There is a movie coming out next month called The Shack based on the popular, best-selling Christian novel. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard a lot about it. After seeing the trailer, I really want to see the movie. I may even read the book.
The novel has stirred up a little of a ruckus around Christian community. Some people love its message of grace and healing and the need to forgive. Others get really mad because God is portrayed as a black woman. The latter really makes my heart sad. Here’s why.
Its terribly difficult to be a Christian author. As a writer who is a Christian, I question a lot of what I write. Sometimes its paralyzing. I fall into analysis paralysis, questioning if what I write is going to be theologically sound. Does what I write represent God well? Does it reflect Christ?
The problem that I’ve seen is this – when it comes to people putting art or writing or whatever out in public that is supposed to reflect Christ, if it misses the mark just a little bit, then Christian community has tended to be merciless with that artist. Stones fly and words condemn.
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They emphasized tradition and religious works over compassion and forgiveness. The tradition of the Pharisees was actually rooted in something good – obedience to God. However, by the time of Jesus’ birth it had been taken to such an extreme that it became obedience to God even if it meant trampling on the down-trodden or at least ignoring them.
Good theology without good grace makes a Pharisee.
Its written in the Bible to be wary of false teachings. We should test everything and not be accepting of everything that claims to be truth. What the Bible does not teach is to throw people under the bus. In one of Paul’s letters, he wrote that he had to oppose Peter to his face. Peter sided with a group of Jewish Christians called “the circumcision group” that divided themselves from non-Jewish Christians. Paul saw that wasn’t right, and so he opposed Peter. The big difference between Paul opposing Peter and writing a blog post or a tweet is that Paul knew Peter. He served alongside Peter. Christian opposition to bad teaching and bad action should never be about throwing someone under the bus. Its always about restoration to truth.
All that said, The Shack isn’t really teaching. Its a fiction novel. The characters in the novel that are symbolic for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just that – symbolic. Jesus never knew kung-fu like Neo in The Matrix. He also never shot laser beams out of his eyes like Superman or drew a sword against an army of orcs like Aragorn. God is not Morgan Freeman like in Bruce Almighty. He’s also not George Burns.
In the end, when it comes to reading books a friend of mine gave some advice that I think is extremely helpful. Look for the pearls and throw away the shells. Very few things, if any at all, that we read will ever be perfect.