Thursday, September 18, 2008

caveat lector

There's been a lot of buzz about The Shack lately, and although I haven't read the book, I thought I would use this semi-public platform to make some information available.

From the commentary I've read, it's my opinion that there are some serious red flags with this book, and that Christians should be cautious about their response to it.

Here are a couple of good links for further info:

In-depth review from Tim Challies

Pastoral perspective from Pastor Walter Price

Or, if you like video reviews, here's Mark Driscoll (keep in mind that Driscoll is talking specifically about potential heresy concerning the Trinity):


Daniel Jackson said...

Mark Driscoll seems to miss the entire point of allegory and symbolic representation... Perhaps he should go back and re-read the Old Testament for examples of proper representations of [the lord] vs improper representations...

mle said...

I think Driscoll is responding to more than the text; he's responding to what people he's talked to have said they understand from the text. If the text is allegory, symbolic representation, . . . , well and good. But if someone is saying, "now that I read this book I understand the Trinity so much better," it's fitting for a pastor to clarify what's doctrine and what's not.

mle said...

And what were you thinking about for OT representations? (e-mail is good instead of comments, although the whole world may want to see this discussion; who knows)

Daniel Jackson said...

[The Lord] is represented in plenty of different ways in the OT: lover, King, Father... and that certainly expands in the New Testament, once we get Christ's trinitarian preaching.
Driscoll would be correct in his assessment if people were beginning to establish cults of the African-American-lady-goddess; but they aren't. Driscoll doesn't give his audience or readers of _the Shack_ nearly enough credit; he's insinuating that contemporary Christian readers are morons.

An incorrect representation of [the Lord] is a representation that becomes more important to you than his actual presence--i.e., Idolatry. I don't think that's what _the Shack_ is. Perhaps for some people it might be; but then, for some people, the metaphor of "Heavenly Father" has probably become an idolatrous one.

As a doctrine of the trinity, I'm sure the book isn't perfect: one of the most important things about doctrine is God's ineffability. If that's Driscoll's point, he's not making it very well--an ineffable and mysterious presence should be _more_ suitable for metaphorical representation than a concrete and easily understood presence. A successful metaphor represents something in an unfamiliar way, while simultaneously relating qualities of the subject that will seem familiar. I haven't read _the Shack_, but I'm sure that Young has picked his characters for those kinds of reasons (and not just because he knew it would upset traditionalists/get the feminists on his side.)
(Well, maybe there was a bit of that, too... but now we're talking about the author's intention, which isn't the point.)

Maybe Driscoll is right to assume that contemporary Christian readers are morons (I know I went straight for the video review rather than the other two articles...), but he's ranting, not offering any real teaching to fill in that gap.

mle said...

First off, it feels good to be using my brain after a week at school. :)

I think that you are putting too much weight on the concept of ineffability. God is not unknowable. He has provided us with a variety of representations of Himself in Scripture, but that is not a blank check to come up with any other kind of representation that we want.

Is He Shepherd? Yes. Bridegroom? Yes. God incarnate? Yes. Father? Yes. Spirit? Yes. The Door? Yes.

Does that in any way necessitate that He is also the earth mother, or that He has given us unlimited freedom to characterize and re-characterize Him at will?


We have incredible creative powers. But I don't think that they are properly used by repainting God to fit our own imaginations (especially when our re-paintings contradict His express Word). I think that that's just plain wrong.

Now, I will agree that Driscoll is over the top. Maybe I needed a bigger caveat on him. Driscoll is quite often over the top.

I was especially uncomfortable when he made a direct link between The Shack and goddess worship.

BUT ...

It's not an accident that, among the many descriptions of His character, God didn't give us a description of Himself as a warm fuzzy motherly woman.

Finally, a couple other points on the Driscoll video: (1) The YouTube clip is just a few minutes of a sermon, so we'd have to listen to the whole thing to see whether he provided actual positive teaching to fill in the gaps. (2) Many contemporary Christian readers are morons. And in my wanderings around the internet I've seen that confirmed specifically in reference to The Shack.

If you want a more in-depth critique, though, go with Challies.

(How have we managed to write so much in an argument about a book neither of us has read? We're letting school get to us, Dan.)

Daniel Jackson said...

I don't know if that's a ^_^ or a :(
Back to verb conjugations for me...

(Okay, I have to ask, what do you make of Christ's "Oh Jerusalem" address?)