I’m a non-fiction gal, and I thrive on books which make me think deeply about life and challenge me to be the best I can be. Authors like Brené Brown, Henry Cloud, Stephen Arterburn, and Beth Moore have spoken such truth into my life that by the time I’ve finished the book or study, I’m different than I was before—more comfortable in my own skin.
I love non-fiction! Fiction? Not so much. While entertaining, it does not have that same effect on me that non-fiction does, and I have struggled to make time to read it. My teenage son, on the other hand, devours fiction and seems allergic to non-fiction. We are exact opposites in this regard, and he’s determined to expand my palate. So, we struck a deal: I will include fiction in my reading choices if he will read the non-fiction books I beg him to read. It’s a win-win situation, mostly.
The question is: How does a non-fiction addict select novel? Where do I even begin? The answer: Hollyweird. I decided if a movie appears intriguing, then I will read the book first. I’ve done this a few times so far, and it’s proven to be a good strategy for me.
A couple weeks ago, I caught the preview for The Shack. The novel was released back in 2007, and they’ve finally made it into a movie set to release on March 3, 2017. It looked interesting, and when I mentioned it to a friend, she gave me the novel. Literally. She said she buys them at used bookstores all the time, and gives them away. Why? Is it really that good?
The story—though written as if it were based on actual events—is fiction. But it’s also nonfiction on some level (in my opinion) due to its strong spiritual message. Rooted in complex theological truths which brilliant scholars have struggled for centuries to explain, The Shack showcases the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in relationship. The three-in-one. Separate persons. One God. Exactly what the Scriptures teach, and yet, mind-bending just the same.
Mack knew that what he was hearing, as hard as it was to understand, was something amazing and incredible…not that he actually believed any of it. If only it were true. (pg. 102)
By detailing the spiritual experience of one man, Mack, in the aftermath of a terrible and “preventable” tragedy, the reader is confronted by the limitations of his or her own expectations of God and the problem of evil in the world.
The Shack challenges our traditional, often “Gandalfian,” view of God the Father while carefully clearing away the clutter of convictions based on false premises. Because this is a work of fiction—not a formal theological treatise—the author uses creative license to subtly expound systematic theology without intimidation or force. Though unconventional in presentation, this novel is deeply theological and packed with conventional doctrine. For example, while addressing the problem of evil in the world, the theological construct of theodicy is explained in easy-to-understand terms:
Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors. (pg. 185)
Profound, right? And there is more. So. Much. More.
The Shack is beautifully written and filled with vivid images stirring the imagination and feeding the soul. If you allow this book to stretch your understanding of the Trinity via fictional characterizations of God the Father, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, you will walk away with not only a theologically sound understanding of the God of the Bible and the Christian faith, but also a better understanding of the purpose of a relationship with Him.
I highly recommend The Shack to anyone who has suffered a personal tragedy, wrestled with the concept of the Trinity, and/or wondered how a good God could allow evil to exist in a world He created.
As a side note, I was surprised/not surprised to learn of a kerfuffle a few years ago with LifeWay Christian Store. At first, they decided to feature the book in their stores; however, after accusations of “heresy,” they removed it. Then, after review from a number of conservative theologians—who found nothing unscriptural within it—LifeWay brought the book back to its shelves once again. Meh. You may enjoy reading about the authors’ experience with LifeWay here.
Since the book has been out for ten years now, you should be able to find a used copy at any used bookstore or on Amazon.com.
I can’t wait to see the movie! Here’s the official trailer for The Shack (Movie)
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