Thinking Out Loud

March 10, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time vs. The Shack: Reactions from Evangelicals

Let’s face it, the church doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to art. Decades ago, I heard Larry Norman say that the church tends to be in an imitative mode, but not necessarily an innovative mode. We’ll copy the world — often many years later — when it’s doing something successful, but those who think outside the box are usually ostracized.

This goes double when it comes to the literary genre of fiction.

My day began early today, reading an article on my phone from the Salt Lake Tribune (written for The Washington Post) by Sarah Pulliam Bailey titled Publishers rejected her, Christians attacked her: The deep faith of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle. There’s been renewed interest in the book because of the movie, which opened yesterday in most markets. I have neither read the book nor seen the movie, though now my curiosity level is high. 

The book along with other writing by the same author has been sold in many Christian bookstores for decades.

In the article — carefully researched — she doesn’t mention The Shack. That’s not her purpose. But to me the similarities were leaping off the page.

  • rejected by 26 publishers (Shack: 20)
  • greatest criticism from conservative Christians
  • immense popularity nonetheless
  • authors desire to express a deep faith through (L’Engle: “If I’ve ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it, This is my psalm of praise to life, my stand for life against death.”)
  • some of the greatest attacks came from people in the Reformed tradition
  • accused of univeralism
  • made into mainstream market movie enjoying greater acceptance by non-Christians

At the outset of the article one reads, “While L’Engle considered herself a devout Christian, and sprinkled the book with scriptural references, she was accused of promoting witchcraft.” 

I’m sure she found that as encouraging as Paul Young did when faced with similar charges over The Shack.

 

 

 

 

 

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May 5, 2013

Blog Post of the Week: Predestination and the Emotional Life

Every once in awhile you land on someone’s blog and an article just arrests you in your tracks.  Thanks to Wade Burleson for this, you’re encouraged to click this link to read at source. I’ve added some emphasis.

Paul Young

Paul Young

In the few days Paul Young was here in Enid we had some very interesting conversations. I have complimented Paul before, saying I have learned more about interaction with people through observing him than any other person I know. Paul believes everything in his life–every experience, every heart-ache, every blessing, every moment–have collectively led him to the moment in time he speaks with the one who is in front of him. He is not looking over the shoulder to the next person in line, he is not worried about being late for supper or his next appointment. Paul Young takes time to interact with people and connect with them on a level deeper than the superficial.

Paul Young and I share a very high view of the power of the atonement. We both believe the grace of God saves through the Person and work of Jesus the Anointed One. We are repelled by the notion that a loving God tries to save the world through His Son. We believe God actually delivers sinners from themselves through Christ. We also share a common view of hell. It is not a torture chamber dreamed up in the mind of the midieval poet Dante, but rather a solemn, holy place of judgment where a loving God sentences rebels to a just imprisonment for their crimes.

Where Paul and I disagree is on the extent of the atonement. Paul Young believes Christ died for every human being who has ever lived or ever will live, those who are in heaven and those who are in hell. I believe Christ died for the elect. We both believe Christ died for the world, but Paul defines the world as every human being, whereas I define it as a particular people (the Bride of Christ) from every nation, every tongue, every kindred, and every family on earth. Paul Young treats every human being as a child of God, and thus connects with them in a deep emotional and spiritual level. I desire to connect with every human being in a similar manner to Paul Young.

In discussing the extent of the atonement, Paul Young told me a story of a couple of Calvinists who approached him to debate the subject. Paul observed that Calvinists typically approach him in pairs, one tall and lean the other short and plump. The tall one argued with Paul about the extent of the atonement and Paul responded, “So let me ask you a question. You have two boys, both of whom are your flesh and blood. One boy is saved because God chose Him, Christ died for Him and the Spirit regenerated Him. The other boy, however, is chosen by God to be a “vessel of wrath” upon whom judgement will fall as a demonstration of God’s holiness and justice. My question for you is this: ‘Does it bother you that you have one son who will be in heaven and one son who will be in hell?'” The tall Calvinist responded: ‘It does not. God’s purposes are good, and if my boy is a vessel chosen for the demonstration of God’s wrath against sin, it will be fine with me.”

Paul Young’s next question was this: “How long have you struggled with pornography?”

