Letters to the Editor (The Shack, Catechisms, Worship, Tolkien)

Letters to the editor continue to come in at a steady clip. I received some really interesting ones this week, and am glad to share a selection representing a variety of topics.

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Letters on Why I Won’t Be Seeing (or Reviewing) The Shack Movie and Why Papa of The Shack Is Not Aslan of Narnia

At first I wanted to chalk your views up as legalistic. But the further I read, I realized your argument is valid. As a child my image of God was that of the movie the Ten Commandments and pictures of Jesus hanging on the wall. As I have grown in my faith, I truly believe as you have written these images are small and we do the following because of them: we place him in a box made of our own hands and we bring God down to us to see eye to eye. That’s not the God I read about or who I have come to know. Unfortunately, a good bit of our culture neither critically thinks nor has higher thinking about God. We want to put him in this warm, fuzzy cutesy box. I am no theologian and probably most times a very poor representative of our God because I have done with God what The Shack has done. Thank you for your thoughtful review.
—Alex T, VA


Thank you so much for your refusal to see The Shack. I too will not do so. I’m ashamed to admit that I caved on that principle when persuaded to watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion. I didn’t want the image of Jim Caviezel in my mind as I meditated on the scriptures when the mention of the Lord Jesus came up. It had dawned on me a long time ago that the more important sense for the believer was not seeing but hearing. The eye limits-what you see is what you get. The hearing opens the floodgates of imagination. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose imagination ends with God (my amplified version), the entrance of Thy Word giveth light, and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. God didn’t give us a movie or a video to communicate Himself to us-the Word spoke His reality to us. It is interesting that the first sense to develop in the womb, I’m told, is the ear and the last to die. Man needs to hear first of all. The second of the Ten Commandments came alive for me a long time ago. Thank you again for further enhancement of understanding.
—Dan S, Inwood, ON


I think I understand your point! And it has made me stop and wonder if this is true. I will further research and ask questions. But I also wonder if this film isn’t necessary to help reach the lost! Meaning, is it time to put on a face to go along with the story, so the ones who don’t know Him, may finally see Him! And may possible reach out and accept Him! So we all can go Home!

As harsh as this world is right now, the ultimate message is love. And in order to understand love, so many people need to learn to forgive! Honestly, I think that is what the book is mostly about-learning to forgive.

While reading your article, and I mean no disrespect. I’m a Christian as well and I pray God will show me, us, the truth. But, What came to mind, was the Pharisees, who questioned Jesus about healing the sick on the Sabbath day. He defends His own actions. “Sabbath exists for humanity, not vice versa, and so when human needs become critical, it is acceptable to violate traditional Sabbath laws to heal the sick.” In essence, it’s doing God’s work. Because, if I can draw a conclusion accurately, by creating this film, it’s revealing who God is and showing His love for us! That He would take the time to come down to earth, to meet with “me” (His child), and help take away “my” pain, shows how much He loves us!

Again, I will continue to research and pray. Because would not want to steer anyone in the wrong direction. Thank you for your time.
—Tammi, MO


I’m going to try to say this ever so lovingly. I read your bio and know many really good-hearted people that are so entrenched in *sola* and Calvinism, it’s no wonder you can’t get past this apparent blasphemy—it’s believing the letter minus what it is. The Word of God is a Spirit and He’s still talking and still healing and will continue to do so until the end of this age. I think you are taking some real liberties saying that it breaks the second commandment. Actors aren’t idols, they are just portraying the heart of God. And might I add we are made in his image and likeness. What do you think he looks like? Most broken people out in the world have no hope God could love or forgive or heal them, much less make them whole again. Spreading the true hope there is in Him is not evil in any way and you discredit people’s intelligence to be able to understand that of course God is not an actor just like he’s not a burning bush or a donkey.

I’m sure as with everything your closed-mindedness can be traced back to a single event that led you to believe something like God doesn’t speak anymore or it’s all predestined anyway. Those things simply aren’t truth. You might want to reconsider not only your staunch opposition to the movie but also your opposition to God being God. He can do anything He wants. You will never contain him in your narrow mind. He is deeper and wider and bigger and more powerful and more full of grace and mercy and it makes me sad that His church is so divided. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ would grant you a spirit of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
—Lori C, Palmdale, CA


I read The Shack a number of years ago, when it first came out and was so popular. It was an entertaining book, with rich descriptions that created amazing word pictures in my mind. But I did not finish the book. I was so bothered by the idea of who the author used (humans) to represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that I couldn’t press on. The book did not follow my understanding of those three Persons. Reading it to the end would not have changed my faith or understanding of God in Trinity. But I’ve learned to trust my “feelings” about when to back away from something, and this was one of those times.

Years have passed. I was planning to see the movie until I read your review. Something in it jogged my memory about a wonderful movie on the life of Christ that I watched. I’ve seen many movies about Christ, but in this one, the character was so close to my own representation of what I believe Jesus is like, that I found myself struggling to block that image of the actor every time I prayed. I loved the actor and the acting so much, and it left such a great imprint, that it took months to push away this visual during my private talks to Jesus. I never thought of it as being a danger, more of an annoyance, but I can see your reasons for suggesting it is.

