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Looking for Truth in a Tattooed World

It is no secret that over the past decade there has been an explosion of tattoos and body piercings in our culture. While the information here is intended to help Christians make sound decisions from a biblical worldview, hopefully these words might also help lead others away from tattoo parlors and toward the Lord. Also, I have written and re-written to edit this down to fit printable page size for one 8.5x11 sheet, so be aware that there is much more to be said on this subject than space here allows.

In times past, tattoos were reserved for a very small number of people. The word tattoo represents the Samoan word meaning "open wound." The ancient origins of this practice could go back before the seventh century b.c. and are related to religious ceremonies and traditional rites of passage. Through the centuries, tattooing has been the most common way of marking prisoners. The British tattooed deserters and Hitler's thugs so marked those interned in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Always accompanied with negative connotations, tattoos were seen primarily on sailors, homosexuals, Hell's Angel biker-types, gangs, and assorted criminals.

Click to read more ...


A Few Reasons to Pray for  Obama

Since the last email to our newsletter list I have received about 430 emails concerning the topic of Barak Obama, Rick Warren and Islam. I am going to pick just a few and reprint them in the next email we send. Reading those selections then will give you an idea of the vastly differing opinions of our readers.

Here, I want to bring to light a few little known facts and a couple of pertinent Scriptures that all relate to America, our new President and the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Church is called, actually commanded to pray for our political leaders. It matters not whether we personally voted for someone or not. Whether we like particular politicians and their policies or disdain what they stand for, the Scriptures implore us to intercede for the leaders in our society. Here are the Apostle's words in I Timothy 2:1-4.

Click to read more ...


Just to Clarify...

I do not remember a day when I have received so many encouraging and positive emails and so many really negative ones too. Looking through my inbox today has truly been a roller coaster ride. I may publish some of the responses in a future update but suffice to say its gone from "Thank God there is somebody out there like Eric Barger" to "Take me off your gospel hating list."

I don't want to revisit everything that I said in either yesterday's email (January 22) or the one sent on January 17. Everybody, including me, is tired of hearing about and discussing Rick Warren. However, I want to make an addition and clarify a point that I think some folks missed. First, the clarification.

Isa, as some who are upset with me have stated, is indeed the Arabic name for Jesus. However, the whole point I was trying to make (and obviously didn't do so well with) was that the Isa of the Qur'an is NOT the Jesus of the Bible but only one of many counterfeits. There is no presentation of Jesus as Savior in the Qur'an. There is no "Christ," only Allah. The Qur'an only includes a version of Jesus that absolutely false things are stated about. These include: "Jesus, son of Mary, is not God or son of God" and "O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not "Three" - Cease! (it is) better for you! - Allah is only One Allah. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son." (Surah 4:171)

Click to read more ...


Just When I Thought I Could Say "Amen"...

Rick Warren invokes the name of Islamic Jesus at Obama Inauguration

There I was, watching all of the regalia of the presidential inauguration. The crowds, the dignitaries, wondering if at any second a Muslim terrorist would be able to breech the heavy security try something unthinkable. Praise the Lord it all went relatively well. Of course, I was also waiting to see just what kind of prayer Rick Warren had co-opted to pray for the new incoming President and his administration. There was good cheer and lots of non-partisan wishes, including copious amounts of slightly sickening back slapping. Politics as usual was for at least a short time partially on hold anyway.

When Rick Warren was introduced I and many listened intently. Christians hoped for the best and prayed. Atheist sat poised with the ACLU on speed dial ready to cry foul should Warren actually mention the dreaded politically incorrect "J" word - Jesus. Others, having been mis-educated in government schools, wondered whose idea it was to have someone pray anyway. After all, those old guys who started this country really weren't religious, right? Or at least that's what the history teacher back in high school said just before the lecture on how only zealots would be so nutty as to hold to all those outdated notions like "One Nation Under God." But, I digress...

Click to read more ...


Let's Review...

Since we're going to be hearing a lot about Rick Warren over the next few days, let's review.

Rick Warren is certainly one of the most notable names associated with Christianity today. He often appears to be on the right side of many issues near and dear to Christians. To the disdain of the gay and lesbian crowd, Barak Obama has chosen Warren to offer the invocation prayer at the inauguration next Tuesday. While this and other activities may be applauded by some Believers, before we allow Warren's appearances, proclamations and favorable new coverage by conservatives to cloud our critical thinking, lets not forget what got Warren where he is. Answer: books laden with incomplete or even heretical theology.

First, before we discuss why I believe Rick Warren's books and ministry has been a deceptive detriment and not a boon for the cause of Christ today, let me update you of one recent development. Believe me, you won't hear about this on Fox News this week. Actually, unless it is from a gay activist you won't hear anything construed as critical of Warren any week on Fox News because Rupert Murdoch owns Zondervan who publishes Warren's books.

