Saturday, April 19, 2008

Missing the Point of The Shack

I found out about and read The Shack before it was for sale on Amazon and every Christian book store on the face of the planet. I happened to find out about it simply because I subscribed to the God Journey podcast which is hosted by the two guys (Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings) who helped the author William P. Young edit and bring the book into its final form. When I read the Shack, I read it without all the baggage of the controversy that has sprung up around it by those claiming that it is describing a "modalism" view of the trinity and is advocating "Goddess Worship" etc...

It seems that all those who are claiming these theological heresy's are the point of the book are TOTALLY missing the point in my opinion. Many of those who are attacking the book as heresy CLAIM that the point of the book is to help us understand the Trinity.

This is NOT the point of the book as you can hear from the authors own lips. The Shack is an ALLEGORY ABOUT OUR PERCEPTIONS AND GOD'S LOVE FOLKS! It is NOT a definition of the Trinity, it was not meant to be such. Allegories are meant to teach a lesson using a story that is not intended to necessarily be taken literally!

Why are these Bible police not trying to say the same things about the "Heresy" in the C.S. Lewis books the Chronicles of Narnia? No... Jesus is not really a Lion. We know that is not what Lewis was teaching. Neither is Father a older black matron... neither is Holy Spirit a thin Asian woman.

First off, William P. Young wrote the book for his adult children. Not intending it to be a published book originally. It was to talk about how we go though the process of overcoming those places in our lives where we get stuck and refuse to go further with God because of some tragedy or some preconceived box we have put God in.

Young did not cast Father as a black woman to teach modalism or violate the commandment to not make a graven image of God, no more than Lewis made a lion represent Christ. He did it to force us to shake off any preconceived box we had put God in. The main character had preconceptions of what God was like, as stated by the character of Papa... he is not a black woman, but Mac sees Him as such to drastically challenge his preconceptions.

The point of the book is to show that God loves us in our deepest hurts, that He is a real person, and unpredictable in some ways. He loves us beyond our sin. His ways are not the ways we choose to think of Him into our comfortable God-boxes. In many ways, the critics who are trying to claim that Young's book is teaching us to understand the Trinity in a wrong way, are doing exactly what Young is trying to break people of doing... thinking that God can be put into a box and that this is supposed to be a description of how the Trinity works. If that is true, then stop trying to use other analogies like the EGG and other imperfect ways to describe the Triune nature of God. The Trinity is unlike anything we can compare it to. Not analogy can do that without some flaw.

This book will challenge your perception of God, his way of loving you, how you try to put God in little Boxes and how crazy it is to think you can. It will NOT teach you a new model of the Triune God to be followed as a road map it was not intended for that purpose.

Yes, there are things in the book that I don't totally get or buy... and it is quite a pill to see your perceptions of things about salvation and how God perceives us shattered and see more questions come out of those shattered boxes. But keep in mind that the point of the book is NOT to teach you a new model. It is to show you that you need to seek God and follow Him even when He does not seem to go where you think He should go. It is to show you that often you can't grow more with Him because you have built such a nice neat tight theological box that you think God can't break out of it.

If you read The Shack and find yourself focusing on how the story might contain heresy after heresy... then consider it a good thing that you are questioning it. Pray. Got to the Scripture. Seek GOD... not a justification for your position. and then maybe try reading it just to shake up all those concepts you have, and let God challenge you to see His love in a new way. Not necessarily the way the book teaches it, but the way the Spirit teaches you in your heart.

I still think this is a great book to read and challenge yourself, even if you do not in the end agree with everything in it. Young was not trying to convince anyone that THIS IS THE WAY TO UNDERSTAND GOD. He was trying to get us to recognize that God loves us in ways we can't understand and our performance based love requirements do not apply. I challenge you to read this book and listen to the Spirit more than the words of the book. Not to validate that the book is good or bad or right or wrong, but rather to start a new conversation with God yourself.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What will become of us?

Don't be too discouraged if you are tired of the institution and just want to walk away from it and walk with just Him. What will become of you if you seek Father out is one who learns to listen to Him, be content (or overjoyed might be a better way of saying it) in Him. I have not got it figured out. I have been outside the "Sunday club" for almost 3 years. There is life out here! I have not figured it all out yet, and sometimes I wonder if I am wandering too, but it feels less like a wilderness and more like an adventure in the wild now.

