Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Brief Review of The Shack

The following is a brief review of William P. Young's The Shack. There are longer reviews that give a lot more details (Google away!), but I just wanted to sum up my thoughts in a concise fashion because I've been stopped in the hallway and asked, "Have you read this book yet?" "Whadja think of it?" and so on. The opinions are my own and may not necesarily reflect the views of my church, my friends, or the Christian community in general. And as always, if you disagree, please do it nicely. :-)

"Look for the main points and don't get too theologically nit-picky!"

With that admonition echoing in my mind, I began to read The Shack by William P. Young, about a man named Mackenzie Allen Philips, whose young daughter is brutally murdered in the woods of Oregon. In the midst of his grief ("the Great Sadness", as it is referred to), Mack receives a mysterious note inviting him to the shack where the murder took place to spend the weekend with "Papa", which is the family's term of endearment for God. What follows is a colorful and eye-popping dialogue as to the nature and ways of God in a mixed up world.
Since I seem to have a reputation for being "theologically nit-picky," it may be surprising to know that I found several things to like about the book. So I want to start this brief review with the positives.

The Shack is an intensely interesting and well-written book. I found myself drawn into the disorientation of Mack, as well as his questions, to the point of wanting to keep reading in hopes of finding the answers. The author is to be commended for writing such a compelling book.
The novel challenged me to look at God "outside the box." Too many times, we tend to lock God into a denominational or traditional mold, while forgetting that He is infinitely greater than what we can conceive with our minds. It's good to have a reminder that His ways are not our ways.
I have prayed many times to see a problem or circumstance from God's perspective. The Shack attempts to do just that. If only we could see children and their parents and the world with God's eyes (as in the Brandon Heath song "Give Me Your Eyes"), it would surely change the way we do ministry. Also heavy in the book is the theme of forgiveness…poignantly showing the importance of forgiving others, even those who have done the unspeakable. After all, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God's forgiveness humbles Mack…and it humbles me as well.

For a mature believer strong and knowledgeable in the faith, The Shack reads like a modern day parable. But the novel is not without some areas of concern and caution. While creatively portraying God's love, mercy, and grace, The Shack is silent regarding His perfect justice and wrath. It speaks glowingly of the need for and benefits of being in a right relationship with God (true!), but neglects to detail the alternative. Indeed, it is hard to picture "Papa" as being "angry with the wicked every day" (Psalm 7:11).

The First Person of the Trinity is portrayed as a woman, because Mack has struggles with a father figure. While it is true that God at times is spoken of with "motherly" characteristics, the overwhelming revelation of God in the Bible is as "Father." I would be hard pressed to find Scriptural examples of God casually assuming a manifestation in order to accommodate a human's perception. Indeed, given that "no man has seen God at any time", the very physical appearance of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit is problematic.

I'm reminded of a quote I heard long ago: "Christians are so worked up about what the Bible says, they don't know what God thinks." Perhaps my biggest concern with The Shack is the deafening lack of the Bible as the source of authority. There are several occasions in the book where Mack's seminary training and Biblical knowledge are discounted in favor of the current experience. Absolutes are set aside in order to explore the mind of "Papa". In short, The Shack comes across as a book for some sectors of the emergent generation, a theological approach that relies on exploration and conversation rather than theological absolutes.

The Shack is a good read, especially for those who struggle with grief and forgiveness. But as in anything, discernment is always a must.

No comments:

Post a Comment