Sometimes it is easy to tell the difference between the truth and dangerous lies. Other times, it takes practiced discernment to see the difference. I do not claim to have a highly tuned gift of discernment, but with the help of Scripture and others who have gone before me, I can recognized when truth has been tainted with lies. The most dangerous lies are the ones that we cannot tell where the truth ends and the lie begins. There are elements of truth that draw us in, often followed by distorted truth that still sounds good. The problem is that distorted truth is not truth. When you look into a curved mirror at a carnival, is the reflection you see a true image of yourself?
If you want to understand truth, you have to start with a standard to base all other truth on. If there is no standard of truth, then there is no agreement on what truth is. The standard of truth on the road is the law concerning motor transportation and highways. It states that driving in speeds over the posted limit is illegal, and that is the truth that speeding ticket are based upon. The fine you are required is a true fine, not imagined, and it traces its roots back to the law that is the basis of its truth.
The Bible is the gold standard for truth. If you do not believe that The Bible is true, then we are not likely to come to any form of agreement beyond the above paragraphs. I wrote a blog post in 2011 that focused on my belief in The Bible as fully true, and you can read it here. There was even the beginning of a discussion around it. Since I believe The Bible is the gold standard of truth, I think it’s a good place to go to understand lies and deception as well.
Sin Entered The World Through One Of The Most Dangerous Lies
And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”
Genesis 2:16-17 (HCSB)
“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Genesis 3:4-5 (HCSB)
The most dangerous lies contain partial truths. The Deceiver knows that and has been using that tactic since The Garden. “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was some truth in that statement. “You will be like God,” is where there was a distorted truth. Adam and Eve were already like God. They were created in His image. The truth was that they would “certainly die” when they ate from that one tree.
Truth May Not Always Be Obvious
You might wonder how I can say that was truth if they went on living, but it’s all there. God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27). God cannot sin because He cannot do anything contrary to His nature (2 Timothy 2:13); Sin is falling short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), so God cannot sin because that would mean that He falls short of His own glory. So, if man was created in His image, then man was created without sin. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they defied God. They fell short of the glory of God. They sinned. God cannot sin. The image of God cannot sin. The image of God within man died the moment they disobeyed. “…on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”
I hope that gives you a little bit of insight into the Truth of The Word of God (The Bible), and the nature of deception and its relation to the truth. The original corruption of man started with a partial truth that was shaken together with the ultimate lie. You are not what God created you to be. That’s really what the serpent was saying. “You will be like God.” They were already like God. They were created in His image.
I’ve been struggling with how to word the following part of this post. I wrote it last night, and then let it sit over night while I prayed for God to guide me. My goal is never to anger others, but I also cannot skirt the issue. I’ve had four conversations this week that led to me writing this post, and they all had very different flavors. The topic of conversation was all the same though. The Shack.
The first conversation was not much of a conversation. I just listened as woman who’s been a follower of Christ longer than I’ve been alive talked about her excitement after going to see the movie. As her conversation with the others I was sitting with progressed, I could not resist the urge to interrupt and express my disagreement. Beyond that disagreement, the only other thing I could say had to do with WM. Paul Young’s stance on faith and his universalist perspective.
Following that first “conversation,” I spent some time with the guys I was sitting with, digging into some more of the issues I have with a book that I have not read and a movie that I do not plan to see. Some of that conversation was about Young’s universalist views, but it was mostly about the issue that I have with wrapping God The Father and The Holy Spirit in an image of flesh for the purpose of story. It doesn’t matter how hard anyone tries, a theatrical depiction of The Father and Holy Spirit will always come up short, and those shortcomings become a point of separation between us and our Creator. A false image of God is even more dangerous than a false image of oneself.
Yesterday, I received a text message asking if anyone wanted to go to see The Shack. My response was simple: “No, but I’d be willing to have a conversation about why not.” The only other message about The Shack in that thread was from another friend who sent a link to a review of The Shack by Tim Challies. I have also read some of his other articles that you can find here: “The Shack” by William P. Young. Why I Won’t Be Seeing (or Reviewing) The Shack Movie. What Does The Shack Really Teach? “Lies We Believe About God” Tells Us.
It seems as though people who love the book and/or movie do not have an interest in having discussions about it that might change their mind about it. I ran into this about a month ago when I tried to show someone just how anti-biblical much of the book really is, especially in regards to who God is. Later in the day yesterday, I was beginning to get frustrated and said off the cuff to a friend, “I don’t understand the obsession that so many Christians have with The Shack.” That comment led into a very short conversation that ended with him saying, “Let’s agree to disagree.”
I Am Concerned
I have had a difficult time articulating why The Shack is such a dangerous piece of art. Maybe that’s because I haven’t read it. Maybe it’s because I do not like confrontation. Whatever the case may be, I cannot get around the concern that I have. The Shack has become one of the most popular fiction books and movies for Christians recent months. They rave about how it gave them a new perspective on God and helped them work through some of their own personal issues. The book has been passed on to other believers dealing with pain as well as unbelievers who might make a step towards God through it. Churches rent entire theaters to watch the movie together and pastors have given cases of the book away.
But there is also a gentle rumble in the opposite direction. The book has been dissected and compared to Scripture by scholars and other pastors. Some Christians have boycotted the movie and encouraged others to do the same. The author has even written another book that clears up a lot of uncertainty about his own beliefs.
What Is Popular Is Not Always True
Why has this book and subsequent movie become so popular within The Church? Most of what I’ve read about it point to it as heresy, or ambiguous about the truth of God at the very least. I think it has become so popular because it attempts to make the unknowable understandable (Isaiah 55:8-9). It was written in an engaging form of fiction with just enough truth in it to not throw any red flags up for the unsuspecting Christian reader. I have deep concerns for people who rave about the book and are excited about the movie. I cringe when I hear someone say that it was a life-changing book for them.
If I didn’t read The Shack, so why am I concerned with what other people get out of it? The Shack is a fiction book based on partial truths and distorted emotions about God. Whether it was meant to draw you closer to God, help you heal some kind of hurt, or just for pure entertainment, filling your mind with what is written throughout the pages and displayed on the movie screen will affect how you see God.
You are treading through dangerous territory when you allow something that does not line up with the Truth of Scripture affect your view of God. What is found in The Shack touches briefly on some Truth and then twists emotional lies into a story line that makes you feel like you are face to face with God. If you want to be face to face with God, then start with His Word. When you listen to others talk about God, trace it back to His Word. Learn to discern the Truth from lies by impressing the Word of God on your heart.
I am concerned with the blind popularity of The Shack among The Church. It’s a harmless fiction book. That’s what some people tell me. Others tell me that it gave them a completely new perspective on God. Is this newfound perspective in line with the Truth of The Bible? We need to be vigilant when feeding our minds and hearts with anything outside of Scripture. Even if it is just entertainment, it still affects our perspectives and beliefs. We need to be careful what we recommend to others as well. Let me make this point again, very clear: A false image of God is even more dangerous than a false image of oneself.
* [Edited] Note: A good friend of mine cautioned me about taking a stance based on the opinions of others. Since I have not read the book myself, I am basing any argument on second-hand information. That would be like telling people to believe everything I say about the Bible without going to read it themselves. That being said, I have ordered a copy of The Shack and will write an update to this post when I have finished reading it.
** [Edited]You can find the follow-up here: What Is Truth (Finally Following Up)