Click to read more ...


Rick Warren should have rejected Obama's offer

You would think that as a Christian I'd be pleased that Pastor Rick Warren has been invited to give the invocation prayer at the inauguration of Barak Obama. Some Christian leaders appear thrilled. Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., of the High Impact Leadership Coalition called Obama's decision "appropriate" and says "Rick Warren has become the next generation's Billy Graham." Considering Obama's twenty year association with the likes of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, many would see Warren's participation as real progress. Indeed, I would love to be more positive and less cynical on this - but I'm not. Homosexual activists are opposed to Warren's participation in the upcoming inauguration and so am I, except for vastly different reasons. While Rick Warren is indeed a dubiously good fit to take part in the event, biblical Christians shouldn't be thrilled to identify with him. So here are some thoughts on why we need to continue to be leery of Rick Warren and why - if he is indeed who he wants us to believe he is - Warren should have rejected Obama's offer.

First, it's hard to get beyond the very reason that we all know the name Rick Warren - The Purpose Driven Life. I have written extensively about the problems of the PDL such as Warren's failure to include repentance as a prerequisite for true salvation and his omission of the fact that all Christians are engaged in a very real spiritual war with a personal and viable adversary, etc. While I applaud some of the recent statements made by Dr. Warren and as much as I'd like to be more charitable, we are sadly stuck with numerous incomplete and sometimes overtly heretical positions taken in his 20 million+ bestseller. Unless Warren clearly recants of some of the things he has asserted, biblical thinkers must carefully view everything he says and does with a grain of (biblical) salt. Without substantial change any future kudos we might want to give him will always be clouded by past faux pas. At this late date it would truly be a miracle for Rick Warren to admit to any practical or theological problems with the PDL book or philosophy, but I for one am still praying that the most visible Christian in our world would also become an orthodox one.

Next, Rick Warren is a proud member of globally minded groups such as the World Economic Forum and the Council on Foreign Relations - unquestionably the USA's most prominent think tank pushing "New World Order" philosophy. Not long ago he went so far as to use a WEF meeting in Switzerland to announce that "The future of the world is not secularism. It is religious pluralism." Besides affirming his new identity as a card-carrying globalist, Warren's statements sounded much more like that of a Universalist than an evangelistically minded bible-believer concerned for the eternity of men's souls. These are just a few of the reasons why I and other concerned Christian pastors, writers and commentators aren't buying Warren's perceived warming on issues that Scripturally minded folk rightfully hold dear. Though he may get it right occasionally, Warren's recent conservative concessions could easily be construed as calculated moves which only serve to add to the already confused state of Evangelical thinking. As I said, Rick Warren IS a perfect fit to join in Obama's inauguration. Both his questionable theology and globalist worldview seem to coincide with the incoming administration.

To Pray or Not to Pray

We indeed need to pray for God's intervention in the affairs of government (I Timothy 2:1-4). But how can any authentic Christian ask God to bless Obama and his cohorts knowing what his announced intentions are once in office? It seems to me that the Prophets of old would have rejected any thought of participating in the coronation of a ruler bent on sacrificing innocents on a demon altar or giving favored status to the perverted. While it would appear that Barak Obama is on track to have much in common with the likes of Ahab and Pharaoh, is it not obvious that Rick Warren has little in common with names like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel? These brave men didn't seek the accolades of kings or their courts. They didn't care about public perception or their personal standing in the media or the polls. Instead, they were determined to do what was right. And even if it meant death, pleasing God and not men was their objective. (Daniel 3, 6) While Daniel and the three Hebrews valiantly rejected endorsing evil kings, Rick Warren's appearance in Washington next month will simply give credence to Barak Obama.

Warren - the Willing Pawn?

I believe that Obama's choice of Warren to pray at the inauguration is in itself aimed at neutralizing a portion of his most vocal and powerful foe - authentic, bible-believing Christians. It's the old story of courting your enemy. How can we commend Obama for choosing Warren when the President-elect is surely going to continue to support the sodomites, abortion on demand, tax hikes, the global warming farce, liberal judgeships and just about every anti-Christian and anti-conservative cause? Doesn't anyone see what is going on here? Instead, how powerful it would have been for Warren to have boldly rejected taking part in the inauguration of a man and an administration that is poised to take America in a direction so dogmatically opposed to biblical principals. But then we are talking about Rick Warren, who at the last possible moment figured that siding with conservatives over California's Proposition 8 (which upheld traditional marriage) was better than offending his base. This development in itself makes Obama's invitation even more curious - unless we understand the Obama political playbook and the double-mindedness of Rick Warren.

