Saturday, February 7, 2009
The Shack - Day 6: Concluding Thoughts
There is much more that can be discussed in this brief consideration of The Shack. One of the things I want to touch on is the negative response the book has received from Christian leaders. For example, Albert Mohler, called The Shack "deeply subversive," "scripturally incorrect" and downright "dangerous." (www.usatoday.com, 5/29/2008). One of today’s young and influential Christian leaders, Mark Driscoll, says, "If you haven't read The Shack, don't!" (www.usatoday.com, 5/29/2008). While I understand, and agree with some of the criticism thrust against this book, I have to disagree with the rejection that many have expressed about reading and using the book because I consider it a legitimate tool for engaging folks spiritually.
According to USATODAY, The Shack is the author’s metaphor for an ugly, dark place hidden so deeply within him that it seemed beyond God's healing reach (www.usatoday.com). Yet, we know from personal experience, that nothing in our lives is too deep, so far, that God can’t reach. The book demonstrates a God of compassion and mercy who is moving among humanity to bring her back to relationship with Him. Sentences such as “Mack, I’m sorry,” speaking of Missy’s death. Or, “That’s why you’re here, Mack. I want to heal the wound that has grown inside of you, and between us” (90, 91) are reflective of the tenderness displayed by the Persons of the Trinity toward Mack and each one who draws near to God.
As a theodicy I believe The Shack provides helpful answers (although not complete) to those who are trying to make sense of God and suffering. Papa reminds Mack that “there are millions of reasons to allow pain and hurt and suffering rather than to eradicate them.” And, “But your choices are also not stronger than my purposes, and I will use every choice you make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome” (124). Of course, God’s glory and worship as the purpose of all things, and for the well being of humanity, is missing from the discussion. But again, this is not a theological, and less, exhaustive treatise of God’s purposes and ways.
I understand what Mohler, Driscoll, and others, are saying. For example, some will probably object that man’s sin and responsibility to God was not clearly developed in The Shack, and they’re right. Little is also said about the final authority of Scripture to communicate to man God’s plans and thoughts. However, Young does amply make clear that man’s problems are largely the result of his desire to live independently of God and of one another because of fear (90). And Young does present Jesus in a unique light in his role as Savior of humanity (although this could be clearer). He continually draws upon the significance of Jesus’ death as the basis for reconciliation and even hints at what one must do to be right with God or have a true relationship with him (229).
Although I would embrace reading and discussing The Shack, I don’t think it is necessary to go out and buy a copy. Those who do read it need to keep in mind the limitations of the book, the heretical tendencies, the lack of centering on the Bible and Jesus alone for salvation which the book displays (some say subversively undermining cardinal Christian truths).
At the same time, we must remember that this is theological fiction and that it can constructively be used as an excellent point of entry for a culture that is searching, analyzing, evaluating, accepting and rejecting. John exhorted his readers to “Test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). If we apply this principle carefully we can safely use cultural tools to flame discussions centering on God and Jesus, and hopefully lead seekers not only to our Redeemer and true friend, but to the “King of kings, and Lord of Lords.”
Shalam Shalum (stay healthy, at peace and prosperous) in 2009