the (infamous) shack, by william p. young

Here’s a bit of a warning (or apology) to you readers.  I know some of you like to read detail upon detail in book reviews, but in this one, I’m going to disappoint you.  And I really don’t care that much.

“Why?”  you ask.  “That’s meanish.”    Well, because:

1) I borrowed the book from the library, and had to return it before I was through analyzing all the pages I had marked, which numbered quite a few.

2) There are a gazillion other views on The Shack, and I can point to you to one of the more detailed reviews here.  You can go there after you’ve finished reading through my spiel and tell me whether I’m right or wrong.  😉

Because I did not have a chance to scour the book as well as I would’ve liked, I’m going to make this simple.  I will attempt to answer the question, should I read The Shack?

The answer:  yes, and/or no.  Ha!  I said it would be simple, didn’t I?  Don’t worry; it still is, compared to many other reviews, and the above link being one of them.

Here’s why I say “yes”.

1)  I enjoyed reading The Shack, for what it was.  I was actually surprised at the decent literary quality – it’s much better than most of what contemporary Christian fiction (CCF) has to offer.  The plot was clearly laid out, the characters well developed, and descriptions vivid.  Most of the book was dialogue, but I don’t think that discredits its literary quality in any way.  If you don’t like to read CCF because of its mediocre to poor literary quality, you would probably be pleasantly surprised with this book.  For those of you who are not familiar with The Shack or have not read it, here’s a summary.

Mack is middle-aged, and lives the pretty average life for a married guy with a family, except for one thing – The Great Sadness.  He’s been living with this ever since his six year old daughter, Missy, was abducted and murdered during a family camping trip. They never find the body; instead, they found her blood-stained dress, in a run down shack, in the middle of the forest wilderness.  One cold winter day, Mack receives a note in his mailbox, an invitation from “Papa” to come to the shack, the very same one where Missy‘s dress was found.  Not without doubts and speculations, Mack goes to the shack, and encounters the triune God (in the form of Papa, a robust African-American grandmother figure [God the Father], Jesus, a Middle Eastern carpenter [who‘d a thunk?], and Sarayu, a dainty Asian woman [the Holy Spirit]), with whom he spends the weekend, mostly in dialogue and learning.

2)   I know this is going to sound cliche, but it’s a huge element/theme running throughout the book:  I liked The Shack because of its poignant emphasis on relationship with God.  Yeah, it’s Christianese talk to speak of one’s relationship with God, but, really, how often do we remember and behave as though God is actually our Father?  Think about it, really think.  I know I’m guilty of forgetting that relationship thing, although it’s very easy to talk about, right?

Here’s why I might say “no”.

Da Vinci Code has something in common with The Shack, believe it or not.

a) They both received some not-so-nice reviews.  Actually, make that scathing reviews.

b)  They are both fiction, spun in such a way as to draw in the unwitting reader while feeding them both stories and truth mixed up really well.

I think The Shack‘s most severe critics often forget that it’s fiction, and that it has very little to no potential in being used as a seminary textbook.  That being said, The Shack is chockfull of Theology Proper (Young went to seminary, so is it really a surprise?), and it would be wise to put on your thinking cap as you read this.  Don’t check your theological brains out at the door, because there are some issues presented to think through regarding Trinitarian theology, as well as the sovereignty of God, and that’s just a simplified generalization.

I would probably be very cautious in recommending this book to a “baby Christian” – someone who has not had a lot of solid Biblical teaching – but, I might give it to someone in order to use it as a springboard into discussions regarding Theology Proper.


Alrighty, those are my thoughts on that bestseller.  I also have a question:  is it possible to over- emphasize the “relationship with God” aspect of Christianity?

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5 thoughts on “the (infamous) shack, by william p. young

  1. slgreatsuccess says:

    Thanks for the review. Tried to get this book from library with no success and I have picked it up off the
    store shelf many times only to stop myself . From reading the description on the back, I was
    not sure really what it is about or whether to buy. Thanks, I think have my answers now.

  2. Excellent review. I agree with you that it might not be best for someone seeking to answer questions about Christianity, but for those of us who grew up in the church, and for those who desire a creative way of looking at the Creator without being blasphemous, this is a good start. We can’t forget the context in which this book was written: for his kids and not to publish.

    That said, I don’t think it’s possible to overemphasize our relationship with God. I believe God is all about relationships, that life is all about relationships. But I do think we can trivialize our relationship with him. It’s so like knowing God’s grace and forgetting his sovereignty, we can’t just believe Jesus calls me his friend, and forget that he’s also our judge, our creator, forget to fear him as the God of the Universe. He is not just Abba, Daddy (or Papa), he’s also the great I Am.

  3. Caroline says:

    I will say that I had similar thoughts when I read this book. I was surprised at how much I liked it, seeing as I avoid CCF as if it might kill brain cells. (I’m a book snob…I’ll admit it.)

    It made God feel really, deeply personal and real to me for the first time in awhile. I think there is an essentially personal side to God that often gets ignored in the face of the “holy, majestic, Almighty God.” We forget He’s still Papa, who wants to talk to us and teach us. We forget He’s still a Middle Eastern carpenter who wants to lay out with us at night and gaze at the stars. We forget that He’s Sarayu, who wants to run through the wind with us, just because it is good.

    However (and this is answering your last question), I think we can also get TOO caught up in that relationship. We were also created for community with one another, and some (myself included) focus so much on the Personal Relationship With Christ that we ignore everyone else around us who needs our time, our energy, our love, our focus. I suppose humans have never been known for our knack of balance and finding a happy medium. 🙂

  4. kwihee says:

    well, now that i’ve read so many reviews on this book, i dare say that i don’t actually have to read the book. ha. nice simple review, sabrina. if the library ever gets around to letting me borrow the copy they have, i will know what to expect. in answer to your final question, anything can be overemphasized. i have seen both sides of immanence vs. transcendence being highly touted to the exclusion of the other. yes, God wants a relationship with us, but we would do well to remember that he is a sovereign and omnipotent God too, which at the very least should ensure we give him the reverence and awe due him.

  5. Gabrielle says:

    I know a lot of people like this book, but I did avoid it because it’s a Christian fiction book, and I’m not a real fan of those. I might read it now though, since you addressed that :).

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