Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book Review: The Shack

I just finished reading "The Shack" by William Paul Young. I'm not a professional book reviewer so my thoughts are pure opinion, but here goes.

The things that resonated with me in this book:

The character of the Holy Spirit was, at first,the hardest for me to identify with, but as I read further, the joy, the beauty, the music, the laughter, and the loveliness of all things created that was incorporated in the character of the Holy Spirit began to draw me. I finally grew to love the ethereal aspect of this character and, in fact, have often thought that part of the triune God that shows up in the human as creative and soulful is like the Holy Spirit. The heart of us, so to speak, is akin to that aspect of God. In the end, this turned out to be a wonderful and beautiful characterization to me.

The message that God thinks we're special to Him also resonated with me. I have trouble with all the bashing I do to myself...it's one of the reasons I've struggled with writing devotionals. I tend to nit pick at my failings in my walk with God. It's almost like I take a secret pride in pulling out the proverbial whip and flailing myself for all my faults and ways I've not served or not noticed or not DONE enough, and this book opened my eyes further to how much we beat ourselves up in the Christian community. In the past few years, I could hear the still small voice of God saying to me that Christ did not come to condemn the world, so a part of me was already coming awake to this restless notion that perhaps I was being too hard on myself and my fellow believers. Therefore, reading the characterization of a loving and forgiving God felt real to me and of importance.

The things that didn't resonate with me:

There were minuscule political homages paid to humanistic thinking peppered through the book that felt jarring to the spiritual over-all theme. Not too many, but just enough that when I read them, they stood out like a white dot against a black background and those few sentences interrupted my flow of thinking spiritually as I read. It distracted me to annoyance at times and sometimes prompted me to put down the book for the night.

The writing itself, though more than adequate, often didn't strike me as superb or gripping. I noticed things like repeated words in a phrase and too many of that kind of thing makes me lose my train of thought and begin to think of other words that could have replaced the too often used word. Maybe that's just a quirky writer thing, but it did bug me.

The ideas presented, though refreshing in some ways, weren't so terribly new that I gasped and said, "Wow! I've never thought of that before!". But again, I'm the type of person who analyzes all things to death...it isn't a new concept to me that we mere mortals have no way to really know or describe the awesome nature and love of our God.

And lastly, I think this is a book that is written to the Church. Though it has been presented as being of value to all audiences, I just can't see that a spiritually blinded individual will understand some of the religious phrases and ideas presented in this book...or even care.

All in all, I would recommend this book for Christians and for those who have a hunger to think a bit outside the box about the nature of God. But to categorize this as anything other than allegory would be a mistake. There is nothing that should offend the Christian, theologically, if it is read with the idea that it is a work of fiction and not a serious exposition of scripture. There is a hint of Kierkegaard-ish existentialism just under the surface, but not so much that it screams this theological bent in the reader's ear.

I do not agree with the cover blurb, however, that this book is on a par with having the potential to do for our generation what Pilgrim's Progress was able to do for Bunyan's generation. Frankly, in my opinion, it is not THAT deep!

1 comment:

Joanne Sher said...

Thanks so much for this, Dee! I'm still not sure if I'll read it (in my copious free time LOL), but you've definitely given me another perspective.