The Metaphorical Safety of The Shack

So far I have two reviews of The Shack posted.  One, The Shack Review, by a dear brother and fellow church member Wayne Elliott.  The other, Uncovering The Shack, by local yet widely known Pastor Michael Youseff.

Now, I have another dear brother who I recently had a good Southern Baptist dinner with.  For folks not in the know, that’s Wednesday night dinner in the fellowship hall.  This brother understood the nuances and concerns of The Shack.  He kept this in mind while reading The Shack and, therefore, enjoyed the book without worrying about heretical persuasions.  I certainly appreciate this brother admitting there are concerns and approaching the subject as such.  The irony is that this is just the position that would make me not enjoy nor recommend a piece of writing, especially, for spiritual edification.  I would prefer to warn people about such a work and point them to something else.

I really appreciate pastors like, for example, Michael Youseff, Walter Price and my own who understand the importance of protecting the flock.  The Shack is one such item that some pastors have felt the need to protect against.  But is this position warranted?  I recently received a comment in the meta in support of The Shack directed toward Pastor Youseff that answers this question with a “No.”

It’s quite sad that Dr. Youssef so little understands the use of metaphor both in contemporary writing and in the Biblical texts. The Shack was not meant to usurp Biblical theology or doctrine but to force us back to the Scriptures to see if any of the elements of Young’s metaphors have merit. I found the book to be wholly Scriptural and invaluable for people who are seeking God and for those of us who have come to know the goodness of God’s salvation thru Christ Jesus. Youssef’s emotions clearly cloud his judgement of this book.

I honestly doubt that Dr. Youseff has little understanding in the usage of biblical metaphor.  I imagine he does not like the usage of the current (postmodern?) contemporary metaphors used in describing God.  I wonder what example the commentor had in mind that might show Youseff’s short-comings in this area.  If The Shack was meant to force us back to the Bible to see if it actually has any merit then what good are the metaphors?  What clarity and insight would this bring to knowing God?  If this book is given to those who are “seeking” God, but the biblical imagery isn’t on the surest of footing where does the seeker end up in their understanding?  There is a sense of agreement about Youseff’s judgments on this book, but I would say he is clearing the clouds through discernment.  We see God describing Himself anthromorphically so we can understand Him better, but where do we see God metaphorically described in a way in which He is a sinful person?

Biblical metaphors are, for example, more often like Ezekiel 43:2 and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. This is a powerful image that displays God awesomeness, power and glory.  Maybe one disagrees that this is any more powerful or accurate than the imagery used in The Shack, but this is how the bible normally portrays God.

For what it’s worth,

Mark

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1 Bruce September 9, 2008 at 11:46 pm

I too have some reservations concerning the shack. I have heard people say, “it is the best thing that ever happened to them”. I also know of counselors giving the book as a source of truth. This book is carrying considerable weight with a great number of people. Therefore it warrants careful discernment.

Metaphor – 1. a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance.

Concerning the use of metaphors I would point out that the metaphor being used should not contradict the object of the metaphor It should show a resemblance. To borrow an example from a previous post (The Shack Review August 8th). . .

Sarayu (Young’s Sanscrit name for the Holy Spirit): “We [the Trinity] carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems even while we seek to free you from them.” (“Neither are your ways my ways . . . my ways are higher than your ways.” Isaiah 55:8-9. Does God respect man’s choices, or does His Word demand that we repent of our ways and that we enter His narrow way?)

God does not consider us at all in carrying out His will and we a foolish to think that He does. He certainly doesn’t take into consideration what we think. Therefore there is no resemblance to the God of the scripture. This viewpoint also points to the Open Theism which is becoming more and more prevalent.

George Barna reports that . . .

# Half of born again Christians (46%) agree that Satan is “not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” (2007)
# 37% of born agains believe that if a person is good enough they can earn a place in Heaven. (2007)
# 26% of born agains agree that “while he lived on earth, Jesus committed sins, like other people,” compared to 41% of all adults. (2007)

When studies such as Barna’s, point out the errors as those listed above it behooves us to sound the alarm. Yes I know it is fiction. The sad fact is that a small percentage of people will take the time test the validity of a concept. It is time for the men in the pulpit to take their charge as seriously as Michael Youssef. We need pastors who will teach the Bible so that the sheep will know a counterfeit when they see it.

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