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The Shack?

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I have had a couple of people talk to me about this. I am going to read it, has it been discussed?

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Two good friends read it recently as part of a book discussion.

They said that it had some good elements. But they also said that it was pretty hit-or-miss as far as writing went (leaning heavily toward the miss side). The woes of self-publishing, I guess.

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I have had a couple of people talk to me about this. I am going to read it, has it been discussed?

I mentioned it a year ago here, but I don't know that it was discussed beyond that. I wrote:

I found some passages quite moving, but I struggled with the quality of the writing. Still, it is building a rather significant word of mouth and may very well be a landmark event of some scale.

Indeed, it is a publishing phenomenon.

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Julia Duin wrote a front-page (below the fold) story about it in today's Washington Times, and covered it in her weekly column, also today.

I must say it seems as though Ms. Duin's expectations were rather high. She seems shocked, shocked to discover that a piece of mass-market religious fiction does not, in fact, unravel the perplexing theodicy problem.

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I thought it was an OK self-help book dressed up in Christian theology. The quality of writing isn't bad for an author's first novel, nothing any worse than what Dan Brown puts out. The portrayal of the trinity, I didn't find to be openly heretical, but a little too touchy-feely for my tastes. There were some well-done passages on grace and mystery, but repetitive passages about God cooking such marvelous goodies for his guest makes him sound a bit too much like Rachel Ray.

All in all, I suppose this book can help someone who has experienced a great tragedy in their lives, but I wouldn't call it essential reading for most people. I do think the approach of writing theology in a narrative form to have potential in communicating such truths to people who wouldn't otherwise dig into a thick doctrinal volume. But that assumes that true theology is communicated besides (I like this phrase from the link Christian provided): "spiritual comfort food loaded with theological trans fat".

On the positive side, God is revealed to be a huge Bruce Cockburn fan. Too bad he didn't put in a good word for Sam Phillips too, but maybe that will be in the sequel: The Yurt. ;)

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The Shack was the featured book for our church's annual summer reading group. To be honest I read up to the chapter I was leading a discussion on and then stopped. The theology did nothing for me and like the rest I thought the writing was not very good.

In one sense my regard of the book is opposite of Crow: where Crow saw it as a self-help book dressed up as theology, I thought it was theology dressed up as self-help. Again, I didn't finish it and I don't read self-help. However, the book gives away too much in the opening chapters. I don't ever question Mack will make it through his trials. In fact he'll come out of his great sadness for the better. Thus, as far I saw it, the only thing left to read was the theology - making it the second systematic theology book hiding as fiction that I've read in the last three months. There is a reason most theology books are written as boring old non-fiction.

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Thus, as far I saw it, the only thing left to read was the theology - making it the second systematic theology book hiding as fiction that I've read in the last three months. There is a reason most theology books are written as boring old non-fiction.

So what was the first one?

I haven't read it and now probably won't given what has been posted above. I was titillated by an essay in a recent CTondeadtree. I think I'll pass. Not a fan of selfhelp myself. But this was self published? I'm impressed. I only became aware of it from the trade paperbacks in the book section at my store across the aisle from the bread dept. that I've been subbing in this month due to vacations.

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Thus, as far I saw it, the only thing left to read was the theology - making it the second systematic theology book hiding as fiction that I've read in the last three months. There is a reason most theology books are written as boring old non-fiction.

So what was the first one?

I haven't read it and now probably won't given what has been posted above. I was titillated by an essay in a recent CTondeadtree. I think I'll pass. Not a fan of selfhelp myself. But this was self published? I'm impressed. I only became aware of it from the trade paperbacks in the book section at my store across the aisle from the bread dept. that I've been subbing in this month due to vacations.

I wouldn't refer to it as self help at all. I guess somehow it does have a bit of that vibe, though I couldn't pin down exactly why. Mainly it's theology coated with a heaping layer of schmaltz. I found the first, darker, part of the book fairly engaging actually. Maybe that's because I'm a new parent. Then it got to feeling all Oprah on me and I pretty much lost any enthusiasm during the rest of it. I'd give it a rating of "Ehh."

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Thus, as far I saw it, the only thing left to read was the theology - making it the second systematic theology book hiding as fiction that I've read in the last three months. There is a reason most theology books are written as boring old non-fiction.

So what was the first one?

