"The Shack" by William P. Young

Book Summary

During a family camping trip, Mack’s youngest daughter Missy gets abducted and murdered by a serial killer. Her bloodied clothing is found in an abandoned shack. This begins Mack’s period known as “The Great Sadness,” during which time he grows cold and distanced from God.

Four years later, Mack receives a letter in the mail from God telling him to meet God at the shack that weekend. After much reluctance, hesitation, and skepticism, Mack eventually complies. What follows is an intense encounter with the Trinity in physical formation: God the Father is embodied as an African American woman; Jesus Christ is embodied as a Middle Eastern carpenter; and the Holy Spirit is em…spirited(?) as a shimmering Asian woman. Throughout the weekend, Mack is healed of his pain and hurt, and the bitterness and betrayal he felt towards God is replaced with a refreshing, newfound, deep-seeded faith.

Is It True?

I can’t tell you. This book is classified as “fiction,” but it’s written as a personal account of a man’s actual story. Mack claims it really happened, and the author believes him. However, the author preempts the story by writing, “I confess to you that I desperately want everything Mack has told me to be true. Most days I am right there with him, but on others — when the visible world of concrete and computers seems to be the real world — I lose touch and have my doubts.”

My Personal Experience

I read this book two and half years ago. I had just returned from my year abroad in England, and was in the midst of a 9-month period of utter emptiness/spiritual decay. It started because I had allowed one thought (a terrible lie about God) to rent out space on the terrain of my brain. This one terrible-lie thought soon spiraled into lots and lots of terrible-lie thoughts, all of which worked in unison to horribly sever my relationship with and perception of God. Like Mack, I was bitter, cold, and far from Him.

Nine months! I stopped reading my Bible, praying, fellowshipping, or being involved at church. I’ve never been depressed, but this was as close to depression as I’ve gotten. I legitimately remember waking up in the mornings and going to bed at night thinking: “my life is completely devoid and depleted of purpose.” I was empty; it was ugly.

So. This is not all to say that reading The Shack healed me of this time. Not in the slightest. In fact, it wasn’t until a few months after reading it that I escaped the period. Only reading the Bible healed me of this time (the only way to counteract lies is to be seeped in the Truth. “He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction” Psalm 107:20).

However, I can say with confidence that The Shack was definitely a catalyst in helping me accept the goodness of God. The God that is portrayed in this book is a God of extreme grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, patience, second chances, unrelenting pursuit, and passionate, proactive restoration. This was the God I had fallen away from and the kinds of characteristics in which I could hardly believe anymore. 

The Opposing View

It’s easy to understand why this book is so strongly labeled as heretical. I think it’s safe to categorize the majority of the opposing view with Mark Driscoll’s opinion (who, by the way, I love; I’m just not necessarily sure if I’m 100% with him on this one). Click here to watch his clip.

In a nutshell, Driscoll argues that this book is completely offensive and derogatory and you should never, ever read it let alone touch it let alone let your eyes wander upon it because it:

a) makes the invisible God visible (breaking one of the 10 commandments);
b) changes the nature of God the Father into God the Mother (goddess worship);
c) is modalism (intermingling each of the distinct attributes of the Trinity); and
d) is an incorrect depiction of the hierarchical relationship of the Trinity.

He’s right. I totally appreciate Driscoll’s concern for preserving the holiness of God and the accurate representation of Him and all His awesomeness.

However, I do believe that there is a justifiable defense to each of his arguments. I won’t go into them here, because that would make this post entirely too long, but I will suffice it to say that Driscoll’s interpretation of this book does not necessarily make it Right or Absolute. We can talk more about this over coffee or something.

Would I Recommend This Book?

So, Ronia, given all the controversy and the risk of heresy this book involves, would you recommend this book to others?Honestly, I’m not sure. I have before, and it’s had similar effects on them as it has on me. Sure, it may run the risk of misrepresenting God, but somehow in some much-needed miraculous way it helped me draw nearer to Him.

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend about false preaching and how it tragically steers so many people in the wrong direction. He mentioned that he knows people (e.g. his own father) whose lives have been drastically changed through some form of false preaching.

Ultimately, God is sovereign. Sure, people are going to skew His image in their well-intentioned representations of Him. But the beauty of God is that He is both able and willing to work through all conduits, however corrupt they may be, to reveal Himself and His love to humanity. 

Let’s put it this way: do I know people who have grown closer to God because of this book? Yes. Do I know people who have grown farther from God because of this book? No. I think that about sums it up.

What are your thoughts on The Shack? Have you read it, and if so, what did you think? If not, what have you heard about it?


5 thoughts on “"The Shack" by William P. Young

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