Some Considerations Regarding “The Shack”

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A Sincere and Honest Response to my Friends…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received a number of messages from people I love and appreciate about my misgivings and opposition to The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William P. Young, and the recent film based on this work of fiction.

Right out of the box, I want to make clear that I have no problem with fictional books based on Christian themes. I’ve spent many joyful hours enjoying the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and numerous other Christian authors. In most cases, these works touch on Christian theological themes lightly, and deal with the deeper issues of faith and Christian belief in ways that respect the diverse views of mainstream orthodoxy. The Shack, however, crosses a dangerous line, in my view.

I read the book when it first came out, and was moved by the emotional themes it dealt with. As a pastor, I often dealt with the pain and sorrows of my congregation who experienced deeply troubling times of loss and painful circumstances. The protagonist in the book, Mack, seemed to address those struggles in meaningful and honest ways. The struggle to understand God in the midst of pain is common to us all at one time or another.

To my shame, I even recommended it to several others. Further theological education over the past ten years, however, have awakened me to a greater understanding of certain doctrinal issues that are frankly, dangerous to the spiritual health of God’s people, and reinforces a twisted understanding of God in the minds of unbelievers. While many “Christian-themed” fictional works promote theological errors that are more or less benign, The Shack is dealing with what I would call “Nuclear Material.”

There are many things I could bring out to explain my perspective, but the truth is, my time is extremely limited right now. However, I located a good source in the audio below that touches on most of the things I would say. This is an interview with James B. De Young, author of Burning Down ‘The Shack’: How the ‘Christian’ bestseller is deceiving millions. De Young was a close associate with William Young, and brings a unique and clear perspective on where The Shack is coming from. It’s not a pretty story, and you need to know it.

Many will simply yawn and ignore this, and even pass along the book or encourage people to see the film. Others, perhaps because you’ve already staked-out a favorable position regarding it, will be tempted to take offense and seek to refute me and discredit my discernment. I BEG YOU… DON’T. Please take the time to listen to this important message by clicking above. If I hold any credibility in your life, PLEASE pay attention to this. This book and film isn’t just your “garden variety” form of heresy. It’s a well-packaged ‘doctrines of demons’ BOMB that is deceiving millions of people.

 

The Protestant Reformation, Part Two

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In this second installment of my series on the Reformation, we explore the theological foundations behind the hyper-religious system Luther and the other Reformers wrestled with. This system makes God’s salvation conditional upon the keeping of sacraments, doing penance, and obtaining “merit” from the mythical “treasury of merit” and “indulgences” that the popes dole out for a price to people to offset their sins.

Luther’s 95 Thesis’ posted on the Wittenberg Castle Church door attacked this unscriptural belief and sparked a theological revolution.

Click the arrow below to hear the streaming audio.

      The Reformation Part 2 - Dr. Bruce R. Porter

Apostasy and Heresy

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By: Bruce R Porter, D.Div.

In our times, any discussion related to apostasy and heresy is often met with dismissive eye-rolling derision. “How arcane and mean-spirited!” some will say. “Why can’t we all just be nice and get along with everybody? Besides, it’s just not loving to make people upset or uncomfortable just because they don’t see things the same way as you do.”

I could wholeheartedly agree if we lived in a universe where truth and falsehood are simply little curiosities. This is not the case, however. There is overwhelming evidence that truth and lies, good and evil, right and wrong are actual realities, and carry serious consequences.

Sometimes the effects are minor, such as someone lying to us about driving directions, or their real age, or how much they paid for something. In other situations, like people who lie to us about financial investments, or a doctor with fake credentials performing surgery on our child or us, etc., consequences can be severe.

Perhaps the greatest damage people endure is the harm done by those who give us misleading or false information relating to our immortal souls. There are those who subscribe to the false idea that it doesn’t matter what one believes about God or His word as long as you are “sincere” about what you believe. Such persons would find the company of men like the apostle Paul, or Jude, or Peter, (or name your favorite Early Church Father) very awkward and uncomfortable. These guys took accuracy and Veritas very seriously indeed!

