Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Shack and the Adventist Review Article

As it turns out I was able to find a copy of the review of “The Shack” on the internet so you can see what the Adventist Review published. Present Truth appears to have gotten permission to publish the article, The Shack-What Lessons Can We Learn?

Here is the list of the 17 points the article uses. For many of you this will be completely useless as the page number of different editions varies and like any amateur review this one can’t manage to quote from the book but simply sums up her own often erroneous view of what the book is saying. The Present Truth posting has the numbers wrong on the list. I will take the liberty of renumbering the list so that I can respond with the books actual quotes, most need no further explanation.

Unfortunately, the god of the Shack and the God of the Bible are vastly dissimilar. Let’s consider seventeen of the myriad differences.

  1. The god of the Shack espouses universal reconciliation, that is, everyone will be saved. (164, 217,227)
  2. The god of the Shack describes a second chance to confess [sin] after death. (217)
  3. The god of the Shack has no desire that non Christians become Christian. (184)
  4. The god of the Shack calls religion man-created terror that causes mental turmoil and anxiety ( 181).
  5. The god of the Shack does not want sorrow for sin. (186)
  6. The god of the Shack attributes evil and pain to humanity’s independence and never to Lucifer. (133,134, 138,192)
  7. The god of the Shack repeatedly elevates experience or subjective revelation over the Scriptures. (67,68, 206)
  8. The god of the Shack denigrates absolute truth or theological certainty (205)
  9. The god of the Shack suggests that submission, even mutual submission, is inherently evil. (124-125)
  10. The god of the Shack promotes modalism—the non-biblical teaching that God the Father became flesh and died as well as the Son. (97,105)
  11. The triune god of the Shack spoke themselves into human existence. (101)
  12. The god of the Shack follows Unitarian-Universalist teaching that God is a verb, or by implication, a force. (206)
  13. The god of the Shack enjoys funky music, uses vulgar and mocking expressions, and tolerates profanity in his/her presence. (90, 92, 107, 226)
  14. The god of the Shack repeatedly devalues and contradicts Scripture. (68,169, 225)
  15. The god of the Shack has no expectations or rules. (91, 205,208)
  16. The god of the Shack allows defiant communication with the Father without the mediation of Christ Jesus. (121)
  17. The god of the Shack has virtually nothing to say of sin, how to escape it, or the reality of judgment.

Lets go over some of these:

1 The god of the Shack espouses universal reconciliation; Yes I think that can be fairly drawn from the book, I grant also that it may also be fairly drawn from some Bible texts. Some other Bible texts would preclude universalism that has been a debate since the days of Origen, it seems to me there are good arguments on both sides.

2. The god of the Shack describes a second chance to confess [sin] after death:Yes in the book Mack sees a vision of reconciliation in which his abusive father is reunited with Mack. I don’t know that is really to far from reality what will Paul say to Stephen I wonder or David to Uriah?

“Daddy!” yelled Mack, and threw himself onto the man who could not even look at his son. In the howl of wind and flame, Mack took his father’s face in his two hands, forcing his dad to look him in the face so he could stammer the words he had always wanted to say: “Daddy, I’m so sorry! Daddy, I love you!” The light of his words seemed to blast darkness out of his father’s colors, turning them blood red. They exchanged sobbing words of confession and forgiveness, as a love greater than either one healed them. (Ch. 15 A FESTIVAL OF FRIENDS)

3. The god of the Shack has no desire that non Christians become Christian; “Mack, I love them. And you wrongly judge many of them. For those who are both in it and of it, we must find ways to love and serve them, don’t you think?” asked Jesus. “Remember, the people who know me are the ones who are free to live and love without any agenda.” “Is that what it means to be a Christian?” It sounded kind of stupid as Mack said it, but it was how he was trying to sum everything up in his mind. “Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian.” The idea struck Mack as odd and unexpected and he couldn’t keep himself from grinning. “No, I suppose you aren’t.”

They arrived at the door of the workshop. Again Jesus stopped. “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 followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. 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 my Beloved.” “Does that mean,” asked Mack, “that all roads will lead to you?” “Not at all,” smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.” He paused. “Mack, I’ve got some things to finish up in the shop, so I’ll catch up with you later.” (Ch. 12 IN THE BELLY OF THE BEASTS)

4. The god of the Shack calls religion man-created terror that causes mental turmoil and anxiety: “What about the institution of marriage?”

“Marriage is not an institution. It’s a relationship.” Jesus paused, his voice steady and patient. “Like I said, I don’t create institutions; that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. So no, I’m not too big on religion,” Jesus said a little sarcastically, “and not very fond of politics or economics either.” Jesus’ visage darkened noticeably. “And why should I be? They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?”

