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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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67 Responses to 639

  1. jeremy says:

    i thought this was just a problem in US churches… and those who worship Hillsongs.

  2. Sarah B says:

    I’m intrigued as to what the things are which are falling off (or out of???) the Next big thing!!

    Like it. :o)

  3. jonbirch says:

    sarah b… they are ‘big thing’ poos. :-)

    jeremy… i’m afraid it is something that happens here too. :?

  4. darrin says:

    i quite big things with long tails…the long tail is a good place to hitch an interesting ride…not much room for alot of people there but fun never the less

  5. Rockingrev says:

    Rick Warren talks about surfers not making the wave but learning how to ride the wave that is there and in this case it is learning what God is doing, where he is wroking and getting on the wave. I think the issue for most of us is having a spirit of discernment to see what is good and what is dross and then being able to adapt what is good for your own situation. As I said to one of our older members this afternoon, the message doesn’t change but sometimes we have to change the way we deliver the message in order to get it across. The thing that upsets me is when people go to another church on holiday and they bring back a bulletin and say, we need to do this, they do it at this church and it really works. Well that church is in a different environment from ours and they have the people with the gifts to do that ministry, we might not have. You have to do ministries that utilise the gifts you have and not just start a mniistry hoping that someone with the gift to run it might come along.

  6. marcus says:

    Couldn’t Jesus have fallen into the category of the next Big thing during His day?

  7. Kim says:

    maybe I’ll follow it tentatively from a distance and see if it stops emitting poo before I make up my mind….? :???:

  8. Laura says:

    you said “poo” heeee heeee

  9. jonbirch says:

    rockingrev… i did a cartoon some months back… don’t ask me what number… i can never find anything on this blasted unwieldy site! :-) anyhow, it has loads of people surfing the wave and in all their excitement ignoring the drowning people. i did another one as well… don’t ask me what number… i can never find anything on this blasted unwieldy site! :-) anyhow, that one was a whole bunch of people chasing this ‘vision’ while they trampled others underfoot.
    i’m not keen on the tree many of these mega church leaders bark up. i often feel like the dog weeing on said tree’s base.
    this ‘catching’ things, ‘chasing’ things, ‘riding’ things business is often very odd and often seems to take the eye of the ball, it seems to me.

    laura… i’ve now said ‘poo’ and ‘wee’… i hope that pleases you. :-)

  10. James says:

    Could you add tags to your posts or catagorise them somehow? I often find myself wanting to go back to a cartoon that I can’t find.

  11. Jonathan says:

    Magic mushrooms are the next big thing? Jon, I knew you were a fairly open guy but surely not….?

  12. Will says:

    sadly i think that the big things are usually like black holes sucking in all who dare come near.

    They can be an untamed beast but probably with someone behind with a whip and a chair directing it. I have never seen a beast (like the ones you are referring to) run away from its adoring/unwitting fans.

  13. Caroline Too says:

    sadly, I’m a big thing


    (just checked)

    nobody’s chasing after me
    :roll: sigh

  14. jonbirch says:

    aah caroline. your heart IS big, i’ll say that for sure! x :-)

    “Could you add tags to your posts or catagorise them somehow? I often find myself wanting to go back to a cartoon that I can’t find.” me too james… it’s a nightmare isn’t it!!!?
    laura has kindly offered to help me… time is the problem, especially as the thing has grown so alarmingly quickly. i started this blog knowing nothing about blogs… if i’d known how helpful tagging etc would have been from the start, maybe i’d have got in to the discipline of it.
    how many themes should this blog be broken down into? what should those themes be?
    thanks for the nudge james (one of several nudges i’ve been given in the past).
    i think i’ll start a new thread on this very subject and see if i can come up with something that would be of most use to people.
    cheers! :-)

  15. becky says:

    6. Jesus was the next big thing for a bit by some until that whole good Friday Biz.

    7. “Actually, it looks like the next big thing has a case of the runs.

    I’m just wondering when the next big thing gets so dehydrated that it dies.

  16. dennis says:

    They only get big because we allow them too.

