The Shack

OK, OK ... I've been reading William P. Young's The Shack but didn't want to put it in my "Reading" links in the sidebar. I thought I would get too many questions.

So here's my review in bullet points.

Things to like:

● A shocking emphasis upon the person(s)hood of God

This is a much neglected facet of our vision of God. God is not merely all-being. God is three persons. Persons! That's amazing! By the way, I'm copyrighting 'Person(s)hood' when referring to the Trinity for 20 years from now when I have a chance to write.

● A helpfully robust working out of Jesus's kenosis

This has also been a much neglected facet of Christology.

● The necessity of meeting God at the centerpoint of potential despair rather than on the margins of superficial human happiness

Here Young really doesn't pull punches. And good for him.

● A good deal of wisdom

Things not to like:

● A bit too preachy at points for my literary taste

● A warm-fuzzy person(s)hood that was a little too unrelentingly sacchrine for me at points

The personhood of each member of the Trinity was a positive, but I didn't find those persons particularly compelling as persons.

● Some lingustic-theological claims that I don't agree with and that I think could lead to significant misunderstanding of God

My chief concern is the persistent suggestion (if not outright claim) that God's disclosure to us, his revelation of his personhood, say as a male or as Father, is not real disclosure of his person but only the disclosure of a persona adopted for our comfort.

● A thread off odd-ish quasi-gnosticism running through the book, quite counter I must admit to its stated incarnational thrust but evident nonetheless ... at least, I think so

Here are a few samples:

"This life is only the anteroom of a greater reality to come."

"Love is just the skin of knowing."

"Being always transcends appearance--that which only seems to be."

It's subtle, but there's something there that could be taken too far and I'm not sure how significant it is in the outworking of Young's vision. I'm really not a heresy sniffer by nature, but on some points one does have to be careful because ideas have consequences. I may have been tainted here, though, by having recently seen The Fountain.

● literarily ... (OK, I won't even go there because I'm an English major snob and it's not fair.)

All in all, I would say it's not the end of orthodoxy that some seem to fear. In fact, it has some moments that are genuinely illuminating about our failure to apprehend the person(s)hood of God. The book could be quite helpful, liberating and inspiring. I can see how it's a book that could change a life - especially for someone who has not begun to wrestle with incarnational theology or who is ready to take a step further in that direction. On the other hand, it's not the next great book of Christian devotion, spirituality, literature or theology either.

For those who either enjoyed The Shack and are looking for something a little more or didn't enjoy it but think you might enjoy something in its general ballpark or who have never read it and are looking for some good reads, I would recommend David James Duncan's The River Why in fiction and C. Baxter Krueger's The Great Dance: The Christian Vision Revisited in non-fiction. A good read of the book of Job would also be a nice refresher before or after The Shack. The Brothers Karmazov has many things to offer in this vein, only more grittily so. Finally, Robert Duvall's The Apostle is a must see.


Janine the Bean said...

Thanks for your input. Is this not the same book you made Jen return? ;) I'm laughing now. I thought you weren't going to read it for some reason.

You better work on that copyright now. That's a good way to say it.

I don't know that I'll read it, but thanks for posting your review. My next long book will be the Brother Karamazov.

Jen said...

YES! Janine, it IS the SAME book I returned to The Book Bin! Oh, irony of irony! I've had a little smirk on my face since we got home!

Janine the Bean said...

;) tee hee.

Are you going to read it?

Jen said...

Nah. I read the review. I've got better things on my plate right now.

JPB said...

I would put this book in the worth reading category ... just not in the Great Christian Classics section.

Despite its shortcomings, I honestly see how it could change lives. You couldn't be hung upon the shortcomings, though, be they literary or theological. You kind of just need to let the moments in the book that strike you work themselves out.