Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Plead with your mother, PLEAD"

How to Approach a Church Heading Into Apostasy

“Plead with your mother, plead:
for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband:
let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight,
and her adulteries from between her breasts.”
(Hosea 2:2)

Jeremiah Burroughs, who was a minister of the Gospel in the 1600s, authored an extensive commentary on the book of Hosea titled An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea.[1] This massive work has been republished in our era in an 8 ½ X 11 book over an inch and a half thick, with tiny script to boot! Yet it is a precious gem for our era, a profitable exercise in eating the solid meat of the Word. Plus, it permits us a peek into the sunshine and shadows of the Reformation 100 years after its inception, when persecution was subsiding and complacency and worldliness were settling all-too-comfortably into the church.

The book of Hosea is a study for our times. Hosea's wife is an intense illustration of how individuals and churches leave their First Love and wander off pursuing lovers and lusts, passions and idolatries. Burroughs’ commentary on the phrase “Plead with your mother, plead” is insightful and pertinent to those who find themselves in the rapidly apostatizing churches of today. May you find the excerpts below to be both encouragement and admonition.

Note: the English is old style. To assist the reader with obscure words, we have included a bracket with a modern definition and linked to a dictionary. We have also taken a few minor liberties to reformat the text for easier readability in a blog format.

Plead, Litigate, so some, Contendite, Strive; the Vulgate reads Judicate, Judge your mother* [i.e., the church]. It may seem to be a harsh phrase at first, but we shall labour to acquaint you with the mind of God in it. Here is an exhortation to the private members of the church, to all, one or other, to plead with their mother, to plead even with the church of which they are members, and so to plead as to deal plainly, and to tell her that she is not the wife of God….

It is a hard thing to convince idolators of their sin, and of the justice of God coming against them for their sin….. [Y]ou had need to… plead hard with her. Idolaters have so many distinctions, evasions, and pretences, that it is a thousand to one if you prevail with them….

“Plead with your mother, plead.” It is a forensic [debate] word, and carries with it such a kind of pleading as must be convincing and powerful…. [G]o and plead the cause with them, seek to convince them, not rail upon them, but convince them…. [D]eal with them as rational creatures, and… take away their secret objections and shifts….

God gives liberty to some private members of churches, yea, it is their duty in some cases to plead with the whole church….

But it may be said, "Will not this argue self-conceit? What! For one man, a private man, to plead with so many, with a church?" It is a sign that such a one is very opinionated, that such should think that what he apprehends [perceives] is sufficient to stand against the apprehensions [perceptions] of so many learned and godly men as are in the church.

How can this be freed from arrogance and proud conceitedness? I answer, not so, it may be conscience, and not self-conceit, for the rule of conscience is not the abilities, nor the holiness, nor the multitude of others, but it is that light that God lets in to convince [convict] according to His Word.

Nay, further, I suppose I may convince you that this pleading for God may proceed from much self-denial, and the not pleading may proceed from vile, sinful self-respect [pride]. How will that appear? Thus: for a private man when he sees the Truth of God suffer, if he be of a humble and an ingenuous [guileless, innocent] spirit, it cannot but be exceeding grievous to him to think, that he must contest with such a multitude of able and godly men. He would rather a hundred times, if he looked at his own quiet and ease, sit down: “For,” thinks he, “if I speak, by this I shall be endangered to be accounted self-conceited, I shall have the accusation of pride, I shall displease many of my friends, I shall make a great disturbance in myself; I am sure of my own peace, whatever I do to others, and how much better were it for me to sit still and be quiet.”

A humble spirit would reason thus, but conscience puts him upon it: “I shall contract guilt to myself if I be not, at least, a witness for God’s Truth; therefore though I shall suffer so much in it, yet, rather than the Truth shall suffer, rather than conscience shall plead against me, I will plead, though never so much to my disadvantage.”

Now, if such a one carry it humbly and quietly, certainly he is rather to be accounted a self-denying man; for it is a very hard task.

Whereas, on the other side, self-love is more likely to think thus: “It is true, these things are not right, I see they are not according to the Truth of God. Conscience indeed would have me speak, but I shall trouble myself, and what will they think of me on the other side, where there are so many able and godly men? Surely I shall be thought a conceited fool, and therefore I were as good hold my peace, and sleep in a whole skin, and be quiet.”

Thus because they have so much self-respect, and love their own quiet, and cannot endure to suffer any trouble, they will leave the Truth to suffer, and their consciences to be pleading against themselves, rather than thus plead for the cause of God….

Christians may plead with their mother [i.e., the church], yet they must observe these rules.

First, They must not plead with her for every light thing; for the Scripture gives us this rule, “Love covereth a multitude of sins” [1 Peter 4:8]. We must not stand pleading for every infirmity with our brother, but rather pass by many and cover them; much less then with the church. But if there be that which is notorious [disreputable, wicked], so that I cannot have communion with them, and I shall be wrapped up in the guilt except I testify the Truth, certainly then I am bound to plead.

Secondly, It must be orderly done; that is, if possible, you must make the officers [leaders] to be your mouth in pleading. I say, if it can be. If it come to declaring the evil to the church, it should rather be by him whom God has appointed to be His mouth to the church; for you do it in God’s name, therefore the most orderly way to do it, if it may be done, is by him that is God’s mouth.

Thirdly, It must be so as you must manifest all due respect to the church; showing in your carriage [attitude, behavior], that you are apprehensive [perceptive, understanding] and sensible, even at this time, of that distance that is between you and that whole society whereof you are a member.

Fourthly, You must do it in a very peaceable way, so as to manifest [make clear or evident] that you desire peace, and not to be the least disturbance to the peace of the church, but that the peace of it is dear and precious to you. Therefore, when you have witnessed the Truth, and discharged your conscience, you must be then content to sit down quiet, for so the rule is in that case; that the spirits of the prophets must be subject to the prophets [1 Corinthians 14:32]. But if it should prove that the church continues the evil, after all means used and all patience exercised in such a case, you may desire to be dismissed from it, and depart; but in as peaceable a way as possible, continuing due respect to the church, though you should depart, only leaving your witness behind you....

[I]t is exceedingly difficult for a people to understand their liberty without abusing of it, either against the church, or against the officers [leaders] of a church. This power may be abused by persons, who in pride, arrogancy, and a spirit of contention, take delight in contradiction. There are many people of such a humour [disposition, temperament], that it is their very delight to contradict, and they think they are nobody except they have somewhat to say against their officers [leaders], or against what is delivered; and upon that very ground will quarrel not out of mere conscience, but that it may appear to others that they see farther than other men. And if they be in a community, they conceive that every one would think them nobody if they say nothing, therefore, that they may appear to be somebody, they will find fault, though they scarce understand what they say, or whereof they affirm, showing their disapprobation [disapproval] in a virulent [antagonistic, spiteful] spirit, and insulting those whom God has set over them. Certainly, this is a gross [insensitive] and abominable [disgusting] thing, whereas the rule of Christ is, "Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father" [1 Timothy 5:1]; do not think that because you may plead with them, and God's cause may suffer by your silence, that therefore you may rebuke them in an undecent [improper] and unseemly [rude] manner. You may indeed go in a humble manner, acknowledging the distance betwixt [between] you and him, he being an officer [leader], and so "entreat him as a father."

The Truth:

"And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul."
(Ezekiel 3:16-21)

1. Jeremiah Burroughs, An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea, Reformation Heritage Books (Grand Rapids, MI) 2006.

*Note: Galatians 4:26 states: "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." Burroughs is using a figurative analogy when applying this verse to the church. The Bible frequently uses feminine spousal language in the Old Testament for ancient Israel (of which Hosea's adulterous/idolatrous wife was a type). In the book of Hosea the children are also a type (see Hosea 1:2), and are given prophetic names. Hosea 2:5a explains why the children must plead: "For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully:..." See also Ezekiel 16 for a vivid example of this, e.g. verse 44: "As is the mother, so is her daughter." Likewise, in the New Testament, feminine spousal language is used of the church, which is the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2: "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband").

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Star Trek Sages

The Magi's journey of faith.

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Though they are becoming an endangered species in public places, manger scenes can still be viewed on Christmas cards and on wrapping paper. Recently, on one newscast, I saw where a man erected a manger scene on the bed of his pick-up truck, drove it to the town square, and displayed it there. Government authorities were unable to remove the scene from public view because the truck was considered private property. So there the manger scene sat in a public place, and the government could do nothing about it because it rested upon the bed of a man's truck, his private property!

Bethlehem, sometime between 7 and 4 B.C. A stable. A manger. A feeding trough for animals, wherein lies the Christ Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Mary, the Virgin Mother. Her espoused husband, Joseph, looking on. Shepherds from a nearby field standing by. Three Magi from the East, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and their camels. The nativity scene. In this way, the images of the manger scene have for decades, if not centuries, conditioned our Christian remembrance of the first Christmas. Manger scenes usually include biblical characters and persons as they reenact the initial Bethlehem drama. Would it shock you too much to be told that the Gospel narratives indicate that, in all likelihood, the Magi were not in Bethlehem at the manger to observe the first Christmas?

