The Shack

Here is my “review” of the book, “The Shack.” I wrote this and e-mailed it to all of my friends in August 2008 after reading “The Shack” for my church’s book club. Since the book is still making its rounds in the Christian community and since it came up in conversation in the comments section of another blog; I thought that sharing this would be relevant.


I recently read a popular book called “The Shack” by William P. (Paul) Young. I am giving you my opinion of this book now because I can find a ton more positive reviews about this book than negative. Especially within the Christian community; most of the reviews/comments I have read give mostly praise and “how this book changed my life” perspectives. Personally, for a book that many people consider as Christian Fiction; I find this book to be mostly unbiblical and very questionable. I was going to attempt to write a long overview of the book with my side notes, opinions, and scripture. I decided not to do this because most of the problems I have with the book are major theological issues. Instead, I will refer you to a couple of reviews that I found helpful in my quest to better understand “The Shack.” Both confirmed my issues with the book but also mentioned things that I did not notice during my first reading of it.

I highly recommend that you read these reviews.

  • The second review was written by James B. De Young (Update: At the time of my original blog post, this review was available for free in PDF form. It has been published since then and is now available for purchase. It is called Burning Down The Shack).

If you have not read “The Shack;” please know that I am NOT recommending this book. If you prefer to read it before hearing my “spoilers” and opinions or reading other reviews; I encourage you to read it with discernment. I recommend reading the above reviews afterward to give you better insight on what the Bible says compared to the book’s point of view. (And compare the book’s “theology” with the Holy Bible; not with what “feels good.”)


Summary of “The Shack”:

This book is a fiction story about a man (named Mack) whose young daughter (Missy) was kidnapped and brutally murdered. Afterwards, he lives with “The Great Sadness.” A few years later, Mack receives a note in the mail saying: “Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together. –Papa”

It is revealed early on that “Papa” is Nan ’s (Mack’s wife) favorite name for God. Mack decides to go to the shack (place where Missy was murdered) to find out if God would be there.

At the shack; Mack meets the three persons of God (Papa-God the Father, Jesus, and Sarayu-the Holy Spirit). Throughout Mack’s stay at the shack; he has detailed and emotional conversations about love, forgiveness, who God really is, etc.  with each person of the Trinity.

Towards the end of the book; Mack forgives his daughter’s killer and becomes at peace with God (instead of being angry with him). “The Great Sadness” leaves and his life is changed.


Before “The Shack”:

Before I read “The Shack” I did not know anything about it. It was chosen for my church’s Book Discussion Group. My life had been very busy with directing our church Vacation Bible School, directing the church Women’s Council, my home business, chasing my 19 month old daughter, and managing the rest of my while my husband was overseas with a military assignment–all while I was 5 months pregnant with my second daughter.

Although I had participated in a previous book discussion; the most recent one I missed because I could not find time to read the chosen book before the set date. After VBS was over I realized that the book meeting for “The Shack” was in two weeks. I was told that it was an easy read and that several people had read the book for the discussion. So…I requested a copy of the book hoping that I would have time to read it. I was able to read it within 3 days…


After “The Shack”:

The first several chapters were emotional for me as the author reveals Mack’s tragic circumstances and how he handled them. I couldn’t help but think how  I would be able to cope if I lost my daughter in a similar way. I can only imagine the depression that I would fall under and the anger that I would have towards God and the person responsible for her loss; if something ever happened to her. My tears fell in sympathy to Mack’s turmoil.

My problems with the book start when Mack meets God. I turned down corners pages that I found disturbing statements, ideas, etc. on them. I wanted to find scripture later to back up the issues that I had. As the book went on; my discomfort with it went up.

When I finished “The Shack” the thing that disturbed me the most was the fact that it had been chosen for the church book club. I assumed when I received the book that the church was promoting it as a good book. I immediately e-mailed my husband asking him to pray for me as I research the scripture and other reviews. I wanted to be sure that I could back up my problems with the book; with scripture. I started praying for my church discussion group and the discussion we were going to have soon. I hoped and prayed that I was not the only one who had issues with “The Shack.”


Good Points:

Like I sort of mentioned before, the author created a very tragic and emotional story line. I love books that are able to tug at my heart strings and cause me to cry, laugh, etc. If a book can do this; it is easy to get absorbed into it as if I am there too. I can imagine the characters, scenery, etc. in my head and it becomes like a movie as I am reading. This book was able to do this for me.

Mack experienced a tragedy that some people may be able to relate to. The circumstances may not be the same for everyone; but anyone who has something tragic happen in their life goes through a variety of emotions and coping mechanisms. Mack seems to struggle with issues about God that many people struggle with. All of us have low points in our lives where we give up, turn to addictions, crawl under the covers and never want to come out, cry, etc. Ultimately, God wants us to turn to him; but a lot of people tend to dwell in their misery before they do.