  17. Caroline Too says:

    … maybe they get big ‘cos they’re good?

    nah, Shirley Knott..

    we wouldn’t think like that on Asbo Jesus would we?

    mind you, at 639…?

    have we got a big thing on our hands here?

  18. Robb says:

    I wrote something on a related note last week on my blog. What is the essence of our faith? What do we hang onto? What is the truth and what is the medium in which we convey that truth? As we shift from one cultural paradigm to another how to we hang on to the rock?

    This is much harder now that we are in a postmodern paradigm as we act in a…. erm… post..modern .. way.

    I’ll get me coat!

  19. beatthedrum says:

    The funny thing is, in most of the ‘Big Things’ God is at work in some way the problem is men get involved in it to an poo it up!

    For example God was at work in the “Toronto blessing”, but many people allowed themselves to ‘fake’ or over hype what went on.

    The latest “lakeland” stuff, God was at work in a significant way but there was also a lot of ‘flesh’ involved.

    Then you get books for example The Shack, with its many endorsements and people saying “at last I understand the trinity” but it is heretical and offers incorrect doctrine.

    We just need to be carefull. One of my friends puts it like this, treat it as fruit – eat the flesh and spit out the pips.


  20. Robb says:

    You have said the first thing that has made me want to read the shack. You can’t beat a decent bit of herecy spotting!

    I’m off for coffee and a Donat…

  21. becky says:

    I tend not to use the word “heretical” only because I do think that time will tell if it’s of God or man. What’s amazing about the Shack (and I say this as someone who met the folks on Oregon who knew the guy beforehand) is a guy wanted to write a story for his kids. He wasn’t a “Christian” writer trying to make it big but someone who wrote from his heart. As a writer, that gives me hope in a world where I see way, way, way too many folks trying to brand themselves and sell out in the hopes of cashing in.

  22. Robb says:

    That concept still makes me smile. “Cashing in”.

    I think I would “cash in” somewhere much more afluent. I guess that is a northern UK set of specs I am wearing though…

  23. rebecca says:

    This may be a bit controversial, but… all the more reason to post it.

    Jesus must have been something different from “the next big thing”. Undoubtedly in his time, just like now, there must have been no end of crackpot preachers wandering around, and anyone who was prepared to drop everything and follow one of these preachers would have been justifiably described as naive. (OK, I admit I’m being judgemental).

    But Jesus’s followers did precisely that, and their story continues to today. They must have been able to tell that he was something really special, not just the next big thing.

    (BTW, this cartoon really made me laugh. Has anyone before considered the question of what a “big thing” looks like?)

  24. Caroline Too says:

    thinking about heresy… #19,20 &21

    one of the things that makes me feel right at home in the Northumbria Community is our championing of

    The Heretical Imperative…

    a responsibility to say the ‘wrong’ thing and take risks

  25. jonbirch says:

    i guess ‘the fruit’ at the end of the day, bears out whether the ‘big thing’ was good or not.
    i’m not sure about the toronto thing… mind you, i saw a lot of casualties and so only have half a story. even after a myriad invitations, no one has confirmed (dental records etc) a single gold tooth. maybe some people were healed of things, it becomes impossible to know. i just wish that those peddling the whole thing had been as respectful as a bull in a china shop, which when placed in said shop (scientific fact) takes a lot of care not to break things and will avoid calamity at all costs. :-)
    i said what i thought re. florida a few months ago, so i won’t go over it again now. i watched a lot of it and it made me sad at the start and sadder as it played out.
    sometimes i think we are a bit like bees. a pot of water that smells of honey will attract us in our droves and drown us.

  26. beatthedrum says:

    There is a difference between the right to say soething and others espousing what you say as truth Caroline.

    BTW how is the community I have not heard of it for some time

  27. beatthedrum says:

    My expereince of the whole toronto thing can be put as follows, Those who were doing it in the flesh saw no fruit and looked like idiots, BUT those who were not were changed for the better, many of my friends who fall into the latter catagory have gone off and planted successfull churches all over the world.

    By successfull I mean many coming to christ not poached from other churches, and these converts turning into true disciples.

