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The Shack: a layman’s theology

William P. Young’s The Shack is engaging the thought stream of evangelical Christianity. The book is generating constructive dialogue on the nature of God and the relevance of the church. Like several of my acquaintances, I resisted the pressure from those who insisted, “You MUST read this book.” But when someone told me, “There’s something here to offend everyone,” I couldn’t resist having a look.

Many will have a tremendous struggle to move past the abduction and murder of a child. But this event, horrible and hard to read, is not the story. Rather it’s the setup – the catalyst for the real message.

Through an imaginative depiction of a man talking face to face with the Father Son and Holy Spirit, Young lays out a systematic theology in layman’s language. Without specifically addressing the issue, The Shack demonstrates how many of Christianity’s deep-seated doctrines and debates are built around semantics. In Young’s portrait, the Father says, “I often find that getting head issues out of the way first makes the heart stuff easier to work on later . . . when you’re ready.”

The theology of The Shack is based on a God who loves and forgives unconditionally. People from all sides of the religious spectrum will find ideas in the book to debate and concepts to embrace or reject. If there truly is something here to offend everyone, I think there is also something to inspire new thoughts on the nature of belief, faith and relationship for anyone who can open their mind to possibilities.