"The Shack" Review

I recently read a best-selling book that has been given mixed reviews by people. Personally, I've had a handful of people encourage me to read it. I've also had a handful of people discourage me from reading it. Those who encouraged me to read it said that it would help me in my relationship with God. Those who discouraged me to read it described it as heresy and said it defamed God. Being a skeptic, and knowing only a few details about the book, I had resigned not to read it, thinking honestly that it was trash that was in direct opposition to my beliefs. However, after one final encouragement from a family member, I decided that I would in fact read The Shack and form my own opinion about the contents and its implications. I went in with as much of an open mind as I could (which isn't easy for such an opinionated person such as myself). So below is a short synopsis followed by my reaction. Before I start, if you've not yet read the book, let me encourage you to not read my review, but instead pick up a copy, open your mind and read it (it doesn't take long, only took me a week!).

The Shack is a story about a guy named Mackenzie (Mack) Phillips who takes his kids on a camping trip in the Oregon wilderness. While there, his youngest daughter Missy is kidnapped and suspected to have been killed by a known serial killer. The only evidence of the crime was found in an abandoned shack. Four years after the event, while still in the middle of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a letter in the mail, apparently from God, inviting him to come back to the scene of the crime, The Shack, for a weekend. Mack accepts the invitations, and experiences a weekend that changes his life. The major question the book seems to try to answer is "Where is God in the midst of pain and suffering?"

If you've heard anything about the book, it's probably something along the lines of "This book gives a great description of the Trinity" or "God is depicted as a big black woman". The Shack does in fact tell a fictional story while depicting God as a big black woman. In fact, each member of the trinity was described in detail.

Now it is at this point that I need to confess that I approach this book with two biases. First of all, as most of you who read this know, I just finished my seminary degree. Which means I spent a good bit of time discussing and learning theology. While I'll never claim to have it all figured out, or even be close to understanding everything about God (and further more that my theological degree is worth little more than the paper it is printed on), I will simply say that I have given a lot of thought to theological issues. Secondly, I will say that the Bible is the guide for all of my beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I believe the Bible is completely, 100% true and that it is the complete revelation of God to people (that is to say that all we need to know about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is contained in the Bible. Not that everything about God is recorded, as if one book could contain that, but that God has given us all we need know about him within the pages of the Bible). So any book I read is filtered through the lens of the Bible and through what I have come to believe about how we as people relate to him. This filter is magnified when the book deals with issues directly concerning God.

That being said, let me say that I did actually enjoy reading The Shack. The story was compelling. I wanted to see what was going to happen next, and if the story would be resolved. It had a great little twist at the end that completely surprised me. The author, William P. Young wrote and interesting and entertaining book that I didn't want to put down. As with any good story, the book made me think "How would I react in that situation?" "How am I like Mack?" "What truth does the story convey?" "What do I disagree with?" "What do I agree with?" (Of course I don't readily ask those questions necessarily, but I do answer them in my reading, consciously or not). Even as I read, I thought about God, how I view him, and how I interact with him in my own life.

I also tried to keep in mind that the book is fiction and that even the depiction of God was not meant to be fact, but was meant to be used as a tool to tell the story. The only issue for me is that, fiction or not, anytime you choose to try to describe or convey anything about God, you are treading into dangerous territory. It might be just a fiction book, but the handful of people who recommended I read this book said something along the lines of "This book helped me understand the trinity better" or "it really changed the way I view God". If that is the case, then right or wrong, the book becomes something on which people begin to base their beliefs. Again, let me say that its a dangerous place to put yourself, a book, a piece of art, anything of that nature. And while I wanted to dismiss the theological side of things, I couldn't based on the very first page of the book where there was listed a series of "What Others Are Saying About the Shack". Almost everyone listed said something about the books theological implications, how it would encourage your relationship with God, change the way you think about God, and help you experience God in a new way. If this is the case, and is obviously a goal of the book, then I have to confront some of the theological issues. I'll do a list of the pros and a list of the cons for the sake of time.


- God, through the three persons of the trinity, is depicted as a loving God who cares deeply for people, whose plans are often misunderstood. He is shown as a God who desires for people to experience his love, forgiveness and healing.