In relating their story, Matthew says that Magi arrived in Jerusalem from the East "after Jesus was born in Bethlehem" (Matthew 2:1, NASB). While it is not known how long after His birth that the Magi came to see Jesus, it is assumed to have been at least several months, perhaps even more than a year, later. Several lines of evidence suggest this. First, from the moment that the star announced Jesus' birth, it would have taken some preparation and travel time until the Magi arrived in Jerusalem. Second, by the time they got there, the "baby" [brephos] had grown to become a "child" [paidion] (Compare Luke 2:12 and 16, to Matthew 2:11.). The word "child" suggests that Jesus was then a toddler. Third, in contrast to the shepherds' visit, by the time the Magi arrived, the "first family" had upgraded their accommodations from a stable to a "house" (Matthew 2:11). And fourth, Herod's executive order to kill all infant males under two years old indicates that Jesus was perhaps nearer to that age than a newborn baby (Matthew 2:16). The likelihood that the wise men were not present at the Bethlehem stable when Jesus was first born does not, however, subtract from the drama of their story.

Like Abraham, who trekked by faith from the East two thousand years before them, the Magi left a pagan environment (See Joshua 24:2.). "Magi" is a word from which we get our word magician. Presuming their home to have been ancient Persia, they would have been devotees of the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, an occultist and satanic religion based on astrology, superstition, and fear. One historian notes,

"By an austere and monogamous life, by a thousand precise observances of sacred ritual and ceremonial cleanliness, by abstention from flesh food, and by simple and unpretentious dress, the Magi acquired, even among the Greeks, a high reputation for wisdom, and among their own people an almost boundless influence. The Persian kings themselves became their pupils, and took no step of consequence without consulting them. The higher ranks among them were sages, the lower were diviners and sorcerers, readers of stars and interpreters of dreams; the very word magic is taken from their name."

The Magi were, in effect, ancient devotees of what we know today as New Age religion!

By their notice of Christ's birth star, God called these men, students of the skies, to worship "the Child." God gives to all people's ample testimony about Himself in nature (See Psalm 19:1-2; Romans 1:20.). These men looked at the heavens and acknowledged the God of creation. How many other Magi had studied the night skies, observed that special star, but could not bring themselves to make a trek of faith to find the Messiah? After having observed the heavens for years, the witness of God's special star beckoned this group of Magi to commence their journey of faith.

Their travel from Persia to Bethlehem must have involved both personal peril and physical hardship. For months, perhaps even a year or more, these Magi journeyed over dusty and dry deserts by day, and slept beneath the stars during frigid nights. Yet they were unrelenting in their pursuit of the truth. Faith needs feet, and these men braved a most hazardous journey to find the one who was born King of the Jews.

In fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:3), their journey of faith saw them as the earliest Gentile converts to the person of Jesus. From their astronomical calculations, reading of the Hebrew prophets, and the appearance of a special star that may be compared to the Shekinah light that led Israel during her wilderness wanderings, God guided these ancient wise men from paganism to faith in "the Child" of Israel.

As with the trial of the magi's faith, God may call us to leave our comfort zone and lead us to undertake a hazardous journey. If He does, He will guide and protect us. Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, the word of the Scriptures confirmed to them that God had led them. Through the word of Micah the prophet, God confirmed their faith in His leading (Micah 5:2; Romans 10:9-10). It stood "written" that the "King of the Jews" would be born in Bethlehem. In spite of the nativity myth that has developed around them for over two thousand years, those men who traveled from the East to worship the Christ Child do teach us an important spiritual lesson, and it is this: The "just shall live (and journey!) by faith."

With five miles to go, the star reappeared and guided the Magi to the worship of the Savior. Drawing attention to Jesus, Matthew calls him "the Child" (Matthew 2:11). No other youngster in history deserved to be worshipped like the Christ Child. Imagine the sight of it: Adult men prostrating themselves on the ground before the toddler! It makes no sense at all. Unless in fact, the little boy was the Christ. Men from another land, Gentiles, worshipped Jesus in Bethlehem, while those in Jerusalem ignored him.

The irony of that confirmation was that those "chief priests and scribes" knew where to find the prophecy though they themselves did not bother to walk the five miles to Bethlehem to see the promised Messiah who had been born in their own backyard! That indifference portended things to come. The religionists, who ignored Christ's birth, also antagonized him during His life and reviled Him during his crucifixion. J.C. Ryle wrote:

"How often the very persons who live nearest to the means of grace are those who neglect them the most! There is only too much truth to the proverb, 'The nearer the church the further from God.' Familiarity with sacred things has an awful tendency to make men despise them. There are many, who from residence and convenience ought to be the first and foremost in the worship of God, and yet they are always last."[2]

There is a Christmas saying that goes, "Wise men still seek Him." In America, we must admit, we have been born close to Christianity. Every Christmas and Easter season testifies to this fact. The question then becomes, Are we too close to care? Or, will we like the Magi of old, wisely seek Him?

The Truth:

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

[1] Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, The Story of Civilization, Volume 1, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954) 372.
[2] John Charles Ryle,
St. Matthew, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (London: James Clarke & Co., 1956) 10.

Reprinted with permission of author, with minor modification for blog posting. Original article posted here.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Part 2: In My Father's House There Are Many SHACKS?

