Feb 22, 2016 by Rik Bokelman

'The Shack' Author Paul Young Interview: "A Lot Of Theology Is Like Pornography"

He grew up believing that questions were enemies. To ask questions of God was rebellious. But over the course of his life, he learned to love the questions. After his New York Times bestseller ‘The Shack’, that focused on the goodness of God in the face of tragedies and sadness. Paul Young recently wrote ‘Eve’.  HelloChristian.com spoke with him.

First of all, a little outline of the plot. Young wrote a novel in which a shipping container washes ashore on an island between our world the next. John the Collector finds a young woman inside. She’s barely alive. Eve, Mother of the Living, which obviously refers to God, invites her to witness the truth of her story and the truth about us all. The book focuses a lot on traditional misconceptions about who we are and how we’re made. 

Paul Young discusses two misconceptions about God and humanity that are thematically integrated into his new book.

1. Don’t blame Eve
The novel Eve takes another look at the story of Adam and Eve. Paul: “The most damage in humanity is caused by men, not by women.” 

Anyone who reads the book will see a lot of references to the Fall. Paul Young: “The most damage that has been done originates with men. Whether it is globally or relationally. I experienced it myself. Most of the damage in my life came from men. When I thought about the truth of this, I wondered: why are men in charge of the world? That was the driving question for me. It pushed me back towards Scripture. Now I think we totally missed the narrative. We always read the Fall from a masculine perspective. Eve is the one to blame - that’s why women still don’t have leadership roles in churches. But it’s just not true.”

First of all, when Christians read Genesis 1 – 3 they all believe sin came into the world because Eve was deceived. But, says Paul: "Would you rather be in a relationship with someone who is trusting enough to be deceived, or just someone who will just flat out betray you? Because nowhere in Scripture does it say that Adam had been deceived. In fact, Romans 8 states that sin entered the cosmos through one man: Adam! But still, we blame the women! If you see pictures, it’s always Adam and Eve being ejected out of the Garden. The story of Genesis doesn't say that. It was Adam who had been removed from the Garden. Why? Because he was the real rebel.”

"Most of the damage in the world has been done by men, in particular against women and children. Who starts the war? Who runs off and leaves the family?"

“I think this is a very fundamental underlying human issue. Most of the damage in the world has been done by men, in particular against women and children. Who starts the war? Who runs off and leaves the family? I know things that men have done to women that you don’t want to know.”

In his book, The Shack, Paul Young portrays God as a black woman. In his new novel, Eve is also a black woman. Not just because he wished to make clear that God has a lot of feminine aspects or to make a racial statement. “Science says that we originate out of Africa. So I constructed the character of Eve biologically based on scientific evidence. Adam and Eve were not white.”

 2. We are not totally depraved 
One of the other big themes in the novel is total depravity, something a lot of preachers often emphasize; as humans we are totally depraved. Young: “I don’t know if you can write this in your article, but I refer to it as a ‘piece of shit theology’. People often think that all we are is a piece of shit.”

So if that is the truth about my being, how do you expect me to change the way of my being to match the truth of my being? So you know, they come up with theological workarounds like well, Jesus came to cover it up. It’s called imputed righteousness. So He comes to cover and put His blanket of righteousness around our depravity so that God doesn't smite us with His objective and rightfully justified wrath. But you know what the problem is? It doesn't change us.” 

Christians often think that in spite of the fact that they are totally depraved they still have to live like Jesus. That’s when the behavioural modification shows up. Everything Christians do becomes behavioural modification. “If you build on those things, then you have nowhere to go except self-discipline. Because after all, no matter how you live, you’re still totally depraved. It’s exhausting.”

“Often we treat theology just like pornography. It’s the imagination of relationship with God without the risk of actually trusting. "Paul offers another way to look at the Fall and the depravity of men: in the beginning, we were made good. “So the Gospel is not: Jesus opened up a way for you to now have, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the advantage of behavioural modification, so you meet the standard of righteousness. That’s not the Gospel. The Gospel is: you are included from the beginning. You are a very good creation from the beginning and that is more true about you than any of the damage. You have never been separated although you believe you are and so you act like it. Because that is what you believe.”

“Often we treat theology just like pornography. It’s the imagination of relationship with God without the risk of actually trusting."

“Whatever a person believes in their heart so is their experience. Right? So we don’t know how we could live in the truth. Let me tell you who you are. Jesus comes not to start a religion. He comes to us to express what it is to be fully human and to be alive and in a relationship. He wasn’t at risk. He was never worried about what other people thought about Him, you know, constantly feeling hurt because nobody was treating him like a Deity. We are not dealing with a narcissist here. We are dealing with someone who is fully alive and fully free. And that gives me great hope.”

“Often we treat theology just like pornography. It’s the imagination of relationship with God without the risk of actually trusting. Pornography is the imagination of a relationship without the risk of a real one. And I was deeply - for some 30 years of my life - embedded inside pornography. Now I haven’t had a problem with it for over 20 years. None, zero.”

“But why? It was so powerfully addictive. The answer is not that I stopped looking because I am so scared of hell. It’s not that fear was larger than the behaviour. The answer was not that I got into an accountability group. The answer is not: thankfully I have found the Holy Spirit and now I am self-disciplined. You know what the answer is? I learned that I was pure in heart – good. That is the truth of my being. When I found out that the pure heart was there before this brokenness, I discovered that the way of my being could match the truth of my being. I became a whole person.”

That’s why the story of Eve is so important? “Yes, that is exactly why. And the whole issue between Lily and Lilith in the book, and the lies and the truth about knowing who you are and what your origins are, all of that speaks about our beings. It gives us incredible hope.

Buy 'Eve' here.

Follow us on Facebook: