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 the "Shack" reviewed by Tim Challies


[b]Time to Rain on this Parade[/b]

I am certain that there is no other book I've been asked to review more times than William P. Young's The Shack, a book that is currently well within the top-100 best-selling titles at Amazon. The book, it seems, is becoming a hit and especially so among students and among those who are part of the Emergent Church. In the past few weeks many concerned readers have written to ask if I would be willing to read it and to provide a review. Because I am always interested in books that are popular among Christians, I was glad to comply.

First, a word about the book as it is written. William Young shows himself to be a capable writer, though I would not have believed it through the first couple of chapters. The book began with far too many awkward sentences and awkward sentence constructs (e.g. "One can almost hear a unified sigh rise from the nearby city and surrounding countryside where Nature has intervened to give respite to the weary humans slogging it out within her purview"). But as it went on and as the story took over the book became easier to read. The story itself is interesting enough, though certainly it lacks originality. The last chapter should have been left on the editing room floor and the final paragraph (before the "After Words") was a ridiculously terse attempt to provide closure to remaining plot lines. But on the whole the book is readable and enjoyable. Never does it become boring, even after long pages of nothing but dialog.

But Young did not write this book for the story. This book is all about the content and about the teaching it contains. The book's reviews focus not on the quality of the story but on its spiritual or emotional impact. Eugene Peterson grasps this, saying in his glowing endorsement, "When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of "The Shack." This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" did for his. It's that good!" Could it really be that good? Is it good enough to warrant positive comparison to the English-language book that has been read more widely than any other save the Bible? Let's turn to the book's content and find out.

The Shack revolves around Mack (Mackenzie) Philips. Four years before this story begins, Mack's young daughter, Missy, was abducted during a family vacation. Though her body was never found, the police did find evidence in an abandoned shack to prove that she had been brutally murdered by a notorious serial killer who preyed on young girls. As the story begins, Mack, who has been living in the shadow of his Great Sadness, receives a strange note that is apparently from God. God invites Mack to return to this shack for a get together. Though uncertain, Mack visits the scene of the crime and there has a weekend-long encounter with God, or, more properly, with the godhead.

Young covers a wide variety of theological topics in this book, each of which is relevant to the theme of Mack's suffering and his inability to trust in a God who could let his daughter be treated in such a horrifying way. The author is unafraid to tackle subjects of deep theological import--a courageous thing to do in so difficult a genre as fiction. The reader will find himself diving into deep waters as he reads this book. Unfortunately much of this theology is simply inconsistent with the Bible. Young shares strange ideas on the Trinity, the way God reveals Himself to us, forgiveness and a variety of other topics.

Despite the great amount of poor theology, my greatest concern is probably this one: the book has a quietly subversive quality to it. Young seems set on undermining orthodoxy Christianity. For example, at one point Mack states that, despite years of seminary and years of being a Christian, most of the things taught to him at the shack have never occurred to him before. Later he says, "I understand what you're saying. I did that for years after seminary. I had the right answers, sometimes, but I didn't know you. This weekend, sharing life with you has been far more illuminating than any of those answers."

Throughout the book there is this kind of subversive strain teaching that new and fresh revelation is much more relevant and important than the kind of knowledge we gain in sermons or seminaries or Scripture. Young's readers seem to be picking up on this. Read this brief Amazon review as an example: "Wish I could take back all the years in seminary! The years the locusts ate???? Systematic theology was never this good. Shack will be read again and again. With relish. Shared with friends, family, and strangers. I can fly! It's a gift. `Discipleship' will never be lessons again." Another reviewer warns that many Christians will find the book difficult to read because of their "modern" mindsets. "If one is coming from a strong, propositional and, perhaps, fundamentalist perspective to the Bible, this book certainly will be threatening." Still another says "This book was so shocking to my "staid" Christianity but it was eye opening to my own thoughts about who I think God is." At several points I felt as if the author was encouraging the reader to doubt what they know of Christianity--to deconstruct what they know of Christian theology--and to embrace something new. But the faith Young reconstructs is simply not the faith of the Bible.

Because of the sheer volume of error and because of the importance of the doctrines reinvented by the author, I would encourage Christians, and especially young Christians, to decline this invitation to meet with God in The Shack. It is not worth reading for the story and certainly not worth reading for the theology.

from: http://www.amazon.com/review/R181CNPBRQWDTY/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm


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SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2008/5/21 18:00Profile
Talkn2u
Member



Joined: 2006/12/31
Posts: 196


 Re: the "Shack" reviewed by Tim Challies

Greg...
I logged on this morning, to post the question if anyone has heard of this book and what they thot of it.
I was just made aware of it last night.
I was glad to see that you have already put something on here, for us to consider.

