Dialogues With God- The Shack (Book Review)
Not many contemporary religious works make it to bestseller lists, much less to being made into a blockbuster movie. Love it or hate it, The Shack evokes reaction, rarely indifference. Ten years on, the novel originally written and handbound by its author for his children has gone on to sell millions, its effect rippling over widening circles outside its intended Christian audience.
From Handbound Gift to Bestseller
The author, William Paul Young, is a Canadian-born son of Protestant missionary parents, As recent as June 2018, Young said he used to see God in light of his father, that God was a God 'out there' who was distant, angry and was looking for an opportunity to hurt or punish.
By the time he wrote The Shack, Young's view of God has changed to one which is more inclusive, leading him to claim, "there's something in it (The Shack) for everyone". It’s not hard to see why such universal themes appeal to so many: the questions of evil and how this reconciles to a loving God.
It’s a story of the murder of a little girl and how, or rather how badly, her father copes with his loss. If you enjoy a story of redemption and are stimulated by age-old controversies regarding differing beliefs in God, I highly recommend this book.
Like a thriller, the novel picks up pace as Mack journeys to the shack where Missy’s bloody dress was found.
Set in winter, the story opens with an introduction to Mack, the protagonist. Although happily married with children, he’s depicted as a lonely soul within a wintry backdrop, conveying not just the dreariness of winter but a similar dreariness within Mack: the Great Sadness. He receives a mysterious note written by ‘Papa’, inviting him to the spot which has caused his Great Sadness. In a series of flashbacks, Mack relives the horror of his daughter’s murder as he wrestles with his decision. He is conflicted but decides to go.
Like a thriller, the novel picks up pace as Mack journeys to the shack where Missy’s (his daughter) bloody dress was found. He leaves immediately, the pain too great to bear but suspense builds as winter turned into spring right before his eyes. He looks back to find the shack transformed into an inviting home. He knocks and is greeted by God; Mack then finds himself a guest of God the Father (Papa), Jesus, God the Holy Spirit (Sarayu) and God’s embodiment of wisdom (Sophia). He spends a weekend at the shack asking God all the burning questions which have been repressed since Missy's death e.g. God's nature, evil, justice, judgement and relationships.
Mack Dialogues with God
- Questioning God’s Character
[Mack: “This can’t possibly be true!” (when Papa says He has never abandoned him)
Papa: “I’m not who you think I am..."]
- Why God Allows Evil and Suffering
[Mack: “But he didn’t stop it.” (referring to Missy’s murder)
Sophia: “He doesn’t stop a lot of things that cause him pain… You demanded your independence, and now you’re angry with the one who loved you enough to give it to you.”]
- Power in Relationships
[Mack: “… every human institution that I can think of, from political to business, even down to marriage, is governed by this kind of thinking (hierarchy)…”
Sarayu: “In your world the value of the individual is constantly weighed against the survival of the system… many are sacrificed for the good and ongoing existence of that system.”]
- Being in The Judgement Seat
[Sophia: “You believe he (God) will condemn most to an eternity of torment… You must choose two of your children to spend eternity in God’s new heavens …”
Mack: “I don’t want to be the judge…” How could God ask him to choose among his own children?]
Sophia: “You believe he will condemn most to an eternity of torment… You must choose two of your children to spend eternity in God’s new heavens …”
Mack: “I don’t want to be the judge…” How could God ask him to choose among his own children?
Everyone loves a happy ending and the novel doesn’t disappoint. Towards the end, the author ties up loose ends. The murderer is caught, Mack comes to terms with Missy’s death and is reconciled with his family.
This is a Christian fiction to be enjoyed as such. It's a story where humanity and divinity collide. It contains contrarian ideas about God, challenging readers’ stereotypes. The author does not shy away from questions haunting humankind throughout the ages and gives his takes on various controversies. This book may give the impression of a theological exposition given copious dialogues but I see it as an invitation to reexamine one’s beliefs.
This is Mack’s journey in seeking answers from God and the author has inspired me and I'm sure many others, to do the same.
© 2019 CC Leau