Book Review: The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

Overall: Save your money, there are better reads. Much better.

It would be foolish to ignore such a popular read. Indeed, one that’s been at the top of the bestseller list for a few weeks now. It’s just a shame that people read weird books.

The basic gist of The Shack is that the main character, Mack, is invited by God to the place where his youngest daughter was brutally murdered and Mack has thus distanced himself from God. Mack spends the weekend there at the shack and chats about all sorts of relevant issues with God: the Trinity, forgiveness, love, free-will, sin, etc.

I freely admit that there are good elements to The Shack, but anything worthy that might be found here is overshadowed and confused by the author’s attempt to depict God. The “flying lesson” on the Trinity that God the Father (aka “Papa”… who is a big black woman… get that sorted out?) is absolutely atrocious. That bit of flying ended in a terrible crash landing from which there were no survivors. None. The theology is too muddled and muddy to see a clear picture. However, one could see this coming since right off the bat the author creates an Indian legend about a girl who commits suicide to save her people and likens this to the sacrifice of Christ… Jesus did not commit suicide! It’s a very crude and poor analogy that falls flat without ever standing. This is not the place to discover the Blessed Trinity. The Christology was pretty much blatant heresy as well. The author wants so desperately to remind us that God became man in Jesus Christ that he divorces the human and divine in Jesus and makes God out to be entirely human with superpowers (like flying, he just doesn’t activate them…). In the end, the God of The Shack is not the one true God; but a shabby impersonation that seeks to push a specific agenda… This Catholic, for one, is shocked that Christian author of a Christian book would have strayed so far from the Bible. With no Bible, and no Church (this author rejects any institutional/hierarchical Church in favor of some wishy-washy Church you can’t quite pin down where or how it exists) what’s left? Mr. Young’s Trinity is not biblical, nor is his Jesus. But this flows from his already demonstrated poor understanding of the Trinity and the sacrifice of Christ.

And if that wasn’t enough, it’s just corny writing. It was difficult to trudge through without crying– not from being moved, but from trite and juvenile dialogue. For example:

…Jesus went straight to Papa and kneeling at her feet, began to wipe off the front of her clothes. He worked down to her feet and gently lifted one foot at a time, which he directed into the basin where he cleaned and massaged it.
“Ooooh, that feels soooo good!” exclaimed Pape as she continued her tasks at the counter.

This book deals with a serious subject– the man’s 6 year daughter is abducted and brutally murdered–a tragedy permitted in God’s divine will, and instead of getting to the heart of the matter they share a chuckle over Jesus having butter fingers and dropping things in the kitchen. I just walked away feeling like things were trivialized and made juvenile by the end. The writing wasn’t consistent with the story.

So, in sum, if you’re looking for a good story, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for decent theology, it isn’t here. Better luck next time.

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