The Shack Shake-Up

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There’s so much to discuss in this book. I’m not sure I realized when I started, just how many different discussions we could open up about it, all meaningful and worthwhile probably, but not all equally helpful to the stated goals of this group. And I think Susan Meissner’s comment from last time is the question I want to focus on now.

Why are so many people interested in this book?

I find myself agreeing with most who commented here and I’ve done a lot of thinking and talking about the reasons for this book’s uncommon popularity. Why are people so eager to talk about this book that most agree needed a good editor and breaks many rules about overindulging in attempts to philosophize and pontificate on points of theology in fiction?

When I first read the book, I only half-heartedly wanted to. I wanted to see what the big deal was (this was in December, 2007 before it really became a big deal). My buddy Mike Morrell was going apey about it and I figured I’d give it a shot. But still, I put it off, knowing it was probably the sort of self-published thing I normally rejected (you think I was being cynical here, but sadly it takes a lot for a book to push its way up my stack. Hmm. The Stack could make a good book. Anyway…). I actually asked my overachieving assistant to read it and tell me if there was anything worth discussing in it (I know, but like I said…sadly). She thought it was cool, little wiggy, but definitely not CBA material, so I let it slide a while longer until someone told me it was being released in hardcover and included the story of how it was initially published. I checked it out. That quickly became my favorite part of the book.

     “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

We live in a nation that’s weary of heavy-handed, guilt-laden messages about God. Everywhere are examples of people wounded by the condemnation that comes from supposedly biblical sources. We talk about a personal relationship with Jesus, but we can’t allow ourselves to believe God really wants us to have that with him. We experience fear far more than we understand joy. I’d recently worked on Susan Hill’s book, Closer Than Your Skin (Buy it. Now.) in which her story says largely that: “there is more to this spiritual fulfillment stuff than what you’ve currently seen.” (Last chance.) Her book had a similar effect on me of opening my eyes to something I hadn't considered before. So I thought, That’s pretty cool. These guys had a message to get out that didn’t fit the gatekeepers, so they went around them. And that’s basically what got me through the book.

So now, all of you who have read the book, I want to hear what you think. And those of you who haven’t read it, think about the dialog it’s creating in the Christian community. Sacrilege, heresy, a breath of fresh air, or the best book ever, I see it opening up a conversation that was skimming beneath the surface for a long time. Who is God really? What’s he really like? And what does he really want from us? What’s required? And can we talk about this in fiction, or do we need to keep it strictly within Bible studies and church?

I think talking about this here may help us figure out some things, mainly, what is happening in CBA and some of the ways in which this book is creating a sea change for the way the gatekeepers do business.

Remember, there are no bad comments when phrased as a question. So let your voice be heard.

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8 thoughts on “The Shack Shake-Up”

  1. Hey there. I am glad that the original post about The Shack showed up when it did. As I read all of the comments I began to see the different views and the possiblitiy that maybe this book had merit after all. Then on Sunday we were visiting a neighborhood church for a Bible study. One of the women was carrying on about this book that she read that so powerfully impacted her life. She was telling another lady that she would be happy to loan it to her. I said nothing but watched the exchange with great interest. I will be reading The Shack so that I can have a more informed idea of what all of the buzz is about. I have a feeling that I’ve missed something here. Even though the Theology seemed ‘loose’ at best from what I had been exposed to, maybe still there is a need to know that God is approachable that has captured the hearts and the imaginations of so very many. Like the song, Who are you that you are mindful of me? That you hear me, when I call…

  2. The question is why folks pick up the book, or perhaps better: why do they love it?
    As I mentioned, Young comes from a particularly painful past (ooooh, too much alliteration). In some ways he compensates for one view of God as Angry God in the Sky by swinging far over to the other side where God is close to being someone’s BFF. And that swing is sometimes necessary to help others wrest a harsh view of God from their souls. Swinging the pendulum is what is needed, in this case.
    What is interesting to me: I came from a difficult past too, but have not had a hard time viewing God as my daddy. And my earthly father had some issues. What this book did for me was to ask, how was it that the Lord healed me to the point that I have a friendly view toward Him? I don’t have to picture Him as a mom to feel loved.
    What I’m saying is this: God heals us in mysterious ways. Sometimes He uses books like this one. Sometimes He uses people praying for us. Sometimes He speaks to us quietly one little word, and another part of our soul is healed. It’s a mystery.
    Maybe the better question is: Why, dear Jesus, do you choose to heal our souls?

