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Aslan and The Shack

Job to his little girl: "Beware Jemimah, God is kind in ways that will not fit your mind."–John Piper, The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God

The Shack is still #2 on the New York Times Best-Seller list. And I am among the millions who have read and enjoyed it. William Young has written a page-burner about theodicy and the nature of the Trinity. No small feat.

Job to his little girl: "Beware Jemimah, God is kind in ways that will not fit your mind."–John Piper, The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God

The Shack is still #2 on the New York Times Best-Seller list. And I am among the millions who have read and enjoyed it. William Young has written a page-burner about theodicy and the nature of the Trinity. No small feat.

 

With unforgettable images Young draws a picture of God’s compassion for a bruised reed of a man who has lost his little girl in a crime of unspeakable violence and murder. The God of all comfort prepares Mack's favorite food in the kitchen. Skips rocks across the lake with him. Wears old flannel shirts. Young takes us deeply inside Mack’s grief and shows how God’s tender, creative soul care heals and restores.

 

Throughout almost thirty years of rheumatoid arthritis, the wanderings of a prodigal son, and the inevitable conflicts and rejections of the pastorate, Jesus has been a precious friend to me. Lavished me with his tenderness and mercy. Yet in times of deepest sorrow I find the portrait of God that CS Lewis has drawn in Aslan, the lion-King in his fictional world of Narnia, even more comforting than Papa in The Shack. We see Aslan’s playful, gentle, tenderness, romping with the children who ride on his back and nestle in his fur. We see him weep and groan over Narnia’s agonies. But we are continually reminded…"Aslan is not a tame lion." He is wildly unpredictable. His fury destroys the White Witch’s minions. His claws rip Eustace’s dragon-skin clean off. His fearful growls in the dark spur Bree to gallop faster and carry Shasta to safety.

 

Lewis invites us to think about the wildness of God in a way that enlarges our understanding of his compassion. When I or someone I care about is unjustly wronged or even oppressed, or when the Church is maligned or marginalized, I want a strong, fearful God to fight for us. Fight for his Church. I’m not as eager for God to fight for my heart and my redemption when it involves hurting me. Yet I am learning (again) that ultimately the most compassionate thing God can do for me is to expose the countours of my weakness, selfishness or indifference so that I might change and grow. He’s fairly busy just now.

 

In Mere Christianity Lewis writes, "God is the only comfort. He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most need to hide from. He is our only possible ally and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again." One day we will stand before him, overwhelmed by that goodness. Instead of condemning, he welcomes us. Invites us to share his throne and his reign—an act of compassion that makes my mind feel tiny indeed.

 

If you’ve read The Shack and The Chronicles how do you see the two portraits of God?

 

PS. Speaking of Lewis, The CS Lewis Foundation only hosts a few conferences each year. One is coming up Oct 29-Nov 1 at Camp Allen near Houston. This year’s theme, Creativity and Community with Lewis and the Inklings will feature a Writer’s Workshop Option. I attended the Oxbridge conference at Cambridge last year. Wow! Outstanding faculty. Iron on iron interaction with kindred spirits who love to learn. Evenings end with readings and music by speakers and conferees. Would love to meet you there!

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Lael writes and speaks about faith and culture and how God renews our vision and desire for Him and his Kingdom. She earned a master's degree (MAT) in the history of ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas, and has taught Western culture and apologetics at secular and Christian schools and colleges. Her long-term experience with rheumatoid arthritis and being a pastor’s wife has deepened her desire to minister to the whole person—mind, heart, soul and spirit. Lael has co-hosted a talk radio program, The Things That Matter Most, on secular stations in Houston and Dallas about what we believe and why we believe it with guests as diverse as Dr. Deepak Chopra, atheist Sam Harris and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. (Programs are archived on the website.) Lael has authored four books, including a March 2011 soft paper edition of A Faith and Culture Devotional (now titled Faith and Culture: A Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith), Godsight, and Worldproofing Your Kids. Lael’s writing has also been featured in Focus on the Family and World magazines, and she has appeared on many national radio and television programs. Lael and her husband, Jack, now make their home in South Carolina.

5 Comments

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    Sue Bohlin

    What a great juxtaposition!

    I so appreciate the way you explain that Papa and Aslan are two portraits of God by different artists with different aspects of His character to highlight, Lael. Neither are complete and neither get everything right, which seem to to be the criteria that have inspired so much vitriol against both writers. (I understand CS Lewis took quite a bit of grief in his time as well from people who did not appreciate his portrayal of spiritual truths through fiction.)

    I also appreciate your humility about God being "fairly busy right now." Funny, He’s been doing the same thing over here at my house! Wink

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    Lael Arrington

    Response to Sue…

    Good words, Sue. It’s OK to disagree. To say some ideas are better than others. And to say so with passion! We are commanded to test the spirits.

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    Patty Larson

    Aslan and the Shack
    You have done well to compare the authors’ creative versions of God and find the differences. Exodus 34:6-7 gives us the longest name of God in the Bible. He is compassionate, slow to anger, full of mercy but he also judges sin and holds people accountable for it. I believe he is the compassionate God of those who suffer unjustly, and he is the powerful God who demonstrates his power through weak people like us. Both authors developed a playfulness in their portrayal of God and I love to think about God as a playful being. We need different views and creative presentations of our multifaceted God that will open our minds to the vastness of his love and nature. Let’s thank God for these authors and pray for more to come along!