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.

WWUTT

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To Atheists who had been commenting on this video:

“How can you say I know there is a God?”

Because the Bible says so, and that is a solid answer. In line with scripture, because all things are the result of creation, the evidence is inescapable. You cannot even function in the world without accepting it on some level, whether you are conscious of that acceptance or not. A person can no more deny the existence of God than a Mac can gain sentience and deny the existence of Steve Jobs. Such an intelligence would actually have to refuse to think in order to make that assertion, right? You know the evidence. You just refuse to receive it. (Psalm 92:5-6)

“How would you like it if I said you don't believe in God?”

If it's mindless to say there is no creator, then it's mindless to turn the argument around and say we don't believe in one. Atheism is empirically inadequate. You cannot experience atheism. You cannot observe something coming from nothing. You cannot witness anything happening uncaused. It has no basis in reality. Whereas a person who believes in God can point to the evidence of creation everywhere. The computer, phone, or tablet you're reading this from? Created.

“But those are man-made objects you say prove creation.”

Say we asked you to give us an example of something coming into existence by accident, and you point to the universe. Then you ask us to give an example of creation, and we also point to the universe. Neither of us can witness its beginning. So we have to shrink our answers down to that which can be observed, tested, and experienced. Every single example from then on out will always point to a creator. If you can see the evidence of God in those things, you'll see it applies to the whole universe (Psalm 8:3-4).

“Oh yeah? Well here's a video that totally refutes yours!”

Implied Creator Paradox. You're actually affirming our argument that creation evidence is everywhere. It's not possible for you to refute anything in our video. You can be defiant, and that's it.

“Well if you were to flip a coin 1000 times…”

Implied Creator Paradox again.

“Okay, fine! Here's a sternly worded 450 word response!”

Implied Creator Paradox.

“Stop saying that!”

Stop implying a creator. Can an author write a story of a world with no God? The irony is that there is a god. It's him. You would not be able to read and fully deny the author's influence.

“Alright, then who created God?”

Unlike our Steve Jobs or author examples, God is eternal. He is uncaused with no beginning and no end. Only that which is caused requires an explanation for a beginning. You demand an origin story for God and think it's a solid rebuttal because you cannot discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).

“Okay, then have your God give us a demonstration.”

He already did. And then responded to those who said they wanted a better sign than that (Matthew 16:1-4).

“Stop quoting scripture to me!”

This is our channel. If you don't want scripture quoted to you, troll someone else's channel. There's no truth to be found except by the Word of God. (Psalm 119:160)

“Why are you not answering my question?”

We responded to a few, but we're not exactly in the habit of lending ourselves to responding to persons who only want to quarrel. We're always welcoming of those who seek answers, but that wasn't the nature of the comments we were receiving. If you want to contact us, our website is http://www.wwutt.com.

“HOW DARE YOU CALL ATHEISTS REACTIONARY!!!!!!”

If the all-caps seem like a straw-man, that's pretty mild compared to comments we received. We're fine with criticism. But the tactlessness was out of hand. We had so many f-bombs, including being told that we won the *F-er* of the Year Award. Someone told our team we needed to kill ourselves. One guy who makes atheist videos and gets millions of views kept coming back to comment on ours. Another gal made an angry video response when we barely even had a hundred views (thanks for the traffic, by the way). Comment after comment affirmed everything we said in this video, especially that “some” atheists are reactionary.

“How can we know who the creator is or what he wants?”

The Bible. Tried and true. If you read scripture with a discerning spirit, seeking God with all of your heart, you'll know to repent of your sins, your defiant attitude, willfully rebellious against God, and follow Christ. Then you will be saved from God's wrath burning against all unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Whoever has the Son has life. Whoever does not have the Son does not have life but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36). Yet he is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9). God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).

All of the above are taken from actual comments. Thank you for reading. And watching! And subscribing and sharing our videos!

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Phil back in February 2012. Phil showed the sharp contrast between Paul's charge to Timothy and Titus, and current notions of “being missional.”

As usual, the comments are closed.

In all of Paul's instructions to Timothy and Titus, there is not an ounce of encouragement for the person who thinks innovation is the key to an effective ministry philosophy.

Much less is there any room for the pulpiteers of today who like to exegete the latest movies, or preach on moral lessons drawn from television sitcoms, or build their sermons on themes borrowed from popular culture. You know what I mean: the kind of preachers who insist they are being “missional” when they are merely being worldly.

Still less is there any warrant for the celebrity rock-star pastor who continually makes himself the focus of his preaching. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). “Necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Paul's focus is extremely narrow—stiflingly narrow for the typical young-and-restless church planter for whom “style” is everything; and whose style (let's be honest) is conspicuously dictated by secular fashion rather than by the worldview Paul was exhorting Timothy to embrace.

Preach the word.” That's the centerpiece and the key to everything Paul tells Timothy about how to shepherd God's flock. That command is followed immediately by a second imperative that simply makes the first one more emphatic: “Be ready in season and out of season.” The Greek verb means “stand by,” and it does have the sense of readiness. (In fact, in radio, that is exactly what the expression “stand by” means: “Be ready.” But the word Paul uses is richer and stronger than that.) It also carries the connotation of expressions like: “take a stand,” “stand upon it,” “stick to it,” “stand up to it,” or simply “carry on.”

Paul is urging Timothy to be absolutely, unswervingly devoted to the truth of the Word and to the task of proclaiming it. “Stand firm, and stand ready. Keep at the task, no matter what.” That's the idea. And the proof is in the rest of the phrase: “Be ready in season and out of season”—literally, “when it's timely and when it's untimely”: when it's popular and when it's not.

Or to contextualize the phrase for the current crop of evangelical fashionistas: Preach the Word even when preaching the Word seems hopelessly uncool and unstylish.

