I’ve just finished reading The Shack by William Paul Young. This is a novel about a man whose young daughter is abducted and presumed killed. As a work of fiction, and without giving anything away, the plot is somewhat fantastical but the book seriously attempts to deal with that key question: how can we believe in a loving God when there is so much suffering, and especially when the innocent are brutalised and families torn apart? If God could speak, what would He/She say to us? As such the book is full of theological concepts and arguments, but they are presented within a fascinating story with lively dialogue that makes the whole read far from a dry and tedious textbook.
While I might be uneasy with some of Young’s theology, and that would be nit-picking, I can honestly say that I have never cried as much over a single book. It presents a triune God who is passionately in love with all creation, yet who must respect the independence and free will of humanity, even when that freedom entails sin and deviation from God’s plan. We become aware of God’s raw anguish and His/Her nearness and presence to all human suffering. We see a God who is not distant from human suffering – who in fact co-suffers with us and bears our scars. As such it echoes my own theme and poem of an: Unmighty God
The author rightly stresses the importance of relationship and the basis of that relationship as love. At the core of all existence is the eternal relationship of God as Trinity – utterly giving to each other and utterly self-sufficient in their love. From their overflowing love comes their creation of the human drama, where God seeks to include us completely in this everlasting bliss. For Young, relationship with God even comes before membership of a church and any institutional codes of conduct. Knowing God as loving Parent/Son/Spirit is the only real source of freedom. This correlates to the importance of a contemplative practice: we can never grasp God with our mind but we can experience something of His/Her love – if we give time and focus quietly on that inner realm.
I would join the many others who recommend the book. It is thought provoking and might just change our perception of God from a distant and troubling judge figure to an intimate, warm, passionate, involved, even humorous soul-mate. You can get more information if you go to http://www.theshackbook.com
There is also a film version of The Shack which I have just ordered online. So while I haven’t yet seen the film, and I’m often wary that a film never quite captures the essence of a book, I’m looking forward to seeing it – with a box of tissues nearby.
In that supreme relationship of love,