Saturday, March 11, 2017

"The Shack" Movie: 5 Biblical and Theological Reasons William Paul Young is right and two thousand years of orthodoxy is wrong; Part 7

This blog is much longer than usual. What I have done here is combine the other six blog posts together so it can easily be read as a whole. Even if you have already read the individual posts, it could be good to read them all together as it will present a more clear and complete picture of the point being made.

Here is the body of the blogs combined:

March 3rd, my wife and I went to see "The Shack." It was indeed the best movie I have ever seen. It dealt with the MOST difficult subject that can ever be tackled; where is God in the midst of horrible evil. I am not a movie critic. I am an "amateur theologian" who has spent thirty years examining the gospel and theological views. I have therefore come up with five reasons that "The Shack" is biblical and theologically correct, while all of evangelical and orthodox Christianity is terribly wrong.

The Five Reasons:
  1. God has always wanted to have a personal relationship with humanity from the beginning forward.
  2. God created humanity the way it is, and in spite of that declared that it was "very good."
  3. Jesus overthrew the legal-constitutional focus of scripture in favor of seeing it as the redemptive narrative.
  4. God's ultimate purpose in creation was redemption.
  5. Humanities pathology results from mortality, and the ability to judge what is right and wrong.

Paul Young has developed the book, which ultimately ended up being the movie, based upon the above presuppositions which form the paradigm. Over time, in a series, I will examine and elaborate on each of these reasons. Seeing the movie was a breath of fresh air for my wife and I.... seeing it in the heart of the Bible Belt, and seeing that there was less than thirty people in the theater, is very telling and disheartening.

While there are those who embrace the book, the movie, and the paradigm. There are many who see it as a damnable heresy. That audience is my target. While I may not convince them he is right, I will be able to lend a strong, and well-reasoned voice, that will show that there is truly an alternate lens to look at the biblical narrative, and make sense out of it.

There are equally valid if not more valid ways to read the biblical text, and conclude a completely different paradigm than is currently driving evangelical doctrine. It is time for apologists of a different paradigm to make their case known. If one understands that God's ultimate reason for creation was redemption, which would bring glory to his grace, Ephesians 1:6, then the paradigm that "The Shack" presents would obviously be one that is compatible with the biblical data.

God has revealed Himself in many ways in times past to the prophets. He was a burning bush to Moses, and there are many and varied theophanies in the scriptures. It is not a stretch at all to have God reveal Himself as an African American woman who brought comfort to a young boy in a very difficult and painful childhood. To present that image of Papa merely shows that God will go to any place that is necessary to communicate his love to his children. In Mack's case, he would not have made any progress at all given Mack's relationship with his abusive alcoholic father. To appear as a concerned neighbor that showed him love as a child is precisely the proper image to present.

There is a richness in the imagery and dialog of this movie that tells a most important story. It is a story that demonstrates the lengths to which God has gone to redeem and reconcile humanity. The depravity of humankind is the result of having the appearance of being able to judge good and evil without really knowing the criteria that God alone can use. In subsequent posts, I will develop each of the five points offering biblical evidence of their validity. I highly recommend that everyone interested in Christianity and redemption see this most important movie.

I look forward to continuing this discussion as the days and weeks go on.

Reason One: God has always wanted to have a personal relationship with humanity from the beginning forward

All one has to do is look at Genesis chapter three to find out that prior to the incursion of the knowledge of good and evil God had a close relationship with mankind. Now then, whether one believes that there was a literal Adam and Eve, or that the story of Adam and Eve is allegorical explaining the effect that gaining reasoning had on humanity, it is obvious, that the inspired authors of the biblical text put an emphasis on a personal relationship between God and humanity from the very beginning. Adam is portrayed as having a conversational relationship with God. One can reasonably imagine that this relational aspect is foundational and fundamental to the entire biblical narrative.

