Another Review of The Shack

I have linked to a number of reviews of The Shack since its runaway popularity. I have done so because of the number of Christians that have read the book and found it to be helpful. The problem is that we are not called to be spiritual pragmatists. In fact religious pragmatism is a very dangerous thing. The standard we use to measure the value of religion is not whether it is helpful but whether it is true. And, I am sad to say, The Shack fails miserably in the matter of truth.

Trevin Wax has weighed in with his own review:

Let’s say you meet an author who wants to use your grandparents as the main characters in a novel. The author tells you that the narrative will be fictional, but that your grandparents will have the starring roles. Sounds great! you think.

But when the manuscript arrives in your hands, you discover that the story does not accurately represent the personalities of your grandparents. The relationship between them is all wrong too. Grandma berates Grandpa. Early on, they run off and elope (which is totally out of character). At one point, they contemplate divorce.

When you complain, the author responds, “Remember? I told you it would be fictional.”

“Yes,” you say, somewhat exasperated, “I knew the story would be fictional, but I thought you would get my grandparents right. The grandparents in your story aren’t anything like my grandparents.”

“Who cares?” the author responds. “It’s a work of fiction.”

“Well, I care,” you say, “because people will put down this book thinking that my grandparents were like the way you portrayed them.”

My biggest problem with The Shack is its portrayal of God. I understand that the book is a work of fiction, not a theological treatise, and therefore should be treated as fiction. But the main characters are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are actual Persons. To portray God in a manner inconsistent with his revelation to us in
Scripture (and primarily in Jesus) is to misrepresent living Persons.

When people put down The Shack, they will not have a better understanding of the Trinity (despite the glowing blurbs on the back cover). They will probably have a more distorted view of God in three Persons.

Wax groups his main problems with The Shack into three categories:

A very low view of the institutional church.
Jesus claims to not recognize the institution of the church as something he started. I understand the intense pain of being burned by a local church. Some readers will resonate with Young’s description of local church imperfections. But evangelicalism
is already plagued with solutions to suffering that emphasize “me and Jesus” or “me and God.” We need community! The Shack compounds the problems of individualism and makes the institutional church unnecessary and irrelevant.

A low view of the Bible.
The Shack so emphasizes the personal encounter with God in Mack’s mystical experience that the Scriptures become irrelevant. The Bible is reduced to words on paper that need to be decoded by those with theological training. Instead, “you will learn to hear my thoughts in yours,” says Sarayu (the Holy Spirit). “You might see me in a piece of art, or music, or silence, or through people, or in Creation, or in your joy and sorrow…” In other words, look everywhere else but the Bible to find God. Oprah would be pleased.

The distorted view of the Trinity.
There is absolutely no sense of transcendence and holiness. It is the “God is my buddy” perspective on steroids. Compare (better yet, contrast!) Mack’s encounter with God to the final chapters of Job or the stunning vision of God that Isaiah witnesses in the temple. One can hardly imagine Young’s “Papa” eliciting the same kind of response. The God of the Bible cares deeply how he is portrayed. To tamper with the way God has revealed himself is to put forth a false picture of God.
Read the entire review HERE.