Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Shack: Human Wisdom Rather Than Biblical Truth

The first thing I would like to say is that I have not personally read The Shack, nor have I seen the movie. I do not intend to either. If you think that that automatically disqualifies me to write an article about it feel free to stop reading. I freely admit that I am relying on second hand sources.

What does qualify me to be upset about the message of this popular "Christian" book is that I have suffered loss in a somewhat similar fashion as that presented in the book. Maybe the world doesn't count miscarriages as such, but the pain is very real to those who have experienced it. As someone who would theoretically fall into The Shack's target audience range I take exception to the message trumpeted by the book.

In brief here it is: Human pain and suffering is due to the fact that God wanted to make us beings with free will but in order for us to truly have free will God can't get in the way and stop suffering. IE, for us to have free will God has to allow suffering to take place in the world. In the words of the character Papa (supposedly God the Father), "There was no way to create freedom without a cost."

The book is, I'm sure, full of such warm, touchy-feely sayings. The problem though is that they are based solely on human wisdom, not the Inspired Word of God. What does the Bible say about human "freedom?" Let's glance at a few passages.

Ephesians 2: 1-3 "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."

Galatians 4:3,8 "In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. … Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods."

Romans 6:6-7 "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin."

So, human nature apart from the work of Christ is enslaved to sin. Slaves to our sinful nature. It should be fairly clear how diametrically opposed this Biblical concept is to the idea of human "free will."

I realize I am dangerously close to opening a huge can of worms that I do not intend to deal with in this blog post. Suffice it to say that the Bible is clear on the fact that human nature, ever since the fall, has been enslaved to sin and that it is only those whom the Son sets free who are indeed free from their natural inclination to sin. (John 8:31-36).

Why then is human free will lifted up as the highest good in The Shack? In short, human tradition. And, I would venture, that this idolizing of freedom/free will has never been so well received as it has been here in American "Christianity."

The great issue I have with promoting human free will to the highest good is that the truly comforting, Biblical Truth is completely undercut. God's purpose and plan are entirely thrown out in favor of human emotions. We think we will feel better when we hear "Well, God does everything he can but freedom comes with a cost." But that is a human-centered lie.

The Biblical Truth is this: God is Sovereign. He is more than capable of holding all in His Hand, the pain and the joy, the suffering and the triumph. If you're suffering/in pain and need to know where God is in all of it look to the Bible, not The Shack. Look to Job, not to Paul Young (the author of The Shack).

Job puts it in no uncertain terms after his real encounter with God (which didn't, by the way, involve God changing the way He presents Himself in order not to offend Job's sensibilities): "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." - Job 42:2

Job finds comfort, after hearing from God, in the fact that God is God and that none of His purposes can be thwarted. He is comforted by the fact that God rules supreme, even over the disasters in his life. This fact is one of the only truly comforting things that a Christian can cling to in the midst of his/her suffering: Their Rock and Redeemer in the middle of a swirling hurricane of pain and sadness.

Human free will is a cheap stand in comparatively. It plays to our natural self-centeredness; that idea that we all like to hide deep down that the world does revolve around us. Let me just point out James 4:13-15 "Come now, you who say, 'today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit' -- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'"

God's will is the highest authority. He is in charge. He is sovereign. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from Him. Take comfort then in the fact that He is working all things together for His Glory and for the Good of those called according to His purpose. Take comfort in the Bible and the Truth about God and suffering and pain revealed in it. Don't waste your time reading The Shack or pain your eyes by watching the movie. The Truths of the Bible are far deeper and more satisfying than any half-baked platitudes human wisdom can cook up.

My source: Book Summary

Better articles on the issues in The Shack: Desiring God Article
Tim Challies Blog

1 comment:

  1. So let me get this straight: The Shack is attempting to comfort us all about pain by reminding us that sin has to always be a choice if we are to have actual free will. This then becomes a pep talk for us to always remember to choose good rather than evil because we have the power to make that choice.
    Is the problem with that the fact that, apart from God, we don't actually seem to be able to choose good? Try as we might, our best efforts amount to filthy rags?