‘The Shack’ is a novel by a Canadian author William Young and has become a ‘USA Today’ bestseller, having sold over 20 million copies worldwide.
The author of ‘The Shack’ weaves a spiritually profound and life-impacting narrative around a life-altering tragedy of a family, who, when they are out holidaying, discover that their youngest daughter Missy, has been suddenly abducted. Their shock soon turns into utter horror, when the search parties find her mutilated and lifeless body in a desolate shack, high up in the mountains. Indications point to a child abuser spotted in the area but it’s too late for the family.He is unable to understand why a benevolent God could let such a horrible thing happen to his innocent little girl.
Unable to come to terms with this unimaginable tragedy at the shack, the remaining members of the family find themselves being torn up individually and drifting apart as a family. They are barely able to cope with their lives, even as the father Mack (Mackenzie) Philips ends up embittered against God. He is unable to understand why a benevolent God could let such a horrible thing happen to his innocent little girl.
Mack spirals into a deep depression that causes him to question his innermost beliefs and ends up becoming disdainful towards God. His existential pain is however interrupted one day, when he finds a letter in his mail box. The letter invites him back to the shack in order to find answers to his misery. Enraged at this insensitive mockery and unable to find the prankster who put that letter in his mail box, Mack dashes off to the shack with a pistol tucked away in his trousers, to teach the prankster a lesson.
The shack, which so far held our imagination as a symbol of horror and hurt, soon becomes a place of healing and restoration, as God, who, as we learn, did sent Mack the invitation, graciously begins to minister to him… not as a voice or a representation but in human form, not as a vision that he imagines but as a person that he encounters; and not just as one God but through the individual manifestations of the Holy Trinity.Mack walks into a surreal experience where God The Father, God The Son and God The Holy Spirit make themselves manifest as three individuals.
Perhaps Eugene Peterson’s glowing endorsement of the book best captures the ingenuity of the writer – , “When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of “The Shack.”
Just beyond the shack, Mack encounters the triune God and gets to spend a weekend with the enigmatic trio. Over that weekend, right there at the Shack, God and Mack wrestle with the problem of pain, of suffering, of free will and judgment and heartache and the very nature of God in a way that is entirely captivating, engaging and deep.
Through this encounter, Mack is able to make peace with his tragedy, but not before his faith is dismantled piece by piece and his notions about God – His nature and character, and of the world and sin and man are challenged and corrected.Mack not only gets a glimpse of time through the eyes of eternity but is also graciously allowed a peek into eternity.
Mack not only gets a glimpse of time through the eyes of eternity but is also graciously allowed a peek into eternity. Here, he not only sees Missy – happy and blissful, but also gets to make peace with his own father – who had abused him as a child, but having repented and received God’s mercy, is now a new creation in Christ.
The author has given us resources that speak powerfully on many aspects of God. God is presented most beautifully as a ‘Relationship-in-Love’. He reveals that God knows when we are hurt, angry and confused and understands us and allows His healing waters to wash over us and cleanse the wounds of our souls. He records how the demands of the law were put to rest and mercy triumphed over justice in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This learning isn’t easy at all for Mack, who, even after getting a glimpse of the expanse of God’s love and benevolence, struggles to let go of his hurts and struggles even more to forgive his daughter’s murderer. Perhaps this particular episode echoes most with the reader, as it did with me – when the emotions of pain and hurt are so deep and the cry for justice resounds with a desire for vengeful retribution within the heart; but you are expected to trust God and offer love and forgiveness instead. The cross of Christ suddenly becomes so real!
If you have ever longed to see God, you will certainly appreciate this book. If one has experienced – or is going through a time of ‘Agony in the Garden’ of one’s life, this book may be a very cathartic aid. It’s my belief that this is ‘The Shack’s’ real purpose.‘The Shack’ has inspired me to return to the Bible and learn more through questioning… and then affirming the truth.
‘The Shack’ has inspired me to return to the Bible and learn more through questioning… and then affirming the truth.
I was enthralled by Mack’s meeting with God and his subsequent discoveries of God’s character. God’s purpose is always to work life out of death, to bring freedom out of brokenness and turn darkness into light. I was amazed at the author’s understanding of God’s forgiveness, realizing that once I forgive, I too can discover a miracle in my own heart.
It helped me re-examine my own perceptions, and beyond that, it encouraged me to weigh out the truthfulness of the paradigms that I subscribe to. I found it helpful to look at how God views tragedies. Just because God works incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean He orchestrates them or causes them to happen to accomplish His purposes.It helped me re-examine my own perceptions, and beyond that, it encouraged me to weigh out the truthfulness of the paradigms that I subscribe to.
Good fiction, especially one that gets us so emotionally involved, comes with the inherent danger of getting the reader to be wary of objective truth; even if it happens at a subconscious level. I would therefore caution the reader to pace himself and keep his powers of discernment handy.
Some questions worth pondering and screening through the lens of Scripture are:
- Is Young pointing to new subjective revelation? Or is he giving himself an artistic license?
The Bible is unique and the authoritative Word of God (2 Tim 3:16 – 17)
- Is the author opening the door to the possibility of salvation outside of the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross?
Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)
- Is Young suggesting that hierarchy is the result of sin?
Scripture teaches that authority and submission are inherent to the Godhead (Luke 22:42)
- God the Father and God the Holy Spirit did not speak themselves into human existence; only the Son became human and died on the Cross (John 1:14)
- Scripture is full of references to God’s impending wrath (Rom 1:18; Col 3:6)
- Young reveals the God of love as found in Scripture (1 John 4:8); but he ignores the God of utter holiness (Isaiah 6:1- 5); and, ultimately, the final Judge (Rev 20:11 -15)
Yes, there are poignant scenes and emotional moments in the book, even as we get an incredible glimpse at the deep and expansive love of God, but that does not tip the scales against some of the errors that seem to have slipped in. I would therefore caution the reader to enjoy this great read while peppering in some discernment.