THE SHACK on Trial

This past weekend the best-selling book THE SHACK was released into theaters, which has sparked (or resparked) much debate, and criticism.  There seems to be no middle ground to this social discussion.  One either loves the book, or claims heresy.  Because of the number of questions I have received concerning the book, I thought it best I write a brief review of my findings.

For those who would like to know the backdrop of the book and why it was written, WATCH THIS VIDEO of author William Paul Young.  His story and personal testimony are powerful and moving as he shares his pain as a sexually abused young missionary’s kid, and the eventual pain that the abuse caused in his adult years. 

Since many of the critics attack the book as being “HERETICAL,” my review will focus on the message and its relationship to the truth as revealed in the Bible.  Unfortunately, most of the critics I have read have either grossly misrepresented the book (misquoted at best, or at worse, flat-out lied to get attention) or have not read the book for themselves and are simply commenting on what others have stated, written or said.

While THE SHACK was not written to be a theological defense of Scripture, and truth should always be derived from Scripture alone… the contents of this book are NOT contrary to Scripture and sound doctrine.  Young makes hard-to-understand truths more easily understood.

  1. Theologically Grounded:  The message of Submission to God is central to the message of THE SHACK as it chronicles one man’s pain of losing his daughter to a murderer.  The book and the author are gentle as they dismantle organized religion, and reclaims the themes Jesus communicated (The Father and the Kingdom of God).  From why do bad things happen, to what’s your view of God, Young tackles these hard topics and handles them with grace.
  2. God Centered:  In a creative narrative, Young illustrates the Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), in relationship to humanity.  He makes the incomprehensible, triune nature of God, and presents God as accessible and relatable; all the while, not diminishing His sovereign nature.  In theological terms, God is Transcendent and Immanent.  One of the main criticisms is that God the Father is revealed to Mac (the main character) as a black woman.  Without touching on the racial lenses, and the preconceived notions that many have viewing God as an old white-man, with grey hair and a beard, appearing as a Gandalf figure… the author provides the reason why God the Father (called Poppa in the text) presents as a black woman.  In summary:  Mac had an abusive and problematic relationship with his father (& with men in general) and would not have as willing related to Poppa if revealed as a man.  Since God is Spirit and both man and woman were created in His image, God provided what was needed  so Mac could receive and be healed. 
  3. Healing Oriented:  Whether you have watched the suggested video above concerning the author or not, the healing Mac receives through a fresh relationship with God (as expressed in His triune nature) is a message that is desperately needed for today.  From violence, racism, sexual abuse, substance abuse, etc… we are in desperate need for God’s healing presence in our lives and nation.  We are all damaged souls, and the sooner we realize this and run to the Lord in dependence, the quicker the holes in our souls will be filled.
  4. Experientially Framed:  This is not so much a theological reason, but a practical reason.  Instead of expressing 10 ways God heals our souls, Young paints a picture through one man’s eyes which then translates to every human heart.  The reader is able to “join” Mac’s experience, questions, struggles and limitations, while being led and addressed by the Lord.  Revelation takes the difficult or the hidden and makes it known.  In essence, this is what THE SHACK does for its readers.
  5. Relationally Focused:  One of the greatest contributions Young provides is his description of the relational nature of God.  He beautifully and biblically describes the relationship between God the Father (Poppa), God the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit (Sarayu) who are all fully and equally God.  Not 3 Gods, but 1 God, in perfect relationship to one another.  The book also provides a practical explanation of our need for reationship, which stems from God’s relational nature in and with Himself.  We are relational beings, because He is relational.

In essence, THE SHACK represented Mac’s soul.  As the story unfolds, Mac becomes more able to submit his pain, judgment, and life in general, allowing for God’s healing, perspective and abundant life to flow to Mac.  Oh that we would all take our greatest sadness, our darkest experiences, and most pondering doubts to the Lord, and meet with Him that He might touch our soul with His healing power!

If you are thinking of reading the book, or have been hesitant in the past because of the controversy surrounding it, let me put your mind at ease. THE SHACK will not erode your faith in God, if anything, your faith, hope and love of God will be strengthened and deepened.  I hear the movie is well done as well, but I have not personally seen it. My wife really enjoyed it!

While I don’t want to give away the ending, and the twists at the end, I personally enjoyed the story because there is a form of justice and closure.  He puts a nice “bow” on this gift called THE SHACK.  ENJOY!

