The Shack Fiction Review : 2008/07/04
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The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity
by William P. Young
Los Angeles: Windblown Media, 2007, 248 pp., tradepaper.


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Note: I made a couple of minor tweaks on July 6 and 15. On Sept 16 I decided to remove a section dealing with some of the literary flaws of the book, as that's not where the discussion should be focused.

The Shack phenomenon has been raging through evangelical circles, with everyone from friends and former students to my mom reading it and discussing it with me. I'm wary of "hype" books despite the acclaim, and so I finally decided to get my own copy of this book by Canadian William P. Young, written in collaboration with Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings. The red flags went up when I saw Eugene Peterson's front cover endorsement:

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

I'm not a huge fan of Peterson's loose paraphrase of Scripture, The Message, but more than that, to expect any current book to match a classic like Pilgrim's Progress is a virtually unattainable standard. Still, the first couple of pages are full of glowing endorsements with phrases like "wrapped in creative brilliance," "an exceptional piece of writing," "a masterpiece," and from James Ryle, who prophesied the University of Colorado's 1990 national football championship, "by far one of the best books I have ever read." Nothing could live up to that hyperbole, and The Shack certainly isn't Pilgrim's Progress, read-it-in-literature-class-next-century material. However, I decided to overlook any literary shortcomings and examine the content of the story. This review will have plot spoilers, so if you are eager to read the latest in Christian bookstore hype, get through the book before reading the rest of this review.

The Shack recounts the tale of a man named Mack who is despondent over the apparent murder of his young daughter during a family camping trip. He is invited to meet God at the shack where the murder likely took place. Once there, he engages in conversation with God the Father, who is a large African-American woman named Papa (and also Elousia). Jesus is a Middle-Eastern man, and the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman named Sarayu. He learns about God, forgiveness, and letting go of his pain. Mack wrestles with valid questions and comes up with some good solutions, but I do have concerns about several aspects of the book, especially since it's being hailed as a theological masterpiece.

I don't want to be lumped in with the "The Shack is a New Age plot by a bunch of psuedo-Hindus" gang, because I do believe the authors are Christians who mean well, but in some areas they've either got some unorthodox views or take excessive literary license. Portraying God as a woman is problematic, not because God doesn't have feminine qualities, but because God always portrays Himself as a male in Scripture.

When Mack bumps into Papa listening to music in the kitchen, she tells him it's a secular funk band that hasn't been born yet. He responds,

I thought you would be listening to George Beverly Shea or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir--you know, something churchier (90).

So Mack apparently has no concept that Mormonism and orthodox Christianity have little in common. That doesn't mean the authors don't realize it, but it's an odd statement nonetheless.

Later, Papa tells Mack that the Truth will set him free, and he laments:

"How can you really know how I feel?" Mack asked, looking back into her eyes.
Papa didn't answer, only looked down at their hands. His gaze followed hers and for the first time Mack noticed the scars in her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his (95).

This apparently promotes the heresy of patripassionism, also known as Sabellianism. That is, it teaches that the Father was incarnate and suffered on the cross along with Jesus Christ. Typically, that view is held by modalists, those who fail to accept distinct persons in the Trinity. This theological confusion continues:

When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood (99).

No. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are not fully human; they are not flesh and blood. That is a distinct role of the Son. They go on:

Jesus is fully human. Although he is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything (99).

How about creating the universe? Perhaps the authors are referring to Jesus after His birth on earth, rather than to his role as the Word, the second person of the Trinity.

Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see the deep sadness in her eyes. "I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside." (119).

The wrath of God is Biblical, and to disregard that is to disregard the Biblical teaching on that subject.

Any concept of hierarchy is considered taboo to the authors of The Shack. Mack awkwardly questions the Godhead about their roles:

"I have always thought of God the Father as sort of being the boss and Jesus as the one following orders, you know, being obedient (121).

Mack seems to be thinking of the words of Jesus in John 6:38, where He states, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me." Also, the allusion to Philippians 2:8 seems obvious: "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." However, Sarayu disagrees:

"Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of friendship... Hierarchy would make no sense among us (122).

While Trinitarian teaching emphasizes that all three members are fully God and co-equal, the Bible clearly teaches hierarchy in roles, with the Father sending the Son and the Spirit. The Son and Spirit are never said to send the Father. Many other examples could be given, but we move on.

Man's free will is sacred to the God of The Shack:

If you could only see how all this ends and what we will achieve without the violation of one human will--then you would understand (125).

Was Saul's will violated on the road to Damascus? Paul writes often of God's will, but very little, if any, of his own. The Biblical emphasis is on the will of God, like in Acts 4:27-28:

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

God's will is paramount, not man's. In The Shack, however, submission is taken to a new level, as Jesus explains:

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 (145).

So God the Father submits to man in the same way that the Son submits to the Father. Interesting. I'm struggling to find the orthodoxy in that.

Eventually Jesus sends Mack to meet up with a woman in a cave. She turns out to be Wisdom personified, and enlightens him about his warped view of eternal punishment. She tells him to choose two of his children for heaven, and three for hell. He refuses, and finally offers to go in their place if someone has to be tortured for eternity.

"You have judged them worthy of love, even if it cost you everything. That is how Jesus loves...And now you know Papa's heart," she added, "who loves all his children perfectly" (163).

There are some obvious problems here. Jesus did not give up heaven; He gave up his life on earth. The Bible teaches that judgment will fall on mankind, and not everyone will be saved. The book sets up universalism as the necessary end result of a loving God. This God didn't have the world go the way he wanted, and according to Wisdom, death isn't always in the plan of God:

"But I still don't understand why Missy had to die."
"She didn't have to, Mackenzie. This was no plan of Papa's. Papa has never needed evil to accomplish his good purposes (165).

Where is the comfort in knowing that the death of a loved one was outside of God's plan? As we saw Paul preach in Acts 4:27-28,

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

The greatest sin of all, mankind's murder of their Creator, was planned by God ahead of time. Could the cross happened without evil? No. Still, God planned it for His good purposes and predestined the crucifixion. I believe that on the cross, Jesus saved His people from their sins and that reconciliation is man in right relationship with God. The Shack seems it differently:

"I am now fully reconciled to the world."
"The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?"
" The whole world, Mack. All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two way (sic) street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship but it is the nature of love to open the way" (192).

According to Romans 5:10, that would result in universalism, as those who are reconciled are saved: "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." So what about 2 Corinthians 5:19? "...in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." Is universalism true? Has God reconciled every individual and therefore saved all?

The very next verse, 2 Corinthians 5:20, says, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." That makes it clear that not every individual is reconciled. Full reconciliation is possible only when God cleanses us and we put our faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did much more than just open a way. As Revelation 5:9 says of Jesus, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." The work was completed.

As I researched the book, I found this statement by James B. De Young, a friend of The Shack author William Paul Young:

About four years ago Paul embraced Christian universalism and has defended this on several occasions. While he frequently disavows general universalism, the idea that many roads lead to God, he carefully affirms that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and that all will be reconciled to God either this side of death or afterward.

That certainly explains the approach of the book. In many ways, it's a tract for universalism. Somehow, co-author Wayne Jacobsen denies that, saying that he doesn't know how it could have been clearer that universalism is not being taught. He also denies that ultimate reconciliation is being taught, but the book fooled me.

I believe the authors are being honest when they deny being emergent/emerging, but surely they can understand when people assume that to be the case after reading passages like this statement from Sarayu:

I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse (203).
When Jesus was about to ascend, he told his disciples in John 16:13,
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Uncertainty? Total lack of hierarchy? It's hard to imagine the Spirit turning around and saying what we just read from page 203 of The Shack.

Much of the book has that effect on me. I read a passage, and then wonder just how that works in light of Scripture. I don't like some things that may just be personal preferences or literary license, but I find some of the teaching impossible to reconcile with Biblical Christianity. Maybe that's because of the worldview the authors are coming from. Co-authors Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings host a webcast. The front page says that "Their purpose is not to attack people who see it differently," but in a March episode entitled Doctrine Police, one of them (Wayne, I believe) says,

I don't think anybody who thinks MacArthur has got the answers for the church today is going to enjoy The Shack or He Loves Me. I'm not even sure they'd enjoy Galatians or Ephesians (laughter). That's another story. I mean, that doesn't surprise me. (continued laughter) That wing of legalism, of doctrine policing, of "we've got the only right way to view these things and if you don't say it exactly the way we're saying it, you're a heretic and we're going to expose you" is helpful to life or the body of Christ.
I find it ironic that those who rail most loudly against the "doctrine police" and the distortion of their views seem content to distort what the so-called "doctrine police" believe. John MacArthur is no legalist, and I've never heard or read anything by him that calls anyone a heretic. The jab about Galatians or Ephesians might be humorous, but it also sounds like attacking those who think differently. As the podcast continues, Wayne says he is not emergent and adds,

"Don't let people put labels on you. Labels are the way we marginalize people."

Do you mean like labeling MacArthur and friends legalists and doctrine police? I suppose I'm eligible for the doctrine police force now that I've written a review that questions The Shack, but I have a right to my opinion just as they do to theirs. I'm not banning or boycotting their book--I even paid for a copy--but in defending the truth, I have to raise questions about some of their content. I could cheerfully sit down and discuss it with them over hot chocolate, but I don't agree with many of their presuppositions. Be careful as you read The Shack--too many Christians have little or no discernment when they consume the latest Christian bookstore fodder.

