This is quite possibly the most controversial book in Christian circles today. I picked it up based on a recommendation from a friend, and after reading some reviews, dived into it. And was subsequently sucked into the world Paul Young calls “The Shack”.
Mack is a loving father, faithful husband, and drifting Christian. When tragedy strikes him, he gets a letter from God, telling him to meet at a shack in the middle of nowhere. He goes, and spends a weekend with none other than the trinity itself. God the father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. In the course of those days he, and we, are shown what God’s Love means, and how to deal with the pain of suffering we find in this world.
This book falls into the category of Supernatural Fiction. It is also much like a Thriller in the first part of the book, then more of an exploratory Drama once the weekend begins. It is hard to classify exactly, as it has so many different types of content in it. Much like life, you’ll find a bit of everything in the novel, which is perhaps, why it has been so popular.
Content and Themes
Most of the themes can be described through quotes, which I will post below. As far as content goes, there is a person murdered, and there is some cursing as well- on the weekend, which winds up in awkward situations considering Mac’s company. These that I post don’t mean I necessarily agree with them, as a few are pretty flawed.
In Regards to Love…
Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved.
Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect.
All I want from you is to trust me with what little you can, and grow in loving people around you with the same love I share with you. It’s not your job to change them, or to convince them. You are free to love without an agenda.
True love never forces.
In Regards to Judgement…
Judging requires that you think yourself superior to the one you judge.
Judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right.
I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.
In Regards to Institutions…
Marriage is not an institution. It’s a relationship. Like I said I don’t create institutions that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. So no I’m not too big on religion and not very fond of politics or economics either. And why should I be They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three
There is always risk in relationships, but bottom line? The world has no meaning apart from relationships. Some are just messier than others, some are seasonal, others are difficult, and a few are easy, but every one of them is important.
Religion must use law to empower itself and control the people who they need in order to survive.
You cannot produce trust just like you cannot ‘do’ humility. It either is or is not.
Lies are a little fortress; inside them you can feel safe & powerful.
It is so easy to get sucked into the if-only game, and playing it is a short and slippery slide into despair.
Humans have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing.
Emotions are the colors of the soul; they are spectacular and incredible. When you don’t feel, the world becomes dull and colorless.
I’ll be the first to say, The Shack isn’t perfect. It has some theological holes which need patching like a bad roof, and the method of presenting above themes is non-scriptural as well. This isn’t a book for a young christian, and certainly not to be used for establishing theology of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. When I read other reviews, mostly negative BTW, that’s what most people focus on and end with.
But while reading the book, I was not so much impacted by what the Trinity was supposed to be, but rather, how Mac wound up dealing with his suffering. I don’t see the purpose of this book to communicate a way one should view God, though undeniably Young interjects his views of who God is in the story. Rather, this a story- yes, a story, speaking volumes about something each of us undergo and deal with in life. Suffering which seems pointless, anger towards God, the thought we’ve all had- “How Lord could you let his happen?!?”
That’s the core issue “The Shack” deals with. Personally, I think the author choose an unwise venue to communicate the messages he desired to share- that being a physical manifestation of God and other such things. But he did. Anyone with a solid foundation in scripture can see the flaws in the book theologically. So, confident in my belief and knowing scripture, I did not struggle with that. I passed it off as fictional conversation.
Finishing the book, I was struck by two distinct feelings. First, an humbled understanding of just how inadequate we are in determining the plans of God. One thing this book communicated exceedingly well is the absolute assurance and guarantee God knows what we are doing, and how arrogant we are when we think we could do something better. Even in Tragedy. Second, while I felt I understood God’s loving side a bit more, I was deprived of what makes God… God. God isn’t just loving, He is so many other things, all of which could be filled with millions of novels and never be fully understood.
That being said, I personally benefitted from reading this novel. I was convicted by some lessons taught in the book, even if presented in a flawed way. Would you benefit? I don’t know honestly. What I do know is the Shack is not a novel worth of admiration, but with discernment, can be read and benefitted from.