I know I am about five years past the controversy but I wanted to share some of my thoughts from recently reading The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. I originally had no intention of reading the book after hearing various outcries against its wayward theology and representations of God. However, I came across it at the library and needed a book to occupy my time so I decided to give it a try.
For those who are not familiar with it, The Shack is a FICTIONAL (and I add the caps and italics to emphasize the point) account of a father (Mack) losing a daughter to tragedy and then later encountering the human forms of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit where they spend the weekend together talking about deep spiritual matters.
Overall, the books was OK. There were parts of the book that were actually very good though most of those parts were the events prior to the conversations. I am a sucker for a good story so I was immediately grabbed by the events leading up the tragedy and what happened afterward.
Unfortunately, things went downhill once human God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit came on the scene. I will not comment about God being portrayed as a woman. I didn’t personally like it but I think the fictional genre allows some wiggle room with these types of things (oops, I guess I did just comment on it). Along with bad theology in the conversations (which I will discuss in just a moment), they got pretty long and tedious. About halfway through the book I found myself hoping it would be over soon.
What concerned me the most was some of the theology that came out in some of the conversations. One example is of Mack and Jesus having a conversation about not liking church. Jesus essentially disparages the institutional church, saying that he was not fond of it. Jesus, not fond of the church? No matter how bad the church has become (as some might think), would Jesus truly say he didn’t like it. That would be like me telling people I was not fond of my wife. Won’t happen.
It is these little “theological poop nuggets” that I found disappointing and concerning. All throughout Mack’s conversation with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit there were too many errors to make me feel like I could recommend the book to anyone. It is possible that some naive Christian might read the book and come away thinking it is OK to never go to church or be led astray by similar teachings throughout the book. (For more information on theological problems in the book, just google “The Shack Theology” and you will see an array of articles.)
Having said that, there was one element of the encounter with God that I appreciated: That is regarding Mack’s struggle over the loss of a child and dealing with the pain. Many people have a hard time reconciling there being a loving God and suffering in the world. This book addresses this issue and overall I would say the author did a decent job. If you are dealing with suffering or loss, then this may be a book worth checking out.
So in conclusion: the story was pretty good, the theology had a lot of errors, the conversations got a little boring, but one of the main themes in the book (dealing with pain and loss) was powerfully addressed.
Do I recommend it? Not really. If you are looking for a good story, there are better ones out there. If you are looking for good theology, there are much better books out there. However, there are also a lot of worse books out there. 3 out of 5 stars.
NOTE: The opinions expressed here are my own and may not necessarily represent those of the elders, though they are welcome to add their comments below 🙂