Turning Romans 8:28 into a Ball of Spaghetti


I saw a Facebook post this morning that contained a short video clip, apparently taken from a Joel Osteen sermon, advertising Joel’s Podcast (available from iTunes). The above quotation is what he told anyone listening to the clip.

“On the other side of the difficulty is a new level of your destiny. If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good. Not some things, the good breaks, the promotion, but even the loss, the disappointment. The person that walked away, it wasn’t random, it was ordained by God.” – Joel Osteen

Although he didn’t quote any actual scripture passage, the obvious reference is to Romans 8:28, which claim that “all things work together for good.” Joel would have you believe that “If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good.”  Now that’s a nice thought, and a positive attitude (what Joel is teaching) helps, but is that what is actually taught in the Roman text? Let’s take a look, shall we?

 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

Joel maintains that:

1.  ALL things will work for your good and “the next level of your destiny” is the “good” (goal) for which all things work.

2.  All things are ordained by God, even the bad things.

What is true in the above? That all things work together for good and that God ordains all things.

What is NOT true? Well, just a couple of things.

1.  Joel is speaking to a very large audience, to every individual sitting in the former basketball arena turned into a ‘church’ (I use the term loosely), outlying ‘campuses’, as well as television/digital media viewers. The author of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul, was speaking to a particular group of people, the Christians in Rome. He also spoke about a specific group of people, those who “love God and are the called according to His purpose.”  2. Joel defined the “good” in the “all things that work together for good”, as the next level of your destiny, even implying that since God ordains all things, He has ordained for you some sort of divine destiny, a concept NOWHERE taught in scripture.

He has a lot of company in that regard. There are countless faux preachers and teachers who make the Christian life all about us, and our personal aspirations and dreams for life in the here and now.

Scripture, however, tells us it is those who would give up their lives for His sake would find eternal life (Matthew 16:24–25; Mark 8:34–35), that the whole life of the Christian as a dying to self and living for and in Him who died for us (Galatians 2:20), and that if we want to be Jesus’ disciples we must DIE to self (Luke 14:27). Dear friends, these passages teach the exact opposite of searching for some personal ‘divine destiny’!

Sadly, the ‘divine destiny’ lie might be the most dangerous cancer eating away at today’s church. And it’s really not a new teaching at all. I think the journey to where we are now on began over 15 years ago with a book by a portly West Coast Pastor that was about finding your unique purpose in the world. That book began by saying “It’s not all about you,” but then talked ALL about you for the rest of the book! The mantra for much of American evangelicalism.

So what’s Romans 8:28-30 really about? I’m so glad you asked! Let’s look at it again.

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

These passages are about God’s eternal purpose, NOT our temporal destinies! And anyone who teaches or preaches this dream destiny lie turns God’s eternal purpose on its head and has tricked thousands, if not millions of professing believers into dedicating their lives as Christians to pursuing their earthly ‘destinies’, and remaining trapped in this world, even as they are already citizens of a heavenly Kingdom and recipients of countless heavenly blessings!

Pray for all those who have been deceived. Prey also for Joel Osteen and all prosperity gospel preachers. They WILL be held accountable.

Indictments Against the Church

by Pastor Josh Buice

The success of The Shack is a true indictment on the shallowness of mainstream evangelicalism. The church is not only called to evangelize the world with the gospel, she is also called to have biblical discernment. That lack of concern when it comes to understanding the Bible and the core essential teachings of Scripture among many evangelical Christians should bring about great concern. When bookstores, even Christian bookstores, are willing to peddle books like The Shack and other sub-Christian titles, we should be greatly concerned. Albert Mohler writes:

The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity…The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine. [4]

A further indictment must be centered on the pulpit in the evangelical church today. Christians, if taught properly each Lord’s Day from the pulpit, would detest such books as The Shack.  If robust teaching was the common diet, books like The Shack would be so unsuccessful that a movie producer wouldn’t give it a second thought—because in his mind he needs the evangelical church to buy tickets to watch it. Therefore, when the pulpit is shallow, dysfunctional, and sub-Christian—you can expect the people to crave that same type of entertainment.

Pastors guard your people by telling them the truth. Brothers and sisters in Christ, please make the movie version of this heretical book far less successful by staying home.


TGhe above remarks are part of a longer and well written article by Pastor Buice concerning The Shack. You can read the entire article here.

Lies We Believe About God (a review of the new book by The Shack author William Paul Young)

by Pastor Gabriel Hughes, First Southern Baptist Church, Junction City, Kansas

Hot on the release of the mediocre film The Shack (18% approval rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, 6.8 viewer rating on IMDb), the book’s author William Paul Young has released Lies We Believe About God. It came out March 7, less than a week after The Shack hit theaters.

If there was any question about Young’s theology, this book leaves no doubt. Personally, I had no questions about what Young believes about God — it’s all in The Shack. But this hasn’t stopped scores of people from defending the book/movie as “just a story.” For example, rapper Lecrae, featured on the film’s soundtrack, defended it as just fiction and not theology, as though fiction gets a pass when it comes to the scrutiny God commands we are to give everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Aside from the fact that any talk about God is theology, Young has outright said The Shack is theology. In the forward to C. Baxter Kruger’s book The Shack Revisited, Young wrote, “Please don’t misunderstand me; The Shack is theology. But it is theology wrapped in story, the word becoming flesh and living inside the blood and bones of common human experience.” (This is the quote given in the WWUTT video on The Shack vs The Bible.)

Kruger returned the favor by writing the forward to Young’s book Lies We Believe About God. And it’s a really weird forward. It’s almost as if Kruger is saying, “I know the stuff you’re going to read in this book is kind of wonky, but I can verify that William Paul Young is still a Christian!” In actuality, Young in his own words exposes himself as a heretic. Again, we shouldn’t be surprised. He already did this in The Shack.

All of Young’s chapters in the book are “lies we believe about God.” There are 28 of them, chock full of man-centered doctrine. It’s not kind-of man-centered. It’s all man-centered. Here are ten of the titles of these chapters and the theology they contain. Again, the titles are all “lies” Young says most people believe about God.

“God is good, I am not.”
And again, I must emphasize Young believes this is a lie. He goes as far as saying that there are pastors who are allowed to stand in their pulpits and preach this lie that people are not good. Young has a tenuous relationship with the Bible. Sometimes entire chapters of his don’t contain a single verse. So we don’t know how Young deals with passages like Romans 3:12 which says, “No one does good,” or verse 23 which says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Young repeats the liberal theological trope that everything God makes is good, and since I’m made in the image of God, I am good. But he misses the reality of original sin: since Adam, we have taken that image and desecrated it with our sin, exalting ourselves in the place of God, and for that we deserve His holy and divine wrath. Jesus, the only good man there ever was, satisfied the wrath of God with His sacrifice on the cross. All who believe in Jesus will live. That gospel message does not exist in Young’s theology.

“God is in control.”
Yes, Young actually believes that God is not in control. He says, “God has the creative audacity to build purpose out of the evil we generate, but that will never justify what is wrong. Nothing, not even the salvation of the entire cosmos, could ever justify a horrific torture device called a ‘cross.'” Does Young just not know that the Bible addresses this very thing? Peter preached at Pentecost, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). God foreordains, but this in no way absolves men from the guilt of his evil acts. What we mean for evil, God always means for good (Genesis 50:20). We are responsible to turn from sin and to Christ for forgiveness.

