The Shack: Let’s Talk, Shall We?

The Shack

I’ve mentioned previously how I’ve been reading–and pausing–and reading–and dog-earing the book The Shack by William P Young.  I’d picked up a copy at a used book store, after having heard about the book, not realizing it had been a few years since it had been published. Hey, I was kinda busy, ok?

About the time of the first pause, I’d discovered there was apparently some controversy surrounding the book. Postings on Twitter and Facebook not only confirmed the controvery, but also shed some light on the thoughts of some of the people I knew.  It also helped me stumble upon a certain little piece by Mark Driscoll about the book, which I’ll get to a bit later in this review.

My thoughts: it’s a really good book. I won’t go so far as to say that, like one review I read, that it has the potential to be this generation’s Pilgrim’s Progress, but it is good, especially for those who have endured some sort of tragedies in their lives.

As for the controversy, the first part is this: some people apparently were never taught to critically analyze literature. And that’s a shame. But I had an outstanding teacher in that regard in high school out in the middle of nowhere in Montana. Anyway, the book is very clearly allegorical (this the one reader’s comparison to Pilgrim’s Progress), yet some chose to disregard that completely and read it as theology, which it never purports to be.

Secondly, some of the specific arguments made against the book, the book itself specifically addresses, including God appearing to the character through most of the book as a black woman.

Is it perfect in attempting to describe the Trinity? No. Heck no. But then again, there’s never been a theologian or writer in history that can do so adequately…not even CS Lewis. Thus the use of allegory…it’s an aid to help us understand, not the explanation itself.

So about that Mark Driscoll criticism…

Two observations:
1. Quite apparent that either Driscoll didn’t even bother to read the book prior to saying what he said…or…he was being intentionally deceptive about the book. He skipped over the purpose of the book (it’s not theology), but also the main storyline.

2. Perhaps as a pastor, Driscoll should focus more on teaching discernment to his flock rather than absolute reliance on and adherence to his (Driscoll’s) words.

3. (Because I can’t count sometimes)…it’s funny to hear such things about doctrinal truths from Driscoll after his past with the Emergent Church in the 90’s. I’m sure during that time he thought he was absolutely correct then too.

Great response to this, and far more measured and less snarky, by the way, at this link.

I’ve mentioned previously how I’ve been reading–and pausing–and reading–and dog-earing the book The Shack by William P Young.  I’d picked up a copy at a used book store, after having heard about the book, not realizing it had been a few years since it had been published. Hey, I was kinda busy, ok? About the…


  1. You know I appreciate how your mind works, my wise friend. Your point about the need to critically analyze literature was a good one. My problem with the book had little to do with its allegorical nature and even less to do with its depiction of the trinity. What I found troubling was the story's implicit support of an universalist gospel i.e. because Jesus died for all sinners, all sinners are saved regardless of whether or not they've repented and accepted the gift of forgiveness. What say you?

    1. Frankly, you made quite a serious accusation in assuming my mind does indeed work. That aside, I didn't take note of such–as a matter of fact, in the area of the book that was closest to this description, and the one area where the writing and theology BOTH bothered me a bit, Mack asked "Does this mean that all roads will lead to you?". The answer was an explicit no.

      If there are other parts I somehow missed, I'd be more than happy to take back up…

      1. Yours is indeed a nimble mind, friend. From what little I have read of universalism, it seems to me that the part you quoted actually is in keeping with universalist thought. That is to say, the U's (universalists) agree with mainstream Christians in that Christ is the one and only road to heaven. Where they "leave the reservation" so to speak is in their mistaken belief that everyone is therefore predestined for salvation. Sinners need not repent and believe and accept the forgiveness offered by the cross in order to be saved. The Shack implies this to be true in that the abusive father of the main character seems to be in heaven, but no mention is ever made of his repentance. There were other parts of the book that struck me as having an underlying theme of universalism in them, but it's been so long I can't remember the details. What say you, oh wizened one?

        1. As for his father or any other person…how are we to know or judge their hearts and minds, even at the last moment of life? If we believe that the only path to heaven is through Christ, and that Christ did in fact die for all sin and that it simply must be accepted, I think it's quite easy to believe that there will be some grand surprises once we get there. I know there are a lot of (especially) long-time Christians that would be upset at this thought, but we don't achieve salvation by works or length of service. Christ died to save the worst among us, not just the ones we would suppose should have salvation. Frankly, I won't be disappointed or all huffy claiming it's not fair…it's all for God's glory.

          That being said, there was a spot in the book where the wording was odd enough that I was uncomfortable with it, but then looked at the spirit of what was being said, rather than being hung up on the words. And it's one of the areas where some would read what you'd call universalism if judge on the words alone.

          1. I agree. We may very well be surprised by those we find who "made it" into heaven as well as by those who didn't. More to the point, we can't know the mind of REAL people, but surely the writer the of the story knew the heart and mind of the characters he created. As such, I wish he had let his readers in on the thoughts of the father before said character kicked the bucket. Without that critically important bit of info we're left scratching our heads wondering. In this case, there is only an implicit hint of universalism. That said, you are not the only whose friend whose opinions I respect and who also found the spirit of the book to be uplifting. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it. I just didn't get as much out of it.