Editing God

Editing God

There is a ‘profaning’ of God in our culture, have you noticed it? To profane something is to make it common, to blur the line between the sacred and the ordinary.

This has been one of the criticisms of Canadian author William P. Young’s 2007 book, The Shack. The Shack went from being a self-published novel to being a cultural phenomenon. Back in 2009 it won the “Diamond Award” given by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for sales over 10 million copies. It’s since become a film viewed by millions more.

In the book, Mack, a distraught father whose daughter was abducted and killed four years earlier, meets the Trinity in the very shack in which his daughter was killed. The shack has been mystically transformed into an idyllic country cabin. As he enters the cabin, he is embraced by “Papa”, the figure who represents God the Father. “Papa” is a jovial African American woman who calls herself, “Elousia”.

Mack is immediately “overwhelmed by the scent emanating from her. It shook him. It was the smell of flowers with overtones of gardenia and jasmine. It was unmistakably his mother’s perfume.”

The Son of God is in the cabin too – He’s a Middle Eastern carpenter. So is God the Holy Spirit – portrayed as an Asian woman named Sarayu, which means ‘breath of wind.’ Through his many conversations with Young’s version of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Mack comes to terms with his daughter’s death and with his fractured relationship with God. Oh, and there are adventures afoot too: racing on the surface of the water with Jesus, gardening with Sarayu, and making a pie with Papa, who asks him if he likes Neil Young.

The book made quite a splash within American culture. It pulled over and parked at numero uno on The New York Times best seller list for 70 weeks.

So, is it OK? Is it OK to portray God the Father this way? Or God the Holy Spirit? Is it OK to put words into the mouth of all Three members of the Trinity that they never said? And what about those things that they say that stand in contradiction to the words of Holy Scripture?

Many, many people – believers and unbelievers alike – have found great comfort in the book. But was it real comfort? Stephen J. Drain asked that very question in his fine study, A False god to Bring You Comfort in ‘The Shack’ (March, 2017).

Was the late Chuck Colson over-reacting when he criticized the “silly lines” the members of Mr. Young’s trinity speak, or when he accused him of having a “low view of scripture”?

Was R. Albert Mohler, Jr. being unduly concerned when he called The Shack “deeply troubling”, charging it with containing “undiluted heresy”?

I don’t think so. I think there is real cause for deep concern. Because the way we think about God really, really matters. A.W. Tozer famously wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God, is the most important thing about us!” He’s right.

In his book, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief, James R. White says, “True worship must worship God as He exists, not as we wish Him to be. The essence of idolatry is the making of images of God. An image is a shadow, a false representation. We may not bow before a statue or a figure, but if we make an image of god in our mind that is not in accord with God’s revelation of himself, then we are not worshipping in truth.”

Yes indeed.

Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and TRUTH” (John 4:24). What I think about God, how I imagine Him, what I think He’s like, what I believe is pleasing to Him, must, above all else, be true. Anything less than a true conception of God is false. And, O how the enemy would love our understanding of who God is to be false!

God the Father is spirit, noncorporeal (without a physical body). God the Holy Spirit is also spirit, noncorporeal. What we have seen with our eyes of God’s being is the incarnated Son of God, and Him alone. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made him known.”

So, you tell me: Is it wrong to portray The Father and the Holy Spirit as women – African American, Asian, Caucasian or otherwise? Or men? Or anything else, for that matter? Is it wrong to have these characters say things that God, who’s gone to great lengths to communicate with us through His Word, never said?

I think it is. I think it cheapens our view of God, the holy, limitless, eternal God who transcends all of His creation, soaring so far above us as to exist as One in a category of one.

To make God more ‘folksy’ is to make Him less holy in our minds. There’s not much I agree with Voltaire about, but he was right to say, “In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”

Multiply this character-reassignment millions upon millions of times and you have modern American culture – a place where many claim to be Christian, but the Jesus they say they follow bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible.

As believers we should defend God’s right to define Himself and reject as vain the imaginations of those who would cast Him as something He is not, regardless of how comforting that man-made deity might be. For, as James White so aptly writes, “If we love Him and worship Him as He deserves, we will not dare to ‘edit’ Him to fit our desires.”

 

To consider …

  • Do you have a true view of God?

How do you determine what is true?

How are your opinions of God formed?

Are they generally informed or established by Scripture?

  • The tendency today is to disregard God’s holiness and ‘otherness’ in favor of His love and accessibility. But Scripture describes Him as all of these things.

