The Shack – June 9, 2009

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While I see the problems that many could have with this book, I have a feeling that not a few people are going to be completely shocked by my response. 

 This is the picture of God I’ve seen for years . . . I’d begun to think I (and a few others that I’ve dared to share my view of God with who were of a somewhat like mind) were strange . . . however, I never could convince myself that I was wrong. 

 I’ve read the Bible in its entirety more than 14 times.  That’s not counting the times I’ve read individual books or sections.  Each time I read it my picture of God is painted a bit more clearly, though somehow I don’t think it’s complete just yet.  However, I learned years ago that God is genderless.  I can’t jump in with the feminists who want to say that God is a women, and I can’t limit God to “Sophia” as the movement named after that aspect of God would have me.  In fact, I prefer to refer to God in the masculine because because as I read scripture it would appear that My Creator prefers I call Him “Him.”  My preference may also be from my background.  Because of the way I was raised, it’s the terminology I’m most comfortable with.  But Scripture is clear that God is Spirit and larger than any one gender can capture. 

Perhaps some are troubled because God is portrayed as African American as well as a woman.  I believe both speak more of our human prejudices than the truth of who God has revealed Himself to be through the Scripture. 

I would imagine that many are troubled by the author’s description of the Trinity.  Yet in my mind it’s one of the best word pictures I’ve ever seen painted.  A title that has been difficult to explain since the middle ages, Young’s explanation of the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit is as good if not better than St. Patrick’s. 

As far as the relationship between the Trinity and humans . . . I only wish I had been able to describe it so eloquently.  Being raised in the realm of “the rules of the church,” I was ready to give up on Christianity about 20 years ago.  I’ve said for years, the rules are too hard.   One of my more recent realizations was that God said gnat’s were unclean to demonstrate how difficult it is to be righteous by following the rules.  Paul said it well that the rules were only there to show the grace of God.  We were not created for rules, we were created for relationship.  I believe the “rules” are automatic when we are in relationship.  We don’t even have to think about following them, we just do (for the most part – since we ARE still human).  This is the freedom I live in now and have grown into over the past 20 years or so.  While I’m not completely free of the rules because they’ve been so ingrained into me, I understand the truth of the freedom without rules and believe in the truth of the “relationship” with all my heart.

I loved Young’s portrait of God’s grace.  I know most people don’t see God’s grace in the Old Testament, but I do.  Over and over again.  From clothing Adam and Eve to waiting for the “Sin of the Amorites” to reach “its full measure.”  Israel was allowed to wander rather than be wiped out and Bathsheba’s son was one of the greatest King’s in the history of the nation.   Throughout the prophets we hear God’s words of wrath, yet every other chapter this One who appears as Tyrant speaks words of love, hope and promise to those who are His Chosen, which, when we remember that Ruth was a Moabite and Rahab was “sinful” AND not an Israelite, seems to include more people than just those born in the line of Abraham.  Grace . . . over and over again God speaks grace . . . but are we listening. 

The only struggles I had with the book were in my own limitations.  The first day I struggled with someone being so presumptious to speak as if they knew what God would say or do.  Sometimes I think I may have been in the camp who would never have spoke the Tetragraman or written the vowels.  Because, while I am learning to be in relationship with the Trinity, I still hold Him in complete awe and revere Him to a point I sometimes am afraid to be too intimate or presumptious.  Once I began to see this struggle was in my own failure to be in complete union with My Father rather than the author’s boldness, my reading experience was much more enjoyable. 

My other struggle was in the form of jealousy or envy.  I just kept thinking . . . I want that kind of relationship with the Father.  I want the intimacy and courage to call God, Papa.  Stemming from my limitations of the last paragraph I’m sure.  It’s just something I have to grow through and while I can’t do it myself, I don’t think the author is out of line with this “title.”

As for the accusations of Heresy . . . I can’t find one place that contradicts scripture.  Oh, it often goes against the grain of organized religion and takes our Holy Father out of the box, but no place did I find a contradiction.  I read that some have problems with a person “seeing God,” but by the end the author makes it seems as though Mack saw a “vision.”   Perhaps like John . . . we don’t seem to doubt that he saw Christ.  And the note . . . OK . . . God probably doesn’t send notes, but to dismiss a work of fiction because of this one thing and to think that God couldn’t have told someone to put a note in a mailbox, well . . . it just didn’t bother me.

Theological Problems . . . I believe that they will only be found by those whose theology is based on what they learned as a child . . . not what they learned from reading scripture for themselves.  If I’d have read this 15 years ago, I’d have had serious problems.  I was raised with a belief system that was a good foundation, but seriously limited by human perspective and I hadn’t as yet discovered my own faith yet completely, but was still living on the apron strings of my great-grandmother’s faith.

Only for the Biblically grounded . . . I don’t think so.  Within these pages lies much truth that I believe can send the reader to scripture to explore the Truth even more.   If a person has no Biblical foundation, they’ll LOVE it.  If they have limited Biblical knowledge, they’ll be troubled by it.  But the more we read scripture, the more I believe we’ll discover this book, while a work of fiction, is an excellent picture of the Trinity.

But, I’d love to hear what you think too!  Got questions about what I think of particular elements . . .

I’ll be waiting  . . .

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