“Mark, you’ve got to read The Shack.”
“Read The Shack yet? It’s total heresy from cover to cover isn’t it?”
“Man I’ve just finished reading The Shack. It has completely changed the way I think about God.”
William P. Young’s The Shack must be one of the most divisive Christian works since Luther nailed a copy of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Ok, that’s an exaggeration to underline the point that if you travel in a “sanctified” crowd you’ve most likely come into contact with supporters and detractors of the book over the last while.
Everyone from Nominal-Christians to Full-Blown-out-there-Crazy-Fanatical-Christians have an opinion on the religious virtue, life changing influence or divine depth of the book. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many referrals and rebuttals in my life. The book must have changed the lives of at least 10 people whom I know personally.
A common theme amongst the advocates of the book is to read it with your heart and not your head, It’s a bit of a mantra, and so, with this in mind, I picked the book up in December last year and immersed myself in the head of Mack, the lead character.
I really enjoyed the story line. Well, you can’t exactly say that can you? The story is macabre, if you’ve read it you know what I mean. It had real characters, real life dirty grizzly problems and a happy ending. It was a read in a few hours; think about for a whole while longer kind of book. I laughed, cried (nobody tell Liezl) and did a lot of thinking.
But here’s the catch: this book cannot be read with just one’s heart and not one’s head because the story is transparently a metaphorical wrapping for the author’s true intent: a presentation of God. Who He is. How He acts. And how we should react to Him.
Intertwined in the riveting story are a number of discussions between the lead character and God. And the subject matter of these conversations is not recipes, rugby or rainbows but rather Theology. Who is God, how does He communicate with humans, what happens to us when we die, what is the nature of the Trinity, what is the church and how does salvation work?
I’m firmly convinced that many Christians who read this book will define much of what they believe about God on it. By that I mean Post Modern Christians no longer spend time studying Scripture to find God, but rather trust in the plethora of 20th century authors out there who sculpt and mould their view of God and then present Him for the best selling price of R99.00 at your nearest CUM bookstore (now only R69.00 in the post Christmas sale!).
Because the author was talking about spiritual things maybe some Scripture would be wise to keep in mind. Paul writing to the Thessalonians in his first letter chapter 5 and verse 21 says:
Describing the citizens of Berea in Acts Chapter 17 verse 11 he says that they:
Paul had a high regard for Scripture and so should we. Books, movies, tv and all other media that influences our lives should be measured against Scripture.
What defines your understanding of God? The fickle wind of the times? The best selling author of the day? The preacher in the pulpit? Or is it Scripture? Jesus Christ while committing His disciples and all who would one day follow Him in faith, in John chapter 17 verse 17 says:
Jesus too had a high regard for the Word of God, His Word.
What did you use to read The Shack: Your heart or your head? Does it matter?