- At one point Papa (who is God the Father) speaking of Jesus says "Everything is about Him you know." (p.191)

- At another point, Jesus says "My life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to be like Jesus, it means for your independence to be killed. I came to give you life, real life, my life (p. 149). This coincides with what Jesus says in Luke 9:23.

- In Chapter 11, entitled Here Come Da Judge, the book talks about how we judge God based on who we are as people, not based on who really God is.

- The concept of faith that requires you to do certain things is challenged. Faith is often seen as a to-do list that earns favor, especially in the "bible-belt". Instead, faith does lead to action, but not so that love or salvation is earned, but so that God is glorified and others can know the Gospel. The book says "In Jesus you are not under any law. All things are lawful" (p. 203). This is also discussed in both Romans and Hebrews.

- The religious establishment is questioned. Just as it was in Jesus day, the "religious" people most often cause the most problems for the cause of Jesus.


- God is said to be better understood when experienced than when read from the Bible (p. 65-66). Again, the Bible is our source of revelation, not our experience (though we do have the privilege of interacting with God on a personal level, that interaction must line up with scripture, otherwise the whole "God told me he wants me to be rich" message that is common today would be considered valid.)

- It said that Jesus was fully human and that 'he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything." But instead he was a "dependent, limited human being" who "as a human being had no power within himself to heal anyone." It goes on to say that he was only able to preform miracles because of his relationship with God the Father (p. 99-100).

- God again says that he limits himself so as to see things as if for the first time through the eyes of his children (p.106).

- It is said that there is no since of authority or hierarchy between the three parts of the trinity, but rather that they operate in a "circle of relationship" (122). According to this description, there is no obedience involved (saying that Jesus was not being obedient to God the Father in dying on the cross, but was rather operating out of a mutual relationship.

- It also says that the problem of evil in the world comes strictly from people's desire for independence. God allows this independence as an act of love. To enforce His will on us would be the opposite of love. It even says that God submits himself to our (human) will (p. 145).

- As for the problem of evil, Satan, the Devil, demons, temptation or any other source is completely left out. Independence is the only reason for sin.

- Toward the end, Papa (God) says that Jesus work on the cross reconciled the whole world to Him. Mack responds "You mean those who believe in you right?" Papa responds "The Whole world, Mack. I am telling you that reconciliation is a 2-way street, and I have done my part..."(p. 192). This suggests that we as people have half (50%) of the responsibility for our salvation.

- While it does mention the church being the bride, the book could be construed to say that church involvement is not important, and rather personal faith is all that matters. While I agree that the church has issues, the bible still makes it clear that Christian fellowship and worship is essential. Christianity was designed to be done together (see Acts) It is my intention to try to influence change within the church so that we hopefully get back to the biblical picture of the church.

So before reading the book, and before deciding to read it, I was completely against all things The Shack, mostly because of the way people (mostly professing Christians) were reacting to it, as though it was another Bible. My initial reaction to that kind of stuff is to stay as far away as possible. However, the book wasn't as bad as I expected, and I suspect that those who have been the hardest on the book have probably not read it. The problem with the book is that many people do in fact see it as truth, as though it is a book that can help define and shape their faith in God. This can prove to be extremely dangerous, misleading not only their personal faith, but potentially damaging the way the view and respond to God. However, there is some valuable material, especially for those who have experience pain, loss, or addition. All-in-all, if read for a sheer work of fiction, then the book isn't a bad read. One must be careful to read with a biblical lens (as when viewing any form of art or entertainment) so as to not be mislead.

So in conclusion, as a work of fiction, The Shack is a good read. As a work of theology, it should be completely avoided at all costs. What about you? Have you read it? Why or why not? What are your thoughts about it?

New Digs

So you may have noticed that I've changed the look of the ol' Shared Ignorance pad. Things were getting a little dusty with the previous layout, so I decided to change it up a bit. In the process I learned that there are more templates available than what blogger offers. A simple "free blog templates" google search rendered more sites than I could sift through. Who knew? In fact, the one site I found this template on had 106 pages of templates, each page with about 15 layouts. I got to page 101 before I found what I was looking for. After all the digging and looking and judging and comparing, I'm pretty pleased with the new look.

