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The Shack

You may be familiar with Paul Young’s bestselling novel The Shack from a few years ago, along with the uproar and controversy that accompanied its release, as well as the contrast between readers who lauded its picture of God and critics who deemed it to be heresy.
Though I read the web conversations and reviews, I managed to avoid buying the book and having to read it. I listened to the critics who brought up their myriad issues with Young’s theology, and to those who said that while those issues were present, Young nailed the love and compassion of God, and in a manner that touched their hearts.
I’ve seen this play out in the past week on my church’s message board, and it led me to finally break down and buy the book.
Without spoiling the plotline, let me say I’ve read through maybe 1/3 of it, the first five chapters.
We live in a world where God often seems silent, even in our toughest and hardest moments.
In chapter five, there is a sequence where the three characters Young portrays as the three members of the Trinity show love for the main character in a manner that I hunger for God to show to me. Sometimes, He has; I haven’t seen it enough…perhaps because of my own human limitations.
I already see why people who love this book do so.
As I finish this book, I want to understand what Young is getting at, and what I should take away from it as a Christian.
I understand The Shack is not Scripture…but if I can’t get anything helpful out of it, then I can get nothing helpful out of Pilgrim’s Progress, nor Narnia, nor any other piece of literature.
I said on the church message board “Some folks learn truth most from a simple story.” I never got a response to that from the poster I addressed…maybe that’s good, because he’s a Reformed thinker-in-the-making and he would kick my butt in a debate πŸ™‚
Then again, ultimately I’m not looking to live my life to please Reformed thinkers…I’m looking to be right with God, and faithful to Him, and please Him, as well as make it through the pearly gates when my race is finished.
I know I probably won’t find the great Reformed theologians in this novel.
But they’re not the One I’m looking for.

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  1. briwd2006
    March 15, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    There was an issue to where comments weren’t enabled on new threads, and I believe I have fixed it.

  2. March 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Brian,
    I have no interest in kicking your butt in a debate, nor do I disagree with your statement that some folks learn truth most from a simple story. That statement is right on. I think Jesus exemplified this by the fact that he devoted such a large portion of his (recorded) teaching ministry to parables. There is a great power in story. However, that is both a good and a bad thing. It is a good thing because it means that our lives can be radically changed by a truth that takes only minutes, and sometimes even a sentence, to receive. It is a bad thing because the less information there is attached to a story, the easier it is for its message to lead people astray. That’s why it is important that all of our small narratives fit within and do not contradict the grand narrative that is revealed in the whole of Scripture, and hence why it is important that at least some (all?) people in the church are capable of discerning whether or not this is the case.

    I do not disagree that people can be greatly impacted by The Shack. What I do disagree with is that the things that Young says about the Trinity and dealing with pain are okay. His god, when tested against the God of Scripture, and his narrative, when tested against the grand narrative of Scripture, both come up lacking. I hope that you will see this as you read. If you are only to chapter 5 so far you haven’t encountered too much of the problem yet. Some of it shows up in chapter 6 (you can see my quotes from it on The City from yesterday), and then things get really bad from about chapter 8 on.

    By all means, use simple stories. But at the end of the day, make sure that no matter how simple the story is that it is still connected to the larger (and oftentimes more complicated) truth of Scripture.

  3. March 16, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Good…because it would be like Darius Miller going up against some guy who plays NCAA on PS3 and hasn’t touched a basketball in years πŸ™‚

    I appreciate your points, Todd, and another thing I’ll look out for is what people are seeing in this book that makes them overlook the problem points.

    I also appreciated Ben Witherington’s review, which acknowledged good and helpful portions of the novel but was more than not quite critical.

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