Apologetics, Journal Topics, Reviews

Empty Villages of People Erased from Space and Consciousness

Burge, Gary-Ethnocracy not Sustainable


On the April 6, 2016 edition of the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff invited Dr. Gary Burge onto the broadcast for an interview. Gary is a professor of New Testament at Wheaton. He holds a PhD in New Testament studies from Aberdeen University in Scotland. He’s the author of two incredible books; one is entitled Whose Land Whose Promise, and the other Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to Holy Land Theology.

Hank Hanegraaff: Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending some time with Dr. Gary Burge in the West Bank and I am delighted to have you on the broadcast.

Gary Burge: Thanks Hank. It’s really great to be with you again.

Hank: I want to quote from your book Whose Land Whose Promise and get your reaction. I saw this up close and personal once again a couple of weeks ago but the quote from Bethlehem pastor Mitri Raheb. He says,

I am a Palestinian [Christian] living under Israeli occupation. My captor daily seeks ways to make life harder for me. He encircles my people with barbed wire; he builds walls around us, and his army sets many boundaries around us. He succeeds in keeping thousands of us in camps and prisons. Yet despite all these efforts, he has not succeeded in taking my dreams from me. I have a dream that one day I will wake up and see two equal peoples living next to each other, coexisting in the land of Palestine, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.

The reason I bring up this quote is I want to start by asking you whether this is simply a vain dream in light of the strong Zionist predilection to completely cleanse the land of everyone but those who can legitimately say they are Jews and that based on a theology, a theology called Christian Zionism.

Gary: Yeah, Hank, thanks for that, that is a marvelous quote from Mitri Raheb. Mitri Raheb is one of the most famous Palestinian pastors who reside in Bethlehem, of course, and your listeners may not know, but, he’s an amazing pastor and theologian, prolific writer as well. I don’t think it’s a vain dream at all. I think that what’s unfortunately happening today is that too much of the politics of both the Palestinian side and the Israeli side are conducted by sort of outspoken extreme voices, and moderate voices, like Mitri’s, and there are many moderate voices inside of Israel as well, understand that this land, this country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan intimately will have to be shared. This idea of building what we call an ethnocracy—rule by a race—is just simply not going to be sustainable. So, I mean today, for instance, 49% of the population of greater Israel between Mediterranean and the Jordan is Palestinian, and they have a really high birth rate. So everyone knows that in 50 or 60 years the population will be majority Palestinian. Minorities cannot rule majorities and have a sustainable future. It just doesn’t work that way. It didn’t work in South Africa, it won’t work here. So I tell my friends who really do love Israel, and I think we all should, you know, love both peoples in this conflict, it seems to me that the only future that Israel has is to become what I call a bi-national state, that is to say, two nations, two peoples, learning how to share this world together. Otherwise, if you simply have a policy of containment, like Mitri describes—right now Palestinians of the West Bank, over 2 ½ million of them, live behind a 30 foot wall, electrified fences, check points everywhere, regular shootings—this experience just makes a population explode., and I don’t believe there’s a future for that at all.

Hank: You contributed to the Christian Research Journal a Summary Critique Review, a review of the book Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948. It’s a book by Noga Kadman. An important book in that the story of what happen to the Palestinians in the birth of modern Israel in 1948 is not well known to most Christian intellectuals in the West. I would say most Christians period.

Gary: No. Most Christians don’t know this part of the story. Actually I think, I’m really, really glad that the Journal had us review this book because most American listeners that I meet and speak to when I’m out on the road at conferences is they don’t realize that when Israel became a nation in 1948, the Jews were actually in a strong minority in the country. They did a British census in 1948; there were 1.3 million Palestinians and 600,000 Jews. So, therefore, the Israelis knew as they began their state, they had to do a couple things: they had to move out a huge population—we call it ethnic cleansing—and that they destroyed the villages that these people came from or they gave their homes and properties to incoming Jewish settlers.  But what Noga Kadman has done is she has written the definitive book telling about how this ethnic cleansing worked like, just like machines, it was just incredible. Then what she does is she quantifies exactly what happens in all these villages. So, she did case studies of how villages were cleansed, how populations were moved, and at the end of the book, she actually gives you a catalogue of all four hundred some odd villages, and what was there, what’s left today. If you go to Israel as a tourist, you’ll never be shown this stuff. This is the dark secret. I think of it as the dark hidden secret which is in Israel and every Israeli knows it but they can barely talk about it. To build the state they had to cleanse the land, they felt, and this led to enormous suffering for three quarter of a million people, about 750,000 people were essentially affected by this. So, yeah, Kadman’s book is really, really important indisputable evidence of the cleansing of the land.

