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“End-Timey” stuff in The Shack Bible

Dear ShackBible readers,

You may have noticed that The Shack Bible approaches “end-times” stuff a little differently than what some of us are used to.  For an example, look at my paraphrase of Matthew 24 and compare it to what you hear on Christian radio.  Anyway, The Shack itself doesn’t really address this topic.  But there is a coherent vision of God behind it all, and I have tried to take that way of thinking and use it to approach the various biblical texts that talk about this kind of thing.

Just in case this sort of thing is interesting to some of you (and even though I know many of you would find this to be a total snooze), I just posted on the Trinity and Humanity blog about how I read the “end-timey” parts of the Bible, and how I think it fits with the theology behind The Shack.



The Next Best Thing Blog Hop

shack-bible-adTen Interview Questions for “The Next Big Thing”:

What is the working title of your book?

The Shack Bible

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

I actually had the idea a couple years before I’d ever heard of “The Shack.”  I’ve spent the last decade being spiritually revolutionized by some of the ancient theologians (Athanasius, Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa) plus some newer ones (Barth, Torrance, Kruger, Moltmann).  My studies were giving me a new (non-Augustinian) lens through which to hear Scripture, and I loved what I heard!  I started writing down what I was hearing the Bible say, and friends kept asking me to write more, so I did.

Then the day came when a friend bullied me into reading this silly pop-spirituality novel called The Shack.  I was blown-away to discover that this guy, who was just novelizing his personal thoughts about God, was expressing the ancient vision of God I had spent so long studying!  Not only that, but he was doing it in a way that was twanging the spiritual nerves of the whole world.  As I got to know other fans of the book, I discovered a whole new world of spiritual-but-not-religious people who had little interest in God, Christianity, or the Bible, but resonated deeply with Papa, Jesus & Sarayu.  And they all seemed quite certain that, if they wanted to deepen their relationship with that wonderful Trinity, the Bible would be useless for that task.  The God of the Bible, it seemed, had little if anything to do with the God of The Shack.  Many evangelicals would agree with that, but I did not.  So I started modifying my own little paraphrase with the God-language of The Shack.  I changed “God” and “Father” to “Papa,” changed “Holy Spirit” to “Sarayu,” and the pronouns for both became feminine.

What genre does your book fall under?  

Is “Highly Idiosyncratic Bible Paraphrase” a genre?  A proper paraphrase would be something more like The Message, the gold standard of Bible paraphrases, IMO.  The Shack Bible is more like an “Interpretive Reading.”  It might fit best in the traditional Jewish genre of “Targum.”

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

From my first reading of the book, Papa has always been Gloria Foster—The Oracle from The Matrix.  She is no longer technically alive, but my image of Papa is now unchangeable.  Jesus has to be noticeably Middle Eastern, and my images there always turn to Naveen Andrews—Sayiid from Lost.  Sarayu is harder.  My best idea so for is Michelle Yeoh; she has such great emotional depth.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Papa, Jesus & Sarayu have included the whole world in their wondrous dynamic life-together; evil and death have no future.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

If it ever gets mass-printed on paper, it will be through a publisher.  I don’t want a pile of these things in my garage.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Still working on that; I’ll let you know.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Um… The Message is the closest, I guess, but it’s a comparison that stretches the genre a LOT.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?


What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Something that’s piqued MY interest is the way the Bible addresses various topics that don’t come up in The Shack—like Eschatology, for example, which is a big deal because Jesus talks about it so much in the gospels.  It’s illuminating to approach such topics through a lens that tries to be consistent with The Shack without being limited by it.


I tag 5 other bloggers who have meant a lot to me, and have books published or in the works:






This has been a fun exercise; my thanks to Michael Bobo for inviting me!

The Proverbs 31 Woman

You know Proverbs 31? That chapter of the Bible that depresses every woman you know?  Jewish people have a much better way of thinking about this, and they probably understand it better than us anyway… Proverbs 31 is not a list that defines how a “biblical woman” behaves.  It is a song of praise from a husband to a wife, praise and honor for all that she does.  For real.  Go to an orthodox Jewish household for dinner and listen to what the husband sings to his wife at the beginning of dinner.  It is praise for the “woman of valor” to whom I am married, glorious in all the everyday things she does.

If I were the writer of Proverbs 31, it would go something like:

A woman of valor who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
She buys clothes for the kids,
they are always growing yet never naked.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar,
like that takeout Chinese we had.
She gets up while it is still night;
and makes sure the kids get to school eventually.
She buys everything at Goodwill,
but only on Half-Off Day.
Every Saturday she leaves us at home,
to make money as a massage therapist
so we can afford piano lessons for the kids
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
Her children arise and call her “MOM!!!!!!”
her husband adores and praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Yet another cool thing I’ve learned from Rachel Held Evans and her Year of Biblical Womanhood.

Is God a biblical woman?

