Goddess Worship and The Shack

August 21, 2008 at 9:34 am 10 comments

I’ve read The Shack. I liked it. I heard a little about the controversial nature of the book before I read it, but avoided reading others opinions until after I finished the book so as not to color my reading. Now that I’ve read the book, I’ve also read some reviews and commentary as well as viewed a clip from a sermon by a local pastor of a large church in my area. I was surprised when I heard this pastor use terminology like “goddess worship” in relation to the book. I wondered whether he read the book. I’m sure he must have before making such a bold declaration. Personally, I’m not into goddess worship. But I am concerned with worshiping an exclusively male God. In my view, God is neither male nor female, yet both male and female.

We have neglected the femine aspects of the God of the Bible for far too long and I found The Shack a refreshing read as the author challenges our preconcieved notions of God. But to call what the author has done in The Shack “goddess worship”! Well, that’s going a bit too far for me. I wonder, how do we hold a view of God that includes the feminine without being accused of goddess worhsip?


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More on A Christianity Worth Believing… Nieghborhood Campout


  • 1. cindyinsd  |  August 21, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Hi, Elizabeth

    I’ve gone back and forth as to whether I want to read The Shack or not. I have so many books on my list already and after some of the things I’ve heard about it, I wondered whether it would be worth the trouble. Since it’s become so popular I guess I’ll have to read it or I’ll be totally out of the loop. 😉

    I agree with you that it’s inaccurate to think of God as male or female. He’s way beyond that. I think it’s kind of silly that some people particularly want to portray Him as female, since He chose to portray Himself as male and this fits in with the pictures He’s painted in our own social structures such as the bride and the bridegroom, etc. Still, I don’t really have a problem with it, I guess.

    I’ve been reading Pagan Christianity. Have you read it? What do you think?

    God bless,


  • 2. Josh  |  August 22, 2008 at 9:25 am


    It was very nice to meet you the other weekend. I regret not having the opportunity to talk to you and get to know you better, but I am sure that we will have the opportunity for many talks over the coming years.

    I am on vacation right now, and one of the books in my reading stack was “The Shack”. I too have received many reviews and critiques of the book. Many of the reviews, as you have mentioned, treated the book as blasphemous and heretical.

    Admittedly, as I began to read I was somewhat uncomfortable with “Papa” being a female. Yet, as I read I couldn’t help but see some of the beautiful biblical imagery that the writers of Scriptures used to describe God come to the forefront of Mack’s encounter with “Papa” in the book.

    As you have already stated, this work of fiction highlights BOTH the masculine and feminine aspects of God’s character. Such a balanced view of God fully takes into account what we read in the early part of Genesis, namely that both male AND female were created in the image of God.

    Moreover, the writer of “The Shack” freely admits that the Trinitarian God presented in the pages of his book still falls drastically short of the God that we find in Scripture, the God that we serve. O, that each of us could with the same freedom admit that our understanding of God likewise falls short of the God that we serve!

    Apart from that, I thought that “The Shack” was an enjoyable read, which wrestled with the issue of how a good, loving God could allow pain and suffering to exist in the world. The book also attempts to tackle how God can be the sovereign King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet still be a friend that we can have fellowship and a relationship with.

  • 3. Elizabeth Chapin  |  August 25, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Cindy, “The Shack” is worth reading, and since so many people are reading it you should be able to find someone to talk with about it!

    As for God choosing to portray himself as male, besides Jesus being male, other revelations and references to God include female images of God. Rob Bell does a nice Nooma on this topic called, “She.”

    As for Pagan Christianity, I’ve heard about it but haven’t read it yet. I too have a long list (or rather pile) of books to read and now that school is starting up for me, my pile is even bigger!

  • 4. Elizabeth Chapin  |  August 25, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Josh, it was nice to meet you also at Threshold and I look forward to learning with you this year. I appreciate your comments on “The Shack” as I appreciated some of the same things you did. I also appreciated the redemptive turn at the end – when you see victims reaching out to bless those who have offended them, you know the love of Christ is alive and well. Overall, I thought the book dealt with some difficult issues well.