I was shocked at Paul’s question to the man. Paul explained to me that any human being who is so emotionally disconnected from their children’s welfare that they can dispassionately speak of their eternal state without sorrow, tears or pleading with God for mercy, is a person who is disconnected from emotion in relationships. The tell-tale sign of a struggle with pornography, according to Paul, is an emotional disconnect from human relationships.

I may disagree with Paul Young about the extent of the atonement, but I can guarantee you I want to treat every person the way he does. I wish to believe like Charles Spurgeon  who once said “God, save the elect and elect some more” and I wish to live like Paul Young who treats every human being as a chosen recipient of God’s grace. My view on the atonement has not changed. I believe it is a particular atonement for those who believe. But I can tell you without hesitation I would rather be around people who believe in a powerful, universal atonement and treat everybody like a child of God than a limited atonement person who is emotionally disconnected from the human race. I’m not sure what camp that puts me in, but its one which I do not wish to leave.

November 13, 2012

The Shack’s Paul Young Returns with Cross Roads

The original distribution target for The Shack was about 15 copies. So it’s not surprising that million-copy-selling author Paul Young refers to Cross Roads as the first novel he intentionally wrote.

While The Shack took Paul Young into some places that other Christian novels would never reach and started all manner of conversations, the fact remains that the response from some Evangelicals and the Reformed community in particular was less than enthusiastic. I would like to say that Cross Roads clears up all the misconceptions and establishes that Young is definitely not a heretic in their eyes, but much of the doctrinal language of The Shack continues in Cross Roads, though I phrase it that way because this is often a war of words, not theology.

The critics are waiting in the wings for enough information about the book to leak out so they might launch their attack without actually buying a copy, particulars I’m not going to oblige them with here. Frankly, I’m drawn to Young’s picture of a loving God — regardless of the size, shape, age or gender in which he prefers to clothe any member of The Trinity — and would have no problem approving him to teach Sunday School at my church, a proposition that no doubt causes his detractors to shudder.

At the end of the day Cross Roads is a work of fiction, with a very contrived premise or two, but no more extreme than James Rubart’s Soul’s Gate which we reviewed here a few days back. It is well-written, technically accurate, and resolves plot loose ends.  It’s a book about life, and how some people live it, and what is left when life suddenly ends. It contains various aspects of the gospel, and isn’t afraid to wade into doctrinal issues that concern us as ‘church people.’

Nonetheless, I would say about this book what I said about Shack, and that is its greatest value is in giving the book to spiritual outsiders for the purpose of starting conversations; it’s not the last word on systematic theology.

The medical element of the book does not weigh it down; in fact the book is very lighthearted in a couple of places, including one scene that can only be described as comedic. The lead character is delineated vividly in the opening chapters; you cannot help but have opinions about Anthony Spencer. The author isn’t afraid to introduce new subplots or complications in the last quarter. Some Biblical passages are alluded to, at other points you get chapter and verse. The work validates that Young is a good writer and certainly deserving of the success which changed his life so dramatically a few years ago.

If you’re one of the eighteen million people who purchased The Shack you don’t need to think twice about also getting a copy of Cross Roads.

Cross Roads is in release worldwide in hardcover ($24.99 US) on the FaithWords imprint of Hachette Book Group. A copy was provided to Thinking Out Loud through Speakeasy, an awesome social media book promotion agency. The term “Sunday School” used above isn’t literal — we don’t have one — I’m referring to leading a Children’s ministry small group.

Learn more: The author discusses the book in this YouTube video.

November 7, 2012

Wednesday Link List


It’s Wednesday again. Did they settle that election thing last night?

Pastor Gene Appel stands in the brand new auditorium at Eastside Christian Church in Anaheim, California; which opened this weekend. (See item 5 above).

August 24, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I like a church that covers all the basics for living

Years from now, when anthropologists discover this blog, they will say, “Truly, this was the Wednesday Link List for August 24th, 2011.”

