The May 2009 Lutheran Witness has what the author claims to be a fair review of the blockbuster novel The Shack. I claim the review is lame. I can’t claim the novel is lame since I haven’t read it. My only defense for not reading it is that even though I like Bob Dylan’s music I could hardly stand the Bob Dylan bio-pic filled with his music because he is played by a young black boy, an old woman, and a down-and-out youth. So I don’t think I can get through a book where God the Father is portrayed by an African American woman who is a gourmet chef, and the Holy Spirit is portrayed as a female Asian gardener. Jesus is portrayed as a carpenter which seems tame in comparison. But as I said I don’t claim the novel is lame; I claim the review is because it regards the book as a “must read” for Christians who don’t want to miss the ongoing “dialog.” And for non-Christians, reading is recommended because it can introduce them, at least obliquely, to Christian truths.
The Shack is by no means the first novel (or movie) to be promoted as a new, different, perhaps better way to convey some aspect of Christian truth. Don’t miunderstand I think, for example, there are profound religious truths conveyed in John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany and Graham Green’s An Affair to Remember. Yet I don’t think they should be promoted or recommended for that reason.
Books and movies are first to last ways to entertain and as such they are fine. But when someone points you toward entertainment as a source for facts, reliable information, truth, beware. For over 20 years radio personality Rush Limbaugh has said time again he is an entertainer, yet millions use him as their source for truth.
It’s sad when a person has to resort to entertainment for truth. Things in entertainment can be used to illustrate truth, but you first have to have it. The only way to find truth in The Shack is if you bring it through the door with you. You don’t need to read the book, mind you, but if you do, beware of leaving The Shack with a truth you didn’t bring in with you.
Hmmmm. Don’t knock your idea…..you might be on track to writting the next novel endorsed by the Oprah book club
Pastor, thanks for your post. You’ve put into words what my gut was churning against when a friend recommended this as “one of the best representations of the Trinity [she’s] ever read.” Ugh. I recognize that Christian themes/truths are great subjects for the creative arts, but I can’t stand this post-modern schlock. And no, I haven’t read it either. I’m curious to, but I doubt I could stomach it.
But thinking more… what makes this kind of thing any different than musing on classical/fine art paintings of the Trinity such as these: http://www.logoi.com/pastimages/trinity.html
I think it *is* different…
If you replaced the Father/Son/Holy Spirit in these paintings with a black woman, an asian gardener, and a carpenter, and painted them in a casual/modern style, would we have a similar reaction?
Maybe it’s less about entertainment and more about the manner or style in which the subject is portrayed? Like form effects the content? Maybe some forms *are* more appropriate for certain content? Maybe what we find irksome about this book is very similar to what find irksome about contemporary “Christian” music? … schlocky treatment of Great Things…
You may well be right in your assessment of “The Shack”, but to dismiss it so decisively based on hearsay is not terribly helpful. I would encourage you to read it not with the goal of finding ‘truth’, but just to see what the author has to say. Otherwise, your criticism is ignorant reaction, not reasoned argument.
My personal take is that “The Shack” does indeed help us to get a glimpse of the nature of the Trinity precisely because the author presents it in a way we don’t expect. We really must remember that we cannot in our limited, fallen, human condition ever really know what God in His 3 Persons is like until we reach eternity. And that is probably the best lesson of “The Shack”.
I wasn’t reviewing the book but a review of the book. I’m not ignorant of that review. I faulted it for recommending the book for spiritual insight, growth, and understanding even as your “personal take” does.
Furthermore, according to your “personal take” the book teaches that we can’t ever in our fallen nature know what God in His 3 Persons is like. According to Holy Scripture, “In Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). His “body” is smaller than “The Shack,” yet contains infinitely more.
Finally, the inward workings of the Trinity are none of our business. Scripture gives us three words, that’s all, to describe them: begetting, begotten, proceeding. The outward workings of the Trinity are for us. We have a Bible full of them all centering on Jesus.
Thanks for taking the time to comment!