Pastor Cary's Blog
A Brief Review of The Shack
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 Comments (0)
I finally read The Shack. Actually, I finished reading it a month ago and I am just getting around to blogging about it. Last time I checked it was still number 1 on the New York Times paperback fiction bestseller list.
I am not one of those who tell people not to read books. I have never been on the book banning wagon. I think that informed Christians should read a diversity of literature but read discerningly. We should filter ideas and worldviews espoused in all media through a biblical filter. Nevertheless, I would not buy this as a Christmas gift for anyone.
The Shack is a work of fiction and should be treated as such. We should never build our theology on works of fiction. That being said, it is obvious The Shack was written for the express purpose of communicating some ideas or at least illustrating some ideas about God. For instance, consider some of the quotes from the book’s cover. Eugene Peterson says, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” Michael W. Smith says, “The Shack is the most absorbing work of fiction I’ve read in many years. My wife and I laughed, cried, and repented of our own lack of faith along the way. The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God.”
After reading The Shack, I did not have the same experience as Peterson or Smith. My first impression was that it was just plain weird. God revealing himself as an African American woman (Papa) and a new-agey feeling Asian woman (Sarayu) is just weird. It was difficult for me to get into the story because of the weirdness. I guess I just can’t get over the male language used for God in the Bible.
There are many ideas communicated about God in this book that are cause for great concern. I will only mention a few. One heretical idea is the author’s belief that there is no hierarchy in the Trinity. Consider the following quote from page 122:
Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command or ‘great chain of being’ as your ancestors termed it. What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us. Actually, this is your problem, not ours.
1 Cor. 15:28 makes it quite clear that there is a hierarchy in the Trinity.
“Don’t ever think that what my son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly. Love always leaves a significant mark,” she stated softly and gently. “We were there together.”
Mack was surprised. “At the cross? Now wait, I thought you left him—you know—‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” It was a Scripture that had often haunted Mack in The Great Sadness.
“You misunderstand the mystery there. Regardless what he felt at that moment, I never left him.”
To interpret Jesus’ words from Matt. 27:46 to mean that Jesus only felt abandoned is a gross stretching of the text. Jesus was abandoned because he bore the sin of the whole world when he was on the cross. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). God poured out his wrath on the Son so that we could become the righteousness of God. Yes, it was total and complete abandonment. Why all the darkness and drama in the Matthew passage (Matt. 27:45-54)? The drama and the darkness was the result of the most glorious and holy God withdrawing himself from his Son.
I can understand why Young (the author) makes this mistake. He is interpreting Scripture from a therapeutic lens. I assume that Young wants to communicate the idea that God never abandons his children. Why mangle the Matthew passage with a weird interpretation when you could always go to Hebrews 13:5? Hebrews 13:5 communicates clearly the idea that God does not abandon his children. There are therapeutic benefits in being a child of God, however, we must not begin the interpretation process with a therapeutic benefit and then go searching the Scriptures to make them fit a particular benefit. In other words, we must let the Scripture speak for itself.
If you would like a more thorough examination and review of The Shack, I recommend you read Tim Challies’ review at the following link: http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/a-review-of-the-shack-download-it-here.php
I recommend reading The Shack so that you can understand some of the different ideas about God that are surfacing in our country. I do not, however, recommend that you embrace the ideas communicated in The Shack. Sola Scriptura—Scripture alone should be the final authority on matters of faith and practice and not a work of fiction however compelling or therapeutic it may be.
A Comforting Neighbor
Friday, October 24, 2008 Comments (0)
Jesus was very effective at stating the essentials in a few words. When asked by the finest legal minds of his time, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 22:36-40) The Great Commandment states the essentials of Christian living—loving God and loving people.
