Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thoughts about The Shack

I was going to make this a comment on Joel's blog but since it kept getting longer and longer I decided to post my own blog and share my impressions of The Shack. I'm really glad Joel brought up this subject. First, I'd like to share some background information.

I’ve been involved with Wayne Jacobsen’s ministry for about 2-3 years. I knew about The Shack when he first read it. I even got to vote on the cover design before it was published. Wayne and Brad spoke frequently about the book on their podcasts and they spoke very highly about it so my excitement was stirred up. I got the book several weeks after it was published. By that time, several people on Wayne’s forums had read it and the reports were glowing so I read it with the highest expectations. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. Since the glowing reports kept coming in, I assumed I had missed something on the first reading so I decided to read it again and I did. Being goal oriented, I forced myself to finish it.

I’ve said it on Wayne’s forums so I don’t mind saying it here. I would not recommend the book to anyone. I don’t initiate conversations about the book since I don’t want to discourage anyone who might read it and enjoy it. I really have tried to find out what people like about the book but most of the comments are so vague that they’re not helpful. I’ve only gotten a couple of specific comments that have helped me to understand why those individuals are so taken with the book. I try not to share my thoughts about it unless someone else brings it up because I've sensed some defensiveness about it. Not from Wayne but from others who love and have commented about the book. I don’t think that’s a problem here so I feel I can freely share my thoughts. I hope I don't offend anyone who may have enjoyed the book.

I’m sure now everyone is wondering what I didn’t like about the book or if I’m one of those doctrine police Wayne talks about. Definitely not! I think very highly of Wayne Jacobsen as I do Paul Young and Brad Cummings. As a matter of fact, Wayne is going to be in S. C. for the first time this week-end and I plan to go meet him and spend time with him and the others who will gather there. I can't wait. I've been praying about meeting Wayne for a long time now.

My problem is that I just don’t like Paul’s style of writing. I don’t think symbolically so I couldn't figure out most of what he was trying to say. I much prefer someone to just say what they mean without me having to figure out what their intentions were. That’s why I was hoping people would tell me specifically what they liked about the book so that I could learn it too. Apparently I needed an interpreter to help me understand it. I can be pretty thick at times so the problem may be with me and not Paul.

Also, I had problems relating to the characters and some of the situations. In my opinion, the parts of the book that were supposed to be very dramatic were rather cheesy. Again, the problem may be with me and not with Paul but I'm just being honest about my impressions.

I hope I haven't discouraged anyone from reading the book. Everyone is different and will react differently. There are people who I trust and respect who have been greatly impacted by the book. Perhaps I'm in the minority or maybe the ones who like it are more vocal. I don't know and it really doesn't matter.

What is important is that believers not let this book become a source of division. Paul, Wayne and Brad never meant it to be that. It's merely a book that shares one man's journey into a deeper understanding of Father's love. Joel quoted what Wayne said and I think I'll repeat it again. "I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy what you think is the meat and toss what you think are the bones." I think that's good advice when reading any book or listening to any teaching.


Walking Church said...

I have not read this book - The Shack. I am not one to like fiction.

I know lots of people who absolutely love fiction - I cannot wade through it.

I remember all the hype about 'The Di Vinci Code' - again that was fiction when people were trying to make it into non-fiction (truth). Perhaps this has a similar vein in common to both. They are both fiction. Remember - fiction is just what it is...fiction.

What is the measure of Christ in it? I dunno...I haven't read it.

Aida said...

I don't read a lot of fiction either although I will occasionally sneak one in.

People do tend to blow things out of proportion. I agree with you. It's a book and it's fiction. It's one man's understanding about God. That's all it is.

One thing I've learned is to not get distracted by all of the hype regarding any book. I'll read it, if I feel led and I'll keep in mind that it's only a book and nothing more. Part of my problem is that I don't like being out of sync with others. That's been part of my insecurity. However, as I'm growing in understanding more about this new life, it seems like I'm growing more out of sync with most believers.

The measure of Christ in it? I'm not sure either since I found it more confusing than helpful. However, in the past, I have read Paul's blog and really enjoyed what he has to say.

I don't read it now because I'm too busy reading everyone's grace blog and having trouble keeping up with what all of you post. This is a busy group at times. Father's doing a lot and there's a lot to share. I love it though. I feel like I'm getting lots to think about and lots of encouragement.

Joel Brueseke said...

