The Shack. The love of God.

“I hear what you are saying with Job, and Romans 9, and I am just struggling with what do I really believe about all this. I don’t want to see God as a meticulous control freak, who reaks havoic on the lives of his children for some twisted purpose. As a parent, i would never do that to teach a lesson. There are times I would let my children fall in their own problems, to learn life lessons, but would protect them severly from the horribly painful ones. For example, I would not in a million years allow my child to endure sexual abuse, so that he or she can be used to help others in the future. I would fight like crazy to keep it from happening, regardless of what it is used for. I hate to see god as my father, who is going to plan for this to happen to me, so that he can use it later on in life. As a parent I could never do that to my child. also, the protection issue, if someone broke into my home and attempted to hurt my kids, I would fight, tooth and nail to protect them, i wouldn’t stand back and say, well lets see what lesson i can teach from this. So, looking at God as a parent, i don’t understand the view of meticulous control, predestination thing.
I have no idea if any of this makes sence, I am really just trying to figure out where do I stand in this relationship with God, as my Father? or God as my friend?”

I thought I would post my reply to this private email here, as I have much to say, and because I think my friend brought up questions that many Christians have.  And, because I think some of you will have some things to add. 

This was (surprise! 🙂 ) in response to the book, The Shack.  And whether or not the all loving God in the book is an accurate portrayal of Him.  Let me say from the outset – “God is love”.  He is the source of all true love.  The greeks had four different words for love – and the one “agape” refers specifically to the type of love God has for us, and the love we can have towards Him and one another, only when we know Him…  Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah, he says, because “I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”  Sulking Jonah did not want to preach a gospel of repentance – he knew that God would save the Ninevites – and Jonah wanted to watch them burn and die for their sins.  So – I am not denying the steadfast love of our Lord that never ceases.  Not denying His mercies that are new every morning.  Not denying that He loves us with an everlasting love.

I do not however love the god of The Shack.  Who says “Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.”  Or “I did not purpose Missy’s death, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use it for good.”  The god in The Shack says “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little diety insisting on my own way.”  He also says “I’ve never taken control of your choices or forced you to do anything….”

I think what Young is doing is trying to rebut the doctrines I believe.  But, I think the only real way to answer these is to go to the Word.  What does God say about Himself, and about His sovereignty and my responsibility?  I believe the only way to approach this is to go to the Bible, and see what God says about Himself.  We know He is a God of love.  We know He is merciful and full of grace – else He would not have sent Jesus to die for our sins.  Granted, many of the passages I want to quote are hard reads.  They don’t seem to reconcile themselves with the loving God our modern gospel presents.  To which I say – we MUST go to the Bible, by the power of the Spirit, with our eyes and hearts open, and reconcile our own impressions of God with who He says He is.  Sovereign.  Holy.  And motivated to act, for the sake of His name and for His glory.

Young says: “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little diety insisting on my own way.” 

God says: “Behold, I will stir up against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side: the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, governors and commanders all of them…. And they shall come against you from the north with chariots and wagons and a host of peoples.  They shall set themselves against you on every side with buckler, shield and helmet; and I will commit the judgement to them, and they shall judge you according to your judgements.  And I will direct my jealousy against you, that they may deal with you in jury.”  Ezekial 23:22-25  Why?  “you shall know that I am the Lord God.”  (v49)

“You shall know that I am the Lord” appears over 50 times in the book of Ezekial.  It is a common theme – and is mostly connected to His wrath, and His fury and His jealousy – because His people are whoring after idols.  He jealously desires our whole-hearted obedience.  And, when our adulterous hearts chase after idols, sometimes He hands us over to our enemies. 

I do not believe the bad in our own lives happens for much different reasons – that we may know that He is God.  I don’t think I have the answers friend.  As a Father, He by no means takes pleasure in bruising us.  ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him.  I believe that ultimately, it is through the deepest of sufferings that we most clearly see our Savior.  I think the pains of this life are for the exaltation of Him.  To draw us near to Him.  To teach us to rely on Him.  To prove Him faithful and beautiful.  To teach us lessons we do not yet know… May never know in this lifetime.  Sometimes yes, to teach others.   His reasons are always, always loving, you must trust Him for that.

So, if Job received the evil of the deaths of his children from God’s hand, from whose hand do we receive ours? 

Job did not sin when He said “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2v10)  Let us trust – not that God is scrambling to make good of evil – but trust instead a sovereign God who, for reasons deeper than we may ever fathom is making wise and loving decisions that seem to sting in our life on earth.

