I approach the writing of this article with a bit of a heavy heart, knowing full well it likely will not be the most popular nor the most widely-accepted thing I ever write. I know some toes will be stepped on, some feelings upset, some philosophies and worldviews shaken. And yet, though I hate confrontation and find disagreements to be uncomfortable, I know that “all it takes for evil to prevail is for good men [or women!] to do nothing.” So, it is with that in mind that I undertake the addressing of a topic which I know is very emotionally-driven in our culture today, but crucially important, as well.
The Problem: False Teaching
Two weeks ago today, the movie adaptation of the widely popular book (over 25 million copies have been sold!), The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young was released. People – professing Christians and otherwise – have flocked to the movie theaters en masse and afterwards taken to social media to share about how moving, how beautiful, and how encouraging it was. The book upon which this movie is based has sparked controversy since the day it was released, all the way back in 2007. The primary allegations regarding the dangerous nature of the book are concerning the way in which God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are both portrayed in the book (and now movie) as women.
Some professing Christians find no problem with this depiction of God. “It’s no big deal. It’s a work of fiction, after all. It’s not a doctrinal thesis.” Wm. Paul Young would disagree with anyone claiming this idea, however. He says,
“I wrote The Shack at the request of my wife, Kim. She’d asked, “Would you someday please write something as a gift for our kids that puts in one place how you think? Because, you know, you think outside the box.” She was referring to my lifelong struggle with conflicts between faith and religion, and to my work both theologically and personally as I searched for helpful ways to think about God and humanity.”
You see, The Shack is not fully a work of fiction in Young’s mind. It is a taking of his own theological beliefs and a packaging of them into the narrative of a story. He has no problem with portraying God the *Father* and God the Holy Spirit as being women, though the Word of God itself never does so and even though to portray them in this manner is to be unfaithful to the text (an act which is not to be taken lightly!).
Wm. Paul Young has taken this issue many, many steps further in his much newer book, Eve, which came out in the fall of 2015. Here is how Young himself describes this book,
“Eve is a bold, unprecedented exploration of the Creation narrative, true to the original texts and centuries of scholarship—yet with breathtaking discoveries that challenge traditional misconceptions about who we are and how we’re made. As The Shack awakened readers to a personal, non-religious understanding of God, Eve will free us from faulty interpretations that have corrupted human relationships since the Garden of Eden. Eve opens a refreshing conversation about the equality of men and women within the context of our beginnings, helping us see each other as our Creator does—complete, unique, and not constrained to cultural rules or limitations.”
At this point, with his references to “cultural rules and limitations” and “equality of men and women”, it is probably very clear as to why I am making the claim today that feminism is, at least in part, to blame for these books and the messages they espouse.
To some, this may seem like no big deal, because they have bought into the common lie of our culture that the philosophy of feminism is merely the belief that men and women are equal. But such is not at all the case – to believe this about feminism is to completely misunderstand the tenets of feminism itself. When you actually study for yourself the full history of feminist thought in our world, it becomes clear that feminism’s main goal is not merely to advocate for equality between the sexes. That common claim, however, is used regularly so as to easily vilify those who do not espouse feminism, as well as to attempt to hide the far darker teachings of the feminist worldview and agenda. I have studied the philosophy of feminism, its roots, its founders, and its teachings for 10 years now and understand that feminism uses the common cultural practice of taking words and twisting and changing their meanings into something far different from what they really are, so that they might vilify those who disagree with them, making those folks out to be hateful. Case in point – these days, “love” means you agree with everything someone does, “hate” means you disagree with them, “feminism” refers to a belief that men and women are equal, while “complementarianism” (i.e. the belief that, Biblically, men and women have different roles) refers to a belief that men and women are not equal and that men are somehow more special than women and are to be more honored or preferred than women. None of these definitions are true. So, before you think me a hater of women because I do not espouse feminism in the least, please first understand that feminism never has and never will be simply “a belief that men and women are equal” (more on that in the coming weeks when we’ll do a study on the true history of feminism!).