“God does not submit.”
Young comes back over and over to the fact that we are created in the image of God and proceeds to draw false conclusions: Since I’m made in God’s image, whatever I’m like, God must be like that. Since I have to submit, then God also has to submit. Young also believes the Father submits to the Son. He does not. Young goes as far as saying God even has to abide by the golden rule: He treats us the way He wants us to treat Him. But Jesus serving us (Matthew 20:28) is not the same thing as submission. To submit means to yield to authority. We have no authority over God. Absolutely zero. The only person Jesus submitted to was His Father in heaven. He submitted to God and served us as the ultimate example of what it means to love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. This fulfills the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17, 7:12).

“God is more he than she.”
Young tells a very remarkable story about how his mother saved an infant child who then grew up to become an Anglican priest who tells Young’s mother that Young was right to make God in The Shack into a large black woman named Papa. Ugh. He took a true, very heart-felt and inspirational story, and turned it into something self-centered and pretentious. Young says God possesses feminine qualities (nurse, mother, etc.); therefore, He can be a woman, too. Again, it’s all man-centered and feelings-based, not biblical. God created man to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. The husband is to be a picture of Christ laying His life down for the church, the wife is a picture of the church submitting to Christ, and the head of Christ is God our Father (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-33). For all Young’s talk about “submission,” the one thing he doesn’t seem to want to submit to is the Bible.

“You need to get saved.”
Young says, “God does not wait for my choice and then ‘save me.’ God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence. Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!” He goes on: “Every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. When Jesus was lifted up, God ‘dragged’ all human beings to Himself.” He references John 12:32 which says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” It’s the favorite verse of all universalists, and it’s totally out of context. Previously in John 3:36, we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

“Hell is separation from God.”
Since Young has already revealed himself as a universalist, surely you know he doesn’t believe anyone goes to hell. In fact, he quotes Romans 8:38-39 which says nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God. Therefore, hell cannot be a place where we are separated from God. Rather, Young says, hell is God. It is “the continuous and confrontational presence of fiery Love and Goodness and Freedom that intends to destroy every vestige of evil and darkness that prevents us from being fully free and fully alive.” But Jesus said those who do not believe in Him and do the will of His Father in heaven will go away into eternal punishment at the final judgment (Matthew 25:46, Revelation 21:8). Hell is a real place that real people will be cast into unless they in this life repent of sin and follow Jesus Christ. The Bible could not be more clear.

“The Cross was God’s idea.”
Young says God didn’t come up with the cross — we did. Again, the Bible addresses this point. See above. The Bible foretold that Christ would be crucified centuries before crucifixion was even invented (Psalm 22:16). This is not because God looked down the tunnel of time and learned something about the future, as though God needed to learn anything. That is a pagan myth rooted in fortune-telling and soothsaying. God knows the future because He foreordained it.

“Not everyone is a child of God.”
This again is something presented in The Shack, that everyone is God’s child. Logically, if everyone is made in the image of God, and everyone is good, and everyone is going to go to heaven, then of course according to Young, everyone is a child of God. He takes out of context a passage from Ephesians 4 to back up his point. But he missed the one in Ephesians 2 that says before we come to Christ, we are children of the devil subject to the wrath of God (see also John 8:44). God adopts us into His family through Jesus Christ, and we become the adopted sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 1:4-5, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:4-7, 1 John 3:1). Indeed, not everyone is a child of God. Only those who are followers of Jesus are children of God.

“Sin separates us from God.”
Again, we’re created in the image of God, and God doesn’t create anything bad. Sin, according to Young, “is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how pretty or ugly that is.” He then goes into a bunch of Osteenian affirmations of who the Bible says you are: “You are trustworthy! You have integrity! You are loving!” No, you’re not. The Bible says very specifically what sin is: “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). It is willful, open rebellion against the High King of the universe. Everyone has done it (Romans 3:23) and everyone deserves death for it (Romans 6:23). But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord for all who believe. Those who are in Christ will turn from a life of sin and pursue the righteousness of God.

EDIT: Someone asked me if in the book Young said Jesus was guilty of sin. Not exactly. Young postulates that Jesus made mistakes, like He misspelled a word or hammered a nail in the wrong place. His definition of sin is actually too soft for him to say that Jesus sinned. He basically says you are capable of living the human experience perfectly like Jesus did. Sin is when we think less of ourselves than we really are. It’s still heresy because it’s works-righteousness and if we say we don’t sin His word is not in us (1 John 1:10). But Young doesn’t commit the added error of accusing Jesus of sinning against God.

“God is One alone.”
Young says that the God who “needs to be appeased, and failure is met by wrath and judgment” is a false one. Unfortunately for Young, that’s the God of the Bible, only it’s not the whole picture. He is indeed a God of wrath and judgment, but He is also a God of love and mercy. Young says those two things cannot co-exist. God says that they do (Exodus 34:6-7). He displays the full spectrum of His glory by saving for Himself the objects of His mercy, and pouring out judgment on vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22-23). God is eternally gracious toward those whom He has saved and adopted as His children. He is eternally wrathful toward those who have rebelled against Him and rejected His Son. Repent of your sin and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, and be saved from the coming judgment.

Young closes his book by presenting a quote from the god of The Shack, and says that’s the god he believes in. Quite literally, he says the god he believes in is the god he invented in his own story. The Shack is a story, and it is a lie from the heart of a liar. With this new book, Young set out to “expose” lies we believe about God. Instead, he presented a lot of lies he believes about God.

The ‘Azusa Now’ Conference and Prophetic Extravaganza

Hat Tip in advance to Chris Rosebrough of ‘Fighting for the Faith’, whose podcast audio so enthralled me that I had to listen to the Azusa report three times and take notes!

I knew about the Azusa Now event from having read about it already, but I don’t remember where I found the article. It all went down this last Saturday, 9 April. Fighting for the Faith reported on it and I regularly listen to F4F podcasts.

The podcast began by providing a quote from Jeff Jansen of Global Fire Ministries who had a fantastic experience while driving to the Los Angeles conference site. Says Jansen:

“As we were driving on Interstate 5 to the Azusa Now event on April 9, I saw a large, gold angel standing over LA,” Jansen says. “The Lord said, ‘Just as the 1849 gold rush drew people to California … So 4/9 2016 will mark a new gold rush of divine proportion that will once again draw the nations into revival.” (Charisma News)

The F4F podcast focused on several personalities from various ministries and the pronouncements / revelations / prophesies they delivered to the ecstatic crowd.

First there was Heidi Baker (Iris Global Ministries), who has revelations and visions on a fairly regular basis. She was introduced by Bill Johnson of Bethel Church (home of ‘dead raising teams’ who will train your church). Ms. Baker’s revelation was that God was healing “digestinal” problems/diseases of all sorts (small and large intestines), as well as lots of allergies. Having heard ‘John 6’ in her spirit continually she told the crowd that “some of you feel like you are starving” and can’t eat regular food. The Lord told her that he was going to heal them as they ‘ate Jesus’.

She then prayed that the inflicted ones would rid themselves of the “poison, fluff, and puff”. God was also healing all sorts of addictions from alcoholism to drug addiction, to addiction to medicines (prescription and non-prescription.

She also said there was someone being healed from a twisted knee and a skateboarder being healed of a broken wrist. Those last pronouncements were accompanied by a sudden ‘shakaraba’ utterance while she was prophesying. Such utterances are common with her, actually. She’s a regular on Fighting for the Faith.

Next we had Kris Vallotton (Bethel Church) who began by saying God was breaking the power of suicide that was caused by a ’spirit of insanity’ that put suicidal thoughts into people’s minds. He specifically mentioned a 17 year old named Thompson. God would break the spirit of suicide from him, as well as all from the God TV watchers similarly suffering. He ‘came against’ the evil spirit of suicide afflicting them and an entire generation! In the name of Jesus he released ‘life, visions, dreams, and promises of peace’. He ‘broke the bad visions’ some were having that were caused by the ‘spirit of foreboding’.

Then we were treated to Shawn Bolz from Morningstar Ministries. Morningstar Ministries is led by Rick Joyner, who was instrumental in the ‘restoration’ of Todd Bently (Lakeland Revival) after Todd’s adulterous affair with his nanny, divorce from his wife and marriage to the nanny. Joyner was also one of the NAR prophets who anointed Todd as an ‘Apostle’ at Lakeland.

Back to Shawn……

Shawn appeared on stage to dispense ‘words of knowledge’ and prophesy over some of the thousands in attendance. He even called out people by name and revealed specific things about them and their families! I think he must have received the ‘words of knowledge’ in advance and recorded them on his smart phone because he read from it for the whole 15 minutes he ‘prophesied’. Never mind that thousands of people had registered online and given names and that Facebook can tell us all sorts of things. I actually found the video showing him reading from his smart phone as he was prophesying. I had a hard time believing the F4F account!

Cindy Jacobs, prophetess and founder of Generals International, treated the crowd with a genuine ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ moment by saying “This is that which the prophets foretold!”, referring to the Asuza Now event as a direct fulfillment of OT prophesy.

Todd White, renowned street healer (specializes in lengthening short legs) then prophesied that there is coming a time of great revival where every believer is going to have a ‘prophetic anointing, and perform great signs and miracles wherever we go, even drug stores and other places we go shooing. He kept shouting “Do you want this?” over and over again, along with “The time is now!!!!!” reminiscent of a High School pep rally.

Lou Engle, leader of The Call spoke during the ‘tithes and offerings’ interlude, talking about a new movement called SAFA (Spiritual Air Force Academy) that was birthed at the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy where a group of cadets were very much into fasting and intercessory prayer. An exciting video clip accompanied the short presentation. The SAFA is mostly young people specializing in fasting and prayer who will be removing demons from the heavens and from the darkest places on the Earth. Divine encounters would abound. It was an invitation to ‘sow’ into the SAFA movement.


So there you have it………..It was all too fantastic to keep to myself!

Sarcasm aside, I have to say that all of the above are part of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement and all regularly receive great press from ‘Charisma Magazine’, and thousands of professing Christians buy into it all.

The Prosperity Gospel in Africa

This is a long but important article from World Magazine. The tactics of ‘Prosperity’ preachers in Africa are no different than here in the good old U.S.A. Thy might be more blatant than some are here, but the heresy is the same and many of the victims are similar. If you read this, and I hope you do, the more subtler forms of this false gospel might come to mind, as well as the American purveyors of this garbage. I’ll only say that there are mega churches full of deceived hearers and the preachers of this poison will one day appear before the judgment seat and the One whom they mock with their blasphemy. Here is the article in it’s entirety.

The prosperity gospel in Africa

Religion | The cultic activity promises worldly power in place of the power of the cross

By Feumba Samen

In five trips to Africa I’ve been impressed and even thrilled by the spread of Christianity in country after country south of the Sahara. At the same time, many more experienced travelers caution that Christianity in Africa is sometimes thousands of miles wide but only an inch deep.

Feumba Samen, an economics and statistics graduate of Université Marien N’Goubi in the Republic of Congo, last year became a doctor of missiology via Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana. He is also a multilingual and multi-continental journalist with articles in Congo Magazine, The Intruder, La Rue-Meurt, La Come Enchantee, and other publications.

Samen will be a student in the World Journalism Institute’s mid-career training course in Austin, Texas, next week. The following article is derived from a book he is writing. —Marvin Olasky

Africans are especially attached to supernatural values. For this reason African Christianity is characterized by an intense spiritual hunger. Nevertheless, faith on the continent is threatened by several factors, one of the most serious being the prosperity gospel.

Where it all started

In the early 1970s the Charismatic Renewal movement appeared in traditional African churches. The followers of this movement launched by Pentecostal teachings walked away from Catholicism, Protestantism, and evangelical churches to launch so-called revivalist churches. In these churches the pastor occupied a prominent place in the life of the followers. This trend expanded through the 1990s after the failure of structural adjustment policies imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions. People lost confidence in economic mechanisms, social recovery plans, and the ability of governments to bail them out and turned to the churches.

The revivalist churches are originally from New (Neo) American Pentecostalism, preaching the gospel of prosperity and miracles. These churches, with their earthly founders called apostles, prophets, or visionaries, promised earthly happiness, refusing any open dialogue with other churches. According to the Acts of the Seventeenth Scientific Seminar held in Kinshasa in 2013, “They receive financial support and legal status of the various governments of the country in addition to the support of churches in the USA.”

These churches preach prosperity, offering utopian hopes through the gospel of prosperity and miracles. The prosperity gospel was received in Africa for two main reasons: First, these churches were born and grew because this gospel integrated with an African belief that human events are controlled by spiritual powers, bad luck, and good luck. Pastors substituted for fetishists and traditional practitioners. Second, the prosperity gospel found fertile ground in Africa because of the real sufferings facing these Christians, burdened by material and spiritual poverty, who needed immediate relief and thought they could find happiness trusting in anyone making such promises.

The explosion of the cult of democracy and globalization has created in Africa new messiahs, besieging large cities in particular, by selling the prosperity gospel. The profusion of churches teaching the prosperity gospel number in the thousands. In Kinshasa, one source counts about 10,000! In some countries there are seven churches in an area of ​​300 square meters (3,229 square feet). The great number of these churches in many African cities raises some questions.

Actually, these churches are often the result of dissent where their main characteristics do not meet the criteria of apostolicity, unity, holiness, ethical responsibility, and universality, and put little emphasis on the authority of the revelation of God’s Word. In addition, these churches, which have a closed leadership and lax administration of the sacraments, indeed show that they meet almost all the criteria that define cults. Therefore, these churches are not created from God’s vision to seek lost souls for extending the kingdom of God.

Statistically, it is difficult to quantify the number of followers praying in these churches because of the multiplicity of “informal” chapels, migration of followers who go from one church to another or experience various places of worship at the same time, the strategic and political manipulation of data that depend on the leaders of these churches, or, finally, the lack in their culture of statistics or surveys in these churches.

Incestuous relationship

For decades, Pentecostals and evangelicals considered the practice of politics like “the Devil” and located outside God’s scope. Cults offering messages of prosperity opted in favor of the relationship of “church” and politics.

According to the Rev. Francis Michel Mbadinga—founder in 1985 of the Center for Evangelization Bethany (CEB), one of the most recognized and powerful prosperity gospel churches in Gabon—the primary purpose for his vision of the church supposedly received from God is: “The proclamation of the Gospel of Christ and His Word to create a new awakening that must affect and transform all areas of life in society: spiritual, political, economic, social, cultural, and educational.” This bridge between Church and nation would appear to be excellent, but it is the shameless exploitation of this “vision” that is outrageous and questionable.

