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Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Book Discussion - The Shack (Week 1)
Whoops! I'm on vacation and the fact that it's Tuesday and I want to post something almost slipped right by me.

So ... this month we're talking about The Shack. Everybody's talking about The Shack ... good, bad and indifferent it's the latest craze. Ten weeks on the NYTimes best seller list. TEN. It's crazy making that a book published by some little no-name publisher, written by who? is at the top of the New York Times Best. Seller. List. This is a book that started life as a bed time story. As some photo-copies. So ... in the words of Brian Eno, "How did we get here?"

How did this happen? That's where I'd like to start this discussion. There's a lot of people who want to say God did it. It's all God.

Some people say it's a really interesting viral marketing scheme (thanks, Drew).

What do you think? How did a little book that started life with such humble origins, get to such a place that Oprah is plugging it? That's my first question.

Second question for today/tonight ... Here are the links to two pretty balanced reviews of The Shack, written by people I respect. One by Bob Hyatt, who had the opportunity to be interviewed on Oregon Public Radio with (William) Paul Young last week. The other by Ben Witherington. Both reviews are very respectful and both men obviously read the book (unlike some other reviews we won't mention). What do you think of the reviews? How do you think these men handled the book overall? Specifics?
 
posted by Sonja Andrews at 4:01 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


10 Comments:


  • At 8/06/2008 08:20:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    I agree that these reviews are balanced and if I was wanting or needing some help in sorting out the theological concerns of some critics regarding this book, I would find the reviews helpful. I'm going to say that most folks who read this book won't care much about whether there is a hierarchy in the trinity or not. Some will become intrigued to sort that out for themselves and The Shack is excellent for prompting one's own musings and curiousity. Still others will read and might be offended or might agree, having come to their own conclusions about the trinity already. I think most folks who read The Shack will be more likely to get swept up in the broader strokes of this story, for example, relating to the pain and struggle to find meaning in the tragedies of life. And people with either find relief and help...or not.

    I read The Shack early this year. I was not surprised it was drawing some negative critique, even being called "heretical". That seems to be a frequent occurence regarding books that I enjoy or find a lot of things I relate to in their pages. But I am done letting that distress me. It might be an arrogance, but I am just not going to accept that as meaning I am "spiritually immature" or "undiscerning" anymore. In fact, I'm inspired by how Young responded to such attacks, in fact it moved me..."Papa is especially fond of that one too." You bet!

     
  • At 8/07/2008 07:24:00 PM, Blogger J. R. Miller

    Hi, I came to your site because of our shared interest in being a Friend of Missional. I am glad to make your acquaintance and visit your blog. God bless!

     
  • At 8/07/2008 08:40:00 PM, Blogger Deb

    What is interesting is that the people who get the most upset are the ones who have not perhaps gotten the point of the book. I personally think it is not about the permanent subordination of the Son or whether or not God would be revealed as a person of color or a woman. It IS about seeing and understanding that everything we go through, God is there. If you read what William Young writes about why he wrote the book... it makes a good theological statement.

    As another pastor says, "It is a work of fiction." Hello...

    As one of my friends says, "this book makes the fundies jump out of their undies." LOL...

    Deb
    Who really is one of God's favorites! :)

     
  • At 8/08/2008 08:24:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    Sonja, thanks for leading the discussion and selecting food for thought from thoughtful reviews!

    Nancy, I love what you wrote! I am so with you...

    I left my copy of Shack at home when I left for the summer, but I am looking forward to reading it if I have an opportunity to get to the bookstore or when I get home.

     
  • At 8/08/2008 09:51:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    I liked this book up until the very end. At that point, it began to sound a little bit too much like a sermon illustration to me.

    "It is a work of fiction."

    This might be better as a separate post, but I wonder why it is that certain people have a really tough time understanding the difference between non-fiction and fiction when it comes to theologies or world views that they don't agree with?

    As long as it's a well-written piece, I am not very concerned about how much I agree with the author's personal beliefs. Even if their beliefs are reinforced in the story to a large degree....unless it's a polemic or a book that is obsessed with why we should all hate people who are (fill in the blank) . :)

    A good story is a good story, as far as I'm concerned.

    Can anyone shed some light on this?