More reviews:

Author William P. Young's friend James B. De Young hosts The Shack Review. His own review is called AT THE BACK OF THE SHACK: A TORRENT OF UNIVERSALISM.

Read THE SHACK, "Elousia," & the Black Madonna. This review makes some pretty strong claims, building a thorough case. It discusses topics like theologian Paul Tillich's Ground of Being. However, I give the authors of The Shack the benefit of the doubt when they say they did not intend to portray the Black Madonna.

Read Canadian blogger Tim Challies' thorough review of The Shack.

For a positive review, try Internet Monk



60 comments for The Shack

1. Matt Email Web 2008-07-06  12:36pm

Great review Randy. I found the book incredibly disturbing. The Shack throws so many old heresies in the microwave and rewarms them that I honestly wonder why Christian bookstores would publish the drivel.

We're not talking about peripheral issues. This book presents unbiblical and even antibiblical views on authority, hierarchy, grace, sin, providence, sovereignty, justification, wrath, heaven, and hell.

I was going to do a review on The Shack on my blog, but since you've covered much of what I wanted to, I'll take the easy route and just link to you.

Al Mohler also dedicated a radio program to the book.


2. Matt Email Web 2008-07-07  5:12am

Should be "bookstores would sell the drivel" above.

Do you think publishers owe it to Christians to only publish solid material, or is it entirely up to individual Christians to sift out the garbage? Ultimately, of course, I believe that final responsibility lies with the individual for what he/she reads, accepts, believes, etc. I guess I'm just trying to sort out to what degree Christian publishers and booksellers owe it to their customers to use discernment in what they publish/sell.


3. Randy Email Web 2008-07-07  7:28am

Matt, I think they should have a responsibility, but obviously most of them shirk it. When a respected house like Eerdmans can publish a BYU prof's Mormon apologetics book, we've fallen a long way.


4. Matt Email Web 2008-07-08  6:04am

I think we're agreed.

I didn't know that about Eerdmans. That is really disappointing. What's up with Zondervan? They seem to really have drifted as well with some of the emerging junk they're publishing. I see The Shack is published by Windblown Media (aptly named, apparently). Do they profess to be a Christian publisher, or are they strictly secular?

Are there any publishers that you are able to consistently trust? From what I've seen, Crossway and Nelson are quite consistently putting out good stuff. Is that your experience as well? Are there any other consistently good ones?


5. Randy Email Web 2008-07-08  8:17am

From what I've seen, Crossway and Nelson are quite consistently putting out good stuff. Is that your experience as well? Are there any other consistently good ones?

There's no easy rule, except maybe that Crossway is good. Zondervan publishes Carson as well as the emergent types. Thomas Nelson is the home of John Eldredge and Donald Miller as well as some traditionally evangelical stuff. I think it's case-by-case. Revell published some very emerging stuff by Clare & Ingram, but apparently canceled their next book after reading my review (that's what one of the authors told me). Be discerning and don't fully trust any publisher!


6. Matt Email Web 2008-07-08  8:45am

Be discerning and don't fully trust any publisher!

I agree. I don't give carte blanche to any publisher or bookseller, as most of them are pretty mixed in what they offer. I was more looking for general guidelines. Personally, I have yet to find anything bad put out by Crossway, and I find more and more disturbing (read: emerging) stuff put out by Zondervan.

I hate to be negative, but if I have a default position about publishers, it would probably be to not fully trust any of them until they prove themselves otherwise, rather than vice-versa :-(

Good work on the review! And good on Revell for having a backbone (assuming the author's report is correct)!


7. Henry Email Web 2008-07-10  11:27am

Hi,
Quite the conversation here. I am intrigued that some reviewers are adamant that Young's portrayals are so decidedly anti-scriptural, while others see it as a beautiful narrative that is much more congruent with scripture than much of what passes for theology. It will come as no surprise that I thought it was a beautiful book, not without its problems, but still a persuasive invitation to come to know the God Who cares so deeply for Her creation.
Here is a link to a review from another perspective, for those who care to hear another side.
http://gregboyd.blogspot.com/2008/06/shack-review.html


8. Matt Email Web 2008-07-11  9:52am

the God Who cares so deeply for Her creation

Henry, while we both agree (I hope) that God is a personal being, we would also both agree (I hope) that God is not a person. Having said that, we also know that God uses exclusively masculine language for Himself. There is one instance that I can think of where He describes one of His actions as being like that of a mother hen (Matthew 23:37), but even there He doesn't use that feminine language to describe His basic being, just an action of His.

If idolatry is thinking wrongly about God, and if God never reveals Himself in feminine terms, would it not constitute idolatry for us to refer to Him in those terms? Why would we choose terms for God that He never ascribes for Himself? Is that imagination or revelation?


9. Henry Email Web 2008-07-12  10:16am

while we both agree (I hope) that God is a personal being, we would also both agree (I hope) that God is not a person....
If idolatry is thinking wrongly about God, and if God never reveals Himself in feminine terms, would it not constitute idolatry for us to refer to Him in those terms? Why would we choose terms for God that He never ascribes for Himself?

Presumably we agree that the teaching of scripture is quite clearly that God is neither male nor female, so if idolatry is thinking wrongly about God it would seem to make little difference in terms of idolatry whether we refer to God as him or her. The idolatry would lie in thinking that one or the other more correctly reflects God, if neither actually does. Perhaps we would then be safer to refer to God exclusively as (for example) a Rock, as that term is gender neutral and God uses that term to refer to himself as well. On the other hand we could go with Genesis 1:27 and say that according to scripture both terms reflect who God is equally well:
So God created human beings in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
The English language has long used the masculine as a generic reference, which means that it is erroneous to read too much into such masculine references. There is no personal third person option.
Blessings.


10. Matt Email Web 2008-07-12  10:44am

Henry, I have to disagree with you. While God does not have a gender in the same sense as we do, it is not arbitrarily up to us to call Him "him" or "her". The reason it isn't arbitrary is because He always used masculine terms for Himself. We must do the same. For us to ascribe attributes to God that He doesn't reveal to us is pure idolatry. We have no way of knowing if our imaginary God-attributes are real or if they are merely golden calves of our imagination.

As far as language goes, while English does use masculine terminology in generic contexts, masculine biblical references to God are not generic. They are very intentionally part of the biblical languages. If Jesus wanted to pray to mother God, He could have. If He wanted to pray to some androgynous, impersonal deity, He could have. The fact is that He intentionally used the language of "father" when He prayed. Somehow I think He's got more insight into the Godhead than me or you do, so we better stick with what God actually reveals to us.


11. Henry Email Web 2008-07-12  2:03pm

Henry, I have to disagree with you.
Agreed.
For us to ascribe attributes to God that He doesn't reveal to us is pure idolatry.
Agreed again. Which means that to ascribe masculinity to God when the Word clearly indicates God is neither male nor female is idolatrous. To insist that male terminology is a better way to refer to God runs afoul of biblical revelation, though not biblical convention.
As far as language goes, while English does use masculine terminology in generic contexts, masculine biblical references to God are not generic. They are very intentionally part of the biblical languages.
Careful. You are setting up a problem for your commitment to inerrancy. If the male references are intentionally referring to God as male when God is clearly revealed in scripture as neither male nor female then these references are in error. Given that the vast preponderance of biblical scholarship disagrees with you on the significance of gender specific terminology for God you need to make your case for its significance rather than merely assuming it. You can save yourself the work and simplify your purported commitment to inerrancy by retracting that statement. However, given the raft of other scriptural references we have discussed that you have insisted cannot possibly mean what they say I will continue to be highly sceptical of that commitment.
Somehow I think He's got more insight into the Godhead than me or you do, so we better stick with what God actually reveals to us.
Agreed again. WOW!! That makes three times in one posting!! But don't let that scare you too badly, because my agreement with your principle is the foundation for my vigorous disagreement with where this principle directs us to go. This revelation is precisely why I refuse to allow that male references to God are better than female references because the revelation indicates that neither are accurate. You are reading to much significance into biblical conventions because you need that to support your pre-existing commitments, and you are allowing those mis-readings to cloud your understanding of biblical revelation.
Blessings.


12. Matt Email Web 2008-07-12  6:20pm

Henry,

1) Was Jesus (the only human manifestation of God) a man?
2) Why does Jesus use intimate, intensely personal, male terminology to talk to the Father (e.g. - Abba)?
3) Why does Jesus repeatedly talk about His Father who sent Him?

Note: I will not accept an answer in which Jesus accommodates Himself to the culture.


