It is not my intent to review The Shack, but I will quickly share my overview and take-away from Young’s fictional story. I believe the critics of The Shack forget this is an allegory and fictional writing. The critics get caught up in the details of his/her theology missing the central themes of the work which does not compromise the Gospels. The Shack has the reader explore the Old Testament view of God – God who seems angry, distant, rejecting and judgmental versus the New Testament view of God – God who loves, joyful, relational and present. Leave the personal theological details out of it and the reader gets a transformative opportunity to examine his/her journey of faith not only with God but with the Holy Trinity.
As for William Paul Young, this is a common man blessed to share a story of uncommon pain that may inspire others to understand the possibilities of God and how God works and heals in our lives. I had the honor of hearing Young speak at Montreat College, Tuesday, March 3, 2009. While his book, The Shack, is a story not be missed (continues to be on the NY Times best seller list after 40 weeks), the story of how The Shack came to be is as riveting as the book!
As Young tells it, The Shack was a fictional story he wrote for his children and God has taken it to share with His children! Young has the gift of storytelling. His style puts everyone at ease. He is humorous. He is humble. He is vulnerable. He is transparent. He has no secrets or hidden agenda. He is not afraid to take risk. His belief in the Holy Trinity is deep and strong, and he appears to listen to others on their faith journey without judgment. He lives the Golden Rule, something The Shack critics might wish to re-examine of themselves. Young claims to be an “accidental author,” who wrote this story for the people he loved which I believe turns out to all of us! He gives credit for the book’s success to Papa, his word for God, which I have to admit feels more relational.
Young told two stories during his 11 AM presentation. The first story was about how The Shack came to be starting with 15 copies printed at Office Depot to now over 5.5 million copies as I write this in just over three years. As Young humbly puts it, “This is a God-thing!” Amen! This grace-filled event has made him feel like he in his version of the 1998 movie, The Truman Show!
His second story, interlaced with how The Shack has affected people’s lives all over the world including Brazil, Australia and even mainland China, is a story about his mother, the new-born baby she saved in 1948, how that baby grew to be an Anglican Rector and how that Anglican Rector helped his mother to understand that Young’s portrayal of Papa in The Shack as a heavy-set Black woman was not heresy! You must hear Young tell this story in person in order to connect All the dots including your personal dots back to Papa, Christ and the Holy Spirit! These two stories took this listener’s breath away more than once and brought tears to my eyes. I walked away from Young’s talk more affirmed in my belief in Papa, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Do not miss the opportunity to hear Paul Young share his stories. If The Shack did not transform you, his personal stories will!