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Thank you. There is so much that needs to be unlearned... :)

Bill, the psalmist certainly expresses anger to God, as he articulates all the movements of his soul to God.

This is really the best understanding of Confession. It is a voluntary "unveiling," or a deliberate "disrobing" of the heart before the Presence -- the Face -- of God.

At no time do we hear any idiotic note of "I have to get this off my chest" ... or "God, I have to clear the air between You and me." Usually, well-meaning nincompoops abuse the beautiful verse from Isaiah, "Come let us reason" as a source text for such psychobabble. This verse is rather the Word speaking condescendingly as a Friend, leading us as the "reasonable Shepherd" from our morass of stupid passion into the cool lucidity and calm limpidity of Reason and Theoria.

The confessorial articulation of the soul ("out of the depths have I cried to You O Lord" ... or, "why will You not come to my aid?" ... or, "I know my Redeemer liveth, but why will He not vindicate me?") is separated by an infinite gulf from the cruel self-deceptions of "venting" -- which I think is simply a refereed act (often managed in the regrettable psychotherapy industry) of the plantiff's vengeance against the defendant.

"Venting" (which should not be confused with the beneficent experience of "cartharsis") is bad enough when it is directed at a human. Frankly, there is no excuse for this misanthropic behavior, and the acceptance of this practice by secularized Christians is one of the reasons why we are all half insane.

But "venting" at God is sheer blasphemy. In fact, "venting" at God is the definition of blasphemy.

I cannot imagine how anyone, after real prayer and thinking on the testimony about the Holy Trinity in Scripture and in the Fathers, could ever screw up their brains to flatulate a tirade against God Himself.

I have to think, for the sake of us sinners, that the only reason why a person could ever produce ill-tempered sewage (such as "God I'm so angry with You that I won't believe in You anymore" or "I won't go to church since I'm so disappointed in You, so take that!") is because they must not have prayed, really, or they must not have read Scripture, really, or the Fathers at all.

He is risen indeed!

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I liked your "three pile" analogy - not just because of the humor it invoked, but also because it rung with truth. :)

My understanding is that the "be angry at God" teaching finds its scriptural support in a certain reading of some of the psalms, where the psalmist appears to be pouring out his distress and anger to God.

I think there are two problems here. First, that there is a fine but important distinction between lament/distress (which might include some kind of anger mixed in with the pain) on the one hand, and rage/anger on the other. Crying out "How long will you ignore my pleas?" with the psalmist can be a cry for help, or it can be a temper tantrum.

The second problem is with the reading of the psalms in the first place, which is disconnected from their place in worship, and from the traditional interpretation of Christ-in-the-psalms. It is reading into the psalms the assumptions (and emotions) of our culture.

We have been taught to vent our anger in a kind of catharsis, rather than to let God heal our anger when we come to him in repentance.

Am I on the right track here? Thank you for your patience...


Christ is Risen!

Let me start with the "BTW" question. Calvinists usually dismiss disagreeable opinions to one of three piles. One is labeled "Everything Else," and this pile is for the meaningless seething mass of opinion that seeps from Hades and provides effluviant fuel for incineration at Gehenna (at the brook Kidron and beyond).

The second is labeled "Liberal," or "Mainline." Same thing. These are opinions that do not accept the Bible or the Nicene affirmations of the Reformers.

The third (the pile I am proud to inhabit) is labeled "Eastern Orthodox" and/or "Arminian." This pile reveals the rather comic side of the hyper-rationalistic Calvinists.

The problem with the third pile is that Calvinists do not bother remembering that there is a lot of the Nicene tradition that is consigned here -- a lot of tradition that the Reformers chose (perhaps because of their academic bent) to discard.

One thing that has been unjustly thrown here is the Eastern Orthodox insistence that apophaticism must take precedence over cataphaticism: that is, what is unknowable and indefinable of the Holy Trinity is vastly, infinitely larger than what is knowable, definable, and liable to propositional rhetoric.

There is a profound mystical experience of the energy of the Holy Trinity -- the energy that the Church proclaims as "grace." Grace may not be defined as an intellectual quantum. It cannot be manipulated in a series of propositions. Perhaps propositions have their place in teaching, but they cannot stand in isolation from the mystical experience of sacrament and prayer.

The Calvinist tradition has signed off on this intellectualized divorce. And that single fact accounts for inanities like the gross supposition that "The Shack" digresses from Calvinism because it is Eastern Orthodox. This is stupid.

That single fact accounts for much of the sadness in the history of the revolt of the Protestant movement from Apostolic Tradition.

