Posts Tagged ‘The Shack’

Whenever you read an insanely popular book, there are some traps and snares along the way.  The first of which is the insane popularity of the book.  That can create enormous expectations of the book.  As a result, your expectations are unrealistic.  The other side of that coin is really annoying those who love the book.  It could be as simple as not buying into the hype, or as serious as recognizing huge theological problems (like in Velvet Elvis or The Shack).  Either way, those who have been (rightly or wrongly) impacted by the book will be mad at you.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God is one of those insanely popular books.  Francis Chan became a well-known pastor as a result of this book.  As a result, I had very high expectations for this book.  It didn’t meet those expectations (that does not mean it is a bad book).  On the positive side, it was not dripping with heresy like either Velvet Elvis or The Shack.

Books of this sort are to be both practical and theological.  John Frame rightly, I think, notes that you haven’t really understood a doctrine until you apply it (or at least begin to).  Each book has its own blend of them.  Some are heavy on the practical, and some are heavy on the theological.  Sadly, some are so far skewed as to be no good to the soul.

Chan’s book, which I suspect is adapted from a sermon series, is skewed toward the practical.  There is theology in the book, but it leans toward the practical.  This is part of its appeal to many.  But I prefer to have my heart warmed and stirred by theological truth so I am pursuing a sound lifestyle (see 1 Timothy 1).  I felt more manipulated than instructed.  I don’t mean it to sound that terrible, really.  Francis is very passionate about his topic, and says many things we American Christians need to hear.  My issue was more with the presentation, if that makes sense.


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Yes, I still have not read The Shack (see Tim Keller was not the last person on earth to read it, I might be).  I personally know a few people who have.  I’ve tried not to engage them about it too much- things tend to get tense fast where this book is concerned.

For some reason there have been a spate of blogs posts & reviews of late.  They interact with the book in a variety of ways.  And the comments show the typical polarization taking place.

Tim Keller has a typically good number of impressions about the book.  He mentions some positives about the book (including the use of narrative to convey theology), and some concerns he has (including the theology conveyed in this narrative).  Those concerns center on ideas present in the book that undermine biblical, historic, orthodox Christianity.  One pertinent concern is that it really does not prepare anyone to meet the God of the Bible.  The god portrayed is a more post-modern, neutered deity who fails to recognize the relational nature of sin, and how the Law reveals love.  If we are expecting people to become Christians after reading this, the bait & switch tactic is unloving and unfair.  It is unloving to our neighbor, and to God (whose character is misrepresented, which sounds like bearing false witness to me).

Al Mohler laments the lack of evangelical discernment in this whole affair.  He addresses one of the defenses of the book- that it is a work of fiction, not a theological treatise- quite well.

The theology of The Shack is not incidental to the story. Indeed, at most points the narrative seems mainly to serve as a structure for the dialogues. And the dialogues reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects.


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Steve Brown interviews William Paul Young about his book The Shack.  Steve says that he initially gave up when the main character got to the shack.  After lots of people nagged him, he finished the book.  “It got to me.”  Apparently he also spoke to the counseling students at RTS.  As Steve says, he certainly divided the house.

I feel sorry for Mr. Young.  He had a very traumatic childhood as a missionary kid in New Guina.  He was sexually abused by those in New Guina, and at the missionary boarding school he attended.  Very sad.  As a result he struggled with self-loathing and shame.  He spent 11 years in his personal (metaphorical) shack.

He wrote it as a parable and the shack is a metaphor for the places you get stuck, the baggage you cling to.  He admits it is presented in an outside of the box kind of way.  It is great that he has no secrets.  But I guess there is a difference between a lie and something you don’t tell everyone.  If you don’t tell anyone, a secret will control you.  You must bring it out into the light, but those facts of your life are not necessarily for everyone.  You can tell people if asked, but sometimes you don’t need to announce it to everyone.

I remember hearing a pastor telling his congregation about his prior problems with pornography and that he was raped in his youth.  I can see how sharing the first in that context was helpful.  Not so sure about the second one.  That is one I’d keep for personal ministry rather than public ministry.  There are things I will share with close friends, and in personal ministry.  But they are inappropriate for public ministry.  Are we actually free if we feel compelled to tell everyone?

Back to Steve and William Young.  Steve warns us that you can’t dissect it or you’ll miss what God has for you.  I may have to disagree with “the old white guy” on this one.  Jesus’ parables didn’t contain untruth.  Symbolism and metaphor?  Yes.  Distortions?  Nope.

Steve: “You’ll read the book and think God can’t be that good.” 

Erik: “That’s the problem.”

God is good.  Calvin believed it!  (surprised?)  Yes, Calvin often refers to God’s fatherly kindness and God’s goodness.  He believed God is just, but also good.  Like C.S. Lewis- not safe, but good.  So I have no issue with believe God is incredibly good, even to people like me.  But I have reservations about a therapeutic view of Christianity where it is about ‘healing’ instead of life transformation.  Don’t take that to mean God doesn’t apply the work of Christ to our emotional life and baggage.  But that is the minor theme, and often waits until this earthly life is through, rather than the dominant theme.  The Bible talks about our greatest problem is our sin, not how we’ve been sinned against (though that is there too).  Otherwise Jesus would have sent out counselors instead of pastors.

“The phrase I used to describe the Trinity was one I got from Ravi Zacharas. … Unity and diversity in the community of the Trinity.”

As in many heresies, he is accused of stressing one over the others.  It sounds like he stresses unity over diversity in how he tells this parable.  Steve Brown disagrees with me, but I still love him.  But maybe my underwear is too tight like he says.

You might be interested in Walter Henger’s review in ByFaith Magazine as well.

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When you live in a place like Winter Haven you can easily lose track of what happens in the wider world.  When you are a conservative Presbyterian, this does not help either.  A book may be very popular in broader “evangelical” circles and not come to your attention for quite some time.

There has been one that has sold over 1 million copies but whose existence eluded me until recently.  A newsletter mentioned The Shack by William Young.  The person mentioning it really liked it, but noted some issues might be problematic.  “Oh, interesting,” I thought.  I did not yet know how popular this book was or how entralled some people are with it (479 Amazon reviews have an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars).

It is the story of a man whose child was killed by a serial killer some time earlier.  He has been unable to move on.  His seminary training is failing him.  God invites him to the shack where his daughter was murdered.  There he encounters the Godhead and his entire theology and experience are deconstructed and reconstructed.  The Father actually appears through much of the story as a tender woman (this is what my acquaintance mentioned as being problematic).


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