Mack hesitated. He wasn’t sure what to say. This all felt a little over his head. Noticing that Mack’s eyes were glazing over, Jesus downshifted. “Put simply, these terrors are tools that many use to prop up their illusions of security and control. People are afraid of uncertainty, afraid of the future. These institutions, these structures and ideologies, are all a vain effort to create some sense of certainty and security where there isn’t any. It’s all false! Systems cannot provide you security, only I can.” .” (Ch. 12 IN THE BELLY OF THE BEASTS)

5. The god of the Shack does not want sorrow for sin: “As Mack ate another scone he groped for the courage to speak his heart. “Papa?” he asked, and for the first time calling God Papa did not seem awkward to him. “Yes, Mack?” she answered as her eyes opened and she smiled with delight. “I’ve been pretty hard on you.” “Hmmmm, Sophia must’a gotten to you.” “Did she ever! I had no idea I had presumed to be your judge. It sounds so horribly arrogant.” “That’s because it was,” Papa responded with a smile.

“I am so sorry. I really had no idea . . .” Mack shook his head sadly.

“But that is in the past now, where it belongs. I don’t even want your sorrow for it, Mack. I just want us to grow on together without it.”

In other words God does not want our sorrow He wants the relationship that moves forward, if sin is the separation from God, He wants the reconciliation not our sorrow, sorrow can lead to reconciliation but from then on it has done its purpose.

6. The god of the Shack attributes evil and pain to humanity’s independence and never to Lucifer. You will not find one place in the Bible that attributes humanities pain and evil to Lucifer either. You won’t even find it attributed to Satan. The Garden of Eden story of the fall says nothing about Satan we all make our decisions we don’t need some evil genius hiding behind the curtains to blame. Interestingly if all evil is really because of Satan (obviously Lucifer is a traditional term for Satan, it is not a Biblical term for Satan see Who is Lucifer (Satan Misidentified) ) how could one not be a universalist?

7. The god of the Shack repeatedly elevates experience or subjective revelation over the Scriptures: Mack allowed his oar to turn in his hands as he let it play in the water’s movements. “It feels like living out of relationship—you know, trusting and talking to you—is a bit more complicated than just following rules.” “What rules are those, Mackenzie?” “You know, all the things the Scriptures tell us we should do.” “Okay . . .” she said with some hesitation. “And what might those be?” “You know,” he answered sarcastically. “About doing good things and avoiding evil, being kind to the poor, reading your Bible, praying, and going to church. Things like that.” “I see. And how is that working for you?”

He laughed. “Well, I’ve never done it very well. I have moments that aren’t too bad, but there’s always something I’m struggling with, or feeling guilty about. I just figured I needed to try harder, but I find it difficult to sustain that motivation.” “Mackenzie!” she chided, her words flowing with affection. “The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. It is a picture of Jesus. While words may tell you what God is like and even what he may want from you, you cannot do any of it on your own. Life and living isin him and in no other. My goodness, you didn’t think you could live the righteousness of God on your own, did you?” “Well, I thought so, sorta . . .” he said sheepishly. “But you gotta admit, rules and principles are simpler than relationships.” “It is true that relationships are a whole lot messier than rules, but rules will never give you answers to the deep questions of the heart and they will never love you.”(Ch. 14 VERBS AND OTHER FREEDOMS)

Elsewhere in the chapter:

“Of course. You might see me in a piece of art, or music, or silence, or through people, or in Creation, or in your joy and sorrow. My ability to communicate is limitless, living and transforming, and it will always be tuned to Papa’s goodness and love. And you will hear and see me in the Bible in fresh ways. Just don’t look for rules and principles; look for relationship—a way of coming to be with us.” (Ch. 14 VERBS AND OTHER FREEDOMS)

8. The god of the Shack denigrates absolute truth or theological certainty (205) : This is why Evangelicals and Fundamentalists hate this book. It does not hold to their truth and their theological certainty. It does not deny that God has truth and certainty but does acknowledge those things come only through a relationship with God, they don’t simply exist because we claim we have the certainty.

The next several all have to do with the relationship in the Godhead and as such are just about traditional understanding rather than any real Biblical disagreement.