 

 

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Raquel
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 17:03:52

    It’s tough though, isn’t it? In a real life setting when a child dies or a friend gets raped… it’s tough to TRULY trust that He is sovereign and knows what’s for our good – especially when life sho’ don’t look so hot.

    And yet, when we are able to love God, respect God, and seek Him in those worst-of-worst times (as well as all of the others), that’s when we are fulfilling our life purpose.

    Reply

  2. Steve Grove
    May 08, 2008 @ 14:18:37

    Any discussion on sin has to go back to Genesis at some point. The fact that Adam and Eve willingly disobeyed God. The fact that sin is now woven into the fabric of this now-fallen world, of which we are members. Of free will, that God still offers us the gift of salvation, so that we can choose to accept or reject it. Judgement comes after death (which is appointed). While we live on earth we have to bear the consequences of “the god of this world who has blinded the eyes of the unbelieving…”.

    God is sovereign. Does that mean He has to think of justice like we do? As if our view of justice and righteousness is the absolute truth? If God were fully understandable by our finite little minds, what kind of God would He be?
    Where was God at 9/11? He was with those people in the towers and planes who died. The Psalmist says He has their tears in a bottle, as He has opurs. He knows. He could have stopped them, but then if He wanted a perfect world with 6 billion people, He could have just started off with that at creation. For every person Jesus healed when He walked the earth, there were hundreds if not thousands that weren’t healed.

    He didn’t – He started off with one man and one woman, created in His image, and bestowed on them the wonderful gift of free will. And it cost Him His own Son’s life – He knows about tragedy.

    Some bad stuff happens because of judgement for (our) sins. Some happens because of just being part of a fallen world that groans under the weight of sin. When it comes down to the crunch, though, what do we believe? If we truly believe God is love, it will affect how we deal with death and tragedy and pain. God can and still does do miracles, but if there isn’t a miracle, do we still believe? That is the truth of Hebrews 11-12.

    Reply

  3. jonathanbrink
    May 12, 2008 @ 01:03:30

    Nicole, I can’t help ask the question. Do you really think God is a bully? The reason I ask is because that’s what Young is defending against. On top of that: little, demanding, insisting on my own way.

    Is this how you really see God or am I missing you all together? Help me with this one.

    Reply

  4. Nicole
    May 12, 2008 @ 13:24:10

    Was there anything in my summary you disagreed with Jonathan?

    I do not believe God is a bully. God does not portray Himself as such in Scripture. But, what I think Young did was take the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, as I would see it, and rename it (God is a bully). Young sees the ugliness in it, not the beauty and majesty. (not that there is ugliness in it – but he would see it as such, if you know what I mean). I think his understanding of God’s sovereignty is narrow, and can only lead one to conclude that the God who hardens pharoahs heart, who causes nations to rise up and defeat the Isrealites because of their idolatry, who gives and takes away our health and our animals and our loved ones… I think he sees that God as being a bully.

    Young is treading dangerous waters by rephrasing a biblical understanding of God’s workings as Him being a “self-centered little deity insisting on His own way.” For – God is God-centered. And His will is always done, on earth as it is in heaven. And, He is certainly not a “little deity.” Grievous to suggest that He is a bully, if He is most concerned with Himself.

    Jonthan Edwards so wonderfully addresses this in The End for Which God Created the World – a life-altering book. That God is chiefly concerned with His glory, and His name sake is evident throughout Scripture. Ezekial is an absolutely perfect example of this, as are many chapters in Isaiah.

    Is God little? By no means!
    Is He demanding? Depends in what sense you are asking this question – clarification would be great.
    Does He insist on His own way? I would offer a cautious yes. Nothing happens apart from His will.

    Reply

  5. Jenn
    May 12, 2008 @ 13:54:14

    I am going to hope that what I type next makes some sense as I have a toddler feeding me playdough “potato bugs” as I try to form thoughts, lol! I have to admit that this post didn’t sit well with me. I have come back to it a couple of times because I could understand where the email sender was coming from. I don’t disagree on all points that you’ve made but I’m struggling with the parts about His will. I struggle because He created us in His image but with our own will. We are free to make wise or unwise choices. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I can’t believe that God’s will would orchestrate this. I do believe, though, that he can bring glory to himself THROUGH it. The person who did this to me, did it of their own free will aka. really unwise/selfish choice.
    Thoughts?

    Reply

  6. Laurel Esser
    May 12, 2008 @ 15:40:20

    I had a few different thoughts on the whole thing (although I would refer anyone to Edwards, Piper or other authors for more information on God’s Sovereignty).

