Blog

The Shack: Liking it Won't Send You to Hell

Here goes another one of those blogs that I probably should not write, but what the heck? I have had dozens of people ask me for my take on William Young’s The Shack, so I guess I will give it to them. I will just keep it short.

The Shack is a fiction book that describes a man’s encounter with God after the kidnapping and death of his daughter. I found the book to be a good read and would have no problem recommending it to people. Theologically, of course, every thing I read could be better, but there were no red flags that concerned me too much. In fact, one of my biggest criticisms was that Young (the author) seemed to go to far out of his way to put orthodox language on the lips of God. In doing so, he avoided some of the major pitfalls when dealing with the Trinity and did his best to keep people like me off his back (which is often futile—especially when a work is too popular!), but he suggested, in my opinion, too much concerning our grasp of God’s nature. I like a bit more mystery left in tact. We may understand accurately, but let us not think we understand fully.

I was quite surprised by his understanding of many often elusive theological details. For example, when conversations with God occurred,  it was explained that while God already knows all (thus he was not an Open Theist), this in no way makes the conversation meaningless as it is God’s purpose and pleasure to genuinely engage with us. I was impressed as well by the description of the Holy Spirit. When Mack (the main character and father of the girl) attempted to look at the Holy Spirit, he could never really focus. That is some really good theology as the Holy Spirit’s role, as is stated in the book, is to point to Christ, not to himself. Christ is the central figure, yet all of the members of the Trinity are presented as one, yet distinct, equal, yet fulfilling a particular role. Good stuff.

Of course there are going to be many who don’t like descriptions made of God in such a way. I can understand this, but if you are one of these, you need to be consistent and have the same problems with fictional stories such as the Chronicles of Narnia. And to be sure people will have problems with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit showing up as women, but I think he did a good job of explaining why this was the case. God is neither male nor female, as Young elaborated, and a fatherly figure is not what Mack needed at the time. While, to be sure, God is presented as masculine in the Scriptures, there are times when he compares himself to a mother in order to describe that which is expedient to the need. I think this is all Young has done. If this were written ten years ago when all the gender inclusive stuff was hotter than it is now, I might have been more offended thinking there was some sort of agenda behind it. But I don’t think this is the case.

Of course I did not agree with all the libertarian freedom (Arminian) presuppositions (God will not interfere with human autonomous freedom). Young did, however, back off on this at the end when he said that God could have intervened and saved his daughter. Besides, I don’t judge the value of such works upon their stance on non-cardinal issues. I can appreciate them even if they do promote such silliness as libertarianism!

I did like how Young left it a mystery as to why God did not save Mack’s daughter. God has his purpose which we sometimes don’t need to know. I often think of that with regard to the death of my sister. The search for meaning can be maddening, but we must ultimately say that God knows what he is doing, is in control, and is good. We sacrifice none of these. Young communicated such in this book. There is so much to commend here.

In the end, I thought that the book was decently written, thoroughly engaging, and theologically sound. I would recommend it, not as a basic theology novel, but as a good attempt to deal with the problem of pain in a creative way that will cause one to step outside their box for a while. Don’t let it create a new box (as is so often the case when people get out of one box, they jump right into another), but consider it’s perspective and you will be fine. In other words, reading or liking The Shack will not send you to hell (at least I hope!).

PLEASE NOTE: I puposefully did not read many reviews of this book so as not to try to jump on any band wagon, one way or another. However, I have caught the wind that most conservatives don’t like it much. Am I missing something?

71 Responses to “The Shack: Liking it Won't Send You to Hell”

  1. I am thankful for your review b/c I have heard all the bad things…Mark Driscoll even says not to read it! I value your opinion and love this blog, so I feel l little more freedom in perhaps picking it up and enjoying for whatever it is! :)

  2. pretty sure your in trouble for that post – more proof your an eeeevvvviiiillll emergent. I foresee you being sliced to bits.

  3. Could be dac, but I fail to see how this book in any way represents emerg* thinking. Sure, the guy is down about the church at the beginning, but that is the point. He is down about everything. I don’t see how him being down on the church is in any way a promotion of such. Anyway…

  4. I believe Driscoll talks about “The Shack” in the first sermon in the Doctrine series on the Trinity for those interested in hearing what he has to say, which also indicates the area where he has problems with this book.

