Saturday, January 12, 2008

Review of “The Shack” by William P. Young


I just finished reading “The Shack” by William P. Young. You should know that as I begin to write this post it is 12:23 AM, and I’ve just spent about he last hour and a half finishing the last several chapters in the quiet of my office in the late evening. A bit of that time was spent weeping. For a time, I wept about once a page in the early parts of chapter 17. A bit of that time was also spent on my face on the floor weeping and praying, praising God, and all I could tell him was that he was good. My face is stiff from the salt in the tears, and my eyes and cheeks ache from crying, but it is an ache that I would not trade for anything. You see I know now that the God I worship is good. But more about that later.

The story is told by Willie, the author, he inserts himself in the story as a friend of Mack, Mackenzie Allen Philips. Mack’s daughter Missy was kidnapped on a camping trip while he was rescuing his son from drowning in a canoe. Evidence was later found in an abandoned shack in the woods that she had been brutally murdered. More than three years later, he receives an unstamped letter in the mail from someone named “Papa” inviting him back to the shack for a meeting. He decides to visit the Shack and what he finds changes his life forever.

That is my synopsis, it is similar to the one on the back of the book, and it really covers about four chapters of info that is important for the story, but less important for the truth contained within the story, which is what I want to talk about here.

First is the familiar term “Papa” which is used for God the Father principally by Nan, Mack’s wife. A well remembered name for the Father used in the bible is “Abba.” Abba is an equivalent to Dada or Papa depending on the language you speak. It is a term a very small child, perhaps barely speaking, might use to refer to his or her father. But let me ask this question, how many of us speak to our Heavenly Father in those terms? I think in all my (right) years, outside of people simply quoting the verse saying “Abba Father” I’ve only heard one person once call God “Daddy.” She is the very wonderful co-leader of our church youth group. And this brings such sadness to my heart, in the same way that verses in Psalms about singing and dancing with all your might and playing all sorts of instruments with all our might before the LORD are largely ignored in our contemporary church, as will most churches for the last millenniums. At least I have found a church where we can at least joke about it (“I guess we shouldn’t sing that song any more ;-). ”) All joking aside, it is a travesty that the God we love and worship, we cannot invite into our hearts far enough to be able to call him using a name which has a purely personal meaning. We evangelical Christians who believe in a personal relationship with God, largely do not live that out in our lives. It is not that I am criticizing the way we are, but begging that we change because we need so much to be embraced by Papa’s love, and that can be made more available, I believe, by using a name we might call our own father.

This book really does play with your mind, and it is meant to. Papa even explains that if he were to appear to Mack as someone who looked like Gandalf, it would serve only to reinforce his religious stereotypes. So Papa appeared as a large black woman named Elousia. The Holy Spirit appeared as a distinctly Asian woman named Sarayu, which apparently means “wind.” From what I can pick up in the book, she was difficult to look at, not because she was too bright or anything, but simply because she was difficult to see when looking right at her. She seemed to come and go as she pleased, appearing and disappearing at will but reminding Mack, that she had never disappeared at all, she was there all the time, and is everywhere all the time. Lastly, Jesus was portrayed as a slightly unhandsome average looking Middle Eastern man with a big nose, which Jesus was (likely big nosed and all.) There was much emphasis on Jesus being truly, fully and purely human, while at the same time being all that of God as well. I thought as I was reading that, logically speaking, if Jesus was a physical being when he ascended into heaven, then of course, he still is. He has not disappeared anywhere; he still is that way, up there somewhere. I believed it, but never really thought about it before.

Actually, I thought that way about much of the stuff in the book. Really, these things had never come to me in this way before, but I knew of them, and already believed them, but had never really understood them. It made God real to me in a way that he has never been real before. A major breakthrough for Mack, as it was for me, was that a huge gap created between us and God in our relationship with him is that we do not really believe that he is good. Sure, we say he is good, but deep down, most of us do not really believe that because all we can imagine of God is all our best traits to the nth degree, smashed together with all the goodness we can think of, with super powers, and God is not that way. God is in no way confined to our imaginations, because they don’t really exist, and God has no need to be a part of something that doesn’t even exist and never will. Therefore, we see things that we have decided are evil, and then judge God based on our own preexisting judgment. The truth is, the things around us are not ours to judge, to decide whether they are good or evil. Their inherent good or evil is in no way based on our perception of them. In the same way, if I look at a shiny piece of metal and say “That is obviously aluminum,” it has no bearing on what kind of metal it actually is, or even if it is a metal at all. Its essence and existence is entirely outside that of our own. Take that to the infinite power, God is the same way, which is why he says in the bible that his ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts.

