Sunday, February 1

The Shack: One More Review

Is there anyone out there who hasn't yet read The Shack? Paul Young's book, written for his kids and family has now surpassed over 5.5 million copies and continues at #1 on the NY Times Best Seller list for its 34th straight week. What is it about "The Shack" that is touching people so deeply? There are as many answers to this question as there are readers. But for me, it is all about being reassured the God we long for in our hearts is the same God that is out there intimately involved in the details of our lives. We are not alone. He is our "papa." In all the insanity of this world. God is in control.

Sadly, religion has created a distant impersonal God that few can identify with or understand. The Shack resonates with readers because it tears down this false image built up over the centuries. Deep in our hearts we long for the kind of God portrayed in the pages of The Shack, not the rules, regulations, and pharisaic expectations of today's religious establishments.

In the book we find delightful, intimate scenes where "Papa" (God) is in the kitchen baking a batch of muffins for supper, encounters with Jesus in the workshop and out by the lake, and garden work with the Holy Spirit. In these common encounters we find God absolutely tuned in to every detail that has ever taken place in our lives. Not a single tear drop escapes, but even these are collected in a special purposeful bottle. To see how loved we are, and to see the Father, Son, and Spirit in such perfect love, harmony, and purpose is what we long to see and understand in this mixed up and confusing world where nothing seems to make sense.

When I went to hear the author, Paul Young, at a House2House conference in September of 2008, I was delighted to learn he grew up as an MK (missionary kid.) MK's are TCK's and very unique individuals. The Shack could not have been written unless he had lived through the suffering and tragedy that he had endured as an MK. The book, while fiction, is very much his own story of pain and suffering inflicted upon him as a child and the long journey of coming to terms with the pain and abuse he suffered and the "God of love" he served. To hear his personal story was even more powerful to me than even the book. I hope that someday Paul will publish in some form what was shared at the conference in that there are many people whose lives have also been raped, torn, trashed, abused, and shattered. A life who has lived and survived such pain and suffering is powerful in ministering to others in like circumstances in offering hope and courage.

There are scores of video interviews out there which you might want to check out, but the best thing is to simply get hold of a copy and read the book!

The following is the first of a 3-part interview with Paul Young which is quite good and gets more into the aspects of the author's background on the mission field where he talks about being an MK/TCK and how this has impacted him. After hearing this interview it explains many things that come out in the book, such as God being depicted as a black woman named "papa." He speaks of his own sexual abuse as a child and how "the shack" is a metaphor for the soul where secrets are stored. Paul shares that for 38 years he built "his shack" of shame and the years that it took to deal with the healing process (eleven as I recall.) This is powerful stuff, don't miss it...

Atlanta Live, Prt.2
Atlanta Live, Prt.3


Anonymous said...

Guy: Your review is one of the best and most accurate I have read. What you saw in the book is what I saw in the book.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks. Wasn't it a great read? I think a lot of people confuse the novel with a theology treatise and therefore miss the beautiful forest for a few trees that seem out of place.

Rick Morgan said...

Thanks for the video links.

It is a great book that opens your eyes to God's character and ultimate love.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for stopping by. I agree. Did you like the video links?

Mark Finger said...

As I have been gracious here (a peacemaker), I would appreciate your continued kindness in allowing me to make the following observation and ask a question:

I have heard this author deny the substitutionary atonement of Christ in his own words. Moreover, he is a universalist (believes all will be saved, regardless of whether they repent or not).

Additionally, the book is so full of gross distortions of God's character and nature that it does not represent the God of the bible: rather, the author fashions a God to suit our sins.

Here's the questions:

1) How can someone who doesn't believe that Jesus died for our sins be saved; and therefore, of what possible benefit could the book be, as Jesus said that good fruit cannot come from a bad tree.

2) As ONE example, God (as a character in the book on page 120) states that he doesn't punish sin, as sin is punishment enough: is this not a clear perversion of the gospel message; and was not the consistent Pauline example to rebuke perversions of the gospel message?