Does anyone honestly believe that when it comes to appointing Federal judges that Obama is going to consult Rick Warren, let alone any biblically consistent Christian leader? Obama wants his cake and wants to devour his opposition too. No matter what Warren may say in the invocation prayer (even if he somehow slips in Jesus' name), it will be but a political tool in the hands of Obama. As much as they may squawk over Warren's inclusion at the inauguration, Obama knows his gay-lesbian base isn't going to suddenly become conservative and leave him. However, he would certainly like to make his Christian opposition appear silly and out of step in light of Warren's inclusion in the affairs of January 20, 2009. Is it hard to imagine being reminded of Obama's choice of Rick Warren in future 2012 campaign ads aimed at attracting naive Evangelical voters?

As recently as December 23rd (2008) Warren was on the Fox News Channel defending his decision to support the Prop. 8 initiative and his participation in the upcoming inauguration. He spoke of how he was just going to love those who oppose him. While love is indeed the right position to take, there is a vast difference between expressing biblical forgiveness for a homosexual activist and consorting with a leader whose political platform can only be called blasphemous. It is frankly despicable to envision Rick Warren up there praying and pretending that God is somehow willing to work with what Obama clearly stands for. While other high profile Christians have participated in inaugurations past, before any Christians jumps aboard with Barak Obama they should examine just who's coat tails - and past history they are riding on.

The hard truth is that America has elected the man who, as chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, almost single handedly railroaded through the Illinois state legislature the most extreme partial birth abortion bill ever conceived of in our nation's history. This 2003 law allowed babies intended for abortion to suffer and die outside the womb without medical attention if they somehow survived the procedure! What kind of a person would engineer a bill containing such sickening evil? If only for this, how does one muster any respect for Obama or call him "my President?" More so, how can a high profile pastor justify aiding and abetting a politician like Obama whose track record includes something so heinous? God help us that any "Christian" leader would help legitimize such a man!

Let the lines be redrawn and make them crystal clear. The Scriptures clearly deem some kings as "righteous" and others as "evil." Enough with trying to appease all sides. We must ask God to raise up an army of men and women cut from the cloth and character of men like A.W. Tozer, Billy Sunday and D. James Kennedy. Next, we need to pray for God to endue them with the courage to call some in the Church to repent of the self-centered "Purpose Driven" agendas that have been popularized while Satan has had his way in our land. We then need to humbly ask God to forgive America for electing a President and a Congress who are determined to appoint godless judges, are predisposed on keeping abortion mills operating and who want to give gays minority status. Obama, and all who lead us, need to be boldly and publically confronted - not comforted and America needs to know that REAL Christians reject religious charlatans and find no compromise with politicians who legislate wickedness.

My Prayer:
"Lord, please plant a hook firmly in Obama's nose that he and those in the Congress, state houses and courts be turned in such a way as to do Heaven's bidding. Have Your way in our nation. Bring us peace, keep us free and forgive our sins. Father, bring our leaders to repentance and either save them or sovereignly remove them from positions of power, in Jesus' name. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus."

* * * * * * *


Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight. - Isaiah 5:20-21

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. - Proverbs 29:2

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. - II Peter 2:1


Bringing Twilight out into the Son

Blockbuster books and hit movie confuse evil with good

By now most of you have heard about the bestselling Twilight saga series written by Stephenie Meyer. Thus far there are over 17 million books in print from the series. However, if you've been hanging around in a cave somewhere just waiting for a reason to flutter, let me sum up the storyline. Vampires are cool. Some may be bad, but in general Vampires are cool and Edward Cullen is the newest heart throb.

High school junior, Bella Swan, moves from Arizona to Forks on the Washington coast (the setting for the majority of the movie) and falls in love with Edward Cullen, who as it turns out, is a member of a family of vampires who have learned to survive from the blood of animals rather than that of humans.

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan
and Robert Pattinson
as Edward Cullen

Meyer, a thirty-something Mormon mother of three from Arizona is the author of the four book series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn), a novel called The Host and the soon-to-be-released book, Midnight Sun which, unlike the Twilight series, chronicles the saga from Edward's viewpoint rather than Bella's.

Last Friday (Nov. 21, 2008) the first movie ("Twilight") debuted in 3419 theaters nationwide. It came in #1 for the weekend, grossing $70 million and crushing the nearest competitor by a three to one margin. The theater that my wife Melanie and I saw it in was a complex of fourteen screens with three of them playing "Twilight."

Make no mistake this is a buzz among millions of teens right now. One fan website sub heading proudly proclaims it is "For the obsessed Twilight saga fan."

