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Theological Reviews of The Shack by William P. Young

Here are a number of excerpts from reviews of the The Shack by William P. Young by reputable Christian leaders. 

Regent College theology professor John Stackhouse's

The Shack 1: In Defense of Ideological Fiction

I’m happy to say that I did not find it propagandistic, but compellingly plausible.

The Shack 2: Some Theological Concerns (Part 1)

As I say, these are important theological matters in themselves, but not crucial to The Shack. I would like to see them either corrected or dropped from later editions of the book. But even if they aren’t, I don’t see them as fatal to the book’s main purpose and helpfulness.

The Shack 3: Theological Concerns (Part 2)

These are my main theological concerns with The Shack. I maintain that they could all be fixed to my full satisfaction and nothing crucial to the architecture, argument, or artistry of The Shack would be lost.

The Shack 4: Some Celebrations

No, let’s take the experience of reading The Shack the way the book’s protagonist took the experience of visiting it: as a necessarily limited accommodation to his capacities and needs, the thing he needed to receive right then.

If a book can be that, it’s a good book indeed . . .

. . . as I think The Shack truly is.

I would particularly recommend the comments by Dr. Stackhouse who is an outstanding evangelical theologian, with a Ph.D. in historical theology from the University of Chicago, and interacted charitably with Paul Young, the author of The Shack in person.


Ben Witherington - Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, Shacking Up With God—William P. Young’s ‘The Shack’- Jul 23, 2008

I want to say from the outset that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, as it involves a lot of interesting theologizing about God and the divine-human encounter, and it clearly has struck a nerve with many people who are longing to have a close encounter with God of the first sort. I am happy this novel can provoke thought and stir up people to reconsider the God of the Bible and what having a relationship with God might mean and be like. And because it is a work of fiction, no one should evaluate this work as if it were an exercise in systematic theology as if it were Barth’s Dogmatics for the Emerging Church, as its aims are much more modest . . .  What I would suggest is that it needs considerable further theological refinement.

Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.- from the book jacket:

When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of "The Shack." This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" did for his. It's that good!

Derek R. Keefe - Christianity Today Magazine - Jul 11, 2008 Reading in Good Faith: The Shack is a tale of tragedy redeemed, not a theological treatise.

Reading between the lines, I see a formerly troubled soul who's made peace with God about his past, but is still not at peace with the church. I'd love to see the book become an occasion for open conversation with "spiritual but not religious" folks burned by church experience. Here's an opportunity to show good faith—to Christ, his church, and her teachings; to authors and their work; and to readers who rejoice in learning they are not alone.

Derek Keefe - "The Shack" Built on Shifting Sands? William Young's surprise bestseller sparks heated response and prompts important questions at Christianity Today's LiveBlog

Several conservative Protestant heavyweights--Al Mohler, Chuck Colson, Mark Driscoll, and influential blogger Tim Challies--have sounded off on the dangers of The Shack's vision of God, salvation, and the Church, creating a quartet of caution for the casual Christian reader. These strong cautions are all the more notable in light of the over-the-top endorsement from one of evangelicalism's most respected spiritual sages, Eugene Peterson, which is featured on the book's back cover.

Tim Challies, conservative Reformed theology blogger quoted at Justin Taylor's post The Shack Reviewed, which  links to a 17 page review by Challies.

Despite the book’s popularity among Christians, believers are divided on whether this book is biblically sound. Where Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, says it “has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim Progress did for his,” Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says, “This book includes undiluted heresy.” While singer and songwriter Michael W. Smith says “The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God,” Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, says, “Regarding the Trinity, it’s actually heretical.”

Brandon O'Brien, assistant editor of Leadership Journal at the Out of Ur blog, June 16, 2008 Taking The Shack to the Shed Is the hottest new Christian novel an exercise in heresy?

Young does two things I wouldn’t advise fiction writers to do: 1) depict the Trinity in bodily form and 2) put words in the Trinity’s mouth. My fear would be that such attempts would result in hokey prose—and, to be honest, that happens from time to time in The Shack. But several notable Christian thinkers have more serious charges for Young.

Andrew Jones - Tall Skinny Kiwi - (UK emerging church / missional blogger) - from his blog post The Shack:

It's a good book. . . The Shack reads a little like a Frank Perretti classic but its not as complex or gripping and neither does it produce paranoia in the weak minded . . . Unfortunately, The Shack is also cheapened by well-used Christian cliches and drags horribly in the middle where the story gets stuck in a theological conversation about the Trinity - which i did not struggle with theologically, despite the accusations of modalism from the fundie [fundamentalist] bloggers.

