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The Shack

July 22, 2008

The Shack seems to be everywhere.  I didn’t hear about it til a month ago.  Interacting with a guy from Bible College (a guy I looked up to and thought very strong in the faith) who apparently is not going to church anymore.  Seemed to associate his non-going with his new found understanding of God, which he developed from reading The Shack.  Needless to say, not a great introduction to this book.

Then I’ve seen it creep up in other net wanderings.  Then I found out it is on all sorts of best sellers lists (will be number 1 this coming Sunday in the NY Times in its genre).  Tonight was the final straw, I needed to look into it more, short of reading the dang thing cause I have other books to read (you know, for grades 🙂 ).  So, know going in I have not read it.  But we press on.

There are plot summaries elsewhere so no need for me to do so here.  Having read the conservative reviews which show its non-alignment with Scripture, and having heard in part the author speak about his motivation for writing it, I think much confusion about the point of the book has muddied already foggy waters.

I think Young means well in trying to communicate the love of God to his children.  He, like a lot of folks these days, wants to focus on the “New Testament” loving aspect of God while pushing aside the “Old Testament” just and wrathful aspect.  Soft Marcionism perhaps? I think that kinda comparison may be a bit much, but the tendency to focus on one aspect of the Gospel is a huge temptation for a whole lot of folks, myself included.

Also, the prevalence of the book in ‘secular’ circles did also cause me alarm.  When spiritual books reach mass audiences without upsetting anybody but the uber and not so uber conservatives, it’s a bit unsettling to me.  Last time I checked, a full presentation of the gospel has the ability to upset a whole lot of people.

And honestly, I think that’s what happened with this book.  In crafting a story, Young appears to have focused on only one side of the Gospel.  In doing so, he has presented an unorthodox view of the Trinity, of God Himself and of a wide view of the character of God.

I do not doubt the book’s value to people individually as a reminder of the tender care of a loving Father (who is represented as a large black woman?).  I am sure the book has comforted many.  But to ignore the holiness of that Father is a grievous mis-step indeed.  Young himself says (see below) that he wanted to get away from the “angry God” he knew as a child.  It is sad that he knew God as only angry; that is a grievous mis-step in the other direction.  But God can be and is both.

Now for the links:

William Paul Young’s website (

The Shack: The Story Behind the Story – recent talk by the author at a church where I’m from, Vancouver, WA.  Most telling of all these links here.  Seems the book is simply “metaphor,” not meant to be “systematic theology,” and a reaction against the God the author knew growing up, “an angry God.”  The author wanted tell his kids that God is for them and loves them.  And in Bible school, and it would also seem most churches, they teach you how to “perform.”  It would seem Paul is not a fan of the current state of affairs in modern American Christendom.  Listened to the first third.  Will listen to the rest at a later point.  There is homework to do after all.  Summary of a friend who attended the session:

He did not just reiterate what the book is about but talked about related things, having to do with his fundamental deal, which is that God genuinely likes us and is really involved in our lives. We have to believe these basic things – God likes us, God is good, and he is involved in our lives. ‘He is particularly fond of you.’

Interview with William Paul Young – from June 12, 2008 – New Man Magazine.  Two important quotes from the author here:

Very simply. I’m not a Universalist. I’ve never said anything other than the road gets narrowed down to one man, that’s the person Jesus Christ. I’ve been very clear about that. And it’s very clear throughout the whole book, unless you want to find an agenda for Universalism in there.

And also:

New Man : This book has really resonated with people who have experienced abuse or trauma. Do you view this book as a ministry?

Young :The word “ministry” is an old word to me. It’s part of the performance paradigm. To me ministry is a verb. It’s something we do because Christ, as a servant, indwells us. So it happens whether you’re holding your child or loving a friend. Ministry is about servanthood, so whatever we do for others is ministry. There’s no split between the sacred and secular stuff you do. That’s the old paradigm. So I don’t use that kind of language. I understand that God is doing something with the book. At the beginning at 2005, after I’d completed The Shack, I started praying a new prayer. “Papa, I’ll never ask you to bless anything I do again. But if there is something you’re blessing and it’s OK for me to hang around, I’d be all over it. I don’t care if I clean toilets or shine shoes.” At the end of the day I want to say, “I know who did this. It wasn’t a mix between my efforts and need for significance.” I had no idea that God would say, “OK, how about I choose this little story that you’re writing for your kids.” I know it’s become powerful in many different circles. The fact that the Holy Spirit has decided to do something unusual with it is just phenomenal to me.

USA Today article on the author and the book


The Shack on (the most talked about conservative “The book is heretical” review out there.  Also, the most thorough it seems.  A bit heavy handed sometimes, but respectful.  Tim Challies seems to be spot on with theology, but seems also to take the book as a presentation of sys theology which it is clearly not.  But, the book is trying to communicate a view of God… in this case, a not accurate one as far as I can tell.  I appreciate Young’s motives and intended understanding, but does so in a way to muddy the Gospel.  Or at least present an incomplete understanding of it.)  The Shack on – seems fair.  Again, conservative angle.  Review by a guy named Ryan.  Seems decent enough in terms of a review/comparison of presentation in the book vs Scripture.  Again, not a fan of the book.

Obligatory YouTube video of  Mark Driscoll’s view on The Shack.  – Mark takes the book as a major messing up of the doctrine of the Trinity.

And for laughs – Jay Leno using The Shack to get a laugh.  Funny.

If you’re still reading this: have you read The Shack?  What say you?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2008 2:41 am

    I just finished it on the plane ride home. I figured this is going to be a decisive book and wanted to be able to speak about it. I’ve talked with people who love it and hated it both ways. Anyway, I’m going to post on it in the next day or two. Await patiently while I collect my thoughts and I’ll post on soon.

  2. July 23, 2008 3:14 am

    You know, I haven’t read it, but all the hubbub is kinda starting to drive me crazy. I wonder if we’ll look back on Shacksteria and think of it like we do The Macarena and Who Let the Dogs Out. I mean, the book is really everywhere. Even Dr. Lockwood reviewed it in an issue of The Multnomah Magazine. And when Lockwood speaks, we’d all better listen. Or something like that. In case you haven’t read it, you can find it here.

    His take is on page 14.

    Also, a cost saving tip for those interested. Give it a month and you’ll be able to buy hundreds of copies of this book for $.75 on If you don’t believe me, go to and search Purpose Driven Life.

  3. July 23, 2008 8:28 am

    Greg, I look forward to your post.

    Ryan, thanks for the link to Lockwood. He says way more eloquently what I was only hinting at.

    Last paragraph from Dr. Dan: I heartily commend William P. Young for writing a novel with theological substance. His familiarity with Scripture is evident everywhere. But it is a book with missing pieces. I would recommend The Shack with a warning: read it to deepen your sense of the overwhelming love of God, but keep your eye on the cross!

  4. July 23, 2008 8:03 pm

    thanks for doing my homework for me. 😉
    i’m thinking i might pick this one up… even though it might be a little one-sided. i could use the loving side of God right now.

    …. thank you for your comment on my worries. really, hutch. i sat down and read through it a few times today. that meant a lot to me.

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