There is a whole market industry based on the books. Twilight has induced a multi-million dollar cottage industry spawning everything from t-shirts and clothing to tattoos and pod casts. As we have noted with other such phenomena, books are being written about the books! Four days after the movie's release I went to a local Walmart to find the store sold out of Twilight series books. Same with the Target across the street. It isn't that they didn't plan; it's just that there is no way to keep up with the current demand.

Nikki Kinke of Deadline Hollywood Daily reported:

"Exit polling showed audiences were 75%/25% female to male, and 55%/25% under or over the age of 25. Fangirls -- or should I say fang-girls -- were buying 5 Twilight tickets per second as of early Friday morning, making it online ticket-seller Fandango's fastest-selling film since The Dark Knight last July. Then the tween and teen females in store bought or homemade Twilight clothes (and even Twilight tattoos) flocked to the first Big Screen version of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling series of Romeo & Juliet-style vampire romance books. Yet the movie adaptation by Melissa Rosenberg was made by start-up studio Summit for only $37M. This will be the start of a big new franchise since a sequel is already in the works -- "New Moon," based on Meyer's second book in the series. The first box office records have already been broken by Twilight's girl power. This is the biggest opening for a female director. Catherine Hardwicke is easily beating Mimi Leder's $41.1M for 1998's Deep Impact. (But with an asterisk since these figures aren't adjusted for inflation, ticket prices, etc.) Twilight will have the 2nd best opening day for a November release behind Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, and the 11th best Friday opening of all time, beating the first Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone, and the 15th best opening day ever. It also scored the 4th best November opening weekend of all time, and the 4th best opening weekend of 2008. It's a defining moment for Summit's start-up studio that had really struggled on its first few releases. On Saturday morning, Summit officially announced the greenlight for the New Moon sequel (I'm told to contain costs the studio is considering making sequels #2 and #3 back to back like other successful franchises have done), and Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) and Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan) formally thanked fans for their support of what is now a movie franchise. (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/2nd-update-for-the-twilight-zone)

Speaking of Harry Potter, make no mistake: Twilight is the next Harry Potter. In fact, many are saying, "who's Harry Potter?" Many of the same Potter fans are now loyal to Meyer's saga and it's a logical move for a culture craving supernaturalism. From a school of witchcraft to a clan of vampires, readers and movie goers are again proving how broad the thirst is for mystical power whose source is decidedly not God.

Evil vs. Good or Evil vs. more Evil?

The storyline of Twilight is generally two faceted. It is first "boy vampire meets a mortal girl" and secondarily "'good' vampires fight 'bad' vampires." Then there are the werewolves introduced in the second book, New Moon.

Many of the characters in the novel possess supernatural abilities such as:

  • Mind reading
  • Levitation
  • Lycanthropy (shape shifting)
  • Pre-cognitive knowledge of future events - mediumship
  • Super strength, hearing and speed
  • They also don't eat, sleep or need to breath

A quick reading of Deuteronomy 18:9-12 clearly outline God's final word on many of these vampire attributes. I covered these four verses for over 100 pages in my book Entertaining Spirits Unaware: The End-Time Occult Invasion.

Interestingly, Meyer begins Twilight with the words of Genesis 2:17.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Even though Meyer says on her website that the cover of the book (the apple) symbolizes "forbidden fruit" and that the Genesis scripture reference is related to Bella's eventual understanding of the knowledge of good and evil, the inference of this passage is much more. It is about the fall of mankind and about eternal life (something vampires claim to have). Even Mormon theology would be hard pressed to come up with less than this observation.

The Cullen family is led by Edward's "father" (through vampirism) the "best" vampire, Dr. Carlisle Cullen. The elder Cullen was raised centuries ago by a father who, as an Anglican pastor, hunted witches, destroyed werewolves - and vampires. (Speaking of this in the manuscript Meyer throws a direct barb towards supposedly intolerant, orthodox Christian ministers.) Some believe that due to this background, Dr. Cullen's character seeks to rise above the nature of a vampire becoming a doctor in order to do good and save people. However, what is actually evident here are two disturbing points. First, Meyer has incorporated in Dr. Cullen's makeup the Mormon edict that a person must accomplish their own good acts in order to be redeemed. I commonly refer to this as "works salvation" which is a mainstay taught in every Mormon seminary, church and home. In Mormonism the onus for salvation is all about what a person does for the Mormon Church - instead of what Jesus completely finished for us. (Concerning this, it is interesting that more than one Mormon blog entry has complained that Meyer integrates far too much Mormon doctrine into her books.) Second and most disturbing is the notion that the Cullen's seem to view their state as generally hopeless. This shouts loudly against the omnipotent power of Jehovah God to accomplish deliverance. In a subtle and unspoken manner, the books assert that God is unable to rescue one from an incurable eternal ill such as vampirism is presented to be. Whether vampirism is but a mythical malady or not, this thinking may translate to the reader that Jesus' sacrifice was not sufficient or that it is only by one's own righteousness that freedom (or eternal life) can be attained. The truth is that God is indeed able to deliver anyone and everyone and such deliverance is only available through the power of the Cross! One can argue that vampires either do or do not exist. (I know personally of one very credible person whose testimony recounts actually participating in vampirism to gain supernatural satanic power. However, the point here is that no matter how deep the pit of evil and sin one may be trapped in, Jesus' power is greater. Praise the Lord!

The fact is that the entire Twilight series is glamorizing and promoting vampirism. It is fueling the craving for eternal human life and for dominating super human abilities and strength. In the book and movie Bella powerfully begs her vampire love interest to make her one of his like (by biting her neck of course). Edward restrains himself but only for the sake of drawing out the suspense, for she indeed does join him in vampire status in later books (and in a future movie). Though Meyer is to be commended that Bella's unwanted pregnancy later in the series does not end in abortion one has to wonder if the union of two vampires could produce a God-created human in the first place?

Twilight has been defended as a positive book because it contains no sex, seems to preach abstinence and includes only mild swearing. Whose version of morality is that I ask? This is simply a lesser-than-two-evils approach and while I readily admit that this romantic styled chick flick is far less ominous than a large number of the books and movies out there today, how can a biblically minded Christian endorse it as acceptable for a 12 year-old?

To revisit a theme I wrote and spoke of many times during the height of the Harry Potter fad, the heroes of today are much like the villains I grew up watching on TV. Gone are the likes of Roy Rogers, Ward Cleaver and Red Skelton. The people who we're asked to root for at the movies today act more like the thugs portrayed in 1950's Hollywood entertainment. The marker of truth and what is good and right has surely moved and it hasn't been pretty.

I will admit that in comparison, the content of "Twilight" seems lightweight in the overall scheme of today's motion picture industry. The trailers previewing other forthcoming features that were shown before the screening of the "Twilight" film were frankly shocking and full of occultism and gut wrenching violence. However, have we stooped so low as to say "'Twilight,' with its vampire heroes and PG-13 rating is somehow more acceptable than the more gruesome R rated jobs?" Is "not as bad as" somehow a prerequisite making something OK for our kids? Since when did the "lesser-of-two-evils" become a biblical principle? One needs to be aware that there are Satanists who in real life practice drinking the blood of humans. To many occultists, vampirism is not just a fairy tale but something coveted. No matter how dreamy Hollywood may present Edward Cullen to be or how obsessed some junior higher may become with him, Twilight is nothing short of Satan's cloak of evil; appearing good. Remember, the most deceptive evil is not the most obvious. It is the most subtle. It also induces more people who may be repulsed by overt darkness to begin the journey from right to wrong.

Two Scriptures immediately come to mind here.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! - Isaiah 5:20-21

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. - II Corinthians 11:14

Four Life Principles

A friend of mine, Lia Carlile, who teaches at a solid Christian school in Washington State addressed this very issue last Friday. She knew, as I did, that even in this good and godly environment that the crazed idolatry brought on by the Twilight series and movie was thriving. My two oldest granddaughters heard Lia speak warning them and their classmates and for good reason. Several of my 12 year-old granddaughters friends had been trying to convince her to both read these 500+ page books and to then go to the movie with them. Thankfully, both my kiddos have voluntarily rejected Meyer's books and shunned the movie with parental intervention.

I want to share with you a few of the points Lia brought up to the students last week. They are reminiscent of things I have said over the last two decades concerning what and who we give our time, mind, money and emotions to. More so, the following points speak as a check list to see if we have fallen into making something besides Jehovah our "god" or if we are on the road toward full blown idol worship.

Lia's points here

Question 1 - Me and God

How is this thing building my relationship with the Lord?

How does my interest in this area compare with my time invested in my relationship with the Lord?

Question 2 - Me and the People Around Me

Is this creating conflict in my family or with others?

Does it offend other believers or is it confusing them in their faith?

What am I saying to my non-Christian friends or what example am I setting for others?

Question 3 - The Bible

What does the Bible have to say about this? Who does it glorify-God or Satan? Jesus or the things of the World?

Question 4 - Me and Twilight (or whatever applies)

How is this affecting what I think about; my attitude, heart, and mind?

Does it help me to do what is right according to God? Or, does it promote things of the World?

Does it distract me from the Lord and my relationships with others? Serving, praying, reading Bible, ministry, etc.

Does it cause me to say, think, or do things that are contrary to Jesus and his life?

Lia outlined many Scriptures in her notes. One passage that I have pointed out often is Colossians 2:8 which warns us to guard against being taken captive by the deceptiveness of the world. This is up to us to do or not do. What will your decision be?

(If you want all of Lia's notes on Twilight click here.)

