In my last blog I looked at why we should turn off the hate on The Shack. If you didn’t read it, then I suggest you click Here to catch up.
Today I want to look at some of the virtues of The Shack.
- The Shack is not what you expect. Predictable expectation leads to minimal impact. If Moses is played by an old white guy with a beard, then who didn’t see that coming? Minimal impact. If God the Father is played by a black lady, then you’re like, “Whats going on here?” It grabs your attention and prods at your prejudice. It commands your focus. Let me help my friends who can only think in concrete terms. William Paul Young is not propagating a form of liberal feminism that suggests that God is really a goddess. He is using a literary device to personify part of God’s character. Mainly, his loving kindness. The Father’s mothering nurture is found in the Bible. Just listen to Isaiah 66:13, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” I’m not saying God’s a woman. I’m saying our God demonstrates loving nurture to his people. God created women to reveal this part of his character, and Young personifies that aspect of the Father’s nature in the character, papa. He’s not redefining God. He’s writing a novel that focuses in on one aspect of the Father’s nature, and he’s using a literary devise to maximize his impact.
- Theodicy with a heart. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines theodicy as, “the defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.” Through the years I’ve joyfully mulled through many books, articles and references arming my arsenal of apologetics. Many of these have explored the concepts of theodicy. They’ve fed my brain, but none of them have graced my heart. This is where The Shack is different. Young doesn’t approach theodicy from an intellectual argument. Young approaches theodicy from the standpoint of emotional engagement. Young uses his art artfully. He starts with a parent’s worst fear. What can be worse than the thought of your child being tortured? This pings almost every emotion in the human experience throughout the book. Most people will not connect with the refined arguments of theodicy, but they will connect with the emotions of The Shack.
- The Shack provides a relational view of God. Most evangelicals solely relate to God as truth. This doesn’t please God or satisfy man. God is looking for worshippers who will worship him in both Spirit AND in truth. To some measure all people want truth, but even authentic seekers desire more than an impersonal map and a compass. People absolutely need the framework that creeds provide, but they also need God. If a person is seeking God, then they’re looking for a relational God. People are designed to crave Spirit and Truth. Right now most Churches in America are offering an unbalanced meal that doesn’t satisfy. If all we’re offering is forgiveness coupled with a worldview, then there’s only a slight difference between Christianity and Judaism or even Confucianism for that matter. A Christian discipleship that doesn’t include fellowship with the Holy Spirit offers nothing more than a worldview. I thank God for the worldview he has given to His people in His Word. If the lost masses were looking for a worldview, then they would be beating down the doors of our churches. People long for more than a worldview. They long for God, and most churches don’t point to a torn veil that gives us access to God. In sharp contrast, The Shack portrays a relational God. It depicts a God that people actually want to know.
- The Shack will speak to the heart. Most churches preach solely to the mind. Many people that attend our churches really like that. Whether you believe it or not, there is a large portion of the population that long to have their hearts engaged. There are masses who have visited our churches and all they found was information. Granted, in most cases, it was true information. Nevertheless their heart was not grabbed, and they moved on and put us into the irrelevant category. If you have church attenders and visitors who have had their hearts touched by The Shack, then don’t rationalize away their tender moment. Engage their hearts from your heart.
- The Shack is creative. Creativity is why The Shack connects with more artistically minded individuals. Critics of The Shack need to understand there’s a spectrum of artistic people in our society. Many of these people are the Crafty Carols that fund stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, Michaels and Hobby Lobby, but as one moves across the continuum of artsy culture we find people that… volunteer at the local theater…manage foundations for the arts… are part of urban underground music scenes. We can even press further across the continuum and find more edgy aspects of the art culture that are not engaged with the church on any level. We’ve been relatively good at reaching the Crafty Carols who line our pews, but we have been really bad at reaching others across the continuum. To reach a wider spectrum of people in the art community Christian artists must produce a higher quality and a greater variety of art that will connect with people across the artistic spectrum. I feel The Shack is a good step in that direction. I’m not saying that the uber artsy person that’s a member of the local art guild will be crying at the altar on Sunday after watching The Shack on Saturday; what I am saying is The Shack has the potential to engage people a little further the down the spectrum of the art culture. It has the potential to open doors to slightly more artistic people than what were currently engaging. Let me say it in business terms. The Shack has the potential to break into a different cliental, market, niche, demographic. I think it’s high time to for us as evangelicals to utilize the sanctified imagination as a tool to reach people. It appears that some Christian leaders may say it is an unsanctified imagination run wild, but whatever you call it, it’s creative. Love the movie or hate it, don’t shut the door to new opportunities to reach people, that wont benefit anyone.
When we engage people about The Shack it will behoove us to tout the virtues of the book and movie, and provide clarity to hazy doctrinal positions in a different setting. Our next blog will address pastor’s and other church leaders in the Do’s and Don’t’s of engaging people through The Shack.
1 John 4