Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Universalism & Trinitization

Truths We Believe about God, Part 5 

A Biblical & Theological Rejection of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God 

Part 1: Truths We Believe About God 
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist 
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way?  
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality
By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

—The Apostle Paul (Emphasis added, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)

An occult view of Trinitization*

A Review of the Book’s Chapters (continued)
Chapters 20-28 

Chapter 20
“God is a divine Santa Claus.” 
  • Young: “I think there are two basic ways we tend to see God as Santa Claus: as the Nice Santa God and as the Nasty Santa God.... The Nice Santa God is wondrous.... The Nasty Santa God is our imagination of the darkness behind Jesus—God the Father. It is God the Father who requires perfect performance and moral behavior.” (LWBAG, 174, 175-176) [Question: In imagining the darkness of the Father behind Jesus, when might imagination become accusation?]
  • James the Brother of Jesus: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) 

Comments: Young is right. In the imagination of the mind, Christian civilization has corrupted the meaning of Christmas. Thus in the understanding of God has suffered from which Young constructs his nice-Santa or nasty-Santa God. From their childhood people’s imaginations have conditioned them to think that the holiday (i.e., Holy Day) is about Santa’s gift-gigs and not about the remembrance of Jesus’ coming to die for our sins and be our Savior. “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife” the Angel of the Lord told Joseph, “she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save his people from their sins” (Emphasis added, Matthew 1:20-21). The author cites anecdotal evidence (he’s met many people who have had trouble forgetting their childhood imaginations of the Santa-god) for people creating “incoherent views of God,” the false impression that if we’re good He’ll be nice, and if we’re bad He’ll be nasty. (LWBAG, 175-176)

Unfortunately Christians, perhaps brainwashed by the substitution of a materialistic nice or nasty Santa for our good and gracious Heavenly Father and Savior, misunderstand God. It seems engrained in people, irrespective of Christmas, to come to God for what they can get out of Him anyway (e.g., the wealth gospel which is prevalent all over Christianized Africa). But remember: God gives gifts not for reason of our performance but for reason of His promise and providence, not for reason of our goodness but for reason of His grace.

“But my God” wrote the Apostle Paul, “shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). To those who have placed their faith in the Gospel, the good God gives, “no strings attached”! (John 3:16) All God requires for us to please Him is faith in His Son, that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead on account of our justification (Hebrews 11:6; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25). On the basis of faith God gives eternal life to those who believe on “His only begotten Son” (Greek monogenes) to be their Savior. They will be given eternal life and they shall not/no never perish (John 1:27-30). And for reason of common grace, the Father “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). To one extent or another all people share in God’s immediate goodness.

In Jesus’ statement, by the way, do you see how He did not lump humanity in one group? To Him all people did not reside in one Cosmic box; “the just” (dikaios) were categorized to be in one box while “the unjust” (adikaios) in another. There are people whose outward obedience to the Law indicates they are right (just) with the Father and those whose behavior indicates they are not (unjust). Lest any might think that God’s common grace eventuates in universal justification, remember Jesus’ real-life illustration where the Pharisee bathed himself in his own self-justification while the tax collector cried out, “God be merciful to me the sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14) Of the two, the tax collector “went to his house justified,” or right with God (Greek dikaioo, Luke 18:14). The Pharisee just went home. As the New Testament does not teach universal-reconciliation, neither does it teach universal-justification.[48]

Chapter 21 
“Death is more powerful than God.” 
  • Young: “‘I don’t think God would ever say that once you die, your fate is sealed and there is nothing that God can do for you.’...I do believe that the idea that we lose our ability to choose at the event of physical death is a significant lie and needs to be exposed....I propose that the event of death introduces a crisis (krisis—the Greek word, as in ‘Day of... judgment’), a restorative process intended to free us to run into the arms of Love.” (LWBAG, 182, 185-186, 187) 
  • Jesus Christ: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29) 
  • The Book of Hebrews: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) 
  • The Apostle John: “This is the second death, the lake of fire.... And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15) 

Comments: At first glace, the chapter’s title is deceiving. At issue with Young is not whether there will be a resurrection from the dead (Contra the New Testament teaching), but whether there will occur a final and forever separation (death means “separation”) between God and the ungodly. To Young, death means restoration, not separation; that after death one’s eternal destiny is not “sealed” or “locked” down. (LWBAG, 182) People who are separate from God in this life will possess the choice to unite with Him in the next. According to Young’s universalism, sooner or later, whether in this life or the next, God will restore all humans into the fold of His “love.” If people live by their wrong choice in this life they will, when confronted up-close and personal with the Trinity’s love, make the right choice in the next.

This amounts to a gospel of a “second chance” and is consistent with his belief and teaching of universal reconciliation. While Young may “believe... think... suggest... propose” (his words) this to be the case, such teaching contradicts the Bible and makes insignificant any choice we might make in this life to either put our faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior for our sins or “no.” That’s why Paul the Apostle wrote: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Chapter 22 
“God is not involved in my suffering.”
  • Young: “Death is always accompanied by suffering. But God refuses to be absent from the Creation and infuses our suffering with Presence and Love.” (LWBAG, 193) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.... Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 5:5; 8:26) 
    Teilhard de Chardin

The “Trinitization” of the Universe

As he does about twenty times in The Shack, Young spells “Creation” with an upper case “C” suggesting he believes that divineness permeates creation. According to Young’s template (that everything’s inside the Trinity), this might be called the “trinitization” of the universe (his version of pantheism). The being and becoming of everyone and everything inside the Trinity, more than the attribute of God’s omnipresence (Psalm 139:7-10), accounts for God’s presence everywhere, which “Presence” he spells with a capital “P.”

Of the universe Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) stated one aspect of his spiritual worldview involves a mystery “of the creative union of the world in God, or Pleromization.”[49] What de Chardin did was take “the fullness” (i.e., Greek pleroma), which dwelt only in Christ according to the Apostle Paul (Colossians 1:19), and illegitimately make a quantum transfer of the Pleroma so that it would permeate the entire universe—from in Christ into cosmos as it were. As it pleased the Father “for all the fullness (pleroma) to dwell in” His beloved Son, so, according to de Chardin, it also pleased the Father to infuse the same fullness into an evolving creation.

