God and Fiction – A Look at The Shack, Part 4


    For those of you who may be looking for the May CSFF Top Blogger Award poll, today is the last day to vote.

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Though it is a novel, The Shack by William P. Young has some very specific things to say, particularly about God and our relationship to Him. Perhaps a few lines from the “After Words” can summarize the theme:

[Mack’s] hoping for a new revolution, one of love and kindness—a revolution that revolves around Jesus and what he did for us all and what he continues to do in anyone who has a hunger for reconciliation and a place to call home.
– p. 248

Clearly, Mr. Young stresses God’s love and relationship—within the God-head, between God and Man, and ultimately between Man and Man.

Who can criticize such a worthy endeavor? some might say. I don’t think the endeavor is in question, but the product must be scrutinized, if we are to be discerning.

I applaud Mr. Young’s effort to show God as loving. Clearly, this is the message that resonates with so many readers. But there is a problem.

If I were to tell you that I am the richest person in the world and that I have decided to give my blog readers whatever they ask of me because I’m so happy with them for their support and loyalty, how would you react? With joy? Humility? Gratitude? Or … would you be skeptical about my claims to be the richest person in the world? (Hint: you’re wise if you choose the latter! 😉

You see, I think some of The Shack fans are reacting to what they perceive to be great news without examining the claims. But here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, it’s examination time.

The Other Side of the Ledger. The point that most needs examining in The Shack, from my perspective, is what Mr. Young says about God. Numerous bloggers, including such men as Chuck Colson and Tim Challies, author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, have examined the view of God portrayed in The Shack, so you might wonder why I think it’s necessary to add my voice on the subject.

From the reading I’ve done these past few days, it seems as if most critics have focused on the obvious—Mr. Young’s use of women to portray members of the God-head, the denial of a hierarchy in Mr. Young’s description of the trinity, and his portrayal of the Father and the Spirit in bodily forms.

Those are valid criticisms, and serious ones, but since much has been written already, I won’t spend a lot of time on them other than to say, these are serious matters.

God revealed Himself as Father. His masculine persona is not a construct of religion.

Jesus submitted to the will of the Father, clearly showing there is a hierarchy in the God-head without there being a devaluation of any of the persons.

And the Father revealed Himself in the Old Testament as a burning bush, a pillar of fire, a storm, and a still, small voice, yet Scripture also says no one has seen the Father. The Shack protagonist’s revamped view of God as a kindly woman, then as an older hiker is no more accurate than his previous conception of God as a Gandalf figure. More troubling is the idea that God will change his appearance to accommodate humans:

Mackenzie, I am neither male nor female … If I choose to appear to you as a man or a woman, it’s because I love you.
– p. 93

Later when the God figure appears as a man, this exchange:

Mack shook his head. “You’re still messing with me, aren’t you?’
“Always,” he said with a warm smile …”This morning you’re going to need a father.”
– p. 219

While those points are troubling and have serious ramifications, I want to concentrate on a point that seems to be less often challenged. Mr. Young asserts that Jesus, while fully God and fully human, chose to set aside his divine nature while on earth:

Although [Jesus] is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being. He is just the first to do it to the uttermost—the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe in my love and my goodness …
– pp. 99-100

This assertion simply is not so! Jesus Himself told John’s disciples who asked Him if He was the Expected One to report what they saw: the blind received sight, lepers were cleansed, the dead raised. These acts, Jesus inferred, testified that, yes, He was the One.

Later, as He moved through a crowded street, He stopped because someone touched Him and He felt power go out of Him. I don’t pretend to understand this, but the point for this discussion is clear—Jesus did in fact have power.

In an opposite case that proves the same thing, when Jesus was in Nazareth, Scripture records that He could do few miracles because the people didn’t believe. Presumably, if Jesus was merely tapping into God’s power, healing would have been available to Him no matter what. The people didn’t believe that this son of their neighbors could really be doing miracles. According to Mr. Young, He wasn’t. Scripture implies, He was.

There’s more. Jesus forgave sins. On the spot. In front of others. In fact it was a source of contention between Him and the Pharisees.

Jesus underwent a transfiguration—a glorification of His body that brought Him into communion with Moses and Elijah. Again, I don’t pretend to understand this, but I recognize that this event was unique to Jesus, an expression of His divinity.

Jesus often demonstrated omniscience. He knew what the Pharisees were thinking from time to time. He knew Peter would find a gold coin in the mouth of a fish; that He would deny Christ three times; that the disciples would find a certain colt tied up in a nearby village; that they would see a man carrying water and follow him to an upper room; that the woman at the well had been married five times before and was currently living with a man who was not her husband; that the widow at the temple had offered her last two coins.

He even demonstrated omnipresence when He saw Nathanael sitting under the fig tree before Phillip called him.

He exercised authority over demons, over nature, over the temple. He claimed authority to interpret the law and explain the prophets.

Ultimately, a man he healed said it best:

Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened he eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.
– John 9:32-33

So here’s the point. How reliable is Mr. Young’s message as it stands, if he doesn’t even begin with a true and accurate picture of who Jesus is?

Series continued in Part 5.

Published in: on May 28, 2009 at 1:21 pm  Comments (13)  
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