Although it has been out for some time now, I have not yet read William Young’s book The Shack. A friend of mine, Chris Terry, was recently prompted to read it by two different people, one who liked the book and another who did not. His response to these folks after reading it is, I think, a good example for us of how we as Christians ought to engage with all forms popular culture. We need to first appreciate the artistic merit of the work, then look at things we speak positively about before we offer criticism. I hope you will enjoy reading Chris’ reaction to the book and that it will prompt you to want to read it thoughtfully.
“Fluffy” is the word…even for The Shack.
I really enjoyed reading the book, and found myself reading aloud to [my wife] some segments of the author’s thoughts. BUT…this book, as a whole is not something that I can wholly agree with or wholly disagree with. We have a big God, and The Shack only shares a limited view of one dimension…unconditional love. This book downplays important concepts like Sin and Justice, but more importantly, it pulls most of its imagery from the author’s imagination and little of its content from the Bible. God is simply too big to be crammed in this little book. Although the author gives Mack new eyes before revealing a small piece of God, and clearly explains that this image is a small and limited picture of what is to come for the faithful, it still seems very presumptuous to put human limitations on Mack’s experience in the presence of God (although it is all the author could possibly have to work with).
There are some parts of this book that I can dismiss entirely, but my fear is that many people will not be able to discern the bad theology from the good message or from the good fiction. There are also some points made in this book, that speak to having an intimate relationship with God that could help expose a whole new group of people who are seeking…and that is good. It is also leading people to confront their anger, their fear, and their broken relationships in ways that could lead toward forgiveness and renewal, while steering people away from an Oprah religion that encourages them to look inside themselves for all the answers…and that is also good. My hope is that people who are seeking answers do not stop searching for answers after reading The Shack, and that their quest for answers takes them beyond other “fluffy” published materials.
People are the reason this book is so popular. We need to understand, but not be mired in, the crazy society in which we live (this includes our own Church Families). It is my observation that our society is intellectually lazy and overly emotional about things that have little impact on our lives. We, as people, are either seeking further skepticism or seeking God, we are seeking fear and anxiety or we are seeking peace and joy, but either way, most of us are not turning to deep or heady reading for our answers because we are lazy…I know because I’ve been there. Look at the most popular books and media to see where we invest most of our time, and you will see that on a good day some of us are turning to books like Wild Goose Chase, and The Shack because these books, while better than TV shows and movies, will provide some answers, but will never take us deep enough to fully address our laziness and indifference…they won’t hold us accountable…they are just books consumed in the privacy of our living rooms. They offer us nothing more than a good inspirational message that makes us feel warm and emotionally “fluffy” for a few days before the message fades. Sadly, most of us will not find the drive or effort in ourselves or in our leaders to work smartly toward questioning, studying, and proving the truths that are evident in the infallible word of God. We will turn everything upside down and on its head in order to remain in control of what is easy. We prove to each other every day that most of our valiant efforts are misguided and misused. That said, at least William P. Young’s valiant efforts resulted in a best-selling and entertaining book that makes you go hmmmmm. In summary:
- We need to move people from just reading best-selling books in the privacy of their living rooms and into His Church. Hebrews 10: 25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- William P. Young’s intentions are noble and are leading us into good discussions, questions, and debates for God’s purposes. Philippians 1: 15-18 – It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely… But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
- We the people…are crazy…and it is worth spending just a little time understanding this…but not judging it. Ephesians 4: 29 – Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
- Finally…after reading The Shack…and enjoying many parts of it…I am off to do some heady reading so God can transform and renew my mind for the purposes of discipleship and equipping…a couple of key things on which The Shack will fall short. Romans 12:2 – Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.