Another Great Review of The Shack

Scott Lindsey has a great review of The Shack.

For my earlier review, see here or this collection of information on The Shack.

EDIT: Don’t miss the scathing review of The Shack from James DeYoung, a good friend of the author (William P. “Paul” Young). Also check out Chuck Colson’s review, Al Mohler’s radio broadcast on the book, and Tim Challies’s booklet.

(h/t Tim Challies)

More Thoughts on The Shack

Joe Holland has posted an altogether excellent review of The Shack (hat tip: Tim Challies). Meanwhile, my blog has attracted a couple comments on the topic. Granted, there are not too many comments, but they contain themes worth a little discussion.

Continue reading “More Thoughts on The Shack”

“Who Do You Love More?”

Yikes. Tim Challies pulls no punches and dives into one of the hardest questions a parent can face: “Who Do You Love More?” In this case, the question was not which of the kids he loves more, but whether he loves them or their mother more. I am inclined to agree with his answer, in that it is important for parents to love each other first and foremost and not let their affections for their children undermine the marital bond itself. I’m less sure about his approach; I honestly don’t know what the best approach here is. Sometimes, a parent – even a fantastic one – is going to make his or her kids cry by doing what is best for them, I know. I’m curious what other people think on this one; there’s a good debate already going on Tim’s site, so either weigh in there or weigh in below, please.

Obama: When life begins is “above his pay grade”

Obama says the question of when babies obtain human rights is “above his pay grade.” [Ed.: link updated to an archived link because the original was broken.] This has to be one of the very most ill-advised things any major candidate has said, thus far in the election cycle. Even aside from the fact that it probably unsettles people throughout the spectrum of opinions on abortion, it’s not very presidential.

For a man who has repeatedly voted on abortion rights bills and spoken out countless times about his opinion of Roe v. Wade and a woman’s “right to choose,” this is a shameful and irresponsible dodge. It can’t possibly be true that he has no opinion – that would make him utterly amoral on the topic, yet he claims to hold moral positions on it. Nor is it true, since he is a legislator now and a would-be President holds a veto power, that it is “above his pay grade.” Were that so, he would have been abusing his office and the public trust each time he voted on an abortion-related bill or opined on the topic on the campaign trail.

So what are we left with? The most shameful kind of dodge: one which masks a strongly held opinion as though it is irrelevant, when it is not; which does so by means of a false humility; which is clearly a sham; and which is employed only because of the circumstances, namely a discussion in a church, despite the fact that the forum was televised; after all, we can’t have booing broadcast to the people.

EDIT: The actual full quote was:

Whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade. But let me speak more generally about the issue of abortion. Because this is something, obviously, the country wrestles with. One thing that I’m absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And So I think that anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue is not paying attention. So that would be point number one. But Point number two: I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe versus Wade. I come to that conclusion not because I’m pro-abortion but because ultimately I don’t think women make these decisions casually. I think they wrestle with these things in profound ways. In consultation with their pastors or spouses or their doctors or their family members. And so for me, the goal right now should be — and this is where I think we can find common ground — and by the way, I’ve now inserted this into the Democratic Party platform — is: ‘How do we reduce the number of abortions?’ Because the fact is that although we’ve had a president who is opposed to abortions the last eight years, abortions have not gone down.

More good coverage at Get Religion.

More on The Shack

Tim Challies has posted a follow-up on his review of The Shack [ed.: link updated to an archived link because the original was broken]. As expected, it prompted a vigorous discussion in the comments. (See also this post [ed.: link updated to an archived link because the original was broken] for another discussion, which Challies cites.)

The one thing I have never figured out about the way people talk about this book is the insistence that The Shack is allegorical. It patently is not, but that does not seem to prevent lots of insistence from supporters that it is.

Earlier coverage:

The Popularity of Christian Books

Intro
I have been thinking a lot lately, as my last few posts may have indicated, about just what American Christians are reading. This has been fueled not only by my own reading of The Shack, but also by my discovery of two great websites. One is a blog by an author named Tim Challies, the other a companion site called Discerning Reader. Neither site is perfect, of course, but both are very interesting.