In Gabon, members of prosperity gospel churches represent more than one-fifth of the voters. Some politicians, although without declaring publicly to be Pentecostals or evangelicals, use these churches to become popular in order to benefit politically. These churches encourage their followers to vote for these politicians, which are also for them a reliable source of funding. Thus, certain politicians, while providing visibility and credibility to their pastors, saw their political standing grow. Some were elected to political office; others, such as D. Divungi Di Ndinge, who was appointed to minister, were rewarded with high government positions. In this arrangement of giving and receiving, followers believed they could also come into contact with these political authorities through the church for certain opportunities, while churches improved their recognition and spread their religious message, thus, being a version of “I’ll scratch your back, and you’ll scratch mine”!

These pastors often have unlimited influence. In 2003, Francis Michel Mbadinga managed to sack Gen. Nguétsara Lendoye, head of the General Commission for Documentation and Immigration (CGDI), for refusing entry to the Gabonese territory and for lack of visas to the Rev. David Fletcher, who had been invited by the CEB for “Christian” events. Following this incident, the CGDI was dissolved under pressure from influential CEB members.

Gabon is not the only case where the tentacles of this spiritual anomaly have crept into the spheres of state administration. Joseph and Elisabeth Olangi lead a cult called the Spiritual Warfare Ministry. It spread its tentacles from its headquarters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, to the Republic of Congo, where the Olangis expropriated state land. Members of the government, businessmen, and wealthy people, especially women, attend such cults to submit their requests to remain “forever” in the government and “continually keep” their high status or increase their business.

Because of their acquaintance with political powers, prosperity gospel churches reject democracy, although it has allowed them to emerge from the shadows to spread their extravagance in broad daylight. In their understanding, this political system is not the will of God. Their reasons: The democratic political system is that of “struggles and fights.” Placed in the African context and to a certain extent, that is not entirely false. Among other reasons they believe this system of government is not from God is, “If man had not failed in his duty, we would be living in a theocratic regime.” Their messages support the regime or political authorities in power. Their sermons emphasize the sacredness of the authorities and the fact that we should vote for them because God Himself established them.

These maneuvers are analyzed by observers of the religious scene as a means for these churches to exist on the economic and social scene, to be recognized, to be able to access some functions, or to avoid too deep a financial control from the government.

Prosperity gospel strategy

The sermons of prosperity gospel churches follow this pattern: predestination of members of their cults to reign (political and social power), prosperity (economic power), and the overcoming of disease and occult forces (mystical power). In a sermon titled “Chosen for the Summit” by Nigerian David Oyedepo, founder in 1983 of the Winner’s Chapel, he teaches how to reach the peaks. Excerpts:

“‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2:9). God had a purpose in creating you. The ultimate objective of this goal is to make you walk on the hills here on earth to make you an outstanding success. Successful means stand out, be distinguished among others. … To walk on the heights, your will must be strong. It is your will that makes you go through and over the opposition of life. With this established will, no opposition can stop you. Exercise your will to succeed, and it will lead you through the obstacles to your palace.”

In his 1987 book titled The Fourth Dimension, South Korean Paul Yonggi Cho, founder of the Full Gospel Central Church and another guru of the prosperity gospel favored by Africans, gives guidelines that followers of prosperity gospel churches must follow to live a happy life:

“You have to enter into your mind the idea of ​​victory and abundance. God never fails. So if you get thoughts that come from God, you will always know success. God never loses the battle, because He is the eternal winner. You should always be aware of the victory. God never lacks anything. Get used to thinking also in terms of abundance.”

In his theory of positive confession, which is the “incubation, the law of faith to see our prayers answered,” he outlines four steps that govern: the representation of objectives clearly defined, a burning desire to achieve, prayer to be assured, and expression of the language of faith.

“Church” without a theological foundation

Prophets, pastors, and gurus take the place of God. They do not preach according to the vision of Christ whose sole mission for the church is to seek the lost and make disciples, according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20). They do not preach Christ crucified—instead they proclaim healing, miracles, and support for the tired and overworked as a priority of the church. These so-called men of God divert the theological foundations of the church, using all the means of propaganda for manipulating their followers looking for social rank, honor, and money by means of miracles and healings. They also aim to attract members of independent churches, as well as other churches: Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and even Muslims.

According to Ngolo Gibau in Congo Vision:

“The proliferation of churches in Congo is a deadly vapor. I expressed my anxiety about the scourge in this mess that clogs the channels of awareness with all sorts of aberrations, deception, songs worthy of a Luciferian spirit, and rapacious merchantry, which Congolese ‘pastors’ demonstrate. Becoming a pastor requires a long and arduous journey that is defined by sanctity … humility, discretion, the refusal of any form of ostentation, to be immune to the allure of money. As in other areas in the Congo where these churches prevail, the devil, vanity, and quackery are the first ministers.”

This disorder is not specific to the Congo but extends to this type of church in other countries of the continent. It is explained by the epistemological, biblical, philosophical, and logical errors within these churches due in part to the lack of training of their founders, who claim to have received their vision directly from God and yet reject the mission of Christ for His church.

These churches, which lack a theological foundation, set aside the mystery of the cross of Jesus Christ. Thus, they reject the invitation of Christ to those who love Him to take His cross and follow Him (Matthew 10:38, 16:24), the profession of faith of the Apostle Paul to which the cross of Christ is the only source of pride (Galatians 6:14), and the exhortation from the writer of Hebrews of “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

According to the theologians of prosperity, sin is the “high treason” of Adam by which he transmitted to Satan the dominion that God had given him over creation. Thus, Satan has dominion over the creation by a “legal right,” not only because of the rebellion of man. This approach shifts the problem of responsibility in the act of the commission of sin. Satan becomes the instigator of all wrongdoing in the world as the author of sin. The aim of the “theologians” of prosperity is disassociating man from sin. He does not deal with his own sin but that of Satan. By denying original sin the fundamental core in the sin problem becomes the lack of self-esteem. The most serious sin is the one that causes a person to declare that he is unworthy.

Intellectuals’ attraction to the prosperity gospel

African intellectuals are increasingly exposed to and victims of these magico-religious cults. These people, who could instead be reflecting on the concepts and techniques of development of the continent, spend part of their time in these cults chasing demons. In their approach they seek to achieve prosperity or promotion in their professional lives by shortcuts.

Pride, envy, excess, and the search for physical, material, and spiritual security make them spiritual prisoners of these cults. Examining political, economic, social, and legal issues to find solutions is outside their field of thought and reflection. Basic scientific and technical research is placed on the back burner. Their truncated Bible study remains the only search tool to achieve the desired security. Their fear of self and of others is a result of profound disorientation experienced when suddenly put in contact with a sectarian environment. Its features are unknown, incomprehensible, and threatening, which causes African intellectuals to have an internal imbalance resulting in the erosion of moral values, the loss of cultural identity, and the degradation of positive competitive values. These cults, by capturing African intellectual potential, have placed in hibernation most African academics and researchers. They have become puppets in the hands of gurus.

The philosophy taught in these cults manufactures uprooted and alienated individuals. The good seed—that is, the African intelligence that should be the pride of Africa—is not, for the reason that they are victims of spiritual alienation caused by looking up to the gurus who eventually lull their consciences.

What to make of the Francis Chan at IHOP

Last week I read about Francis Chan speaking at the 2013 Onething Conference at IHOP in Kansas City. Knowing the background and heretical roots of IHOP I had the same questions as others – Why did Francis seem to give legitimacy to a movement with roots steeped in heretical doctrine? To be fair, I listened to Francis Chan’s entire presentation. What I learned from listening to the whole enchilada is that the comments made at the beginning needed to be taken in the context of Chan’s entire message. Some of what he said, and some of the scripture concerning false/lying prophets would seem to indict IHOP rather than lend credibility to it, although what Chan had to say specifically about IHOP was that there were great things going on there.

