Which brings me to The Shack, by William Young. What Young has written falls into the third category I mentioned: stories (and barely so) of people coming face to face with the Almighty. There has been a lot written about this book, both pro and con. As you can see from my previous post, I am not naturally inclined toward this kind of writing: the storyline is weak and the characters poorly developed. In addition there are any number of ways to get derailed from the author’s purpose along the way.

God Almighty, as presented in this book, is a happy, slightly scatological African woman, the Holy Spirit is an Asian nymph, and Jesus is a Middle Eastern Jew (true to type, at least once). They confront our protagonist in a woodsy shack where his daughter was brutally assaulted and murdered. Their response to our hero’s grief and dismay is dishearteningly facile, at least initially.

If that is as far as you got before throwing the book aside in disgust and righteous indignation (as I almost did) then you will have missed an interesting book. Putting aside the author’s obvious deficiencies as a writer – “blazing campire”,  “veritable feast of hamburgers”, and so on – there is a thoughtful man who has something to say on the nature of suffering. No, it is not Job, and clearly this is not the majestic view of God that we get in that venerable exploration of human pain. It is not even C.S. Lewis’ insightful The Problem of Pain. But there are some worthwhile thoughts, nonetheless, and it is worth seeing past the book’s peculiarities to find them.

Consider these little nuggets. “Paradigms power perceptions, and perceptions power emotions;” or, “Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where you find suffering you will see grace in many facets;” or, “There are many people who end up locking themselves into a very small space with a monster that will ultimately betray them.”  Here is a man who has done some serious thinking on the problem of human suffering. If he has chosen to share his insights through the metaphor of an incarnate Trinity of questionable theological sanctity, then I can live with that. As for God being offended by this portrayal, let’s not go too far down that road, shall we? There is already a religion out there that specializes in being offended by distorted representations of its view of God. I don’t want my faith in that camp!

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