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?