I have been online reading exerpts from The Shack.

At this point I have made a decision on an opinion but will only say that there seems to always be books that hit the "Fad Realm" in our society: "Prayer of Jabez", "Best Life Now", etc... and people seem to buy out these books in mass supply.

If it carried the Truth of the Gospel, I don't believe it would have such popularity.

Thank you for posting the review.
Bonnie

 2008/5/22 10:25Profile
Ruach34
Member



Joined: 2006/2/7
Posts: 296
Beijing

 Re:

Hey Greg. I was at Mardel's (christian bookstore, in town where I live) and saw this book at the checkout, just asking to be purchased. I glanced at it, read the synopsis and the rave reviews, considered buying it, then put it down and continued on.

i picked it up because of a conversation I had with a hospital chaplain who said this is an important book dealing with the issue of grief. Theologically he said it was important as well.

I will have to send this review to him and let him read it, but am fearful, that anyone without a solid, Biblical foundation/framework, nor a steadfast devotion to the Bible's pre-eminence will see any danger in the pages.
I will hesitate to read it, if offered, and hopefully decline unless the Lord prompts me to read it. Chaplaincy is also the road the Lord has me on and the issue of grief will be addressed many times and how to deal with it. I earnestly believe the Lord will not only teach me about grief in His word but give strength and wisdom in the moments of consolation that lie ahead for me.

This trusting and walking is considerably more appealing to me and more sure than slurping up all teaching relative to the issues, as if thinking, 'if I get it now I will be prepared in the future for it.'

thank you for the review


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RICH

 2008/5/22 11:21Profile
chadster
Member



Joined: 2006/1/8
Posts: 58


 Re:


Just today I had a friend who was chiding me for criticizing a book which I had not read...he felt it was unfair that I would base my opinion on the reviews of others. After reading this thread, I am able to more fully identify with the frustration he felt.

I read "The Shack" and was greatly impacted by the book. I'm not saying that everything about it is theologically perfect, but I believe that God is using this book to reach scores of people who will never pick up a Bible. I highly recommend the book. The review that Greg posted is certainly in the minority...by far the majority of people who have read this book have been blessed by it. It was given to me by a very mature Christian who serves as an intercessory prayer leader who has walked with the Lord a number of years. She highly recommended it and I have since spoken to many "devoted and committed" Christians who were also blessed by the book.

Why is it that if anything doesn't line up exactly with our personal orthodoxy, we're the first in line picking up the stones and ready to bash and discredit...frankly, I find that very disturbing about the majority of the participants on this forum. Are we the only "righteous" ones in the earth??? Have we forgotten the words of the apostle about judging others? To his own master a man will stand or fall and STAND HE WILL!! God is the judge..why do we feel we need to do His job????

 2008/5/22 22:51Profile
Compton
Member



Joined: 2005/2/24
Posts: 2732


 Re:

Hi Chadster,

Quote:
our personal orthodoxy



If the source of this controversy is rooted solely in personal preference, then I would agree that it is an unfortunate division. However it may be a hasty assumption to characterize the critique in this way. Just as it is reasonable to ask if people have read the "Shack" before rejecting it outright, it is also reasonable to consider the critiques against it before rejecting them, in light of scripture.

I wish the Shack was just being sold as a good story like the "Matrix" or Lord of the Rings". That would be fine, but instead it is being presented as a book with a unique effectiveness for conveying biblical" truths. In that case it should to be tested seriously..and even judged! We present the sincere reader quite a contradiction by saying this profound book contains deep truths about God----only you must not test it to see if this is so. The real word of God invites us to "Test all things and hold fast to that which is good" 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

Quote:
I believe that God is using this book to reach scores of people who will never pick up a Bible.



With respect for your good intentions here, I would like to challenge your underlying premise. For thousands of years the Word of God has been the proper and authorized means to convey God's truth to men. It has been preserved at great price, and has survived all attempts to destroy it and deconstruct it. Now there is something deeply amiss that we think we can reach men without the Bible, even if only in the initial stages of our evangelical schemes. As well intentioned as our plans are to re-tell the bible with all new plot devices and characters, I am pretty sure they will not be met with success. Perhaps the Shack is a stirring story with 'spiritual' elements, but it is the Bible that was given for revealing God and His son, and there simply are no pop culture substitutes.

So then why does the publisher position The Shack as this?

We believe our generation is somehow unique in history. We seem to think we must leave our bibles in Church, and craft a more effective message on our own that is more relevant to 'post modern' man. Sermons abound today, where instead of exegeting scripture, the 'pastor' exegetes popular culture for his message. He uses a clip from a movie as a 'parable', or a sentimental story to explain God's 'feelings'. The trouble with this is, I don't believe the bible is the type of book, where we can convey it's essential truths while doing away with it's actual words.

