A friend kept encouraging me to read “The Shack” so I could discuss it with her. I told her I don’t read much fiction and kept putting her off. But I found the DVD at the local library last week and watched this version of William P. Young’s 2007 book. I must say, though the viewing took two nights, it was hard to hit “pause” and go to bed!
“The Shack” deals with tragedy when a little girl is kidnapped and murdered. In this regard, the book isn’t sugar-coated. Tragedy is part and parcel of life, and one of the most difficult things to deal with in a life of faith. “Why do good people suffer?” is a question as old as the book of Job, and the answer, or what we have of it, depends on one’s theological slant.
One branch of Christendom insists God decrees all things and ultimately gets glory from all things. Another branch insists God may or may not decree all things--there are forces in our world that bring about bad things, such as human will and Satan. And those in this camp say we must have faith to believe we’ll be stronger and better for having faced tragedy, and one God will offer an accounting.
Whatever the case, Mack Phillips and his wife entered a period of grief. Mack eventually received a unique invitation to meet God. One surprise in the film is that he experiences God in a different way since God is female.
Of course, the author is taking some liberties. Biblical culture was male-dominated and God is almost uniformly referred to in the scripture as male. I suppose if we were pressed on this we’d admit that maleness and femaleness is a human quality and really transcends the nature of God. But in our everyday Christianity we refer to God as Jesus did: “Our father.”
The author uses word and drama to demonstrate God’s love for all, even for the evil man who took the Phillips’ daughter. This was the most significant idea I came away with. God does, indeed, love everyone. Jesus prayed forgiveness for those who murdered him, so this concept really shouldn’t be surprising.
To those who suggest “The Shack” takes liberties with scripture I’d simply say the book doesn’t claim to be scripture. It’s a parable, just like John Bunyan used in “The Pilgrim’s Progress”—now a classic. “The Shack” probably won’t achieve Bunyan’s status, but it’s simply one man’s attempt to explain to this generation that God doesn’t abandon us in our pain. It’s true, and we trust some hear this who might not come and hear a sermon in church.