From the earliest years of its existence, the church has struggled with heresies promoted by false brethren (apostates) as described by Jude, verse 4. Even in our day, some of these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” can be found preaching every Sunday from our nation’s pulpits!

For certain men have crept in unnoticed,
who long ago were marked out
for this condemnation, ungodly men,
who turn the grace of our God into lewdness
and deny the only Lord God
and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m convinced that we live in an era of increasing apostasy and heresy. TheWOLFEN2 two terms are somewhat synonymous, but it will be helpful to distinguish them. Apostasy means a falling away from the truth. Specifically, a Christian apostate may be understood as anyone who once professed a belief in the Truth of God and later rejected it. These can often be won back through a patient sharing of the Truth and prayer. Apostasy at its core is a rebellion against God because it is a rebellion against Truth—particularly orthodox biblical Truth. (I am purposely capitalizing “Truth” to emphasize absolute reality as revealed by God through His holy bible.)

While most people tend to over-simplify an apostate as someone who once believed in God and then became an atheist, this is not a complete picture of what happened in church history or is now happening in our times. Apostates today are departing from long-standing orthodoxy and introducing heresies (false teachings) into the church that are damaging or destroying the faith and testimony of many of Christ’s flock. The earliest church records reveal that nearly all the early church leadership was involved in theological battles with those who were seeking to harm the faith and witness of people.

For there must also be factions among you,
in order that those who are approved
may have become evident among you.

1 Cor. 11:19

There have been a multitude of heresies rolled out over the centuries. Identifying heresy is painfully difficult because it often depends upon who is pointing the finger. Also, heresy often disguises itself as orthodoxy. Heretics often operate like a chameleon, blending into the background—a shape-shifter—that appears on the surface as a cutting-edge teacher of “fresh revelation” or “deeper insight” into the Christian faith. However, in nearly every case, they are only rolling out a repackaged version 2.0.1 of the same old heresies and curveball deceptions as dealt with by the earliest church leaders.

Champaigne,_Philippe_de_-_Saint_Augustin_-_1645-1650From the early days of the church, heresies, like fireballs from siege machines, have been hurled at the defensive walls of Christianity. The war rages to this day. The problem with most heretical teachings is they often seem right, until carefully scrutinized under the searchlight of holy scripture and learned scholarship. The only way we can hope to discern truth from falsehood is by prayer and diligent study of the scriptures, along with a grasp of church history, a working knowledge of systematic theology, and the writings of the reliable church fathers all the way back to the New Testament itself. If we lack–for whatever reason–these analytical tools in our personal discernment toolboxes, we would be wise if we seek out and give heed to those who do possess these skills.

Sadly in our times, spiritual discernment is often considered mean-spirited and ungracious, and those who exercise it are marginalized and considered “killjoys” or “that guy” behind their backs. Certainly, there are those who are so obsessed about error that they cannot appreciate what is good. This is the ditch off the side of the road we might call “hyper-critical.” However, I suspect it is less harmful than the ditch on the other side of the road I would term as “hyper-naiveté.”

Paul and the other apostles, as well as the early Church Fathers, had their hands full as they dealt with the emerging heresies of their times, and we can easily read of their struggles. I list here just a few of the false teachings they wrestled against, with a short comment revealing the significant errors they promote. See if you can recognize any that are being served up under new labels in our times.

Arianism – Taught that Jesus was a created being, like an angel, and, therefore, was not co-equal and eternally existent with the Father. Some Arians also taught that the Holy Spirit was created by Jesus.

Docetism – Is the belief that Jesus’ physical body was only an illusion, and only seemed to be a physical body. As an incorporeal spirit, Jesus could not physically die, so his crucifixion and resurrection were only an illusion.

Gnosticism – Teaches the dualism of equally powerful good and evil and the need for “secret knowledge” to understand it. According to the Gnostics, matter is evil, deliverance from material form was attainable only through “special” knowledge revealed by special Gnostic teachers. Christ was the divine Redeemer who descended from the spiritual realm to reveal the knowledge necessary for this redemption.

