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Review: The Shack


Author: William Paul Young

Publisher: Los Angeles, Windblown

While on a family camping trip in the Oregon wilderness Mack’s young daughter is kidnapped and brutally murdered.  From then on his whole life is shot through with such deep grief and regret that his faith is affected. Four years after his daughter’s death he receives an enigmatic note inviting him back to the shack where a blood-stained dress was discovered. What Mack experiences is life-changing.

This work of fiction claims to take us to the very heart of God. Mack engages in a series of dialogues with each of the three persons of the Trinity and is gradually healed of his pain as he comes to understand more of who God really is.

I can see why many people are so enthusiastic about this best-seller. The topic is a popular one i.e. how do we reconcile human suffering and a caring God?

The book leaves us with an overwhelming feeling of God’s great love and his desire for a relationship with us. We may be encouraged to seek him out more actively; and if our love has grown luke-warm and our lives run more on rules and rituals, this book may provide a refreshing impetus for change.

However, for a number of reasons, I am uneasy about this book.  

The author attempts to give theological concepts a fresh perspective, but in the process distorts biblical truth. There is always the danger is that an undiscerning reader will accept the contents of the fictional dialogues as gospel truth. Yet the importance of the Bible as the Word of God is as good as overlooked; the Trinity is skewed by the very cosy and down-to-earth humanization of the Triune God (which many readers would condemn as blasphemous); the power, majesty and holiness of God is barely touched on; and the significance of the cross, sin and our need of God’s forgiveness is barely an issue. This disturbs me.

Any good feelings, emotional responses and appealing messages must be treated with discernment. Evaluate them in the light of God’s Word. Don’t rely on other books to tell you what is in the Bible. By all means read this controversial novel, but do so with an open mind as well as an open heart!

PS. After I had written this review I came across a particularly balanced appraisal which you may like to look up, particularly if you disagree with what I’ve written!

Grimmond, Paul 2008, We need more shack time, viewed 24 November 2008,

Added on 28/02/2009 by Jenni van Wageningen