Book Review …

The Shack

Warren F. Kenney

When the television program Touched by an Angel made its debut, my son called me and asked if I had watched it. I had not, and have not to this very day. He said they have a real theological problem. Watching programs that take such liberties with the word of God rank right up there with having your teeth cleaned with me.

I thought of that conversation as soon as I began reading The Shack by William Paul Young. Not everyone shares my lack of enthusiasm. My copy says it is “the #1 New York Times Bestseller with over two million copies in print.” The acknowledgments at the end of the book express the desire to put the story out in a film version. “The book will soon be appearing in more than 30 languages around the world and in audio versions in many countries,” says one reviewer. I was stunned when I typed The Shack into my web browser and came up with 6,420,000 hits. Such testifies to the book’s popularity. They were not all about the book, of course, but enough were to see the stir it has caused.

In defense of the book, I have to admit that it is very well written, a real page-turner. The end of every chapter leaves you eager to see what is going to happen next.

The story revolves around Mackenzie (Mack) Allen Philips whose youngest daughter, Missy, is kidnapped at a family vacation. Evidence of her murder is found in an abandoned shack in an Oregon wilderness. As a result of this, Mack enters into what the book calls his Great Sadness. Three and one half years later Mack receives a mysterious letter inviting him back to the shack for a weekend. It is signed Papa which happens to be his wife’s name for God. Although hesitant, he arrives at the shack to find that it has been (just for the weekend) transformed into a jewel in the wilderness sitting in an Eden-like setting. There he is met by God, who appears in the form of a large African woman, Christ who appears as a bumbling large nosed carpenter, and the Holy Spirit, who appears as a smaller Asian woman. Before the story ends, God appears as a pony-tailed grey haired man. Over the next two days, the four of them eat, take walks, work the garden, and even look into heaven where Mack is allowed to see Missy playing gleefully. Have you seen any theological problems yet? The list of religious leaders endorsing the book reads like a who’s who list of false teachers.

I read the book with a pen in hand so I could note various doctrinal errors. To discuss all of them is impossible in this article. I am sure I did not even catch all of them. Here is some of what I encountered in the book.

1. Organized religion is held up for ridicule, page 66. That even includes what the author calls “God’s religion.” One, as he reads the book, is made aware that the author has no clue of what “God’s religion” is all about.

2. When Adam sinned, the Godhead was forced to “roll up our sleeves” to avoid scrapping the whole creation, page 99. To the author’s credit, the solution was Christ, but he reveals ignorance of the fact that this was an eternal plan (Ephesians 3:11).

3. One’s punishment for sin is contained in the sin itself, so God does not need to punish people for their sin, page 120. Did not Jesus speak of everlasting fire in Matthew 25:41?

4. Offering thanks at mealtime is ridiculed, page 120. This is something Jesus Himself did while on earth, John 6:11.

5. In Christ, we are not under any law, page 203. There are no rules to keep. Pray tell, what did John mean in 1 John 2:3-4?

I have not scratched the surface of the theological problems in this book, but the title of the second chapter describes the contents better than I. That title reads “The Gathering Dark.” The entire book is a gathering of dark that can be shattered only by the light of God’s Word. –90 Waverly Ct., Martinsburg, WV 25401.

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