I once heard someone call a Beatles song “evil.” It wasn’t even Lucy in the Sky playing but Love Me Do. Lyrics that affirm life in general were too lukewarm for him. “Be hot or cold,” he warned.
Approaching everything as pro vs. con may seem faithful, but it’s often a form of Dualism. In a biblical worldview, the imagination is regarded as one of God’s good gifts, but Dualists lack that freedom. In the words of H.L. Mencken, they have “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”*
Some negative reactions to The Shack reflect this kind of dualism. Instead of protecting Judeo-Christian values, they marginalize them.
I think The Shack is worth reading or seeing for these three reasons….
The Shack is an allegory
Allegory is a story or word picture representing a deeper, hidden meaning. Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message and evangelical scholar, compares the book to the classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress and says, “When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of The Shack.”
Allegory helps us see our blind spots
In the story, God the Father is named Papa (who’s actually an African American woman). Jesus is a man from the Middle East, true to form, and the Holy Spirit is Sarayu, an Asian woman. Some people have concerns about the author’s use of allegory to represent the Trinity. But he is not playing fast and loose with theology or suggesting alternate language. He’s using a literary devise to crash through emotional barriers between people and God.
Young is not tampering with orthodoxy but making it accessible to people who have gotten hurt and stuck. He is trying to help people make peace with God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When disappointments get directed at God and ideals that represent Him, art can build an emotional bridge.
Good art honors God
People who make art make culture. Christians should be known for making culture, not subculture. The passionate pursuit of excellence, beauty, and truth bring noble things into the mainstream and help make the Kingdom come. Grace frees the imagination to create and connect–to be relevant without compromise.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4).