Blue Collar Theology 30: The Need (Case Study 1)

I know it’s not Monday (when I usually post my BCT of the week), but things have been a little off as of late. Nevertheless, I wanted to post a couple of YouTube videos regarding the latest buzz among Christian literature to reveal how deeply we need a Blue Collar Theology today. The book, The Shack, currently ranks has an Amazon sales rank of #5 of all the books they sell (with over 500 book reviews). While it has only been on the shelves for a little over a year, it produced a massive amount of interest among Christians and non-Christians alike.

So I want you to consider the responses as I juxtapose them here for the purpose of showing how biblically illiterate and theologically incompetent we are today to address old heresies in contemporary garb.

FOR: 700 Club

“When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of ‘The Shack.’ This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ did for his. It’s that good!” –Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.

“The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God.” – Michael W. Smith

“Love it for lots of reasons. First of all, I love books that touch the emotions and inspire the imagination. This book does that. But it also has an amazing storyline that is really gripping.” – Mark Batterson, Pastor of National Community Church

“Alright, I have to admit- I am usually a major critic of Christian fiction books. They just usually don’t deliver on expectations. But I recently came across a gem- The Shack by William Paul Young. You have to check it out. It will change your perspective and stretch your spiritual paradigm, especially as it relates to the Trinity and God’s desire for relationship with us humans.” – Brad Lomenick, Director of Catalyst Conference

AGAINST: Mark Driscoll

“This book includes undiluted heresy.” – Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY

See also Tim Challies’ 17-page critique.

While the potpourri of heresies in recent years has generated considerable push back by the evangelical world (such as The Da Vinci Code and Gospel of Thomas), one has to wonder if the scent of this fictional book has enough attraction to delude many believers whose theology is no deeper than the front shelves of their local bookstore. Is this not a clear case of our need for a Blue Collar Theology today?!

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14 Comments on “Blue Collar Theology 30: The Need (Case Study 1)”

  1. brad Says:

    I would appreciate if you are going to quote me, that you actually post the correct quote if you are taking it directly from my blog. If you are taking from somewhere else that has misquoted me, then I understand if that has happened, but please check my blog first before posting something that is not the wording that I posted.

    I think it is important to remember with The Shack that the author’s purpose was not to write a theological perspective book. His purpose was to tell a story, and one that includes imagination.

  2. Zach Says:

    Hey Timmy,

    I was wondering when you would pick up on this. The truth of the matter is that I’m on both sides of this one. I think it’s a really good book. There are some things in it that I think are really inspiring. It really does have the potential to lead someone into a greater awe for the Trinitarian God that we serve. But, the sad thing is that I don’t recommend it to most Christians because most Christians don’t have the discernment to read it without applying everything he says to their personal theology of God. I don’t know the author and I don’t know his intentions, but I’d say that if the folks that read your blog should have the discernment to read a book like this at literature and not as Grudem’s Systematic Theology. And with that being the case, they could really enjoy it and be challenged in the way that they think about God (which, if guided and reigned by truth, is always a good thing).

    And to be honest, I think it’d be a better fiction book if he didn’t name the characters as God but left it more ambiguous and unsaid… But that’s a totally different topic all together.

    I missed you at graduation.

    With love,

    zach

  3. kevin Says:

    Interesting stuff- What is disheartening is that our Convention Bookstore, Lifeway, is selling this product. Lifewaystores.com apparently has sold so many copies, the book is backordered. They are promoting this heresy!

    I learned very early in Dr. Brand’s Theology I. class that any time one tries to draw analogies to explain the Trinity, he may be flirting with heresy.

    Thanks for the warning so I can warn my people.

    Kevin

  4. sam Says:

    First, it doesnt surprise me that Lifeway sells The Shcak. They also sell books by McLaren, Rob Bell, Donald Miller, and Manning.

    Brad,

    Here is your actual quote from your blog:

    http://bradlomenick.com/2008/02/23/have-you-read-the-shack/

    “Alright, I have to admit- I am usually a major critic of Christian fiction books. They just usually don’t deliver on expectations. But I recently came across a gem- The Shack by William Paul Young. You have to check it out. It will change your perspective and stretch your spiritual paradigm, especially as it relates to the Trinity and God’s desire for relationship with us humans. As you read it, just keep in mind that it is written as Fiction. I can’t speak for the author, but I don’t believe he is trying to make some sort of theological statement. It’s a gripping tale of a man’s desire to find true community with God. ”

    I would challenge your contradictory statements found within your recommendation. On one hand you say that it will challenge you but on the other hand you say to keep in mind that it is fiction and that you dont believe that he is trying to make a theological statement. Do you see the conflict in those statements? The author is making theological statements which undiscerning people are basing some of their view of God and the trinity on and it affects their theology. Yes, its fiction. So is McLaren;s “new kind of Christian”. The Shack reveals the author’s theology. Just because it is fiction it does not mean that the author doesnt interject his theology of the trinity in particular into the book. However, he just chooses to do it in a fictional story.

  5. bradlomenick Says:

    Hey guys – really appreciate the conversation on this one and the viewpoints from both sides on this particular issue. For the most part, I agree with Zach above.

    Thanks for allowing me to join in on the conversation.


  6. Brad,

    I should have mentioned the source of my quote.

    http://www.andyrowell.net/andy_rowell/2008/05/four-church-lea.html

    I admit to having used a source that had misquoted you, and I apologize for not checking with you blog prior to posting it. I have made the correction, and it is reflected in the post.


  7. Zach,

    I am sorry that I missed you at graduation as well. I will try to catch up with you via phone soon. I would love to hear how married life is going!

