Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thoughts on The Shack


I don't call this a book review, or anything official, but I did say in this post that I would try to follow up after I finished reading The Shack. Well, I finished it a long time ago--and what's worse is, I didn't buy it. I borrowed it from the library. This is unfortunate because I am a writing reader. I make notes in the margins, underline passages I like, and often make my own quote index in the back of a book. All this while telling Camilla not to write in books. Ahem. Before I returned it to the library, I did write down some of my favorite quotes from the book. And I remember my impressions. I had a love-hate relationship with the book at first--not only because of the subject matter, mostly because some of it was rambling and wordy. But more often than not, while I was immersed in the pages, the words rang true in my soul. When I set it down, I almost felt like I had been reading the Bible. (Calm down now, I said "almost".) Wm. Paul Young's portrayal of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was that real, that true to the character of God. As I read The Shack, I often found myself thinking, "Yes. This is the God I know. This is my Jesus!"

The Father is Papa, a woman, and a black woman at that, the Son is Jesus, an ordinary-looking man, and the Holy Spirit is Sarayu, a wispy, ethereal woman-like spirit. I'm not going to get too deep into the storyline or explain why God is portrayed as a woman--if you have a problem with that, you'll have to read the book for yourself. While it's not the most well-written book in the world, it is amazing. My favorite professor in college used to talk about two facets of literature--form and content. Many times, I read what modern critics deem "good writing" and I think, Well, sure the form is beautiful, but the content doesn't even deserve the paper it's taking up! With The Shack this was not the case. Maybe the form could use a little polishing, but the content! Oh, the content!

I'll give you just a little taste of this feast of God's presence.

People are fond of talking about having our priorities right and, especially Christians, about putting God first. Sometimes it's insinuated that putting God first is equivalent to getting up early to read your Bible and pray. Now, there is nothing wrong with that quiet time, and I would benefit from having my quiet times more regularly, but the following take on that perspective just seemed so fresh to me.

From page 206, Sarayu speaking:
"The trouble with living by priorities is that it sees everything as a hierarchy, a pyramid . . . If you put God at the top, what does that really mean and how much is enough? How much time do you give me before you can go on about the rest of your day, the part that interests you so much more?"
Later on the same page, Papa said, "I want all of you and every part of your day."

There's much more I could share. . . but I'm not going to fill my blog with quotes. Read the book. Plow through the wordy parts and search for the gems that resonate with your soul. I'm so glad I did.

7 comments:

  1. I really loved this book, too, Alison. I agree that you must overlook form when the content shines.

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  2. Thanks for giving your final thoughts, Alison. I've had this on my shelf forever, started and never finished. I agree, it could have used some major help by an editor. I will go back and re-read from the beginning. I promise!

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  3. Hi Alison - I've heard a lot about The Shack - everyone who's read it likes it as much as you do. I think I'll give it a try b/c I think my faith life could use an injection of imagination.

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  4. I haven't read it yet, though my mother-in-law really enjoyed it, others I know didn't. I did listen to an interview with the author on one of my favorite websites. Here is the link: http://stevebrownetc.com/2008/05/podcasts/steve-brown-etc/the-shack-william-paul-young-on-sbe/

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  5. I appreciated what it was trying to do but I really didn't like it. Found myself skimming toward the end because it became sort of obvious.

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  6. Was waiting patiently for your review, as I had read the book and both liked and loathed(alliterates so much better than loved and hated ;-)the book. Did lots of research both before and after reading the book, and found that while the intent of the book was good, the theology was certainly questionable.

    I guess if people go into it with that understanding, it can be instructive. It is certainly his journey to understanding God, and is very emotional. I did find that sometimes his emotions overshadow the truth of God's Word.

    There are many critiques of the book online, both positive and negative, and I hope those who read it will be diligent to separate the fact from the fiction. (still more alliteration!)

    2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

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  7. Anonymous! Identify yourself! What did you find obvious? I didn't think the plot twist towards the end was obvious, but I've been known to be especially clueless about what's coming up next in a book or film.

    Steven, I will try to listen to that podcast. Was your pastor on the radio with Janet Parshal yesterday? Did he cowrite the book Why We Are Not Emergent?

    Tim, I don't remember questioning the theology--maybe mildly. But I like art that challenges our own ideas about things and prompts us to question what we believe. We usually end up closer to the truth than we were before we examined our core assumptions. I'd be interested to know how you felt it conflicted with God's Word.

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