My daughter-in-law Julie is doing The Shack in her book club which is made up of women from various faith perspectives. She asked me my perspective. So, when my friends were here this week we discussed The Shack.
We read a pro article from Christianity Today and watched a strong negative video from a pastor I respect in Atlanta. Then we talked. But before I tell you our conclusion, I’d love to hear your input!
Here are those two resources:
FOR THE SHACK
AGAINST THE SHACK
Ok well this post is just from my reading of the book and my personal perspective. I did not watch the reviews for or against yet.
First it is very important to know that your are reading fiction. It is a fiction work! 🙂 Remember that. Now with that point down I thought is was an interesting and enjoyable read.
It took this poor man’s tragic life event and gave the reader a glimpse of how God walked Him through it for his personal healing and closure. (BTW I am a psychologist too so that is helpful in knowing why I write what I write).
Viewing it in this perspective gave me great comfort in my own personal journey of deep hurt and disappointment by the hands of others toward me. It was interesting to view God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as he did but I believe as a piece of fiction it was brilliantly done.
Now also with all that said, I am not certain I would recommend this book to a newer believer unless I had the opportunity walking through it with them. A newer or not firmly grounded believer could be lead astray by it. It is not theologically sound yet it is a fiction work. Looking at the beauty of it as a piece of art in that light I really enjoyed it. But with my warnings and reservations. Just my thoughts. Interested in yours!
SO hope you had a wonderful time and lots of memories with your friends!!!
What kind of people read the SHACK? I read it. A lot of Christians I know read it. But was it only believers who read it in order to critique it, either yeah or nay? I think a lot of seekers read it. People interested in God. People who have experienced “The Great Sadness.” I don’t know if these people were also reading their Bible or flocking to church or Bible study. But they were certainly buying this book and talking about it.
I enjoyed this NOVEL. However, anyone who reads it as a theological book will be scandalised. The core message is ” I (Papa)am especially fond of you.” One could say that since we are a nation of praise junkies, this just feeds it, especially when it doesn’t mention repentence. Or you could say, “Isn’t that exactly what we long to hear from God?” I would say that the book is heavy on grace. If it has a major flaw, in my opinion, it is in the absence of upholding the Truth of Scripture. Williams doesn’t point the reader to Scripture as a place where Jesus can be encountered after the weekend is over. The Shack gives some of the Truth but not all of it. Of course that is a tall order for any book.
When we studied it, we had our Bibles open so that we could affirm what could be affirmed and correct what needed to be corrected. The REASON we studied the book is because LOTS of people, seekers and non-believers and Christians, were reading it. People were having conversations about JESUS with people who hadn’t discussed JESUS or God openly before. That’s a good thing. We wanted to be a part of the conversation. People were talking about Jesus!
My sister, an unbeliever, read the book and when I asked her about it, I was unprepared to ask the kind of questions that would lead from the Shack to the Truth. Instead of a meaty conversation about how Jesus came to reconcile the world to Himself, it was a quick, surface observation and the window closed. A missed opportunity. Peter tells us to be “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”
I wanted to be more thoughtful about the book so as not to miss another opportunity.
Do you think anyone reads the novel as if were Scripture? We are rightly concerned by ‘guarding the gospel’, but I wonder if the reader who is unfamiliar with the Scriptures would be as tripped up as we Bible scholars are? Perhaps the message they received from the Shack was not all the heresies mentioned in the AGAINST list, but simply an invitation to develop an intimate relationship with Jesus. It would certainly be an imperfect understanding of Jesus, but perhaps a beginning?
I read the list of heresies and don’t agree with the entire list, but certainly agree that if this was the only book you read, you would get an incorrect idea of many things. Yet it WAS a good story. Mack’s story was about as difficult an experience as one could imagine. Most can identify, to a greater or lesser degree with “the Great Sadness” and the questions it raises about suffering.
I think when we compare it with writings by Lewis and Tolkein, The Shack falls short because when they spun their stories, they didn’t blur the edges of Truth and they didn’t dare to put words in the mouth of the Trinity. But Williams isn’t Lewis and The Shack isn’t The Lord of the Rings. Nonetheless, a readable story that provides an opportunity to talk about Jesus!
