Friday, January 29, 2010

"Half a God is not God at all"

I have a friend who came to orthodox Christian belief via Unitarianism. Someone once said that God is unscrupulous — He will use just about anything to bring us to Himself. Tim Keller recently decided he ought to read The Shack, did so, acknowledges it as a "noble effort," and and tells us that he has "heard many reports of semi-believers and non-believers claiming that this book gave them an answer to their biggest objections to faith in God." Nevertheless, Keller has some objections:
.... Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible. In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God’s statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn’t give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship. The reader of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah will learn that the holiness of God makes his immediate presence dangerous or fatal to us. Someone may counter (as Young seems to do, on p.192) that because of Jesus, God is now only a God of love, making all talk of holiness, wrath, and law obsolete. But when John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, long after the crucifixion sees the risen Christ in person on the isle of Patmos, John ‘fell at his feet as dead.’ (Rev.1:17.) The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.

There is another modern text that sought to convey the character of God through story. It also tried to ‘embody’ the Biblical doctrine of God in an imaginative way that conveyed the heart of the Biblical message. That story contained a Christ-figure named Aslan. Unlike the author of The Shack, however, C.S. Lewis was always at pains to maintain the Biblical tension between the divine love and his overwhelming holiness and splendor. In the introduction to his book The Problem of Pain, Lewis cited the example from the children’s text The Wind in the Willows where two characters, Rat and Mole, approach divinity.
“Afraid?” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. “Afraid? of Him? O, never, never. And yet — and yet — O Mole, I am afraid.”
Lewis sought to get this across at many places through his Narnia tales. One of the most memorable is the description of Aslan.
“Safe?…Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
That’s better. [more]
The Shack – Impressions – The Gospel Coalition Blog