Saturday, March 25, 2017

THE SHACK: A Critical and Complimentary Study

This run-away best-selling book by William P. Young came out in May, 2007. It is overtly Christian but very controversial, especially in places where it presumes to explain the details of God’s thinking on questionable issues. Suffice to say, it is never safe to put words in God’s mouth, but that is the entire literary formula of The Shack.
Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is pure…Add not unto his words, lest he reprove you, and you be found a liar.

About the Author
William P. Young
William Young was born in 1955, in Canada, and raised by missionary parents in New Guinea (West Papua), among the stone-age Dani  (a tribe of 40,000). He became the first white child who ever spoke their language. He says, “By the time I was flown away to boarding school at age six, I was in most respects a white Dani.” Little William once sat in on a discussion among the Dani people about whether they would kill his parents. Ongoing sexual abuse, a natural part of the Dani culture, began to involve William at the age of four. He didn’t feel able to confide in his parents about what was happening to him.

Though a missionary, his dad was once an angry young man, and had “issues,” so William felt he had to stay out of his Dad’s way. The family focus was always on mission more than on relationships. William was flown away to a “Christian” boarding school when he was six years old. The older boys at the school immediately came in and began to molest the first grader boys. After six months away, William’s mom visited him at the school. William called her Aunt Betty (that was the name of the dorm mother at boarding school, and he thought all nurturing white women were called Aunt Betty).

In all his childhood William learned to “perform” to survive—giving all his attention to externals and image. After Bible college he took a couple of associate pastor positions in large churches out west (overseeing 300-600 teens or college age). He was also frequently requested for special speaking engagements all around the country.

William met his wife, Kim, and asked her to marry him before they had ever gone on a date. Eleven days later they were married! He actually had suicidal thoughts during their first three weeks of marriage because the intimacy of marriage poked holes in his facade of perfection.

In 1993, at 38 years old, William’s world crashed. He had initiated a three-month affair with one of his wife’s best friends. In January, 1994, Kim went to this very friend to confide in her about the distance she was feeling in her marriage. The friend admitted the affair, and intended to keep her romance with William alive. Over the course of several days William told Kim the whole story—after each confession saying, “that’s all,” and then confessing more again later. Kim said she would never believe another word that came out of William’s mouth.

Externals, performances, and lies all ended at this time. William wrote letters to all who knew him in ministry. He went through eleven years “living with an underlying volume of shame so deep and loud that it constantly threatened any sense of sanity, of dreams not only destroyed but obliterated by personal failure, of hope so tenuous that only the trigger [of a gun] seemed to offer a solution.” 

A friend told him that there was still a good “seed” in William’s life, and this gave him hope. After that conversation he underwent nine months of Christian counseling. The thinking process of Mack in The Shack is essentially the process William went through during his counseling.
4/26/08 interview with William P. Young on The Drew Marshall Show

Plotline of The Shack
Mack (Mackenzie Allen Phillips) grew up in an abusive Christian home—with a father who was an elder in his church but drank secretly and beat Mack mercilessly. When he could take it no more, Mack ran away from home (after first poisoning his father’s alcohol—the results of which were never explained in the book).

Fast-forward to Mack’s life as an adoring father. His wife, Nan, is a devoted Christian. Mack is disillusioned with God. He takes his three children, Missy, Kate and Josh camping (Nan couldn’t go because of work obligations). One morning while Mack is getting breakfast together at the campground, Josh and Kate tipped the canoe over in the icy lake. The strap on Josh’s life vest became caught in the overturned canoe and kept Josh from coming to the surface for air. Mack dove into the lake and saved his son—barely—but while he was saving the son, a serial killer abducted his youngest daughter, Missy. The kidnapper eventually molested and killed little Missy in a shack deep in the woods.

After this “the great sadness” settled into all their lives—especially Mack’s—and continued for 3½ years until Mack got a letter in the mailbox. It was not delivered by the mailman and had no return address. “Mackenzie, It’s been awhile. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together.  Papa.”

Mack does indeed go to the shack where he meets God the Father, Papa, in the form of a jolly black woman, God the Son in the form of a carpenter, and God the Holy Spirit in the form of a semi-transparent Asian woman. His experience with God in the shack heals his aching heart and helps him to understand that lavish grace has been extended to him. This inspires him to extend lavish grace to others—including his daughter’s murderer.
An Important Reminder in Critiquing The Shack
No person can tell how well William P. Young has done in his service to the Lord. Perhaps he has done amazingly well, considering his childhood trauma, his natural abilities, his access to truth, etc. Perhaps not. Either way, these are things no human critic can know. If we criticize one or another point in any author’s work, we must not judge the author himself to be a failure, or even his work, in general, to be a failure. Is The Shack poison, or does it just have poison in it? There is a profound difference between those two ideas. Sometimes the poison content in a book or movie is so high that it ought to be avoided entirely. I personally doubt that is the case for The Shack and, unfortunately, with Christ as the single exception, everything every human does is tainted by at least some poison. Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Insurmountable Problem #1 with The Shack: Making God Too Small

Job 40:1  Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said, 2 Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it 3 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,4 Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. 5 Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further. 42:5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Revelation 1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man…17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.
Daniel 10:8 Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision [of Messiah], and there remained no strength in me…9 Yet heard I the voice of his words… 10 And, behold, an hand [Gabriel’s] touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.

