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The Shack, by William P. Young, has taken the country by storm – to date selling more than one million copies largely on the strength of word-of-mouth marketing. It’s a novel about a man’s encounter with God while he attempts to deal with “The Great Sadness” that has entered his life. The sadness is the loss of his child.

The Shack is a publishing phenomenon (beginning with a $200 marketing budget and books shipped from a friend’s garage) and has so far generated more than one thousand book reviews on Amazon’s website, and probably as many critiques, both positive and negative. The latter range from reviews citing a few questions about the book to reviews alleging new age conspiracies, or worse. Clearly, many evangelical theologians are genuinely concerned about whether the book promotes universalism in terms of salvation, false views of the Trinity, under-developed views of God, and several other theological issues.

I’ll offer a few comments, but first, a reminder. Remember that the act of publishing is an act inviting response. You may write and never publish, so your writing remains private and personal. But to publish is by definition to make known, to share, to broadcast, and to invite readers and responders. So if you’re thin-skinned, don’t publish.

In a lofty but important sense, the opportunity to publish is an exercise of freedom of speech. We live, God be praised, in a free country, so we may speak openly, freely, and often. In addition, The Shack is a publication dealing with religious ideas, so the author not only benefits from freedom of speech but also freedom of religion.

Consequently, to discuss or even possibly to disagree with content in The Shack is not a threatening or unwarranted action. To discuss The Shack is an opportunity to participate in the exercise of the most precious ideals of a free, pluralistic, and democratic society. This we should celebrate even as we critique not the person but the merits of his ideas.

Comment One: Now, what do I think of The Shack? I was not offended by the book, but I didn’t like it much either. This admission says more about my reading preferences than it does the merits of this book. Though my reading habits are eclectic this kind of fiction is not what I typically enjoy reading.

Comment Two: The book is an allegory, a fictional metaphor, like Aesop’s Fables, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, or C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s an attempt to help people understand something about God via a story written from an angle and featuring characters that are, to say the least, not traditional, common, or expected.

Since this book is fiction, and unlike authors of The DaVinci Code or The Celestine Prophecy, Young never claims The Shack is anything other than fiction, we might try to lighten up. In other words, jeremiads are not in order. A number of Christians are over-reacting. The Shack will follow a pattern, here for a little while then fade. Certainly The Shack is less spiritually or theologically threatening than books like Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which is spiritual mumbo-jumbo.

Comment Three: The Shack is a theodicy, an examination of the problem of evil, an attempt to convey a theology of pain and suffering relative to the existence of a just God, like the Old Testament Book of Job. One of the reasons Young’s book has sold so many copies is that it strikes a chord with people who’ve suffered loss – and who, if they’ve lived long enough, hasn’t suffered loss? The book also strikes a chord via its interesting and engaging story in a time when people are looking for something soothing in the face of global terror, economic volatility, and numerous social pathologies, from random violence to rampant substance abuse and more.

Comment Four: But I have some quibbles with the book, for example, the legend of the beautiful Indian maid, the Multnomah Princess (pp. 27-31). In the book you’ll find the following (slightly abridged here) dialogue:

“Is the story true?”

“I don’t know, Kate. It’s a legend and sometimes legends are stories that teach a lesson.”

“So, it didn’t really happen?”

“It might have sweetie. Sometimes legends are built on real stories, things that really happen.”

“So is Jesus dying a legend?”

“No, honey, that’s a true story; and do you know what? I think the Indian princess story is probably true too.”

I know this book is fiction, but I do not like the fact that the author equates the redemption story of Scripture with pagan ideas about human sacrifice. No human being, no matter his or her noble motive, can sacrifice himself or herself for the sins of others. To believe this is to embrace paganism.

Sure, we know many stories of heroic self-sacrifice, to the point of giving life for one’s loved ones, but these stories do not result in someone’s eternal soul salvation. And they only involve physical healing in the sense that the hero was able to reach some form of essential medical help necessary to spare the afflicted.

No, human beings cannot sacrifice themselves for the sins of others and to place the Bible’s redemptive story on an equivalent level with a legend is not accurate or wise. This is one reason The Shack is not a good book for the theologically uninitiated, for new Christians, or for non-believers seeking spiritual truth. Young’s portrayal of Christ and of God is incomplete and at best inconsistent.

