Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Trip to the Shack: Part 2

I mentioned some things I like about the book, The Shack, in some previous posts. My goal in this post is to simply point out some things in the book that alarmed me and remind that I should not build my Theology of God on a fiction novel.

1. Through the characters in the book the author communicates a deeply negative view of authority, going so far as to have Jesus assert that authority is, "one reason why experiencing true relationship is so difficult for you, Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it." In the book, authority is almost always looked upon as a power grab. 
Now, I will gladly admit that abuse of authority is a regular part of our human experience as fallen, sinful creatures. We have all suffered under authority wrongly used, and I would submit that we all have improperly used authority at some point and time. But let us take caution before we embrace a view of life where there is a complete absence of authority. The Bible communicates that there are proper uses of authority that are ordained by God. The most obvious ordaining of authority by God is in the Parent-Child relationship. I would suggest that the proper understanding of authority has enriched my relationship with my children and given them a sense of freedom and security in which they can grow as a child. The view of the author seems to be that authority causes relationship to crumble into rules and enforcement rather than love. This can be true, but it does not have to be. Do I have rules for my children? Yes! Do I use consequences to enforce the rules? Most Certainly! Has our relationship crumbled into an empty performance of duty and enforcement? I would venture to say, No! As parents Annie and I strive to help our girls see our good, protective, loving purposes for our rules and enforcement. We strive to instruct the children that we want them to develop character (ingrained habits) that help them see others as people to be served and cherished, rather than as objects for our pleasure. In parenting we use consequences that enforce and teach a love of virtue rather than vice while the stakes are low, punishing what is rude, self-serving, and evil while encouraging that which is good. In so doing we are lovingly helping them to develop character that will keep them from the harsh consequences of wickedness in adulthood. Serving the children this way takes far more time and energy than just getting out of the way and it is an act of our love for them which we try to help them sense and understand in the manner and attitude we bring to situations of discipline; not an angry explosion, but a loving, purposeful correction. If they embrace the wisdom that we have gathered in life I believe they will be more equipped to flourish in life. 

2.  The negative view of authority applies to the way the author views the relationship between God and humanity. I would suggest that the Bible teaches the view of authority I outlined above and roots the pattern of parental authority in the character of God and his love for us. Although having a relationship to God is not entirely about keeping rules and following duties out of fear of judgment, we must not forget the God has given us rules for living that cannot be ignored without serious consequences. If you take the Bible seriously you cannot get around the fact that God has woven consequences into the fabric of the universe and that he also exercises providence over the events of life to bring correction at times. In certain parts of evangelical Christianity, rule keeping has been over-emphasized to the neglect of the development of virtue and a worshipful love for Jesus, but this does not mean that a healthy view of our relationship with God means that we must jettison any idea of authority for the foolish sense of freedom suggested in the book. God has communicated the basis for human flourishing, encourages that which is virtuous, commands against that which is vice so that we might enjoy the freedom for which he has created us under His authority.

3. In the book I felt somewhat concerned with how the author places his own views in the mouth of God. I guess if I believed that what he was saying resembled and represented the truth of scripture I would not be so alarmed, but I found it uncomfortable to hear "Jesus" speak ideas that I think he would ultimately disagree with (I say this on the basis of what He does say in Scripture).

1 comment:

Josh and Jadey said...

Colby thanks for these posts! Actually all of your recent ones about books or books of the Bible have been very encouraging. I love how God continues to use your family in my life even when you are hundreds of miles away. These posts have come at perfect times in my life. They have also pushed me to read books of scripture that I wouldn't necessarily just sit down and start reading. Thanks!