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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!


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.

Ascended to the kitchen

I get a lot out of The Shack‘s emotionally satisfying vision of God, but I’m a thinker, as well as a feeler.  I’m a scientist; I’m interested in finding the structures and patterns of how the real world works.  So when I read The Shack, I’m also asking questions like: “Is this the way things really are?  How do we know?  Why do they work this way and not some other way?”

I bring it up because today (May 17, 2012) is a celebration of an historical event that changed the nature of the cosmos into the basic situation we see in The Shack (human fellowship with the Triune God).  It’s the Ascension of the resurrected Jesus. At Easter, the human race became something bigger than Death.  On Ascension day, the human race became something that hangs out at God’s kitchen table.

Remember, the whole Jesus drama had a singular goal–the inclusion of the human race (and all of Creation) at the kitchen table of Infinity.  Jesus came to be with us in all the depths of our glorious crap, including the 6-feet-under depth for which we are all destined. And with him we were raised from those depths, not just to the level of life we had before, but to the aliveness of the very heavens.  To that eternal kitchen table of banter, butter and beans.

It is in the Ascension that Jesus accomplished this.  We live in the Shack with Papa, Jesus & Sarayu, whether we see it or not.  We feast at that kitchen table, whether we believe it or not.  Jesus was happy to carry us here himself. And it really did happen.

I like to think I’m beginning to wake up and smell the beans.

(If these ideas are new to you, my friend Jonathan today has a post that goes into more depth).

How disrespectful to call God “Papa”!!!

We received this comment recently:

“How disrespectful to call God papa….Jesus said in his prayer  Our Father Hallow Be THY Name….they called God Father…..Holy…to be respected, to be in reverance…not to be brought down to earthy man and called papa….it is wrong your book is wrong.  And Abba means Father, not papa as well.”

Is this commenter right?  Does “Papa” imply a relation too familiar, too intimate?  Is such intimacy unworthy of a dignified Deity who deserves more respect than that?

More feedback

Wow, we hit a major pocket of people with opinions on Twitter this morning.  Shared here for your consideration.  (Any thoughts in response?):

ReformedFundy 1:22pm via Web

@jaredcwilson @shackbible It’s so horrible! It’s so horrible that it’s funny. And tragic that somebody is turning Bible into such a mockery

NickHorton 1:14pm via TweetDeck @jaredcwilson @shackbible Gets worse. Read the first paragraph under info: on.fb.me/pyRfZu God musta not been good enough for them.
samgyorfi 1:13pm via Web on second thought; @shackbible, just please stop.
mblinton 1:12pm via Web Great. A new bible paraphrase, only less theologically accurate, but more misleading, than most. @shackbible
ThePastorEd 1:10pm via Twitter for iPhone @jaredcwilson @shackbibleit appears 2 be for real. A quick survey reveals that St. Augustine ruined Christianity & this guy is rescuing us Show Conversation

ReformedFundy 1:09pm via Web @jaredcwilson @shackbibleOh my goodness. What a steaming pile this is. Show Conversation

dwightwatson 1:08pm via Echofon RT @jaredcwilson: Wait. The @shackbible? Is this for real? Is the Holy Spirit a black woman in this bible?// Xian marketing strikes again!
lenflack 1:06pm via Twitter for Mac @jaredcwilson I noticed @shackbible today. I thought it was a parody at first, but it’s serious. See the pics of The Oracle from The Matrix?
gabeposey 1:05pm via TweetDeck @jaredcwilson @shackbible Based on the website, it also appears Jesus is on the next season of LOST.
keithsewell 1:04pm via TweetDeck @jaredcwilson @shackbible the Holy Spirit is an asian woman and God the Father is played by Aunt Jemima
jaredcwilson 1:01pm via TweetDeck Wait. The @shackbible? Is this for real? Is the Holy Spirit a black woman in this bible?

Some feedback

Some feedback from some concerned brothers in Christ.  The following got posted as comments to old posts; I figured they probably wouldn’t get seen there, so I’m posting them here so they can be heard:

RON said:

This is all just very wrong.  Your “paraphrase” reminds me of Eugene Peterson’s work in the “Message:” not a paraphrase but a complete re-writing of Scripture, based on a lack of respect of what God has said.  The Bible is not “outdated” and so unclear that it needs your radical revision.

KEITH said:

It is so good to hear folks who are not deceived by The Shack heresy in here! It undermines the Bible and the Gospel that untold millions have died for down through the ages. It reduces sin to little more than a mistake, and casts God in the mould of a super-woman and super-man. The Shack’s image of God is the “brazen image”, the idolatry of a man’s mind, a warm, fuzzy god who says, “I have no expectations”.  Is it any wonder that those unwilling to bow before the holy God of the Bible who commanded, “be ye Holy as I am Holy” should be taken with this warm, fuzzy god who says, basically, “Its ok, you’re not really that bad. You just made a mistake in trying to live independently and I excuse you”?

These people will never understand the depth of the deep, deep love of God (which they so dwell on at the expense of God’s total character and nature) until they begin to understand His deep hatred for sin, demonstrated when He poured out His wrath on the Lord Jesus Christ that day on the Cross. Sin isn’t the triviality that The Shack makes of it. See, we really ARE that bad and it cost Jesus infinitely; not in human pain, for many Christians have suffered longer and deeper physically in their executions, but in deep, spiritual anguish as the Father withdrew from Jesus and  totally crushed His only Son so that you and I could be reconciled to God.

Shack reader, the Jesus Christ of the Bible is your “Pearl of Great Price”. Please – do not cast Him aside for the “comfortable” image of another man’s mind, for this image will never, ever duplicate the depth of love that God, through His Son Jesus Christ has already demonstrated for you, no matter how much it talks of “love” and the “circle of relationship”.

KEITH also responded to my response to being told to “Repent!”:

This is a valid and very necessary warning, and yet it makes me sad. Why? Because I have seen, elsewhere in this site the mocking references to the web-sites that purportedly contain “REPENT” in big red letters. The owner(s) of this site has(ve) seen the command and yet still has(ve) mocked it. As Manfred said, “God is not mocked”.

“Repent” is a large part of the Gospel. It immediately follows realising God’s pure, holy standards and how deeply we have fallen from them. It implies a determination towards a 180 degree turnaround as we accept the sacrifice that Christ Himself paid.

The fruit of real repentance is obedience. It is what sent Hudson Taylor to China to found the China Inland Mission at a totally sacrificial cost in his own life. It is what sent the 5 missionaries to Equador back in the 1950s, to their own deaths as they were speared by the tribe they were working with. It is what led their widows back to that tribe, in love and forgiveness to see God work the miracle of salvation through the whole tribe. And it is what has maintained many Christians in their faith, Christians like Pastor Richard Wurmbrand who was tortured for his faith over 14 years in solitary confinement in a communist gaol for refusing to compromise “the Gospel once delivered to the saints”. I could go on.

I don’t know who is at the head of this “Shack Bible Project” web-site (I am unable so far to find a name). But they have been given the message to repent and have ignored it. That is so dangerous. I hope that God will break in to their senses in time and turn their lives around for His glory rather than the glory of a god who is the warm, fuzzy mental idol of a man’s mind.

KEITH also had some specific thoughts on my rendition of John 16.8-11:

This fantasy, masquerading as a Bible is so corrupt!

Compare, for example John 16: 8-10 from the Bible:

(8) Fantasy: When I inject Sarayu into the world, she will contradict the core beliefs that make the System run.

Bible  And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

(9) Fantasy: The System functions on the assumption that problems are caused by rule-breaking.  Sarayu will prove that problems come from beliefs that do not fit with Reality.

Bible:  Of sin, because they believe not on me;

(10)  Fantasy: The System functions on the assumption that righteousness is something achieved by a few heroic individuals who can climb the religious ladder all the way up to heaven, and to hell with all the losers who can’t quite manage it.  Sarayu will show that I, the Son of Man, have ascended to Papa’s right hand, and that I’ve brought the entire world with me.  On behalf of all, in my own body I have forged human righteousness — right relations between Papa, humanity, and the rest of creation.

Bible:Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

(11)  Fantasy: The System functions on the assumption that the world will be saved by killing all the ‘bad people.’  Sarayu will show that the world will be saved only by destroying the dark power that works evil in the lives of all people.

Bible:Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”

To the author: Have you ever read what Revelations says about adding to, or taking away from the Word?


ShackBible LIVE!

Hey ShackBible friends:

I got interviewed for the THE SIDESHOW (SAVING FAITH RADIO) podcast on Friday.  DJ Iggy and I had a great ~45 minute conversation about my project, about God, life, and the whole cosmic enchilada.  Check it out at http://iggyrocks.podbean.com/2011/09/03/the-shack-bible-project !

Carlos Iggy Shelton blogs at http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com and he hosts some of the best Twitter conversations ever at @iggyinmontana

Thanks Iggy for a great talk!

– John (a.k.a., ShackBibleGuy)

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