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October 02, 2008



thanks for saving me the trouble of reading it!


I whole heartedly agree that The Shack is an unholy mess. I do think though, that the definition of Christians that really matter in my humble opinion doesn't include people who re-write Scriptures...I'm not a Eugene Peterson fan, but hey with the exception of a difference of our probable choice of descriptive words..(but it's your blog) you gave a good summary. People need to steer clear of this book!


Egad ... I've been living in a cave!! How do I get back in?!


Pain can make g-d hard to see because he's not there, kind of like the friend who takes off when life starts happening. This is what people who spout that utter insensitivity don't seem to understand. G-d expects me to seek him when I'm in pain? Sounds like a father abusing his kids because they don't pay him enough attention.


Dammit. I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to defend this book!

It's not that I think it's well-written, because I don't. It's certainly not because I like Christian fiction, or enjoy slushy theology. And I hate the way books like this seem to think they are being innovative, or edgy as you say.

Nevertheless, the theology that is poorly disguised in this narrative is far more preferable than the fundamentalism of most Evangelicals. After all, the word on the street is that the author is a universalist. If I had to buy into Christianity, I can think of worse versions.



I get the sense you may be right about the universalism. Not far enough into it yet, but I suspect that's where he's headed. If so, I'll probably be kinder than I intended.



Is it that far fetched or out of the ordianry for people of faith (any faith for that matter)who presume or assume God's presence and existence in the world seek to make sense or reconcile the pain and suffering they see and experience in the world with their own faith tradition?

While I think I understand and see your point of view that it is possible and very likely that God doesn't exist specifically because evil and suffering does.

But is it that irrational or silly for people to truly search within their own faith tradition to try and make sense of it all.

What do think of Moltman's understanding and articulation of the Cross and the "Crucified God" as a means for understanding God's presence in the midst of pain and suffering?

It seems that is at least one way forward around some of the issues surrounding the problem of evil at least in Christian theology.

Greg I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on Moltman too.



I do appreciate what Moltmann is trying to do, but it doesn't solve the larger theodic problems. Borg tried to do something similar by saying classical theism is ineffective for theodic argument and panentheism worked better. Again, it might include God in our suffering, but it doesn't answer the primary why; it simply includes all suffering within God or it says God suffers as we do. For someone like me, this is an interesting argument, but it is an argument within a language game that doesn't apply to me. In other words, since I don't accept the theistic or panentheistic premises, the argument is self-contained within one of those frameworks. It can be argued, effectively I think, but since almost all theology operates in the metaphysical realm, all claims are essentially equal and all claims are equally devoid of referential meaning.


I don't begrudge people the comfort they seek in times of pain. My particular philosophy leans long in the direction of giving people their own bad habits, whether those be habits of action or thought. My problem is when they preach their insanity to others as they suffer. It is framed as an attempt to help heal pain, but really, it is usually an exercise in self-demonstrating one's faith and calming one's own fears. Just like stroking the horse's neck while riding behind enemy lines, such philosophizing isn't about the people who suffer but the people whose theology is threatened by that suffering.

When I was interested in doing careful theology, Moltmann was one of few that I could stomach. I've since grown somewhat sick of arguing actual theological points since they are all arguments whose premises are utterly inscrutable regardless of the quality of their logic. For the record, though, I think the problem of suffering is only a problem for the personal, moral concept of g-d, not the concept of g-d in general.



You last line sums up my current position better than I could have myself, as usual.


Intrigued by "The Shack" (which I've never heard of before), I read some of the rave (and not-so-rave) reviews at amazon. Somebody wrote that it's "unbiblical" that God is portrayed as female and male. Is it really? Doesn't the Bible say God created man and woman "in his image", which I always took to mean that God contains both the male and the female aspect? Does anybody know?


You are absolutely right K, not to mention the fact that a large percentage of references to g-d in the Hebrew texts are feminine as well. This is one of those issues certain individuals in fundamentalist denominations (most notably Paige Patterson of the SBC, now president of Southwestern Theological Seminary) have used to divide churches for the benefit of their own institutional power. They have lied about what the texts say and even pressured biblical translators to translate gendered expressions incorrectly for the sake of conserving their distorted view of theology.


Does this mean that Cheek just killed g-d in the same manner as Philip Pullman did?

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