Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Yes, I’ve had people bring this film up as a refutation of Christianity. My wife once had a college professor who was fond of bringing up copycat theories like these. I had an interesting conversation with him once. Ironically, one of the long – standing jabs at Christians (“I guess you prefer blind faith to facts”) actually applies to those placing blind faith in the Zeitgeist film. You may enjoy the youtube video here.




This is part 3 of a review of Wm. Paul Young’s (author of THE SHACK) recently released book Lies We believe About God. Part 1 “No Need to Get Saved…” can be found by clicking right here, and part 2 “Hell is Not Separation from God…” can be found here. Know, again, this is based on his most recently released book (March 7, 2017), and these excerpts are taken from my personal copy:


We now explore chapter 27, where the author introduces as “lie” #27: “Sin separates us from God.”


The straightforward message the author heralds here is that sin does NOT separate, anyone, from God, ever – and to believe this is to swallow a “lie.” Young interjects that this thinking comprises a “theology of separation,” and he further elaborates: “A lot of ‘my people’ will believe that the following statement is in the Bible, but it isn’t: ‘You have sinned and you are separated from God'” (Lies, p. 231, see below).

One obvious flaw with what Young is saying can be found right here:

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God…” (Isaiah 59:2b).

There it is, almost word for word in the Bible. But significantly more telling than this is the theology of the entire Bible. Young has a penchant for making blunt declarations about particular words he hasn’t found in the Bible, and then he uses that as a straw man support to negate it as a teaching. The perfect example is found in THE SHACK book itself on p. 205, when Sarayu, the Holy Spirit, says “… you won’t find the word responsibility in the scriptures.”


Whether or not this English word is found in the particular translation the author is using, the theme of responsibility is all throughout the Bible. Just a nominal gleaning of Jesus’ parables (landowners leaving, coming back, holding servants accountable) makes the authors’ word search findings irrelevant. As for whether the theme of sin separating people from God is found in the Bible, just the Old Testament teaching on the Tabernacle is replete enough for anyone to reach an obvious conclusion. In Exodus 25:8 the Lord says to Moses “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” Why is this sanctuary needed for God to dwell with them? Because God is holy, and people are sinful. Sin has separated them from God. That’s one of the basic teaching points of these narratives. Virtually every aspect of the instructions for building the tabernacle – including the gates, laver, altar, veil, priestly duties, sacrifices, has to do with God being holy and separate from people because of their sin (unholiness). This is very simple Sunday School stuff. If you think I’m overstating this, go here, and read how many times the word “separate” is used. As the veteran Christian artist Phil Keaggy once crooned, “you should have believed Sunday School.” Of course, metaphysically speaking, God is omnipresent, and didn’t merely dwell spatially inside the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle. But relationally, which is the context Young’s premise, God is distinctly separate (for more discussion on this, see William Lane Craig article here). Be reminded that virtually every article in the Tabernacle also points to Jesus and what He has done for us, and our sin, so that we can approach God and not be separate. The language of Ephesians 2:12-13 alludes to this as it reads “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the common wealth of Israel and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (NKJV -emphasis mine). Like in the Romans 8 passage from the previous article, the context here is clearly exclusive to believers in Jesus Christ. A. Skevington Wood writes:

“In the first place, they were without, or apart (NIV, ‘separate’) from Christ (choris Christou)… as a consequence, they lived in a world devoid of hope (I Thess. 4:13)…. ‘But now’ stands in sharp antithesis to v. 12. They are no longer ‘separate from Christ’ (v. 12) but ‘in Christ Jesus…’ those who trust in Him possess a present salvation as well as a future hope. ‘Jesus is the ‘meeting point’ with God for all mankind’ (A. Skevington Wood Expositor’s Bible Commentary c. 1978 p. 39 – Emphasis mine)

To Young, nevertheless, this theology of sin separating people from God is false. Therefore, let’s examine very carefully from his own words in how this plays out (below Lies p. 232):

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Be very clear about what the author is saying. In Young’s mind, NO ONE EVER has, nor EVER WILL BE, relationally separated from God because of sin. Aside from his spurious usage of Romans 8 (contextually speaking of believers – which was addressed in this article) the implications here are more than a bit provocative. No one (not Nero, Adolf Hitler, Judas), has EVER BEEN, nor will EVER BE…  separated from the love of God in a relational way. Keep in mind, this is even an affront to the punishment Jesus took for our sins – the penal atonement. Ponder the following passages of scripture and the ensuing comments:

Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (25) whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, (26) to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (NKJV)

2 Corinthians 5:21 “For he made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (NKJV)

Galatians 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'” (NKJV)

Mark 15:34 “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eloi, Eloi, loama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'” (NKJV)

“The orphaned cry of Jesus reflects something of the depth of meaning of Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us.’ Interpretations that suggest that Jesus began to recite Psalm 22 with the intent of reciting the entire psalm, which ends on a note of triumph, but died before getting past v. 2 are desperate attempts to dodge the reality of Jesus’ forsakenness”  (Walter W. Wessel; Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 8 c. 1984 p. 782 – highlights mine)

“At the ninth hour, Jesus expressed the agony of His soul when He cried out from the cross, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ (see Ps. 22:1). The darkness symbolized the judgment Jesus experienced when the Father forsook him (Warren Wiersbe Bible Exposition Commentary c. 1989 p. 165)

“This was more than the cry of a righteous Sufferer affirming His faith that God would cause Him to triumph (contrast Psalm 22:1 with Ps. 22:18). Nor did Jesus merely feel abandoned … Breaking the curse of sin and God’s judgment on sin (Deut. 21:22-23; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13) He experienced the unfathomable horror of separation from God, who cannot look on sin (Heb. 1:13). This answers Jesus’ question ‘why?’ Dying for sinners He experienced separation from God (John D. Grassmick The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures By Dallas Theological Seminary – New Testament Edition c. 1983 p. 189 – highlights mine)

For someone reading Mr. Young’s books and listening to his interviews, it shouldn’t be a huge shock he would side with an idea that negates the penal, substitutionary atonement of Jesus for our sins. He regularly dodges this theme as the meaning of the cross event, and when he does refer to the doctrine of Christ’s blood atonement, he does so in a derogatory manner:

“Who originated the cross? If God did, then we worship a cosmic child abuser... And how would we religious people interpret this sacrifice? We would declare that it was God who killed Jesus, slaughtering Him as a necessary appeasement for His bloodthirsty need for justice  (from Lies pp. 149, 150, 151 – emphasis mine)

Beyond this, Young had apparently gone so far as to deny the penal substitution of Christ as long ago as 2009 (see link here). Do go back and read Romans 3:23-26 again if you’re having any doubt about the meaning of Christ’s cross event.

If you’re following along the author’s sequence of logic, many of the aforementioned ideas stem from Young’s designer view of sin itself. In Lies, He does concede to the reality of “sin” and that the Grk word hamartia means “missing the mark” – but he then further explains it this way (below, from Lies p. 229):



Based on this, Young explains his version of what Jesus has done for us:

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In other words, separation is a mere delusion. If you think sin has separated you from God, you’re deluded. Your true being is like God, and you’ve never been relationally separated – even if you’re not a believer in Christ or you never will be. So, try to get this straight: Jesus, instead of dying to take the penalty of our sin because we were actually separated from God as the result of sin, merely helps us to break through our self-delusions, by witnessing someone who has knowledge of his TRUE self, so we can know our “TRUE selves,” which, as it turns out, looks just like God! (Got it? – Wait, did God really say this? What did God really say? See Gen. 3:1-5 for the earliest version of this plot line). For an actual example of what the Bible says our true selves looks like, let’s take a look at Romans 3:10-19:


10 As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”[a]
13 Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God (NKJV)


No wonder our sin separates us from God who “cannot look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1:13).

No, don’t throw out those old Gospel tracts. No matter what popular “Christian” authors say, sin still separates people from God, and Jesus is still the Savior who paid the wages for sin on the cross, rose again, and offers the free gift of eternal life – to everyone who repents and believes on Him for salvation (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10; 10:13; Acts 16:31).

