1. I finished William Young’s The Shack today. Here’s the passage from it that I want to feature. It’s on page 248:
If you ever get a chance to hang out with Mack, you will soon learn that he’s hoping for a new revolution, one of love and kindness—a revolution that revolves around Jesus and what he did for us all and what he continues to do in anyone who has a hunger for reconciliation and a place to call home. This is not a revolution that will overthrow anything, or if it does, it would do so in ways we could never contrive in advance. Instead it will be the quiet daily powers of dying and serving and loving and laughing, of simple tenderness and unseen kindness, because if anything matters, then everything matters.
I’m often disturbed when I hear Christians using militaristic language. I remember praying in a Bible study group, and one of its members asked God that we might become a “mighty army”. An atheist friend pointed out to me that Promised Keepers used the term “army” at one of its rallies, to refer to itself. There are Christian leaders who say that they want to “take America for Christ”. Then, there’s the old song, “Onward Christian Soldiers”. I can understand why this kind of language would intimidate un-believers, or even some of us who do believe! It sounds aggressive!
The Shack itself uses a word that itself is pretty loaded: revolution! Revolution means “change”. I think of people at Tea Parties ranting against the U.S. Government.
But I like how The Shack clarifies its usage of the term, “revolution”. It’s not talking about aggression, or overthrowing anything by force. Rather, it’s talking about service and meekness—the little acts of kindness that can have a positive impact on the world around us. Actually, there are many situations in today’s world in which kindness is a pretty revolutionary way of doing things!
And so I’m finished with The Shack. It was all right, in that it got me thinking about such issues as forgiveness. I also got to exercise my brain muscles to determine if The Shack was presenting heresy. Here’s an article by one of the book’s collaborators, which takes on that charge: here.
There’s talk about making The Shack into a movie. To be honest, I can’t picture it on the big screen, but I can envision it as a cheesy TBN movie, similar to that one movie in which a woman had dinner at a restaurant with God.
There are people who have been really touched by The Shack. I am happy for them. Personally, although I learned some things from the book, I found it to be loaded with a lot of the same old hackneyed evangelical platitudes on why God allows suffering. It especially gets on my nerves that this book acts as if it’s presenting something fresh, brilliant, and revolutionary.
But, if I was intrigued by anything, it was by an element of the author’s life-story that I read on wikipedia. Here it is:
An article in Maclean’s magazine in August 2008 indicated that Young, is a “Canadian raised from birth by his missionary parents in Dutch New Guinea, Young was sexually abused by some of the people his parents preached to, as he was again back home, at a Christian boarding school. Young drifted through life as an adult, buoyed a little by his faith and a lot by his wife, Kim, keeping his secrets and building his shack: ‘the place we make to hide all our crap,’ he calls it. Until, at 38, he found himself at the nadir. ‘I had a three-month affair with one of my wife’s best friends. That was it, that just blew my careful little religious world apart. I either had to get on my knees and deal with my wife’s pain and anger or kill myself.”
There’s something real about this author’s story. I see here genuine change and healing, as a result of a serious grappling with problems. It’s much more than experiencing a tragedy, and going to a shack to listen to the same old evangelical platitudes for a few days.
2. In my reading today of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Jubal talks about the biblical character of Lot. II Peter 2:6-7 refers to Lot as righteous, saying that he was internally vexed by the wicked conduct that was around him. But Jubal wonders why Lot was so righteous. Lot took the best land when Abraham asked him to choose where to live. He offered his daughters to the Sodomite rapists, to protect his guests, whom he suspected were important anyway (according to Jubal). Why was Lot considered righteous?
This reminds me of what John MacArthur says about Lot in his book, The Gospel According to the Apostles:
But wait. Doesn’t Scripture include examples of believers who committed gross sin? Didn’t David commit murder and adultery and allow his sin to go unconfessed for at least a year? Wasn’t Lot characterized by worldly compromise in the midst of heinous sin?
Yes, those examples prove that genuine believers are capable of the worst imaginable sins. But David and Lot cannot be made to serve as examples of “carnal” believers, whose whole lifestyle and appetites are no different from unregenerate people… Not much is known about [Lot] from the Old Testament account, but what is recorded about him is disappointing. He was a pathetic example of compromise and disobedience. On the eve of Sodom’s destruction when he should have fled the city, “he hesitated” ( Gen. 19:16 ). The angelic messengers had to seize his hand and put him outside the city. Near the end of his life, his two daughters got him drunk and committed incest with him ( Gen. 19:30–38 ). Lot certainly did seem to have a proclivity for sins of compromise and worldliness. Yet the inspired New Testament writer tells us Lot was “oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds)” ( 2 Pet. 2:8 ). He hated sin and desired righteousness. He had respect for holy angels—evidence of his fear of God ( Gen. 19:1–14 ). He obeyed God by not looking back at Sodom when God’s judgment rained down (cf. v. 26).
Lot was certainly not “carnal” in the sense that he lacked spiritual desires. Though he lived in a wicked place, he was not wicked himself. His soul was “tormented,” vexed, grieved, tortured with severe pain at the sight of the evil all around him. Evidently his conscience did not become seared; he “felt his righteous soul tormented day after day” with the evil deeds of those around him. Though he lived in Sodom, he never became a Sodomite. Those who use him as an illustration of someone who is saved but utterly carnal miss the point of 2 Peter 2:8.
What is the lesson of Lot’s life as Peter saw it? Verse 9 sums it up: “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.” In Lot’s case, one means the Lord used to rescue him from temptation was severe chastisement. Lot lost his home; his wife was killed by divine judgment; and his own daughters disgraced and debased him. He paid a terrible price for his sin, being “tormented day after day.” If Lot proves anything, it is that true believers cannot sin with impunity.