Teilhard de Chardin, according to Professor King also called the “pleromization” of the universe the “trinitization” of creation, where “centered on Christ.... The entire cosmic process is seen as going to the Father through the Son in the Spirit.”[50] In reading about the “trinitization” of the universe, one is led to consider whether de Chardin is a seminal source from whom both Young and Kruger derive their thinking that everyone and everything’s inside the Trinity, that “Inside of this moving divine dance of relationship, everything was created: every human being, every plant, every subatomic particle, everything.” (LWBAG, 127-128) 

Comments: Agreeably with Young, the Bible teaches, as indicated by the verses quoted above, that the loving Spirit of the living God co-agonizes with and in believers amidst their suffering in a fallen creation. But the presence of the Comforter is not promised to unbelievers because, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9b, NASB; Matthew 28:20b; Hebrews 13:5).

Personal Testimony: On November 9, 2006, I can testify of the Jesus’ comforting presence in the person of the Holy Spirit during my heart attack, when seven times I had to be defibrillated during an hour and half emergency ride to the hospital, Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Kórház, in Budapest, Hungary. Dazed and slightly conscious, I said several times to the attending doctor and emergency helpers, “Thank you for trying to help me.” For that they called me “The American Gentleman.” God gave me that utterance. I relate this to you dear believer-readers for this reason only: in the hour of trial the same comfort the Spirit gave to me He will give to you. Amidst all our trials, life threatening or not, we can with assurance sing in the Spirit,
Just when I [we] need Him most,
Just when I [we] need Him most,
Jesus is near to comfort and cheer,
Just when I [we] need Him most.

—William C. Poole, Just When I Need Him Most, 1907.[51] 
An occult view of Trinitization*

Chapter 23
“You will never find God in a box.” 
  • Young: “I grew up in a world of boxes: us and them, in and out, worthy and unworthy, believer and unbeliever, saved and unsaved, and on and on. Boxes. Cages. Those Pentecostals. Those Baptists. Those Muslims. Those New Agers. Those Taoists.... Our arrogance is that we could craft something, a box, that can keep God out.... ‘The only time we will find God in a box is because God wants to be where we are.’ And that is all the time.” (LWBAG, 199, 201) [In Young’s world there is no need to “coexist,” because every religion and spiritual tradition already exist together in a “trinitized” cosmos, ed.] 
  • Jesus Christ: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” (Matthew 23:2-3) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9) [The word accursed (Greek, anathema) does not mean “to go to hell”—though that will be the consequence of believing a different gospel which is no Gospel—but advises believers to separate themselves from those who preach a false gospel like universal reconciliation. Believers were to stay in their box and keep the false “gospelers” in theirs, ed.] 
  • The Apostle Paul: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17-18) [Again, the Apostle Paul put false teachers in a box! Ed.] 
    A popular New Age bumper sticker to unite all world religions
Comments: Consistent with his and Kruger’s universalism which proposes that everyone’s “trinitized,” Young says the only box God puts Himself in is where we are. But Christians, especially fundamentalists and some evangelicals, arbitrarily create boxes to separate themselves from people of other spiritual traditions, religions and practices. This contradicts Young’s imagining that every denomination, spiritual tradition and religion and tradition cosmically reside inside the Trinity, and what God has joined together let no man drive asunder. So boxes are designed by religious land owners to keep others off their property—“No Trespassing!” Yet the leaders of the Jews rejected Jesus because didn’t fit in their box! Jesus told the Jewish leaders He came from His Father and from “above.” Knowing Jesus’ parents, the Jews told Him, “No way!” So they accused Him of blasphemy.

Today, Muslims put Christians as well as Jews in a box. In the Middle East and Sub-Sahara Africa they kill “the infidels,” the people who are not in their box. Evidently in real life, the hypothesis that we are all in the same box does not work out! Come to think about it, the Jesus of Scripture doesn’t fit in a lot of people’s boxes.

Question: Should believing Christians keep false teachers in a box, those who hold “to a form of godliness although they have denied its power”? The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy and his hearers, “Avoid such men as these.” (2 Timothy 3:5; See 2 Thessalonians 3:6.) Did Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, instruct the nation to avoid the box of “Canaanite” spirituality? (See Deuteronomy 18:9-14.) Israel was to avoid that box not because they created it, but because Yahweh did. The Lord boxed them in as He boxed the Canaanites out!

Come to think of it, the Bible is filled boxes—the Law forbade the men of God’s chosen nation Israel, one box, from taking wives from surrounding nations, another box (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). There are yet other boxes; believers and infidels (2 Corinthians 6:14-18); light and darkness (Ephesians 5:11); future believers and the coming harlot called Babylon (Revelation 18:4); and so on. Come to think of it, in the Bible there seem to be boxes everywhere, not because man built them but because God ordered them. Yet if as Young and Kruger propose we’re all inside the Jesus-Trinity, there can be no separation, no categories, and no boxes, just everyone singing together, “Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya” (Come By Here My Lord, Come By Here).

Chapter 24 
“Not everyone is a child of God.” 
  • Young: “Every human being you meet, interact with, react and respond to, treat rudely or with kindness and mercy: everyone is a child of God.” (LWBAG, 206) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Emphasis added, Galatians 6:10) 
  • Jesus Christ: (To some Jewish leaders) “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9b) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel: neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children (tekna): but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, it is not the children (tekna) of the flesh that are children (tekna) of God; but the children (tekna) of the promise are reckoned for a seed.” (Emphasis added, Romans 9:6-8) 

Comments: As regards this chapter, I would refer readers to my previous evaluation of it, “Truths We Believe about God Part 2.”