    Three of my friends went to Lakeland towards the end and were massively impacted and changed. Todd was not there at that stage but God presence was very tangible. They cam back different men, for the better, closer to God and hungry for more of him. They have also changed to be more outward (evangelistic) focused, which is another sign of GOOD fruit.


  28. Rachel says:

    The problem is that we focus on only one thing at a time. We keep expecting or grabbing onto the ONE thing that will reach everyone. And there’s not one thing, or way, to reach everyone. We have to work with the situation. We can’t be everything to everybody, but we can’t be one thing to everybody, either.

    And it’s too easy to judge other’s intentions. We have to take a step back, work where we can and feel our works are best used, and trust God to do the rest.

    BTW, I’ve enjoyed this blog. I’m not in a ministry where these could be used, but I do enjoy the commentary!

  29. jonbirch says:

    “They cam back different men, for the better, closer to God and hungry for more of him. They have also changed to be more outward (evangelistic) focused, which is another sign of GOOD fruit.”
    do they love justice more, righteousness more… are they more honest, more humble, more loving? or more pumped up? or both? what has been the ‘actual fruit’? churches can be started for any amount of reasons… evangelism can be embarked on for any amount of reasons too. i find myself more interested in what people are like, how they’ve really changed… what their motivation is. do you know what i mean? i am genuinely interested in these phenomena, they are truly complex affairs at a human level, but am more concerned that ‘big things’ make us expectant of more ‘big things’… when god is continually at work in the tiniest of the tiny things. people who i respect i have found to be really annoying during these periods of chasing and catching. like they dried up to the possibility of god being at work in the local parish church, or in the local orthodox community, or in the arm around a friend in the pub. people do like their showbiz. and ‘hungry for more of’ what? that ‘feeling’ they get or world peace? what?
    i hope you don’t mind my response beatthedrum… these are genuine questions, but i can’t pretend that i am unbiased or unskeptical. i’d like it if i thought all these things were great… but that’s not always been my experience. when i hear of new churches around the world, i find myself wanting to know more about them and their motivation and mandate before deciding whether it is good thing or something i should dread. btw. beatthedrum, i love your comments. you bring a lot to the discussions… a real joy and energy that is inspiring. so, please know that behind my questions, more than the bias which i may have, lies a deep respect for your thoughts. :-) i just don’t seem to be able to stop myself from asking what i consider ‘hard’ questions. maybe i should stop. stop being such an old humbug. i hope i’m not being. :-)

    hmmm… maybe i really am a prejudiced old git. not a nice thought. :?

    cheers rachel. “I’m not in a ministry where these could be used, but I do enjoy the commentary!” neither am i mate… the commentary is amazing often. just goes to prove how people with widely different experiences can build the picture. let’s face it, the comments are the best bit… to me anyway. i only do a cartoons now because i know i’ll benefit from everyone elses words. how selfish am i!? :lol:

    doh!.. beatthedrum. i’m now worried that my above comment above is too full on. you’re great. tbh, i’m having a sad head day. i’ve left the comment there because of the questions in it…

  30. beatthedrum says:

    Hey jon I love ‘Hard’ Questions.

    To answer your question(s) – Yes to the justice righteousness more honest utterly humble (a big change for a few of them).

    Wanting more.. of Jesus, to know him beter, to become more like him in every area of their lives.

    Personally I hate people chasing the latest thing, Id rather people chased Jesus in their own lives, in their own towns and in their own houses.

    However to avoid these things is also incorrect. To run away from what God is doing is also not a good idea (Jonah).

    What we should not do is emmulate them for the sake of emmulating them, we need to find out what Father wants to do with us where we are, with the people we are connected to.

    Evangelism is a tricky one isnt it. Are we out to get people to join our club or to lead them to Jesus. I have had the honour of being part of a few peoples journeys into a relationship with Jesus, MOST of whome have decided to go to other churches rather than the one I go to. Thats fine by me as long as they have found Jesus and thrown themselves upon him (christian jargon sorry).

    Oh jon btw never worry about any reply or rebuttal to me im a 6’3” tall skin head who can take care of himself in those sorts of situations, and I love a heart discussion.


