Well… I’m a little slow… I did not know about this book until the movie came out recently. I saw the trailer for the movie and was intrigued. Most of the time I prefer to read the book before seeing the movie so I put it on my list.
I read about the controversy before reading the book but I dove right in anyway. As I got into the book it reminded me of Pilgrim’s Progress and The Great Divorce. However, the theology of the latter two is much better than the theology contained within, The Shack.
I found The Shack to be entertaining. It definitely drew on my emotions. I have a little girl that just turned 6, so the beginning of the book was quite emotional. I will say though, a better author could have even taken that part of the book even deeper and drawn the reader in more.
The Great Divorce is labeled by some as Speculative Fiction. I would put this book in that same category. With that being said, read it for what it is, fiction. I will say though, that I wish the author would have been a bit more Biblically sound because, if you’re going to have God as a character in your fiction, then you must deal with God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. The author fails to do that in many places throughout Mack’s visit to the shack.
At one point in the story it says, “Mack was surprised. ‘How could that be? Why would the God of the universe want to be submitted to me?’ ‘Because we want you to join us in our circle of relationship. I don’t want slaves to my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me.'” We have to ask, is there any place in Scripture where God expresses a desire to be submitted to any individual human being? Nope. If anything, we the creatures are to be in subjection to the Holy and Majestic God of the universe, not the other way around. The Shack reduces the glory of God and elevates the stature of man – something false religious systems do.
Keeping this in mind though, “sharing life” with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is a critical part of the Christian journey. And of course God wants us to share life with him through prayer and through the reading of His Word, but we are to submit to God the Father and be obedient to His will.
Another question addressed in the book is, does God place expectations on us? Does He expect us to believe in Him, to follow Him, to seek to be like Christ, to love others, to worship Him in truth, etc.? Of course He does, yet on page 206 Papa (God the Father) says, “Honey, I’ve never placed an expectation on you or anyone else. The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior to get the desired result.” Well, this is a problem since God does expect certain things from us, and it is not necessarily true that an expectation from God means He doesn’t already know what the result will be. God knows we are sinners, yet expects us to be holy. God says, “you shall be holy, for I am holy,” (1 Pet. 1:16). God expects us to pick up our crosses and follow after Christ (Matt. 10:38).
The biggest issue I have with the book is Universalism. Universalism is the unbiblical teaching that through the atoning work of Christ all people will be saved. The book seems to hint towards that, but I wasn’t sure if Mack was saying that God was advocating it. On page 225 we are told by God, “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.” Logically, if all humans are forgiven of their sins, then all humans go to heaven. This is the doctrine of universalism, and it is a heresy that is contradicted by scripture (Mark 3:28; Matt. 25:46).
There are some good things in this book. It encourages the reader to focus on a relationship with Christ and not on checking the box of showing up to Church on Sunday. Relationships are important. Focusing on relationships with others and loving others as Christ loves the church is among the most important things we can do as a Christian. The author encourages that.
However, if your world view is shaky, if your beliefs are not grounded in scripture, if you don’t understand Christian doctrine before reading this book, I wouldn’t recommend it. I can see how this book might lead some people down a path they should not go down as a follower of Christ. Even though there are some good things in this book I still wouldn’t recommend it. There are good things in the Book of Mormon, but I wouldn’t recommend that either.
Unless you are reading this book with the intention of being able to speak intelligently about the book with other friends who may be led astray by the book, don’t bother.
I’m giving it 3-stars because even though the book was not theologically sound, it was entertaining and an overall good read.