The Shack is a Christian novel by Canadian author William P. Young, a former office manager and hotel night clerk, published in 2007. The novel was self-published but became a USA Today bestseller, and it was the #1 Paperback trade fiction seller on the New York Times best sellers list from June 2008 to early 2010. The title of the book is a metaphor for “the house you build out of your own pain”, as Young explained in a telephone interview. He also states to radio host talk show Drew Marshall that The Shack "is a metaphor for the places you get stuck, you get hurt, you get damaged...the thing where shame or hurt is centered." (Wikipedia)
Two issues for me:
One: The book
In this book, Mack, the main character, meets God at 'the shack' as 3 different persons. Jesus is, appropriately, a Jewish carpenter. The Holy Spirit is an Asian woman with flowing robes. The Father is portrayed as a large, black woman. The portrayal of this last character is the beginning of many of the issues some mainstream Christian leaders have with the book. In the story, the Father explains to Mack why He needed to meet him in this form and it makes sense to me. I don't read new-age, gender-blending subversiveness into this. Also remember, this book is advertised as fiction, which it is. It's not intended to be a systematic theology text. However, our own Al Mohler called it 'dangerous fiction'. Maybe that's the role a Christian leader who is the head of a major seminary needs to take - defender of the faith, no matter how innocuous or trivial the perceived threat is. I, however, found many good things to be gleaned from the book - especially about the relational side of God - even though I did not agree with every statement the book made.
Two: The church (little c)
Therefore, I find it sad when I hear that people who are being considered for church leadership are actually judged by church leaders on whether or not they take a stand against this 'heresy'. You better keep your mouth shut if you liked it, or you're obviously in error or simply ignorant. Plus you won't get 'promoted'. If you're a person who thinks differently than the norm, you are to be feared or shunned. Why? Can't the church withstand a little scrutiny, or differences in opinion on these matters. If not, then open dialogue is shut down and members are afraid to say what they think - to their own detriment. I'll tell you what else people in the church are afraid to do - give voice to doubts. I'd like a place where I can air my doubts without being attacked. Just because I have doubts or questions about some things considered Baptist doctrine doesn't make me evil. In fact, to honestly and fully explore them will give deeper and richer understanding into the topic and this whole thing called Christianity. But not if I have to keep my mouth shut for fear of being categorized and ostracized.
Well, I think you know I won't. I wonder sometimes if it's my God-given role to be anti-establishment. I know it would be much harder for me to say that if I was already part of the 'establishment'. This is my argument against the institution. There is pressure to conform. We have to be able to distinguish between, and lovingly live in the tension of, unity and non-uniformity.
The quote is well known:
In essential things - Unity
In non-essentials, or debatable things, or matters of opinion - Liberty
In all things - Charity (or love)