  31. Pat says:

    Conversion and commitment are both complex sociological processes – lots of factors are involved. And I wonder what we mean or imagine is actually happening when we claim that ‘God is doing something’?

    Jon @29 I’m right with you on this one – so we can be prejudiced old gits together! One of my favourite of John Bell and Graham Maule’s hymns is called ‘The Greatness of the Small’ the last verse of which says

    When we defer to sight or size,
    believing big is always best
    and falling for the Tempter’s test,
    God open our eyes
    to see that Christ, the Lord of all
    smiles from the small.

  32. TyTe says:

    @19 I thought The Shack was a darned good book and not a bit heretical. :)

  33. Linus says:

    I think that those reading the shack should exercise extra discernment.

    More seriously – would be interested to know why you thought it heretical, Beatthedrum?

    With the whole heretical imperative thing… its dangerous when thoughts and ideas don’t get examined or worked through because “youre not allowed to say that – its wrong”

    First of all, how do you know its wrong unless you’ve examined it properly?

    Second, as soon as you can’t genuinely express where you’re at, as soon as you start self-editing cos open-ness and honesty get stomped on… you’ve got all kinds of problems. You can disagree without stomping on people, but saying “that’s heresy so stop thinking and talking about it” shuts people down.

    Thirdly – the way my brain works, i find it really hard to examine an idea without articulating it, getting it out in the open, trying to look at it from different angles. I can’t actually think if people won’t let me talk through or discuss an idea. I find it hard enough to think as it is so please don’t remove this fundamental human right from me by censoring my discussion. =]

  34. becky says:

    34. I am not a fan of the Shack as it wasn’t my personal style – but people tend to forget that the Chronicles of Narnia, the Shack and other books are works of “fiction” – what the Shack did was get people thinking about their relationship to the divine. They’re asking the questions – fantastic. Now I hope they find a church community to be their companions on the journey.

    And unlike say “The Left Behind Series,” I haven’t seen any sign that people are taking the Shack and using it as say an allegory for American foreign policy or something equally horrendous.

  35. Robb says:

    People chuck the word heresy around now… well actually they don’t do they. People have rebranded “heresy” beacuase of its bad public image. They have started to say things like “(s)he’s sound”.

    Heresy had its glory days back in the day. Real heresy has a name like “donatism” or “gnosticism”.

    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see? Heretic!! Burn him!!

    I guess now that the main theology of the faith has been hammered out there is less need for the term “heresy”. The last time I heard it used in all seriousness it was in systematics.

    But then you never know when you may encounter the unexpected!!

  36. Rockingrev says:

    Sorry I have taken so long to respond, had to go to out of town to a bunch of meetings in Edinburgh. I agree Jon that you need to be careful about riding waves etc and you have to balance such ideas with others. I find that reading a lot of Eugene Petersen keeps me grounded. His books specifically for Pastors are a great counter to a lot of the mega church speak. I for one am very careful to monitor just who and what i read for background and if i ever see a particular author dominating I make a conscious decision to put him/her down for a bit and read something very different.

  37. Jonathan says:

    The Shack’s a badly written bit of Christian/Gnostic/Spiritualist schlock.

    It uses emotional manipulation, presents a distorted image of God and generally bores the reader – give it a miss.

    Grace and peace

  38. becky says:

    I’m not a fan of the Shack personally but the uproar over the book reminds me of the fundy furry that was caused in the ’80s when a bunch of New Age books came out. Pastors kept saying “don’t read Shirley MacLaine, etc. they’re heretical,” INSTEAD of engaging with those who were reading these books to find out what they were getting from this book … in both cases, people seem to be searching for something transcendent that they weren’t finding in their cookie-cutter Christian church. I see books like the Shack as a teaching tool to reach people where they are and then engage in the dialogue. If someone is deeply touched by a book and you tell them it’s crap, you’ve shut the door.

