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Finally blogging about 'The Shack'

Okay, I should have blogged about this long ago, but I kept putting other things in front of it. Anyway, there's this book I read about a year ago called The Shack, a half-allegory-half-novel that chronicles one man's encounter with God in the midst of profound suffering. I found out about it because I frequent Wayne Jacobsen's blog, and he and a couple of others were involved in independently publishing this little book that was rejected by several publishing houses.

Boy, some of those folks have got to be kicking themselves now. The book's spread like wildfire since its release (originally being shipped out of one of the fellows' garage). A couple of months ago, USA Today did a feature on it and now Jacobsen is reporting on his blog that this little novel will be #1 on Sunday's New York Times Best Seller List for Trade Fiction. Heh.

So, why haven't I blogged this book before? Mostly because I wasn't sure how. There were portions of the novel that moved me so deeply that I literally wept. Even now, there's a repeated phrase from the book that still brings tears to my eyes because it reminds me of the depth of God's love for me and everyone else in this world. And experiences like that drastically dim my ability to look at a book or film objectively. At times, the editor in me realized aspects of the novel could have been done better, but something in the novel seems to make up for that. A friend of mine read it in her book group (made up of Christian women), and she reported that it "created the most amazing book club meeting" they'd ever had. They agreed the novel was flawed, but she says "two members were reduced to tears at realizing God loved them, that he wants a relationship with them, that all the things they were constantly doing to get on his good side were not necessary at all to that love." If the hundreds of reader reviews on Amazon.com are any indication, The Shack seems to do that fairly consistently.

The book isn't without its controversy. A more recent USA Today article (which also provides a good interview with author Willam Paul Young) highlights concerns from some who consider the book heretical, objecting to Young's presentation of the Trinity and other aspects they contend are nonscriptural. Charles Colson wrote a column admitting the book has merits but expressed concern for what he believes is a low view of Scripture in the novel. (If you're interested, Jacobsen responds to many of the concerns and objections here.) On the favorable side, Eugene Peterson endorses the book on its web site. You can read a mostly positive review by Brother Maynard at Next-Wave Ezine, and Andrew Jones gives it a middle of the road review on his blog. In regards to mainstream Christian pubs I frequent, Crosswalk uses Colson's column for its reveiw, and Christianity Today has yet to mention it.

This is a book, I think, you need to make up your own mind about. As for me, it was well worth the read.

Comments

Don said…
Carmen, I write this as Laura and I ready for our Lost Marathon. I read The Shack during my hospital stay six weeks ago after a mild heart attack. It was literally laying in my office as someone had donated their copy to the church library. I let the book speak to me, let the magic of the story allow me to wrestle with my own version of the deep sorrow. I am with you on this. Every part of the theological spectrum needs to recover a sense of the Fathers Love. Evangelicalism has turned a Gospel of seeking and saving to one of searching and destroying. This book is one small part of that refreshing that is, I believe, a type of reformation.

Don
Carmen Andres said…
don, i hope you are recovering well and in good strength!

imo, the strength of the book is the power of the Father's love and his power to swallow and overwhelm sorrow and death. i experienced his love in a beautiful way a couple of years ago, and that experience lingers and winds its truth deep in my core of cores. and i, too, believe there is a reformation, a breathing of God across this world and the hearts of we people. and, imho, Young captures a taste of that. which is, i'm sure, part of the reason i was so moved.
I was just notified via email that a copy of this book is waiting for me at paperbackswap.com. I'll have to go and say "definitely send it to me".

And, I'm curious about your other commenter's statement about "Evangelicalism has turned a Gospel of seeking and saving to one of searching and destroying".

As someone who left a "traditional" Protestant church and joined a Pentecostal church with my then-new hubby in 2001, I'd be interested in more of what he's thinking.
Carmen Andres said…
beth, let me know your thoughts on the book - there seems to be a variety of reactions out there.

as to don's comments, i can't speak for him, but in my experience and observation there's a certain segment of evangelicals whose rhetoric and actions reflect a fortress and seige mentality rather than a missional and incarnational outlook. now, please know that i pretty much have one foot firmly planted in evanganelicalism, so i'm not coming down on the movement itself. but i resonate more with those who, for example, wrote the evanglical manifesto than the other. does this make sense?
Carmen, do you mean the "us vs. them" and the "we know THE way and everyone else is going to hell" behavior? If so, that seems odd from my limited experience.

The reasons I left my childhood Catholic training and felt only a small bit of regret leaving my campus ministry Lutheran experience was EXACTLY for that "we have the TRUE way and all those other folks got it wrong" thought pattern.

I guess I'm really blessed to be part of a Church of God of Prophecy local body who does a lot outreach; has a heart for missions; and participates in community services with churches from Lutheran to Baptist to Congregational to Seventh Day Adventist! LOL
Carmen Andres said…
beth, the kind of bodylife you are experiencing--outreach, missional, community involvement--sounds wonderful. it is a good image, perhaps, for how we sisters and brothers who follow Jesus should approach each other. it certainly would affect how we approach the people around us who may or may not yet know Jesus, who actually IS the Way.

i read an interesting summary of the gospel recently in Acts (Message):

"Peter fairly exploded with his good news: 'It's God's own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you're from--if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel--that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again--well, he's doing it everywhere, among everyone.'" (Acts 10)

peter is talking to cornelius--not only a non-Jew but a roman solider, a member of the oppressing army--and exploding with the sudden realization that God's magnificant gift (of being able to enter back into a right relationship with God, of being hid in him instead of hiding from him, of working and walking with him) has been extended to EVERYONE, even this roman solider who occupies his country. and peter is beside himself, heh. what an amazing way to see the world. imagine if we could look at each other and everyone we crossed paths with that way. we can. we are called and enabled to. and i've meant those who already do. it is one of my heart's longing, both for myself and for God's people.