Truth, Laughter, and Reality (#570)

As the release date for movie adaptation for The Shack gets ever closer, Brad and Wayne share a bit of the process they have been through and their excitement to see how others respond to the movie. That begins a conversation about the playfulness of God in the story and why that is offensive to some. Playfulness and truth seem to go together. The less certain someone is of what's true the more forceful and manipulative they are to get others to agree with them. But the more people relax into God's reality the more gentle they are with others and the more fun they seem to have in embracing that truth and sharing it with others. And when truth is celebrated rather than defended, it seems to open wider doors for those who want to experience the truth as well.

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  1. I didn’t know why I REALLY liked having the father depicted as a black lady in the book and even more now in the movie (other than I like the actress), but it just hit me (I think).
    I’m one of the those guys who have had difficulty relating to anyone as a father in any positive way, even a deity, because of the example I’ve had. Also, most “ministers” aren’t much better, including with their kids.
    But, its sheer genius to have the father as a black lady because it’s almost impossible to superimpose her upon my previous notions of God!
    By the way I’m a flaming conservative and like most, understand my callings is to be angry about everything, but The Shack has really helped me at least in this one, most important area, I can MUCH more easily now relate to pappa now that he doesn’t even look like all the psychos previously in that role.

  2. I’ve found this fascinating phenomena growing in (current and former) “Christian” circles: “over correcting.” Many people grow up in, fall for, or get caught up in error and false teaching (over correction usually occurs with real or perceived legalism, or performance-based mindsets), when they get burned out by it, or just burned by those in it–and, instead of a “correct correction”–they “over correct” [they go from error to even more error, yet they are even more convinced their new, more dangerous error is correct! what a horrible place to be!!!]

    Some even add bitterness to the equation, and this often comes out in aggressively antagonistic assaults on “Christianity” (they mistakenly blend their false way with true Christianity, and then attack true Christianity), while others try to be more subtle (and passive-aggressive) in their adversarial approach, especially toward Scripture and those with a high view of God’s written Word (the subtly undermine and alter God’s Word, who God is, what the true gospel of salvation is, that we even need to be saved, etc.) [FWIW, they also often reject the term “Christian” and adopt terms like, “Christ-Follower” or “Spiritual” or “New Spirituality,” etc]

    The solution is always found in Jesus–the Word of God–who came full of grace and truth (not erring on the side of one or the other). These can be had by all, but both grace and truth are required, and our tendency is to lean way too much in one direction or the other.

    It is horrible that they suffered under (likely oppressive) teachings and people, but in their zeal to be set free they frequently “over correct” into more of a licentiousness, they often go from a truth-that-lacks-grace to a grace-that-lacks-truth–and they are convinced all the more this error is right! Furthermore, they frequently have a self-appointed freedom to alter God, truth, God’s Word, etc, to fit in this new, easier, “wider gate,” and they lead others through this “wide gate” and down this “broad road.”
    [I couldn’t help but notice … “And when truth is celebrated rather than defended, it seems to open WIDER DOORS for those who want to experience the truth as well.” … at the risk of being judged and condemned as a Pharisee, normally this attempt to widen the gate/path would usually, at a minimum, sound off some alarms, yet combined with the rest of the paragraph, and the subtle distortions and undermining of truth, all of this is deeply concerning. Yet, according to this new paradigm, if I (or someone) were to express concern over error and false teachings (cp Gal 2:1-5) then I am likely guilty of being concerned about “defending” truth, “forcing,” or manipulating,” not relaxing into some new reality or truth that was recently discovered, etc.

    Truth matters. Distorting truth matters. Misrepresenting or distorting God and His Word not only matters, it is deadly serious. When people are misled and deceived then they are, in fact, on the broad road that leads to destruction (at least if Scripture is our unalterable Standard). The worst place to be is not just on the broad road (and know we are on that path), but to be on the road to destruction all while believing you are on the right path of truth and true grace. Many people are destroyed by false teaching, how many more are destroyed by over correction?

    • MB,and who shall we trust to deal with all of this? I hear your concerns, but isn’t the Holy Spirit the one who guides us into all truth? No one here is going to call you a Pharisee because of you express your point of view, but my question would be how well does the “defending” work? Yes many people cling to false teachings for false comfort, though they don’t know it to be false. But defending truth rarely changes someone’s mind. I think that’s our point. It just drives them deeper into error. And honestly, I find most error doesn’t come from people who are simply learning to follow Jesus, but from those who want to be somebody, an expert, a guide for others. They are the ones that usually concoct untruth into compelling stories that other want to orbit their life around. But as you said, we’re called to orbit around Jesus not our pet theologies. None of us understand6I guess the reason I’m not as concerned as you seem to be about all this is because false teaching seems to implode of it’s own weight. It doesn’t work. Those who follow it will still end up empty and have a chance to turn back to him.

      By wider doors, we certainly don’t mean the broad way to destruction. Truth is important and Truth himself will help us discover it. Scripture is valuable for sure, but how many have misinterpreted Scripture to their own destruction as well. Trusting him while we love people gives people the best opportunity to discover the truth and walk in it as I see it. (Wayne)

  3. Thank you Wayne, for responding ….

    The Holy Spirit of truth guides into truth, AND He has given us His written Word by which to direct us, guide us, and protect us, and to detect false teachings that deceive and destroy countless people.

    Whether or not something “works,” as important as that is, is not our primary concern (e.g. we don’t control that). Also, what determines what is “success” or if something “works” (e.g. what standard do we use)? Are big numbers “success”? Actually, that often is not a good sign (Lk 6:26; Matt 7:13-14) If, as an example, our theology is acceptable to or liked by non-believers (those who reject the Spirit of truth and Word of truth) than those who have a high view of Scripture and truth, is more politically correct than biblically correct, then some would see that as success, yet that would be beyond troubling (1 Jn 4:5-6).

    Our responsibility and calling is to be loving and faithful with what has been entrusted to us, and to entrust the outcome to God. That, I would say, is success (“Well done good and faithful servant”).

    We are called many times by the Spirit of truth to defend the truth (e.g. several times in the first chapter of Philippians). Does that “work”? Absolutely! Why else would the God of truth tell us to do that? Also, it is not just “defending” the truth, it is faithfully and accurately teaching the truth (which, directly or indirectly, defends the truth).

    You say that “defending truth rarely changes someone’s mind” (by the way, you are directly or indirectly defending what you wrote and believe, which is great, and I appreciate it), I greatly disagree that it rarely changes people. This not only helped me greatly, and many I know, I see this working and succeeding every day. Not only that, in an age of error, the truth (teaching and defending the truth) is all the more important and necessary. What is more, the “love for the truth” seems to be absolutely essential, not just to avoid deception, but this leads to believing “the lie” and “perishing” apart from God. What could be more important?

    False teaching, unfortunately, does very much work (Gal 1:6-9; Matt 7:13-23; 2 Thess 2:1-12; 1 Tim 6:20-21; 2 Tim 2:15-18; 3:1-13; 4:3-4). That’s the problem. That is why Jesus (and His followers) frequently warned and warned about this. Why would they do this if it doesn’t work? Jesus didn’t warn about a lack of good works but of deception, false teachers, false Christs, etc. People are NOT gravitating toward truth today, quite the opposite. The are buying into false narratives about a false Jesus. Where does that take them?

    Yes, countless people have misinterpreted Scripture … to their own destruction and that of others. That’s the point. All the more we need to know the truth of God’s Word of truth to help others avoid deception and destruction, and to know truth, true love, true salvation, and the true Jesus.

    “Trusting him”? Absolutely, but which “him” or “Him”? How many people are not trusting “Him” and, instead, trusting the wrong “him”? Nothing should concern us more, yet nothing seems to concern the Church less.