  39. Linus says:

    Robb i have developed Linus’ general theory of relativism to explain the phenomenon you describe – its states that the perception of soundness will vary depending on the position of the observer =]

    Run that one past me again, Jonathan – you said Grace, but i must have missed it. Emotionally manipulative and boring at the same time? that’s quite a trick. And you’re seriously advising everyone in general to ignore the first attempt to present something about God for about ten years that has actually captured the wider public’s imagination? wanting to present a counter argument i could understand, but apathy? I thought people not engaging with the church was, like, a bad thing, not, you know, a business strategy.*

    perhaps you would like to define the gnosticism, emotional manipulation, distortion and, indeed, reader in question and engage in some discussion?

    *obligatory High Fidelity (mis)quote of the day

  40. Linus says:

    sorry, screwed up the html – its meant to jump to about 4:48 in the clip, but doesn’t… don’t know why. Was tryin to be too clever.

    And… sorry for being angry =[ should have expressed what i (still) feel without being all snipe-ey. sorry.

  41. Jonathan says:

    Maybe that post did lack grace, sorry.

    Gnosticism because the central character is invited to receive a secret revelation that isn’t shared with all humanity, spiritualism becuase of the actual contact witht he dead.

    Emotional manipulation with the whole death of daughter as a plot device.

    Here’s a review I penned in November:

    I was loaned a copy of The Shack by William P Young recently.

    Over the course of the last few weeks I’ve been reading it as spare time allows, and finished it this week.

    So, what to make of it, and it’s popularity? Well, in reply to a friend who asked for a quick response I penned this:

    It’s not entirely without merit, and there were some interesting thoughts that caused a few moments reflection. I did, however, find it quite sentimental.

    I guess if you imagine putting “The Road Less Travelled”, “The Celestine Prophecy”, “The Search for Significance” and “A New Kind of Christian” into a blender and whizzed “The Shack” is what might result.

    It’s a good story, and it does involve and pull the reader in and along, but I’m not sure it’s saying anything that an up-to-date reader of contemporary Christian thinking would have read better elsewhere.

    Oh, and it has, in my opinion, a few quite dubious theological assertions.

    But simply because so many folks in churches are reading it, it’s worth the read so I could comment.

    I’m not sure that does complete justice to the book, and I’ve had a few more days to reflect on it since.

    One of the things I think the book does well, is take a reader on a journey from a fairly traditional understanding of God’s nature towards something more open, gracious, generous even. And so, if it counters a popular image of the stern rule-maker looking for reasons to smite sinners that can only be good.

    I enjoyed the personification of God the Father as a black woman, however, felt that the explanation of the inter-relatedness of trinity missed the mark. It’s the difficulty of reconciling one God and three persons – they were, simply, too independant, like three individual beings who had chosen to be together, rather than one being. Maybe I’m making too much of that.

    I also disliked the sentimentality that the book is shot through with, the first time I read “I’m especially fond of him” I smiled, but the continued use just felt awkward and obvious.

    Then onto more difficult issues. The tragedy of the daughter was, to be frank, a crude use of human emotion – it didn’t work for me as a journey through pain with the help of a loving Father, and went nowhere near offering an explanation for the events. It was there only to evoke emotion. And in the most base and clumsy way. It seemed to me that Young’s portrayal of God was prepared to bend over backwards to make Mac have a clearer understanding of everything in the universe (literally at one point opening up a new view on creation) yet this God never dealt with the one key issue that Mac had, instead making the pain simply disappear. A theological hurdle too far perhaps?

    I’m not expecting a novel to answer the problem of human suffering – far from it. But this novel seemed to want to – then didn’t, and in its portrayal of a God who seemed to want to reveal so much – this was a very obvious gap. Young might have been better to have tried to explain less, and then leaving this one obvious area unanswered would have stood out less perhaps.

    I’d also want to ask questions about a few other things. Does God really have no expectations of us? Micah 6:8, Isaiah 58 and Matthew chapters 5-7 and 25 might suggest otherwise.

    Lastly, the bridging of an unbridgeable chasm – contact between the living and the dead – raises other issues about the underlying theologies present here. It works very neatly in the book – quite a tear-jerker of a moment – but where does it leave the book theologically, or lead the reader spiritually?

