Thinking Out Loud

September 26, 2011

Do “Apologetics” and “Protest” Belong in the same Breath?

I am a person captivated by the study of Christian apologetics.  I’m not saying I’m very good at it, but my personal library, and the collection at the bookstore I manage are somewhat saturated with apologetics titles.  Of course, when you hear that, some think Norman Geisler, some will assume Ravi Zacharias, some think I mean Hank Hanegraaff, others will be reminded of Josh McDowell, while some will automatically think Ray Comfort.  I don’t care.  I think they all have something to offer, though I prefer some approaches over others.

The reason I like apologetics is that I believe there are a number of questions seekers have that we should have answers to, rather than looking clueless like the proverbial deer caught in the proverbial headlights.  I’ve always thought that, “Because our pastor said so;” was a bit weak when dealing with people who are needing to overcome serious barriers to faith.

But I think that part of the “Always be ready to give an account,” concept has to been seen in the context of someone  who is asking us a question.  It doesn’t mean that we get out in the streets and start picketing people we disagree with.  Especially picketing other members of the body, which, if the “body” analogy is taken correctly, means we’re picketing ourselves.   It’s a defense of the faith, which is implied; a defensive posture not an offensive posture; and shouldn’t be confused with evangelism.  So I was particular distressed to read this report at Chad Estes’ blog:

President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, Matt Slick, spent the evening protesting W. Paul Young’s (the author of The Shack) speech at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.

He missed an incredible night of stories of God’s intimate and loving involvement in our lives while standing on the street corner letting people [know] they shouldn’t be attending what he thought would be a heretical discussion.

He tried to get into a discussion with me about universalism when I went out to take his picture. He asked me if I thought everybody was forgiven. I told him I thought that was Jesus’ point on the cross – “Forgive them, Papa, they are clueless what they are doing.” I thought it was a slick answer but Slick didn’t seem to think so.

Now again, remember, I have a link to CARM on this blog.  I support people doing apologetics. Real apologetics.  I’m not so strong on in your face discernment ministry. Especially in a public forum.  Most especially in a public forum. I may question the doctrine at my local Roman Catholic Church, but I’m not going to stand outside and picket the place; especially if it may represent a small first step on a journey to faith for someone who is truly seeking after God. 

And I’m not writing this out of a loyalty to The Shack.  The book is flawed. But the book is good. And it’s done a lot of good.

Sorry; I gotta repeat Chad’s second paragraph here with some added emphasis:

He missed an incredible night of stories of God’s intimate and loving involvement in our lives while standing [outside] on the street corner letting people [know] they shouldn’t be attending what he thought would be a heretical discussion.

There is so much of this that goes on within Kingdom borders, and it is so very sad.

July 17, 2010

Shack Author and Publisher In Legal Quagmire

The Los Angeles Times calls it a “Cinderella story.”  A man is encouraged by his wife to write a story for his kids that lets them know who he is and what he values.   He writes the piece and trudges off to Kinko’s Copy Shop where the initial printing of The Shack consists of fifteen — count ’em, fifteen — copies.

That was twelve million copies ago, and almost just as many blog posts and published articles; some praising the manuscript and others deriding it for doctrinal and theological error.

In between, the story fell into the hands of Wayne Jacbosen.   If you’ve read He Loves Me or So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore, it’s possible to imagine the guiding hand of Wayne all over the manuscript.   The cover — which on the original Kinko copies said, “by MacKenzie Allen Phillips;” and then was published as “by William P. Young;” and then was changed to “by Wm. Paul Young;” — might have equally said “by Wm. Paul Young with Wayne Jacbosen;” or even “by Wm. Paul Young with Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings.”

Windblown Media, the upstart company Cummings and Jacobsen formed could have done that.   But they didn’t.    While Jacobsen’s editorial involvement has been unquestioned, there has never been a consideration of co-authorship; which the triple-authored Bo’s Café proved the company more than willing to do.

