Some Thoughts on the Shack Book

Staying on the cutting edge, as always, I just finished the wildly popular Christian book, The Shack.  People have been asking me for a while to read it and “give my thoughts.”  I am not a huge reader, though I go through spurts of reading, and of course, like most of us I wish I read more.  (At least I wish I wanted to read more)

So I finally did get around to read it, and to be honest I am kind of scared to write a full review of the book.  Why?  I am not sure there has been a more polarizing book in a long time.  There are two, very distinct, categories of people that want my thoughts on this book.  First are those that think this is the greatest book ever and is now the definitive Christian book on answering the question of how a Christian should deal with pain and suffering.  The second group are ready to reinstate heresy panels whereby the author may be tried, convicted and excommunicated.

Let me just say that my feelings on the book are, well, shall we say, somewhere in between the two.  I am afraid that whatever I say, I won’t love it enough or hate it enough to satisfy anyone.  “Come on, you spineless weasel! Take a stand.”

I think what he has to say about the “problem of pain” is actually pretty sound and comforting.  He pictures God as not the cause of pain, but one who will use the pain in our lives to bring some good.  All pain, in one form or another, is derived from the world’s separation from God and independence.  Again, God does not cause this pain, but it is a natural consequence from the collective rebellion of people.  Why then does God not choose to intervene and prevent pain?  The author gives a solid two part answer.  God desires to give us freedom and choice, and who knows how much pain and suffering he is preventing.  We will never know, because he prevented it.  Does that leave you unsatisfied?  Probably, and rightly so.  There are some questions that cannot be answered simply, and I don’t believe that even 48 hours in the physical presence of God can give satisfactory, complete answers to some of these questions.

Does the author go too far some times?  Yes.  I would say that he is not a theological scholar when it comes to the Trinity.  Is that going to bend me out of shape?  No.  Was I shocked by his portrayal of God as a black woman?  No.  Was he trying to be shocking?  Yes.  Again, does some of what he does go too far?  Well, what do we even mean by that?  He reduces God to human form as three separate people.  Even the author recognizes this will be incomplete.  Should he have therefore not done it? Of course not.  Anytime we describe or try to explain who God is, we will use limited analogies and words.  It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.  We just need to recognize the limits, which I believe the author does.

All that to say, I am not a big fan of trying to be shocking for shock value sake.  “God’s a black! woman!  Ooooooohh.”  I found the book to drag in parts.  It still was a pretty quick read.  It is worth your time to read, especially if you have a personal interest in the question of how can their be pain and a loving God.  If you are a theological, doctrinal watchdog, as I can be sometime, you will have to turn some of that off at times and say, “it’s a fiction book.  It’s a fiction book.”

Well, despite my original intent, I did comment some on this.  Did you read it?  What did you think?  Any specific questions that you wish I had answered? Topic I should have covered?  Let me know.