Chapter 25 
“God is disappointed in me.” 
  • Young: “God knows you for who you truly are and grieves for the distance between that truth and what you believe about yourself. It is from that gap of darkness and lies that we project God’s disappointment and abandonment. God is never disillusioned by you; God never had any illusions about you in the first place. God is never disappointed in you; God has no expectations.” (LWBAG, 214). 
  • The Lord God: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” (Emphasis added, Genesis 6:5-6) 
  • Jesus Christ: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God.... Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:30-31) 

Comments: Often I’ve heard people say that because they don’t get from God what they want they’re disappointed in Him. In that the key concept of how the personal God interacts with humans is “relationship” (“Mack, I am especially fond of you,” says Jesus in The Shack, p. 217), how can it be stated with assurance that never-ever does God become disappointed with us? In that Jesus said He was especially fond of Mack, might He not be so especially fond of someone else? Was God especially fond of me when I failed to walk with Him in my late teens and early twenties? I don’t believe He was. Why was the Holy Spirit pricking my conscience to repent and by grace through faith get life right? Or were my feelings of guilt just my unworthy projections about myself? Granted, our heavenly Father is not petulantly disappointed with us “all the time” as some human fathers might be. (Young: “My father was disappointed in me—all the time.” LWBAG, 210) But there are times... when we fail to live up to our potential for His glory and our good. As I look back on my life, I am comforted by this reminder in Hebrews:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
—Hebrews 12:5-7 

Further, if during our times of disobedience when God becomes disappointed with His sons, why has He provided a way to restore fellowship with Him through our confession and His forgiveness? (See 1 John 1:9.) To say God does not become disappointed in us to deny the love He has for us and the grace He gives to us. God does not enjoy watching us “mess up” (sin) and thereby complicate both our lives and the lives of others around us. To the contrary, it grieves Him. Personally, I believe that Jesus did not want to disappoint His Father (Our Father who art in heaven, too) by doing His own will, and not the Father’s. When faced by the prospect of His sacrificial death, Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36; See Philippians 2:8, Christ Jesus “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”).

Regarding submission, in Young's The Shack Jesus states to Mack that the beauty he sees in His relationship with Abba and Sarayu is that they “are submitted to one another and have always been so and always will be.” Then The Shack's Jesus tells Mack, “we want you to join us in our circle of relationship (i.e., social Trinitarianism).” (The Shack, 145, 146) Question: When Jesus submitted/obeyed the Father, how then did the Father submit to Jesus in that circle of relationship (i.e., perichoresis)? Unless you believe like a heretical oneness Pentecostal, Jesus and not the Father became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

In his book Faith of the Fatherless, Paul C. Vitz argues that, “Disappointment in one’s earthly father, whether through death, absence, or mistreatment, frequently leads to rejection of God.”[52] While Young’s admitted mistreatment by his father has not led him to reject God, it appears it may be a factor in his trying to redefine God. (LWBAG, 31, 210) In fairness to both Young and his father, he notes how his dad tenderly loves and cares for his mother amidst her declining health. (LWBAG, 49-50) But to make the comparison between our human fathers and our heavenly Father, between my being a father to my sons and our heavenly Father being a Father to both me and them, is like comparing God to a grumpy old man. The One simply does not compare to the other.[53] Further, God does not grieve about the gap between what He believes about us and the darkness we believe about ourselves. God grieves for reason of how we behave toward Him and toward others (Ephesians 4:25-32; “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,” verse 30).

Chapter 26 
“God loves me for my potential.” 
  • Young: “Does God love me because of my potential? No! Do I love my children because of their potential? No! If I am not yet ‘enough,’ when will I be? How are we to enjoy our children in the present if the focus is on some future potential that qualifies the value of each moment?” (LWBAG, 221) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29) [In this text the word “predestinate” (Greek, proorizo) looks forward to the future when we shall be like Jesus, not backward to eternity past when God chose/elected us (Compare Ephesians 1:4-5.) In Christ God has destined our destiny, and that is, to be like His Son, ed.]
  • The Apostle John: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3) 

Comments: Young asks the question, “If I am not yet ‘enough,’ when will I be?” (LWBAG, 221) The biblical answer, one which Young may not like, is that “when he [Christ Jesus] shall appear, we shall be like (Greek homoios) him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Therein resides our potential! While we are becoming like Christ now we shall in the next dimension of life become completed in Christ. (We shall become like (Greek homoios) Christ, but we shall not become identical (Greek houtos) to Christ, John 1:2; 3:2; etc.). We shall not become the “little-Christs” or “mini-Messiahs” as Young might call us. (LWBAG, 53) This is a purifying hope. Because we are “in Christ” shall become “like Christ”! Though we’re not there yet, by God’s grace we’ll get there. Among other reasons, God does love us for the potential we share in His Son.

By the way, love based upon potential is not all bad. Major league baseball teams, as well as other professional sports franchises, draft players not for where they are in their development, but for their potential, for what they might become.

Chapter 27 
“Sin separates us from God.” 
  • Young: “Sin, then, is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how petty or ugly that is.” ...“If separation is a lie, does it mean that no one has ever been separated from God? That is exactly what it means.” (Emphasis added, LWBAG, 229, 232) 
  • The Prophet Isaiah: “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Emphasis added, Isaiah 59:2) 
  • The Prophet Habakkuk: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” (Habakkuk 1:13) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12-13) 
  • The Apostle John: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4) 

Comments: If we’re all together inside the Jesus-Trinity, “relationships,” given sin’s presence, might become broken. It was that way between Adam, Eve and God in Eden (Genesis 3:8-10). Yet according to Young’s template, if everything is inside God, then hypothetically there can be no sin in God’s presence—that is breaking God’s Law—lest inside the Trinity there might be an exchange of sinning between humanity and deity. Hypothetically, in such an exchange man might conceivably make God a sinner for His tolerating that which is against His nature (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22). The Law was given to show what a good relationship might look and behave like, first between man (generic) and God and then between man (generic) and man (generic).

Chapter 28 
“God is One alone.” 
  • Young: “If God has ever been alone, there would be neither a basis in the universe for love nor a framework for relationship. Love is other-centered and self-giving, but if there was no ‘other’ in the beginning and God was alone, then God cannot be Love. Merciful, perhaps, but not Love.” (LWBAG, 239) 

Comments: Interesting.... The most fundamental belief about God in Islam is his absolute unity (i.e., tawhid) and singularity, “There is no god but God,” Muslims confess. Of Allah’s singularity, one pious writing states that before creation, “God was alone; around him was the Void.” See Cyril Glassé, The New Encyclopedia of Islam (Walnut Creek, CA: AltiMira Press, 2001): 44. I point this out to contrast the loving Christian Trinity to Islam’s unloving Unity. The Apostle John stated that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) But Young capitalizes “Love” as if suggesting “Love” is God. However, the Apostle’s statement does not indicate that “love” is God for the Greek text reads: “Because the God is love.” In that no definite article (“the”) precedes the word love (agape), the text does not say “the love is God.”

