The Shack

The Shack
by: William P. Young

Challenges: TBR Challenge, What's in a Name?

Published: 2007

# of pages: 248

Quote: "Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control."
"Is that why we like the law so much - to give us some control?" asked Mack.
"It is much worse than that," resumed Sarayu. "It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse." -Sarayu & Mack pg. 203

Well I finally read the very famous novel, The Shack. Emphasis on novel. After reading it, I have a hard time seeing what the controversy among Christians is about. It's a fiction novel, a man's opinion on how a weekend with God might go. I don't think he's claiming that anything in it is gospel, I think several of the statements that "God" makes in the book are ones that can be interpreted in different ways. I'm conducting this review from a Christian viewpoint since that's what I read it with and how I think of it, even though it is just a novel.

That being said, I didn't enjoy reading the book, it wasn't fun or even terribly interesting to me. It was a lot like going to hear a sermon, minus the jokes that the pastor at my church throws in. However, I'm glad I read it because at least now I can participate in the conversations about the book and know what all the hype is about.

I'm sure most of you know what the novel is about, but here's a brief plot summary. Mack's daughter, Missy, is abducted and evidence of her murder is found in a shack in the middle of the wilderness. Several years later Mack receives a note from God inviting him to spend a weekend at the shack with him. Mack arrives and meets God. God has taken the form of a black woman for Mack at first. Jesus is there and so is the Holy Spirit in the form of an Asian woman named Sarayu. The 4 spend the weekend together and Mack learns about God's true nature.

Unfortunately, I imagine that some people find this book controversial just because God takes the form of a black woman and the Holy Spirit takes the form of an Asian woman. Too many people I grew up with would probably find this "wrong." However, God is not a black woman, he's taking the form of a black woman because at that point in time, that's what Mack needs in order to accept God and what he has to teach. As a matter of fact, God asks Mack to call him "Papa," even while he's in the form of a woman. Same with the Holy Spirit, it's just a form that is comforting to Mack, it doesn't mean the Holy Spirit has a set form or really is an Asian woman.

There were a few things here and there that I thought, "Ah ha! I don't think that's Biblical!" but then after thinking about it for awhile realized that it could be interpreted differently and therefore not contradict the Bible. For example, at one point God talks about hierarchy within human institutions and relationships and how it's not what he wants for us. My immediate thought was if God doesn't agree with hierarchy among the human race, why does he assign different people different levels of authority within the church in books such as Ephesians (ch 4) and 1 Timothy (ch 3)? However, one interpretation of the novel is that God's original plan for humans (before the garden of Eden) didn't include any kind of hierarchy. But our sin and the evil that followed makes some sort of accountability structure necessary, even within the church. Unfortunately, humans will never allow equality in any system, including the church, but I'm sure God would prefer us to all be equal and not have to be forced into institutional structures. Also, in a church the pastor has the gift of being able to lead, but that doesn't give him more power. He's still accountable to the entire congregation. We are all different parts of the same body, we're all supposed to be working together, no one is more important than another because one part cannot function without the help of all the other parts (Ephesians). Also, I think many parts of the modern church have taken church structure, rules, and traditions too far, forgetting that a relationship with God really doesn't take that much work to maintain and that the church body should be more equal than they allow it to be. That's just my way of interpreting it, but Young could very well have meant something else. I just think there's no reason to get too upset or defensive when it could mean anything.

Anyway, I haven't done all the research and I'm not going to. It's just a book to me, I only thought deeper about some sections because I've known some people who have claimed it's very contradictory to the Bible and I wondered how exactly. Some things can be interpreted in different ways, so how can we feel strongly that it means just one? I don't know exactly what Young was thinking, but does it really matter? It's all fiction and his opinion anyway, even if it does contradict the Bible. I think the book is great for people who are struggling with loss. Different people need to hear and believe different things during times of deep loss, and this could be just what some need. I think it really brings home the fact that following Jesus isn't work, we can all do it. If you aren't familiar with a true relationship with God then this book can be very inspirational and share new concepts (and will be more interesting than if you already know or understand this relationship).

Other reviews:
Booknotes by Lisa

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I'd be happy to post yours as well.

1 comment:

dolcebellezza said...

I bought this last year amidst all the raves I heard, but I must admit, I've stayed away because the idea of one's child being murdured is so awful I have to gear up for this read. Although I love God, and believe Him and His purposes always, so that will eventually overcome my reluctance. I didn't read your review terribly carefully because I want to come back to it when I've finished the book. However, your blog is quite lovely: a delight aesthetically and intellectually.

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