Why Blood?

Leviticus 17 tells us that life is in the blood. This Old Testament teaching from The Law finds unfathomable depths of meaning when one thinks of what Christ's blood represents for all who will believe.

Satan is very interested in the mockery of God's Word, His name and His Cross. Lucifer, as with vampires, is blood thirsty. He would love nothing more than to deceive young, impressionable people - whom God loves and Jesus died for - into somehow believing that eternal life can be attained some other way than through Jesus and His once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary.

Until the final battle has been fought and the Lord has come with His everlasting and perfect peace, Satan will attempt to prevail through manipulating those who he may. Stephenie Meyer is just one in a long line of those who, without any understanding of it, the Evil One has paid big money to for their services. Twilight is more than mere entertainment. To some it has become every bit as important and as captivating as a religion.

The most famous line from the book and movie is Edward Cullen's statement to Bella "And so the lion fell in love with the lamb." This is Meyer's crafty, yet sick play upon biblical words. The truth is that when Satan is vanquished and evil is defeated, then and only then will the lion and the lamb live in harmony - not as a hundred year old vampire and his wanna-be girlfriend. While Meyer's character Bella so flippantly decides that nothing is more important than spending eternity with Edward - regardless of the consequences, shouldn't we be focused on our future eternity with God and on introducing as many to Him before it is too late?


On Tuesday, Nov. 25th Eric discussed Twilight on "Worldview Matters" with Brannon Howse.
Click here to listen to or download the entire one hour program!

(To download the MP3 audio file to your PC "Right Click" and "Save Target As")


How The Shack Became the #1 Bestseller in Christianity

Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? - I Kings 3:9

I like Paul Young. Having heard him speak about his life and book three times recently in Portland, Oregon I found him to be passionate, witty and funny. While at Young's alma mater (Warner Pacific College), I was able to spend a few moments with him privately during which time I asked him to personally respond to several criticisms and concerns that I and other Christians are raising about the theological contents of his book. I wish I could report that he allayed my apprehensions but instead, I went away convinced that The Shack is more than just a little offbeat but is, as Dr. Albert Mohler pegged it on his radio program, "blatant heresy."

Yes, The Shack is indeed a novel. And many will wonder what could be wrong since it is identified as a Christian book and authored by a man who claims to be a Christian? After all, The Shack is heralded by many seasoned Christian leaders. Pastors are preaching from it. Sunday School classes and small groups are reading and discussing it. Many Christians are buying it by the case to give as gifts. Some Christian Schools are even sanctioning and encouraging the reading of the book. But this is not just a benign story of man overcoming life's challenges. Make no mistake, the book presents doctrine throughout its clever and gripping story - something the author clearly intended to do. Therein lays the problem.

Trading the Kingdom for a Shack

For those unaware of the book's storyline, here is the description of The Shack from Amazon.com.

"Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.

Four years later in the midst of what he refers to as 'The Great Sadness,' Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant 'The Shack' wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?"

The Shack is a publishing phenomenon but you may ask "is it really any big deal?" This self-published book has sold 4+ million copies since its May 2007 release. It debuted at #1 on The New York Times Bestseller List and has remained there for the past 25 weeks as of this writing. It has also held the #1 position on many other bestseller lists including Amazon.com, USA Today's Top 150 Books, Barnes and Noble, Borders Books and is the #1 book of 2008 at ChristianBook.com. According to the author, the book is currently selling 87,000 copies a week in the secular book stores alone. All of this has allowed Young and his two publishing partners the luxury of holding out for just the right major motion picture deal as well. But there is a reason why several dozen publishers turned this book down. Here are a few of my observations - and objections.

The Shack's Trinity

Several chapters into the book, a most unorthodox version of the Holy Trinity is revealed. Young's tale diminishes Almighty God from His rightful position as a supernatural being. Instead of speaking by His Word and His Spirit, He is morphed into a feminine figure reduced to passing notes to those whom she wants to communicate with.

God is portrayed in The Shack as a large African-American woman named "Papa" also called "Elousia." (Talk about gender confusion!) Jesus is a Jewish carpenter complete with a tool belt and the Holy Spirit is depicted as an Asian woman named after "Sarayu," a mystical river in ancient India related to the Hindu deity Kali. Clearly, there is a trinity in The Shack but it is absolutely not the Trinity.