Hank: You are a New Testament theologian, and ideas have consequences, you think about the Christian Zionist notion that the cleansing, the ethnic cleansing of the land is a divine command. For Zionists, secular Zionists, this is a defensible cruelty, but for Christians it’s a divine command. And this gets down to a hermeneutical issue doesn’t it?

Gary: Oh, it does. It really does, because, in fact Hank that’s exactly right, because what they do is they read the land promise to Abraham, say in Genesis 12, and what they do is they jump from that to the Book of Joshua, and see how Joshua then used military violence to cleanse the land of Canaanites,  and then they jump from there to the twentieth century, and they think that those models for land promise and land reclamation, these all ought to be in play today. What they have jumped over are the prophets of the Old Testament and they jumped right over the New Testament and that’s why I wrote that book Jesus and the Land because I think that as Christians we need to think theologically about land promise and what we believe as Christians about territory and God’s presence in the Holy Land.

Hank: A couple of weeks ago I was speaking in the West Bank and talking about the gospel in the face of religious extremism. Now I pointed out that two fault lines run through the Zionist landscape: one is the promises God made to Abraham were not fulfilled in the past, and, therefore, they must be fulfilled in the present or the future, and the second thing is that God has two distinct people; your comments.

Gary: Well, I think the issue here is that—I think in the Old Testament they understand that that promise of land was actually fulfilled in the arrival of Joshua, the establishment of the tribal lands under judges, and the establishment of the monarchy in the Old Testament. I think the important thing for us to remember is the New Testament is reconfiguring what it means to understand land in God’s providence. What the New Testament has done is it says, look even though Judaism is territorial, we as Christians do not embrace that territorialism. In other words, God’s interest, God’s project today is a different project that He had in the days of Joshua. God’s project today is the reclamation not of the Holy Land from one people, but it is the reclamation of the entire world for all people. So you have a kind of universalizing of the message, a universal embrace of all cultures and nations, and of all lands. That is why the church has always had a worldwide mission because we believe that God does love all cultures and places. So there is no hint inside of the New Testament of the construction of you might say an empire, a nation, a kingdom in the Holy Land, there is instead a charge to go out broadly into all lands. You can actually, Hank, I believe you can find that kind of Christian Zionist impulse right in the Book of Acts. In Acts 1:6 when Jesus arrives in His resurrected glory, the first question that the apostles have for Him is Lord are you now at last in all of your power going to restore Israel’s kingdom. It’s a political question they have. So they have fallen to that low point of thinking God’s interest is in the reconstruction of American political sort of kingdoms. And Jesus deflects the question entirely as, no you are supposed to go to the ends of the earth. So, in other words, the providence, sort of the location of God’s interest is not in the Holy Land; the location of God’s interest is in all lands and therefore go out.

Hank: I’m talking to Gary Burge, he is a professor of New Testament, contributor to the Christian Research Journal, and we’re talking about a review that Gary did on a book entitled Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948. One of the things you write in this review is that,

Both sides had witnessed terrible things but nothing can quite compare with the Palestinian losses of life, residence, and culture that we see…it is difficult to imagine the expulsion of 700,000…people, the demolition of their homes, and the many atrocities they suffered after 1948.

Gary: Right. I know. In fact that’s one of the parts of this whole story that I find the most frustrating personally because, Hank, as you and I know, as you travel in those areas and you do research on what actually happened, when we come back to the United States and we try to describe the Palestinian narrative of their experiences, so many of us either don’t understand it, or really find it hard to acknowledge it. To be sure, Palestinian violence against Israelis is indefensible, and it’s horrible, and it’s subject to condemnation. I understand that. But, what we don’t understand is that there’s violence that goes the other direction as well from Israel to Palestine. It is not always defensive and the number of Palestinians who have been killed is so out of proportion to the Israeli deaths. It’s just hard to believe. Really it’s the loss of hope. You know, you and I, Hank, we have hope because we believe that we have a future. We believe that we can, you know, have a safe home to live in, a career, we have a family, we have a lot of freedom here. The Palestinians have lost hope because they live in containment. It isn’t going to be long before some people are going to look at this and begin to describe it with that horrible word that was used in South Africa. At what point does this become kind of an apartheid situation? Everyone hates to use the word, I understand that, it’s an explosive word, but we have to give these people hope and freedom or else their containment becomes a situation just like that.

