[I wrote this as part of a conversation with my friend Jason who is trying to fathom why in the world I’m Shack-ifying the Bible. It came out pretty well, so I’m sharing it here]…
When anyone reads the Bible (or any text), they read it through a certain “lens,” a set of ideas of what they think the Bible is about. The lens of Western Christianity was forged primarily by Augustine, and I believe Augustine was wrong about some things, including his idea that the gospel is primarily a legal transaction. But b/c it’s his lens that has dominated the West for 1500 years, we can’t imagine seeing the Bible as anything but a kind of courtroom drama.
But pre-Augustine, there were some other lenses that I think were much better. I think specifically here of guys like Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, and others–the people who wrote the Nicene Creed. It’s THAT lens that I’ve spent the last 15 years studying. The Shack is one expression of that lens, though it could be argued it is somewhat clumsy as a theological text. A more precise expression of the lens can be found in various 21st century theologians–a great one to start with is Baxter Kruger. What I’m trying to do is to look at the Bible through that lens, and to share what I see there.
At first, my primary audience was people who read the same theologians I do. But when The Shack became a big hit, and I saw how much it fit the lens I was using, I realized I had a much larger potential audience. So I replaced “Father” with “Papa,” “Spirit” with “Sarayu” (both of which are biblically defensible names, IMO), and I started putting it out there as “The Shack Bible.”
So it wasn’t the central goal to make a Bible that Shack fans could relate to, but to help people take a fresh look at the Bible through this different lens.