A number of negative reviews that I have read have complained of the author doing something like creating God in his own image. I could not disagree more. God in this book is so much different from that. I think if you wanted to pare down everything he said in the entire book, it might fit into the sentence “I am nothing like you.” This is a God who cannot be predicted but can predict your every move, a God who is infinitely loving, caring, and patient and who affects change in your life. These things a human cannot do. So, no, no one made God in their image, they just stood well back and said “I still can’t see all of you Papa.”

One belief that this book specifically challenged was one of my basic beliefs about good and evil, or comfort and discomfort. When my wife and I were attending pre-marriage counseling, I told the pastor that I did not always want sunshine and roses, I was a kind of a realist, believing that you could not truly understand good unless you experienced bad. In a way, I believed that there could not be good unless there was bad, you know, to counteract it, to be the opposite of it. My belief has changed. It is the other way around. You cannot have bad unless you have good. Our infinitely good God came first. His light has always existed. His eternal good has always existed, and evil has not nor will ever overcome it because in the face of light, darkness flees. Darkness can no more resist light than I am able to come up with an apt comparison. By very nature, that is what it is, and what it does. Unimaginable distances of the pure black vacuum of space cannot erase the light of a single star. So, no, I don’t need to experience evil to truly understand what good is. Good is good, it is not confined or defined by evil, rather, like darkness to light, evil is confined and defined by good.

At one point in the story, Mack is directed to follow a trail which leads to a rock wall which he is miraculously able to walk through. Inside he finds a woman who is exceedingly beautiful, and whose words he would be happy to sit and listen to forever. We find out in the next chapter that she is Wisdom from Proverbs and that her name is Sophia, which is not a stretch since Sophia, is actually Greek for wisdom. Sophia is the one who tells Mack the way it is, not that God already hadn’t, but Mack had much to work through. Sophia told Mack that he had come to a judgment, and to his surprise, he was to be the judge. The catch was this. Mack had five children. Two of them would make it into heaven, and the other three were condemned. It was Mack’s job to decide which ones. Understandably, Mack was faced with a difficult choice, and as no father should be able, he was unable to choose which children would face condemnation, so he cried out and begged that he could take their place. We often think that God is some cosmic Judge Judy, going to sit behind a big desk on his throne and judge us for all we’ve done, and we have to find a way (Jesus) to avoid that. We end up loving Jesus, but not really loving our Father because of this misperception of him. What this part of the story says is that God no more wants to condemn us than we want to be condemned. He is our Papa, he created each and every one of us as his children, and his true love never wants us to leave him. That is why Jesus became sin for us, to take our place, because Papa loved us so much, he wanted to save us, and would sacrifice himself more than willingly to redeem us from our independent streak.

This leads to another point. Some I’ve talked to seem to catch a hint of Universalism or something in this book, but they miss what Papa says about relationships, they are a two way street. God can do all the loving in the world, he can reach out, he can perform miracles, he can redeem us from our sin, but he can never nor will never force us to come to him. That is what true relationship is, it is expectancy, not expectation. Expectations leave us hurting when they are not fulfilled, but if we live in expectancy, just waiting to see what wonderful things might happen between us, then there is no hurt, only joy.

One of the most wonderful things about this book was how it treats evil, and what happens when God works through evil to affect the best in the world. Throughout the book, Mack is overcome by what he calls “The Great Sadness,” a darkness shrouding his heart after his daughter Missy was kidnapped and murdered. Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle was talking about Calvinism and mentioned a woman he knew who had been raped who was a staunch Calvinist. She asked him “Why did God have me raped?” A similar question was asked in “The Shack.” Mack asked if his daughter was murdered so that he could be rescued as it were. God made it clear that it is not he who causes evil to happen though he is able to work good through it. This kind of human thinking causes us to be able to sacrifice a few to save many, where God’s way of doing things sacrifices only one, himself. God never works any kind of evil, and it is never in his purpose for any sort of evil to happen, what God does is to work through evil, our choices and independence from him to make good things happen for his purpose. God would never have anyone raped, or murdered, or anything else to bring about anything, no matter how good the ultimate result would be. He uses evil for good, he does not cause evil to happen.

Another complaint I’ve heard, is that Satan and his power is conspicuously absent. In fact, as I remember, Satan is not mentioned once. I don’t have a problem with this. I don’t think this is a story about Satan, I think it is a story about God’s love. It is a parable. In the same way that the parables of Jesus do not mention Satan, neither does this one because there is a specific point to be made, a hurt to be healed, and Satan is not needed to convey the love of our Father toward us. I think the only nod to Satan in this book is when one of the characters says that all sin is a result of the desire for independence from God, and that certainly fits Lucifer as much as it does us. The point of this story is to release people from sadness and anger toward God, and to show that Papa really is good, and as I mentioned before, we don’t need evil to show what good is, it is the other way around.

