200 Proof TuneIn Radio

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

You Are What You Eat

It's nothing new for the Christian world to produce big media entertainment, but does that mean we should flock to anything that is branded "Christian?"  Jesus warns us that there would come to us wolves in sheep's clothing, those claiming to support Christ and His message but in reality are dangerous and looking to devour our faith.

Recently there has been much controversy around the movie, "The Shack." Any criticism of the movie by theologians is dismissed as just being confrontational and divisive.  It's a Christian movie, and it really pulls at our heart strings, so what could be bad about it?  What's even more, how dare you tell me something that makes me feel good is wrong?

That last question is striking, and should make any Christian's ears perk up. The truth about Christian entertainment, from War Room to The Shack, is that they have no desire to present a faithful, biblical witness of the faith.  Instead, they present a faith that will sell.  Why do we uncritically allow media to enter our brains through our eyes and ears, especially media that passes as "Christian?"  At least you know ice cream is bad for you.  The "Gluten Free" or "Reduced Fat" labels don't actually mean it's good for you.

So, what is wrong with the Shack, and why should we avoid it?  First, don't allow yourself to be fooled.  Any  movie that markets itself as "Christian" is trying to sell you something and makes a claim about the faith. Whether you are willing to admit it or not, it forms and shapes your thoughts concerning the faith, and therefore your theology.  Second, the theology of the Shack is chalk full of ancient heresies that are a full frontal attacks on Christ and Christianity.

No, I'm not even talking about God the Father appearing as a woman. There is danger in mutilating the image of God that He has revealed, but that's not the most dangerous part. The most dangerous parts are the parts that we don't even recognize are influencing us, and in the Shack the subtle theology which seeks to shape our minds is huge.

Did you know that the author of The Shack rejects the biblical witness that Christ suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins?  The vicarious atonement is something that not only Young rejects, it's something he finds repulsive.  "Who originated the Cross? . . . If God did, then we worship a cosmic abuser, who in Divine Wisdom created a means to torture human beings in the most painful and abhorrent manner. Frankly, it is often this very cruel and monstrous god that the atheist refuses to acknowledge or grant credibility in any sense. And rightly so. Better no god at all, than this one."

So is Young trying to sell you something in The Shack?  Absolutely. Yes, the cross is present, but for Young it is the ultimate form of justice, not redemption. For Young, Jesus' willing sacrifice is an assault on human violence, not on sin, death and Satan.  Young even states in the book that God has nothing to with punishing sin, only to cure it.  The forgiveness that Young presents is about overcoming human violence and oppression, not about being redeemed through the blood of the Lamb.

Yet salvation through sacrifice is the very heart of the Scriptures, the very reason for Jesus' incarnation.  He was the Passover Lamb sacrificed once for all.  He is the one whose blood flowed from the altar of the cross so that we are redeemed and forgiven. To embrace the theology of Young and The Shack, which seeks to overcome violence through justice, is to unjustly commit violence against the Gospel of Christ.

Throw in there the little bit of other heresies like subordinationism, which asserts that Jesus is not equal to God the Father in majesty and glory, and also ironically the rejection of the economic Trinity, which presents the hierarchical working of the Father sending Jesus to do His will and the Father and the Son sending and directing the Spirit, along with the heresy of patripassionism, which claims that the Father suffered in the Passion and crucifixion of Christ, and you've got yourself one dangerous cocktail.

The defense that it is "only fiction" doesn't add up, since Young is very much trying to sell you a Christianity of his own making, a Christianity littered with heresies and other false teachings. Young himself criticized anyone who would criticize his book in his book, by saying that people who adhere to the doctrinal standards set forth in Scripture try to limit God to the paper of pages. In doing so, He criticizes God Himself, and where He has promised us He would be.

Ask yourself, do you really want to let the thoughts and ideas of someone who criticizes God for not only how He reveals Himself (not only that He reveals Himself through Scripture, but also that He reveals Himself as the Father) but also the very message of His mission (That Christ came to die as the sacrifice for sin) to be teaching you the Christian faith?  After all, you are what you eat.

Maybe we should be a little more careful about what we put into ourselves, and stop letting the excuse of "it's fiction" or "it's entertainment" teach us false theology. Just because it is marketed as "Christian" doesn't mean it is.  If Young isn't a wolf in sheep's clothing, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Confessions of a Pastor: "Why God?"

I've now been a pastor for almost eight months, and recently the floodgates have opened. It was almost like God commanded his heavenly angels to hold back the four winds for a time, and then when I had been sealed he let the winds blow. I'm not talking about the administrative job of being a pastor, or the worship planning, or even the voters meetings. I am talking about the work of being sent as one who is called to bear the brokenness of the people given to him by the Lord. It's much easier to face a volatile voters meeting or the stress of planning and executing worship twice a week. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. I know that I have been called by God and I know I am right where He wants me to be. I know that it is not I who bears the brokenness and pain of the people, but it is He who bears and lifts me up.

Even so, over the past few months I have often been finding myself asking the question, "Why, God?" more than I ever have. With all my theological training, I figured that would be a question I would ask less after my ordination than before it.  Even so, I guess the saying rings true, the more you know, the more you realize you don't know. When my members come to me with prayer requests, or seeking advice or aid, my heart breaks more and more. Having my theological training, I know enough now to not make excuses for God. I know enough to know that God does not need to be defended; that His unrevealed will does not need to be explained. In fact, I know that it is sinful to try and look into the mind of God and speak of things that we cannot understand. So when tragedy hits, I more often finding myself only left with asking the question, "Why, God?" which then can only turn to "Lord, have mercy" and finally, "Not my will, but yours be done."

As a pastor, I also know enough to know that I am not alone in this. I know enough to know that I bear the brokenness to ease the burden of the people God has entrusted to my care, and I know that I do not bear this brokenness alone, but for the people I bring it before the One who bears the brokenness of us all, the Lamb who was slain, the one who from the cross said, "Why, God?" when he asked, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  I also know enough to know the answer to that question. God the Father forsook the Son on the cross so that Jesus could stand in our place and bear our burdens. God the Father forsook Jesus on the cross so that Jesus could take our brokenness into Himself and redeem and transform it, and Jesus willingly obeyed the will of the Father so that we could be reconciled to our Lord and our God, and walk in the newness of life.

In this life we are still left in our brokenness, but in Christ our brokenness is transformed and used by the Spirit to enable us to receive grace and mercy from Christ, and to enable us to be broken for others. Those who are broken know and understand their humility before God, and they are able to empathize with others who are broken and serve them to bring them before to the One who bears the brokenness for us. I thank our heavenly Father for the opportunity to bear the brokenness of my people, and for the humility to not try and explain away His actions, but to simply ask, "Why God?" followed by a "Lord, have mercy," allow it to be answered with a simple, "Your Will be Done," because I know that one day that question will cease, for the Lord's always shows His people mercy and His will is to bring us safely to the completion of our salvation on the Day of the Lord's Return.