But I do agree with Young on the point that a deistic Unitarian God or Muslim “alone-God” like Allah, would be incapable of love. If God was utterly alone before the beginning of time, before the Void, then the divine being would be incapable of loving others because there would be no others to love, and that becomes the dilemma Islam’s believers find themselves in. They cannot love but only submit to Allah who is Will. From such a perspective, the only being God would have the capacity to love would be himself. Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952), noted scholar of Islam and missionary to Muslims, observed:

The human heart craves a God who loves; a personal God who has close relations with humanity; a living God who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities and who hears and answers prayer. Such a God the Koran does not reveal. A being who is incapable of loving is also incapable of being loved.[54] 

So to experience the feeling of Allah’s love, Sufi Muslims turn to mysticism, a search orthodox Islam views as heretical because to the orthodox, “Allah is too rich and too proud and too independent to need or desire the tribute of human love.”[55]

The irony of Young and Kruger’s template of breaking down boxes in order to place Islam inside the Christian God is that to Muslims believing in the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ is heresy. Only the Trinitarian understanding of God allows for love to be an (not the) essence of His eternal being (See John 17:24, “Thou [Father] lovedst me [Jesus] before the foundation of the world.”)

To be continued . . . 

[48] Universal-reconciliation demands universal-justification, and one ace text universalists cite to prove universal-justification is Romans 5:15 (Emphasis added), “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many (polus) be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many (polus).” Universalists argue for equivalence between the many who died in the first Adam and the many who receive grace in Jesus Christ, the second Adam. However, the context (surrounding verses) contradicts establishing equivalence. First, the analogy the Apostle Paul invokes is general, not exact. In the preceding verse the Apostle called Adam “a type of Him [Jesus Christ] who is to come” (Emphasis added, Romans 5:14, NASB). The Greek word tupos is sometimes used of the impression or dent left on something after a blow had been administered to it (i.e., like the dent on the fender of a car). Second, though all humans were made sinners because of the first Adam’s disobedience (excepting Jesus of course), all humans are not consequently saved by Christ’s obedience. The Apostle makes this distinction in Romans 5:15 and 17 (NASB). The many-all who died in the one Adam (v. 15) compose one group while “those who receive the abundance of grace and... the gift of righteousness... through the One, Jesus Christ” compose the other group. The contrast Paul invokes is between the many-all who died in Adam’s transgression (all of us) and the many-those who “reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (some of us). In other words as regards the offer of grace and righteousness from Jesus Christ, there are receivers (like the destitute tax collector) who reign in life and there are rejecters (like the self-righteous Pharisee) who do not (Luke 18:9-14). Rejecters may be prominent and powerful, but they do not reign in Christ in life. 
[49] Ursula King, Christ In All Things: Exploring Spirituality with Teilhard de Chardin (London, GB: SCM Press Ltd., 1997): 67. 
[50] Ibid: 68. 
[51] William C. Poole, “Just When I Need Him Most,” 1907, Timeless Truths (http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Just_When_I_Need_Him_Most/). 
[52] Paul C. Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism (Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 1999): inside front cover jacket. 
[53] Ray Befus, “Chasing God: Thursday Night,” VineyardVideos, November 21, 2013 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etTp_ZpLMi8). In this video Ray Befus shares the personal confusion and conflict he experienced about our heavenly Father and the image his father, who was also a pastor, projected into his life when he was young. 
[54] Samuel Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God (New York, NY: American Tract Society, 1905): 111. See also Larry DeBruyn, “Christ or Allah: Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?” December 25, 2015, Guarding His Flock Ministries (http://guardinghisflock.com/2015/12/25/christ-or-allah/#more-3051). 
[55] Ibid. Since reading Zwemer’s book years ago, my conviction is that only the Trinitarian God of Christianity is capable of being, exhibiting, giving and receiving love.

*Ed. Note: The first graphic at the top came from HERE. The second graphic was excerpted from HERE. These two graphics depict the sci-fi cult views of The Urantia Society. It must be noted that their Book of Urantia appears to have borrowed Teilhard's term and greatly expanded his concept of Trinitization. It is NOT recommended that the reader spend any time researching this since it delves deeply into the dark occult. I was exposed to the Book of Urantia while a hippie ~ Sarah H. Leslie

Reprinted with permission of the author. The original article is posted at: http://guardinghisflock.com/2017/06/12/truths-we-believe-about-god-5/#more-3292

Thursday, June 08, 2017

An Imaginary Cosmic Reality

Truths We Believe about God, Part 4

A Biblical & Theological Rejection of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God

Part 1: Truths We Believe About God
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way?

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“My people know not the judgment of the Lord. How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? ...the pen of the scribes is in vain. The wise men... have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them? ...from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.”
—Emphasis added, Jeremiah 8:7-11 

A Review of the Book’s Chapters (continued)
Chapters 15-19

Chapter 15
“Hell is separation from God.”
  • Young: “Anyone who speaks of separation from God assumes that a person can exist while separated—as if our life is not contingent upon the presence of God, who is Life.... I propose the possibility that hell is not separation from Jesus....” (Emphasis added, LWBAG, 136-137) 
  • Jesus Christ: “And then will I [Jesus] profess unto them [professing Christians who prophesied and worked miracles in Jesus’ name], I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Emphasis added, Matthew 7:23) [Reader, do you think Jesus’ judgment “depart from me” means separate from Me? Ed.] 
  • Jesus Christ: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 25:41, 45-46) [The immediate interpretation involves how Gentiles treat the Jews, Jesus’ brethren. But this interpretation does not mean Jesus’ words do not possess wider social applications, ed.] 
  • Jesus Christ: “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:22-23) [In difference to those who want to reduce Jesus’ insight about the afterlife to be metaphorical, His story does introduce readers to the reality of the afterlife as He understood it, ed.] 
  • The Apostle Paul: “[Those] that know not God . . . shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” (Emphasis added, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) 

Comments: To many, the sense of the word hell is confusing. I shall try to unpack the meanings of the word hell in the Bible. Translating three different Greek words (gehenna, 12 times; hades, 10 times; and tartaros, 1 time) the English word “hell” occurs twenty-three times in the New Testament. Exclusively Jesus uses the first Greek word hell-gehenna to picture after-death judgment to be like ancient Jerusalem’s city dump, as a place of defilement for castaways “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48); as a sphere of darkness (“outer darkness,” Matthew 22:13; 25:30); and as a state of depression in which human souls experience emotional extremes of sorrow and anger (“weeping and gnashing of teeth,” Luke 13:28).

