It is a brave person who puts words in the mouth of God and this is a brave book.
“The Shack” is flying off the shelves in Christian bookshops and I have heard may people speaking in glowing terms about it but I am left feeling uncomfortable about “The Shack”.
William Young has achieved something remarkable by getting people thinking and talking about theology simply by telling a story. Well done William! But Mr Young is trying to get to grips with more than theology or philosophy of religion in a text-book, he is trying to get the reader to engage with the great questions of life concerning pain, anguish and loss.
The reader must not forget though that it is not true! There was no Mack, no shack and no little girl. There was also, most importantly, no meeting with God (or gods) either. By reading the acknowledgements at the end of the book, we must come to the conclusion that the whole thing is a fiction, a story, and nothing more.
In the introduction the reader is told that this is a true story. Great effort goes into carrying the reader along into this fantasy and getting them to engage with it emotionally. But it is made clear in the acknowledgements that this is not a true story.
To begin the book by claiming it is true is at best an old literary device and at worst a deception. I use the forceful word “deception” as the writer is not simply claiming to tell a story here, the writer is attempting to play with our minds, and our thoughts and questions about God. Believe this book and it will even influence our relationships with God.
The reader may make the mistake of thinking that it is traditional Christian theology which is being presented, yet Mr Young is suggesting new characteristics for the God/gods as he puts words in their mouths.
I do not like this literary device when dealing with such important eternal things, and as a context in which to suggest answers to life’s greatest questions, I call it deception!
I don’t only find cynicism in the afore mentioned literary device, I also see it at the end where the reader is encouraged to help market the book and increase its sales through the “Missy Project”, still maintaining the fiction that the words of God/gods in the book are so important, so worthy of note.
The writing is not to my taste. Mack’s encounter with the gods is in a setting which reminded me of a Disney scene in Snow White, with the flowers, foliage and animals and birds darting about. The things his gods say are often cheesy, corny – choose your own word here. I found myself cringing, almost feeling embarrassed by the things the three gods are supposed to say. I struggled to finish the book I found it so boring.
What of the content though?
I feel there is no way from the text of the story to discover if the author has a confused idea of the Christian God or whether he is simply a Tritheist (one who believes in tritheism, three gods). I am not even sure he knows the difference between that and Trinitarianism (the consensus of the Christian age). This is important as it colours much of the speech of the three gods. The Christian’s understanding of the relationship of the Trinity has a bearing on relationship of people generally as well as of people with God himself.
And Mack is a murderer!
Mack the main character of the book murders his violent father early in the story, in his teen years. In his encounters with the god/gods he is never challenged about this act, this breach of one of the Ten Commandments (“You shall not kill”). We are left with the impression that it did not matter as the father was a brute and therefore, presumably, he deserved it.
There a number of thoughtful comments about the book on the internet from people who have obviously grown sufficiently in their knowledge of God to make some sense. Try stackblog, challies.com or insight.org for starters.
Because of the sheer volume of error and because of the importance of the doctrines reinvented by the author, I would encourage Christians, and especially young Christians, to decline this invitation to meet with God in The Shack. It is not worth reading for the story and certainly not worth reading for the theology. (From Challies.com)
John has written a good review too.