The Shack: Unauthorized Theological Critique is evangelical blogger Tim Challies’ 18-page 2008 review of and response to William P. Young’s 2007 novel The Shack.
Challies says in several places, “We will look at the book with a charitable but critical eye.” That’s a lie; he goes right to work telling us how “subversive” The Shack is. At its core, this book is a hatchet job.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Challies is wrong (at least, not about everything). He’s right that The Shack is “clearly intended to communicate theological truths” (p. 4), and that attempts to explain away The Shack’s theological errors on the basis that the story is a metaphor are flawed. He’s right that Young downplays the value of the Bible. He’s right that Young gives his readers an incomplete gospel message, one without much in the way of sin or justice.
Unfortunately, that’s about all that Challies is right about. He’s off on a host of other issues, ranging in importance from the major to the nitpicky.
Challies criticizes Young for portraying God in female and motherly ways. He says, “Nowhere in the Bible would we find any suggestions that God expects us to relate to him in anything but masculine attributes” (p. 15). Evidently, Challies’ Bible doesn’t have Isaiah 49:15, 66:13 or Luke 13:34 (or any number of other verses) in it.
Citing the Second Commandment – make no graven image – Challies asserts that Young has sinned by portraying the Father and the Holy Spirit in human form (but not Jesus). Then again, Challies says that “make no graven image” is the Third Commandment, which doesn’t do a lot for his credibility.
Challies also gets upset that Mack, The Shack’s main character, swears and yells around the God characters – he calls it “one of the most disturbing aspects of The Shack” (p. 15). This tells us that yes, Challies is uptight, but also that he doesn’t understand things like fiction, metaphor, or allegory.
I could, unnecessarily, go on. In these few pages, we explore a number of things that are wrong in The Shack, but we also see a lot about Challies’ own limited view of God.
From the last page of The Shack: Unauthorized Theological Critique: “All this is not to say there is nothing of value in the book. However, it is undeniable to the reader who will look to the Bible, that there is a great deal of error within The Shack. There is too much error.”
Said the pot to the kettle.