The God of The Shack in a World Without Enemies

The Shack movie poster

It’s hard to throw a stone in the Christian blogosphere right now without hitting a review of The Shack, the bestselling novel by Paul Young which was just released as a motion picture. And if you’re reading evangelical or Reformed writers, the reviews are going to be pretty uniformly negative—a negativity which finds justification in Young’s just-released Lies We Believe About God, which explicitly teaches the unbiblical and even heretical ideas which critics saw woven into the fiction of The Shack.

For what it’s worth, allow me to join my voice to the chorus saying that The Shack should not be on a Christian’s reading list. Yes, it has a worthy goal (showing the love of God amid the realities of suffering and pain), and yes, it gets some things right, but it also gets some things badly, badly wrong. It is true that it is “only a story,” but story can influence and shape us just as powerfully as more direct teaching. In fact, bad theology in fictional form can actually be more dangerous, as it digs deeper into our mind and is harder to recognize than straightforward false teaching.

But my interest today isn’t really in The Shack itself. If you want some good, biblical perspectives on the book, check out the articles I linked above. My interest, rather, is in what makes the God of The Shack so appealing.

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Thursday Roundup (3/9/17)

Thursday Roundup

This week’s video asks what faith is and whether it’s rational. The podcast examines Part 2 of Your Best Life Now, where Joel Osteen talks about the importance of self-image. And the links of the week cover suffering and smiling, Victoria and Veggie Tales, why Christians need church, whether Jehovah is God’s true name, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“Christians who neglect corporate prayer are like soldiers who leave their front-line comrades in the lurch.”
~ Derek Prime

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One Reason Why a Compassionate God Permits Suffering

Crying on a couch

Why does God’s world contain pain and suffering? If there is a more challenging, painful question in Christian apologetics, I don’t know what it is. It is viscerally compelling for anyone who has ever suffered a loss, or watched another do so (which would be all of us). And it is logically compelling as well; why would an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving deity allow the sort of sadness and pain we see around us?

Ultimately, the best and most complete answer to the problem of pain comes at the cross, where our Father, as he so often does, answers us with a picture rather than a treatise. God may not fully explain why he permits evil to burn through his creation, but two thousand years ago he stepped into those flames with us and gathered the coals into his own arms. The mutilated hands and feet of the Son of God do not explain why suffering is permitted, but they do promise that there is a sufficient reason. And the empty tomb he left behind promises something else as well: an ultimate end for every sort of evil, whatever the reasons for its existence today. Like Job, the Bible’s other great picture-answer for suffering, the cross calls us to trust even when we cannot fully explain.

But our inability to comprehensively explain the problem of evil does not mean we are without any answers at all. In fact, the Bible offers many pieces of an explanation which may be too deep and multifaceted for us to grasp in its totality. Today I want to explore just one of those partial explanations.

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Thursday Roundup (3/2/17)

Thursday Roundup

This week’s new video considers Bart Ehrman’s argument that Jesus only “became” divine in John, the last Gospel written. The Answers for Ambassadors podcast picks up a new book: Your Best Life Now, by Joel Osteen. And the links of the week consider transgenderism, the power of story, prayer, and when things don’t go as planned.

I’ll be starting a live, online “Arguments for God’s Existence” apologetics class one week from today. The three-week class is held at 7:30pm EST, but it’s recorded as well. If you’re interested, click here and scroll down to the class listing!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”
~ Martin Luther

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About Time (Not Really a Review of Arrival)

Arrival movie

I have heard a lot of good buzz for Arrival, so Leah and I rented it for a date night last week. It wasn’t what I expected, but the movie was well-made and intriguing and has been on my mind since then. What follows is less a review than a meditation on some of the movie’s ideas, but be warned: Spoilers ahead!

Arrival is an alien movie that isn’t really about the aliens. Rather, it’s about linguist Louise Banks and her efforts to communicate with a newly arrived alien spaceship on behalf of the US government. The story begins and ends with an emotional gut-punch: the slow death of Louise’s teenage daughter due to a rare congenital disease. It begins and ends that way because we watch her daughter die in the first five minutes, then learn in the last five minutes that all that suffering is still to come for Louise.

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Thursday Roundup (2/23/17)

Thursday Roundup

There’s no Answers for Ambassadors podcast this week (but check out the new book I’ll be talking about next week!), but I hope I made up for that with a long and interesting video discussion about slavery in the Bible with an atheist writer. The links of the week range across singleness, same-sex attraction, Milo and CPAC, liberal education, when silence is the best response to outrage, and more!

Also, don’t miss my new live, online Christian apologetics classes. I’m very excited to be offering these new trainings, intended for ages high school through adult and designed to be convenient and affordable. Each class will address some particular apologetic topic over the course of a few evenings. The first five classes are covering theistic arguments, Islam, Mormonism, homosexuality, and the Old Testament. Click the link above to learn more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

The early Christians did not say “look what the world is coming to!” but “look what has come into the world!”
~ Carl F.H. Henry

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What Should Observing the Sabbath Look Like? (Part 5)

Church

In the past few weeks, as we have studied what the Bible says about the Sabbath, we have seen the importance of the Sabbath in the Old Testament, and that it was more than a ceremonial “shadow” which would pass away with the advent of Christ; that it was a moral law with lasting significance, deeply rooted in God’s heavenly rest and redemptive work. Therefore, it was no surprise that the Sabbath continued for the first-century church in the form of the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, Sunday.

Finally, last week’s article considered some obvious objections to the idea that the Fourth Commandment still applies to New Testament Christians. We finished up that examination with Paul’s exhortation in Romans 14, “The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord,” a declaration which raises the obvious question: How should we “observe the day” in 21st-century America?

To answer that question, we must take one last survey of what the Bible has to say about the Sabbath…

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Thursday Roundup (2/16/17)

Thursday Roundup

This week’s video addresses the Jehovah’s Witness argument that most Christian Bibles suppress the Old Testament name of God. The podcast wraps up our consideration of The God Delusion by taking up Dawkins’ categories of “explanation, exhortation, consolation, and inspiration” to compare the Christian and atheistic worldviews. And the links of the week cover the Holy Spirit and The Shack, marriage and parenting, the danger of allowing politics to kill our witness, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“Truth carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation: loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong.”
~ Francis Schaeffer

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A New Testament Sabbath? But What About…? (Part 4)

Church

My last article on the Sabbath laid out the reasons for believing that the Old Testament Sabbath was transformed by Christ into the Lord’s Day of the New Testament—still a day for worship and rest, filled with the content of the Sabbath but now occupying the first day of the week. In this penultimate article in my series on the Sabbath, I will consider a few verses which might seem to disagree with that conclusion.

Colossians 2:16-17: A Passing Shadow?

Perhaps the most obvious passage which seems to teach that Old Testament Sabbath commands have no relevance for the Christian is Colossians 2:16-17, which says, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” It certainly sounds like Paul is declaring that the Sabbath is entirely an Old Testament thing, a shadow which has passed away in the light of Christ. But first glances may be deceiving.

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Thursday Roundup (2/9/17)

Thursday Roundup

Today’s video asks how God can command us to believe in him. What if you just don’t believe the claims of the Bible? The Answers for Ambassadors episode discusses The God Delusion‘s argument that religious faith is inherently harmful. And the links of the week consider preaching and community in the church, women in the Old Testament, what religion has to do with Tanzanian electricity shortages, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“Grace is indeed required to turn a man into a saint; and he who doubts this does not know what either a man or a saint is.”
~ Blaise Pascal

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