God had a personal relationship with Noah and called him to preserve humanity at the time of the flood. Once Abraham was called, God chose to communicate with Him in various ways. A most noticeable way was a trance. Jacob was able to wrestle with God according to the scripture. Moses saw God in the form of a burning bush, and then we are told in Numbers, that God spoke with Moses face to face. Ultimately, God came and dwelt among humanity in the form of His Son Jesus, and now, since the resurrection dwells with believers via the Holy Spirit. The precursor of this was the tabernacle in the wilderness. It was a figure of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Exodus 25:8 NKJV says it all;  "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." God called Israel to have a relationship with them.

It is not strange that God would want a relationship with Mack. Nor, is it strange that He would present himself as an African American woman. Furthermore, the New Testament scripture clearly shows that all of the trinity is included in the relationship. Actually, the evangelical view of a relationship with God is the one that is unbiblical. God has stated through the writer of Hebrews that he would never leave or forsake us. Yet, evangelical doctrine insists on a person having an obedient, compliant relationship. They teach erroneously that one can be out of fellowship with God based upon their attitude and behavior. Yet Mack was able to wrestle with God, not unlike Jacob. He was able to show his anger toward God, thinking that God had abandoned his daughter. In a sense, he was a judge of God. In-spite of that, God loved and wanted a relationship with Mack more than anything. Evangelical and orthodox dogma does not stress how deeply God desires a relationship. It makes it seem as though God only wants a relationship base upon his terms. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Twenty-four years ago, I made a three-day car trip alone from California to St. Louis MO. I was going there to work for about an eight-month stint. I remember so vividly traveling with the sense that Jesus was sitting next to me. He was an ever-present companion on that journey. That was a time of great spiritual growth for me. Essentially, I was alone except for my relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father. That was important in my paradigm shift. God poured so much in me as I prayed, read the scripture, and began to gain insights into His deep and abiding love for me.

There is a lot to be gleaned from watching "The Shack" movie. There was a lot in the book and in my view, the movie is very faithful to the book... it is just simply condensed.

Reason Two: God created humanity the way it is and in spite of that, declared it was "very good."

Ok, you may ask, what does this have to do with "The Shack?" Well, a lot. Evangelical and orthodox doctrine sees humanity, since the fall, essentially evil. In the shack, Paul Williams portrays humanity as capable of unspeakable evil, but viewed by God as essentially good. This of course is a biblical concept based on Genesis 1:31 NKJV  "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day." In case you want to quibble here and say that he was talking about everything he made and not just humanity, I would like to point out that in all the other things that was created God merely said it was good. After adding humanity, God then said that it was very good. This indicates that humanity was the crowning touch in creation.

Paul explained it this way: Romans 7:19-24 NKJV  "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  (20)  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  (21)  I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  (22)  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  (23)  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  (24)  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" The war that is in the members of our body that Paul refers to is the survival instinct. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but it is almost impossible to talk about these five reasons without seeing how inner related they are. Reason 5 deals with the consequences of what has been called the fall. In order to not be robots without choice, it was necessary for humanity to gain the knowledge of good and evil, (reason,) Paul called it the wisdom of the world... "claiming to be wise they became fools."

All of this in no way changes God's original decree. What he created was good, and it was for the purpose of His creation which takes in another of the five reasons. The Shack actually deals with this tension in a very biblical way and helps make sense of the human condition. So we can see that God wanted a relationship with sentient beings who could genuinely love Him and praise his glorious grace. he then created them to be exactly what He wanted and what would bring about the ultimate purpose of creation which was loving Him and praising his grace. 

In the next post we will show that Jesus changed the hermeneutic from a legal-constitutional reading of scripture to one seeing it as the redemptive narrative. This redemptive narrative theme is foundational in the the theology presented by "The Shack."

Reason Three: Jesus overthrew the legal-constitutional focus of scripture in favor of seeing it as the redemptive narrative.

This is the most important point. Reason 3, makes it possible to see that William Paul Young has a much better understanding of the gospel than most. Jesus had two important focal messages with respect to the scripture. 1) It was completely about Him and redemption. 2) He redefined the phrase word of God from Torah, (first five books of the Old Testament,) to gospel (the message of redemption) and to Himself as the living gospel or the gospel made flesh. In so doing, for the New Covenant age, he made the focus change from a legal-constitutional reading for the Old Covenant, to a SOLELY redemptive reading for the New Covenant. I have proven this over and over in many of the other blog posts. I will not elaborate here for the sake of brevity. If you want to see the proof of this claim, simply go to the search function on the blog and type in "word of God" or "redemptive narrative."

First, let me establish once, and for all that God's purpose in creation was redemption. Ephesians 1:4-8 NKJV  "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  (5)  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  (6)  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  (7)  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace  (8)  which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence," This is the proof text for the correctness of Wm Paul Young's theology. 

Look at the underlined passages. The first one before the foundation of the world tells us that things mentioned in the passage predate creation. Paul is saying that God had purposed redemption before he created anything. The second underlined passage, to the praise of the glory of His grace tells us the why. Finally, He made the grace abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence. This was because he knew that grace would lead us to loving him, and loving him would lead to obedience. So first and foremost, the grace stance that Young portrays in his book and in the Movie is very biblical indeed.  It is Pauline to use a pun.

Further under the new covenant, it is peace with the Father, Romans 5:1,I realize that prepares the saint to have a supernatural change of heart that is the direct result of the gospel of grace. I realize that in tackling reason 3 I have also touched on reason four but as I wrote earlier in the last post, these reasons overlap and cannot be properly handled without mentioning them time and again.

The bottom line is this, when one uses the presupposition of redemption in forming the hermeneutic, there is a big shift in the message and focus of scripture. Jesus said that the entire scripture was to point to Him for redemptive purposes. This is stated clearly in John 5:39-40 and Luke 24:27; 43-45. Young's emphasis of grace beyond judgment fits in very well. Finally, even the Apostle James tells us that mercy triumphs over judgment.

It baffles me why theologians that name the name of Jesus Christ reject his teaching on scripture interpretation. They insist on returning to a legal constitutional reading, and thereby make the redemptive reading, an ineffective step child.

Reason Four: God's ultimate purpose in creation was redemption.

There has been a lot made of the fact that the God of the Shack is not holy enough, and is too invested in love and grace. The argument is that God is also concerned with justice. I have heard and read comments from others that imply the God of "The Shack" is too syrupy and soft. Likewise, if one adopts a legal-constitutional reading of scripture, then one would ask where is the judgment that God brought especially in Old Covenant times? This is precisely why "reason four" is the most important reason and probably should have been tackled first.

Over the course of 370+ blog posts here, I would venture that 50% of them have been devoted to the redemptive focus of scripture. The bottom line is that if reason four is true, and I have proven over and over again it is, The the focus that evangelical and orthodox doctrine places on the scripture is erroneous. The main proof text for this is found in the first chapter of Ephesians. Ephesians 1:3-7 NKJV  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  (4)  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  (5)  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  (6)  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  (7)  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Again, I have underlined the verses that demonstrate that God's first purpose in creation was redemption. Since that is the case, redemption must be the main focus of the scripture. The fact that God chose people in Christ before the foundation of the world, then, it only follows that this was God's ultimate purpose in creation. 

Paul is not the only writer that makes this claim. Peter and John also make the same point. 1 Peter 1:20 NKJV  "He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." So, with Peter you have a second witness that redemption was the purpose of creation. Finally, Revelation 13:8 NKJV  "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Here we have three witnesses who all proclaim in one way or another that redemption was planned before creation, and Paul gives the reason. The reason was to the "praise of the glory of his grace."

Furthermore, given the sovereignty of God; Ephesians 1:11 NASB 
"also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will," How likely is it that God would then relegate the vast majority of people who ever lived to eternal torturous punishment? Right, not likely at all. I will allow the possibility that  some people will simply be annihilated, having their life on earth be their only reward. But, I have also proven on this blog, that the current evangelical concept of hell is a misunderstanding of things written in the New Testament prophesying the impending destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. It is further complicated by the King James rendering of Sheol and Hades as hell when it is most clearly simply the grave. Gehenna, is the Greek word translated as hell connected to the lake of fire, and is a metaphor for the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, a judgment that was given for the rejection of the living Word of God in their presence.

