A friend gave me a book called The Shack a while ago. I was told that it was an interesting book that shares a unique perspective on the trinity of God and that many Christians were buying it. In fact, as I sit here writing this post, it is the number 7 book in Amazon sales, is number one in mystery and Thrillers, number one in Religion and Spirituality, and has produced almost 600 reviews – of that, 508 give the book at least four stars. For such a small book, you would think that the phenomena wouldn’t be as big as it is, but it is continually growing. So – what’s the big deal? What is it about? How do we review it fairly and can we recommend it to others? That is the purpose of this post.
The basic story centers around this guy named Mack, who gets a letter from God and God wants to meet Mack at the Shack (The Mack Shack – I never realized how ridiculous that sounds). This is the basis of the book. This guy Mack goes to the Shack and meets with God – The Trinity and has a conversation with them. From a unique standpoint, I found that part of the story interesting. What would it be like to sit down with God while you are alive and be in communication with Him? What kind of questions would you ask if you were given that opportunity? If I were to start writing them down now, I probably would have at lest 20 pages of questions I would love to ask about life, sin, death, creation, heaven, etc… I don’t think I would ever feel like I had enough time to ask all the questions I would have. So, from the very beginning, the book caught my attention.
It is from this point on in the story though, where my concern began to arise and continued to grow. God the Father is portrayed as an African-American woman named “Papa.” Jesus is a “typical Eastern man” who might look like He works on a farm or in the fields The Holy Spirit is portrayed as an Asian woman with a very strange name. There is no reason given why the name of the Holy Spirit is what it is but it is very mystical in nature. As I sit back and think about how the Trinity is viewed, I can only say that this book is heretical. How can anyone say that this makes sense? The more I consider how this man has made the Trinity to look, the more I wonder if he realized what he was doing when he wrote it. I hope he will plead ignorance. God has decided to show Himself to creation as a male. It is not a sexist thing. It is not a power trip issue. The image of God given is very pagan in nature. Those who endorse this book have accepted a lie for the possibility of the truth. For all the respect I have for Michael W. Smith, I can only shake my head. I can’t understand how he could endorse these things. The book does not stop there though. This is only the first issue I have regarding the book.
The second problem I have come up with regards how God the Father is viewed in light of this book. In a real sense, we are providing goddess worship if we are to take God the Father and make Him god the mother. The thought of actually saying that is absurd yet those who endorse this book and say that it is a great book, and that they understand the trinity, are actually saying that they want to worship God the Father as a woman and not in Spirit, as John 4 tells us. This also includes the Holy Spirit, seen as a woman in this book. The Holy Spirit never took on the form of flesh – only Jesus did. And, for a span of 33 (plus or minus) years, came in the form of flesh as a man and then returned to the Father in a glorified body. Let us think critically about what this book is saying if we are going to endorse it (remember 508 people gave it at least 4 stars). Can I just say, that this is wrong?
The third and final problem that exists for me regarding this book is the heretical view of modalism that is displayed through out the conversations Mack has with God the Father. In one point of the book, “Papa” says, “I am truly human in Jesus.” This is a heretical view of modalism; God the Father was not born to a virgin named Mary. The Father did not die on the cross. Modalism basically means that the Father became Jesus and the Father became Spirit. We believe though that the Father sent the Son to die for humanity and after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit was sent by the Son to be a comforter for us.
My final thoughts about this book revolve around an implicit statement that is made. The trinity says that there is no hierarchy among the trinity because that doesn’t make sense unless there is sin. That is basically saying that the trinity is sinful – which we must believe is not true. There is no sin within the trinity and that there is hierarchy among the trinity. God sent the Son and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. Though they are equal in respects to their nature, they ultimately choose to be subservient to one another. Jesus makes statements like, “I only do what the Father tells me to do” and other statements in that respect.
Here’s my point. Several hundred Christians from all walks of life are endorsing this book. Pastors, teachers, school friends, and even famous musicians all state that it is a great book for people who are struggling to understand the trinity. The problem is that God cannot be understood like these people want to understand God. You and I must come to grips with the mystery of God. We must embrace a God who is approachable and yet not understandable in many respects. We must embrace what we know about God as well. We must embrace what the Bible teaches and not allow “popular Christian books” to dictate our thoughts and beliefs concerning our faith or serious doctrinal issues. Lastly, we must embrace the truth of the Gospel and the truth of God’s Word. When we do that, we grow into maturity with Christ and with God the Father.
So. Would I recommend this book to anyone? I probably would not. Why would I want to give a skewed view of God to others when they could embrace the God of the Bible? I can only hope that we would spend more time knowing the Bible rather than reading the latest book on the Christian bookshelf. These are my thoughts anyway.