Francis Chan’s real goal in appearing there might not be known for some time, if ever. The contrast between his lead-in comments and the content of some of what he preached prevents me from a judgment call, which would be unwise.

My own personal feelings about IHOP and Mike Bickle come from hearing things that caused me to study IHOP and even listen to hours of Mike Bickle’s teaching. He’s still peddling the same old stuff and playing the role of a Pied Piper – stealing emotion/feelings driven children  (along with adults who, if they read their Bibles should know better), sucking them into a false ‘dominionism’ theology in which ‘Forerunners’ are needed to prepare the world for the 2nd coming of Christ, who will usher in the ‘pure’ church that must be in place for Christ to return.

The parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13 presents a different picture of the ‘end time’ church in which the church on earth will not be purified until Christ returns in judgment to purify it himself.

Of course there are other resources one can use to investigate IHOP that discuss other rotten roots of the movement, some of which are linked to at the ‘Stand Up For The Truth’ link below.

What to make of the Francis Chan/IHOP union | Stand Up for the Truth.

An Open Letter to Heresy ‘Hunters’

This has been difficult to compose and write, partly because there are those I know and love as fellow laborers for the Gospel seem to fall into the category of heresy ‘hunters’, but also because I’ve been one and that makes me a recipient of my own ‘letter’. 

On an earlier post, I asked the question: “Is heresy ‘hunting’ a proper use of the gift of discernment?”  I defined discernment simply as ‘assessing and judging truth from error’. I defined heresy ‘hunting’ as heading into the fields of Christianity with the specific intent of finding all the heresy that might be out there and maybe even ‘bagging’ a few heretics. You are of course welcome to read the entire post.

This post is meant to provide some personal observations concerning the behavior of some (but not all) heresy hunters and to provide a bit of general guidance for dealing with perceived error, false teaching, and those who we feel might be leading us astray. It’s not intended to be taken as especially authoritative, but it does express the heart of an old soldier who has more than a few battle scars.

First, since I didn’t provide an answer to the question posed in the earlier post (“Is heresy ‘hunting’ a proper use of the gift of discernment?”), let me state that I don’t believe that it is. I find no mandate or example of it in scripture. While genuine error and false teaching needs to be discerned, and occasionally names named, I have yet to find a single instance of intentionally hunting down and bagging ‘heretics’.

That being said, here are some observations I’ve made over the last few years while visiting various venues that focus on discernment and/or finding and shooting heretics. I might be wrong, but there seems to be a ‘modus operandi’ at work that pits ‘brother against brother’, undoubtedly to the pleasure of the enemy of our souls. This is how it seems to play out.

Step 1. There is a ‘perception’ of possible error being taught by a current pastor/teacher/minister. . .whomever. While the perception of doctrinal error could lead to diligently searching the Scriptures and applying the ‘Berean’ principle, for the dedicated heresy hunter, often that investigation is merely cursory because after all, there is a possible/probable heretic right between the front ‘sight posts’!

Step 2. Confirmation of the ‘target heretic’ is sought by seeking out anyone, anywhere, who will share the same ‘misgivings’ concerning the prey. After all, wherever two or three heresy hunters (HHs) agree, the ‘target’ is soon to be ‘dead meat’.

Step 3. Other potential targets are identified by good ‘intelligence’ in finding other pastors/teachers/ministers. . .whomevers who associate with the initial confirmed ‘kill’, and who seem to agree with the heretical doctrine under scrutiny, or have not themselves spotted and condemned Pastor Dead Meat. When two or three HHs agree (and they will), these potential targets are also confirmed, shot, killed, and maybe even stuffed and hung in the den.

Step 4. Since there is undoubtedly a ‘heretical movement’ spreading across the land, and possibly a vast conspiracy afoot, further intelligence is gathered to identify and name the movement, find it’s ‘roots’, and activate the HHN (Heresy Hunting Network) to broadcast these additional ‘findings’ far and wide, by whatever means available, thereby driving up the heretic ‘body count’.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are elements of truth in the above ‘steps to bagging heretics’. Heresy is alive and well in the church, and within certain movements that have replaced the gospel that Christ died for our sins to one of ‘Christ died for our best lives now’. What concerns me is that there is a small group of HH’s out there, and their followers, who seem focused on the hunting down, shooting, and mounting of ‘heretics’, and not at all focused on trying to find out what all these ‘heretics’ are really saying.

In a way, they remind me of the little old ladies who love to gossip over the backyard fence and find fault with everyone else on the ‘block’.

Where there has been conversation between the ‘hunters’ and the ‘hunted’, I’ve found that the ‘heretics’ have engaged in thoughtful gracious dialogue, while the HH’s for the most part have been accusatory, very ungracious, have even engaged in name calling, and otherwise embarrassed themselves.

Having gotten all that off my chest, I am reminded from scripture of a couple of relevant bits of counsel. The first concerns our ‘mindset’ as Christians – what it ought to be:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

Not that we aren’t supposed to expose error, but we’re also to focus on that which is ‘all of the above’. I think Paul is an excellent example of that principle in his manner of bringing correction to some of the early churches. It might also be appropriate to remember that Paul’s curriculum vitae as a ‘called’ Apostle. Just because he ‘named names’ doesn’t necessarily translate to some sort of carte blanche for us to behave similarly, as some have claimed.

The second bit of counsel comes from something Paul had to say to believers in the Galatian church:

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.” (Galatians 6:1-5 ESV)

Paul might not have had HH’s in mind when he penned that advice, but the principles therein certainly apply to the topic at hand. Enough said.

Lastly, remember the Great Commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

I leave the reader with one question:

Where exactly in the command to ‘make disciples’ do we find heresy ‘hunting’?


How can we discern false teachers?

Matthew 7:13-23 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. 14 “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

False prophets are particularly dangerous because they appear to be genuine. They seemingly have the credentials of authority. What are these credentials? Jesus calls them ‘sheep’s clothing’ (verse 15).

[“He said that the false prophets were like wolves in sheep’s clothing. When the shepherd watched his flocks upon the hillside, his garment was a sheepskin, worn with the skin outside and the fleece inside. But a man might wear a shepherd’s dress and still not be a shepherd. The prophets had acquired a conventional dress. Elijah had a mantle (1 Kings 19:13,19), and that mantle had been a hairy cloak (2 Kings 1:8). That sheepskin mantle had become the uniform of the prophets, just as the Greek philosophers had worn the philosopher’s robe. It was by that mantle that the prophet could be distinguished from other men. But sometimes that garb was worn by those who had no right to wear it, for Zechariah in his picture of the great days to come says, “Neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive’’ (Zechariah 13:4). There were those who wore a prophet’s cloak, but who lived anything but a prophet’s life.” William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1963), 1, p. 286.]

The outward forms would incline one to believe these false prophets to be reliable guides. They may wear a distinctive garb which sets them apart as leaders. They may have the title ‘reverend.’ They may be men who hold positions of religious leadership. They may well have graduated from a divinity school. Indeed, they might even be seminary professors. Judging on the basis of external indications we might wrongly assume them to be reliable guides, but we must not evaluate them on such external evidence.

