Readability

Reading Remains Fundamental

[cap­tion id=“attachment_93788” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”] Pil­lar of Fire[/caption]

Talk­ing about the nature of God is always good

by baldilocks

The Shack, a novel by William P. Young, is being made into a movie and it isn’t sur­pris­ing that many Chris­tians are up in arms about it. I read the book a few years back and found it fas­ci­nat­ing, but I missed out on the con­tro­versy that came with it when it was first pub­lished in 2007.

At issue is Young’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the Holy Trin­ity, seen through the eyes of the story’s main char­ac­ter, who on the four-​year anniver­sary of his daughter’s bru­tal killing is mys­te­ri­ously invited by some­one named “Papa” — his wife’s affec­tion­ate name for God — to the aban­doned shack in the Ore­gon woods where the girl died.

He goes, reluc­tant and angry, unsure if he’ll be met by his daughter’s murderer.

Instead, he finds this: a Mid­dle East­ern, Jew­ish car­pen­ter named Jesus; the Holy Spirit embod­ied in a wispy Asian woman who loves to gar­den and God (played by “The Help” star Octavia Spencer) as the very oppo­site of the Gandalf-​like grandpa fig­ure mod­ern soci­ety is used to seeing.

This depic­tion — God as a woman despite its gender-​less des­ig­na­tion [sic] in the Bible — has some crit­ics incensed.

(Empha­sis mine.)

Does any­one remem­ber how God appeared to the ancient Israelites in Exo­dus 13:21?

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pil­lar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pil­lar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

And in Psalm 91:4, God appears to take on the char­ac­ter­is­tics of an avian.

[The Most High] shall cover thee with his feath­ers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Appear­ance, solid exis­tence, and what each of those con­cepts mean seem to be the key issue when it comes to this con­tro­versy, but the prob­lem is much more sim­ple than that.

Even many Chris­tians can­not not quite wrap their minds around the sov­er­eignty of God and, there­fore, around His omnipo­tence. He can appear as a cloud, a pil­lar of fire, or as a female mem­ber of the species He cre­ated. And, in this con­text, we might con­sider one of the names of God: El Shad­dai.

El is another name that is trans­lated as “God” and can be used in con­junc­tion with other words to des­ig­nate var­i­ous aspects of God’s char­ac­ter. Another word much like Shad­dai, and from which many believe it derived, is shad mean­ing “breast” in Hebrew (some other schol­ars believe that the name is derived from an Akka­dian word Šadu, mean­ing “moun­tain,” sug­gest­ing strength and power). This refers to God com­pletely nour­ish­ing, sat­is­fy­ing, and sup­ply­ing His peo­ple with all their needs as a mother would her child. Con­nected with the word for God, El, this denotes a God who freely gives nour­ish­ment and bless­ing, He is our sustainer.

(Empha­sis mine.) This does not mean that God is a woman.

Omnipo­tence and sov­er­eignty – much less all the other attrib­utes of God listed in the Bible – are hard pills to swal­low, even for some of us four-​dimensional beings who acknowl­edge that there is a whole aspect of real­ity that, because of our human lim­i­ta­tions, is nearly incon­ceiv­able and, usu­ally, imperceptible.

There is another sim­ple prob­lem with crit­i­cism of the novel; Young never says or inti­mates through the plot of the novel that God the father is a black woman or that the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman. In fact, he goes out of his way to demon­strate the oppo­site by con­trast­ing “their”[i] nature with that of Jeshua, who, in the novel and the movie, both appears as and is a Mid­dle East­ern human male.

Like any good nov­el­ist, Young gives his audi­ence credit for being able to fig­ure this out by read­ing the book instead of tak­ing what other say about it as…ahem…gospel truth.

Sim­ple. And fun­da­men­tal. I plan on see­ing this movie.

Mean­while, have a Merry Christ­mas and a Happy Hanukkah!

[i] As a human being with atten­dant lim­i­ta­tions, I am con­tent with not being able to entirely under­stand the con­cept of God’s triunity.

Juli­ette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was pub­lished in 2012. Her sec­ond novel will be done one day soon! Fol­low her on Twit­ter.

Please con­tribute to Juliette’s JOB: Her new novel, her blog, her Inter­net to keep the lat­ter going and COF­FEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Inde­pen­dent Journalism!

baldilocks

Pillar of Fire

Talking about the nature of God is always good

by baldilocks

The Shack, a novel by William P. Young, is being made into a movie and it isn’t surprising that many Christians are up in arms about it. I read the book a few years back and found it fascinating, but I missed out on the controversy that came with it when it was first published in 2007.

At issue is Young’s characterization of the Holy Trinity, seen through the eyes of the story’s main character, who on the four-year anniversary of his daughter’s brutal killing is mysteriously invited by someone named “Papa” — his wife’s affectionate name for God — to the abandoned shack in the Oregon woods where the girl died.

He goes, reluctant and angry, unsure if he’ll be met by his daughter’s murderer.

Instead, he finds this: a Middle Eastern, Jewish carpenter named Jesus; the Holy Spirit embodied in a wispy Asian woman who loves to garden and God (played by “The Help” star Octavia Spencer) as the very opposite of the Gandalf-like grandpa figure modern society is used to seeing.

This depiction — God as a woman despite its gender-less designation [sic] in the Bible — has some critics incensed.

(Emphasis mine.)

Does anyone remember how God appeared to the ancient Israelites in Exodus 13:21?

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

And in Psalm 91:4, God appears to take on the characteristics of an avian.

[The Most High] shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 

Appearance, solid existence, and what each of those concepts mean seem to be the key issue when it comes to this controversy, but the problem is much more simple than that.

Even many Christians cannot not quite wrap their minds around the sovereignty of God and, therefore, around His omnipotence. He can appear as a cloud, a pillar of fire, or as a female member of the species He created. And, in this context, we might consider one of the names of God: El Shaddai.

El is another name that is translated as “God” and can be used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character. Another word much like Shaddai, and from which many believe it derived, is shad meaning “breast” in Hebrew (some other scholars believe that the name is derived from an Akkadian word Šadu, meaning “mountain,” suggesting strength and power). This refers to God completely nourishing, satisfying, and supplying His people with all their needs as a mother would her child. Connected with the word for God, El, this denotes a God who freely gives nourishment and blessing, He is our sustainer.

(Emphasis mine.) This does not mean that God is a woman.

Omnipotence and sovereignty–much less all the other attributes of God listed in the Bible–are hard pills to swallow, even for some of us four-dimensional beings who acknowledge that there is a whole aspect of reality that, because of our human limitations, is nearly inconceivable and, usually, imperceptible.

There is another simple problem with criticism of the novel; Young never says or intimates through the plot of the novel that God the father is a black woman or that the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman. In fact, he goes out of his way to demonstrate the opposite by contrasting “their”[i] nature with that of Jeshua, who, in the novel and the movie, both appears as and is a Middle Eastern human male.

Like any good novelist, Young gives his audience credit for being able to figure this out by reading the book instead of taking what other say about it as…ahem…gospel truth.

Simple. And fundamental. I plan on seeing this movie.

Meanwhile, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah!

[i] As a human being with attendant limitations, I am content with not being able to entirely understand the concept of God’s triunity.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

baldilocks