    He affirms Augustine who said words to the effect of, “If you try and understand the Trinity you lose your mind, however if you deny the Trinity you lose your soul.”

  5. I’m glad you gave your take on this popular book. There were definite things I liked about it, too. I felt that there were some weak, if not outlandish, areas too. But one of the strongest things about the book is how sin is characterized as a willful independence from God. I, too, appreciated the insight on the problem of evil in the world. The author did a great job on that. On a whole, I was edified by having read it.

    Unfortunately I lost a friend over this book! She couldn’t understand how I could possibly defend any part of it. (Thankfully, we were only online friends– of almost ten years.)

  6. Settle Petal… just trying to add to #1’s comment… Them there fighting words… Haven’t got much else to add as I haven’t perused the aforementioned book… Will try and do better next time!

  7. Of course I did not agree with all the libertarian freedom (Arminian) presuppositions (God will not interfere with human autonomous freedom).

    Perhaps you are trying to be antagonistic here Michael? But really. If this is what you really think of Arminianism I am concerned for your students (in this one area). You may not agree with it, but this reads like you are equating Arminianism with deism. Not so, God frequently interferes with the designs of men.

  8. On the father/ mother God thing: saying God is neither male nor female is simplistic. We are the creatures, and we are images of the creator.

    God calls himself male, he likens himself to female; female ascriptions are only ever in similies. I can see why personalising God (the Father) as a female could upset some Christians. (I haven’t read the book.)

  9. Michael,

    Bravo on your blog. With all the controversy surrounding The Shack, it is good to see some sanity.

    I wrote a blog on The Shack last August.
    http://www.sacredsaga.org/jims-blog/2008/8/2/visiting-the-shack.html

    I have also been asked to participate in a putting an online class together that uses The Shack as a basis for its probing. Looks like it is going to be an interesting project.

    Below are some random comments on the whole contrversy surrounding The Shack

    The knee-jerk reaction by some evangelicals seems to reveal a profound lack of understanding of the variety of historical positions on the trinity that fall under the broad rubric of historic orthodoxy.

    Self-appointed heresy hunters often take words out of context, or they condemn someone for what isn’t said as opposed to what is said. I find such procedure intellectually dishonest, as well as being logically fallacious.

    I get really annoyed with the ease at which the charge of heresy is invoked–usually those who invoke it mean, I don’t like it, or that is not what I was ever taught.

    True heresy must undercut a some cardinal aspect of the gospel as Alister McGrath says in his little volume on Justification by Faith. I developed this theme more in The Survivor’s Guide to Theology.

    There have been a couple decent to good probings of the theology of the Shack by theologians:

    There are two separate book of the same title by two separate authors:

    Finding God in the Shack by Randal Rauser
    http://www.amazon.com/Finding-God-Shack-Conversations-Unforgettable/dp/1606570323/ref=pd_sim_b_1

    Finding God in the Shack by Roger E. Olson
    http://www.amazon.com/Finding-God-Shack-Seeking-Redemption/dp/0830837086/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239989329&sr=1-1

    W.P Young relies heavily on C. Baxter Kruger’s Trinitarian insights in The Shack, so I would recommend two books by Kruger:

    The Great Dance
    http://www.amazon.com/Great-Dance-Christian-Vision-Revisited/dp/1573833452/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239989186&sr=1-1

    [God] is For Us
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?search-alias=stripbooks&unfiltered=1&field-keywords=&field-author=Kruger,+C..+Baxter&field-title=God+is+for+us&field-isbn=&field-publisher=&node=&url=&field-feature_browse-bin=&field-binding_browse-bin=&field-subject=&field-language=&field-dateop=&field-datemod=&field-dateyear=&sort=relevancerank&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.x=0&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.y=0

  10. Michael –

    I am very pleased to see someone who has a ThM from DTS and is a teacher of theology not slam the book. It was refreshing.