Hank: Gary Burge, you are a hero of the faith to me and I deeply appreciate your contribution to the Christian Research Journal.

Gary: Thanks Hank.

Get Jesus and the Land (B1059) by Gary Burge. To order, click here.

Get Gary’s review of Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948 (Indiana University Press, 2015) by Noga Kadman in vol. 39 b, 1 (2016) of the Christian Research Journal. To order, click here.

Subscriptions to the Christian Research Journal are available. To order, click here.


The Hunger Games as a Resource for Apologists

The dystopian world of The Hunger Games, in which children kill other children for the amusement of a decadent elite, provides an ideal opportunity for Christians to engage with culture for apologetics and evangelism — but we have to be willing to challenge ourselves as well.

The Hunger Games has at heart an anti-war / anti-violence message, but author Suzanne Collins also critiques the way that consumers of media are complicit in the cycle of exploitation of violence for entertainment. In the books and the film, the violence of the Games is both a means of controlling the poorer Districts, and entertainment for the jaded, decadent people of the Capitol. Though the people of the Districts fear and hate the Games, they still watch the games on television. And we, the readers and viewers, are put in the position of being complicit in the violence and decadence we deplore.

Our emotions and our imagination cannot be extinguished; if they are ignored, or fed only junk, they will become unhealthy. Yet when the imagination is fed nourishing stories and images and cultivated properly, it flowers into part of a vibrant, full Christian life. The same root that can lead to voyeurism can become empathy; the root that could become violence can become a passion for justice and protecting the weak.

The Hunger Games is an atheist’s dream in some respects: the characters strive to live good lives in a world without any recognition of a transcendent God. The result is a bleak, meaningless world that exposes the bankruptcy of the atheist worldview. Yet if we try to offer Jesus as the solution too quickly, we may miss an important opportunity. The world of The Hunger Games allows Christians to enter into the worldview of those who are struggling to create their own meaning in a world that they perceive as hostile and meaningless. The questions and objections and fears that unbelievers have may not be what Christians expect.

  1. As Christian readers and viewers, how are we complicit in the distortions of media?
  2. How can we provide ways to guide and transform our culture toward the good?
  3. As Christians, are we willing to listen to atheists and seekers and answer their real questions?

Holly Ordway holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, an M.A. in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University. She is the author of Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith (Moody, 2010) and speaks and writes regularly on literature and literary apologetics. Holly will appear on the Bible Answer Man Broadcast in April (listen to the show live at 6PM ET at www.equip.org) to discuss her cover article on The Hunger Games in the new issue of the Christian Research Journal. To read the full article by Holly Ordway, please subscribe to the Journal (6 issues for $39.50).

In the News, Reviews

Atheism Will Doom Britain, but Does It Have to Be this Way?

In an op-ed piece for The Jerusalem Post, Shmuley Boteach laments “Godlessness has doomed Britain,” since “Atheism equals nihilism, neither of which are fertile ground for a national resurgence.” The logic of this is impeccable. Boteach points out that Britain’s greatest exports on the subject of religion are from thinkers who despise religion, such as Richard Dawkins who “compared religion to child abuse,” and Christopher Hitchens, who “titled his 2007 book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” He also observes that whereas 92 percent of Americans believe in God, according to Britain’s National Center for Social Research, only 35 percent in Britain, and 43 percent declare no religion.

One can also point out that the militant approach of New Atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens carries a strong rhetorical sway, and their arguments on the surface appear convincing. It is only when one examines them closely under the light of truth that one realizes none of them hold any water. (See “Village Atheists with Vengeance.”)