From my first glance at The Shack, it struck me that the idea of God in human form - even in the pages of a novel is more than just theologically questionable. It is forbidden by several passages from both the Old and New Testaments not the least of which is the Second Commandment (Exodus 20: 4-5). The Apostle Paul proclaims, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man..." (Romans 1:21-23a)

Of The Shack, Chuck Colson's BreakPoint contributing editor Travis McSherley wrote, "This is the root of the book's problems. In the course of the biblical narrative, God the Father never reveals Himself in the form of a human. In fact, Christ rebukes His disciples for even suggesting it. (See John 14:5-10)

The Shack would not dispute these limits of understanding - it dedicates many pages to chastising believers who cling too tightly to traditional views of God's nature. Yet, instead of expanding our thinking and our appreciation for divine mysteries, the book shrinks them quite dramatically by creating a deity so clearly influenced by human expectations of what God should be."

Sin, Hell, Judgment, Salvation, the Incarnation,
Hierarchy and Authority in the Godhead, a Polynesian
Goddess and other assorted problems

Here are just a few of the many issues raised by The Shack:

  • Young's Papa character insists that sin is its own punishment. This distorts the reality of Hell and discounts eternal retribution for sin.
  • Readers of The Shack are told that Jesus is only the best way to know God – not the only way.
  • The Shack teaches that when Jesus went to the cross, God Almighty died there too. This is a heresy known as patripassianism. (In our private conversation I challenged Young about this but to no avail.)
  • The Shack states that there is no structure or hierarchy within the Trinity and that the three personages of God are all equally subject to one another and to humans as well. I challenge fans of The Shack to open a Bible and try to make that square with the Scriptures!
  • Young's "Papa" character is suspiciously akin to a Polynesian/Hawaiian goddess who also happens to be known as "Papa." When I quizzed Young on this he denied any knowledge of such a deity. However, the similarities with The Shack's God character are stunning.

Now let's move on to perhaps the biggest concern.

Is Paul Young still a "Reconciling Universalist?"

I have noticed that in nearly every electronic or print media interview Paul Young volunteers that he is "not a universalist" and does so without ever being asked about it. But is he merely parsing words? Young is obviously nervous about the Christian world becoming convinced of any such thing. That said, it strikes me as odd that on a web page intended to answer critics of the bookone of his editors, Wayne Jacobson, acknowledges that Young had previously embraced a form of universalism known as "universal reconciliation" and that this belief indeed appeared throughout the original manuscript.(Jacobson refers to it as "ultimate reconciliation" to avoid using the dreaded "U" word, universalism.)

Jacobson's website states:

Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?

"It does not. While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author's partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn't embrace UR as sound teaching and didn't want to be involved in a project that promoted it. In my view UR is an extrapolation of Scripture to humanistic conclusions about our Father's love that has to be forced on the biblical text.

Since I don't believe in UR and wholeheartedly embrace the finished product, I think those who see UR here, either positively or negatively are reading into the text. To me that was the beauty of the collaboration." (See: http://www.windblownmedia.com/shackresponse.html)

It is obvious that Young, Jacobson, and partner Brad Cummings all have a great deal to lose by not doing their best to debunk the book's critics. They are very aware of where Young was theologically when he wrote the book. And that is the point isn't it? It is the contents of the book (and presumably that of the forthcoming motion picture) that is being criticized here.

In the very beginning, I began to smell universalism in The Shack by simply reading it. These thoughts were more than confirmed through a very scholarly paper critiquing The Shack written by Dr. James De Young. Other leaders who have been critical of the book including Dr. Michael Youssef, Janet Parshall, Jan Markell and Dr. Larry DeBruyn have quoted Dr. De Young's research - and for good reason.

Dr. De Young is a conservative professor at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is fluent in Greek and Hebrew and also teaches an elective on the early Church Fathers. He is well equipped to expose universalism from both biblical and historical perspectives. Perhaps equally important to our discussion here, is the fact that for several years both Dr. De Young and Paul Young were members of a theological discussion group or "think tank" known as the M3 Forum. In response to the bountiful amount of universalistic ideas found in The Shack, Dr. De Young has published a well-documented 39 page paper which can be accessed at: http://theshackreview.com. Once on the website you will also find several shorter documents and a discussion forum with remarks from readers, many of which defend The Shack. These comments serve to illustrate the tremendous confusion and lack of biblically thinking we see abounding inside the Christian community today.

After having Young tell me face to face that he was not a universalist, I asked him about Dr. De Young's paper. He bristled at me and made several accusations about De Young which I now understand to be unfounded. Since the meeting with Paul Young, I had the opportunity to meet personally with Dr. De Young for several hours. In our meeting he shared another yet-to-be-released paper with me which he has written exposing Paul Young's very bold defense of universal reconciliation. I can best describe the information in it as shocking. In fact, in the Spring of 2004, Paul gave one of the most complete defenses of universal reconciliation imaginable and reiterated this position on at least two occasions - the latest being in May-June 2007 - after writing The Shack.