Now, for your first question, I'm afraid I'm going to frustrate you here. The burden of proof is upon the modern psychotherapist (whether secular like Freud, or "Christian" like Dobson or Minirth/Meier) to prove the proposition that "It is okay to direct human, creaturely anger at the Holy Trinity, at the Consuming Fire, at the Personal Source of Justice and Holiness, at the Fountain of Trinitarian Love that saves idiotic mankind from its lemming lurch toward a hell that was really prepared for the ingrate Devil and his co-conspirators."

Now, if someone can come up with a single proof that supports each strut in this baldfaced proposition (which is at the heart of the culture of complaint), then I'm all ears.

Hope this helps, and enjoy the blessings of this Bright Tuesday!

Hello - a side question, if I may. You say here in your critique that it is "not ever" "OK to be angry with God."

I've heard the teaching before - and even passed it on myself - that it is healthy to express in prayer our distress and anger at God. Can you give some instruction on why and how this is a bad thing?

I'm coming from a non-orthodox background, and am increasingly aware that some former ideas are in need of correction.

BTW - I found it interesting that in the comments section of the Challies review of The Shack that you linked to, some commentors argued that the reason Challies (and other Calvinists) object to Young's teaching is that it is Eastern Orthodox in its theology. (I'm thinking those commenting such don't know what they are talking about.)

Father, bless. "Rather, sentiment must be mediated through doctrine...." This reminds me of T. S. Eliot's essay on the "objective correlative" of poetry, a symbol that signifies personality in personality's extinction. Maybe someone could argue that Eliot had too much Eastern afflatus in him to talk of the extinction of the person, but Young's work seems to move in the opposite direction, that of personality riding over truth, that of effect over substance. The lack of permanency in much evangelical literature betrays, I think, a fundamental weightlessness to their work. God's glory -- and its proclamation -- is weight, correct? It is the true weight and measure.


Thank you all. -Bruce

This is truly a banal book, and its popularity astounds me. I read it (to be agreeable) in a book club, and was thoroughly dismayed. Talk about "dumbing down," and it should horrify any Orthodox Christian and others as well. Your comments are excellent.

Fr. Milovan, thank you for your sympathy, and aren't you immediately wary of popular books highly praised?

Stephen, I'll try to list the doctrinal distortions in the book in another post. But for now, I will add the book's defacement of the Father as Source and Principal of the Trinity. I will also add the book's emphasis on change and becoming in the essential experience of the Trinity, including that of the Father. Finally (for now) I would point to the very fact of the book's depiction of the Trinity's inner experience. We may think only of the Trinity's energetic procession: we may not dare to look behind the veil, because our minds will naturally fail and degenerate into fantasia, which is exactly what this book experienced. The Shack is an unwitting digest of the genesis of heresy, from temptation, to desire, to coupling, to consummation, to birth.

JM, thank you for bringing up Lewis' essay on the issue of "new books on trial." I have appreciated Lewis' deep respect for divine boundary, where speculation is forbidden. Modern theological fantasists go willingly, in ignorant machismo, where angels fear to tread, just like someone else who claimed to walk imperiously on the holy mountain.

Forestwalker, my thanks for your much needed and brave reminder about the book's literary value. The language, I think, is mediocre at best. And while I am no enemy of sentiment (neither is GK), doctrine cannot be mediated through sentiment. Rather, sentiment must be mediated through doctrine: and that shabby reversal is the problem of many ContempXians.

The novel is also nearly unreadable. It has absolutely nothing going for it but sentimentality.

Thanks for bringing this up. I can't tell you how many people have told me that I HAVE to read this book. The question is not, "Have you read The Shack?" It's, "Have you read The Shack, yet?" (And I'm referring to more than one occasion where that is a real "yet", not an implied one.) I get the impression it's another one of those life-changing books that won't be talked about very much two years from now. In times like these I turn to C.S. Lewis' essay "On the Reading of Old Books".

Someone has posted the text here:

It's not long, but here is a quote:
"If [the amateur reader] must read only the new [books] or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light."

Fr., I have heard good intentioned, well educated evangelicals embrace this book on the merit that it has the possibility of helping people catch a glimpse of the love that God has for us, that they are otherwise incapable of grasping. They also seem to see nothing theologically wrong. Can you mention any heretical ideas that you have not already mentioned? It seems that some claim that the book is written in such a way that one can not read it entirely literally but it is difficult to do this since there are endless pages where one forgets that the book is even written as a story. After about the middle of the book it becomes more and more clear that it is a vehicle for an elementary theological statement at best. The thing that I found odd as that God appears as a shape shifter that becomes whatever we need Him to be rather than the One who Is and ever shall be. Shouldn't we change instead to be more like God?

Thank you Father for this review. I heard about this book awhile back from someone or other who, naturally, praised the work very highly.

I feel sorry for you for having to read it!

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