The Shack Chapter 6 Part 3

 

We last left off with God and Mack sort of talking about free will, except not really. God mentions offhand that there’s a lot of factors that play into our decision making, and there’s a long paragraph listing them. Then she asks, “what is freedom really?” Which is a question philosophers have been asking for years and still haven’t come up with an answer to.

I want Mack to interject, here, that all of this is irrelevant, and to ask God, “why the fuck was my daughter’s free will not to be murdered less important to you than the free will of her murderer?” But that won’t happen.

God tells Mack that only “the truth” can set a person free. And “The Truth” has a name–Jesus. Jesus, conveniently, is out back in the wood shop.

“Everything is about him. And freedom is a process that happens inside a relationship with him. Then all that stuff you feel churnin’ around inside will start to work its way out.”

Freedom is indeed a process, but for me personally, I could not find freedom in Jesus. If you can, that’s great. I’m happy for you. But I’m happy for me, too. I just wish these books would stop presenting Jesus as the only way to freedom and happiness. Many people find happiness elsewhere, and it would be nice to see that acknowledged.

Mack says that God can’t possibly know how he feels, and then he notices the scars on her wrists. They’re just like Jesus’ scars from dying on the cross.

God reminds Mack gently that she has lost a son too. No, I’m sorry, that’s not even remotely the same thing. Yes God’s son died, and that surely was painful, but God also knew –and so did Jesus–that Jesus was going to come back to life in 3 days. Missy isn’t like Jesus: she’s not coming back. Neither are all the other dead children ripped too soon from their parents’ arms.

No one else Christian!Abby talked to seemed to think this was a problem. Christian!Abby felt very alone.

Mack tells God that she abandoned Jesus when he died. He knows this because Jesus’ words on the cross were, “my god, my god, why have you forsaken me?” It’s interesting to note, however, that those words only appear in one gospel. I’ve been reading about New Testament history, and it is speculated that the reason that those words were written is because some people believed that the spirit of God had entered Jesus at his baptism, and then left him when Jesus was dying on the cross. In all likelihood, those words were written because people hadn’t yet gotten their theology straight, and were still trying to write history.

(Contrary to popular belief, early Christians were more divided in their beliefs than today’s Christians are. We’ll get into that when we start our next book, Jesus Before The Gospels.)

So when Mack says, “You abandoned Jesus just like you abandoned me!” I expect an answer that somehow reconciles the idea of God never having left Jesus with the fact that Jesus felt that God had forsaken him. I mean, if you’re going to go there, at least go there, yanno? If you’re not going to tell us “they just hadn’t gotten their theologies sorted out yet,” at least try to reconcile a seeming contradiction.

But God just says,

“I never abandoned him, and I haven’t abandoned you.”

Then why did Jesus think you had? Instead of asking that, Mack just says that what God is saying makes no sense.

“I know it doesn’t, at least, not yet. Will you at least consider this: when all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?”

This sentence was included so there could be a version of this book with questions for small group bible study at the end of the chapter. Just kidding, I don’t really know that such an edition of this book exists, though I would bet $30 that if it doesn’t already, someone will write it in the next 6 months.

Just then, a blue jay lands on the windowsill, and God gives it some food. Then it walks into her hand.

“consider our little friend here,” she began. “Most birds were created to fly. being grounded for them is a limitation within their ability to fly, not the other way around….You, on the other hand, were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around.”

I am not even going to pretend I remotely understand what the fuck any of that means.  We are told that Mack does, which….um, what? The things that do actually make sense Mack doesn’t understand, but he does understand the things that actually don’t?

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think this makes sense. Birds evolved were created to walk as well as fly, soooo humans were created both to be loved and unloved?

God then tells Mack that pain is like clipping a bird’s wings. When you have pain, you can’t reach your full potential, just like a bird with clipped wings can’t fly.

“I’m not like you, Mack.”

It wasn’t a put down; it was a simple statement of fact. But to Mack it felt like a splash of cold water.

“I am God. I am who I am. And unlike you, my wings can’t be clipped.”

When Mack asks where that leaves him, God says, “straight in the center of my love!” and then cuddles the blue jay. Wild blue jays don’t like to be cuddled. Actually, I’m not sure birds in general are huge fans of snuggles.

God then says this, and I think it has the potential to be quite insightful:

“The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the Nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn’t much, and then calling that god.”

This is true. We all make God in our own image. Instead of leaving it at that or expanding, God goes on to say that this is the wrong approach, because God isn’t just what men can imagine, she’s “so much more.”

And if one is a Christian and does believe that, fair enough, I suppose. I personally think it’s far more likely that God is exactly who we decide he/she is, since God herself does not actually exist. We all have our own different version of “God,” and I would be ok with that if people didn’t keep trying to get other people to accept their particular version of God.

Then we get onto the topic of the Trinity. Which is something I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about for some time. Basically, Christians–mainstream Christians as well–believe that God the Father, God the son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit are, at the same time, three different people and the same person. If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. We won’t get too much into it right now, and actually, the book doesn’t go too much into it either.

Instead, the book goes on to talk about Jesus incarnate. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before in Sabbath school, so we’re skipping over most of it. I do want to highlight this, though. Mack and God are talking about Jesus as fully human. Mack thinks Jesus was a divine being, because he did all those miracles. God says that no, Jesus did that as a human who was really devoted to God.

“So when Jesus healed the blind?”

“He did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.”

I am uncomfortable with this. It suggests that anyone could heal someone if they just trusted in God enough to work through them. This is how people wind up dead of completely preventable causes.

To be fair, though, most mainstream Christians won’t take it this far, so let it pass. What I also want to highlight is that, at least for Adventists, this is wrong. It is wrong because they believe that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine.

I would be very interested in getting a current Adventist to read this book (hey Callie……) and tell me what they think of the theology. Because I could be wrong, and it’s been a while since I’ve read any SDA theology books.

Mack felt the onset of information overload

You and me both. Welcome to the next 5 chapters.

Mack and God talk about the trinity some more, and I find myself skimming. The trinity is actually something I always understood, even as a child. It’s like how our planet has 3 parts: the ground, the sky, and the water. And these 3 separate parts are still one planet (At least, that was how 8 year old me explained it to herself. I was 8, ok? Gimme a break.)

An Adventist friend has explained that she views the trinity like water. Water can be a liquid, a gas (mist), or a solid (ice.) It’s got 3 states, but it’s all still water. That’s a fair way to look at it, and is the explanation that makes the most sense.

In my opinion, there is not much mystery in this. But Mack proceeds to be confused, and God tells him that it would be boring if humans could fully grasp God, because don’t you want God to be all mysterious and shit? Huh. I guess that explains why humans go to such great lengths to make God a mystery sometimes. Because yeah, humans do like puzzles and mysteries and trying to figure shit out. But we also like it when we can’t figure things out, because that means there’s more to figure out.

I had never thought of it like that. Good job, book.

God goes on for a while about how she loves, how she is loves, and that she has a loving relationship within herself, which is the source of that love.

All pretty standard Adventism 101 stuff.

And that’s the end of the chapter. Tune in next time for more talking with God, this time over dinner instead of while preparing dinner. Will it be interesting? Will I be able to make myself read this in time to make regular blog posts? Will my work schedule get in the way? Who knows, I sure don’t.

 

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