    No doubt, as with you, I didn’t agree with every theological nuance. But, I see Young’s main purpose is to present the relational nature of the Trinity. On that main issue, I think he did well.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  11. Regarding the whole “is God male or female” thing. I have seen online folks say that God is a male because the Son of God is male. My understanding of the Trinity is that the Father, Son, Holy Spirit are ALL spirits and thus not male or female. Jesus said that God is Spirit. Jesus is the human incarnation of the second Person of God, the Son of God. (And yes, I can say “Jesus is God.”) This human incarnation is male because Jesus is male. I think many Christians have problems with this whole male/female/God matter.

    I did read The Shack and liked it. I didn’t LOVE it the way some do, only because I didn’t think his writing was particularly wonderful, but I thought his ideas were creative and his heart was surely in the right place. I have read other things online that he has written and I have seen a very good video interview done with him. I will post that URL when/if I find it again.

  12. I’ve learned recently that, if my Dad, Steve Brown, and Michael Patton all say something (like “The Shack”) is pretty decent… then all the people who have their underwear on too tight at church are gonna hate it… and it’s best not to mention such things in the middle of Sunday School. Which is EXACTLY when I’ll bring it up! ;-)

    Damian

  13. http://www.windrumors.com/
    Well, this is the author’s website and you can read stories there that he has written and see some interviews and hear some interviews, but I can’t find the exact interview I watched and liked so I wrote to Paul and asked him about it and will let you know if he responds.

  14. I’m disappointed in your lack of discernment shown in this post. Not that God being an actual person – a black women at that – is a show stopper (blasphemous? modalism?) but I sure get concerned when there is no consequence for sin (Sin is it’s own punishment) and no hell. If this is the case, theologically, there is no need for a savior. Sounds like universalism to me.

    Young also states that Jesus is the “best way” to heaven when Christians generally (60% or so per Barna) believe He is the ONLY way (John 14:6, etc.). Guess these things aren’t so theologically important after all.

    Oh, least we forget – submission to his “God” is not required or submission of any nature. I assume that obedience thing in the Bible is less important than Jesus demonstrated.

    Come on now —- take a closer look or decide that Biblical doctrines are not really that important. A feel good book but not one I want my non-Christian friends to read so they can make up their own view of who God is. I still prefer the Biblical view of God.

  15. Thanks for your thoughts, Michael. I came to the same basic conclusion when I read it, and I have passed it off for others to read as well – including those who don’t yet believe.

    I think it’s a great conversation starter on the Trinity and how God works on our behalf. I love the descriptions of the Holy Spirit and his garden – how sometimes things have to be ripped up to make room for something much better.

    Check out my blog for my full review from last August – http://www.danielgoepfrich.com/book-review-the-shack

    I’m looking forward to reading it again.

  16. ronquiggins: When I read the book I was not looking for theological precision. This is not a theology textbook, it is a novel, and novels by definition are to some extent “feel good” books. As Michael says if you object to The Shack, to be consistent you have to object to The Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan is not a theologically precise depiction of Christ, either.

    My main concern when I read the book was the almost deliberate slighting of the church. It presents a thoroughly individualistic religion which is not what the New Testament presents. Didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book though, and of course it isn’t an ecclesiology textbook either.

    More troubling to me are some of the subsequent quotes from the author which indicate a less than orthodox belief; considering how Evangelicals have a tendency to put successful authors on a pedestal I find that problematic.

  17. Wolf Paul: Thanks for your thoughts. I understand the book is a novel but, in my view, not of the same nature as the Narnia series which I believe is much more accurate about the Godhead.

    I also have numerous other concerns about this book that I won’t go into but did want to raise the issue of the abuse of theology in the book which most readers will not pick up on but…..what may walk away from reading with mistaken views. I see this happening ALL OVER the USA right now with people making up their own views of who God is and His attributes. This is simply a watering down (or dumbing down) of theology —- the attitude that “whatever” you believe is ok for you, just don’t insist on some absolute standard of truth, called not being tolerant.

    At some point, we need to make the point that this is REALLY a novel. Those whom I talk with say that but….also tell me they like how God is treated here, etc. Shades of DeVinchi code??

  18. Ron –

    ‘I see this happening ALL OVER the USA right now with people making up their own views of who God is and His attributes.’