Gospel Tract

Gospel Tract 2


-E (coming next, as promised: Wm Paul Young and Monism)






This is part 2 of a series of posts about Wm. Paul Young’s (author of The Shack) latest book (released just 10 days ago, March 7, 2017). This reviewer recognizes there have been other statements Young has made which sound contradictory to these as recently as just a few years ago (click here). Know that what’s posted here are his latest, written statements on these subjects from his book Lies We Believe About God (below is a picture of my own personal copy):


Oddly, the author clearly says in Lies (March 7, 2017) that what he intended to portray in various dialogues from 2007’s The Shack  is a depiction of his positions on universal salvation for all, with hell/death as a restorative process – etc… (also, Christian apologist Eric Barger has an excellent summary, mid-point in this article, of his history of inquiring personally with Young about this subject – dating back to 2004). So, the best we might ascertain about Young’s changing positions, even based on his own words, are:

2007 (date of release of THE SHACK): Young held to universal salvation for all.

2014 (date of the above youtube interview): Young did not hold to universal salvation for all, or at least stated he “didn’t know.”

2017 (date of Lies book release): Young goes back to affirming universal salvation for all.

This unpredictable, faucet (on again, off again) approach to theology shouldn’t be a huge surprise coming from someone who places a high premium on “listening to the Holy Spirit” and “intuition” at the expense of scriptural authority.

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(Left: Wm. Paul Young, from an interview in Simple Grace Magazine; April 2017; taken from my own copy)





What the author seems to mean by teaching “stuff” we can’t find in books, includes stuff we can’t find in those 66 Books we call the Bible. Instead, he promises concepts that will be “new” and “transformative” – and we need to “relax” and let the Holy Spirit be our “true” teacher (see below):




(Right: Wm. Paul Young from Lies We Believe p. 20)



Young doesn’t seem to understand that Christians have a Biblical imperative to “not believe every spirit” but to “test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). True, the Holy Spirit is our teacher, but the “sword of the Spirit” is “the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17a). The author’s lack of scriptural support in the recent Lies book echoes the cynicism of The Shack’s narrator when the following remark is made about the character Mackensie: “In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects… Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book”  (Young, The Shack p. 66). From my experience, when someone is this belittling about the importance of scripture and its diligent study, you can be almost certain his wheels are about to run off the road of truth. Know that if you’re on The Shack bus,  I sincerely pray God’s presence and grace will strengthen you – because it’s hard telling where your trip is going to end. Know, also, I don’t address the themes mentioned here lightly. These subjects (Hell, it’s condition / duration) are quite foreboding – which is all the more reason they need to be addressed truthfully according to God’s Word and not the whims of popular authors.

Today’s post is based on what’s deemed in the book to be “Lie # 15”“Hell is Separation from God” (photo of chapter 15 from my copy below)


The author’s clear point is that Hell is NOT separation from God, even though to his dismay many believe this “lie.” One of his defenses of this, is that if hell is created, then Romans 8 proves hell isn’t separation from God:

“(one) alternative is that hell is a created place or thing. Consider this passage: ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 – with emphasis by Young on created thing)

(below, from Lies p. 134)



The most obvious problem with this line of reasoning should be evident from anyone nominally familiar with the New Testament. The context of these Romans 8 promises is saved people – who are “in Christ Jesus” (The entire chapter begins “There is therefore now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus… 8:1a NKJV …  and the chapter continues in vs. 9 “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” 8:9b NKJV). Of course, Mr. Young sees everyone as being in Christ, because he holds to universal salvation for all, with nobody needing to be saved (which was the subject of my previous articlesee here). Along with a basic contextual understanding of Romans 8, Young’s universalism is a blatant denial of countless sections of scripture (see just a few here – Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 25:46; Revelation 20:11-15). In fact, let’s revisit this subject of Universalism (or Universal Restorationism) some moreConsider Jesus own words in Matthew 25:46:

“And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (NKJV)

Note that the original Greek terms for everlasting/eternal are the exact same word (Grk aionion, a form of aionios “eternal, everlasting … without end”  – F. Wilbur Gingrich Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament 1st ed. 1957 c. 1983 p. 6)


(above – Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament 25th edition c. 1983 p. 100 – taken from my personal copy)

In other words, from both the thrust of the context and the word usage – in the same way heaven and its conditions are eternal, hell and its conditions are eternal (note Mark 9:45-46,48 “fire shall never be quenched… worm does not die… “)


Furthermore, note these verses from the book of Revelation:

“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10); And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15).