Having had no previous indication that a staunch believer was in their midst, Paul Young's revelations heralding universal reconciliation came as a complete blind-side to the M3 Forum members. After the group contested Young's ideas, Dr. De Young gave a lengthy rebuttal to all of Paul's points, branding Young's position as heretical, citing a church council decision from the 6th century. After this event in 2004, Paul Young ceased participating in the M3 Forum.

In reflecting on my personal conversation with Young at Warner Pacific in October 2008, I wish I had asked specifically "Are you now or have you ever been an advocate of universal reconciliation?" (Note that classical universalists believe that all religions lead to the same place where as those who hold to universal reconciliation believe that all men <read that "ALL"> are already saved because of Jesus' work on the cross.) This position purports that there is no penalty for sin, no literal hell and no need to accept Christ and repent of one's sins. It dramatically undermines the work of the Church, evangelism and the core teachings of the New Testament. It is a satanic trap denying essential beliefs taught by Jesus, the Apostles and Bible believers throughout the Church Age. It is also exactly what Young believed in 2004. It is what he believed when he wrote The Shack and whether he believes it today or not you can be fairly certain that with millions of dollars at risk he is not about to re-edit The Shack to try and make theological corrections - at least without an act of God anyway. Again, it is not how skillfully Young may craft his words in denial of being a universalist or even what he may actually believe today that is the real question. It is the theological contents of The Shack that orthodox Christian critics are concerned with. Besides, universalism is but one of the many glaring unbiblical aspects of the book.

The REAL Problem

The bottom line concerning books, movies, television shows and other input like The Shack is that if our emotions rule and we fail to use scriptural discernment we can be taken captive by "evil imaginations"

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit... - Colossians 2:8

Knowing that the author actually portrayed himself as both The Shack characters Missy (the violated-then-murdered six year-old) and her father, Mack (the one searching for God in a painful world) one's heart surely breaks for what Paul Young has evidently endured in his lifetime. However, if readers fail to think biblically and allow only The Shack's emotional storyline to grip them, they chance becoming prey to the very thing that I believe has duped many Christians into accepting and even endorsing the book. Empathy towards the author or his characters or becoming enamored by what many testify to as the positive real-world outcome of reading the book cannot trump one's biblical analysis of the work. Young plays upon emotions constantly in the book and also as he lectures publically equating that because hearts are allegedly being touched that God must be giving approval to The Shack. When speaking to me personally, he emphasized the concept that results are all that matters. I responded that just because people testify that the book is somehow helping them, this does not necessarily mean that it is actually ordained by God. After all, God can use many means to reach people. God regularly uses disasters, accidents and tragedy of all sorts - even unorthodox or cultic books for His glory. This however doesn't mean that God somehow deems heresy or terrible events as somehow good or positive in and of themselves.

The Nicest Heretic

Paul Young is perhaps the nicest heretic I have ever dealt with personally. That may sound flip but it's true. He is a very nice guy who is presenting and defending some very dangerous even seductive heresies. As one who wears his emotions on his sleeve and who found himself being swayed by the heartbreaking storyline of The Shack, I must again caution. To allow a gripping story to cloud our ability to detect even the subtle theological errors strewn throughout its pages is exactly what Dr. Michael Youssef meant when he described The Shack as "a deep ditch that's covered by beautiful landscape."

The disturbing truth is that books like The Shack would never become a bestseller in the Christian world if Christians were on guard, thinking biblically and were willing to follow the Scriptures! In these dangerous days it is paramount that we actively develop "eyes of understanding" which constantly check everything by the Word of God - especially the stuff that claims to be of God. The Scripture implores us to prove or test all things (I Thessalonians 5:21-22) and this test can only be accomplished one way - by knowing the Bible and then utilizing what we know from it. Every Believer needs to be alert to the reality that in these last days deception is going to come at a rate never fathomed before. Mark my words, as time passes Satan is preparing to use unheralded and brazen trickery that will look and sound very spiritual, even Christian. The only hope we have to successfully avoid the traps is by prayerful, dedicated and aggressive study of God's unchangeable Word. Otherwise, sooner or later we'll find ourselves amongst a growing number from previously trustworthy evangelical circles that are heading straight for apostasy.

Jesus warned us in Matthew 24 that if the end days were not shortened by His return even the very elect would be deceived. Can we not assume that many who currently hang around the Church - and even some who preach or write books now popularly accepted in Christian circles - may in reality never endure to the end and are thus actually wolves in sheep's clothing?

* * * * * * *

There are many other concerns raised by The Shack that space here does not permit me to delve into. To provide this information in more detail, I've just produced two new in-depth DVDs. "The Death of Discernment: How The Shack Became the #1 Bestseller in Christianity" and "Universalism: Is Everyone Already Saved?" are both well over an hour long and provide documentation, insight and Scriptural understanding relating to these important and timely issues.

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