    Whew, I’m glad I never fall into that trap. I’m glad I got the Trinity nailed down quite easily.

  19. I’ve only read the first 20 pages or so on line. It was , I’ll admit an
    captivating read. Having not read the whole book but have read various comments by evangelical leaders, I must say that some have over reacted. Mark Driscoll hated it and called it “Modalism”.

    It seems to me that we should take this novel for what it is……intertainent. If this type of book is the only “spiritual/religious ” reading we are exposed to I do see how it could give some unscriptural ideas about God.

  20. I think if we only highlight certain statements in the book, then we could claim The Shack teaches modalism and/or patripassianism. But, if we consider the whole of the book, then I think it is clear Young is not teaching modalism/patripassianism.

    Here are some further thoughts on this subject if any are interested: Thoughts on The Shack.

  21. #9 Bethyada–“God calls himself male, he likens himself to female; female ascriptions are only ever in similies.”
    Give me a break. Similies, metaphor, personification–all literary devices. One uses “is like”, one doesn’t and one attributes human qualities to something that is not human. All are meant as comparisons to heighten understanding. God says of Himself I Am not I am male.
    Sorry CMP haven’t read the book. Now if you had sounded the alarms and warned people not to read it I might have taken a trip to the library to see if they had it yet. ;) !

  22. There are so many comments here on the Shack, that they have effaced, run out, the comments on the Bible on your home page.

    Therefore I must conclude: attention to the Shack, will send you to hell. It edges the Bible off the board.

  23. Never read it, but am currently reading Pensees.

    It’s a book, written by a guy, in front of his computer, like all the movies and tv shows we watch. Even the reality ones. It is some guy’s idea. Life is greater than a book. But it is mere entertainment. But if you find a blessing in reading it, then by all means enjoy it. Doesn’t make it bad to read it. Now if it were something like The Satanic Bible then we might take pause.

    But I did read The Satanic Bible once out of curiosity. Never made it past the first page before tossing it out. You have to know what people are thinking. Good thing I have a God who did not allow me to fall for the lies.

  24. Hey Michael
    I have to treat this book like a novel. While I won’t throw any daggers toward it, neither would I give it to a seeker — preferring for those young in their faith to see the God of the Bible as represented by scripture, instead of someone’s idea of what He is like. It’s too easy for people to create wrong images in their minds — it’s our tendency.

    Secondly, I had to laugh at your comment about the fact that it doesn’t bother you that God is a woman in the book. I agree with your reasoning about God’s gender, etc…..the thing is….with all the arguments we have had on this blog about complementarianism and equalitarianism, it seems so ironic to hear you say this! It just struck me as funny…..

  25. I find the equation with the Chronicles of Narnia interesting. In my view, Lewis’s work is much easier to separate from reality because there’s talking animals and fauns and so forth. So mentally the allegory switch is kind of already flipped. In a book like the Shack, many readers already think of God as a giant humanlike person–and hey what do you know, Jesus actually was fully human—and this makes it more likely that many readers will ignore the boundries between fact and fiction, or between the limits of what we know and what’s simply been cooked up for the story. If you start the conversation with this you may have a lot of extra explaining to do.

    Incidentally, one review I happened upon was from a more liberal Christian that didn’t like the book either. So it’s not just conservatives I guess.

    http://doroteos2.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/a-minority-opinion-shack-attack/

  26. Interesting perspective. There is certainly no consensus on this book. For example, Dr. Al Mohler says to avoid it. This book as been discussed at my place for 300+ comments.

    There is a two way street here though. When someone criticizes the books theology one of the responses is that it’s only fiction. Yet, the same response can be given when someone talks about just how much closer to God this book has brought them. I ask how since “it’s only fiction”.

    I’ve heard the comparisons to CS Lewis’ works, but I don’t seem it as the same. Lewis didn’t personify God. The Shack does.

    There is a review posted at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood blog. It shoes a female figure crucified on a cross. It’s not comfortable to look at and I think it really displays just why many people do have a problem with The Shack.

    Mark

  27. If this book is a woman who is God, wouldn’t she be a goddess..and could she be Gaia?

  28. BTW, would pantheism be present in The Shack too? i.e. “God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things . . .” I’m asking given this post and your other recent post on pantheism.