When it comes to loving my neighbors, I confess that I am often overwhelmed by the task. I breathe up the quick prayer, “How Lord?” while hoping that he really does not tell me how to love my neighbor because I just might have to do something that makes me uncomfortable. I just might have to get out of my comfortable La-Z-boy ™ and do something. I know, I know. Your “free” time is precious. You’re maxed out with little time for yourself. Join the crowd.
Paul answers the “how” question for us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
I love the first part of that passage. God comforts me in all my affliction. When it comes to the second part of that passage—the reason why God comforts me—I have a little difficulty. I am comforted so that I can comfort others. My difficulty is that I often feel ill equipped to comfort someone who may be afflicted in an area I know absolutely nothing about. I feel uncomfortable comforting them in that particular affliction. Yet, this passage says specifically that I am comforted so that I can “comfort those who are in any affliction.”
God does not give me the luxury of choosing which afflicted neighbors I comfort. God does the choosing. God’s choice is “any affliction.” Whether my neighbor struggles in the area of same-sex attraction, alcoholism, sexual addiction, overeating, parenting teenagers or obsessive-compulsive behaviors, I am given the ability by God to comfort them. I may or may not feel qualified or capable of providing someone comfort, however, that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not I will obey God and provide the comfort that He enabled me to give.
The ability to comfort others comes through the crucible of suffering. Even though my suffering may not be the same or as intense as my neighbor’s, God gives me the ability to comfort others with the very same comfort He gave to me. How does God make my comfort received applicable to someone else’s situation that may be radically different from my own? I do not know how neither do I need to know how God does this. I just know that He does it.
I encourage you to take a second look at your neighbors—your fellow church members, your co-workers, and the neighbors that live around you. Ask God to show you which neighbors need your comfort. As God reveals them to you, share some of your comfort with them. “Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” (2 Cor. 1:7) Are you a comforting neighbor?
Soli Deo Gloria!
U. S. Debt Clock Runs Out of Digits!
Thursday, October 09, 2008 Play Comments (0)
According to an article in the BBC news (Click on the enclosure link above), the United States Debt clock has run out of zeroes to record our spiraling debt! The article states, "Some economists believe the $700bn bail-out plan for ailing US financial institutions could send the national debt level to $11 trillion." This, of course, is just a reflection of a culture that is addicted to debt.
It is time that we as a nation repent of our sin of greed and dependence upon debt and turn back to God as the one who provides our needs. Consider the following scriptures:
The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives; (Psalm 37:21)
The rich rules over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)
We are a slave to the lender, and woe is the day when the lender comes to collect.
Soli Deo Gloria!
The Blessings of Economic Panic
Thursday, October 02, 2008 Comments (0)
I have included in this post the following article in its entirety. This article can be found on the Kairos website at the following link:
It brings out an aspect of the economic crisis that I believe is important to consider. Soli Deo Gloria!
The Blessings of Economic Panic
As September 2008 drew to a close, headlines screamed, “Stocks Plunge,” (New York Times), “Dark Monday,” and “Fear Grips Investors” (Chicago Tribune). Talk of another Great Depression and economic “cardiac arrest” filled the airwaves.
No doubt, these are sobering times, particularly for those who define heaven as material affluence and financial security. But for believers who count the nation’s spiritual health paramount, this scare may be a blessing in disguise.
In the fall of 1857, financial fears were rampant. “On the 14th of October . . . the extensive banking system of the United States of America collapsed . . .”1 “Shoe factories in new England closed their doors, and steel mills in Pennsylvania were out of work for months.”2 “On November 10th, crowds of riotous men assembled in Wall Street, threatening to force an entrance into the Treasury Building and Custom House to seize the $20,000,000 stored in the vaults.”3
The economy was near death, but God was very much alive. Through His servant, Jeremiah Lanphier, the Lord had begun a work on September 23. Having announced a noon prayer meeting at the Dutch Reformed Church on New York’s Fulton Street, he had only six takers that first day. The next week, 20 showed up, and the next, 30-40. Then, on the day of bank disaster, October 14, over 100 assembled at the church.4 Before long, thousands were meeting daily for prayer at various churches throughout the city. (For instance, 6,110 were counted on March 21, 1858.)5
Before the fires of revival cooled in 1858, city after city joined New Yorkers in noontime prayer. All told, over a million souls were added to the churches of America in this season of awakening.6
Who knows but that God will use the present fears to stir revival in the land. Whatever the Lord’s plans, surely His people should pray that not an ounce of the current anxiety would be wasted, but that God would use it all to turn the wayward and backslidden to Himself.