Marcionism – An O.T. “evil God” and a N.T.“good God.” Only 11 books in the Canon

Pelagianism – Man is personally unaffected by Adam’s fall and able by his “free will” to keep God’s laws. Therefore, man is entirely responsible to believe and save himself.

Semi-Pelagianism – Man’s free will and God’s grace cooperate to save men. No matter how much God gives grace, man has the veto and if saved, has the responsibility to “stay saved.”

More recently, we are witnessing the emergence of ver. 2.1.0 upgraded heresies such as “Open Theism.” According to Theopedia; “Open theism, also called “free will theism” and “openness theology,” is the belief that God does not exercise meticulous control of the universe but leaves it “open” for humans to make significant choices (free will) that impact their relationships with God and others. A corollary of this is that God has not predetermined the future. Open Theists further believe that this would imply that God does not know the future exhaustively. Proponents affirm that God is omniscient, but deny that this means that God knows everything that will happen.”

This belief system denies one of the orthodox and long-accepted essential attributes of God, such as His omniscience, or God’s complete knowledge of all things past, present, and future. It teaches that God is somehow “learning” new things as men exercise their “free will.” This has been repeatedly condemned by church councils over the centuries as a heretical teaching.

head-in-the-sandMany theologically uneducated Christians in our times—including many preachers, unfortunately—cavalierly dismiss the importance of understanding and being aware of heresies, and we often hear Christians say things like, “What difference does it make? Why be so negative? As long as you’re sincere and love Jesus, that’s all that matters!” To be sure, our brethren in previous centuries took these theological errors very seriously, and labored long hours in prayer, study, and in learned councils to discern between truth and error. They knew the critical importance of holding to Truth in a world bent on deception.

Another popular heresy arising in our times is the “Emergent Church” movement. This cult advocates a radical departure from orthodox belief and fidelity to Scripture for a spirituality based upon “practices” and “spiritual formation.” They promote a superior mystical “knowledge” over scripture, as touted by one of their leaders, Brian McLaren, in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy. They downplay objective Biblical Truth for “experiences” with God in contemplative prayer. They minimize the place of Jesus Christ as the “only way, truth, and life.” In the name of “grace” and “open-mindedness,” many of the Emergents embrace homosexuality, giving young people the false idea that they can somehow indulge in sexual lust and still regard themselves as Christians. Material or physical behaviors are downplayed while “spiritual formation” is celebrated. Can anyone say; Gnosticism?

The next time someone appeals for “unity over Truth,” or “kindness over godly reproof,” or “tolerance over biblical accuracy,” perk up your ears and raise your discernment antennae. You’re about to enter a town called “Deception” where shadows and “gray areas” obscure the bright light of Truth; where people eschew disagreements and controversies for peaceful harmony and peace. It’s a rapidly growing town populated by those who have chosen the broad and easy road, far off the narrow beaten path. It’s a place just beyond city limits of the small township called “Discernment” found only in a particular realm better known as;

Twilight Zone

How We Got Our English Bibles

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The story of how the bible came to be translated from the ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek is fascinating, to say the very least. It is especially interesting to learn how our modern English translations came down to us, and how the Roman Catholic Church fought so many centuries to prevent ordinary believers from possessing the scriptures, especially in their own language. The Roman church insisted on the Latin Vulgate translation as the ONLY authorized translation, yet only the most educated persons could even read it if one could be obtained, which was nearly impossible.

This English Bible History Article & Timeline is ©2013 by author & editor: John L. Jeffcoat III. Special thanks are also given to Dr. Craig H. Lampe for his valuable contributions to the text. This page may be freely reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, in print or electronically, under the one condition that prominent credit must be given to “WWW.GREATSITE.COM” as the source.

The embedded recording (below) is a great summary of the history of that struggle, and how God was so faithful to get His word to His people, in spite of horrendous persecutions. Enjoy!

      English Bible History

On Loving Muslims, Hating Islam

By: Bruce R. Porter, D.D.