9. The god of the Shack suggests that submission, even mutual submission, is inherently evil. (124-125) This is about the Godhead being equal and in unity, It is One God

“And now,” Sarayu interjected, “we have come full circle, back to one of my initial statements: You humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that relationship could exist apart from hierarchy. So you think that God must relate inside a hierarchy like you do. But we do not.” (Ch. 8 A BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS)

“That’s the beauty you see in my relationship with Abba and Sarayu. We are indeed submitted to one another and have always been so and always will be. Papa is as much submitted to me as I to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.” Mack was surprised. “How can that be? Why would the God of the universe want to be submitted to me?” “Because we want you to join us in our circle of relationship. I don’t want slaves to my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me.” “And that’s how you want us to love each other, I suppose? I mean between husbands and wives, parents and children. I guess in any relationship?” “Exactly! When I am your life, submission is the most natural expression of my character and nature, and it will be the most natural expression of your new nature within relationships.” (Ch. 10 WADE IN THE WATER)

10. The god of the Shack promotes modalism—the non-biblical teaching that God the Father became flesh and died as well as the Son. (97,105): Again this is traditionalism saying that Jesus Christ is not God, “I and the Father are One”, “if you have seen me you have seen the Father”, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made Flesh”. Modalism has the advantage of not separating the Godhead so that one part of God is pleading with another part of God. Again it is the fundamentalist complaint because tradition has been embraced rather than a reasoned view of God. One God in three persons does not mean the three persons are separate from each other. They are they ways the One God relates to us.

11.The triune god of the Shack spoke themselves into human existence. (101): This is a reference to the incarnation of Jesus. Who knows why Cindy Tutsch complains about that?

12. The god of the Shack follows Unitarian-Universalist teaching that God is a verb, or by implication, a force: Is it a problem that God is active and does things rather than just exists?

“I,” she opened her hands to include Jesus and Papa, “I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb.” (Ch. 14 VERBS AND OTHER FREEDOMS )

13. The god of the Shack enjoys funky music, uses vulgar and mocking expressions, and tolerates profanity in his/her presence. (90, 92, 107, 226): It is always hard to write a conversation with God in it because of the preconceptions each of us has about God. Funky music and vulgar and mocking expressions are often in the mind of the reader whether they exist in the work or not. I mean I am not too happy that Jesus said of some people they were dogs. (Mat 15:26-28 NIV) He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. I unlike some would not call Jesus vulgar or mocking for such an expression. Some however are always limiting God to fit in his proper box in their mind.

14. The god of the Shack repeatedly devalues and contradicts Scripture: Or at least Cindy Tutsch’s version of scripture. Because to write a fictional story about meeting God who should burn you up if you look at Him devalues and contradicts Scripture. No such thing as literary license and suspending disbelief in the world of literature. Not for Good Adventists it appears.

15. The god of the Shack has no expectations or rules. This one is kind of funny and is well answered in the book. After all if God knows all; how could He have expectations for you to live up to? He knows what you will do before you know what you will do.

Papa now spoke up. “Honey, I’ve never placed an expectation on you or anyone else. The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior to get the desired result. Humans try to control behavior largely through expectations. I know you and everything about you. Why would I have an expectation other than what I already know? That would be foolish. And beyond that, because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me.”

“What? You’ve never been disappointed in me?” Mack was trying hard to digest this.

“Never!” Papa stated emphatically. “What I do have is a constant and living expectancy in our relationship, and I give you an ability to respond to any situation and circumstance in which you find yourself. To the degree that you resort to expectations and responsibilities, to that degree you neither know me nor trust me.” (Ch.14 VERBS AND OTHER FREEDOMS)

The rules part of this was addressed in my previous blog article on the The Shack and the Adventist Review letter

16.The god of the Shack allows defiant communication with the Father without the mediation of Christ Jesus. (121) Is that something like Job and David may have done, or perhaps Moses when he said if you are going to kill Israel kill me too. What does Cindy Tutsch, someone who holds masters of Divinity think the purpose of Jesus as mediator is? Is Jesus someone to keep us from talking directly with God or someone who came from God to live with us and reveal God to us? You can see why she has such trouble with those other areas dealing with the Godhead.

17. The god of the Shack has virtually nothing to say of sin, how to escape it, or the reality of judgment: I am sure many people will cry reading this book, the tragedy of a child stolen away and killed, a father’s anguish and guilt along with their own childhood history. To say it says nothing of sin is to say that “sin” as a theological term is not used. To say it says nothing about sin and how to escape it is frankly too foolish to be believed. If you goal in having a relationship with God is based upon some view of a reality of judgment it is hard to believe that you have any desire for a relationship with God. If your goal is to see the wicked toasted and destroyed than you have no conception of the love of God. Which is why in my review of this book earlier I said it defines the difference between traditional Christianity and emergent Christianity?

I have to thank Cindy Tutsch for so vividly if not articulately expressing that difference. I do feel so sorry for my Adventist church however as they again and again prove that their Christianity is something that I don’t want much to do with. This may explain to some why I don’t subscribe to the Adventist Review.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Shack and the Adventist Review letter

Apparently I missed the Adventist Review article on "The Shack" on August 30. I may get back to that after I scrounge up the August 09 issues, but for now I will deal with one of the letters to the Review about The Shack:

Dismantling The Shack

Thank you so much for publishing such a fine and concise review of the book The Shack (Aug. 30, 2009). This dangerously popular book needed to be unmasked, and the Adventist Review has certainly come through. Cindy Tutsch has done a great job in summarizing its content. Thank you so much.

Having recently analyzed this book (the one I read said there are 3 million in print, and, yes, the paging seems to be different from the one Tutsch read), I found that beneath the layers of philosophy and tragedy lay a definite aversion and abhorrence to the law of God that The Shack attacks behind a mask and in the name of “relationship.”

This book brings up the Ten Commandments and portrays “god” saying, “Jesus laid the demand of the law to rest; it no longer has any power to accuse or command” (p. 203). To the direct question: “Are you saying I don’t have to follow the rules?” the answer from this “voice” is also direct and unambiguous: “Yes. In Jesus you are not under any law. All things are lawful” (p. 203). It adds, “Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to light and good; they do not have any actual existence” (p. 136). It is truly amazing how these statements fulfill prophecy to the letter (see The Great Controversy, p. 558).

Olga, San Diego

What is most interesting is that last paragraph. The abhorrence at the thought that we are not under law, that “all things are lawful”. First let us look at what the Shack is saying in context, Mack is the human with the questions, God is in the persona of a woman in this interchange:

“But as I’m sure you know there are many,” responded Mack, “who think they are made righteous by following the rules.”

“But can you clean your face with the same mirror that shows you how dirty you are? There is no mercy or grace in rules, not even for one mistake. That’s why Jesus fulfilled all of it for you—so that it no longer has jurisdiction over you. And the Law that once contained impossible demands—Thou Shall Not . . .—actually becomes a promise we fulfill in you.”

She was on a roll now, her countenance billowing and moving. “But keep in mind that if you live your life alone and independently, the promise is empty. Jesus laid the demand of the law to rest; it no longer has any power to accuse or command. Jesus is both the promise and its fulfillment.”

“Are you saying I don’t have to follow the rules?” Mack had now completely stopped eating and was concentrating on the conversation.

“Yes. In Jesus you are not under any law. All things are lawful.”

First all things are lawful is a quote from the writings of Paul.

(1 Cor 10:23 KJV) All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

When you read this it is pretty clear the book is getting its idea from the New Testament. “There is no mercy or grace in rules”:

(Acts 13:39 NIV) Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.

(Gal 2:21 NIV) I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

(Gal 3:21-25 NIV) Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

So it appears the author of the letter, probably a very good Adventist has no conception of the New Testament Gospel. That we are not under law but under grace, apparently she missed the whole Reformation thing in her Adventist education. A scary thought that for years some one can sit in an Adventist church listening to Adventist sermons and have no conception of what the New Testament teaches.

Now let’s look at her concluding sentence:

It adds, “Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to light and good; they do not have any actual existence” (p. 136). It is truly amazing how these statements fulfill prophecy to the letter (see The Great Controversy, p. 558).

This is not too difficult a concept to see, as evil and darkness our metaphors for actions and attitudes of intelligent beings, they are like light and good metaphors for actions and attitudes but they are opposites, the metaphors “light and good” find their reality in God, the reality is found in the actions and attitude of God and His influence upon intelligent beings. Here is the context, Sarayu is a personification of the Holy Spirit in the book:

Sarayu turned toward Mack; at least that was his impression. “Mackenzie, evil is a word we use to describe the absence of Good, just as we use the word darkness to describe the absence of Light or death to describe the absence of Life. Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence. I am Light and I am Good. I am Love and there is no darkness in me. Light and Good actually exist. So, removing yourself from me will plunge you into darkness. Declaring independence will result in evil because apart from me, you can only draw upon yourself. That is death because you have separated yourself from me: Life.”

If this is what Ellen White was referring too then she was clearly wrong. The Great Controversy page 558 says:

Even in its present form, so far from being more worthy of toleration than formerly, it is really a more dangerous, because a more subtle, deception. While it formerly denounced Christ and the Bible, it now professes to accept both. But the Bible is interpreted in a manner that is pleasing to the unrenewed heart, while its solemn and vital truths are made of no effect. Love is dwelt upon as the chief attribute of God, but it is degraded to a weak sentimentalism, making little distinction between good and evil. God's justice, His denunciations of sin, the requirements of His holy law, are all kept out of sight. The people are taught to regard the Decalogue as a dead letter. Pleasing, bewitching fables captivate the senses and lead men to reject the Bible as the foundation of their faith. Christ is as verily denied as before; but Satan has so blinded the eyes of the people that the deception is not discerned.

The “present form” is spiritualism as the beginning of the next paragraph states:

There are few who have any just conception of the deceptive power of spiritualism and the danger of coming under its influence.

In fact the previous paragraph is pretty clear that it is not even speaking as a prediction of some coming deception but a deception already occurring during Ellen White’s lifetime, as she says:

It is true that spiritualism is now changing its form and, veiling some of its more objectionable features, is assuming (Page 558) a Christian guise. But its utterances from the platform and the press have been before the public for many years, and in these its real character stands revealed. These teachings cannot be denied or hidden.

