A few thoughts have been brewing on The Shack. Tamie has already skirted trinitarian red herrings and tackled a great deal. In the end, I just have a personal quibble: the way The Shack is written.
I expect that a good novel will transport me to a vivid imagined world, yet a world that will reflect truths about reality. But it is the very imaginary nature of this world which prompts my willing suspension of reality. That’s what enables me to draw truths from a novel: it leads me to momentarily forget that I’m doing any such thing.
And The Shack doesn’t fit the bill for me. I find Mack to be a caricature who simply asks questions for which he simply accepts answers. The fact that he yells and weeps along the way does little to dissuade me that he’s much more than a cardboard cutout. Mack’s story and his grief are believable enough but his interactions with God are a device for Paul Young to preach to me. The Shack speaks of a God who is bigger and more mysterious than we can imagine but does so, ironically, through a long series of precise theological statements in dialogue. Do I like what Young has to say through the Godhead in The Shack? At times yes, at others no; it’s a mixed bag. But I can’t stomach being preached to in a novel if I’m conscious of it — and throughout The Shack, Young’s bald theological declarations roughly wake me from the fictional world in which I might actually be listening to him. The Shack is not allegorical; its characters speak for God rather than symbolise God, shutting off the very wonder and mystery that Young is trying to express. A God in a one-dimensional medium is himself one-dimensional.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.