Does God Have Your Attention?
Wednesday, October 01, 2008 Comments (0)
I am not a prophet nor is this a prophetic pronouncement. It is just some of my musings concerning our current economic situation.
At our prayer meeting last week, some of us sensed that the Lord is using our economic situation to shake our country. It kind of makes sense if you think about it for a minute. What is the best way to get the attention of people living in the land of “economic opportunity?”
Politicians are quick to blame each other for the economic crisis. Rare is the politician who honestly admits his or her culpability in the crisis. They are blinded by the logs in their own eyes while they sanctimoniously point out the speck in the eyes of others.
God did not cause our economic crisis our greed did. Our problem in
Greed obviously has no place in the church yet we have “sanctified” our greed. We call it God’s “favor.” We justify our greed by proof texting verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)” God is not amused nor is He impressed by our theological gymnastics and perverting of His word.
I have no idea how bad our economic situation will become. It may get better. I simply do not know. I pray it gets better yet in my heart I am convicted of my own greed. God has my attention. Does He have yours? Join me in casting off the chains of greed (Repenting) and turning to the freedom of following the God who supplies all our need (not greed) according to His riches in glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 Comments (0)
Sometimes our discipleship of new believers is imbalanced. We are heavy on the nurture side and light on the challenge side or light on the nurture side and heavy on the challenge side. We usually attribute this imbalance to our personalities. We conveniently say things like, “I’m just a tough love kind of person” or “I’m just a caring person.” These excuses, however, do not pass biblical muster.
Soli Deo Gloria!
An Honest Atheist and Abortion
Monday, September 08, 2008 Comments (0)
Check out the opinion piece by Crispin Sartwell at the following link: "The fundamental right to choose." It is always refreshing to hear from an atheist who is intellectually honest. It seems that many prochoice people are not really prochoice at all.
Soli Deo Gloria!
The Creator's Collage of Community
Thursday, September 04, 2008 Comments (0)
Before the Creator created the earth, he enjoyed perfect community. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit preexisted in perfect oneness. The Godhead manifested this perfect oneness in creation. The Father said, “Let there be” and there was. The Holy Spirit hovered over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2). The Son was the means of creation and “all things were created through him and for him.” Yet the greatest manifestation of this creative dance of community was expressed when the Godhead said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Of all the wonderful things the imago dei encompasses, one of the most wonderful is we were created after the likeness of the Godhead who preexisted in perfect community. We were created, that is, for community.
It was and never has been good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). God created a helper fit for man thus setting in motion his perfect plan for a redemptive community. Through this creative act God gave us the community of marriage as the man and woman became one flesh. Through this creative act God gave us the community of family as he commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Through this creative act God began his story of redeeming a people for himself (Gen. 3:15) and gave us the community of the Church. When we isolate ourselves from our spouses (if married), from our families or from our local church community, we are fighting against the imago dei. We are fighting against God’s intention and design for us to live in community with each other.
God design for his redemptive community, the Church, is a collage. It is a community that consists of people from every nation, tribe and language (Rev. 7:9). It is a community that consists of people who previously practiced sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, stealing, greed, drunkenness, abusive language, defrauding and deceit (1 Cor. 6:9-11). The Church is a collage of people who not only come from different cultures, ethnic and family backgrounds the Church is a collage of people who come from different backgrounds of sin and brokenness. Obviously, this collage often leads to conflict and this conflict tempts us to isolate.
