Papa With Scars? (Theology behind The Shack)

shacGrowing up I never prayed to God the Father. I could believe that Jesus was alright because he saved me from the terrible wrath of the Father. I realized that Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, but I sure didn’t, ’cause I didn’t trust him!

“Jesus, You are ok, but don’t leave me in the room alone with your Father! Thank you for saving me from him and his terrible wrath!” This reveals how messed up my theology was!

The book and movie the Shack bring us back to what the Scriptures have to say about the union that the Father and Jesus share. The author of The Shack, William Paul Young, makes the claim that this union didn’t end at the cross and that the Father never left his Son… hence Papa has nail scars. Of course this summa cum laude Bible college graduate (with some seminary) isn’t alone. He shares this theology with the early church fathers, and theologians C Baxter Kruger, C.S. Lewis, Thomas F. Torrance, etc… and with the Holy Bible as well, as we shall see.

Was Jesus abandoned by the Father at the cross?

Jesus said, “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” (John 16:32)

Do we believe him? What about when he was abandoned on the cross? Didn’t Papa and Holy Spirit leave him then?

2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us: “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” (NLT)

Was this just one third of God in Christ, or was it the fullness of God like this Scripture says?

“For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” Colossians 2:9


This is such a major point of discussion in the movie the Shack, this notion of Papa abandoning his Son. And then the Father shows his scars. Pointing to the truth of the above Scriptures. “God (Papa) was in Christ… the Fullness of God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.”

And apparently he pulled something off because, after all, he did say, “It is finished.” Didn’t he? (I am remembering a scene from Mission Impossible 4 when he says, “mission accomplished!”) And on his end, indeed it is!

When speaking of his coming crucifixion, here is what Jesus says:

“Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He,
and that I do nothing of Myself;
but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.
And He who sent Me is with Me.
The Father has not left Me alone,
for I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:28-29 NKJV)

Ok, so what about when Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

We are left to assume by Jesus words that the Father forsook the Son. But don’t we have to disregard so much of what Jesus has already said to believe this?

What’s going on here? Well, this is how I have heard it presented:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are the opening lyrics to a popular Messianic song, Psalm 22.

Jesus is beginning to quote the opening lyrics of Psalm 22 which everyone knew. It’s not as if he was even capable of quoting the whole thing as he was gasping and straining for his every breath. I have heard that this Psalm was sung and rehearsed often at Passover. Look at what this Psalm goes on to say:

“They have pierced my hands and feet.
I can count all my bones.
My enemies stare at me and gloat.
They divide my garments among themselves
and throw dice for my clothing.” (vs 16-18)

To those standing by who were familiar with this song/psalm thought about these verses and realized, “Look! They have pierced his hands and feet! Look at those soldiers over there throwing dice for his clothing and dividing up his garments.”

The Psalm goes on to say:

“For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
nor has He hidden His face from Him;
but when He cried to Him, He heard.” (Psalm 22:24 NKJV)

Here was how the NIV rendered it:

For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

So, is “the afflicted” referring to Jesus? Was Jesus abandoned? Was he forsaken?

One of my friends pointed out that Jesus came to show us the Father, and the one time we need the Father to be like Jesus the most, he pulls out?

Remember when Jesus breathed his last and gave up his Spirit?

“And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last.” Luke 24:36 NASB

So the Holy Spirit was with him through the end? The Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as the the Spirit of Jesus.

I am now convinced that the Trinity never “got divided” even on the cross. I’m still in the midst of researching the atonement and what can be known, biblically, about what happened there.

Yes, I still find it hard not to believe that if Jesus said, “why have you forsaken/abandoned me?” that He wasn’t indeed forsaken and abandoned. I have a really hard time seeing it differently. I’m sure many of you do as well.

I just plain don’t understand the mystery. It is indeed a new thought to many of us that Papa was in Christ (the whole time?) reconciling the world to himself. I believe that is what the Bible reveals. I just don’t understand.

I suffered seven long years of depression and despair because I became convinced that God had abandoned me. My healing came when my wife had a vision of me curled up in a closet and Jesus was sitting with me with his arm around me. (Indeed I was sitting in a closet in absolute terror after I felt abandoned by God!)

No doubt, Jesus entered into our sense of alienation when he took all the sin of the world. He was experiencing all our pain and suffering that sin brings and could likely no longer see his Father or experience his love. Indeed, EVERYTHING the Scriptures tell us that Jesus endured on the cross are absolutely true! (Who is denying that?)

I’m reminded of what Isaiah 53 says about the sacrifice our Lord made on our behalf:

But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed. (vs. 5)

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels. (vs. 10-12)

Did Father turn his back on the Son? Besides Jesus words on the cross, does the Bible specifically ever say that he did? Correct me if I’ve missed something.

I am remembering this Scripture from Isaiah 54:7

“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will take you back.”

He uses the term, “as though…” just before it to compare. Here is the context:

“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.
Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.
You will no longer remember the shame of your youth
and the sorrows of widowhood.
5For your Creator will be your husband;
the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
the God of all the earth.
6For the LORD has called you back from your grief—
as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,”
says your God.
7“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will take you back.
8In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while.
But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD, your Redeemer.
9“Just as I swore in the time of Noah
that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,
so now I swear
that I will never again be angry and punish you.
10For the mountains may move
and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

His covenant of blessing will never be broken because neither side of this covenant depends on you. Christ Jesus fulfilled both ends of the covenant and depends on his Mercy. Thankfully he is pure Mercy.

There was a scene in the movie The Shack that captures this idea of how we sometimes feel abandoned:

“When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of me.”

How does this relate to us?

Hebrews 13:5 says this:

“God has said, “Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

Unless you sin, right?

What about that Scripture that says “you are too holy to look on sin?”

Well, I just looked up the one verse that gave us this idea and this is one of the most literal translations from the NASB:

“Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor On those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?” Habakkuk 1:13

He doesn’t approve. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t see.

His face is always toward us. Because He is Love and that is what he does! He can’t help it! I mean, just look at this Scripture I prayed for my daughters when I put them to bed tonight:

The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.’
“So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.” (Numbers 6:24-27)

That is God’s heart for you.

Further reading: The Father did NOT abandon Jesus

Categories: the shack | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Papa With Scars? (Theology behind The Shack)

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  7. ellie farrow

    Thank you for this Daniel. You explained it so well. I believe this also. It is so precious as we come into remembrance of what They did for us and how They hold us in their relentless embrace, always.

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