In conclusion, I strongly recommend reading this book, many have said that it is the most impactful book they have ever read beside the Bible, and I would tend to agree. Whether or not we know it, I think we all need the kind of healing Mack received, because we all tend to hold grudges against God whether or not we know it. We don’t understand God and in our limited human understanding, we hold that against him. We need to know him personally to understand him, all the rules we put upon ourselves do nothing to bring us closer to him unless we can realize that we are powerless to follow those rules. And that’s what the rules are for.

I dare to call him Papa,

WiredForStereo

39 comments:

William said...

Thank you for a magnificent review...you have taken the time to delve deeply into many of the elements and nuances of the book...again, thank you. May we all come to find that he has already bridged the gaps and crawled into our pain, and now simply will not leave.
Blessings,
Paul (willie)

WiredForStereo said...

Wow, I've never had the author of the book I was reviewing review my review. A blessing it is.

The Clarks said...

Wow! I loved the review! I think you did such a good job. I really think that that book affected me the way I needed it to now, like Blue Like Jazz affected me a couple years ago. I want to re-read it already. I think it's amazing that the author left you a comment! what a huge honor, you are really a really gifted writer! (both of you) :)

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your review of this book. After reading it though I am a bit concerned that you do not seem to stick to the pursuit of truth in this review that you seem to have an obsession for in your other reviews. There are serious theological issues that are at least raised by the author in this portrayal of what God herself would say to a man in person. This is different from a story, this is a portrayal of God without any allegory or pretense and that is why I think you should at least hit on the areas where it needs to be reconciled with scripture. That in itself is alarming to me that this portrayal of God does not point us to scripture as authoritative. It also totally eliminates the Holiness of God in exchange for God being a nice gal. Perhaps the author should have read your quote at the end of another of your blogs and included it in the book: " I’ll have to answer to God. And God can do stuff to you the cable company only wishes they could."

Where is that part of God in the book?

WiredForStereo said...

If I had thought that the book needed to be reconciled to the Bible, I'd have raised that concern.

As far as a portrayal of God with no allegory, you are obviously mistaken. If I were to reconcile that to scripture, I'd have to say that the Bible says that no one has seen God. There is obviously much allegory and symbolism, the names, the places, the characters, all rich and deep with meaning.

Just like I mentioned that there was no mention of Satan in concert with evil in the book because that is not what the book was about, in the same way, the book was not about proving scripture authoritative. There was no disproof of scripture, unless you consider what Jesus said about heaven in Revelation, but I believe in the symbolic principles of biblical interpretation, and saying that the biblical depiction of heaven is a picture of Christ and not a literal description is not heretical.

And as the holiness of God goes, again you are mistaken. You must go back and reread the worshipful colorful goings on with Jesus in the meadow. Over and over again, God in the book says that his ways are not our ways. His ways are not our ways. Our perceptions of him do not define his existence, but it is him who defines us.

Where is what part of God in the book? The vengeful merciless duck duck damned God? I'll tell you right now, that God is not in there. This book is for real people who have real pain, people who need to know that God really is good and that he really does love them and care for them. I really pity people who don't have God who they can love, and has always loved them.

Why would I want to worship a God I don't even want to know? That is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible loved his creation so much that he sacrificed himself to die to redeem it. That's the God I worship.

Anonymous said...

I was anxious to see your response but I honestly can not understand your first statement about this book not needing to be reconciled to the Bible. It is a book that portrays who God is, and therefore needs to be looked at through who God says He is in scripture through His Son is the image of God. I also have THE God who loves me and and enjoy knowing so your view that anyone who understands that God is Holy and that there will be wrath to those who reject him is a "duck duck damned" calvinist is a bit of a knee jerk reaction to a sincere question. Dont bother responding, I will look for sincere honest dialog elsewhere, and I wish you the best.

WiredForStereo said...

Wow, that was really harsh.

I always find it interesting when people try to tell me what my views are, as if they know better than I do. You can tell me how you understand what I say, but telling me what my views are is what we in the biz like to call a "straw man." It is akin to judging in the Bible, telling someone what they believe, as if you know their heart.

I understand that this is a book about who God is, and needs to be identified by who God said he is. Anyone who tries to tell us who God us must do that, and it's not just spiritual or religious books, authors, or speakers, but anyone who observes any part of the universe. The universe essentially is God's fingerprints. An objects creator can be identified by the object's quality and composition, so naturally, God can be identified by his creation and vice versa. So when someone says something about God, or the universe, it must be reconciled with what God has told us. I am not debating this.

The question is, what does this book tell us? It tells us that God is good. Like really good. He's not just good to people or good because he is God, He is just good. He IS good.

You can pick apart all the meanings of the different things presented, all the symbolism and the metaphors, you can complain about how two members of the Trinity are women, you can search Google all day long for the word Elousia (how you found this blog), you can sit around and read a book horizontally while scoffing to your friends, but you'll lose the meaning of what it is all about.

