God and Fiction – A Look at The Shack, Part 2

For those of you who may be looking for the May CSFF Top Blogger Award poll, you’ll find it here.

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Pop Theology continued. Yesterday I said the themes in The Shack might best be called pop theology, in part because so many topics are touched upon without any depth. But there’s a more troubling reason I think “pop theology” is a fitting description.

As near as I can determine it, some of the views author William Young expresses are ones that do not come from the Bible. In fact, they clearly clash with Scripture. Nevertheless, these ideas seem to be accepted by a good number of people claiming the name of Christ.

In reality, it’s easy to trace the origins of these views to threads in the culture at large—the culture strongly influenced by Eastern mysticism. In short, The Shack seems like a hodge-podge of thought, some taken from the Bible and some taken from the wisdom of the age. Which, I guess, explains why I found some ground of agreement but some I must dispute.

Areas of Agreement. So what points in particular did I feel Mr. Young made that gave us common ground? One has to do with the idea of yielding to God, of not acting independently. I think this is a significant point, one we Christians need to face, one clearly taught in Scripture. James 4:7 uses the word “submit” (Submit, therefore, to God …”) I Peter 5:6 uses the word “humble” (Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God …”) The idea seems to be to let God be God and in so doing, stop playing God in my own life and circumstances. Certainly the views in The Shack are consistent with this point:

“I feel like a failure with [his wife]. I can’t seem to be [the source of her identity and security and understanding of good and evil] for her.”

“You weren’t made to be. And in trying you’ll only be playing God.”

… “is there any way out of this?”

“It is so simple, but never easy for you. By re-turning. By turning back to me. By giving up your ways of power and manipulation and just come back to me.”
– p. 147

Then two pages later:

“Mack, just like love, submission is not something that you can do, especially not on your own. Apart from my life inside of you, you can’t submit to [your wife], or your children, or anyone else in your life, including [God].”

– p. 149

Another issue with which I agree but which caught me by surprise was Mr. Young’s emphasis on the church as the people, not the building or the institution. Of course! and that’s the point. I don’t know how anyone could actually be a Christian and not agree. I mean the Church is the bride of Christ. Certainly Christ’s bride is not an institution. He is the Vine, we are the branches. Certainly the branches aren’t often-empty buildings. Just recently my church had a service weekend called The Church Has Left the Building. The point was clear in the name, and I thought this was a given.

I’ll name a few other points I agree with that Mr. Young made:

Change comes from the inside, not from following rules.

The Bible is a picture of Jesus.

God should be at the center of a person’s life, not merely a top priority. (I liked the contrast between seeing God as the pinnacle of a pyramid versus the anchor of a mobile).

Would that I could stop here. If that were the case, I’d add my voice to the many who found The Shack truthful. (See for example this blog post and read this explanation of it’s popularity:

That books at both ends of the spectrum are best-sellers shows that readers want to know how to relate to God in a troubled world. The gap-filler is a book that respects the intelligence of people who are hurting in this war-zone of a world, but still affirms the control of our loving and all-powerful Lord. The Shack has scratched this itch. In fact, it is attempting to stop the hemorrhage and bandage the wound. People hunger for a book like The Shack because they have not been satisfied with what their churches have served up on the topic of suffering. I applaud Young for recognizing a need.

Unfortunately, there’s the other side of the ledger, and I’ll look at those next time.

Series continued in Part 3.

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