    Does it matter?

    Mark

  29. historic salve April 18, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I could hardly think of a more provocative title for this post. Well done.

  30. minnow, I see I offended your sensibilities, though it seems as though you haven’t quite grasped the distinction.

    Firstly, I was commenting on why some people may find the issue a problem, I agree that Scripture uses feminine similies and metaphors. And perhaps one could identify the woman in the book as a metaphor.

    However there is a biblical distinction that many are aware of and that distinction may caution them to the book.

    That the Bible makes this distinction is easily demonstrable. The masculine pronoun is repeated used for all members of the Godhead when there is direct involvement, this includes the Spirit despite the word for spirit being feminine and neuter in Hebrew and Greek respectively. Not that the gender of nouns says much about masculinity and femininity, rather that using he shows a deliberate choice.

    You also suggest that we use anthropomorphisms in discussing God however, as I alluded to, I think that a little simplistic. It seems that the creature is designed to represent the creator, thus there are aspects that were designed to show us God. Rather than marriage being primary and Christ and the church being an anthropomorphism, Paul suggests that marriage is the imitation; husband and wife are a theomorphism.

    The creation of man from dust as God’s image and the woman from the man as both his image, and God’s image (through inheriting it from the man) may have implications about masculine and feminine distinctions, especially when the trinity is never referred to as she throughout Scripture.

    This does not necessarily mean that there are issues with the Shack, especially if the emphasis in on the metaphor like the lion in Narnia. But the metaphor is much closer to reality with people. Lions represent strength, but humans are the image.

    Thus, those who are concerned with the goddessing of God have some reason to be concerned. They may think this trend is dangerous enough that the book is overall damaging to Christendom; others may think that this will have minimal effect and the edification Christians receive from the book makes it overall beneficial to Christendom. I haven’t read the book and I don’t have an opinion either way. But that their concerns about the book may not work out in society does not mean their concerns are not based in truth.

  31. Bethyada,
    My brother who is a Freemason actually believed the so-called “facts” in Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code were actually truth. A clever lie is a lie not matter how cleverly presented, and the more subtle it is, the more dangerous.

    You are right we should be concerned.

  32. I haven’t read this book myself. My sisiter has however. She has read extensive quotes to me. She was appalled by the theology put forth in this book.

    The portrayal of God bothered her along with a lot of other things. Some of the quotes she read to me really bothered me too as they just plain didn’t line up with what the Bible says on the subject.

    I think what troubles her the most, and I have heard the same thing, is that folks are letting this book change the way they think about God.

    If a book of fiction with such problems with doctrine can so easily sway people to believe something else about our Lord, yes we have a right to be concerned.

  33. I have not read this book, however, I have heard enough about it to understand how the thoughts and fantasies of individuals, can evolve into myths and belief systems. Even a brief study of ancient mythology shows us how the slippery slope of human rationalization passed on through storytelling can lead away from the revealed truth of God. Do we really want to go there? Can we really afford the truth of God to be hidden in simile and metaphor and allegory antithetical to the Scriptures? Isn’t the “church” watered down enough? Are we so enthralled with “entertainment” and engaging cultural syncretistic theology cloaked in fiction?
    Our only hope is not to humanize God through a shack, a black woman or a tragedy, but to elevate Him through His revealed human persona, Jesus Christ, who, by the way was, intentionally, made of the specific male gender anatomically, and He did call on His Father and the Father DID call Him the Son.
    PEOPLE, wake up-God does have a high calling for women, however, they are not to be personified as God, the Father. The overwhelming majority of Scriptural leaders were MEN…wasn’t he created first or did God toss a coin and decided to go with tales (pun intended)? Get over it people of the world, MEN regain and assume the God-given place He gave and women, get over yourselves and yield to the LORD!

