Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The Shack - Day 2: A Theological Awakening
The Shack is having a powerful effect on readers. For example, here’s one comment left at the book’s web site: “This book has allowed me to finally deal with my emotions and forgive someone who has so desperately needed it. Amazingly, I had been in therapy with Christian counselors who could not reach me the way The Shack finally did. . . .Today, because I have finally been able to forgive, I feel so light and so happy. Now I want ‘Papa’ to work on my abuser and allow him to give up his grief too” (From the web site: www.theshackbook.com).
What is The Shack about? Mack lost his little daughter the last day of what had been a most delightful camping trip with his children. The question burning in his heart for the last three years had been, “How could God have allowed this atrocity to happen to a little girl?” As he returned to the shack Mack had the opportunity to ask God - ‘himself’ - about that day and about his unwillingness to save his daughter.
When he returned to the shack, and to his utter surprise, the ‘Trinity’ was waiting for him. However, what he found to be the true nature of God was nothing short of a paradigm shift in his theology. To his shock God the ‘mother’ and not the Father, welcomed him with open arms, as she revealed herself to him as a very pleasant, down to earth, African-American woman. Jesus appeared to Mack as male, and most perfectly, as one from a Mid-Eastern Jewish descent. The Holy Spirit manifested itself as a short inquisitive and always helpful Asian woman with a tender heart and who usually stayed in the background. Together, the Trinity helped Mack through a journey of soul searching, forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing.
During the weekend each person of the Trinity took turns to spend time alone with Mack, probing him with questions, answering his doubts, and patiently allowing their love to work its way into Mack’s heart. Each of the cycle of conversations that each person of the Trinity had with Mack helped him understand why God allows things to happen, and offered deep conversations and opportunities for reflection regarding God’s nature, love, and purposes. The Three Persons of the Trinity also talked among themselves and displayed deep affection, love, and acceptance for each other which helped Mack understand the real meaning of relationships and fellowship.
Along with a twisted presentation of the Trinity, The Shack also briefly touches on how God values the religions of the world as means of drawing people to himself (184). The book comes short of presenting a full blown affirmation of universalism but does provide the hope that through the search of man for God through their own understanding of the Divine they too will have an opportunity to find forgiveness through Christ. (Among scholars today there are at least 5 views which debate the question of “Who can be saved”? in light of today’s world religions.)
The weekend at The Shack produced a roller coaster of emotions that continually filled Mack’s heart. At the end, however, Mack makes peace with God, as well as with his abusive father, and his daughter’s murderer.
What does The Shack teach about evil in the world? What does it teach about the Trinity? What does it say about sin and salvation? What does it say about Jesus? And why has the book’s message touched thousands of people? These are the questions we’ll begin to address tomorrow.
Shalam Shalum (stay healthy, at peace and prosperous) in 2009