Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Shack - Discussing the Trinity Part 1: Papa

Everyone seems to be talking about William Young's, "The Shack" right now, so I thought it would be fun to join the conversation. There are a handful of topics presented in the book that Theologs are discussing. For the sake of time and space, I'll just stick to one issue: The Trinity. Specifically, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Young's portrayal of the Trinity throughout the book, and what are the positive and negative effects this may have on the church?

I'd love to hear feedback from every point of view, but please, let's keep it clean.

With this first post we'll examine "Papa." For the remainder of the discussion I will refer to "Papa" interchangibly with "God" meaning the figure of the Trinity traditionally called "God the Father."

How is he/she portrayed and what are the implications of this portrayal? I'll list a few observations, you can post your responses.

1) God is a woman named "Papa": See p.86 and 91. The average Christian thinks of God as a man, even the Lord's prayer refers to "Our Father," but a number of scholar's conclude that God is genderless. What are your thoughts?

2) God has scars from the cross: On p.95-96 Papa reveals her scarred wrists to Mack. "We were there (on the cross) together." (p.96) Mack asks about Matt.27:46 - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (NIV) Papa responds with "you didn't understand the mystery." So was God crucified with Christ, or was Christ forsaken, or both? One step further, was the Holy Spirit crucified too? ("We were there...")

3) God became human with Christ: See p. 99: "When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of god, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood." Despite the pronoun and tense confusion in this paragraph, what does this say of the incarnation? Were all three human? Or was only Christ human with the other two present in him? Can this question really be answered definitvely?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If the Hebrew culture into which God revealed himself had been matriarchal, I have no doubt that we would be referring to God today as “God the Mother” and to Jesus as, “Jesus the Daughter.” Since the H.S. is generally regarded as genderless, we would probably still be calling “him” the generic “he” rather than “it,” out of respect. The point is that an infinite God can only reveal “himself” to finite beings in terms which they understand, that is, cultural terms. Thus the issue is not about whether God IS a particular gender, but about WHY “he” chose to reveal “himself” in time and space as “he” did. (Note that our language has limitations which force us to refer to God either as “he,” “she,” or “it” and forms thereof.)

In terms of the book, I believe Young’s selection of gender for God may have something to do with his relationship with his own father. My understanding, from interviews that I have heard with the author, is that it was not very good. The main character, Mack, also has issues with his father which may be reflective of Young’s. Since the book was meant to be a metaphor for his own earthly journey, I suspect we can view Young’s use of the gender of God in The Shack not as a literal theological position, but as a literary device to stretch our imaginations about the nature of the God we worship. When we ask the question, “What is God like?”, the term “like” demands comparative answers – answers in terms of human understandings. It may well be that in our culture today, with its increase of single parent (usually the mother) families, father may no longer be the most flattering metaphor.

Perhaps the best portrayal for our sometimes racist, highly narcissistic W.A.S.P. culture is that God is NOT pictured as Caucasian. Personally, I do not have a problem viewing God as an Aunt Jemima standing before a hot stove frying pancakes for her kids. I also recognize that such a view may be quite a stretch for a culture that is used to identifying Jesus as a blue-eyed Nordic type, but it is a stretch that is long overdue. Kudos to Young for making us think about the God we worship.