God and Fiction – A Look at The Shack, Part 7

Part of me is feeling a little Shack weary, but I have a couple more topics I want to address in conjunction with the still-popular novel, The Shack by William P. Young. Yes, still popular. I saw the book listed in Monday’s newspaper as #2 on the Associated Press list of best-sellers, trade paperbacks category.

I think these last two points might be interconnected, and they both relate to my mantra—we must learn to read with discernment! For a Christian, discernment necessitates measuring what we read by the standard of God’s Word.

My first question is, How does The Shack treat the Bible? The Bible itself claims to be God-breathed, given for our instruction, correction, reproof. The Bible itself examines portions of itself as if it is true and reliable and authoritative.

Paul, for example, discusses The Law (recorded in the first five books of the Old Testament) and its place for the Christian. Jesus references the prophets, and the gospels report that He explained what the Law and the prophets had to say about the Messiah. The book of Hebrews uses a short reference in Genesis to an obscure king as the fundamental illustration of who Christ is. Paul makes lengthy comparisons between Jesus and Adam, whose life is only recorded in Genesis.

You get the point. The New Testament authors viewed the Old Testament as proper material upon which to base an argument or a principle.

So, how does the Bible come across in The Shack?

First, I’d say, the Bible comes across as insufficient:

In seminary [Mack] had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scriptures, properly interpreted, of course.

In addition, the Bible of The Shack limits God:

God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners’s access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?

Third, as demonstrated in the last line of the above quote, the Bible of The Shack promotes guilt but apparently this is only as it is misused:

The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. It is a picture of Jesus. While words may tell you what God is like and even what he may want from you, you cannot do any of it on your own. … It is true that relationships are a whole lot messier than rules, but rules will never give you answers to the deep questions of the heart and they will never love you.

Certainly the Bible is a picture of Jesus, but part of that picture includes things like Jesus saying, Take up your cross and follow Me. Or, Love God and love your neighbor. Or, If you love Me, obey My commandments. The Bible of The Shack seems to strip God’s Word of anything that could be construed as legalistic, ignoring the fact that legalism is actually an attitude of the heart.

Finally, The Shack implies that believing the Bible to be true is unimportant.

[Mack talking] “So was there really an actual garden? I mean, Eden and all that?”

[Sarayu answers] “Of course. I told you I have a thing for gardens.”

“That’s going to bother some people. There are lots of people who think it was only a myth.”

“Well, their mistake isn’t fatal. Rumors of glory are often hidden inside of what many consider myths and tales.”

But the Bible is more than “rumors of glory.” It is authoritative, but the philosophy espoused in The Shack takes a stand against authority. As Sean Herriott, a Catholic converted from Protestantism, points out in a section about authority in his excellent review of Mr. Young’s work:

The Shack‘s God says that perfect love means there is no need for a hierarchy of any kind.

Here’s the pertinent passage in The Shack. Sarayu is talking:

“You won’t find the word responsibility in the Scriptures … Religion must use law to empower itself and control the people who they need in order to survive … If I simply gave you a responsibility, I would not have to be with you at all. It would now be a task to perform, an obligation to be met, something to fail … If I change that ‘expectancy’ into an ‘expectation’—spoken or unspoken? Suddenly law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend.”

I can’t type those words without thinking how deceptive they are. There is a grain of truth, but the premise is false. God’s law does not equal legalism.

God’s expectation for us to be holy is not the problem. His Word laying out the law and chronicling our failure to measure up, and our consequent need for a Savior, is not harming our relationship with God but rather, pointing us to the only way we can enter into that love relationship with Him—one far better than The Shack paints.

Series continued in Part 8.

Published in: on June 3, 2009 at 2:30 pm  Comments (8)  
Tags: , ,
%d bloggers like this: