The theology behind The Shack has a lot in common with the ancient Christian teachers called the “Church Fathers,” particularly those before Augustine. I’ve made this claim a few times, so I thought I’d devote a few posts to backing up that claim. If you don’t care about this (as I’m sure will be true for many of my readers), feel free to skip this post and go do something more fun. But if this sort of thing DOES matter to you (as it does to me), here goes…
It’s something of a scandal how much Papa, Jesus and Sarayu LIKE people, as in EVERYBODY. The whole human race belongs to them, and they know it, and they are happy with their possession. This is no Manichean vision where some belong to God and others belong to Satan. The Shack is not universalism (“Everyone will enjoy God forever, whether they want to or not”), but it portrays a universality to the relationship Jesus has established between God and the human race. To not believe in that relationship makes one’s life function in darkness as if the relationship were not there, but it doesn’t change the reality that all people have been included in the life-together of Papa, Jesus and Sarayu. Some thoughts on this topic from Clement of Alexandria:
Wherefore also all people are His; some through knowledge, and others not yet so; and some as friends, some as faithful servants, some as servants merely. This is the Teacher, who trains…the believer by good hopes, and the hard of heart by corrective discipline through sensible operation. Thence His providence is in private, in public, and everywhere. And that He whom we call Saviour and Lord is the Son of God, the prophetic Scriptures explicitly prove. So the Lord of all, of Greeks and of Barbarians, persuades those who are willing. For He does not compel him who (through choosing and fulfilling, from Him, what pertains to laying hold of it the hope) is able to receive salvation from Him.
– Clement of Alexandria (~200 A.D.)
Stromata, Book 7, Chapter 2.
Much thanks to my partners-in-crime at The Adopted Life for their growing collection of little snippets like this, and for their continuing work at re-discovering the Patristic way of orienting all theology around Trinity, Incarnation, and the gospel of Adoption.