13. Henry Email Web 2008-07-12  9:09pm

Of course Jesus was a man. However, Randy made it quite clear above that that it is highly improper to uncritically extend implications of the Incarnation to the other Persons of the Trinity. This would seem especially prudent given what I thought was our earlier agreement that God is neither male nor female. He is repeatedly called Father in the Word that rather clearly indicates God is not male.
Why would it be threatening to realize that the scriptural references to God as Father were culturally conditioned? The fact that they are culturally conditioned does not mitigate their authority. Rather it is because they are culturally implicated that they are comprehensible. Given the magnitude of the transition represented in the Incarnation, God becoming human, cultural accommodation for the purpose of communication seems a small matter indeed. The evangelical theory of inspiration leaves room for the imprint of personal characteristics in the revelation of the Word, it seems indubitable that personal characteristics would include cultural contingencies. All of scripture is implicated in cultural realities. The fact that scripture is wrapped in cultural forms that are not intimately familiar to us does not mean those truths have no significance to us. It simply requires another step of interpretation for us to better understand the significance and meaning of those truths in our own cultural context. I think you are playing a very dangerous game in delimiting in advance the ways in which God is allowed to speak to you, especially when the ways you proscribe are the very ways God uses to communicate truth.


14. Henry Email Web 2008-07-12  9:23pm

Matt, I know you place far more confidence in the Chicago statements than you do in my own words, so to put your mind at ease, here is an excerpt from the Chicago statement on inerrancy:
Although Holy Scripture is nowhere culture-bound in the sense that
its teaching lacks universal validity, it is sometimes culturally
conditioned by the customs and conventional views of a particular
period, so that the application of its principles today calls for a
different sort of action.


15. Randy Email Web 2008-07-13  6:26pm

I've been out of town, and return to find you boys playing in my backyard. That's okay, though.

I'm not surprised that Boyd liked The Shack. Of course, I disagree with him on many things.


16. Henry Email Web 2008-07-13  9:04pm

Sorry, Randy. I am now sneaking over the fence out of your back yard and into my own. But thanks for the space. It was fun while it lasted. And I am sure it will be fun again. Maybe more fun next time when we invited in through the front door. Then again, maybe not more fun that way, but fun nevertheless.


17. Matt Email Web 2008-07-13  9:20pm

Randy, I was wondering if you had been raptured, but I never got an email telling me so, so I assumed all was well :-)

Henry, I feel right at home with what you quite from CSBI. No problems. I just find it interesting that you'd no doubt affirm that Jesus was counter-cultural in so many areas, and yet somehow, when praying in private, He somehow acquiesced to the culture. It wasn't like Jesus to skirt controversy when face to face with His enemies. Not sure why He'd be less courageous in an intimate setting.


18. Henry Email Web 2008-07-14  6:13am

Hi Matt,
It is not a question of acquiescing to culture, it is a question of meaningful communication. I have not seen you wearing robes in public. Presumably you would expect that Jesus would not wear robes if he moved into the neighborhood again. Was he "acquiescing" to culture by wearing robes when jeans and T-shirt would have been just as fine? Was he acquiescing to culture by speaking Greek and Aramaic rather than Hebrew? Or English? Or Low German? By walking wherever he wanted to go instead of driving a car? Or flying? Ludicrous questions? Yes, indeed. Anachronistic would be the term.
Same thing with the gender references to Deity. That simply was not an issue that would have made any sense at that time. Same reason Paul never ever makes a comment regarding slavery that does not endorse slavery. I do not for one moment believe that Jesus intended to attribute masculinity to God when he called him Father. If he did, he was wrong, right? God is not male. Neither is She female. And most certainly not It. If the other biblical references to God as male intend to attribute macsculinity to God, they are also wrong, right? I would like to hear a straight answer from you on that.
If God can be called Father without intending that God is male, then it should be similarly unproblematic to refer to God as Mother or She without intending to attribute femaleness to God. If that is a problem then I do not know what the foundation for that problem could be other than a pernicious patriarchalism. The earliest revelation is quite clear that male and female both bear the imago dei. Both equally reflect God and only together do they most adequately (though never completely) reflect who God is.
Young is quite clear that his casting God as a black woman was not intended to suggest that God was a woman or black. It was only to highlight that God is likewise not a white male. The furor over his protrayal only serves to prove that he was onto something. There is something devious about recognizing that God is not male, but still insisting that male references are the only appropriate way to address Him. Him and Her are equally wrong.
Blessings.


19. Matt Email Web 2008-07-14  9:27am

Hey Henry,

just have a second here. I'll try responding more in depth tonight. Again you're reasoning from the lesser to the greater, and in principle I have no problem with that. It's valid. However, it breaks down here severely.

To move from culturally appropriate clothing styles to Jesus' view of God tries to prove too much. What did Jesus come to do if not show us a fuller revelation of God than what was previously there? Jesus was meticulous in refuting error and teaching a correct view about God? The way He did so ruffled many feathers and caused much controversy. He was no compromiser when it came to important theological concepts. I think we're agreed that the nature of God is a pretty important theological concept.

If we're agreed on that, and the fact that Jesus had no problems breaking with cultural norms when the truth was at stake (eg. Mark 7:8), we should recognize that Jesus could very easily have called God "mother" or "Her" if He thought that would give us a more fully orbed view of God's essential nature. He didn't. End of story.

We can't claim to know more about God than what Jesus showed us about Him. Anything less or anything more is idolatry.


20. Henry Email Web 2008-07-14  1:45pm

Hi Matt,
I think you misread my argument entirely. I can see how you might have read it as an argument from analogy, but that was not my intent. The parallel examples were there to show how the anachronistic argument works in various applications, but those examples were not the foundation for an argument.
I do not think the story ends as quickly as you indicate, unless you think Jesus was trying to teach us something about how gender relates to God and vice versa. If he did, then you have a point, but then Genesis and Jesus disagree. If Jesus and Genesis do not disagree then Jesus cannot have meant to teach us anything about God's gender, and we should not eisegete gender lessons into Jesus' words. If your last paragraph is true then we should not extrapolate gender lessons from Jesus' words if he did not intend to teach us that God was a male.


21. Matt Email Web 2008-07-14  7:18pm

Henry,

I don't believe I misread your argument. I'll try a different angle.

Jesus' hearers would not have been able to make any sense of jeans, airplanes, Low German, etc. because they had no categories or terms of reference to make sense of those things.

Not so when it comes to gender references to God. Every one of Jesus' hearers had a mother, most likely a number of sisters, a wife, daughters, nieces, etc. Maybe they kept ewes or cows, or hens. The point is that a feminine reference to God would have been comprehensible to Jesus' audience. That's not to say that such a reference wouldn't have stirred controversy, it simply says that it would not have been anachronistic for Jesus to make such a reference had He wanted to.

Given the fact that everything about Jesus angered the religious establishment of His day, though, I'm not sure why He would have avoided that one controversial issue. The masculine references to God are unmistakably intentional. To attribute femininity to God is to attribute something to Him from silence. We have a clear pattern of masculine descriptors for God, and that is what we must follow.

There is no conflict between Jesus and Genesis. Women are created in the image of God. They are men's equals, and they are personal beings. No conflict there. My daughter is also made in my image. She resembles me, has similar character traits as me (Lord help her!), and is my flesh and blood. That doesn't make me female.


22. Henry Email Web 2008-07-15  5:44am

That's a better reading. However, to say that the people of the times knew about females, therefore they would have understood feminine references to God grossly oversimplifies developments in regard to gender roles in the last few generations. There are clearly excesses at both ends of the spectrum in feminism, but there is no way Jesus' contemporaries could have heard nuances of gender equality in the same way we do now, which is not to say simply that we know much better now, but we do know very differently now. Volumes have been written to show that Jesus, his disciples, and the early church were far more egalitarian than the rest of their culture, but they could not have anticipated our current context even if they were radically egalitarian in their own time. We find it difficult to anticipate where the next generation will be, never mind 50 generations hence.
I am sure you would agree that the way your daughter bears your image is a very different kettle of fish from what it means for humans to bear the imago dei. That argument simply does not work for me. Inherited resemblance is of a completely different order than is creation in the imago dei. To conflate those is a category mistake.
I am surprised at the vehemence with which you insist that only male descriptors are appropriate for God.
To attribute femininity to God is to attribute something to Him from silence. We have a clear pattern of masculine descriptors for God, and that is what we must follow.
So feminine descriptors actually attribute femininity to God? Presumably in precisely the same way that male descriptors attribute masculinity to God? And you think it imperative to use male descriptors for God even though you know the Bible clearly indicates that God is neither? And to think about God in ways other than the Bible indicates is idolatry? And yet to insist on masculine descriptors is not idolatry?
IMHO there is a problem with the flow of your logic. I think we are much better to recognize that male descriptors were/are a default way to reference third persons, quite understandably the default choice in the patriarchal culture in which our Bible was written (See above CSBI statement), but they cannot intend to attribute maleness to God, as scripture clearly teaches that God is neither male nor female. Current references to God as She are likewise not intended to attribute femaleness to God, but only serve to highlight that God is neither male nor female, and they remind us that all our categories for God are finally inadequate. God is more than we can know, and yet S/He has revealed Him/Herself to us as our Creator Whose love and grace is sufficient for us far beyond our ability to comprehend and formulate adequate categories for our comprehension of our Creator.
God bless.


