God and Fiction – A Look at The Shack, Part 5

Business first. Our May CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award poll ended without identifying a consensus winner, so we’re holding a run-off between the following:

The Run-off Poll will be open through next Tuesday.

– – –

On to The Shack. Without a doubt, my biggest concern about this book by William P. Young is its portrayal of God.

In actual fact, God has revealed Himself in His work of Creation and His Word—prophetic, written, and Incarnate. The latter is often referred to as “special revelation,” I assume because God did something that wouldn’t be considered the norm. Consequently, when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush, bushes didn’t become sacred, nor did lighting them on fire become a way to communicate with God. 😉

The thing that is most notable is how people reacted to special revelation. Here are a few examples (emphasis in each of the verses is mine):

  • Abram (later named Abraham by God) when God came to establish His covenant with him – “Abram fell on his face” (Gen. 17:3a).
  • Jacob, when God appeared to him in a dream – “He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven'” (Gen. 28:17).
  • Moses at the aforementioned burning bush – “Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex. 3:6b).
  • Samson’s parents when the angel prophesied his birth – “So Manoah said to his wife, ‘We will surely die, for we have seen God'” (Judges 13:22).
  • The people of Israel at Mount Sinai – “The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain … All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled … Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin'” (Ex. 19:20-20:20).
  • Isaiah in response to a vision of the Lord – “Woe is me, for I am ruined!/Because I am a man of unclean lips,/And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Is. 6:5).
  • Ezekiel in response to his vision of God – “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face” (Ez. 1:28b).
  • Daniel in response to his vision, of an angel or of the pre-incarnate Christ – “Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength” (Dan. 10:7-8).
  • John, Jesus’s beloved disciple, when he saw the vision of the resurrected and glorified Christ – “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One'” (Rev. 1:17-18a).

I’m belaboring this point for a reason. Consistently, throughout Scripture, when people had an encounter with the Living God, they responded with fear and trembling. That’s because God shows Himself to be Almighty, Glorious, Majestic, Holy. He is transcendent, unsurpassable, unique, beyond all we can imagine. His presence left people speechless. All they could do was fall on their faces.

Does the god of The Shack remotely resemble God?

She “messes with Mack” (p. 219); says she submits to him (rather than the other way around – p. 145); is unpredictable on purpose (p. 128), apparently because there’s more fun in mystery (“Who wants to worship a God who can be fully comprehended, eh? Not much mystery in that.” p. 100); refers to being perpetually satisfied as a “perk” for being God (p. 99); tells crude jokes; shows love without showing justice (pp. 161-163)—in other words, appears as anything but He Who is high and lifted up.

My impression, from Mr. Young’s imaginings, is that God the Father is more like a comfortably kind nanny; Jesus, like one of the good ol’ boys; and the Holy Spirit, like an ethereal sister.

Where is worship? The closest comes when Mack stumbles around to say thanks for his meal.

I understand that Mr. Young wants to stress God’s love and the relationship we can have with Him. But I believe this Shack view of God damages the true understanding of our relationship with God. Because He is the ruler of the universe, Creator and sustainer of all that has being, AND He loves me … how can I do other than fall to my knees in amazement and submission.

Seeing God in His glory, recognizing how unworthy I am to be in His presence, let alone be held in His hand, then realizing He sent His Son to bleed and die so I could know Him, astounds me.

Does The Shack help me see a kinder, gentler God who I’d want to hang with? Not at all. While God is infinitely kind and gentle, He is also just and holy. To ignore some of His traits is not to know Him as He has revealed Himself, putting into question the very existence of any true relationship.

Can I imagine chumming with God, as Mack apparently does for several days? Sort of. Like a child does with his dad. But If a child no longer sees his dad as a rightful authority in his life, then he’s no longer relating child to father. The Shack basically ignores God’s authority, His position as King and as Lord. Whatever relationship it is advocating, it is not the one God offers us.

Series continued in Part 6.

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm  Comments (7)  
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  1. Great review Rebecca! I really think you struck the right note in highlighting God’s hatred of sin, and the respect he deserves. It seems many these days can’t find the balance in between God’s love and his absolute holiness (which should make man tremble).


  2. Becky, I, too, think you’ve done an excellent critique of The Shack. I guess the level of shock for me was greatly reduced by all the controversy before I read it. I reviewed it as a novel and from a secure place in what I consider doctrinal issues. You could say I took it “lightly” because I expected to disagree with some of it, and I most certainly did. You’ve done a nice job of articulately expressing some problems with the assertions Paul presents in this novel without crucifying the author for his “positions”.

    (On a different note: how ’bout the unwritten “rules” of writing which advise writers not to preach or sermonize? Ha! This was one long sermon in a very short book. How many weeks on the NYT bestseller list?)


  3. Praise God!

    That’s what your post makes me do, Becky.


    One problem with dragging God down to level of chum is that it cheapens his grace. It makes his love nothing special. When we remember how high he is, it is truly cause for rejoicing when we think about how he condescends–how he stoops down to hear our prayers and to love us.


  4. […] you are not a regular reader at Becky’s blog, go over there right now and read this post. What a wonderful bit of reading for a Sunday […]


  5. […] The Shack, universal salvation, William P. Young Business. The May CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award run-off poll will run for two more days. Be sure to […]


  6. […] for their posts featuring Tuck by Stephen Lawhead. (You can find links to their posts on my blog: https://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/god-and-fiction-%e2%80%93-a-look-at-the-shack-pa… ) Congratulations to […]


  7. Brandon, Nicole, Sally, thanks so much for your comments. I appreciate the feedback .

    I agree, Brandon, that there seems to be an either/or when it comes to God’s love and His holiness. Scripture on the other hand, teaches that He is perfect love and perfect holiness.

    Nicole, astute observation that The Shack breaks all the don’t-be-didactic rules and was still a huge success. But I tend to think its new, fresh, shocking, “edgy” approach to spiritual things is just ear tickling.

    Sally, well said. We lose so much by trying to make God less than who He reveals Himself to be.



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