Multiplication Center

The Shack touted as Pilgrim’s Progress

June 14, 2008

About a month ago, a colleague recommended THE SHACK (William P. Young) as a fictional book that could give me a fresh perspective and reinvigorate my spiritual life. I’ve also seen The Shack raved and recommended by several
other Christian leaders. Eugene Peterson’s endorsement is most
pronounced:

When the imagination of a writer and
the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on
the order of “The Shack.” This book has the potential to do for our
generation what John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” did for his. It’s
that good!

Now the book has over a million copies in print and topped the New York Times best seller list as #1 on the week of June 8th.

The Shack

I read through The Shack with great interest. The book tells a story of how a father deals with a very personal tragedy and he had his version of Jacob’s wrestling match with God. Through all of that, his spirit was renewed and he gained a new perspective about the character and sovereignty of God. Without divulging the plot (as the discussion forum has requested), I did find the book’s story refreshing indeed, portraying God’s mutuality within the Trinity in a playful whimsical way, while also showing the Godhead desire to relate more personally with us in a kinder gentler manner. I think the book’s breakthrough value is how it gives the readers a new lens to see and experience the relational aspects of God.

By taking authorial liberty in a work of fiction and allegorical imagination in the storytelling, the book’s personification of the Godhead has troubled some Christian leaders and readers. While William Young does intend to challenge our preconceptions of God, the story risks confusing some readers with theological misunderstandings. Is this a risk worth taking? I personally think so, but I know not all would agree.

I’ve heard Mark Driscoll denounce the book‘s theological problems, describing it as heretical. Similarly, Tim Challies’ book review of The Shack ends with a caution against this theological fiction. [also] Andy Rowell noted favorable reviews from Mark Batterson and Brad Lomenick, along with a handful of other links and articles about The Shack. Christianity Today’s Liveblog has a lively discussion under its blog entry titled “The Shack” Built on Shifting Sands?

Yet, Internetmonk soberly notes that The Shack is “… not a book about a conversation with the Trinity. It is a book
about reconciliation to something horrible that has happened in the
life of a man who believes in the Trinitarian God.

By the way, publisher Windblown Media has posted its response to criticisms and accusations. The book’s website has posted a number of sample pages for you to preview. The author’s blog has his latest thoughts. You can also watch this interview with the author, aired on the 700 Club.

What have you heard about The Shack? For those of you who’ve read the book, how has it affected your spiritual life?

— DJ Chuang, Leadership Community Director @ Leadership Network

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