The Shack, and Idolatry.

So, I started this new book called We Become What We Worship.  Interesting.  And, I was thinking about the introduction, and how I think it fits in with one of my ultimate problems with The Shack. 

It’s a long quote, bear with me.  Beale has this to say though, about what God thinks of us creating an image of Him.

“God had not revealed Himself in any form to Isreal, and to portray Him to any degree in the form of any part of the creation is to misrepresent Him and thus to commit idolatry.  Accordingly, God’s ‘self-disclosure came through a revelation in words, and the Sinai experience constituted a paradigm of God’s self-disclosure to Isreal; thus, images were prohibited.’  Images of God were also not allowed in order to maintain a continuing consciousness among God’s people that there is a distinction between the Creator and the finite creation, which ‘cannot even remotely accord with the absolute, transcendental character of the God of Isreal…..  ‘God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.’ (John 4:24)  To worship an image of any part of the creation is to take away from the incomparable glory of God:  ‘I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images’.  (Is 42:8)…

In expounding on the second commandment, Clavin asserts that representing God by images of His creation is forbidden because as soon as people, who are so bound by physical surroundings, imagine a created image in connection to the deity, they are distracted from God’s true spiritual being, and to some degree the deity is conceived of in some corporeal way….  ‘Since God has prescribed to us how He would be worshipped by us [ie., apart from any images whatsoever], whenever we turn away in the very smallest degree from this rule, we make to ourselves other gods, and degrade Him from His right place.'”  -We Become What We Worship, G.K. Beale

Obviously, Christ became man.  And so we have the second member of the Godhead in a form we can understand.  But making an image of the Father?  Is it really okay to pray to a fat black woman named Mama?  Or, as so many who love The Shack contend – God will reveal Himself as we need Him to…  The Scriptural reality though, is that creating any image of God, when He has chosen to not reveal Himself in a specific form, is idolatry. 


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rick
    Feb 23, 2009 @ 08:44:26

    wow … i bought a copy of the shack but haven’t read it … it just doesn’t feel right … this input was the most compelling … most of the other feedback i saw seemed quite nit-picky but i like your thought process here …


  2. Nicole
    Feb 23, 2009 @ 11:28:29

    Rick! It’s good to see you again… Thanks for the thoughts!


  3. Jeromy
    Feb 23, 2009 @ 20:36:21

    No one that I know who has read the Shack is now praying to a “fat black woman named mama” or worshiping an image of any such woman claiming it is God. I think the connection between “The Shack” (a work of fiction) and image idolatry is, in my opinion, extreme and an over-reaction.

    Do I think we should worship a man-made image of God? Absolutely not. Do I think the Shack is condoning idolatry and such image-worship? Again, absolutely not.


  4. Nicole
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 10:01:23

    Young had an imaginary conversation with her, that you can read about…

    I would agree Jeromy – people aren’t out there praying to God as revealed in the book. That said, the following are all quotes of what people DO think about how God chose to reveal himself in The Shack. The fact that everyone is comfortable with a God, who has intentionally remained without an image, to be given an image (any image) is a problem. We are now all at liberty to do what the Isrealites were commanded not to do – which is commit idolatry, by visualising the Father….

    “God wants us to receive him and I think he will do what is necessary to help us come to him with all of us–not holding back.”
    “And that in his power and sovereignty he could choose to reveal himself however he wishes.”
    “He chose to temporarily reveal Himself through an image that wouldn’t scare or intimidate Mack. God can reveal Himself to any individual the way He cares to in order to draw that person to Himself.”


  5. Jeromy
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 18:28:31

    Even with those quotes I am still not seeing the idolatry connection. I wonder if C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books got the same idolatry reaction when he wrote a fictional depiction of God as a talking lion?


  6. Jenn
    Feb 25, 2009 @ 09:27:09

    In a broader sense, have you listened to the words of some of your favourite worship songs lately? I can think of a few off the top of my head that give a “word picture” of what/who God is. I’m not saying that worship songs are gospel (small play on words there;) ) but I have to agree with Jeromy that the comparison here leans towards the extreme.
    God will reveal Himself as He finds best suitable to connect with us. Does that mean He is revealing His entire self or that we now know all there is by catching an intimate glimpse of Him? The very short answer is no.


