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Wordwise Insight, Issue #046
October 14, 2008

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS (and Reader Q & A): A critique of the popular novel The Shack; some thoughts on whether Christians should be involved in Halloween


MORE ARTICLES: Ghosts--What Does the Bible Say? and an article on Christians and Demons



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LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION? On a Bible topic or passage of Scripture? Or one about a hymn or gospel song? Click on Questions from You.



QUESTION: What is your opinion of The Shack?

ANSWER: I recently read the book to see what all the fuss is about. Here is my review of this controversial novel. I have used numerous quotations from it, and from Scripture, so you can see how the volume measures up to the inspired Word of the living God.

The Shack is a book of religious fiction, written by William Paul Young, a Canadian, and the son of missionary parents. It was published in 2007. Young says he originally wrote it as a gift for his six children. The author himself appears here and there in the book as a man named Willie, a friend of the central character, and the chronicler of his story.

With millions of copies sold, The Shack has become a run-away hit. Several in the entertainment industry have lent their names to promoting the book, and there is talk of turning it into a movie. Many have claimed their lives have been changed by reading it, and that it has given them a new understanding of God. (Though one individual pertinently asked, "Which god?") A favourable review asserted that it "points people back to the Bible." One enthusiast even went so far as to say, "This book is better than the Bible!"Grandiose claims–that any Christian will do well to challenge.

The novel is intended as an allegory, a kind of parable presented to teach spiritual truths. It hooks the reader emotionally, through the heartbreaking experience and turmoil of the main character. Many will be able to identify with his doubts and questions about God. Readers have been captivated by the emotional power and the creativity of the work. But, having said that, it will not be everyone's cup of tea. Young uses clever imagery to tell his tale, but some aspects of his...

To see the full article, click on The Shack


What about the upcoming celebration of Hallowe'en? Should Christians participate in it? Answers to such questions range from absolute refusal to have any part in the day's activities, to full and almost uncritical participation. Since the Bible does not specifically refer to "Hallowe'en," a decision must be made on the basis of biblical principles, and according to individual convictions (cf. Rom. 14:5).

There is certainly nothing wrong per se with children using their imagination and dressing up as characters (either historical or make-believe) just for fun. Nor is there anything wrong with householders handing out occasional treats to neighbourhood children. But Hallowe'en is more than that.

It apparently began in Ireland as an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. It was based on the pagan superstition that on that night the boundary between the living and the dead dissolved, and the dead could pose a danger to the living. They had the power to destroy crops, cause sickness, or wreak other harm. (Hence the practice of "treating" those dressed up as the dead, to win their favour.)

In 835 A.D., in an attempt to change the pagan intent of the day, Pope Gregory IV moved All Saints Day to coincide with this festival. The latter was designated as a day to celebrate those who had been beatified, granted sainthood by the Church of Rome.

Perhaps ironically, the date also coincides with the beginning of the Protestant Reformation when, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the door of Wittenberg Church, calling upon theologians of Rome to debate with him.

Protestant churches that have continued marking the day have simply made it a time to recognize the contribution of all the servants of God who have gone before us. The hymn "For All the Saints" has been traditionally used on this day. "For all the saints, who from their labors rest, / Who Thee...

To see the full article, click on Halloween and Christians



All Shapes and Sizes

Gifts can come in all shapes and sizes. There are square ones, round ones, and ones with truly odd shapes--tricky to wrap! There are tiny presents, and bigger ones, and really big ones too large to get into the house.

One Christmas, we wanted to give our son a present he had been requesting for a long time. It was actually quite small, but we decided to disguise it. So it would be a total surprise, we wrapped it in layer upon layer of paper, and put it in a large box. It worked. He was astonished and delighted when he got to the last layer and discovered his treasure.

Yes, gifts come in many shapes and sizes. So do idols. We have all seen pictures of the false gods of other lands or other times. A bird, or a cow, or other animal. Or some fantastic creature with an animal's head and a man's body, a nightmarish beast that was the product of superstitious imagination. There is an endless variety.

We usually think of an idol as being an object of wood or stone. But they can include intangible things as well. An "idol" is something that becomes the object and focus of special devotion. It takes the priority, and has a major and controlling influence on the decisions and behaviour of the devotee.

In this broader sense, there can be invisible idols too, things such as my plans, or my opinions, or my desires, or my habits. If they begin to dominate my schedule and mold my conduct, they could be thought of as idols. If we understand their true nature, it takes little thought to realize it is not only ancient or primitive tribes who have idols. Modern secularists can be idolaters too. So can Christians (cf. Col. 3:5).

There can be things in our lives...

To see the full article, click on Jesus Calls Us.


Since October is the month when many celebrate Halloween, it might be of interest to you to check out another couple of articles: Christians and Demons--Can Christians Be Demon Possessed? and Ghosts--What Does the Bible Say About Them?

Christians and Demons

Ghosts--What Does the Bible Say?

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