Comment Five: I also did not agree with characterization of politics, economics, religion, religious activity, and patriotism as just so many humanly-devised systems that control and trap us (thus bad, evil, or to be avoided?), while freedom in Christ liberates us from all these things (pp. 179-181). This is the author’s way of explaining “in the world, not of the world,” but he offers the old sacred/secular dichotomy. A biblical worldview encompasses all these systems, which God ordained and which are no more evil in themselves than money is evil. People’s sin is what taints these systems. People’s right actions before God are what can develop them for God’s glory. Young’s perspective sounds like the traditional-but-theologically erroneous campfire song, “This world is not my home. I’m just a passin’ through…”

Comment Six: I especially did not like the Jesus character’s rejection of the word “Christian” (p. 182). This is problematic at best and makes no sense to me. It is confusing, biblically askew in its conjecture, and simply unnecessary. The followers of Christ were first called Christians at Antioch and it is a worthy and still-accurate term.

Comment Seven: The Shack is questionable in other ways as well. It suggests we can see the afterlife and talk with the dead, that uncertainty is preferable to certainty (a key element of postmodern thought but one human beings simply cannot live with or live by), that what really matters is God loves everyone—not who God is, what he expects of us, who we are in sin, how we must confess, and how we may be redeemed. In the end, the story is warm and fuzzy but it’s not biblical Christianity, not genuine theodicy, and not an allegory worthy of listing alongside Pilgrim’s Progress or The Chronicles of Narnia.

Concluding Comment: All this said, I am not apoplectic about this book. You can find compelling thoughts about God and humanity in this book, ones from which we can learn. But this book is not one I’d recommend to a person unfamiliar with the Bible, at least not implying this book presents a full or accurate picture of God or biblical Christianity.

I do think that people who have criticized book stores for carrying The Shack are off-base. Conservative Christians too often look for someone else to do their thinking for them. A Christian book store, just like a Christian university or a church, is not and cannot be held accountable (though some may try) for the fact that individual Christians too often abrogate their own responsibility before God to do their own thinking and make spiritually discerning moral choices. Just like with the rest of life, you and I must decide what it means to be “In the World, Not of the World.”


© Dr. Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2008

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


When Robert N. Bellah entitled his 1985 bestseller on American society Habits of the Heart the phrase entered the cultural lexicon of everyday conversation. We talk about "habits of the heart" in church, school, business, you name it. It's such a useful phrase, which is why I'm commandeering it now.

After more than fifteen years, this program today will be the last continuously aired “Making a Difference” program on WCSG. I say “continuously aired” because WCSG may hereafter periodically air “Making a Difference,” but this is the last one in sequence. So I’m using this space to tell you, our listeners, that one habit of my heart will always be good memories of the longtime opportunity God gave me to think with you about how biblical principles work in the marketplace.

Over the years I’ve heard from many listeners, some who disagreed or sought a clarification, but most who affirmed some thought I’d shared. I’ve received notes, letters, and phone calls—and I’ve answered scores of emails—from listeners representing the kaleidoscope of Christendom—men, women, and teenagers who moved me with their passion for truth. I’ve met countless listeners in churches, grocery stores, and multiple other places throughout West Michigan. They unfailingly made kind comments and I joked about them discovering I had a face made for radio.

I’m not bragging but grateful when I say that nothing I’ve done has produced more regular and positive feedback than “Making a Difference.” For some reason, this program struck a chord. I greatly appreciate this, for your comments encouraged me to keep writing and, now, to attempt to syndicate “Making a Difference” nationally. (More on this coming soon.)

So, dear WCSG listeners, thank you. May you always strive to make a difference by applying Christian values in everyday life. You will always be one of the habits of my heart.


© Dr. Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2008

Originally recorded June 19, 2008 as #551 on “Making a Difference."

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The Jonathan and David Fellowship in Grand Rapids, Michigan is an all-too-rare multi-racial gathering of men committed to the Lord, their Christian faith, and a heartfelt desire to grow in brotherly love.

