Many by now are familiar with the best-selling book, The Shack. I was recently made aware of it and so decided to purchase a copy and read it for myself.
I was assured by the Lifeway employee that it would be the best book on the Christian life I have ever read. In fact, this employee was writing a study guide in order to assist her Southern Baptist pastor in teaching a six-week study course for their church.
Having suffered for nearly seven years with a debilitating, vocal disorder (for which I was unable to continue pursuing my radio broadcasting career, preaching/teaching ministry, etc…), I was eager to read this book for perhaps additional insights into pain and suffering.
After reading it, I was disappointed. To be sure, the disappointment was not over The Shack’s emotionally gripping story. The Shack is engaging and one can easily find himself getting wrapped up into the story line.
The disappointment was in relation to the theology espoused. I can say from experience that the theology expressed in Young’s book would have brought me very little comfort or hope during those very difficult years of being practically mute.
It is also perplexing to see how many Christians (and Christian retailers) have so readily and enthusiastically embraced William Young’s book (e.g., Eugene Peterson who writes, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his.”).
Rather than spending the time to write a full-blown review of The Shack, here are three helpful reviews that have already been written and are fully sufficient:
James DeYoung’s Review of The Shack (Read Dr. DeYoung’s review first and then read the following two. Dr. DeYoung’s review puts The Shack in proper perspective and explains the reasons for the other problems in the book, which the following two reviews cover.
We Need More Shack Time, by Paul Grimmond
A Review of the Shack, by Tim Challies
During those years of intense struggle, having more questions than answers, I wasn’t brought to a shack. Rather, God in His grace called me to the Cross!
Through a slow, gradual, incremental understanding (awakening) of the gospel by the Spirit, God in His kindness began filling me with hope, comfort and meaning in the midst of my pain, confusion and brokenness.
If Christians are to experience genuine hope in the midst of trials, grow in their faith and not be defeated or become embittered or overcome by despair, it is essential to possess a proper perspective on suffering.
What is this perspective? John Stott writes,
“We have to learn to climb the hill called Calvary, and from that vantage-ground survey all life’s tragedies. The cross does not solve the problem of suffering, but it supplies the essential perspective from which to look at it,” (The Cross of Christ, p. 329).
What Christians need today is not more time in “the shack,” as Paul Grimmond reminds us, “The problem is that Young brings us face-to-face with a God who is not God at all. In his zeal to ‘free’ God from the chains of misunderstanding, Young has shackled God beyond recognition.”
What Christians and non-Christians alike need are mega doses of the glories of Christ and Him crucified and risen as revealed in Scripture alone. The gospel announces that Christ is both sovereign enough (Col. 2:15) and sympathetic enough (Heb. 4:15) to deal with all pain, suffering, sin and evil.
Only when believers come face-to-face with the crucified, risen and reigning Savior through the gospel as revealed in Scripture will they possess the essential perspective from which to view all the pain and suffering in this fallen, evil world. And only then will the church have a real message to offer a suffering, lost world.