God is good, and he should be worshiped. Biblically I find no problems with this.

Now if you'd actually like to present some problems you've found instead of standing around with your hands in your pockets scoffing those who would really think about things, so be it. But if you'd really like honest discussion about things you have concerns about, you must actually present things to discuss. You have not done so. Vagueries about the book not being kosher with the Bible do not count.

HumbleNHim said...

After reading "The Shack", I was bothered by the few questionable theological points (and absense of many). I decided to search out some reviews and stumbled upon yours, which has put my mind at ease. Thank you so much.

Marti said...

I just finished reading this book on the plane ride from Los Angeles to Ohio. I sobbed like an idiot though most of the ride. The person sitting next to me tried to lean as far away from me as possible. LOL. But never have I read a book that moved me like this one. For the first time I got a glimpse of what it was like to just "be" with God - no doing, no requirements, no obligations, no duty - just relationship. It spoke to so many parts of my broken heart. While I don't necessarily agree with all of it theologically (the trinity as a circle stumps me a little) I'm ok with disagreeing and still seeing a greater value in it. It is exploring a relationship. It is a man in search of healing in a very good God. I'm going to buy copies to hand out, what a great conversation starter.

Cam said...

Hi. I echo Willie's sentiments (in as much as I can, being a simple reader and not the writer) - but you have captured much of what the book was about.

I really struggle to see how take such exception to this from a biblical pov, as for me it lined up better biblically than most of my previous religious dogma, that this (along with people like Wayne Jacobsen, the God Journey, and others) have assisted to smash down.

I believe we have misunderstood this God, consistently throwing out or downplaying the exceptionally numerous accounts of how God is love and all that entails for a narrow, almost unscriptural view of God - interpreting His holiness and His wrath separate to his Love. When we do that, we are bound to lose sight of who God really is, and will always have an unbiblical view of God that falls horribly short of who He is and what He's about. On top of this, this view of God hinders us to ever really get to know Him - and I fear, may place many in the "I did not know you" camp which Jesus talks about a few times in parables. I'm not trying to put words in God's mouth, but rather saying that He desires relationship with us. And if that, in submission to Him, is our goal, then I don't see us going wrong.

And the Shack does an excellent job of giving a small portrait of how Dad sees that happening (amongst other things.. )

Thanks again for such an accurate and heartfelt review.

WhitakerHouse said...

Wow. This review really is impressive. I'm amazed at the time you poured into writing this, as well as the emotion you truly captured in your own experiences of the book. This really is a compelling review!

I do have a question...

If you could be sent some other books to review, would you? Your voice is something that really does a book a great honor! If your interested in getting some other books to read, email me at amy.ionadi@witakerhouse.com

Thanks so much for sharing your fantastic writing with all of us!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, this book is a sum of what the Bible tells us in one word, when it gets right down to it

(RELATIONSHIPS) that's it, that's all
(RELATIONSHIPS) with him, with others,LOVE, GREATEST COMMANDMENT.

JACKIE

francesmarion said...

I was greatly touched in a positive way while reading “The Shack ". I have purchased 8 copies for friends and family. I appreciated your positive review after having read several others on the web. This fictional story was heart warming and brought me closer to God - what a tremendous blessing. It seems to me the book is like holding up a mirror, the ones who seem to take it to task are the religious Pharisees. It tells us God is love, He is good and He loves all of us - what a positive message. It takes God out of the box and lets us imagine HIM as anything HE wants to be. Jesus remains our greatest gift and redeemer... And the Holy Spirit as a cool and refreshing wind that changes you! Yeah GOD

Sylvia Elizondo said...

Your review is awesome, I feel the same way you do about this book. I have always tried to explain the Holy Trinity, but it is so hard. William P. Young tried His best to explain our awesome God, but in actuality he can't fully and no one can. He is unexplicable. I had an encounter with the Holy Trinity 2 years ago and my whole theoligy of God went out the window. The word good does not even begin to describe our Precious Savior. I love Him so much. I resently went to Disney World and all my family that had been there were asking me what I thought about it, and I kept saying that it was o.k., but I was not imressed. So I was praying to God and in deep worship and He said to my spirit, it is because I have given you a taste of heaven. We can experience heaven in this world, we born again beleivers are in the Father's hand and in Jesus hand that no power anywhere, or anything in this universe can ever pluck us out of their hands, or separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. Glory to God in the Highest and peace to His people on earth. I am experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding. Great job again on your review. Maybe you can review my book soon, I am also writing one, It will have the word Agape Love in the title.

Anonymous said...

I have finished this book just yesterday and have found it to be New Age.--IT IS CLOSE, BUT NOT QUITE-- It is important to always refer back to Scripture as the enemy prowls the earth just looking for someone to deceive. There are so many points in scripture I could point you to. Read Revelation 22:18,19. We cannot decide who we want God to be in order to suit us. GOD IS WHO HE IS! We either accept Who God is or we don't. Decide this day, Whom will you serve? But do not dare even begin to compare this book to the Holy Bible! We are each accountable for each Word we speak.

This book is purely for entertainment purposes only.

WiredForStereo said...

If you can't quote a Bible verse in context, maybe you shouldn't quote them at all.

tinksgrl said...

Hi, I read this book, and could not agree with you more, It changed my life and my relationship with God. It healed me in places where I did not even existed. Many thanks for sharing your blog with others, so that they too may read the book...God Bless You and Yours...Laura

Larissa said...

Great review...I'm almost done with it. I don't think I've ever read anything more powerful!

David Boss said...

You should review "The God's Honest Truth" by Darin Hufford. I've read both books and they are amazingly close. I think you'd like it. It can be found at www.freebelievers.com

A Slave Of Christ said...

I have to say, I got a few sentences in to reading this review, and just smiled. Let me ask you something, as you were reading this book, would you find yourself putting it down and doing something else, only to hear God speaking to you and pouring more wisdom into you, and when you finally picked the book back you, you would realize that everything that God just told you, was what was on the next few pages of the book?

I just finished reading it yesterday. It's rather exciting when you're laying on the floor crying uncontrollably and all that you can say is, "You are good...." you try to form other words of praise to speak to God, but nothing else comes out.

You found the true meaning of what God wants to do with this book, and that is to show people that He is good.

As far as the negative reviews, there's something God has revealed to me, and it may help all of you out there who just get mad at the negative reviews.

While this book will open up your relationship with God in a whole new way, you have to realize something. The Shack, for a person who has a thriving relationship with God, and plenty of scriptural knowledge, and (dare I say) good theology, this book will blow the door off of the hinges and God will begin to pour in as much as you're willing to receive.

But....To those who do not have a good biblical foundation in Christ...This book can be very dangerous. Why? Because we live in a culture in which everybody supposedly is saved. I've never met anybody who said, "Nope, I'm not going to heaven, I'm going to hell..."

But the biblical truth is that "narrow is the way and few there be which find it"

Here's my thing, all of the negative reviews, are written by people who are so caught up in seeking after truth, they stop seeking after God. Before I ever started reading this book, God started showing me that Christianity is not about doctrine, or truth, or good theology. It's about Him. You see, so many times we can get so caught up in making sure that everything fits in with our idea of what scripture says, that we completely miss what God is trying to show us.

God reveals to us that most of American Christianity is almost totally wrong, and instead of drawing nearer to God, we completely shut ourselves off from God, and close ourselves in a closet filled with our own judgments of others. A man will walk up to us to ask us a question, and we'll tell ourselves, "Well this man isn't saved, No need to talk with him." And in all reality, God was trying to show us something completely different through this man.

When our doctrine becomes our God, I'm sorry people, but it's idolatry. You know, even the bible can become an idol. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. That means that you focus your heart on God. You say to Him, "God, you're God, and I can't comprehend what that means, but I don't have to, all that I need to know is that Jesus died and rose again, and through the cross I'm reconciled....And I know that you're good, and you're going to take care of everything else, all I have to do is believe that you are who you say you are."

God brought me to that place a few days before even getting The Shack in my hands. He left me on the floor crying out (loudly) saying, "God, I don't know ANYTHING!!!... All of my knowledge about this and that and who I think you are and what I think you're doing and how I think you should do things, or how I think you actually do things.....It all means nothing....All that I know is Jesus, and that's all I have to know." And then I was free....

Free from all of the wrong thinking. Why was I free? Because I wasn't worrying about having the wrong mindset on things. I was trusting in Christ. I was no longer trusting in my ability to perform as I thought a Christian should perform, but I was trusting in Christ's performance. It's no longer my way of thinking that matters, but Christ's. It was then that God began to set everything right in my mind. When I gave up trying to do it on my own.

There's a verse in the bible, it says, "God knows all the thoughts of man, that they are vain."
Beautiful isn't it?

So, all of you theology buffs, seminary grads, and intellectual calvinists, realize this. I fully understand your fear that this book, "The Shack" can damage a lot of people who don't understand the true Gospel. But you need to open your mind up past what you understand about God. Don't throw out the scriptures, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying realize that you may be wrong. That God may be trying to give you a new revelation about Himself, but your mindset is preventing you from hearing Him.

Something interesting about all of the uproar about this book and the negative reviews. It all makes perfect sense to me how most of this book ties in with scripture precisely. Most, not all (But those things that don't fit in you have to stop looking so far into it and just say, "I don't understand, but God does). But, what was interesting is that when Jesus came the first time, people studied the scriptures, and yet they went on their own interpretation and not God's. Didn't Jesus always use scripture, and describe God in a way that man didn't comprehend or accept?

