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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Let me suggest that you read The Shack if you haven’t.
Author: Fraser Trevor
Rating 5 of 5 Des:
The Shack (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) The Shack is a story of the lavish grace of the triune God. That powerful focus is both the boo...
The Shack
The Shack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Shack is a story of the lavish grace of the triune God. That powerful focus is both the book’s strength and weakness.
Mack’s despair after his daughter is kidnapped and brutally murdered in a decrepit, remote shack, leaves him coldly bitter toward the God who allowed it. But God won’t leave him alone in his bitterness. Papa (the Father) invites Mack to meet Him at the shack. The place of horror becomes the place of renewing.
I was deeply impacted by this powerfully written story. I appreciate his exposition of Genesis 3, the models of incarnation and forgiveness, the power of the presence of God in evil places, among others. I resonate with God pursuing Mack to help him face the deep sadness so he could overcome his bitterness and brokenness. But God does not stop with helping a victim of evil. He takes Mack on to face his own sinfulness and find true forgiveness. God goes to the root of things in the gentle power called grace.
Isn’t Papa too familiar, too much the buddy? Where is the Isaiah 6 "holy, holy, holy is the LORD" whose presence brings Isaiah to cry, "Woe to me! I am ruined!"? It’s the question of the balance between God’s otherness and closeness. Many in my camp (Reformed Evangelical more or less) tend toward otherness. They also tend to see holiness, justice and wrath as God’s key attributes. Grace and love are primarily seen in the setting aside of His righteous anger rather than as a genuine compassion and desire to come alongside and help. But zeal for the holiness of the LORD must never keep one from wondering praise as the LORD moves graciously to cleanse sinful Isaiah.
Genesis 18 is a "Shack-like" story. The LORD comes to Abraham, Then three guys (I think I can show this is the Trinity at work) accept Abraham’s invitation to sit down for lunch and conversation. Note how gentle the LORD is here. He repeats His promise of a child. When Sarah cannot contain her bitter laughter, the LORD hears her unbelief and pursues her. But instead of rebuking her, He gently reaffirms His promise. How "Shack-like." Then He and Abraham discuss the LORD’s righteousness. "How can You destroy innocent people?" Abraham dares ask. Instead of rising to His throne of omnipotent holiness, the LORD gently interacts with Abraham so he will understand gracious justice. How "Shack-like."
Now I’ll quickly admit that The Shack’s portrayal of the Father as Aunt Jeremia mixing up pancakes for the boys isn’t a picture that resonates with me. But instead of blasting it as heresy, perhaps it would be good to listen to the explanation of why the Father comes to Mack in this particular form and why He later comes as a strong male figure. You’ll understand some of Young’s reasons if you’ll watch his "Story behind the Story" at www.livinghopechurch.com. Go to videos, past series, and you’ll see The Shack. As you watch you’ll see Young’s hope that God’s wrath is like his wife’s wrath when she discovered his infidelity. That kind of wrath redeems.
Young’s point is that the shack is a metaphor for all the trash in our lives. Religion teaches us to build a facade in front of it hoping that God and others will be impressed and like us, all the while desperately hiding the shack with its sin, ugliness that is our shame. The message of The Shack is that the LORD is not sitting on his heavenly throne disappointedly demanding that we clean up our shack. He is waiting to meet us in the shack and help us with the cleaning.
Does The Shack teach universalism? It doesn’t. Can the lavishly gracious picture of God be read universalistically? It could. But you’d have to ignore some key points in the book. For example Papa says He is reconciled to the whole world (192). But since reconciliation is a two way street, it must be received. Papa will not force His love on anyone.
In a key passage designed to provoke, Jesus tells Mack that those who love Him come from every kind of system (182). He declares that He has no desire to make them Christian, but to make them brothers and sisters, into "my Beloved." Mack asks, "Does that mean that all roads will lead to you?" Jesus responds, "Most roads don’t lead anywhere." This denies the common form of universalism, that all religions lead to the LORD. However Young’s response falls short of the biblical answer that the only way to the LORD is through Jesus. All religious roads lead to worship and service of other gods and eternal separation from the LORD in hell.
You can find the authors’ responses to criticisms of The Shack atwww.windblownmedia.com. Paul Young’s playful response is in an article called, "The Beauty of Ambiguity (Mystery)" onwww.windrumors.com.
The lavishness of grace in The Shack can bring legalists and religionists to a grace sourced repentance and to a life with Jesus filled with compassionate love and exuberant joy. But that same onesidedness can encourage people caught up in the naive universalism that plagues the church today. Tolerance and being nice, the supreme American virtues lead so many to refuse to believe the reality of people rejecting the Jesus or the LORD’s wrath against unrepentant sin.
Let me suggest that you read The Shack if you haven’t. Then reflect on Genesis 18 as well as Isaiah 6. Perhaps, like Mack, a deepened picture of the LORD will help you face your deep sadness, to repent of your sin as Mack does, to join me hoping for the day of healing in the friend whom I hurt so deeply, to face the people I’ve disappointed, and all those Shackish things. Above all, know that the Lord who meets us in our shack really is the Lord of glory, the LORD of Exodus 34:6-7.

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