The Shack [book] Reviewed

386px-ShackoverI have fought reading this book for a couple of years.  My reason was that if the fundamentalist cats were al about it than I wanted no part of it.  Much like my reaction the emergent movement when I first caught wind of it.  My gut reaction to most things is to reject them and play the superiority card.  Which I did in the case of “The Shack.”

I continued my rebellion against conformity with this project to read “The Shack” by not actually reading it.  I purchased it from iTunes as an audio file.  So I have technically not read this book.  Rather, I have listened to this book.  It helps me sleep at night.

Most of you now the context of the story; this guy Mack goes on a camping trip with his children.  There they meet up with a few folks ad they hit it off.  On the last day two of his children want to go out on the lake one more time.  As they are out an accident happens and the canoe flips and Mack saves his son from drowning.  In the heat of the moment his youngest daughter Missy turns up missing.  It is discovered that Missy has been abducted by the Little Ladykiller.

The FBI is involved and Mack is distraught.  The story moves to a place where Missy is assumed to have been murdered near ‘The Shack”.  Then one mysterious winter day Mack gets a letter from “Papa” telling him to meet him at the shack.

Mack goes to meet “Papa” at the shack.  There he encounters a mystical event.  He is met by Elousia, Sarayu, & Jesus.  Elousia is a large African-American woman who asks to be called “Papa.”  Sarayu is an Asian-American woman that is more gardener than anything.  Jesus is a carpenter of below average looks with olive skin and a scruffy beard.  Mack has a theophany with the Godhead.

I will admit that I really wanted to dislike this book. I like it.  It does not offer a radically different vision of the divine that I would not have already subscribed.  I do love the interplay between universalism and the radical message of gospel as an action of relationship to the Other.

I point to chapter 8, the beautiful interplay between the “natures” of God as radical considering the dominate Christian understanding in the world is relatively narrow in complexity regarding the nature of God.  Young’s daring to depict God as something to be engaged and not fully understood was wonderful.

The authors treatment of the Sarayu as this otherness of Holy spiritual energy sort of dancing around, neither here nor there to be refreshing.  It entertains a magnificent vision of Perichoresis.  I think the portions that engage the Spirit to be my favorite.

The most profound and enriching moments in the book for me were the elements of play and the divine.  God as a playful loving being available wholly to all and Holy in that action touched me deeply.

I found myself entranced by the emphasis on relationship.  It gave me another lens which to view the relationship between divine and profane.  Relationship seemed to be the message of the book.  Relationships between familiar circles that connect to other circles of relationship.  Creator and creation.  Father and daughter(s).  Husband and wife.  Victim and perpetrator.  Relationships are the fabric in which being is understood as it is the foundation of life.  We all engage in relationships.  The author delivered an alternative vision of God with the hermeneutic of community.

The book is ground breaking in its reach and exposure to alternative thought on God.  I hope that those that read this book explore deeply the nature of God and in relationships modeled in the books engagement of the Godhead.

If you read this book expecting groundbreaking theological work than you will be disappointed.  If you read this book to encounter a evenly paced well developed story you will also be disappointed.  This book tried very hard to give “it” all to the read.  I feel it was hurried in many parts.  The story seemed a bit insincere.  The emotional tenor of the book seems also to fall flat.  The failings of Mack were evident as the vehicle of the story.  If the story is read with Mack as one of many actors in the story that revolves around the divine mystery it would be read much, much better.

The story does well to offer alternatives to “traditional” thought on God and Gods relationship to creation.  I would recommend this book to all that are seeking different than what is generally out there.  I understand its wild success with evangelical youth seeking a voice that speaks to them.  I could see myself being transformed and secured in the loving arms of “Papa” as a youth.  It is a great leap forward in grace than the judging, Lording, doom-filled God of my evangelical youth.

Overall this book has something for everyone and may in fact prove to be this generations “Pilgrims Progress” as Peterson claims on the jacket cover.  As for me I admit my bias was based in an unfortunate case of pride and I regret not having read this book earlier.  It may have secured me to the grace of “Papa” as I too fought for reconciliation to my own loss.  I will repent by securing a copy and reading the book again.

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