My Impressions of “The Shack”

This is a list of what I liked and didn’t like about William P. Young’s book The Shack

Parts I liked:

The affects of wounding:  I think the author did a masterful job of connecting places of hurt, lack of forgiveness, childhood shaping, and other past experiences to a person’s relationship with God, with others, and with life. I felt that he did an excellent job of describing the types of wounds and lies that would probably have been internalized in a trauma like this.   I wept fairly often as I read some of these descriptions. In dozens of instances and in my own life, I’ve discovered the power of working through past wounding and how directly it affects a person’s relationship with God.

The love of God: Again, I found myself weeping at some of the descriptions of the love of God.  They were powerful and moving.

The allegory:  Overall, I liked the allegory that showed God’s accommodation to Mack—the Father appearing first as a woman and later as a man, after Mack’s father wounding had been healed.  It bothered me some that the Father appeared as a woman and even as a man—without His sense of glory, power, and authority, but I was, by and large, able to get past this, realizing it is an allegory.

The writing: I thought the book was well-written and fairly readable, although the more doctrinal and philosophical parts sometimes became difficult, even for someone, like me, who gets into those kinds of things.

The humanness of Jesus:  I agree with the core of the author’s perspective that we have often emphasized the deity of Christ and neglected to notice and appreciate his humanity.  Some of this may have been a bit overboard and understated the glory of the glorified Christ.  Yet, I believe that the scripture says that Christ will always be a man with a human body.  And I think the scripture clearly shows his almost-total dependence upon the Father during His earthly life.  Perhaps that continues, but I don’t know for sure.

The suffering of the Father: We sometimes miss how the Father suffered probably as intensely as the Son as He was crucified.

The relationship within the Trinity: I thought he did a great job of showing how relationship and love originated in the Trinity and how important this is to understand.

God’s sovereignty and man’s will: Again I think the author did a great job of explaining the Christian view of why God allows suffering and why He allows humans to do horribly evil deeds.  God’s ability to turn human evil to good and to comfort and rectify evil’s effects was also wonderfully illustrated.

Parts I didn’t like:

Egalitarian: The author is clearly egalitarian, denying the order and roles in the Godhead, which I believe have always existed and will always exist.  The Father is the leader and in authority, and the Son and the Spirit are in submission.  Also, the author’s understanding of men and women is incorrect, missing the roles of headship and submission that I believe are clearly taught in Genesis two prior to the fall.  I believe that the relationship of a husband and wife picture the roles within the Godhead, and that the God-ordained and complementary husband and wife roles should not be abandoned to egalitarian thinking.

Authority: The author went overboard in his belittling of authority.  The problem is with selfish, sinful authority, not with the structures of authority themselves.  He seems to view the institutions of government, church, and business as inherently evil and a grab for power by sinful men.  Yet the Bible clearly says that God set up each of these “institutions” and set up the authority within each.  My sense was that he thinks that the use of power in relationships is, in itself, inherently unloving.  But it’s the misuse of power that is unloving, not power itself.

Rights: the book goes too far when talking about our sinful propensity to set up our own standards of good and evil and claim rights for ourselves that we do not actually have.  It seems to state that humans have no rights, as though this sinful propensity nullifies our rights or makes them indiscernible to us.  Jesus did have rights and certainly had boundaries in His life.  In fact, His love is shown in his willingness to give up His legitimate rights when the Father asked Him to or when love required Him to.

The Wrath of God: The scripture does say, in Romans one, that a large part of our judgment for sin involves the natural consequences of sin.  I thought he stated this well.  Yet the scripture is also very clear, both in the Old and New Testaments, that God is also personally offended by our sin and has wrath against sinners, until we believe in Christ and receive the forgiveness offered in Him.  The wrath of God against sin and sinners was absent from the book and actually argued against.

God’s justice is minimize: God is viewed as all-loving and this seems to be placed in an improper contrast to His justice.  God’s justice is almost missing from the book.   I thought that it approached universalism, that everyone was God’s child and that God loves all, regardless of our actions, but I could not tell for sure, since some parts seemed contradictory on this.  From experience, I know that such a God-without-justice does not meet the need of people like Mack, who are legitimately angry and have difficulty forgiving for fear that the person will get off scot-free.  The end of Romans 12 encourages such people to trust in God’s ability to judge and punish people and yield up their usually-futile desires for personal vengeance.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19, NIV)

All through the Bible, you see that God is an avenger of evil.  That can and should give us comfort in regard to evil people who harm us.  Overall, I found this incorrect view of God’s justice and anger against sin to be the most troubling part of the book.

God is not disappointed in people: On page 205-206, the book says that God is not disappointed in His children. It almost seems to be saying that this is God’s attitude toward Christian and non-Christian alike.  But even with Christians, Ephesians 4:30 shows that God can be grieved and disappointed with Christians.  And the Old Testament prophets speak powerfully about God’s disappointment with His people, Israel.  And, unquestionably, the scripture says that God is disappointed and angered with unbelievers (Romans 1:18, Genesis 6:5-7), and sometimes even has hate for the wicked (Psalm 5:5, 11:5, Pro. 6:16-19, Jer. 12;8).

Incorrect view of shame: At one point, Papa (the Father) says, ““Papa spoke gently and reassuringly.  “Son, this is not about shaming you.  I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation.  They don’t produce one speck of wholeness or righteousness, and that is why they are nailed into Jesus on the cross.”

Again, this is an overstatement as shown in the following verse: “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10, NASB95)

Certainly there is a worldly sorrow that doesn’t produce “a speck of wholeness or righteousness,” but godly sorrow (including grief and shame) can be according to the will of God and produces repentance.  Shame concerning sin is an appropriate emotion.  Yet God has taken away the guilt of those who believe in Christ and we need not remain in shame.

Incorrect view of rules and law and discipline: I like the way relationships are emphasized, both with God and men.  But the downplaying of rules and priorities and discipline bothered me.  Relationships have rules.  You don’t spit on or slug someone you love.  So we could legitimately make a rule, “Thou shalt not spit on or slug your neighbor in selfish anger.”  You don’t ignore someone you love, so you could make a rule and discipline yourself to spend time with your spouse once a week in a heart-connecting date.  Relationships can’t be reduced simply to rules, yet rules and discipline are part of relationship, even our relationship with God.  Failure to follow the law (failure to love) destroys relationships.  We are not under the law of Moses, but we are under the law of Christ, which still requires us to love.

You can’t simply reduce all “rules” to something like “Always look to the Spirit and appropriate His power” (which is itself a rule).  The Bible gives us more than that.  Of course, looking to God is always needed, but reducing everything to this gives no sideboards for His direction through the Word, schedule, routine, etc.  Viewed properly, priorities, schedules, and routines are actually liberating, since the burden of constant creativity and of always being open to whatever the Holy Spirit might immediately lead in is an unbearable burden.  The Holy Spirit often leads by giving us disciplines, routines, schedules, and priorities, so that many of our decisions are made in more of an overall life direction.  Discipline is part of the Christians life, and a huge part.


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