Now That the Movie THE SHACK is Coming Out in theaters …

shack-cover-noncomm-no-modI published this post a while ago when I first read The Shack. The original post was lost when my WordPress server had to be decommissioned. Now that the movie version is coming out, this may be of interest.

‘The Shack’ by William P. Young

Warning: If you haven’t read The Shack and are planning to read it, leave this review until later since I do discuss the content.

My overall rating is 4 stars. The Shack is a thought-provoking book well worth reading.

The Shack is a novel that tackles very difficult questions in a way that puts the reader in the very middle of the action and challenges him to tackle the questions in a personal way..

Mackenzie Allen Phillips lost his young daughter to a serial killer. MacKenzie called this trauma, which tormented his life, THE GREAT SADNESS. One day he receives a letter from Papa (his wife’s personal name for God) that invites Mackenzie to meet ‘Papa’ at the shack in the woods where Missy, his daughter, was brutally murdered. The shack is the last place in the world he wants to go, but eventually he decides to go without telling his wife.

God appears as three people (Papa, Jesus and another woman called Sarayu (wind)). Mackenzie is able to watch them interact, watch them serve him, and answer his questions. What Young achieves are scenes that are not simplistic, but rather convey to the readers the complexity of fashioning and then sustaining a world that has free will, independent agents that make moral choices (e.g. human beings) and God. Although God is All Powerful and Good yet He still has to work within His own rules and His own character and honor the free choices made by human beings.

For me, this book caused me to think about who God is and how simplistic my own caricatures of Him are because of the unconscious assumptions I bring to the table when I think about Him. For example, as C. S. Lewis has pointed out somewhere, in God moral character and will must coincide in some fashion. For human beings, morality is something objective that is above us, and we have a duty to obey these moral imperatives. However, if God had moral imperatives in the same sense we have, then He wouldn’t be God, since the moral law would be above Him. On the other hand if moral law were simply an invention by God, it would be arbitrary. As I read the book, I had to grapple with this conundrum. I saw that this fusion of morality and will in God is one of the things that puts Him beyond my understanding.

If you go to, and read comments on this book, you will find many that laud it, and some that most emphatically do not. Some of the objections are theological. Respondents argue that the book fails to properly account for some point of theology. I think that claim is fair, but it misses the point. Young has written a novel and wanted to bring us into an interaction with the person of God in a new way. I think it is better to learn what one can from the book, without trying to make it into a theological treatise.

If you’ve read the book or watched the movie, I would like to know what you thought of it.


About Peter Kazmaier

Lover of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Author of the SF series THE HALCYON CYCLE. I frequently re-read my favourite books.

Posted on March 5, 2017, in Authors-Favorite, Christian Worldview, Review and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I read the book some time ago and recently saw the movie for the first time.

    I found the book gave a very illuminating and thought-provoking portrayal of the main issues concerning the tensions between love and forgiveness, evil and judgement. But there were some theological issues on which I had significant reservations.

    In particular, I had difficulty with the portrayal of ‘Papa’ as a woman. However, the film brings out the reason for this much more clearly – Mackenzie’s own experiences of paternal abuse had prejudiced his understanding of God as ‘Father.’ It is only after he has got over this prejudice that ‘Papa’ can then appear to him as ‘Father’ in helping him through his most difficult trial – facing the full horror of his daughter’s death and forgiving the man who did it.

    The other main theological issue was whether or not the story was promoting the doctrine of ultimate universal salvation. Both book and film – correctly, I believe – make it abundantly clear that God’s passionate desire would be for all to be forgiven and freed from condemnation. That is something most of us would also like to believe. Yet Jesus’ own teaching indicates that there must be reasons why this is not possible. Neither book nor film offer a definitive answer to this question; and I rather think that attempting to do so would have been over-ambitious. But, given the major emphasis on reconciliation and forgiveness, it is easy to understand why some have reservations on this point.

    However, as a treatment of the main issue of, ‘Why doesn’t a loving God stop all these evils?’ I think the film is excellent. We seen it twice more, as we have shown it to a number of friends. All have found it deeply moving and very helpful in coming to terms with traumas that they or their loved ones have suffered.

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