Have you read the book, The Shack, by William P. Young?
The Shack is a compelling story about the grieving and healing process of a shattered man after the tragic loss of his 6 year old daughter. The book makes some strong points about having a personal relationship with God, by taking a rather unconventional approach. You have to let your imagination run a little wild in order to appreciate this book.
For example, the storyline developes around a weekend retreat with the Trinity: God the Father is a black woman (you have to give the author a pass on that — it kind of works for his purposes); God the Son is a 33 year old Palestinian man; God the Holy Spirit is an Oriental Mystic. The protagonist, Mackenzie Philips, arrives at the root of his deeper issues in life that keep him from having a personal relationship with God through a 12-step based theropy session with the Holy Trinity. Recommended reading for some of it’s helpful insights; take the heresy with a grain of salt.
Heresy, such as these words from Jesus’ own lips (in the book): “I never founded a Church.”
In other words, The Shack promotes a non-denominational form of Christianity, by claiming thoughout the book that the problem with all Christian religions is just religion. That is the underlying tenet of non-denominational Christianity today. A tenet which I believe involves a strong misguided view of religion.
Almost everyone should be familiar with the following video written, directed, and delivered by a young 22 year old Jefferson Berthke. In it, he explains exactly what the title proclaims: “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus.”
Back in January of 2012, this video went viral with over 22 million hits. Needless to say it provoked quite a reaction, mostly negative from Christians and Atheists alike (each for different reasons, obviously).
Here is a response video from a Catholic Priest, which I think answers each of Berthke’s grievances quite soundly.
Does Jefferson Berthke miss the point or is he just misunderstood? I think it’s a little of both.
First, Jefferson explained in an interview with ChurchLeaders.com gave the interpretive key to his poem, by explaining how he came to understand religion as an intrinsically bad thing. And perhaps, if you can see where he is coming from, you would agree with his point (even if you do not fully agree with him on it).
As the 22 year old explains:
“Essentially, I come from a Mars Hill context, because that’s my home church. I didn’t realize this, but outside Mars Hill, religion means different things to other people. Inside Mars Hill, the word “religion” is pretty much synonymous with hypocrisy, legalism, self-righteousness, and self-justification. That was really the heart of my definition of that word. If you went through the entire poem and replaced the word religion with either legalism or self-righteousness or hypocrisy, it would have not changed my intention or the heart of that poem whatsoever. To me, those words are interchangeable.”
What Jefferson failed to comprehend, before he posted the video, is that to most people what he said comes across something like this:
Sorry for the philosophical humor there folks. Of course, if you are German, you’ll be laughing out loud in about 5 minutes. Otherwise, you probably don’t get it. So allow me to explain.
Immanuel Kant “founded” Transcendental Idealism. Can you like what Kant teaches without liking what he teaches? Can you follow Kant without following his Transcendental Idealism — all interpretations aside?
The non-denominational Christian would probably respond that this is a straw man argument, because it misrepresents his views on religion and what Jesus taught. He may even have a point about that. He would probably say that Jesus did not establish a religion or a Church, despite what the Gospel says to the contrary (e.g., Matthew 16:18). And of course, without a Magisterium to guide sound interpretation of the Gospel, it is difficult to debate him on this point.
So I will admit it is a complicated issue.
But I am not here to debate in terms of strict biblical apologetics* (unless someone wants to take me up on this issue). Rather, I am curious as to how others view the non-denominational phenomenon. I would be especially interested on hearing what some non-denominational Christians would have to say on this, if they are comforatable sharing their views with me here.
If you would like to express your views here, I will respect them. I won’t challenge you on them unless you want to debate the issue here. My motivation is simply interest. I’d like to know a little more about your non-denominational approach.
- NB: Regarding *biblical apologetics,* this is an apologetics blog, but the approach leans more toward cultural apologetics. This is something that I should and will explain in another post (or new page on the blog).