Scripture is not there for us to figure out. It's there for us to realize that Jesus is the only way. The only way to what? Heaven? Yes. To escape from hell? Yes. To understand all that we need to know about God? Yes.

It's not us that God is looking at. It's not our understanding of truth that matters. We can argue over this and that all day long. We can argue over what's correct doctrine and what's not correct doctrine. What's a sin, and what's not a sin. But we need to realize that all of that.... It's nothing more than legalism, in it's basest form. We say, "This mode of thinking is right and there is no other way to think!" but God says, "Jesus is right and all else is wrong."

Do you know that the view that the God who sits on the throne waiting to cast everyone into Hell for every wrong thing they do does? It destroys the concept of love.

So wait, I know, I know, that made you mad. You're saying, "God is on the throne and you should fear Him!" First off, you're correct, but why should I fear Him? Because He's mad at me, or because I'm unworthy of anything He's given me??????

Do you know why the punishment for sin is so great. Why a place called hell that's so terrible....Why God HATES sin, and those who commit iniquity. Because of love. You see, as The Shack displays quite clearly, if you allow God to show it to you is that God is three persons, but the same God. They are in complete and total unity. In that unity there is love. Father loves the Son, Son loves the Father, Spirit loves the Father, Son loves the Spirit, etc.... It's perfect....And so, God is Love. So what is so terrible about sin? It destroys love, so God hates it. If God IS love, He must hate that which contradicts love. Independence, contradicts love. Love says, "I am looking out for the best thing possible for you. I'm looking out for your good and not my own, but I know that you're doing the same for me, so I don't have to worry about looking out for myself, I'll watch over you, you watch over me....Love" Love is all about giving, not receiving.

Independence is all about receiving and not giving.

Love is the only reason that complete and total unity is possible. Jesus prayed, "Father make them one just as you and I are one." Then He told the disciples to love one another. True loves does not divide, it unifies.

But, for those who are so wrapped up in "good theology" I will say this, I agree with you 100%, love is not what most of the "church" views it as, as a means to say, "Make me feel good or you don't love me..."

I've completely lost my train of thought. I've rambled on and on. So many words. I just pray that God's will be done and He reveals His point to someone who reads this.
Don't look at this comment and find fault with it because it's too long or it jumps around from place to place. Instead see what God wants to show you....

Tami said...

Whew! Pretty sure an Amen should follow that.

Love and appreciate the review.

I LOVE the book! I also had the pleasure of experiencing Mr. Young speak at our local college recently. He opened his heart and shared his personal story. An eye opening glimps into his journey ... that, which leads us all to the Shack.

The wonder of his story, the magic of the book, and the presence of God that fills each and every one of us as we turn the pages of our own life within, is truly a blessing, an inspiration and joy!

This "timely" pouring out of love and Holy Spirit, for me, is simply understandable, related and through Mr. Young's book is being embraced... changing us, and bringing us together!

Can ya dig it !?

Thank you Papa, Jesus, Sarayu ... and Paul.

Stephanie Simmons said...

I too, just finished the book...it has been circulating thru out our workplace....I want to give this book to all of my friends and family for Christmas this year....It was so powerful and made me think of God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit in ways I never have....I feel more "free" to be myself and not get so caught up in the rituals of religion....I have been struggling with forgivness for the last 6 years and I had no idea that towards the end of the book it would be like an instruction manual just for me....thank you...I will be in prayer over this and for God to give me the power to forgive...
I loved the feeling I had when Mack was walking on water, in the graden, eating and smelling amazing food, seeing all the colors and watching the stars with Jesus.....It gave me a little glimpse of Heaven and how exciting is that?? Thank you for writing such an amazing story that feels so real... Stephanie Simmons

Anonymous said...

i read this book within an 18 hour period. i literally fell asleep mid chapter after hours of straining to stay awake. i have never read a book like this that i just could not put down. this book was simply amazing. it really makes you think about life, religion, god and relationships from a whole different perspective. i haven't been to church in 10 years and admit that i stray more often than i should, but this book makes me want to change my relationship with god and be a better person. great review, by the way.

aboutHIM said...

I finished the book...reading through then going back and reading slowly to let it sink in over the last week. At the time my family 15,14,12, and husband were watching me tear up, laugh, struggle and come to love this book. It has over the past several days passed through our family. It has touched us all in different ways, just as God reveals himself to us. I do believe that even though exact scripture is not quoted in the book, it is beautifully laced through out each character. Thank you for listening and following the spirit as you poured your heart into ours through "The Shack".

kpain said...

