Thursday, October 09, 2008

What's Up with "The Shack"

The Shack has been something of a publishing phenomenon in the last few months. The topic of many discussion groups, it's popularity speaks for itself. However, the Shack has also been criticized by many in the Christian community. I'll not repeat the theological critiques here. Instead, I'd rather make some observations on reading The Shack and other books in the "Christian fiction" genre. BTW, to a believer, that sounds oxymoronic - which should reveal my bias.

I'll begin by acknowledging that The Shack is fiction. While it may be based on facts, like historical fiction, the author is at liberty to let his or her imagination run freely in an attempt to engage the reader in the story. Parable, allegory and metaphors are powerful devices for communication. While not to be taken literally, they may be most valuable in driving the reader to explore the facts behind the fiction. If The Shack does this - drive the reader to explore the truth upon which the story is founded - it serves a noble purpose.

The challenge for readers is to separate fact from fiction; to recognize where artistic license crosses the boundary between the two. Unfortunately, authors don't necessarily help in this manner, leaving it for the reader to do the work. The back cover of The Shack says

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question,"Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.

This synopsis suggests that The Shack contains truth (it does) within fiction (it is). Many (that includes me) would suggest that the line between the two is blurred.

It is then the reader's responsibility to recognize where the author's imagination has been bound by truth and where he may have crossed the boundary between presenting, at best, imagination, and, at worst, heresy. As an aside, this same challenge exists when reading any author of the genre such as LaHaye & Jenkins, Peretti, Dekker, or Oakes for that matter.

How does one go about determining the line? Well, the most obvious truth is that one should know the Truth. Christians believe the Bible is God's Truth on matters of life and faith and questions such as those with which The Shack wrestles. So, I'll be so bold as to suggest that if one wants to know where the boundaries are, one should spend at least as much time in the Word as in The Shack. Otherwise, one's theology is informed more by pop culture's authors than the Author of the universe.

One final thought: Many have suggested to me that The Shack has been a great discussion starter. I suppose this blog post is evidence of that discussion. Ok, I'll buy into that argument - if and only if the discussion moves beyond fiction to Truth.

2 comments:

Joni said...

I love this post! As usual, you say it all without the emotion (smile)! Thank you for the time you took to read this and give your input.

Trey said...

"So, I'll be so bold as to suggest that if one wants to know where the boundaries are, one should spend at least as much time in the Word as in The Shack. Otherwise, one's theology is informed more by pop culture's authors than the Author of the universe."

That sums it up. We should be studying the Word so we can tell what is true and what is not testing all with scripture.