A Critical Essay of William Paul Young's THE SHACK

By Pastor Jeffrey Whittaker

"Out there in America, where only three in 10 people attend weekly worship services and millions are ignorant of the Bible, [Young's The Shack] readers struggle to find a good God amid their pain."
--"'Shack' opens doors, but critics call book 'scripturally incorrect'," Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today [bold added].

In today’s post-modern/Emergent "discussion," we constantly find a sentiment that all that has ever been known or understood about God must be done away with; or at least questioned. I’m all for each generation searching out the reasons why they “believe,” but just not casting off the Bible, which will serve as the cornerstone of their search!

When we are finally introduced to the author’s “godhead” in chapter 5, entitled “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” Mack (on his way to his meeting with “Papa” at the shack) tells his friend Willie, “ I’ve always sort of pictured him (God) as a really big grandpa with a long white flowing beard, sort of like Gandalf in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings” (p.73). This is actually a very wonderful point of reference for the reader, since we all probably have our own image of what God might look like (Charlton Heston maybe?). I appreciate Young’s transparency here, but when Mack actually arrives at his appointment with the deity, we are introduced to a scene that serves to further distance the reader from Scripture, ushering them even closer to a subjective, existential image of a god who refuses to be governed even by his/her/it’s own Word.

Young records the details of their first meeting: “… the door flew open, and he was looking directly into the face of a large beaming African-American woman” (p.82); “I have really been looking forward to seeing you face to face,” gushes the female “Papa.”

My mind immediately leaped to the Scriptural encounters with God experienced by the Apostles Paul and John. Paul’s meeting was with a glorious Being who revealed “I am Jesus” -- an experience that left the bloodthirsty rabbi fasting and blind for three days (Acts 9). In John’s case (recorded in Revelation chapter 1) when the glorified Christ appeared to him, the exiled Apostle “fell at His feet as though dead”! These Scriptural accounts are a far cry from Young’s hermaphroditic deity that gives bear hugs and bakes pies.

Mack is then introduced to an oriental woman named “Sarayu” (meant to be the Holy Spirit), and finally a “jesus” figure, who “appeared Middle Eastern and was dressed like a laborer, complete with tool belt and gloves” (p.84). As Mack’s spiritual eyes continue to adjust to the glare of the new “light” of this “god’s” nature, Papa instructs:

“Mackenzie, I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are derived from my nature… For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning(p.93). [emphasis added]

Mr. Young, do you mean "religious conditioning" like the words of the Bible? I thought so. One more statement from the same page gives us even deeper insight into the overall philosophy that permeates the entire fabric of the book.

“Hasn’t it always been a problem for you to embrace me as your father? And after what you’ve been through, you couldn’t very well handle a father right now, could you?”

So here it is! Papa changes himself into a feminine persona because of Mack’s fragility. If it helps someone feel better, this “god” will become what the human wants him/her/it to be, instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and ultimately Jesus Christ, whose very being is the answer to every human sin and ill. Does this mean that for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of men we must now make God feminine? What of lesbians? What of homosexuals? What of those who… on and on it goes without end. The power of The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it stands permanent and reliable for all human beings, no matter where they come from or whatever they may have suffered through in this fallen world.

Please allow me to quote “jesus” once more as he describes both the "holy spirit" and Papa to Mack.

“(Sarayu) is Creativity; she is Action; she is the Breathing of Life; she is much more. She is my Spirit… (Sarayu) is a simple name from one of our human languages. It means ‘Wind’, a common wind actually. She loves that name” (p.110).

Of God the Father, this “jesus” says:

“Once you begin to know the being behind the very pretty or very ugly face, as determined by your bias, the surface appearances fade away until they simply no longer matter. That is why Elousia is such a wonderful name. God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things—ultimately emerging as the real—and any appearances that mask that reality will fall away” (p.112).

Since what was just described is a textbook definition for pantheism, Young should have called his god “Elusive” instead of “Elousia,” since that is exactly what he/she/it insists on being throughout the book.

Papa then proceeds to reconstruct the crucifixion for the anguished Mack. The grieving protagonist lashes out at “god” with the accusation: “At the cross? Now wait, I thought you left him—you know—‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’”

Papa calmly rewrites Holy Scripture by giving a very “Oprahesque” answer: “You misunderstand that mystery there. Regardless of what he felt at that moment, I never left him” (p.96).

The reason that Young’s “god” sees things this way is that he/she/it doesn’t believe in the substitutionary/sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinful man. According to Scripture, Christ is the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) Who actually became accursed upon the cross as He bore the sins or the entire human race (Galatians 3:13). By doing so he became something that an absolutely holy God couldn’t even look upon. In fact, the very words misapplied by Mack are not originally those of Jesus at all, but rather it was His declaration (from His "religious conditioning" no doubt) of the prophecy inspired by the true Holy Spirit through King David in Psalm 22:1. Our Lord knew everything that was going on around Him, as well as everything that was being fulfilled through Him at Calvary. However, Mr. Young’s “Elousia/Papa” god appears to forget his/her/it’s own prophecies, and instead psychoanalyzes Jesus as having only “felt” alone… just an emotional, scared son in need of a hug.