Pages 88-90
“Well, Mackenzie, don’t just stand there gawkin’ with your mouth open like your pants are full,” said the big black woman as she turned and headed across the deck… “‘Come and talk to me while I get supper on.’”

“Then with a quick smile, she disappeared into the cabin, armed with Mack’s winter coat and still carrying [his] gun by two fingers, a full arm’s length away from her.”

“Isn’t she great!” exclaimed Jesus, grinning at Mack.

“’Am I going crazy? Am I supposed to believe that God is a big black woman with a questionable sense of humor?’”

Jesus laughed. “She’s a riot! You can always count on her to throw you a curve or two.”

Papa…swayed to the music of whatever she was listening to….The song obviously came to an end, marked by a couple of last shoulder and hip shakes….Turning to face him, she took off the earphones.

“May I ask what you’re listening to?”

“West Coast Juice…More like Eurasian funk and blues with a message and a great beat….These kids ain’t saying anything I haven’t heard before [apparently profanity]….Lots of anger…just…spoutin’ off.”

Page 104
It appeared that Jesus had dropped a large bowl of batter or sauce on the floor, and it was everywhere. All three were laughing so hard…Sarayu said something about humans being clumsy, and all three started roaring again…. “We were going to have this incredible Japanese sauce, but greasy fingers over there,” Papa nodded toward Jesus, “decided to see if it would bounce”….Everyone laughed.

Page 121
“Whoa,” said Papa. “Take it easy on those greens. Those things can give you the trots if you ain’t careful.”

Page 176
[Jesus noticing a trout swimming beneath them] “I’ve been trying to catch him for weeks, and here he comes just to bait me….I’ll probably never catch him.”

Page 192 
(God says to Mack:) “Men! Such idiots sometimes.”
“Did I hear God call me an idiot?” He called through the screen door.
“If the shoe fits, Honey. Yes sir, if the shoe fits.”

Insurmountable Problem #2 with The Shack: Making God a Good Christian But a Poor God

2 Thessalonians 1:7  And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
Psalm 7:11  God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.
John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
It might be said that the lead characters in The Shack make fantastic Christians, but they would make a very wicked God. The most important flaw in William Young’s theology is that he seems to create God after his own image—a very non-judgmental God. This is a very unsafe and misleading theology.

(Pages 158-169 excerpts)
[God says to MacKenzie] But you are not on trial here….You will be the judge.
What? Me? I’d rather not. I don’t have any ability to judge.
Oh, that is not true…You have already proven yourself very capable—even in our short time together. And besides you have judged many throughout your life…By all accounts you are quite well-practiced in the activity….Tell me, if I may ask, by what criteria do you base your judgments?
Nothing that seems to make much sense at the moment….when I made those judgments I felt quite justified…
Of course you did. Judging requires that you think yourself superior over the one you judge. Come on. I want you to sit here [in the throne of judgment]. Now.
So who is it that I’m supposed to judge?
God…and the human race.
You’ve got to be kidding!
Surely there are many people in the world you think deserve judgment—what about men who beat their wives, MacKenzie? What about fathers who beat their sons…? And what about the man who preys on innocent little girls? What about him, MacKenzie? Is that man guilty? Should he be judged?
What about his father, the man who twisted his son into a terror, what about him?
Yes, him too!
How far do we go back, MacKenzie…all the way back to Adam?…But why stop there? What about God? He started this whole thing. Is God to blame?…Surely a father like you can blame the Father!
Yes! God is to blame!
If you are able to judge God so easily, then you certainly can judge the world….You must choose two of your children to spend eternity in God’s heaven, but only two, and you must choose three of your children to spend eternity in hell….I’m only asking you to do something that you believe God does….You suppose that God does this easily, but you cannot. Come now, MacKenzie, which three of your five children will you sentence to hell?
I can’t do this. I will not do this!
You have judged them worthy of love….Now you know Papa’s heart who loves all his children perfectly….Judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right.

Page 182

Is that what it means to be a Christian?
Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian….Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans, and many who don’t vote and are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. Some are bankers and bookees, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa…
Note: This was an amazing exercise in grammar. We shift from the past tense “were Buddhists” to the present tense “are bankers” at exactly the right place to prevent heresy, but how many readers will notice this nuance? Does Christ really have “no desire to make them Christians” in the genuine biblical sense of the term? (Acts 11:26 And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.)


