I read the book last January. Moved to tears several times, I was emotionally and intellectually engaged by Young’s storytelling. This modern parable addresses some of the most perplexing topics of Christian theology as well as some of the most gut-wrenching experiences believers can have. Writing about Trinity, atonement, providence, suffering, theodicy, death of children, parental abuse, forgiving murderers, forgiving self, incarnation, etc. is difficult prose to pursue, even more difficult to describe parabolically. Such an ambitious task is either foolhardy or courageous but neverthless at least interesting and intriguing. I found it rather compelling.
I have had several requests to review the book and comment on some of the theological controversy surrounding it. I have hesitated for several reasons.
I read the book on the verge of my own crisis–I would confront some of my demons in the first weeks of February. I entered my period of rest from ministry and academia just after reading Young’s work. I wonder if the book even contributed to the timing of my own “shack.” In any event, I did not want to rush into print about the story. I needed time to process my own stuff without focusing on Young’s “shack.”
Also, at the time, I was rather uninterested in the theological controversy swirling around the book. I did not want to engage in any theological debates, nuances, or heresy trials. I did not want to spend time parsing the meaning and specifics of parabolic descriptions and dialogue. I thought the book had a much more important significance than some of those debates.
Further, the subjects Young discusses are close to my own story, heart, and study. Some of it was too painful to discuss at the time; some of it was too ambiguous (as it seemed at first reading) to pursue with any profit. I needed to work through my own “shack” before engaging Young’s parable.
The past few days have changed my mind, and the past several months have prepared me to invest in a review and discussion of Young’s work. I am still rather uninterested in the theological debates surrounding the book. Instead, I am interested in the spiritual therapy, recovery and healing available through the book as God’s Spirit uses it for such.
I turned my attention to the book once again after I received a request this past week. On Wednesday I was asked to substitute for Rubel Shelly who was scheduled to speak about the Shack at the next Nashville Zoe Conference, which is a week from today. I have not spoken anywhere since the first weekend of February–churches, seminars or schools. I did not intend to speak anywhere other than the Woodmont Hills Church (beginning this November) for the rest of 2008. However, this invitation seemed to be God’s timing.
As my wife and I talked about the possibility, it became clear to us that perhaps this was a moment designed by God for my sake. We discerned that this is about what God wants to do in my “shack” and give me the motive and opportunity to reflect in a focused way on my own story in the light of Young’s parable and metaphors. In other words, I agreed to speak for my own sake more than for any other motive.
At this point I have some anxiety about speaking, particularly on the emotional subjects which the Shack raises. But my wife, my spiritual advisors, and I feel it is time and this is an opportunity practically (divinely?) tailored for me. I have felt called to speak again at this moment, at this time, on this subject. I have no intention of speaking again till I begin a short Bible class series at Woodmont Hills in November.
However, my review–at least in the first few posts–will not rehearse the controversial questions for which the book has been attacked. Many are good questions–goddess worship? open theism? modalistic trinitarianism?–but they are marginal to my concerns as a griever and addict. I am much more interested in how this parable offers an entrance into the substantial themes of divine love, forgiveness, healing, and hope. This will be my initial focus and perhaps after “first things first” I will address some of the theological questions in later posts.
So, I invite you to journey with me through the maze of grief, hurt, and pain as we face our own “shacks.” (For those interested, you may download my oral presentations on The Shack at my Audio Page.
For those interested, the The Shack‘s official website is a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with the book, Young’s life, and some of the controversy as well as healing that has surrounded the book.
P.S. I leave in a few moments for Dallas for the sake of ministering to needy Dallas Cowboy fans….I will be attending the Cowboy-Redskin game on Sunday. I won’t come up for air till Monday afternoon upon my return to Nashville.