Boteach finds that there is nothing comparable in Britain to American megachurch pastors like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, and reasons that in the latter there is no official state church with religion being entrepreneurial, in the sense that “religion lives and dies in America like a commercial enterprise.” Pastors who “excite” with “uplifting and relevant” messages will fill pews, and those who do not will have empty pews. He also attributes “religious fervor” to the growth of America, “from pioneering backwoodsmen to the most powerful and innovative nation on earth,” whereas British influence has waned in the past century with “militant atheism” being “a key reason.” His explanation is that “atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is accidental.”

The endgame of belief in a purely material universe that came about by random chance through the Darwinian Evolutionary process with its survival of the fittest and extinction of the inferior is nihilism. Boteach is certainly on target.

Whie it is generally true that “religious fervor” is a contributing factor to the growth and expansion of the United States, it is not “relevant” preaching that forms foundations of innovation and progress. One can argue that an attempt to be relevant makes for irrelevance (see “How Relevant Is Relevance?”). While Joel Osteen does have mass appeal, his overall message can be considered a “Gospel of Self-Esteem” or “Gospel-Light.” Whether or not his name-it-and-claim-it prosperity gospel can provide spiritual foundations for lasting social transformation is doubtful.

To be more precise, one can make the case that the Bible has been the spiritual source underlying progress in Western Civilization. Vishal Mangalwadi, in his lecture series entitled “Must the Sun Set on the West,” makes a compelling case that the sun is setting on the West because the West has severed itself from the source of its greatness, the Bible; however, the sun need not set on the West, because people can still return to the source of their greatness. Ultimately, it is from minds deeply influenced by the truth of Scripture that have gone on to make innovations that ultimately transformed the West. How Christianity Changed the World also explores the way Christianity inspired the highest achievements in Western civilization from its humble beginnings.

— Warren Nozaki

For further related study, please access the following:

“Christopher Hitchens’s Sledgehammer Rhetoric” (Douglas Groothuis reviews God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens)

“The Cook’s Tale: A Naturalist’s Quest for the Ingredients of Life” (Angus Menuge reviews The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins)

“Darwin’s Rottweiler: Fierce Barks, Feeble Bites” (Doug Groothuis reviews The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins)

“Dawkin’s and Darwin’s Three-Ring Circus” (Jonathan Wells reviews The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins)

“Can Morality Be Based in Our ‘Selfish’ Evolutionary Past?

Please also consider the following bookstore resources:


The Book that Made Your World B1044/$22.99

Journal Topics, Reviews

The Story Behind Paul Maier’s Novel The Constantine Codex

I wrote The Constantine Codex using the same formula I did for the first two novels in this series: A Skeleton in God’s Closet, and More Than a Skeleton. While the main characters are the same and the novels do build on one another, the plots are so different that each can be read independently of the other two. In all three, I also aim to educate while entertaining. In the first, the reader learns a good deal about archaeology, and in the second, how to avoid extremes in current Christianity, Codex explores how biblical manuscripts led to our preset Bible as well as the world of Islam.
While using fiction for my principal characters, I always try to paint a background of solid fact in sowing how to respond to the greatest dangers that could ever face the faith. In the first book, I deal with a plot that could have doomed Christianity, and in the second, a fraud that would have done the same thing. But in The Constantine Codex, I also take on what is clearly the greatest challenge ever to face the church—Islam—and present readers with a model of how Christian-Muslim dialogue could take place at the highest levels when Jonathan Weber, my protagonist, debates the world leader of Sunni Islam at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Christians don’t know enough about the Muslim challenge, or how easy it is to defend our faith.

Still, the most significant plotline in Codex deals with a little-known historical episode in the life of Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. He instructed his biographer, Eusebius of Caesarea (“the father of church history”) to have fifty elegantly-written copies of the Bible prepared for use in the early church, with its pages bound together into a codex, the world’s first book form. Not one of these has ever been discovered—until now (moving, of course, from fact to fiction) But this codex—the earliest Bible in book form—contains 67 books rather than the usual 66. Is it genuine? Does the extra book really complete the story of St. Paul’s martyrdom at Rome? Should it be included in the canon? How Christianity reacts to this discovery becomes the centerpiece of the novel.