    The whole thing about not allowing or wanting bad things happen to our children got me to thinking about the relationship of God the Father and God the Son. God sent his only begotten Son to die for our sins. He sent His son to take our place. Jesus left His throne, to come to earth, to ensure pain, to die. We wouldn’t wish things on our children, and yet it was God’s will. Christ prays, “Not My will but Yours be done.” I will glorify the name of Christ forever in Heaven because God endured pain for our sins. When did we start thinking that God owes us something? That Christ is supposed to make our lives easy. His wasn’t, and maybe this comes across as a little strong but I think we need to turn our focus back off ourselves and the comforts that we want and back onto the fact that we all sin, we are all born with sin natures, we are totally depraved, and Christ died for our sins for His glory, and His alone.

    On another note, it doesn’t matter what we want to believe about God. Some people don’t want to believe God’s sovereign, some people don’t want to believe He has control over this universe or our destiny. Some people want to believe in the god portrayed in the shack, but what we believe about God, or want to believe about doesn’t change who He is. He is not a being made up in our minds who is required to bend to our will. He reveals Himself to us through scripture. He tells us what He’s like. He gives us a whole book so that we can glorify Him for who He is and what He has done for us. I’m not going to believe in a god that is not based on scripture. I’m not going to believe in a god that I made from my emotions, fears, wants or whims.

    Reply

  7. Steve Grove
    May 13, 2008 @ 17:36:03

    We often view God through our filters of Western materialism. Who is the God of the Bible when you live in Iraq. Or the mother with 11 kids watching 7 of them drown in Burma, while giving birth to a 12th.

    This world is a mess because of sin. When we come to Christ, we are challenged not to just a transactional prayer (and that gets us our eternal fire insurance), but to a transformational life through the Spirit. We are called to perfection, that of becoming more and more like Jesus.

    I believe that sometimes when God says “He is going to stir up…” that it is a result of the sin and jdugement because of the hard-heartedness of the people.

    We are in a new Covenant now too, that has a lot more to do with grace, rather than the Law of the Old Testament. I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through, Jenn, but I agree with you that it is about how we respond to circumstances that releases the Spirit of God to take something really crappy and turn it to a revelation of Himself (Romans 8:28). James 1 reflects this as well.

    Reply

  8. Nicole
    May 14, 2008 @ 13:40:18

    Laurel, you posted your extra thought on this topic, on a different page… I agree with what you are saying, and realise you are not directing your thoughts at Jenn, but at the topic in general.

    It really is about perpective, isn’t it?

    Jenn, it is so much easier for me to post my thoughts, when I am not responding to specifics! I would say though, that I take greater comfort in my own sufferings, knowing that God has a purpose for them, than I would in thinking He did not will certain things to happen, but rather chose not to stop them. Does that make sense?

    Something I have said alot too, is that I find the biggest stumbling block for people and doctrine in the Bible usually begins with the sentence “I can’t believe in a God who…”, which is something you included in your thoughts.

    Man is always responsible for his own actions. No one will get away on judgement day with blaming God for making them a vessel of wrath. (Romans 9). I think of Joseph, who told his brothers “You meant this for evil, but the Lord meant it for good.” Or “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him.”

    I don’t know how to expand my thoughts well… is there anywhere that I am still not making sense? (All of it?)

    Certainly, the sovereignty of God does not negate man’s responsibility. And, because God is holy, He does not sin in what He wills to happen. But, there is great comfort in knowing even the deepest, darkest tragedies in life are for His ultimate glory, and the Christian’s good….

    Reply

  9. Jenn
    May 18, 2008 @ 12:54:18

    Just wanted to say that Steve encapsulated my thoughts better than I could. 🙂

    I wasn’t able to include the scripture to back my thoughts at the time but my thoughts go along the same line as his. New covenant and I agree, Laurel, that we must be backed with scripture. I don’t base any of my beliefs on what feels good but on the solid Word. 🙂

    Reply

  10. Lani
    Jul 26, 2008 @ 09:51:07

    I think the Shack was an attempt to explain tragedy in light of a loving God. But Young limitted his understanding by seeing God’s love in our terms.
    He had an great understanding of how love works on the human level. It was like sitting with an incredibly empathetic counselor, and going through a level of pschological healing.
    But this book simply does not reveal the God of the Bible.
    It is a mistake to divide this into , God is revealed as a loving God vs a judging God. I think that is what Young tried to do. He was troubled that God was misunderstood, and He wanted to go to bat for Him.
    But the conflict lies in those on both teams so to speak don’t understand Gods love or his sovereignty , and are fighting it out with empty arguements.
    What lacks in the church today is a true revelation of the God, and this is what is created to fill the void.

    Reply

  11. Nicole
    Jul 27, 2008 @ 08:41:08

    Well said Lani.

    Reply

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