Paul Young

The Times article informs, “On March 11, Jacobsen and Cummings asserted their claim to co-authorship with an amended copyright filing to the Library of Congress. They also accused Young of reneging on a deal to help Jacobsen and Cummings turn “The Shack” into a movie.”

But now we find the entire “Cinderella story” blown apart in lawsuits and counter-suits; with the general-distribution publisher Hachette Book Group being forced to deposit the royalties in a trust account until the courts can sort it all out.

Sad really.

You can read the entire, long story here at the L.A. Times.

Thanks to the blog Bene Diction Blogs On for making us aware of this story.

December 20, 2008

Critique of The Shack to Release in February

findinggodintheshackWell, you knew it was bound to happen, but this is the first book about the popular novel that I am aware of, and you can bet it won’t be the last.  Finding God in The Shack is by Randal Rauser, associate professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminar, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.   He writes on theology, apologetics and popular culture.   The book is releasing in February through Paternoster Press, a division of the worldwide STL organization.

The publisher marketing for the book (see below) appears to indicate a response to the book that is supportive of the The Shack‘s theological treatment.   That could upset people who are looking for ammunition to criticize the book, especially those who have been outspoken critics without actually reading it.   No doubt those titles will follow.

I am always skeptical as to whether or not books like this are written to allow further conversation on the themes in other popular Christian literature — I’m aware of at least six critiques of the Left Behind series — or if they are written from an opportunist vantage, trying to capitalize on the popularity of something else.   I know that’s unfair; nor are we to judge the motives of someone else; but as a bookseller, it’s easy to all that skepticism to creep in.

That said though, I do actually hope this is the first of many such titles, because there is so much discussion taking place now on theological matters that it would be healthy and beneficial to allow those dialogs to continue, especially among those who have never considered weightier theological matters before.   The Shack has brought many new people to the theological roundtable.   One other Canadian who would be good to hear from on this would be John Stackhouse of Regent College, whose debrief of the book is the third of three radio interviews available online from the Haven Today radio program*.   Plus, I’m sure a number of American, British or Australian writers would be itching to weigh in on this.

Here is the publisher marketing for Finding God in The Shack:

What would it be like to lose your youngest child to a serial killer? And then to have God invite you out for a conversation at the very shack where the terrible deed took place? And then imagine that the door to that shack of horrors opened . . . and before you knew it you had been swept up in the motherly embrace of a large African American woman? This most unlikely of stories, as told in William Young’s The Shack, has become a runaway bestseller and it is easy to see why. The book brings us on a redemptive journey through the shacks of deepest pain and suffering in our lives, guided by the triune God of Christian faith. But even as lives have been transformed through this book, other readers have sternly denounced it as a hodgepodge of serious theological error, even heresy. With one pastor urging his congregation to read it and another forbidding his congregation to, many Christians have simply been left confused.

Aware both of the excitement and uncertainty generated by The Shack, theologian Randal Rauser takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the pages of the story. In successive chapters he explores many of the books complex and controversial issues. Thus he explains why God the Father is revealed as an African American woman, he defends the books theology of the Trinity against charges of heresy and he considers its provocative denial of a Trinitarian hierarchy. But at its heart The Shack is a response to evil and so Rauser spends the final three chapters considering the books explanation for why God allows evil, how the atoning work of Christ offers new hope for a suffering world and ultimately how this hope extends to all of creation. Through these chapters Rauseroffers an honest and illuminating discussion which opens up a new depth to the conversation while providing the reader with new opportunities for Finding God in The Shack.

*For the earlier two programs with the author of the book itself, use the same link and modify the last four digits to program 1661 and 1662.   See also our post on this topic a few days ago with the link to an Australian radio show podcast.

November 4, 2008

The Shaq

Filed under: books, Christianity, Humor — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:37 pm

After taking the better part of a month off, the blog Purgatorio returns in style with this entry:


Caption: A new book is causing controversy among evangelicals. “The Shaq” tells the story of a grieving L.A. Laker’s fan who is visited by a 7ft 300 lbs African American basketball player and an aging zen-master head coach who use the triangle offense to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

The first link is an in joke for Purgatorio readers.

Blog at