Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Shack - My Thoughts and Others - Donna Edwards

Usually, I don't review books on this blog. but The Shack debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at #1, has been on that list for 13 weeks, and has sold over one million copies; a real feat for any book but even more so for one independently published (some friends of the author started a publishing company to publish this book after it was rejected by Christian and secular publishers). This book has been more widely embraced and more widely criticized than any other Christian-themed book in recent remembrance. I read the book several months ago because a friend asked us to read it and give my opinion. After my thoughts, I have included a synopsis of the story, some links, and some quotations.

For those who know me well, you know that I have an opinion on most everything. However, This book has left me in a quandary.

I had many thoughts and emotions run through me as I read it. I had to go back and read the beginning again to ascertain if it was really fiction or if it was a person’s account of their experience. The writing style made it sound like a true story. I found it painful to get through the first part about the abduction and death of Mack’s daughter. I was frustrated to see God the Father, Papa, depicted as an African-American woman. I was confused with the description of the garden. I was disappointed that Jesus’ majesty was not more prominent.

But I thought the writer did a great job of portraying… every man’s questions about pain and suffering … a God who sees the whole picture, even when we don’t…a God who anticipates our needs before we do…the freedom of forgiveness… what faith really means… of the hope of heaven…. of how reason and emotion can limit a personal, intimate relationship with God.

Would I recommend it? Not to everyone, but I have seen some benefit from it, especially those dealing with grief and whether God is loving. Just remember - it’s fiction. Don’t build your theology on a story. Study the Bible for yourself to find out what God is really like. Let your faith become something you live!

A Synopsis of The Shack
The Shack is a book that seeks to provide answers to the always timely question “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”. It is a tale that revolves around Mack (Mackenzie) Philips, whose daughter was abducted during a family vacation. Though her body was never found, evidence was found in an abandoned shack to prove that she had been brutally murdered. Mack visits the scene of the crime and there experiences a weekend-long encounter with God, or, more properly, with the Godhead.

The Author's Background
William Paul Young wrote this book in 2005 as a Christmas present for his six children (age 14-27 at the time).

The book is fiction; a very important point to never forget. Young says he wrote the book as a metaphor to explain his life to his kids.

Young was born to Canadian missionary parents. He live in New Guinea among the Dani tribe until he was six years old. His parents were emotionally distant. He was so integrated into this pagan culture that he thought he was a white Dani when he was sent to a Christian boarding school at the age of six. He was sexually abused by the Dani natives and by older boys at his boarding school.

He later goes to a Bible college, seminary, and marries Kim, his wife. At 38 years old, he begins the hard work of coming to grips with the damage of his inner self. Kim insisted he face all of it after his infidelity in their marriage. He spent 11 years going through that process.

After writing the book for his children, he gave a copy of the manuscript to another Christian author; he loved the book. The end result was that no secular or Christian publisher who would publish the book, so a publishing company was formed to print the book and less than $500 was spent on marketing. The news of the book spread by word of mouth.

What Others Are Saying
The book has a wide range of critics and supporters.

A sampling of the praise:
Eugene Peterson, “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!”

Wayne Jacobsen, “Don’t miss this! If there’s a better book out there capturing God’s engaging nature and his ability to crawl into our darkest nightmare with his love, light and healing, I’ve not seen it. For the most ardent believer or newest spiritual seeker, The Shack is a must-read.”

Michael W. Smith, “The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God.”

Dale Lang, father of student killed in Columbine copycat shooting, “This book goes beyond being the well written suspenseful page-turner that it is. Since the death of our son Jason the Lord has led us to a small number of life-changing books and this one heads the list.”

Patrick M. Roddy, Producer of ABC News, “With every page, the complicated do’s and don’t that distort a relationship into a religion were washed away as I understood Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for the first time in my life.”

A sampling of the critics:
Mark Driscoll, pastor, Mars Hill Church "If you haven't read The Shack, don't!"

Tim Challis, “As I read the book I saw that, from beginning to end, The Shack has a quietly subversive quality to it.

The author very subtly criticizes many aspects of the church and contemporary Christianity before replacing the concepts he criticizes with new ones…. I urge you, the reader, to exercise care in reading and distributing this book. The Shack may be an engaging read but it is one that contains far too much error. Read it only with the utmost care and concern, critically evaluating the book against the unchanging standard of Scripture.”

Dr. Albert Mohler, “This book includes undiluted heresy.”

The Shack, official site
Wm. Paul Young, the author's blog
Christianity Today, Reading in Good Faith
Christianity Today, Fiction for the Faith-Starved
Christianity Today, The Trinity: So What?
Audio downloads:
Alber Mohler, part 1, part 2
Available to purchase:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Politics and Morality

"The nerve of the problem is:
They moralize on politics but they politicize morality."
Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias explains that the problem with politicians in America today is that they take a topic that is not really an issue of morality, such as global warming, but they make it a moral issue. But then issues that are issues of morality, such as marriage, and make it a political issue.