I know that while I’ve already linked to the comprehensive review by Tim Challies of Paul Young’s “The Shack,” I thought this review by Scott Lindsey at The Resurgence was well worth the look and your time.
Lindsey writes that for all that he loves about the book, “I wish The Shack had an Acts 17:11 tone: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than
the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the
Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
With the book’s repeated message that the Bible has been twisted by churches and pastors and
seminaries (and yes, sometimes it has), I wonder whether readers will walk away from The
Shack with a greater love for Scripture and more of a desire to study it, and more of a desire to
get involved in their churches and submit to their leaders, as Hebrews 13 commands us to. Sadly,
I’m afraid some readers will feel justified in further distancing themselves from both the
Scriptures and the church. And some may read meanings into Scripture that the biblical text itself
Lindsey says in his review that the portrayal of God and the the Trinity, while entertaining, is flawed and even dangerous.
One reviewer said “Systematic theology was never this good.” This concerns me. While to some
readers God will seem bigger, in certain respects God seemed more amusing and friendly, but
also somewhat smaller, more manageable, less threatening–someone not to be feared. If the
picture of God in The Shack is radically different from the impression people get from just
reading the Bible, this raises an obvious question.
It’s just a novel, just fiction, right? Yes, but when it comes with the hearty endorsement of someone like a Eugene Peterson and comes in a more accessible form than nonfiction books that take a more careful, scholarly approach to exploring the Trinity like Communion With The Triune God by John Owen or The Pleasures of God by John Piper, than it can be dangerous. People who are not well-grounded in the Word will accept something like this as truth.
And if that were not enough of a warning, there is a strong endorsement of universalism that comes through in the novel. This is what Lindsey says in his review:
When I read it without any preconceived notions, I noticed things in The Shack that hint at universalism. E.g., in the passage where “Papa,” God the Father, says—speaking of Buddhists and Muslims—that he doesn’t desire to make them “Christian.” What the author means by Christian is obviously critical. Some could argue that “Christian” is a cultural designation, that all Americans are Christian, Saudis are Muslim, etc., and that Christian is not a helpful term.
There is some truth to that, but Acts 11 says the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. That wasn’t cultural; it referred to true followers of Christ. So since this is in the Word of God, I don’t think it’s wise to portray God as disregarding the term Christian to the point that he would say he doesn’t want to make people Christian.
Lindsey does a thorough job of examining the book in his review. You would do well to read it and decide for yourself.