The Shack


This is Stephen dropping in on the blog by request.

I had heard a lot of commotion about this book The Shack from a number of blogs on my google reader that I pass through quickly, just mark them as read, and stop if something catches my eye.  Well, reviews of this book kept coming up by many men I respect, and they were all cautioning readers about the theologically incorrect content of the book.  I don't really have any time right now to read just for fun, although I try to make my 4000 pages of reading this semester as enjoyable as possible.  However, my brother Nathan bought The Shack on iTunes recently and said it was only a few bucks; so because of my love for audiobooks and the fact that I had a  few dollars left on an iTunes gift card, I bought it.   I don't regret it a bit!  Some of you may have not heard of The Shack at all--you need to.  It is huge and people you know are reading it and want to talk about it.  Some of you have only heard nasty comments about it, but have not read it yourself.  You need to read it so you can give an accurate report to people when they talk about it.  Some of you have actually read it, and either loved it or chewed it up theologically.  I however, did not read it, but I listened to it in two days while at work.  Two things to remember before reading this review: first, The Shack is Christian fiction; and second, the book was never intended to be read by anyone other than the author's children.

The Shack is written by William P. Young.  He had gone through a series of trials in his life, brought on by his own sin in many cases, and wrote this book at his wife's pleading for his children to understand their father better.  He was working 3 jobs at the time he wrote it, and wrote while riding the MAX to his job in Portland, OR.  His family lived in a small rental home outside Gresham, OR, and did not even have enough money to take the book to Kinkos and have it printed and bound.  By personal confession, he is not an author.  However, when he finished, he emailed the book to a few friends to read, and one of these friends was a published author.  The book quickly spread to friends and family, and they all agreed this book should be published.  However, every publishing company they went to turned them down.  They published the book themselves, with $200 for marketing, and now have sold over 1 million copies!  This book is popular, and some are referring to it as The Pilgrim's Progress of our day.

I will not summarize the book for you, but will let you read it if you haven't already... so I don't ruin it.  Let me first say that again, this is Christian fiction.  It is not a systematic theology book, and should not be treated as one.  However, fiction/novels can be very powerful in their message.  The Shack is well written and very captivating in its presentation.  I was listening so intently at some points that I forgot I was at work!  The book does present an interesting characterization of the Trinity (which I think is perfectly fine when explained), and has them dialogue with Mack (the main character) for two days as he works through his "great sadness."  Whenever an author puts dialogue within the mouths of the Trinity, he runs a great risk.  Theologically, in my mind, there are some things I winced at concerning the free will of man and inner workings of the Trinity.  However, the Trinity is trying to philosophically change Mack's perception of God through their dialogue, and so you have to be thinking philosophically as you read.  Can God be different than the image you have in your mind?  Can you allow God to work in ways you don't think are possible?  Jesus Christ came in a way no one thought possible in the Gospels, and He will come again in a way no one can anticipate.  We do know the character of God from the Scripture, but in no way do we know everything about God.  I am not saying the book is always right or always wrong because I am still trying to think through some of the things mentioned in the book.  Two things that I thought were short-comings theologically (although it is not a theology book) were:  first, the picture presented of the church, and second, the lack of the Trinity sending Mack to the Scriptures.  Remember, Mack is on a weekend trip in the presence of the Trinity, and at that time, needs no written revelation because he is with God.  Scripture is only given to us now because we cannot communicate directly with God audibly as in the garden of Eden.  Also, they are negatively portraying the institutionalized church which does have many problems - to say the least.  However, both the church and the Scriptures are needed for believers today.  So I end by saying, read this book and discuss it with your neighbors or friends.  It can present a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel because of its popularity.  The book does present a great view of the sovereignty of God in working all things to his good plan, and that is a great picture for presenting the gospel.  This book is not perfect, but what book is? However, it can be used by Christians for redemptive purposes.  Sometimes Christians see something claiming to be Christian but not biblically accurate, and they throw it out and ban it from their existence.  I wish Christians would engage more in literature, art, and media to think about it and redeem it as part of God's good creation.

Here is a link for a much better and more in-depth review by The Resurgence Blog.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Steve for your words on this book. I have recently read it as well. (Roderick, put a libary copy of it in my stocking to read on the plane trip home! = ) Since I had the flu I ended up having the time to actually read and finish it.) I definitely found the book thought provoking. It was nice to read your comments and see you stating many of the same thoughts I had. I just can't wait for Roderick to read it so we can talk about it as well!

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  2. Good thoughts, Steve. Thanks for posting this. I may have to skim through it myself. I do have to confess when I saw the title of the blog entry I at first thought Sarah had found some marvelous, old house or something along those lines. Always nice to see your contribution!

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  3. Thought you might be interested in another book review of The Shack.
    http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/the-shack-by-william-p-young.php

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  4. I just finished reading the book a couple of days ago. I think I was over-prepared to be appalled because of all the hype, so I ended up not being appalled at all. There were some problems, as is the case in all of man's fallible writing. There were also some very good points. I appreciated your calm and open-minded review.

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