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4.0 out of 5 stars A Parable, Not a Text on Systematic Theology, October 4, 2008
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This review is from: The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity (Paperback)
I read The Shack as a book discussion group assignment (said group consisting of theologically conservative pastors), and I can understand why the book is upsetting to many--whether because of the subject matter (the murder of a child) or because of some of the book's theological implications.

However, I think many are missing the point that the book is a parable, not a doctrinal treatise. I found reading the book to be an incredibly moving experience, and have (cautiously) recommended it to those in my circle of acquaintance whom I think would be able to digest its message.

I do find it interesting that so many evangelical Christians have had such a negative visceral reaction to this novel. This is especially remarkable in light of the fact that, by and large, evangelical Christianity has embraced C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia--this despite the fact that Lewis wove animism, Greek philosophy, and Roman mythology into his parabolic communication of Christian truth. Not to put too fine a point on it, but is it any more offensive to present God in the form of an African-American woman who cooks scones, than it is to present God's Son as an animal which imparts blessing to children by licking them in the face? (Incidentally, I thoroughly enjoyed the Narnian Chronicles as well.)

My recommendation: If you want theology, read the works of theologians. (Watch out for Sproul and other 5-pointers, though.) If you want an emotionally moving parable which hammers home the importance of a personal relationship with God, then buy and read--and be touched by--The Shack.
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Tracked by 15 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 62 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 14, 2008 12:42:36 PM PST
J. Drake says:
I completely agree with you. I am almost finished with the book and I absolutely love it. I find it moving and helping. It shows the importance of having a personal relationship with God. As to God being represented as a black woman that cooks...why can't God be black? God can take any form he/she wants. I think making God a black woman, showing Jesus as a tan person, and the Holy Spirit as a flittering woman was a great idea. It shows that we, as a society of people, need to imbrace our differences. This books is awesome! I think every person should have to read it. It has impressed me and move me.

Posted on Nov 15, 2008 11:53:59 AM PST
Obviously the novel is a parable. The difference between it and the Chronicles of Narnia is that Lewis manages to convey the mystery and the majesty of God, while the Shack does not. It also raises too many theological issues with not enough depth. For your average evangelical, who has not pondered these questions the Shack can be an eye opener and provide the basis of interesting diiscussions. To use it devotionally as you are suggesting seems dangerous. It is a very theological book despite its parable format, and it is you that have missed this point.

Posted on Nov 22, 2008 10:43:37 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 23, 2008 4:52:02 PM PST
I think J. Drakes' response to your post makes it utterly clear that people ARE reading this book as a theological informative reading. No one reads the Chronicles of Narnia and walks away thinking Jesus "imparts blessing to children by licking them in the face". Aslan is a Christ-like figure in a FANTASY world. He is not Jesus!

When the children are told why it is always winter in Narnia no one believes he is reading an accurate detailed description of the world WE REALLY LIVE IN! We take it how Lewis intended; as a description of a fantasy world with faint reflections of the reality we live in; A real fallen world under the real power of Satan.

The Shack, however, sets itself up as a made-up interaction between the real God of the Bible and real Men made in His image within the real world we really live in! To compare the Shack to the Chronicles of Narnia is bogus. It would be better compared with the Divinci Code. A book that made false claims about the real Jesus and our real world and it's real History in a "fictional" format.

The Shack has God the FATHER (The real God of the Bible) appear as a woman with much to say about the world WE REALLY LIVE IN! But why the Authors desire to have The real God of the Bible appear in a way that God himself deliberately chose not to appear?! There is a reason Scripture reveals God to us as "FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT" and never as "MOTHER DAUGHTER AND HOLY SPIRIT"!!! Because he IS "FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT"!!!
(And in case anyone thinks The Holy Spirit is gender neutral John 14:26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, HE (NOT SHE!!!!!!) will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." )

As for your advice to watch out for Sproul and other 5 pointers, I think think it is wise advice! For all those who wish to cling to their unbiblical view of of God shaped by "incredibly emotionally moving and touching" books like the Shack! But for all of us who long to see and hear the Real God of Scripture, Let our hearts seek God the FATHER in the face of HIS SON Jesus Christ in the power of HIS Holy Spirit, for "HE will teach us all things" John 14:26

P.S Dare to read Spoul, Piper, Driscoll, Calvin, or listen to Paul Washer! The beauty of the God of the bible burns in their hearts and shines in their writings.

Posted on Nov 25, 2008 10:25:02 AM PST
Excellent review. I thoroughly agree with you that it hammers home a relationship with God. Perhaps this will inspire some people to search further. The people who criticize the "theology" of this book probably aren't sitting in the pew next to me anyway. After I read it, I knew the areas where some had found controversy. I didn't agree with their conclusions. There are many of us Christians, non-Christians, and burned Christians who can be pointed back to the Truth through this
moving story.

Posted on Nov 29, 2008 2:43:46 PM PST
I do agree with this review....Most people see God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit within their own ethnic description...Blond Hair, Blue Eyes Jesus for many of us in that category. Jesus was never Christian....He was a Jew from a place where people have tan skin, brown eyes, and chestnut color hair, and no, he wasn't Christian...God in the form of a woman from African Heritage being called "Papa"......That does call attention to God...But, why not? It created a challenge for me to pay close attention to what was written and not gloss over the pages quickly.

I am still thinking about the book days after I finished it. I found it moving and challenging my way of thinking about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I don't consider it a theological doctrinal book. I consider it a book that takes a serious situation with many heart wrenching feelings of anger, and self hating blame and helps a human being resolve this issue.

We in this real world have so many people of different creeds, races, socio-economical backgrounds and colors. I found this book addressing that situation in the descriptions of the characters portrayed in the book. As a society in general we need to recognize we have people who think, look and act differently from each other. We have to learn to accept our differences if we are to heal this world as a whole.

It is for the reasons above, that I do recommend this book. Not as a theological book, but as a book that has a way of celebrating life in a sociological and theological presentation.

Posted on Dec 4, 2008 6:26:59 AM PST
"Not to put too fine a point on it, but is it any more offensive to present God in the form of an African-American woman who cooks scones, than it is to present God's Son as an animal which imparts blessing to children by licking them in the face? (Incidentally, I thoroughly enjoyed the Narnian Chronicles as well.)"

Sorry, but CS Lewis had enough knowledge of the Bible and respect of God to have Aslan as the Lion, not just any animal. If you read Revelation 5:5 you would come to understand just why Lewis chose to have Aslan a lion and not just any animal. So yes, it is more offensive and less respectful of this author to make God out to be a woman of any race.

Nowhere is Jesus' parables was God compared to a woman.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2008 11:09:13 AM PST
V. Sidhu says:
And if Jesus did compare God to a woman, do you think the men who wrote the gospels would have really "heard" him?

Posted on Dec 9, 2008 5:24:48 AM PST
D. M. Gowens says:
I totally agree with you. I am reading the book now. A lot of people get caught up in believing the only the way they were taught growing up about God and can never see outside the box. We are all on a journey. It does not matter what road we take as long as we all arrive at the same place.
I am loving the book. Awesome story, and for those who have lost someone it is a very healing experience.

Posted on Dec 12, 2008 7:48:07 PM PST
people often feel threatened by books that represent something other than what they are comfortable with. This book spoke to me of love, hope, and an understanding that a personal relationship to the trinity is possible for anyone who seeks it. It gives comfort to those disenchanted by organized religion and its pomposity. Don't just read it once but several times to discover new feelings about God!

Posted on Dec 13, 2008 7:50:33 PM PST
Gras Duibh says:
There are problems with this book. For one, it is breaking the spirit of the second commandment, "Do not make for yourself a carved image -- any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or on earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." Perhaps this is not making a "Carved image," but it is making an image of God out of one's imagination rather than on what God has revealed in His own Word, the Bible. This is what another commenter was saying when she said, "Most people see God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit within their own ethnic description." That is the problem that so many are having with this book. Does it have good and helpful things to say? Yes, but so does Dear Abby. And while I do also have problems with the Narnia books, at least Lewis used a biblical picture of Christ, who is at least called the Lion of Judah. He also presented his story in an unreal setting so no one can mistake the analogy/parable for reality. That is not what you get in this book. And if a reader was to pay attention to the historical teachings of the Reformation as presented by Sproul and other "5 pointers," then this book would not be necessary in the first place.
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