    Thank you again for responding

    • You misunderstood my response, MB, and thus you’re taking exception to it is leading you to a strange response. I’m not pro false teaching, but I don’t have time here to parse it all out here. I don’t mean we shouldn’t speak the truth, or call out false teaching when we hear it. We do that all the time. My always pushing people to our view of truth without loving them and opening a door to God’s reality, we are just going to be a clanging gong. I don’t know you so I don’t know if this has any merit to your approach, but the people I do know who talk like this are forever bashing people in the name of truth and not finding a way into their heart to help them see that truth. That’s all I’m suggesting. If you’re doing that great, but I don’t see the “loving” in anything you’ve written here. It’s just “defending the truth.” The people I know who walk best in truth don’t have the passion to force it on others as the sole mission. Truth can travel without love and becomes worthless. That’s what I was referring to. But I also believe that real love can’t travel without truth. If you love someone you’ll help them see the truth, but the focus will be on helping them, not constantly confronting them with your version of truth. Try to hear my words here without jumping to assumptions that don’t define what we do here. I’m not talking about measuring success with numbers, but whether your approach finds receptivity in the hearers and if not they will only respond defensively and two people defending positions is a lousy way to have a conversation.

    • IN addition to being in wholehearted agreement with Wayne’s response, I just wanted to add one point from my own personal experience and realization. This is coming from now almost 2 years outside of institutional church and, previous to that, over 20 years of deeply committed involvement in a conservative Evangelical Baptist church environment in multiple areas of leadership (small group leadership, sports ministry coach, Bible teacher, etc.). My point is that while “proof-texting” from the Bible may feel empowering or convicting within your own theological circle, at the end of the day it really just amounts to your own opinion. I did this for years within the church with the understanding that I was “wielding the sword of the spirit”, limiting my reading to specific authors whom I considered “the big guys” with respect to Biblical interpretation. However, after much careful research, I now realize the greater level of well-reasoned diversity of perspective within Christianity. One persons “sword” is another persons “heresy”. One persons “truth” is another persons “misinterpretation”. Thus, I don’t believe there is anyone who can claim any kind of objective corner the truth and that we should be very careful about declaring ourselves “defenders” of the truth. None of us is personally vetted by God. Throwing out a set of verses out of context carries very little weight, IMHO.

      • Yes,I agree; that is why I left the church as well. and “christianity” Truth was so restrictive, the bible may have value, to some people … I guess, yet is worthless, really, because it is just one persons feelings or opinions. so who cares if something is true or not. what I do know is that I feel so much better, and isnt’ that all that really matters, our feelings? As a result, if our opinions really determine reality, and truth doesn’t really mater, than it really doesn’t matter if there is a God; and if there is a God then the “truth” about him doesn’t really matter either. How freeing!

  4. Wow, loved the discussion, especially about laughter. After bringing our son Stephen home from the hospital ( you already shared a letter I wrote about him), Those first few months were harrowing, as he couldn’t communicate, eat, frequently defecated, threw up, and needed vigilant care. We had a life long friend come to visit and he came upon us one morning laughing. He was astonished as he’d watched what our lives had become. He told us he would after that think of us as “The family that laughs”. I love that!!! We had one short season when we doubted God and the healing he’d promised. There was little laughter then, what a horrible place to live…. I’m sure God laughs with us as we laugh at ourselves. Hope lives in laughter, at least for us…

  5. I love that question of Brad’s: “When did the truth become powerful enough that you didn’t need to keep trying so hard?” This week, I decided to go back and read the chapter in Finding Church on authority and that theme kept coming up again and again “… they know truth carries it’s own power when people are ready. And if they are not ready, pushing them will not be helpful. Authority looks for the opening that allows light to shine in the darkness. It realizes that the truth is not fragile…”

    I’m amazed at this connection between authority and trust, and how true authority has a way of inspiring/sharpening confidence in the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Some other thoughts that came from that: Trusting God really knows how to (and wants to) create real hungers in our hearts. Who needs to compel a hungry person to eat? And also trusting that the truth really is worth knowing for itself.

    I really want to learn and grow in this confidence in God, because the alternative of me trying so hard to make His work happen is so exhausting.

  6. Loved the Shack book. Looking forward to the film. My wife (who’s Chinese) read it in Chinese (there are two translations that I’ve come across). It’ll be a great resource and will be seen by many, I’m sure.

    It’s not very expensive to go to the movie theatre in China and it’s not unusual for them to watch English speaking movies with sub-titles.
    And of course It’s bound to be pirated pretty quick and will probably be available on DVD for about 50 cents US. Yeah I know it’s stealing but a lot of very poor people live off it. What I mean is, the movie will be accessed by ordinary folk , who either don’t have the time, or can’t afford to go to a movie theatre.

    Also it’ll be available online soon. After a while, that’ll be free too. This is the main medium by which they will watch it, and I dare say, those churches that don’t oppose it (I expect some will) will probably show it publicly (it’s not illegal).

    I’m praying also that it will get on the entertainment of Airlines. That way, it’ll reach audiences who don’t even like watching movies, but haven’t anything better to do.

    Release dates please.

  7. After such ‘deep’ comments here, I’m going to be somewhat ‘shallow’….I hope your wives get beautiful dresses, that they have fun wearing, for the red carpet. And I want pictures!!!! And I hope you all (especially Wayne ?) have a really wonderful time.

  8. Cyndi, Sara already has a new, purty dress she’s excited to wear down the red carpet. She’s way more excited about all this than me, but I’m trying to catch up!

  9. Hey Wayne and Brad , I’m sitting here on Presidents’ Day about to go for a bike ride in almost 50 degree weather in Upstate NY in February!!

    Now that that revelation has worn off I want to give you back one you gave to me during this podcast. Brad made a statement “As a younger man I would have said something to prove my value.” This has really spoken to me today. It seems as though a lot of my life I have been trying to get others to see my worth while missing the worth I have in Christ. As a teacher, worship leader, counselor, and friend I have always wanted to at the thing that helps or causes someone to “change”. Boy I have been hearing something so much more profound lately and that statement you made solidified it for me.

    We are often times not the words of wisdom or the deep thinker with the right words at the right times. As a husband of 26 years I can attest to that. But we instruments used the Lord to confirm His truths and His spirits speaking to others.

    This is the word for me today and I’m thankful that I’m still open to the Holy Spirit to hear it confirmed. Thank you both for the laughter and conversations you have so honestly.


  10. Enjoy the bike ride, Adam! Loved your comments. I have found that in those moments where my words really did impact someone decisively, I wasn’t trying to. In fact, most times I was unaware when it happened and was surprised when they told me later what had touched them so. It seems to be trying to prove our worth through our words is probably pretty good way not to accomplish it. I’m glad too our worth is in him and then we can relax and have the conversations that matter…

  11. Thank you Wayne and Brad. of bless you both. The time has come that we need a film such as this for truth, laugher and reality. God purposed it to be viewed now. So much misinformation about the truth and what is godly according to man in this day, that God is opening the way for man to see what we need to do and come back to Him. God is not stuffy and He laughs even at the things we do as we stumble all over ourselves. God always has good intentions for us but we mess up royally and try to rectify it by singing a tune to our own beat. It’s not God’s way. Man is shallow at times for doing what he ‘thinks’ is right. We need to know what the Word of God says about our situation and what we as believers need to do. Everything we need is in the word of God, The Bible. II Timothy 2:15 tells us to study and show ourselves approved and to rightly divide the word of truth. This way there’s no misinterpretation. Be encouraged and strong for God He’ll see you both through. Blessings

  12. Thanks, again, for responding (and sorry for taking so long to reply).

    Perhaps you did not mean to come across this way, but it seems you have judged and condemned me, falsely. That’s ok, in a way, because that happens between us humans. Yet that is, again, why truth is so important, we want to be accurate in our judging. The goal is always truth and love (e.g. “speaking the truth in love” Eph 4:15), yet notice this verse follows where people are tossed back and forth by falsehood and false teachers and the teachings of the world. AND how important speaking the truth in love is to true unity, to true salvation, etc.