23. Matt Email Web 2008-07-15  8:04pm

That's a better reading. However, to say that the people of the times knew about females, therefore they would have understood feminine references to God grossly oversimplifies developments in regard to gender roles in the last few generations. There are clearly excesses at both ends of the spectrum in feminism, but there is no way Jesus' contemporaries could have heard nuances of gender equality in the same way we do now, which is not to say simply that we know much better now, but we do know very differently now. Volumes have been written to show that Jesus, his disciples, and the early church were far more egalitarian than the rest of their culture, but they could not have anticipated our current context even if they were radically egalitarian in their own time. We find it difficult to anticipate where the next generation will be, never mind 50 generations hence.

Henry, you can't have it both ways. In this paragraph you seem to be affirming that 1) Jesus and the early Christians were radically counter-cultural; and 2) Jesus and the early Christians didn't really get nuance when it came to gender.

Jesus was/is not a compromiser. He taught the truth at any cost, even at the cost of His life. If it would have helped aid our understanding of God, He most certainly would have made feminine references to God.

Jesus believed in truth (even at the cost of controversy), not in pragmatism or expediency.

I am sure you would agree that the way your daughter bears your image is a very different kettle of fish from what it means for humans to bear the imago dei. That argument simply does not work for me. Inherited resemblance is of a completely different order than is creation in the imago dei. To conflate those is a category mistake.

I agree with you that this is an imperfect analogy. I would just follow that up, though, by suggesting that my daughter actually bears my image more than she, you, or I bear God's image, in many significant ways.

So feminine descriptors actually attribute femininity to God?

Yes. Terms for God are theologically loaded. We agree that God isn't an exemplary human (He belongs in a different category altogether). But even still, the word Father conjures images of authority, headship, provision, love, justice, etc. It's an intentional word. That's not to say that male references are exhaustive descriptors of God's nature. It is to say, however, that when Jesus and the biblical authors use the word Father, it is a loaded, intentional word. It is not a literary convention.

Presumably in precisely the same way that male descriptors attribute masculinity to God?

See above.

And you think it imperative to use male descriptors for God even though you know the Bible clearly indicates that God is neither?

If the example of Jesus means something, then yes. When He taught us how to pray, He instructed us to say "Our Father...". He could have said "Our parent...", "Our mother...", "Our loving theistic being...", etc. He didn't. He used Father. We have no authority to do anything else.

And to think about God in ways other than the Bible indicates is idolatry?

Yes.

And yet to insist on masculine descriptors is not idolatry?

Correct. Unless of course, Moses, the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, Paul, and James are idolators.

God is more than we can know, and yet S/He has revealed Him/Herself to us as our Creator Whose love and grace is sufficient for us far beyond our ability to comprehend and formulate adequate categories for our comprehension of our Creator.

I agree. I would simply add, though, that each and every time God reveals Himself to us, He does so in masculine terms. Whether that be the male person of Jesus, or the way He showed Himself to Moses and the prophets, etc. If we're going with CSBI, then we have to say that every word from God is inspired. If God reveals Himself in masculine terms to the biblical authors, then we must affirm He had a reason in doing so, and we must rest in the necessity and sufficiency of that fact. To do otherwise is idolatry.

Grace and peace,
Matt


24. Henry Email Web 2008-07-21  8:05am

If the example of Jesus means something, then yes. When He taught us how to pray, He instructed us to say "Our Father...". He could have said "Our parent...", "Our mother...", "Our loving theistic being...", etc. He didn't. He used Father. We have no authority to do anything else.
Too facile. Jesus was teaching us to pray, not what gender references for God are correct. You continue to make anachronistic assumptions suggesting that Jesus should have employed gender neutral language if those are in fact appropriate. That is like suggesting that Jesus should have included a sermon on the environmental stewardship of air travel. Is it or is it not the case that biblical revelation indicates that God is neither male nor female? In a patriarchal era the questions we currently ask regarding gender specific references do not have the same significance. It is only within the last generation that Manitoba's Museum of Man and Nature dropped the gender exclusive language. This is not re-interpreting the Bible to accommodate culture. It is changing the language we use to translate the Bible because language changes. Language and culture are inter-connected and each reflects the other. To insist on masculine references now means things that such references did not mean in the patriarchal times of scripture. To insist on using the same language now changes the meaning of scripture. That is why we need to update translations every now and again. It is not because the Bible needs to change, but because language changes, so if we do not change the language we change the meaning of the Bible.

Henry: And yet to insist on masculine descriptors is not idolatry?
Matt: Correct. Unless of course, Moses, the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, Paul, and James are idolators.

Not at all. Using male references as a default in a patriarchal era is a very different thing from insisting on the use of male references in an egalitarian era when it is also clearly acknowledged that God is not male.
Of course, by now you have me wondering - is God more like male than female? This last response has me thinking that the agenda behind insisting on male descriptors is rooted in a pre-existing commitment to perpetuate patriarchy.

each and every time God reveals Himself to us, He does so in masculine terms
Not true. Several motherly references, numerous inanimate references, and several references that explicitly say God is not a man. Can we extrapolate from that to say that since God is personal, and scripture explicitly says God is not a man (intentional gender reference again, I presume), therefore God is in fact more like a woman than a man?

If God reveals Himself in masculine terms to the biblical authors, then we must affirm He had a reason in doing so, and we must rest in the necessity and sufficiency of that fact. To do otherwise is idolatry.
Unwarranted assumption (He had a reason in doing so) based on fallacious premises (see above). Presumably we could likewise assume that Jesus had a reason for never wearing pants and for walking everywhere he went, except for the boating episodes, and that to do otherwise than explicitly follow his example in these matters would be ungodly.

Blessings.


25. Matt Email Web 2008-07-21  5:43pm

Henry,

your response shows that we are literally worlds apart on so many things. I wonder if there is any real point in us continuing these threads?

Do you know extra-scriptural things about God?

As far as an "agenda", the only one I have is to attempt to be faithful to the interpretation of Scripture. I find male references to God and more than adequate basis for male headship. My agenda doesn't precede my understanding of Scripture. It's actually vice-versa.

The "anachronism" card just starts to look silly. Based on your assumptions, you strip Scripture of any ability to speak to any current issue. If you don't like what Scripture teaches, you just throw it out on the basis of culture. That which you do like, however, is transcendant. Jesus' teaching on peacemaking is obviously not applicable, right? I mean the culture around Him had such different political values than we do today. His teaching on this is just a reflection of the culture He lived in, right? Jesus has no claim to Lordship if your assumptions are true.

As I've said before, Jesus was always counter-cultural when culture had it wrong. If male headship was wrong and culture-based, then Jesus would have confronted it. He of all people would have set things straight. Yet He came as a man, prayed to someone He very intentionally called "Father", and chose twelve men to shepherd with Him.


26. Email Web 2008-07-22  8:23pm

Hi Matt,
Based on your assumptions, you strip Scripture of any ability to speak to any current issue.
Not true. Insisting that we give adequate consideration to cultural implications is precisely for the purpose of hearing scripture clearly and allowing it to speak authentically into our own time.
If you don't like what Scripture teaches, you just throw it out on the basis of culture.
Read my first paragraph again and you should see that what you suggest is exactly the opposite of what I argue for. I am arguing for an understanding of scripture that is not muddied by the gap between the times of scripture and our own times. I am insisting that we need to understand the cultural gap so we can properly understand the significance of scripture for our current troubled times.
I am not sure we are as far apart as you think. For example, we both read scripture and look in vain for any negative comments regarding slavery, yet neither of us takes scripture to be therefore endorsing slavery in our own time. That does not mean those references dealing with slavery have nothing to say to us. It means we need to do the extra work of understanding our own times as well as the times of scripture if we hope to properly understand what these passages have to say to us today. We both hear Paul say "Greet one another with a holy kiss" but we do not assume that we should kiss everyone we meet in church, though some people do take this reference to mean exactly that. My point is we both know there is a cultural gap between the writing of scripture and our own living of scripture, though we do not agree on how consistently this principle should guide our reading of scripture.
As to Jesus always being counter-cultural, I suggest it might be more accurate to say that he was more counter-religious-establishment than he was counter-cultural. Religious reifications are probably the greatest obstacle to orthodoxy and godliness. Jesus told the religious leaders time and again that their meticulous keeping of the law transgressed the spirit of the law. These are dangers we need to consider in our own practice of our faith.
God bless.


27. Matt Email Web 2008-07-23  9:16am

Henry,

it sounds as though we're agreed that while application may differ from one culture to another, biblical principles do not.

So while the employer/employee situation is different today than the slave/master situation was for Paul (the "slavery" we think of usually is of the 19th century North American variety, which was also wildly different than the slavery Paul knew), the principles of justness and submission still apply.

Fair enough. I would also say that on the issue of gender, symbols and applications are subject to change. For example, a feminine haircut or clothing look different today than they did in Paul's day. The principle, though, that women are to be modest and feminine still shines through. The underlying Scriptural principle hasn't changed though.

To me, that's where we seem to part company. It appears from your writing that you assume that virtually every change in the culture has been a positive one (at least when discussing gender issues). I would argue that while some changes have been positive, some have also undermined biblical principles. It's one thing to say that feminine pants made for women are a suitable sign of femininity today while a head-covering was a suitable sign in the 1st century. The thing is, those are symbols of the thing itself, just like baptism is a symbol for regeneration (as an aside, that's why I get so frustrated when people insist on a specific mode of baptism). To say that symbols and outward applications change is completely different from saying the basic principle which these symbols represent is now rendered obsolete. Just because I don't have enough water to dunk, so now I pour does NOT mean that inner regeneration is tossed aside. Just because women dress differently today does NOT mean that male headship or male terms of reference for God are obsolete.