Mack’s road to forgiveness is long but he does eventually come to forgive the person who hurt his daughter. Because of this; his burden of depression was lifted and he is able to comfort his family and help them through their depression.


Problem Areas:

Like I mentioned before; I am not going to go into detail about the problems. Instead, I recommend reading the above mentioned reviews. They both go into great detail about the problems and use scripture to explain what is different between the theology of the book and the Bible.

The issues that I had with the book include: God (the Father and the Holy Spirit) is portrayed as a woman, Bible is undermined, God doesn’t judge (because of love), sin is it’s own punishment, Jesus is the “best” way; not the “only” way to the Father, Universal Reconciliation is portrayed throughout the book, institutions such as government, seminary, marriage, etc. are portrayed as not of God, there is no authority within the Trinity, authority within humans is “man’s problem” not God’s, and the list goes on and on.


My Book Club:

We had a great discussion about the book. I think that everyone came with the understanding that the Bible is the final authority. Some people (like me) were very passionate about pointing out the problems in the book. Others said that they read it as a fiction book and filtered out the bad theology; knowing that it was untrue based on what they know to be true. Someone else came with a completely different view point. She focused on the Missy murder storyline and was more upset about that than anything else. But when others brought up problem areas; she asked very good questions that created even more great discussion.


As someone told me, and I told my discussion group…

”In the end it doesn’t matter what we believe, think or feel about something.

All that matters is what God tells us in the Holy Bible.”


“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” 2 Peter 2:1-3

9 replies

  1. THANK YOU!!! This review was wonderful! I have held the same ideas about this book, since receiving it from a friend who thought it “wonderful and amazing”. I had serious issues with it and felt alone, as you said, most of the reviews are positive. I understand that it is fiction, but so many people talk of it’s changing their lives. Only the Bible has that power, or should, anyway. So, again, I say THANK YOU!!! God bless!

  2. The Shack is a work of fiction all and wasn’t meant as a theologicial statement regarding God. So the accusation of “heresay” is a bit much if you ask me. I didn’t care for the book simply because I didn’t get much out of it and I thought it rather boring. The fact that Young portrayed God as a big fat black women isn’t problematic for me. I think he is saying that God might not be what you expect…. what your traditions and interpretations have taught you…in that I think Young is right. Many times we put “right” doctrine, or what we believe to be “right” doctrine, above love, mercy and grace and have become nothing more than clanging cymbals ringing out judgement from every corner.

    • If it was taken as JUST a work of fiction; I would agree with you. Most of the reviews I read were saying how this book completely changed peoples views about God. People were taking the stuff about God to be factual and life changing based on feeling and not based on scripture.

      The first review I linked to quoted someone on Amazon saying: “Honestly I don’t think that there is a book other than the Bible itself that has influenced the dimension of my love for the Father, Jesus, and Sarayu… The visual imagery that the author has been able to convey through the eyes of Mack will forever impact my visions of my Trinitarian guardians.”

      and somone else saying: “Wish I could take back all the years in seminary! The years the locust ate???? Systematic theology was never this good. Shack will be read again and again. With relish. Shared with friends, family, and strangers. I can fly!”

      Also, the second review I linked to was written by a family and theological friend of the author. As someone who knew the author personally he speaks out on the views of the book based on what he knows of the author.

      • “Also, the second review I linked to was written by a family and theological friend of the author. As someone who knew the author personally he speaks out on the views of the book based on what he knows of the author.”

        What? 39 pages dising his friend’s book? Some friend he turned out to be. And the fact that Al Mohler weighed in on the “heresay” accusation doesn’t help your case with me at all.

        The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

        • I know…so either he really feels strongly about speaking out against him or he is just trying to find a way to ruin a friendship… 🙂

          I don’t know a whole lot about Al Mohler.

          • “or he is just trying to find a way to ruin a friendship”

            From what I’ve read about Young, the author, I’ve got a feeling he will handle his friend with grace and forgive him.

  3. Reblogged this on Heart Treasures and commented:

    In light of the new movie adaptation of The Shack, I thought I would reblog my review of the book. I have no plans to watch the movie because of how strongly I feel about the bad and misleading theology the book presents. I would consider watching it if someone asked me to give my opinion of it but I highly doubt the movie would make significant enough changes from the book to change my opinion of it. If you choose to watch the movie and/or read the book, I encourage you to do so with caution and with careful consideration and comparison to scripture. Do not let the emotional story cloud your discernment.

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