Book Review -- By: Douglas C. Bozung

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 13:2 (Fall 2009)
Article: Book Review
Author: Douglas C. Bozung

Book Review

Douglas C. Bozung

Christian Fellowship Church

New Holland, PA 17557

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity. William P. Young. Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007. 256 pages. $14.99.

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity is a recent phenomenon in the literary world (a #1 New York Times bestseller), having sold more than seven million copies. The author, who suffered great loss as a child and young adult, is the son of missionary parents. Though the book is not an autobiography, Young’s unexplained “loss” clearly forms the backdrop and motivation for writing The Shack. It is essentially a theodicy composed in the context of a conversation the main character, Mack, has with God, following Mack’s loss of his own daughter through very grisly circumstances.

The Shack is written in an engaging and down-to-earth style that partially explains its current popularity. The reader easily and readily identifies with the anguish Mack has experienced as well as the multitude of questions he has for God. But the real secret to its success is the unusual manner in which it tackles the perennial problem of evil and suffering: through a Job-like conversation Mack has with God at a rustic shack, the apparent scene of his daughter’s demise.

What is unique—and also controversial—about this conversation is the manner in which God as a Triune Being is portrayed. God the Father, otherwise referred to as “Papa” throughout the book, is depicted by a kind of “Aunt Jemima” figure, a large and jovial African-American woman, who spends a lot of time in the kitchen. God the Son is a Middle Eastern man, who is described as “not particularly handsome” (echoes of Isaiah 53:2?) and “dressed like a laborer, complete with tool belt and gloves” (84). Finally, God the Spirit is represented by a small, Asian woman, called Sarayu, whose name, we are told, means “wind” in some unidentified language, and who, like the wind, tends to come and go without warning (John 3:8?).

From a Christian perspective The Shack possesses some commendable qualities. First, it deals with a difficult but compelling theological subject in a way that the average person can understand and relate to. Second, The Shack strives to portray God as a Tri-unity, even if one would question the manner of portrayal. For example, to maintain the Trinitarian

tension of one God in three Persons, Mack engages each of these three figures both individually as well as simultaneously. Papa...

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