  • Randy Alcorn quotes a Chuck Colson report that we shouldn’t be talked into thinking there’s been a lessening of persecution of Christians in China.
  • The author and publishers of The Shack — a bestselling Christian novel — found themselves on opposite sides of a lawsuit which was finally settled out of court.
  • Just what WOULD the Beatles have come up with, creatively speaking, had they been followers of Jesus all those years ago? A good friend of ours has finally given us the green light to release the link for a take-off to The Beatles “When I’m Sixty-Four.”  So enjoy “Matthew Six Three-Four.”  (The link will open your computer’s media player.) Stay tuned for more from Martin Barret on a soon to be released project featuring this song and others.
  • Schullergate Item of the Week:  The Crystal Cathedral succeeded in getting a dissenting website, Crystal Cathedral Music, taken down this week. The site featured commentary from former members of the CC choir and orchestra and friends of the Cathedral’s former music style.
  • Darryl Dash warns pastors and others that when it comes to email and online correspondence, nothing is confidential.
  • Christianity Today profiles Dave Ramsey, noting the new Momentum curriculum, designed to bring the same advice to cash-strapped churches as is given individuals.
  • Alex Mejias at the blog High Street Hymns gives you Five Reasons to Use Liturgical Music in Your Contemporary Worship Service.  (And no, “Liturgical songs are free of copyright worries” wasn’t in the list.)  [HT: Zac Hicks.]
  • This one’s a repeat from April, but I read it again and laughed again.  What if churches used their signs to suggest “purpose statements” that were actually achievable?
  • DotSub — the online service which adds subtitles in any language to your videos — picks up a June, 2010 TED Talk by Larry Lessig which deals with copyright and fair use, but begins with an observation about Republicans: They go to church.
  • Ronnie McBrayer adds his voice to The Underground, a Christian website like no other, and notes that a lot of people do strange things because they thought they heard God’s voice.
  • In an in-depth article, CNN ponders whether Christians can win the war against pornography. (Over 3,000 comments as of Monday.)
  • Julie Clawson considers the theological implications of the Veggie Tales song, “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.”  Okay, that’s not exactly what this post is all about.
  • Just discovering the music of Phil Wickham.  Gave Mrs. W. the Cannons album last week for being good!  This older song, You’re Beautiful, is closing in on 2,000,000 YouTube views.  For the already-converted (!) here’s a clip from Phil’s October-releasing album, Response.
  • Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like delivers a fundy take on I Cor. 13; though in all honesty, I gotta say this one is high in contention for being tomorrow’s post here.
  • You’re not really going to the bathroom at Bible study group are you?  Bryan Lopez reblogged Tech-Crunch’s Technology is the New Smoking.
  • Somewhat related: Chrystal at Life After Church introduces a new blog series by describing a very non-Baptist way to engage with scripture.
  • Thomas Prosser at the UK Guardian newspaper thinks that Christian youth camps are manipulative, but before you read, you need to know that what they term as camps, we refer to as festivals.
  • If you’re a link-o-phile, you’ll also find a daily rundown at Take Your Vitamin Z (Zach Nielsen), Kingdom People (Trevin Wax) and Tim Challies.  These bloggers include things from the broader blogosphere including lots of tech news, but when it comes to theological discussion the links are all from a single doctrinal family of bloggers.  (Note the vast number of links that turn up on all three over the course of a month.)  The mix here is quite different, but feel free to check out the three mentioned above as well as the large, diverse number of other bloggers in the margin at right.  These links are constantly checked for (a) a spiritual focus, (b) frequent and recent posting, and (c) taken as a group, doctrinal mix and balance.

The Wednesday List Lynx arrives late to the party

September 1, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The August Bank Holiday brought U.K. Christians to Cheltenham for the annual Greenbelt Festival

Welcome to September!   Here’s where the three w’s took us this week:

  • CNN has an interesting piece about Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Almost Christian, a book about ‘professing’ teen Christians whose faith the author views as “mutant Christianity.”   Read more.
  • David Fitch looks at the “ritualized” activity we call “going to church;” and thinks the “going” should be more connected to everyday life.   More at Reclaiming the Mission.
  • Talbot Davis doesn’t spend a lot of time in courtrooms, but couldn’t help but notice that the place seemed eerily familiar.
  • Zach N. at Vitamin Z has a video embed of Joshua Harris taking 15 minutes with Francis Chan discussing where The Chanster sees his post-Cornerstone future heading.
  • Challies spotted this insightful analysis by Russell. D. Moore on the weekend’s unscheduled revival meeting — attracting anywhere from 87,000 to 287,000 depending on who you ask — in Washington featuring Fox News’ Glenn Beck.
  • A speaker at England’s annual Greenbelt Festival suggested on the weekend that despite his previous sympathies, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams is sidelining the LGBT agenda in favor of the issue of church unity.
  • What do you do when an old flame pops up on Facebook and wants you to “friend” him or her?   Janell Williams Paris thinks this through for your consideration.
  • If your musical taste runs to classical stylings, here’s a video discovery of  Camilla Kerslake and a string section performing “Abide With Me.”
  • Justin Wise asks himself the question, “Who is my pastor?”  Check out his multiple answers.  Can you relate?
  • Legal battles notwithstanding, The Shack author Wm. Paul Young continues to look forward to the day that a movie version of the book becomes reality.
  • A February, 2009 post at this blog continues to attract readers and the occasional comment, as those with allergies continue to deal with people wearing perfume at church.
  • Some inane antics at The Thinklings where it’s time for your favorite TV show, America’s Next Top Pastor.
  • Our cartoonist this week is Dennis Fletcher with the appropriately named Fletch cartoon at Baptist Press.  (Click image for more.)

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.

March 5, 2009

Purpose Driven Life, Left Behind, The Shack: Ultimately, Were They Printed For Christians?

the-shack-spanishI am starting to question whether certain books, having penetrated the mainstream book market, were ever truly meant for Christians to read themselves; especially considering that all we do is dissect them to death.   Here’s how I put it recently in a comment on Tim Challies‘ blog:

When certain “Christian” titles strike a nerve in mainstream culture, like Shack, Purpose-Driven and Left Behind; I start to wonder if they were really written for “us.” They do however, become easy targets for critique, analysis and even spin-off books which do both. If someone finds Christ in these books and is intent on discerning their next steps through fellowship and Bible study and prayer; then, later on, we can do the mid-course corrections that will center their doctrine.

I have read, seen and heard so many interviews with author Wm. Paul Young; and I have heard so many stories from satisfied readers that I feel in terms of the “big picture,” this book has done more good than harm. The greatest potential for harm comes when the book becomes a vehicle for division within the body; a springboard for pro-Calvinist or anti-Calvinist sentiments; when in fact the heart of the book is about how God meets us in the middle of the tragedies of life, what lead character Mack calls “the great sadness.”

Another great sadness would be to miss all that, and get so focused on the book’s alleged theological shortcomings that we miss the sound of the angels rejoicing in heaven over souls being saved. I’ll take a flawed Shack over similar efforts that never break out of the Christian reading ghetto; or efforts that never happen at all.

I’ve just reached a point where I’ve had it with all the analysis.   Purpose Driven Life is not perfect, The Shack‘s attempt to capture the heart of a loving God has lots of rough theological edges, and the Left Behind series is…well…

But I’ve heard of people being saved through reading the LaHaye/Jenkins series, and one story of Ashley Smith’s witness after reading PDL would justify  the book’s entire print run, and the Wm. Paul Young book is producing story after story of people finding faith.

Meanwhile, the Evangelical community is constantly bickering.   Enough already.   You win.   God is not a woman.    Oh yeah, and strictly speaking, God is not a man.

…and all the other debates and arguments also.

Pictured:  The Shack Spanish edition.  The book is currently available or being translated into 23 languages.

One Link – 3 Different Things To See at Mars Hill Grand Rapids
rob_bell Sermon posts at Rob Bell’s church only stay up for a dozen weeks, so time is running out quickly to catch three great moments in time at this church in Michigan. First go to the site linked here.   Then check out

  • February 8th –  The church celebrates a ten year anniversary where they celebrate the world wide influence this church is having.
  • February 15th – Rob Bell announces a coming tour in support of his book, Drops Like Stars, releasing in April, that will take him across the U.S., to Canada, and to the U.K.; and then introduces guest speaker Jeff Manion, who has pastored in Grand Rapids for 25 years who preaches on how the love of Christ needs to manifest itself in very down-to-earth, practical situations.
  • March 1st – Rob teaches on how our culture is in denial when it comes to death — I know, not a grabber of a subject — and begins a 6-week teaching from the book of Lamentations.   Not your average sermon, but a really good one.

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