The Shack, Book of Mormon, Master & Margarita, and Chronicles of Narnia

Some have asked me to comment on the recent release of the movie version of the fantasy novel The Shack written by William Young. In order to do that, I must lay the framework for all religious-themed fantasy works by asking the following questions: 1) How much biblical truth is depicted in the work? 2) How close to the biblical narrative is the work? 3) Does the imagery or narrative cause unnecessary confusion about the Bible? 4) Do the characters paint a heretical version of the character of God?

When I was young, I read C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and told the series was an allegory about Christianity much like the classic Pilgrim’s Progress. When I was a young pastor, I was encouraged by some Mormon missionaries to read the Book of Mormon and explore my emotions that arose from the reading. When I was in Russia, I was asked to read Bulgakov’s The Master & Margarita to explore themes of God’s forgiveness and Satan’s benevolence. On a sliding scale, I would probably rank those books also in that order from benign to malignant. Even though my lost Russian friends told me Bulgakov’s work featured a false version of Christ, they said it had redemptive truth to help you know that God will ultimately forgive everyone, including Satan. Even though representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said I would know the truth of Joseph Smith’s writings by the warm spiritual emotions that would arise in me, I found very little representation of mainstream Christianity. Even though I enjoyed Lewis’s attempt to allegorize Jesus as a lion who would be killed and resurrected, I found no reason to put my trust in a gospel according to Lewis any more than the gnostic Gospel of Judas.

Through the years, many writers have taken artistic license to employ biblical imagery but tell a different story. Jesus Christ Superstar won the hearts of 1970s hippies. Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven tells a story when played in both directions, while AC/DC’s Highway to Hell is straightforward. Bono sounds great when he cries about still not finding what he’s looking for. But these creative works have no more Christian truth than the allusions to Christ found in Mohammed’s Koran.

So, what about The Shack? Does it depict biblical truth or just allusions to a Trinity? How close does it come to actually following a biblical narrative? After reading the book or watching the movie, is the reader/viewer left with a different image of God than that which the Bible explicitly says? I’ll let you answer those questions for yourself, but just make sure you actually read the Bible to inform your conclusion. 

And is it proper for a Christian to use artistic fantasy like Master & Margarita, The Shack, Stairway to Heaven or Highway to Hell, or Jesus Christ Superstar to convey a cloaked message along the medium of emotion? Should a Christian use false religions’ writings or even satanic literature to bring up discussions about the true Jesus? For me, it would be like using monopoly money to teach a kid about how many rubles will buy a loaf of bread in Russia: fantasy. There may be a lot of emotion in holding the pink, blue and green paper by Hasbro, but that’s just a game. 

SERMON NOTES (Oct 30, 2016): Until That Day - Matt 26:29

Until That Day- Matthew 26:29
Introduction: August 24, 1916 – Spurgeon preached.
I.                    A Promised Abstention
 “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine”

Cf. Matt 27:34 - they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.

A.      Giving up comfort- what’s a little suffering for the sake of fellowship with Christ?  Phil 3:8 - More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

B.      Being Sober minded – 1 Peter 5:8-  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

II.                  An Definitive Expectation
“from now on until that day”

This point…that day

What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

III.                A Faith in Resurrection
“when I drink it new with you”

A.      Marriage Supper of the Lamb
Rev 19:6-9 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Heb 11:19 Abraham considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.

B.      Paul said without resurrection our faith is meaningless and our preaching is in vain. I Cor 15.

C.      With you- Lo I am with you always- His desire to be w/ us.

IV.                An Eternal Dominion/Destination
“in My Father’s kingdom”

Spurgeon said, “Because He had more work to do”
We have more work to do in winning souls. Great Commission. As we remember, let’s not wait. As we celebrate, let’s not hesitate. As we honor this moment, let’s not make excuses to throw aside the high calling of the the Father’s Kingdom.

Matt 28: 18-20 All Authority… therefore Go.

SERMON NOTES (Oct 16, 2016): Leaving with Grace - Gen 47:27-31

Leaving with Grace – Gen 47:27-31

There comes a time in everyone’s life (date – dash – date) where it is appointed unto man once to die. ILL. Marathon – finishing well.
     1.       God’s Provision - our Needs (vs 27-28)
Story: How Much Land Does a Man Need? Leo Tolstoy
3 things we really want the Lord to provide up to death:
·         Needs for Life vs. Wants in Life
Remember Jacob’s famine – moved to Egypt via Joseph’s blessing.

·         Length of Life – “147 Years” cf. Ps. 90:10; Ex 20:12
o    As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.
– Ps 90:10
o    “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” – Ex 20:12
Remember Esau’s threats – Jacob could have been killed when he met up with his brother whom he had cheated.

·         Hope in Life through Family
Remember Joseph’s slavery- thought his favorite son was dead; found him.
God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. – Phil 4:19
App. What do you think you really need in life? What provision have you arranged for your family in your death? Financial? Relational? Daddy’s request: “always love each other”

Transition- Humility: Set in 1876, The Last Samurai “No, I will tell you how he lived.”

      2.       God’s Preparation - our Trust (vs 29-30)

·         Family Covenant – hand under thigh
Question:  What covenants have you made with your family beyond financial provision? Daddy’s request: “take care of your mama” “always love each other”
·         Final Arrangements – witness
Question:  What witness of the Gospel have you left for your children/grandchildren? Do they know your testimony? What arrangements have you made for your funeral?
App. Have you witnessed to your loved ones?

Transition: Graveyard. Don’t let your epitaph be only what’s written on your gravestone facing east. Let it be your spiritual covenant of trust with your family.
      3.       God’s Promise - our Legacy (vs 31)
·         Oath- Jacob made Joseph promise.

·         Worship- prayerful memorable worship together.

·         Place- at the head of the bed. Place my Daddy brought my brother and me often was into his study. It was a holy place, dedicated to serving God and making decisions…

Conclusion: Brooks & Dunn – struggle with death & dying: Believe.