Chuck Colson in his latest BreakPoint commentary reviews William Young's The Shack. If you haven't heard about the book yet, you soon will.
The story is a powerful journey through one man's grief in the midst of a relationship the Triune God.
Now mind you, I thought some of the dialogue was a bit hokey and when God appeared as an Aunt Jemima type figure I had to pause for just a minute. This is one of the things that Colson reacts to.
In the western mind God "The Father" has always been understood with masculine stereotypes and there is much scriptural warrant for this. But we must understand that gender is specificially a "creature characteristic." That is to say that God, whom we address as "Father," transcends and is in and of Godself not limited to gender. I still use the term "Father" for God. I think it is important for several reasons: 1. It's personal; 2. It's the term Jesus used; 3. It's support by the majority of the canon and orthodox church history. When Colson reacts so strongly to God "the Father" being revealed as a motherly figure I believe he feels it is an attack against Christian orthodoxy. I do not believe it to be so.
We must understand that for God to interact with human beings God has chosen to limit Godself in order that we might relate with God. We see this most clearly of course in the incarnation. For those who don't agree see Moses encounter with God on the mountain.
To be sure God isn't our buddy or pal, but God is an intimate friend. Too often I fear God gets depicted as a stern authority figure who is perpetually ticked off and whose son Jesus begs him to give his kids a break . And, God can only do this by unleashing all hell on his son. Let me be clear. The Scriptures are unified in their understanding that God takes no pleasure in wrath. But on the same hand I understand that there are consequences that come from arrogance and disobedience [again lets leave room for multiple understandings of atonement because multiple understandings are both Scriptural and needed].
But like any parent, I think we need to remember that this comes as a last resort. In Matthew 7.10-12 Jesus compares God to human parents thus implying, "if you broken and evil people know how to care for your children and love them. Don't you think your heavenly father can do at least as good as you?" [I'll grant you here that the context of the conversation is prayer. But if this is representative of how God loves those who ask, does his love extent any less to other areas of how God relates?].
Colson also goes on to say that he believes the author has a low opinion of the Scriptures and cites two entries that I found puzzling as to how they relate to his point. Then he says this:
The Bible, it seems, is just one among many equally valid ways in which God reveals Himself. And, we are told, the Bible is not about rules and principles; it is about relationship.
That's exactly the problem with how modernism has handled the Scriptures: as a rule book to mine for principles. The entire narrative of the Scriptures is about a God who purses a broken and rebellious humanity precisely TO have relationship with them. Come on Chuck!
What Colson in my opinion leaves out of his review is the insightful treatment of what theologians have called theodicy or the problem of pain and the goodness of God. There are some incredible insights in this book about the grace of God and God's steadfast love.
Colson goes on to suggest that we not be comfortable with The Shacks depiction of God and our presumptions about God either. He writes: "As Papa warns Mack, God is not who Mack expects He is. But He is also not what our creative imaginations make Him to be either." But I cannot help but wonder if Mr. Colson feels that he has God all too figured out himself.
Is the book great? Well, no. Frankly I didn't care for some of the writing and some of the depictions of God were a bit hokey. Is it heretical? In my opinion no. No more than Pilgrims Progress anyway. It's a book that's definitely worth the read and the discussion.
I'm not about being controversial but my dander goes up when we simply begin boycotting things because of our own personal opinions. This book is not going to destroy any ones theology any more than reading the local newspaper. I guess I'm on day two of laryngitis and I'm getting irritable.