Thursday, March 5, 2009

Should I be hanging out with The Shack

Hey gang!

No video today because I want this subject to be on its own. I know I am stepping into controversial territory by just uttering the words. However, I really feel a need to talk about The Shack.

It’s one of the three books I finished while my laptop was shelved with a bad power cord, along with UnChristian and Bill Hybels’ A Walk Across the Room. All three were great books in one way or another, but this book has gotten a ton of attention for less than happy reasons by some.

I’ll start by saying this about The Shack. The book is a book of fiction. Let me repeat that, the book is a book of fiction. I say that twice because I think that is a major point to remember. The Shack tells the story of Mack, a father of four and his adventure of a lifetime dealing with the murder of his daughter Missy. Unfolding the events up to the murder are a little slow, but after that, the book is very sharp in its detail. The remainder of the story tells us Mack’s life afterwards and then takes us to three days that he will never forget going back to the scene of the crime and meeting three individuals that change his life forever.

For those of you that have read the book, you know that the characters represent the Trinity of the Bible. That’s where the trouble begins with most Christians that are up in arms over the book. There are a few inaccuracies when putting The Shack next to The Holy Bible. The first one that made me jump back was in chapter six when the character representing God said that he was with Jesus through the entire scene played out at the Cross. Yeah, that Cross.

It troubled me that the character said that he was with Jesus the entire time during the crucifixion. In all four Gospels, Jesus asks the question “Father, why have you forsaken me?” I had always been convinced that in teaching, God turned his back on Jesus because he could not look at sin. So I researched it and amazingly found two differing points of view. I’ll give you links to both so that you can read it for yourself.

http://www.larryollison.com/cutting/0274.html
In this excerpt from Larry Ollison’s Life Is In the Blood, he says that yes, in fact, God had to turn away from Jesus because he could not look at sin. For his entire thought, see his website.

http://www.livingway.org/library/faq/faq022.htm
This is a counter point from Living Way Ministries footnotes in the Spirit-Filled Life Bible, a version worked upon by well known televangelist and preacher Jack Hayford.

So, keeping in mind that this book is fiction and the fact that these views counter each other, I would say that William Young didn’t walk that far out on a limb in that discussion. Truthfully, this example, which is one of several that I looked at, didn’t take the book beyond believeability for me as a reader. Again, is The Shack the defining Word on Scripture. No!

My biggest belief in reading this book is this; While I would question a few thoughts against scripture, which I think all of us should do, it does not take away from reading the book as a story of FICTION! I’ve been asked countless times over the past month, would this book be a good witnessing tool for a person that needed salvation? I’ll answer as clear as I can. Maybe.

Why do I say maybe? There are a lot of factors. The first is whether or not this is a replacement tool. What I mean by that is that I don’t think The Shack should be the first experience of God’s universe to any potential new believer. Furthermore, I believe that the book could be a complementary piece, if and only if, you are going to sit down with this person after reading and discuss it with them. I would never hand this book to someone if I weren’t willing to take the time to talk with them and unfortunately, that’s what a lot of people are doing. I’ve read some thoughts from the bulletin board for the Missy Project, http://theshackbook.com/forums/, that organizations are just sending boxes of these books to prisons and other missionary endeavors. That makes me nervous when I hear that. I love the book, but not more than The Bible, God’s Holy Word. The Shack isn’t going to get you into heaven on its own.

The second factor is that I think you have to hand a book like this to a person that will be able to give a proper perspective to the story. In The Bible, Jesus is described in a way that shows him as the Son of the Trinity with its respect and honor. While I find myself liking The Shack’s sarcastic, joking Jesus, he doesn’t come off with the honored place in the trinity that I’m comfortable with. Jesus was a straight shooting, parable telling storyteller, not a sarcastic comedian type. I think William Young shares a very truthful point, that Jesus limited himself as a person on Earth, but it almost makes Jesus less than God in some aspects. That bothered me, but again not enough to dislike the story.

The third factor that I’ll look at is someone that won’t buy into the hype that the book is being given. I tend also to get nervous when I see people paralleling the book to Pilgrim’s Progress or anything like it. Folks, it’s a good book, but Pilgrim’s Progress has 400 or so years of history as both a great book of fiction and as a primer that the Pilgrims used to teach children to read. It has history on its side. Also, as much as I love reviews on covers, hey all books do it, so it’s not a major chill sending message, the reviews need to be ignored walking into this book. The true reviews that count in my mind are the ones that are talking about how this book has made Christians and non-Christians alike think about how they see Christians, Christianity and improving their walk with Christ.

Finally, you have to remember that The Shack is a book of FICTION. I’ll stress this many times because I don’t want to see this book entirely passed upon because of overzealous Bible-thumpers that say the book is worthless because it isn’t perfect. There is a difference between The Shack and The Bible. The Shack is a realistic book of FICTION that helps people deal with issues. The Shack does a terrific job of explaining how important relationship is in our world and in the world to come. Besides helping you relate with others, The Shack also does a great job at showing how many Christians live. It shows people in struggle, not necessarily being fake, which is what a large amount of non-Christians like to throw out when they see struggle. The word hypocrite comes to mind often to them. The truth is that people aren’t always fake. They could be dealing with the issues of life and not able to see the bigger picture or you trying to fit into it.

On the other hand, The Bible is inerrant Word of God. I think 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says it best, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in rigtheousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So my words to the Christian community are this. Please, please don not get crazy-go-nuts over The Shack because it isn’t the Word of God. Do grab a Bible and show people that are reading it The Truth. Also, show people the compassion of understanding. Show them the good things that The Shack can teach because the book does one thing that smacking them with the Bible won’t do, it can open a person’s heart to hearing the rest of the story. Glory to God, what a great story that is!

I love you guys!
Frank

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