The Shack and The Benedict Option
I have often been asked about The Shack, the book and movie that portray God in fascinating but unbiblical ways. Another book, The Benedict Option, has resonated with many lately. Its author commends seceding from the culture, like Benedectine monks of the sixth century. Where the two books intersect reveals an inflection point for us.
The Shack portrays a god that’s different from the Bible. The author, William Paul Young, wrote another book, Lies We Believe About God, where he calls God a Cosmic Child Abuser for the cross. It’s a lie, he says, that God invented the cross. The Shack and its author err against the gospel.
Yet many people - some Christians - have been comforted by The Shack. They say it showed them facets of God they had never experienced. In pursuing an answer to the twin problems of evil and pain, The Shack brought comfort, albeit on an ultimately destructive foundation.
The problem of evil and pain is everywhere, causing society to teeter, which we feel moreso these days. The Benedict Option argues that we should therefore retreat from our declining culture, and create a new culture - an ark, to ride out the cultural flood. Benedict rightly argues that unless we are filled with light, we will have nothing to give.
Much to commend in that philosophy. Yet the ark does not need creating; it already exists, in the local church. To give others this light, we must be comforted by it ourselves (2 Cor. 2:4). This requires retreat, back into this local church, to be recalibrated by the Bible, mutually reassured that the promises of God will never fail, as we live them out together, in ordinary life. We don’t know much, but we know this: we have the best news. Only at the cross of Jesus are evil and pain resolved absolutely, in unbreakable love and justice. This whether our society lives or dies.
But this confidence should move us outward, from retreat to banging on the gates of hell. This “banging” does not look like loud judgments from atop our hill, but close-in, courageous curiosity, learning why The Shack resonated with our neighbor. Then we are positioned to reveal the gospel as better news. We don’t have to get there first; we just need to get there. Then we will bear the family resemblance, looking like our Father, who just “had to get here”, sending His only Son to die and be raised, for us (John 3:16). We retreat to remember His love, in order to wisely love.
If you would like to read more about The Shack, here are some helpful articles: