Thursday, September 3, 2009

Papa, Daddy, Buddy, Pal?

Since so many in his congregation asked about it, Trevin Wax finally read The Shack and here offers his opinion:
...I found that The Shack wasn’t nearly as good as some had said, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as others had charged. It has everything positive about contemporary evangelicalism, and yet it has all the drawbacks of current evangelical expression too.
Some good things:
  1. The story doesn’t sugarcoat evil. It takes sin and suffering seriously.
  2. The book focuses upon God meeting us in our suffering. God is not absent in our pain. When someone is in the deepest of grief and despair, God often makes himself most present.
  3. The book shows the need for a personal encounter with God. Christianity is about communion with a personal, relational God.
And some bad:
My biggest problem with The Shack is its portrayal of God. I understand that the book is a work of fiction, not a theological treatise, and therefore should be treated as fiction. But the main characters are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are actual Persons. To portray God in a manner inconsistent with his revelation to us in Scripture (and primarily in Jesus) is to misrepresent living Persons.

When people put down The Shack, they will not have a better understanding of the Trinity (despite the glowing blurbs on the back cover). They will probably have a more distorted view of God in three Persons. ....

There is absolutely no sense of transcendence and holiness. It is the “God is my buddy” perspective on steroids. Compare (better yet, contrast!) Mack’s encounter with God to the final chapters of Job or the stunning vision of God that Isaiah witnesses in the temple. One can hardly imagine Young’s “Papa” eliciting the same kind of response. The God of the Bible cares deeply how he is portrayed. To tamper with the way God has revealed himself is to put forth a false picture of God.
He also finds that the book takes a low view of both the Bible and the Church.

Why then, with so many flaws, has the book been so popular among Evangelicals? Trevin Wax suggests these reasons:
  1. Missing fathers. So many people have grown up with absent daddies or abusive father figures. For many, the mother is the rock of the home. To portray God the Father as a matriarch is bound to resonate with a good number of people.
  2. The anti-authoritarian tendency of our culture. At one point in the book, God speaks of there being no roles of hierarchy in the Trinity. God even submits to humans. This resonates with a culture that already eschews traditional understandings of role and authority. (I can picture my Romanian friends rolling their eyes at The Shack and saying, “That’s so American!”)
  3. The immanence of God. Evangelicals too often bring God down to the level of understanding, faithful friend. Ultimately, this view of God is shrunken and reductionist. Just like it is misrepresenting God to make him so other that he is virtually unknowable, it is misrepresenting him to make him so close and human that his God-ness is absent.
Some Thoughts on “The Shack” : Kingdom People

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