Books are seldom just books. Most books, even novels, have a point to make. So, a book is hardly ever just for entertainment. Even these types of books, under further analysis, present us with some type of worldview or point of view about life.
Your point of view of The Shack will also tell me about you. In fact, my point of view of this book will tell you a lot about me too.So, The Shack! Another review, huh! Yip! Another review! You might want to know why I am doing this review, since there are so many reviews on this book already.
Well, this is my blog and I can write what I want to, right? Actually, both the statement and the question can be answered in the affirmative. But, that is not why I write. In my small way, I think I can add some value to some soul out there. And, I hope I can do the same with this review, even if it says the same as another review.
Title: The Shack
Author: William P. Young
Publishers: Windblown Media, Newbury Park, CA.
Year of publication: 2007
Book URL: http://www.theshackbook.com
The story of The Shack is really a simple one, and it is easy to follow. Mack's (Mackenzie) daughter, Missy, was kidnapped and murdered while on vacation in the mountains. Missy's body was never found. This event has left Mack with what he calls, The Great Sadness. And indeed, the whole story revolves around Mack's sadness and how he deals with it.
Then one day, while clearing his driveway of snow he finds a note in his mailbox with the following words:
"Mackenzie,What is so disconcerting to Mack is that no one uses that term but his wife. And, it is her term of endearment for God. Without telling his wife what he is planning, he decides to go up to the shack to meet Papa. Of course, at first he thinks that it may be the killer that is messing around with his mind, and he then takes a gun with him.
It's been a while. I've missed you.
I'll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together.--Papa."
The story then unfolds as he meets "god" at the shack in his "trinitarian" form. Through interaction with god over this weekend he comes to deal with his Great Sadness.
The book is a fairly good attempt at dealing with the question, "If there is a God, and He is supposedly good, then why is there so much evil in the world?"
The book flows well as a novel. I can't say that there was a time that I was really bored.
However, and this is the crux of the book, in its theology, the book seriously lacks in presenting a true Biblical picture of God.
One of the first things the book does is to doubt the current interpretation of Biblical doctrine. After receiving the note from Papa, he wonders about the note. According to Mack's own theological training at seminary, God simply did not send notes. God stopped speaking to mankind and we have to live off the pages of a book, "sacred Scripture, properly interpreted… God's voice had been reduced to paper" and only the "intelligentsia" knew the proper interpretation. (p65-66). This passage, and the belief that flows from it lays the foundation for the "revelation" of god later in the book. According to The Shack, and the deep sarcasm in this part of the book, there isn't just one interpretation of the Bible. No "properly interpreted" Scripture is necessary, for god reveals himself in other ways that may or may not coincide with our current beliefs about god. The whole book shows that Mack's seminary training, and its proper interpretation of Scripture could very much have a different meaning after all.
Finally, when god is revealed in the book, you can see why doubt had to be thrown on the "proper interpretation" of the Scriptures. Father God, called Papa, is a large black woman; Jesus, with the same name is a Jew, and the Holy Spirit, called Sarayu, is an Asian woman.
So, what is wrong with that? Well, simply put and to the point: God did NOT reveal Himself like that. What is revealed here is NOT the Trinitarian God of the Bible! God is never revealed in the Bible as a woman. God is revealed in male terms right through the Bible, and to say otherwise is to say what the Bible did NOT say!
Papa, the mother goddess in this book, is a hip-swinging, non-christian-music listening goddess. She actively listens to non-christian music. God certainly hears everything going on on this planet, but does He actively search out non-christian music to listen to on his iPod or MP3 player? Of course, thinking of God as male (as He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible), is "religious conditioning" (p93) according to Papa.
The book also drives the humanity of Jesus too far, portraying Him as a klutz. At one point in the book, they are all in the kitchen, and for some odd reason Jesus drops a large bowl with batter of some kind on the floor. (p104) Jesus is no longer in the normal state of humanity as He was on earth, with the limitations of a human body. Jesus was taken up into heaven with a glorified body, no longer having normal human limitations. To propose that He still drops things like a normal human being is simply nonsense. Jesus is God, and for Him to drop a bowl, would be to diminish His deity, therefore getting rid of His deity. In this same encounter Papa calls Jesus "greasy fingers" as if this would be a normal occurrence.
The Shack portrays all mankind as children of God, and that there is not one person that God is not especially fond of. Mankind only made a mess of things in this book, they didn't really rebel against the Most High God and as a result deserve eternal death and damnation. I suppose Papa did not know of verses like Ps 5:5 that speaks of God's hate for the wicked. According to Papa, mankind's anger at God "is an expression of love all the same. I love the ones I am angry with just as much as those I'm not." (p119). Well, does Papa come across as the Biblical God who judges and destroys those who hate Him? (Ex 20:5, Dt 5:9, Dt 7:10, Dt 32:41, Ps 21:8, Ps 68:1)
The treatment of sin in The Shack is very flimsy. In it, god doesn't "need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment…" (p120) Papa needs to tell that to Adam and Eve. "Sin is its own punishment?" When Adam and Eve sinned, God actively judged them and punished them for that sin (Rom 5:16; Rom 2:2-5; Rom 6:3). God is the judge, and He will judge sinners in the end and they will go to hell. "Sin is [NOT] its own punishment!" A great and terrible punishment awaits sinners who have not been reconciled to God through Christ!
So, when it comes to the representation of God, and that which God has clearly spoken on in the Bible, the only verdict that I can come to is that this book contains undiluted heresy.
Young is portraying a complete perversion of God in his book. Once we touch who God is, and His very clear and precise revelation of Himself in the Bible, we distance ourselves from the God of the Bible and substitute in His place, a god made in our own image. Young's portrayal of God is in no way a reflection of the Biblical God. The god of The Shack is a figment of Young's imagination, a god that does not exist, certainly not the Trinity of true Christianity revealed in the Scriptures.
One of the most disconcerting issues of this book is how well known Christian personalities gush over this book. Michael W. Smith said: "THE SHACK will leave you craving for the presence of God." Which god would that be? The god made in man's image? In other words an idol!
"(3) You shall have no other gods before me. (4) You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (5) You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God," (Exo 20:3-5 ESV)
The author of The Message paraphrase, note that it is NOT a translation, wants us to believe that this "book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress did for his. It's that good!" There is absolutely no comparison between Bunyan's clear Biblical portrayal of a Christian's walk until he leaves this world, and The Shack's heretical portrayal of God!
I think I will stop here. It is possible to write a book about the false and heretical teachings in The Shack. I simply do not have the time or energy to do that. However, I hope that everyone can see how serious the error is in this book.
For more commentary on this book, please read the following:
Revisiting The Shack and Universal Reconciliation
Series on The Shack at Herescope
Book Review by Dr. Scott Kaufman: The Shack