    So, all in all, worth the read? Well, it’s a good story, if a little too sentimental for this reader’s tastes, and so many are reading and talking about it that it makes it worth borrowing a copy to read for oneself (and thankfully takes a lot less time than a similar exercise with The Da Vinci Code). But the reader ought to not cast off critical thought and reflection before re-shaping any thoughts about God, his purposes and dealings with human beings.

  42. beatthedrum says:

    I think I have missed a post I sent earlier via my blackberry.

    My reasoning behind thinking that the shack is heretical are as follows

    1. It epicts God, which we are told not to do
    2. It shows Father God as a woman, clearly incorrect as per the scriptures
    3. It harbours a form on modalism. God the Father came to earth as Jesus. No God the son came to the earth as Jesus.
    4. They say their is no hiarachy in the Trinity, but there clearly is The Father sent the Son etc…

    Now I am not saying you should not read anything that is heretical or watch any such thing, that would be ALL TV FILMS most books etc. But we just have to be carefull and examine things properly in light of scripture.

    I personally love reading these types of thing and have had many conversations with people after reading the Divinci code etc which allowed me to share Jesus with them.


  43. Robb says:

    Linus – that is exactly how the word is used… (only it usually also comes with an undercurrent of anti-womenness).

    Glad it didn’t jump forward. I was amused by the concept of “administrators”. I have yet to meet one of them other than in your location :D

    I love yes Minister – it is so true!!

    I watched series one and two at a friends house just a year or two ago. They just put the Xmas special on virgin. I’m 15 mins in! :lol:

    Beatthedrum –

    Laud and honour to the Father,
    Laud and honour to the Son,
    Laud and honour to the Spirit,
    Ever Three and ever One :
    Consubstantial, co-eternal,
    While unending ages run.

    Did you see how modern I got there with my medieval hymnody?

  44. beatthedrum says:

    They are co equal Robb, but they have roles, and Jesus was subservent to God the Father, “Your will not mine”


  45. Robb says:

    Are you challenging the ancient formulary of “consubstantial co-eternal”? I do on a regular basis but not because of its meaning. More because it’s meaning in ineffably sublime in a modern context.

    I subscribe to the filioque in both instances.

  46. Pat says:

    “I subscribe to the filioque in both instances.” Better watch it Robb – you’ll be losing your teeth with that kind of talk :lol:

  47. jonbirch says:

    beatthedrum. god is described as both father and mother in the bible… albeit a clucking mother.
    actually god is neither my father nor my mother… yet both. :? :-)

  48. TyTe says:

    @41 “Gnosticism because the central character is invited to receive a secret revelation that isn’t shared with all humanity, spiritualism becuase of the actual contact with he dead.”

    @42 “It epicts God, which we are told not to do.”

    Dang, I’d better thow out that crucifix I have on my wall that reminds me of what Jesus did for me and helps me draw closer to him. Perhaps I could burn it when I burn my copy of the The Shack and my Beano annual.

    2. “It shows Father God as a woman, clearly incorrect as per the scriptures.”

    Quite right, God is clearly a man. 1 point to you.

    “3. It harbours a form on modalism. God the Father came to earth as Jesus. No God the son came to the earth as Jesus.”

    I thought God – the trinity – came to earth as Jesus. Now you’re just confusing me.

    Gnosticism, spiritualism, satanism, and botty-spanking aside, The Shack is still a good darned read. Christians sure do take the fun out of things sometimes… :(

  49. becky says:

    There are certain words that are conversation stoppers – telling someone they are reading something heretical is one of them. It gets translated into “I am a heretic.” I don’t like dialoging with Christians who tell me I am a heretic (some Christians in the United States view Anglicans and Catholics as heretics).

    Ask folks why they are reading The Shack, the DaVinci Code or anything that connects with them deeply. I find in these conversations I find out what they aren’t finding in church. i can then share my frustrations with church and then, when appropriate, help show them that not all Christians feel that way.

  50. Jonathan says:

    I suggest giving it a miss because on further reflection after writing that review in Nov, I think it’s simply a crap book.