If we isolate ourselves from the redemptive collage of the church, then we not only lose the benefit of the comfort, support and accountability that comes with community we lose the sanctifying benefit of community. The Holy Spirit brings about our sanctification—our becoming conformed to the image of Christ—often through the conflict that comes through the collage. As we brush up against each other in the redemptive community and work through our conflicts and learn how to forgive and love, the Holy Spirit causes us to grow in Christ’s likeness. We sharpen one another in a redemptive sense (Proverbs 27:17). Isolation leads to stagnation. One must embrace the Creator’s collage of community in order to live and love well. As we embrace the Creator’s collage, the watching world discovers God’s redemptive community. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). As you gather in your redemptive communities this week, embrace the Creator’s collage.
Soli Deo Gloria!
© 2008, Cary M. Paulk
Don't Get Caught Up in the Hype
Saturday, August 30, 2008 Comments (0)
Both sides in the presidential race have chosen their running mates and now we are faced with making another important decision. Who do we vote for? As a pastor I do not endorse candidates from the pulpit, and I will not make an endorsement in this blog. I will, however, encourage you to make your decision wisely.
Let me encourage you not to get caught up in the hype of political campaigns. Both sides are guilty of hype. Look through the glitter and marketing and listen to what the candidates are actually saying. Determine what issues matter the most to you and listen closely to the candidates positions on those issues. Most importantly, do not check your Christian values at the door when you go to vote. It is absolutely imperative that you vote for the candidate that best represents your moral values. There are moral absolutes that we as Christians cannot compromise. If a candidate is fuzzy on absolutes such as abortion and gay marriage, that should be a red flag. It is also important that we consider the entire package of the candidate as well. I have seen many candidates who got the abortion and gay marriage issue correct yet they supported irresponsible policies that made it difficult for those in poverty to succeed. So, consider the whole package.
Remember, God is sovereign. Whoever occupies the oval office will not be a surprise to God. Remember also that God is not limited by the person who occupies the White House. I have heard it said many times before: God does not ride on the back of a donkey or an elephant. Pray for this election cycle and for our next president. But, please...Don't get caught up in the hype.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Passing the Baton
Friday, August 22, 2008 Comments (0)
Many of us watched with disbelief this week as both the men's and the women's U. S. 400 meter relay teams dropped the baton and failed to qualify for the finals in the Olympics. I felt sorry for those teams as the scene of them dropping the baton was replayed at least a half a dozen times. The team that wins the relay race is not necessarily the fasted or strongest. The team that wins the relay race is the team that transports that 2 ounce baton around the track before any other team. We can only speculate as to why both U. S. teams dropped the baton. Was it a curse? Was it just not their day? Or, was it a lack of preparation? We may never know.
There is a baton that the church passes on that is more important than the baton in a relay race. This is the baton of our faith. If we fail to pass our faith to the next generation, then the church dies. If you are in a church and there are more gray haired and white haired people than anyone else, then it is reasonable to conclude that the church is not doing well in passing on the baton of faith. I do not have anything against grey haired or white haired folks, of course, because I happen to be one of them. If our churches are going to continue to thrive, however, we must successfully pass on the baton of faith to future generations.
If we are not doing well at passing the baton and our congregations are getting grayer and smaller, then we have to ask the Lord why? Are we not prepared? And if we are not prepared, how can we prepare? Psalm 48:9 says, "We have thought on [meditated] your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple." Why do we meditate on the steadfast love of God? Psalm 48:13-14 answers, "That you may tell the next generation that this is our God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever." We meditate, think on, ponder, contemplate, picture in our hearts and minds the steadfast, unfailing covenant love of God at work in our lives so that we can tell the next generation--so that we can pass on the baton of our faith. By soaking in the truth of the covenant love of God as revealed in his Word, we can be prepared to pass on our faith to the next generation.
Soli Deo Gloria!
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