The Shack; huge help or subtle heresy
In a mass-media multi-media age the opportunities to learn from a wide variety of different sources are immense. However in terms of our doctrines and theology are we drinking from polluted wells? In The Shack God is personified as an African-American earth mother.
In the world of popular print the latest runaway success – in terms of uptake and income – is an allegorical novel entitled ‘The Shack’. The title has been around a couple of years now and in that time it has followed on the heels of Rick Warren’s ‘Purpose Driven’ books which themselves have enjoyed the same mass following as the 'Left Behind' Series and Hal Lindsey’s 'Late Great Planet Earth'.
And alongside this growth in Christian novels aiming (claiming) to convey Christian truths there have been parallel trends which too might be viewed with some concern.
The Bible going out of fashion?
Some years ago a local church pastor observed that many of his congregation left their Bibles behind on a shelf in the church between one Sunday and the next. Of course he realised that his flock might be using other copies of God’s word which were kept at home, but he suspected that this was not the case. Indeed he was much concerned that Christians seemed to be coming increasingly loathe to read anything of any substance. If it was on a ‘heavy’ topic running over more than one or two pages, they didn’t want to know. Meanwhile lightweight paperbacks were (this was in pre-Amazon days) flying off the shelves of the neighbouring Christian bookshop. ‘Christianity Lite’ seemed to be where the market was going. The Bible was perhaps just ‘too much work’.
New age, new doctrines, new media
Meanwhile the New Age (launched publicly back in the 1970s) has been increasingly infiltrating the public sphere, the political realm and our educational systems. And alongside this we have seen the explosive growth in (satellite) Christian TV channels and programmes of highly-variable quality – some gems amongst much deceptive dross. [Ed note: See Truth, Error and Deception]
And with the growth of internet shopping (including books) the pressures are most definitely increasing on Christian books shops to stock and sell whatever is selling. In some cases discretion and judgment are being cast to the wind.
Sifting all these developments and trends together we find a mosaic of spirituality sitting amidst multi-media formats and channels/means of distribution.
A dumbed-down and distorted Christianity
The tendency has been to produce a generation of Christians (young and old) whose doctrines might be defined more by popular fiction – in turn driven more by commercial motives – than an overarching need to define, convey and preserve God’s Truth.
Christians are now doing even doing ‘Bible’ studies on novels and church-growth philosophies.
The Shack – a fiction embodying profound truth or very subtle deception?
There are terabytes of eulogies on the web and much written elsewhere about the Shack; and the book itself has achieved cult status, topping the best-sellers lists – not least because of the carefully written (consumer/network marketing) advice contained as appendices within the book.
As I have only managed to skim-read the book – albeit cover to cover, I would prefer (for the moment at least) just to provide links to a range of different opinions on the Shack. (And a ringing commendation from the Evangelical Alliance adds greatly to either the book’s credentials or, alternatively, illustrates the profound levels of deception around the place.) However the 'feel' of the book is that it sends out a highly-emotive 'pull' which tends to deaden the readers critical (discerning) faculties. This book– if it is to be read at all – should be approached with ones 'Berean' sensors on high alert. And for the (spiritually) young or emotionally vulnerable Christian there should be a 'Highly Dangerous' rating applied. Needless to say for the reader with no knowledge of Christian doctrine, the picture painted of the Trinity is of 'pie in the sky when you die' variety.
The key questions are who and what can we trust; and are we prepared to ‘be Bereans’ – mining the riches of God’s word; or are we content to surf the candyfloss world of easy-reads with all the attendant risks involved?
The Shack, a list of review articles (Tim Challis website)
The Shack; a Recommendation and Review by InternetMonk
The Shack: the new Pilgrim’s Progress? by David Robertson, St Peter’s Church, Dundee
The Shack, a review by the Evangelical Alliance
The Shack, an initial (lengthy) review by James B DeYoung
Revisiting the Shack, a (shorter) subsequent review by James B DeYoung
The advice printed at the back of the book urge readers to promote the novel every which way; and provides a list of instructions and some of the tools to do so.
A positive interpretation of this might argue that the author/publishers are making every effort to evangelise using the book as a tool in that process.
A different view might suggest that Christians are (unwittingly) absorbing lies themselves, and spending their money to further disseminate the errors, whilst also making megabucks for the author/publishers.
Meanwhile a non-Christian but 'spiritual' viewer of the most recent Harry Potter film has described the latter as 'very dark'. Meanwhile the Roman Catholic Church seems to be double-minded about the genre. (See view in 2005 and alternative view in 2009.)