Finally, on a personal note, I simply cannot embrace a man (as counselor, let alone, brother) who lies about the atoning work of Christ (denying that Christ died for our sins): and I am of the firm conviction that my absolute appall and horror at this utterance pales in comparison to the utter contempt that God holds for such an evil lie.

Please explain to me what my problem is .... as it appears by the wide acclamation that this book is receiving, that something is wrong with me .... for I find no consolation in agreeing with men concerning the various heresies that are broadly promulgated in this book.

Why is it that so many fall prey to this deception? (honestly)

P.S. Where I live, there are Christians leaving churches over pastors teaching a study series from this book.

Thank you for you kind consideration of my sincere thoughts and continued tolerance on by behalf, as you prayerfully consider your response.



GuyMuse said...


I have heard it said that readers of "The Shack" either love it or hate it. I happened to not only enjoy the book, but was blessed by it. Have you read the book?

"The Shack" is a fictional novel. One usually does not pick up a fictional novel in order to learn theology. I have read many Christian fictional books over the years which take liberties that a non-fictional author could never get away with.

For example, I have read several of the "Left Behind" series of the fictional account of the last days. I enjoyed the 3-4 that I read as stories, but their eschatology is certainly a bit far-fetched, and I for one would not want people reading this series to learn what the Bible has to say about the end times.

I go back to a theme I have written about previously: "examine everything; hold fast that which is good." --St. Paul

One doesn't have to throw out the baby with the bath water. Keep hold to that which is good, profitable, kind, gracious, lovely, edifying, honest, etc. and leave the rest by the wayside.

The only real objection to the book that you bring out is:

2) As ONE example, God (as a character in the book on page 120) states that he doesn't punish sin, as sin is punishment enough...

If this doesn't align with your theology, I respect that. Tear that paragraph out, or skip over it, or mark through it with a magic marker. But do we have to throw out the entire book because of that one sentence? Do I stop listening to Tchaikovsky's beautiful music because he was a closet homosexual? Or never read another book by Henri Nouwen because as a Catholic he believed the Pope the Vicar of Christ? Or throw out the life and work of Mother Teresa because she held a different opinion of Mary than I do?

He who is without sin was invited by Christ to cast the first stone. Can any of us really claim to have the perfect understanding of spiritual and biblical matters? We might think we do, but then someone out there is sure to point out where WE are wrong and THEY are right.

I know this probably doesn't offer the answers you were hoping for, but I am not ready to throw away a book that has blessed so many people. If you haven't read the book, Mark, give it a try. You might find it isn't as bad as some seem to want to make it.

Mark Finger said...

I agree that the Holy Spirit must be the comptroller of what each of us can and can not be exposed to--and that, given that we have different strengths and weaknesses and purposes and situations--that there will often be a vast difference between what one can and another cannot tolerate (what God will allow in one case or another). For example, the Holy Spirit prevented my wife from watching "The Lord of the Rings" movie, but I felt no hindrance and wasn't affected by it.

So, there is some agreement to begin with ....

I was advising this girl in one of my classes (who was 18) about why she shouldn't go to a bar (because it is dangerous). She said, "But not everything that happens there is bad." I responded, "Imagine I gave you some brownies, and you really enjoyed them. After you ate them, I informed you that they contained a little bit of dog poop. Would this ruin your eating experience?"

Sometimes a little bit of bad makes the whole experience become awful.

Where do we draw the line is what we must consider.

Here's the problem with The Shack: there are so many believers who do not catch these deceptions, as they are gently introduced perversions of the gospel that one who isn't strong on the word won't catch, especially when involved in the emotional context of the story.

It's one thing for a person to refuse Christ in private and another to openly flout God's truths in public--and this author openly states that the book is about God and that he is a Christian--which implies that the book is an authentic description of God.