In the movie and the book, it is made clear that the main purpose of God is to have a relationship with humanity and that it is facilitated by redemption.

Reason Five: Humanities pathology results from mortality, and the ability to judge what is right and wrong

Death and the knowledge of good and evil combined are responsible for all of humanities pathology. I like using the word pathology instead of sin for two reasons. 1) the modern connotation for sin is off the mark. 2) The result of the fall is akin to a disease... a disease of the mind. I want to emphasize dis-ease. This pathology keeps humanity from feeling at ease... especially with God. So, how does it work practically? Well, mortality or the propensity toward death, and the knowledge of good and evil causes a schism between humanity and the creator. First of all, with the inevitability of death, comes a survival instinct that makes one avoid death as much as possible. I believe that this is the source of greed. 

The knowledge of good and evil, Paul called it the wisdom of the world, causes two problems. 1) One can never really believe that they are good, especially in the eyes of the creator, and 2) trying to be good at all costs, one justifies ones own actions and judges the other to be wrong. All of the evil in the world result from this condition. Jeremiah stated that the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. He goes on to ask, who can know it? He answers that question with "I the Lord search the heart." This condition has been called by some theologies depravity. There are varying degrees of evil, but even the best of intentions, and what would be viewed as the best behavior, is always motivated out of self. Those who work incessantly to do good do so out of the selfish position of wanting to be better than others. What I am saying is that humanity at its best have motives that are concealed and selfish. To one degree or another this is the condition of every woman, man, girl, or boy.

However, to be able to choose demands the knowledge of good and evil. Without knowing the essence of what is good and evil one could never choose good. By the same token, one must know pain to experience pleasure. The human condition presents yin and yang as opposite halves of the whole. All of this stems from not knowing if one is good enough, and the fear that one is actually evil. it seems that there are few people who can see both sides of an issue. The reality is there is three sides to every story... there is yours, mine, and Gods. We use the knowledge of good and evil to justify what we do, what we believe, etc. This is why religion per se is so ineffective. 

What is needed to overcome this pathology is the understanding that God loves and accepts us just as we are. We need to be able to believe Genesis 1:31 NASB "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." The only way one can accept this is by faith. But it is very difficult to have the kind of faith that would change our circumstances because we believe and then we doubt, back and forth... back and forth. That is the state of humanity (Adam if you will allow the metaphor.) Humanity, left to itself, with mortality and the knowledge of good and evil can NEVER have that kind of faith.

That is where Jesus of Nazareth comes into the picture. He, being born of the Father, had perfect faith. While his faith was tempted and tested, he always remained sure of the Father's (Papa's) love for him. He ultimately was so sure of it that he was willing to die, knowing that he was eternal, and the Father would resurrect him. He was able to do that because he had the Father's Spirit as a constant companion. His death overcame death. Death is no longer a threat to humanity... why, because just like the Father resurrected Jesus, he will also resurrect us. He through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus has demonstrated his unstoppable love for humanity. When we accept and believe this good news... we then, get the same Spirit that assured Christ Jesus that he was beloved of the Father.

It is God's love and grace that cures our pathology once for all time. That is precisely what happened for Mack in the book and movie "The Shack." God was in Christ reconciling THE WORLD to himself, not counting their pathology against them. Papa was along side Mack, Jesus was along side Mack, The Holy Spirit was along side Mack as he worked through the pain that evil had perpetrated on him. This shows the real working of the gospel, and how the Holy Spirit supernaturally heals with the gospel.... that is, provided the gospel is properly presented, and believed. Humanity has been reconciled to God. How many realize it?

I am imploring anyone reading this as Paul did.... BE RECONCILED TO GOD!

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