The Shack

Well, I finally did it. I finally got a copy of The Shack, and sat down to read it. When it comes to fiction, I am not on the cutting edge of things. But some folks have asked me to read it and respond. In fact, they asked me back when the book first came out, years ago. So, promptly answering the call of friendship, here it is.

I confess I am not much of a reader of fiction. It's not that I don't like it, but that I have so much other stuff to read, I just don't have time. But I was up to my eyeballs in the theology book I was reading, and needed something "light." So I picked up The Shack.

My first concern was that I would lose interest and not finish. That didn't happen. I read through it in less than 48 hours.


So what did I think of it?

First, concerning the writing style, I was a little put off by what I considered an excess of descriptive retail. I don't care about the number of a forest road or some other details that don't move the story. But other than that, I found it easily readable.

Then there's the theology matter. There have been cries of dissent at the book by some theologians, and some who only think they are theologians. So as I read the book - the only novel I can remember marking as I went - I was paying attention to the theology presented. I know some have said, "It's a story, for crying out loud, not a theology book!" And it is indeed a story, but clearly it's a story that intends to teach the reader about God. That's theology, and it's not just theology, but some pretty deep theology.

So was I offended by it? It's certainly unorthodox in many ways, especially in its portrayal of God. But unusual or unorthodox - in the sense of custom, not theology - is not necessarily wrong.

I was initially perplexed more than offended, but after some thought, could see no reason that God could not appear in any form he chooses. If he can be a Middle Eastern Jewish man, why not an Asian woman or African-American woman or even someone like me? I can agree that there are reasons he did not come as those, but the question is whether scripture prohibits them. I don't think it does.

Emotionally, I had trouble putting the book down. The story was captivating, and in some places moved me deeply.

I believe that God can use films, books and the like to touch us and speak to us. These media - ways of telling a story - have the power to reach into us, getting beyond our intellectual walls and defensive barricades, giving the Holy Spirit a chance to work where we would not otherwise open the door.

One film that has done that for me is The Kid, a Walt Disney flick starring Bruce Willis.

The Shack will be in the same class. More than once I was in tears, and at one point I was praying and asking God, "Are you really that wonderful?"

So I'm glad I read it. I'm glad my friend asked me to do so and respond. I heartily recommend the book to anyone. Good stuff. (And I don't know or have any contact with the author or anyone else connected with the book. They don't know I exist. I say that for the government's sake. Jeez.)

So I did it, and that's what I thought about it. Better late than never, right, Lisa?

20 Comments

Yup! And my sentiments exactly. As with you, there were some things that stopped me and made me think, but nothing that particularly offended or bothered me. And the message was beautiful. I can see why the author initially had trouble finding a publisher. But, after having some success with self-publishing, he eventually did find a publisher who worked with him, and I'm glad they did.

Larry - Looks like those "reading tips" are really helping! You finished it
quick!

The Lord used the Shack to reveal to me all the more about Himself and
the Trinity. I'm glad you got to read it and I'd love to discuss further!

Your sister,
Taylor

Hey Taylor,

Good to hear from you. I would love to chat, whenever you like.

Hi Larry!

I wept many times while reading The Shack - not in the places that were sad - although the central story that drives Mack to God is indeed heartbreaking. I wept most from the sheer portrayal of God's love for His children. In many ways, it was too much to take in and I had to put the book down quite a few times to just ask God if this really was how much He loved me.
I find it interesting that the author chose to personify our Father as an African-American woman. I have observed men struggle with how to identify with Jesus'love, and I guess, by extension, God's love for them (If you know me, you know the Father). I think it was brilliant that the author used femininity to break through this wall.

The section that hit home the hardest was when Mack was being questioned about putting God on trial. I know I've been guilty of that in my life. The interesting thing is that when we recognize how our pain distorts how we view God's love (or lack of love in my case) we have the choice of coming to Him in repentence - which leads to healing. We have to recognize it first, though.

Great topic!

Hi Norah,

I think the most difficult task facing God is to break through the double wall we erect, of our own shame, and our arrogance in demanding that God meet our own twisted idea of "justice." We see things through such a warped, limited perspective that it's amazing that we can see anything at all. But God is patient, he is innovative, and he is not locked in by our limited ideas of who he is. His great love will prevail.

I completely agree, Larry. Reading your blog reminded me of the times in my life when I struggled with the same issue over and over again...mainly that I could not relate to God as being His child.

What I discovered was God's relentless love and grace kept bringing me back to the same circumstances that brought those feelings to the surface. For years, I would shove them down and He would keep bringing them up. I finally relented of my pride and sought help for issues dealing with abuse, abandonment, and loss. I firmly believe that God uses (and gifts) others to help us untangle the knots that Satan would rather leave in place. The difference between who I was, and who I know I am is, quite frankly, startling. I pray that the transformation is a testamony of God's power to ransom and release us from the clutches of sin, pain, bitterness, and lack of belief in God's faithfulness and love towards us. Reading books like The Shack remind us of this transformative love...and it never gets old!