Advance readers are generous in their comments regarding The Constantine Codex, I’m delighted to say. Hank Hanegraaff, the host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast, writes: “Just a few pages into it and I was hooked. Maier is that rare combination of masterful storyteller and historian. A brilliant use of the power of story to excite and educate. Bravo!”

— Paul Maier

The Constantine Codex (B1041) is available for purchase through the Christian Research Institute bookstore. Also available from Paul Maier are his novels A Skeleton In God’s Closet (B960), More Than a Skeleton (B920), and Pontius Pilate (B687). To understand more about the historical background to the New Testament, we recommend Paul Maier’s books In The Fullness of Time (SB916) and Josephus, The Essential Works (B558).

Dr. Paul L. Maier is the Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University and a much-published author of both scholarly and popular works.

Journal Topics, Reviews

The Adjustment Bureau

Adjustment BureauLast weekend I went to see the new Matt Damon and Emily Blunt film, a romantic thriller called The Adjustment Bureau (PG-13*). Loosely based on a 1954 short story by Philip K. Dick called the “Adjustment Team,” the film’s themes center around “God,” free will and determinism. The film causes viewers to wonder does God exist and if so, does He change His mind? Do human beings have free will? Is there a plan for human lives that has already been pre-determined by God before we were born? Do we have guardian angels watching over and affecting our lives? And can human choices change the mind of God?

Even though director and screenwriter George Nolfi had no intention of making a movie with explicitly religious or Christian themes, he nevertheless raises the age-old question of do we truly have free will?

In the upcoming Volume 34 No. 3 issue of the Christian Research Journal, contributing writer Brian Godawa will offer his take in a review of the film and its themes. You won’t want to miss Godawa’s analysis so please subscribe to the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). Or give a gift subscription.

Melanie M. Cogdill, Managing Editor, Christian Research Journal

For further study we recommend:

Book: Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment

Review: God of the Possible

Article: Neotheism: The Dangers of Making God in Our Image

Book: God Under Fire

Book: Their God Is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God

* Film contains strong language, an implied premarital sex scene, female lead in short skirt/plunging neckline dresses.

Apologetics, Journal Topics, Reviews

Review: On Guard by William Lane Craig

On Guard by William Lane CraigOn Guard is a fencing term. It’s also the title of a book written by Dr. William Lane Craig, with the subtitle of “Defending your Faith with Reason and Precision.” He attempts to show the skeptics/atheists that their position needs to be supported with evidence and not mere rhetoric.

I found this quote on page 41 to be very interesting: “If God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent—for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance.” I agree with the statement. Yet many atheists I’ve encountered think they aren’t missing anything in life. In many ways, they think my life is a model for dullness and despair. I wonder, is there an effective approach that could best be utilized to illustrate how their lives are truly based on insignificance?

Eric Johnson is a researcher with Mormonism Research Ministry and coauthor of Mormonism 101(Baker, 2000). He is also an associate editor for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students (Holman, 2010).

His review of On Guard on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 2 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). Or give a gift subscription.

For Further Reading We Recommend:

On Guard


Believe in the Evidence for God

Evidence for God

Today’s Christian students can be certain of enrolling in at least one course in college with an atheistic professor whose goal is for them to give up their faith by the semester’s end. They will be slammed with arguments against the existence of God, the historicity of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible. They would be called to embrace the dogma of Darwinian Evolution, or be vilified as “bigots” or “fundamentalists.” Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible History, Philosophy, and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2010) is a resource for the Christian student to give an answer for their faith (1 Pet. 3:15).

What is helpful about Evidence for God is it offers responses that are concise and straight to the point. One does not have to wade through extended discussions but can easily get the essential core of the issue being discussed. Since the book is divided into four sections: The Question of philosophy, The Question of Science, The Question of Jesus, and The Question of the Bible, users can easily find information they seek.

David Wood in his chapter on the explanatory power of theism and atheism puts things into perspective in stating: “If atheists expect theists to take the denial of theism seriously, they must offer a hypothesis at least as powerful as theism. Yet atheism can’t explain even the most basic facts about the world” (46). Not only does Atheism fail to offer reason to abandon Christian belief in Christ and the reliability of the Bible, but it also is unable to offer explanations for the origin of the universe, the fine tuning earth for life, the origin, diversity, and complexity of life, human consciousness, and objective moral values.

