In the novel The Shack by William P. Young, God the Father is portrayed as Papa, the African woman, Jesus, the Middle Eastern man, and the Holy Spirit as Sarayu, an Asian woman. This combination is perplexing and interesting as the author attempts to bring God into a more relational, and tangible light. However, there are some drawbacks and biblical errors in portraying God in the book. I realize that the author’s intentions were not to educate his readers with completely correct theology, but of morality, that of forgiveness, love, and joy.
Papa is described to be wearing a “long-flowing African-looking garment, complete with vibrant multicolored head band.” pg. 118. I agree with an image of multicolors, and of a glow and radiance. In the book of Revelation, it describes God and comparing His appearance of that of jasper, emeralds, and of rainbows, “And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” Revelation 4:3. However, I have a difficulty in imaging God the Father as an African woman. I believe that God is His own, and that He does not necessarily have a “race”, but an image representing all His people of all races. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Genesis 1:26. The word “man” is broad, thus representing both genders and all races.
Jesus is known as Jesus in the book. He is portrayed as a Middle Eastern man wearing “a light blue button-down shirt that made his dark brown eyes stand out.” pg. 120. I thought that it was clever that the author would dress Jesus wearing contemporary clothes, that he is not only the God of two thousand years ago, but the God of the present, and eternity.
Sarayu is described to be “clothed in something so fine and lacy that it fairly flowed at the slightest breeze or spoken word. Rainbow patterns shimmered and reshaped with her every gesture.” pg. 120. It is interesting to describe who the Holy Spirit is. Holy Spirit according to the bible is a distinct person of whom we should have relationship with, and not some kind of “force”, ” The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14.
In Young’s book, God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are described to be in a “circle of relationship” pg. 122. That not of hierarchy or “chain of command” as Mack described. This is Young’s attempt in describing the Trinity. That the Godhead is of three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Deuteronomy 6:4 it says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The actual term “Trinity” is not seen in the bible, but was coined by scholars. The appearance of God is distinctly clear that God is of three persons, however, Young’s portrayal may show God as tritheism, that claims that there are three different beings who together make up God. The word “person” does not necessarily mean that there’s a distinction in essence but a different “subsistence” in the Godhead. It is difficult to fully understand and comprehend how God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but they are one.
If I could talk with the author, I would tell him that some of his portrayals are truthfully incorrect according to the Word, but I am sure that he knows that. However, he does successfully portray the love of God, and that it is about relationship and not “religion”. I love how the theme of forgiveness was shown and of love in the book. His intentions and message is more focused on the will and love of God, rather than His physical appearance. It is about His heart.