The second Greek word, hell-hades (the equivalent to the Old Testament hell-sheol, which can refer to the ground-grave) describes the after-life reality temporally inhabited by the living dead who exist in separation from God and Paradise (Luke 16:23).

The third Greek word used by Peter, hell-tartaros or “chains of darkness,” describes the place where disobedient angels are currently confined as they await their future and final judgment (Compare 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; and Revelation 20:10). In the span of history, all of the above spheres of judgment, hell-gehenna-hades-tartaros, are temporary, and as such, might be compared to the confinement of convicted criminals in a city jail until they are transported to serve out their life sentences in a state or federal prison.

The final destination-prison for which unrepentant God–defying humans and spirit beings are headed is the place the Apostle John calls the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10, 14). At the end of the age, Jesus (John 5:27) will cast the following into the Lake of Fire: 1. “the beast and the false prophet” (Revelation 20:10); 2. “the devil” along with his rebel angels (Revelation 20:10; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6); 3. anyone whose “name was not found written in the book of life” (Revelation 20:15); and 4. the temporary holding cells of “death and Hades” (Revelation 20:14).

Many, even Christians, reject the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles regarding the eternal punishment of the wicked. They point out that no biblical word expresses the concept of “eternity,” but only “a long period”or “remotest time” (Hebrew ‘olam) or “age” (Greek aion). They argue that because of these words’ multifaceted meanings there is no word in Scripture expressing a forever category of time. Therefore it is presumptuous for anyone to think hell will never end. But the Apostle John describes the state of being consigned to the Lake of Fire as one of being “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). The time frame expressed is in multiples of forever-s, one of ages of ages. These multiples of ages is the longest concept of time the Greek language, or perhaps any language, can express (Greek plurals, eis tous aionas ton aionon, Revelation 20:10). Combined with “day and night” (Greek, hemeras kai nyktos), “for ever and ever” nuances a timeless existence in which 24/7, for ages of ages, the unholy trinity—the beast, the false prophet, the devil—and others will be confined. Together, the clauses express the “the unbroken continuity of their torment” in perpetuity.[33]

Yet Young’s imaginary worldview, where in relationship to the Trinity everyone’s a “beloved insider” (LWBAG, 55), does not allow for the existence of two separate after-life realities (heaven and hell). To him there’s only one reality, that would be in the heaven of being inside an eternal Jesus-Trinity in a loving and dancing relationship. So there’s no way for anyone, no matter what they do, to become separated from God. Young’s worldview will not tolerate belief of any separation from God either immediate in this life or ultimate in the next life, and this contradicts what Jesus Christ and His Apostles taught. Rather Young might join John Lennon (1940-1980) and sing,
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky
Imagine . . .
And no religion too

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

We should observe that such an imaginary cosmic reality postulated by the human mind, where in oneness everyone and everything’s inside God, is idolatrous. “Because that, when they knew God,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations (Greek dialogismois, “the reasoning process within the human mind), and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21). The text teaches four stages to developing a pagan mindset: First, humans do not glorify or honor God as God. They reduce Him from who He is into who/what they willfully want or emotionally need him, her, or it to be; Second, they become unthankful. Life and all that it consists of is ours as much or more than His. It’s all about us, about me... I want... I want... I need... I need; Third, in their own minds they speculate about who God is and in the process of trying to comprehend Him let their imaginings (dialogismois) run wild; and Fourth, amidst their intellectual sophistry their hearts do not become enlightened as they arrogantly claim, but darkened. The God they design becomes ordinary and tame and eclipses any fear they might have of Him. (See Psalm 36:1; Compare Romans 1:18.)

The universalism that reduces the Lake of Fire into non-existence destroys ultimate moral accountability in the universe. Perhaps that’s why Paul Young proposes that it’s only possible that hell is “separation from Jesus.” Maybe he doesn’t know what to do with Muslim jihadists who in their depravity (Young does not like this word, LWBAG, 29-36.) believe that killing infidels in the name of Allah will land them in Paradise where seventy virgins await their arrival. But terrorism is an obnoxious affront to belief in universal salvation. There's just something about the belief that everybody’s saved... it offends the human conscience and therefore doesn’t seem right (Romans 2:15).

Better the biblical perspective of Franklin Graham who remarked after the terror attack in Manchester by Salman Abedi and fellow terrorist conspirators, “I’ve got news for them: Hell awaits, with real flames and real fire.”[35] All of which begs the question: How does one explain evil’s existence in the world? In a veiled way, Young touches upon the issue in the next chapter.

