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"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16
“The Shack” Review

I wasn't exactly fond of christian fictions besides C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress, but somehow I managed to finish reading “The Shack” by William P. Young under 24 hours. It sure is a page turner! And after reading “The Shack”, I am pleasantly surprised by the positive elements in it, despite some criticism showered upon it.

"The Shack" is about a grand love story. It is the story of a passionate God seeking a desperately lost man. It is not about legalism and conforming to the external form or religious ritual, but about the inward journey and transformation from within. It is about a living relationship with God, trusting Him even when we cannot fully comprehend our situation. It is about Christ living in us and being all in all.

While
some may have difficulty coming to term with the usage of Papa, Jesus and Sarayu in place of the historical Trinity, it certainly serves the purpose of the book by not reinforcing religious stereotypes. To be plain honest, I must readily admit that I usually think of God in the masculine term more than the feminine term (if it ever came across my mind), even though I “know” that God is neither male nor female.

Elsewhere, “The Shack” makes me think hard of my own response if Jesus were to stand beside me and ask me to step out and walk on the water. Will I be like Mack? Will I have the faith to take that step of faith? These are the kind of questions, good questions in my opinion, that the book has raised and I am grateful for them. It is not a mere building of castles in the air but a discussion with at least one foot on the ground, where reality confronts eternality. The searching of one’s soul and motives before God in spite of circumstances draw us nearer to God.

Yes, I love this fiction and suspect that it might well serve the same purpose like Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola, opening new grounds and shaking believers loose. Generally speaking, if you are currently meeting outside the institutional church setting, it will probably be easier for you to appreciate the big picture of what “The Shack” is all about. But don’t despair if you are unsure of what I just wrote, as long as you seek to have a personal relationship with Christ, this book is meant for you.

While "The Shack" is not written as a textbook for systematic theology, I do agree with most critics that there are definitely theological impacts or consequences when reading the book, even if it is categorized under the fiction category. But to label this book as an outright heresy is something that we might not want to do.

For those who are deterred from reading “The Shack” due to criticism, may I then assure you that “The Shack” does not contain heretical errors, as some would allege. It will be good if we can refrain from prejudging a book before even reading it on its own terms, though I suspect that pro-institutionalism and subscribers of non-libertarian freewill, limited atonement and the like, will not like the book.

To help clear some obstacles to even picking up the book and read, I have highlighted below some key theological issues arising out of “The Shack” and commented on them briefly:-

1.Trinity – Subordination within the Trinity is not an essential issue with soteriological significance, and in my view we should not insist on it as a test of fellowship, as long as we keep Modalism and Tri-theism out of the picture (which “The Shack” renounced). Suffice to know that when our Lord Jesus “submits” to our Father, He does it voluntarily and likewise we are called to die-to-self by sharing His life.

2. Hierarchy – Try Frank’s Pagan Christianity for a starter. And if some paper is needed for fuel, try Gene Edwards’ writing on the origin of hierarchy. Otherwise, one can pretty much enjoy the book without agreeing on this issue.

3. God is love – In a culture of being pressurized to perform (or conform?) in order to please God (or man?), the emphasis of God’s love is a timely reminder that God loves us and He wants a relationship with us rather than our external sacrifices (empty rituals without substance). True liberation comes when we know that we are loved and are not expected to do anything in order to earn that love (sola fide). The irony (consequent of faith) is that we will start to learn to do anything after knowing that we need not do anything. This emphasis of God’s love, of course, does not turn the Lion of Judah into a tamed one.

4. Universalism – The book speaks clearly for itself on this issue, unless someone try to force it out of context. Does “The Shack” promote the heresy of universalism? “Not at all,” smiled Jesus. [Pg 182, The Shack] If you still have doubts, perhaps Wayne Jacobsen’s clarification here will clear the air.

Be sure to also check out the following interviews with William P. Young below. “The Shack” is definitely going to be among the top of my recommendation list. Thank you, Papa, for giving us Your Son Jesus, that we may be called your beloved. May Sarayu continue to guide us and reveal Your heart to us. =)

A Look Inside "The Shack"
Author of The Shack on Atlanta Live Part 1
Author of The Shack on Atlanta Live Part 2
Author of The Shack on Atlanta Live Part 3

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