Founded and directed by Rev. Chico Daniels, President of Mel Trotter Ministries, the JDF, as it's called, meets monthly for breakfast, Bible study, and discussion, 7:00 am to 8:30 am. In the interim between breakfasts, JDF men meet one-on-one for lunch to get better acquainted and periodically show up en masse and unannounced with their wives at one of the churches represented in the JDF.

During Bible study and discussion, no questions are off-limits. Pain, personal stories, and progress all find their way into the conversation.  Often-used words don't seem adequate: integration, reparations, reconciliation, anger, healing, history, revisionism.

No one, if he's honest, really wants to discuss past sins, but sometimes it's appropriate so those responsible may experience forgiveness and those affected may experience release and closure. Be angry at sin, not the people, we sometimes say. But in our human nature our response is uneven. Yet Christ, a Jew, set the example when he met the woman, a Samaritan, at the well. He acknowledged and turned from her promiscuous past, but he offered her forgiveness and living water.

Race in America will always be "an issue," especially again in 2008 where differences in color and culture are at times over-shadowing legitimate discussions of personal character and political competence in the presidential campaign. We are a "conflicted" people, evidenced by one of our most eloquent heroes of freedom, Thomas Jefferson, a man who maintained slaves and a slave mistress throughout his life.

Political answers to our racial questions may help. Clearly the country has made some progress in racial matters since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But answers to our racial questions will never be fully developed in the give and take of politics.

Answers to our racial questions will most fully be developed in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, followed by a greater application in our lives of the principles of the Christian faith. Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is only possible as we abide in Christ and he abides in us.  Learning to do this by getting to know our brothers in the Jonathan and David Fellowship is one way to start.


© Dr. Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2008

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Paul Gordon was a model in all the right ways. Paul (1923-2008), the patriarch of the Gordon Food Services family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, went home to be with the Lord this week. I am glad to say that I knew him.

Paul was an innovative, highly successful business leader of a large and growing privately-held food services company. But he will be remembered by people throughout the world--thousands that he helped during his lifetime--for his overt and always evident commitment to the Lord, for his vision and insight, for his deep, gravelly voice, for his side-splitting sense of humor, and for his generosity. It is not exaggeration to say that he was "beloved" by virtually all who made his acquaintance.

Paul's heart for international Christian missions took he and his wife, and often his children and grandchildren, to mission fields in countries around the world. In countless places he gave significantly and he gave quietly, generally insisting his name appear nowhere in print or on facilities because he wanted God to be glorified. His quiet approach is legendary, so much so many in his hometown simply do not realize how extensive Paul Gordon's influence is among Christian people and those they help worldwide.

Paul called me one day a few years ago and said, "Dr. Rogers, how would you and your lovely bride like to go with us to Turkey?" I said, "Turkey? When?" He said, "October." At the time he called it was early September. Long story short, Mr. and Mrs. Gordon underwrote my wife's and my trip for ten days with a Christian tour visiting biblical sites in Asia Minor like Ephesus, Galatia, and many more. It was a wonderful, instructive time in which we were privileged to get to know Paul and Dottie better, learn about the Apostle Paul's missionary journeys, and fellowship with other believers. Thank you, Paul.

Paul Gordon showed us what a Christian man ought to be. I will always be grateful God allowed me to be Paul's friend.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2008

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Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's problems with his once-and-former pastor, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, have inserted, or perhaps reinserted, race into the campaign in a serious way.

Whatever our feelings about these men, whatever our partisan inclinations, whatever our hopes regarding race relations, racial politics are not going to go away.  That's not a pessimistic statement, just a realistic one.  This reality doesn't mean we shouldn't work for something better and seek to assure justice and opportunity for all Americans.  Ironically, acknowledging a problem isn't going to go away is a perspective that should keep us from disillusionment.  As the Scripture says, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people..." (Gal. 6:9-10).

Political parties, politicians, preachers--all leaders--will always, eventually, disappoint us.  They and we are human beings.  As one Black pastor wisely said, "The problem is not the color of our skin but the depth of our sin."  Racism no matter who expresses it is not just a Left or Right issue, not a Republican or Democrat issue.  It's a Christian issue and should be a Christian concern.

