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, May 21, 2009

Finding God in the Shack - Session #4

This morning, my Thursday bible study continued 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 and a creative approach to understanding the doctrine of the Trinity.

Here are the highlights from today's session:
  • The novel explores theological thoughts of sin, evil, & salvation. Evil is interpreted as the absence of good, much like darkness is interpreted as the absence of light.
  • We talked about two theological issues that are often in tension with each other; the sovereignty of God and human free will. The author of "Finding God in the Shack" believes that the novel goes a little too far in emphasizing free will and neglecting the doctrine of "prevenient grace" which is the grace that makes it possible for humans to have free will.
  • We spent a lot of time discussing the issue of forgiveness and it's relationship with salvation. Just because God forgives someone doesn't mean that person receives salvation. Again, humans can choose or not choose (thanks to God's prevenient grace) to be in a relationship with God.
  • The author of "Finding God in the Shack" references the 2006 shooting involving an Amish school and how the Amish were willing to offer forgiveness soon after the shootings. We were reminded of how difficult it is to live out the Christian faith when we are called to forgive people for doing terrible things. Perhaps the author of the novel could have emphasized our need to depend upon God's power to offer forgiveness. Like Ezekiel 36:26 points out, we need a new heart and a new spirit in order to be a forgiving people.
  • The author of "Finding God in the Shack" raises the troubling but important question if we are able to envision an eternal life in which people who have done terrible acts of evil and who have repented and accepted a relationship with God through Christ, will be alongside of other people of faith who haven't committed such terrible deeds of evil.
  • We also were reminded that God takes sin and evil seriously and that there will be a day when God will offer judgement. Our Judeo/Christian faith is a faith in which unrighteousness will be finally judged and defeated. This is when heaven and earth will become one.

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