Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment (but what does that mean?)

I recently commended the book entitled The Shack by William Paul Young.  I find that I no longer can because so many take its primary teaching and distort it into lawlessness.   The book teaches a profound truth about God’s forgiveness and the fact that Jesus died to reconcile all men to God.  We find the full truth of this in the beauty and mystery of the doctrine of “universal reconciliation.”  Many people forget (or never learned) this major tenet of the Gospel in their profound zeal to hurry people into hell.  But, the book can and does cause a problem in the wrong, zealous hands.

Immediately after I read The Shack I gave it to my wife to read, who did.  We have now discussed it on numerous occasions.   It does contain some theological flaws, but what book doesn’t?  Again, who possesses perfect wisdom with respect to God’s truth?  No one you or I know!  But, there is a huge theological flaw in The Shack that must be addressed, which is that people can and are using the book to defend lawlessness.  I will address some of those issues here.

Is love lawless?  The question is, did Jesus “put away” the law, or did he “fulfill” the law?  If he put away the law, then sin no longer exists.  If sin no longer exists, then evil no longer exists.  If God could take care of the sin problem by simply taking care of the law problem, that is, by annulling the law, then Jesus died for nothing.  Why? Because God could have just never implemented the law to begin with.

But, love is not lawless.  This is why the Scripture says, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalms 85:10 KJ2000)  In God’s plan mercy, which is another name for love or peace, meets together with and kisses truth, which is another name for justice (law) or righteousness.  God does not separate the two concepts.  Mercy triumphs over judgment, but never over justice, for mercy and justice are one (think of the Father and the Son who are one yet distinct).  Thus James says, “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy; and mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13 KJ2000)  James makes it clear that judgment for wrongdoing still exists and here he calls judgment without mercy wrongdoing.  The point he makes here is that justice and mercy will require judgment upon those who judge without mercy.

All the rest of Scripture make it equally clear that judgment comes upon the disobedient, rebellious, and unrepentant as well.  But, the goal of God’s judgment ultimately brings restoration to an individual.  Thus justice (righteousness) and mercy (peace) kiss in the restored person bringing him into union with God.  This is the reconciliation that Jesus effected by his death on the cross.

He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John 12:48 KJ2000)

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For outside are dogs, and sorcerers, and fornicators [sexually immoral including adulterers and homosexual offenders], and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. (Revelation 22:14-15 KJ2000)  Please note that this verse is at the very end of the Bible.

As true as many concepts in The Shack are, sin is still sin, and God will still bring us to account for sin and unrepentance.  They do err who teach that love and mercy never judge.  It is precisely our willingness to judge with love and mercy that finally brings the rebellious into God’s fold.  Mercy without judgment is exactly what Jude condemns in his book saying, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into licentiousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4KJ2000)  The word “denying” here means contradicting.  When one uses the doctrine of grace to condone licentiousness he necessarily contradicts Jesus Christ, thus denying him.

Some seem to believe that The Shack teaches that God accepts anyone into his kingdom without requiring them to repent even though they still stand in the midst of their sin.  If it does, then those who accuse the author of The Shack of writing blasphemy are correct.  If you click this link to The Shack Forum you will see some examples of the confusion The Shack brings to people.  This is unfortunately true even of Christians who have, according to their own words, walked with the LORD a long time.   Virtually every person who commented on my post there takes issue with it.  None have a clue about God’s “teaching about righteousness,” and they don’t want to learn.  The Shack has somehow confirmed them in their rebellion to God’s ways.

But, I don’t think The Shack itself teaches lawlessness and licentiousness.  However, the book’s great weakness is that people indeed interpret it to do so.  It provides ground for immature Christians to become entrenched in their lawlessness and belief that God accepts them unconditionally in their sin without ever requiring their repentance.  No, our God is a holy God, and beloved, he will require holiness in each of us before we see his face.  I think the author of The Shack understands this, but most of his readers appear not to.  Therefore I cannot endorse the book because it leads God’s people astray.

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11 Responses to Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment (but what does that mean?)

  1. Jason Elder says:

    Excellent Blog. I’ve been reading along and just wanted to say hi. I will be reading more of your posts in the future.

    – Jason.

  2. Jaired says:

    Good post. It would be helpful, though, if you provided a link or two to these references you make to criticisms and discussions of The Shack.

  3. Pingback: The Shack | THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK

  4. patty rieger says:

    AMEN!!!

