The Problem with “The Shack”

I heard about the novel The Shack about a year and a half ago. I was not too interested in reading it at the time because I had dozens of other books on my to-read list and thought it would simply be a waste of time. Well, as an avid follower of the happenings of North American Christianity, it was not too long before I started to hear more and more about The Shack. The success of the book (over 7 million copies sold at this time) eventually forced me to take a closer look. Instead of starting off by reading the book, I surfed the net to see what others were saying about this publishing phenomenon. Most of what I read greatly concerned me. I also listen to Dr. Albert Mohler’s radio program where he devoted one of his episodes to the book. He explained many of his concerns with it and described parts of the book as “blatant heresy.” Well, even after taking a look at what discerning folks were saying about the book, I still did not get around to reading the book for several months. That is until, at the urging of Janet Clabaugh, I finally went down to the local library and took out a copy of The Shack. I was not surprised to find that many aspects of the book disturbed me and even shocked me. Ever since then(4 or 5 months ago), I have been meaning to write a book review on The Shack but have not got around to it. The bottom line with the book is that even though it is a story that has connected with a lot of Christian people, the book is full of heresy. If you do choose to read the book, please be prayerful and discerning as you read it. Some of the heresy is very subtle and hard to spot, so read it carefully!

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

On Dr. Michael Youssef’s website (leadingtheway.org), he lists 13 heresies in The Shack. Here they are:

1. God the Father was crucified with Jesus.

Because God’s eyes are pure and cannot look upon sin, the Bible says that God would not look upon His own beloved Son as He hung on the Cross, carrying our sins (Habakkuk 1:13; Matthew 27:45).

2. God is limited by His love and cannot practice justice.

The Bible declares that God’s love and His justice are two sides of the same coin — equally a part of the personality and the character of God (Isaiah 61:8; Hosea 2:19).

3. On the Cross, God forgave all of humanity, whether they repent or not. Some choose a relationship with Him, but He forgives them all regardless.

Jesus explained that only those who come to Him will be saved (John 14:6).

4. Hierarchical structures, whether they are in the Church or in the government, are evil.

Our God is a God of order (Job 25:2).

5. God will never judge people for their sins.

The Word of God repeatedly invites people to escape from the judgment of God by believing in Jesus Christ, His Son (Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-3).

6. There is not a hierarchical structure in the Godhead, just a circle of unity.

The Bible says that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father. This doesn’t mean that one Person is higher or better than the other; just unique. Jesus said, “I came to do the will of Him who sent me. I am here to obey my Father.” Jesus also said, “I will send you the Holy Spirit” (John 4:34, 6:44, 14:26, 15:26).

7. God submits to human wishes and choices.

Far from God submitting to us, Jesus said, “Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.” We are to submit to Him in all things, for His glory and because of what He has accomplished for us (Matthew 7:13-15).

8. Justice will never take place because of love.

The Bible teaches that when God’s love is rejected, and when the offer of salvation and forgiveness is rejected, justice must take place or God has sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for nothing (Matthew 12:20; Romans 3:25-26).

9. There is no such a thing as eternal judgment or torment in hell.

Jesus’ own description of hell is vivid … it cannot be denied (Luke 12:5, 16:23).

10. Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God, and it doesn’t matter which way you get to Him.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one will come to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

11. Jesus is constantly being transformed along with us.

Jesus, who dwells in the splendor of heaven, sits at the right hand of God, reigning and ruling the universe. The Bible says, “In Him there is no change, for He is yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 11:12, 13:8; James 1:17).

12. There is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because everyone will make it to heaven.

Jesus said, “Only those who believe in me will have eternal life” (John 3:15, 3:36, 5:24, 6:40).