The Source of this False Teaching: Feminism/Gnosticism
Young claims that Eve contains new “breathtaking discoveries” as to who we are and how we are made. He also claims that Eve is true to the original text of Genesis, but he cannot have it both ways. Is it true to the original text or does it contain new breathtaking discoveries? It cannot be both. And, I propose that it is actually, in fact, neither. First of all, his book is the furthest thing from being faithful and true to the original text of Genesis (we’ll get to actual examples of that in a moment). Second, what he is setting forth as “new breathtaking discoveries” and “truth” are actually nothing more than a proclamation of the old 2nd century heresy of Gnosticism – a worldview within which there is nothing “new” or “true” to be found. For example, consider with me the following teachings of Eve (thank you to Tim Challies for sharing these excerpts with us):
- Adam falls into sin before Eve was even created, and the naming of the animals is an infuriating kind of penance for Adam (“Spinning away, the young man raised his fists and screamed fury into the sky, one word. It reverberated and echoed back as time and place and beast stood still. ‘Alone!’”).
- Eve is not taken out of Adam as much as she grows within Adam and is birthed from him (“Adam’s belly grew, expanding with a pregnancy. … In nine months God fashioned the feminine side of Adam’s humanity, the female who slept within…”).
- Adam and Satan (in the guise of a snake) conspire together to take advantage of Eve’s naïveté, so that Eve is an innocent party in her own downfall (“She had been betrayed and now was being blamed by Adam for what he had conceived in his own heart.”).
- She sees that God is triune and genderless and, therefore, best referred to with gender-neutral, third-person pronouns (“God turned Their face to the woman and gently spoke with words of sorrow…”).
Ok, now compare these teachings which Young is setting forth as truth with the teachings of the 2nd century heresy of Gnosticism:
- Eve was a “spirit-endowed woman” who saved Adam.
- “Dame Wisdom” was the “heavenly Eve” and the true redeemer.
- The “Divine” is ‘Androgynous, both mother and father‘. Humans, therefore, are also both masculine and feminine, not merely one or the other. There are therefore to be no sexual distinctions or differences among the human race and thus no distinctions in terms of role, responsibility, or gender at all.
- Female power is the source of salvation.
- The feminine God birthed the human race.
- Male = evil, mere matter; Female = good, spirit. Therefore, humans should seek their spiritual femininity within, their divine goddess, and have it overpower the evil masculinity that also resides inside us. Likewise, the Judeo-Christian representation of God as masculine must be done away with, for salvation comes through the feminine.
Interesting, isn’t it? As you can clearly see, feminism and its teachings of men being evil and there needing to be no distinction of roles find their root not in some nice little philosophy first held by Susan B. Anthony, but rather in the treacherous, misleading, heretical teachings of Gnosticism. In reality, the very roots of feminism itself are to be found in the rotten soil of Gnostic teaching. Furthermore, it is downright striking how very similar Young’s teachings – even his exact wording and the pictures and analogies he uses! – are to basic Gnostic theology.
Why These Books are Such a Problem
Young may indeed have, as he claimed, based Eve on centuries of scholarship. But it was not Biblical scholarship. It was Gnostic scholarship. Why is this a big deal if we are talking about a work of “fiction”? Tim Challies explains the why behind this issue very well,
Young insists that his story, and the truth it contains, is the result of decades of thought and research. He insists that the truth embedded in this story has the power to free us from faulty interpretations of the Bible that have long corrupted human relationships. In an interview with Publishers Weekly he says, “Ultimately, the inspiration for Eve is the Scriptures themselves. The more I studied and pondered and conversed, the more I was driven back to Genesis and the iconic saga of Beginnings, and it was there I began to find answers to the big, system-shaking questions I was asking. Eve is my attempt to express some of what I discovered.”
That, my friends, is why this book is so dangerous. Because Young sets forth this story, just as he did The Shack, as being truth itself, as being completely faithful to the text of God’s Word (it is beyond me how he thinks it is being faithful to the text to say that Adam was pregnant with and birthed Eve and that Adam sinned first and merely blamed Eve for it, when the Bible itself says that God Himself created Eve using one of Adam’s ribs and that Eve was deceived and then influenced her husband to sin!).
