I just finished reading “The Shack” by William P. Young. It was a roller coaster! A great ride. It filled me with hope, and I felt that it was really good for me. However, the non-emotional part of my head began to compartmentalize and say, “There is truth, theology, and fiction presented in this book. Sometimes they overlap. You should revisit the theology that was presented in this book and examine it.” With that in mind, I’d like to take the first step. So here we go!
Let’s talk about Yahweh (God the Father or Jehovah) being presented initially as a black woman referred to as “Papa”. This same “Papa” is later presented as an older, white, ponytail-haired man. What’s going on here? Why the gender-switching? Some critics believe that the author was conveying a subtle message that said, “God can be either a woman or a man; since we are created in that image, we too can choose to be transsexual”. That’s pure nonsense. Yahweh is a spirit (John 4:24). This is biblical truth. Yahweh is not human (Numbers 23:19); therefore, Yahweh is neither male or female (Jesus became a human male, but we are talking about the other members of the trinity). Being male or female are human characteristics. Yahweh is simply not a human being. There is no gender-switching taking place. It is true that the bible refers to Yahweh as “He” and “The Father”. It is written this way for a purpose to be discussed on another day, and we are not here to change what is written. Suffice it to say that Yahweh is the Father, but is not a human male. The author used the portrayal of the black woman and the older man to portray different truths which we will explore shortly.
Other critics say that placing Yahweh in the character and likeness of a woman is “heresy” or an “anti-biblical presentation”. Are you sure about that??? Do you want to know what I believe God showed me as being the truth behind the symbolism? Read on.
So, was it wrong or biblically inaccurate for the author to present Yahweh God as a large, black African woman? Now let’s take a step back and remember that this is still a fiction book. God is not going to directly send us cards in the mail. God is not going to walk up to either you or me as a woman making biscuits, or even as a man making biscuits. It ain’t happening. Since that isn’t going to happen, then let’s defrost the image of a black African woman making biscuits and let’s get to the heart of the matter. Whether the author intended it or not, I personally saw the image of a large black African woman as mere symbolism for a much, much greater biblical truth. Instead of asking if it was wrong or biblically inaccurate for the author to present Yahweh God as a large, black African woman, let’s change the question to clearly address the real issue.
Here’s the real question: Would it be wrong or biblically inaccurate for anyone to present Yahweh as having the love of a mother who wants to comfort one of her children??? Let’s look at the very words that Yahweh uses to describe one of the ways of God’s love.
Isaiah 66: 13 God says, As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.
Let me ask you some questions. What does that verse look like? If you wanted to write about this particular aspect of God’s love, would it be biblically accurate to use the model of a man, or of a woman? God said “mother” and “her”. Yahweh chose to use the model of a mother, a woman, to describe this aspect of God’s love. What else is this verse telling us? Answer: The kind of God’s love these people are receiving is like the comfort a child receives when it is nursing on its mother’s bosom. You think I’m kidding? Read the verse before it: You will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. Read the context of the passage and you will see that God is the one giving them a motherly, nurturing type of comfort in this situation! God is loving them as a mother would; That’s what God said! God is giving them a mother’s love. That is the comparison that God is using. Can a man give a mother’s love? Keep remembering, Yahweh is not a human male; Yahweh is a spirit. Looking at that verse, if you were filming a movie, would you cast a man for the role of a “mother” comforting “her” child in this manner? Listen carefully, fathers cannot comfort their children emotionally in the same way that a mother can…But God can. God just said so. Every human child needs the love of both a father figure and a mother figure in their lives. Spiritual children are apparently no different. In this passage God is recognizing that we sometimes need for God to come to us with the distinct love of a mother…not just a father. God provides both. God said it, not me. If you want to talk heresy, it would be heretical, non-biblical, and perverted to use anything other than a mother figure when portraying this aspect of God’s love. God is a spirit and is neither male or female. God is all-sufficient and beyond human; therefore, God can comfort and love us like a Mother or a Father.
Where did the love of a mother come from? Where did this intuitive, nurturing, nesting love come from? It comes from the love of God. God is love. All love came from God. What are you thinking when you read the bible and it says, “God is love”? Has your mind been trained to think that agape is only the love of a father? God is not just a father’s love. God is a mother’s love also. Contained within Agape is the love of father and mother. All of it is in God. In fact, this aspect of God’s love is the most faithful you will ever find. Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.–Isa. 49:15. David tells us, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” God can fill the gaps; God has you covered.
God knows what you need. And now you know what God can provide. Knowing this truth about the “fullness” of God’s love can be the beginning of your healing. Meditate on these passages and ask this wonderful, loving God to reveal this love to you. I meditated on these scriptures, I asked for this love, and I have been blessing others. It is my hope that this post and the scriptures contained in it can help you to see that the underlying love portrayed in The Shack is not fictional…It is quite biblical and very real. Be like the Psalmist who received this love from God, “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me”.–Psalm 131:2
One more thing, in case you can’t tell, I thought the portrayal of “Papa” as a black, African woman was very fitting for a symbolic demonstration of God’s Isaiah 66: 12-13 type of love. She symbolized Yahweh in the role”as a mother who comforts her child”.