I'm not sure you should. But I did. This book is catching fire and selling lots of copies.
Here's what I found admirable about the book:
- It expresses God as emotionally engaged and individually concerned.
- It pictures God redeeming pain for His glory and peoples' good.
- It faces harsh, harsh realities rather than running from them with platitudes.
- It pictures the possibility of real healing.
- The chapter where the main character wrestles with judgment is deeply insightful about human nature.
Here's what I found impossible to accept or overlook about the book:
- It distorts rather than clarifies God's Trinitarian nature as revealed in Scripture.
- It presents God as needing to masquerade, ala Satan, in order to reach and heal people.
- It is highly speculative in an area where speculation is most dangerous--i.e. the nature and communion of God within Himself.
- It presents the idea that interaction with the dead for the sake of reconciliation is normative and helpful. In fact, key to the healing of the main character are his two interactions with his dead loved ones. Scary.
- It tries to get some things right while at the same time getting some things hopelessly wrong--the most dangerous kind of lie is the one that has a good bit of truth in it.
- It compromises the clear identity of the first person of the Trinity, the Father, as Father for much of the book.
- It represents the Father and the Spirit as human women rather than as Spirit. It makes a graven image of God. And make no mistake--people are worshiping this image. Spoken to one of our pastors this past Sunday: "The god of The Shack, that's my god." Yikes.
- It casts submission and hierarchy into a category of sin and invention when Scripture reveals these concepts to be part of the very nature and inner communion of God.
- It is highly dismissive of the church, suggesting that a few people hanging out and skipping rocks with Jesus is really what He intended with the Church.
- The prose is pretty preachy and not terribly well written in my opinion.
Note to "Christian authors: feel free to play around with non-essential areas of theology like the rapture or imagined dialog between Paul and his companions while planting churches in the first century.
But please. Please. Leave the Trinitarian nature of God alone. People have a hard enough time with the nature of God without you making it harder.