Regarding the Ft. Hood Terrorist attack, I’ll put my cards on the table.

I LOVE Muslims, and regard them as precious human beings who are caught up in the most dangerous, violent, manipulative, and delusional cult in the history of mankind. Islam is a hateful political/military ideology cloaking itself as a “religion” and it is an evil LIE.  On the basis of overwhelming historical evidence, and the writings and testimony contained in the Qu’ran and the Hadith (Islam’s “holy” books) Mohammed was a delusional psychopath–a vile, hateful, violent man, and an admitted pedophile.

Now, I realize that such a statement will be regarded as “over the top” by those who have bought-into the “politically correct” lie that Islam is a legitimate “religion of peace” founded by an inspired “holy man,” and therefore is above criticism. (It’s a pity that such deferential attitudes do not apply when Christianity or Judaism is discussed.) I also realize that by daring to speak the truth so plainly about this violent cult, I’ve earned the scorn of many of my deluded Christian and Jewish friends, and a death sentence in the minds of those who are devoted to following this lunatic and his incoherent rants. I must nevertheless speak the truth. For those who are offended by the above statement, I challenge you to read some of the disgusting stories and words of Mohammed himself, quoted from Islam’s own “holy books.” These quotes can be found at an excellent website: http://prophetofdoom.net

Those who know me well are aware of the many frequent-flyer miles I’ve racked-up over the past decade responding to various places like New York City after 9/11, Beslan, Russia, Israel, and the Philippines where Islamic miscreants have done their dirty work. Thus, you know of my struggles. I’ll be the first to admit that witnessing the horrific things committed in the name of the “religion of peace” have left a mark upon my soul. Some former Christian associates and pastors have “written me off” in recent years because they consider me “too negative” or “not a good fit” with their congregations.

Guilty as charged. I’ve ministered in places and seen things few dare even contemplate, let alone go to (and kudos to those individuals and churches who do). I’m certainly not a “good fit” in churches where the shepherds preoccupy themselves with “comforting the comforted” and making sure no-one is offended by anything too controversial. After all, there’s a payment due on the church mortgage, and a payroll to meet. The “sheeple” must be “protected” from “negative thoughts” and the harsher realities of a “sinful world” lest they become alarmed and their faith-confessions hindered in their pursuit of health, wealth, and earthly happiness. I can almost hear the angels weeping over the pathetic state of His church.

Our Messiah was a confronter, not a comforter of evil. Some of His teachings and actions were harsh, and He minced no words regarding religious oppression. He was also a brilliant tactical warrior. He did not directly attack the politics of His times, but struck at the root cause of all politics—the hearts of men. He knew that the evil one was only able to gain control of politics when people were blinded to the truth and spiritually corrupted.

“WHAT ABOUT FORGIVING OUR ENEMIES?”

But I say unto you,
Love your enemies,
bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven:
for He maketh His sun to rise on
the evil
and on the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and on
the unjust.
(Matthew 5:44-45 KJV)

Of all Yeshua’s teachings, the one above ranks as one of the most difficult. For centuries, people have struggled with the issue of forgiveness and the concept of loving one’s enemies. As with most things, it’s easier to say than to actually do.

You may have noticed that I’ve emphasized the words “the evil” and “the unjust” in the quote above. This is deliberate, for even though Yeshua commanded His followers to forgive and bless their enemies, He did not deny the existence of evil or unjust men.

I feel entirely justified to HATE evil. I also HATE ideologies that oppress, enslave, or otherwise force people to live in poverty, fear, and hopelessness. I DETEST political/religious, systems that prevent people from discovering TRUTH and even kill or imprison those who try. I also despise concepts that teach children that TRUTH is merely a relativistic “opinion,” in order to make them more susceptible to lies and deception. It is right to forgive those who commit evil. It is NEVER right to forgive evil itself.

