Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Shack 2

1. Yesterday I started reading The Shack. I'm trying to read 50 pages a day over lunch to finish this week.

So today (spoiler) we learn that Mack's daughter has been horrifically murdered. In the meantime, God ("Papa") has sent him a note inviting him to the shack where they discovered her blood.

2. So the theological analogy starts pretty heavy when we hit chapter 5. There are a couple of theological items prior to that I might mention. I forgot to mention yesterday the interchange on p.31 between Mack and his daughter Missy before she is murdered. She says, "Is the Great Spirit another name for God--you know, Jesus' papa?" Mack responds, "I would suppose so. It's a good name for God because he is a Spirit and he is Great."

I'm wondering if we'll hear more on the issue this alludes to--is it possible to worship God by another name when you don't know the name of Jesus. I'll leave the issue lie until some later point.

3. I thought some sentences on pp.65-66 were interesting: "In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God's voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects."

If you know me, you probably know that this made me smile. We Wesleyans and Pentecostals--like the apostle Paul--don't believe that spiritual gifts, revelations, and miracles ended when John wrote the final nu in the book of Revelation. So preach it Young on God's continued communication with his people! Also, as a Bible scholar, I am firmly convinced that the New Testament authors not only read the OT literally but that they also often read it spiritually.

If you have to get a PhD in Bible to hear God's voice, pretty much all Christians through all church history are lost.

4.  I'm sure the portrayal of God the Father as a black woman, Jesus as a Middle-Eastern man, and the Holy Spirit as a hard-to-focus-on Asian woman was hard for some to handle, but the author makes it clear that these are not fixed forms. "I am neither male nor female... If I choose to appear to you as a man or a woman, it's because I love you... After what you've been through, you couldn't very well handle a father right now, could you?" (93).

I mentioned in my first post that God is not literally gendered, because he doesn't have genitalia and is Spirit. So I appreciate the way the author has tried to shake us from thinking God is a white male. The author is "trying to help you keep from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning" (93). I suspect we'll hear later what Young was getting at by the names Elousia and Sarayu (I have guesses).

5. God is omniscient--Elousia knows everything. Check. √ Yet Mack is also free to do whatever he wants. "Just because I know you're too curious to go, does that reduce your freedom to leave?" (94). There's some dance with the question of foreknowledge and free will here. Elousia suggests that freedom is complicated, and I suspect we'll hear more about it later.

Suffice it to say, the Wesleyan tradition does not believe that foreknowledge implies determinism. I have no problem with both believing that God knows all the details of the future and yet does not fully determine it.

6. Elousia has scars on her wrist as Jesus does, so there is perhaps some flirting with patripassianism, a minor heresy that suggests God the Father suffered on the cross with Jesus. I don't know if that's what Young is getting at or not. I do agree with him that God did not turn his face away from Jesus on the cross. "Regardless of what he [Jesus] felt at that moment, I never left him" (96).

That is indeed what I believe, despite a lot of pop theology about God the Father turning away. I actually believe that Young is giving us orthodox theology here, despite how popular it is to think of the Father turning away from Jesus on the cross. I hope we get to unpack why "turning away" theology is bad theology in the pages to come.

7. Finally, there is the idea that Jesus "has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything" (99). I don't know about never (in terms of while he was on earth), but I do believe that Jesus played it by the human rules while he was on earth (e.g., note the wording of Acts 2:22). The miracles he did, his ability to be victorious over temptation--these are all possible for all those who trust in him through the power of the Holy Spirit. One of the things Jesus did on earth is show us what it means to be truly and fully human.

Good theology there, in my opinion. Notice that in both Acts and Paul, "God raised him from the dead." I can't think of a place in Acts or Paul where it reads, "He arose."

Notice the careful wording in The Shack: "Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone" (italics mine). I don't know all of what Young is suggesting, but in his humanness, I suspect this is good theology. Of course I believe that Jesus in his divinity could have healed, but he didn't choose to access that power during his earthly ministry, as far as we can tell from the Synoptic Gospels.

8. There's some theology about love in the Trinity (101). Love needs an object, so the love in the Trinity makes it possible for God to be love. I suspect it goes well beyond Scripture, but it is orthodox. :-)

1 comment:

Bob MacDonald said...

I haven't read this book though it is doing the rounds.

I am bothered by this note: Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.

Does this imply that human beings have no power qua their humanity to heal another? That seems to be overly simplistic. I suspect that Wesleyan tradition has no doctrine of theosis, but to equate all that is human to the flesh which in itself is without power to heal is to downplay the creation. It is not in me to define this, but it doesn't feel right to draw some conclusions. To speak of Jesus 'in his divinity' seems to divide divinity. There are not three Gods but one. So the divinity of the Son is the same divinity as that of the Father and the Spirit. Similarly, if we are to be healing in his name, the healing impact in us is from the same Invisible One.

I don't do much in the NT these days. But power / authority / healing if by definition is not done apart from God, then the opening statement that "Jesus has no power within himself" is a tautology. But it is not helpful either to speak so about the gifts that are breathed into the human from its creation. There is certainly a complex of delegation here, and I doubt that anyone is fully void of responsibility for it.