Saturday, 20 June 2009

The Shack

This post has been in edit mode for a few days, and I see that my fellow blogger David has beaten me to the punch, but here, in any case, are a few of my thoughts on, "The Shack" by Wm Paul Young.

"Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?"

This quote from Perry Mason and any number of real courtrooms is what came to me when trying to sum up my thoughts after finishing this popular novel. First of all it must be remembered that the book is indeed a work of fiction and not a theological textbook. And it does indeed contain some truth, but not the whole truth and certainly not, "nothing but the truth." In other words, from a theological standpoint, it contains an element of the truth, but it also adds a healthy dose of what must come, I presume, from the author's imagination. So it is partly right, but I would argue that, in theological matters, it is at least as dangerous to be partly right, if your readers are going to take you seriously, as to be completely wrong. And I wouldn't be surprised if some who read this book do take it seriously, in that they may base upon it, to a certain extent, how they think about God.

The author seems to tend to universalism in matters of salvation, and although there are some wonderful word pictures to describe certain theological truths (discussing God's purposes in suffering, for instance), at other times he launches into flights of nonsensical new age-ism (as in when he meets his late father.)

I would not necessarily recommend this book, nor would not think it one to avoid at all costs, but I say this with a couple of conditions. Someone well grounded in reformed theology will quite easily spot the pitfalls, and although a new Christian or a seeker might find some value in it, I would hope they would be reminded that it is fiction and that they be encouraged in further study to discern the fiction from the truth.

But all in all, however, I guess I would sum it all up by saying this: if any church (and there probably are some) took this book seriously, and either recommended it as theologically sound or held it up to be the truth in a Bible study, I would steer well clear.

Take Care


Alice C. Linsley said...

A good review, John. The seniors at the local Christian school wee given this book as one of sevaeral senior reading choices. As I listened to them discuss what they took from the book, I became increasingly alarmed. It seems far removed from what I understand the Gospel to be about - The Son of God, the Lamb of God. I haven't read the book, but I'm relieved to know that the universalism I was sensing wasn't a figment of my imagination.

David said...

Hi John - good thoughts.

Warren said...

What struck me most when I read the book is that it seemed to string together many of the religious cliches that I heard growing up in the church. Like it or not, I suspect there are a lot of churches you are going to have to steer clear of.