God in The Shack


My daughter just finished the bestselling book The Shack and asked me what I thought of it. I read it a few months back and came away less impressed than most readers. It has obviously touched people on an emotional level and has been an encouragement to many; who am I to criticize?

 

But I will offer a few observations.

 

The book’s popularity says a lot about our current view of God. The Graybeard from the Sistine Chapel has been replaced by the Oracle from the Matrix movies. The latter is more approachable and down to earth. She laughs, she cooks and she explains theodicies around the dinner table. We long for God to be this available and intimate.

 

Some metaphors are better than others. All metaphors and anthropomorphisms—even those in Scripture—are inadequate, but they’re all we have. Still, we need to be reminded these are only figures of speech. “Father” is a concept borrowed from time; not eternity. “Trinity” is our attempt to reconcile the logically inconsistent. God has no gender, even though we mostly refer to “him” with male pronouns. Other than the incarnation, he has no physical being—no skin, arms, eyes, ears or brain for that matter.

 

The image of God we carry around on our mental hard drives is comprised of bits from our family upbringing, our cultural biases and our church’s teachings. Those of us with a biblical pedigree snap verses together like multicolored Legos to construct our version of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How else to explain over 38,000 different “Christian” denominations, all rising from the same book?

 

God is “wholly other,” as theologians like to say, and far beyond our feeble thoughts. He can comfort us but he doesn’t invite many over for the weekend to explain life’s injustices. Most of his personal appearances in the Bible have a far more ominous cast than portrayed in The Shack (e.g. Exodus 19, 1 Kings 8, Isaiah 6), including the post resurrection appearances of Jesus (Acts 9, Revelation 1).

 

The Shack is a work of fiction, not theology. It has resonated with millions because it’s how we’d like God to be.

 

Truth is, it ain’t necessarily so.

 

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One thought on “God in The Shack

  1. I’m sorry about your lymphoma. It sounds as if you’ve decided to share the things you learn along the way. That’s very positive, Mike.

    I have a question about God, or your perception of God. The God of the OT and NT is not purported to be a God who changes along with people’s perception of him. He is unchanging, according to a biblical worldview.

    So, positing for a moment that we believe this worldview, it wouldn’t change him because of what others gleaned from their view of him. So if he truly is unchanging, then it is humans who change and not him. If I tell you something about Christopher Reeves, it would be as a grieving fan and the things I’ve read about him. His family would tell you things about him from knowing him. That doesn’t change who he was. To some, he was Superman. But others, Dad, son, friend. All of them are in some way right, (stretching artistic license) but he touched so many lives that the information about him–those bits about him, you describe–are all what we know about him.

    So what you glean from everyone who claims to be either an expert on God or a friend of God, is all human perception. That doesn’t change who God is.

    Just a thought since I’ve been studying along those lines lately. Thanks for allowing a different viewpoint.
    And I hope you are surrounded by much love and the comfort of friends.

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