Thanks to all for their comments. I have loved reading them. I just finished the book also. I love to read anything that has to do with God. As a person who has had great trials in life I understood what the author was trying to get across. The trinity is a relationship of giving without conditions. This should be the way we have relationships but so often it is not the case. We want so much in return. However, when you know that God is your life you can give without recieving a thing. I did not see as others have that this book went against doctrine. I am a devout Catholic and I know so well about doctrine. I have learned in my religious studies just what the book encompasses. God is Love. We are the church and the church is his bride. I loved how the book talked about God not just being at the top of our priorities but all we are. Peter was his most beloved disciple and he denied Jesus three times, as proof we are all sinners. The Church is not perfect but it tries to teach that God is Love and Jesus is the only way to him. I thought it did a great job of discibing why God allows evil to happen and most of all how we should not judge one another, that is for God to do and for us to love one another.
Pax Christi,
Kpain

Anonymous said...

I am a strong christian and I do not agree with some of the things. I think if you have douts pleas go to scropture and compare the book to the Bible. That is where you will find the truth.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading The Shack last Monday. I had to put it down every once in a while because my heart just ached to see the face of my Papa. Years before the book came out, I began calling God 'Papa' (ironically, I call my hubby 'Love') and because my friend knew about this, she couldn't wait to tell me about the book.

How did the book affect me... I can only put it this way. I can hear a hundred sermons telling me about the deep love of God, but for some reason, it never affects my heart as it does when I read about His love in metaphorical terms. I think this is why The Chronicals of Narnia touch so many people. Every time I read the stories, I can't wait for Aslan's entrance.

I think the problem lies in that we expect to hear about God's love in Church, but when authors use creative devices, such as metaphors, it brings the truth home to us in fresh ways. The Master story teller knew this, which is why a majority of the Gospels where Jesus is trying to tell us about God and heaven, he used parables to bring the truth home.

I've had many 'shack' experiences long before I found the book, and the one truth that stands out to me is that I see God most clearly in the center of my confusion and pain. I miscarried a week before I found out my sister was pregnant. She had her baby two days after my baby was due. Through the questions ("Why did you let her keep her baby?", and "Why did this happen now, of all times")God kept drawing me past the questions to the truth that regardless of the pain I may be experiencing, His love is so much greater. I can hold on to my pain, or I can surrender it to the one I have trusted to carry me. I chose the latter and it has made all the difference in the world.

kdl said...

Sadly, this book contains too many theological and doctrinal errors to be considered a serious journey into the heart of God. As I read The Shack, I started to compile a list of those heresies but gave up because they were too numerous.

The reason this book resonates with so many is because we live in a time when people embrace a "cotton candy gospel"; a message that is sweet and tasty but devoid of any nutritional value. This should not be suprising as the apostle Paul warned Timothy "for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.....they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables".

For something of real substance, read A.W. Tozer. He can carry you closer to the heart of God in two sentences than this fable can in 248.

Cam said...

ah, kdl - nice way to discount something without any reason, proof or effort to backup your point. If you had, i'm pretty sure someone could have pointed you to what you misread or misunderstood, and explain it to you - presuming your doctrine is based on an understanding of the biblical text.

I think there is much candied sugar coated bandying about in what's taught from pulpits each sunday (from my experience anyway) - and the content of the shack, stands up to the biblical text it is based on (the theological bits) - i do get it's a parable.

i find it deplorable that you justify your mud slinging with some out-of-context bible verse.

if you're unhappy with the theology, why don't you be a good boyscout, and google it - there's a chance you'd find an explanation for any of the issues you may have. Whether you agree with them is up to you, but at least you would have made an effort to see if maybe some people thought the theology in the shack actually had biblical basis (and they backed it up with a biblical basis).

Then maybe you wouldn't have gone and posted some random rubbish in this comment thread.

make an effort next time. i don't care if you disagree, just don't be so ignorant about it next time.

throwing mud isn't nice, dude.

Anonymous said...

I read the book and I realized many things. I am one of those whose faith is not based on what I hear or what I read or what the Church taught me, but on my experience of God in my life, and I thought that was portrayed in the book (at least how I understood it). We will all have different interpretations of the book. Some may like it, some may not. Some will look for facts and some will simply look for good thoughts, some learnings and realizations. I guess what's important in every book that we read is our ability to pick up what is good in it.

Anonymous said...

I have just read The Shack and can say with complete honesty that I have never before read a book that changed my life; but this one did. I’m not a bible thumper and I certainly do not purport to be a theologian.

You see I have for most of my adult life been looking forward to dying. Now don’t take that the wrong way, I’m not suicidal, I don’t take unnecessary risk in the off chance that death may occur. And so no one mistakes the first sentence I do not in anyway want to hurry my own demise. What I do want though, is to meet God. And it’s not for a sit down around the camp fire and hold hands sort of a chat.