I have been reading my friend Rachel Held Evans‘ new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood (and I’m enjoying the heck out of it, I might add), and I’m thinking about the origin of all the Bible has to say about “womanhood.”   Regardless of how many (or how few) cultural barnacles have been attached, the Bible’s concerns for womanhood ultimately spring from the inner nature of the Triune God, that feisty group of misfits many of us have come to know as Papa, Jesus & Sarayu.  Whatever it means to be Homo Sapiens with more ovaries than testicles, it springs from who God is, how the persons of the Trinity relate to one another.  We are, after all, created male and female in their image, after their likeness (Genesis 1.26-27).  So as I read through this book, I can’t help thinking about how God is doing at living up to the Bible’s standard of how to be a good woman.  And also wondering if a “standard” is really what the Bible is trying to give us….

Rachel boiled down her study of Biblical Womanhood into 12 virtues, and then practiced each one in some specific biblical practices for one month of the year.  So I’m going to look at her monthly “To Do List” to see how God stacks up [And just in case you don’t already know me enough to understand this, I am doing this somewhat (though not entirely) tongue-in-cheek]:

Year of Biblical Womanhood, Month #1: GENTLENESS.  To do this month:

  • Cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit, even during football games.  I think God does fine here, except for the “during football games” part.  I mean, come on.  And except for when God is speaking through like Jeremiah or something.  And whenever there’s livestock in the Temple.
  • Kick the gossip habit.  I don’t want to call God a gossip, but how much of the Bible is God telling us about crap other people have done?  Granted, but I think gossip is at least partly defined by a malicious intent, so I think God is doing pretty good there.
  • Take an etiquette lesson (Prov 11.22).  Has God ever been polite?  Gracious, certainly, but etiquette conscious? I like Rachel’s quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “It’s not about doing everything right. It’s about putting other people ahead of yourself.”  If that’s etiquette, then God is surely at the head of her class.
  • Practice contemplative prayer (Ps 131).  If anybody knows how to practice the presence of God, it’s Papa, Jesus & Sarayu.
  • Make a ‘swearing jar’ for behaviors that mimic the ‘contentious woman’ of Proverbs.  OK, so this is the Bible’s [polite?] way of calling a woman a “psycho bitch.”  Surely God is not bitchy, but never shies away from telling you what’s what.  If being “contentious” means being assertive and brutally honest, then yeah, God is a total bitch (biblically speaking).  But I suspect “being contentious” means something bad, so I’m pretty sure God doesn’t do whatever that is.
  • Doing penance on the rooftop for acts of contention (Prov 21.9).  God is omnipresent, so yes, God’s on the roof.


Stay tuned for Month #2: DOMESTICITY!


I am ShackBibleGuy, and I approved this message.  I did get a nifty pre-release copy of this book for free, but I am not being compensated in any way for talking about Rachel’s book.  Apparently, biblical womanhood does not include the virtue of “Giving money to obscure bloggers.”

POLL: Biblical Womanhood and Manhood?

Inspired by Rachel Held Evans’ YEAR OF BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD

Shacking up with mutuality

This post is part of the
Week of Mutuality synchroblog

My vision of God used to be something like:

  1. God, the elderly white guy on the throne.
  2. Jesus, his trusty sidekick or assistant or secretary or something.

The point is, it was always quite clear which one was “in charge.”  This was always emphasized to me as being very important—knowing who was in charge and who wasn’t.  Because ultimately, humans are made in the image of God, and “being-in-charge” is super-important to God (so much so that those who don’t like it get eternally barbecued), so when I dominate other people, I am being godly.  Right?

This vision of God informed my early attempts at being married, but I quickly found that didn’t work.  I quickly found that what DID work was collaboration, shared responsibility, and each of us submitting to each other in different situations at different times—what my friend Rachel Held Evans is calling “MUTUALITY.”

Something I love about THE SHACK is the way Papa, Jesus & Sarayu submit to one another.  Leaving aside for the moment the fact that this is just good theology, it is a vision that rings true to real life for me.  I have never seen domination systems work without chewing people up—crucifying them, if you will.

What I have seen work is relationships where authority is fluid, moving from person to person under the dictates of love and wisdom and shared purpose, not according to religiously inspired pecking orders or who can pee standing up.


P.S. – Here is the ShackBible interpretive reading of a Bible text relevant to this issue:

Ephesians 5.21-30

(21) Jesus lays down his life for you and for everyone around you. To share in his glorious life is to share in his self-emptying, to put it on every day like a garment. So lay down your lives for one another; SUBMIT TO ONE ANOTHER.  Here are some examples of what I mean:

(22) Wives, look at how Jesus lays down his life for your husband. Join him in doing that. (23) As Jesus takes care of the church, as the head takes care of the body, your husband’s job is to take care of you. (24) Receive your husband’s care for you, as the church receives care from Jesus.

(25) Husbands, look at how Jesus lays down his life for your wife. Join him in doing that. Love her like Jesus loves the church. Jesus gave himself up for her, (26) telling her the truth about herself so as to make her whole, (27) beautiful, flawless, glorious. (28) Husbands, love your wives like that. Care for her like you care for your own body. (29) Nourish and tenderly care for her, just like Jesus does for the church, (30) because we are his body.

ShackBible blasphemy

I’ve been accused of a lot of things (and many of those accusations were quite deserved), but I think this is the first accusation of blasphemy: https://shackbible.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/ephesians-1/#comment-610

No details were given, but I wanted to open this up for further conversation, since blasphemy is a big deal, and it’s not something I want to be doing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy

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