Chapter 16 
“God is not good.”
  • Young: “The existence of evil is a wrenching question, but the greater philosophical/theological question is why any Good exists at all. God, who alone is the source of Good, is Light in Whom there is no darkness. If God is not Good all the time, then trust is a delusion, and we are truly left alone in a world of hurt. Our pains and losses can blind us to the Good that surrounds us—the grace that is constantly poured out and the life and light that push away the illusion of darkness.” (Emphasis added, LWBAG, 145-146) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18-22) 

Comments: In this chapter, Young deals with the age-old theological question (called a theodicy), how can a good God have an evil world? Evil’s existence (Young calls it “darkness.”) polarizes one’s understanding of God in two directions: either God is not good because He allows evil and suffering, or God is impotent because He can’t control evil and suffering (He’s not all powerful.). Either way, God looses. So opting out of calling evil for what it is, like a Christian Scientist or eastern mystic Young euphemistically calls “our pains and losses [that] can blind us... the illusion of darkness [i.e., a mistaken perception of reality, ed.].” (Emphasis added, LWBAG, 146.)
Medieval church fresco depicting evil and hell

The Bible on the other hand, presents evil and darkness as real not illusory —“the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22; Compare Genesis 3:16-19.). In our present reality suffering and death are no deceptions. The Bible explains that while evil had a beginning on earth (Genesis 3:16-19) it will end in “the day of God” (2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 65:17; Romans 8:21). Meanwhile, Christian believers await their deliverance, “the redemption of our body” and the promised “restoration of all things” (Romans 8:23; Acts 3:21). Referring to real pains and losses of life as “the illusion of darkness” contradicts the heart-wrenching suffering of real people in the real world. Jesus’ disciples asked: “Master, who did sin, this [blind] man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:2-3).

When tragedy strikes many victims ask, why me God? (I myself had a serious heart attack in Hungary in 2006, defibrillated seven times during an hour and a half ride to the hospital, and after returning from ministry in Africa have recently struggled with a severe sciatic nerve problem and cancer.) But when suffering strikes us in the gut of life, perhaps the question might be, why not me? Am I so exceptional and insulated from the world around me that bad things should not happen to me? Oh, by the way, if we ask the “why-me-question” when bad things happen to us in life, perhaps we ought also ask the same question when good things come our way. One day the Bible promises that the sovereign and good God by resurrecting the body and restoring of all things, will end life’s messiness and suffering in the world for Christian believers.

Chapter 17
“The Cross was God’s idea.”
  • Young: “Who originated the Cross? If God did, then we worship a cosmic abuser.... The alternative is that the Cross originated with us human beings. This deviant device is the iconic [people wear crosses, ed.] manifestation of our blind commitment to darkness.” (Emphasis added, LWBAG, 149) 
  • The Apostle Peter: You were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” (Emphasis added, 1 Peter 1:19-20; Compare Revelation 13:8, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”.). Note: Jesus, God’s Lamb, was slain before the foundation of the world. This pre-temporal reference indicates God originated the Cross. 

Comments: In a typical emergent-church way of speaking, Young raises the accusation that if Christians believe that God originated the plan of salvation involving Jesus’ death on the cross, then they are worshipping a “cosmic abuser.” Such an inflammatory and defamatory accusation and ones like it are not new from the mouths and pens of Christian critics in the modern era. During the modernist-fundamentalist controversy of the 1920s-1930s, Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) derogated the penal substitutionary atonement by categorizing it as “slaughter house religion.”[36] Years ago another liberal churchman, Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam (1891-1963), described the God of the Bible as “a dirty bully” for demanding any sacrifice.[37] In their book, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, authors Green and Baker mention how some contemporary feminist and liberal theologians refer to Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins as “divine child-abuse.”[38] In a book endorsed by emergent church leader Brian D. McLaren, another churchman wrote: “The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in the Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.”[39]

What aspect of the Christian faith needs reimagining? In a following chapter Alan Jones added, “Penal substitution was the name of this vile doctrine,” the teaching which suggests that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God.[40] In their evaluation of Christ’s death these Christian critics elevate God’s righteous wrath against sin above and against the unity of the other divine attributes involved in Jesus’ death—God’s love (John 3:16), righteousness (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and justice (Romans 3:26). It’s as if for the sake of argument, these atonement antagonists construct “a straw man,” or should I say, “a straw god”?

Granted, for a generation hooked on “touchy-feely” love, the “tough love” of a penal substitutionary atonement can be offensive. If it is so repulsive then reject it, but quit trying to redefine God and stop pretending to be a Christian. In casting aspersion upon the penal substation atonement know that the heart of the Christian Gospel—“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”—is being rejected (1 Corinthians 15:3). The correlation between “touchy feely” Christianity seems to me to run like this: even as professing Christians, evangelical and otherwise, overestimate God’s wrath they underestimate man’s sin. Instead of primarily seeing sin as rebellion against God and breaking God’s Law they euphemistically call it darkness, dysfunction, mistakes or whatever (1 John 3:4).

In the mix of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, better is the perspective of Peter when he preached, “[Jesus of Nazareth], being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” (Emphasis added, Acts 2:23) God originated the Cross. Thus, Bible believers can agree with Mark Baker who stated: “To be ‘anti-cross’ is to be anti-Christ.”[41]

Chapter 18 
“That was just a coincidence.” 
  • Young: “God is an expert at language. In fact, the entire cosmos was created by a single Word. But rather than demanding that we understand God’s language, God comes to us and speaks ours. Even more specifically God speaks yours.... I sometimes think that we all expect to hear God speak to us in a language that belongs to someone else, and we discount the possibility that God knows ours.... I believe that we are surrounded by the language of coincidence....” (LWBAG, 157-158, 159)
  • The Prophets: “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah,” (Isaiah 1:10); “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations,” (Jeremiah 1:4-5); “The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest... and the hand of the Lord was there upon him,” (Ezekiel 1:3); “I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem,” (Daniel 9:2); All emphases added. 
  • The Book of Hebrews: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son....” (Hebrews 11:1-2) 

Comments: Young believes that God speaks in “coincidences,” or happenstances of life. “One of my mantras is” he writes, “Coincidence Has a Name!” (LWBAG, 159) In a meditation-mantra-mystical-magical-metaphorical-metanarrative-moment, God condescends to speak to our hearts in language tailored to the coincidences of our experiences. Laugh... but this is how emergent Christianity proposes that God’s Word arrives in the human soul. This is how God speaks.[42] Whatever the personalized language might be, God suits the language to you! In that all humans dwell in the Jesus-Trinity, God’s communications might be called “insider speak.”
Emergent leader Brian McLaren

Young’s belief that God-speaks amidst tragic coincidences may explain why Mack received this note from God in The Shack (p. 8). “Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be back at the shack next weekend if you want to get together.—Papa” Of course, the question becomes, in the midst of life’s sufferings, what about poor souls who don’t get special notes from God, or feel His mystical presence and affirmation of them amidst the coincidences of agonizing circumstances? The movie Silence recounts how amidst the direst of circumstances, two Jesuit priests sought to hear God speak but did not.[43] 

The expression “the word of the Lord” occurs hundreds of times in the Bible. Though this Word can become personal (The Holy Spirit can apply it to our hurts bodies and hearts.), it’s generally public before it becomes personal. Tell me, does the “word of the Lord” come to us in His language or ours-yours? To this point, care must be exercised to protect the original languages of the canon of Scripture through which the recorded spoken and/or written words of God came to us (i.e., Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek).

