“The Shack” thoughts

Okay, let me start off by saying that there will probably be spoilers in this blog. If you have not read The Shack, and don’t want to know anything about what’s in the book, you should know that I think it’s a wonderful read, and well worth it. Now, to keep from spoiling the book, stop reading this blog, and go read The Shack.

I’ve been asked to comment on some theological implications of the book, and I’ll try to do that here before any spoilers are revealed. The thing to remember about The Shack is that IT IS FICTION. It’s similar to reading Pilgrim’s Progress, or The Chronicles of Narnia. NO DOCTRINE should ever be based on what is found in this book; Scripture alone is all we’ll ever need for our rule of faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16).

THAT being said, I think that The Shack is a wonderful way to get a different point of view on God’s love for us. It’s my opinion that very often, we become quite comfortable with how WE think God already loves us and deals with us according to what we already know. This book turns THAT concept on its ear, and tweaks it often!

For those people who accuse The Shack of heresy, I think they’ve completely missed the point. The Shack isn’t purporting to be God’s Word, but rather a story about a man who encounters God. It’s as heretical as the Neil Simon play “God’s Favorite”, or as Michelangelo’s painting of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. They are *representations* designed to get the viewer to THINK about God. And that’s just what The Shack does – it gets you to think about God. Okay, ready for my thoughts? Here they come…

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SPOILERS AHEAD:

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Still here?

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Okay, you were warned.

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My thoughts on The Shack won’t make much sense if you don’t know where I stand theologically (because The Shack is most definitely a book with theological implications). Firstly, I’m a follower of Jesus (Acts 24.14). More specifically, I’d be placed in the Reformed branch of Christianity (Somewhere between Calvin and Zwingli, but with more of a social/intellectual permissive bent, a.k.a. Clement of Alexandria. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, then you could sum it up by thinking that I’m theologically centrist.I won’t waste your time (and mine) by listing all the things I am not: logically, that would be a near-infinite list.

The Shack: I think it’s a wonderful book, and there are a number of reasons why, which I’ll deal with in no particular order:

* The narrative itself is gripping. The protagonist, Mack, has suffered the loss of one of his children, and reading about how he deals with his grief was captivating. The author has done a very good job of describing what it must be like to lose someone close, and the resulting struggles with God’s sovereignty (“why would God do this to me”). Following Mack as he struggles to get through his issues made the book a page-turner for me.

* Theological paradigms are challenged. SPOILER ALERT: There’s no doubt that this book is basically Trinitarian in nature. God is portrayed as Three Persons, just like Christian Orthodoxy would demand. However, the truth that God is NOT HUMAN is very strongly emphasized in this book. Therefore, the pictures that many of us in the West would prefer to use in interpreting what the Trinitarian God would be like are NOT USED. God the Father (Papa) is portrayed as a black woman: “For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you keep from falling back into your religious conditioning.” (p. 93)

And THAT is the heart of the book – it’s a narrative of one man’s encounter with God, but specifically NOT the “religious conditioning” God that so many of us are used to. Jesus certainly comes across as recognizable (he’s a Jewish carpenter with a well-stocked workshop), but the Holy Spirit is described as a woman named Sarayu. “Since there were three of them, maybe this was a Trinity sort of thing. But two women and a man and none of them white? Then again, why had he naturally assumed that God would be white?” (pg. 87)

* The book’s literary background is theologically broad. Personally, I think this is a great thing, and I’m very comfortable with it. But those people who are allergic to the idea that women can be in positions of leadership are positively going to have fits over this book. Specifically, there are THREE very powerful female figures in The Shack: SPOILER ALERT: Papa (God the Father in a female aspect), Sarayu (God the Spirit in a female aspect), and Sophia (the Personification of Wisdom – this concept is very present in the Apocrypha, and in older Christian literature, but not hardly mentioned in the last 200 years in my opinion).

* There are some wonderful “geek” moments in the book. Learning that God really likes fractals made me smile so much my face hurt.

* Finally, the book was very cathartic for me. Mack has a very difficult emotional relationship with his alcoholic father, and that so closely echoed my own experience that I had some difficulty seeing certain pages through tears. If you’ve had a good relationship with your own father, Thank God for that in your own life.

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1 Response to ““The Shack” thoughts”


  1. 1 pastoredb July 8, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Mark Driscoll misrepresents The Shack:

    My response to his sermon:
    Driscoll is WRONG in all 4 points of this sermon.
    1) No Graven Image – What about the Theophanies (the appearances of God physically in the Old Testament)? What about God appearing physically to Abram? To Daniel? What about the court of justice in Job? If Driscoll’s argument is right, then the artwork on the Sistine Chapel is an abomination, and should be painted over. What arrogance!
    2) Goddess worship – it is clear that Driscoll didn’t pay attention to the words IN the book. God has NO GENDER, not even in The Shack. “For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you keep from falling back into your religious conditioning. (p. 93) What about female imagery for God in Hosea 11 & 13? Deut. 32? Isa. 42, 49, & 66? Jer. 44? Mat. 23? Luke 13? Genesis 1:26-27 -male/female?
    3) Modalism – he completely misrepresented Modalism. It is the heresy of ONE God, ONE Person, THREE Modes/Jobs. The Shack makes it clear that the Trinity is interconnected (look up “paraclesis” in Greek) Driscoll misrepresents what The Shack contains (and in my opinion, does so intentionally and maliciously). Again. massive arrogance is demonstrated.
    4) No hierarchy – Driscoll implies hierarchy when Jesus obeys the Father, but Phil. 2 specifically states that Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but took on the “morphe” of a servant. This negates Driscoll’s point. He has a skewed view of headship, esp. in regards to husbands/wives (submit to ONE ANOTHER) and pastors/congregations (Pastors SERVE, not lord it over). Again, dangerous misinterpretations of the text.
    After having posted my 4 points to refute Driscoll’s diatribe, I have to agree with him on one point. He DOES make the point that The Shack implies that heirarchy exists only in the presence of sin. That is not orthodox, and Driscoll certainly got that one right.
    I would like to believe that anyone who can think for themselves would recognize not to take The Shack as anything on which to base doctrine. Scripture alone is our rule of faith and practice.
    Here’s to being w/ you @ The Throne of God.


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