  • 5. jeff greer h.  |  August 29, 2008 at 3:31 am

    hey elizabeth,

    i wonder if the pastor that used the term ‘goddess worship’ is the same pastor who apparently forbid the people of his church from reading it? vicki is reading it now and i will most likely read it next so i can’t wait. and i am myself tired of the overly male reference to God and bothered by the lack of the female aspects of God. what is also interesting is the that the words used to describe the Holy Spirit are feminine and are related to the words used to describe Eve. we need to hook up sometime… now that i don’t work all the time. give us a shout! talk to you soon!

    rock on,

  • 6. Joe Burnham  |  October 22, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Here was my response when I mentioned The Shack in my blog: I can see a lot of people also having issues with the Father showing up in feminine form, but that doesn’t irritate me as much as the idea of having the Father being incarnate at all (or bearing crucifixion marks) … after all, Jesus is the only one of the three who put on skin. If you’re going to make the Father incarnate, why not have him be a woman, especially when the main character has issues with the idea of God as Father because of his horrible childhood issues?

  • 7. Elizabeth Chapin  |  October 22, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Joe, now I’ll have to check out your blog on the Shack. But was Jesus the only one who ever put skin on? Some interpreters read Abram’s visitors as Father, Son, and H.S. made manifest (God appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. Gen. 18:1) This Genesis passage is clearly an appearance/manifestation, not an incarnation. In the Shack, I wouldn’t classify a vision of God as an incarnation of God, but rather an appearance/manifestation of God.

  • 8. cindyinsd  |  October 22, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Hi, Elizabeth

    Well, I finally read The Shack. Then I gave it to a non-Christian friend and ordered half a dozen more. This is the most accessible and at the same time attractive portrayal of God I can ever remember seeing. Generally, you get accessible or attractive, but not both.

    Anyway, thanks for recommending it. I read the first several chapters and then let it sit for a week or so until someone else kicked me in the backside. I’m not fond of stories where people go through horrible things. I like to read for relaxation, and that doesn’t relax me. But it was worth getting through the first part of the book in order to enjoy the rest of it.

    I actually liked the bit about the “Father” having scars on her wrists, too. I hadn’t thought about that . . . God was in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world to Himself. (2 Cor 5:19) I hadn’t thought of it that way. Funny how we skip so easily over words we know so well, seldom getting their full meaning.

    Hey, I read something today you might be interested in. You might already be familiar with this, but you know the three parables Jesus told about lost items/people? The lamb, the coin, and the prodigal son? I hadn’t thought of this, but apparently theologians commonly interpret the shepherd as Jesus, the father as God the Father, and don’t say anything about the woman looking for the lost coin. Is she the Holy Spirit? It’s an interesting thought.

    God bless,


  • 9. Elizabeth Chapin  |  October 23, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Cindy, I’m glad you enjoyed The Shack. I agree that it is accessible and attractive. I hope the people you gave it to appreciate the complexity of life and faith I think the author tries to portray.

    I understand about putting the book down because of the traumatic experience it portrays. I felt that way with The Secret Life of Bees and though I am interested in seeing the movie, I am hesitant.

    We have become so comfortable with stories with happy endings, and will even gladly sit through violent movies as long as good wins over evil in the end. I wonder why the genre of tragedy has fallen out of style? Suffering seems to be a common theme in the New Testament as well as our own experience. We would do well to have books and movies that deal with such themes.

  • 10. Winnie  |  January 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I think the problem may lie deeper than the theological struggles….underneath may lie a psychological drama. The main character seems to be going through a psychic metamorphis (SP) of sorts….
    Mac has a cruel father. Mac, as a child runs away from home after poisoning his fathers liquor bottles, and finds a wife that has more mother-like qualities than spouse qualities…he comes to the shack with anger towards a Father God who has allowed the horrific death of his child…he is greeted by a motherly figure called Papa, in place of the “traditional” father God…the mother, as his wife has, can communicate with Mac, Mac hears his own thoughts, and they are comforting….in the end the mother is replaced with a middle aged man (Mac himself) and the oepidal complex is complete. He has replaced his earthly father (killing him and marrying a mother figure) and then replaces his Heavenly father (with a mother figure, then himself). The cycle is complete, the complex remains.

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