Do you hold these attributes in a proper balance?

  • Think carefully: has the culture challenged or changed your view of who God is, what He’s like or what He desires?

Have the new so-called ‘liberation’ movements in human sexuality, marriage redefinition or value of life issues changed your view on the relevancy of God’s Word to today’s world?

  • Conservative Christians hold the Bible to be the Word of God and absolutely true.

In your view, can truth ever change?

Should it bend to accommodate the ever-shifting sands of culture?

  • How has society’s overall view of God changed in your lifetime, if at all?

To what would you attribute these changes?

  • Do you think the overall view of God and His Word has changed within the church in your lifetime?

To what do you attribute these changes?

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Comments

  1. 2 Timothy 2:15 cutting straight the Word of God! When I was in the Air Force, Strategic Air Command (SAC), I was stationed at a radar station, monitoring all aircraft using (IFF) Identification friend or foe. Occasionally we would have war games, where B-52’s, still in use today, would fly out and attempt to fly back undetected using various tactics. One common evasive measure was the use of chaff. as they appeared on our scope they would drop aluminum metals strips called chaff! This chaff would appear on our scopes as a cloud of blips making it almost impossible momentarily to detect the real blip (ie. B-52) from the false chaff blips. As so skillfully laid out by Pastor Gene, this book ‘The Shack’ is pseudo religious chaff. The enemy is at work here, that old serpent, doing what he does best deception of every kind.
    I thank God for the Word of God! I thank God for the Spirit of truth, who will guide us into all the truth. I also thank God for the men of God who are fighting the fight to cut straight the Word of God, and expose the chaff, as they protect the flock of God. The Lord knows those who are His, and He knows how to protect His own. cs

    • Kathryn Boisvert : June 11, 2018 at 1:32 pm

      Thank you for your service to our country brother! I love your analogy. It’s a perfect inside scoop; great visual, to show the tactics the enemy uses to deceive God’s people. We must be vigilant for the Word says the enemy is prowling around like a lion seeking whomever he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

  2. Kerin Medeiros : June 11, 2018 at 11:15 am

    The most alarming trend of this age is the apostasy of the professing body of Christ. At the same time, that evil undercurrent testifies to the veracity of God’s prophetic word.(2 TIM 3:4) If I do not accept what the God-breathed Scripture testifies to my spirit IN ITS ENTIRETY, I must discard ALL of it. I choose to take HIM at His Word. Jesus alone gave over His perfect body and blood to engulf me in God’s grace (only God could grant it and He chose to do so through HIS SON). My husband could quote you the references for each one of these statements verbatim. I use my trusty concordance. When we seek to know Jesus, who is the Living Word, we must consult the written word.(JOHN 1:1&14:6)The foundation we stand in will never pass away(LK 21:33). That is what transcends both time and space.

    • Kathryn Boisvert : June 11, 2018 at 1:28 pm

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Kerin! Praise God that we serve an unchanging omnipotent omniscient omnipresent and perfect God!! He should never be redefined! Once again thank you Pastor Gene for serving up the truth from the pulpit rather than “tickling our ears!” We need the truth now more than ever in 2018!!

  3. It is so refreshing to see this error exposed for what it is. Thank you, Pastor Gene. ‘Jesus Calling’ by Sarah Young is equally disturbing, as well, I believe. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)

  4. David Medeiros : June 11, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    God has been denigrated from the beginning of time, especially the Lord Jesus. The Gnostics, Acetics and false teachers were rampart in the early church as we see in Col, 2 Peter, 1 John and Jude. Jude writes that he had intentions to encourage the believers of the common salvation but ” found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (vs3) Truth does not change because it cannot change and remain truth. It is always absolute. I like Charlie’s analogy of chaff which when wheat was threshed, was thrown into the air and was blown away as the wheat fell to the floor. But until it was full grown, it could not be distinguished from the wheat. We know the devil is a master of deception and it is written in 2 Cor. 11:13-15, ” For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

  5. I’m so thankful and comforted in the fact that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever!…that He never changes, that He has given us His written word to use as our guide. It is my desire to filter everything through the filter of His word.

    I’m sure that many looking for comfort in the book, may have found it in the “approachableness” of the god they saw in The Shack. With all that is incorrect in the book, my prayer is that those who read it looking for comfort, would have a desire to look deeper…into THE book to learn of the real Comforter, Healer, and Father, and that they would find more than they could ever imagine in the real God and Savior!

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