The ShackA few months back, I posted an article from Tim Challies blog series “The Bestsellers” regarding William Paul Young's “The Shack”. I had commented on the book several time prior to posting Tim's article, basing my comments on the reviews of writers that I greatly respect, but up until that point, I had not read the book, nor did I have any desire to read the book.

However, I did make this comment on the article. “I said that I would never read the book. I am willing to revise that statement. If the author asked me to read it, I would do so.” While I did not receive a request to read it from Paul Young himself, I did receive the next best thing. (You can read the Facebook post here.)

A good friend of mine works for the agency that represents Paul Young and was gracious enough to send me a complimentary copy, for which I am grateful. I took time and read the book and here are my impressions.

First of all, all of my original comments regarding the book have not changed. If you care to read them, check out the comments on Tim's post. In fact, they have all just been confirmed.

Second, I was moved by the pain that Mack suffered. I have dear friends who lost a child, not to abduction and murder, but to a tragic accident and spent a lot of time with them during their grieving process and it is an excruciating experience. There is a definite need for comfort for those who have gone through this kind of pain. This book, while empathic, is woefully lacking in an accurate portrayal of God, in fact, bordering on heretical.

Third, the portrayal of God in “The Shack” is one that replaces the true nature and character of God with one that is steeped in self-importance. Mack is the focal point of the book and it seems that everyone capitulates to him. That role should have gone to the accurate portrayal of God.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I find this book not only theologically inaccurate, but totally unnecessary. We already have a book to tell us how God deals with tragedy in our lives. It's called the book of Job. Here we see God actually suggesting to Satan that he afflict Job. It was God's idea! Why? We can't know all of the reasons, but God certainly does and if He does not share them, He absolutely has the right to do so. My guess would be to show Satan that when God's Holy Spirit controls a man, that man will never turn away. Consider Job's word in Job 19:25-26:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,”

Remember, in a matter of minutes, Satan took Job's wealth, killed all of his children and eventually his health by covering his entire body with boils. It was so bad, Job's wife said, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9b) Wow! She must have had the gift of encouragement! It is in the very next verse we see, “But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10) That is a man confident in the true God.

As I said in previous comments, if you want to read “The Shack”, go ahead. It's not a bad story. In fact, it's better than reading about adulterous affairs and various and sundry other types of abominations, just don't get your theology from it. Make sure you are exercising your discernment fully in light of Scripture so you don't fall into it's abysmal theology.

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Speeches at Home and Abroad, page 71, Pilgrim Publications.

“The great object of our church teaching should be to educate efficient workersworkers filled with holy ardour, strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”

I was requested to address this meeting upon the subject of Christian work, and I will now, without further apologies or salutations, proceed at once to what I have to say.

Is it not God’s chief end in the conversion of sinners, and in the sanctification of his people, to promote his own glory by making each converted man and woman his instrument for enlarging his kingdom?

Not for ourselves alone does he give us grace. The design of our heavenly Father in all his gracious work for us, and in us, is, that we should become willingly his servants here, and in perfection his servants for ever above.

Should we not all of us press forward beyond the winning of personal security, to the desire that, by our influence, example, and labours, others may be turned from sin unto righteousness, and so be plucked as brands from the burning?


 

makingthecaseA little while ago I shared an article titled Abortion: Making the Case. This was a simple way to structure a discussion on abortion while anticipating common responses and objections. Since then I have had the opportunity to teach on abortion and I prepared a slideshow to go with my presentation. I am sharing that slideshow today in case you can benefit from it. It works just fine as a standalone—you can simply click through the slides and read them in order. I have also included the file in Keynote, Powerpoint, and PDF formats if you would like to download it and use it in any other setting.

You are free to download and adapt them for your own purposes. Note: The slideshow uses the font Museo Slab. It is available as a free download.

Alistair Begg

Too many leaders in the church begin their services with the question “How do you you feel, today?”. Honestly, what kind of question is that? If I relied on how I “feel”, I would question whether I was saved at all! Emotions and feelings are fickle at best and are not always based in reality. If an emotional response is not rooted in an objective truth, it cannot be trusted as reality.

Foundational truth at it's core must be objective in order to be standardized. That is where the Word Of God comes in. As the story of our God revealing Himself in history and ultimately through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Bible gives us a foundation upon which we can KNOW what is true and what is not.

This is a great clip from Alistair Begg on what we should ultimately base our Christian beliefs upon.

[youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYNBdrFR5Bo” autohide=”0″ fs=”1″ hd=”1″]

Let your knowledge of the truth lead your emotions. Not the other way around!

healthGallons of virtual ink have been spilled over the weekend as people have discussed the latest news in the ongoing saga of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church: both he and his church have been removed from Acts 29, the church-planting network he helped establish. This is only the latest incident in a long, steep, and very public decline. The news has been reported in Christian outlets, all over the local Seattle media, and as far afield as Huffington Post, TIME, and the Washington Post.