As to Jesus always being counter-cultural, I suggest it might be more accurate to say that he was more counter-religious-establishment than he was counter-cultural.

Fair enough, I can go with that. The principle remains the same, however. The religious culture of Jesus' day was not egalitarian. If this was an offense to the will of God, then surely Jesus would have rectified it, like He did everything else that needed overhaul. He didn't. I realize, that's an argument from silence. However, we can also make a positive case in that Jesus chose exclusively men for authoritative apostolic roles. He could very easily have chosen 6, or even 1 woman. His action here speaks as loudly as His silence to the religious leaders of His day.

The only way around this is to argue for a trajectory hermeneutic, which of course, gives YOU the authority to declare what Jesus didn't finish or didn't perfect. It's up to you to finish what the Lord of all things didn't quite have the courage to do. Hey, what smells like selfish autonomy here....


28. Henry Email Web 2008-08-02  3:35pm

Hi Matt,
His action here speaks as loudly as His silence to the religious leaders of His day.
I agree completely. These both represent an argument from silence, which is a classical case of fallacious reasoning ("He did not choose women, and he must have not done so for a reason that conveniently endorses my position"). These are the most dubious of grounds to endorse continued patriarchy.
It appears from your writing that you assume that virtually every change in the culture has been a positive one (at least when discussing gender issues). I would argue that while some changes have been positive, some have also undermined biblical principles.
If I may, I would like to disagree with my own assumptions as you portray them, and agree with you at least in saying that not all changes have been positive.
The only way around this is to argue for a trajectory hermeneutic, which of course, gives YOU the authority to declare what Jesus didn't finish or didn't perfect. It's up to you to finish what the Lord of all things didn't quite have the courage to do. Hey, what smells like selfish autonomy here....
Like saying that even though slavery is never proscribed in scripture, it is not God's will for today? What is principle and what is application is precisely the point of the discussion.


29. Matt Email Web 2008-08-03  11:38am

These both represent an argument from silence, which is a classical case of fallacious reasoning ("He did not choose women, and he must have not done so for a reason that conveniently endorses my position"). These are the most dubious of grounds to endorse continued patriarchy.

Henry, to be clear, Jesus' choosing of twelve men was active, not passive. And while I agree that His example in isolation may not be convincing to all, at the very least, it is consistent with other Scriptures which actively prescribe male headship. Put another way, there is more evidence in Scripture for male headship than exclusively Jesus' example, but Jesus example is sufficient evidence for me to be confident that the complementarian view is indeed the Scriptural one. If it's good enough for Jesus Christ, Lord of all things, then surely it's good enough for me.

Like saying that even though slavery is never proscribed in scripture, it is not God's will for today? What is principle and what is application is precisely the point of the discussion.

Can you please show me where Jesus actively practiced slavery?

If the complementarian position is about application rather than principle, then can you please tell me what the principle is behind Jesus example, or the passages that prescribe male headship?


30. Henry Email Web 2008-08-04  2:14pm

Can you please show me where Jesus actively practiced slavery?
Why? This seems a very curious statement which, if genuine, would in my opinion indicate significant progress in your hermeneutic. Are you saying that a remarkable variance in Jesus' actions with the other words of scripture would be a pivotal factor? Are you saying that Jesus' actions should be taken to abrogate other clear statements of scripture if they are at odds? You seem to be suggesting that unless I can show you where Jesus actively practiced slavery then the fact that slavery is never proscribed in scripture is somehow mitigated. I am very curious about the grounds for this question.


31. Matt Email Web 2008-08-04  4:49pm

Are you saying that a remarkable variance in Jesus' actions with the other words of scripture would be a pivotal factor?

No. Never. Not because Scripture trumps Jesus, or vice-versa, but because the two make a perfectly unified whole. The fact that Jesus practiced exactly what seems to be the most plain understanding of a considerable amount of Scripture, to me, seals the fact that the complementarian understanding is indeed correct.

The exact same principle holds true for slavery. Scripture is abundantly clear that those under authority are to practice willing submission, while those in authority are to be just and merciful. In that sense, Jesus did not subvert authority or accountability in master/worker relationships. However, when we think of slavery, our minds often rush to the systematic racism and oppression of 19th century North American slavery. That system was seemingly anti-biblical. If we want proof that our interpretation of this is correct, we can look to Jesus. Seeing as He did not practice any form of oppression, it seems that our interpretation is indeed correct.

For you to take the course you now take would be akin to somebody using biblical teaching on male headship to promote abuse.

Again, Scripture and Jesus are not at odds. They stem from the same perfect, consistent, faithful, holy source, so we should never expect final conflict.


32. Noelle Email Web 2008-08-04  9:58pm

Whoever said God never refers to himself using feminine terms hasn't examined much of the original text. The root of El Shaddai is Shad, the word breast. Men don't seem to have those.


33. Henry Email Web 2008-08-05  8:01am

However, when we think of slavery, our minds often rush to the systematic racism and oppression of 19th century North American slavery.
We have that picture of slavery which is likely no less accurate or inaccurate for 19th century NA than it is for Roman times. You can't seriously think that the same excesses were not common in Jesus day, with the exception that NA slavery was almost exclusively racist.
The fact that neither Jesus nor scripture speaks against slavery when it included such abuses does not count against our blanket rejection of slavery today, but the fact that they did not anticipate 21st century understanding on gender and proclaim egalitarian roles for leadership more evangelistically must be considered normative?? I think you are just picking and choosing when that trajectory hermeneutic is appropriate.
For you to take the course you now take would be akin to somebody using biblical teaching on male headship to promote abuse.
What?? This does happen, you know. In fact some would say that much of the complementarian position is exactly that and I would have a hard time mustering a robust reponse in denial. You lost me on this one, though. I thought I was going one direction, and you have me going the exact opposite again. Fascinating.


34. Matt Email Web 2008-08-05  11:33am

but the fact that they did not anticipate 21st century understanding on gender

Jesus didn't anticipate something? Wow. What happened to your high Christology?

I don't think you caught my point. I'll try to rephrase it.

Scripture sets clear guidelines for 1)gender harmony; and 2)master/servant scenarios. Jesus violated neither. There is such a thing as injustice in both categories, and Jesus practiced injustice in nothing. There is also such a thing as Christ-exalting principles in both categories.

As long as we're agreed that everything Jesus did was not only free from injustice, but also brought glory to Himself then we can say two things. 1)Slavery in an oppressive context is unjust and does not bring glory to God. Jesus still recognized the fact that some are under authority and some are in authority. He did not subvert that principle. Rather, He practiced it in such a way that it was free from evil. From that we can draw that it is not evil for me to be under the authority of my pastor, my boss, my government, etc. Neither is it evil for me to be in authority over my small children. As long as God-exalting behaviour manifests itself (whichever hat I'm wearing), then all is good, and for the glory of God. 2) Male headship in an oppressive sense is also evil and unjust. Jesus had no part in it. He allowed women to travel with Him, He talked with women, He allowed women to attend to Him, etc. Jesus also chose exclusively men to shepherd with Him. If complementarianism were oppressive, unjust, etc., then Jesus would never have propagated it. He would have rebuked it just as He rebuked treating women as mindless property. It was just and God-exalting for Jesus to practice male headship.

The principles in play for both slavery and gender roles are the same. Scripture prescribes behaviour in both, and rebukes behaviour in both. Jesus perfected behaviour in both. We can't improve on that.

What?? This does happen, you know.

I do know. I also happen to believe that that is an evil abomination. It is no less anti-biblical than feminism is.

You lost me on this one, though. I thought I was going one direction, and you have me going the exact opposite again. Fascinating.

I didn't misunderstand you. I knew which direction you were headed. I merely attempted to turn your hermeneutic around.


35. Henry Email Web 2008-08-06  8:12am

I think you are avoiding a point, intentionally or otherwise. This is not simply about respect and decorum, but about how we use scripture. Unless I misunderstand your position on slavery you are using a hermeneutic on that issue that you vilify when applied to gender roles. You say that we must remain within the example of scripture on gender roles, cultural differences notwithstanding. To be consistent you should then say that slavery is still OK, cultural differences notwithstanding. Buying and selling people was OK in scripture and it is still OK today. If you are not willing to say that then you are employing a trajectory hermeneutic on slavery but not allowing it for gender roles. That is inconsistent.
I didn't misunderstand you. I knew which direction you were headed. I merely attempted to turn your hermeneutic around.
Aha. I thought I was the pomo guy who liked twisting words and misrepresenting others' positions. My mistake. Sorry. :-)


36. Matt Email Web 2008-08-06  5:19pm

Henry, I think you missed it. I'll summarize again:

1) Scriptural guidelines for being in or under authority (in vocational contexts as well as others) still apply, and were practiced by Jesus
2) Scriptural guidelines for gender roles in the home and in the church still apply, and were practiced by Jesus
3) The racist, oppressive abuse of authority in the brand of slavery that we are all familiar with violated the regulations set forth by Scripture and practiced by Jesus
4) The practice of being under vocational authority is not anti-Scriptural provided that the one in authority is treating his workers respectfully and justly; and that those under authority are honouring their requirement to do their best, and serve with a submissive heart
5) Maintaining loving, considerate male headship, in which women are valued as different equals upholds Scriptural regulations and mirrors the practice of Jesus
6) Abuse and chauvinism clearly violate both Scripture and Jesus, and are therefore inherently evil


37. Henry Email Web 2008-08-06  5:37pm

I am really dense. I missed it again.
Is there a form of slavery in which people own other people which is not abusive? Would you be OK with me paying for people and owning them as long as I did not beat them or work them mercilessly?


