God and Fiction – A Look at The Shack, Part 6


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A Christian Worldview? Am I beating a dead horse by continuing this discussion about The Shack, a novel by William P. Young? Well, nearly a hundred bloggers wrote about the book this past month, so it appears to remain a subject of interest. Besides, as I said when I started this series, this just might be the perfect book for this blog because it so clearly combines the two areas I focus on—fiction and a Christian worldview.

But is The Shack written from a Christian worldview? That’s a tough question. Some would rush to say yes. Mr. Young, after all, came from a Christian background and has done a fair amount of speaking in various churches. Plus, the work is about God!

To be from a Christian worldview, however, I think the work needs to tell the truth about God—not part truth and part lie.

God’s nature. In the last two posts, I’ve made a case for my belief that The Shack misrepresents the divinity of Jesus and trivializes God’s person. Equally troubling is a more subtle inaccurate portrayal of God’s nature.

I think I can say without the need to quote supportive passages that The Shack stresses God’s love. Apparently this aspect of the book is one that has attracted so many fans. I would be in the front line cheering if I felt that the story was drawing attention to God’s love as He revealed it in Scripture, but unfortunately, Mr. Young’s idea of love seems to rule out justice.

Interestingly, on Saturday The Whittenberg Door posted an article on this subject, Love vs. Justice, specifically dealing with The Shack. I agree with the conclusion the Door author reached: “The truth is, if you sacrifice justice for love, you have likewise sacrificed love—for love demands justice.”

Love according to The Shack, however, negates justice. In a discussion with Sophia, a person identified as the personification of God’s wisdom, Mack’s views of Hell are challenged, at first indirectly. Sophia asks him about his love for his children:

“But what about when they do not behave, or make choices other than those you would want them to make, or they are just belligerent and rude? What about when they embarrass you in front of others? How does that affect your love for them?”

Mack responded slowly and deliberately. “It doesn’t, really … I admit that it does affect me and sometimes I get embarrassed or angry, but even when they act badly, they are still my son or my daughter … what they do might affect my pride, but not my love for them.”

I find this stunning because there is no room in this discussion for correcting the children for their benefit. Apparently, only Mack’s pride is at stake. And judging his children would only be a result of his anger. This is not at all true of God, though Sophia later in the conversation goes on to make this analogy between God and Mack, clearly identifying all of mankind as God’s children, not just those who have come to Him through Jesus.

Let me see if I can outline the discussion. After Mack declares his love for his children, Sophia brings him to the judgment seat as the judge of God and the human race (p. 160). When Mack balks, she gets him to confess that he thinks there are people who deserve punishment, like the man who abused and killed his daughter.

She then asks if that man’s father who abused him should also be punished. Mack says yes. Sophia asks how far back Mack thinks this blame should go—to Adam? to God?

Mack admits he think God is to blame. Sophia then says Mack, because he is able to judge God, can judge the world. So he must choose two of his children to send to Hell. Mack balks and finally says he can’t do it, asking if he could go instead.

Her response:

“I am so proud of you!”

“But I haven’t judged anything,” Mack offered in confusion.

“Oh, but you have. You have judged them worthy of love, even if it cost you everything. That is how Jesus loves … And now you know Papa’s heart,” she added, “who loves all his children perfectly.” (p. 163)

The discussion then turns to the issue of suffering.

The point is clear—God loves perfectly and by implication, His love negates justice. This latter conclusion is stated another way towards the end of the book. Papa says, “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.” (p. 225) Then at the bottom of the page: “When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment …”

I think the conclusion is clear: the god of The Shack is a god who loves without judgment and consequently without punishment. I believe the theological term for this position is universal salvation.

Series continued in Part 7.

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