These false prophets can be detected by their fruits. Judging by external forms is risky; judging (if you prefer, discerning) on the basis of fruits is absolutely necessary and part of our responsibility. ‘The proof of the root is in the fruit.’ Good trees produce good fruit, and rotten trees, bad fruit. A dependable assessment of those who would be guides is that of their fruits (Matthew7:20). But, what are these fruits? One must be very careful here, for false prophets are not without religious activities. A false prophet is often accompanied by deceptive signs and by seeming wonders. Some of these are suggested in Matthew 7:22: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?”’

We should expect false prophets to engage in acts of kindness and charity. We should expect them to perform deeds which suggest miraculous power. And we should expect that these deeds be performed under the pretext of being done by God’s power and to His glory.

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

We should expect false prophets to be accompanied by religious works, often unusual and spectacular, done ostensibly in the name of God. Satan willingly gives the glory to God in such cases, so long as ultimately he is able to deceive people and cause them to their allegiance and obedience him.

But are these religious activities the fruits of which the Master spoke? If not, what are they? The Scriptures frequently describe the fruits of the false prophets, so that we are left with little doubt as to what we should look for. I believe we can see the fruits of the false prophets falling into three categories.

(1) The first category of the fruits of the false prophet is their doctrine. False prophets speak from their own delusion, not by divine command (Jeremiah 23:16,21,25; Ezekiel 13:2). They do not proclaim or defend God’s word, but deny it (Jeremiah 23:17). In particular they deny unpleasant subjects such as impending judgment (Jeremiah 6:14; 28:17; Ezekiel 13:10). They offer temporary and partial relief to pressing problems (Jeremiah 8:11). Mainly, they tell people precisely what they want to hear (1 Kings 22:8, 13; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). Concerning the way of salvation they deny the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ and they reject the work of Christ on the cross (2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:2-3).

(2) The second category of the fruits of the false prophets is the effect of their teaching in the lives of men. Invariably it leads to a rejection of God’s word, a rejection of biblical authority, a division among the saints (Jeremiah 23:2,14) and a life of sensuality (2 Peter 2:2). They attempt to lead men away from the truth of the gospel (Acts 13:8), and to deceive genuine Christians with false doctrine (Mark 13:22). This is also evident from the pastoral epistles (1 and 2Timothy and Titus) where Paul speaks of the need of sound or healthy doctrine (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1).

(3) Finally, there is the fruit of the false teachers as evidenced in their own moral character. They are easily distinguished by their pride (2 Peter 2:10), their greed (Jeremiah 8:10; Titus 1:11; 2 Peter 2:3,14) and immorality (Jeremiah 23:11,14; 2 Peter 2:14). They are men dominated by the flesh (2 Peter 2:10,12; 3:3). They prey upon the weak and the guilt-ridden (2 Timothy 3:6-7; 2 Peter 2:14,13). While they profess to know God, by their deeds they deny Him (Matthew 7:22-23; 2 Timothy 3:5; Titus 1:16). While they delight in authority, they refuse to submit to it (2 Peter 2:10).

“A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39).

There are many godless guides who would lead us to the wide gate and the way which leads to destruction. These false teachers are not only blind themselves, but they lead others to destruction with them. It is the Lord Who will pronounce the final verdict and Who will sentence the false prophets to everlasting torment.

Online Source


Timing is Everything

Back in November 2010, The U.N. General Assembly unanimously signed a Resolution declaring the first week of February as ‘World Interfaith Harmony Week’. I learned of this magnificent proclamation of peace and goodwill just yesterday when I received notice from another blog I frequent that contained the following advertisement for ‘Harmony’:

Aside from all of the implications of this small add, in terms of crass ‘religious’ commercialism and gravely serious spiritual implications, the timing just might be perfect for the introduction of ‘Interfaith’ prayer beads, made of ‘olive wood from the Holy Land’, and ‘specially’ designed for ‘all faiths’.

After all, the exclusivity of Christ as the only way to God has taken serious hits of late, to include a ‘spirit’ of inclusivism within both Catholicism and certain circles of Protestantism. Significant ‘icons’ of Protestant evangelicalism have even refused to stand on the plain words of Christ (John 14:6) against the backdrop of Old Testament prophecy and New Testament fulfillment, when pinned down by Larry King on nationwide television.

It will be interesting to watch further ‘developments’.

Perhaps the real question is “What would Jesus think?” or maybe “What would Jesus really do?”, as opposed to what is being promoted behind the scenes by the archenemy of God and the enemy of the souls of men.

On a more positive note (if there is one), if they become popular doors will be blown wide open for opportunities to share the truth in love – the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian, are you up for the challenge? Am I?

The Shack: Helpful or Heretical?

A Critical Review by Norman L. Geisler and Bill Roach

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William P. Young (Wind Blown Media, 2007, 264 pp) is a New York Times best seller with well over a million copies in print. Literally hundreds of thousands have been blessed by its message, but its message is precisely what calls for scrutiny.  Responses to The Shack range from eulogy to heresy.  Eugene Peterson, author of The Message predicted that The Shack “has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” Emmy Award Winning Producer of ABC Patrick M. Roddy declares that “it is a one of a kind invitation to journey to the very heart of God. Through my tears and cheers, I have been indeed transformed by the tender mercy with which William Paul Young opened the veil that too often separated me from God and from myself.” (http://theshackbook.com/endorsements.html). People from all walks of life are raving about this book by unknown author “Willie” Young, son of a pastor/missionary, and born in Canada. He is a graduate of Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon.

The Background of the Book
The Shack is Christian fiction, a fast-growing genre in the contemporary Christian culture. It communicates a message in a casual, easy-to-read, non-abrasive manner. From his personal experience, Young attempts to answer some of life’s biggest questions: Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is the Trinity? What is salvation? Is Jesus the only way to Heaven? If God, then why evil? What happens after I die?
             In the final section of the book titled “The Story behind THE SHACK,” he reveals that the motivation for this story comes from his own struggle to answer many of the difficult questions of life. He claims that his seminary training just did not provide answers to many of his pressing questions. Then one day in 2005, he felt God whisper in his ear that this year was going to be his year of Jubilee and restoration. Out of that experience he felt lead to write The Shack. According to Young, much of the book was formed around personal conversations he had with God, family, and friends (258-259). He tells the readers that the main character “Mack” is not a real person, but a fictional character used to communicate the message in the book. However, he admits that his children would “recognize that Mack is mostly me, that Nan is a lot like Kim, that Missy and Kate and the other characters often resemble our family members and friends” (259).

The Basic Story of the Book
             The story centers on a note that Mack, the husband and father in the story, received from “Papa,” who is supposed to be God the Father. It reads, “Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together” (19). From this, the story moves through the personal struggles Mack has with such questions as: Why would someone send me this letter? Does God really speak through letters? How would my seminary training respond to this interaction between God and man?  The story takes a turn when Mack’s son almost drowns while canoeing. During the chaos his daughter is abducted and eventually killed. This is what caused Mack to fall into what the book calls “The Great Sadness.” This time period is supposed to reflect his spiritual condition after the death of his daughter and the questions he has been asking for many years.
            Grieved with the death of his daughter and the possibility that the note might be from God, Mack packs his bags and heads for the shack. The point of this journey is to suggest that his traditional teaching, Sunday prayers, hymns, and approach to Christianity were all wrong. He comes to the conclusion that “cloistered spirituality seemed to change nothing in the lives of people he knew, except maybe Nan [his wife]” (63). In spite of being an unlikely encounter with God, Young uses this fictional encounter as a vehicle for Mack’s spiritual journey and encounter at the shack.
            While at the shack, Mack discovers that God is not what we expect Him to be. In fact, God the Father is a “large beaming African-American woman,” Jesus appeared to be “Middle Eastern and was dressed like a laborer, complete with tool belt and gloves,” and the Holy Spirit is named Sarayu, “a small, distinctively Asian woman.” The book identifies these three people as the Trinity (80-82). After trying to reconcile his seminary training with this new encounter with God, he concludes that what he had learned was of no help.

