Friday, July 31, 2009

I've been putting if off for awhile...

so I guess it's finally time to address The Shack.  I read it months ago, spurred into action after so many of your suggestions to give  it a try, but something has been keeping me from sitting down to blog about it.  The reviews I'd heard on the book were widely—and I mean night and day—varied, and I needed to read it myself to be able to form any kind of opinion on it.  The funny thing is, after reading it my opinion isn't nearly as firm as I thought it would be.  

It's a quick read for sure, and as I flew through it, I couldn't place myself into either of the polar opposite camps.  There were things I liked and things I didn't. I kept finding ideas that I thought were intriguing, followed by those I felt could be dangerous or misleading. It is a piece of fiction, yes, but I had some problems with writing fiction about God.  It's seems like Young ventured into some territory that has some off-limits aspects to it.  Yet at the same time, the perspective taken by him was so unique, I couldn't help but see things from a fresh perspective. I was reminded in a new way how much God truly desires relationship with us, not just ritual. I loved the emphasis on that.  

But then again, I didn't like the freedom Young took on so many issues that the Bible does not cover.  Never is God (the Father, Son, or Spirit) referred to in a feminine way in the Bible, and I don't think that is an accident or a product of the culture of the time the Bible was written.  Even though God is not human, He has chosen to personify Himself with masculine pronouns and attributes.  I do not think it is our place to second guess God's reasoning behind that.  Just like so many things, I don't know why, but I know that God does, and that is enough.

To continue with this push and pull format, I very much liked the message of forgiveness that was woven through the story. I felt Young wrote very beautifully on this subject, showing the very slow, but very complete process Mack went through on his journey to forgiveness.  In fact, the scene where Mack finds the spot where his daughter's body is buried is my favorite portion of the book.

In contrast, my least favorite section took place when Mack went to the judgement seat. I felt that the author presented a very skewed picture of God's nature that includes both love and justice.  I felt this part, again, might prove to be very dangerous to many who might be prone to confuse this work of fiction with a sound book of theology.

To sum up, for me the water is muddy where this book is concerned. I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't go so far as to recommend it.  It caused me to think, but it left me feeling that I did not have conclusive thoughts on any part of it.  The Shack is intriguing because of the vast popularity it has found, and in many ways, that makes me question it even more.  I don't like the idea of anyone going to a book of fiction for answers on the most important aspect of life, and something about that just doesn't sit right with me.  The Bible is truth, and while other books can be of great help and insight, it contains everything that we need for our spiritual journey. 

That's the best I can do.  Feel free to add your thoughts if you have read it!


mandiegirl said...

I'm glad I'm not alone in these thoughts. Your opinion is very similar to mine. Thanks for sharing. :)

Emily said...

I'm with mandiegirl too...I felt much the same way. I really didn't like the feminine aspect and that was a huge turn off for me.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Laurie in Ca. said...

I bought the book quite a while back but have not picked it up to read it. Maybe this is why and it will just sit where it is at, wherever that is in this office of mine. I don't like my beliefs to be challenged when it comes to God and everything I don't know about Him. Thanks Angie. Love you girl.

Love and hugs, Laurie

kg said...

I loved how much The Shack brought out how much God loves and cares for each one of us. Including those that have sinned terribly.
My beliefs weren't challenged, and I didn't mind the different personifications of God. It was fiction, but Jesus often used stories to bring across a truth to the people He was talking to.
A reference book? No. But it was a good read.

Jess said...

I thank you too for your comments. We just finished up VBS at our church tonight and one of the main themes this year was the absolute authority of the Word of God and how it is the only book we can trust entirely.

Naomi said...

While I agree with many of your opinions of this book there are a few things I do want to share.

A close friend of mine whose young daughter passed away from cancer asked me to read The Shack.

While we fully were aware that this was fictional... I do think it was a catalyst for him. Never have I seen such a desire in him to know our Lord, to have a true relationship with Him. The book paved the way for hours of conversations, many many discussions. Each question he asked would be answered based on the Word of God.

