Monday, 13 October 2008

The Shack?

Last night our church (Guildford Baptist Church, a.k.a. Millmead) had the first of what will be a series of debates on topical issues. Mostly we work our way through a book of the bible over a few months in the sermons, but, a new member of the leadership team, Tim Wears, wanted to introduce an opportunity to deal with things that don’t necessarily pop up in the middle of Hosea (for example), but are as pertinent to our society and culture as is the consideration of the consequences of ignoring God’s law. And, move from didactic teaching to discussion and debate.

TheShackSo, this first time we debated the bestseller The Shack, by William P Young. A very engaging story about the tragedy of a lost young life, and the journey to forgiveness and family reconciliation, stands out because of the central literary device and context – a weekend spent with God in The Shack where a young girl died.

I won’t say any more – it would spoil the read if you decide to pick it up. But the debate last night covered claims of ‘dubious theology’; the understanding of art; the purpose of the author; the intended audience; and whether it really was appropriate to write of God the Father (one person in the Trinity) as a woman (there you go, I’ve let one of the surprise out the bag!).

On balance, I would say it’s a good read, but I wouldn’t call it great art, and, I don’t think that it should be viewed as the latest best way to talk about faith with my friends and colleagues. Churches have this tendency to leap on books and movies with moral or theological messages, as if that’s the only way to find ground in conversation to talk God. I don’t see it that way – I see the opportunity to speak about God in every conversation. Not to say that I take all those opportunities! (Should I?)

But I do think that churches should be less presumptuous to believe they has the right to choose the means by which to communicate the gospel. It might be just as valid to learn about the lyrics of the band that my friend Rob had blazoned across his T-shirt last night, as it is to ask someone if they happen to have read The Shack.

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