Various Related Short Quotes
Page 197
MacKenzie, the Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. It’s a picture of Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 3:6  Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us…14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

Page 203
Are you saying that I don’t have to follow the rules?
Yes. In Jesus you are not under any law. All things are lawful.
1 Corinthians 9:21 To them that are without law, I became as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

Note: There are hundreds of rules even in the New Testament. We are told in the New Testament that we are not under “the” law (the law of Moses), but we are certainly under Christ’s law—the rules for which we must answer to Christ. And while all “things” are lawful (meat, wine, money, drums, swimsuits, gadgets, etc.) all behaviors are certainly not lawful. How many readers know this?

Page 206
Honey, I’ve never placed an expectation on you or anyone else….And beyond that, because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me.
What? You’ve never been disappointed in me?
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Page 223
Son this is not about shaming you. I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation. They don’t produce one speck of wholeness or righteousness…
Romans 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
Romans 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
1 Corinthians 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
James 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
James 5:9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
Note: Clearly, we have no business judging any person after any man-made standard, but William Young won’t even let God set rules, burn with anger, recoil in holiness, humiliate, condemn, or impose feelings and sentences of guilt. This sort of God would make a wonderful Christian, but an unholy God.

One Great Benefit from The Shack: Good Counsel on Emotional Wellness
In spite of some of the misleading ideas put forth by William Young in The Shack, some of his conclusions are very deep and very correct. He is obviously well acquainted with some of the deeper things in God’s Word, and these are worthy of every Christian’s careful attention.

On why God allows people to victimize us when He could have prevented it
Page 164
[God] doesn’t stop a lot of things that cause him pain. Your world is severely broken. You demanded your independence, and now you are angry with the one who loved you enough to give it to you. Nothing is as it should be, as [God] desires it to be, and as it will be someday. Right now your world is lost in darkness and chaos, and horrible things happen to those that he is especially fond of.
Page 190-191
[Evil] touches everyone I love, those who follow me and those who don’t. If I take away the consequences of people’s choices, I destroy the possibility of love. Love that is forced is no love at all….So whose choices should we countermand, Mackenzie? Perhaps I should have never created? Perhaps Adam should have been stopped before he chose independence? What about…your father’s choice to beat his son? You demand your independence, but then complain that I actually love you enough to give it to you.
Page 145
I would have preferred that you did take control at times. It would have saved me and people I care about a lot of pain.
To force my will on you is exactly what love does not do….even when your choices are not helpful or healthy.
Page 149
I came to give you life, real life, my life….But we will never force that union on you. If you want to do your own thing, have at it. Time is on our side.
Page 222
Could I have prevented what happened to Missy? The answer is yes….First, by not creating at all, these questions would be moot. Or second, I could have chosen to actively interfere in her circumstance. The first was never a consideration, and the latter was not an option for purposes you cannot possibly understand now. At this point all I have to offer you as an answer is my love and goodness, and my relationship with you.
Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Romans 11:32-33 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

On the Holy Spirit’s good work in each believer even in the worst of times
Page 138
Look at this mess. [Mack’s] gaze moved over the garden that surrounded them.
Mackenzie…this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart….To you it seems like a mess, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive.
Philippians 1:6  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Philemon 4-6 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,..6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

On the debilitating effects of despair (disconnection with God)
Page 25
The Great Sadness draped itself around Mack’s shoulders like some invisible but almost tangibly heavy quilt….Even his efforts to shake it off were exhausting….At times he could feel The Great Sadness slowly tightening around his chest and heart like the crushing coils of a constrictor…waves of nausea and guilt and regret rolled over him like some surreal tidal flood.
Page 65
Now, three and a half years later….Life would never be normal again, not that any time is ever really normal.

On any man’s inability to tell whether an event is good or bad for him
Page 136
I guess I would say that something is good when I like it—when it makes me feel good or gives me a sense of security.
Then it is you that determines good and evil…There are billions of [people] each determining what is good and what is evil. So when your good and evil clashes with your neighbor’s, fights and arguments ensue, and even war breaks out….You must give up your right to decide what is good or evil on your own terms….To do that you must know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness.
Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Hebrews 11:35 others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:

On marriage difficulties
Page 147
[A woman], in general, will find it difficult to turn from a man and stop demanding that he meet her needs…and return to me. Men, in general, find it very hard to turn from…their own quests…and return to me.
Genesis 30:1-2 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

On how to walk with the Lord
Page 207
But don’t you want us to set priorities? You know: God first, then whatever, followed by whatever?
If you put God at the top, what does that really mean, and how much is enough? How much time do you give me before you can go on with the rest of your day, the part that interests you so much more?…I don’t just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece, that is not what I want. I want all of you, and all of every part of you and your day….I don’t want to be first among a list of values; I want to be the center of everything….where everything in your life—your friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities—is connected with me…in and out, back and forth, in an incredible dance of being.

