A friend recently gave me a copy of The Shack to read (click on image at left to find online) It is touted by Eugene Peterson of The Message fame, to be the modern Pilgrims Progress. The basic story is a grieving father receives a note to meet God in the shack where his daughter was murdered. There he meets God and interacts with him (her?). God the Father is a large black lady called Papa – this is a bit of an adjustment, Jesus is a bloke doing his carpentry and the Holy Spirit is a women of Asian origin.
I was skeptical at first, but I actually really enjoyed the book. It is helpful in understanding the trinity in many ways, it really helps one in some sense to wrestle with this eternal mystery of who the three persons of the trinity are. But there are some caveats.
There are some theological issues with the books view on the trinity, so I would be careful about talking it all to heart. The following three where pointed out by Mark Driscoll in a recent sermon he preached at Mars Hill Church.
Firstly, God being a woman is an interesting issue that Mark brings up. I am not sure I entirely agree with him saying this promotes goddess worship. There are attributes of God that reveal himself to us as feminine as well as masculine, the Bible to is written in a male centered society and it would have been natural to address God as father. Unfortunately we have no gender unspecific language to talk of a personal God without falling back to make/female language. I can let this slide, but it is a bit of an adjustment
Secondly there is the issue of modalism. That God has chosen to reveal himself at different times in different ways. So in the OT it is God the father, in the NT God is revealed in Jesus and now we live in the age of the Holy Spirit. This theology denies the distinctiveness of the three persons that have eternally made up the Godhead. They where all together in the beginning as the language of Genesis makes very clear. It is theologically incorrect to pray to God the Father as if He died on the cross – Jesus did. Modalism returns to the idea of one God showing himself in three modes…this is not orthodox doctrine. The Bible attests that the three persons of the Trinity are distinct.
Thirdly and perhaps more importantly there is the issue of hierarchy in the Godhead. The three persons of the Trinity are equally part of God, equally important in us understanding God, but they have different roles. In the book Young has God saying that “hierarchy makes no sense to us” But this is again contradicting scripture. Jesus tells us “I only say what the father tells me to say” Jesus tells us that “I will send the Holy Spirit…” there is a clear structure to the Godhead. There is a flow of authority and power from one to the other. The ancient Christian way of praying by the power of the Spirit through Jesus the Son, to God the Father is helpful in us understanding that there is a hierarchy of roles in the mysterious concept of the Trinity, but that each person has equal place and importance.
So the book is a worthwhile read, but I would be hesitant to base any sort of substantial understanding of the Trinity based upon it. Happy happy…