It’s no wonder one of the earliest North American Bible Scholars, Moses Stuart, who saturated himself on this subject when studying the scriptures came to this conclusion:

“The result seems to be plain, and philologically and exegetically certain. It is this; either the declarations of the Scriptures do not establish the facts, that God and his glory and praise and happiness are endless; nor that the happiness of the righteous in a future world is endless; or else they establish the fact, that the punishment in a future world, is endless. The whole stand or fall together. There can, in the very nature of antithesis, be no room for rational doubt here, in what manner we should interpret the declarations of the scriptures. We must either admit the endless misery of hell, or give up the endless happiness of Heaven (Moses Stuart, Exegetical Essays on Several Words Relating to Future Punishment c. 1867; as cited by Robert W. Yarborough in Hell Under Fire c. 2004 pp. 75-76)          

Returning back to the theme of Hell, Young’s preferred train of thought is that hell is what it is, because of the presence of God. At one juncture he goes so far as to suggest maybe hell isn’t created, and hell is God himself, and (a person’s destiny) is “not apart from God but directly into God, who is Love, light, Goodness” (Lies p. 134). At any rate , again, his concluding proposal is that hell is what it is, not because of the absence of God, but because of God’s presence, “the continuous and confrontational presence of fiery Love and Goodness … a fire of Love that now and forever is for us, not against us…” He concludes: I propose the possibility that hell is not separation from Jesus but that it is the pain of resisting our salvation in Jesus while not being able to escape Him who is True Love”  (see below from p. 137)


This fits in nicely with Young’s avowed universalism, but does it line up with scripture?

Specifically on the theme of hell and being separated from God, let’s start with Matthew 25:41: “Then He (The Son of Man) will also say to those (people) on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels'”  (NKJV). Below are Greek study notes on the words depart and from:

depart (Grk poreuesthe / poreuo “go, proceed, travel“)  From (Grk ap / apo “away from, out of, separation, departure”) (Gingrich SLOTGNT pp. 165, 21)  

This “depart from Me” saying, in the context of the Eschaton (end times / judgement), is also found elsewhere in the words of Jesus:

Matthew 7:23 “And then I (Jesus) will declare to them, depart from Me…”  (NASB)

Luke 13:24-27 (24) “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will   seek to enter and will not be able” (25) “Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord open up to us!‘ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ (26) ‘Then you will begin to say, We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets (27) “and He will say, I tell you, I do not know where you are from. Depart from Me, all you evildoers” (NASB)

This Hell is separation from God motif in the Gospels has been succinctly summarized by the words of respected Bible scholar scholar William Hendriksen:

First of all, then, hell means separation. The wicked will hear the terrible words, ‘Depart from me, you accursed,’ which is the opposite of ‘Come, you blessed.’ Besides Matt. 25:41 see also 7:23; Luke 13:27. They will ‘go away’ into everylasting punishment (25:46). Their dwelling place will be outside the banquet hall, the wedding feast, the shut door (8:11-12; 22:13; 25:11-13)” (William Hendriksen New Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Matthew c. 1973 p. 890)                                    

If Mr. Young, or anyone else still needs more Biblical support that hell is a place separated from God, here is 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9: “Dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (9) “And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (NASB)

away from (Grk apo prosopou “From the presence… or face. Apo/from has simply the sense of separation. Not “from the time of the Lord’s appearing” nor “by reason of the glory of his presence” (M. R. Vincent Word Studies in the New Testament c. 1972 p. 949)

“Destruction does not mean here annihilation, but, as Paul proceeds to show, separation from the face of the Lord (apo prosopou tou kuriou) and from the glory of his might (Kai apo tes doxes tes ischous autou)” (A.T. Robertson Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. IV c. 1931 p. 44)

One hang-up Young seems to have is assuming God’s omnipresence is the same as His relational presence. Because God is omnipresent (everyone at once), that doesn’t mean God’s relational presence and “restorative love” is always near and available – which is clearly what the author is stating (see this William Lane Craig article and the question answer section). Hopefully it’s obvious to people when the scriptures say “separate” or “together” with God, it’s speaking relationally, because metaphysically speaking God is not spatial.

As a corollary statement to his belief of universal salvation for all, and Hell not being a relational separation from God, Young “proposes” the following: “I propose that the event of death introduces a crisis (krsis – the Greek word, as in ‘Day of… judgment’), a restorative process intended to free us to run into the arms of Love” (Young, Lies, p. 187) (Below, from Lies p. 187)


As you might have guessed, this particular chapter doesn’t have so much as one single Bible verse, out of context or otherwise, to support the premise that death introduces a restorative process. Instead, as is the pattern through much of the book, the idea stems from what Mr. Young merely “thinks” (see below from Lies p. 182)


As a personal side-note: It’s quite audacious to claim to be a Christ-follower in any way while candidly tossing out what the Bible clearly teaches based merely on what one “thinks.”  I’m certain Jefferson and Tolstoy would be proud!

Aside from the countless “time’s up” parables of Jesus (see the Bridgroom’s response to the unprepared virgins in Matthew 25:10-12), and besides Hebrews 9:27 which says “it’s been appointed for man once to die, and then the judgement” NKJV), let’s refresh ourselves on Luke 16:19-31 (25) “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and you are tormented” (26) “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us (NKJV)

Of course, if someone’s basis of support for a proposition is “listening to the Holy Spirit” and standing on “intuition” and what one “thinks” apart from scripture – there isn’t much more that can be said. Be mindful that one of Young’s recurring bents that is heavily influencing these views is his leanings toward monism a fallacious view that  God is “one” with all creation (think “one” – ism). This erroneous teaching is foundational to pantheism, panentheism, the New Age Movement, Gnosticism, and Hinduism. This will be addressed further in a future post.

Here are some some final statements on these matters from Bible scholar and apologist Norm Geisler (former president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and prolific author – including being the general editor of The Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics):

“Jesus taught that not only is there a hell that was created for Satan and his angels, but, tragically, there will also be persons in it” (Norman Geisler Systematic Theology Vol. 4 c. 2005 p. 401)

“Heaven is ‘everlasting,’ and the same word (Gk: aionion), used in the same context, also affirms that hell is ‘everlasting.’ If heaven is forever, then so is hell; there is absolutely no biblical ground for supposing that one is eternal and one is temporal. Likewise, there is no possibility of a person escaping hell after arriving (Luke 16:26). Judgment begins after death (Heb. 9:27; John 8:21)” (Norman Geisler Systematic Theology Vol. 4 c. 2005 p. 339)


(This is part 2 of this series on the beliefs of Wm. Paul Young (the author of The Shack) from his recently released book  Lies We Believe About God released March 7, 2017. Part 3 will be forthcoming).


For this reviewer, there was plenty rotten in Pen-mark with Wm. Paul Young’s 2007 book The ShackNot in the least of this was when God (the Trinity) says to the human character (Mack) that the persons of the Trinity are submitted to humans the same way they are submitted to each other (see p. 145):


Another fallacious zinger is found where, concerning the person Jesus Christ, it is explained by God that Jesus’ miracles, healings, and even raising people from the dead didn’t prove Jesus was Godmore than human, (but rather) it proves that Jesus is truly human (see p. 99):


Still, the story must have contained enough slight of hand logic and emotional appeal distraction to keep the wool sufficiently pulled over the eyes of the unsuspecting. However, with the recent (March 7, 2017) release of Wm. Paul Young’s latest book Lies We Believe About God, there should remain no doubt about the erroneous beliefs of The Shack author. Here is a photo of my copy (which was already sold out at the local Barnes and Noble, so I had to special order it. The clerk specifically told me “these are selling like crazy”). 


The book consists of what the author describes as 28 “lies” which many Christians have been duped into believing about God. I’m hoping to have a series of several posts on these – partly so you won’t feel the need to buy the book yourself. For now, here’s “Lie #13” – “You need to get saved.” 


Young clearly states this is one of the 28 “lies” we Christians have been led to believe is true, but is not. He then goes on to succinctly explain (p. 117): “So what is the Good News? What is the Gospel? The Good news is not that Jesus has opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has already included you into his life, into His relationship…”

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If there is still any hint of wiggle room left in what’s being said, he entertains the rhetorical questions (on p. 118): “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? ” To which he replies “That is exactly what I am saying!” 

