By Matt Dawson
For Christians who were living under a rock, 10 years ago a book was written by William Young called “The Shack.” The book was a FICTIONAL account of a man who experienced a tragic moment in his life and as part of his grieving process has a weekend experience with the Godhead (The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit) at a shack in the woods. Last year they made a movie about it and it did very well in the theaters.
As Christians most often do, we attacked it and shot holes in it immediately to the point of some calling it absolute heresy for how the Trinity was represented. Some rallied around it and took church buses to opening night at the theater. To finally have a story that tells the beautiful picture of God’s love for us through the Trinity was a welcome event.
I personally LOVED the book. I had no problem reading a FICTIONAL book about the Trinity and even with all its theological holes and imperfect imagery, it was a fantastic story.
As we engage in the series “A Beautiful Mystery,” I want to share just a few things that I felt the book did a great job giving us examples of the Godhead and how the Trinity functions. If you choose to read it or read it again, keep these three ideas in mind.
1. Their Individual Nature
One of my favorite parts of this book is the effort the author takes to help us see the “persons” side of the Trinity. We believe that God is ONE in three persons. Persons meaning individual conscience and nature but all being fully God. The Holy Spirit is given a name (translates to mighty wind), Jesus is a carpenter working in the tool shed, and God shows up in 3 different forms (older black woman, the Judge, the trail guide) depending on what Mac was needing but all the while still called “Papa.”
I don’t personally envision God the same way, but the book did challenge me to better picture God as three PERSONS. When I think about God the Holy Spirit, I do my best to give Him form and function as the Scripture tells me He has. Jesus is the easiest because God gave him his earthly body. However, the challenge that I felt the author did well was not to lock God the Father into one gray haired old man image that many of us assume. My favorite part of the book was when God took the form on the Judge. God the Father is not limited by any one form of attribute, but is expressed in all of the characteristics given to us through His Word.
When Mac first meets all of them and they do their introductions, Mac asks “so which one of you is….” and all three of them say “I Am.” One God, Three Persons
2. Their Relationship With Each Other
Because we get a chance to see the Godhead as individuals, the book also does its best to show how they relate to one another. Jesus speaks of Papa with care and love (Papa knows best) and Papa speaks about the Holy Spirit with love and admiration for the way she understands and relates to our emotions. One time in the kitchen, Mac yells with frustration that he wants the truth, and Papa tells him “The Truth has a name and He’s working in the woodshed.”
The eternal Godhead we worship is and has always been living in communion with each other. They are the perfect example of the intimacy and closeness that we could ever need. We see examples and glimpses of this relationship throughout Scripture when we are looking for it. Even at the beginning of time, when God created man – he said, “let US make man in OUR image.” This was an example of the unity of the Godhead in creation, and that we, as people, actually reflects ALL of who God is. We were made in the image of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
3. Their Love for Us
Over and over throughout the story, each person of the Godhead expresses their unconditional love for Mac. Even when Mac is rejecting them and frustrated that they will not do what he wants them to do – they express love for him. Papa tells Mac, “I’m very fond of you” (which you find out she says about others as you read the book), Jesus walks with Mac and relates with him as a man. The Holy Spirit reaches into his heart and speaks directly to what Mac’s soul is yearning to hear when he needs to hear it. No one can read this story and not agree that the God portrayed through this fictional story was a God of love!
This is also one of the reasons I love the book. William Young did such a great job having the Trinity speaks scripture through the entire story. Every time I read (and watch) the Godhead speak words of love, they were almost always quoting scripture. This is the GOD that loves me. His love is expressed in unity yet differently through each member of the Godhead. God the Father loves me even when He challenges me (The Judge). God the Son loves me and I can see the nail scarred hands of the sacrifice He made for my freedom! God the Holy Spirit loves me in a way that sometimes only my emotional being understands. God’s Spirit communicates love with my spirit even when I don’t have the words to respond.
I’m not telling you that this book is the best book you could ever read about the Trinity. It can never replace Scripture for a proper understanding of who the Godhead is and how He is One in Three. However, I do believe God used William Young to draw us a literary picture of what our finite minds are able to understand about God. He helps us see them better as three “persons”, he shows us how they relate to each other with unity and honor, and he conveys the love of God to each one of us.