Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Shack

When we lived in South Australia, well-heeled folk used to talk about their holiday house as The Shack. I am guessing that these places were considerably more luxurious than anything we have ever lived in. It took a while before we realised that these shacks were nothing like Old Jack's shack that really was a shack. [Old Jack was a man who hobbled up and down Floraville Road, Belmont with a wheelbarrow. He was sort of the Lake Macquarie version of Old Steptoe, though he was a lot quieter.]

But I'm talking about that notorious novel that seems to have Christians divided about whether it is worth reading. I should point out that I have not yet read The Shack. I'm not even sure if I will. But I certainly find the reviews interesting!

Katherine Jeffrey's article, I am not who you think I am, queries Eugene Peterson's enthusiastic comparison of it with Pilgrim's Progress. And Tim Keller's blog tells us that
the book is a noble effort -- to help modern people understand why God allows suffering.

However, [says Keller] sprinkled throughout the book, Young's story undermines a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Many have gotten involved in debates about Young's theological beliefs, and I have my own strong concerns. But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.

In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God's statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn't give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship.

The reader of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah will learn that the holiness of God makes his immediate presence dangerous or fatal to us. Someone may counter (as Young seems to do, on p.192) that because of Jesus, God is now only a God of love, making all talk of holiness, wrath, and law obsolete. But when John, one of Jesus' closest friends, long after the crucifixion sees the risen Christ in person on the isle of Patmos, John 'fell at his feet as dead.' (Rev.1:17.) The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.

Wouldn't it be great if people would read the Word of God as eagerly as they have lapped up Young's story?

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