Monday, May 12, 2008
Book Review - The Shack
A friend on a pastor's forum asked us if we had read "The Shack", a novel by William Paul Young. No one had, but several of us had heard a lot about it. Since I was curious, we went out this afternoon and bought it, and I spent a couple hours reading it tonight.
The fear for this book is that people will treat it as theology, instead of the story a father wrote for his kids. For some reason, people in America will take fictional material and try to use it in ways it wasn't intended. I do not understand how that can happen, but I am sure that it does.
Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, and an outspoken Calvinist, addressed the book specifically in a clip that's on You Tube. Just search for the shack and driscoll and you'll find it. He blasts it on several fronts - for "making a graven image of God", for "encouraging goddess worship", for "the heresy of modalism", and for dissing the Puritans. Okay, not the latter, I just get tired of hearing about them. I think he was way over the top on the graven images and goddess worship but on track on being careful about what could happen to people who aren't discerning of this fictional work.
As for the book, it's the story of a man who suffers some great pain - first from an abusive father who he poisons, then from the loss of a daughter to a serial killer. He struggles with "the Great Sadness" which robs his life of joy and color. He gets an invitation from "God" to the shack in which his daughter was killed.
And he goes.
The book spends a good deal of time after the first 60 pages, exploring the relationship between the Trinity as they deal with Mack, the focus of the novel. The author seemed to deliberately push some buttons by casting "Papa", the father as an old black woman, Jesus as a typecast middle eastern male, and the spirit as an asian woman. Sophia, the wisdom of god personified, shows up later.
Mack is helped to fully trust god and come out of the Great Sadness by the members of the trinity, and he deals with both of the worst events in his life. He comes away changed, and then there's a twist.
If you are capable of separating fiction from theology, it's a good quick read. There's something inspiring about even fictional characters dealing with their demons, and it's nice to see god referred to as always loving and enthralled with his children. But again, it's a novel so we need to be careful not to port anything in it over to life that doesn't square with Scripture.
If you get your theology from Oprah, you'll be right at home. Not sure how you'll work that into the rest of the speculation from the Secret or Tolle's work, but maybe Oprah can help you figure it all out.