The Shack, the book that inspired me to write a blog in the first place, has come out in movie form. The book was, and is, quite controversial because of the way it depicts the Trinity - as an old woman instead of a heavenly Father; a bumbling, less than omniscient son instead of the glorious Son of God. I did not care for that despite the needed message the book sought to convey: that God is not some unapproachable being who is far above our problems and concerns, but a person (or persons) to whom we can bring our deepest wounds and who brings comfort and healing. I have heard that the movie is better in making clear that the characters who appear as the persons of the Trinity are simply ways that God shows Himself to make Himself more relatable. But I have not seen the movie so I will not comment on that. Instead, I want to focus on our view of God and the attempt of some to try to change that - often for the worse.
This book is not the only attempt to make the God of the Bible more relatable. Some theologians and scholars have tried to re-define God in such a way that He does seem more relatable. Let's face it. There are barriers to fallen people to be able to relate to a holy God. He seems so great and powerful and separate from us that it is hard for us to understand how we can come into His presence.
A recent attempt to alter the traditional, Christian view of God is called Open Theism*. According to this view, God is not completely omniscient. He is bound by time and does not perfectly know the future. He is doing the best He can and will straighten everything out in the end. In the meantime, He is comforting and healing those in need. According to Open Theism, the traditional view of God as eternal (outside of time) and completely omniscient makes it impossible for men to relate to Him. How could someone approach such a God? Open Theists claim that their view allows us access to a God we can relate to and who can relate to us. So all Christians need to do is to alter how they see God.
There is a very interesting philosophical argument here, but it is not scriptural. God is clearly outside of time since the speaks of the beginning of time. Does "In the beginning" ring a bell? If God existed before the beginning, then He must exist outside of time. That puts Him above time - seeing all of history at one glance. He does know the future perfectly because He is already there. I don't know about you, but I take much more comfort in a God who knows everything than in a God who knows a whole bunch.
No, we cannot alter our view of God to make us better able to relate to Him. I cannot, however, just write these attempts off as simply wild heresy. There has been a real problem in the church with how we represent God. Yes, we must teach that God is omniscient and holy, but we have made Him unapproachable. In the Garden of Eden, God would fellowship freely with Adam and Eve "in the cool of the day". That fellowship was broken by their sin. "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." (Is. 59:2) So, we do have the problem of sin and that is what truly separates man from God.
In the Old Testament era, God was 'locked up', so to speak, in the Holy of Holies of the temple and nobody could approach Him except the high priest once a year with the blood of an animal. This was so he would not die. "But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing." (Heb. 9:7-8) They could not come directly come into God's presence under the Old Covenant. Something more had to be done to restore man's lost fellowship.
That is why Jesus came. He did much more than just save us from Hell and take us to Heaven. He came to take Hell out of us and put Heaven into us. Does that sound radical to you? What about this scripture? "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27) If Christ is in us, is not Heaven in us?
The people of the church have yet to realize our identity in Him. When we receive Christ, we first have our sins washed away. (Rev. 1:5) Then we receive a new nature, the nature of God Himself. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, OLD THINGS HAVE PASSED AWAY AND ALL THINGS HAVE BECOME NEW AND ALL THINGS ARE OF GOD." (2 Cor. 5:17-18) The old things are the old sinful nature you had along with all the junk that goes with it. The new things are the new nature, spiritual fruit, etc. "That we might be partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) We are truly God's children, not just emotionally, but actually, since children inherit their nature from their parents. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:7)
We have the nature of God in our spirits and we can now fellowship with God and enter His presence anytime we like. Our relationship with God has been fully restored and it is even better than what Adam and Eve had in the Garden. In fact, we have received the gift of righteousness. (Romans 5:17) I learned a long time ago that you cannot earn righteousness. It is a gift. It is, in fact, God's own righteousness imparted to us. (2 Cor. 5:21)
The problem with our theology has not been because we had too high of a view of who God is, but a too low view of who He has made us to be. If we had understood that there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ, then we would have had boldness to come to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace in time of need. (Heb. 4:16) We could pour out our heart to Him and He would listen and give comfort and healing for our hurts.
So, we do need to change our view, but the answer is not to depart from what the scripture teaches about God. The answer is to dig deeper into the Bible and discover how God has completely reconciled us through Christ and how we can enter His presence without any sense of guilt or inferiority, for He is our Father. What a great and wonderful Father He is!
*Advocates of the Open Theism view includes some like Pentecostal scholar Clark Pinnock and C. Peter Wagner of the New Apostolic Reformation.