Every once in a while, a book with Christian themes breaks out of the church world and gets notariety on the larger culture. The most recent phenomenon is the non-fictional novel titled The Shack by William P. Young. Right now, this book is #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list for non-fiction paperback trade books. It has been read by millions of people, and is creating a lot of discussion in the church world. Some, like Christian recording artist Michael W. Smith and Eugene Peterson, the editor of the Bible paraphrase The Message, have promoted this novel. Meanwhile, many others are raising issues about the book. While many of you are probably unaware of this book, many of you have read it, or have had it suggested to you. Normally, I am careful about commenting on issues, but I also think it is important that we are discerning when important spiritual and theological issues arise. So I thought I would post a blog with some links to a few people that I highly respect so that you could read or hear their words about the problems in the book.
Like every novel attempting to “picture” God, the danger is that in trying to represent one aspect of God and the Trinity, often the one seeking to illustrate certain truths will slip into heresy in other areas. This is the problem with this book. So, I want to encourage you to check these critiques out with an open mind. If you have read the book and were compelled, listen to what these people who are thinking theologically have to say, and discern if their issues are fair. If someone has recommended the book, but you have not read it, check these things out beforehand so that if you read the book, you can do so with an eye to spot the concerns and errors. If you know of people who claim to have had their lives changed by reading the book, be careful about being overly critical. Rather, use discussions about The Shack as opportunities to affirm positive images created of the Trinitarian God while also pointing out mistakes in belief that the book makes.
The reason that this is so important, and why I am taking a few minutes to write this is because our understanding of God shapes everything in our spiritual lives. In the book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer said:
“The gravest question before a person is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God … Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ‘What comes into your mind when you think about God?’ we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man…Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightiest word in any language is its word for God…”
Every heresy, and every major mistake in Christian faith begins with a misunderstanding of the Trinity. We must be diligent to look to Scripture and allow God to reveal Himself to us. Furthermore, we must be passionate about “defending the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). So here are some people who are much smarter than myself with comments (and a radio program and video) about The Shack. Check these out, and form solid, Biblical opinions. Glory to God alone!
1. This is from Hank Hanegraaf, host of the Bible Answer Man radio program.
2. Visit this book review that is part of the blog on theresurgence.com, a website hosted by Mars Hill Church that deals with issues of the Gospel and culture.
3. This is a video of Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church as he speaks in a recent message on the doctrine of the Trinity.
4. Dr. Al Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and host of the Al Mohler Radio Program. Listen to his program as he talks about the book. The first segment of the program is not about The Shack, but the last three segments are about the novel.
*Update (12/11/2008 at 2:13 PM) – It was pointed out to me that I made a mistake in this. Since The Shack is a novel, it is a fiction work. I get those two confused, fiction and non-fiction.