A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Finding God in the Shack - Session #1

This morning, my Thursday bible study began a study on the best selling novel, "The Shack." We're using the resource, "Finding God in the Shack" by Roger E. Olson which examines the approach the novel takes in explaining how a good, loving, and all powerful God can allow suffering and evil in the world.

Here are the highlights from today's session:
  • Like the character, Mack, in "The Shack," the author of "Finding God in the Shack," Roger Olson also had an abusive father and had attended seminary.
  • The author of "Finding God in the Shack" claims that some folks have unfairly criticized the theology in the novel by using biblical proof-texting. This is unfair, according to the author, since the bible is not a book in which we should use the proof-texting method. The reason? Someone will always be able to refute a proof-text with another proof-text! Any theology or biblical text should be seen in light of the larger biblical story and theme.
  • This doesn't mean that we shouldn't criticize the novel at all. It just means that any criticism should be fair.
  • Roger Olson makes a great point that some pastors, in order to hold to the sovereignty of God, claim that sometimes God causes bad things to happen in order for God's plan to be fulfilled. This, Olson claims, is a terrible distortion of who God is. God doesn't cause bad things to happen. This type of theology needs to be put in the trash can.
  • Psalm 77 is an example of how the bible gives us permission to be angry with God. Like Mack in the beginning of the novel, it's OK for us to also be angry with God whenever we encounter evil and injustice.
  • Olson affirms the novel's emphasis that whenever we experience evil or injustice, God suffers with us. God is not a distant deity unmoved by what is happening in the world. Olson references the story of Elie Wiesel in the book, "Night," when a holocaust prisoner upon seeing a boy being hanged, asks "Where is God?" Someone from the crowd responds, "Right there on the gallows."
  • The novel's explanation for why God doesn't stop evil is because God gives us free will. One day, the world will be set right the way it was meant to be.

This is gong to be a very interesting study on a theological topic (theodicy) that has caused some people to reject the Christian faith because of wondering why God doesn't stop evil now, but has also led others to embrace the Christian faith because it provides the hope that one day God will abolish evil forever.

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