It is not surprising that someone who does not understand the New Testament Gospel will also not understand Ellen White’s writings. But of course she is not alone, she is after all agreeing with the Adventist Review on the subject. That after all is the bigger problem, that we have a church that does not even know the Gospel. For more on The Shack see my article Review of William Young's The Shack

Friday, September 18, 2009

Is the Bible Really the Word of God Part 2

The website Got Questions.Org is our starting point for part 2. Their article is entitled: Is the Bible truly God's Word?

Answer: Our answer to this question will not only determine how we view the Bible and its importance to our lives, but also it will ultimately have an eternal impact on us. If the Bible is truly God’s Word, then we should cherish it, study it, obey it, and fully trust it. If the Bible is the Word of God, then to dismiss it is to dismiss God Himself.

As you can see the article begins with an all or nothing response. That is if it is the word of God, to dismiss it is to dismiss God. But what if it was not the word of God but contained some words of God and some words of men and some teachings about history or then current events and peoples ideas about God? In other words in some aspects inspired by God such as leading people to Christ and salvation and some great ideas about dealing with people that God inspired someone to write. A useful book that God helped people put together for them to learn from in various ways. Could God not inspire such a book? Could not such a book be inspired and yet not be the Word of God? After all God really did not write it, may not have inspired all writings included in it and the book is the product of human beings?

It is interesting to see the polls on the subject. In 2007 Gallup polled on the subject:

About one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word. This percentage is slightly lower than several decades ago. The majority of those Americans who don't believe that the Bible is literally true believe that it is the inspired word of God but that not everything it in should be taken literally. About one in five Americans believe the Bible is an ancient book of "fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man."

Most Americans believe in the inspiration of the Bible but not that it is the word of God, this is in spite of the long tradition of people calling it the word of God. They are still able to see past the logical fallacy of calling something the word of God when that something makes no such claims for itself, either in individual books nor of course as a combined whole. Since people had to seek out the books and through a process of church acceptance decide which books they thought belonged for use by Christians it is understandable that that assemblage of books could not make the claim to be the word of God. Which kind of explains why tradition does what logic could not do.
As we look at the list of external in internal evidence that the God site gives the first question to ask is do their evidences point to inspiration or to the Bible being the word of God. How would you tell the difference? We already know the answer from the very first paragraph that God uses. They won’t even consider the belief that the majority of Americans hold. Let’s look at a few examples:

One of the first internal evidences that the Bible is truly God’s Word is seen in its unity. Even though it is really sixty-six individual books, written on three continents, in three different languages, over a period of approximately 1500 years, by more than 40 authors who came from many walks of life, the Bible remains one unified book from beginning to end without contradiction. This unity is unique from all other books and is evidence of the divine origin of the words which God moved men to record.

Well unity maybe a little flimsy considering that people did put the compilation together. Jews compiled the Old Testament and Christians adding the New Testament. We won’t talk about the apocrypha, once accepted by Protestants and now mainly accepted by Roman Catholics. But you can see the problem of claiming unity of something that was made by selecting the books that people thought assisted their religion the best. Of course there actually are contradictions and really who can say that Ecclesiastes really agrees with the teachings of the New Testament.

That one does not work to well for being the word of God but it does work for inspiration. Because people can really pick out inspirational ideas and compile them and even when the ideas are totally different such as Ecclesiastes inspiration can be comprehended as God dealing with people where they were and stimulating ideas to create growth in understanding. It could even be termed inspiration that when we read about those people we learn what they thought about things.

We will quickly go over the next one:

Another of the internal evidences that indicates the Bible is truly God’s Word is the prophecies contained within its pages…

Again the prophecies were given to men so they speak of inspiration not the word of God, though certainly a prophet could at times actually record the words God used or the words they attributed to God. But again that does not make the entire document the word of God.

A third internal evidence of the divine origin of the Bible is its unique authority and power. While this evidence is more subjective than the first two, it is no less a powerful testimony of the divine origin of the Bible. The Bible’s authority is unlike any other book ever written.

This one does not count; the authority comes from the belief of the people involved, it is not really any kind of evidence.

There are also external evidences that indicate the Bible is truly the Word of God. One is the historicity of the Bible. Because the Bible details historical events, its truthfulness and accuracy are subject to verification like any other historical document.

How this applies to making the Bible the word of God I am not sure. That it records history is true, maybe not all the history is accurate, but a recording of history does not necessarily indicate either inspiration or being the word of God. Current events quickly become history and common knowledge can record history hundred of years after the fact or 5 years after the fact. It does not require divine inspiration for this one.