An Evaluation of the Book
            Young’s point is clear: forget your preconceived notions about God, forget your seminary training, and realize that God chooses to appear to us in whatever form we personally need; He is like a mixed metaphor. We cannot fall back into our religious conditioning (91). The Shack attempts to present a Christian worldview through the genre of religious fiction, but just how Christian it is remains to be seen.

Problem One: A Rejection of Traditional Christianity
Beneath the surface of The Shack is a rejection of traditional Christianity (179).  He claims that traditional Christianity did not solve his problem.  Even Seminary training didn’t help (63).  He insists that Christianity has to be revised in order to be understood, reminiscent of McClaren’s Emergent Church book titled, Everything Must Change.  However, one might question whether it is Christianity that needs revision or Christians that need to be revitalized. One thing is certain; Christianity should not be rejected because it has some hypocritical representatives.  To be sure, some Seminary training is bad, and even good Seminary training doesn’t help, if you don’t heed it. But the baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater.  Christ established the Church and said the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Mt. 16:16-18).  The Shack, as gripping as its story is, trades a church occupied with people who hear the Word of God  preached for an empty shack where there is neither.

Problem Two: Experience Trumps Revelation
            An underlying problem with the message of The Shack is that it uses personal experience to trump revelation.  The solutions to life’s basic problems come from extra-biblical experience, not from Scripture (80-100).  Non-biblical voices are given precedent over the voice of God in Scripture.  These alleged “revelations” from the “Trinity” in the shack are the basis of the whole story.  While biblical truth is alluded to, it is not the authoritative basis of the message.  In the final analysis, it is experience that is used to interpret the Bible; it is not the Bible that is used to interpret experience. This leads to a denial of a fundamental teaching of Protestantism.

Problem Three: The Rejection of Sola Scriptura
            The Shack
rejects the sole authority of the Bible to determine matters of faith and practice. Rather than finding a Bible by the altar in a little old country church and getting comfort and counsel from the word of God, he is instructed to go to an empty shack in the wilderness with no Bible and get all he needs to cope with the tragedies of life from extra-biblical voices. The Shack’s author rejects what “In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture…. God’s voice had been reduced to paper…. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients…. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book” (63).
            However, the Bible clearly declares that “Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added).  Indeed, our comfort is not found in extra-biblical revelations but is realized in that “through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).  In short, the Bible is sufficient for faith and practice.  No new truth beyond the Bible is needed for doctrine or living the Christian life.  Of course, this does not mean that God cannot bring biblical principles to our minds when needed through various experiences, even tragic ones. He can and He does. Nor does it mean that God cannot guide in circumstances that help us in the application of biblical principles to our lives. He can and He does. But these experiences bring no new revelation. They are merely the occasion for God focusing our attention on the only infallible written source of His revelation, the Bible and the Bible alone. To forsake this fundamental principle is to leave Protestantism for Mysticism.

Problem Four: An Unbiblical View of the Nature and Triunity of God
           In addition to an errant view of Scripture, The Shack has an unorthodox view of the Trinity. God appears as three separate persons (in three separate bodies) which seems to support Tritheism in spite of the fact that the author denies Tritheism (“We are not three gods”) and Modalism (“We are not talking about One God with three attitudes”—p. 100).  Nonetheless, Young departs from the essential nature of God for a social relationship among the members of the Trinity.  He wrongly stresses the plurality of God as three separate persons: God the Father appears as an “African American woman” (80);  Jesus appears as a Middle Eastern worker (82).  The Holy Spirit is represented as “a small, distinctively Asian woman” (82).  And according to Young, the unity of God is not in one essence (nature), as the orthodox view holds. Rather, it is a social union of three separate persons. Besides the false teaching that God the Father and the Holy Spirit have physical bodies (since “God is spirit”—Jn. 4:24), the members of the Trinity are not separate persons (as The Shack portrays them); they are only distinct persons in one divine nature.  Just as a triangle has three distinct corners, yet is one triangle. It is not three separate corners (for then it would not be a triangle if the corners were separated from it), Even so, God is one in essence but has three distinct (but inseparable) Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Problem Five: An Unbiblical View of Punishing Sin
            Another claim is that God does not need to punish sin. He states, “At that, Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see a deep sadness in her eyes. ‘I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It is not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it’” (119).  As welcoming as this message may be, it at best reveals a dangerously imbalanced understanding of God.  For in addition to being loving and kind, God is also holy and just. Indeed, because He is just He must punish sin.  The Bible explicitly says that” the soul that sins shall die” (Eze. 18:2).  “I am holy, says the Lord” (Lev. 11:44).  He is so holy that Habakkuk says of God,  “You…are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong…” (Hab. 1:13).  Romans 6:23 declares: “The wages of sin is death….” And Paul added, “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).
            In short, The Shack presents lop-sided view of God as love but not justice. This view of a God who will not punish sin undermines the central message of Christianity—that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1f.) and rose from the dead.  Indeed, some emergent Church leaders have given a more frontal and near blasphemous attack on the sacrificial atonement of Christ, calling it a “form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful father, punishing his son for offences he has not even committed” (Steve Chalke, The Lost Message of Jesus, 184).  Such is the end of the logic that denies an awesomely holy God who cannot tolerate sin was satisfied (propitiated) on behalf of our sin (1 Jn. 2:1). For Christ paid the penalty for us, “being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God through him” (2 Cor. 5:21), “suffering the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).

Problem Six: A False View of the Incarnation
Another area of concern is a false view of the person and work of Christ. The book states, “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this universe, we now became flesh and blood” (98).  However, this is a serious misunderstanding of the Incarnation of Christ. The whole Trinity was not incarnated.  Only the Son was (Jn. 1:14), and in His case deity did not become humanity but the Second Person of the Godhead assumed a human nature in addition to His divine nature. Neither the Father nor Holy Spirit (who are pure spirit–John 4:24) became human, only the Son did.

Problem Seven: A Wrong View of the Way of Salvation          
         Another problem emerges in the message of The Shack.  According to Young, Christ is just the “best” way to relate to the Father, not the only way (109). The “best” does not necessarily imply the only way, which then means that there may be other ways to relate to God. Such an assertion is contrary to Jesus’ claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes unto the Father except through me” (John14:6).  He added, “He who believes in Him [Christ] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of  the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).  Jesus is not merely the best way, but He is the only way to God.  Paul declared: “There is one God and one mediator between God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Problem Eight: A Heretical View of the Father Suffering
          The book also contains a classic heresy called Patripassionism (Literally: Father Suffering).  Young claims that God the Father suffered along with the Son, saying, “Haven’t you seen the wounds on Papa [God the Father] too?’ I didn’t understand them.  ‘How could he…?’  ‘For love.  He chose the way of the cross… because of love’” (p. 165).   But both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) made it very clear that it was Jesus alone who “suffered” for us on the Cross. And that He did this only through His human nature.  To say otherwise is to engage in “confusing the two natures” of Christ which was explicitly condemned in the Chalcedonian Creed (A.D. 451).  Suffering is a form of change, and the Bible makes it very clear that God cannot change.  “I the Lord change not” (Mal. 3:6).  “There is no shadow of change with Him” (Jas. 1:17).  When all else changes, God “remains the same” (Heb. 1:10-12). 