38. Matt Email Web 2008-08-07  1:01pm

Henry, in biblical law, slavery had a voluntary component to it. If I borrowed money from you so I could buy a house, I'd owe you a lot of money. If I couldn't pay you back, I would submit myself to your authority and work for you until my debt was clear. There are also regulations requiring all slaves to be freed every seven years.

Here's a [very] rough parallel. We borrowed a lot of money to start farming. Until the last cent of principal is paid off, I must keep working in order to pay my debt to my lender. In a very real sense, he does own me. But it is of my own choosing, and I receive benefits from the transaction as well. It isn't unjust.

Here's a better parallel. We are friends with a fellow who has left a Hutterite colony. He came out with nothing, and needed a car so he could work and start earning money. We helped him in his car situation, and we knew he couldn't pay us back with money. He worked it off on our farm until [most] of the value of the car had been reckoned for. I owned allegiance from him until his debt was clear. He also received a benefit from the transaction.

Not so with the kind of slavery we think of. We think of outright ownership, no chance of redemption, systematic racism, and capture, rather than entering into an agreement. Read OT law concerning slavery and you'll see many parallels to the relationship you or I have with bosses, lenders, etc.


39. Henry Email Web 2008-08-07  8:41pm

That was the ideal set up by the OT law, and it was a form of servanthood (bond servant), not slavery. How well this ideal was practiced is an other question entirely. Do you think it was it the norm in the time of Rome, the time when Jesus lived, and the time when the NT was written? Would it be significant if Jesus and the NT writers knew about slave markets and yet said nothing about them?


40. Matt Email Web 2008-08-08  12:42pm

Yes, it was the ideal set-up. It's also the ideal that Paul and Christ had in mind when regulating/practicing this set-up.


41. Henry Email Web 2008-08-13  8:15pm

Hi Matt,
I see you have also mastered that handy pomo strategy of answering questions that could be answered with one word with a long discourse that evades the question. It can be very useful, eh? Good for you!! Well done.


42. Matt Email Web 2008-08-14  9:21am

Hey Henry,

wasn't trying to evade. The biblical norms were no doubt violated in Rome at the time Jesus and Paul lived.

I'm not sure I agree with you that they were silent on the issue, though. By virtue of the fact that Jesus practiced hierarchy and authority in a perfect, holy, just, merciful, God-honouring way, and the fact that Paul provides clear guidelines for how Christians are to practice authority does in fact speak to the issue.

Granted, Paul didn't write treatises on legislating social justice, and Jesus didn't come down on government buildings with Christian Peacemaker Teams to rally and protest and jeer. For many Christians today with a social justice agenda, that's tough to take.

However, Jesus and Paul didn't have legislative reform in mind, I don't believe. They provided regulation and example to Jesus' peculiar people. The kingdom of God here on earth is to be different from the kingdom of the world. We can't force morality on pagans, but we can live God-exalting lives, and preach a God-exalting gospel.

The final answer to humanity's problems isn't forcing morality on people or pursuing a legislative agenda (both liberal and conservative Christians are scandalously guilty of this), but rather it is the gospel of Jesus.

Hope that ties it all together for you as far as where I'm coming from. The oppressive forms of slavery that have often been witnessed have no biblical basis, and in fact are in direct contradiction to what God has revealed. That doesn't rule out godly forms of authoritative roles for God's people however.

Grace and peace,
Matt


43. Henry Email Web 2008-08-15  6:55am

Hi Matt,
Honestly, I think your gloss on financial obligations as even comparable to slavery is an incredibly calloused injustice in itself. To even suggest a comparison indicates a shocking lack of understanding of what slavery is, even when the master slave relationship is not characterized by excessive abuse. To reduce slavery to relationships of authority is to fundamentally misrepresent slavery, in my view. Slaves were actually owned by masters. That notion makes egalitarianism impossible. You cannot own your equal. I find it troubling that you will not say unequivocally that ownership of others is outright wrong, but I think you are astute enough to recognize that it will have undesirable consequences in your patriarchal hermeneutic, and I will give you credit for attempting to be inconsistent, even if that inconsistency drives you to incredibly calloused injustice in other areas as well. (That is not entirely uncharacteristic of many representations of Reformed theology, in which certain theological concepts become the grounds for statements that are incredibly ungodly in the way they run afoul of what scriptures indicate to be the most fundamental characteristics of God. In my view, a God who could theoretically throw babies into hell may be like Molech, but is nothing at all like the God I see in the Bible.)
Nonetheless, I do think you are employing very different hermeneutics on the issue of slavery versus male headship. You insist that Jesus and the apostles never shied away from confrontation and would have vigorously confronted the patriarchy of their time if they had thought it improper, yet on slavery their admonitions to maintain proper respect within fundamentally inegalitarian roles that contravened the same passages that male headship contravenes was somehow sufficient because they had ideals in mind. Either slavery in the sense of ownership of others must still be OK as well (and I am not sure where you are on this yet), or the same scriptures we use to rule out such ownership must also be allowed to speak to the patriarchal notions of male headship (domination).
That's how I see it. I know we disagree, and I have much more respect for you than I do for some of your theology. God bless you, brother. I pray for you, your family, and your community peace, love, and happiness and the favor of God.


44. Matt Email Web 2008-08-15  7:42am

Henry, if you're talking about outright ownership of another person, then I'll say two things: 1)any relationship which is not mutually just (such as the scenario you represent) is wrong; and 2)ownership is not in play at all when it comes to the complementarian position.

I'll say it again - biblical regulations regarding the slave/master situation require that it be just, merciful, mutually beneficial, and for a specified period of time (ie - until a debt is covered or until the Year of Jubilee which was every 7 years).

Christians are to abide by this principle always. Where injustice was evident among believers, Jesus and the apostles confronted it. We know two things - there are clear biblical principles that rule out people abusing authority (both in slave/master scenarios as well as in home/church scenarios). Where people do abuse authority, they are violating God's will. However, we also know that it isn't an "injustice" to be indebted to someone, or to practice exclusive male-headship. If barring women from holding spiritual authority over a man was unjust, then Christ Himself would be guilty of injustice.

Again, Henry, Jesus 1)did not participate any form of slave ownership; 2)did select only men to the authoritative position of apostle.

How do even begin to attempt to suggest that ownership is even remotely in play in the complementarian position? Have you ever read anything that's ever been written by a complementarian? Sounds like you're pretty entrenched. And after all, I remember somebody saying once that they place limits on what they can learn when they place limits on what can change :-)

Grace and peace,
Matt


45. Matt Email Web 2008-08-15  7:49am

I should say one more thing just for clarification.

I place no qualifications on my belief that it was absolutely the right thing for the form of slavery we know of (19th century North American and British) to be ended. It was purely unjust, involved outright ownership of human beings, was racist, cruel, and ensured next to no benefits for the slaves. It was a one-way relationship. It was unjust.

I fear that the above statement may get lost in our conversation seeing as we're discussing biblical principles for slavery, not slavery a la 19th century North America.

The same would hold true for mistreatment or abuse of women. The way many Muslims, for example, treat "headship" is an abomination. If their practice were to be emulated by someone in the name of Christ, it would be no less an abomination than the slavery our continent came to know.


46. Henry Email Web 2008-08-15  8:03pm

Error correction: My comment at #43 I will give you credit for attempting to be inconsistent, even if that inconsistency Should be consistency in both cases.
I did not suggest male headship involves ownership. I have read that complementarian bible at the cbmw website and found it unconvincing for many reasons, particularly slanted scholarship on original languages. It seems to be a case of knowing what scripture says before reading and developing an interpretation that endorses said knowledge.
My disagreement rests not on whatever distinctions there may (not) be between NA slavery and biblical versions of it (an argument which I think is a red herring and pretty much condones injustice as long as it is not too egregious), but it has to do with the way our understanding of slavery for today uses scripture in a very different way from the way we understand the words of scripture to impact male headship.
Here is a website you may find interesting, or infuriating, or both. It is entitled "Was Paul a Misogynist?"
http://www.reclaimingpaul.org/?p=174
Blessings to all.


47. Matt Email Web 2008-08-16  8:57am

Hey Henry,

My comment at #43 I will give you credit for attempting to be inconsistent, even if that inconsistency Should be consistency in both cases.

Given the context, I figured as much. No problem.

I think this thing is beginning to peter out, but I'll let you have the last word if you take me up on it. I'll just say that the complementarian-slavery link is a real stretch made by egalitarians who know the bible prohibits their belief, but who must nevertheless find a "trajectory hermeneutic" or find some other way to do an end-run around clear wording.

