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Some reactions

Sometimes people have visceral reactions to what we do here at The Shack Bible Project.  Which is understandable; this is a very different vision of God than we’re used to, and those issues touch us pretty deep down.  Anyone have any responses to our friends below? (Kind words only, please):

“this is heresy and blasphemous in one.”


“Sir…. Are you drinking…!?!??… You know, Lord Jesus is capable to help you with that nasty habit. Just ask Him. (before its to late…).”



UPDATE: 6/30/11 10:35am

And now THIS guy’s making it personal:

God is not a fat black woman and you are no theologian. Ur project is heretical. Deal with it.



20 Responses

  1. In other words: “Touche, fat people, black people, and women people. God is not like you.”

    • Actually, that’s not at all what I was saying. So let me clarify. God is not like us at all. Scripture says the we are made in His image not the other way around. Scripture also says that His ways are not our ways. Its not about breaking down ethnic groups and sexes and saying that God is not like them in some bigotted way, but instead it was me simply pointing out that who God has revealed Himself to be through His Word can not be reconciled with the fictional character known as Papa in The Shack. Do not attempt to accuse me of sexism or racism and misrepresent me on your blog.

  2. […] shared these negative reactions below, because they illustrate how emotional and pissed-off people can get when they are confronted with […]

  3. What is it that Papa does/says that seems so irreconcilable with God the Father? I do understand about the gender thing; I won’t judge anyone who is uncomfortable with that part. But is there anything other than that?

    • In short, Papa is a seperate person. The Trinity concept are three persons in one, not seperate from each other. Second, the way Papa describes sin and punishment is in direct contradiction to what is revealed in the Bible. Papa says he doesn’t need to punish sin because sin is its own punishment. Scripture does not share this idea. Hell is the punishment for sin. Hell is what we ALL have earned for our sinful acts. It is not that we go unpunished, but that Jesus took our punishment for us on the cross. Its called atonement. God does punish sinners and it goes far beyond the worldly view of consequences for our sins. People will die and spent eternity in hell for their sins. God is a just God and it is not evil for Him to respond to our sin this way. Thankfully He sent His son to die on a cross to atone for our sins. This is the Gospel message so when Papa gets this aspect wrong it pretty much nullifies the rest. If there is no eternal punishment for our sins then Jesus dies for no reason. Does that make sense?

  4. When I heard Paul Young’s reason for choosing a woman (in particular a black woman) to represent Papa/God in The Shack, it made the story even more wonderful. The author’s personal story is an amazing testament to the love of God. At a very low time in his life, after the organized church had chewed him up and spit him out, the only person to demonstrate God’s love to him was the worship leader, who just happened to be a black female. God loves us through people, it is amazing what we see when we take the time to really look at each other.

    • Don’t get me wrong here, I have no issues with the book as a work of fiction. It was well written and very engaging. As a writer myself there was a lot that I enjoyed with the book. But inserting a fictional work into the Word of God is what I take issue with.

  5. Jason, I do think we share the view that it’s a bad idea to change the Bible so that it will agree with a work of popular fiction. I would roll my eyes almost out of my head if I saw someone try to do that. I understand why someone would think that I’M doing that, but I would argue that I’m not, as I explained in a previous comment https://shackbible.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/why-the-gospel-pisses-people-off/#comments

    • I hear what you are saying on that so let me pose a different question that you can answer if you would be so kind. Why do you think it is important to make a Bible that someone who read The Shack could easily relate to? Why is it a better option than say the ESV or the NIV etc?

      • That is a fair question… The answer is complicated, but I’ll try to be as brief as I can… When anyone reads the Bible (or any text), they read it through a certain “lens,” a set of ideas of what they think the Bible is about. The lens of Western Christianity was forged primarily by Augustine, and I believe Augustine was wrong about some things, including his idea that the gospel is primarily a legal transaction. But b/c it’s his lens that has dominated the West for 1500 years, we can’t imagine seeing the Bible as anything but a kind of courtroom drama. But pre-Augustine, there were some other lenses that I think were much better. I think specifically here of guys like Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, and others–the people who wrote the Nicene Creed. It’s THAT lens that I’ve spent the last 15 years studying. The Shack is one expression of that lens, though it could be argued it is somewhat clumsy as theological text. A more precise expression of the lens can be found in various 21st century theologians–an easy one to read is Baxter Kruger (www.perichoresis.org). What I’m trying to do is to look at the Bible through that lens, and to share what I see there.