Anyway, this got the nerdy side – it’s a big side – of my personality fired up, and I started wondering what American Christians are reading, and what they think of it. So, I conducted a little study of Amazon reviews of popular Christian books to see how various books were rated. (Warning: extreme geekery follows…) Continue reading “The Popularity of Christian Books”

Marketing The Shack

I posted a short review of The Shack here, earlier. I would love to hear from my readers about another, related topic: the book’s marketing. In my opinion, the way in which The Shack has been marketed raises some disturbing questions, of a kind I don’t normally associate with “mainstream” “Christian” books.

First, there is the Missy Project, which is explained in a two-page blurb at the end of the physical copies of the book, as well as on the book’s official site. (Missy, for those who have not read the book, is the name of a little girl who is abducted and murdered in the book.) This blurb encourages people to blog about it, write reviews (especially positive ones, of course), display it, seek positive reviews from others, buy multiple copies to give away, and so on. My favorite:

Talk about the book on email lists you’re on, forums you frequent and other places you engage other people on the Internet. Don’t make it an advertisement, but share how this book impacted your life and offer people the link to The Shack website.

To me, this sounds like straight-up viral marketing. The proceeds of the book, so far as I can tell, are not being donated to any charitable cause, but are going to the publisher and the author. So, either the author and others are really very convinced that the book is life-changing and are committed to bringing their message to a wide audience (which, conveniently, sells more books), or this is a shameless plug.

Then, there is the author’s site, the home page of which opens with this:

If you are so inclined and would like to write a review for Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble, especially a 5 star review, we would greatly appreciate it.

If that’s not a shameless plug for a book, I don’t know what is. In fact, the entire site feels like one big marketing device. Look at it for yourself.

Loyal readers: what are your thoughts?

Book Review: The Shack

I recently read The Shack, which is a novel that came out last spring. In The Shack, a man whose daughter was murdered returns to the scene of the crime, where he meets with three people who claim to be the three persons of the Trinity (Papa, an African-American woman, as the Father; Jesus as Himself; Sarayu, a petite Asian woman who seems to fade in and out of existence as the Holy Spirit). I want to offer a very brief review here.

Plenty of reviewers have summarized the plot on various websites. I want to comment only briefly on the theological questions raised in the book (for a much more complete review, read this excellent one by Tim Challies). The Shack puts words directly into the mouth of God, about topics like sin and salvation. It does so in a way that indicates God may or may not care about faith, may or may not care about sin, and may or may not think the Bible is useful for anything. It also suggests that institutions (including marriage and traditional Christian churches), governments, and economic systems are all inherently things God dislikes; in the book, Jesus even blames all the world’s ills on institutions, economics, and politics.

The Shack is definitely a moving, interesting read. Unfortunately, many readers will see it as “only a novel” (some are claiming it is allegorical, which it is not) and conclude that questioning the theology is unnecessary. Worse, I worry that some will conclude that, because the book is a novel, it doesn’t even contain theology. When God speaks in a novel, however, especially about the fundamental doctrines of a belief system, the novel is theological.

This review is very brief, but I hope it will encourage others to look at The Shack critically, examining it for more than the impact it can have on people’s lives. Ultimately, I think it is a dangerous book, because it presents theological conversations with God, but most readers overlook the fact that the book has theological implications, while simultaneously embracing what it has taught them about God (for examples of this, see most Amazon reviews). The book deserves to be questioned.

For those who need answers to questions about suffering and the evil things people do, I would recommend either the biblical book of Job or The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis.

Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others

New Gallup poll: Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others. An intro:

Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.

A cautionary note:

Correlation is no proof of causation, of course. The reason the relationship exists between being a Republican and more positive mental health is unknown, and one cannot say whether something about being a Republican causes a person to be more mentally healthy, or whether something about being mentally healthy causes a person to choose to become a Republican (or whether some third variable is responsible for causing both to be parallel).

Read the whole thing and feel free to discuss in the comments!

Abdul Rahman to be Released

I posted, a couple days ago, on the situation of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Christian who was facing the death penalty for his conversion from Islam. CNN is reporting that he will be released “in the coming days.” (Link to follow)