Again:
1) Paul regulates slavery, in order that abuses do not take place
2) Paul does not make an apologetic for the continuation of slavery.
3) Paul regulates gender roles, in order that abuses do not take place (btw, egalitarianism and male domination are both abuses of God's plan)
4) Paul makes a very strong apologetic for the continuation of male headship. In fact, he makes the very strongest case possible - the will and supremacy of God in His own created order!

The feeble link you (and others) attempt to invent is simply not there.

Nice link. I believe I've been there before. I like the word "reclaiming" in the title. Reminds me of the pretentious title of a book I read a few years ago - "What the Bible Really Says about Hell" by Randy Brandt, I mean Klassen. With a title like that, it's almost mind-numbingly predictable that the book advocates final universalism. The word "really" in there suggests what it says "for 21 centuries, everybody got it wrong. Paul did. The church fathers did. The reformers did. Everyone between them did. But lucky for you, I, your humble servant, am here to set the record straight for you.

Anyhow, if you like, feel free to leave the last comment.

Grace and peace,
Matt


48. Matt Email Web 2008-08-17  9:20pm

Hey Henry,

seeing as you have not yet exercised your "last-word prerogative", I will point out one area of agreement I have with the link you provided.

This perspective on Paul is crucial, because different presuppositions about what scripture is lead to different conclusions about what we should do with the data

I do agree that that is exactly the issue. Most of our (not just you and me) disagreements happen not so much over interpretation of what the text actually says, but rather, they happen much sooner. What's at stake is the nature of Scripture itself. Kirk sees that clearly enough when he exposes his agenda:

First, it’s important to realize that most New Testament scholars do not think Paul wrote 1 Timothy

And this is why it is so important that we learn to think differently about what the Bible is

That should pretty much distill our differences to their most basic nature.


49. Alan Email Web 2008-08-25  5:57am

An interesting discussion. I think Henry is right when he points to Biblical Inerrancy as the heart of the issue here. If God really is responsible for the text of scripture, then the consistent use of "He" and "Father" are His doing, not a result of cultural factors. God could have had people write "She" and "Mother" if that was the intent; that's the point of being God. As long as there is disagreement on inerrancy, there will always be such conflict.

For myself, I find inerrancy compelling, and any other possibility at odds with who God must be.


50. Henry Email Web 2008-09-01  9:15am

Hi Alan,
Welcome to the discussion. I had to look for a while to find the reference to inerrancy but I think I found it (#11). Let me make sure I understand. Inerrancy and intentionality are pivotal factors in interpretation of scripture, right? Is God a male? Or does scripture quite clearly indicate that God is neither male nor female? And yet when scripture refers to God as male it is intentional? And, one must conclude, intentionally inaccurate? I presume inerrantly intentionally inaccurate? I can see how inerrancy is absolutely indispensable to a clear understanding of scripture. Unfortunately, by the time inerrancy is properly understood it seems a superfluous and unnecessarily convoluted way of saying essentially nothing.
Does the same inerrant intentionality apply to a whole host of other gender specific references such as "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer" "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."
Blessings.


51. Alan Richardson Email Web 2008-09-01  9:21pm

Henry,

Not sure I get your statement about "intentionally inaccurate." I'll think about it, but in the meantime, a quick question: can you help me find the scripture(s) that indicate that God is neither male nor female? (Beyond "God is Spirit.")

Thanks,
Alan


52. Henry Email Web 2008-09-04  8:17pm

Genesis 1:26, 27
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [b] and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

"Man" is a generic term for humans, both male and female bear the Divine image equally. God is neither male nor female.

Job 33:12 says "God is greater than man" and you would presumably not take this to mean that God is therefore a woman.

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.

The creation account is the strongest indication that it would be erroneous to consider either masculinity or femininity to be a superior reflection of who God is.

By intentionally inaccurate I mean that if male references are used of God intentionally, and intending to represent God as masculine rather than feminine, when the account of Genesis indicates both are equally inaccurate, then if those male references in scripture are intentional, they are also inaccurate by virtue of an internal inconsistency in the teaching of scripture. Hence, if they are intentional in referring to God as masculine rather than feminine, they are in error. Therefore if you take every word of scripture to be inerrant and intentional, you have male references to Deity that are inerrrantly intentionally inaccurate.


53. Alan Richardson Email Web 2008-09-05  10:27pm

That's it? I was thinking there was something a little more explicit. These verses at best argue that God is both like us and not like us in various ways. Nothing that contributes significantly to the question of divine gender.

I've been thinking a little about your other point. It seems to hinge on your initial deduction from Genesis 1. I wonder how it stands up without that reference?

Even with it, there is far more said about God's Fatherhood than what you have there. I'm not talking about "God is _like_ a Father, a man, a hen" etc., but direct references to Him as a Father.

E.g. Jesus didn't pray, "God - who is like a Father to us - hallowed be Your name." He wasn't invoking imagery, He was referring to God as Father. A proper noun, not an adjective.

Still thinking through this, but interested to hear your thoughts.


54. Henry Email Web 2008-09-06  11:13am

It appears we need to establish some ground work. Is there any question as to whether God is male or female? If we take the statements about God is Father to mean that God is Father, not only like a father, then we must take statements like those in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 (just a few examples) to mean that God is not only like a rock, but that God is a rock. What role does metaphor play in your understanding of language?
There is no question that God is portrayed as Father in scripture, in exactly the same way as God is portrayed as a rock in the same scriptures. In both cases scripture is saying something important about God, but not all possible implications of the statement are intended to be literal. Presumably you would agree so far.
We may disagree on how consistently we should take implications to be intended as literal. Unless you do take God to be male and not female (in which case you will have some trouble with Genesis) not all possible implications of language referring to God as Father should be taken to be literal. In the final end there is good reason to question how much of language is in fact metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson have done extensive work on this in books like Metaphors We Live By and Philosophy in the Flesh).
I am giving you an escape route here in suggesting you take the intentionality of the words used in the text of scripture to be limited to certain implications of the text, not all possible implications. If the intentionality of references to God as Father are intended to include representing God as male, then you have an internal problem with Genesis, and the intentionality of representing God as male is erroneous, unless you do indeed think that God is male. If you limit the intentionality of such references as metaphors for how God relates to us as a Father relates to his beloved children (in the same way you presumably limit the intentionality of references portraying God as a rock) then you want to be careful about how tenaciously you cling to male references for God in a context where those terms are loaded with connotations that were not intended in scripture.
I am assuming that you do not really believe that God is male. If that assumption is incorrect, please let me know. If you do take God to be male then all of this becomes immaterial. If you agree that God is not male any more or less than God is female, then the logic does not seem complicated.
Blessings.


55. Alan Richardson Email Web 2008-09-06  3:29pm

There is much metaphoric language in scripture, and these terms are used to describe attributes of God. God is like a rock in that He is a source of strength for the Psalmist. He is like a shepherd in that He cares for His people. He is even like a hen in His feelings towards rebellious Israel. However, He is clearly not an inanimate object, a man working with actual sheep, or a chicken.

Father... well, that might be a little different. After all, created man - and more specifically, His chosen people - are referred to as His children on countless occasions.

For argument's sake, I'll concede that perhaps "Father" is simply another device used to explain aspects of God to us, and not meant to suggest gender.

However, God is GOD, and must be approached on His own terms. In His own words, He is never referred to as "Mother." Jesus Himself called God Father, not Mother. Portraying God as a woman is to take liberties that God did not allow into sacred scripture during it's 1,000+ years of authorship. I think that's risky, and an especially weighty proposition for anyone writing (and defending) a book that millions of people have read.


56. amy.courts Email Web 2008-10-09  11:21pm

Ugh. I just spent half an hour typing out some thoughts, only to forget to enter a "7" at the bottom. And I lost it all.

Better for you. I'll be more concise the second go-round.

First, I haven't read the book and don't intend to, because it's too over-hyped. Everyone and their dog around here is shouting its praises, and I just have no use for trendy literature, especially not of the Christian nature. Bleck.

Second, I do want to offer some quick thoughts on your review.

A) I think we have to be careful about reading too much into and pulling too much out of novels. While the authors obviously had an agenda in writing this book, it certainly ought not serve as some kind of doctrinal statement, or be treated as one. It's a novel. It's ideas aren't new. It's subject matter isn't uncommon. It's meant to ask questions and spur discussion. So it has. Still, I just think out of fairness that we have to be careful not to split theological hairs over a work laced with theology rather than offering a treatise on anything.

I noticed it particularly at the start of your review - regarding the quote on the churchy music vs secular music - and I think, from a "non christian's perspective" (and indeed, even from true Christians, like my mom), the MTC probably does seem pretty churchy, as it does offer some pretty amazing Truth based churchy music. From the character's perspective, it makes perfect sense to wonder why God is listening to secular music instead of churchy music (whether it's mormon or evangelical churchy is beside the point). It's a split hair, which is frustrating.

To get into some of my disagreements or thoughts on your review...