While the concept of God being a female was definitely "odd" to me I realized that God appeared to each person in the "image" that would not be a barrier to them hearing, listening, growing, changing in their faith. When you recall how hurt Mack still was by his father it is clear how he would have reacted.

While I also agree completely about the part with judgement vs justice there was one thing in that section that I found intriguing - imagine how painful it must be for God to judge His children. Despite my children sinning daily, I can never imagine condemning my child to hell. Yet we so often "judge" others when it is not our role. I am so grateful that burden is not on my shoulders.

The actual book did not challenge my faith (though I do like to be challenged because I believe it makes me stronger in my beliefs). However, the conversations that ensued sure did!

Yvonne and Eric said...

I have a question - why is everyone calling this book a piece of fiction? Mack's daughter did actually die, didn't she? So isn't part of this book true?

As for the feminine idea of God, I actually enjoyed that to some extent. A little hard to wrap my head around but I thought it opened my mind and eyes to a new facet of God.

It definitely challenged me to strive for a stronger relationship with God and with my family & friends around so all in all, I enjoyed the book.

Lee said...

I have not read the Shack, but it is on my "To Read" list and I have been aware of some of the controversy surrounding it. I do think we have to be careful when we see a book used for good and then think the book must in itself be good. God can use many things to bring us to himself. . .even evil can be a way for God to draw us, but that doesn't mean the evil is no longer evil. So in the end I don't think we can say, "Because some people were drawn to God, let's call this book good." I don't think some good responses to this book are enough reason to qualify the book as good, although that's is great that the book had some good response.

This reminds me though of the Left Behind series. The series is supposed to be fiction with a lot of fact mixed in. But some people read it not knowing where the fact is and where the fiction is. Many people took this book literally and it got blurry at what places the authors took some liberty. That concerned me. I am venturing to say that the Shack is a more obvious work of fiction while Left Behind tends to want to share about the end times and a particular book of the Bible in a story telling way which may possibly confuse the less discerning reader. And that's not to say that the series didn't spur a lot of people in the right direction. I know it did wake up some people! But is that because God is gracious or because the book was actually a sound piece of writing? I think MANY things can be used by God to bring us to Himself. He is gracious, but still calls writers to carefully handle truth in the form of allegory.

I look forward to reading the Shack, but I'm going into it knowing that it may have its shady areas, but that it's also not meant to be taken too literally. And I imagine I would recommend it to some people, but not others simply because it may confuse a young believer or an unbeliever.

Karen said...

My initial thought when I got to the part about God being a woman was, "My friend is in a cult!" (The one who recommended the book to me.) As I read on, I understood why Young portrayed God that way. If I remember correctly, it was because God is not human and He didn't want to be put in a box, or present Himself in a humanly predictable way. He was wanting to challenge Mack on every level of what Mack thought God was.

I guess I didn't take the book as seriously as some. I can see where the hesitation comes from, but at the same time, I am the type that can read it, gain from it, and not take to heart the things that some have problems with. The problem with that is there are people reading it that might not understand the blurry lines. However, I really think that is more the Christians who are solid in their faith than the people who need to hear of God's love and desire for relationship.

My only problem with the book was the absence of Satan. I finished the book with that warm, fuzzy feeling, wanting to get to know God on an even more personal level, but that doesn't factor in Satan hindering us from that. To me, that is the biggest issue.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment of the book. It was really disturbing to me. While it gives a warm and fuzzy feeling about the Trinity, it totally removes the reverence and majesty of God. Also, I couldn't help but think that with so many people misguided and needing the Truth, this wildly popular book had such potential to spread the Gospel. But if I, a Christian who knows the Bible well, was left scratching my head about the doctrine, how could an unsaved person understand salvation and the message of the cross?

I have to admit, it actually made me angry to see God portrayed as an overweight woman who swayed back and forth to the music of an "angry artist" on her ipod. That is not the majestic God that I know.


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