“God as He Has Revealed Himself”

When I wrote my previous posts on Christian Myths, I did not have the currently popular “The Shack” in mind. I have not read this book, only some of the buzz surrounding it on the web.

This statement by Tom Neven at Boundless Line regarding the novel, however, intersects with the point I was making [please note the highlighted portions]:

If you’re going to ground your fiction in the real world, then it must conform to the rules of the real world we live in. No unicorns or magic squirrels allowed. Even one of my favorite literary genres, Magical Realism, adheres to certain basic rules.

So if you’re going to have God as a character in your real-world fiction, then you must deal with God as he has revealed himself in Scripture.
By using the Trinity as characters in this story set in the real world, The Shack author William P. Young is clearly indicating that he’s supposedly talking about the God of Christianity. But God has said certain things about himself in Scripture, and much of what Young does in this novel contradicts that. I don’t care if he’s trying to make God more “accessible.” He’s violated the rules of fiction.

More important, why does Young feel the need to change the character of God in this story? In a way, he’s saying that the God who reveals himself to us in the Bible is insufficient. Young needs to “improve” the image to make it more palatable. But as I said in the original post, God never changes himself so that we can understand Him better. He changes us so that we can see Him as he truly is. If God changed his nature, He would cease to be God.

This quote is also a part of Tim Challies most recent post on the subject.

Now, as I said, I haven’t read the book so for the moment let’s ignore the debate over it and its theology. This isn’t a “Shack” post. I simply wanted to point out the statements that I believe provide some boundaries for the personification of God in fiction.

Depending on whose review you read, you can come to your own conclusion as to whether this book is Christian Myth-making or not. One way or the other, it certainly highlights the contemporary relevance of the issue and the need for discerning restraint.

Previous Related Posts:
And Man Created God in His Own Image
In Our Image
Tozer Agrees With Me


5 thoughts on ““God as He Has Revealed Himself”

  1. Great thoughts Cameron.. I wonder if the Isaiah 6 vision of God on a throne would be something similar where God is envisioned in man-like form? Of course most people understand the imagery and would not read too much into the imagery.. but I guess some might. Your thoughts?

  2. KB, the distinction of Isaiah 6 is that again, that is God’s revelation of Himself as opposed to man’s perception of Him. In my thoughts, it is dangerous to try to read too much into the anthropomorphic revelations of God. Personally I believe to go beyond what is clear in Scripture is to venture onto shaky ground.

  3. Gotta agree with you Cameron.. there is a lot of weird teaching out there using some of the imagery in Isaiah, Daniel and Revelation.

    Ever wonder why people embrace the Lake of Fire and New Jerusalem so literally?

  4. I agree with your basic point here nephos to not overstep boundaries which blur the revelation of Himself God has given. I am curious about your take on distingishing between the parts of the Bible that are intended as symbolic and those intended as literal?? What role do you see the Holy Spirit having in helping to interpret Scripture accurately as there are a plethora of interpretations which have come down for 2,000 years. The Holy Spirit can’t be schizophrenic??? Just thoughts you brought to mind from your sharing.

  5. Robert, thanks for taking the time to read and respond.

    To answer your questions:
    1) There is no question that portions of the Bible are symbolic. Taking each passage from a “literal” view, does not rule out the use of figures of speech, types, or symbolism. Your question gets to the heart of the matter, that is, discerning the difference. Some things are clear (“camel through the eye of a needle” – obvious hyperbole) and others are not. One primary indicator I look at is context. Both immediate and extended context provide insight into how certain words, phrases, and ideas are used, and give some insight into the author’s intent. This is a fundamental necessity in distinguishing literal/symbolic.

    2) Truth is truth and does not change, but the Church’s understanding of it has certainly developed over time and should continue. I do believe that the Holy Spirit is our guide in truth, but I do not believe that any Christian is or has been a perfect follower. That is why I emphasize the danger of creating an image of God that reflects our own. You’re right, the Holy Spirit is not schizophrenic, and we must all beware the human element in our understanding of truth.

    These are really important questions, and I appreciate the discussion. I would just add that there are some areas where Christians equally committed to the authority of Scripture may still disagree. A student of the Word can be right on the essentials and get some of the non-essentials wrong. That will continue to be true until we get to heaven, and God straightens out all of us!

    Thanks again for visiting and commenting.

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