Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Shack

In a previous blog I told you that I was making my way through a variety of books. I promised reviews of the books I read. I've been working on, Nurture, by Lisa Bevere, and it'll be a bit longer before I finish that. At the same time, I've been reading The Shack by William P. Young. I've been able to finish it up while on vacation and I'm going to make an attempt to tell you about it.

The Shack is a hard book to describe. First of all, it's an allegory, and I'm not good with allegories. For instance, I could never get into the Chronicles of Narnia. In general, my mind just doesn't think that way. I was glad that my friend, Lindsay, told me ahead of time that The Shack is an allegory and what I might expect. As I read reviews of this book I realized that it has created quite the controversy.

The first thing that throws people off in this book is that God is portrayed as a woman. Some people find that very offensive and I probably would have also had Lindsay not told me about it ahead of time. You have to consider why it would offend you to have God portrayed as a woman. Of course, in the Bible, God is always referred to in the masculine sense, yet it is made clear that God is neither male or female. And, in Chronicles of Narnia, God is portrayed as a lion. Why is that not offensive? But, what I found as I read the book was that the sex in which God is portrayed is really almost secondary to the story. What is primary to the story is expanding your view of God.

As the book cover will tell you, The Shack is the story of Mackenzie Phillips and his encounter with God after his youngest daughter is abducted and presumably murdered. While it seems like a tough book to read, and at times is, I still feel it's worth the effort of reading it. I will admit that as I read The Shack, I was skeptical of what I'd read. I was looking for theology that was "off" and I did find a couple of things that I can't agree with. Keep in mind, however, this is a novel - a piece of fiction.

What I did get out of this book is a new way of thinking about God, and a desire to make Him the very center of my life. A lot is said in the book about forgiveness, God's love for us and His desire to have us know Him and walk with Him every moment of every day. William Young tackles some tough subjects that most Christians struggle with almost daily. One of my favorite lines from the book is this, "Be willing to reexamine what you believe."

The Shack left me feeling incredibly loved by God. I believe it's worth the time to read it. Everyone will have to come to their own conclusion about this book, but don't let what people say about the book keep you from reading it. Read it and decide for yourself. I welcome all comments delivered in love. (I'm very sensitive so don't beat me up!)

3 comments:

Kristie said...

can i borrow your copy?!

Kate Ketterling said...

Someone else just told me about this book last night! It sounds amazing.

needfire said...

Hi Nancy. You don't know me, but I saw your comment on Schyler Benson's Facebook profile. I've been hearing about The Shack lately; it's got me curious.

I haven't read it, but may have to. I thought your comments were apt. Allegories are tricky, and depending on how they are done, they can work beautifully or they can be subversive--Let me explain.

While fiction and allegorical, if the book made a claim to be able to correctly re-define the Christian God in contexts apart from Scripture, nothing but subversion is really accomplished. Now, if the book suggests that it can be a sort of commentary on the character of the Christian God in a general way that aligns with scripture...in the sense that it is not espousing revelation--then it would succeed in its allusion.

So, if you don't mind, I'll just gingerly comment on a few of the points you brought up. First, the sex of God; I wouldn't say it's offensive to consider that God, in His Divine personality, contains the essence of femininity. In 'The Jesus I Never Knew' Philip Yancy illustrates how God's personality encompasses all of the characters of both male and female. He designed them, they stem from His genus. The origins of both genders are from God's personality. However, one of the reasons that God is referred to as He, (as you may know) is that the masculine form is inclusive...ie 'all mankind,' not sexist; in origin at least. I like to think of the nature of God as 'He' in the sense of that inclusivity. Or shortly--His gender doesn't matter--He is above that. God is the first gender. His 'He' is greater than my he because it far exceeds being merely a descriptor of sex.

Taking that into account, Jesus refers to God only as His father; which is masculine in a clear sense. Anyway; my thoughts on God's sex.

Next, when you refer to the book generating a new or fresh perspective on God, what exactly did you mean? You follow that statement with comments about God's love and forgiveness and making Him the center of your life. Were those the new perspectives, or was it that the book highlighted those themes in a a different shade? If so, how?

Also, what were the hard/sensitive subjects that the author tackled?

Finally, when the author urges readers 'to be willing to reexamining what they believe,' what specifically did you identify as those beliefs?

Now, you should know that I studying creative writing in college and am a fiction writer who really enjoys pushing certain limits of understanding or presupposition. There is much value in stories that are honest and raw and sometimes a little challenging to read, not always for the perspective they may depict, but for what that perspective can teach me about my own perspective. So, these themes wouldn't deter me from reading the book. Unless it was of DaVinci Code ilk.

All the best. Thanks for your reflections and for putting up with mine.

~H