Adventist Media Response and Conversation

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

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