Never mind that God publicly spoke His language to Israel through the prophets, i.e., “the word of the Lord”; never mind that God publicly spoke His language to the early church through His Apostle-Prophets, communication which the Holy Spirit continues to bear witness to (John 14:26). God’s word transcends time (Psalm 119:89; Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:25). The Spirit who co-groans with us amidst life’s sufferings, applies God’s inspired Scriptures to our hearts.

Further, did Elohim create the cosmos by a single Word? Yes, the Word-Jesus, who was in the beginning with God, created all things (John 1:1-3). But the Genesis account narrates how God created the cosmos in six days. The phrase “Then God said” occurs eight times in the opening of the Book of Beginnings. Though some may attempt to reduce the opening of Genesis to metaphor or myth, the account, as authenticated by Jesus (Matthew 19:3-6), remains literal and public. Be careful of words used by teachers including me. Test them against Scripture, what is written (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 3:2, 16). Writers can play around with words and their concepts. This is something Paul Young admits he’s clever at and confesses that as a youth he both argued with and hid behind words. (LWBAG, 17)

Chapter 19 
“God requires child sacrifice.” 
  • Young: “One of the narratives about God is that because of sin, God required child sacrifice to appease a sense of righteous indignation and the fury of holiness—Jesus being the ultimate child sacrifice. Well, if God is like that, then doesn’t it make sense that we should follow in God’s footsteps? But we know intuitively that such a thought is wrong, desperately wrong.” (Emphasis added, LWBAG, 169) 
  • The Law of Leviticus: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Again [See Leviticus 18:21], thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed [“children,” ESV] unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set my face against that man... because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.” (Leviticus 20:1-3) 

Comment 1: Young writes about “Abraham and the almost-sacrifice of his son Isaac.” (LWBAG, 170) The main takeaway from this incident is that God does not, in conformity to His own Law and in contrast to the pagan systems of sacrifice that surrounded ancient Israel, require ritual sacrifice of children to appease His anger. By sacrificing babies pagans thought they could appease angry gods or persuade them to act favorably toward them. Throughout the Old Testament infant sacrifice to Molech, a god of the Ammonites, is condemned as a capital crime punishable by death (Leviticus 20:2-4). Despite this plain prohibition, Israel sacrificed to Molech anyway (1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10). For incorporating the abomination of Molech worship into their national religious life, the Lord severely judged Israel (Jeremiah 32:35). True. Yahweh did not require infant sacrifice!

The take-a-way from the Genesis narrative of Abraham and Isaac is that contrary to the surrounding nations and as practiced by devil-worshipping groups today, the Lord never demanded to be appeased by child sacrifice. By His self-initiative, He provided His Lamb. As regards Jesus’ death on the cross, the Son’s death (By the way, Jesus was not a child but a responsible male adult.) for our sins was personal, voluntary and substitutionary (John 10:14-18). Jesus died on the cross, not because of it. Actively, He gave up His spirit (Matthew 27:50). Note: Readers might refer to my previous comments on Chapter 17, “The Cross Was God’s Idea.” There the penal substitutionary atonement is discussed, a doctrine which Paul Young rejects because in his mind it invokes an image of God to be a “cosmic abuser... very cruel and monstrous... Better no god at all, than this one.” (LWBAG, 149)

Comment 2: Paul Young’s chapter title “God requires child sacrifice.” derives from two perspectives: first his negative experience as an Missionary Kid (MK) where for the sake of evangelizing tribal peoples on the island West Papua, the western half of New Guinea which lies just above north-east Australia, his parents sent him away to boarding school, “sacrificing” him “on the altar of spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus” (LWBAG, 166, 167). Young’s friend Kruger tells about the tragic story behind the story of The Shack, how “By the time Paul was six years old, he had been emotionally abandoned, physically and verbally beaten, and sexually abused—repeatedly.”[44] The author’s personal tragedies, about which all of us can feel deep sorrow and empathy for, seem to explain part of the backdrop against which Young created the story of The Shack. Then second, against this heart rending backdrop Young translates his feelings and experiences into his understanding of the sacrificial and atoning death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

From the perspective of personal friendships and acquaintances with two missionary families who with their children also ministered in New Guinea during the same general era as Young’s parents, I can somewhat understand and sympathize with Young’s feelings about what happened to him, how for “The good ends of salvation” his and other missionary-parents reckoned the losses of their children as “necessary costs for the ‘greater good’.” (LWBAG, 167) During seven years of ministry in metropolitan St. Louis, Missouri (1979-1986), I became friends with a career missionary and his wife, Bill and Mary Widbin, who served with Regions Beyond Missionary Union (RBMU) for four decades, beginning when the island was called Dutch New Guinea (from 1949-1962). My missionary friend related to me instances when he felt his life had been threatened, especially once when they were building an airstrip and unknowingly disturbed sacred tribal ground.

