“The healthy soul, like the healthy blood system, has it’s proper proportion of white and red blood cells. The red corpuscles are like faith: they carry the life giving oxygen to every part of the body. The white cells are like discernment: they pounce upon dead and toxic matter and carry it out to the drain. In the healthy heart there must be provision for keeping dead and poisonous matter out of the life stream.”~A.W. Tozer~
The Trinity does not divide God into three parts. The Bible is clear that all three Persons are each one hundred percent God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all fully God. For example, it says of Christ that “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). We should not think of God as like a “pie” cut into three pieces, each piece representing a Person. This would make each Person less than fully God and thus not God at all. Rather, “the being of each Person is equal to the whole being of God.” The divine essence is not something that is divided between the three persons, but is fully in all three persons without being divided into “parts.”Thus, the Son is not one-third of the being of God, He is all of the being of God. The Father is not one-third of the being of God, He is all of the being of God. And likewise with the Holy Spirit. Thus, as Wayne Grudem writes, “When we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together we are not speaking of any greater being than when we speak of the Father alone, the Son alone, or the Holy Spirit alone.”
The Shack definitely blurs these distinctions at times- the dialogue is vague, and then a sentence later, is very matter-of-fact. I have been doing some research into this particular scene from page 107, ” …Jesus reached across the table and took Papa’s hands in his, scars now clearly visible on her wrists…”. This is a scene followed by Papa explaining to Mack that “We were there to together” when referring to the cross… I did some research on this. The idea that God the Father as well as the Holy Spirit died on the cross and were present with Jesus on the cross is called, “Modalism”. In a nutshell, it’s the “piece of pie” problem.
A proper understanding of the Trinity can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith 2.3: “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, not proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.” To put it simply, the Trinity is comprised of three distinct persons and one substance. Not one substance and three modes. Not three substances and three modes. Not three different gods who are friends. Three persons, one substance. The Shack, unfortunately, confuses this orthodox and biblical picture beyond comprehension. (Harvie Conn).
Though the relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is mysterious to us, I find it ironic that Young attempts to breakdown stereotypes here. “…this weekend is NOT about reinforcing religious stereotypes”, says Papa. Admittedly, people and churches have not handled the topic of the Trinity well over the years, yet, Young seems to overshoot the truth in an effort to dissolve these stereotypes. In essence, he’s creating a new stereotype…unfortunately, it’s not one that is rooted in scripture.
The final dialogue I would like to note is taken from a chapter entitled, “Wade in the Water”. Jesus and Mack are discussing the topics of free will and submission. Young’s word choices here are a very subtle blend of truth and error….
“That’s the beauty you see in my relationship with Abba and Sarayu. We are indeed submitted to one another and have always been so and always will be. Papa is as much submitted to me as I to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.” (pg. 145)
Why would the Creator of our universe be submitted to us? Young would say that God would in fact want to be submitted to us for the sake of us joining this “relational circle”. Genuine submission, according to Young, must be marked by mutual submission. The Bible does teach that we are to submit to one another, but it also ordains certain hierarchies. All people are to submit to God-ordained authorities and ultimately, to God Himself. Sin has perverted God’s ordained structures however. People are threatened by terms such as “submit” and “authority”. The connotation is often a negative one…one of abuse, control or even slavery.
This is not the hierarchy that God has created. Young’s use of words such as “love and relationship” appeals to us because we long to dwell in God’s love. This picture of God (Papa, Sarayu and Jesus) puts God in anthropomorphic terms. Basically- Young is attributing human qualities to God. We cheer at the idea that God wants this close loving relationship (and He does), but Young is literally putting words in God’s mouth through his characters.
Authority and submission are inherent to the Godhead and have existed from the beginning of time. Jesus was sent by the Father (John 6:57) and Jesus says that His intention is to obey the Father’s will (Luke 22:42). The Holy Spirit obeys the Father and the Son (John 14:26, John 15:26). This structure is not the result of sin, but the very nature of God in which all three are equal in essence, but exist within a relationship of hierarchy and submission.
Whew! My brain is sore 😉 There is still so much implied within this dialogue…another day another time perhaps! The next topic- Forgiveness- is a huge focus of The Shack. So many read the book specifically looking for guidance and encouragement in this area. I look forward to more research and study through this very crucial topic, and hope this has generated interest and a true desire to know our God- for who He truly is…
Part 3- Coming Soon