It's a Dance by Patrick Oden. It's a book about pneumatology and ecclesiology. It comes with a recommendation by Jurgen Moltmann and others. The author studied under Veli-Matti Karkkainen. The content is good. However, because it is written in a fictional narrative style some of the supposedly off-the-cuff statements are a little too refined for my taste. It's not a bad book, but because it is written in a narrative style there isn't much room for it to address possible objections to its theology.

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uhm, er, I don't like the callous feeling I have, but I have reached a point where every time I see "the great sadness, I feel like saying shut up already.

I keep waiting for the magic unicorns/ Forests of Narnia to show up.

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I have spoken with many people for whom this book has dramatically re-formulated their view of God. In fact, I have rarely seen a book get the response this one does (raving fans and strong word of mouth) - and I say that as someone who also wished the writing were more polished. There is something unhelpful about how God has traditionally been portrayed, and that something is being undone here for many readers. A very positive development, literary polish aside. Just fwiw.

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I enjoyed the book, cried many times with it, but wouldn't consider it "self-help" at all. I think it is an imagining of how God could appear to one man in one situation. A situation that brought beautifully desired grace, and an appearance from God The Trinity that is utterly, astoundingly beautiful.

I am ticked off though that the author isn't even the author. Wish I knew the difference between Paul Young and "Willie" Paul Young, or "Wm." Paul Young. Don't know how much of Mack's story is even true, or even if there is a Mack. The website doesn't help either. I guess I wish this were truth rather than fiction.

All that said, I think it would make a great film, as long as it were put in professional hands.

Again, I didn't finish it and I don't read self-help. However, the book gives away too much in the opening chapters. I don't ever question Mack will make it through his trials. In fact he'll come out of his great sadness for the better. Thus, as far I saw it, the only thing left to read was the theology....

He did come out of The Great Sadness, but it left him in a coma and fighting for his life and sanity. The last chapter, I think, takes us on a swing we'd not imagined.

Edited by stef

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I read about half of it before I had to return it to the library.

Yes, there is some bad theology in it, but the thing that bugged me the most was how trite, cliched and trendy God's dialogue was. Not just that it was hip, but that it was dull. I've written Christian-themed plays and comic book scripts and stories before, and the one thing I always avoid like the plague is trying to write dialogue for God. Anything I come up with will always - ALWAYS - sound dull and trite when put into the mouth of the Almighty, All-knowing God. The wisest I can muster will always fall short of His standard. The most compassionate I can engineer will always miss the mark of His mercy. Write for saints, write for angels, sure. But write for God?

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I liked the book overall. I agree that the writing itself could be (greatly) improved, but I think the writer addresses some difficult subjects well. I love God as a big, black woman. I don't understand why there was a continued reference to the masculine after all of the talk about how God is beyond gender, though. Okay, if God is appeared as a woman to break the male stereotype, why is God immediately a man again after Mack makes peace with his Dad?

I do REALLY wish this were just a first draft, though. I'd love to see a more polished version of THIS book.

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I am ticked off though that the author isn't even the author. Wish I knew the difference between Paul Young and "Willie" Paul Young, or "Wm." Paul Young. Don't know how much of Mack's story is even true, or even if there is a Mack. The website doesn't help either. I guess I wish this were truth rather than fiction.

All that said, I think it would make a great film, as long as it were put in professional hands.

Stef, there is no "Mack", though William P. Young (his real name) wrote this out of his own experiences.

It will be a film, no doubt; the people who helped get the book through several re-writes are involved in the film business and planned a film even before the book made a kajillion dollars.

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It will be a film, no doubt; the people who helped get the book through several re-writes are involved in the film business and planned a film even before the book made a kajillion dollars.
I am thinking that Aronofsky is the right man for the job. The story itself rivals The Fountain, which I appreciated even more after several screenings. But some of the imagery is going to be tough to pull off and really light up the screen the way it needs to be lit up to make the book come alive in a theater.

Are 2 Million copies sold enough to get it out of the "Christian" film circuit?

Edited by stef

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Are 2 Million copies sold enough to get it out of the "Christian" film circuit?

Didn't work for Left Behind.

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Can I request that Dennis Quaid play Mack and Tonye Patano play god.

