Virtues of The Shack

Part 2

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

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One thought on “Virtues of The Shack

  1. I do not hate the book, or the movie, The Shack. I am not saying that I will never hate it, but I am not there yet. At this point I still believe that it will be used of God to help thousands to come to a wonderful understanding of God’s love, concern and desire for an intimate personal relationship with them. I also do not have a problem with the choice of actors to play the parts that represent the “persons” of the Trinity. It is, as I’ve been told, a fiction (although Young has stated that The Shack is based on his view of God).
    I also believe the author desired to shock his audience into a realization that God is not some unfeeling distant being; if so, like this intent, and can live with this imagery. Young is able to emphasize certain aspects of God’s nature with his use of this literary freedom. And our world is full of people who need to know what God is like. I think this movie will be a blessing to many, especially those who, like my sister-in-law, have lost a child to death.
    But I do know a little about the author that concerns me. I have heard him say, “Being a Jesus follower is not trying to be like Him.” He continues this conversation insisting that he does not believe that Jesus’ life is a life to be emulated. This bothers me because of everyone who has ever lived in all of history, I can think of no one I’d rather be like than Jesus. I also heard Paul Young answer a direct question about being a universalist in a way that placates to the Christian mind while avoiding the opportunity to say that he finds ample scriptural evidence that disproves the universalist doctrine. If he wants to muddy the water to keep debate alive, it’s working for him. But the side effects of this tactic could cause unnecessary harm.
    In his work, “The Lies We Believe About God,” which is not a work of fiction, Young contradicts many of the tenets of the Christian faith with statement of his beliefs. I not talking about “hazy doctrinal positions.” Young is clear about what he believes and the Bible is clear about what it teaches and the two are clearly in disagreement. Error that Young believes in real life is subtly woven into the fabric of his popular fiction. Sugar coated poison is still poison.
    On page 99 of The Shack, Young has God saying, “We … [Father, Son and Holy Spirit] became fully human.” It amazes me that it is okay to lie as long as you call it fiction. Also on this page is the insinuation that every human being can experience an eternal progression to become gods themselves. Another acceptable lie. Christian scholars have pointed out thirty something lies (that I am aware of) in The Shack. How many lies about God’s eternal truth are permitted before a work of fiction raises red flags? My guess is, if your flag raises at fifty, mine at ten and another’s at one, we all have to live by our own conscious tempered by the Holy Spirit. Let me err on the side of holiness and truth. It is not right that either of us accuse the other of intolerance, lack of insight or anything else that belittles the other for the sincere expression of their honest feelings and choice of stance in a matter that should allow for a variation of opinions.
    I do know that bitter water and sweet water seem to be coming from the same fountain of Young and this ought not to be. I do know that the Bible says that “love … rejoices in truth.” I just wish this work about love would have stuck more closely to the truth, especially when it’s God’s eternal truth. Even a work of fiction can do that.
    The best litmus test for exposing a false teacher is to compare his statements with the Word of God. Young has found a way to bypass this test (with many believers) by camouflaging his statements within a work of fiction. Many Christians are content to let him get away with this and many are not. Regardless, I’m guessing The Shack is not a work that will cause a rift within the church, no mater how much our common enemy desires to disrupt peace. Instead, I see it as providing temporary healthy debate among God’s people. Hopefully, if anyone not yet committed to Christ sees how Christians handle debate among themselves they will receive a witness of the brotherly love that binds us together even in our differences and diversities. It’s so obvious, right? How can they not see it?

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