The Shack by William P. Young

Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him (Deut. 13.4).

The Shack is about one man’s healing experience with two women and a man. I finished reading this book in one sitting. My first thought about it was that it seemed to be designed with the big screen in mind. Like a film, it moves quickly, the characters are uncomplicated, and the scenes are vibrant and fanciful. The storyline is a platform for Young to relay short, creative, simple answers to complex human questions about God. His main point is that God is love, which is harmless and true.

Certainly, much of the book is about “the trinity.” Young is often faulted for his non-scriptural portrayal of it. However, since the trinity is nowhere in scripture, it would therefore be impossible for him or anyone else (even his critics) to offer a “scriptural” one. Pit Young against Tertullian if you will. I would rather stay out of that unprofitable battle.

Young does take license in matters of law. He explains God’s law is really book of promises, not commands, a list of what God will do in us, not what we are to do. This second point is trickier, but I have to give Young credit for at least attempting to address a believer’s view of the law and for not concluding that the law is “done away with”(chas v’shalom) and has no purpose whatsoever. We are to hear and do the law, but that becomes a joy as the spirit writes it on our hearts.

Was it on purpose that Young has the group of characters eating bacon and squid? I hope not. Young does try to capture a sense of holiness in the book. How can anyone do that without the help of God’s definition of it? We would all be groping about in the darkness. I think Young feels holiness is something like an awareness of the presence of God, which may be closer to joy or peace or awe. Kedoshim (which means Holiness or the Holy Ones) and the D’var Torah (sermon) on the Mount give a pretty nice picture of holiness according to God.

The popularity of the book does indicate two things to my mind: 1. People are hungry for an encounter with the living God; 2. The mystery of iniquity (lawlessness) is already at work.

Test the words against the scriptures, dearly beloved. To whom will the judge of all one day say “Depart from me, ye who work iniquity (lawlessness), I never knew you”? Those who believe, who prophesy, cast out devils, do miracles, but keep not the commandments. Jesus is serious about the law. Deuteronomy 13 describes the test for a true or false prophet. You will always be able to tell if you keep it in mind, and it hangs on the prophet’s treatment of the law of God.


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