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Douglas Wilson has just posted his review:

In a book clearly written to deal with the pain of fatherlessness, how does Young go about it? He makes God the Father, "Papa," a large beaming African American woman (p. 82). The Holy Spirit is a shimmery Asian woman named Sarayu, mysterious and "way out there." Jesus is simply Jesus, and is masculine after a kind, but in that unique way possessed by camp counselors and youth ministers with muscular forearms.

Here is a taste of the down home weekend retreat-like relationship that is going to fix Mack.

"Mack followed her soft humming down a short hallway and into an open kitchen-dining area, complete with a small four-seat table and wicker-backed chairs. The inside of the cabin was roomier than he had expected. Papa was working on something with her back to him, flour flying as she swayed to the music of whatever she was listening to. The song obviously came to an end, marked by a couple of last shoulder and hip shakes. Turning to face him, she took off the earphones" (p. 90).

Meet God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Now Young is by no means of dunce -- he is very clear that this is just an appearance, an accommodation. But the image, the metaphor, the feel of this whole book is warm and maternal, cozy and nonthreatening. The center of the discussions is the kitchen. The need is a deep father hunger, but this is not met by a father, but by the enveloping warmth of a comfort mama who makes a lot of comfort food. This symbolism is not incidental to the message of the book. It is the central message of the book.

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Yeah, anything by Fred Sanders is worth reading.

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We're a bit slow in Culturewatch Towers these days, but we've noticed that this book is selling a few copies, so we thought we perhaps ought to chase after the bandwagon with an article. It's unusual for us to cover something like this, though - we deal with 'secular' stuff, not 'Christian'. I object to the distinction on all kinds of levels, but what it means for us is that our primary target audience is people outside the church who can generally in the UK, reasonably, be referred to as secular without doing a major injustice. So we're not interested in material that is not also intended for that audience, but rather for an in-house, churchy, Christian audience. But then from time to time comes something which crosses over and then I have a dilemma. Hence the delay. Do you care about my dilemmas? Probably not, but it's 1am and I'm supposed to be either writing on The Young Victoria or preparing to preach on John 7. Or sleeping, which sounds preferable though potentially less productive in the short term. I think I'm wittering.

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I come today to sing praise of The Shack. It's not the sort of book I would even be curious about and after reading this thread previously, I had decided not to read it. I appreciate and admire the thinking of most everyone here even when I disagree. However.

However, Ray Spencer is a different bird altogether. He is one of the real "pigeons" in my Alpha small group. That's the term I use for those unchurched and possibly needing the Lord. Ray has had a tough time of it over the years. He lives in and owns the last house in his neighborhood in Detroit just off the border of Hamtramck. He owes back taxes (he is, shall we say, scavengerly employed, but stays just above water in that regard) on his house and the city is trying to foreclose. On the last house on the block (there are a number of homes in Detroit that appear to be "little houses on the prairie"). He owns an Akita as a gift from a kennel for his loyal work keeping the kennel clean. He met the Shafers at my church and their daughter shows Ray's Akita.

Sharon Shafer's (Mom) sudden death almost drove Ray over the edge. It was suggested that he try Alpha when he came to her funeral. Ray's had some good questions and has developed some confidence, being both almost a hermit and just about the only unchurched member of our group. I have an unusually large number of non-St. John's folk in my group. Most of us are unusually deft in scripture navigation for Episcopalians as well. There's a lot for Ray to be unsure about. But he showed up for church this Sunday. First time.

After the service we talked. He mentioned that he never had read a book before.Never could finish 'em. Out of the blue, he shared that The Shack was his first. Well now, that's a good start considering all of the veiled hints he's dropped of a painful life and considering that his closest companion is a dog these days. He asked if he should read more even though he's unsure of his skills. I said "Of course!". We just happen to have set up a Lenten used book sale (everything is overpriced). I gave him Joe Stowell's Radical Dependence (Stowell was my pastor for a while. What bugged me about his preaching made the book perfect for Ray, especially in light of previous questions about one's relationship with God and about forgiveness) and Ray Steadman's study of the Book of Job off the book table ( I later paid up in case you were wondering).

I believe that God's greatest attribute by far is His infinite flexibility. He goes to whatever length it takes to call folks to Himself. On top of that, He works with folks wherever they are and is willing to bring them along to where He wants them to be. Patiently. He used The Shack to bring Ray close. How close, only Ray and the Lord know. Pray for Ray Spencer. Thank God for Ray's openness. I now refuse to disparage The Shack, whatever its faults.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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