13th March 2009
If you haven’t heard of the popular novel The Shack (Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), then you must have been living in a cave for the last two years. William P. Young’s bestselling novel about a man’s encounter with the Triune God one weekend has touched the hearts and minds of millions of readers. It has also raised the ire of a few theologians and self-appointed guardians of the faith.
The Shack is by no means perfect. As a novel it has weak dialogue and doesn’t quite hang together as it should. As a novel that explores some important theological questions about God, the Trinity, and suffering, it also has some weaknesses. Despite its weaknesses, this unassuming novel has elicited more theological discussion and reflection than any recent academic work of theology. While this work has raised many questions it is a bit short on answers; or at least the answers it provides at times only scratch the surface of some complex theological topics. What would be helpful is a theological guide to The Shack.
This is exactly what my colleague and friend, Randal Rauser has written with his just published volume, Finding God in The Shack (Paternoster, 2009; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). In seven short chapters, Rauser explores a number of the theological issues raised by The Shack, including the provocative portrayal of God the Father as an African-American woman and the Holy Spirit as a young Asian woman (Sarayu), the nature of the relationship between members of the Trinity (hierarchical or egalitarian?), and the problems raised by the existence of horrendous evil in the world. In each of these discussions Rauser begins with the novel and then explores the theological questions raised by the book in an engaging and accessible way. In addition, each chapter ends with questions for further reflection.
Eugene Peterson’s blurb on the back cover of Finding God in the Shack is as good as an endorsement you’ll find anywhere:
If you have ever had a conversation on The Shack, whether with an enthusiast or a critic, you will want to invite this skilled and accessible theologian into the conversation. Before you have read a dozen pages you will know why we need to keep company with theologians. They help us keep our conversation on God intelligent, informed, and irenic.
If you have read The Shack and want to explore some of the issues raised by the novel in more detail, I encourage you to pick up Rauser’s book. It will help you navigate through some of the deep theological waters raised by the novel.
Interestingly, Roger Olson has also just published a book with the same title from InterVarsity Press: Finding God in the Shack: Seeking Truth in a Story of Evil and Redemption (2009; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com).