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I suppose based on Young’s premise, when the jail-keeper in Acts 16 asked Paul and Silas “Sirs, what must I do to be saved” they should have responded “the need to be saved is a lie, you’re already saved.” Strangely, that wasn’t their response. They said:Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30b – 31)

One of the proof-texts Young uses to support his universalism is John 3:17 which he places in conjunction with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” (3:17) “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemns the world, but to save the world through Him” (with the emphasis on world by Young, himself). In his mind, usages of “world” such as this imply automatic, universal salvation for everyone. It’s curious Young didn’t go on to the very next verse in John 3 which says “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18 NKJV).

Rest assured the Bible doesn’t teach universal salvation for all – and rest assured the author of the Shack, does.

(More to come on this subject – and special thanks to our church youth pastor Jeremy Doyle for tipping me off about the release of this recent book)






After much prayer, thought, and effort, I’m extremely excited for this to finally come into fruition. If you live within driving distance of the Kern County, Ca. area, be encouraged to join us as we host this conglomeration of world-class scholars in Christian apologetics (speaking IN PERSON). The early bird cost (through April 1st) is only $30 (married couples are $50, students are $25) and you can register  online by going right here. If you are from another church, know that there will be materials available for purchase by each speaker for your personal or small group studies. If you are a “skeptic” (atheist/agnostic etc) you are not only welcome, but feel free to contact us here at VBC for a possible scholarship to pay for your attendance (ask for Eric Hann – 661 – 387 – 6389). There haven’t been many of these types of events in the central California area, so be certain to take opportunity to join us. The following is the list of our distinguished guests: lee_strobe

Lee Strobel, M.S.L. M.S.L., Yale Law School Mr. Strobel is the author of The Case for a Creator, God’s Outrageous Claims, The Case for Christmas, The Case for Easter, and Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage, which he wrote with his wife, Leslie. For two seasons, Lee was executive producer and host of the weekly national network television program Faith Under Fire. He is also a contributing editor and columnist for Outreach magazine.

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J.P. Moreland, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University Ph.D., University of Southern California; Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary; M.A., University of California, Riverside He has authored or co-authored books including Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Christianity and the Nature of Science, Scaling the Secular City, Does God Exist?, Immortality: The Other Side of Death, and The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues of Our Times. He is co-editor of Christian Perspectives on Being Human and Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. His work appears in scholarly journals throughout the world. Find him on the web at

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Sean McDowell, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Apologetics, Biola University Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; M.A. in Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology; M.A. in Theology, Talbot School of Theology Sean McDowell has authored, edited and contributed to 15 books and written dozens of articles in the fields of apologetics, philosophy, culture and ethics. He is an award-winning teacher and the son of Biola alumnus and well-known Christian apologist, Josh McDowell (’66, M.Div. ’71). Sean McDowell has co-authored several books, including The Bible Handbook of Difficult Verses and the recently updated version of More Than a Carpenter. McDowell graduated from Biola’s Talbot school of Theology in 2003 with a double Master’s degree in Philosophy and Theology. His Ph.D. is in Apologetics and Worldview Studies.

Clay Jones, D.Min. Associate Professor of Christian Apologetics, Biola University Doctor of Ministry, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; M.Div.; B.A., philosophy Formerly hosted Contend for Truth, a call-in nationally syndicated talk radio program. On his program he debated many people over eight years including John Cobb, Jr.; a professor of Buddhism; Jamal Badawi, Islamic Information Institute; a Muslim cleric; Lee Holzinger, Church of Scientology; Mormons; Jehovah’s Witness Greg Stafford; Dallas Blanchard, RCRC; Peta representatives; a euthanasia advocate; a secular humanist, Rep. Loretta Sanchez; KFI talk show host Bill Handle; Jimmy Creech, SoulForce; Bruce Ware; Robert Morey; and R. Scott Clark . Dr. Jones was the executive director of Simon Greenleaf University (now Trinity Law School) has been on the pastoral staff of two large churches; has authored apologetic software as well as encyclopedia and journal articles; is writing a book, Why God Allows Evil, and speaks widely on that subject. Find him on the web at