13. The Bible is not true because it reduces God to paper.

The Bible is God-breathed. Sure, there were many men through 1,800 years who put pen to paper (so to speak), each from different professions and different backgrounds, but the Holy Spirit infused their work with God’s words. These men were writing the same message from Genesis to Revelation. If you want to read more about the place of Christ in the Scripture, read “We Preach Christ” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Pastors Newsletter – August 2009

It is hard to believe that July has already come and gone, but as we look back on the month that was, we once again see God’s faithfulness. At our annual Ice Cream Social, more than 200 people from around our area came through the doors of Hope Church and feasted on the food and ice cream. No doubt many of those people do not know the joy of the Lord and we will continue to pray that God would use the people of our church to reach them. Later on in the month, we had a special service at the Crawford County fair, which was also well attended. Please pray that God would continue to expand the reach of the ministry of Hope Church in order that many more would come to delight in our great God and King and follow Jesus wherever He leads us.

As we look ahead to August, we are excited about our Lowmiller’s pond service on the 16th and Kid’s Day on the 30th. Please consider inviting friends and family members to these events. For Kid’s day, a familiar face will be joining us (that being Walt Keib) and we are praying that many kids from around the area will also join us for that special day. The fall is also fast approaching. Before we know it, the kids will be back in school and the summer will be over (sorry if that’s depressing to you). We will also have many exciting things going on in the fall and I pray that God would use them mightily and for His great glory.

As often as I can, I try to remind us of our mission as a church:

“Hope Church exists to glorify God by learning, following, and sharing the Word of God and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, both locally and globally, through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.”

This little statement, communicates a tremendous amount. First off, we are here for God. It’s not about us – we are intended for God and exist to bring Him glory. Secondly, the Word of God is central to all that we do as a church. If this ever ceases to be the reality at Hope, we will die as a church. Thirdly, we desire to spread the gospel message all over this area, and to the far reaches of the world. Finally, the only way any of this can be accomplished is through the power of the Holy Spirit. May you have a wonderful month and stay close to the Lord Jesus.

Happy Birthday John Calvin!

July 10th marked the 500 anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. If you are wondering who John Calvin is and what is significant about his life, here is a short biography.

Calvin, John (1509–1564). French reformer and founder of Calvinism. Educated at the College de Montague, Calvin became a Protestant while still a student. By the 1530s he was caught up in the Reformation movement. He was forced to leave Paris along with his friend, Nicholas Cop, rector of the University of Paris, because of their attack on the church and a call for Lutheran reform. For the next three years he was on the run, but he used his literary talents during this time on behalf of the Protestant cause. In 1534 Olivetan’s French translation of the Bible appeared with a preface by Calvin. In 1535 he fled to Basel, where he published one of his most important works, Christianae Religionis Institututio (1536), a short summary of the Christian faith and an able exposition of Reformers’ doctrines.

On passing through Geneva, Calvin was persuaded by Guillaume Farel to assist in organizing the Reformation in that city. The articles they drew up organizing worship met with considerable opposition because they imposed ecclesiastical discipline and used excommunication as an instrument of social policy. Forced to leave the city, Calvin spent the next three years at the invitation of Martin Bucer as pastor to the French congregation at Strasbourg. Here he expanded the Institutes, wrote a Commentary on Romans (1539), and took part in the colloquies with Lutherans and Roman Catholics at Worms and Regensburg. In 1541 he returned to Geneva at the invitation of the city council. His ecclesiastical ordinances for establishing a Christian social and political order were approved by the city council. They established four ministries within the church—pastors, doctors, elders, and deacons—introduced vernacular catechisms and liturgy, and set up a consistory of 12 elders to enforce morality. His goal was to make Geneva a “holy city,” a Christian commonwealth in practice as well as doctrine.

In 1559 Calvin established the Genevan Academy for the training of his followers. Although there was constant opposition from the pleasure-loving Genevans against Calvin’s measures, he was not deterred from his mission. At the same time, Calvin helped to make the civil laws more humane, established a universal system of education for the young, and promoted the public care of the old, the poor, and the infirm. Geneva gained a reputation as a haven for all persecuted Protestants who flocked in from many countries. From Geneva they returned home as missionaries for the propagation of Calvinist ideas and reforms. Thus the name of Calvin was scattered all over Europe, and he became one of the dominant figures of the Reformation in the mid 1600s. Meanwhile, Calvin was busy producing commentaries on 23 books of the Old Testament and on all books of the New Testament except the Revelation in addition to pamphlets and collections of sermons. By 1559 the Institutes had been revised five times and expanded from a book of six chapters into four books with a total of 79 chapters. It was also translated from Latin into French, and its French edition became a literary classic.

