Review: The Shack – Trinity

The ShackThe last section of Challies review is, Trinity: Who is God? He starts of by asking a simple question, “does The Shack teach what the Bible teaches [about the Trinity]?” [11] The simple answer is probably not, because the Bible does not really teach much about the Trinity. However, The Shack does explain the Trinity in a very easy to understand way. Challies immediately goes on a tangent claiming that Young is sinning by portraying God and the Holy Spirit in a human form. Claiming that the “Bible is clear that God cannot and must not be portrayed in an image” [11] is a not accurately describing the Bible. There are many instances within Scripture where God is given human attributes — Exodus 7:5, “I stretch out My hand;” Numbers 6:24, “The Lord make His face shine on you;” Psalm 34:15, “The eyes of the Lord;” Psalm 89:10, “Thy mighty arm.” Furthermore, Young is not truly presenting God as a human figure. God admits, in The Shack, that their forms are not their actual forms. They are representing themselves to Mack as a way to relate to him.

Challies goes on to attack Young’s view of hierarchy. However, this again becomes a verbal dispute. Challies assumes because Young says that there is no hierarchy between the Trinity, then there is no submission between the Trinity. But Young never claims that, in fact, quite the opposite – Jesus does submit to Papa in The Shack. Further, in The Shack, when they discuss their relationship as the Trinity, they are discussing it as a relationship with no need for hierarchy. They have such a “good” relationship, that they can submit to one another without a predefined ranking order. This is not a Scriptural idea, but it’s not a unScriptural idea. Challies’ (and other traditional Christians) idea that hierarchy exists between the Trinity is also not Scriptural and it is also not unScriptural. Challies’ complaint is one of traditional understanding, not one of Scriptural purity – although he seems to confuse the two.

Challies brings up Young’s view of distinction, complaining that Young blurs the lines of that personhoods of the Trinity. He questions The Shack saying, “In one of his first encounters with Papa, ‘Mack
noticed the scars in her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his’ (95). Note that these scars were present on the wrists of the Father and not just the Son.” [14] Claiming that Young believes that the Father was on the cross. However, it is quite clear that since Papa admits that he is neither male nor female, then Young is clearly using physical symbolism to represent truth. The truth that Young is claiming is that Jesus sacrifice was felt by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit as well. This is not too hard to believe, afterall, do not most traditional Christians believes that the Godhead was changed when God the Son became man? I do not think that Young is blurring the lines of personhood here, he is showing God the Father as a compassionate person of the Trinity.

Many follow Challies here in discussing Young’s attempt at revealing God as a female. Claiming that Young is teaching Goddess worship or worse. Challies himself Pidgeon-holes himself by saying that because God has revealed himself in the masculine in Scripture then Young has no right to allow God to reveal himself as a fat black woman in The Shack. Even though Papa admits, “I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are derived from my nature. If I choose to appear to you as a man or a woman, it’s because I love you. For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you keep from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning.” (93) Later Papa reveals himself to Mack as a male figure. (218-219) Papa does this because Mack is about to go through a particularly hard time and Papa wanted to reveal himself in a way that would comfort Mack the most. This is not Goddess worship at all, this is God revealing himself in a special way to someone who needs him.

To Challies “one of the most disturbing aspects of The Shack is the behavior of Mack when he is in the presence of God.” His complaint was that Mack does not act as awe struck as Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Moses (Exodus 3:6). Although it is true that these people had a distant, even scary, encounter with God… does not the Gospel allow us to enter the presence of the Father through Jesus? Not to mention, The Shack is not about the awesome power of God. The Shack is about God comforting and teaching one of his children. Mack may not be in awe of God, but it is because of Mack’s anger towards God. There are numerous Christians in this world this very day who are angry with God. Whether or not that is right is besides the point. Young does not claim that Mack’s attitude is right – in fact – the very nature of this book is to claim that Mack’s attitude towards God is unjustified.

Challies ends this section asking, “Should God allow in His presence the very sins for which He sent His Son to die? Would a man stand before the Creator of the Universe and curse? What kind of God is the God of The Shack?” Which only indicates that Challies did not understand the point of The Shack and seemingly does not understand propitiation or sin.

Table of Contents:

  1. My Thoughts
  2. Subversion
  3. Revelation
  4. Salvation
  5. Trinity
  6. Conclusion