    I’m not going to tell people they oughtn’t read a book because it has dodgy elements in it – i’d need to get rid of a couple of thousand books if i did that!

  51. Robb says:

    I am a bit like that with the Da Vinci Code. Not really my kind of book but mother went on and on and on about it. My problem is twofold:

    a) This is not a new story. This is an old story that has been told a few hunderd times in different ways but essentially the same story. What if Jesus had kids and the church had to cover it up. I personally prefer the Preacher series of comics but don’t recommend them to anyone who is squemish or in any way worried that they may see something “not christian”. It is all “not christian”. If you want to see the same idea done before Dan Brown got his hands on it and tried to pass it off as an original thought, start with something deemd ‘heretical’ like the Last Temptation (they even made a film for those of you who have an alergic reaction to paper.)

    b) It is really badly written. Noddy and Big Ears do mystery. Page 1 – bit of a puzzle. Page 2 – answer to the puzzle. Page 3 – bit of a puzzle. Page 4 – bit of an answer…… Page 127 – bit of a puzzel.

    It is the mystery novel equivelant of chinese water torture. Each drop is insignificant and yet at the end you just want to kill yourself. Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad writing. Did I mention that it is bad?

    Great oportunity in the RE classroom though. Great to talk to the kids about. None of them read it but they all thought they knew what it said.

    Nothing too deep. It was a bit like responding to Jeremy Clarkson a couple of weeks ago in the column he writes when he proudly declared “When Galileo proved that the bible wasn’t true”. You know when people make themselves look unbelievably thinck by trying to talk about a subject they know very little about….

    … theres them that knows and them that don’t know…. and them that…

    Hang on. Haven’t we had this before?

  52. becky says:

    Rob – I agree both books aren’t good writing (I’m being kind here) – but where the church misses the boat is they tell the fawning fans that they are idiots, heretics, etc. instead of digging deeper – you’ll find in both books a treatment of women for example that is often missing from many church settings. I see these books as teaching tools to see what’s behind the message that’s so appealing.

  53. Robb says:

    So do I when I find someone who has actually read it rather than a bit on a TV show describing it.

    Totally agree with you. Engagement is the way forwar. We have nothing to fear except fear itself!

    As I say, the only time I hear the word heretic it is used to describe Donatists and Gnostics [in their context in the first-fourth century where they belong].

    My fav heretic story is the Revd Bish Bash Bosh St Nick. He walked across the room at one of the councils and smacked a guy round the head with his crook declaring “that’s how we deal with heretics”.

    What a guy :lol:

  54. Robb says:

    Arius was hit BTW – of Arian herecy fame…

  55. Robb says:

    And it may be a bit of a legend…

    But a great St Nicholas story none the less!!

  56. Linus says:

    Robb @43 Absolutely! Yes minister was Maggie Thatcher’s favourite tv program, so it must be good, right?

    Jonathan @41 thanks =] That’s a really helpful analysis and much food for thought.

    I agree that the shack isn’t gonna win the booker prize but then the author’s never made any claim to be even a professional writer let alone a literary genius so it seems unfair to judge it on those terms.

    I think the book is about trying to honestly and humbly communicate something of God’s character and nature, and grapple with serious questions about God and suffering and redemption. The word-of-mouth phenomenon that the book has become shows that it’s succeeding in doing that far better than pretty much every church community on the planet so, judged on its own terms, its not “crap”, its very successful. And maybe something we could learn from.

    On the gnosticism and spiritualism front… Its an allegory – Would you say pilgrim’s progress is pagan cos Christian experiences stuff stolen from Greek Mythology? It’s clear the story isn’t meant to be a day in the real life of average joe – its putting relationship with God into a fantasy setting to examine the nature of that relationship. That’s allegory. That’s a valid device of a story.

    Anyway, by that criteria the book of ezekiel is Gnostic cos Ezekiel sees a vision the rest of the people of Israel don’t see?

    I agree that the perceived accuracy of the theology in the book is not the criteria on which you recommend it or not. Rather, that’s an opportunity to engage with those issues and have further dialogue and maybe gain a deeper understanding in the process.

    It’s worth pointing out that the majority of the population are not “up-to-date reader[s] of contemporary Christian thinking” and its easy to underestimate the profound effect this book is having on people who would run a mile from anything “theological” or even “religious”, for whom it contains a lot of new ideas in a way that they’re able and willing to engage with.

    For me, it appears the author’s heart was to offer something to God in all humility and as a result, i want to affirm the intention and the beauty of the giving, and i affirm the elements of the gift that blessed me, that i agreed with, that reminded me and challenged me. There’s stuff that i didn’t like, there’s stuff that i violently disagreed with, there’s stuff that i would have advised in the strongest possible terms be done differently, but, you know?… so what? To dismiss the whole thing because of that would be to miss the point. And to ignore all the good in a rush to criticise. And to worry about specks when i should be busy removing planks.

  57. jonbirch says:

    a million critics said j k rowling couldn’t write, a million christians said the books shouldn’t be read… i loved them and i think she is a good writer and i’d recommend then as a lot of to anyone.
    all the negative, knee jerk criticism of the shack makes me want to read it. maybe i’ll think it’s rubbish… but it’ll be for the reasons i think it is. maybe i’ll like it and the same will apply.
    how do i know it’s ‘knee jerk’ criticism. because it happens all the time.
    btw… i’m not saying there’s nothing to criticise, it’s just i’m unhappy at being told what i should/shouldn’t, can/can’t read. i’m having none of it. :-)

  58. Robb says:

    I’d agree with you but I have decided that I shouldn’t and can’t read your last comment Jon.

  59. Carole says:

    I read the Shack and really enjoyed it. It posed a lot of ‘what if’ type questions for me. It exercised some difficult emotions for me. God portrayed as a black woman was difficult for me…not because God was a woman, nor because God was black but because God was an over the top Whoopi Goldberg-esque pantomime dame. Maybe I need to get rid of my own fixed images of God. But, I must add, I read it as a novel and not a theology textbook.

  60. Jonathan says:

    I think a large part of my disquiet about the book is that vast numkbers of people do indeed read it like a theology textbook, or at least, what they imagine ne might be like. The same people who, if asked, would search the bible for that comforting scripture about Jesus carrying us in the hard times, the bit with the footprints in the snow…

    I have had many people tell me that they learnt something new about God (like s/he doesn’t expect anything of us, or some revelation about the trinity) after reading hte book, and so they extrapolate from that truths that will shape thier faith.

    Kinda worrying

  61. Jonathan says:

    footprints in the sand even… grrr, snow on the brain

  62. beatthedrum says:

    I agree Jonathan its when a novel becomes a text book that it becomes worrying.

    Personally I love these types of books, because they get us discussing and talking about things.

    Same with the Di Vinci code thought the book was naff, the film worse but had great times discussing it with non christian and christian friends.

    Loved the Harry Potter books and hated the Christian backlash about them. Funny thing is in the end Harry does a ‘Jesus’ dies and is resurrected for his friends… strange how these things work out.


  63. Linus says:

    eeek – spoiler alert!

    I think most stories are redemption stories at root (its worth reading Don Miller’s thoughts on that in Blue like Jazz if you get a chance. Whilst i can see some big weaknesses in his hypothesis, its a very thought provoking passage in a very excellent book)

    Agreed Jonathan: misunderstanding the context and style in which any book is written is gonna land you in all kinds of trouble when you try and apply it to your life. Especially books about God. Including the ones that make up the Bible.

  64. Robb says:

    Spoiler alert Linus!!

    All stories are either messianic or journey… and I aint freudian – I think he may have been wrong on many points [because dr ruth drilled me into them :) ]

  65. rebecca says:

    I spotted this quote in Saturday’s Guardian: “…anything interesting online has a crowd of weasels in suits running just behind it with a notepad and rubber gloves, trying to figure out how they can make it poo money…”

    (From http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/feb/07/mad-men-twitter )

    What a revolting image. But I can’t help wondering if the writer of the article got the idea from Jon’s cartoon.

  66. This topic is quite hot on the Internet at the moment. What do you pay attention to while choosing what to write ?

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