We all know that Satan disguises himself not as he really is – hateful, grotesque, prowling around as a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) -, but rather as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). So, it should come as no surprise that these heretical teachings are wrapped up in a pretty bow of a book that is full of beauty, emotion, forgiveness, and love. This makes the book and its message (as well as The Shack and its picture of a female God) so enticing. These warm stories cause the undiscerning readers of them to be so caught up in the narratives that they then vehemently and emotionally defend the books when others seek to expose them for the dangerous lies they really are.
The world is going to love these books and positively devour them, as we have already seen take place. After all, in The Shack you have a female God and in Eve, you have what hints at transgenderism and bigenderism (i.e. Adam can be pregnant, there is both male and female inside each person, God is gender-neutral, etc. etc.).
Raging feminists are, likewise, going to wholeheartedly embrace Eve and its teachings of man being evil, of man naming woman in order to exert macho and evil authority over her, and of Adam conspiring to blame woman for everything. This is to be expected. After all, these concepts go along with feminism’s hatred of men. What should not be happening, however, is what we are seeing taking place in the church today, and that is how professing Christians are embracing this man’s heretical writings which spit in the face of God and His Word. Church, it is time to open our Bibles! Put away man’s interpretation of the Bible and read the Bible itself for what it actually says! Be discerning. Be as the Bereans who always took what they were told by man and compared it to Scripture to determine whether or not it was true (Acts 17:11). Have the Bible be your final authority on everything. Get to know your Savior more and more, and in so doing, grow to love Him more and more. If we are faithful to do that, we are not going to be falling in love with even “fictional” stories which misrepresent and malign the God we serve.
What is taking place in Young’s writings is a recreation of God into our own image, into an image we approve of and like. As mentioned above, we have a misunderstood, misguided, misinterpreted understanding of the Bible’s plain teachings on women’s roles and complementarianism (through no fault of the Lord or the Apostle Paul, I might add! ). We believe any differentiation of roles to be unfair, to smack of an inequality between the sexes, to be a placing of the man above the woman. So, we therefore set out to change what we think comes across as wrong or mean or misguided in Genesis, Titus, and elsewhere. We fail to take the Bible at face value and to believe it to mean precisely what it says; we change God and His plain teachings in order to make Him more acceptable in the world’s eyes and even in our own. All because of a false foundation. A wrong and misguided premise. A misunderstanding which, in turn, colored our reading of the text. All of these problems are our own fault. This misconstruing of what the Bible teaches regarding men’s and women’s roles is on us. It is a case of us taking preconceived ideas, teachings from our culture, etc. and forcing them to color our interpretation of the heart of God and His Word. We need to stop doing this, Christians! We need to stop repeatedly shooting ourselves in the foot in this way.
Because if, due to preconceived ideas and falsehoods, we view the Bible to not mean what it plainly says, we are in essence saying God is no longer God – because to believe this nonsense about the first 3 chapters of Genesis as set forth in Eve is to believe that the text as it is written is completely false and full of lies. If this is the case, then that means God is no longer all-powerful and able to preserve His Word, that His Word is not truth in its entirety, and that God is no longer to be trusted, all of which cause Him to cease from being God in every sense of the word. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to want to seek salvation in a God who is either not trustworthy enough to set forth truth for all time in His Word, or else so impotent and powerless as to be unable to preserve said Word from centuries of misinterpretations of men.
If Genesis 1-3 as it is plainly written is false, then you are either saying that 1) God lied to us or else 2) that He is weak and allowed some man somewhere to take the text as it had been originally written millennia ago, rewrite it to supposedly uplift men and degrade women, and then set forth the new text as the actual Word of God. Neither scenario reveals a God I want to have anything to do with.
And so, we must reject the lies and dangerous false teachings of The Shack, Eve, and any other book that ever has, or ever will, misconstrue, malign, and downright destroy, the plain teachings of God’s Word. For to do otherwise is to set our souls and the souls of everyone we love in grave danger. After all, salvation is to be found nowhere but in the God of the Bible as described in the Bible.
Until next week,
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