by William P. Young
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Since the movie is now out, I thought it’s as good a time as any to do a review on The Shack.
Update: I watched the movie recently and… it was ok. It definitely lacked many of the more profound moments from the book. Plus the movie was much more Mack centered than God centered. And they seamed to whisper a lot. Over all though, it had a few good scenes.
Mack takes three of his kids on a camping trip. On the last day Missy, the youngest, gets kidnapped. After a lot of searching they finally find a shack, which is evidently the last place where Missy was alive. Several years later Mack gets a note to meet him at the shack, signed “Papa”, his wife’s name for God. He decides to go to the shack, and as the story unfolds he “meets God”.
I got this book as a gift back in 2009, and at first I didn’t know what to make of it. Needless to say I’ve read it more than once. I can see why it’s so controversial, the author does A LOT with God as a character. So many Christians and non Christians alike have a huge opinion on this book/movie, and to be honest I’m still trying to figure out where I stand on the spectrum. On one had I find it very insightful, but on the other had I can’t honestly agree to everything written here.
I’m going to start with the positives.
One of the biggest questions of all time is “Why do bad things happen to good people?”. Or more specifically “Why does God allow bad things (horrible, unspeakable things) happen to innocent little children? Especially when he has the power to stop it?”. There’s no black and white answer, at least not one that we understand. After all, if God was small enough for us to understand, then he wouldn’t be God at all. But this question resonates with everyone because it can hurt so much. Personally I’ve never lost a child, but I most certainly know what it feels like to question God when life gets painfully hard.
We do know that because God loves us, he gives us free will. Love isn’t real if it‘s forced. We also know that because of sin (or as described in the book – desire and stubbornness to live independently from God) we live in a fallen world. Not as it was meant to be. I think my favorite quote comes from the end of chapter 8, when they’re talking about how God is fundamentally good and he can bring good out of any situation. Mack says, “I just can’t imagine any final outcome that would justify all this.” Papa answers, “We’re not justifying it. We’re redeeming it.”
Also, I thought it was very interesting that God in this book chose to appear to Mack as a woman, and there was a specific reason for that. Jesus of course was male, that is indisputable. He is very distinctly a man in the bible. But God is both masculine and feminine, having created both sexes in his image (Genesis 1). And when they discuss why God consistently refers to himself as a “He” in the bible, I thought the explanation was interesting and thought provoking.
But my biggest takeaway by far is the insight into the relationship of the holy trinity, and how we are indented to have relationship with each other and with God. God is all about relationship, but this is something I always seem to forget when it comes to every day life. How many times have I freaked out at someone I love over a tiny insignificant mistake or wrong doing? Too many times to count. But how I handle the situation and the relationship in that moment will have a lasting impact. What I learned from this book is that living in a state of relationship with God and/or with people is a constant mindset. Or maybe I should use the word heartset.
What I didn’t like was some of the liberties the author took. For example in chapter 6 when they’re discussing Jesus’ relationship with God, the author makes some very bold statements. He writes that God never left Jesus when he died on the cross. He also says Jesus had no power of his own, that all of the healing he did came from the perfect relationship he has with God. I’m not sure if this is all true, and unless William P. Young was there, how would he know all these deep, mysterious, unfathomable things? Very assuming.
Lastly, I just feel that this book is a little disrespectful towards the bible. Almost discounting it (and the ten commandments and such) as unnecessary. It’s true that doing certain things and being religious and good wont save us, but that doesn’t mean all these are not useful. It’s like the God in this book isn’t even Holy. To the point where he basically says he’s our servant.
Would I recommend this book?
That depends. I liked it and I learned a lot from it. Plus it’s the type that makes me think long after I read it. The bible tells us to “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2). But some of us need a little help with that. I would maybe mention it to someone who is searching for healing that is similar to the main character. Or perhaps someone who grew up in a very strict and conservative home where God is only portrayed as big and mean and mad all the time. But I would also suggest to compare it with what the bible says about God, for sure.
As always, I welcome any and all opinions in the comments, so long as they are kind and respectful. ♥
P.S. If you love the movie soundtrack, you can get it here!