Page 227
Son, you may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely….As incomprehensible as it sounds at this moment, you may well know this man in a different context one day.
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
Romans 12:12 [Be] continuing instant in prayer;
Ephesians 5:18-20 be filled with the Spirit…Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father
1 John 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and…teacheth you of all things

On the importance of every Christian’s life
Page 235
Let me ask you something. Is what I do back home important? Does it matter?
Mack, if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important…Every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness or service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again.
1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Resurrection of Jesus

(And Two Other Details of Interest)
1. The Empty Tomb
     Jesus was publically executed by crucifixion (an intentionally noticeable mode of execution) and buried in a tomb belonging to a Jerusalem VIP, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Three days later, the tomb was found empty, and Jesus’ body was missing.
     These events of history were publically verifiable and, if they had not been true, the extraordinary claims of Jesus’ followers would have been empirically falsifiable from the start. Because Jerusalem was a very small city (“A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one understand how small it is,” Mark Twain), a simple walk across town could provide all the proof any person could need to verify the details of Jesus’ true story, one way or the other.
     There were obviously a lot of people, from both the upper and lower classes, who were enraged by Jesus’ message (which is why he was crucified), so all they would have needed to do to stop the Christian message forever was to produce the dead body of Jesus. But this they could not do.

2. Eye-Witnesses of Post-Mortem Appearances
     It is a simple fact of history that a lot of people who lived at the time of Jesus’ death believed that he rose from death. Some of these were eye-witnesses to the events of that time, and eye-witness evidence is the only way historians have to establish that any events in history ever occurred. Disinterested third party sources (Britannica Online and Wikipedia articles on 1 Corinthians) agree that the long passage in 1 Corinthians 15 on the topic of Jesus’ resurrection was written in the early 50s A.D. –within 25 years of the events. After referring to thirteen individuals who gave eyewitness accounts of encounters with the resurrected Christ, this passage states that Jesus appeared after his resurrection to more than 500 people on one occasion, challenging objectors with the argument that most of those were still living in the early 50s A.D. and could be interviewed as eye-witnesses to this history.

3. The Personal Risks Taken by the Apostles
     Paul, who wrote 1 Corinthians 15, had no motivation to convert to Christianity until the evidence in favor of Jesus’ resurrection forced him to convert. Until his own eye-witness encounter with Jesus, he was healthy, prosperous, and well-connected in society. He was also violently hostile to the Christian faith. To convert meant to admit to being grossly in error about things he once held most dear, to endure the hate and hostility of his peers, to move from one crisis to another as a social pariah, and to die during Nero’s persecution of Christians. An unconvinced person would never risk so much as Paul risked in becoming a Christian, and only very powerful evidence could account for his change of mind.
     Peter and the other apostles were naturally demoralized by the death of Jesus, whom they believed to be the Messiah. The unflattering account of Peter’s denial of Jesus during Jesus’ arrest and trial gives way to accounts of Peter’s fearless preaching everywhere in Jerusalem just a few weeks later, accounts of him being harassed and assaulted for the rest of his life and, evidently, also dying during Nero’s persecution of Christians. Seeing the resurrected Christ caused this amazing change in Peter between the time of his cowardice and his fearlessness. He became willing to risk everything for what he had come to believe.
     All that has been said above about Paul and Peter could be said of all the original eleven apostles (and other early Christians) who continued to spread the truth about Jesus’ resurrection in spite of the monumental personal risks involved. These men did not live like liars (self-serving and greedy), and they did not die like liars. They were in a position to know the true story of Jesus, and they maintained their eye-witness testimony to that truth, even when it was clearly not to their advantage to do so. These original eleven disciples all stood in solidarity with one another. None of them ever confessed to “making up the whole account of Jesus’ resurrection.” None of them ever recanted of their faith in the resurrection to avoid pain or suffering. They were true believers.
Two Other Details of Interest
The Rise of the Idea of “Resurrection”
     Ancient Jewish people believed in resurrection, but they said very little about it (notice how comparatively few references to resurrection are found in the Old Testament). The sudden emphasis on resurrection that was displayed by Jewish people during the early years of the church is difficult to account for unless the resurrection of Jesus prompted it.
     Likewise, ancient pagan religions, being preoccupied with spirits in the underworld, demonstrate virtually no interest in physical resurrection. Then, suddenly, history documents a flood of former pagans throughout the Roman Empire beginning to emphasize resurrection.
     In both Jewish and pagan societies, first-century history manifests a sudden interest in resurrection, and this is best accounted for by Jesus’ historical resurrection. Additionally, the interest in the Christian gospel of resurrection grew so exponentially in history that all modern societies now date every event of history by the life of Jesus—B.C. or A.D. (of course, labeling dates as B.C.E. and C.E. in no way changes the fact that they are being numbered by their relationship to the life of Christ).