B) While I don't agree that God the Father is or should be represented as a woman, I do believe the idea of the three characters touch on an important and underplayed theme throughout Scripture. That is, the familial nature of the GodHead. The Father is more masculine, always the protector and provider, and also more prone to harsh(er) disciplines, but always keeping the children's best interests at heart. The Holy Spirit - the only other being in Scripture, besides woman, who is called "Helpmeet" - is obviously more feminine and motherly, acting as comforter, nurturer, Guide, and ally. The Son is...well, the Son. And while I don't believe theirs is a totally egalitarian existence (meaning no hierarchy exists at all), I do believe the perfectly loving and respectful nature of their relationship implies that no authority is necessary since their roles are perfectly understood and exercised in regard to one another. An idea that doesn't undermine the apparent authority or Headship of the Father, but that emphasizes the understood equality and Co-Godness. I don't think we can perfectly understand that because we don't get perfect relationships. But if there were one, I'd choose that kind because it'd mean that while my husband is and remains my head, he doesn't treat me as less-than, or treat our family as a hierarchy. The mutual love and respect accomplish what's necessary.

C) Regarding the issue of universalism...I don't believe that necessarily has to be derived from the book, at least not from the passages you cited. Instead, I see the Son accomplishing everything necessary to make reconciliation possible for all mankind (not just some - and yes, this inevitably draws on the doctrines of election and predestination, etc etc), but (assuming free will is a viable truth to the authors and for their characters) merely serves to set up mankind for the choice we must make. While I can offer forgiveness and do everything in my power to reconcile a broken relationship, to the point that I've totally and utterly completed what is necessary for reconciliation, the ultimate redemption depends on the other person's willingness to step back into relationship with me as well. Perhaps this is the idea the authors were trying to emphasize: that Christ accomplished everything necessary to reconciliation, and all that's left is for us to receive. Maybe the author is a universalist; but the theme doesn't have to be a major doctrine. It can be otherwise interpreted and applied, and within Biblical context.

D) Regarding the idea of sin's natural consequences serving as punishment its own worst punishment...well, I personally couldn't agree more. While I understand and fully believe that the satisfaction of God's wrath against sin had to be achieved through the sacrifice of the sinless on behalf of the sinful, I don't see how the idea of sin being its own punishment and God allowing it to be so could undermine or downplay His wrath. Instead, I see - as in Romans 1 - God allowing sin to run its natural course and be its own punishment as a means of drawing people back to Himself. I see God giving Pharaoh (and countless others) over to their hardened hearts and allowing their disregard for the Almighty in favor of other gods and idols, be their ultimate downfall. In other words, I don't so much see God actively inflicting punishment on people, but rather removing His hand of protection and giving them over to their own paths of ultimate destruction.

I see, from a practical standpoint, alcoholics and drug abusers and sexaholics losing everything to their addictions and coming to a place of utter loss, failure, and desperation that they have no other place to go but to God. I see the reason and logic of allowing sin to be its own punishment in that only when we're so totally given over to sin do we come to the very end of ourselves, to the choice to either die in it (an eternal punishment which is, indeed, satisfactory to God's wrath) or choose Christ (who satisfied His wrath on the cross). How is the idea, in that light, offensive or undermining to the wrath of God? Why is it necessary (and is it truly even Biblical, across the board anyway) for God to actively punish us for our sin rather than giving us over to it and letting it eat us up?

There are a couple other things that tweaked my senses and hand my hair standing, but these are the big ones. And anyway, I think I probably should read the book before getting into it with anyone. However, I still think it's only fair to do our best to remove bias, pull out the lens, and shed more light on the wider perspective rather than splitting hairs over doctrines that may or may not be in a novel. :)


57. Randy Brandt Email Web 2008-10-10  9:53pm

Sorry you didn't read carefully about the 7. I'll try not to make any comments

A) It's a novel.

Yes, but one heavily promoted as a work of theological insight and genius. See this article for more on that topic:
Theological Fiction.

It's a split hair, which is frustrating.

Granted, it's a minor point, but it just struck me as odd so I mentioned it.

I think we agree pretty well on B). The author is vehemently anti-hierarchy of any form, which I think is problematic Biblically.

C) I picked up on the universalism from the book, then read an article by a friend of the author who expounded on Young's Christian Universalism. Then I listened to the co-authors, approvingly quoting statements like, "Just because there's a hell doesn't mean anyone is in it." They also admitted toning down the universalism that was originally in the book. Obviously they didn't cut enough for me to miss it.

see the Son accomplishing everything necessary to make reconciliation possible

This is where we part ways, as I don't believe Christ made a potential reconciliation and left it up to man. I have to go with Hebrews 9:12, "he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption."

He secured it. The next chapter emphasizes that: Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Many other verses could be offered showing that Christ died as a substitute in the place of His sheep. Of course, Young insists that reconciliation was accomplished for everyone, which would again indicate universalism if reconciliation means anything.

D) In other words, I don't so much see God actively inflicting punishment on people, but rather removing His hand of protection

True in many ways, but at least five NT books also speak of God's wrath actively coming upon sinners

Why is it necessary (and is it truly even Biblical, across the board anyway) for God to actively punish us for our sin rather than giving us over to it and letting it eat us up?

Because the Holy Spirit tells us so multiple times in the Bible, such as in Ephesians 5:6: "because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient." The Shack also casts doubt on the lake of fire in that section, ignoring Rev 20:15.

As for Pharaoh, the Bible states more than once that God actively hardened his heart. Exodus 4:21 The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go." Not "allow him to harden his own heart," or "remain hardened," but God claims to actively harden Pharaoh for His purposes.

Thanks for your thoughts, Amy, but after reading the novel twice, reading numerous other reviews, and listening to multiple audio lectures and interviews with the author and co-authors (I even bought one!), I think I have a pretty good handle on what they believe.


58. Email Web 2008-10-11  4:38pm

C) It's no doubt plausible to find bits of universalism throughout the book as, like you mentioned, the author is a universalist. I just don't find the idea - in the context of even theological noveldom - threatening or offensive; only noteworthy for discussion.

Regarding reconciliation...indeed, we part ways, because it is a matter of election/predestination which, I do believe, is a debate we had a long time ago and agreed to disagree on. :) I do believe Christ's work on the Cross secured salvation for Believers. I'm just not certain THAT group of people (believers) was pre-determined. But really...I don't want to go back into it. JUST saying that's where we part ways.

D) Indeed, God does, at times, actively punish people. What I mean to say though is that oftentimes, the punishment He chooses is actually the natural consequences of sin rather than something altogether different. I guess the difference would be akin to a parent making his child return to a store from which the kid at stolen something, and the kid then suffering the legal and personal consequences of the crime verses a parent who does all that AND punishes the child from - what? - all media for a month. Indeed, the parent has "inflicted" punishment in both cases, but the former of allowing the sin to work its course is likely much more effective. In that way, it makes perfect sense to say God doesn't need to punish the sins of His children, as consequences of sin are punishment in themselves. Indeed, God's wrath "coming upon people" can very well take the form of Him giving them over to the depths and depravity of their own sin. So my question remains: why must it be a different kind of punishment other than sin running its natural course, "devouring from the inside out"? I don't think the Scripture you quoted proves the opposite; only that God's wrath does indeed fall on people. It doesn't say how.

As for God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart, there are plenty of scholars who translate the Hebrew word for "harden" as a passive action, which would indicate that God actually didn't directly harden his heart, but simply allowed it to follow its course of hardening. Meaning, God hardened Pharaoh's heart by NOT stopping the process...which is the basis of my thought. Of course, there are places in Scripture when the hardening was active on God's part. The one I'm speaking of is not.

And hey, I gotta point out that even in the book, "God" says she doesn't NEED to punish people. Not necessarily that she never does.

I don't doubt that, having reading the book twice, etc., you have a good handle on the authors' beliefs. I just wonder if you're making too big a deal out of "novel" ideas. Making a mountain out of a mole hill, as it were.

Because, while I/we may disagree with some of the theological ideas, there are plenty of other Biblically sound and beautiful points to be taken from the reading as well (from the reviews I've read, this seems to be the case anyway). So are you throwing the baby out with the bathwater?


59. Randy Email Web 2009-07-19  9:48am

I think this is a great article regarding Pharaoh's hardening: http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/02-Exodus/Text/Articles/Beale-Hardening-TJ.pdf

I'd like to see the best response from another perspective.

As for tossing babies out with the bathwater, I'm willing to do it if the baby looks like that freak baby in The Passion of The Christ movie...

NOTE: The Shack author responds to some critiques, albeit obliquely and unconvincingly: http://www.christianpost.com/article/20081027/-the-shack-author-insists-bestseller-is-a-god-thing/index.html


60. Mark Email Web 2010-07-21  11:28am

I want to pass along my recent review of ‘The Shack’. This review deals specifically with the issue of Christian Universalism. My approach was to compare Paul Young’s theology in ‘The Shack’ to the doctrinal statements of ‘The Christian Universalist Association’. Most reviews I have read critique the book by reacting to phrases and sentences by Paul Young. I do some of that too. But one thing that makes this review unique is showing how Christian Universalism is woven throughout the story. This is especially clear in the chapter “Here Come Da Judge”. Here I take some creative liberty to rewrite the dialogue in a way that gives a different perspective on the Universalist doctrine. I hope you can take some time check out this review at: www.witte2020.wordpress.com


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