        At first, my primary audience was people who read the same theologians I do. But when The Shack became a big hit, and I saw how much it fit the lens I was using, I realized I had a much larger potential audience. So I replaced “Father” with “Papa,” “Spirit” with “Sarayu” (both of which are biblically defensible names, IMO), and I started putting it out there as “The Shack Bible.”

        So it wasn’t the central goal to make a Bible that Shack fans could relate to, but to help people take a fresh look at the Bible through this different lens.

  6. RE: Papa being a separate person… I know it’s jarring to see God as 3 persons talking to each other, but is that not orthodox? That God is 3 persons who are one with each other? It is not uncommon in the Eastern Orthodox tradition to portray God as 3 people, and I have one of their paintings in the Shack Bible graphic header. I would say this is unusual (at least to Western eyes) but not heretical.

    As to the how and why of atonement, yes, we have a deep disagreement that needs to be talked about. More on that later when I have a few free minutes!

    • if you would prefer we could discuss it via email (you have my full permission to repost them in their entirety) so as not to take over your entire comments section. Or, if you are more comfortable we could also do a skype thing. Or we can continue on this thread. Whatever is easiest for you. Let me know. And also, thanks for taking the time to actually discuss differing ideas as it is very beneficial to help strengthen each others faith.

      • Actually, I’d love to have the conversation here, if that’s okay. I believe this conversation is important, and I want my blog to be a place where it can be had. Thank you for being willing to engage me on this. May both our irons come away sharpened!

        Again, more later!

  7. So when you do your interpretation what version of the Bible do you start with?

    • I use the Greek text, plus lots of translations, but my main “raw material” is usually either the NIV or NRSV.

      • Well it is good that you are using original Greek text provided that you are trained in Greek culture and the Biblical language, but isn’t using the NIV or the NRSV just translating the Bible as seen through someone elses lens into your translation and through your own lens? Not trying to play devils advocate but I am honestly trying to get a good grasp of what it is that you are doing so that perhaps my ideas about it can change. What specifically do you feel that translators have gotten wrong through the centuries that you feel needs to be corrected or at least clarified?

  8. Good morning, Jason! With “lenses,” the important thing for me is to be aware of mine (so I have an idea of where my biases and blindspots are), and to be aware of the lens of the person I’m talking to (so I can understand some of why they see things the way they do). Just as an example, when a lawyer and a dad see the word “punishment,” they might think of it differently. The lawyer might think of the rule of law and the fact that criminals ought to suffer for their crimes; while the dad might think of the fact that his kids need to be disciplined sometimes in order to teach them good behavior. “Punishment” has a range of meaning that includes both. The Greek word “kolasin” has a meaning closer to what the dad thinks, but when it gets translated as “punishment,” a lawyer mindset (like Augustine’s) will see more of the other.

    So when I am writing my paraphrase and I come to a passage about punishment, I try to think about what the passage means if it’s about a loving father who is disciplining his children in order to help them grow up good.

  9. Just to use the example you provided in punishment, let’s flesh this out a bit. You are saying that your original lens was to see punishment in terms of the law while the original author (the Holy Spirit) intended it as more of a fathers discipline. So based off of that you say that this discipline is to help us “grow up good.” But what about our human lens that tells us what “good” actually is. Can any of us attain righteousness apart from that instilled to us through Christs death on the cross? How do we know what a good work is except through the Law? Is God’s big purpose for us to simply grow up good? I have read through your FAQ’s page and I have another rather important question I would like to pose to you. What did Christ do for us on the cross that we could not have done for ourselves?

    • You are absolutely right; without God’s revelation of himself in Christ, we don’t know what “good” is. And I would say “God’s big purpose” for us is our full participation in the Triune life. To use Paul’s language, God’s eternal purpose is our adoption into Jesus’ sonship. My core conviction is that everything God does with us is toward that purpose. RE: The cross, I’m going to make a blog post out of that, so stay tuned…

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