Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Review - The Shack

I received a copy of the book, The Shack, by William Young for Christmas.  I delayed reading it until I had finished a couple of other books.  I started The Shack Sunday evening and finished Tuesday night.  This was a book that kept me interested.  I completely enjoyed learning the theology within the book.  The Shack is a story of one man's struggle with ongoing tragedy in his life and his ensuing struggle with God.  Much like Job, the book's main character, Mack, has an opportunity to confront God.  Mack walks away with a renewed reliance upon God and a new theology of God.  Through his encounter with God, Jesus, and their Spirit, Mack has to give up his long-held beliefs to understand God in a way that is new to him, and I think would be new to many who read this book. 

There are concepts and underlying notions within the book that I take issue with.  I will not comment about those other than to say for the most part they have to do mostly with 1) what William Young records as Mack's vision of God's appearance, and 2) a tendency for the story to seem somewhat reactionary to the abuses of mankind in the name of religion.

The theology that Mack comes away with has merit and is worthy of consideration.  Specifically in three areas.

  1. God is interested in a dynamic relationship with man.  There are many passage of Scripture that emphasize this same point, beginning at the beginning.  In the Garden of Eden man had free access to God and God to man.  Man however acted independent of God and broke the relationship.  He began to hide himself from God.  God walked in the cool of the day looking for man.  Knowing that sin damaged His relationship with man, He, through Jesus, began to provide a way for the restoration of that relationship.  In the prophets God says what He desires is for man to "do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly" with Him (Micah 6:8).  In his second epistle to Thessalonians, Paul tells them that those who KNOW God will escape condemnation.  Knowing God is having relationship with Him.
  2. Jesus is God: Mack's previous concept of God was that God the father was mean and controlling whereas God the Son was gracious, loving and understanding.  This changes for Mack when he really gets to know God and see the scars on His wrist match the scars on Jesus.  The words of Jesus plainly speak the same.  In words of comfort to His disciples, Jesus says, "If you have known Me, you would have known the Father . . ." Jn 14:7ff.  A real relationship with Jesus is a real relationship with God and the Spirit.  They are truly one in purpose, emotion, and action, even if they sometimes seem to act independently.
  3. God and suffering.  Mr. Young and Mr. Philips record words as coming from God, and they summarize the understanding of God's involvement in the world in a way I cannot, but in a way that I believe to be accurate in many ways. God says, " . . . just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies.  Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I needed it to accomplish my purposes.  That will only lead you to false notions about me.  Grace does not depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors." (pp. 187-188).
There is one more thing worth noting, and that is the role and value of forgiveness in our lives.  Not only the forgiveness we need from God, that He freely and lovingly offers in Christ, but also the forgiveness we extend to those who hurt us.  There are people Mack has to forgive so that he might begin to heal. Mack struggles with the process, but learns that forgiveness is not simply for the forgiven, but also for the offended.

Overall this book was a great read.

Scott McCown


Gallagher said...

Excellent thoughts! I agree with your review of the book.

As the father of two daughters, the book angered me at first and then I enjoyed Mr. Youngs explaination, even thought I do disagree with some of his theology.

My wife just finished reading it. I am hoping to get her to write her thoughts and I will write mine as well.

Scott said...

Gallagher, I am looking forward to your thoughts on the book. Turn off the TV and read!

Anonymous said...

I loved this book. However, I am going to spill a few of my personal convictions here.

1. I think that the book displays an enhanced familiarity with God and portrays a rather casual relationship with Jesus. Although, I consider God & Jesus to be friends, I would never banter with them in a casual, light-hearted way. Tell me if I'm wrong here.

2. To me, this book will give the "lukewarm" Christian a loop hole in different places. Just one that I can think of. William Young talks about how going to organized church isn't really necessary.

Or am I wrong? I'm open to correction. This book had so many great thoughts in it, and I have it on my bookshelf, but it has been a long time since I read it, so maybe I'm not remembering it correctly.

Great review, Scott.

Scott said...

Marty, In short those are similar to some issues I have with the book.

I do think he is on to something, but goes the wrong way with his stance against organized religion. When I look at God's people the way I think God looks at us, we are not an organized institution but a living organism (body, bride, etc.). As a living body there is organism, but that is based on the relationship of the part to each other, not in a hierarchial sense as many "churches" and denominations are established.

The truth as I understand it is that when we respond to God's offer of reconciliation through Christ, we are added to His Body, His living group of people with whom he has relationship.