I have often said that the first victim of Islam is the Moslem. In my travels I’ve met many Moslems, and in the case of those who are not fully indoctrinated into (and radicalized by) the Qu’ran and the Hadith, I have found them warm, gracious, caring people. However, such persons are not fully obedient Moslems, according to the Qu’ran and the Hadith. I have also met former Moslems, who found peace through faith in Yeshua, and their stories and testimonies have moved me deeply. In fact, I am aware that many Moslems are turning away from Islam and embracing Yeshua, not merely as an Islamic “prophet,” but as He actually is: the Messiah of the whole world. They are some of the most courageous people in the world, for to turn away from Islam to Christianity or Judaism means an automatic death sentence.

People who are living under the oppression of fundamentalist Islamic rule groan under the cruel boot of Mohammed’s rants. We in the West can scarcely comprehend the terrors endured by women and children under sharia (Islamic) law. Because we cannot comprehend, we ignore. It is disgusting to behold so many otherwise intelligent people in government, academia, and the “snooze media” who are constantly braying about how Islam is a “religion of peace.” Such ignorance is breathtaking. Our President crows as often as opportunity allows about the “great contributions” Islam has given to the world. Contributions indeed. Nearly 1,600 years of beheadings, genital mutilation of women, terrorism, oppression and murder of non-Muslims, and religious intolerance of any other faith.

THE FT. HOOD MASSACRE WAS NOT THE WORK OF A MADMAN

We are now being told by our President, and virtually every organ of the government, that Major Nidal Hassan was not an Islamic terrorist. Obama proffered that he must have “snapped.” Our top military leaders, fearful of their careers, echo this nonsense. The “snooze media” parrot this line as much as they calculate they can get away with it, and logic is being “waterboarded” to convince us that Islamists are all followers of a “peaceful religion” and there really are no jihadists among us. As the evidence piles up that this man had openly expressed his hatred of America, and his views of Islam’s mandate to kill infidels, and the fact that he declared in Arabic that “Allah is Greater” as he mercilessly shot unarmed soldiers, more and more excuses are offered by those who choose to be “politically correct” rather than honest. Major Hassan was acting with perfect consistancy with the teachings of Islam. The greater guilt may fall upon those who are abysimally (and in some cases, willfully) ignorant of those teachings and seek to exonerate this terrorist.

My dear Christian and Jewish friends… PLEASE inform yourself about this dangerous cult, and do all you can to inform others. DO NOT HATE MOSLEMS! They are ultimately victims of this evil scourge, and we must do all we can to help them to see the light of God’s (The God of Israel) love and forgiveness in the Messiah Yeshua.

Looking at The Snake

So the LORD sent poisonous snakes among them,

and many of them were bitten and died.

Then the people came to Moses and cried out,

“We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you.

Pray that the LORD will take away the snakes.”

So Moses prayed for the people.

Then the LORD told him,

“Make a replica of a poisonous snake

and attach it to the top of a pole.

Those who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!”

So Moses made a snake out of bronze

and attached it to the top of a pole.

Whenever those who were bitten

looked at the bronze snake, they recovered!

(Numbers 21:6-9 NLT)

 

I have always regarded the above scripture with a certain amount of amazement and awe. In the first place, it declares that the Lord sent poisonous snakes among His own people. Many of them died, and no-doubt the victims included young and old, women and children. The people declared their guilt, confessed their sin, and begged Moses to intercede with the Lord to remove the serpents.

 

These verses are troubling, and over the years I have heard many teachers and preachers labor long over them trying to explain away what seems to be the Lord’s personal and active participation in the act of bringing such a horrible calamity upon His own people. Other preachers simply ignore these verses, or gloss over them in a way that implies that the “lord” referenced in this passage is actually the devil, and the translation is suspect.

 

The Hebrew text is clear. ” וַיְשַׁלַּח יְהוָה בָּעָם, אֵת הַנְּחָשִׁים

“Yahweh gave the people the snakes.”  Not the devil, but Yahweh. Can you see how this is an extremely controversial and troubling verse, especially to contemporary Christians who are constantly told by preachers that God only allows “good” things to happen to His people (according to man’s estimation of what is “good“)?

