â€œIf I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.â€ (I Corinthians 13:1-2)
Iâ€™m kind of afraid to use a title like that. Iâ€™m afraid that some of my readers are so smart theyâ€™ll know what the entire letter says just by reading the title. I didnâ€™t know I had readers that smart, but apparently I do.
So, for my sake, you gotta make me a promise right now. Promise me youâ€™ll read the whole letter before making up your mind about what I said. I know, I know. I go on and on and it seems like sometimes Iâ€™ll never finish, but you canâ€™t always get the whole picture until youâ€™ve read me all the way through.
Iâ€™m being a smart aleck. But it seems that I started a little fire with last weekâ€™s letter and a lot of the heat, from what I gather, came from folks who either didnâ€™t read the book I was talking about or didnâ€™t read the letter they were reading (or both) when they got all fired up.
Donâ€™t get mad and delete me just yet. Remember, you promised to read this letter all the way through.
On the upside, this little controversy has really increased traffic on the www.gotpotential.org blog. You can go there to read everybodyâ€™s comments, good and bad.
On the down side, three people â€˜unsubscribedâ€™ to the Purpose Weekly letter because my â€œcomments have become too far out of doctrine.â€
On the upside, in the past Iâ€™ve had a lot more people than that â€˜unsubscribeâ€™ out of sheer boredom. The subscription doesnâ€™t cost anything and the price of gas has gone down, so financially Iâ€™m a little ahead.
Iâ€™m sorry. Iâ€™m being a smart aleck again. Iâ€™ll stick to business for the rest of the letter.
First of all â€“ If you havenâ€™t read last weekâ€™s letter, you wonâ€™t know what Iâ€™m talking about so when youâ€™re done here go to www.gotpotential.org and read â€œTHE SHACK- In Defense of William P. Young.â€ We got a lot of reaction from that letter; good and bad. And it was quick too. People were commenting right away; like theyâ€™d already made up their minds in advance. I donâ€™t know that my letter really influenced anybody who commented.
This all began as a result of one of my readers asking, â€œWhere is God when something unbearably tragic happens and why would a God who loves me allow something like that to happen in the first place?â€ I wrote last weekâ€™s letter and used William P. (Paul) Youngâ€™s book, THE SHACK as one manâ€™s attempt at answering the question.
Well, up in the right column (thatâ€™s where I give hints about what the letter is about because Iâ€™m afraid you wonâ€™t read the whole thing) I said, â€œYou’ll love it or you’ll hate it â€¦â€ I hit that one right on the money.
We send Purpose Weekly out to 276 people, then to the blog site. I wish it was more but thatâ€™s what it is. Out of the 276, four wrote in and told me how disappointed they were that I â€˜endorsedâ€™ THE SHACK; three others unsubscribed out of the same disappointment. You gotta hand it to the four who wrote in; they didnâ€™t unsubscribe. Good for you guys.
Four wrote in and told me how wonderful it was that I endorsed THE SHACK and how it changed their lives and the lives of others. I only received one new subscriber that â€˜lovedâ€™ my â€˜endorsement.â€™ (Note to people who love what they think Iâ€™m saying on the blog â€“ subscribe to the letter! Itâ€™s very encouraging to me.)
Hereâ€™s my problem, I liked the book, I used it as an illustration; I just didnâ€™t know I was endorsing it. And Iâ€™m almost positive I didnâ€™t say anything about adding it to Holy Scripture.
Paul Young addressed pain and suffering and forgiveness and wholeness better than I could. Some of the parts even made me cry (a little caveat here: a lot of things make me cry; Iâ€™m either spiritually sensitive or slightly unbalanced, take your pick).
A lot of what was in the book made me shake my head. Paul broke down barriers and stereotypes about how we regard our relationship with God, but he did it in such a way that made him run right up to the edge of heresyâ€™s cliff. Maybe he even stepped over a few times.
Iâ€™m not endorsing heresy.
(Okay, this is for the 265 people who really didnâ€™t have an issue with last weekâ€™s letter, or loved it or hated it and didnâ€™t have the time, interest or whatever to write in: â€œheresyâ€ means â€œholding of unorthodox opinion.â€ â€œOrthodoxâ€ we covered last week; it means â€œfollowing traditional doctrine.â€)
Iâ€™m on the side on â€œfollowing traditional doctrine.â€ Unless, of course, itâ€™s wrong. Some of what Paul Young said was wrong. A lot of what Paul Young said was right.
All you guyâ€™s who jumped me for pointing that out â€“ Iâ€™m asking you to check your own â€˜orthodoxyâ€™. Some of what you said was right. If you had really read my letter you would have seen that I agree with you. Was some of what you said wrong?
Thatâ€™s my question.
