Holy Other


I’m reading The Shack by William P. Young. I am not finished, it will take me quite some time to complete.  I’m not a slow reader, I’m just taking my time.   I want to think through the teaching for it truly is a book that has proposed to give us a view of God we might not have previously encountered.  Many have jumped on the bandwagon to proclaim it as the new Pilgrim’s Progress for our generation.  But as I said, I’m not finished with it, I don’t have a clear opinion at this time.

But this one paragraph stood out to me.  Elousia, (Papa, the Father showing up as an African-American woman) is speaking to Mack (the main character) about our misconceptions of God:

The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn’t much, and then call that God.  And while it may seem like a noble effort, the truth is that it falls pitifully short of who I really am.  I’m not merely the best version of you that you can think of.  I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think.

Now, I don’t really have a problem with that paragraph, I believe it is accurate.  We do this.  Instead of going to the Word made available to us, we would rather create our own God (although I’m not sure the author has not fallen into the very same trap…did you notice the link to Elousia…man-made image…what was Young’s intent?).

But God is Holy Other.  He is not like us.  We are His creation, not the other way around.  Yet once we begin to try and define Him in our own terms, we have lessened Him.  We have made Him too small.  He IS above and beyond anything we can ask or think.  So how do we KNOW who He is?

First, may I suggest, we will NOT find Him in the latest book, the most recent depiction, or any “new thing” in the church.  He is not a fad.   He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

But we CAN find Him.  He did come to show us Himself.  Clearly.  For all people to see.  We can go to the ancient word and see Him.  No other word will give us a complete understanding of all He determined to reveal to us.

From John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  ~John 1:1-2

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”  ~John 1:45

According to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  ~Matthew 5:17-18

According to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said:

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.  But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.  ~Luke 16: 16-17

Paul stated during his trial:

But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers,believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets  ~Acts 24:14

Then in his letter to the Romans:

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe  ~Romans 3:21-22

Peter declared:

For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. ~2 Peter 1:16

Jude, the brother of James and the half-brother of Jesus:

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. ~Jude 1:3

What’s my point?  We have a sure word made manifest to us through Jesus Christ.  We can know ALL God wants us to know about Him from Genesis to Revelation.  He was in the beginning with God and He is God; He was proclaimed throughout the Law and the Prophets;  the apostles bore witness concerning Him.

Why do I continue to make this point, post after post after post?  Because…if we are looking somewhere besides the scripture for “revelation,” we are looking in the wrong place.  It’s been said.  It’s a complete picture.  We are not to “add to” or “take away from” His word.

Do I think The Shack is wrong?  Not sure yet…but I am reading it with the Bible by my side.


20 responses »

  1. Interesting! I haven’t read this book yet but a friend just told me she’s reading it … and also trying to decide what she thinks. I might need to give it a read, too!

  2. Hello, Faith! There is so much hype about it now, I’m just a bit wary. Certainly don’t want to endorse something I haven’t yet made up my mind about – just hoping others are reading it with the sword of truth in their hand.

  3. I have read the book and commented on it a while back on another blog.

    I do agree that there is alot of ‘hype’ (both positive and negative about it) and that should make one leary of making too much of it. (Most definitely, the Word is the standard to judge it by).

    First of all, it is FICTION (even the storyline and characters), and that isn’t too clear from the start (except by reading some of the recommendations on the cover).

    So, to me it is just one person’s interesting perception of God and how He ‘revealed’ Himself in a way that was ‘custom designed’ for that person (with all his specific ‘baggage’).

    In that context, my husband had an interesting question after reading the book,
    “So, what is the baggage I’M carrying that God would want to reveal Himself to ME about?”

    Strange as it may seem to us (if ours is different than the author’s), he presents God as a caring loving ‘Papa’ who would go to any lengths to ‘draw close to us’ if we will take the ‘risk’ of ‘drawing close to Him’ and not allowing sterotypes or emotional burdens to keep us from finding Him (Jer. 29:13).

    ‘Just my perspective on the author’s perspective =).


  4. I am reading it..I am reading it like a novel and not a Bible…I think that is different..I also think that anything that would stir someones mind to even think about who God is…is a tool GOD will use…

    I am not sure what the hype is about the Shack…and if we start to get stressed about God showing up as an African Woman…people in America already have an image like that…

    I read Pilgrims progress as a child..and did not get a picture of God like I thought..but many years later, I remembered how kneeling at the cross, removed my heavy burden.

    I am not finished yet either…but I am keeping an open mind..and forcing myself to remember this is not a book to teach, its a book to read.

  5. It’s fiction…alot of fiction…and I’m with Darla dear…I find alot wrong with it when compared with scripture which makes me nervous for new or potential believers…BUT, God is faithful, and so I pray for people who read it will realize, it’s fiction.

    Love you Michelle, hope ur having a great day! 🙂

  6. I liked it because it challenged a lot of stuff we have been believeing for generations, that is NOT in the Bible. I am not sure he replaced it with truth, always. A lot of it we won’t know until we get to heaven. I would not give it to an unbeliever or a new believer either. But it is very thought provoking for people who understand we always should use discernment.

