While on vacation, I was informed this book was the hottest bestseller. For some reason, this time instead of shrugging and moving on to more lasting and quality books, I picked it up and read it. The blurb on the front by Eugene Peterson made me lose quite a bit of respect for that author – this generation’s Pilgrim’s Progress, The Shack is not. It is one part truth about the nature of God, relationship, sin, the problem of evil and forgiveness; one part smarmy sentimentalism, complete with “Let it all out” cry sessions; and one part doctrinal error.
Since I don’t recommend reading the book, I’m going to summarize it to save you time…
The main character, Mack’s, 6-year old daughter is kidnapped and killed by a serial killer. They track her to an isolated shack, where her bloody dress is found. Mack’s wife addresses God the Father as Papa, and 3 years later, Mack gets a note in his mailbox, “Come see me at the shack. Papa.” He goes and God is there. He transforms the shack into a peaceful haven in which Mack spends the weekend with Elousia (God the Father), Jesus, and Sarayu (Holy Spirit). God confronts Mack’s anger which at root is a lack of trust in God and His allowing of the killing. He learns about faith and forgiveness. It is a compelling storyline, with a good basic emphasis upon God’s design and desire to include humanity within His Trinitarian fellowship of love. But there are lots of wrong, or just plain silly points, too, like Mack walking on the lake with Jesus.
The rest of this is reaction to various points in the book – some good, some bad…
Revelation stopping with Bible denied, though “overt communication” (God to a modern person) is a bit vague. “Reducing God to a book” is dismissed with revulsion by the author; but are we not to test the spirits against the gold standard of His Word? Are we not to judge the truth of “The Shack” only by the truth about Himself that God has revealed to us in the Bible?
A bit on the smarmy, sentimental side, describing the ideal relationship of Trinity
Elousia – clever name for the Father, and helpful. El = God; ousia = substance/being.
Trinity – some good stuff on unity, importance of relationship
Elousia as woman – God revealed Self as Father because of “the enormity of its absence” among us.
This assumes that mothers sin less in their mothering than fathers do in their fathering. But the sin of fathers (which tends to be absence, more than the abuse portrayed in the story) is just more visible than that of mothers.
Reducing gender to metaphor is not helpful, reducing God’s revelation by gender to whatever is pastorally practical. This is not how God reveals Himself, adapting His gender to our need. In Scripture God never reveals Himself as a woman, except in a handful of isolated metaphors. All pronouns for the Father and the Spirit are masculine.
The fact that this book’s Trinity is 2/3 female, combined with the above, shows how deeply feminism has penetrated our view of God.
Very good on knowledge of good and evil, defined not by us, but by God. Probably helpful somehow, in discussing the problem of evil – could be explored more.
God is very modernistic, here – no presence of authority or hierarchy allowed.
Contradicts 1 Cor 11:3; Matt 28:18; Eve being Adam’s helper (not vice versa) before the Fall
God had nothing to do with the murder. It was human evil, not God’s design or plan.
Sovereignty of God? Amos 3:6? Hello?
Good, on new earth as our final destination, and not just “going to heaven.”
God has no expectations of us, and is never disappointed
This is said from the perspective that God is omniscient, knowing all about us. Yet in the author’s zeal to avoid “rules and requirements” the author also seems to be asserting that God accepts you as you are, repentant or not, remaining in sin or not.
Smarmy, again – kissing father on the lips; assuming men relate the same way as women
“In Jesus, I [God] have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.”
But if God forgives everyone for every sin, that would include the sin of not choosing relationship.
Matt 26:28; John 10:26-28
Pretty good on forgiveness: “taking your hands from around his neck,” and distinguished from forgetting and trusting.