The first letter I received was from someone who actually read THE SHACK, thanking me for defending the book. Iâ€™m pretty sure she didnâ€™t actually read my letter though, she wrote me two minutes after I posted it. Evelyn Wood couldnâ€™t read one of my letters in two minutes.
The first letter I received blasting the book and the author came in about an hour and a half later, so Iâ€™m pretty sure my letter didnâ€™t prompt any further research or consideration of the subject on his part.
Iâ€™m not going to reproduce his entire letter here or my entire response; Purpose Weekly is long enough without that. Iâ€™ll post both to www.gotpotential.org in their entirety, so you can read them there. Iâ€™ll just give you the high points here:
XXXXX: â€œSteve:Â Normally I agree with your materialÂ but believe you are seriously off-base here.Â Â The Shack is horrendous.â€
Steve: â€œIâ€™m assuming youâ€™ve read THE SHACK and not just heard about it. And Iâ€™m assuming you really read my letter all the way through without being blinded by what some people would consider as an unqualified endorsement.â€
XXXXX: â€œJesus is never identified as the Christ. Where is the blood in this book? There is no need for a savior because everything was forgiven already.â€
Steve: â€œThis book, from what I see, was in no way ever intended to cover a broad spectrum of theology. But what I did see was Youngâ€™s treatment of the scars left from Calvary and the incomprehensible price paid for manâ€™s redemption.â€
XXXXX: â€œUniversalism – No Hell.â€
Steve: â€œPaul Young loves Jesus, heâ€™s not a Universalist and he believes that the only way to salvation is through Christ.â€ (If XXXXX had taken the time and effort to meet Paul Young or read his letters, he would have known this. But thereâ€™s no sense in giving another Christian the benefit of the doubt.)
XXXXX: â€œCommunicating with the dead is forbidden by scripture. No self-assessment by Mack thinking that what he is seeing could be deceptive. Hinduism and New Age throughout the book.â€
Steve: â€œSome of your bullet points are valid and I agree with them. â€˜Theologically [THE SHACK] may have some points to argue; like the femaleness of the God character (the Holy Spirit is a woman too, Asian this time) and the lack of any hierarchy in the Godhead, or the soft sell on sin.â€™â€ (Honestly, some of his bullet points I didnâ€™t get. Hinduism? I was beginning to think he was reading from the annotated and expanded version of THE SHACK and I only had the cheap Samâ€™s Wholesale Club condensed paperback version.)
XXXXX: â€œBelittlement of fundamentalist Christians and their doctrine.â€
Steve: â€œIf fundamentalist Christians were really fundamentally Christian, then I doubt books like THE SHACK or movements like the â€˜emergent churchâ€™ would ever see the light of day. These people are sincere and theyâ€™re looking for answers and the fundamentalist church, in many ways, has failed to provide them. The Word hasnâ€™t changed. If weâ€™ve failed them weâ€™d better look at our own adherence to it.â€
And my personal favorite:
XXXXX: â€œYes, there is mushy love and all that stuff in the book.â€
Steve: â€œThereâ€™s nothing wrong with the â€˜fundamentalâ€™ part of fundamentalism. Weâ€™d better preserve and teach good doctrine, in love, to the entire Body of Christ. That includes those who are so wrapped up in tradition and cultural orthodoxy that thereâ€™s no room in their hearts for love and relationship; and it includes the newbies, who are starved for love and relationship, but think they have to create their own orthodoxy because they see the old one as failed.â€ (As for me and my house, weâ€™ll stick with â€œmushy love and all that stuff.â€)
Iâ€™ll end this letter how I ended that letter.
â€œHopefully you understood the point of my sub-title â€˜Throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater.â€™ Those who, in their naÃ¯vetÃ© would accept THE SHACK as gospel, I wanted to ground a little. Those who, in their hard hearted fundamentalism, threw the entire message contained in THE SHACK away as apostasy, I wanted to open their eyes a little.â€
â€œIf you and I and Paul Young are followers of the same Christ, itâ€™s our job, according to Paul in the 4th chapter of Ephesians to travel that road together â€“ â€œtell the whole truth in love.â€ You and I e-mailing each other doesnâ€™t benefit the Body at all. Weâ€™re part of the same Body, not parties in opposing camps. A lot of the Body is so steeped in tradition theyâ€™ve got no room to love others in the Body, let alone the lost. A lot of the Body is so new and ignorant of good doctrine that theyâ€™ll consider anything that feels good gospel. Iâ€™d like to have this discussion in public. Would you be open to posting this discussion on the website, open for comment? It may actually show the Body and the world that we believers arenâ€™t a series of opposing camps, but truly one in Christ.â€
XXXXX hasnâ€™t gotten back to me about making this discussion public. Iâ€™m going to take that as a â€˜yesâ€™.
â€œAnd now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.â€ (I Corinthians 13:13)