Gary Trobee

Ministry Leadership Coach

Book Review

An open letter to Tim Challies

By on August 1, 2008

A response to A Readers Review of THE SHACK

Mr. Challies,

Thank you for your thoughtful review of THE SHACK. I sincerely appreciate the time and thought you have invested. I believe you are truly trying to help people come to the truth. I appreciate your tone, your principled stand, and your use of scripture to support your points however, I must take exception with some of your conclusions.

My purpose is not to defend THE SHACK rather to address some of the arguments to which I believe THE SHACK is a response. I read the book before I discovered all the controversy and though I have problems with some of the theology it caused me to remember why I chose to be a follower of Christ. I chose to enter into relationship with Him not to be a student of the Bible, be in ministry, to evangelize, or to serve my church. I am engaged in all of those things but I entered into relationship with Him because He loved me, (Galatians 2:20) rescued me from Hell, (Romans 6:23) and promised to be with me always. (Matthew 28:20, Psalm 27:13, Psalm 23)

My biggest issue in your review is you seem to deify the Bible at the expense of relationship with a personal God. Also your assertion we can no longer walk with God in the cool of the day and we are bound by a mediated communication is flatly untrue. God’s heart has always been to reveal Himself to His people (Exodus 19:4) and to talk with them face to face. (Exodus 19:4, 29:46, 19:11) The idea of having a mediator was not God’s idea. It was God’s response to the children of Israel who rejected Him at Mount Sinai. (Exodus 20:19, Deuteronomy 5:28-29) Consider Enoch who never tasted death but walked with God and was no more, (Gen 5:24) because he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5) Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9) Abraham and God spoke personally about Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18) All through the Old Testament are examples of God reaching out to His people. The people didn’t have to wonder “how can we approach God directly?” God was very clear about it. Over and over He said if you will keep my commandments I will be your God and you will be my people.

Simeon knew by the Holy Spirit he would see the Lord before his death. (Luke 2:25) God spoke to Ananias regarding Saul. (Acts 9:10) John the Apostle communed with God after Jesus’ death. (Revelation 1:10) God has always yearned to reveal Himself in the context of relationship and community. It is the very nature of the Trinity. Knowing God is not simply an intellectual exercise.

It is true the Bible is the complete revelation of God and the standard by which everything must be evaluated. When we think we have “heard from God” either by His specific revelation (the Bible) or His general revelation (His creation) there is a process to help us confirm our suspicion. It begins with measuring what we perceive we heard or saw with the inerrant word of God. Then we confirm our conclusion by asking the question. “Does my conclusion reflect the character and nature of God?” or “what part of God’s nature does my conclusion reflect?”

It is true our sin separates us from God but when we appropriate, by faith, Jesus final sacrifice (Romans 6:10) we are able to come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus became sin so that you and I may be the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:21) You are correct, the new covenant mediator is Jesus however, you misrepresent Jesus role as mediator. He is the Word of God (John 1:1) and He (the Bible) does not separate us from relationship with the father rather he reconciles us to the Father (II Corinthians 5:18). We don’t approach “despite” our sin but because Jesus mediated the new covenant on our behalf.

I have no quarrel with your statements regarding the wrath of God. Just be careful not to give an incomplete gospel. There is more to God than His wrath. Before His wrath is meted out He pursues us passionately (James 3:5, Jeremiah 7:13, 25) and will go to extreme measures to draw us to Himself. (Matt 18:12, Numbers 22)

My final comment relates to suffering. As much as John Piper is correct, it is an incomplete answer and does not reflect the character and nature of God. John Piper seems to say God causes, or allows, suffering to glorify Himself which is utterly absurd. Suffering is part of the curse. (Deuteronomy 28) Though God can be glorified in it, suffering exists because the world is still in a fallen state and Satan is still loose deceiving men. It is the presence of sin that causes suffering. Until believers stop playing church (Isaiah 29:13) and take the stewardship of the kingdom of heaven on earth seriously suffering will increase. It is not because God wants to glorify Himself or because He is not engaged. He accomplished everything on the cross and restored the kingdom on earth. There is nothing left for Him to do (2 Peter 1:3) it is now in our hands (the church). We have been given responsibility (Psalm 115:16) and authority. (Matthew 28:18-20) The assertion that institutional Christianity, with notable exceptions, has been a stumbling block to intimate fellowship with God and hindered our effectiveness in the world is entirely accurate. Until we embrace Him and walk in obedience to His word (John 14:15) and His voice (John 15:14) we will not establish the kingdom before He returns. When I consider how the church places stumbling blocks in the way of relationship with God, my heart breaks.

Though I have concerns those not grounded in truth will read THE SHACK and not hear the whole truth. I applaud the authors for starting a discussion that believers can capitalize on. We must not judge the authors motives. (Romans 2:16, I Corinthians 4:3-5) I have read their answers to most of the concerns raised and I believe them to be men of good faith. We must engage in principled spirited discussion but we must not attack them. Believers must use this momentum to talk with those who are searching and allow the Spirit of Truth to guide them into all truth (John 16:13).

Thank you for your consideration,

Gary Trobee

Also see:

A Gentle Balance to the “Shack Attack”

Reading in Good Faith

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