Mack finally achieves a catharsis, of sorts, for his pain when he is taken to a representation of “paradise” where there is a variety of brilliant auras, and little children from all the nations of the world running and playing together. The colors begin to change as one is discovered who has a different color; one who is in distress. It turns out to be Mack’s father with whom he had serious unresolved issues. As Mack embraces his estranged (and deceased) father, the brilliant colors return and all is well. The ultimate “healing moment” however, takes place when “Papa” (now a man, since Mack can finally handle that form) takes the grieving father down a rocky path leading to a cave where the body of his little girl, Missy, was hidden by her killer. Mack gently scoops up the battered remains of his precious little one and returns to the shack where "jesus" and Sarayu are waiting with a custom crafted casket in which to bury her.

The most intriguing part of this story is, however, that when Mack decides to return to the “real world,” he awakens only to find that he is once again in the same cold, dilapidated shack that he had found in the beginning of his “meeting” -- the whole experience had been a dream… or something.

This is the final point I will attempt to make. If The Shack is fiction and fable, so be it. But if it is a treatise on inner healing that Young purports it to be, then we must judge it by God’s unchanging revelation of reality, The Holy Scriptures. There are countless people who have lost loved ones to violent and untimely deaths, whether by disease, car accidents, drowning, even murder. What does God offer those of us who have to stand by faith when we have hot tears running down our faces? We can hope for a psychic visitation, vision, or perhaps a visit to our local “Witch of Endor” to conjure up the dead. Or perhaps we can simply look to the comfort in the words of the Bible.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
  • Romans 8:18-19. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”
  • Revelation 21:1-5. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful."

As you have no doubt gathered by this time, I am not a fan of William Paul Young’s “faction”[1] fable; but I completely understand why self-proclaimed New Age pilgrims like Oprah Winfrey would be. The story is touching, even heartrending at points (I couldn’t help but stop and think of my own dear children when Mack lost his little girl). However, as a theological work that is being taken much too seriously by Christians who ought to know better, it is weighed in the balances and found lacking. The Bible is set aside as a source of revelation, and the atoning death of Christ is replaced by out-of-body therapy and a cosmic group hug. Frankly, I would rather have people gleaning lessons from pure fantasy stories like The Wizard of Oz,[1] than to dabble with a story that entwines itself with accepted Christian terminology, only to subtly twist it into a poisonous brew much more lethal than anything the Wicked Witch of the West ever dreamed of.

My final recommendation? Pick up a copy of John Bunyan's Pilgrim’s Progress… or even better; read your Bible!

1. See footnote 1 in the previous post.
2. See footnote 2 in the previous post.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In My Father's House There Are Many SHACKS?

A Critical Essay of William Paul Young's THE SHACK

By Pastor Jeffrey Whittaker

Part 1

It is my desire to undertake this brief essay in order to discuss some of the pertinent elements found within the best-selling book that is the center of so many discussions amongst sincere Christians, as well as prominent pop-culture figures. William Paul Young’s therapeutic fable may be well-intentioned, but I intend to demonstrate that its end-result is not the constructing of either SHACKS or mansions, but rather the deconstructing (in typical post-modern/Emergent fashion) of the concept of the church, the authority of the Word of God, and just about anything else the reader thought they knew about God as revealed in Holy Scripture; something Young’s “god” constantly refers to as “religious conditioning.”

Jesus said in the Gospel of John 14:1-2: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” It is my prayer that no one who happens to read this work will give in to the temptation to exchange the glory of God’s Mansions for Mr. Young’s existential SHACK.

First of all, the cover itself yields our first point. What is this book? Is it testimony, mystery, theology, Christology… or does it make any such assertions at all? Eugene Peterson (of The Message Bible paraphrase fame), at the very bottom of the book’s cover, makes the statement:

“This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good.”

Let me simply say that after reading it I sincerely hope that it does not. John Bunyan wrote his truly Christian classic Pilgrim's Progress while in prison for the sake of the Gospel, and every word was rooted in the Scriptures. Each person and place represented within the story was an archetype of orthodox Christian doctrines rooted in the revelation of God that we call The Bible. “Pilgrim” becomes “Christian” at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ and begins his journey towards “the Celestial City” -- his ultimate goal. On his way he encounters much temptation, personified in his detour into places such as “Vanity Fair.” Pilgrim’s Progress remains one of the most profound allegory/parables in the history of the church. However, Bunyan never took concrete, propositional truths of Scripture and morphed them into hip, existential discussions between a questioning man and a godhead consisting of two women and a Middle-Eastern carpenter.


