Rob's Reviews > The Shack

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
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's review
Jan 25, 2009

did not like it
bookshelves: religion
Read in January, 2009

This book, it has to be said, is not aimed at me. Firstly, I'm not a christian, and not exactly looking to become one. That doesn't mean I write off all books about christianity, of course not. Only ones as uninteresting and endlessly preachy as this one.

William P Young's theology combines Christianity with an extraneous new-age interpretation of God and man's part in it all as one step up from a self-help book. It's a particularly irritating mix that essentially proposes a personal god who is 'just nice'. Jesus is of course the original rebel, half-feminist-half-anarchist, and the Holy Spirit is basically functionless - but necessary to fill in the difficult bits. They all get along just like in The Cosby Show.

It's all talk. Literally. Aside from a background tale about something terrible happening that naturally upsets our protagonist, he's whisked away to get to know God better. His weekend with the lads really takes the form of a series of lectures, and these are ultimately pretty unsatisfactory fare. Deep analysis would presumably undermine the universality of Young's message.

However, at the root of it all, the message is the same: our beastly ancestors chose free will, which is somehow our fault. In fact, it follows, all the bad things that happen are our fault. The only thing that can get us back is continual submission to a perfect being. Only then will God live through us and we'll make the right decisions every time.

One almost wonders why God went to the trouble of creating us in the first place (actually this is answered too). Each simple act of turning a page gave me something new to disagree with. Young's book may or may not have been written to convert people, I honestly don't think it matters. I find it interesting that Young frames the story around a fictional character but occasionally places himself within it nonetheless. The book is possibly aimed more at the 'lapsed' or 'jaded' christian.

There's something here that people evidently find compelling, but I can't see it. There is no story, unless you consider continual reminders of your astounding hubris and flawed nature to be great storytelling. I imagine you can really feel moved by this book if you make yourself more open to it. But then I find myself swinging a sword around for days on end every time I watch Highlander.

Ultimately the evidence isn't here. And being divorced from any form of scripture means The Shack advocates little more than an imprecise and ethereal niceness. If you need a God to encourage that then I despair of you.

While reading it I did ask myself a few questions about the function/necessity of religion in society, and about the nature of the God I'm not believing in. But I won't bother with that here, because I think this is more to do with ignoring what I was reading than the text itself.

Enjoying neither the writing nor the content, I'm grateful I survived my encounter in The Shack with mind, body and soul intact.
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