  7. Nicole
    Feb 26, 2009 @ 13:51:45

    There is a difference between allegory, and placing words in God’s mouth… That said, Lewis did not write his books as allegory…

    I’m not saying the comparison does not strike at the more extreme end of dealing with The Shack – I am asking though, what is the biblical definition of idolatry, and does the book fit?

    What does God revealing Himself in the best way to connect to us actually mean, or entail?


  8. Steve G
    Mar 13, 2009 @ 09:01:08

    Idolatry is anything that takes our eyes off of God. It could be money, a relationship, a discussion about a book… Many churches and people have crosses on the walls and in jewellry. How are those things not idols in this sense?

    There are several instances in the Old Testament where we see either Theophanies, Christophanies and/or angels. Melchezidek was a type of Christ as shown in Hebrews. The Song of Solomon is more than just a love story between a king and his woman, but a picture of God’s love for us.

    Jesus used parables that showed God as a business leader, a boss, even a father. The Shack is just a book, poorly written by many authors’ opinions. It has grabbed peoples’ attention, though, and there is value in using it as a starting point in talking about who the Creator of the ends of the earth is, and who we are before Him.

    In Acts we find the command to not eat meat offered to idols given by the council in Jerusalem. In a letter Paul says it is fine to do that. The issue is attitude and intent, the part God sees, not just result (the part man sees). This is the difference between Romans and James. Romans looks at faith from God’s perspective, while James looks at it from mans’. That is why James is heavy on the doing, because the doing flows from our being. So many people try to act holy on their own strength, without the inner change of surrender to God. That is why Romans 7 was written. Too often we focus on getting the judging right that we miss the opportunities for ministry.

    If the Shack is an issue for you (or anyone), let it go and trust God will deal with it (unless God has specifically called you to be the one to deal with it (which is a whole other topic)). Use your time to focus on what is right (Philippians) and true.


  9. Steve G
    Mar 13, 2009 @ 09:12:04

    I have to add one more thing. Let me start with a story from the book Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You.

    “I have a mental picture—more like a video clip—of what it looks like when God decides which strengths to give someone. Perhaps God gazes down at a child (let’s say the child is you), a big grin on His face. His eyes twinkle at the sight of you. An angel stands behind Him, holding an enormous book filled with every good thing—page after page of strengths, talents, and breathtaking abilities.
    These qualities are found in The Creator of this child.
    The angel thumbs through the book. “Most Holy One, which gifts will You give this child?”
    God’s eyes dance with delight as He ponders the wonders He can bestow upon you. He doesn’t want to rush this moment of joyous
    contemplation. He peers down at you, His smile growing. Suddenly, God throws his head back and laughs with pure joy. The sound is like every bird on earth singing all at once. Oh, He knows you so well. He knows what will bring you joy. The angel laughs with God. “Will You give this child courage? A love of nature? A sense of humor? Creativity?”
    The Lord of Heaven and Earth touches your cheek. “To this child I’ve already given the greatest gift of all. I have given my Son so we can forever be connected in relationship.”
    Then God, overflowing with happiness, throws His arms over His head and exclaims, “But even still, I have every good gift to give. I’m generous beyond all human measure. The joy it brings me is uncontainable.”
    The Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, bends down and whispers in your ear, “Here my child. These are for you. I give you these gifts. Grow in them. Explore them. Use them to bring glory to My name. Let them be a constant reminder of My great love for you.”

    Much of life and our faith is shame-based. We look at the failures and weakness, trying to make them better, never reaching much past the level of our failures. Is that really how God sees us? Is that what John 10:10 is all about? I am becoming convinced that view is backwards. We need to look at our strengths and gifts, and go through life using and working with those things in our life that work well, that brings us joy, that connects us to why we were created. Yes, we put boundaries and strive with sin, but that is worked out as God works in us. How does this relate to this discussion? If you are for the Shack – go ahead and quote it and use it in your ministry in a balanced way. If you are not for it, find what you are for and use that to encourage and edify and reach the lost with the Good News. Our weakness and failures can become idols if they take our eyes of Jesus and the stuff He has given us to do.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: