Monday, February 09, 2009

A Really Good Question

Recently, I've been in a discussion with one of my friends about William Young's book The Shack.

My bottom line is that I question our embracing the book.

One of my arguments has been that Young crosses the line in how he describes both God and the cross. Granted, there's a certain amount of leeway when engaging in allegory and fiction, but I think some of his descriptions stray into "heeeeyyyy....that's another Jesus entirely" territory.

Anyway, as I was driving tonight, I thought of a possible pushback to what I've been saying. It goes something like this:

"Well...God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush, didn't He? If anything was a stretch, that's it, but there God is, assuming that form. If He can appear as a burning bush to communicate something about Himself to Moses, shouldn't it be ok for us to allegorize God as a life-size Aunt Jemima?"

While this doesn't touch upon my most fervent concerns (ex: what Young does to the cross and the attitude he takes to the Church), it raises a great question: when describing God in *any* genre (fiction or otherwise): where's the line?

I suppose there does come a point when we've overstepped our literary license. Where is that point? I have no interest in splitting hairs and finding *exactly* where the line is, as if I'd use that knowledge in trying to get as close to the line as possible. Nor is this a useless speculative question, like "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" This is about God's very character...that's pretty central.

I have no answer to this question. I mean, I have hunches and inclinations, but nothing solid.

So I put the question to you: what do you think?

Is it ok, in fiction, to describe God as, say, a lion? How about a surly, moody teenager? A drunk Pittsburgh steel worker? A repressive, white, grumpy, old man? A 29 year old conservative blogger from California with a chip on his shoulder? ( :) ) An effeminate Asian?...a large, matronly, black woman who loves to cook waffles?

I'm pretty sure some of those are way out of bounds, and I bring them up only for comedic effect. But the bottom line question I don't have a solid answer on.

One thing for sure: our answer should not be, "we can describe God however we like as long as it benefits us."

If that's our answer, our priorities are hopelessly backwards.

BTW, I view conversations like this as incredibly important. Hey, I might be wrong and need to adjust who I think God is. I might need to adjust my approach to several other things (i.e., talking with people I disagree with)...that's one reason. Plus, we're not talking about personal preference here, like me trying to discuss someone's preference for Michigan over Ohio State. This is about eternal things, so it matters.

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