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The Shack and ancient Christianity???

The theology behind The Shack has a lot in common with the ancient Christian teachers called the “Church Fathers,” particularly those before Augustine.  I’ve made this claim a few times, so I thought I’d devote a few posts to backing up that claim.  If you don’t care about this (as I’m sure will be true for many of my readers), feel free to skip this post and go do something more fun.  But if this sort of thing DOES matter to you (as it does to me), here goes…

It’s something of a scandal how much Papa, Jesus and Sarayu LIKE people, as in EVERYBODY.  The whole human race belongs to them, and they know it, and they are happy with their possession.  This is no Manichean vision where some belong to God and others belong to Satan.  The Shack is not universalism (“Everyone will enjoy God forever, whether they want to or not”), but it portrays a universality to the relationship Jesus has established between God and the human race.  To not believe in that relationship makes one’s life function in darkness as if the relationship were not there, but it doesn’t change the reality that all people have been included in the life-together of Papa, Jesus and Sarayu.  Some thoughts on this topic from Clement of Alexandria:

Wherefore also all people are His; some through knowledge, and others not yet so; and some as friends, some as faithful servants, some as servants merely. This is the Teacher, who trains…the believer by good hopes, and the hard of heart by corrective discipline through sensible operation. Thence His providence is in private, in public, and everywhere. And that He whom we call Saviour and Lord is the Son of God, the prophetic Scriptures explicitly prove. So the Lord of all, of Greeks and of Barbarians, persuades those who are willing. For He does not compel him who (through choosing and fulfilling, from Him, what pertains to laying hold of it the hope) is able to receive salvation from Him.

–  Clement of Alexandria (~200 A.D.)
, Book 7, Chapter 2.

Much thanks to my partners-in-crime at The Adopted Life for their growing collection of little snippets like this, and for their continuing work at re-discovering the Patristic way of orienting all theology around Trinity, Incarnation, and the gospel of Adoption.


11 Responses

  1. I like this. Thank you! The fact that God provides for everyone is a very good point.
    “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:17

  2. I agree, Jane! I think we seriously hinder the gospel whenever we imply that Jesus died for some, not all. It’s there in the Calvinist idea of “Limited Atonement,” and also in the more Arminian circles that say he died for those who have faith. I believe God has successfully provided for all in an objective way that does not depend on us in any way, but that we are granted a great deal of control over our subjective experience of the One Who has embraced us.

  3. “I think we seriously hinder the gospel whenever we imply that Jesus died for some, not all. It’s there in the Calvinist idea of ‘Limited Atonement,’…”

    Calvinists I know don’t teach that; being that Christ is God, His atonement is infinite.

    However, it’s particularly applied to those who repent and believe. That’s what they teach.

    “The theology behind The Shack has a lot in common with the ancient Christian teachers called the ‘Church Fathers,’ particularly those before Augustine.”

    Having been in the ministry fields of counter-cult evangelism, apologetics, and Comparative Religion for 24 years, I’ve studied Patristics closely.

    What you said is way too broad; to be accurate, you should note that this applies to Eastern Alexandrian Fathers, not all Church Fathers.

    • The distinctions you make are valid. I was referring to a specific breed of Calvinist, the TULIP afficionados. And the Patristic stream of thought I refer to resides primarily in the Greek fathers rather than the Latin ones.

      If we’re to bring the Patristics into the discussion, what would you think of limiting the conversation to the 8 Doctors, 4 from the East, 4 from the West? I find that can keep the discussion from ranging too far.

  4. Hey guys, some thoughts… Religious smugness and anger are abundant resources right now, particularly online. I have produced more than my fair share of it myself. Ken, my brain stem reacts to your presence and words with some pretty strong self-protection instincts. My ego feels threatened, so I want to circle the wagons and start lobbing cleverly-crafted word-grenades at you. So Erk, there is part of me that enjoys watching YOU throw the grenades. I get to see Ken get attacked, and I also get to sit back and feel self-righteous that I’m not the one doing it.

    What I’m saying is that I think all 3 of us are acting like creeps. And that I think it would be cool if this blog could have a different kind of religious conversation on it. I think all 3 of us have facades, and it would be really cool if we could drop them. If each of us could admit that we’re not all-knowing, that our ideas could be wrong, and that it’s unpleasant to be in the presence of people who tell us our ideas are wrong, because it might force us to re-think a lot of things, and that’s a scary thing to do. Can we admit that we’re just people who are loved by God, and who are trying to figure things out, and who maybe can be useful to each other in this effort?

    There is a chance all 3 of us may end up in heaven someday, which means eventually we’ll have to learn to get along anyway.

  5. “A soft answer turns away wrath, especially if it involves coffee somehow” (Shack Bible translation of Proverbs) 😉

  6. Erk: Class act, man. We are all asses at the foot of the cross. Enjoy the coffee.

  7. This is certainly one of the most surprising thread narratives I’ve read in a while. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

  8. Erik,

    You see, like I told you; I don’t take this stuff personally. 🙂

  9. 😉 I understand.

  10. [Some posts have been deleted above at the request of the user]

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