Calvin left a legacy that transcended theology. Calvinism was a complex set of ideas whose ramifications extended into society, politics, and economics as well as theology. He was a warm and humane person fully committed to the Word of God in everything he did. As a religious statesman, a logical and seminal thinker, a formidable controversialist, and a biblical exegete, he had few peers in his generation or in the centuries since.

George Thomas Kurian, Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary: The Authoritative Resource on the Christian World (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pubs., 2001).

Answer by: Joseph R. Nally, Theological Editor, on behalf of the staff at IIIM.

Pastors Newsletter – July 2009

I absolutely love the summer! It is my favorite season of the year and this month is going to be great! It is also going to be a busy month for Hope Church. Just to run through the calendar, we have our monthly potluck on July 5th, the Ice Cream social is on July 9th, the Crawford County fair service is on July 19th, and Ted Evans will be our guest preacher on July 26th. So it will be a busy month, but I am excited to see what our great God and King does over the course of this month. Friends, God is moving in mighty ways – are you on-board with His agenda?

I would also like to mention that this is a special month in that it marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of the great reformer, John Calvin. Even though Calvin is one of the most influential men in history, most people are unaware of the significance of his life and many have misconceptions about his teachings. On our July 12th service , I am going to try to answer the question, “Who was John Calvin and What is Reformed theology?” It is not an easy task to answer those two huge questions but I know it will prove to be a fruitful study.

If you have been paying attention to the news lately, you will have probably noticed that there has been a lot of high profile deaths lately. The deaths of TV personality Ed McMahon, actress Farrah Fawcett, pop star Michael Jackson, and salesman Billy Mays have dominated the news media in recent weeks. Closer to home, Skip Rox, friend of Steve and Cyndi Solinger, went home to be with the Lord this past Tuesday. It has been said that most of society lives in denial of death. Oh sure, we know the statistics that 1 out of 1 dies, but we convince ourselves that we don’t have to worry about death. I fear that even during this time where we are hearing more about “death” in the news than usual, that most people will not stop and ask the hard questions about death. Does how I live in the here and now actually matter for eternity? If I died today would I be ready to meet my Maker? Am I truly living for something bigger and greater than my own little kingdom? Folks, it is my prayer that the people of Hope Church would ask these kinds of questions of themselves and also be concerned for their friends who, perhaps, are not asking these kinds of questions. We just never know when our time on this earth will end. Are you making this day count for eternity?

HELPFUL TIPS FOR READING THE BIBLE

1 . OBSERVATION

7 STRATEGIES TO FIRST-RATE READING:

1. Read Thoughtfully – don’t be afraid to put your thinking cap on
2. Read Repeatedly – read it over and over and over and over till you get it
3. Read Patiently – good bible study does take time and we need to be patient with it
4. Read Critically – ask: who?, what?, where?, when?, why?
5. Read Prayerfully – this is key – pray, “Lord, teach me through you Word.”
6. Read Meditatively – reflect on the text, chew on it, dwell in it, so that you can act on it
7. Read Purposefully – purposeful reading looks for the aim of the author

6 THINGS TO LOOK FOR:

1. Things that are emphasized
2. Things that are repeated
3. Things that are related
4. Things that are alike, and unlike
5. Things that are true to life
6. The big picture perspective

2. INTERPRETATION

5 KEYS TO INTERPRETATION:

1. Content – if you have correctly done the work of “observation”, this will be easy
2. Context – look for the literary, historical, cultural, geographic, and theological context
3. Comparison – in short, we compare scripture with scripture
4. Culture – does the cultural setting have any effect on the meaning of the text?
5. Consultation – this involves the use of secondary resources

3. APPLICATION

8 QUESTIONS TO ASK:
1. Is there an example for me to follow?
2. Is there a sin to avoid?
3. Is there a promise to claim?
4. Is there a prayer to repeat?
5. Is there a command to obey?
6. Is there a condition to meet?
7. Is there a verse to memorize?
8. Is there a challenge to face?