One of the specific challenges for the Christian church is to have their students grounded and equipped to meet the spiritual challenges in colleges and universities. In many instances, Christian students entering into college are unprepared for this spiritual battle. In what ways can the body of Christ help equip students to stand for truth? What advice would you give to a student or a senior high school youth leader?

— CRI Research Staff

For more information about Evidence for God, click HERE.


Burning Down the Shack- Review by Warren Nozaki

Burning Down “The Shack:”
How the “Christian” Bestseller is Deceiving Millions
(NY: WordNetDaily, 2010)
James B. De Young

William Paul Young’s self-published novel The Shack (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007) grabbed the attention of the masses, and became a “#1 New York Times Bestseller.” The story’s about a fellow named Mackenzie Allen Philips (Mack), who comes to grips with his “great sadness” as the result of a peculiar meeting with God inside a shack located in the Oregon wilderness. The book narrative conveys Young’s theodicy on the tension between God’s goodness and the existence of evil. Many Christians were impressed with Young’s story. Eugene Peterson, for example, declared, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his.” Other Christians rightly raised concerns about the book’s theology. One notable critique is Burning Down “The Shack” (NY: WorldNetDaily, 2010) by James B. De Young.

What sets Burning Down “The Shack” apart from the rest is the fact that James De Young and William Paul Young are well acquainted with one another. In fact, together they co-founded a Portland, Oregon based Christian think tank in 1997 called the M3 Forum (p. xiii). Burning Down “The Shack” thus offers an assessment from a capable Christian thinker with unique insights into the heart and mind of The Shack creator.

De Young’s book confirms the same theological problems others have observed. Namely, The Shack errs in personifying the Trinity as a Black female housekeeper, a big nosed Jewish man, and a mysterious Asian woman (13–22). It errs in depicting Papa (the first person of the Trinity) with crucifixion scars, implying the Father suffered on the cross (patripassianism), which is a way modalism distorts the distinctions of the persons in the Godhead (25–28). It errs again in suggesting the incarnate Christ never drew upon his divine nature to do anything (22–25). It errs, moreover, in its teaching on the salvation of sinners (135–139). It is on this last point that De Young’s close association with Young proves most valuable.

In April of 2004 Young presented the M3 Forum a 103-page single-spaced paper on his embracement of universal reconciliation, which is a form of universalism that holds all must come to God through Jesus Christ either before or after they die (xiv). Two years later, while still holding this heresy, he completed the manuscript for The Shack. Young’s friends saw potential in the story and encouraged him to have it published, but since they opposed the universalism embedded in it, they spent a little over a year trying to remove it. When the manuscript was rejected by mainline Christian publishers, Young started Windblown Media to distribute the book (xviii–xix). De Young notes, “in 2008, [Young] claimed that he has moved away from this position by stating that he does not want to be pinned down, that he is a person in flux, that he is not ‘a universalist,’” but maintains that “many of the beliefs of universal reconciliation remain in the novel” (xx).

De Young offers clarity to statements in The Shack suggesting universalism. For example, when the Jesus of The Shack says, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims…I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa,” and “I’ll travel any road to find you,” Young can still honestly say The Shack does not teach universalism—that is, universalism in the form of religious pluralism, albeit not universal reconciliation. De Young observes, therefore, that these statements “may reflect universalism’s teaching that Jesus may even go a thousand times to hell to bring out the wicked who repent there” (139). When The Shack was written, Young did not believe all religions would lead to heaven (religious pluralism); rather, he believed Jesus Christ would eventually save everyone, even souls already in hell (universal reconciliation). Universal reconciliation, therefore, is another form of universalism.

Storytelling is a powerful medium of communication, and Young’s book capitalizes on this principle. So when The Shack portrays God as saying, “I am not who you think I am,” one must understand, “Young is seeking to have Mack (and all readers of The Shack) question his understanding of God, to ‘change the way we think about God forever’” (57). However, Young ultimately “skates along the edge of the precipice of heresy but denies that he is indulging in it” (145). Since there are many Christian readers who have read or plan to read The Shack, my challenge would be for readers of The Shack to also interact with Burning Down “The Shack, which offers helpful insights into the ideas being communicated.

— Warren Nozaki