In Search of Better Stories

The Shack (Book Review)

The Shack
Wm. Paul Young
How can God be considered “good” when there is so much pain & suffering in this world? Young’s attempt at answering this question, comes in the form of a story. Mackenzie’s 6 year old daughter is abducted and brutally murdered by a serial killer with a sadistic fetish for young girls. How could God allow this to happen? After four years of “great sadness”, God invites Mackenzie to meet with him to talk it over. Over the course of a weekend with God, Mackenzie’s life goes through a complete transformation. The bitterness, anger, hatred, depression, and doubt in Mack’s life are removed and replaced with a contagious love and joy for God and others.
The goal of this compelling & engaging story is to help the reader believe that God is in fact good in all of his purposes and plans, even the ones that appear particularly dark. According to Young it is utterly foolish to sit in judgment upon God. God has put this world together, and he is weaving an incredibly complex masterpiece. God’s love for mankind is painted into this masterpiece with his own blood.
God is portrayed as a trinity, working together in perfect harmony, carrying out a perfect plan. God laughs and cries, he cares, and he craves relationship with his creation. Not because he needs it but because he wants it. A relationship with God is only possible when man gives up his independence. From independence springs all evil. The circle of relationship that is displayed in the trinity – is inter-dependence, trust, and love. The trinity is to serve as the model for all relationships. The trinity is a relationship that has no hierarchy, there is no “boss” it’s a perfect circle. This is why God opposes the machinery of religion. Its lists of “do’s” and “don’ts”, its authority structures and power struggles, its rigid obedience to rules & regulations all make it impossible for the flower of relationship to grow. Thin and flimsy relationships with God are produced and when the fires of tragedy come these weak relationships are disintegrated. Ones relationship with God is the principle thing. Mack’s weekend with God was designed not so much so he could understand why the tragedy happened but so he could get to know the God who allowed it to happen. As Mack came to know the three persons of God his love for God grew, his love for self shrank and he began to trust. Trusting in God allows a person to embrace forgiveness. You no longer need to have your hands on the throat of the one that hurt you. “Papa” will take care of it. Freedom to live and love again springs from the soil of forgiveness. Tears, anger, and grief are right emotions with tragedy, but they never should come at the expense of forgiveness.
There are a number of issues that Young engages through out the book – all in an effort to help support his overall conclusion Free will a “yes and no” kind of thing – Because “true love never forces” man is free to choose his own way, but God knows what way man will choose, but even still that fact doesn’t reduce mans freedom to make that choice. Anyway, considering, all of the limiting influences on our lives, what is freedom anyway? (P. 95 is a masterpiece on this) “Freedom” is a process that happens inside of a relationship with “the truth” – the truth has a name, it’s Jesus. Egalitarianism – since the trinity is a circle of relationship, without any “chain of command” the assumption is that the closest human relationships should mirror this as well. Structure of authority and rule are all man made, the closer we get to God the more we see equality and relationship and the less we see “roles” and “responsibilities” – There is no effort made on Young’s part to reconcile his thoughts with gender role or authority structure teachings found in Scripture. No more organized church – church is not about programs, institutions and structure, the church is people and relationships, from all over the world, and in all kinds of settings. The church is someone Jesus builds, someone Jesus loves. The church is not about a list of do’s and don’ts, and it’s not a place you go to every Sunday. Young makes no attempt to reconcile his thoughts with the value Scripture places on the local church.  The Trinity of Terror – Politics, economics, & religion, God is fond of none of these. They all tear away at the relationship that God is after.
God’s control is never doubted in this story – he allowed Missy’s death. What is doubted is His goodness. Young does a very admirable job in painting a picture of a trinity that is undeniably good — God is very fond of us. Image

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One Response

  1. Nice review, Dennis.
    Another thought I had when reading The Shack was that Mack had a “road to Damascus” type of experience that changed his life. He seemingly would have continued on to his grave in the “Great Sadness”.

    I’m a little shocked at the “conservatives” who throw out these great ideas with the female depiction of God the Father and other hang-ups “with the bathwater”.

    God is fond of us. Each one.

    I didn’t sense the complete tearing down of allegiance to local church or the “egalitarian” argument, but I can be dense. ;o)

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