 

A disclaimer is needed here

People tend to be offended by verses like the ones above and expect that some mitigating interpretation must be offered whenever they are shared. A plain reading seems to imply that God is cruel and a murderer. He certainly is not! All His deeds, however harsh they may seem to us from our incredibly limited perspective, are wrought in loving-kindness, mercy, and love.

 

Notice how God is both kind and severe.

He is severe to those who disobeyed,

but kind to you as you continue to trust in his kindness…

(Romans 11:22 NLT)

 

In an ultimate sense, everything God does or allows to happen is focused entirely on the ultimate blessing, joy, fulfillment, healing, and redemption of His Children. However, His ways and means are not easily understood or appreciated by us, especially when we’re hurting, or when something happens that throws our world into chaos.

 

Job (another book of the bible many avoid) suffered horribly with losses that stagger the imagination. He was clear about two things. He knew that God had allowed these calamities in his life, and secondly, he knew that God was entirely trustworthy and had his ultimate good and blessing at heart.

 

His wife did not share Job’s gift of patience and trust in God.

 

His wife said to him,

“Are you still trying to maintain your integrity?

Curse God and die.”

But Job replied, “You talk like a godless woman.

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God

and never anything bad?”

So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.

(Job 2:9-10 NLT)

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. 
(Job 13:15a NKJV)

 

Yahweh didn’t remove the snakes 

The people repented and asked Moses to pray that God would take away the snakes. The Lord didn’t remove them. In fact, they continued to be bitten. Imagine the terror they experienced–afraid to walk, or lay down and sleep at night–for fear that the snakes would bite them or their children.

 

After Moses prayed, the Lord gave them yet another snake–a very special one. He told Moses to fashion a bronze snake and put it on a pole. The people were told to look at it, and anyone who did would be healed of snakebites. Think about this! The snakes were still there, biting the people. The people had to take their eyes off their problem (the deadly snakes) and look UP at the bronze snake on the pole! Imagine the raw faith it took to look up at the serpent on the pole with deadly snakes slithering around their feet.

 

The Lord was using this event for a much larger purpose.

It was for OUR instruction and admonition.

 

And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness,

so I, the Son of Man, must be lifted up on a pole,

so that everyone who believes in me will have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him

will not perish but have eternal life.

(John 3:14-16 NLT)

 

 What am I saying? We live in a world full of snakes. God hasn’t removed them, we’re still hassled by them, and no amount of wishing otherwise or praying will change that. Certainly we experience victories over the brokenness of this present world, as the Lord leads us, just as Moses and the Israelites did. (Walking on dry land in the midst of the Red Sea and bread falling out of the sky were pretty amazing miracles, right?) But that didn’t mean that painful situations didn’t pop up now and then, yet each of them was meant for our good.

 

What is amazing to me is that the Redeemer had to become a snake Himself on the pole, in the image of that old serpent, Lucifer, and became Himself a curse FOR US. Yeshua essentially became a snake FOR US, in our place. Even though we live in a fallen, evil world, and we are vexed by one form or another of “venomous snakes” all around us, we have only to “look up” to the serpent on the pole and LIVE! It takes a lot of faith to take our eyes off the snakes in our lives and look to Jesus.

 

Please understand, I am not speaking disrespectfully of our Messiah. In fact, this revelation of His amazing grace only makes me want to fall before Him in adoration! What love! What compassion! What mercy! To think that He came down from heaven, laid aside His divine privileges, and took the form not only of the lowest servant, but actually became one with us in our utter degradation and vile estate, is beyond comprehension. Now we enjoy eternal life, peace with God, and eternal hope that NOTHING can take away from us. We’ve looked upon the “serpent on the pole” and the power of sin is broken!

 

The power of this revelation is embedded in our world in many ways. Even the medical community is identified by the image of a serpent on a pole! Look at the side of almost any ambulance. It is the universal symbol of healing!

 

Let’s look afresh and gaze intently upon HIM who gave himself a ransom for our sin. As the world rages around us and nations fall into prophetically foretold chaos and madness, let’s look unto Him and receive healing from the snakes all around us. We are victors in the here and now, and death has no power over us!