Craig J. Hazen, Ph.D. Founder and Director of M.A. Program in Christian Apologetics Director of the M.A. Program in Science and Religion Professor of Comparative Religion and Apologetics Ph.D., M.A., University of California, Santa Barbara Dr. Hazen is the editor of the philosophy journal, Philosophia Christi. He is also the author of the monograph The Village Enlightenment in America, the acclaimed apologetics novel Five Sacred Crossings, and dozens of articles and chapters in various books and journals. He is a recipient of the Fischer Award, the highest faculty honor at Biola and has lectured across North America and Europe on key apologetics topics—including lectures on Capitol Hill and in the White House. He is a popular church and conference speaker and former co-host of a national radio talk program. The following is the scheduled itinerary: Friday, April 24, 2015 -6:30-6:45pm – Event begins: Announcements and Introductions -6:45-7:00 – Craig Hazen: Mini-lecture on the Biblical Case for Apologetics -7:00-7:15 – J.P. Moreland: Mini-lecture on Addressing a Culture in Decay -7:15-7:30 – Sean McDowell: Mini-Lecture on Apologetic Impact 7:30 – 7:45 – Lee Strobel: Mini-Lecture on The Unexpected Adventure 7:45 – 8:00 – Break 8:00 – 9:00 – Clay Jones: Why God Allows Evil Saturday, April 25, 2015 (a light continental breakfast will be served) -9:00 – 9:05am – Announcements and  Introductions 9:05 – 9:55 – Lee Strobel: The Case for Christ – The Resurrection 9:55 – 10:10 – Break 10:10 – 11:00 – J.P. Moreland: The Case for the Soul 11:00 – 11:15 – Break 11:15 – 12:00Pm – Sean McDowell: The Reliability of Scripture 12:00 -12:10 – Break 12:10 – 1:00 – Craig Hazen: Christianity and the Challenge of World Religions 1:00 – Final comments and dismissal

See you there   -Eric

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Here is a link to a debate between William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll at one of my alma maters – New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I also had the privilege of serving there as a trustee for a period of time.

Although Carroll chafes at Craig’s astonishment – I, too, as a mere peasant, am astonished that someone could hold so tightly, with endless gyrations of pseudo-support, that the universe… itself… didn’t have.. a beginning.

Sure – makes complete sense to me.

Craig’s very blunt question was never adequately answered. If a space-time understanding of origins is only an ancient, classical miss-perception of the universe (or perhaps, all of reality?), then… “why would the universe transition to classical space-time reality just 13 billion years ago?” A great question, asked twice, that was never touched. Also, while Carroll repeatedly noted that it’s difficult to refute theism since there is no agreeable definition amongst people – it should be noted that it’s easy for people to deny theism, by simply taking theistic attributes and ascribing them to finite matter/beings – while slyly not using the term… “god” (eternal matter, decision-making nature – eternal, all-knowing, aliens etc.)

Perhaps the largest elephant in the room, however, is how virtually every turn of Carroll’s presentations leaned on cause and effect methodology, while one of his main premises remained that… cause and effect methodology is dated, and we need to move past Aristotle. This was extremely noticeable when he trailed onto an off-topic polemic about what we’d expect from a God-created universe compared to another model. Though his points were borderline silly and not worth mentioning, take note of how cause and effect plays in:

If there were a God… (cause), then we’d expect… (effect)”

if there were no God – and the universe came into being via another model… (different cause), then we’d expect… (different effect)”

Therefore... (there is no God and the universe came into existence via another model)

However… “we need to erase the cause and effect – Aristotelian approach to understanding cosmology/ultimate realites, because that’s dated.”

Make sense?

Granted, he would likely say “you just don’t understand” (which, by the way, can be a laziest of all trump-cards for anyone whose arguments don’t make sense – my least-favorite car repair technicians use it all the time when I’m about to get jerked) – but I’m guessing he’d say… “Sure, of course we use cause and effect in other areas of deduction…” (like when seeking to refute Christians and their Biblical world-view), “…but we don’t use it anymore when seeking to make deductions in cosmology – it’s dated.”


In fact, let’s just use all of Aristotle’s tools from his box, to support the premise that his tools need not be used – and that the box, itself, need not exist.

Carroll’s closing outro was also interesting, and a bit humorous. Having sat in that chapel countless times myself, this was not the first time I felt like someone in chapel was simply trying to throw me a bone. Let’s see, since there is no God, so what do we do? Let’s keep having religion – but without God.