    I don’t what I did that you judged/condemned to be so wrong, every intent was to love, and to be as accurate as humanly possible so that I/you/all of us could truly love and avoid “loving” with error and false teaching. Why is that wrong? Furthermore, this (truth/being accurate if we are to truly love) is becoming more and more of a critical, if not superlative issue, because we live in an age where the spirit of the age is dominating much of the Church, and the teaching therein. Satan (The Deceiver) wants to rob, kill, and destroy, and he does this mainly through deception (2 Cor 2:11; Gen 3:1ff). The “wolves in sheep’s clothing” have more than one weapon to harm, but deception is likely their weapon of choice because they know how much destruction this brings.

    So while these conversations are not pie-in-the-sky, feel-good, utopian moments, they are not only exceedingly necessary (cp Eph 5:8-14; 2 Jn 1-12; Jude 3-23), they are exceptionally loving. In fact, to not have these conversations, to not have iron sharpen iron will, in many ways, produce what is unloving and horrifically harmful. Furthermore, these conversations are of shamed and blamed (falsely) for so much of the destruction that falsehoods and false teachings and “false brothers” have wrought.

    Lastly, I would challenge you (and all of us) to beware of those who appear to be loving, who speak well and appeal on many levels, but “their truth” is not truth.

    “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.”

    “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

    “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not…”

  13. MB, I think you’re being a bit overly sensitive here. I did not judge you and certainly did not condemn you. And I’m very sorry you felt that way. I am merely responding to the issue of “defending the truth”. I even specifically stated that I didn’t know you and was making no conclusions about you. Perhaps something I posted on my blog this morning will help communicate here…

    Parker J. Palmer in The Courage to Teach: “If we want to support each other’s inner lives, we must remember a simple truth: the human soul does not want to be fixed, it wants simply to be seen and heard. If we want to see and hear a person’s soul, there is another truth we must remember: the soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, and yet shy. When we go crashing through the woods shouting for it to come out so we can help it, the soul will stay in hiding. But if we are willing to sit quietly and wait for a while, the soul may show itself.”

    I realize that deception can cause great havoc in those who want to follow Jesus. I’m all for speaking truth in ways that help people see the light. That is different for me than “defending the truth.” It may not be for you, I get that. That may be all you’re talking about. But when I’ve heard that language in the past it was used by those who are always fighting for their position and mostly their “truth” wasn’t Truth at all. I don’t find that language in Scripture, even the ones you listed. We are not told to defend the truth. We are told to speak it in love, to try to win back fallen brothers and sisters, which always puts truth in the context of love.

    If that’s what you’re talking about, great. I’ve made no judgments about you personally. I’ve merely been suggesting that love is the best conduit of truth and that truth that doesn’t travel in love is rarely right and rarely helpful. I think love is the most important part of truth and that more people are loved out of their error than are confronted out of it.

  14. Hello Wayne. Both Connie (Starr Foreman) and I enjoyed reading the Shack. I couldn’t imagine it becoming a film until we saw the trailer. The glimpse looks terrific. Great cast. Really well done.
    I won’t be surprised if script writers begin developing a new vein of screenplays off the spiritual pioneering of the Shack.
    Eagerly looking forward to seeing the film.

    • Hi Marc. Great to hear from you and can’t wait to hear what you think after you see the movie. Maybe we ought to dinner some night after it’s out. That would be fun. I do hope no one sequalizes THE SHACK, but the pressure to do so will be immense if it does well. Hopefully brighter hearts will prevail.

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