Norah,

I think many -- perhaps most -- of us are hindered in realizing the passionate, unqualified love of God for us. A part of the problem might be the presence of some deep and often hidden shame: We don't think much of ourselves, and "I know me better than anyone else knows me," and so, of course, why would God love me when I don't love myself? The problem is, it just ain't so. I don't know me best. Sometimes I don't know me well at all. I know the imposter who pretends to be me, to keep people from getting close and hurting me. A lot to think about in The Shack.

I literally could not set the book down. I started reading it at 9pm and was forced to stop when the bedroom light was turned out on me and was up bright and early to finish it. I haven’t had a book captivate me like that in quite a while!

For me the story really started when he went into the shack and met God. I LOVE the way Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were portrayed! All too often I think people dull God down. They see him as this black and white, stern, boring geezer. I loved how bright and vivid the characters were. It is more along the lines of how I envision God – interesting, funny, having interests of his own and sometimes just down to earth.

There were a few spots in the latter part of the book where I thought ‘hmm, not sure about that’, but quite honestly now that I’ve finished the book I can’t even remember what they were. So they obviously didn’t offend me on a theological level (not that I’m a theologian).

I too had a few very emotional moments in the book - mostly when he had revelations. Ex: when he was in the cave with Sophia and she wanted him to judge God and mankind. The moment he offered to sacrifice himself instead of his kids – she told him that he judged them worthy of love and that is how Jesus loves. And at the end when Papa tells him he needs to take away one more thing that darkens his heart and proceeds to explain why he needs to forgive the murderer and what forgiveness means.

I think this book could be potentially life changing for someone… 1) whose God is that black and white, stern, boring geezer 2) that thinks God is all about rules, religion and rituals or 3) who is unsure in their faith – this could be just the book to help them realize that God is very personal and present.

Regardless of someone’s relationship with God, I think this book gives us a refreshing view of God, His love and how He interacts with us.

Thanks Michelle,

I had a similar response. The most moving part for me was at the "funeral," where I found myself in tears, and praying, "God, are you really that wonderful?" Deeply moving.

I could not help but read the comments of The Shack, it has being a months since I read it but I can not forget the story and the details in it:

My thoughts on the book:

I find the book very interesting and well written. I could not but it down till I finished it.

There are theological issues that I strongly disagree and of cause not the Trinity character genders(If God is all power He can choose to reveal Himself in any ways or form)

The theological red flag I had on this book is Patripassianism, a heretical, monophysitic concept of the 2nd and 3rd centuries that held that, in the Crucifixion, the Father suffered equally with the Son.

If you read Isaiah 53, Romans 8 and If you hold this 2nd and 3rd view you can see how they clash each other!

Before taking this lately or if you wonder how I can to stand where I stand in this matter I will like you to God through the Doctrine of God, Doctrine of Christ, Doctrine of Holy Spirit, and see the Persons in God Head are together as one, but each with distinct personality or functions.

Apart from patripassianism I find the book catchy, emotional and I can see good to start a great Christian conversation.

Prayson,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think your concern is valid, and yet we can go too far and rule out any suffering on the part of the Father. The idea that the Father does/did not suffer, either at the death of Jesus or at other times, as well, is simply not a good one. The Bible portrays a God of deep passion, one who manifests deep anger and great joy. It makes no sense that he would be neutral at something as profoundly painful as the death of Jesus. That's not to say there was equal suffering, that the Father suffered equally with Jesus, but it is certainly to say that he did suffer. It could not be otherwise.

Larry,

I believe the problem is the word suffering! If we refer it as a set of enduring pain, then God as divine nature can not suffer. Christ Jesus suffered because He had human nature through incarnation.

Remember God took pleasure in Crucifying Christ, It pleased Him, It gave Him Glory! It was His will that He crash Him and bruised Him even before creating the World.

God is all powerful, all knowing and all present, He foreknew before the creation that He will give His son and yet to pleasure in creating the world to which He gave his only son!

Nothing is an accent!Saying that the creation costed his son is a wrong way to think about all powerful God!

God could have chosen to forgive everyone! He could have chosen not to have the tree of good and evil But no, He is a jealous God, All he need is glory and you.The Cross gave him glory! Everything gives him Glory! Creation, Atheist, Christians, Muslim,Stones, trees,everything

God the Father is so much more than we could ever understand, we are happy that Jesus is at the right hand praying and interceding for us! and in that way we always say in Jesus name - for without Christ, we can not be close to the Father. The angels can not look at God the father, they cover themselves and sing Holy Holy!

The first Jews could not even say his name because it was to powerful (YAHWEH)

Read the OT and you will know who the Father is! but all in all NT helps us know him as a father too. The God who created the universe and more personally love you and I.

Help me find Scripture(s) to which shows or backup any kind of God the Father suffering and I am reconsider my position.

We are to be careful when we bring our own thinking about God without His words, the Scriptures

"God ... cannot suffer"? Who says so? Where in scripture is that even hinted? If scripture reveals anything about the nature of God, it is that he is profoundly passionate. He rejoices, he delights, he is angry and jealous. His spirit grieves. So in this wide range of emotions, how is it that he cannot experience emotional pain? I don't think scripture teaches that, and I think that teaching is very destructive. Did Jesus not feel pain? He was God, and he came to, among other things, show us the Father.