Bill worked with the Australian Stan Dale (d. 1968) and American Phil Masters (d. 1968) who were killed and cannibalized by members of the Yali tribe whom they were attempting to evangelize. Roberta Schenk relates that in New Guinea the Masters family, “learned about blood feuds, human sacrifices to evil spirits, fetishes—everyday objects that housed evil spirits—and the gut-wrenching fear of the spirits that overshadowed everything.”[45] But of their call to New Guinea, Phyliss, Peter’s wife, related that, “We went because we knew that was what God wanted us to do.”[46] One of their children, Crissie Masters Rask said “that each one in the family knew exactly why he or she was there. The overarching theme of my parents’ lives was telling people about Jesus,’ she said and, ‘That was true before we moved to Indonesia, as well as while we were there. We understood that, and we loved our lives there.’”[47]

This brings me back to my friend. He related how as father and mother, he and his wife also sent their two sons off to boarding school. (There was no home schooling in those days.) One of this couple’s sons, the eldest whom I later came to know during ministry in Indianapolis, Indiana, related to me the heart rending story of when as young boys they first departed for school to be separated from their parents. His father and mother, feeling deep sadness, with forlorn faces and tears in their eyes, stood together, watched their sons board the plane, and saw and heard the plane’s door shut. As the sons looked out the window during preparation for take off, they saw their parents watching, crying and waving goodbye trying to get one last glimpse of their plane before it disappeared from sight. From the father, mother and their son’s perspective, this too was a heart rending story of sacrifice. Eventually, the mission recognized the error of the policy and changed it. They did not separate missionaries from their kids for them to go to school.

Another missionary couple, Larry Rascher and Shirley Rascher, I was also privileged to become acquainted with while ministering in the St. Louis area during the early 80s. Their story is told in the book Incessant Drumbeat.[48] (Read it and weep. I did.) The book tells the traumatic and heartbreaking story of sacrifice—their “great-great” tragedy—when they lost two young children, Greg and Karen, in boating accident when a sudden storm with 10-15 foot waves overwhelmed and capsized the boat they were traveling in on a trip between islands. The pain of this loss stayed with this godly missionary couple the rest of their lives, especially Larry who felt responsible for his children’s drowning.

The book’s chapter, “Grief Divided” (pp. 139-149), tells how Larry finally found some relief from blaming himself that he had caused his children’s deaths. He explained to his missionary friend Cal Roesler (whom I once met), “‘I don’t why Karen and Greg went with us,’ said Larry, his voice rising. ‘I don’t know why we couldn’t fly, or why the boat broke up. I don’t know why the waves were so high. But if Jesus could trust His unknown into the Father’s hands, so can I. Someday, when we’re with Jesus too, then we’ll understand.’”[49] After her husband died in 1992, and while at a conference together in Michigan in the mid-to-late 90s, Shirley gave me their book, Incessant Drumbeat, inscribed as follows: “Shirley for the Rascher Family, Ps. 73:26.” The verse reads: “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”

To be continued. . . . 

[33] Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995): 427. 
[34] John Lennon, “Imagine,” AZ Lyrics.com (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html). 
[35] Jack Davis, “Franklin Graham Condemns Islam, Terrorism In Wake of Manchester Attack,” WJ Western Journalism, May 25, 2017 (http://www.westernjournalism.com/franklin-graham-condemns-islam-terror-in-wake-of-manchester-attack/). 
[36] See Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Silverton, OR: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007). In chapter eleven, titled “A Slaughter House Religion,” Oakland cites Beka Horton to be the source of Fosdick’s inflammatory phrase. See Church History and Things to Come (Pensacola, FL: Pensacola Christian College, 1997): 156. In Israel’s sacrificial system of communal offerings to God, the priest was allowed to eat part of the Peace Offering with his family and the offerer part of it with his family (Leviticus 7:15-17, 31-32). Here in Indianapolis we have a famous steakhouse called St. Elmo’s where when they are in town to play the Colts or Pacers, many professional players eat. Would we say St. Elmo’s is “slaughter house” dining? Or is God the only object of such “slaughter house” ridicule? Bye the way, I wonder how many of these critics eat “slaughter house” meat . . . Where’s the beef? 
[37] Paul Enns, Approaching God: Daily Readings in Systematic Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1991): February 25. Enns sources his quote to be from R. Laird Harris’ book, Inspiration and Canonicity, page 40. 
[38] Mark D. Baker and Joel B. Green, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011): 48, 158, 219. 
[39] Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit without Disconnecting Your Mind (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2005): 132. McLaren endorses Jones’ book on the dust jacket of the back cover, “Advance Praise.” 
[40] Ibid: 168. 
[41] Mark Baker, “False Teachers And Sin: Clear And Present Danger,” Hope for Life: Biblical Counseling and Equipping, March 26, 2017 (http://www.hopeforlifeonline.com/2017/03/26/false-teachers-sin/). 
[42] Pastor Larry DeBruyn,“‘Deliteralizing’ the Bible: from Plato to Peterson: Scripture amidst the Shadows,” Herescope, March 01, 2012 (http://herescope.blogspot.com/2012/03/deliteralizing-bible-from-plato-to.html). 
[43] Silence (2016) is a drama film produced by Martin Scorsese. The plot involves two 17th century Jesuit priests who travel from Portugal to Japan to find their missing mentor and spread Catholic Christianity. In Japan they find that for reason of being viciously persecuted by Buddhist authorities, Christians have gone underground. As the persecutions unfold (beheadings, drownings, burnings, stabbings, etc.), the priests, even as they administer the sacraments to the people, begin to question over and over again why God allows it. Why doesn’t God do something to stop the persecutions? The answer they get is “Silence.” Refusing to recant, one of the priests is drowned in the ocean with other Christians. While imprisoned, the other priest finally hears a voice approving him to step on the Jesus image. Before his captors the priest commits apostasy as he ceremonially steps on the Jesus icon. He converts to Buddhism. He marries. He moves to a remote village. He is never heard from again. There you have it: The Shack where God speaks and Silence where He does not. 
[44] C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There’s More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream (New York, NY: FaithWords, Hachette Book Group, 2012): 5. 
[45] Ruth Schenk, “Missionaries risk all to witness to cannibals” (http://www.ib-emmanuel.org/clientimages/55879/mission_to_cannibals.pdf). The story of Dale, Masters and the Yali people is also told in Don Richardson’s book, Lords of the Earth (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1977), and To Perish for Their Saving by Helen Manning (Bethany Fellowship, 1971). 
[46] Ibid. 
[47] Ibid. 
[48] Mary Beth Langerborg, Incessant Drumbeat: Trial and Triumph in Irian Jaya (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1992). This is the story of Larry and Shirley Rascher and their family, missionaries with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). 
[49] Ibid: 144.

Republished with the author's permission with minor editing changes for blog posting. See: http://guardinghisflock.com/2017/06/05/truths-we-believe-about-god-4/#more-3194.