August 28, 2008

William P. Young, The Shack

I've been very slow posting since we just finished moving and have been gettin settled, but I'm finally trying to catch up on some books I've finished recently. The first is The Shack. This book has become quite well known, and I dare say notorious, over the past weeks, and there's been a lot of discussion on the Web about it: it's theological underpinnings, it's quality as literature, etc. I recommend John Stackhouse's posts: post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4; also the review by Ben Witherington.

Because it has been so much talked about, I won't either summarize the plot or give a detailed theological critique. Both of those things have been undertaken elsewhere. What I will do, though, is give a brief appreciation of this great little book.

I think Young has written a powerful and imaginative tale dealing with important questions many Christians wrestle with, especially concerning justice and suffering. I love his imaginative portrayal of the Trinity as Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Though I think what has been said elsewhere does ring true: this isn't a systematic theology text, it is fiction, so it shouldn't be expected to fully and completely flesh out the doctrine of the Trinity. But I think it does illumine one great element of it: the tri-personal nature of God and the beauty of the interrelation between the persons. God's unity may get a little neglect in this portrayal, but I think that is okay, especially because modern Christians seem to have no problem with the oneness of God, but often neglect the Trinitarian tri-personality. That said, I also think the main thrust of the book is spectacular in it's power to confront the reader with the deep questions of suffering, tragedy, and trust. I know for me, it was especially convicting to be reminded that it was only in believing that God is really good that I could really trust him. The insight seems so simple, but its presentation made it profound.

In all, I do highly recommend this little book. It's certainly not perfect, but I am convinced that it can be a powerful story of God's love and grace. And, hopefully it will insight curiosity and interest in the deeper theological issues it touches on.

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