You may have heard about a movie called The Shack, from a book of the same title by Wm. Paul Young (or William P. Young). The book was hugely popular, and likely the movie will be too. A friend loaned me a copy and I tried to read it, but I could only force myself halfway through the book. I did not like it. I agree with a review Tim Keller wrote, in which he said,
The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.
Something about the dream I had last night made me think of the current discussion about The Shack. I hope it makes sense to the reader.
I woke up this morning having been dreaming about being at church. In the dream I had awakened in the morning and was anticipating being involved in some significant but unidentified church sacrament – something like baptism, only I knew I had already been baptized, so it wasn’t that. I looked at the clothes I had been sleeping in and decided they were perfectly appropriate for the occasion. Two red cords around my waist, like a belt, represented the blood of Christ. A black T-shirt meant I was dead to sin.
Church wasn’t like any actual church building I’ve ever been in, but it was comfortable and familiar, like being at home. My wife was with me (In real life she does not attend church because of her OCD). She was talking to the pastor’s wife, and everyone was young – maybe about 30. There were no worries, no problems to be solved, no needs to be met. I felt peaceful and everyone was calm and joyful, hugging and kissing.
When I talked to the Pastor (He and his wife didn’t look like anyone I know, but in the dream we knew them well.) I had the passing thought that I should be embarrassed about what I was wearing, but I wasn’t, and everyone was fine with it. Then, as I looked at what I was wearing, it had changed. I was wearing tan Bermuda shorts and a lighter colored shirt.
The Pastor was in the kitchen and I spoke with him across the counter, recounting to him that I had remembered finding a passage – perhaps in Romans or 1 Corinthians – in my old NIV study Bible, where I had made notes about the four categories of givers: those who gave nothing, those who gave sparingly, those who gave dutifully, and those who gave generously.
But that didn’t seem as important as the fact that all was well. I was not nervous or concerned or thinking of things that needed to be done. When I awoke, I was happy and felt a peaceful confidence. It gave me some perspective on why a book and movie like The Shack might appeal to those who feel the emotional need to resolve their concerns, yet for whatever reason they avoid resolving those concerns with Scriptural understanding.
It is a wonderful experience to be at peace. But real peace can prove to be elusive because there are so many “facsimiles” out there: drugs and alcohol; games and entertainment; fantasy and pretense; power and authority; avoidance and retreat.
I can understand parents who have lost a child wanting to find peace. But the feeling of peace offered by The Shack’s message can only last if it is sustained by genuine faith in the real Jesus, as revealed in Scripture.
I know that as long as I draw breath on this physical plane I will have to deal with “The heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” But because Jesus has overcome the world, I can know peace – not the peace that the world gives, which is circumstantial and temporal – but a peace that is beyond understanding.
This is because our faith is about things that are unseen, not seen. We are more than conquerors in Christ, not because we stubbornly refuse to buckle to circumstance, but because Christ offers something greater than circumstance which The Shack does not.
We will know God’s perfect and lasting peace when we are with him in glory. Until then, we must be satisfied with glimpses. When Paul says “in all these things we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) he is referring to:
waiting for “the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23),
“we hope for what we do not see” (vs. 25),
“all things work together for good” (vs. 28),
“those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vs. 30),
“if God is for us, who can be against us?” (vs. 31),
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (vs. 32)
“Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (vs. 34)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (vs. 35)
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (vs. 36).
So, the peace we have in Christ is something we receive by faith, not by the resolution of our temporal circumstances. Having this peace is not just a matter of our feelings. If it were, all we would need to do is take a pill. Our peace is not based on ourselves – our strengths, our victories or any external resolution of our difficulties.
Despite the death of loved ones, and even if we are killed, our peace – God’s peace – is “in Christ”, not in the world or in ourselves.