Wednesday, September 10, 2008 | By: Zachary Bartels

Just doing my part...

Must be something about a 30-year-old man in a tie walking with a purpose. Anytime I run an errand during the day, someone assumes that I'm the manager of whatever business I'm currently patronizing.

If they ask, "Do you work here?" I usually just say, "No, I don't."

If I'm at Kroger and someone stomps up angrily and says, "You're all out of the cod fillets; shouldn't I get the same deal on the tilapia?!" I usually say, "I suppose so."

If I'm at Circuit City and someone hands me a cell phone charger and asks, "How much does this cost?" I look at the price tag and read to them the number I find there.

And if I'm at Family Christian Stores, stacking Bibles up into a tower because we're welcoming a bunch of new members next week and an old lady asks, "Where would I fin
d The Shack?" I answer, "I dunno, but I wouldn't waste my time reading it."

"Why is that?" she asked. I gave her the quick version of what follows. I know I should have just told her that I don't work there, but I
used to word for FCS (one year in the store and five at the corporate office) and during that time, I had to take part in selling everything from that Left Behind junk to Joel Osteen's Genie Jesus to people who had wandered into the store looking for some spiritual direction. It was easier being behind the scenes, but even then, we were downloading sale prices and sending out plan-o-grams highlighting the heretical for the consuming masses. In short, I think FCS owed me this little encounter. I had it coming.

Now, I really don't care if anyone reads (or even enjoys)
The Shack. I encourage my congregation to read with discernment any popular spiritual book that piques their interest (whether it's doctrinally sound or not) and then hold it up to Scripture like the Bereans, because it can stretch us and help us understand more of what we believe, what we don't believe, and why. However, I don't really find much of value in The Shack.

Apart from the very sloppy writing (in fairness, it was self-published and, therefore, lacking the services of an editor who could have tightened up some of the awkward prose), the doctrine presented in this book flirts with the heretical at every turn. It's got universalism (Jesus does not want to "make anyone a Christian"), Goddess worship (do some research into the names used for the female "deities"--most are rooted in paganism), and worst of all, the doctrine of the Trinity is way out of whack. God the "Father" (though he's a woman, so I guess it would be God the Mother) declares "I am truly human in Jesus" (this is a heresy called modalism--God the Father is not human). The relationship between the persons of the Trinity is presented as flippant, bizarre, and childish--if we read the Westminster Standards, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Formula of Concord, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or pretty much any Orthodox description of the Trinity based on SCRIPTURE, it bears almost no resemblance to the goofy god(s) in the Shack.

The book claims not to be theology, but then presents itself as such, all the while making light of sacred things. I'm afraid that people with little theological background are going to become very confused by this little volume.

Young wrote the book after realizing that he had spent years trying to earn God's approval and never feeling that he had quite succeeded. The book might serve as a helpful corrective to others struggling with the same issue, but the book of Romans would do a far better job in my opinion.

I asked the lady at the bookstore why she wanted to read The Shack. She said she was interested in really knowing God and a friend had recommended Young's book. I told her that J.I. Packer has a great book about Knowing God, but that God Himself had written the definitive work on the subject.

I'm not sure what she bought, but I am pretty sure that she saw me checking out before I left.

5 reader comments:

David Marvin said...

All I ever get when I wear a suit are guys trying to bum change off of me downtown. Do I look like a sucker when I wear a suit?

E. said...

Has anyone called you "Mr. Manager" yet?

ZSB said...

We...just say manager.

Jennifer said...

The mention of giving your opinion in FCS made me think of the time a patron asked my opinion of a CD. (I can't remember what it was, but I do recall it wasn't worth the money.) Jim overheard me telling him, "It's not very good," and got mad at me. It's a Christian store, and I'm supposed to LIE? (Apparently, but perhaps eating Testamints whilst doing so negates any shady actions.)

Rachel said...

I didn't like The Shack, either. All of my friends loved it, but it drove me crazy.

Great commentary.