    The idea of a book being classified as fiction but speaking about characters who have a reference that are not in the least fictional, well, I find to be quite problematic. For even in the caveat that “this is fiction and not a theological treatise,” the author is making a theological statement whether we like it or not. Some will argue that one then is not reading a fictional book like they are supposed to you–you know, not take it seriously and all, but where do we draw the lines between what entertains us as fiction and what becomes a part and parcel of our worldview, having consciously or sub-consciously ingrained in our thinking?

    For instance, how can it be said that the book has “the potential to lead someone into a greater awe for the Trinitarian God that we serve,” when the trinitarian nature is couched in the heresy of modalism? I just don’t understand how the two can be reconciled together.

    So when I hear your comments and that of Brad, I am not intending to be polemic. I am wanting to know how it is possible to read fiction/literature and not come away with theological conclusions, whether admitted or not.

    For the record, the purpose of my post was to make the point that we need more theologically-trained and equipped lay people (i.e. “blue collar theology”). I have not read the book myself; therefore, my response here is a response to the responses (if that makes sense). If the responses can be so varied and contradictory by men like Peterson and Mohler or Batterson and Driscoll, how do you think Billy and Jimmy who teach Sunday School at the downtown Baptist church will take it? Therefore, I found it fitting to present the case for our need of a blue collar theology.

  8. bradlomenick Says:

    Thanks Timmy. appreciate you updating that. And love having conversations like this that challenge me and stretch each of us. And I am totally with you on the blue collar theology idea. I am a lay leader, and find myself to be deeply passionate and engaged in the study and continual understanding of theology. We each are called, whether a full time pastor or a lay leader, to be engaged in the study of scripture.

    when it comes to reading fiction/literature and it not affecting my theological conclusions, that is pretty standard. Just because I read something doesn’t mean I have to believe it or condone it. I guess I feel like I am able to discern between a conclusion on a subject, and simply a statement or thought on a subject.

    But your thoughts above are challenging! Thanks!


  9. Brad,

    No problem. As I said, I should have verified my source, and I didn’t. I appreciate your encouragements on blue collar theology. It’s a work in progress, and I hope to vamp it up in the months to come.

    I understand what you mean when saying that the literature not affectioning your conclusions; I am just concerned that the uncritical acceptance that occurs through a passive or theologically uninformed audience will play a considerable part in shaping one’s thoughts, even theological beliefs on core doctrinal matters. My hopes are that a blue collar theology and theological emphasis among the rank-and-file believers would help them be able to delineate between truth and error, sound doctrine and corrupting heresy.

    Thanks for being willing to discuss these matters. Whether we agree or disagree on these matters (or others) your thoughts are welcome and appreciated. Grace and peace.


  10. […] Brister may be the first person to ever post video from both the 700 Club and Mark Driscoll together. So I want you to consider the responses as I juxtapose them here for the purpose of showing how […]

  11. Zach Says:

    Timmy,

    Please call soon. I’d love to catch up. We’re super busy right now, just finishing up our staff training and moving into camp, but maybe this weekend would be good.

    As far as to your response. I think that when Christians write good fiction it can do a ton for our awe and appreciation for God. Like for instance, even last night during our worship service, Brody was talking about Heaven and restored creation and I thought to myself, “The best picture that I have in my head about this is when Lewis talks about the emotions Ransom was feeling inside himself when he was eating the fruit on Perelandra.” And if you haven’t read the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis you really should. Or in Narnia when we see the way that Aslan can be so stern, but then so loving with the Pevensies I’m reminded of the love and discipline that is present in my personal relationship with Christ. Or even in “A Horse and His Boy” when it is Aslan that is chasing the kids and horses in the night so that they find each other and then at the end is the one that wounds them but also heals them.

    Do you understand what I’m saying? Fiction can be powerfully emotive in challenging and inspiring our understanding of God. To be sure, “The Shack” does not promote a proper view of the Trinity and I hope that no one gets their Theology proper from this book. I’m not saying that it paints an accurate view of the Trinity, I don’t think it does, but I do think that Young says some things in really cool ways that could help us appreciate God more. Like when the Holy Spirit character says on page 101, “All love and relationship is possible for you only because it already exists within Me, within God myself.” Now in saying this, I’m not saying that I agree with all the Trinitarian implications that Young makes. But in the same sense, just because I love Lewis’ picture of what a restored creation looks like in Perelandra doesn’t mean I like his view of eschatology as evidenced in the Last Battle.

    Anyway, I feel that I’ve rambled. My last point is that Christians need to think critically and Scripturally regarding every piece of media that comes before their eyes. This applies to movies, magazines, TV, blogs and books (especially Christian books).

    Talk to you soon.


  12. Zach,

    I agree with you brother, all the way. When I think of great theologians who have written fiction, there is none greater than John Bunyan and Pilgrim’s Progress. C.S. Lewis is great too, but even Lewis’ theology comes out in his writing, especially his inclusivism in The Last Battle. In fact, Lewis is referenced more than anyone else I have read to support the theological construct of inclusivism–and this from a fictional book! So that alone speaks volumes of how theological convictions conveyed through fictional literature can be powerful for better or for worse. In the case of the Shack, my hear is that it could be detrimental to undiscerning readers as well. But you make a good point that this applies to all areas of information, including newspaper, television, internet, etc.

    Please tell the Snowbird fam I said hello, especially Brody, Shawn, and Spence (oh and Luther and Lester as well). 😉


  13. […] blue collar theology 30: the need (case study 1) […]

  14. brian l. Says:

    i hate the shack


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