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30 January 2010



At last someone else who has the same misgivings as I do that that the shack misrepresents the complexity of nature of God and seems to ignore whole chunks of the bible where God doesn't display that soft lovely dovey character the writer seems to favour.
Thanks for that vicar!

Andrew T

Spot on GV, I agree with your assesment of this book and with Rachael's comments too.

I would go as far as to say that this is a truly dreadful book and that in addition to the theological points that you have noted its cack-handed style of writing and crass treatment of the abduction and murder of a child takes it to the point of being distasteful.

There seems to have been quite a bit of hyping of "The Shack". Even the lady on the supermarket checkout where I bought it said that her friend had told her how good it was; I wonder if she would share that opinion if she ever read it for herself. As a result of said hype it has perhaps assumed some of the fabled qualities of the "Emperor's New Clothes" with many Chrisitians not wanting to be seen criticising it.

It is unusual for me to have such a strong reaction against a book but this one has got me hot under the collar. As for non-Christians seeking answers reading it, they will find none here and, indeed, could be put-off seeking further.


And to think you tried to encourage me to go to said event! ;-)


In fairness, I don't think most populist Wesley Owen/Christianity Today style books are significantly free of the flaws identified above. It boggles my mind that, in this day and age, we still have soppy nonsense such as "What's So Amazing About Grace?" and evangelicals -who'd get in a drama queen strop if you called them fundamentalists - claiming that Judaism has no concept of grace(!) hence the USP (!!) of Christianity indicates that it's the One, True, Religion (!!!). Such castles-built-on-sand justifications for 'faith' surely do more harm than good in the long run. Some fellow accused me of being 'sectarian' (!)for having a pop at ICC this week, which is a new one. If only its fans could legitimately self-describe as a 'race' and thereby enable some REALLY puerile ad hom zingers!


I haven't read the book so any attempt at a comment would only be a subterfuge to introduce my new blog.
I've finally succumbed even though I'm a technophobe at heart.
(I'm using the - plunk and see - method)
I may read this book to find out what all the fuss is about, if nothing else.


Woah, comments are the right way up!! Fabuloso!

Andrew T

Rachael, a friend told me once of his theory of "fluffy kitten" theology where people take the "good" and "nice" bits of the Bible that suit them and shoo away the rest.

I wonder if the trio of authors of "The Shack" would, for instance, be happy for the enaction of the biblical penalty for murder, (Genesis 9:6), for the murderer of "Missy"? I suspect that it might be a little harsh for their sugary, huggy tendencies.

Andrew T

Er, perhaps I have been missing something here, but Ryan, what exactly are you on about? And does it relate to GV's post at all?


Shucks! And I quite liked the unconditional love stuff. It's my flawed understanding of God, obviously!


>>>what exactly are you on about?

Problems in much Shack-style populist contemporary evangelical books and that the flaws in the Shack are, possibly, more representative than aberrational;

>>>And does it relate to GV's post at all?

Utterly and fulsomely!


Andrew, , I'd be more interested if - in the interests of consistency - such people would want to apply the rest of the OT law too. Perhaps stoning adulterers and homosexuals would be a good idea? That said, I agree with you in regard to hugs. Evangelical condemnations of homosexuality and "effeminacy" would mean more if it it didn't come from camp, weepy, huggy, limp-wristed males! Surely - from an ethical perspective - it's better to be an honest poof than the St.Silas kind? ;-)

ED... (who blogs at Sincere Ignorance and Conscientious Stupidity)

It's an execrable book.


The pagan method is to design a God which reflects your cultural outlook. You think you are doing something good and worthwhile, serving something outside yourself, when in fact you are deifying your own beliefs and effectively worshipping yourself. It's the folly of Christians and non-Christians alike, and a primary technique the devil has to keep your attention away from the glory of the One True God. The first two commandments highlight why that is extremely Not Cool.


I liked the Shack, theological dodginess and all.


"As for non-Christians seeking answers reading it, they will find none here and, indeed, could be put-off seeking further."

Actually, reading the bible puts many off. If you take genesis literally, many find it immoral and absurd. If you take it literally, it is still immoral (god predetermines the fall - whatever that would mean in a non literal interpretation). Then there are the acts of ethinic cleansing GOD orders - as well as the whole stoning gays, killing witches and stoning your family for worshiping other gods stuff. If you encourage people to only read the gospels, you are dishonestly shielding them from this stuff. Once you read the gospels though, you realise they dont pass the simplest tests of verifying their claims. I think the shack is the least of your problems.


Even Justin Martyr admitted that Christianity contains nothing that was not found in paganism. One could claim that the early church (Constantine) incorporated pagan beliefs into christianity to unite the empire.

I think a few folk have also hit on an important thing. People shape a god to meet their personal needs.


For what it's worth...

I read the book the Christmas before last and promptly went out and bought it for a couple of people. The overriding message I took from it was that God met the guy (Mac?) in his grief, and that God met him in a way that he could relate to. But as Mac journeyed (for want of a better word) things changed. The most moving moment for me was when Papa 'became' male - which came after the point when Mac had had his encounter/restoration with his own father.

