffering. It is a story of how God desires relationship with each of us, not followers of a set of rules and principles. And I think there is so much more right in this book than there is wrong.

So who are some of the people who have criticized 'The Shack'? Mark Driscoll and Al Mohler are a couple of names that I can give you at the moment. For the most part, I would say that they draw invalid conclusions about specific narrative in the book. This is a broad problem that I see in western society in general. We tend to break things down into tiny fragments and examine the fragments, all the while missing the bigger picture -- straining out gnats and swallowing camels as Jesus put it. One quick example is Mark's claim that the book teaches modalism, and he pulls a statement out of the book that vaguely appears to support his claim. Yet on page 100, the Author's belief in the Trinity couldn't me more clear:
"We are not three gods, and we are not talking about one god with three attitudes, like a man who is a husband, father, and worker. I am one God and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely the one.

I could provide a counter point to nearly every objection raised, but I don't think that would change the minds of those who have already made a judgment call on the book. Even though there are a couple of things that I might disagree with in 'The Shack', I would still highly recommend it; not as a book that I would hand anyone and say 'This sums up my doctrinal beliefs'. Rather as a story that has the ability to let you get a glimpse of the Love our Father has for us.


Writing about this has reminded me about some of Jesus' words that really haunted me several years ago.

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
-- John 5:39-40

I was once a lot like Mark, and Dr. Mohler; sure that my 'doctrine' was correct, and confident that my correct doctrine insured that I was worshiping the right god. But the more I though about Jesus' words, the more uncomfortable I became with studying doctrine. Did doctrine transform my life? Did Jesus spend time making sure his disciples doctrine was in order? Did the pharisee's spend a great deal of time studying scripture, and did that make them right? For the time being, I've abandoned holding doctrinal positions; that may sound crazy, but I felt impressed by God to do so because doctrine was my graven image. It was the thing that had usurped God's place in my life. I know doctrine can be good, but there is a danger of boxing God in, creating a graven image, or making God subject to scripture with doctrine.


Barb said...

Rick, thanks for this. When I hear the bashing that the Shack is getting it is like hearing awful things about my husband after we left our "church". The only thing I can think to answer in both cases is, "You must not really know them. They are not like that at all." I am the first to say they are not perfect, people or books, but they are not the evil that people make them out to be. Could I be blind....yes. But I want to tell people to spend the time I have with each and then see what they say about it. Like you said though, their minds are made up.

Kirk said...

I linked over and listened to these critiques. I think to say that they just don't get it is understated by lots. On the other hand, to hear someone say they found the book "not all that captivating" is not surprising if the book says God really is that nice and really is worth loving for Himself and that person has the whole of their life hinged upon an angry, vengeful, ready to whack me God that just wants my obedience. These days when I see someone saying things like "undiluted heresy", "deeply troubling", "deeply subversive and seductive" and "grave grave problems", I just kind of give a sad shrug at what my bathroom mirror used to look at every morning.

To quote Paul Young, "he's just bringing what he has".


Adam Pastor said...


On the subject of the trinity,
I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor

Rick Gibson said...

I totally understand what you are saying, it saddens me to hear someone find the speck in their brothers eye then begin to tear them apart over it.

In a way, I'm envious of Dr. Mohler, he must have been spared the pain of a great sadness to not find the story captivating.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I did take a look at the link you posted. I find it interesting that it begins with the presupposition that the Trinity make no sense to human reason (logically invalid) and then begins to reason away some of the scriptural claims to Jesus' divinity while at the same time dismissing objections as 'human reason'. I thought there was a bit of irony in that. A few of their explanations were plausible, but many of them I found to be a stretch. So, I guess I'll continue to take divine references to Jesus at face value and live with the mystery.