Another external evidence that the Bible is truly God’s Word is the integrity of its human authors. As mentioned earlier, God used men from many walks of life to record His words. In studying the lives of these men, we find them to be honest and sincere. The fact that they were willing to die often excruciating deaths for what they believed testifies that these ordinary yet honest men truly believed God had spoken to them.

This one actually only speaks to inspiration, not at all to being the word of God as it refers to the people who were inspired to write some things. Inspiration of course is a wide subject; something can be a very important piece of inspirational thought at a particular time and generations latter be little more than a footnote to history. A story can be inspiration to hearers even if it is not literally true. And inspiration can be found in the writers as well as the hearers where ever in time they may be.

A final external evidence that the Bible is truly God’s Word is the indestructibility of the Bible. Because of its importance and its claim to be the very Word of God, the Bible has suffered more vicious attacks and attempts to destroy it than any other book in history.

Again that would not necessarily be the case, even if the book and all its components were not the word of God it is possible for God to prevent its destruction. I am also not so sure that it has had more vicious attacks as there were certain Gnostic books which we now only read about in the writings of the Christian apologists writing against the Gnostic books. So some books were viciously and successfully wiped out. Some of those were only discovered in the 1800’s as what is termed the Nag Hammadi library, but still some are likely gone forever. In fact in the ancient world where everything was hand written it appears a lot of books were lost with the destruction of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. It may seem kind of funny but in some respects the preservation of the Bible may well be tied to the empire of Rome when they made Christianity a state religion. What some people may think as the worst thing to happen to Christianity may have been one of the methods God used to preserve the Bible.

After all the evidence is looked at we arrive back where we started. Some will look at the Bible as the word of God because that is what they choose to believe and some see the inspiration in the book but do not feel it is appropriate to call it the word of God. Rather they look for God’s revelation in the book and like any book we have to weigh the statements against reality, both history and science and cultural knowledge help us to understand more about God and ourselves and that after all is really what inspiration is all about. Because God is really able to draw us closer to Himself as we seek to understand what He is like, what love is like and what we as people are like.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Is the Bible really the Word of God

“That the Scriptures regard themselves as a sure, unfailing, certain, and trustworthy Word of God cannot be doubted. While specific proof texts are of limited number, the Scriptures in their entirety present themselves as the true and, therefore, reliable Word of God. It is true, and it should be recognized, that the Scriptures, for reasons that derive from their very nature as the Word of God, do not indulge in an apologetic effort to demonstrate their reality and truth as God’s Word by reference to something other than themselves. The scriptures no more attempt to prove the existence of God apart from His Word than they attempt to prove the authority, infallibility, and reliability of His Word apart from His Word. For this very reason, the Word of God in the Scriptures presents itself throughout as possessing these qualities without any special, introductory, self-conscious demonstration that it is what it asserts itself to be, namely, the Word of God. It merely speaks in terms of what it is: the Word of God.”

Did you understand all of that? It is actually pretty standard Christian thinking and very much circular reasoning.
  1. Scriptures regard themselves as the Word of God, it cannot be doubted.
  2. Limited evidence
  3. The evidence is that the scriptures in their entirety present themselves as the Word of God.
  4. It is true that Scriptures are by their nature the Word of God, no evidence needed
  5. Repeat above claims.

Kind of makes you wonder doesn’t it? Let’s test the above with a text from Paul’s writings.

(1 Cor 7:25-27 NIV) Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. 27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.

Is that the Word of God? It specifically says it is not from God yet if the Scriptures claim to be the Word of God it therefore has to be the Word of God, instructions from God to Paul who denied them as being from God yet they must be from God because Scriptures declare themselves to be the Word of God.

In fact the Bible is filled with some pretty terrible stuff, should we really be calling it this the Word of God.
(Psa 137:8-9 NIV) O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us-- he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

God’s Word declares that happy are they who kill infants of Babylon. You begin to see the problem here when we refer to the Bible as the Word of God. We strip it of context, we strip it of the human component, the very writers experience and expressions. And we do all that with limited reasons; more accurately no reason other than tradition, the factor the International Bible Encyclopedia ignored completely and used exclusively.

What does the Bible actually refer to as the “Word of God”. Pretty simple really, something that God said, thus it is a reference to God or in the New Testament a reference to Jesus Christ the Word made flesh. Take some time to look those up I won’t list them here. Instead let’s look at some examples of the limited evidence that is put forward to back up the idea of the Bible being the Word of God.

Witness Of Jesus
Any honest person who studies the historical evidence will conclude that Jesus Christ rose from death -- giving Him unique status. Jesus acknowledged the Old Testament, which was all of the Bible written at that time, as the Word of God.
18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

The Bible bears the seal of Jesus' authority. He quoted the Old Testament dozens of times and referred to it as the Word of God.
For example, in Matthew 22:32, Jesus quotes from Exodus 3:6 and 15.
MATTHEW 22:29,31-32 NKJ
29 Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 31 "But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."

