There has been much talk surrounding this controversial book, namely The Shack, by many people in the past few months. I must admit that I have wanted to read mainly to find out what the raving has been about, which ultimately would be my reason to know what is being read and be prepared to answer questions. Nonetheless, I was fortunate to be assigned the book as a book review and I found it very engaging.
The story is about Mackenzie “Mack” Phillips who experiences Great Sadness for the last three years as a result to the untimely death of his daughter Missy. This took place as the family was on a camping trip and the daughter went missing. After days and weeks of searching for her the only thing found was her bloody dress inside a nearby Shack. This untimely death of his daughter sent a rift in the relationship Mack had with “Papa” (a name his wife affectionately calls God).
Almost four years passed and Papa and Mack were more distant, but Papa seemingly had an appointment set up for Mack as Mack finds a typewritten letter in the mail saying to meet him at a least thought of place and source of great sadness. After deliberations within himself Mack decided to head to the place of sorrow, maybe more so because of curiosity. Only to find there something he was not at all expecting neither experience, nor I as a reader. He met “god!” This book quickly becomes more than just a story of a man’s love for his child and the overtones of God’s love for humanity. Rather, it becomes a completely failed attempt to explain the Trinity. God is portrayed as a big black woman, Jesus as a Middle Eastern member of the house of Judah, and the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman.
By this point the reading is becoming more and more difficult to stomach. Young’s idea of God is a modalistic view at best. In the section entitled, “A piece of pi” Papa is portrayed as having scars from the nails and being with Jesus while on the cross. Also saying, “when we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed” Papa on behalf of her gender says, “I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are derived from my nature.” Yet, biblically God is Spirit and not a man, nor reveals himself as one. In fact, God told Moses you cannot see me and live , therefore He only allowed Moses, who was hid in the cleft of rocks, to see the hind parts as He “walked by.” Also, God is seen in the book to be apologetic saying, “Mack, I am so sorry” I would also argue that God is pictured as a confused individual. At times He knows what Mack is thinking, and at other times God is confused at what Mack means pertaining an issue, which clearly is a knock against the all knowing and all wise one.
I did find a few enjoyable things in the book such as the descriptive nature of Young’s writing. It was as if I was there and could see the vast scenery. I also found some comfort in a couple lines or phrases. For instance, “there is often some compensation in every trial, if one looked hard enough.” Or, “when all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me,” but I questioned that statement as it related to Jesus in the context. Did Jesus lose sight of Father God on the cross in quoting, “my God my God why hast thou forsaken me?” Young also expressed beautifully God’s desire, “All I want from you is to trust me…” I wondered if I would quote the author or simply say, “I once heard someone say,” in order to not be seen as approving the authors entire work.
Ultimately, after reading the material I was very disturbed by the endorsements given by certain Christian leaders, and yet walked away appreciative of our Father’s love for us. It is amazing how even in the midst of manure one can receive nutrients. I would encourage young believers to steer clear of the book until they have studied to show themselves approved.