Problem Nine: A Denial of Hierarchy in the Godhead
The Shack also claims that there is no hierarchy in God or in human communities modeled after Him.  He believes that hierarchy exists only as a result of the human struggle for power. Young writes of God: “‘Well I know that there are three of you.  But you respond with such graciousness to each other.  Isn’t one of you more the boss than the other two…. I have always thought of God the Father as sort of being the boss and Jesus as the one following orders, you know being obedient….’ ‘Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us; only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command…. What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power…. Hierarchy would make no sense among us’” (121).
        However, Young cites no Scripture to support this egalitarian view of God and human relations—and for good reasons since the Bible clearly affirms that there is an order of authority in the Godhead, the home, and the church.  Submission and obedience are biblical terms.  Jesus submitted to the Father: “O My Father,… not my will be done but yours” (Mt. 26:39). “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death…” (Philip. 2:8).  In heaven “then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).  Children are to submit to their parents: Paul urged, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord…” (Eph. 6:1).  Likewise, women are urged: “Wives submit to your own husband, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3).  Members are to “obey your leaders” (Heb. 13:17).  Indeed, citizens are commanded “to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…” (Titus 3:1). 

The hierarchial order in the Godhead is the basis for all human relationships.  And pure love does not eliminate this; it demands it.  The Bible declares; “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:3).  Portraying God as a Mother, rather than a Father, reveals an underlying anti-masculinity in Young’s thought.  He wrote, “Males seem to be the cause of so much of the pain in the world. They account for most of the crime and many of those are perpetrated against women…. The world, in many ways, would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled. There would have been far fewer children sacrificed to the gods of greed and power” (148). He does not explain how this would not be a hierarchy if women “ruled” the world.

Problem Ten: Ignoring the Crucial Role of the Church in Edifying Believers
         The Shack is totally silent about the important role the community of believers plays in the life of individuals needing encouragement.  In fact there is a kind of anti-church current born of a reaction to a hypocritical, legalistic, and abusive father who was a church leader (1-3).  However, this is clearly contrary to the command of Scripture.  A bad church should not be replaced with no church but with a better church. God gave the church “pastors and teachers, to equip the saints…for building up the body of Christ…” (Eph. 4:11-12).  Paul said, “To each [one in the body] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7).  Young replaces a Bible-based church in the wildwood with a Bible-less shack in the wild. Comfort in bereavement is sought in a lonely, Bible-less, empty shack in the wilderness where one is to find comfort by heeding deceptive presentations of God. At this point several scriptural exhortations about being aware of deceiving spirits come to mind (1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1; 2 Cor. 11:14).  As for the need for a church, the Scriptures exhort us “not to forget the assembling together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).  Without the regular meeting with a body of edifying believers, proper Christian growth is inevitably stunted.

Problem Eleven: An Inclusivistic View of Who Will be Saved
         While The Shack falls short of the universalism (“All will be saved”) found in other emergent writings, it does have a wide-sweeping inclusivism whereby virtually anyone through virtually any religion can be saved apart from Christ.  According to Young,, “Jesus [said]…. ‘Those who love me come from every system that exists.  They are Buddhists or Mormons, Baptist, or Muslims,…and many who are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institution…. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians.  I have no desire to make them Christians, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa….’ ‘Does that mean…that all roads will lead to you?’  ‘Not at all…. Most roads don’t lead anywhere.  What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you’” (184).

Again, there is no biblical support for these claims.  On the contrary, the Scriptures affirm that there is no salvation apart from knowing Christ. Acts 4:12 pronounces that “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.”  1 Tim. 2:5 insists that “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”  And Jesus said, “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24).  For “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (Jn. 3:36).  And “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).

Problem Twelve: A Wrong View of Faith and Reason
        The Shack embraces an irrational view of faith. It declares: “There are times when you choose to believe something that would normally be considered absolutely irrational.  It doesn’t mean that it is actually irrational, but it is surely not rational” (64).  Even common sense informs us that this is no way to live the Christian life. The Bible says, “’Come now let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 1:18:). “Give a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15); “Paul…reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). “These were more fair-minded [because] they searched the Scriptures daily…whether these things be so” (Acts 17:11). “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God” (1 Jn. 4:1, emphasis added in above quotes).  Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and reasonable Christians would add, “The unexamined faith is not worth having.”

Problem Thirteen: It Eliminates Knowledge of God
       According to Young, God is wholly other; we can’t really know Him.  He wrote: “I am God. I am who I am.  And unlike you…” (96). “I am what some would say ‘holy and wholly other than you’” (97). “I am not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think” (97).  One basic problem with this view is that it is self-defeating.  How could we know God is “wholly other”?  Wholly other than what?  And how can we know what God is not unless we know what He is?  Totally negative knowledge of God is impossible.  Further, according to the Bible, we can know what God is really like from both general and special revelation. For “Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen…even his eternal power and Godhead…” (Rom.1:20).  As for special revelation, Jesus said, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also” (Jn. 14:7) and “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (Jn. 14:6). God does speak of Himself in His written Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and when He does it tells us something about the way He really is. His words are not deceptive but descriptive.

Problem Fourteen: It Entails Divine Deception
         According to The Shack, God is revealed in ways contrary to His nature. The Father is revealed as a black woman and having a body when He is neither. The reason given for this is that in love God revealed Himself in ways that would be acceptable to the recipient (who had a bad father image) but were not so.  But this is case of divine deception.  God is a spirit (Jn. 4:24) and He has no body (Lk. 24:39). God is never called a “Mother” in the Bible. It is deceptive to portray God’s Nature in any way that He is not, even though ones motive is loving (91-92).  A lie told with a loving motive is still a lie.  Of course, when God speaks to finite creatures He engages in adaptation to human limits but never in accommodation to human error.  Portraying God as having a black female body is like saying storks bring babies.  Young calls it a “mask” that falls away (111). But God does not have masks, and He does not masquerade.  “It is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). Paul speaks of the “God who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). It is only the Devil, the Father of lies, who engages in appearing in forms he is not. “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). To be sure, there are figures of speech in Scripture, speaking of God as a rock or a hen, but they are known to be metaphorical and not literal, since there are no immaterial rocks and God does not have feathers.

          The Shack may do well for many in engaging the current culture, but not without compromising Christian truth. The book may be psychologically helpful to many who read it, but it is doctrinally harmful to all who are exposed to it. It has a false understanding of God, the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, the nature of man, the institution of the family and marriage, and the nature of the Gospel. For those not trained in orthodox Christian doctrine, this book is very dangerous. It promises good news for the suffering but undermines the only Good News (the Gospel) about Christ suffering for us.  In the final analysis it is only truth that is truly liberating.  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).  A lie may make one feel better, but only until he discovers the truth.  This book falls short on many important Christian doctrines. It promises to transform people’s lives, but it lacks the transforming power of the Word of God (Heb. 4:12) and the community of believers (Heb. 10:25). In the final analysis, this book is not a Pilgrim’s Progress, but doctrinally speaking The Shack is more of a Pilgrim’s Regress.

*Dr. Geisler has a BA, MA, ThM, and PhD (in philosophy). He is an author of some 70 books and has taught philosophy and ethics at the College and Graduate level for fifty years. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Theology at Veritas Evangelical Seminary (www.VeritasSeminary.com). His articles and materials are available at www.normgeisler.com.