Thursday, June 19, 2008

God the Father according to THE SHACK

(This is only based upon the 1st 94 pages of the book)

On page 94 of "The Shack" by William P. Young, Mack says to God the Father, who is at this moment a woman who goes by the name Papa:

"But then... why is there such an emphasis on you being a Father? I mean, it seems to be the way you most reveal yourself."
"Well," responded Papa, turning away from him and bustling around the kitchen, "there are many reasons for that, and some of them go very deep. Let me say for now that we knew once the Creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering. Don't misunderstand me, both are needed -- but an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence."

I will make three points about this controversial stance:

  1. According to Young, even before the fall, God knew that fathering would be lacking in an imperfect world, so He decided to emphasize this facet of his being. Or is it that we can see the areas of greatest potential for God to be imaged forth as being the most attacked and distorted? The enemy can only counterfeit and distort, he doesn't create. Therefore, we can detect the potential areas for greatest glory by looking at the areas that are most distorted and deficient in creation. But, of course, this would mean that the father/maleness of God is the genuine expression of God. This doesn't demean femininity in any way, nor does it relegate women to inferior status. Femaleness is part of the image of God; there is no denial in this. However, the point here is simply that the deficiency of fatherhood has a reason; and Young fails to acknowledge that the reason is that God's primary expression of himself is that of Father, which is why the enemy has so distorted this image.
  2. Consider the fact that if we were to apply "Papa's" reasoning with Mack about appearing as a woman ("Hasn't it always been a problem for you to embrace me as your father? And after what you've been through you couldn't very well handle a father right now, could you?" p.93), we would need to apply this to all of humanity since this is the story of most of humanity -- an absence of true fatherhood. If mothering is the cure, why would God decide to emphasize His fatherhood with all of humanity except for Mack? Why wouldn't He help Mack to understand Him as a Father? Why would he do the absolute opposite to the rest of the world, and fail to comfort the world as He did Mack? Like Mack, the world would be able to embrace God better if He were to reveal himself as mother. This is a circular argument.
  3. Most of all, Young's argument disregards the concept of Truth. Young doesn't portray the Father-hood of God as Truth; it's simply a counterbalance; even though he applies fatherhood with contradiction. The Bible reveals God in masculine terms. God always speaks of himself in the masculine. I can only think of a couple of verses where he uses imagery that parallels that of a woman (1. as a woman in labor gasping and about to cry out 2. as a mother who will not forget her children). Nevertheless, the overwhelming revelation of God is in masculine terms. The New Testament emphasizes the Fatherhood of God with a new depth of revelation beyond the old covenant. Further, Jesus is the Son, and His bride is the church. The only way to deny the TRUTH of this revelation of God in scripture is to deny the authority of scripture. Young does both. He denies the authority of scripture, and yet claims that God is the author of scripture: Papa tells Mack that He purposely emphasized His masculinity. So the authority of scripture is denied, but the author of scripture is God. The scriptures speak with authority about God as Father. Yet, Young's portrayal of God is that He was simply humoring us at best, which leaves us with a God we can't trust.
*****Please note that I am not criticizing Young's allegorical portrayal of God as a woman. Though I don't particularly dig his imagery, it's a personal matter of taste. I do concede to the function of allegory and fiction. However, I am criticizing what comes out of God's mouth. If Papa had never explained why she was appearing as a female, I wouldn't have made this critique. Or if it had been a better explanation like: "I felt like messing with your mind", I wouldn't have critiqued.

For more on fatherhood check out my follow up post.

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