Monday, February 2, 2009

The Shack - Day 1: The Story

Two weeks ago I visited that most favorite of all doctors, the dentist. While sitting in my somewhat comfortable chair getting ready for my new crown, the assistant noticed I was reading a book. After sharing a little about my reading topic she volunteered that she too was reading a book that was fascinating her called, “La CabaƱa”. That’s Spanish for “The Shack”. For the next few minutes we talked briefly about why the book had impressed her so much, and how she was beginning to understand the reasons behind suffering. I pressed her a little about her ideas about God, and gently shared what the Bible says about such things as the Trinity and God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. That lead to more conversations about spiritual matters until she said, “Now, open your mouth.”

The Shack has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. It will soon be translated into more than 30 languages around the world, and a movie is sure to come out in the near future. The web site for the book recently announced that “The Shack continues at #1 on the NY Times Best Seller list for its 29th straight week!” If you haven’t read the book you probably are wondering what’s the attraction all about. And if you listen to some preachers and teachers you probably have been warned to stay away from it. This week I will be blogging on some of the teachings found in The Shack, my feelings about the book and what approach I take regarding it.

The Storyline

First, let me say that the book, although I felt at times was awkwardly written, especially at the beginning (and too embellished at times), is a grabbing, emotionally-gut wrenching, and heart throbbing story. Second, since it is a work of fiction, and not a theological treatise, one familiar with the Bible and with some basic theological understanding can read it and quickly pinpoint some of the heresies as well as implications of the author’s presentation of God, the Bible, and other things theological. Third, whether or not you choose to read The Shack it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with the basic storyline and know how to respond to some of the less than orthodox theology it presents.

The author, W. Paul Young states that “The Shack is a metaphor for the ‘Place we get hurt and stuck.’” “It’s the facade, the inside no one knows.” The story is about a grown man, Mack, who lives stuck in his world of secrets, mistrust, and resentment. Mack grew up with his father, a drunkard pastor, who abused his mother as well as him. At the age of 13 he left home and never returned. This lack of relationship with his father would be significant for something he would later discover at The Shack.

Mack’s life is one blessed with a wife who has a strong relationship with God, who she calls ‘Papa’. He has three lovely children, of which the youngest, Missy, is a wonderful precocious, six-year old. Mack’s world comes to an almost halt after a gruesome event takes place at the end of a camping trip with his three children. His life after this event takes a downturn of which he almost never comes out of, if not for a note that he receives three years later from someone called . . . ‘Papa’. Thinking that this was either a cruel joke, or possibly (but how could it be?) a note really left by God, Mack decides to go back to the shack where he had lost his most treasured possession, his little Missy.

The metaphor of ‘the shack’ has helped many readers deal with the pain in their own lives. A simple reading of the postings at the book’s web site ( illustrates this thousands of times over. At The Shack Mack has what could be called a supernatural enlightenment experience that helps him put his life in proper perspective and helps him make peace with past hurts and relationships. The healing journey Mack travels has probably been the greatest appeal of most readers of the book. (To be continued tomorrow.)
Shalam Shalum (stay healthy, at peace and prosperous) in 2009

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