August 17, 2008

The Shack, William Young

I recently finished reading what has become a sort of Christian pop culture phenomenon, the Shack.
I'd rather not give a lengthy review of my own since reviews are numerous and widespread on this internet thing. Actually, Andy Rowell has compiled a good list of reviews if you're interested.

A few things that I would say:
  • Those who've denounced this novel have really missed the point. It's quite obvious as in any fiction that this book is not meant to be a theological treatise. The book has a good storyline about healing and the power of relationship with God. I'm not as huge a fan of the book as some who have praised it highly (E. Peterson claims this book to be the next Pilgrim's Progress. I highly doubt it). I enjoyed the imaginative writing and dialog with God. Overrall I thought the book was worth the read, but I would not say I loved it.
  • There were some places I felt like it lacked:
  • Young is creative in his approach to the Trinity (which some have claimed to be modalistic, which is a case in missing the point), but often the dialog is uncreative, slow, and full of cheesy Christian quotes.
  • Also, I think Young stepped out in allowing Papa, the "head" of the Trinity to actually be God the mother, a large African American woman. I appreciated that he first tried to defy the male-centered lens of the church, but in the end he fails by allowing God to resemble the form that the main character presumed God would be in the first place, a Gandalf-like old man.
  • I do like that Jesus resembles a middle eastern man, but Young fails in his presentation of Jesus. There are two things that I didn't like. One was that Jesus seemed to be against the institutional church or religion in any sense. Not that I don't think the institutional church or religion doesn't need critiquing, but Jesus came across more as the "my buddy" or "homeboy" Jesus who has been created by our consumer culture. Jesus as anti-religion and best buddy were weak representations.
  • Other then these critiques, Young delivers a book that I would recommend to anyone that has suffered lost and is struggling with questions of faith, doubt, love, life, and God. Furthermore, Trinitarian theology has become quite popular as of late and this work witnesses to the beauty, complexity, and creativity bound up with this important doctrine. Check it out, read it, mull it over.

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