As the situation comes into focus through scandal after scandal, it becomes increasingly clear that there are, and always have been, systemic issues at Mars Hill. Many of those issues are directly related to the sins and weaknesses of the church’s founder and leader.

I am much too far outside the situation to comment on the particulars; there are many places you can go to get caught up and to learn details, with Wikipedia as good a place as any to begin. One area that I haven’t seen anyone explore yet is what the news means to the wider movement that has come to be known as New Calvinism. I want to think about how it pertains to the majority of us who know Driscoll only by association as a prominent voice in a movement we share. What should we learn from it?

The first I heard of Driscoll, at least to my recollection, was after the publication of his first book, The Radical Reformission. This—late 2004 or early 2005—was the time when most of us first heard his name, and when we began to read his books, to listen to his sermons, and to look him up on YouTube, even if only for sake of curiosity.

As I read his book in 2005, and followed it with Confessions of a Reformission Rev in 2006, I felt both admiration for what Driscoll taught and concern for how he taught it. I loved most of his theology, but was concerned about his coarseness.

In 2006 Driscoll was more formally introduced to the New Calvinism with his inclusion in the Desiring God National Conference and even then he was a controversial figure. When Piper invited him again in 2008 he recorded a short video to explain why he had extended the invitation. These words stand out: “I love Mark Driscoll’s theology.” While Piper did not deny the concerns, he loved Driscoll’s theology and loved what the Lord was doing through him.

Many of us felt the same way. We didn’t quite know what to think about the man, but we loved his theology. We loved what he believed because we believed most of the same things.

Bear with me as I artificially divide Driscoll’s ministry into three parts: theology (what he said), practice (how he said it) and results (what happened). So many of us had genuine concerns over the second part, but were willing to excuse or downplay them on the basis of the first and third. Yes, he was crude and yes, he sometimes said or did outrageous things, but he never wavered in publicly proclaiming the gospel and both his church and his church-planting movement continued to grow. We were confused. We did not have a clear category for this. We had concerns, but the Lord seemed to be using him. So we recommended his podcasts, or bought his books, even if we had to provide a small caveat each time.

In retrospect, I see this as a mark of immaturity in the New Calvinism, in what in that day was called the Young, Restless, Reformed. It was the young and the restless that allowed us to be so easily impressed. To large degree, we propelled Driscoll to fame through our admiration—even if it was hesitant admiration. (You can read an article I wrote in 2008, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mark Driscoll?, to see how I did this; reading it today, it seems awfully naive and immature, doesn’t it?)

In those early years I traveled to quite a few conferences and had the opportunity to hear from several of the church’s elder statesmen—men who have had long and faithful ministries within the church. At every conference Q&A someone would inevitably ask, “What am I supposed to think about Mark Driscoll?” I heard many answers, but time and again I heard mature leaders express concern. Many of them were convinced he did not meet the biblical qualifications to be a pastor and, therefore, should not be in ministry. Some of them said, with regret, that they were convinced his ministry would eventually and inevitably explode into scandal at some point.

At the time I was tempted to take this for pessimism or a curmudgeon’s spirit. But then Driscoll’s ministry exploded into scandal. Now I have to see it as wisdom—wisdom that comes from many years of observation and many years of searching the Scriptures. These men knew what we overlooked: Character is king.

When the Bible lays out qualifications to ministry, it is character that rules every time. The Bible says little about skill and less still about results. It heralds character. And from the early days, Mark Driscoll showed outstanding natural abilities which led to amazing results. He knew and proclaimed sound theology. But he also showed an absence of so many of the marks of godly character. A hundred testimonies from a hundred hurt friends and former church members shows that what we saw from the outside was only a dim reflection of what was happening on the inside. The signposts were there, but we ignored them.

The young and the restless are, I hope, growing up and settling down. A young movement responds eagerly to things a mature movement does not. I doubt we will see another Mark Driscoll anytime soon—someone known equally for crudeness and for gospel preaching. We get it now, I think. The two are incompatible.

It is my hope that an enduring lesson for the New Calvinism is that character matters. As Christians and as a movement, we need to allow this example to put to death any lingering pragmatism that judges the means by the results. Numerical growth and shared theology are wonderful, but insufficient. It is character that qualifies a man to ministry. God’s Word could hardly be clearer in this regard. Let’s allow this tragic situation to cause us to look with fresh eyes at the biblical qualifications for a man who would be a leader within the church. That would be the healthiest outcome for a movement that prides itself on health.