Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Serials and Scenarios ~ The Shack

Just in case you've wondered about this book, in case you want my opinion...keep reading. The buzz about it reached Iowa so I picked it up and read it. If you think you have God all figured out, I dare you to read it. What are your thoughts? Have you read it?

My Review:

I didn't want to read this one. I have such a huge stack of books to get through that I couldn't bear the thought of one more...especially one I didn't think I'd like. I expected The Shack to be melodramatic and poorly written. Young was turned down by a lot of houses, and I figured that his writing skills might have something to do with it. But The Shack ended up on my local book club list, and I picked up a copy and began reading.

I was surprised by what I found between the covers of this little novel. The writing is compelling, a little overdone is some spots, a little mechanically iffy in others. The beginning scenes are a little slow moving, but it's solid and descriptive writing that paints pictures and engages senses. But the story, wow. The story is gripping and beautiful and awful and full of pain and sorrow and joy. I wept through a few scenes. Not dashed a tear away, but wept.

I'm not going to recommend it to everyone. There are some who shouldn't read it. If you can not separate fiction from doctrine, why set yourself up for annoyance? Theologically, this book soars on imagination, wonder, questions and it oozes grace. The Shack doesn't belong on a shelf full of Biblical study tools. Nor should it be read to discover error or to fuel a bully pulpit. The Shack should be read by people who are desperate to find healing or those who are sick and tired of religion. If you are afraid to think outside of your doctrinal lines, you will find much to be offended about. On the flip side, if the Shack or anything outside of Jesus becomes your hope for salvation, stop, turn aside to the Bible and discover Jesus as written through the Holy Spirit.

The several struggles I've noticed seem to be focused on the depiction of God and the gospel message. The author very clearly states that this is a story, a fictional account. Young bravely takes liberty with God, creating pictures and dialog, putting words and emotion and spice into the God of the Bible. If this offends you, then you are probably not ready for the message in The Shack. But if you have an image of God as a lightning bolt throwing bully or a disinterested floating ruler or a bumbling fool, The Shack may just change your mind and possibly your life. The book does not share a Gospel where Jesus is anything but God the Son and fully human. His death and resurrection are clearly portrayed.

The uncomfortable issue with the theology stems from the author's stretch of imagination and his obvious love for God. Truth is, God doesn't behave the way we expect Him to. Why should He? God doesn't answer to us, God doesn't have to do things the exact same way He has in the past, He's not bound by our limitations. God is complete and full without our understanding of His business or our definition of Him. God is big enough to work through fiction, truth, the Bible, nature, other people and whatever else He might choose.