Undercover apologetics at the local Borders bookstore

 I have a confession to make.  I have been known to rearrange books at the local Borders store.  Not a lot of books, mind you.  Just a few here and there, and in a gospel-strategic manner. 

For example, a couple weeks ago when our family made a trip to Rapid City we stopped in at Borders for some book browsing.  Amy and the girls hang out in the kids section and go through a lot of books.  I tend to stay in the Religion section to get a feel for current trends, preview any books I may be thinking about, and make myself available for any God-appointed discussions that may happen.  One of those discussions in particular stands out in my memory, but that will be the subject for a future post.

So a couple weeks ago I found myself standing at the intersection of the Jewish Sacred Writings, Atheism, and General Religion shelves.  I’ve spent some time reading the Jewish Writings on previous visits, and it’s interesting to get a feel for how they see their relationship to God through their understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).  Sadly misguided, but interesting nonetheless. 

The Atheism section is what I found myself drawn to this time, and I picked up the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  From what I read while I was standing there, it seems to me that Dawkins is bent on methodically destroying the Christian faith, piece by piece.  He is especially “unkind” towards the Bible, as you might expect.  I do not recommend reading books promoting Atheism if your knowledge and understanding of Scripture is weak or non-existent, and if you’re faith in God and Jesus Christ is weak.  Not saying I don’t have days (or longer) of weakness, but on this particular day I was doing all right.

As I was standing there reading The God Delusion another man walked up and picked up god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens.  He then walked away and returned a few minutes later to pick up The God Delusion as well, and walked away again.  In retrospect I wish I would have initiated a conversation with him, but unfortunately I let the opportunity slip by.

As we were leaving the store an idea occurred to me.  So I stopped back in the Religion section, picked up a copy of The Reason for God by Tim Keller, and strategically placed it in the middle of the Atheism shelf.  When we were there a week later the book was still there, which is when I snapped the pictures you see here.  Hopefully, someone who is looking for something to read on Atheism will pick it up and get a different perspective on God than they were looking for.

Borders - Atheism section

Atheism section at our local Borders bookstore

 During our latest visit to Borders I was looking through and reading parts of The Shack.  At this particular Borders store The Shack is at the very end of the Christian Fiction section.  Unfortunately, as you can see in the picture below, it appears to be in the Church & Theology section.  And that is unfortunate, because there are people, perhaps many people, who will read this book and use what it says to shape their view and understanding of who God is.  And from what I’ve read in The Shack so far, and taken in second-hand through several reviews of The Shack, the god who is described there is not the God of the Bible.

I’m not sure yet if I’m going to write a full review of the book, but here is a sampling: I think it was on page 110 that Jesus told Mack that he (Jesus) is the best way to the Father (Papa?).  Anyone who has ever read the Gospel of John and/or memorized John 14:6 should have an instant aversion to that statement.  The real Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Jesus is not the “best” way to God.  He is the “only” way to God.  No exceptions.  Don’t just take my word for it, read the gospels and decide for yourself.

I am aware that in this book Mack is dealing with the tragic loss of one of his daughters, and I’m sure many people have identified with a similar loss in their own lives.  However, rewriting Christian theology to accommodate that purpose is not doing anyone a favor.  God, as HE really is and has decisively revealed himself in Scripture is the only true source of comfort for any and all pain in this life.  Not someone’s restructured theology masquerading as Christian Fiction.

Am I overreacting?  One of the “blurbs” in the front of the book, quoting Kathy Lee Gifford, reads, “This book will change your view of God forever.”  Or something very close to that.  I don’t have the book in front of me but her statement stuck with me.  And she may very well be right.  And if she is right, that is a very unfortunate outcome for those who decide to read this book.

Al Mohler reviewed The Shack on his radio show, and you can listen to that review here.

Borders - The Shack

"The Shack" in the Church and Theology section?

5 comments on “Undercover apologetics at the local Borders bookstore

  1. Peter Beimers says:

    Here is the exact quote of which I believe you speak of:

    “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu. To see me is to see them. The love you sense from me is no different from how they love you. And believe me, Papa and Darayu are just as real as I am, though as far as you’ve seen in far different ways.”

    Papa is the name used for God the Father and Sarayu is the name for God the Holy Spirit. There is another quote that I am looking for (since I do have the book in front of me) that I believe addresses this as well. [please hold…]

    page 182: “Does that mean,” asked Mack, “that all roads will lead to you?”

  2. Peter Beimers says:

    (stinks when you hit post before you’re ready. grrrrrrrrrr)

    continuing from pg.182:

    “Not at all,” smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I’ll travel any road to find you.”

    Thankfully, I don’t believe the author is spouting out Universalism. I would grant, however, a non-careful reader could easily infer this. Checking his website, the author himself says he is not a Universalist nor intended his book to portray this belief. Still, to have it placed in the Theology section is misleading. Maybe a reflection of the worker who placed it there?? Maybe. It is a book of fiction and the author even stresses this fact on his website. But I do understand your uneasiness. I think it sort of falls under the same general catagory as those who read the study notes in the study Bible as having equal footing as the scripture it is suppose to be commenting on. I’ve once met a person who would read a verse of scripture and check to see if there was a note and read basically in a nod; scripture, note, scripture, note and so on.

    It is an easy read and with it’s popularity, it’s probably a good idea to read it to see what it is saying. What better way to carry a conversation with someone who takes “The Shack” as gospel? There are some really great nuggets of gospel in this book. Most importantly, as you already mention aboce, it is not a theology book and shouldn’t be read as such.

    Just my $0.02

  3. morsec0de says:

    I occasionally take the Bibles and move them, slowly, to the Religious Fiction section. 🙂

    I’m all for rearranging the books to be amusing or to make a point, though the people who work there probably hate us.

  4. jsundberg says:

    Thanks for the comments guys, and Morse, I think after checking out your blog that we have different motives for the rearranging of books! Interesting blog, though. I’ll have to check it out occasionally.

  5. […] 21, 2009 by jsundberg A couple of months ago I wrote a post that partially dealt with the issue of the Christian Fiction section at Borders creeping into the […]

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