  3. I was afraid to read the book…afraid I’d hate it and have to say that to all the people I know who loved it. But I ended up loving it, too. Sure, the writing needs some work, and there are some theological points I take issue with, but I liked the difference in perspective that it offered me. I liked being given something that seemed to bring a balance to my view of God and his interactions with us. It went over the edge in some places, but so did many of the ideas I’d held on to for so long.
    I was surprised at some of the criticism that I found after I read the book. It seems like at least some of the things people took issue with theologically are there because it’s a novel, and they have to be there for the story to work in that particular place for those particular characters (like God appearing as a woman). And no, people shouldn’t base their whole theology on this book…just like they shouldn’t base it on ANY book that’s not the Bible. The Shack isn’t a systematic text, it’s a story. I found that, when I read it like one, I loved it.
    I was left with the following question: What is it that this books stirs up that lends itself to such harsh criticism? I couldn’t help but wonder if it stirs up longings/desires/hopes/fears/etc. that people would rather leave unstirred.

  4. Hi, I read the Shack because it was sent to me as a contest prize from another friend’s blog.
    It’s been nearly 6 months or so since I read it so I hope my memory serves me correct.
    As in any good critic group, let me first say what I liked about the book.
    The storyline was engaging. When the daughter was kidnapped, as a mom I was horrified. I believe it is one of the worst fears for any parent that your child would be hurt or as happened in this book, murdered. I had to read through to see what happened. As in true life, the effects of sin and corruption are not always stopped. I have experienced this personally to some effect in my life. I will explain more later.
    With that said, what I do take issue with is this: I do not agree with the avenue this father had to take to come to terms with who God is and with the fact that our loving God and Savior Jesus Christ is totally in control.
    Yes, God allows hurt and pain to enter our lives. My first husband in real life died in a tragic car accident. Who caused it was never found out for certain – only God knows how it all happened but if I was a betting person (which I am not), I believe it had to do with a certain trucker who lied about which way my husband was traveling on the road. There were tire tracks to confirm that this person lied about his account of the car accident.
    The reason I said this is because I really struggled with not only grieving my twenty-eight-year-old husband’s tragic death, but then the effects of becoming a single parent to our nine-month-old son.
    Despite the pain and struggle to try to understand (I’ve learned to leave the “whys” in the hands of my loving God and Savior, Jesus Christ), I knew this one thing: God loved me. How did I know? Because Jesus died for me. He gave His life for me so I might live with Him forever since I accepted Him as my personal Savior. My first husband knew the Lord too so I took comfort in the fact I would see him again.
    Part of the struggle for me was, “Did my husband suffer while dying surrounded by strangers on the road?” Twelve years after the incident (you see a wise person once told me with God there are never accidents, just incidents), I wrote a devotional that was published about the fact that God was with my husband on that road and never let him out of His protective hand.
    In summary, I believe the reason so many people are drawn to this book has to do with what Jesus says in the parable of the sower and the soil in Mark 4. There is much seed sown by the “wayside”, much on “stony ground”, and still more growing among the thorns.
    Since we’re asking questions here, I propose this query: Is our life “good soil” where roots of faith in God can grow deep and not be uprooted?
    Overall, I do not believe The Shack is a good book. If we are not in love with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for who they are, we should not try to change the Godhead to fit our stony ground hearts – even if The Shack is “just a story”.

  5. Thanks for picking my comment to continue this dialogue, Mick.
    I’ve been pondering this – my own question – while reading others’ posts, and continuing to have conversations with people on both sides of The Shack. If I may hazard a guess was to why this book has resonated with so many, I’d say it goes back to our Edenic begnnings of wanting to know what God knows. Eve wanted to see into the mind of God. She wanted to know good from evil. She went about it in the worst way possible but at the heart of her disobedience was a desire to know what God knows.
    I think – and this is only my opinion of course – that for people who are struggling with huge questions about God, The Shack offers them a fresh perspective. Fresh answers. The people I know who love this book the most are people who have been the most wounded. Wounded people who believe in God have far more questions, far bigger questions. They are the ones who want to know what God knows. A book like this appeals to them because it is new, different and unconventional and apparently offers them a fictive glimpse into the mind of God.
    Paul Young wrote it as fiction, defends it as fiction, but its popularity has vaulted it into the realm of theology. And theology is always controversial.
    My hope, and I think it is a plausible one, is that those who found solace in the pages of The Shack will sense a restless urge to know more about the God they’ve “rediscovered” and that they will turn to the Bible next. I believe those of us who wished that’s where they began should be ready to welcome them, and at the very least, forgo chiding them for having read The Shack and found it life-changing.

  6. I return after two years to find you writing the same useless drivel. Forget the fact that the Shag is nothing but gag-inducing propaganda, I’m more concerned that you hold out hope that anything readable will come out of CBA.
    But it’s not too late. Pay me a visit and we’ll see what we can do, darling.
    Your friend until The End,
    PrinceB

  7. PrinceB, I thought you’d gone back to the seventh circle. I’m dismayed to see you still inflicting your diseased opinions on the blogosphere, and so close to Christmas too. But then, you always were one to throw caution to the wind.
    Repent, PrinceB. It’s your only hope.

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