During the DaVinci Code furor a few years ago, I discovered a new word that encapsulated that particular debate perfectly; the word was “faction.”[1] Dan Brown used places like Rome and Paris, names such as Leonardo DaVinci and the Pope, as well as historic works of art to frame a “fiction” book that made serious accusations against the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the integrity of the Apostles, and the veracity of the Bible. Since Brown employed literal people and places, his “fictional” thesis became entwined with them, thus creating “faction;” an indistinguishable blend of truth and untruth.

This is what I believe William Paul Young has done within the story line of The Shack. On page 14, he begins by setting the wintry scene by describing how “A cold front out of Canada then descended and was held in place by a swirling wind that roared down the Gorge from eastern Oregon.” Later on in chapter two, the reader is told about the last trip made by the family to their favorite Labor Day camping area. He recounts, “Nan (headed) north up Interstate 205 to Washington, and Mack and the three amigos east on Interstate 84” (p.27). In the next paragraph he mentions the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge.

Why is this important? Simply because Young purposes to give us an inspirational story that is intertwined with actual reality. However, when authors of such “faction” novels make substantive theological assertions within their stories, they cannot simply retreat into the magical forest of make-believe, hoping to sidestep the scrutiny of Scripture.

One sincere believer recently told me that they thought the book was just like The Wizard of Oz; meant only to encourage and entertain people. I am so glad that analogy was raised! Let’s take a look at it for a moment before going any further with our discussion. In “Oz” we find a real little girl on a farm somewhere in the state of Kansas in the world of black and white. However, after encountering a massive twister, she is struck on the head by a window sill, rendering her unconscious. When she awakens and opens the door of her “mobile home,” she finds that she is “not in Kansas anymore,” but rather a magical kingdom (not to mention a Technicolor one!) inhabited by munchkins, witches, and three special friends that embody the human quest for a brain, a heart, and courage. Down the yellow brick road they go, encountering and overcoming untold challenges on their way to see the Wizard in The Emerald City. When they ultimately discover the Wizard to be simply smoke and mirrors, they are told that they already possessed and exhibited the very character traits for which they were questing! The little girl then wakes up in her bed back in black and white world with the revelation that “there’s no place like home.”

Why do I risk boring you with a summary of a story that you all already know? BECAUSE I WANT TO DEMONSTRATE TO YOU THAT IT IS JUST THAT… A STORY! If the writer of “OZ” had been a Christian attempting to write the new “Pilgrim’s Progress” for his generation, he would have faced the same questions we are asking Mr. Young."Is Dorothy a type of the church?" one might say. Someone else may ask, "Hey, if you meant the Wizard is meant to be a type of God, are you saying that He’s all smoke and mirrors?" Or, "Is the Cowardly Lion a picture of Christ?"[2]

The Shack, however, is not couched in a land far, far away with a princess longing for her prince to come and take her to his kingdom; Mr. Young hides behind the rules of fiction while dabbling in the dangerous issues of the REAL WORLD of God, man, sin, suffering and redemption. If one takes Mack’s path of subjective, existential self-discovery, I fear they will find themselves “over the rainbow” in a land from which no amount of heel-clicking can ever return them.


This post-modern/Emergent fantasy’s first stumble takes place on page 27. Right after setting a very real picture of the Columbia River Gorge, Mack’s family stops off at Multnomah Falls for crayons and refreshments. After their respite, Missy, Mack’s daughter, who would eventually be horribly killed by a violent criminal, asked for her daddy to tell her the tragic story of the Indian Princess of the Multnomah tribe who died at the falls. The story (in brief) was that there was a plague that came to the Indians that began to wipe them out. An old prophecy recounted by a medicine man stated that the beloved daughter of a chief must give her life to stem the advance of the wasting plague. Eventually (“After praying and giving herself to the Great Spirit…”), the selfless princess threw herself to her death on the rocks below (p.28). Young reflects that the story “had all the elements of a true redemption story, not unlike the story of Jesus” (Ibid).

Much later after arriving at their campsite, Missy asks Mack: “Daddy, how come she had to die?” The surprised Mack answers, “Honey, she didn’t have to die. She chose to die to save her people. They were very sick and she wanted them to be healed” (p.30). Mack’s inquisitive children go on to ask, “So, it [the story of the princess] didn’t really happen?” Mack answers, “It might have sweetie. Sometimes legends are built from real stories, things that really happen.”

“So is Jesus dying a legend?” she asks. “No honey, that’s a true story; and do you know what? I think the Indian princess story is probably true too,” her daddy answers back. At the end of the exchange, we hear Mack summing up the discussion by stating, “Jesus chose to die because he and his daddy love you and me and everyone in the world. He saved us from our sickness, just like the princess” (p.31).