The expression is ambiguous as to whether Timothy or his audience is the barometer declaring what's “in season [or] out of season.” It doesn't matter. Regardless of how you or your audience—or anyone else—feels about it, keep preaching the Word.

Preach the word whether the timing seems opportune or awkward. Preach it whether it's convenient or inconvenient. Preach it whether you feel like it or not. Preach it whether the door is open or closed. Preach it no matter how much resistance you encounter. Preach it whether or not people say they want it. Preach it—and make it the heart and soul of your ministry strategy—no matter how many church-growth experts tell you otherwise.

Paul goes on to give several more imperatives, and all of them expand on or modify this initial command: “Preach the Word.”


Outrage Porn

Outrage sells. It’s plain as day. If eyeballs on articles are the currency of new media, there are few things that attract those eyeballs more effectively than outrage. In the wider cultural context of new media there is always lots to work with: Alec Baldwin’s homophobia, Steve Martin’s racism, Patton Oswalt’s insensitivity. It goes on and on. There is always someone saying something dumb or unwise, and new media’s response is immediate, fiery indignation.

We as Christians are also easily outraged. Sometimes we seem to forget that we are sinful people living in a sin-stained world and that sinners—even saved ones—will behave like sinners. Sometimes we appear to hold the people we admire (or admired) to the impossible standard of perfection. We don’t mind if our historical heroes are deeply flawed, but we can barely tolerate the slightest imperfection in our contemporary heroes. When they fail, or even when they falter, we respond with, you guessed it: outrage. For a few days we light the torches and lift the pitchforks in our empty protests. And then we move on.

[Aside: I wrote this article last week, so don’t think that any event that happened this week was the catalyst.]

A new term is entering the lexicon to describe this phenomenon. They call it outrage porn. Like pornography, this kind of outrage is ultimately self-centered and self-gratifying. One person calls it “self-gratification through feigned indignation.” Even when it isn’t feigned, there is still that element of selfishness, of self-pleasure, in it. The outrage isn’t for them, it’s for us. We feel better for having done it, for having participated in it. It is expiating in a sick sense. With the outrage behind me, I am satisfied that I have done my bit, and now I can move on to the next thing. Expressing outrage is almost a kind of brand loyalty—we are outraged together in this common cause.

I know it because I’ve done it. I know it because, as a blogger, I am especially prone to it. If we really are in an attention economy in which eyeballs on articles are our primary currency, then I, as the proprietor of a web site, will find myself tempted to do whatever it takes to attract those eyeballs. I’ve done it and it has worked. It works because I, as the writer, want it, and it works because you, as the reader, want it. We’re in this together.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are times for controlled outrage and indignation. Absolutely there are. Jesus walked into the temple and was full of the most righteous indignation as he turned over tables and scattered coins. His outrage was pure and holy and good and purposeful. When Jesus saw the disciples turning away children, denying them a blessing, he was “indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’ ” (Mark 10:14). Here it would have been a sin for him to not be outraged.

There are times for outrage. There are times to turn away from leaders who have proven themselves unworthy or unfaithful. There are times to expose the charlatan or the unfaithful and to make a fuss and to raise an outcry for the sake of distancing ourselves and protecting others. But it’s not every time. It’s not all the time.

There is a cost to our outrage porn. Ryan Holliday says, “What is real is the toll that fake outrage takes. Psychologists call it the ‘narcotizing dysfunction,’ essentially that thinking and chattering about something eventually gets confused and equated with doing something about it. Of course it doesn’t—but after enough blog posts we delude ourselves into believing we’ve made a difference.” This is similar to what Neil Postman warned us about all those years ago: That the modern news cycle gives us information we can do nothing about, so that while we feel all kinds of emotion, we actually do nothing at all. Airing your grievances is not the same as taking action any more than looking at pornography is making love to your wife.

But there may be a greater cost: when we are outraged about every little matter, we lose our ability to be outraged about the most important matters. When we respond with outrage to every little offense, eventually we become hardened to the things that actually matter. If everything is outrageous, nothing is outrageous.

The fact is, so much Internet-based outrage is manufactured outrage, carefully structured to achieve the end of luring eyeballs to articles. This is the worst kind of outrage because it is designed to attract readers, not to bring about change. It serves us, not the other person and not the church or the Lord of the church. And in that way, the “porn” label fits it very well.

Almost everyone knows by now about the Jason Collins situation. (For those who aren't familiar, he's the first openly gay player in a major professional sport. He announced his sexual preference last week.) Chris Broussard, a longtime NBA analyst, said how he believes homosexuality is sin (along with other sins like sex before marriage, etc). Christians rallied to his side because he had the courage to say these things on ESPN thus putting his job in jeopardy. ESPN is also part of one of the most politically correct TV organizations in history.

Not surprising, a lot of people also took issue with his stance. Apparently, this includes the Breakfast Club crew at 105.1FM. They asked him on the show to talk about his beliefs, and the result… well… it's pretty amazing. Broussard goes on their show and gives a great apologetic for what he believes including Scripture and a discussion on the application of ceremonial laws. The crew, trying to trap him a few times, are left uncharacteristically speechless. That is… speechless until Broussard is off the phone. That's when “DJ Envy” decides it's safe for him to voice his opinion. A cowardly move, yes, but it's a typical response and familiar to anyone who has ever moderated comments for a Christian video on Youtube. The comment section of the video is interesting, too, though I wouldn't recommend reading it because some of it is pretty disgusting. The summary: There is very colorful language, but most of the people there are criticizing DJ Envy for taking a swipe at Broussard after the phone call ended and not dealing with what he said. We live in an amusing age. See below for the full interview.