As with the Interpreters Bible Encyclopedia this article asserts something that is not true. They say Jesus referred to the old Testament as the Word of God. They even quote the text to prove what they are saying is incorrect. Jesus in the text does quote God but He does not say that the scriptures are the word of God.

In order to keep this from getting too long I will break it up into several posts. In part two I will deal with another websites dealing with what they claim is: “[T]here are both internal and external evidences that the Bible is truly God’s Word.” In part 3 I will delve into what people mean when they say the Bible is the Word of God or God’s Word, do people really agree or do they even conceive what that are saying?

Is the Bible Really the Word of God Part 2

Is the Bible Really The Word of God Part 3 

Friday, September 04, 2009

Adventists, Theatres, and tradition

By way of introduction here is a quote from William G. Johnsson’s article in the Adventist Review entitled Four Big Questions from the May 25, 2006 issue:

"To me, this is a serious matter. Many Adventists have lower viewing standards than evangelical Christians. Large numbers of our people, I fear, are being seduced by the all-pervasive media. Instead of the Bible, movies, television, and music are shaping their values and attitudes. They are becoming conformed to the world, rather than living as new beings in Christ transformed by His grace.

We have focused on movie theaters, but the problem is far bigger. Television, DVDs, and VCRs bring the movies into our living room.

We need a higher standard—a much higher one. And one that rests on sound reasons. Some of the arguments we’ve used in the past don’t hold water, and our young people see right through them. Like saying that movie theaters are bad per se (but on occasion we rent them and hold meetings in them). Or that movies are bad per se (but we show selected ones on college campuses or at church functions)."

Many Adventists remember our Churches prohibition against movies and theaters. But I suspect few of us really know why our church and Christian churches in history had problems with theaters. While I think our Churches view is basically tradition like Johnsson I realize we really never had a good reason for our statements. Basically our denomination simply carried on the Puritan tradition but the history is pretty interesting.

The history of the theater is pretty nicely and rather humerously written in the article entitled History Of Theatre From Ancient Greece . . . I will join the author after his discussion of the Greeks:

"The Romans weren’t content to simply stand around on stage and recite poetry. They were a blood thirsty, murderous, pillaging bunch, squeezing their toothpaste from the middle of the tube. And they portrayed their lifestyle in their dramas.

The Roman theatre was shaped with a half circle or orchestra space in front of the stage. Most often the audience sat here in comfortable chairs. Occasionally, however, the actors would perform in this space.

The audience was usually more interested in their favorite actors than the play itself. The actors would try to win over the audience’s praise with decorative masks, costumes, dancing and mime.

If the play scripted a character’s death, a condemned man would take the place of the actor at the last moment and actually be killed on stage. Where is the Actor’s Guild when you need it?
At the decline of the
Roman empire the Christian church was well established, and frowned upon the depiction of such pagan philosophy. It was at this time that theatre was banned. In fact, it is said drama would have died altogether if it weren’t for the common folk. Bands of actors, jugglers and acrobats kept the art alive performing about the land.

Ironically, drama was revived by the church. During the middle ages when very few were literate - the Priests acted out scenes from the Bible as a teaching tool. This was so popular that the town guilds soon joined in. In fact this became so popular, the performances had to be moved to the front steps of the church. Everyone wanted to get in on the act, and soon the towns people were participating. Eventually, the subject matter moved from a spiritual nature to something more earthy. God bless Shakespeare.

By the Renaissance period, theatre was not accepted by polite society. During the plagues, traveling actors were banned from entering castle walls and city gates for fear of spreading putrid, nasty, disgusting, green-pussed Black Death.

Theatre was also associated with heavy drinking, which led to brawling. And you know what happens after that. Your mama ends up in prison, and a hound dog with tics has no place to call home. Of course a bottle of whiskey comes into play, all because of some woman named Dixie down at the Blue Moon Bar and Grill. Gotta be the lonely sound a train whistle in the background.

On top of that, women of ill-repute were known to ply their trade outside of the theatre walls. At this point the government decided to step in and regulate the theatre.

Nothing changes over the course of 500 years.

In 1642 theatre was banned in England. Up until this time the emphasis was on oration. In fact, there was so little blocking, the privileged upper class audience actually sat on the stage.

During the ban, English actors fled to
Italy and France, where costumes, staging and props were the emphasis. Thus in 1660, when theatre was once again established in England, the performers brought back the Italian and French style of acting and changing the face of English drama. …"

When you consider the Roman’s were killing people on stage, even if they were just criminals we have to give the Christian Church some applause for standing up against such things, though the idea of censoring pagan philosophy is a little more dubious. Still we have a bit of a cluttered history with the theater and most of that time it was viewed unfavorably. Then Theater began to get more civilized and perhaps more recognizable to the modern mind, with acting and sets and then even lighting and good writing.

