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The Shack by William P. Young

The Shack

by William P. Young

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,907442338 (3.45)283
  1. 40
    Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory (soflbooks)
    soflbooks: David Gregory's short story about a man who accepts a dinner invitation with Jesus is better written than The Shack and sticks to evangelical theology.
  2. 10
    Thrones for the Innocent by C. W. Kesting (Desmorph)
    Desmorph: Thrones for the Innocent is a stunning compliment to The Shack. It addresses the metaphysical mysteries of ontology and theology without preaching. Where The Shack speaks directly to and about God and the Christian Trinity; Thrones is both subliminal and aggressive. Thrones helped me deal with the frustration I felt in my own heart about the paradox of the existence of evil and and all-loving all-powerful Creator. Thrones is very spiritual and yet avoids struggling with the convolution of structured religion. it should raise some eyebrows as well as quiet some tortured hearts.… (more)
  3. 10
    Rooms by James L. Rubart (paulstalder)
    paulstalder: ähnliche Handlung: Ein Mann kommt in ein Haus und kommt mit seiner Vergangenheit ins Reine
  4. 00
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel by Jonathan Safran Foer (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Another story of searching for meaning after personal tragedy and questioning why bad things happen.

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English (424)  German (6)  Portuguese (Brazil) (5)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  All languages (441)
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Full disclosure: I was raised in a Calvinist church. My grandfather is a Calvinist preacher. I consider myself to be Calvinist. I am reasonably well-read on both the scripture and religious philosophy.

If that hasn't scared you off, then onward to the review:

The Shack is the story of a man whose young daughter is abducted, leaving him guilt-ridden and wracked with anger against God, who he blames for taking his daughter away from him. After years of suffering under what he refers to as The Great Sadness, he receives a note from "Papa", the moniker his saintly wife Nan uses to refer to God, to meet him at the same shack where his daughter was apparently murdered. He arrives to find an African-American woman (God), a Middle-Eastern man (Jesus), and an Asian woman (the Holy Spirit), who talk to him about religious philosophy.

The problems with this book are so numerous that I almost falter knowing where to start. The writing is poor. It is soaked in poverty. It is, to put it bluntly, Bad. There is no such thing as characterization, the author instead relying on "shocking" things, like God speaking with a borderline racist stereotype of a Southern African-American accent, Jesus sounding like a five-year-old, and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit), being described in terms of fractals and ephemeral grace, because those are the biggest words the author could find in his thesaurus under "impressive".

Beyond that, the beginning is a detailed, uncomfortable description of the main character's recollections of his daughter's abduction. He is at a campsite where he meets people who are Too Good to Be True and inexplicably tells them about his abusive father - because these are things real people share with nearly complete strangers upon first meeting them. Rather than being uncomfortable, they offer Sage Words of Wisdom, because that's how people talk in this book. They never have real conversations or act like normal people, they are all tiny little books of Proverbs, spouting off cliches and advice whenever they are shoehorned by the author into speaking.

The plot, and I use that word loosely, goes on to describe the investigation into his daughter's disappearance. Here's where I went from skeptical to almost embarrassed for the author. Given the theme of the book, it would have been perfectly acceptable - and even made more sense - to have it be a random act of violence that happens every day. Instead, the author dwells like a macabre CBS procedural over the "Ladykiller" and how he leaves a ladybug at the scene of each crime, its back painted with the number of children he has killed. It's so theatrical that is takes away from the gruesome nature of the crime. Again, it would have made more sense for this to be a random sicko who abducted a little girl and murdered her; to throw in a serial killer and go into such detail about his modus operandi is unnecessary and even counter-intuitive to the message, as it suggests a system when random and chaotic would have worked better for the main character's grief and confusion.

Gradually, we get to the shack, and the meeting of Mac (the main character) and the personifications of the Holy Trinity. I've already spoken a little about the problems with them, but let's go into another, since there are so many to choose from. As I said, each of the characters isn't really a character, just a chance to spout off half-baked, pop religious philosophy. Mac himself is of little use. His main role seems to be saying, "Whoa! I never thought about it like that!" a lot and never truly questioning what he's taught. He's like a first-grader dutifully parroting back Sunday school stories, which is aggravating if you picked this book up expecting a little bit more thought put into things. It reads only slightly more believable than a Jack Chick track wherein people ask, "The Bible? What's that?" in tones of awed confusion.

Each chapter is prefaced with a quote, and one of them is T.S. Eliot's, "Oh my soul ... be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions". If only. Mac brings up several good points, which are then answered with flimsy explanations with so many holes in them that I can only charitably assume Mac has no idea where to start. This book seems to rely on blind faith, not faith itself. Faith with no stumbling blocks is not faith, it's ignorance. If you can't really ask the question, "Why do these bad things happen?", then you're not faithful, you're just avoiding thinking about things too hard in case you don't have an answer.

Which brings us to the final problem with this book. I used the phrase "pop religious philosophy" earlier, and perhaps I was being churlish with that description. Theodicy is not exactly an obscure part of theology. It's been debated about for thousands of years and probably will be for thousands of years to come. Did I expect this book to offer a definitive answer? No, of course not. But I did expect it to come up with something a little more than what it was.