There is no stress or pressure to take "chance acquaintances" beyond what God tells you to take them. Gathering with certain people for a time does not mean it has to continue every week for the rest of your lives! You don't need to start a new "House Church" or something else that someday will become another institution for people to flee from!

One thing that Wayne Jacobsen mentioned which really helped me see things differently is when he pointed out (in one of his podcasts I think -- that when God brings us together to do something, it is usually just for a for a time, a season... maybe for a TASK, not necessarily for a lifelong MINISTRY and "calling". (those words are so laced with assumptions in the modern "church". Wayne pointed out that when Paul and Barnabas returned from their first journey... they said that they had "finished the work that God had set out for them." Then Wayne pointed out.. "Who ever says that about their ministry today? They did not set out to create the Paul and Barnabas Missionary Society"... They were done with that task for the time. Later they would take up different tasks.

So, what will become of us? Maybe we will learn to be like Jesus said to Nicodemus... like the wind...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Getting the clergy all riled up

Nothing gets the clergy ticked off more than telling them that their religious organization is not the holder of the legitimate title of "church". It is like telling them that their religion is worthless.

A few weeks ago the Pope issued a letter that riled up Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesiastical communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation." The pronouncement repeated Roman Catholic teaching that says the RC Church "has the fullness of the means of salvation."

The document stated that "Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," and that the other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because they do not have apostolic succession -- the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles -- and therefore their priestly ordinations are not valid.".

First off... that is a very silly statement because Jesus did not establish an institution called the church. He only used th word in scripture twice and never referred to a new religious institution when he did it. The church is not any given religious institution. (and I could go into the problems with the RC concept of 'apostolic succession' and the claim that Peter is the first pope, but many others have done that and I don't need to bore you with it.)

The church is the people who have been saved by Jesus, who have a relationship with Him, not merely a religious affiliation with an organization that calls itself a "church". The "church" that Jesus described is a free-flowing invisible force on earth that He compared to the wind (John 3:8) when talking to Nicodemus. It is the church that Jesus built -- those led by His Spirit -- not those led by an institution and titles.

I'm sorry to say that not only are the protestant instituions not really the "one true church" but neither is the Roman Catholic church, or any other religious 'club'. The one true church is the one that JESUS built... that he built in the hearts of mankind through His Spirit... and only Jesus holds the "fullness of the means of salvation"... no man run religious organization.

It is sad that those who claim to have their life centered in Jesus love to battle over titles and whose religious institution is ordained of God and all those kinds of foolish hurtful things. I find the Pope's statement to be foolish and unfounded, but I also find the protestant reaction just as foolish to try and shoot it down. No one has an "ordained by God organization called the church". His people are supposed to BE the church.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Shack - Perceptions

Well, I finished reading The Shack a while ago... finally got around to writing up something else about it.

I think the biggest thing I got out of the book was about my (mis) percetions and other people's (mis) perceptions about God as we consider him in our understandings of Father Son and Spirit. I didn't really consider how I separate those and forget the unity of them when I paste my assumptions to those "titles".

One of the things I really enjoyed in the book was how the Three in One God was portrayed, and how the main character (Mack) reacted differently to the different persons of the One God -- based on his own (mis)perceptions... where Mack was considering Jesus more reachable and loving because of his Humanness, and Father more strict and judgmental/harsh because of His need for justice (what Mack thought... as apposed to the reality that Father Loves him as much as Jesus does, Jesus did not have to "talk Father into" accepting Mack. Father loves him as Jesus loves him.). And his perception of Holy Spirit as "weird" and "hard to understand". I liked how he eventually came to see that God loved him (all three) and though they are different, they share the same love for him in spite of the flaws, actions and pain in Macks life.


I loved how the "messy garden" that the Spirit tended turned out to be Mack's own Heart! and how without knowing it the Spirit had Mack participate as God removed the bitter roots and replanted forgiveness and release in his heart about the killer and his daughter. that was a cool mental picture!

I have to go re-read the chapter where his eyes are "uncovered" and he sees his father and the angels. Some people have said that chapter was their favorite... but it just came off as strange and confusing to me personally. maybe I read it after eating too much pizza, or too late at night. I don't know.


The book is excellent and I still believe it is on par with many of the stories and the way that C.S. Lewis wrote. I really think it brings fresh insight into what the Bible has been saying all along about God's charactor and our perceptions of Him. So much of our "understanding" of God is clouded by cultural and traditional things that may or may not be real. I think this book helps us break our steriotypes and reexamine God, rather than try to institute some new perception of the author. and the story is compelling too!

Go check it out at