    About the part you were addressing Michelle, I agree with you, but I also love that God made us in His image and then became one of us, so that we would be able to relate to Him and have some things in common. 🙂

  7. I like your perspective, Laz. I’m reading it with the same understanding. The issue I’ve had with it is in holding it up as truth, quoting from it as if it is the authority we can to stand upon. Remembering it’s fiction is key.

    Hey, Darla. I don’t have an issue with God showing up as an African American woman, kind of like George Burns in “O God,” very approachable. I do have a problem if there is any connection being made to a “goddess” worship, or the mother of Heaven. That distortion is not scriptural.

    Yes, Debs, keeping it in its proper place is my whole point. I do believe; however, we are so biblically illiterate these days that many won’t see if any “destructive heresies” are entwined. Discerning the truth seems to be harder and harder for the church. I’m with Jude on this, we need to be earnestly contending for the faith that has been passed down to us.

  8. Yes, Tawny! As I’ve stated, I’m not finished with it, but I am concerned, as you mentioned, about the new believer or the unbeliever taking it at face value. It’s been a gripping book so far, I’m just stating a word of caution.

    When I first ran across the paragraph I quoted, I thought it was great and completely accurate about the way we have “made” God in our image. I’m hoping the rest of the book is as thought-provoking.

  9. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you SO much! Seriously, I was shouting and clapping and saying, “PREACH IT!!” while I was reading. SO good. SO true. I love it. Wow. I can’t expound on what you wrote. God is the SAME yesterday, today, forever. The WORD was made flesh. Whew. YES!!!!!! There is a man in Michigan who found my site when I posted on “Angie’s question” about being complete in God apart from church. He’s in the ‘church is off course and needs to be totally re-vamped’ camp. I think I mentioned him before. Anyway. He keeps arguing details about church – pastor’s role, what the congregation looks like, how big it is, what the format for teaching is, etc …. and it gets so bogged down in ‘function.’ The substance is Christ!! It always was! Form it or fashion it however suits the moment, but keep the substance Christ, and the people will be filled. The people go away hungry when they have no bread – “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” Dead churches don’t need a better structure. They need GOD’S PRESENCE once again. And as you pointed out so well … His Word is Himself … written down so we could read and know Him. Wow. Okay. I am SO on this page with you. Thanks for the AWESOME post.

  10. Yay, Annie!! I’m glad you heard my heart! Thank you for the encouraging words. We have so much to learn from the Bible alone, and have yet lived it out in its fullness as the body of Christ, why do we spend so much time looking elsewhere?


  11. I know you are Michelle…sorry if I came across that you weren’t…There are just so many who have read this and NOT seen the heresy…. 😦 The enemy is a sneaky one!….love you!

  12. No worries…we’re on the same page, Debs. You haven’t said anything I haven’t agreed with, just expounding a bit more…I love you too!!

    I should be using emoticons today, sorry, my bad. 😉

  13. Thanks, Dan, for these reviews! I read through both of them and found myself in much agreement. The point made about the same deception Gorbachev touted in 1997 struck my memory and the study I did at that time. These ideas of being one in a circle of unity is eastern mysticism once again. We are created. We are not and never will be on equal footing with our Creator…NEVER!

    Thanks again.

  14. I started this book….actually had several people say, “you have to read this..”
    I started it.

    maybe the time is just not now for me personally.

    I began reading it b/c people that loved me told me I would love it.
    So I started reading it, and just could not engage. As I said before: maybe timing?

    I have to say that the one who put the book into my hands was truly changed by what she read…..she even read it to her husband, who wept at parts as she was reading….out of a sense, I believe of being accepted and loved as he is. ( maybe something about what they read made him realize that the way God sees him is different that what he though)

    It seems that this work of fiction is sweeping though many communities.

    God could very well be using it.

  15. Good morning, Storie. Thanks for commenting.

    Emotions can certainly be strong when reading good fiction. I thought the review by Challies in Dan’s comment made a great point concerning fiction. This type of book is considered theological fiction, a genre which can be manipulative to the undiscerning eye, especially when our emotions are affected.

    I’ve never truly trusted my emotions, I’ve found they can influence distorted thinking within me. I must take every speculation and lofty thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t always think emotions (or popularity) are the best tool for discerning a movement of God.

    Storie, I don’t mean to sound harsh. I am sorry if I’ve come across that way, I hope you can hear my heart in this. 😕

  16. Hi Michelle, I love the way you pointed our hearts to Jesus in this post. God made flesh. It made me think of His Name too, Immanuel, “God with us” Matthew 1:23.
    Thanks Michelle, God bless 🙂

  17. Good morning, Birgit, at least it is still here. Thank you for the encouraging words here and on your blog!! He is always the point.

    God bless you.


  18. Thanks this is a great post. I know people who will read a book like this and then base their whole life on it because it is ‘christian’ after all. But you are so right- Jesus is the only way, the only answer- no book however wisely or eloquently written can fill that gap.

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