Adapted from Howard Hendricks’ book “Living By The Book”

Pastors Newsletter – June 2009

Greetings to everyone in the Hope Church family. It is hard to believe that the summer is here and that we are already into the month of June. I must admit that I am very excited about the summer and all that it holds. As I reflect back on the first few months of 2009, it is so clear that God is powerfully at work in our church. I sense a growing hunger among the people of Hope Church to know and understand the Word of God. I see a desire to live more and more like Jesus every day. And I am witnessing a growing love for the people around us and a desire to serve others and spread the love of Jesus Christ to a hurting world. It is this reality that excites me and gives me great hope for this summer and beyond.

As we survey the world around us, it would be easy to get discouraged. The current administration continues to disappoint us and some are probably wondering if the recession will ever end. We recently learned that the GM plant in Mansfield will be closing in June 2010 which will no doubt deal a blow to the local economy. I want to encourage you to seek the Lord and trust him with your life. Yes, we do not know what the future holds, but if you are walking with Jesus day by day, you have nothing to worry about because He will take care of you. Did you know that in the Bible, we read the words, “fear not” 365 times? I think God knew we would need that assurance every day of the year. I also want to remind you of the incredible opportunity we have as a church. In these difficult times, people are searching for hope. We need to take advantage of these opportunities and show them the love of Jesus Christ. And in their search for hope, we need to pray that many would find the doors to Hope Church. We know what the hope of the world is and what a great privilege it would be to help rescue those who are perishing. Do you love you friends enough to tell them about Jesus Christ? I want to finish by reminding you of our mission as a church.

“Hope Church exists to glorify God by learning, following, and sharing the Word of God and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, both locally and globally, through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.”

What is a Healthy Church Member?

1. A Healthy Church Member is an Expositional Listener

Expositional listening is listening for the meaning of a passage of Scripture and accepting that meaning as the main idea to be grasped for our personal and corporate lives as Christians.

2. A Healthy Church Member is a Biblical Theologian

The Bible is God’s self-revelation. So to practice biblical theology is to know God himself and to be committed to understanding the grand themes and doctrines of the Bible.

3. A Healthy Church Member is Gospel Saturated

We not only understand the gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ) but we memorize the gospel, pray the gospel, sing the gospel, review how the gospel has changed us, and study the gospel.

4. A Healthy Church Member is Genuinely Converted

In conversion the Spirit grants the twin graces of repentance and faith to sinners who turn from their sin and turn to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

5. A Healthy Church Member is a Biblical Evangelist

Every true Christian will have a desire to share with others the gospel message which includes: 1. The Holiness of the sovereign God, 2. The sinfulness of man and the judgment due him, 3. The need of man for a new heart and perfect righteousness, 4. The fact the only Jesus Christ has provided the righteousness we need, 5. The need to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance.

6. A Healthy Church Member is a Committed Member

A healthy church member understands the value of being committed to a local church and the importance of using their gifts and abilities for the glory of God.

7. A Healthy Church Member Seeks Discipline

Discipline is about education and learning, order and growth. It is discipline in the life of the congregation and the healthy church member that provides the atmosphere for growth and development that leads to the rare polished jewel of Christlikeness.

8. A Healthy Church Member is a Growing Disciple

Hebrews 6:1 exhorts us to “leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.” God never intends for us to stay the same and never grow. Rather, He intends that we pursue holiness and righteousness and to be Spirit-filled.

9. A Healthy Church Member is a Humble Follower

A healthy church member honors the elders, shows open-hearted love to their leaders, is teachable, obeys and submits to leaders, follows the leaders’ example, and prays for their leaders.

10. A Healthy Church Member is a Prayer Warrior

Pray constantly, pray in the Spirit, pray for laborers and shepherds, pray for all the saints, pray for those in authority, and pray for those who abuse and persecute you.

Taken from Thabiti Anyabwile’s book, What is a Healthy Church Member?