Revisiting The Shack

April 29, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, False teaching, Theology | Leave a comment

 

If you think I’ve been rather silent the past week without writing in this blog, then go back and read the comments section on the book review for The Shack.  There have been some good comments and insightful questions, and I’ve tried to answer the questions as best as I could.  Interestingly enough, that post has already become the single most read on this blog, and, since posting it, my average daily readership has more than tripled.

One of the questions asked me to clarify my comment that Young presents an “Arminian understanding of God’s sovereignty.”  You can read my response to that question in the book review post.  However, one of the quotes I ran across in the book, the last one I quoted in my answer to the question, has been bugging me the past two days.  Here’s the quote found on page 225 of the book:  “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.”  That’s a scary statement, one that could make me change my opinion on the statement that nothing in this book is objectionable enough to call heresy.

I first took this statement, supposedly from God in the novel, as an indication of Young’s Arminianism – a statement of what theologians call “prevenient grace.”  Scriptures are abundantly clear:  our sin is such that we could never respond to God apart from his working in our lives.  Arminians propose that the invitations in scripture presuppose a measure of grace which overrides depravity and allows people to respond to those invitations, and that measure of grace is given to all people.  In other words, prevenient grace is the doctrine that God has given everybody enough of a measure of grace to respond to his invitations, in spite of their sin.  There is no biblical support for such a doctrine other than the invitations themselves (which is one of the things that convinced me in seminary of the Calvinist position).  However, the more I ponder what Young said here, the more I realize it can’t be prevenient grace he’s presenting.  In my understanding, an Arminian would say that prevenient grace is not forgiveness but the ability to respond to God’s invitation to forgiveness, and only those who respond to that invitation are forgiven.  What Young indicates in this one sentence goes far beyond the typical Arminian understanding.

Young indicates that the only reason we turn to God is for relationship with him, because we have all been forgiven already.  However, the biblical teaching is first that not all are forgiven, and second that we turn to God for justification and forgiveness, and then a relationship with him follows.  Consider these references about God’s wrath and those who are not forgiven:  John 3:18, 3:36; Romans 1:18; and Ephesians 5:6; and add to these the references about “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” which I wrote about just a few posts ago.  Then consider these references about how forgiveness and justification are related to faith and repentance:  Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:21-24; Titus 3:4-7.

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