Larry Larry :D

Suffering is the result of the fall. Suffering came in this world when Adam and Eve fall in Eden.

Sin brought about suffering, Christ feel pain because He bared our sin, the one without sin, became with sin! He did feel pain for He was Son of David, Seed of a Woman(Not a Man, because of Virgin birth and Prophesy fulfilment.

If God the Father sinned or carried our sin then He suffered! But God the Father did not be with sin and sound pretty wrong saying God the Father carried our sin or any other sin!

If suffering is a result of sin then God the Father can not suffer.

Suffering is indeed the result of the fall. But Jesus was capable of suffering because he was a man, and as such was capable of experiencing pain. We are capable of love and suffering precisely because we are created in the image of a God who has the same capabilities. The godhead is intensely relational, with a deep love between the members. As such, it should not be a surprise that God suffers pain in some situations, that he grieves when those he loves suffer. One does not have to sin to grieve over the sins or sufferings of others.

Dear Larry,

Suffering and grieving are not the same! But if you are using suffering as grieving be blessed Larry but make sure you do explain what definition you use when speaking of God the Father suffering or many will be lost as it was in 2nd and 3rd century.

We can not assume or pre-propose Larry, read 2 Tim 3:16-17 and you will know that all needed to be known about God for all purpose is in the Scriptures! If we bring anything in between the line or what we wish to be in the line we are not true to the Word of God Larry.

The Spirit of God grieves,yes, Christ in Human nature suffered, yes! God the Father, suffering in any kind ...? Suffering is ability to feel and undergoing pain.

Much can be said here but I believe it will be of no use for God changes the heart and mind of Men not mere argument with logics. Though do pray and I will pray too for God to reveal more of this subject in our hearts.

I will ask you to go through the Doctrine of God,Natures and attributes and Applications of each natures and attributes. Read not to find what you want to find but what God want you to find.

Remember we can not assume just because we have some features we share with God, i.e jealous, anger,love,care,just etc.

If we let our assumption or logic between the line of Scripture ie. "As such, it should not be a surprise that God suffers pain in some situations" we will end up saying it should not be a surprising that God fears in some situations!

P.S: Let's go back to the scripture and systematic or natural theology. Please do let me know when you finish the Doctrine of God and we can exchange more

With love, and many thanks to you Larry and others

Yours in Christ always

Dear Larry,

I went over again in the book of Shack and I found another thing which it is also not Biblical!

Submission, According to the Shack, submission of the Father to the Son and to the Holy Spirit is the same but truly not! We knoe that the Son submittes to the Father, He sits on the right Hand of the Father, and the Father is greater than Him. More over, Christ Jesus submits to the Father's will.

Therefore Submission in the Shack is misleading, not Biblical.

But above all, The Book is really great as fiction, but I can not say the same with it's Theology.

Yours in Christ

Prayson

Prayson,

I haven't gotten to re-reading the book yet. However, I will have to go look at the point you make. It's true that scripture teaches submission of Jesus and the Spirit to the Father. Whether Shack does differently, I don't know. Is it possible that what you are seeing as mutual submission is simply mutual consideration?

I read "The Shack"about 2 years ago.
It literally changed me, and many of my friends.
If nothing else, it enables us to see how we tend to put GOD in a box and our image of HIM never seems to change, or we don't let it.
For me, the most difficult part was dealing with forgiveness. I had 2 people in my life that had hurt me very badly, and I was enjoying the hatred that I had for both. I felt justified in being angry at both of them.
I cried at the point where God showed me that I was wrong.
I didn't like what the people had done to me, but I needed to forgive them,so I could move on with my life with God.
The hate is gone, replaced with a peace and God's grace and a knowledge that I did the right thing

Hi Don,

Thanks for the comment. I found The Shack a fascinating book, even life-changing, as you have said. I might quibble on some points of theology, but I think it is nevertheless one of the best novels in a long time.

Leave a comment












Loading tweets:

Follow us on Twitter!

  • Larry Baden said:
      Hi Don, Thanks for the comment. I found The Shack a fascinating book,...
  • Don Leyland said:
      I read "The Shack"about 2 years ago. It literally changed me, and many...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Prayson, I haven't gotten to re-reading the book yet. However, I will...
  • Prayson Daniel said:
      Dear Larry, I went over again in the book of Shack and I found anothe...
  • Prayson Daniel said:
      Dear Larry, Suffering and grieving are not the same! But if yo...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Suffering is indeed the result of the fall. But Jesus was capable of s...
  • Prayson Daniel said:
      Larry Larry :D Suffering is the result of the fall. Suffering came i...
  • Larry Baden said:
      "God ... cannot suffer"? Who says so? Where in scripture is that even ...
  • Prayson Daniel said:
      Larry, I believe the problem is the word suffering! If we refer it as...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Prayson, Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think your concern is ...

home quodlibet journal theo blog sermons theology e-texts church history forum home