The Integrity of the Gospel Accounts: Featuring Female Witnesses
If the resurrection had not really happened as portrayed in the Gospel accounts, it is extremely unlikely that the apostles would have featured the reports of women visiting the empty tomb to substantiate the Christian claims of Jesus’ resurrection. In the first century, women were considered to be unreliable and hysterical. It would not be to the advantage of the early Christians to use women as witnesses for their extraordinary claims about Jesus’ resurrection, but they must have done so out of sheer integrity, simply because they knew the account to be true. (Celsus, in the 100s A.D., exemplified the negative attitude of ancient Romans toward women in this regard when he said Christianity was just based on the word of “a hysterical female.”)
If Jesus’ resurrection is a historical phenomenon, if it really happened, then Christianity is the most important religion in the world by far. No other religion has a founder who conquered death—the ultimate test of religion. Even if the Bible was riddled with errors, if the doctrine of Jesus’ resurrection is true, then the Christian faith is the only faith that matters in a dying world.

If Jesus’ death was very public, and His tomb was well known, and that tomb came up inexplicably empty in the presence of many eyewitnesses, then the Christian message is far and away the most important message in the world. This is, of course, exactly where the evidence leads us, and it explains why people like Paul and other Jewish leaders, who certainly didn’t want to change their religion, were compelled to convert to Christianity after all.

Eyewitness Evidence
     Even die-hard atheists agree that Paul's long address on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 was written in about 55 A.D.—within 25 years of Jesus’ death.  So the resurrection story is at least as ancient as 55 A.D.  Furthermore, the rabbinic formula Paul uses ("For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received...")  is the traditional Jewish way of indicating that a teacher’s position comes from an already-existing tradition that was handed down to him by others. In other words, the resurrection tradition was handed down to Paul by other eyewitnesses long before 55 A.D.

     Therefore, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the resurrection message is as ancient as the time of Christ and the apostles.  When the gospel was being preached in Jerusalem, the very place where Jesus died and was buried, eyewitnesses, hostile and friendly, would have been available to confirm or deny what was preached.  Eyewitness testimony is how all human history is known. Those who were present at historical events had to tell and write down for others what happened.

     Eye-witness skeptics in the first century could easily investigate:
1) Whether Jesus had really been crucified and buried in the garden tomb of a Jerusalem dignitary (member of the Sanhedrin) named Joseph of Arimathea.
2)Whether armed guards were actually standing watch over the tomb of Jesus when it came up empty.
3) Whether 500 people, most of them still alive even in 55 A.D., really did see the risen Christ (I Corinthians 15:6).
     But their investigations only confirmed the honest Christian message, and that’s why Christianity was so hard to argue against.

Additional Evidence
1) If the resurrection had not really happened, it is extremely unlikely that there would be unanimity amongst all the earliest Christians that it had really happened, and that it had happened literally.
     There was no disagreement. History demonstrates that the literal resurrection of Jesus was universally believed by professing Christians until the late 100s A.D. when Gnostics first began to use the term “resurrection” in a non-literal, ghost-like sense.
     It is also extremely unlikely that the idea of resurrection would have become the focal point of the gospel—the essence of the entire Christian message if the resurrection had not occurred.
     The Gentile converts from paganism never believed in resurrection at all until becoming Christians. Paganism always features spirits going to the underworld. No bodily resurrection is ever anticipated or wished for.
     The Jewish people believed in resurrection, but they said very little about it until they became Christians. (Notice how comparatively few references to resurrection are in the Old Testament.) Then, suddenly, the resurrection was the number one, most important topic of all to them.

2) If the resurrection had not really happened, it is extremely unlikely that the apostles would have used the reports of women to substantiate their story of Jesus’ return from death. In the first century, women were considered unreliable and hysterical. Their important part in the resurrection story is mentioned by the apostles simply because the apostles were telling the plain and simple truth about how things really were when the empty tomb was discovered.
Mark 16:1  And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun…. 9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.  10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.  11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
     Celsus (100s A.D.) exemplifies the attitude of ancient Romans toward women. He said Christianity was just based on the word of “a hysterical female.”

Answering the Suspicions of Our Skeptical Friends

Perhaps Jesus never really died.  Perhaps he simply swooned, was presumed dead and the cool of the cave-tomb revived him.

Perhaps Jesus' body was secreted off by his enemies.

Perhaps Jesus' body was stolen by his disciples in order to bolster their message.

Perhaps the Christian version of Christ's resurrection is a myth with no historical basis whatever.  It was popularized decades after Christ's actual death. 

Eyewitness investigation would also prove that:
*Jesus did not merely faint on the cross and exit the tomb upon recovery.  A half-dead, whip-torn, nail-impaled, spear-pierced Jesus would not:  slip out of his 75lb. grave clothes (wound up like a mummy in embalming chemicals, John 19:40); roll away a 2000-4000 lb. stone at the entrance of the tomb; elude armed guards in the process; and then convince his disillusioned disciples that his mission was a complete success and worthy of their faith.

