Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lies We Believe About God (Summary)

Below I will share my overall thoughts on WM. Paul Young's book Lies We Believe About God in summary format. I will utilize a green light, yellow light, red light format in my critique.

Green Light (Stuff I really liked....GO!)

1. The Tone- I liked the humble tone of the introduction (and carried through to the rest of the book). Young is not being dogmatic. He is sharing his thoughts. He is raising questions and creating conversation. This is healthy.

2. The Jesus Centered Approach- I believe this is the right approach. Young attempts to keep Jesus at the center, but that's not as easy as one might think. At times it seemed that Young might be leaning more on a certain interpretation of Paul or even certain statements of Jesus (while ignoring others).

3. Emphasis on Genesis 1- I like that Young talked about the inherent goodness of humanity. We need more voices that take Genesis 1 as the anthropological (not just chronological) predecessor to Genesis 3.

4. A Non-Controlling God- Young is right, it seems to me, to move away from meticulous sovereignty and toward a God who is purposefully non-controlling. Surprisingly, it seemed that Young departed from this a bit in the chapter about coincidences, but overall I thought he was solid on this point.

5. Caution Toward Religion- I agree with Young that Jesus didn't come to start another religion to compete with other religions. He came to end religion.

6. God and Gender- I never had a problem with Young's portrayal of the Trinity in The Shack so far as it concerns gender. In this book, he does a good job of stating his view. I concur.

7. Magic Christianity- I think Young did a very good job of describing how some Christians have a magical view of faith and performance. This is something I come across in local church ministry quite often.

8. Sex- I think Young was on point in the chapter on God's relationship to sexuality.

9. Politics- With the exception of not fleshing out (or even mentioning) Romans 13, I think Young did a great job of discussing the Christian relationship to the state (especially considering how short a space he devoted to this).

10. Hell- As someone who wrote a thesis paper on hell, I felt Young's treatment of the subject was fair. I don't agree with his view (Christian Universalism), but I don't consider it heretical either.

11. Atonement- I think Young did a good job of critiquing some forms of penal substitution theory that pit God the Father against the Son.

12. Trinity- I appreciated and share Young's thoughts on the Trinity. I do believe that 'God is love' is a true statement because God is a plurality of unified persons. It's wonderful to know that love is at the very core of reality.

Yellow Light (Stuff I'd be cautious about... SLOW DOWN!)

1. View of the Fall- I was not thoroughly convinced that Young had a thoroughgoing view of the depth of human depravity. His best statement of it was in chapter 22, but overall he seemed to view the human condition as one where our goodness is just buried deep inside us rather than actually distorted. In his view we are blind to the light (but in Scripture we actually love darkness).

2. Christian Universalism- I consider General Universalism to be a non-Christian teaching, but I wouldn't say this about Christian Universalism. In the latter, I would distinguish between dogmatic universalism and hopeful universalism. Young seems basically certain that all will be saved. I would be more open to hopeful universalism. I actually think Young's certainty on this point goes against some of his basic operating principles.

3. Unclear Writing and/or Thinking- On a number of points, Young's position is either unclear or doesn't make sense to me. For instance, he says that our salvation is secure, but that participation in it is necessary. I'm not sure how those statements could both be true (how can you guarantee free will participation?). On the problem of pain, Young says God is able to intervene miraculously, but doesn't usually do this. Nevertheless, Young says he himself would intervene into such situations if possible. He leans heavily on mystery here, I guess. The coincidence chapter didn't seem to fit with some of his other thinking. You can't really say, in my opinion, that God isn't behind the bad stuff that happens and then say He's behind every detail of the good stuff. Either God utilizes meticulous sovereignty or God doesn't.

Red Light (Stuff I didn't like... STOP!)

1. We're Already Saved- I don't think Young is right about this. I think he has focused on a possible interpretation of some verses at the expense of better interpretations of said passages, the context of those passages, and a multitude of other verses that suggest otherwise. I don't think this is just semantics. There is truth in telling fellow Christians that they need to keep their new reality (they are a new creation!) in mind, but it's inappropriate, in my view, to say the same to non-Christians (for they are not yet a new creation). A non-follower of Jesus doesn't just need to wake up to reality. They need a new reality.

2.We're All God's Children- Much the same here. I think Young was wrong to ignore the necessary nuance on this point. He literally dismissed the opportunity to add good nuance (top of 205). It even comes across, to me, as a bit lazy (it'd be complicated to nuance this... so let's just not do it). It is true that we are all children of God in the sense that we are all God's creation. It is also true that we are all loved by God. But it is not true that everyone is a child of God in every sense. And some of those senses are important (life and death stuff).

Overall, I thought the book had (much) much more true teaching than false teaching (from my perspective). Specifically, I think Young is wrong to label the following statements as lies:

Chapter 13 "You need to get saved"
Chapter 24 "Not everyone is a child of God"

That's not to say that everything Young says in those chapters is wrong. It's just to say that I think there is actually more truth in the supposed 'lie' than there is in his rebuttal.

No comments: