The Shack: A Myriad of Impressions (pt 3)

Today’s guest post by Tracy P.


There has been a lot of controversy in churches surrounding William Young’s novel, The Shack. Some leaders are using it as a springboard for discussion and sermon topics related to God’s healing and redemptive love. Others are viewing it as heretical, and insisting that their parishioners should refrain from reading it.

The book is clearly fiction, and not an attempt by Young to lay out a systematic theology. Yet it is so vivid in its depiction of God, and so powerful in the way it illustrates His pursuit of relationship with the individual human that it is clearly compelling, as evidenced by its surprisingly widespread popularity.

  • Why do you think it is that so many seem to be wrestling with the compelling nature of the book on one hand, and its seeming unorthodoxy on the other?
  • Did you find yourself wanting to “fix” any element of the book so you could like it with a clear conscience? How would you rewrite it, and why?
  • Would you recommend this book to a Christian friend, or to a friend who was searching for his/her faith? Why or why not?

9 responses to “The Shack: A Myriad of Impressions (pt 3)

  1. Let me first say that I opened the related post listed at the bottom and had my first exposure to someone that truly didn’t like “The Shack”. I have not sought out people or websites that speak against the book. I *have* spoken to so many people about this book though and everyone that has read it has felt roughly the same as me – It is vague in its theology references in some specific places but all in all it is a great, thought-provoking book about a loving and renewing God. I do think this is a good book for people seeking God or needing a fresh look at Him. It looks at God from a different vantage point and seemingly not through the eyes of the church, instead through the eyes of a hurting person, maybe more like the reader. However, I do think that the seeking person should talk to someone (more mature in their faith?) about the book after reading it. Since the vague theology references could spark the need for some conversation.

  2. Melissa–It’s interesting to me that you have gotten similar responses from most of the people you have talked to. I’ve been amazed at the variety of responses that I’ve gotten. Most of them have been fairly strong, though–some couldn’t get through it (I’ve heard of two that struggled to make it through the garden), and others loved it. Several others elsewhere along the spectrum.

    I like that you point out the importance of following up with someone who may or may not recognize the story’s fictitious elements. I think we are blessed with a great opportunity for doors of conversation opened to faith-seeking people who have read the book.

  3. As far as the first question, I wonder how many people who would call the book “unorthodox” have a good understanding of what historical orthodoxy actually is.

    As far as giving this book to a friend – it’s a matter of degree. I would much rather give this book to a friend than, say, “Left Behind”. On the other hand, I’d prefer to give them a copy of “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” than all of them.

    Question – when you say that you know two people who couldn’t get through the garden, what do you mean? For what reason couldn’t they get through?

  4. 1. Good point. It also seems to me that a lot of the people who critique the book negatively may not have read the whole thing. I found myself really taking exception to some of their claims because of evidence to the contrary from the book.

    2. You make an excellent point in that if you wanted to introduce someone to our Savior, this would likely not be the first thing you would choose and say, “Here He is!” You would want something that attempts to depict him in a truer way historically and biblically. This would also be an excellent recommendation for someone who might be seeking God and have already read The Shack–as Melissa pointed out, to lend some clarification.

    3. One of them didn’t say. The other had some difficulty with Sarayu’s character, and the revelry in the midst of chaos. Since both of these people are very ordered and structured thinkers, I could imagine that this would be distasteful and a little hard to relate to.

  5. While the book does offer quasi-unorthadox ideas, it really is still very saturated in what we are used to reading. If I had a friend struggling with his or her faith (I actually don’t, is this common?!) I would not suggest this book. If the person is struggling, hearing what this book has to say is not the answer. Ben, I’d suggest Life of Pi.

    My premise rests on what I think a struggling person needs, of course and that is perhaps a bit different. This book is a concentrated dose of a part of Christianity. This book also speaks more to the long-term Christian than the newby. I got the feel that you really need to know what’s going on to get the gist.

  6. Eric, you make a good point about The Shack assuming that the reader has some knowledge of the Christian faith. I agree with you here, and I can see where it could lay a very confusing foundation. Christians would (hopefully) be more apt to recognize artistic license where they see it.

    I have not read The Life of Pi. Can you describe what it offers that you sense “a struggling person needs”?

    In #2 of my reply to Ben, I should have been clearer. I was referring to the book Ben recommended, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”, which I have read. It not only reflects the Jesus we know historically and Biblically, but also, and perhaps more importantly, experientially. It relates how modern day, real life human beings have encountered Christ. It would be a great follow-up to Mack’s fictitious encounter.

  7. Eric:

    You’ve mentioned Life of Pi to me before. It is on my reading list, but I’m way behind. I have Atlas Shrugged on the short list, but it has already taken me over a year to get to it.

  8. life of pi, wiki had a great summary but spoils it a bit:

    I like it because it opens doors. If a person is teetering in his or her faith, the more one learns the better. Do you want the person to find his or her own understanding or your religion? For instance, do you want the person to join your team or play the game? I’d suggest the later. The Shack is a deep view into one faith system and it’s actually a great portrayal of that system. However, I don’t think that’s what a seeking person needs.

  9. Eric–I did read the wiki article from your link. The only reference to faith I saw in the article was the quote of Pi saying, “I just want to love God.” And yet it mentions that the way he went about this was to look into specific faith systems.

    I am curious about a few things:

    1. Why was he looking at different faith systems in order to figure out how to love God. What would cause him to even think of looking outside of his own intuitive sense of who God is, in order to know how to love him?

    2. What did he conclude?

    3. Why do you think that a person seeking some definition to his or her faith doesn’t need to look deeply into any particular faith system?

    It appears to me that the common thread between The Shack, The Life of Pi, and the different perspectives in our discussion here has everything to do with how the God of the universe reveals himself to human beings. Does he do it in broad strokes, or are there specifics? Does it have only to do with my subjective experience or is there some importance in understanding his role in history and in lives of individuals throughout the ages?

    The cliche saying, “To know me is to love me” seems to be what humans hunger for in reference to God. I think we do want to know him so that we can know better how to love him. What creates this drive in us? And how do we satisfy it?

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