*Jesus' body was not stolen by his enemies since a rumor of resurrection would injure the enemies' own cause and reputation.  And Jesus' body was not stolen by the disciples since they could not have overcome the problem of the armed guards, and since they were more demoralized than anyone else at Christ's death.  They could not have died for their belief in the resurrection if they knew they had merely stolen and hidden Jesus' corpse.

It is precisely because the eyewitness evidence was so strong that Christianity was born in the very city where Jesus' suffering occurred.  That something entirely extraordinary happened at Christ's tomb, even Christ's detractors could not deny.  His enemies admitted Christ's supernatural ability from the start:  "Jesus practiced magic" (The Sanhedrin 43a Talmud, 95-110 A.D.) and "Jesus of Nazareth, he hath practiced sorcery" (the first century Baraita Talmud, oldest Talmud of all).

1) If the resurrection had not happened, it is extremely unlikely that there would be unanimity amongst all the earliest Christians that it had really happened, and that it had happened literally.
History demonstrates that the literal resurrection of Jesus was universally believed by professing Christians until the late 100s A.D. when Gnostics first began to use the term “resurrection” in a non-literal, ghost-like sense.
     It is also extremely unlikely that the idea of resurrection would have become the focal point of the gospel—the essence of the entire Christian message if the resurrection had not occurred.
The Gentile converts from paganism never believed in resurrection at all until becoming Christians. Paganism always features spirits going to the underworld. No bodily resurrection is ever anticipated or wished for.
     The Jewish people believed in resurrection, but they said very little about it until they became Christians. (Notice how comparatively few references to resurrection are in the Old Testament.)       Then, suddenly, the resurrection was the number one, most important topic of all to them.
     If the idea of Jesus’ resurrection had cropped up among the disciples long after Jesus’ crucifixion, wouldn’t there have been a lot of disagreement amongst the Christians about it?

2) The fact that the gospel narratives of Jesus’ resurrection are free from sophisticated O.T. references about resurrection indicates that the gospel narratives are telling the simple truth, and that they represent the earliest Christian beliefs.
     In later Christian teachings (by the 50s A.D.), it was popular to mention that Jesus’ resurrection was foreseen in the Old Testament. “He rose from the dead according to the [Old Testament]” (1 Corinthians 15:4, written circ. 53 A.D.)
     Throughout their accounts of Christ’s life, the gospel writers were always eager to point out those aspects of His life that were fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies and foreshadowings. They do this, too, for the death of Jesus, but then become stone silent on O.T. prophecies about the resurrection that were fulfilled. Why?
     The logical conclusion would seem to be that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not include references about how the resurrection of Jesus fulfilled prophecy because they actually hadn’t thought it through yet. In other words, the stories they relayed to us about Jesus’ resurrection were still new enough that all the implications hadn’t been realized yet.
Mark 15:27  And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.  28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
Matthew 27:35  And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
     No such observations for the resurrection until the Christians had more time to think about it!

3) The simple truthfulness and early telling of the resurrection accounts in the gospels is indicated by the important role played by women in the gospel narratives at a time when women were considered unreliable and hysterical.
Mark 16:1  And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun…. 9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.  10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.  11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
     Celsus (100s A.D.) exemplifies the attitude of ancient Romans toward women. He said Christianity was just based on the word of “a hysterical female.”
     By the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 (circ. 53 A.D.), he chose not to mention the female eyewitnesses of the resurrection, presumably, because the idea of relying on female witnesses just raised too many objections.

4) The simple truthfulness and early telling of the resurrection in the gospel narratives is indicated by the fact that they are free from references about how Jesus’ resurrection is going to be replicated in the experience of all Christians at the end of the age.
Almost without fail, when Paul writes about the resurrection he adds that what Jesus experienced is also going to be experienced again by all Christians in the future, at the end of the age. The same is true of all later Christian teaching, in general.
1 Thessalonians 4:14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not go before them which are asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Romans 8:11  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
     The best explanation for why Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John don’t focus on how Christ’s resurrection offers hope for all Christians to be resurrected is that they had not thought it through quite yet. Their idea seems to be, “Jesus conquered death. This proves He’s the Messiah. Let’s tell others till He sets up His paradise-like kingdom.” The idea of all Christians being resurrected after dying had not yet begun to be emphasized when the earliest preaching about the resurrection was going on. There was therefore no self-serving motive for them to concoct a resurrection doctrine.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tools of Titans Highlights

Emotional Wellness
p.157 [Chade-Meng Tan, Google engineer and philosopher] I tell the audience members to each identify two human beings in the room and just think, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.”…The entire exercise is just ten seconds’ worth of thinking. Everybody emerges from this exercise smiling, happier than 10 seconds before. This is the joy of loving-kindness.

