It is with some fear and trepidation that I approach a somewhat controversial subject – okay, a downright controversial subject! If you know me personally at all you know that I am a black and white person. I don’t dwell in many gray areas. That is not to say that I am always right in my estimation of what is “black” and what is “white”, but I am completely sincere and come to my belief with careful thought and a desire to think Biblically.
There is a book that has become very popular in Christian circles. I can’t remember the first time I heard about it, but it has been some time ago. At first, I only had a casual knowledge of the book, but upon hearing the plot line of the story I knew I wouldn’t be interested in reading it. Then I kept hearing that even though it was a fictional book, there were spiritual teachings in it. “A new and eye opening view of God,” and “It helped me see God in a new way,” were some comments I kept hearing. That alone, quite frankly, disturbed me. Do you really think that a fictional book should give you a “new view” of God? Doesn’t the Bible warn us about that?
So, call it fiction if you want, but if a book is teaching you about God and teaches you things that are contrary to scripture should you read it and hold it in high esteem? Should you recommend others read this book? It is like saying the Bible’s revelation of God isn’t good enough or complete enough – we need more.
If you haven’t figured out the book I am referring to yet it is “The Shack”. I am not writing this to scold anyone who has read it. Likewise, I am not condemning the author. I merely worry that as believers we often accept ideas from various sources and we don’t do the work of lining it up with the Bible to see if it agrees. As a believer, we should always use scripture as our guide to look at anything that comes from man. We have an obligation to measure anything we read against the standard – God’s Word.
If you would like to read a very thorough, precept by precept review of “The Shack” – and I don’t mean a literary review, this is a contrast of what the book teaches and what the Bible teaches – please read it here. This isn’t a mean spirited review. This is a very careful and theological critique of the claims made in the book. It also explains more about the author and where he is coming from. You should know that kind of information when you read a book.
Even if you read the book and think it was great, it might be helpful to read what Tim Challies has written. A mature believer who reads this book may be able to read it and not have it warp their Biblical view of God, but will an immature believer or unbeliever have the same outcome? I think it is a question worth asking.
I have had people tell me that we shouldn’t speak against another believer. That is not what I am doing. We are called to speak out against false teaching and I believe if we are silent we are hurting rather than helping our fellow believers. In 1 Timothy Paul is giving instruction to a young pastor who had been left to lead the church in Ephesus. He repeatedly tells Timothy not to engage in quarrels or fights with other believers about issues that promote controversy. However in 1 Timothy 1:18 he tells Timothy to “wage the good warfare (and into v. 19) holding faith and a good conscience”. What is the good warfare? The warfare he has in mind is the defense of the central doctrines of the Christian faith. How do I know that? In verses 3-4 of 1 Timothy 1 he says: “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” The doctrine that Paul is most concerned with here is the gospel. And whose responsibility is it to uphold the truth of the gospel? The church. I Timothy 3:14-16 says, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” By way of definition; “pillar” and “buttress” are supports that hold up the truth of the doctrines of the Bible for all the world to see.
We need to be careful who we listen to. AND, we need to be careful what we pass along as doctrine to anybody who may be listening. We also need to be careful that what we are reading is portraying God and his nature and character in the light of scripture.
You can agree or disagree with my conclusions. It won’t change how I feel about you as a friend. Just give the subject careful study, thought, and prayer and decide what the Lord is telling you about it. That is what I have done.
I wrote this post over a month ago. I wasn’t sure if I should publish it. I am still wondering. But, this book keeps coming up. It makes me sad that it is so popular. I think that good fiction can include doctrine and help us to understand or apply it to our lives. However, fiction can be deceptive because it engages our emotions with the story and we might miss that it is teaching us something contrary to the Bible. That is a tragedy. For that reason, I cannot remain silent.