Our humanity & God's grace

Just recently, I was reminded of the nature of our humanity in this fallen world and of God's amazing grace. The reminder came seemingly randomly--through a TV show, a movie and a book. I love it when the Holy Spirit speaks in unexpected ways. I hope I was listening well.

Pete Townsend
The TV show that I watched included an interview with rock legend Pete Townsend of The Who, discussing his newly released autobiography, Who I Am. I fought back tears as he recounted a troubled life--rejection by his parents, mistreatment by his mentally ill grandmother, sexual abuse from his grandmother's boyfriends, and other sources of trauma.

Though the resultant anger and sense of alienation drove him to great achievement in music, it left him with a terrible, gnawing pain deep inside his soul--feeling unloved and unlovable. This pain spilled over into his relationships, including a rocky partnership with band mate Roger Daltrey.

Thankfully, after much bitterness and some shared suffering, Pete and Roger reconciled. Despite all the trauma and many self-inflicted wounds, Pete gained a more healthy perspective on life, including a new view toward the people who had abandoned and abused him. He learned that he is loved and lovable, and he learned how to love. He learned something about grace.

The movie that I watched was Music Within, the true story of Richard Pimentel, who as a child was repeatedly rejected by his mentally ill mother. His father then died and he was left with a deep sense of "I am not"--"No one cares"--"I don't matter." Through a series of events over several years (including time as a soldier in Vietnam), and with the help of some close friends (some who were terribly disabled), Richard's perspective about life and about himself changed. He found meaning and love as a passionate spokesman for the disabled. It's an amazing story of the outworking of grace. Here's the movie trailer (click on the picture to play):

The book that I began reading is The Shack Revisited: There is more going on here than you ever dared to dream, in which Trinitarian theologian Baxter Kruger explores the theology that undergirds the best-selling book, The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. As Baxter explains, The Shack brilliantly and poignantly illustrates, through the experience of a man named Mack, the human condition (alienation from God and from one another) and the healing grace of our triune God who enters that alienation with us, embraces us in our sin and pain, and leads us out into his own triune communion of love.

I don't know what Pete and Richard believe about God, but I see in their stories clear evidence of God's redeeming grace at work. If they haven't already, I hope that they will come to know the God portrayed in The Shack--the Triune God revealed in Jesus--the God who has been journeying with them all of their lives, including in the times they felt most abandoned and rejected. It is this God that Mack came to know, and through his grace was delivered and transformed.

All of us--believers and non-believers alike--battle with alienation (the Bible refers to it as sin) and the pain it brings to us and to others around us. How sad that some preach a God who would add to that pain rather than work to relieve it! How sad that some preach a God who is separate from and rejecting of sinners rather than being the friend of sinners that God is shown to be in Jesus.

Truly, God--Father, Son and Spirit--is with us and for us! He loves and accepts all--unconditionally. It is his passionate desire that all come to know him, and in knowing him to trust him, and in trusting him to enter into the fullness of his triune love and life. That is grace. That is our triune God.


Anonymous said…
This is important because we are dealing with the truth of God's word. We do not have the right, as Christians, to violate God's word (1 Cor. 4:6), and take liberties with God Himself when speaking for God! Paul said in Gal. 5:8 that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough." He was speaking about false teachers. The Shack has false teachings in it such as universalism, having God the Father appear as a woman, presenting the Holy Spirit as a woman...even if it presents God in a nice and palatable way.

This is important because we are sinners and are by nature susceptible to sin and rebellion against God. We don't need any help in misrepresenting Him -- even in the slightest.

This is important because as Christians we need to uphold the word of God as faithfully as possible lest we accidentally assist the enemy of the gospel in his attempt to water it down and change it -- even if ever so slightly.

This is important because God is the standard of holiness and righteousness and if we deviate from that -- as Paul Young does in The Shack when he misrepresents God's greatness -- we are asking for trouble...and trouble is what people have found when they have taken even a little liberty with God's word. This is how cults get started. May I remind you that Grace Communion International was once famously named among the Kingdom of the Cults as the Worldwide Church of God. Many of us had great hopes of this cult (in which I grew up) transformed "by truth" - but now one must question "who's truth?" Because it doesn't seem to line up with Biblical truth when promoting such books as The Shack.
Ted Johnston said…
Dear Anonymous. I agree that, as Christians, "we need to uphold the word of God as faithfully as possible..." However, I do not agree with your assessment that The Shack teaches heresy. What I recommend is reading the book the post cites--Baxter Kruger's new book, The Shack Revisited, in which he reviews the Trinitarian theology that undergirds The Shack, which is written as an allegory to present a larger truth--that truth being the nature of our triune God in his redeeming relationship with sinful humanity. Baxter addresses all the accusations you make concerning The Shack.
Ted Johnston said…
Another well-reasoned analysis of the theology expressed by The Shack is "God, the Bible and the Shack" by Gary and Cathy Deddo. You can get it at http://www.amazon.com/God-Bible-Shack-Ivp-Booklets/dp/0877840326
Nice post, Ted. I used to think of God's grace as only expressed toward Christians. Your post beautifully demonstrates God's grace working towards ALL His "children". I picked up Kruger's book last week and look forward to reading it after re-reading The Shack--this time from a more sympathetic perspective! :-)

I had similar objections to the Shack as anonymous. This is because I allowed the "critics" to sway me before I even read the book (which I had re-titled "The Swill" before our study of it). Most of these critics simply couldn't get past the style of the book and the images contained within to understand the truth of the inter-Trinitarian relationship that Young was presenting; a relationship that Father, Son and Spirit had purposed to share with His creation from the beginning. I hope the Spirit can break through anonymous' doctrinal fortress that seems to be keeping him/her from seeing the beauty of God as expressed in The Shack. I know it can be done because the Spirit has done it (and continues to do it) in me.