If we want people to hear God, we must use His Word. If people will not hear the Word of God as it is given by God, then they are not going to hear our own artistic attempts.

When we are sick, we are careful to read the ingredients, and instructions on label on the doctors prescription. If we were prescribing a drug for a terminal patient, we wouldn't given them something they don't need, just because they don't want what they do need... and then call that compassion and relevancy! We would give them the cure that is relevant to their sickness! If they are indiffent to the cure, it is because they are not convinced of their need for it. This is the real problem, and an alternative narrative with reinvented characters in reinvented situations will not change their indifference to God's word.

Sinners cannot respond to the Gospel if it is disguised as something else. Evangelicals need to put away their pop culture subterfuge and just trust that God's word works in our generation jut as it has in every generation.

These are just my thoughts for consideration brother.

Blessings,

MC


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Mike Compton

 2008/5/23 0:41Profile
CJaKfOrEsT
Member



Joined: 2004/3/31
Posts: 901
Melbourne, Australia

 Re:

Quote:

chadster wrote:

Have we forgotten the words of the apostle about judging others? To his own master a man will stand or fall and STAND HE WILL!! God is the judge..why do we feel we need to do His job????



I am in the middle of listening to an audio version of this book (purchased legally ;-)), and have to admit that after getting over the initial shock of having God the Father present "Himself" as "African American Woman", I have to admit, for the most part, I have been satisfied with the explanations given within the book.

It would seem that, at the half way point (where I'm at now), the key issue is that we need to look beyond our misconceptions of God (for the principle character Mack, in the book, this was formed by his alcoholic Bible quoting, wife beating father, and his dealing with having his daughter abducted by a serial killer, in spite of both his, and his wife's faith in Christ), and our need to get down from "His throne", and entrust our life to what He defines as "good and evil", rather than our own, received from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil".

I read in another review, quoted on this site:
Quote:

Okay, it is only an allegory. But like Pilgrim's Progress, allegories contain deep truths. That is my problem. It is the author's low view of Scripture. For example, Mack is tied to a tree by his drunken, abusive father, who "beats Mack with a belt and Bible verses." The author reflects derisively in another spot that "nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that 'guilt' edges."



Meaning no disrespect from the one who penned these words (I'm not 100% sure who it was, but if I'm right, I am a little shocked, considering that he has experience around prison evangelism), but they read like those of someone who has little contact with sinners in the real world. I would find it incredibly difficult to number the amount of times that I have encountered "ex-Christians" who are so as a result of growing up under abusive (both physically and sexually) parents, who were either ministers and/or missionaries, in my limited street evangelism experience. It has been a great joy to be able to help some of them reconcile such an apparent inconsistency, while maintaining both the integrity of God, and purity of doctrine.

Several books have made an attempt at addressing these themes, but they tend to drift into much presumption (Rick Joyner's final quest comes to mind, with his implication that Paul was telling Joyner that he (Paul) had got it wrong, during his life, and how he (Joyner) could do life better), but so far I have not seen this kind of thing in the Shack. In fact, whenever it seems that the book is about to round this kind of corner, a twist is presented that sets it straight.

Having said all that, I'm only half way so far, so it is not inconceivable that I could be posting a retraction once I have finished.


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Aaron Ireland

 2008/12/24 6:02Profile
Lonny
Member



Joined: 2008/12/18
Posts: 12
UK

 Re:

I read The Shack on holiday and so I have to confess it was in a bit of a haze as I lay by a pool... However having given the ideas in the book some thought then I have a tendency to split my thoughts to both sides of the argument - I think if we can view it as a novel, a piece of fiction then it throws up some good and interesting points about how we understand God and that God is actually much wider, deeper, greater and simply "beyond" anything we can imagine - The Shack helped me remember that in that I was so surprised when "God" appeared as He was very different from my pre-concieved notions. That is a help to me and something i will remember. However there were some concerns in the book - especially some of the ideas about how God does not expect anything from us and He knows us totoally anyway then He knows what we will do before we do it and yet loves us anyway. Now in a sense this is true (and therefore liberating) but I also do believe that God does expect things from us - our love, our obedience, or devotion and so on. The youth in my church have been very excitied by the book and generally combined with their lack of biblical and doctrinal knowledge then my concern is that books like the Shack tie into an "experience" led view of Christianity which I believe to be little more than "froth" and unreality and a foundation in sand for when storms of life come.

