Yesterday, I neglected to discuss the most controversial part of The Shack. I try to blog about something I read in a book each day, and, in my reading of The Shack yesterday, I came across its controversial discussion of other religions, on pages 181-182. But I did not blog about that, probably because (1.) I somehow forgot about it, and (2.) I chose to focus in yesterday’s post on the issue of theodicy, how God can allow bad things to happen. That’s the issue that brought Mack to the shack in the first place.
Here, I want to comment some on the issue of other religions in The Shack, as well as give you an opportunity to give me your two-cents (as long as you’re polite and refrain from flamboyant apocalyptic language). Here’s the controversial discussion between Jesus and Mack about other religions:
Jesus: Remember, the people who know me are the ones who are free to live and love without any agenda.
Mack: Is that what it means to be a Christian?
Jesus: Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian.
Mack: No, I suppose you aren’t.
Jesus: Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.
Mack: Does that mean that all roads will lead to you?
Jesus: Not at all. Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.
What is this saying? That there are followers of Jesus in non-Christian religions, who may not believe in Jesus, but who are part of God’s family because they are “free to live and love without any agenda”? Is this like Karl Rahner’s idea of the “anonymous Christian”? Or Aslan’s statement in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle that the guy who was faithful to Tash was at least faithful to something, and so Aslan transfers the guy’s service to Tash onto himself (Aslan), as if he was serving Aslan all along?
Is it saying that other religions can be a preparation for faith in Christ, since Jesus will meet people where they are in an attempt to bring them to faith in him?
It’s puzzling that Jesus says “They were Buddhists”, etc. (emphasis mine). Does that mean that they aren’t Buddhists now, but believe in Christ? The murderers and the self-righteous are presumably not murderers and self-righteous anymore.
And yet, Jesus says that he has no desire to make people Christian. Does that mean that Christian beliefs are unimportant—or at least not as important as love, which is what doctrines such as the Trinity and the sacrifice of Christ are actually getting at? Does The Shack hold that one doesn’t have to believe in the Trinity and the sacrifice of Christ to be part of God’s family, since one can show love—the point of those doctrines—without assent to those concepts, per se?
Or is this book criticizing organized Christianity, or cultural Christianity, or Christianity as a Western construct?
The Shack does believe that Jesus died and rose again to heal God’s broken creation. But does its author think that belief in Jesus is necessary? And, apart from belief in Jesus, how can Jesus heal God’s broken creation? I mean, knowledge of Jesus is a necessary ingredient somewhere, isn’t it? If Jesus died to give us a good example of sacrifice and to heal our corruption that way, we have to believe in Jesus’ sacrifice for that doctrine to have its effect, right?
Can there be sanctification apart from faith in Christ. And, if so, why did Christ have to die and rise again? Can Christ do something in the hearts of those who don’t acknowledge him directly? There are some who believe that Christ’s death absolved the sins even of those who don’t believe in him. Is their idea that Christ removed the barrier that their sins erected between themselves and God, and so now Christ can work in their hearts, whether they believe in him or not?
What is William Young getting at, and is it biblical (not that I’m comfortable with that word, for the Bible has a variety of viewpoints, but some ideas aren’t even in the ballpark of the Bible)?