I am reading the Shack. It took all the way to page 165 (out of 246) before I got completely angry. Up to that time I was reading at a relatively low grade frustration level. The prose was juvenile. the story was wooden. The theology was wrong. The emphasis was on Mack instead of God. All frustrating things.
But on page 165 Mr. Young finally made me mad. Here is what appears there, beginning at the bottom of 164 for some context:
“For love. He chose the way of the cross where mercy triumphs over justice because of love. Would you instead prefer he’d chosen justice for everyone? Do you want justice, ‘Dear Judge’?” and she smiled as she said it.
“No, I don’t,” he said as he lowered his head. “Not for me, and not for my children.”
“But I still don’t understand why Missy had to die.”
“She didn’t have to, Mackenzie. This was no plan of Papa’s. Papa has never needed evil to accomplish his good purposes. It is you humans who have embraced evil and Papa has responded with goodness. What happened to Missy was the work of evil and no one in your world is immune from it.”
The “She” above is Sophia, who is the distillation of God’s wisdom like Solomon portrayed in Proverbs.
Now just think one brief minute about what we know about God from the scripture. Revelation 13:8 says that there is a book written before the foundation of the world that is known as the book of the slain Lamb. It seems fairly obvious to me that God “needed” “planned” for some evil to occur that would result in the propitiatory sacrifice of His Son for the reconciliation of the folks whose names were written in that book.
The idea that God didn’t plan for things we don’t like is deeply offensive.
The thing about it is that this statement that Mr. Young puts in the mouth of God’s distillation of wisdom undercuts the whole central message of the book up to that point.
The Godhead was up to then taking turns convincing Mack that he had no right to sit in judgement of God’s actions or others. The author then does exactly what he is writing a book to argue against. He sits in judgment of God and decides that God would never plan or need what the author and Mackenzie agree to be evil. how arrogant is that? how stupid? how blasphemous?
Don’t get me started.
For a contrast between this kind of theology and the Bible’s portrayal of God see this post of mine regarding two approaches to the bridge collapse in minneapolis minnesota.
W. Paul Young is trying to do the same thing that Roger Olson wants to do which is to help God get off the hook for bad things that happen in the world that we humans don’t like.
And God says, “Pray because sometimes I can intervene to stop innocent suffering when people pray; that’s one of my self-limitations. I don’t want to do it all myself; I want your involvement and partnership in making this a better world.”
It’s a different picture of God than most conservative Christians grew up with, but it’s the only one (so far as I can tell) that relieves God of responsibility for sin and evil and disaster and calamity.
5 I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7 I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.
So the question is, do we take God at His word or not? Do we think it is our job to “relieve God of responsibility” for things that happen to us that we don’t like?