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.

1 comment:

Bulworth said...

"7. The god of the Shack repeatedly elevates experience or subjective revelation over the Scriptures:"

In Spiritual Gifts Vol. 1, which gives an account of the 1843-1844 disappointments, EGW makes a statement to that effect that even though the Advent pioneers were mightily discouraged, they maintained their course in large part on the basis of the convicting (one might say dramatic) experience they had as a result of their studying and communing together and their ardent desire to see God (and presumably as a result of hearing umpteen sermons on the nearness and certainty of Jesus' soon return).

Anyway, SDA history and purpose has been as much about "experience" and emotions as reason (their own kind of reason that is).

Nothing necessarily wrong about that. Experience is important. But writers like Tutch should be careful of throwing stones while living in glass houses, etc.