     
  • At 8/09/2008 10:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I read the book, primarily because I've been at work on the true crime story of a 3-year-old who was murdered and dealing with the issues of where is God in the midst of such evil. Common theme. I wanted to hear what Young had to say about it.
    I didn't have any theological issues with the book, but did feel distressed that as a person who has worked at the craft of writing, to see a book so poorly written capture so many. I don't know if that says something about "God's intent" as much as it does about the reading habits of most Americans. Can the reading public discern the difference between a writer who studies to show themselves approved, or not?
    Or does the power of marketing matter more than the quality of the writing?

     
  • At 8/11/2008 12:12:00 AM, Blogger lisa

    So many of my friends read The Shack months and months ago, but I didn't have access to a copy (as I"m in Africa) till just last week.

    At first, I was stumbling around trying to get over the clumsy writing. But I got over my feelings and entered into the beauty of what Young was saying. I found it really soothing, inspiring, helpful and delightful and I believe that is why others are also going beyond the literary quality and drawing from the message(s) in the story.

    I read Bob Hyatt's review right after I finished the book, (before I saw you mention it here) and found it insightful and fair.

    I think the fact that it has been on the NY Times best seller list for so long is a reflection on how hungry people are for a loving relationship with God.

    And I love that I can step up and say, "Yes, Papa is especially fond of me too!"

     
  • At 8/14/2008 01:59:00 PM, Anonymous The husband of Debra Johnson

    What is so interesting about the book and possibly one reason it is receiving so much attention is it dares to cross conventional thinking in the way we have understood God in the past. Our stereotypical concepts for how we see God has stopped us from seeing Him in some instances as a loving, caring person who wants to connect with His kids.

    Grant it you will be challenged and enlightened as you read through the storyline. One interesting and somewhat controversial comment Paul Young makes in his book is sure to make a lot of people think differently about a cliche we have been throwing around in the church for years. It is found on page 149, Paul writes in Jesus' words "My Life Was Not Met To Be An Example That You Can Copy". For years, we the Christian community have held onto the idea that Jesus' life or "behavior" was to be followed. We have all heard and even used the cliche "What would Jesus do?" or WWJD for short.

    We have seen it on bracelets and tee shirts for years. Problem is that when you look at it from a new covenant aspect it you would never hear Jesus tell us to mimic his behavior. Instead Jesus would tell us that we are to mimic or copy the relationship he experienced with the Father through the Holy Spirit. It is out of this relationship that behavioral issues, difficulties and temptation finds answers, not through some pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality. Bottom line is that this book will challenge old belief systems that probably need to be challenged. Only then can you truly experience Christ as life, which beats religion any day!

    Scott Johnson

    P.S. If you are in the Denver area you might want to check out our upcoming seminar at:
    http://www.GettingFreeLivingFree.org/Denver
    (Enter code "99" into the shopping cart and get 50% off)

    Also, visit: http://www.ChristianWorshipers.com

     
  • At 8/18/2008 11:03:00 AM, OpenID chickchaotic

    I like what Scott had to say about the WWJD issue. I think The Shack dealt well with misconceptions many have held about faith in God. I am amazed that the book has become so popular after being self-published. I think some of the issues of the writing may have been helped by the employment of a professional editor, but even though the writing is not the best, the story captures the heart and the mind enough to overlook the lack of technical skill in writing.

    I enjoyed the book and have recommended it to many and given it as a gift to some.

     
  • At 8/30/2008 07:01:00 PM, OpenID gen224

    I agree it's not the best-written book in the world, and it's not a theological treatise. It's a work of fiction.

    As an Asbury Seminary grad, I respect Dr. Witherington (who is faculty there) and his ability to cut to the heart of the 'controversy'. I simply don't see it as worthy of hermeneutical study, however.

    I told someone tonight: if you want to learn more about God, read the Bible. If you want to learn more about how God loves you and might interact in our world if He needed to get your attention, read "The Shack."

    I found the book to be poignant and worthy of the time I spent reading it, and there are even areas that spoke to me deeply as Young wrote about victimization and self-protection/preservation. I think anyone who has dealt with major crisis and/or trauma in their lives will find something redemptive about the book.

    But the measure of the story, for me, is how many people come to know God through Jesus and look to the Word to get to know Him better and build a stronger relationship with Him.

    The rest is simply educated mumbo-jumbo to me. Do you think it would have made it to the top of the NYT Best Seller list if it WAS a theological treatise as opposed to a compelling story?

     

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