I have been going back through the archives of my blog posts from my more-or-less defunct myspace blog. I am sorting out the shorter essays and responses and putting them here. (Longer essays will eventually be at http://mblipscomb.wordpress.com and I am still putting my papers from school on http://hollerscholar.com)
I don’t think that everything is necessarily worth re-posting. Initially, I decided against re-posting this one.

Then something changed my mind.

When the book The Shack came out – it caused something of a ruckus. It seemed the Christian blogsphere was greatly divided over the book. Later, as the controversy continued – there were accusations that ‘so and so’ said that the author, William P. Young, was a closet Universalist. Young is reported to have denied this – but he has also in interviews denied what is often referred to as the “Penal Substitution” doctrine of the Atonement. Essentially, Young goes down what most would agree to be the slippery rhetorical slope of using different modes of language to express ultimately alternate ideas. Young does not like the harsh language and offensive idea that when Jesus took on the sins of the world, he was punished for them by the father, in our stead. Brian McClaren has called this “Cosmic Child Abuse”. I personally think that McClaren has pushed himself beyond the scope of Christianity by his aggressive ‘re-immaging’ of Christian doctrine. I understand that Young may have some very rhetorically nuanced understandings of the Atonement – but he does seem to put himself at odds with a classic (and I argue crucial) understanding of just exactly how Jesus saved the world and those who call on His name. I understand the desire to preserve a degree of Apophaticsm (mystery) around this doctrinal issue – but not at the loss of any necessary and revealed Cataphatic Truth. We can and should embrace and celebrate mystery – but mystery becomes self-deception when we allow what we should also celebrate as Truth to be absconded into our own personally created ‘clouds of unknowing.’

It is unfortunate that Young’s apparent dalliance with soft-universalism or neo-liberalistic Emergent theology is what it is. But – I contend- that even if Young is a Universalist, though He is a heretic, it does not mean that God cannot use him. In fact- it would be a significant misunderstanding to believe that God has *not* used the book. Because, truthfully, He has.

This brings me to my first point: We don’t have to be ‘theologically perfect’ to be used of God. I do believe that teachers will be judged by God more stringently, and that there is an impetus to seek out good theology vs. bad. But we have to be careful about jumping on the heresy hunter bandwagon – looking at ways to assault fellow believers and more or less dragging them before our ‘doctrinal purity commissions’.

I first heard of The Shack, from a close friend that I have known for almost 20 years. In those 20 years, I have seen my friend go through some pretty catastrophic situations. I will respect my friend’s privacy – and not provide any details, other than to say that they have been deeply and profoundly painful and life-altering. My friend told me that I had to read the book – and that they confessed to me that the book had created a division in their life – one that they could see their life story as being in; two parts – one before, and the other, after reading The Shack. I read the book, and found that I could not make for myself that same ‘before/after’ delineation. But this was also very telling for me.

My Second Point:  I had had no great trauma in my life – at least, insofar as that which I had witnessed in the life of my friends. I can boast of having a blessed life, thus far. In lacking any significant traumatic events, The Shack spoke differently, if not less intensely to me. This I found instructive in reading the responses of Tim Challies and others who were ‘against’ the book. I felt like I could accurately speculate that like me – they had been relatively unmolested by life itself, and had only wrestled with relatively minor inconveniences. No one had ever died in my arms. No large assembly of people had been lost into disarray based on what I had said or done or told/not told.  I had never been raped. I never walked anybody through the time of their own rape experience. The worst thing that had ever happened to me was that I was once ‘re-engineered’ out of my position at work; one that I was (by the grace of God, able to still, eventually keep). Once I had a thriving business that owned property and employed many people. Time and significant changes to the business plan saw all that change too. Many people would consider having to live in their parents basement while being in their late 30’s to be an intolerable burden & shame. I saw it as an opportunity to remember what was important. But had I ever really been shaken to the core – otherswise, The Shack would have spoken to me differently.


It is for this reason – that I decided to re-post this.

A couple of days ago – I watched a video about a rape survivor, Bridget Kelly. I watched the video and, like so many others, was touched by her remarkable story of hope amidst pain and love after suffering. Kelly was brutally raped and then shot three times by her rapist. In the video, her father tells how, though she had been wounded by three bullets, she got herself up off of the ground and walked 1000 meters, to a nearby house – where she was able to get help. Her father recalled how his daughter had told him how she had been able to get to her feet after being raped and then shot three times because she had felt that she had been lifted up by God from the ground. In the video – her father recalls how, when hearing this, he remarked, somewhat bitterly, “Where was God, 10 minutes earlier?” Bridget told her father, very calmly, “He was there – holding my hand.”

At the risk of being too humorous in writing this – I should point out the danger of watching such videos, while at lunch at work, or while in otherwise very public environments.  When I heard the words she had spoken – I instantly came close to bursting into tears. I somehow managed to hold back the urge to weep openly. Not just at what I felt was the beauty of her words, not just at my own firm conviction that in the depths of whatever hell we are going through – that God’s presence is still with us, but also in a remembrance of a similar passage in the storyline of The Shack. If Young does anything well – he shows us this reality; of God’s truly transcendent and omnipresent Presence and Love. Amid emotional and personal carnage – there is a presence; sometimes felt – but always real. In this we can believe.

My last point – is that this is why I believe The Shack is ‘here to stay’ and that it will continue to be discovered and read by generations of future readers. Many of them, like me, will not be affected so profoundly. Other, however will.


That said: the crux of Tim Challies argument against the Shack was that he did not like the fact that in The Shack – God is a black woman.


I feel no need to go through here and give all the scriptural references where God is described as both Man and Woman and then even neither. Challies calls the portrayal of God as a black woman ‘idolatry’. I disagreed. I still do.

You can watch the short video about Bridget Kelly here


a longer video from 2004 is here http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/video/2004-bridget-kellys-story-survival-16871731


-=-=-= the re-post is as follows -=-=-=-





July 4, 2008

The Shack vs T. Challies – “Inexcusable Hubris” The Idolatry Argument:Presuppositional Isogesis

This is a response to http://www.challies.com/archives/articles/quotes/quote-inexcusable-hubris.php

Tim (and others) try to argue that because the best selling book The Shack portrays God as a black woman and not explicity a man, that it is “Idolatry”

Summary – we are instructed to primarily approach God in a Masculine sense, but there are elements in the Bible that show that it is not illegal to see God from a Feminine Perspective, which is the method employed by the Shack. It is not wrong, it is just different. And different is allowed. No, we should not start worshiping God as a woman – but you can write a fictional book that employes theological truths and allows for God to manifest himself as such.


Sorry Tim, no cookie.

…your guilty of hermeneutically cherry-picking to support your Isogetical Presupositionalism…

Your right – but your also wrong, because your argument ignores the full theological context of the Word and what it says about the nature and how we can see and understand God in creating your “idolatry argument” against The Shack

This argument reminds me of a recent discussion I had with a friend who feels very strongly that women are prohibited scripturally from being in ministry leadership positions, especially from being pastors. It is my own opinion, that the arguments which are generally used for such doctrinal posturings, essentially arise from a juvenile or shallow exegesis, which is actually more-so often passive isogesis masquerading as “deep theological thinking” when in fact it is shallow and pressumptive. Allowing the full context of the scriptural voice to speak, as well as taking into account contextual relations, the arguments break down. Of course you can preach great sermons by telling people what they want to really hear and ignoring all those ‘inconvenient little details’ in leu of “smooth things” (Isaiah 30:10, Mica 2:11) . You essentially have to have an oversimplified understanding for it to work. Allowing the scripture to speak ‘with all it’s colors and subtexts’ the truth is something quite different. A good detail of this issue is the Assemblies of God position paper on Women in Ministry which goes through and – and though it does not use the terms – shows the ‘brute force isogetical presupositionalism” of those who try to argue against women in ministry. (http://www.ag.org/top/Beliefs/Position_Papers/pp_4191_women_ministry.cfm)

We have used brute force isogetical presuppositionalism to argue for Prohibition and a lot of other “isms” that fit our own securities and assumptions. Waltke is correct to remind us these truths, but if we ignore the fact that Proverbs does speak of the wisdom of God, as a woman, and that a good theological study of Gender concludes that both are mirrors into the Divine nature in respective ways – if we focus on the “emphasis” (what ever that might be) and ignore the surrounding additive and balancing contexts/essences, we will potentially inadvertently fall prey to the trap of Isogetical Presuppositionalism.

Trying to “beat the ‘Shack’ up” – a book a lot of people don’t like, just because they were told they should not like it, using this argument, seems great, but, sorry guys – you are creating a straw man argument, and you are pushing yourselves into KJVonly-like mentality territory employing weak arguements like this. Armchair theologians and some parisioners will cheer you on – but the Word is always the final authority – and your arguement is not airtight. The counterbalances of the scripture are there and you have to acknowledge them in this situation to speak correction against this sort of heavy handed handling. When you ignore the full context and voice of scripture then you risk making yourself a liar – because the Word will always be self- authenticating, self-balancing, and TRUE.

The truth is – most of you here, don’t like the book and you never will. A couple of you will read it, and you will find a sovereign God that used something unexpected to change your life and possibly even heal you. A smaller percentage of you will have the ‘brave humility’ to break rank and say – “I was wrong.” If you are a member of this small minority who allowed the Word to break through previous isogetical-political/cultural assumptions and operative norms, then contrary to what people will tell you – you have the makings of a true student of the Word, even a great theologian – because you have accepted and implemented a radical manifestation of truly allowing the Word of God to manifest it’s Lordship in your life, at the potential cost of your pride, and potentially, even the respect and acceptance of your peers. And personally – if God is really calling you into ministry, then, I beleive, this will happen to you in some dimension or other. God will test you to see who you are really following, The “Religious Bandwagon” – or His Word.

Remember guys, Calvinism is “all about the Sovereignty of God” and if you actually believe that – it means that God can use stuff like this book to do tremendous things for the kingdom of God.

Respectfully Submitted,


matthew lipscomb