Now if I could only figure out what to write about. It's funny cause I go through these spells where I could write a new post everyday. And as is evident by my summer hiatus, I go through periods where I have nothing at all to say. Mostly, when I do decide to post, I feel like I have to write a lot. The pressure of spinning an evocative yarn looms as I seek to give one who would visit this little plot in the world wide web something interesting, entertaining, and perhaps even informative. And I don't want my readers to walk away feeling unfulfilled. But I've now come to an important conclusion. At the end of the day, this blog is just a place for me to write when I feel like it, vent, share, and practice my writing skills. I'm no slave to the reader! So I will no longer write just for you the reader, I will write for me the writer. And while I hope you the reader will in fact read, and that as said reader you will be entertained and informed, that is not my main goal.

My next post I will be reviewing a book I recently finished. It is a book that has been the source of much contention and controversy. It's a little book called "The Shack" of which you may have heard. I'd like to add my voice to the on-going conversation that this book has created.

So tune in again very soon if you want to read that. Or don't. It doesn't really matter because I'll still write my review regardless of whether you come back to read or not. But you should come back. I mean not to stroke my ego, give meaning to my life, or to give me motivation to blog more. NO NO! I don't need you to validate me. But should you desire to read that which I will write, then you should stop back by within a week or so. Or if you don't want to, then don't. Either way is fine with me. I mean, it's not that I don't appreciate you reading, I am thankful for all my minions of readers and blog followers. It's just that I write not to be read, but to write in-and-of-itself. Because...I mean....ok I guess I'll stop there.

See you soon....or not...either way.....

A Case for the Blog

It has recently been said that blogs, as we know them, are dead. With the ability to now constantly update Facebook and Twitter statuses so easily from wireless devices like iPods and cell phones, people have begun to say they see no need to blog. Everything that needs to be said can be done within the 140 character limit that twitter invokes. While I agree that Twitter and Facebook offer a great way to make fast updates about every little detail of one's life about which everyone is just dying to read, I am not yet ready to give up on the good old fashioned web-log we know as the blog! At the end of the day, even with the easy access, no Internet required, at-your-finger-tip medium of twitter, not everything can be said within 140 characters (count 'em up, I've used way more already!)

For instance, suppose I wanted to tell you about the time I allegedly set the woods behind my house on fire. No way within 140 characters would you get the whole picture that was the fire debacle that I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not I was involved in.... or not.

Or suppose I wanted to give you the top 5 reasons why no human being should ever be subjected to the horrible movie that is Knowing. It would take me 140 characters to explain just how bad an actor Nicholas Cage is, and that with the exception of Keanu Reeves (whose acting career is as absurd as his first name and his best movie called Bill and Ted's excellent adventure) and Matthew McConehey (did you see Sahara?) is quite possibly the most heinous actor to ever be allowed on film.

Even more, how could I ever explain why Subway 5 dollar foot long meals are still a rip off because Subway's ham taste like scam and its turkey like jerky?!?! I mean any place that makes Vienna sausages look appealing is not worth eating! That's why there is Firehouse!

So you see, there is still room for blogging! It's not yet dead. It just needs a infusion of life from those who have betrayed such a medium for a more taste-great-less-filling place like Twitter. So this is my call to all you bloggers old and new! Blog on my people! Blog on!!

Thank you Cleveland!


My Buddy

Today was a bit of a sad day around the Evans' house. Karen, after working last night, arrived home about 8 this morning to find our neighbor's dog under my truck.

Now before I go on, it would do well for you to know some background. We've lived in this particular house in good ol' Albertville AL for nearly 5 years. Over that time, our neighbors have had a combined total of about 13 dogs. None of these dogs were kept in fences or pins, but instead were allowed to roam the neighborhood freely. At one point there were about 8 dogs between the 4 houses surrounding ours. They were quite a nuisance, dragging off shoes and other items we would carelessly leave in our own garage. Not to mention that apparently my yard is the perfect doggy bathroom. So for the most part, I was the grumpy old neighbor who would yell at the dogs "Git outta my yard ya stupid dogs!"