JUST LIKE THE PRINCESS??? A Native American legend of a girl’s ritual human sacrifice/suicide is now validated and elevated to the same level of the atoning death of Jesus Christ! Not only that, but when Missy asked earlier, “Is the Great Spirit another name for God—you know, Jesus’ papa?” her befuddled dad answered, “I would suppose so. It’s a good name for God because he is a Spirit and he is Great” (Ibid). Native American spirituality is now equal to that of Biblical Christianity! What wonderful news! We don’t need to send any more missionaries to the far-flung tribes of the world… they’re doing just fine without Jesus![3]

This passage should stop the Biblical Berean dead in his steps (you remember them, the ones who searched the Scriptures daily? [Acts 17]). If Young was trying to communicate Christian theology, he could have simply written, “Well sweetie, God has revealed Himself in Jesus, who died even for the American Indians. That’s why we need to tell them the true story of how Jesus died on the cross so God could forgive them so that they can go to heaven; even if they happen to die from a sickness like in the fable of the princess!” Instead, we find Young’s “jesus” proclaiming on page 182: “Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian.”

“Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions… I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into by Beloved.”

By "transformation," is this “jesus” referring to the new birth as stated in John 3? Or is he simply referring to an endless cycle of self-discovery via New Age spiritual meditation, astral projection, and inner healing? Once again, the Scriptures help us understand that:

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God"
(John 1:12-13).

To be continued.....

1. This definition of "faction" is, according to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faction, "a form of writing or filmmaking that treats real people or events as if they were fictional or uses them as an integral part of a fictional account" or "a novel, film, play, or other presentation in this form."
2. Actually, some have postulated that Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was doing just that -- creating an allegory for Theosophy, in which he became involved later in life. See http://www.crossroad.to/News/oz.html for some fascinating details and links. There are also those who suggest that the Oz fantasy had readily identifiable political characters from the 1890s (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz). Regardless of the difficulties in this example, The Shack has been openly marketed as a literary allegory to the Scripture, in which case it is neither a simple fairy tale, nor a basic work of fiction such as, for example, Jane Eyre (Bronte) or David Copperfield (Dickens).
3. This is an example of the heresy of contextualization that was developed at Fuller Theological Seminary through the Perspectives course taught to a generation of missionaries. For a thorough reading on this issue, see the book Idolatry in their Hearts by Mike Oppenheimer and Sandy Simpson, which we also reviewed on Herescope in a series of posts in July 2007.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Using Poverty to Build the Global 3-Legged Stool

Global Poverty Act of 2007 S
2433 RS

"To require the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day."

Ponder the implications of this bill.
How will the timeless crisis of poverty and disease be used to restructure the world?

--Berit Kjos

Berit Kjos has just posted President-Elect Barack Obama's Global Poverty Act of 2007 in its current form on her website. This bill is a study in how the 3-legged stool is the structure upon which global governance will be built. This emerging government is being erected upon the backs of those who are poor, particularly in Africa. Using the AIDS and malaria crises and the worldwide economic downturn as levers, this paradigm shift piece of legislation will ensure that entire nations" conduct themselves responsibly in the international system" -- however that comes to be defined.

In fact, definitions are key to understanding the impact of this legislation. It calls for the following "strategy":

(a) Strategy- The President, acting through the Secretary of State, and in consultation with the heads of other appropriate departments and agencies of the United States Government, international organizations, international financial institutions, the governments of developing and developed countries, United States and international nongovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, and other appropriate entities, shall develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people [Struck out->] worldwide [<-Struck out] , between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day.

Not surprisingly, all 3 legs of the stool are being mobilized, including especially section 6 which more precisely includes the businesses (corporations). This means the pharmaceutical and computer industries, big oil, agribusiness, and other multinational corporations. This isn't about local control; don't be fooled by the nod to "sustainable development":

6) Mobilizing and leveraging the participation of businesses, United States and international nongovernmental organizations, civil society, and public-private partnerships.

The 3-legged stool is results-driven (purpose-driven, outcome-based). This means that the bill requires:

(b) Content- The strategy required by subsection (a) shall include specific and measurable goals, efforts to be undertaken, benchmarks, and timetables to achieve the objectives described in subsection (a).

Results-driven means that the bill calls for "measurable goals," "benchmarks" and "timetables to achieve the objectives." Stop right here and ask the obvious questions:

  • How will progress towards these goals be measured and assessed?
  • What happens if a nation doesn't perform up to par?
  • What happens if a business or civic organization (church?) doesn't work to meet these Millennium Development Goals?
  • What penalties will be prescribed?
  • What enforcement measures will be instituted?
Given these questions, how will this goal be attained: "reducing by one-half the proportion of people, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day"? This is all about the redistribution of the world's wealth. This isn't voluntary sharing and giving, it is coercive and top-down control. But that is how the 3-legged stool really operates. There is just one leg of the stool. Like the old cafeteria counter stools that spun around, the State (global government) actually runs the show.