  34. I have not read this book, however, I have heard enough about it to understand how the thoughts and fantasies of individuals, can evolve into myths and belief systems. Even a brief study of ancient mythology shows us how the slippery slope of human rationalization passed on through storytelling can lead away from the revealed truth of God. Do we really want to go there? Can we really afford the truth of God to be hidden in simile and metaphor and allegory antithetical to the Scriptures? Isn’t the “church” watered down enough? Are we so enthralled with “entertainment” and engaging cultural syncretistic theology cloaked in fiction?
    Our only hope is not to humanize God through a shack, a black woman or a tragedy, but to elevate Him through His revealed human persona, Jesus Christ, who, by the way was, intentionally, made of the specific male gender anatomically, and He did call on His Father and the Father DID call Him the Son.
    PEOPLE, wake up-God does have a high calling for women, however, they are not to be personified as God, the Father. The overwhelming majority of Scriptural leaders were MEN…wasn’t he created first or did God toss a coin and decided to go with tales (pun intended)?

  35. Michael,

    There’s a pretty good review by Norman Geisler on the book in question found here:

    http://thechristianworldview.com/tcwblog/archives/934

    I don’t agree with some of his theology in general but this is a pretty good review nonetheless. He lists 14 problems that he sees in the book.

    I haven’t read the book and don’t intend to but its seems there are some pretty significant problems in it…

    Soli Deo Gloria,

    R.A. Servin

  36. I read The Shack as a novel and not as a theology book. The biggest problem I have with it stems from it being presented as the answer to those who have had a problem with their earthly fathers. He portrays God as a black woman so that those who had abusive human fathers can better relate to God. The trouble with this is that Christians know God the Father through the Son. That’s why we are called Christians and not Fatherians! Jesus is almost an irrelevant figure in The Shack. The main character seeks the Father not through the Son but almost despite him. This has a lot of implications for Theology proper but it is this basic concept that prevents me from recommending The Shack, however well written and compelling it is for many Christians.

  37. It amazes me the lengths that many of you have gone to nit pick at this book. If I used this methodology on everything I read, there would not be one book that passes the test.

    Lighten up. There are no major lines that this book crosses without qualification.

    I can pretty much gaurantee that there will not be one person who ever changes their view of God in the masculine and adopts a feminine God based on this book.

    ANYTIME one tries to personify God there are going to be issues with those who want to be too literal. Just lighten up.

    Besides, we should never be relying on books such as this to educate the church in basic theology. If we have gotten to that point, shame on us. But let us not simply attack these type of books. Let’s just use them to illustate and stretch us. There will never be a perfect analogy of God—ever!

  38. CMP.

    Bingo ! I just am catching up again on some threads after a really hectic week. 37 comments in two days ?? You gotta be kidding me !! The gray hair one only got 19 posts ! Looks like you found another “hot button” ;-)

    And yes, I read it. And found it a good read. Read it in a weekend in a comfy chair in the fall. Theologically sound ? No perhaps.

    Criticism ?
    And I had to go back to come up with these after I heard it was creating a big stink. I think most critics have elaborated on these and probably more on various websites out there.
    * There’s elements of universalism in there (Christ came for all people)
    * Some panentheism (JohnMark on post #29 you asked about pantheism, but I think it’s more panentheism where God is IN everything),
    * It’s definitely NOT Calvinistic, almost Pelagian is some sense.
    * It’s a bit harsh on the church community, but I personally understand that one and can relate. I think I shared some of that in another post one day
    * And perhaps modalist in the representation of the Trinity, but Young does a really good job of constantly emphasizing all three know everything and feel everything at the same time, hence not really falling into the “three suits” of modalism.

    Defense ?
    It’s a really darn good read. I don’t compare it with C.S.Lewis, but I didn’t see a whole lot of people get all in a tiffy on the “Left Behind” series. Did Mark Driscoll ever criticize or defend the book ? Just wondering since I couldn’t find it. But basically it has as many theological flaws in it. And I personally found it a less good read.

    Conclusion ?
    If you like to read, go for it. Don’t treat as a theological book, it’s a novel ! Get comfy and enjoy. It’s a heart wrenching story. I don’t know what I would do if I would have to go through what Mack, the main character, experienced.
    I think we don’t know how to handle fiction“. And I will credit that quote to Rhome Dyck, a teacher of TTP here in Dallas.
    I think he hit the nail on the head. We try to put too much meaning it in all. As long as it doesn’t blatantly attach our faith, should we react or can we just enjoy ? I’m in the latter group and I enjoyed it.