Speaking of the Puritan era The Journal or Religion and Theatre in an article The Prejudice Against Theatre by Debra Bruch, Ph. D. writes:

"During the Italian Renaissance, the prejudice against the theatre found its way into Puritan Protestantism through John Calvin, who perpetuated the medieval belief that the supreme question in a person’s relationship with life was the question of conduct. The English Renaissance theatre was caught between Queen Elizabeth’s use of theatre at times to make a religious and political statement and the Puritans who were backed by a theological philosophy grounded on behavior. However, the Puritan’s prejudice against theatre seems to be more fanatical and less based on objectivity than the objections of medieval scholars. The Puritans seemed to be engaged in a more precise definition of prejudice: to form an adverse opinion of judgment without knowledge of the facts and to hold an irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group.

People following Puritan beliefs blamed theatre practices and practitioners for the misfortunes of life and for the more undesirable aspects of society. In order to promote blame, Puritans infused theatre practices with prejudices that did not necessarily follow the realities of those practices. In other words, what the Puritans said the theatre did, and what the theatre actually did were probably two different things. To the Puritans, crimes of the theatre included emptying the churches, perpetuating pagan custom, distorting truth, showing forth profane, seditious, and bawdy stories, teaching knavery and lechery, causing God to visit the plague on London, leading youth into idleness and extravagance, affording meeting places for harlots and customers, aiding the Pope, and corrupting maidens and chaste wives.

[page 14] The basic assumption for these crimes stems from Tertullian’s and St. Augustine’s concern for causal relationships and the effects theatre has on its audience. If a person attended the theatre, then that person would be influenced by the production and act out that influence in society. In A Treatise Against Dicing, Dancing, Plays, and Interludes (1577), John Northbrooke writes,

In their plays you shall learn all things that appertain to craft, mischief, deceits and filthiness, etc. If you will learn how to be false and deceive your husbands, or husbands their wives, how to play the harlot, to obtain one’s love, how to ravish, how to beguile, how to betray, to flatter, lie, swear, forswear, how to allure to whoredom, how to murder, how to poison, how to disobey and rebel against princes, to consume treasures prodigally, to move to lusts, to ransack and spoil cities and towns, to be idle, to blaspheme, to sing filthy songs of love, to speak filthily, to be proud, how to mock, scoff and deride any nation . . . shall you not learn, then, at such interludes how to practice them?(21)

While Northbrooke’s view is based on plot and character of the Elizabethan drama, that view displays little understanding of theatre itself. The Puritans saw theatre as a form of direct negative influence on people’s behavior and, consequently on the quality of moral life in society.

The Puritan notion of quality of moral life in the Elizabethan age related to salvation. If a person chose to ignore sacred teachings, he was succumbing to temptation by Satan, his soul would be lost, and he would be eternally damned to hell. If enough people were to succumb, then an entire nation would fall, barbarian people would conquer the land, and the gospel would be lost. Herein lies the heart of Puritan reasoning for the power struggle: a genuine fear of eternal damnation linked to the loss of a quality of life in society based on salvation.

Puritan thought followed the early Christian world-view of the duality of God and Satan. Because the theatre influenced a mass of people, because Elizabeth I at times used the theatre as [page 15] a political weapon, and because theatre demonstrated ungodly thoughts and actions, the Puritans regarded the theatre as source and service to Satan. Puritan exaggeration was based on a high level of anxiety and fear. Northbrooke describes theatres as houses of Satan and asserts that religious themes in drama are sacrilegious. He writes:

Satan hath not a more speedy way, and fitter school to work and teach his desire, to bring men and women into the snare of concupiscence and filthy luste of wicked whoredom, than those places and plays and theatre are. . . . It hath stricken such a blind zeal into the hearts of the people, that they shame not to say, and affirm openly, that plays are as good as sermons, and that they learn as much or more at a play, than they do at God’s work preached. . . . Many can tarry at a vain play two or three hours, whereas they will not abide scarce one hour at a sermon.(22)

To Stephen Gosson (1554-1623) in Schoole of Abuse, the entire classic drama was infected by the blasphemy and immorality of paganism and almost all of the English stage was infected by the abuses of the theatre. Yet Gosson insisted that his intention was not to banish or condemn drama, but to chastise its abuses. Drama contained the germ of its own disintegration and he asserted that disintegration had already taken place in his own time. The delights and ornaments of drama intended to make moral doctrine more pleasing were in reality mere alluring disguises for obscenity and blasphemy.(23)"

Now the next time someone asks what does the SDA church have against theaters you will have an answer…we inherited it because we did not think anything ever changes; even though we live in a world that is constantly changing.