If you haven’t read The Shack, the wildly popular Christian fiction book by William P. Young, you’ve probably heard about it. I had certainly heard about it quite a bit, from several different sources, and finally decided to read it
Put very basically, the story is about a father who experiences a horrific family tragedy, and whose faith in God is shaken as a result. He is invited to spend a weekend with God at a remote shack where God (personified in various forms) works on healing his wounds and his relationship with the Creator.
My reaction to the book was pretty much what I expected: The Shack is written by a well-meaning author who is attempting to help people through difficult times, but it is a book which, upon close examination, has some serious theological problems. Young seems to espouse an unorthodox view of the Trinity (the kind that makes Muslims think that Christians are polytheistic), the Incarnation (he implies that God the Father became human as well as Christ), and he downplays the holiness of God, at one point having God claim that He doesn’t need to punish sin. And perhaps my biggest problem with The Shack, at least from a practical standpoint, is that it seems to suggest that it’s necessary to have some sort of miraculous, face-to-face interaction with God to get through rough times. For people reading the book looking for comfort, I would think that suggestion would be less than helpful.
As I said before, I think Young is well-meaning, and I tend to think that by trying to simplify the nature of God into understandable human characters, he ends up making implications that he himself doesn’t actually believe. Simply put, it’s hard to simplify the concept of God without distorting who He is in some way.
For all the negatives though, there were a few times when I thought The Shack hit the nail on the head.
On the death of Jesus on the cross (this makes more sense if you know that Young is portraying God as a motherly-type woman in this scene):
“Mack struggled for the words to tell her what was in his heart. ‘I’m so sorry that you, that Jesus, had to die.’
She walked around the table and gave Mack another big hug. ‘I know you are, and thank you. But you need to know that we aren’t sorry at all. It was worth it.’”
On how we change into being who God wants us to be:
“This whole thing is a process, not an event. All I want from you is to trust me with what little you can, and grow in loving people around you with the same love I share with you. It’s not your job to change them, or to convince them. You are free to love without an agenda.”
And on God causing (or not) bad things to happen:
“Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes.”
I probably won’t be recommending The Shack to many people, and I certainly won’t hold my breath waiting for Young to come out with a new book, but I was glad to find some good points in a book that wasn’t one of my favorites.