    Food for thought

    In Him
    Mick

  39. Before I go any further here, I need to remind people that I haven’t read this book. I’ve read many reviews, extensive quotes, and talked to people who have read it–they have had widely differing opinions on it, by the way.

    I have a question for you folks that really like “The Shack”, especially you CMP. On William Young’s website he makes this statement:

    “So is the story true? The pain, the loss, the grief, the process, the conversations, the questions, the anger, the longing, the secrets, the lies, the forgiveness…all real, all true. The story in particular… fiction… but…. Then there is God who emerges so very real and true, unexpected and yet not unexpected, but surprising and…”

    http://www.windrumors.com/30/is-the-story-of-the-shack-trueis-mack-a-real-person/

    If he is claiming he really had these conversation with God, (it seems like I read somewhere that he said they were conversations he had over several years), what do you make of a statement like this in the book:

    ““I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” page 120

    Am I missing something here or what? That is truly an unscriptural statement, yet he says the conversations with God are real and true?

    I have thought here too. But it will require another link, so I will put it in another comment so this won’t go to moderation.

  40. The intent of the author when he came up with the story was to explore and teach theology concerning God (initially to his kids). Consequently, one cannot ignore the significant theological errors. The problems are quite profound, not just because there are errors, but because there is no counterbalance to the errors. If one reads a book or article on a theological topic, the author will note other positions that are different from his/hers, and indicate how his view relates to the other views. This does not occur in the Shack, which proceeds to present only the author’s view. The writing is also not that polished. There are too many other, better books out there to bother with this one.

    regards,
    John

  41. Okay, so here is my second thought.

    I have heard people say that this book changed their thinking about God. Here is another quote from William Young that says he thinks it is a good thing for people to be rethinking their views on God because of reading this book:

    “I believe the book is quite orthodox theologically. Just because it tampers with people’s paradigms doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing. Because it pushes us to re-think how we view God, how we view our relationship with God. I’m very positive about the controversy. Even people who’s doctrinal prejudices and paradigms are really limiting on themselves . . . but their job security is involved, their position within their religious community is involved. It’s challenging those things, but you know what? I believe God wants us to be healed of those things even that we consider sacred but are really binding. ”

    From here: http://www.titletrakk.com/author-interviews/william-paul-young-interview.htm

    So, I don’t understand CMP, how you can tell people to just “lighten up” and enjoy it as fiction only. Obviously many people that read it aren’t and even the author realizes it is making people rethink their beliefs. Is it really safe to recommend a book to people that has so much power to change folks thinking when there are some signifacant problems there? How many unbelievers or young, immature Christians may pick up this book and be led into something that isn’t true?

  42. His quote:

    “I believe the book is quite orthodox theologically. Just because it tampers with people’s paradigms doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing. Because it pushes us to re-think how we view God, how we view our relationship with God. I’m very positive about the controversy. Even people who’s doctrinal prejudices and paradigms are really limiting on themselves . . . but their job security is involved, their position within their religious community is involved. It’s challenging those things, but you know what? I believe God wants us to be healed of those things even that we consider sacred but are really binding. ”

    That is a overstatement that simply plays on some of those more vocal voices who get offended at everything (esp. if it is popular). I know, because I am often one of them.

    But the truth is he did not go out side of the great tradition. Yes, he toys with inclusivism. Yes, he is Arminian. But nothing he says is too “out of the box.” C.S. Lewis certainly toyed with inclusivism. Millard Erickson say he does not know about the issue. Gregory Boyd is an inclusivism.

    Besides the fact that inclusivism is not outside the box, he does not even clearly teach it.

    He expressly denies modalism in as clear language as can possibly be. In fact, I felt he went way too far out of his way in belaboring this! Yet, one of the main concerns is that his is a modalist. When I see these comments made, that is when I say lighten up!

  43. The worst I would fault him with is being out of the box ala Alister McGrath, C.S. Lewis, or Vanhooser. (Although I would not, in any way, put him in the same genre).

    As well, unlike others, I don’t necessarily give the argument “It is fiction” a pass. Fiction can be very dangerous…look at Dan Brown.

    This book is not close to anything like McLaren (New Kind of Christian) on the unorthodoxy scale.

    Let’s face it, people just get this way when something gets too popular. aka Left Behind. I say lay off Left Behind and lay off the Shack. Both present a certian theology, both have elements that good Christians are going to disagree with, but neither are THAT dangerous. Just make sure that people are properly discipled. If they are relying on either of these books for their discipleship, we have big problems.

  44. Oh, one more thing!

    People are simply looking for him to have a bad relationship with the church in order to label him an emerger. He may have some emerging tendencies in him (we all do), but his attitude about the church cannot in any way be assumed here.

    Yes, he has a bad attitude about Christians and the church but that was BEFORE his encounter with God. At that time he also hated God!!!! Things changed…that is the point of the book!

  45. CMP,

    You don’t find it a problem that he has God say , (as I quoted in my comment above, #42), “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” page 120

    It seems to me that is getting quite far from orthodoxy. One could quote numerous Scripture verese to totally contradict such a statement.

    And he claims that the conversations he wrote into the book are real and true and seems to be saying that they are actual conversations he had with God.

  46. By the way, I miss the editing function! As you can see, I need it.

  47. I would want some more clarification on this, but maybe he is charismatic! I would certainly disagree with him being a prophet, but being a charismatic is well within the bounds of orthodoxy.

    Concerning this statement, ““I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” ”

    I see where he is coming from, and I think he is somewhat correct. There is a built in punitive effect of sin.

    If you are assuming that he is talking about eternal punishment, I think you are reading into this and may be taking it out of context. But either way, as C.S. Lewis says, “The doors of Hell are locked from the inside.” I would not say that his statement denies eternal punishment. However, if you want it too, then maybe that is the way you will run with it.

    I am just trying to get you all to cut him some slack. Why is every sentence being scrutinized with every possible meaning and then the unorthodox meaning always the one chosen?

    I don’t even think McLaren or Pinnock get this much trouble and they are expressly unorthodox in more serious areas.

  48. I will try to turn it back on, but one of these plugins in crashing the site!!

  49. Hi again CMP,

    Here is a longer section of the quote I asked about earlier:

    “But if you are God aren’t you the one spilling out great bowls of wrath and throwing people into a burning lake of fire. Mack could feel his deep anger emerging again. Pushing out the questions in front a little chagrined at his own lack of self control, but he asked anyway. Honestly don’t you enjoy punishing those who disappoint you. At that Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack he could see a deep sadness in her eyes. I am not who you think I am Mackenzie I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It is not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it…” pp 119-120

    That certainly sounds to me like the context is eternal punishment being talked about. What else is throwing people into a burning lake of fire? And that is where Papa says He doesn’t need to punish people for sin nor is it his purpose. I don’t see how people could take it any other way.

    It is this kind of statement that really concerns me. That is a totally wrong message to be giving people about God. And if other people reading it take it the same way I do, how many of them might actaully believe it? People are saying over and over that this book has changed their lives.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Shack review (sort of) « Epistles of Thomas - April 19, 2009

    […] year and have refrained from commenting on it because thousands have already done so. I was reading C. Michael Patton’s comments today and I feel like posting my response here as well. I read The Shack as a novel and […]

  2. Parchment and Pen » Seven More Points About The Shack - April 20, 2009

    […] Discussion cheryl u on The Shack: Liking it Won’t Send You to Hellcheryl u on The Shack: Liking it Won’t Send You to HellBryan Cross on Dobson About Culture: […]

  3. ‘I don’t see any major line being crossed’ : Church Leader Links - April 20, 2009

    […] don’t see any major line being crossed’ C. Michael Patton posts two posts (here and here) defending his positive appraisal of The […]

  4. Driving Against The Clock « Thinking Out Loud - April 23, 2009

    […] Gordon MacDonald in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journalhttp://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2009/04/the-shack-liking-it-wont-send-you-to-hell/ and http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2009/04/seven-more-points-about-the-shack/#comments Well […]

  5. Shack Resources « The Reluctant Puritan - May 6, 2009

    […] Michael Patton – I usually agree with him, but not this time (except I do agree with the title). […]

Leave a Reply