And we should remember that race is more than a Black and White issue in America.  It's a Red and Yellow, Black, Brown, and White issue.  It's broader and deeper than the progressing-but-still-challenging relationship of Blacks and Whites.

From a Christian perspective the bottom-line is that we are commanded to "Love your neighbor as yourself" and to model Christ in all we think, say, and do.  That's a tall order, but it's right and good, and when practiced by the Spirit's enablement it restores integrity of the soul.

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2008

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Say “Ben Stein” and the word “comedian” is more likely to come to mind than “intellectual.” And Ben is certainly funny. But he’s more than that and proves it in his feature film, Expelled:  No Intelligence Allowed.

This film asks the weighty question, “If we expel freedom in science, where will it end?” To find the answer, Stein travels to 12 countries on 4 continents, interviewing an impressive list of scholars in the sciences, theology, and philosophy. He asks them why “Big Science” makes no use of the hypothesis of God and why Intelligent Design discussions are suppressed. The answers he records are breathtaking in their political correctness, disdain for religion and religious people (“idiots,” one scholar said), cavalier attitude toward debate, and fear of free speech.

Expelled is not an advocacy flick for Intelligent Design. Rather, Stein probes why a scientific elite is systematically betraying one of America’s founding principles: the freedom to create, explore, fail, overcome, inquire, debate.

I.D. is simply the study of patterns in nature best explained by intelligence. It is not necessarily Christian or religious. Yet in its zeal for Darwin’s theory of evolution, the scientific community stifles serious consideration of Intelligent Design. I.D. is called propaganda, a racket, stupid, an excuse to introduce creationism into the classroom, and my favorite—boring. But what could be more intellectually engaging than to allow evidence, rather than the courts, to decide the merits of I.D., evolution, or any other theory of origins?

No matter. In the scientific community today, power trumps freedom in the name of truth.

The intellectual supremacy that rules science is on full display in Expelled. It’s a supremacy based upon a worldview, a philosophic paradigm rejecting the idea of God, or even the idea of “an Intelligence,” while embracing the “staggeringly improbable” idea that life began by chance. In this view, human beings, along with the rest of the universe, were not created by the Sovereign Creator of the Bible’s Book of Genesis, nor by some kind of Intellect. Life began when, by chance, crystals or particles or an explosion generated a molecular cell. Life (you and me) just happened. Thereafter, Darwin’s evolutionary processes took over and the cell became an organism became a fish became a monkey became a cave man became our Great, Great Grandpa.

Some anti-theists waffle a bit, suggesting the cell was initiated by a visitor from another galaxy—a brainy being of some kind—but they’re uncertain about what or who. Though there’s not a shred of evidence for this fantasy, anti-theists still smugly maintain the alien space traveler wasn’t God. And they conveniently avoid explaining the origin of that alien species.

Proponents of Darwinism-sans-deity claim their pseudo-religion grants us freedom from primitive superstition. But it’s a faux freedom that enslaves human beings to meaninglessness. No deity? Than no objective standard for determining right from wrong. No morality. No accountability. No responsibility. No life after death. No certainty, just chance, just chaos. Most devastating of all: No hope.

You see, suppression of freedom to debate all ideas in the scientific classroom is about more than Evolution vs. I.D. It’s about more than academic freedom. It’s about scientists teaching a philosophy that devalues human life (what Pope John Paul II called a “culture of death”) and—literally—makes anything acceptable. Eugenics, euthanasia, ethnic cleansing, genocide. Why not? If life begins in the Great Lottery in the Sky why should we believe it ends any differently? And if life begins and ends meaninglessly, than what happens in the middle doesn’t matter either.

Scientists who suppress freedom inexorably create an Orwellian world where only two choices are left to us: Nihilism—pointless, violent fear and loathing, or Hedonism—pointless, immoral, pleasure-seeking. Is it any wonder that so much of cinema today is about one or both?

Ben Stein’s Expelled does freedom proud. And in doing so he serves up truth and hope.


Originally published: “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Why Ben Stein says “No Lie Lives Forever.”),” The Dove Foundation , (March 17, 2008); and Family Entertainment Central, (March 19, 2008); and The West Michigan Christian, (April 2008), p. 1.

© Dr. Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2008

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at