You know… sing with me: “C’mon people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together try to love one another.”

Carroll needs to hop disciplines for a while and read Nietzsche – or maybe just the book of Ecclesiastes. Since he’s so willing to traverse onto off-topic subjects, he can explain to us his meta-ethical foundation for speaking of goodness, without God. “Let’s just focus on fellowship with people we love.” Then again, why not be a character from a Dostoyevsky novel and murder someone just for the sake of doing it? Also, I’m reminded of the simple words of some modern pop-poet named Bono, who has lived through the insane impact of Godless religion in Ireland (paraphrased):

“There is nothing more frightening to me than religion, without God. Once God leaves the building, that’s when we have a really serious problem.”

I concur. Again, Carroll needs to jump disciplines and learn some history. Seems like Bono knows his better than the California cosmologist.


Please pray as we consider holding an apologetics conference here at Valley Baptist Church (where I serve).

A common objection. The a priori assumption: Love or wrath – it’s either one or the other. C’mon, pick a lane. As a young, aspiring philosopher (my 19-year-old son) would say to his college class – “this is a classic false dilemma.”

Perhaps one of the most compelling responses to this supposed bifurcation of God’s character is found in a section of the book Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves (Ph.D., King’s College – currently the adviser of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) in the United Kingdom):

Book - Delighting in the Trinity

When Love Meets Evil

“Now if God’s holiness can seem off-pouting, his wrath can seem hideous. And if God is not triune, it is. If God is just the biggest boy in the school who must have his every way or else lost it in fits of carpet-biting rage, then his anger is repellent. All his other good qualities would be as nothing when we saw those red eyes. Yet that is just how God’s anger is often seen… But. In fact, let me say that again: But. However it might be with other ‘gods,’ that is just not how it is with the Father, Son and Spirit. With this God, it is not as if sometimes he has love and sometimes he has wrath, as if those are different moods so that when he’s feeling one he’s not feeling the other. No, for all eternity the Father was loving his Son, but never once was he angry. Why? because there was nothing to be angry with until Adam sinned in Genesis 3. So God’s anger at evil from Genesis 3 onward is a new thing: it is how the God who is love responds to evil.”

“Like God’s holiness, then, his wrath is not something that sits awkwardly next to his love. Nor is it something unrelated to his love. God is angry at evil because he loves. Isaiah speaks of the pouring out of God’s wrath as his ‘strange work,’ his ‘alien task’ (Is. 28:21), because it is not that God is naturally angry, but that evil provokes him: in his pure love, God cannot tolerate evil. That makes complete sense to me as a father: if I could twiddle my thumbs and yawn while my daughters suffered, it would prove I didn’t really love them; but precisely because I so love them I hate the thought of anything evil befalling them.  How much more is it so with the Father of lights, in whom there is no darkness at all. Love cares, and that means it cannot be indifferent to evil. ‘Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good’ (Rom. 12:9). Only such love is sincere.”

“Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf has described how it took the horrors of ethnic warfare happening around him to appreciated the goodness of God’s wrath:

‘I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandparently fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.'”(Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), pp. 138-39, as taken from Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity)

“Were God not triune, and so not eternally love, his wrath would make him look like an overgrown, foot-stamping toddler, a fight-picking bully or a merciless sultan. Think of the hormonal outbursts of the gods of ancient Greece and Rome. But with the God who is eternally love, his anger must rise from that love. Thus his anger is holy, set apart from our temper-tantrums; it is how he in his love reacts to evil. The Father loves his Son, and so hates sin, which ultimately is rejection of the Son; he loves his children, and so hates their being oppressed; he loves his world, and so hates all evil in it. Thus in his love he roots out sin in his people, even disciplining them that they might be freed from their captivity to it. In his love he is patient with us. And in his love he promises finally to destroy all evil as light destroys darkness.”

“The wrath of the triune God is exactly the opposite of a character blip or a nasty side in him. It is the proof of the sincerity of his love, that he truly cares. His love is not mild-mannered and limp; it is livid, potent and committed. And therein lies our hope: through his wrath the living God shows that he is truly loving, and through his wrath he will destroy all devilry that we might enjoy him in a purified world, the home or righteousness”  (Michael Reeves; Delighting in the Trinity; IVP c. 2012; pp. 117 – 120)