p.190 Take 45 minutes instead of 43. Is your red face worth it? […] I think of all of this maximization—getting the maximum dollar out of everything, the maximum out of every second, the maximum out of every minute—you don’t need to stress about any of this stuff

p.211 [Tony Robbins, performance coach and infomercial producer] “Stressed” is the achiever word for “fear.”
[Tony’s first three minutes of meditation.] Feeling totally grateful for three things. …But I don’t just think gratitude. I let gratitude fill my soul, because when you’re grateful, we all know there’s no anger. It’s impossible to be angry and grateful simultaneously. When you’re grateful, there is no fear. You cannot be fearful and grateful simultaneously.

p.314 [Tracy DiNunzio, online entrepreneur and investor, spina bifida victim] When you complain, nobody wants to help you. […] I just decided to put myself on a “complaining diet,” where I said, “Not only am I not going to say anything negative about the situation I’m in, but I’m not going to let myself think anything negative about it.”….Not only did replacing those thoughts help me start moving my life in a better direction, where I wasn’t obsessing about what was wrong,…it also made me not feel physical pain as much, which is very liberating and kind of necessary if you want to do anything.

p.405 [B.J. Miller, hospice care doctor, triple amputee] For hospice patients at death’s door, big existential questions aren’t always the needed medicine. One oddly powerful alternative is baking cookies together. Just the basic joy of smelling a cookie….You’re rewarded for being alive and in the moment.

p.408 [Maria Popova, journalist and Internet entrepreneur] Ours is a culture where we wear our ability to get by on very little sleep as a badge of honor that symbolizes work ethic , or toughness, or some other virtue—but really, it’s a profound failure of priorities…

p.489 [Tim Kreider, essayist and cartoonist] Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with their friends the way 4.0 students make sure to sign up for some extra-curricular activities because they look good on college applications.

p.490 I recently Skyped with a friend who had been driven out of New York by the rents….She had described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years….What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality—driven, cranky, anxious, and sad—turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment, of the crushing atmospheric pressure of ambition and competitiveness….It’s something we collectively force one another to do. [See more of his comments on busyness to prove self-worth.]

p.603 [Tim Feriss, Internet entrepreneur, author, and podcaster] Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.
     My definition of luxury has changed over time. Now, it’s not about owning a lot of stuff. Luxury, to me, is feeling unrushed.  [See also p.612 on the conditioning of tigers and monkey to act irrationally.]

p.640-641 [Jocko Willink’s complete “Good” essay.]
Relationship Skills
p.94 [Gabby Reece, volleyball and fitness coach] I always say that I’ll go first….That means if I’m checking out at the store, I’ll say hello first. If I’m coming across somebody and make eye contact, I’ll smile first. […] The response is pretty amazing.

p.134 [Jane McGonegal, social scientist, on the question, What is something you believe that other people think is crazy?] That you should never publically criticize anything or anyone unless it is a matter of morals or ethics. Anything negative you say could at the very least ruin someone’s day, or worse, break someone’s heart, or simply change someone from being a future ally of yours to someone who will never forget that you were unkind or unfairly critical. It is so uncommon today to complain or criticize others’ work on social media, or dogpile on someone for a perceived offense. I won’t do it. It’s not my job to be the world’s critic, and I’d rather not rule out any future allies.

p.335 [Tim Ferris quoting Lord Mahon] Great men have almost always shown themselves as ready to obey as they afterwards proved able to command.

p.404 [B.J. Miller, hospice care doctor, triple amputee] I think I’ve gotten in trouble when I come in with some predetermined idea of advice-giving. Oftentimes, that’s not really what’s needed. It’s more just the camaraderie and bearing witness….But I think most of the power of the visit is just visiting, just being together and sharing this awkward body.

p.479 [Whitney Cunnings, comedian, actress, writer, producer] I have a white tattoo on my lower left forearm that says “I love you.”
     My trauma therapist said every time you meet someone, just in your head say, “I love you” before you have a conversation with them, and that conversation is going to go a lot better.
     It’s just an interesting little trick. For 28 days, when I met someone, whether it’s the lady at the DMV who’s making me wait 2 hours [or someone else], I would just assume that everybody is doing the best they can with what they have, which is really hard for a lot of us to accept.

p.487 [Alain de Botton, author and practical philosopher] Don’t attribute to malice that which may be explained otherwise. Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who said that when dealing with anyone who’s upset, he always asks, “Has this person slept? Have they eaten? Is somebody else bugging them?” He goes through this simple checklist….When we’re handling babies and the baby is kicking and crying, we almost never once say, “That baby is out to get me” or “She’s got evil intentions.”

p.497-498 [Cal Fussman, author and historian, on the question he chose for his two-minute interview with Gorbachev—it ended up being much, much longer. Gorbachev was primed for a question about nuclear weapons.]  What’s the best lesson your father ever taught you? He is surprised. Pleasantly surprised.  He looks up and doesn’t answer. He’s thinking about this.
p.498 [On a great interview question.] What are some of the choices you’ve made that made you who you are?

