If it doesn't count for Christ, it doesn't count.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Impressions From "The Shack"

Please believe that I mean no offense or criticism to those who are big fans of this book. 

This might be a short blog. Then again, it's hard to say.  I am writing this because I said I would, and because this is just what the title of the blog indicates. I read "The Shack" maybe 2 years ago.  (It could have been a year - I lose track of time.) Admittedly, I read the book with some trepidation. I really didn't know what to expect and my sensors were set to "discern" something like blasphemy.  So, now, a year or two  later, I am left with impressions of the book based on my poor ability to retain a lot of detail about anything I read or hear.

I am going to read this book again.  And I will blog on it again regardless of changes, or lack thereof, in my present opinion.  This reading will be more open than the first one. By "open" I mean that I will give it a fair shot. I will allow "The Shack" to state it's case without interruption from my own self-righteous spiritual outbursts. My spiritual guard, however, will stay up.

I will begin by saying that I don't like the premise of the book.  Or maybe I should say I am uncomfortable with it. . . . No! I don't like it. "The Shack" is a work of fiction featuring God, ("Papa" in the book), Jesus and the Holy Spirit, whom the author chose to give a name: Sarayu - which is a river in India, and also is an Indian name meaning wind. (Indian, not In'jun.)  "Christian fiction" normally tells of people seeking, finding, struggling, hurting, obeying, winning, etc. without faith, with faith, because of faith, without God, with God, because of God - any and all combinations withstanding.  In "The Shack" we have a fictional story (that is all to real for so many who go through the same kind of loss as "Mack", the protagonist, did) featuring the very real Holy Trinity as speaking, moving, doing characters.  And when I say this almost fictionalizes Them, I understand that many would say that the way the author has portrayed Them makes God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit ever more real. I think, though, that this is sometimes confused with the fact that the book "humanizes" them.  Jesus, I believe, IS in His glorified human body.  "The Shack" portrays His sacrifice very well.  God is NOT human.  And the Holy Spirit as described in "The Shack" is . . . well, I'm gonna have to read the book again. 

However, I do believe careful inspection will find that these "character portrayals" fall short of God as He has revealed Himself through The Word.  In fact, I don't recall mention, or validation, of the Bible in "The Shack".  I'm not saying it is not there, but I do not remember it.

"The Shack" does a wonderful job in telling of God's unlimited unconditional love for us. But, it falls short, and does a great disservice in telling of God's love without telling how we receive the full benefits of God's love.  I know it makes mention of Jesus' death upon the cross. But, our absolute need for the gift of salvation offered by Jesus because of our sin is just not there. There is no allusion to repentance nor to the great spiritual battle being fought over us - you and me.

In this, my next-to-final analysis, (I'm going to read the book again) I going to have to say, amid certain cries of protest, that "The Shack" bears false witness.

Yes, it points to an unconditionally loving God in a way that many have not seen before, and yes, it points to a Jesus that is approachable, supportive, sacrificial, easy to talk to and lean on, and yes, it gives a thought provoking if incomprehensible description of the Holy Spirit.  But, as I recall, it fails to address the awesome Holiness of God.  God is enthroned on high. Angels encircle Him with unending cries of "Holy, Holy, Holy".  In my heart of hearts I cannot take God, as revealed in the glory of His creation, as revealed in the truth of the Holy Bible, and as revealed to me by the Holy Spirit, from His Heavenly throne and put Him at my kitchen counter making biscuits from scratch. (There is a "whole 'nother" blog brewing about how God created me and is re-making me from scratch. I get the metaphor.)

The Holy Spirit, as far as I know, has no name. He may have one that will someday be revealed to us. But, in the meantime, who are we to name the Holy Spirit?  The Holy Spirit marks us, not the other way around.  AND, my main problem with "Sarayou" in "The Shack" is that there is no mention, that I can recall, about the indwelling nature of the Holy Spirit. (That would have called for explaining just how that comes to be.)

And this brings me to Jesus. All I will say here is that "The Shack" points to Jesus in a way that we want to know Him so much more intimately than we do. The book tells us of a Jesus who does know us intimately and wants to walk so very closely with us as well.  It just doesn't tell us how to get there. In fact, my sense of "The Shack" is that it is saying that there really is no "getting there". There is no sin, there is no shame, there is no guilt, there is no repentance. No forgiveness required.

"The Shack" can be a good read for strong Christians who can glean from it ways to explore a growing and closer relationship with the Trinity.  It can, however, mislead the immature Christian, and misdirect the lost. (And, yes, some people do get their theology from works of fiction.)

Jesus offers us so much. Jesus is everything! The path to Jesus does not end at the doorways of the "shacks" of our lives.  The path to Jesus leads to the Cross where we are set free from our shacks, and our shackles.