Well last summer the house beside us rented out to a new set of neighbors. Before long they got a dog...a little yapper...chihuahua that hates everybody and thinks he's a giant. Then a couple of months later they got another dog, a shitzu that in my book doesn't really count as a dog....more like a canine cat. Then they got ANOTHER dog, some little lab looking mutt. Once again I didn't really think much about them, other than I wish they wouldn't poop in my yard. But over the last couple of months, the little lab mutt would come over and visit. He was thin and looked under-fed and didn't seem to receive much attention from his owners. So I just started playing with him some and giving him a little scrub behind the ears. Over the last 2 months or so I actually grew to like the little guy. Karen even liked him! At least a couple of times a week I'd come home, eat dinner, and go out and play with him. I was in the process of teaching him how to fetch a tennis ball. I would get him out in the back yard and run around with him. He was my buddy! I even gave him a name (cause I didn't know his real one)....Oscar.

Back to the 13 neighborhood dogs. All but 2 of them have died from anti-freeze poisoning. The neighbors shitzu was the latest victim, poisoned about about a month ago. We don't exactly know who is doing it, but we are the only family who has lived here for all of the dogs death except for one, who lives a couple of houses down.

Well this morning Karen found Oscar (whose real name I found out was Alvin...I was close) under my truck looking very sick. She came in and got me, and at first glance I could just tell that he too had been poisoned. He was looking really bad. I didn't know what to do, so I came in and got him some water. By the time I came out he was limping back to his own yard. Karen went over to let the neighbors know but they didn't answer the door. Had he been mine I would have either rushed him to the vet or put an end to the suffering myself. But he wasn't. So I went to work, surprised at how sad I was over this little dog. When I returned home from work, my neighbor called me over and told me he had found Oscar (Alvin) and that he was going to have him put down. So tonight, I lost my little buddy.

I've always been a sucker for dogs. I just love how, no matter what, they are happy to see you. How they give you their undivided attention at a whistle. How they love to run and play. How, even if you have to scold them, they always seem to come back wagging their tale. It's something about their unconditional love and devotion that just gets me. They are the epitome of innocence. They are quick to forgive and forget and seem to take everyday as something to enjoy. They can really add to life ya know?!?!

Some of you probably think all of this is pretty silly....I mean after all it is just an ol' dog. He wasn't even my dog. I didn't feed him or anything. He was just a neighbor dog. But it makes me furious to think that someone would be so cruel to kill a dog that way. I am thankful that I got to play with him some. He brought a good bit of enjoyment to me, and I'll miss my little buddy Oscar.


Let's go ahead and acknowlege that my summer blogging has been less than acceptable. Now let's move on!

First, my wife has a blog you should now check out.

Now, on to what I am here to talk about. So we're having a baby boy right. And I've been thinking about all the things I'll get to do to with the little fella once he gets here in November. And I started thinking about how I will most likely sing to him, since that's kinda what I do....sing and all. And I got to thinking about how I will sing lullabys to him at night. And so I started practicing.

Rock-a-bye baby in the tree tops
When the wind blows the cradle will rock
When the bow breaks the cradle will fall
And down will come baby
Cradle and all

As I was singing it, I began to think about what it was I was singing. DOES ANYBODY ELSE SEE WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS SONG? Is it me or is this just wrong?

First of all, who put baby in the top of the tree? And for what purpose? I mean baby didn't climb up there himself. Someone had to think it was a good idea to put him up there.

Then, the wind begins to gust and no one thinks it is a good idea to get baby down? The trees are swaying, the storm is a-brewing, but let's leave little baby in the top of the 100 year old rotten oak tree and see what happens. And what happens? The bow breaks! Someone should've cut the tree down years ago because it was bound to give way under the pressure of the now-100 mph winds that are blowing, but instead of calling the tree service out to the house, we just decided instead to PUT THE BABY IN IT?!?!?!?

So the bow breaks, and the cradle falls.....the CRADLE HOLDING THE BABY?!?!?!? And all we say is "Down will come baby cradle and all"?!??!?! As though it is some sweet little tune to put baby to sleep? NO WAY!!

This is the reason baby's all across the world wake up every 2 hours screaming. They're not hungry! They had a dream that someone actually put then in the top of an old rotten oak tree just minutes before a terrible storm, producing straight-line winds, blew up and knocked them and their cradle to the ground. WHAT SICK PERSON WROTE THIS SONG?

So I've decided that I intend fully to sing my little boy to sleep many nights. But mark my words, I WILL NEVER SING ROCK-A-BYE-BABY!!!!!!!

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