At this point, I do not know if I’ll watch the movie. I plan to wait until it comes out and see reviews of sites like Plugged In. If I do decide to go to the movie, because The Shack is a unique and interesting way to write an allegory, I will go with caution, remembering how a certain movie about Jesus affected me, and also after reading your article. A movie is a movie and I don’t fault this one, but I know myself and sense when something isn’t good for me. I do not have any trouble with walking out of a movie in the middle of it if it becomes an issue.

Letters on Resources for Learning Your Catechisms

I just wanted to send a quick thank you email for this article. I think the church has slowly moved away from creeds and confessions, and as such we lose the beauty of them. The Heidelberg Catechism was faithfully taught to me when growing up, and continues to serve me to this day.

They are such a short, concise and practical resource for us to remember and teach. The resources you recommended have already been ordered and I look forward to ‘reusing’ this teaching with my family.
—Nathan A, Wollongong, NSW


I want to thank you for your article “Use Your Catechism, Silly” and how you modeled the use catechisms to make a decision. The article really shook me. It actually started with your article on why you would not see “The Shack”. My reason for not seeing the movie had more to do with caution around exposing myself or my family to questionable doctrines. That might sound like a great reason, and perhaps it is, but it was neither well thought-out nor well reasoned. It was a knee-jerk reaction. Then you appeared with your article with reasons. The reasons were helpful because they stopped and made me think. However, in your follow up, you let me in on the methodology and for that I am grateful. I never saw the use of catechisms before, but I hope that changes going forward. Thank you again for your commitment and your faithfulness.

I do however wish there were a catechism on how to spell “catechism” I misspelled it every time I typed it.
—Geoff L, Lubbock, TX

Letters on The Creative Arts Director

One of the related problems to your article on The Creative Arts Director is the increasingly popular idea that the people who lead the music or “entertainment” are the “worship leaders.” Your article mentioned that her task is to “lead her church’s worship services.” I think even good Christian churches are falling into this trap of believing that the worship is focused on the music rather than the public proclamation of God’s Word and the partaking of the sacraments. This then causes the people in the pews to be driven even further to focus on their feelings and their experiences as the true expression of their worship. I would love to see you use your public ministry to encourage churches to quit calling their music teams the worship leaders. It is the minister who proclaims God’s truths from the pulpit who is leading us in worship because he is the one who teaches us the truths about God, about salvation and even about how we should worship.
—Dale W, Nampa, ID

Letters on What Tolkien Did So Well, What We Do So Poorly

I see you prefer the depth of Middle Earth to the less developed world of Narnia. I get it, you’re right that Middle Earth is much better developed, with a rich history, languages, and more. However, I think you’re missing something essential. The two authors, Lewis and Tolkien, were doing very different things. Tolkien was primarily a language man, a philologist, and he created Middle Earth as an excuse to create languages for his characters to speak. (By the way, he didn’t like Narnia, either, as good a friend as he was to Lewis. He despised putting the myths of many cultures into one conglomerate.) Naturally, Lord of the Rings is going to have great depth if whole languages and civilizations are created for it.

But the biggest difference, as I see it, is that Tolkien created Middle Earth and only Middle Earth. He spent his entire writing life on Middle Earth. In contrast, Lewis worked (successfully) in many, many genres: fiction alone brought success in children’s books (the Narnia series), allegory (Pilgrim’s Regress), science fiction (a trilogy), myth (Till We Have Faces), and even fiction written as letters (Screwtape Letters and Letters to Malcolm). He also wrote poetry, books of essays, academic texts (English Literature in the Sixteenth Century for Oxford), and thousands of letters. Tolkien went deeper; Lewis went wider. Both have their place, and both did extremely well at what they did.

A more fair comparison would be between The Hobbit (which was written as a children’s book, with far less detail) and The Chronicles of Narnia. Tolkien simply ended up going a lot deeper than that beginning.
—Cheryl D, Auburn, IN

Letters on Final Call

I’ve been reading your daily offerings for awhile now, usually finding something or things worth chewing on. Today, I saw you posted some Lutheran Satire videos, and began to view them somewhat cautiously. I say cautiously because there is sometimes a fine line between satire and outright mockery. I don’t like to see sincere believers mocked, even if I strenuously disagree with their positions. The first two videos I was fine with, but I was unable to finish the third. Regardless of what position one takes on the cessation of the supernatural gifts, they are (or were, if you are a cessationist) true gifts from God, functions of the Holy Spirit, and should not be trivialized by someone making up gibberish. I realize that some believe that’s what charismatic believers do nowadays, but what about believers in the early church? Were they, too, just making it up? I believe those who would mock tongues today should examine their hearts. It’s bad enough to mock our brothers and sisters. Even worse to mock the Holy Spirit. I am disappointed that you posted that third video.
—Adele, Memphis, TN