Young has basically taken Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and used the same argument, but much less gracefully or provokingly. He has mish-mashed a confused cobbling of "God loves everyone!" and "Free will!" with much more complicated religious views, and churned out what isn't so much a learned discussion on the role of evil in the world as a collection of religious bumper stickers. This is problematic to say the least. Calvinists, as I stated I am, don't believe in free will, but this is not a theological debate, so I won't go further into why. Suffice to say that if you do believe in predestination, you're going to be irked by the flat-out rejection of this belief (and somewhat hilariously judgmental deeming that people who do believe in predestination are Wrong).

Mere Christianity is a graceful explanation and expansion of certain views of theodicy. The book, guided heavily by the Bible, amounts to an almost unassailable answer to the problem of evil. (Here I will remind people that I am rather biased in this issue). One may attack it by saying they do not believe in God, which is perfectly fair, but within the logic itself - that is, assuming that God does exist - the logic holds. (Mostly. I do have some questions about it, but they're the good kind, which in turn suggests a good book, particularly as C.S. Lewis actually did believe in free will. A good book isn't judged by whether or not you agree with it, but how much it makes you question your beliefs. The Shack only made me question my will to read on to the next page.)

What Young has done in The Shack amounts to taking the blueprints for Lewis's and others' more brilliant works and constructed a similar argument. However, instead of using timber and nails, he has used matchsticks and duct-tape. Not surprisingly, the entire thing starts to fall apart if one pokes at it the wrong way.

I could go on, but suffice to say that this is not at all a good book. It is not thought-provoking to anyone who has even the slightest whiff of knowledge about theology. It is not intriguing to anyone who does not clutch their pearls in horror at the (gasp!) blasphemous thought of God being an African-American woman. It is not even pleasant to read in the writing itself.

I urge you to read Mere Christianity, if you want to read about theodicy, or Augustine, or any other number of books out there which approach the theme, regardless of your religious, or even atheistic, inclinations - not to convert you, but to make you think and question, which is more than this book ever did. I can guarantee that almost any one of them will be more interesting, better written, and more thought-provoking than this shallow collection of wasted pages and ink.
( )
  kittyjay | Apr 23, 2015 |
A story of mystery and spirits and things that are not what they seem and a dream that is sometimes a dream and sometimes it is not and no one can tell the difference. ( )
  mrkurtz | Apr 20, 2015 |
Life-changing read. The themes of this book still shake me. ( )
  shdawson | Mar 2, 2015 |
I sorta suck as a critic because I tend to like things way more than I dislike them, but this book is compelling and I finished it thinking that I needed to flip it right back to the beginning and start again because there is so much to process and chew on. This is a challenging and powerful read. It will leave you with a great deal to think about. ( )
  KarenKimsey | Feb 16, 2015 |
What a wonderful book! The devotionals are a wonderful accompaniment to The Shack. ( )
  Mokihana | Jan 6, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 424 (next | show all)
I read this book awhile back and would def tell others about it. Parts of it were confusing. But the story line was so emotional for me, I lost a child as well and I could relate to all the "why me' and "why my daughter" It gave me great peace reading and I have 3 copies that I pass along when I feel the need that someone may also enjoy reading this book. I also hope my books are passed from person to person,, as needed.
added by waterforelephants | editNY, LG (Apr 21, 2011)
Would I recommend this book? No, I would not. It is full of theological problems as well as an irreverent and casual attitude toward God. Yes, there are nice things in it and people might even be helped by the book. But so what? There are some nice things in Mormonism, too. Should we encourage people to read the Book of Mormon because Mormonism might help someone feel better? Not at all.

Sadly, experience has shown me that most Christians aren't interested in biblical fidelity. No, I'm not talking about biblical nit-picking. I'm talking about fidelity to the revealed word of God to the point where we don't contradict what is plainly stated in scripture!

We Christians should regard the word of God as the final authority on all things, and any supposed accounts of actual occurrences should be compared to scripture, not our feelings, wants, and desires. In the case of The Shack, the book falls woefully short of scriptural truth in many important areas and has the strong ability to mislead people regarding God's nature, work, and plan for us.

Again, I do not recommend it.
Focusing on just three of the subjects William
Young discusses in The Shack, we’ve seen that
errors abound. He presents a false view of God
and one that may well be described as heretical. He downplays the importance and uniqueness of the Bible, subjugating it or making it equal to other forms of subjective revelation. He misrepresents redemption and salvation, opening the door to the possibility of salvation outside of the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We are left with an unbiblical understanding of the persons and nature of God and of His work in this world.

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William P. Youngprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mueller, RogerNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This story was written for my children:

Chad-the Gentle Deep,
Nicholas-the Tender Explorer,
Andrew-the Kindhearted Affection,
Amy-the Joyful Knower,
Alexandra (Lexi)-the Shining Power,
Matthew-the Becoming Wonder

And dedicated first, to:

Kim, my Beloved, thank you for saving my life.
And second, to:

"...All us stumblers who believe Love rules. Stand up and let it shine."
First words

Who wouldn't be skeptical when a man claims to have spent an entire weekend with God, in a shack no less?
March unleashed a torrent of rainfall after an abnormally dry winter.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0964729237, Paperback)

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:55 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Mackenzie Allen Phillips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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