Berit Kjos asks the ominous question: "Would it involve digital tracking of all human resources?" The answer is obvious. Such a monstrous system would require a comprehensive feedback mechanism to ensure global compliance.

We ask another ominous question: What role will the rapidly emerging global "P.E.A.C.E." church play in all of this? It is certainly not that of being a watchman on the wall, nor is it proclaiming the Gospel of Salvation, nor is it engaging in true charity. Rather, this global church is becoming "partners," co-mingling with all 3 legs of the stool, something which ancient Israel once did.

The Truth:

"...for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts." Isaiah 3:14b-15)

"He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." (Isaiah 40:11)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

3-Legged Stool Teetering in Rwanda

"Rwanda has emerged as a darling of the aid world, praised for strong, uncorrupt leadership and the strides it has made in fighting AIDS and poverty."

The New York Times
reported today (12/03/08) in an article entitled "Rwanda Stirs Deadly Brew of Troubles in Congo" by Jeffrey Gettleman, that a rebellion in the eastern Congo could explode "into another full-fledged war, and drags a large chunk of central Africa with it, seems likely to depend on the involvement of Rwanda, Congo’s tiny but disproportionately mighty neighbor."

Rwanda is the first "purpose-driven nation" on Earth, an experiment in the 3-legged stool concept developed and promulgated by the late management guru Peter Drucker. Rick Warren's Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan has been using Rwanda as a template for Dominionism. Working hand-in-hand with NGOs, the United Nations, charitable foundations, multinational corporations, and churches, Warren has been trumpeting his "transformation" of the nation of Rwanda.

Far from being the peaceful nation of a Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan, The New York Times article today suggests that "the evidence seems to be growing that Rwanda is meddling again in Congo’s troubles." Disturbingly, this seems to coincide with the meshing of the 3 legs of the stool of "Society" that Peter Drucker defined as State ("Society"), Corporations and Church (Private Sector). The NYT article takes note of the fact that "Rwanda’s stake in Congo is a complex mix of strategic interest [and] business opportunity." In other words, a complex mix of State and Corporate. This merger of State and Corporate, with the ongoing blessing of the Church -- and with all profitting monetarily or by gaining power -- means that there is no one to stand up and speak against violence, greed and human rights abuses. The article observes the natural resources that everyone is hungering for:

"Another cause for suspicion is Rwanda’s past plundering of Congo’s rich trove of minerals, going back to the late 1990s when the Rwandan Army seized control of eastern Congo and pumped hundreds of millions of dollars of smuggled coltan, cassiterite and even diamonds back to Rwanda, according to United Nations documents."

The article notes that "Rwanda’s leaders are vigilant about not endangering their carefully crafted reputation as responsible, development-oriented friends of the West." Cynically, we wonder if the Rwandan officials have benefitted from the same public relations firm that Rick Warren hired to spiff up his controversial image, A. Larry Ross. In any case, there are serious ethical concerns due to these ongoing intertwinings of the 3 legs of the stool:

"But according to several demobilized soldiers, Rwandan government officials are involved, providing bus fare for the men to travel to Congo and updating the rebel leadership each month on how many fighters from Rwanda are about to come over.

"Many current high-ranking Rwandan officials, including the minister of finance, the ambassador to China and the deputy director of the central bank, were executives at a holding company that a United Nations panel in 2002 implicated in the illicit mineral trade and called to be sanctioned. The officials say that they are no longer part of that company and that the company did nothing wrong. Nonetheless, eastern Congo’s lucrative mineral business still seems to be heavily influenced by ethnic Rwandan businessmen with close ties to Kigali."

Another example of the faltering 3-legged stool is found in the next statement in the article:

"Some of the most powerful players today, like Modeste Makabuza Ngoga, who runs a small empire of coffee, tea, transport and mineral companies in eastern Congo, are part of a Tutsi-dominated triangle involving the Rwandan government, the conflict-driven mineral trade and a powerful rebel movement led by a renegade general, Laurent Nkunda, a former officer in Rwanda’s army."

Bringing it close to home, Paul Kagame -- Rick Warren's personal friend -- seems complicit in all of this:

"Several United Nations reports have accused Mr. Makabuza Ngoga of using strong-arm tactics to smuggle minerals from Congo to Rwanda and one report said that he enjoyed “close ties” to Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame."

The article notes that there is "There is a long history of ethnic and business ties that seamlessly flow across the colonially imposed borders." It is precisely these business (Corporate) ties -- to both Church and State -- that creates an atmosphere of collusion, distrust, destabilization, exploitation, greed and violence, particularly if there is a vast mineral wealth to be exploited.

This 3-legged stool is teetering on the edge. . . . May God have mercy on the nation of Rwanda.

The Truth:

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." (Psalm 20:7)