5 Questions that Make Life Worth Living

Each of our 4 kids have asked lots of questions.  In the earlier years, they all went through the “WHY?” stage.  During the pre-teen years, the most heard question was, “Do I have to?”  In the teen years, many youth are asking the question, “Why should I listen to you?” or something to that affect.  While I’m not sure my children have had the courage to verbalize that last question, I do know that their questions have gotten more serious as they’ve gotten older.

As the years pass, questions about our schooling, career, who to marry, where to live are all important questions.  However, asking the right questions at the right time, makes all the difference in the world. Powerful questions can cut to the heart, and challenge the soul.

Jesus was the master of asking the right questions.  For instance, He asked, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26).  How about the two questions that brought clarity and purpose to His disciple’s life, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?“, followed by, “Who do you say that I am?” were powerful questions (Matthew 16:13-20).

Asking the RIGHT questions of our lives will determine our future.  They cause us to examine our lives, choices, and actions.  Let me present to you five powerful questions:

  1. How am I practically investing in my most valuable relationships?  Somehow, the majority of our time is spent investing in relationships that are least important.  It is not that these people are not valuable or important as individuals, but too often we give our best to people we may not even be in contact with in ten years, and we give our left-overs to those we will spend our life-time with (i.e., spouse, children, family, etc.).  From the Board Room to the Bedroom, recognize the most important relationships in your life, and invest wisely.  NOTE:  Make sure you are investing in that relationship in a manner that is significant and valuable to the other person. 
  2. Am I fulfilling my purpose in this world?  Some of the most miserable people I have ever met are those who have wasted their lives or are currently wasting their lives.  For some, they made wrong choices, others have squandered opportunities, and many have simply taken the path of least resistance and settled for mediocrity.  There is something in the DNA of our souls that really want to know that our life mattered, that we made a difference.  While most of our names will never show up in a history book, we all want to know that we fulfilled our purpose for existence and made our mark on the world. 
  3. What seeds am I planting today in my life and in others? From exercise, to diet, to reading/studying, to attending worship at church, even to your vacation, what seeds are you planting?  Make sure you are planting the right seeds so you don’t have to pray for crop failure!  We will ALWAYS reap what we sow.  The only time in Bible where this doesn’t apply is when Jesus forgives our sins and we don’t “reap” the consequences of our sinful rebellion.  However, Jesus “reaped” what we “sowed”, so someone still had to reap.  SOW TO BLESS GENERATIONS!  From saving money, or your spiritual legacy, you can sow seeds that will produce fruit long after you have passed. 
  4. Am I being honest with myself and others?  In a culture where we “fake it until we make it, it is easy to make bed-fellows with dishonesty.  Of all the questions we can ask ourselves, this question takes the greatest sensitivity and most time.  The times I have asked myself this question, I was surprised and appalled at what I found.  It takes great courage to ask this question, and quite frankly the greatest help will come from the Holy Spirit who shines His light into the dark corners of our heart.  Let Him cleanse you!
  5. If I were to die today, would I leave with regrets?  This last question comes down to two simple responses which we give every day. YES or NO.  What did I say YES to, and what did I say NO to?  Everyone ends up somewhere, not everyone ends up somewhere on purpose.  While there are always unfinished tasks at the end of the day (dishes still in the sink, homework left undone, yard work needing attending, etc.), regret goes much deeper than an unfinished task.  REGRET is the response of the soul to a missed opportunity or responsibility.  Leave every day without regret.  Forgive those you need to forgive.  Love those you need to love.  Attend the concert, plant the seed, send the gift, or share those healing words with those you love. 

These 5 questions have the power to change your life and make it worth living.  Perhaps this week, you can make some time to get alone with a journal and pen in hand, and ask yourself these questions.  It may sting at first, but you’ll be glad you did!

What does it mean to FOLLOW JESUS?

This coming month at Shrewsbury Assembly of God is a special emphasis on God’s mission.  Throughout the month we will be hearing from missionaries and spiritual leaders who have responded to God’s call with, “Here am I, SEND ME.”  These are every day men and women who have trusted God at His word, and followed Jesus on His terms, not their terms.

In order to prepare our hearts so we are ready to answer God’s call upon our lives, families and church with “Here I am, SEND ME,”  I have included this video that will challenge your understanding of Jesus, and His call upon ALL OF US.  The preacher, David Platt, is a leading voice for the mission to reach the world with the name of Jesus.  I hope you enjoy, but more than that, I pray you are challenged and changed.  PRAYING FOR YOU!

Pastor Jason Tourville