I often hear of the problems that some people encounter due to Christians calling God "Father" due to, perhaps, problems in their own relationship (or lack of relationship) with their father. The beauty of this book was that it took a guy who couldn't relate to God the Father as male and by the end of it he could. I hope that this is something that the church might also do - i.e. journey with and help people along to the point where they can know true and full relationship with our Heavenly Father who is perfect beyond measure - no matter what our previous experiences have been.

Having said that, I agree also with the concerns raised by Keller and this raises an interesting question for me as to the extent to which one might still use this book as a postive metaphor (?) of God's interaction with human kind whilst ensuring we avoid the problems which so many have, helpfully, been pointing out.

Beat Attitude

This "incorporation" of certain pagan practises is better understood as Christians harnessing certain established worldviews, and reorientating them (where it is possible) to represent something more important, more true and more valuable.

The apostle Paul took his cue from the Athenians monument "to an unknown God" and used it as his inroad to talking about the significance of Christ. It is simply Christianity using the cultural terminology of the pagan worshippers to communicate the truth of Christianity. The medium itself is not where the power resides, but on the message it carries.

The natural tendency of human beings is to make and serve idols. I would say this is because God created us as beings designed to worship something: that is Himself. But the process of Christianity is in revealing the true nature of God to those who have turned away from God, and dispelling all the false ideas we have about him until we are finally able to see fully the God whom we are designed to worship.

For this reason, it is not only unsurprising, but logical that various religions spring up as a cultural process. That they should find their roots in some degree of truth is also unsurprising. We are inclined to try and fill in the blanks, and often get it hopelessly wrong when we attempt to do that on our own strength.

Christianity teaches that God's holy spirit himself reorientates people to find the truth that will set them free. Logically then, if you view any cross section of the Christian church, you will see people in various stages of error and idolatry. Sample that cross-section over time though, and you should witness, in those whom God has called, a trajectory towards truth and freedom.

Beat Attitude

We come across people all the time who are struggling with life (for whatever reason) and thirsty for truth. If we as Christians have the truth to give them, we ought to exercise our discernment to ensure that we are not giving them dirty water (no matter how appealingly it is presented). It might temporarily slake their thirst, but who knows what viruses are lurking at the bottom of the glass.

So the idea of a God who loves them as a father might be an idea they desperately need to hear, but give them that idea as water that has been filtered and purified in line with the teaching of scripture, and you give them the best possible thing to drink.

I think the problem with this book is that it sets itself up as an alternative to scripture on many key issues, and we who know the power of God's word understand how that is a very dangerous position.


Hi Greg,

Do you have evidence to back up your claim that god created us to worship something? It seems like a baseless assertion that has been made to "explain" certain problems in a presupposed world view. How do you explain my lack of need for worship? Surely your view woud mean that in the light of the first commandment, god is setting people up to break it?

One could also argue that when christians disagree, it is because there is no truth guiding them. Rather than being in error, they are simply unguided.


Forgot the main thing I was going to say - Doh! The point about pagan practices I was making is that much of the "Jesus stuff" already existed in pagan mythology - creator god, saviour god, virgin birth, returning from the underworld and the symbolic cannabalism of the communion to name but a few examples. It would appear that the story of Jesus was made up from other myths. Something corroborated by the shoehorning of OT prophecies into the Jesus story.


I'd be very wary of any Christian who suggested that we only read the gospels.
But it's equally important that we have the bible explained to us (by human teaching and in the spirit of God himself...this is the bible's own model for ensuring scripture is explained correctly). Jesus himself taught and corrected false understandings, fundamentalism in its various guises, imbalanced emphasis etc...

"Once you read the gospels though, you realise they dont pass the simplest tests of verifying their claims."

You seem to imply that they are fictional stories whose historicity is easy to undermine. I strongly disagree with the sentiment. An introductory book you might be interested to read is Mark D Roberts' "Can we Trust the Gospels":

and many academic issues you might have on that subject could be expertly addressed on his blog http://www.markdroberts.com/ There are many such respected sites and authors out there who would contest your assertions. Reclaiming the Mind is another one I warmly recommend http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/ where a wide range of topics are covered in great academic detail.


Hmm, am curious how (or if) that relates to yer man JC Ryle's contention that "ritualism is the road to Rome". One could also claim that pondering, seriously, issues of authority and the implication of the fact that history hardly supports the contention that scripture has one simple meaning accesible to all would, also, lead to Rome. But is that a reason to avoid such questions? Conceptually, reason and faith surely needn't contradict in that manner, and I'm not sure if it's as point in Evangelical Christianity's favour that it only really 'works' if you don't think about. Also, is there not a danger of Lewis' "Chronlogical snobbery" occuring in a theological sense; i.e. maintaining (albeit implicitly)that those Christians who worshipped a bloodthirsty antisemitic God (c.f. Luther) were guilty of an overly culturally-modelled idea of God,but modern believers are some how immune from such errors?


"One could also claim that pondering, seriously, issues of authority and the implication of the fact that history hardly supports the contention that scripture has one simple meaning accesible to all would, also, lead to Rome. But is that a reason to avoid such questions?"

Was that a question?


That there are certain contentious parallels in pagan mythology is actually much less of an issue than you are making it. If you want to debate the historicity of the gospels, do it with historians, such as those I have linked in other responses.

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