Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What The Shack is and isn't.

The Shack is lighting up Social Media . . . (and some of us are losing our minds)

Quick reminder: A story is a story.

It is not history.  It is not theology.  It is a story - it represents something deeper that needs conversation to draw out.  It is not a statement as much as it is a starting point for people to develop meaning.  

The Shack highlights a man's encounter with God that is most unexpected.  God is a large black woman.  Jesus is the typical Jesus-bearded figure.  The Holy Spirit is an Asian woman.

Now obviously, the author does not think God is a large black woman - any more than Jesus is a brown-haired, blue-eyed Norseman.   

Incidentally - every Christmas we do the same sort of thing.  Nativity scenes depict Angels as children in robes with halos and wings.  

Angels are not cute winged creatures.  They don't have halos.  Actual angels inspire fear and dread every time the Bible mentions them.  Look it up.  Usually people find themselves on the ground in terror around angels.

But painters in the Middle Ages gave them halos and made them Cherubs.  Now we have precious moments Bibles with cutesy angels that look something like Hello Kitty.  It is a representation that inspires conversation.

The scriptures do the same.  Abraham describes God's essence as a smoking firepot.  Jacob described Angels ascending a ladder to heaven.  Moses felt God's presence in a fire.  
Again - representations . . .  unless you really feel strongly that angels need ladders or God is a piece of cookware.

As is usually the case, we are upset about the surface stuff.  God is a woman?  What?!  Someone call Ken Hamm!  

What about some of the bigger inconsistencies in the book?  

Like . . .

At one point the character representing God says, "sin is its own penalty."  

'scuse me?

Sin is more than this.  I get what the author is after, but this can make people think that it is a psychological condition when sin is a whole lot more than that.  Jesus didn't die so that we can get over our mental anguish.  Jesus died so that we could be made righteous - sin is a lot more than just agony, it's a separation from God (and that is a big deal).

The book does a great job talking about God as the great healer and lover of our soul, but what about His justice and holiness?  Those who are upset with the film have a good point - God is both Father and Judge and that truth doesn't exactly come across.  How do we handle a one-sided depiction?  Could people possibly be drawn to the Reader's Digest version of God and then shrink back when they discover the other parts that are not as warm and cozy?

The book also leaves you with the idea that everyone gets into heaven eventually.  How does that square with what Jesus said about the narrow road?  And so why did Jesus have to come to us anyway if God was already making sure everyone is covered?

Pretty big plot holes.

But people.  This is a story.  

Take a deep breath and move forward.  The Shack is not Biblical theology.  It is a story meant for us to talk about and interact with.  Don't shrink back in fear.  Press onward with questions and conversation that push people to take steps of faith with the real God of the scriptures.  Maybe this is the kind of movie that might help people to read the Bible again and discover the whole story.

And that part is up to you . . .

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