The Shack needs to be read before judgement can be put against it but that does not imply total acceptance or total rejection. If treated as a work of fiction then there are aspects that can be helpfully used and aspects that can be rejected when held up to scripture as well. As so often in life it is not a 100% yes or no - but I would encourage the reading of The Shack - either through borrowing it and buying it - we need to be aware of what is going on out there in "Christian land" and making our own decisions.


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Richard Lonsdale

 2008/12/24 6:41Profile
Lowly
Member



Joined: 2007/10/13
Posts: 41


 Re:

Has anyone ever read "The Knowledge of the Holy," by Tozar? This is a powerful book. God Himself has revealed to us who He is. Jesus is the perfect reflection of the glory of God.
If we want to know His nature and character, it is seen in Christ Jesus and the word of God. Jesus said to us who would follow Him that it is given to us to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
We are to seek, knock, and ask.

I have not read the book, so I am not judging it.

Our God is majestic, Omnipotent, Immutable....He wants us to have the knowledge that He is the Judge and that day is coming, a day of wrath and vengeance, and all men will stand before the judgment seat.

And yet, He is the Lamb, who purged us from our sins, and sanctified us to our Father, and has given us an inheritance with HIm. Who rescues us, who carries us in His loving arms. The Good Shepherd watching over us.

He discipines us to know what is in our hearts. I could go on and on, but I am talking to the choir.

I only say these things to say, Our God has given to us HIs word, His Son, and His Holy Spirit that we may come to the full knowledge of Him. He has revealed Himself. Everything that has ever happened to me in my life, the Lord has shown Himself to me who He is through His word. He is the great I Am.

Anytime I have been confused, broken, devastated, etc...........I have sought Him and He answered me.........

Please forgive me if I am being presumptuous about this book........

But when Jesus saved me He began the work......and I am whole heartedly cooperating with the Holy Spirit that He will finish the work. I want to grow up in the fullness of Christ, I desire that He would produce the fruit in me that is pleasing to my Heavenly Father. The Character and Nature of God are found in Christ, and I will spend my days pursuing to know Him.

Please again forgive me for using the word "I" so much, it is only an expression of my heart....it is not about me......

I only say these things to consider when you read the book............we need to have a good measuring stick..........

In His amazing love,
Lowly
------------------------------------
"Learn of Me for I am meek and lowly of heart..."

 2008/12/24 9:02Profile
White_Stone
Member



Joined: 2008/10/25
Posts: 1196
North Central Florida

 A combined reply to 4 posters

The time God gives us is too precious to waste on fiction, [b]especially[/b] fiction that misrepresents Him. If I was reading a book and they represented God Almighty as a black woman, I would burn it!
______________________________
chadster,

Quote:
Why is it that if anything doesn't line up exactly with our personal orthodoxy, we're the first in line picking up the stones and ready to bash and discredit...frankly, I find that very disturbing about the majority of the participants on this forum. Are we the only "righteous" ones in the earth??? Have we forgotten the words of the apostle about judging others? To his own master a man will stand or fall and STAND HE WILL!! God is the judge..why do we feel we need to do His job????



[b]John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.[/b]

We are instructed to use righteous judgment. I believe it has been used on this fictional work.
______________________________

Ruach34,
Quote:
This trusting and walking is considerably more appealing to me and more sure than slurping up all teaching relative to the issues, as if thinking, 'if I get it now I will be prepared in the future for it.'



Very good point!
______________________________

MC,
Quote:
Sinners cannot respond to the Gospel if it is disguised as something else. Evangelicals need to put away their pop culture subterfuge and just trust that God's word works in our generation jut as it has in every generation.



AMEN!!
______________________________

Bonnie,
Quote:
If it carried the Truth of the Gospel, I don't believe it would have such popularity.



Amen and AMEN. . . Your comment says it all.

Years ago, I read 'Ben Hur.' Recently, I reread it and was disgusted with the way the author portrayed Jesus. It appears the Holy Spirit has been at work on my taste for recreational reading. The same as He is working on turning me against Hollywood movies. Watching a movie we have viewed countless times the other night and little things jumped out at my husband and I that we simply accepted previously (the movie is in the junk pile now).

chadster, Lord willing you will have the necessary time to rethink your opinions, just as He has given me that time for reflection and study.

We should all be aware that the time is at hand, He IS coming very soon. Praise Jesus.

Kind regards,
white stone


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Janice

 2008/12/24 9:39Profile
Miccah
Member



Joined: 2007/9/13
Posts: 1752
Wisconsin

 Re: A combined reply to 4 posters

I posted this on a different thread about "The Shack". I believe it applies very well.



Quote:
My suggestion is to stay far away from this book, especially new or weak believers. I can see nothing good coming from this book besides a greater falling away from the Truth.



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Christiaan

 2008/12/24 10:12Profile





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