Reading "The Shack"
Many of you may have already read the William Paul Young book "The Shack." I recently borrowed it and sat down to peruse this 250 page novel. The story begins with a character named Mackenzie (Mack), and lays out
his encounter with the Holy Trinity. Mack and his family had a terrible family tragedy when they were out camping and his youngest daughter Missy was kidnapped. As Mack searched for her, it became more and more apparent that she would not return, and later we find out that she was indeed murdered by her assailant. Since Mack's grief has no real outlet, the book begins when God sends him a note in the mail asking him to meet at a shack in the woods; the same shack where the killer had taken his daughter. God could see that Mack was stuck and in serious need of help.
To be honest, this book deserves two separate reviews. Part 1 should be a critique on the style and story-telling ability, and part 2 should be a review on Young's use of theology. Instead, I will attempt to intertwine both of those threads into this one review, and see where we end up! Since I have a 7 year old daughter, I was hooked into the original premise of the book immediately. It caught my attention and didn't let go right up until the end. Young's use of language was acceptable (neither superb nor below average), but the real compliment is reserved for his ability to hold the reader's attention. I could not put the book down. This novel has an ability to heal people's hurt I think. His depiction of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is certainly unorthodox (we will get to this in a minute), but if you can see past that - it is quite an engrossing work of fiction.
Unfortunately Young's use of theology is off... quite a bit off. Had I not known much about the Bible it would not have been an impediment. But because I did, certain things caught my attention. It was very interesting to me that a book based on the Biblical understanding of God often failed to be accurate in that respect. Much of the book centers on not following "the rules" however, and Young makes sure that readers know that his version of God is 'constantly full of surprises.'
Most of the inconsistencies I was able to overlook simply because the book was so well written, and I don't mind a fresh perspective on all things spiritual. To be fair, the author portrayed God as kind, good, and forgiving. A great many popular works of fiction fail to do this. Kudos to "The Shack" in that regard. The main thing that bothered me however, was that Young all but completely ignores one of the most important truths of the Bible: salvation through Christ alone. There are almost no references to it, a total of only 2 by my count. Young skims the subject matter with phrases like this, "(God speaking) All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two-way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship, but it is the nature of love to open the way." Here Young gives part of the truth, but if the reader didn't know the Bible or have a relationship with Christ already, this wouldn't be enough information.
Why am I so hard on Young regarding this point? Because the rest of the book is written with a great deal of care. Why not the most important promise of the Bible also? We may never know, it is not for an author to explain himself. If people reading this book use it as a signpost which leads them to the Bible, then we have a huge success of a book on our hands. If they read it and then stop, never moving on, but instead taking what is taught in "The Shack" as total truth, then the novel has failed. If you are reading it or have already read it, I would advise you to allow yourself to enjoy this book - but then move on and read The New Testament. Again don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and I think it has great potential to lead people back to God. As long as they keep asking the hard questions, and read the Bible also.