I have wanted to meet God so I can scream at the top of my lungs; “Why did you make me broken? Why was I born with my disability? Why can’t I be normal?” (And just a little FYI here if you think “normal” is overrated it’s only because you don’t know what truly being different is like.) This feeling is not something that I pondered about yesterday or the day before. I have felt like this for decades. When Mack let God have it and yelled the only thing I could think was, “you go buddy.” And again for those who aren’t catching on….yer damn right I blame him! Is this selfish…yes, is this wrong, yes. And is this how I truly feel deep down in my heart…..YES!

All the above was true right up until I finished reading it. I can’t even point exactly where in the book I changed my mind about blaming God. I just know that I did. So maybe the book isn’t perfect, maybe the theology is wrong. But one thing I can say, for me, it helped remove a shadow over my heart that was damaging my relationship with Jesus.

David said...

Jan 13, 2009, I am in the process of reading "The Shack". I must say it is thought prevoking in the least. I can understand why God is presented as He/She is. Had He be presented as a father figure for Mack, it would have been an immediate turn off for him. This book goes far in strengthening my beliefs in the three persons of the Trinity. I like the way the author has personalized all of them into believeable caracters that one can identify with. I can't wait to see what the outcome will be for Mack.

Anonymous said...

I have read The Shack and had my heart opened in a new way to the love of God. I have also read He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobson and loves it as well. I do see the danger though that could come from seeing God as only a god of love. He is love, but He is also Righteous and Perfect. He loves us, but He does hate our sin because it separates us from Him. I think that just like with anything else, some could take it too far and lose sight of the holiness of God Almighty. And this would be not fault of the author, but just a misinterpretation of what he was striving to portray. In coming to understand our God in new and amazing ways, I am in awe of the fact that a perfect, holy, and righteous God would pursue a relationship with me when I am anything but those things. As I am in relationship with Him, He gives me a desire to turn from those things that would separate me from Him. Not doing certain things or doing certain things does not make Him love me more or less, but my choosing to live and think independently from Him will cause my relationship with Him to be strained just like a parent/child relationship is strained when the child chooses to go their own way and not follow the advice of the parent (in the case of a parent who is parenting as God would have them to). We have to be aware that the enemy will attempt to take and twist any and all of God's truth (whether it be His love or His righteousness) into something that is a lie. My prayer is that the followers of Jesus here in this land will desire to walk so close to the Savior and be so filled with Who He is that it will overflow and spill over onto the lives of those who do not know Him and that Christ and Who He is will be so irresistible and desirable that they will not be able to resist Him and His love for them.

Anonymous said...

Mascara ran down my cheeks and eyes were swollen. This after just having put my face on. Now I am telling everyone: "just read it". My daughter was heading for the mall this afternoon and asked if I needed anything. I said, plese bring me two copies of "The Shack"..I will not lend mine as I plan to re-read in times of need

One of the new copies will be with me when I go to mass tomorrow morning, a gift to my priest.

The other will be mailed to someone who lives ten minutes from me. A friend that has not known how to repair a once "best friend" status, even though I have tried. Maybe this book, mailed to him in a manila envelope, will open the way.

Excellent review.

Cleve said...

I agree with Cindy Crosby, reviewer at "Christianity Today", who said, "Rather than slicing and dicing the novel, looking for proof of theological missteps, a better approach might be to look at significant passages as springboards for deeper discussion. The Shack is a novel, after all, not a systematic theology. Keep that in mind when reading The Shack. Despite its weaknesses, this is a story with the potential to wake readers up, to rekindle or reinvigorate their faith. In an era when so much Christian fiction is about pat answers, conventional themes, and the regurgitation of what we already know and believe, such stories are good news for thoughtful readers."

Anonymous said...

Cleve, Thank you very much for a very insightful review! A balanced view is very welcome. I have read many very positive reviews and many very negative reviews and your review is the best I've seen.

Janelle said...

I read The Shack... it still makes me weep, just remembering certain parts of it! Just one thought...
I think the ones who worry about the holiness and purity of God being left out, actually give themselves away...they don't get it themselves, who they are... if we see ourselves as sinners in need of a saviour, then this gorgeous portrayal of God, just puts us prostrate at Papa's feet, in awe of His holiness!
Remember, anonymous critics, Papa is especially fond of you, anyways!

David Willows said...

I also read this book and wrote a review on my blog. Check it out:

http://davidwillows.squarespace.com/journal/2009/4/9/whats

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this review. I just read the book and sobbed the entire time. This book caused me to love God more than I already do...love him because his love his pure and non-manipulative...real love. This book caused me to want to spend even more time with him than I do. So I do. This book resonated within me and all the scriptures I have read, and the over-arching theme of God's pursuit of his creation. It is good to know that others have had the same response.