Wednesday, October 14, 2009

studying the shack

i am in the middle of leading a ten-week course which is going through the astronomically popular novel The Shack, and taking a look at its themes by comparing what we find in the novel to what we find in scripture.  there are many who have argued that this novel presents such a dangerous threat to orthodox faith that people shouldn't even read it, but my take is that we ought to be able to speak the language of our culture, whether that be secular culture, or the various dialects of christianese that are widely spoken.  for me, that means that people should read this book, but read it, as it were, with the novel in one hand and the Bible in the other.  we don't have to take everything we read as Gospel.  we already have the Gospel!  on the other hand, it is a central part of my faith that God speaks to us through many media, even ones that may not be orthodox.

so we've spent the last five tuesday nights (we're averaging about 20 in the study) engaging in some really valuable discussions about the trinity, and Christ's divinity/humanity, and how we understand God and where God is in the midst of our suffering.  we have truly had some amazing conversations, and i have been blessed by our journey so far. 

we have had many interesting thoughts and questions that have arisen over these five weeks, but one of the most interesting, in my opinion, had to do with how we picture God.  many of us, if we are forced to try and picture God, can only conjure up an old, white-bearded wise man, or else some kind of nebulous ball of light and spirit.  neither of these images are wrong, per se, but they are certainly incomplete.  the whole width and breadth of God is something our finite minds cannot grasp in one fell swoop (or perhaps even in one lifetime).  God appears to Mack in The Shack as an exuberant African-American woman who likes to hug him and sing and cook and tell him that she's "particularly fond" of him.  the author has God appear to mack like this because he is trying to show that God is challenging mack, trying to stretch his understanding of the character and nature of God.  mack had really settled into the idea of a very stoic, male, and  stern God.  and i repeat, those things aren't necessarily wrong, just incomplete.  so, God's character is wider (and wilder) than we can possibly imagine. and so that poses a question for us:  if we were to approach the shack, as mack did, and raise our hand to knock on the door, what kind of image for God would greet us?  in other words, how might God appear to you to challenge your presuppositions and your expectations?  to answer really requires some pretty serious reflections on how you normally relate to God.  i would challenge you to spend some time thinking and searching your heart on this, because if you honestly work at this, you might open the door to discovering some aspects of God's character that you've been missing or ignoring or avoiding. 

oh, and for the one person who asked what i'm reading right now (thanks, crafty p), i'm reading this and this this, and just for fun i'm about to start this


Heather @ Not a DIY Life said...

great way to approach this book. i remember when the Left Behind series was wildly popular. I said the same thing about that as I do The Shack - it's a work of FICTION. It may have truth in it, but we must always turn to our one source of Truth before allowing a book to determine what we believe.

Kudos to you for tackling a socially relevant book and not being afraid of holding it up to the true Light. Blessings!

Erin said...

hi greg,
i think i may have posted before somewhere about how i also did a bible study on the shack and how it was very challenging to our little group of women and how we view God, view tragedy, etc. we came upon some parts of the book that we didn't think were scriptual and we discussed why and wherefore. i absolutely agree with you on the whole culture/relevence aspect. i really just don't get christians that totally freak out about FICTION that's not 100% scriptual or even counter-scriptual... like Dan Brown and the whole DaVinci Code craze. It is a NOVEL. and a very good one, in my opinion. i certainly didn't somehow become a worshipper of the divine feminine just because i read a book that emphasized that...
anyway, getting off track, but glad you're studing the shack.

Crafty P said...

very interesting. I haven't gone near the shack.

I am intrigued by Life is a Verb though. Sounds fascinating!

I'm reading The World According to Mr. Roger's; Important Things to Remember. I love it. short little thoughts on each page. very doable for a gal who's making a scrapbook layout a day for the entire month of october... on top of studying the very deep and wide book of genesis!

Crafty P said...

ps do you do goodreads dot come?

cathyq said...

Loved The Shack. The discussions that were generated from that book have been eye opening and heart changing, no matter if it is fiction or not. I just finished the latest Dan Brown book The Lost Symbol. You HAVE to read it! Again, the discussions that it can open up are myriad. I highly recommend it.

Nysewanders said...

I love this book. It was good to hear your take on it too. Good work.