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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!