Posted by: reformedmusings | January 8, 2009

‘The Shack’ taken to the woodshed

At our Presbytery Credentials Committee meeting today, the subject of the heretical book The Shack came up. I’d thankfully never heard of it before. Providentially, when I returned home this afternoon, I found an email from Eric over at Borg Blog referring to a post over at GreenBaggins.

Lane at GreenBaggins does an excellent job contrasting the heresy of The Shack with the book of Job in the Bible. I’ll leave the gory details to Lane. Whereas The Shack portrays a whiny, weak god defending the way things are to a mere creature, our true God recounted in Job is all loving, perfectly holy, all powerful, perfectly just, and absolutely sovereign. Man is measured against God’s holy standard, not the other way around. Man has no standing from which to critique our sovereign Creator.

The Shack has some common elements with another harmful book that was popular several decades ago: Why Bad Things Happen To Good People. Like Young in The Shack, Rabbi Kushner’s god is good but not all powerful. Therefore, although he can feel your pain, he cannot help you. The formal theological phrase would be something like: “Gee, that’s too bad. Feel for you. Later, dude.” Praying to such a god would be worse than useless, it would be a waste of time. If I want a drinking buddy, I’ll go to the pub, eh?

I’ve had to counsel a number of people over the years to help them get past the gross errors in Kushner’s book. If our God is not all powerful and cannot help us, then what’s the point? One’s sense of hopelessness only deepens the more one meditates on that nonsense. No, we pray to God because He is in control and He loves us. Romans 8:28 clearly tells us that although we don’t know or understand why things happen, God uses all things to sanctify His elect, conforming them over time to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) that we may spend a glorious eternity with Him.

Books like Kushner’s and Young’s appeal to the natural human desire to bring God down to our level. In essence, that makes God one of us – not in the incarnational sense, but in the ontological sense. The Jesus movement of the 70’s exemplified this with lyrics like “Jesus is just my friend”. The poem on the back of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung album accurately reflects the cynicism that inevitably results, providing a classically idolatrous narrative. It starts:

1 In the beginning, man created god.
and in the image of Man
created he him.

2 And Man gave unto God a multitude of
names,that he might be Lord of all
the earth when it was suited to Man.

3 And on the seven millionth
day Man rested and did lean
heavily on his God and saw that
it was good.

“…when it was suited to Man.” This may make those who will not abandon their sin comfortable, but it also leaves them hopeless and condemned for eternity. And, those who buy into this drivel are in for a rude surprise when they close their eyes for the last time. Contrast this foolishness with the divine wisdom found in Isaiah 44:9-20:

9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.
10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?
11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint.
13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house.
14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.
15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it.
16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!”
17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.
19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”
20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

So what really happened when men encountered God face-to-face, so to speak, in the Bible? They fell flat on their faces before Him (e.g., Exodus 3:6; Rev 1:17). They instantly recognized their deep sinfulness contrasted against God’s holy perfection (Isaiah 6:5; Luke 5:8). Not once in the Bible did someone who met God shake His hand and ask about the miracle of the 1969 Mets.

Two of the best and most accessible books on God’s nature are Dr. R. C. Sproul, Sr.’s The Holiness of God and Dr. J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. These present readable and accurate Biblical descriptions of our loving, almighty Creator that contrasts sharply with the wimpy, human-created gods of Kushner and Young. Do yourself an eternal favor, skip over the junk and read Sproul and Packer.

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