Review: The Shack – Subversion

The ShackChallies review is broken into several sections. The first four sections are an introduction of The Shack, a summary of the The Shack, a discussion of how fact vs. fiction plays into the argument, and finally the importance of theology (read, proper theology). I am not going to delve into those sections, I am more interested in discussing what Challies’ examination of The Shack told him about the authors ideas and theology.
The first topic Challies discusses is, “Subversion: Undermining the Faith.” Challies admits to his reader that as he “read the book [he] saw that, from beginning to end, The Shack has a quietly subversive quality to it.” He sees Young as being subversive because Young

criticizes seminary education (“Mack struggled to keep up with [Papa], to make some sense of what was happening. None of his old seminary training was helping in the least” (91).), the Bible (“God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects” (65-66).), Sunday School (“This isn’t Sunday School. This is a flying lesson” (98).), the church as a body (“You’re talking about the church as this woman you’re in love with; I’m pretty sure I haven’t met her…She’s not the place I go on Sundays” (177).), the church as individuals (“For Mack these words were like a breath of fresh air! Simple. Not a bunch of exhausting work and long list of demands and not the sitting in endless meetings staring at the backs of people’s heads, people he really didn’t even know. Just sharing life” (178).), family devotions (“Images of family devotions from his childhood came spilling into his mind, not exactly good memories…He half expected Jesus to pull out a huge old King James Bible” (107).), theological certainty (“I have a great fondness for uncertainty [said Sarayu]” (203).), the word “Christian” as a descriptor (“Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian [said Jesus]” (182).) and on and on. [6]

Challies takes a lot of liberties in his list. Especially to later elude to the idea that these concepts are “theologically sound and informed by biblical truth.” [6] You will be hard pressed to find seminary education, Sunday School, family devotions, or the word “Christian” in the Bible. Moreover, Challies is taking parts of these quotes completely out of context. On pages 65-66, Young isn’t subverting the Bible, he’s subverting the attitude we take when approaching the Bible. On page 98, Young isn’t attacking Sunday School, the Holy Spirit is talking to Mack about the intensity of what he is about to go through. On page 177, Young is not saying that the Church is not that Bride of Christ – Mack (the Character) is saying that what Jesus is describing is not at all what he sees when he goes to church on Sunday mornings. On page 178, again, Mack is simply stating what he sees about tradition church services… not at all what the Church actually is or should be. On page 107, Mack is talking about HIS experience with family devotions – Young isn’t saying that family devotions are wrong. On page 203, the Holy Spirit (calling itself Sarayu) is not subverting theological certainty, its talking about how human uncertainty leads to trust and faith in God!

Challies is doing what I have seen so many negative reviewers of this book do. They take little tidbits of sentences and use them against Young and The Shack. But if you take each of these quotes in context, you will easily find that Young is not being subversive and more often than not, Young is not even making the point that the reviewer is claiming.

Challies then goes on to say that “The reader of The Shack must be careful that he does not simply accept ‘what is,’ at least as William Young describes it, without critical thinking and spiritual discernment.” I completely agree with this statement and it applies to reading Challies article as well. As Christian I truly believe we are called to think critically and be discerning in our actions/beliefs. Challies is right, Young is being subversive when it comes to traditional Christianity, however, Young is attempting to do what Challies is claiming we should all do. Search the Scripture to find out what is and is not true. You may find that when you search the Scripture it too will subvert many of our traditions. Does that make Young wrong? I sure hope not.

Table of Contents:

  1. My Thoughts
  2. Subversion
  3. Revelation
  4. Salvation
  5. Trinity
  6. Conclusion

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  1. Lew,

    Of course, Challies is correct when viewed from the perspective of church organizations. To those organizations and the people who rule them, this book is subversive.


  2. Lew: You read the book. All of it. :) Your words are exactly what I got out of the book. And I think Paul Young hit the nail on the head so to speak. Having had the privilege of briefly meeting him and listening to him for an entire weekend while he was at our church was also enlightening. He is far from being a heretic. He has just called us to be more Biblical in seeing the love our “Papa” has for us.

  3. Debbie,

    So, if you got what I got out of the book, then we must both be crazy. I’ve seen/heard a few interviews with Young, he seems like a pretty decent guy.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    God Speed.

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