I loved The Shack. It is a creative novel using a unique thought-provoking approach to the difficult-to-grasp Christian doctrine of Trinity. If I was not a Christian and had no concept of Christian perception of God in 3 Persons, I probably would not get this story at all. This novel was not written for the unbeliever. It was written to enable the believer to have a contemporary,easy to understand, picture of how the triune love of God works in a very personal way in our individual lives.
The Athanasian Creed tried to sort out the three-in-one, trinity in unity issue in the early years of the church. It has never been an easy concept to grasp. Young’s novel attempts to illustrate how it might work. I applaud him!
As a white, middle-class, woman I find it challenging and amusing to picture Creator God as a jolly black woman, full of vim and vinegar. Jesus in jeans is certainly how he would appear to us today in America. Holy Spirit, transparent, illusive, unpredictable, ever-present seems right. The author has woven the tale as he percieves the Holy Trinity. Is his theology sound? I guess that depends on who you ask.
Set a Roman Catholic, a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, a Methodist, a Quaker, a Seventh Day Adventist, a Christian Scientist, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Pentecostal, an Evangelical, a Baptist, a Menonite, etc. all in one room and talk Christian theology. Each will claim to have the right answer. Certainly they could find more right with Mr. Young’s theology than they would find wrong. (And possibly God would simply laugh at them all … lovingly, very lovingly.)
The Shack is a good read. A good read causes us to think and question. The Trinity has probably not been such a hot topic of conversation since Athanasius. Good going, Mr. Young!
Wow. What thought-provoking, iron sharpening iron answers. Some new thoughts for me to ponder. Angela coming from a psychologist’s point of view, as did Cynthia identify with the great sadness, and Janet’s loving the fresh view on the Trinity, as I did. I thought Cynthia’s counsel to be prepared to enter into dialogue on it with non-Christians very wise.
Though I respect the pastor in Atlanta greatly, and do agree, as Cynthia said, that it is heavy on grace — almost to the point of universalism, I also believe that, as poet Luci Shaw often said, that theologians can be so left-brained that they have trouble with allegory, with word pictures, pointing out what seems, in their mind, like error — when they are failing to distinguish between various kinds of literature. The word literally actually means “according to the literature” and because this is an allegory, it must be interpreted as an allegory. When the psalmist says “under his wings you will find refuge,” if you fail to see this as a poetic allegory, you could say it is doctrinally in error for God is not a bird. I thought the captivating allegory was the Trinity, as Janet described, and the redeeming picture that God is for us rather than against us. I found myself skimming the sermons because those were not allegories and seemed to embrace universalism and what I believe is the error of Arminianism. But as Cynthia said, The Shack is flying off the shelves (still) and into the lives of so many unbelievers and we as believers need to be prepared to enter into discussion about it. One of the tenets of Reformed theology that I love is that just as God doesn’t discard but reforms — He makes us new, will make a new heaven and earth — everything He made is good, so rather than destroying, He reforms. As believers we need to not discard things simply because they are not written by an evangelical, but take a look, and save what is good. At Covenant Seminary, the lead professor, Jerram Barrs, gives the students some classic secular books written by non-Christians but filled with truth and has them write essays on it. Some disregard it and are extremely negative because it is not written by a Christian — he tells them they have blasphemed God, for all truth is His. There is truth in The Shack, and I believe it shines through the Allegory. The Trinity loves each other, is in relationship, is “dancing,” and when Jesus died, He invited us to enter into the dance, into fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I’d love to hear more thoughts — but thank you so much Angela, Cynthia, and Janet. (Cynthia is one of the favorite teachers at my grandchildren’s Christian classical school.) I love this — thank you so much for your articulate and profound thoughts. We know many are reading from high activity on this website! Most don’t write, but I’m so thankful when they do. So thank you!
Thanks for allowing this discussion. I have been sharpened too and the comments open my eyes to even more. Love this! I do hope more comment.
Here’s a thought from the close of “THe Reason for God” (Tim Keller) that impacted the way I viewed the allegory in The Shack. This is on the Triune God being in a “Divine Dance,” much as Lewis describes in Perelandria:
“Each of the divine persons centers upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight, and adoration into them. …That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love. The early leaders of the Greek church had a word for this — perichoresis. Notice our word “choreography” within it. It means literally to “dance of flow around.” Though not as articulate as Keller or Lewis, I saw this in The Shack, and I think this is one of the truths that is impacting people. Rather than seeing a domineering tyranical God, they see love, harmony — the dance!
What do you think? (Feel free to disagree — that too, is part of the dance, as long as it is spoken in love.)
My Dear friend Dee,
I have read “The Shack” twice. Once for myself and once outloud to my husband on a road trip we were taking for the Seminary. I was even more overwhelmed after reading it a second time. I was concerened that it was correct theologically so I asked my husbands opinion. He thought apart from a few little nuances, it was O.K. I also asked my friend Mart D. from Radio Bible Class. He has a wonderful blog regarding “The Shack.” He articulated what my heart was feeling. I thought the author did a beautiful job of presenting the Trinity to us. Some struggle that God was introduced as a woman, but God knew the father could never have received God any other way because of his relationship with his earthly father. God always meets us at our point of need. I think the book opens great doors for dialogue and for sharing the gospel. We don’t know the very thing that will bring someone to Jesus. Because of the way the Trinity was presented it made each of them, yet one, so approachable. I loved the book.
This is a great discussion. What I like about it (the discussion) is that it shows Christians exercising discernment rather than unkindly bashing the book or one another. Thanks for providing this opportunity.
I came at The Shack with several experiences coloring my worldview. First of all I have degrees in theology and counseling but have also lost a child (though not in such a heinous way as in the book) so I was interested in how the book played out. Though it’s been a while since I read it I would say my reaction was cautious optimism. There was certainly a generous display of grace in the book and I have to take issue with anyone who challenges this by saying there was too much grace and not enough truth. Grace and Truth are not opposed. Grace is Truth. Truth is Grace. A better question is, was grace presented accurately? Was grace presented truthfully? Was grace dwelling in the context of our sin? Additionally, grace is not just a response to sin, it is a response to brokenness. Our problem as humans is not just “sins” that we commit but that we are broken and are living in a broken world. It is grace through Jesus that restores that world. The book does seem to reflect these themes.
I think the book is a great read for believers who know their Bibles and are willing to have their concept of God challenged (which is always healthy). Additionally, it seems to be a wonderful way to invite non-believers to reconsider Jesus. However, because of some of the literary freedoms the writer takes in presenting God and because he puts so many words in the mouth of the Trinity, it must be read with discernment. This is not Scripture and these are not the words of God. Because of that I would be careful in giving it to someone who is to easily swayed or immature.
Finally, when reading any material or watching a movie, etc., I keep these thoughts in the back of my head, “How does this impact me?”, “What do I agree with in this material?” “What do I disagree with?” “What does Scripture have to say about the topic?”
Great discussion. I’m excited to read your thoughts.
I read the Shack about a year as I was grieving myself. It brought me so much comfort as I read about the immense power of God’s amazing love, grace and mercy. I really enjoyed the book personally – I realized that it because it was fiction there would be fantasy related pieces within the content. I was humbled by the process God took Mack through during his healing and forgiveness of the man who murdered his daughter. He was as always so patient and understanding and allowed Mack to both grieve and ask questions and as he did God walked right by his side. Overall I thought the whole story painted the ulimate picture of God’s character along with His unconditional grace and mercy. It helped me to forgive and learn to love again even when it hurts.
I became intrigued with “The Shack” after reading an interview the NY Times had with Southern Baptist Seminary President, Dr. Albert Mohler. I purchased the book, started reading and became very sad with the books opening chapters. (At the time I was going through a difficult period and wasn’t emotionally able to “want” to deal with the initial sadness.) I struggled from chapter to chapter. Finally, I looked at my husband and said, “I can’t read this book, I’ve gotten to chapter 6, it’s very depressing and I DO NOT agree with the sub title to this chapter!”
Chapter 6 (sub title)
No matter what God’s power may be, the first aspect of God is never that of the absolute Master, the Almighty. It is that of the God who puts himself on our human level and limits himself. — Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity
My husband gently said, “Then put it in the trash.” So, I got up walked into the kitchen and put it in the trash.
About 6 months later my minister leaves this rave review about “The Shack” on his Facebook status. I’m in Florida at the time and take it upon myself to comment on his status. I wrote, “I got to chapter 6 and pitched it in the trash!” Well, a few days later my phone rings. It’s my minister. I won’t go into every detail but he was shocked I didn’t finish the book. He explained that it could be the best secular book written on forgiveness he has encountered. Yes, he explained, “he would not want to give it to a non-believer or recommend it to a new Christian, but I believe you are a mature Christian and need to go back and finish the book.” It so happened my sister was visiting me and she had brought the book from home to read on the beach. She offered her copy to me and I went for it.
The book left such an impact on me that I will give $50 to each of my adult children who reads the book. My youngest son is taking the book with him in the morning on a business trip to St. Louis. I want them to understand, that on the backside of every situation God loves the villain as much as He loves the victim.
I want everyone I love to read the book!
Each of your comments are rich, thought-provoking. Connie’s story is amazing. I too do not agree with the sub-title of Chapter 6. I don’t think you can separate God as fully God with God who became man, walking beside us. The book of Job is about a powerful God who created the heavens and asked Job to respect that sovereignty and power, and yet, He walked beside Job. So there are clear theological errors in The Shack. But the allegory is impacting people profoundly, helping them connect with the Lord, helping them forgive, helping them through pain. How intriguing. I love your spirit Connie — to both throw the book in the trash and take it out again! 🙂 God works through our broken world, our broken lives, and even our broken sermons. Isn’t that amazing?
I was enriched by reading The Shack, it opened me up as a Christian to feel and release deep hurt that I have been carrying. I was very convicted by how I put God in a box, He is so much more. Also, my sister says it is the first time she has ever understood the Trinity. What an opportunity to share Christ together and with seekers.
Susan — I love it that you blogged. It is so interesting how The Shack impacted lives. Fiction can be powerful — almost makes me want to try my hand at fiction!
This comment is from Deirdra Lowry — ended up in different post so I moved it.
It’s been a while since I checked in so I am late in replying. When I heard about The Shack, I was intrigued. I wanted to read it and received it free through the mail as a gift. I read part of it, captivated. I didn’t want to put it down, but at the same time it did not ring true in my spirit. I had a problem with the way the Trinity was depicted. The more I tried to read, the more I sensed that God did not want me to read it. I looked up some of the names mentioned in that book on the internet, and I didn’t like what I learned. Whether that information was true, I don’t know. But I do know that I did not have the peace to continue reading. I concluded that if I didn’t need to read it, I didn’t need to give it away, so I threw it away. What is your opinion?
Deirdra — I’m so thankful you wrote, and dared a dissenting opinion. I love it that you followed your convictions and didn’t give it away.
Couple of thoughts: Because I have friends I deeply respect and are in the same church with William Young and tell me he is a very humble and simple man who actually wrote this for his children and grandchildren to help them have a more positive view of the Lord, I tend to think some of the things on the internet that cast him as having an agenda to lead people away from the truth may be unreliable. I found many statements erroneous theologically, but I wasn’t offended by the way he represented the Trinity because I do think that God Himself represents persons of the Trinity at times with a feminine side, such as in Proverbs 8. I did understand that because Mack had been abused by his father that he struggled with God as a Father. I thought it was interested that by the end of the book, God is portrayed as male.
But I absolutely think we have to be true to our convictions, and that if our conscience is disturbed, we must be true to it. Even if we are the only one in the Dee Brestin post that is against The Shack, we need to say so, and I so applaud you for doing that. Otherwise, how are we ever going to sharpen each other?
Thank you SO much.
I was given the book as a Christmas gift and felt the need, even though I hadn’t heard of it at that point, to read it. Like several others, I was drawn into the story by the personal tragedy but by the sixth chapter I could no longer abide the depiction of the Trinity. It seemed so demeaning and disrespectful, it broke my heart. The more I read, the less comfortable my spirit felt but being an avid reader, I tried to not give up on the book. However, the more I read the more heartsick I became. Finally, I came to the realization that I couldn’t read anymore, I knew that I couldn’t give the book to anyone if I felt that badly so I threw it away. I felt so much better after I made that decision. I cared very little about whether it was fiction or non fiction it still needs to contain the truth. Our Lord and Savior should be the one sacred entity that we don’t allow to be impugned or besmirched and I felt that “The Shack” treated him as just another lackluster guy in the room. No matter what our personal walk is, God is still God of the Universe and should never be belittled…just my humble opinion.
Bonnie — what I so appreciate about your brave comment (after all these positive comments, especially, on my blog) is that you absolutely followed your conscience. I also appreciate your desire to honor God, and I sense your deep love for Him. Thanks so very very much for writing.
Thank-you Dee, for your generosity of spirit and your faithful ministry for all these years. I have been blessed by your gift for writing from the heart, and have so many of your books in my collection of favorites. I thank-you for the opportunity to express my heartfelt opinion and have it received with such grace. God bless you.
I hope to hear from you more, Bonnie. We need brave voices!
I, your sister, am impressed with all the thought and time you have given in regard to others and the Shack.
There are some Christians who see to think in black and white. There are many non-believers who think all Christians are this way. Obviously, one thing The Shack has done is to cause thinking and sharing, and sharing causes more thinking!
Jesus used parables because they cause us to think. They can be called allegories or metaphors. They are not black and white: They mean this to one person, they mean that to another person, “Oh my goodness, I see that differently than I did yesterday!”
Even the Trinity can be considered a metaphor. After all, it is a concept. How can God be explained? Can God have more meaning when presented as the Trinity? When Young gives God a black face and Spirit becomes an ephemeral Asian, it causes me to think, “No, but why?” or “How do I ‘see’ God?” This helps me to deepen my understanding of, and my relationship to, the entity or Trinity I know as God. And, I know this understanding and relationship may change and grow.
I cherish the laughter and joy I’ve experienced in our small group study of this book. Somehow, it often feels that God is present.
I love you Dee,
I read The Shack some time back and found it a book I had to push myself to finish. I know,like many of you, it is widely popular, but I have been troubled by some of its content and false conclusions non-believers and believers as well could reach. Listed below is a view of the book that readers may find thought provoking.
In a nutshell, I thought the relationship between God/Jesus/&Holy Spirit in the Shack is the best expression of “The Trinity” I’ve ever seen. I also loved the concept of God “limiting Himself” for His children, as we do for ours. The Shack has opened more doors of opportunity for conversations with nominal and non-Christians, and also mature Christians, than any other book I’ve read. Some people I know are also very much against the book, based on input from influential pastors. I try to recommend The Shack with some caveats, including “THE SHACK IS FICTION!” And, “some things in the book may not be totally “Biblical,” but I want to talk to you about the book after you finish it.” Thanks for everyone’s comments! This is sort of like an online book club discussion!
Having been ministered to myself by The Shack & William Young’s other blogs and sermons, and after reading The Shack twice, I decided to employ it as a therapeutic tool with two of my clients. One enthusiastically bought multiple copies to distribute to friends, the other found a measure of healing and; is still “pondering it in her heart“. I work in mental health and; addictions (LCSW/LCAC)where most clients are referred by pastors/churches. Two quotes come to mind, especially as I read the comments of the courageous ones who needed to cease reading…..”To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible” Thomas Aquinas. and… “Steer clear of any God you can comprehend“ Brennan Manning. How does one become a part of the Idol Lies study … I have the book and am on surgical leave and have one other friend who maybe interested if affordable. Bless you