Book Review: The Shack (Mar-Apr 2008)

By Matt Dabbs

by Patty Slack
March – April, 2008

The Shack by William P. YoungThe Shack
William P. Young
Windblown Media, Newbury Park, CA 91320
ISBN 978-0-9647292-3-0

The Shack, a novel by William P. Young, had already sold over 100,000 copies before I heard of it. By the time I ordered a copy and read it, sales were up to 250,000 copies. Its publisher, Windblown Media, has spent less than $200 on advertising, yet it currently sits on the #2 best seller spot in my local Christian bookstore. Soon it will sit on the front table of every Barnes and Noble in the country. Truly this little book has mass appeal.

What makes The Shack different from the thousands of other books published last year? What was it about The Shack that drew glowing endorsements from Eugene Peterson and Michael W. Smith and others?

I placed a call to Brad Cummings, president of Windblown Media, to get his take on the phenomenon. I was not surprised to hear him laughingly refer to his experience over the past few months as “surfing a tsunami.”

Windblown Media was born because Brad and his business partner, Wayne Jacobsen, believed in the power of William P. Young’s story of The Shack to speak to the neglected middle of America. This group is hungry for spiritual truth presented in an accessible format. They are tired of the pat answers offered by institutionalized Christianity, but want real answers to tough questions like “Why does God allow suffering?” and “What does relationship with God look like?”

When I asked Brad Cummings to describe some of the reactions he’s heard to The Shack, he said that the overwhelming response has been from people who have been disillusioned for years, questioning where God was in the midst of their personal tragedy. There is comfort in the understanding that God does not abandon us in our distress.

The Shack does not claim to be scripture. Neither does it claim that the words spoken by the character of God in the story are anything more than a fictional interpretation of God who seeks to be in relationship with his people. God’s character has always been revealed through stories—the histories of the old testament, the parables of the new, and the continuing story God writes on the hearts of those who seek him.

Despite its vast popularity, The Shack has recently met with its share of criticism. Some have said it’s a bit chummy, lacking the urgency of God’s judgment. Others have accused Young of including New Age spirituality and Hindu mysticism in order to draw people in. If you’re interested in knowing how Windblown Media responded to these and other criticisms, they have crafted a response at their website.

I found The Shack a good read. The opening story pulled me in; the later dialogs had me dog-earing pages to go back to. I find myself referring to ideas from its pages in conversation. There’s a lot of truth and love packed into this little story. I love the fact that it doesn’t play down the role of Jesus like so many current treatises on spirituality seem to do, but illustrates and reveals his role in drawing people to God’s heart.

A couple of caveats about The Shack: Keep in mind that the creators of this book purposely set out to describe one aspect of God, not every facet of his existence. No work of fiction (or library full of books) could ever completely describe God. Also, in places, I felt the conversations were written with a heavy hand, as if the message were more important than the plot.

The flavor of Socratic argument reminded me of Between Heaven and Hell by Peter Kreeft, a gem of a book which uses an imaginary debate to illuminate truth.

The Shack also seems to seek after truth, but truth wrapped in love. It’s not the Bible. It’s not direct revelation. But it is a good conversation starter, a jumping off place for people to reconsider relationship with God.

You might also want to see: The Shack’s official websiteNew Wineskins

Patty SlackPatty Slack is a graduate of Harding University. She and her family spent 7 years as part of a church planting mission in Togo, West Africa. She currently resides in the Pacific Northwest where she home schools her 3 daughters.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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