Greg Boyd, Minnesota pastor and author, Sunday, June 22, 2008 The Shack: A Review

Warning: Do not read this novel on a plane or any other public place where you're trapped around people -- unless you're totally okay with becoming emotionally undone in front of perfect strangers. There are points where this book rips your heart out. At least it did me. The body building dude sitting next to me on the plane must have thought I was a first rate wimp, weeping over a novel. Anyway, to my surprise, I loved this book!

Collin Hansen, Christianity Today online The Trinity: So What? The Shack allegorizes a tricky but foundational doctrine.

Given the doctrine's complexity, it's no surprise that we turn to analogies for help. But every analogy breaks down. "Most analogies drawn from the physical realm tend to be either tritheistic or modalistic in their implications," Millard Erickson writes in Christian Theology. Following Augustine's lead, Erickson therefore opts for analogies drawn from human relationships, though he admits that they, too, fail to convey the deep beauty of this central Christian confession.

Greg Surratt - Multi-site church pioneer - Jul 22, 2008 The shack

Theologically, I didn't see anything dramatically problematic...the author doesn't have a very high view of church...I think Jesus likes the church a little more than he would have you to believe.

I liked it...but who really cares?  If the book began the process of opening up a spiritual seeker, who would probably never hear a sermon from that pastor that she unknowingly shared a plane ride with, to the idea that God loves her and wants to have a relationship with her forever, what difference does it make whether I liked it or not?

Cindy Crosby -book reviewer at Christianity Today Magazine - Jul 11, 2008 - Fiction for the Faith-Starved: The Shack tells a compelling, if imperfect, story.

Reviewers have criticized the book for hinting at universalism, as well as for feminism and a lack of hierarchy in the Trinity. Rather than slicing and dicing the novel, looking for proof of theological missteps, a better approach might be to look at significant passages as springboards for deeper discussion.

Mark Batterson - Pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC - from his blog post What I'm Reading

Love it for lots of reasons. First of all, I love books that touch the emotions and inspire the imagination. This book does that. But it also has an amazing storyline that is really gripping.

Perry Noble, NewSpring Church South Carolina megachurch pastor, What I’ve Been Reading

In my opinion this book is an excellent piece of fiction writing that is loaded with some tricky theological issues. I’ve seen both positive and negative reviews on it…but I can say that, for the most part, I enjoyed it. It made me think…and I love books that make me do that. It will definitely cause you to look and God in an entirely different way.

D.J. Chuang at Leadership Network, The Shack touted as Pilgrim's Progress

While William Young does intend to challenge our preconceptions of God, the story risks confusing some readers with theological misunderstandings. Is this a risk worth taking? I personally think so, but I know not all would agree.

Brad Lomenick - Director of Catalyst Conference from his blog post - Have you read The Shack?

Alright, I have to admit- I am usually a major critic of Christian fiction books. They just usually don’t deliver on expectations. But I recently came across a gem- The Shack by William Paul Young. You have to check it out. Buy it immediately. And then buy it for your family, friends, and co-workers. It will change your perspective and spiritual paradigm, especially as it relates to the Trinity and God’s desire for relationship with us humans.

Cathy Lynn Grossman, 'Shack' opens doors, but critics call book 'scripturally incorrect'  The USA Today

The Shack's success has changed Young's life — a little.

He no longer works three jobs running a manufacturer's sales office and working on websites. Kim still works at Gresham High School as a baker, but she's driving a new Honda. They've moved from the tiny rental house, where he wrote The Shack in the windowless basement near the washing machine, to a bigger rental nearby.

Holding hands and beaming at one of their grandchildren, the Youngs say they'd be fine if the money vanished tomorrow.

"Mack is me, a guy who has made a mess of everything," Young says. "The book takes him outside everything familiar, back to the worst experience of his life and lets him recognize God is so much greater."

. . . Mohler, Driscoll and other evangelicals pick The Shack apart plank by plank.

No, God can't be a presented as a woman. No, the three parts of the Trinity did not all become fully human. Yes, there is a hierarchy in the Holy Trinity with God the Father in command. Yes, God will punish sin.

Bob Smietana, journalist, The Tennessean - Novel about God hits a chord in Nashville area: Self-publishing turns rejected manuscript into a big seller.  April 3, 2008.

[Young] self-published The Shack after no publisher would touch it, and it held Amazon.com's No. 1 spot in fiction for weeks. The book he wrote for his children has now sold close to 400,000 copies . . .

"I'm being asked to speak to thousands of people, and I am as dumb as I was last year," said the 53-year old Young, who until recent weeks had a job as an office manager that also included cleaning toilets at a small sales company in Oregon . . .

Just before Young started on The Shack, they lost their home to foreclosure, and spent several years living with four of their six children in a 900-square-foot rental. "It's nice to know that we can pay the bills," Kim Young said.

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