p.436 [Stanley McChrystal , four-star Army general and business consultant, on how to phrase interview questions] But if you asked somebody, and you said, “Everybody loves you but they don’t love this about you,” or “they’d hire you but…” it accomplishes a couple of things. One, it forces them to come to grips with “What is it people don’t love about me?” And the second is, they’ve got to say it to you. It could be very common knowledge, but if they don’t have the courage to face up to it and tell somebody who’s thinking about hiring them, that’s a window into personality, I think.
p.304 [Alex Blumberg, podcaster and radio journalist, on the best questions interviewers can ask, and how they elicit stories]
Tell me about a time when…
Tell me about the day [or moment of time] when…
Tell me the story of …[how you came to major in X, how you met so-and-so, etc.]
Tell me about the day you realized _____...
What were the steps that got you to _________?
Describe the conversation when…

p.516 [Cheryl Strayed, author and teacher, on great self-examination/journaling/biography questions]
Write about a time you realized you were mistaken.
Write about a lesson you learned the hard way.
Write about a time you were inappropriately dressed for an occasion.
Write about something you lost that you’ll never get back.
Write about a time when you knew you’d done the right thing.
Write about something you don’t remember.
Write about your darkest teacher.
Write about a memory of a physical injury.
Write about when you knew it was over.
Write about being loved.
Write about what you were really thinking.
Write about how you found your way back.
Write about the kindness of strangers.
Write about why you could not do it.
Write about why you did.

p.547 [Naval Ravikant, Internet entrepreneur and investor] People who regularly fight with others will eventually fight with you.

p.554 [Glen Beck, radio and television journalist and author, on telling a radio audience the truth about his background—mother’s suicide, his own alcoholism and addiction, divorce, etc.] What I realized that day was people are starving for something authentic. They’ll accept you, warts and all, if that’s who you really are. Once you start lying to them, they’re not interested.

Work and Money Skills
p.185 [Derek Sivers, musician, programmer, businessman, philosopher] Choose the plan with the most options. The best plan is the one that lets you change your plans.

p.215 [Tony Robbins, performance coach and infomercial producer, on the topic of the best investors] Every single one of them is obsessed with asymmetrical risk and reward….It simply means they’re looking to use the least amount of risk to get the max amount of upside, and that’s what they live for.…They don’t believe they have to take huge risks for huge rewards.

p.219-220 [Casey Neistat, film-maker, YouTube video expert] You realize that you will never be the best looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.
p.220 For me, it’s not about how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.

p.223 [Morgan Spurlock, film-maker] Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Fear is not an option.

p.233 [Peter Thiel, PayPal founder, investor] So if you’re planning to do something with your life, if you have a 10-year plan of how to get there, you should ask, “Why can’t you do this is six months?” Sometimes, you have to actually go through the complex, 10-year trajectory. But it’s at least worth asking whether that’s the story you’re telling yourself, or whether that’s the reality.

p.269 [Scott Adams, comic strip creator and author] If you want an average, successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths: 1) Become the best at one specific thing. 2) Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.
     The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility.
     The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.
     Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no-one else has your mix….At least one of the skills in your mix should include communication, either written or verbal.

p.357 [Justin Boreta, musician, quoting Chuck Close] Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will—through work—bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great “art idea.”

p.413 [Jocko Willink, ex-Navy SEAL, business consultant, podcaster] My mantra is a very simple one, and that’s “Discipline equals freedom.”
     Two is one and one is none.

p.442 [Shay Carl, YouTube video producer, film-maker, entreprenuer] The secrets of life are hidden behind the word “cliché.” So any time you hear something you think is a cliché, my tip to you is to perk your ears up and listen more carefully.  He had heard certain phrases like “eat more vegetables” a million times, but ignored them for years, as it all seemed to simplistic. Ultimately, it was the simple that worked. He didn’t need sophisticated answers. They were right in front of him the whole time.
p.443 It’s not easy to get better. It’s tough. Our natural inclination is toward addiction and toward the things that are easy.  It’s easy to drink alcohol and take away the pain. It’s easy to go through the drive-through and buy a Big Mac, right? What are you willing to do that is hard? I remember my Grandpa saying, “Work will work when nothing else will work.”

p.473 [Kevin Kelly, magazine founder, researcher, author] One of the many life skills that you want to learn at a fairly young age is the skill of being an ultra-thrifty, minimal kind of little wisp that’s traveling through time…in the sense of learning how little you actually need to live, not just in survival mode, but in a contented mode.

p.552 [Naval Ravikant, Internet entrepreneur and investor] [My existence] is like a firefly blinking once in the night. Nothing that we do lasts.

p.625 [Tim Feriss, Internet entrepreneur, author, and podcaster] This was a depressing realization I came to while considering blowing my head off or getting run over. Damnation! … I literally had zero evidence that my death would improve things….the unknown void could be Dante’s Inferno on steroids.