Aida... thanks for sharing your thoughts here! I'm also not a fiction reader, but I've been intrigued by various comments from people about this book. I've lost track of how many people have recommended it.

We all have different ways of learning things. Some through visual, some through hearing, some through art, some through analytical thinking, some through fiction, some through non-fiction, etc, etc, etc, the list goes on.

Like you, I'm personally not one who generally gets a whole lot out of imagery. I like some selected quotes from C.S. Lewis, but I have never been able to sit through the Screwtape Letters. I liked the Chronicles of Narnia movie, but I didn't get a whole lot out of the imagery of the movie. I've never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies (or read the books).

I'm more of a straight talker and I get much more from straight talkers. Sometimes I'll use a story to illustrate something I'm trying to say, but it's usually a real-life story and not fiction.

You said, "I don’t initiate conversations about the book since I don’t want to discourage anyone who might read it and enjoy it." That's been exactly how I've felt about Divine Nobodies for the past year! I had some problems with it, but I knew that overall it was a good book and I knew that many people were really enjoying it. I've not said a word about it to anyone. Lately I noticed a few people talking about Divine Nobodies and Wide Open Spaces, and then I saw Wayne's post from yesterday, and by now I've become more comfortable being at least a little vulnerable on my blog, mainly because we've kind of become a little community of friends who are ok with being honest with one another without hurting one another, so I decided to bring it up. :)

I, too, hope I haven't offended anyone, and I don't think I have and I don't think you have. I think we're moving along in this journey of life and just talking to one another as we experience it.

Joel Brueseke said...

BTW, I know Lord of the Rings is Tolkien, not Lewis. :) I was just trying to think of various examples of fiction known for having "Christian imagery."

Nicole's Godblog said...


You know I started The Shack, but never finished it. I think I lost interest when PAPA became a female. That kind of freaked me out, but I liked what Wayne had to say about gender, the Holy Spirit doesn't have a gender, and it is how you interprate it. I know where William was coming from, but to me, it just didn't click or stick with me for that long! I yet to finish the book and find myself not interested in doing so!

But you know what? That is just 'my' opinion, and you know what they say about opinions! LOL

(They are only worth something if ones opinion matches another)

Anyway! I am glad you elaborated on this subject!

Thanks and Love!


Aida said...

Joel, thanks for your comments. This has really proven to be an interesting discussion. I’m glad you brought it up.

You’re right. The recommendations have been many. The group of believers I spend time with on Sunday mornings even did a book study about it Friday night. This is their first and I understand it was well attended. I didn’t go since my son and grandbaby were with us all week-end. Also, I didn’t want to throw any cold water on the discussion since I would have probably been the only negative voice there.

Even in our methods of learning, the uniqueness of our creation comes out. I wish I could get more out of imagery but, like you, I get more out of a straight talker. I’m also a story teller and I love real life stories that illustrate what is being taught. That’s probably why I get so much out of what you write. I can relate to your writing style.

I’ve read The Chronicles and for the most part enjoyed them but I really didn’t connect very much with imagery. I’ve never read The Lord of the Rings and I didn’t even catch that you included them with C. S. Lewis' books. I know they were written by Tolkien but that went right over my head. I told you I can be a little dense at times. Thank goodness for the mind of Christ. Otherwise, I’d really be in a mess.

I love what you shared about being vulnerable with this grace group. I think this is a wonderful group and there seems to be a lot of freedom here to be who we are. I like that. I'm still learning to open up. It is a hard thing to do when you're afraid you'll get slammed but I really don't expect that to happen here.

I really appreciate the freedom to share openly. That's how we learn and grow.


Aida said...

Hi Nicki,

I appreciate your comments and your thoughts.

After I read The Shack, I felt bad that I didn't enjoy the book. I guess my insecurities came out and I wondered why Daddy had overlooked me when so many were being blessed by the book. It was after that that I read The God's Honest Truth and that book did for me what The Shack did for others.

As Joel mentioned, I like straight talkers and Darin just said what he meant. I think he did a wonderful job of describing Father in a way that I could relate to.

That was how Father made it clear to me that he deals with each one of us differently. We're not "cookie cutter Christians." What works with me may not work with you and vice versa.

I wouldn't worry about trying to finish the book. With all of the good books out there, I personally don't see any need to struggle through a book you didn't enjoy. Father is perfectly capable of getting through to you what you need to know and he'll do it in a way that is meaningful to you.

Lots of love,

Joel Brueseke said...

Hi Nicole! I'm sure the "female" thing has turned a few heads. :) It's the type of thing that would also cause me to put a book down rather than keep reading it.

A few years ago, Steve McVey was at our church speaking about his A Divine Invitation book. (This is a very good book about intimacy with God). Just as in The Shack and Divine Nobodies, there are things in this book that could be called "controversial." However, having heard these things coming from Steve's own mouth before I even read the book, I had a better understanding of where he was coming from.

At first I was very surprised, as Steve began talking about various ways that God relates to us. He mentioned "God as our Father," which most us understand, at least in part. He mentioned "God as our Friend," which I also think we understand. And then he mentioned "God as our Mother." He was quick to say what he meant, and I think this really helped me to not think "heresy!"

The book explains it well, and I'll just say that he says that he had a huge hurdle to overcome when it came to understanding God this way. "The very idea of God acting as a Mother evoked thoughts of liberal seminaries whose commitment to feminist theology was well known."

After a bit, he goes on to say, "However, I have come to see that God indeed does relate to His children in maternal ways as well as in paternal."

Not to quote the whole section, but here are the actual Bible verses that he drew from.

Isa 66:12-13
And you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.

Isa 49:15
"Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.

I also heard someone one time, and I can't remember who it was (maybe it was Steve, but I don't remember) who spoke of Adam (man) being made in the image of God, and Eve (woman) coming from Adam. The attributes of Eve can therefore be traced back to God, if woman came from man and man came from God.

I know I may be pushing the envelope here, just as some of these books have done, but I'm not attempting to convince anyone of anything here! :) In fact, my purpose for bringing up something controversial in the first place yesterday was to seek input from others, and not to try to make a point. It's ok if we don't all see things exactly the same. I don't think anyone will lose sleep if they don't see God in a female role. Perhaps it's worth discussing, perhaps not. =)

Joel Brueseke said...

Aida... Speaking of throwing cold water on something, that's what I was worried about when I brought this whole thing up yesterday. :) Things were fine as fine could be, and various people were enjoying the books, and then I go and speak up with some concerns!

But in this case, I'm really glad I did. I think the group of people who have been discussing this, who all know each other through each others' blogs and comments, are a great bunch of people who can handle a mature conversation. I really think it's been a worthwhile conversation.

Aida said...

Hi Joel and Nicki,

Papa as a woman didn't really bother me. It was a shock at first but I got over it. However, somehow I couldn't imagine God spending his/her time in the kitchen baking cookies. Maybe I just don't need a domestic God or maybe that imagery was totally lost on me.

Also, I was already aware of the female aspects of God as described in the Bible. One of his names, El Shaddai, means the many-breasted one. Definitely a feminine attribute.

Joel, you had to go and do it. You had to mention another book that I now want to read. I like everything I've read by Steve McVey and "A Divine Invitation" sounds good too. It'll definitely go on the list.

I'm glad you brought up this topic. I'm like Nicki, though. UR isn't a biggie on my list of concerns but I think it's good that people can discuss it with maturity and not get hostile as they do on some forums.

I've also enjoyed hearing other people's comments about the books. I understand I'm in the minority as far as The Shack goes but I don't think we should be afraid of dissenting opinions.

Bino posted a great comment on your blog "Thanks." He said, "I would encourage to use your blog to speak freely based on your conviction and I think it is okay if people disagree. For some reason these days I don't have a problem when people disagree with me. In fact thats one thing I expect from my brothers and sisters in Christ that if they disagree pls. let me know. Who can claim that they are always right? Disagreement is not a discouragement to me; in fact silence is a discouragement to me."

I think that speaks volumes. The freedom to disagree and to be real with our sisters and brothers is a valuable gift. I'm thankful for this blogging community. I believe this is a place where people are given freedom and acceptance. That's very unusual today.


Joel Brueseke said...

Aida... I did not know that about the meaning El Shaddai... you learn something new every day!

I really appreciate everyone echoing the thoughts about speaking freely. It's a HUGE blessing to have a group of people in which we can do that without fear of getting pounced upon!

Aida said...

I got a few free minutes so you all know what that means. Get online and check out the blogs!! Yay!!

Joel, I've learned so much from all of that I'm glad I was able to impart a little knowledge for a change.

Finding this grace community has been one of the best things about this journey. It's hard feeling like you're travelling alone but now I feel like I've connected with a great bunch of brothers and sisters who are helping me to grow.

I agree with the other comments. The freedom here is refreshing and very unusual.