Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Shack - Review

About 2 years ago I first read this book "The Shack" and although because of the circumstances, the first part of the book was not easy to read, I was absolutely delighted with the spiritual truths written therein. I'm sure that people who have read the book, (and there are millions world wide) know that the author did not write it for publication but as a story for his children.

I know that it has been posted on many blogs over the months but I want to share here a review by Brian, a friend of mine from Kentucky. I personally think this is the best review I have read so find no need to add to it further. I hope that someone finds it helpful as this book is so steeped in controversy.

Review of The Shack
by Brian Coatney

Last year I noticed that occasionally a friend would ask me, “Have you read The Shack?” Acknowledging that I hadn’t, the next response was, “ I’m eager to hear what you think of it when you do. " My reasons for not picking it up sooner have to do with the fact that I watch old movies instead of read fiction. Just now still recovering from two glaucoma surgeries and limited in my usual reading, my wife, Tandy, began reading the book aloud, a chapter or two a day. Knowing absolutely nothing about the book, not even the central story line, I might as well have been living on a desert island, for which I’m thankful since the storm of controversy surrounding the book has just begun to filter into my awareness now that I’ve read the book.

From the beginning, both the story and the bursts of literary delight drew me in, and a cord of tension settled in that only got wound more tightly, with ever increasing intensity. I began to think, “I want to put this book down and run as far away from it as I can. ” Why? The reasons are no different from what life is: life is a series of losses and the grief we feel over them, which only mount as we awaken to the desperation everywhere around us. The book, then, though a work of fiction, does not provide the hoped for respite from life that movies and fiction can thankfully give us at times.
However, to shrink back from the dire aspects of The Shack also cuts one off from its divine ecstasies. As usual, the very nerves in our makeup that register pain also register pleasure, “and at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore ” (Psa. 16:11).

The book’s approach is unconventional to say the least for a Christian work of art. The presentation of the Godhead is so unexpectedly wild and outrageous that it forces the reader to decide if such a presentation is an attack against the scripture or a creative opening up of scripture’s innermost purity and desire by God to speak to us where we are. Nothing in the book seemed to me anything more than a simple bubbling fountain of God’s very heart, so I jumped in and went with the characters.

When a reader does this, all kinds of theological warning flags might get overlooked; longstanding doctrines might even seem challenged, and I say seem. Careful inspection might turn up all kinds of knotty difficulties for debate: “ Why did the author say this?” or “ Why didn’t the author say that, or make such and such clear or clearer? ” Pretty soon, we’d have a demand for a comprehensive, doctrinal work.

This is not a slam on doctrine; doctrine is essential, and correct doctrine at that. But when experiencing The Shack, I picked up a more important consideration, that of an overwhelming beauty and truth that offers itself in such a way that the only ones who find it are those who see past what my old Bible teacher, Norman Grubb, called warts or the appearance of flesh level manifestations. Readers of the book who see through and let the suffering and the ecstasy of this book envelop them will not let it be reduced to its weaknesses or errors, either real or perceived. I’m just mischievous enough not to go into that further.

The overwhelming aspect of the book is God’s love, His forgiveness through the cross, His desire to live in us and relate to us in union with Him, and the lengths to which He will go to open up our hearts and minds to His nature and patient processes with us. These are not new themes, and the author wouldn’t even claim such. The presentation in The Shack is unique and riveting, full of rapture and poetry to recue our deepest sadness and alienation from a God who invites us into the radical outward boundaries of His limitless freedom.

Thanks to William P. Young and his fellow writers for a monumental contribution to our generation. Many vivid pictures of sublime truth have made a home in my mind and imagination forever.


Susan said...

es, a great review and I couldn't agree more. I am very much a "Word" person and I love the Word but I think we must fight constantly not to get stuck in the mire of "oughts" and "shoulds". Also known as legalism to which the contemporaries of Jesus surcomed and missed the Christ.

Needled Mom said...

I haven't read it yet, but do appreciate such a wonderful review.

Jenny said...

I have read 'The Shack' and as i work in a christian bookshop have sold lots of them. I very much enjoyed it and it certainly made me think about the relationship of the trinity and how it related to me. What i have told people who wasn't sure about buying it is this. Just remember it is fiction, you wouldn't get your theology from it, it is a story book. But there is lots in it to make you think, especially the part about suffering. Enjoy it and let it open your mind to the way God wants to relate to us and love us.
Jenny <><

Lorrie said...

Thanks for this review. I have read the book and was overwhelmed by the love of God for individuals as expressed. Creative, very "out of the box" but we need to be shaken out of our western conceptions sometimes to grasp other realities of truth.

a woman who is said...

That was an exceptional review. I very much agree with his thought process. The point of the story was not perfect doctrine, but a bit of reveal about the heart of "Papa" towards us.

Thanks for sharing this Barbara.

Charm and Grace said...

I have heard so much about this but have not read it yet. After hearing your thoughts and this review, I just might check my library for it. I have been reading John Piper's "When I Don't Desire God." It is very good so far, and also sort of "out of the box" thinking.


Mike said...

I read it this year and really enjoyed it, although found it hard to get into at first :)

Anonymous said...

Hia Barbara, thank you for popping in to my blog.
Yes the stones were blackish in some places. In Oxford the buildings get like that too from the car fumes so every now and then you see a college under wraps as it is cleaned back to a honey colour.

Would you believe I hadn't heard of this book? Thanks for the review, I'll keep my eye out.

Elizabethd said...

I've heard so much about this book, but havent been able to find a copy here....maybe next time we are in UK.

Anonymous said...

I read this book last year. I agree it is very hard to read at first. I have hesitated to encourage my daughters with young daughters to read it. They will be able to in time. For me I have come a long way from my image of Father, Son and Holy Spirit to a point where the Trinity was so believable and applicable to me, I loved it. 10 years ago I would have seen it as disrespectful. Blessings

Sue said...

My husband and I listened to this book on tape on one of our long trips. It brought on a lot of discussion and we are still unsure about the book and continue to discuss it between us. It did have some truths and insights-making us think but also was a bit twisted for new Christians to read and grasp. It is fiction and we kept reminding ourselves of this. I had heard so much about the book and knew we had to read it but to be honest it was so different from what I expected that I was a bit disappointed.

Sue said...

Thanks for stopping by thistlepatch! I do agree that if we can get folks to start thinking about God and asking questions, great! I am not really sure what I was expecting when I read the book but was intrigued as many local churches had sign posts inviting people to come and join in discussions. If there is follow up for a new believer once the book has piqued their curiosity about salvation, great, it has done a good job. I just don't want this book to become folks'scripture in lieu of God's Word.

Struggling with evil forces around the world and heinous crimes, I have often had a hard time forgiving or even understanding such behaviors. I really had to think about it after reading this book as the author did cause me to really think about evil-doers as children of God. I know that no matter what I will ALWAYS love my sons and with that perspective I now have a better understanding about God's love for all. I will never fully understand it until I meet Him face to face. And what a blessed assurance that is!

Rachel said...

Hello Barbara - thanks so much for leaving a comment on my blog. I've only recently discovered yours and I love it! Yes, Shropshire is a wonderful county - and definitely lots of photo opportunities!

I haven't read "The Shack" so I found the review you posted very interesting

Jenny said...

Barbara, i have read your 'My Story' and i can relate to many things you said. I too have had anxiety, agoraphobia and panic attacks and have been healed by God. My mum was taking all those drugs you mentioned during the 60's. I had pleasure trying to guess the names of the people you carefully changed (naughty me. Then i read your last part of the story and checked out some of your other posts. And i do beleive we live in the same borough and that only a few weeks ago i was at that school you mentioned and have prayed over the borough from the same place you have, the highest point. My daughter takes a group from where she lives to Pilgrims Hall every year and Lee shows the kids around the farm. I have been considering going there for lunch one day. Our paths could have crossed and we haven't realised it. If you would like my email just comment on my last post. You may have visited the Christian bookshop i work in. That would be a coincidence.

Jenny <><

Adrienne said...

Thank you for sharing this review of 'The Shack'. I read the book and, at first, wasn't sure about it but once I got going with it I couldn't put it down! And then I had the pleasure of meeting the author - and leading music at an event where he was speaking. Come to find out he and I grew up in the same church background and now many of the same people. He spoke at the event again last year and it was so wonderful to see him and get a big hug and hear from his heart about what God is doing around the world with his little book that was merely intended for his children. Next month, once again, he and I will share the 'stage' at the same annual event and I will lead the people in worship and then listen to what God gives him to share with us. And I'm excited to hear an update from him - I understand he is writing another book. I believe it's his own story! Thank you again for reminding me of the truths I learned to see in a different light through this book. ~Adrienne~

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I wanted to stop by and thank you for commenting on my journal today. What I discovered was a beautiful review of a book I have read and enjoyed. I'll be back to visit again soon.

Sara said...

Thanks for sharing this interesting review. As you know, I had mixed feelings about the book. Personally, I found much more of God's love made real to me in Julian of Norwich, or in Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God. However, that being said, The Shack is, as others have noted, not meant to be a theological treatise but a simple story. It has its good points and I am glad I read it. One thing is for certain - it is unique in its portrayal of God! I do wonder about what ideas it may give new Christians who aren't yet well grounded. I guess I have to say I'm rather ambivalent about the story!

traveller said...

Thank you very much for that review. I too was able to be present at a service where the author was interviewed in Arizona.
That interview threw a lot of light on to the reasons for the book ( for his Children). It is not meant to be a book on theology, it is ficton but does it ever stretch your whole idea about the trinity and purpose of the 3 persons and their roles. I enjoyed it.
Greetings from BC Canada.