Here's my #1 complaint about the book (and others like it) and the 'Let's do the next popular thing' [which is often a church program]: I go to my brother in the church who is using this book as part of a teaching series (and others like it, by Rob Bell) and when I ask him what Jesus is doing in his life lately, he doesn't talk to me about the Person of Jesus; he talks to me about books when he used to talk to me about Jesus.

When I ask him what he learned from the book, he doesn't say anything scriptural. Just something cliche like, "I learned you can't put God in a box."

Well, one thing I know: God n-e-v-e-r violates His own nature and character.

Finally, here's how a person could conceivably read the book and enjoy it: point out (warn the brethren) of all the false perceptions of God that it teaches; having done that, a person might be able to enjoy the story for what it is.

Tchaikovsky's music doesn't teach as truths the doctrines of demons, perverting the gospel message and redefining the atoning work of Christ.

It bothers ME (which I suppose is obvious [smile]).

One thing though: I don't have to be without sin to point out gross misrepresentations of God's character that are based upon HIS OWN TESTIMONY CONCERNING HIMSELF.

(Sorry, no italics function under 'comments section.')

It really doesn't matter what I think or say (and I'll be the first to admit that): but what God states does matter.

P.S. You have been very gracious to allow me to speak frankly. I know I have taken liberty to speak this way on your blog (even if I am speaking sincerely). I thank you for your patience and kindness on my behalf.

I support the work you do in sharing the gospel. It is good that we can be honest with each other in our disagreements about doctrine and practice (where they exist), and yet continue to work together to do those things which God has called us to do.

I know you are sincere and love Jesus.

So am I!

Mark Finger said...

Love you, brother ...

Anonymous said...

Guy, I agree with Mark's comments here, and i disagree with everything you've said, i find your comments a disgrace.

It's very convenient to pigeon hole certain things as "theology" and certian things as "untheological". but no such distinction exists before the judgment throne of Jesus Christ.

When you accept and support a lie about Jesus and condone those who spit on Him, it's just as if you are doing it.

God has no "theology" paradigm, He only has truth, truth is His paradigm.

Anonymous said...

Henri Nouwen and Mother Theresa both did not believe the only way to the Father is thru faith alone in the shed Blood of Christ, His finished work.

That is well documented.

Don't you know this Guy? How are you so blind?

GuyMuse said...


Thanks again for a thoughtful response to my "One More Review". I hear what you are saying and take your words in the spirit in which they are shared. I thought what was most helpful was your suggestion:

Finally, here's how a person could conceivably read the book and enjoy it: point out (warn the brethren) of all the false perceptions of God that it teaches; having done that, a person might be able to enjoy the story for what it is.

I can certainly understand and share your frustration when you share, he doesn't talk to me about the Person of Jesus; he talks to me about books when he used to talk to me about Jesus. That to me is a serious red flag when all believers can talk about is the latest hot selling book and Jesus is dwarfed. Anything that takes the place of Jesus is idolatry.

Love you too, brother!

GuyMuse said...


I take it my review of "The Shack" wouldn't make your TOP TEN favorite M Blog posts! :)

I guess this is one we will just have to agree to disagree.

As for what you write above, I take it much the same way as I try to do most things: examine everything you say, and hold fast to that which is good.

I sense you are sincerely concerned about my beliefs and practices and that is good.

But there is a fine line between being concerned and passing judgment on another brother. I think Jesus was pretty clear in the Sermon on the Mount when he says,

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
(Mat 7:1-5)

Ian, I know that I am not perfect. I have plenty of logs in my own eye to go around pointing out the many specks I might see in my fellow brothers eyes. God has shown an amazing amount of undeserved grace and mercy to me over the years. I would simply ask that you have a bit of that same patience and grace with me, even as Jesus continues to mold me into the image of His Son. I am a work in progress, and until He finishes His work in me, I will continue to have many flaws and imperfections.

But I do love Jesus. I believe Jesus loves me, flaws and all.

Grace to you, brother.