  5. Zedek, your post is generally well thought out, but I think your carburetor is still missing a few parts (to borrow an old analogy from my father). In particular, I find this chain of reasoning a bit tenuous:

    “If he put away the law, then sin no longer exists. If sin no longer exists, then evil no longer exists. If God could take care of the sin problem by simply taking care of the law problem, that is, by annulling the law, then Jesus died for nothing. Why? Because God could have just never implemented the law to begin with.”

    Yet you have not considered the full picture, or regarded what Paul said to the Romans and the Colossians (and everyone he taught!). Jesus did fulfill [righteous requirements of] the Law, and then he canceled it out [as it was a relic of the Old, inferior Covenant] but only for those that have died in Him!

    For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,[a] not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

    Colossians 2:13ff (NIV1984)
    When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

    Romans 8:1ff (NIV1984)
    Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

    So, you see, the Law has been taken away and nailed to the cross. He fulfilled every requirement of it when he lived, and in his death he divorced us from it, because our life is no longer our own, but is hidden away in Him.

    Paul sums it up best in his second letter to the Corinthians:

    2 Cor 5:17ff (NIV1984)
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    Sin still exists in the world (as you rightly point out…) and the Law is still in full effect for those to whom it was given… But we who are in Christ have not received the Law, we have received grace. We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

  6. Glyn says:

    Well, Jeremy, if you are right, then most of the Bible is nonsense because there remains no accountability once one believes in Christ. I don’t believe that. Jesus’ seven letters to the overcomers in Revelation 2-3 show that he expects something from us. If I only taught on the Scriptures you quote (which I deal with in other places), then I would only understand half, or less, of the Gospel. Most of the Church has focused on those Scriptures and has fallen into what I call “the grace heresy.” Most of the Church is now lawless and falls far short of God’s expectations. Actually most of the Church comprises the harlot who rides the beast, Mystery Babylon, in Revelation 17-18. If you want to know more about this, just keep reading my posts!

    Thanks for writing.

  7. Jamie says:

    Jeremy,
    There is a Proverb that goes like this The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him – Proverbs 18:7. Your theology you just tossed up is a half truth that the majority of Christanity takes for the absoulute truth. I can use scripture all day, but I am not going to do this in this post. I am going to use our life examples as a double witness. Do you recall the first time you called onto Jesus Christ as Lord of your life? What was that feeling like? It was awesome wasent it? When you got up from off your knees you felt an immediate weight lifted off of your chest. This was justification or your passover experience. You were saved by grace through faith and that was a gift from God. Now if you were to put on the mind of Christ and not walk by the flesh your scripture you used as proof texts are absolutely correct, I agree 100 percent with you. You see that is our problem we are still imperfect and fall short of the glory of God so therefore when you went back into the world and walked by the flesh and not by the spirit and did wrong were you convicted? Do you ever get convicted now? I hope your answer is yes because John says if you say your not a sinner then you deceive yourself and the truth is not in you. Now if you do say yes then you have confirmed that what you beleive is a half truth. Because when you sin you have an offense with the father or the law and until you repent you are held under that law, but when you repent with a wholeful heart then you are forgiven and under grace again. But the doctrine that is taught today is lawlessness. It is only taught in today’s Christian circles that once you call on Jesus you are saved and you are under grace forever. You are only under grace until you have commited an offense against the law, but instread of sacrificing a lamb for your sin just call on the only true sacrifice Jesus Christ and he will forgive you.
    I pray that you hear and understand these things because you are deceiving yourself with the grace theology.

  8. Glyn says:

    Well said, Jamie. Thanks for writing.

    Glenn

  9. mike says:

    this teaching is confusing. are you saying everytime i lust after a woman i lose my salvation. the ptoblem with me is not that i sin but that i have a sin nature. if i have a covetous thought and dont confess it will i go to hell

  10. Glenn says:

    Mike,

    No, I am not saying you will lose your salvation. Men equate hell with the Lake of Fire, which it is not. Hell, or Hades, is technically the place of the dead. It seems to me that Scripture uses the word Hades when the LORD wants to indicate the waiting place of the soul before the final judgment. On the other hand Jesus seems to have used the word “gehenna” to indicate the Lake of Fire, the place of the ultimate cleansing of the soul. Our Bibles usually translate both gehenna and hades as “Hell,” but they are not the same places. The goal of my writings is to motivate people to seek the cleansing fire of God’s word now so that they may save their souls during this life. I also teach that spiritual salvation and soul salvation are two different ideas. This is probably why you find this particular article confusing. I would encourage you to just start reading as many articles on this site as you can. The more you read and pray about what you read the more you will understand and the less confusing this will be.

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