I have recently finished reading "The Shack" by Wm. Paul Young (or William P. Young). For a while now, I have had others tell me that I should read it, so I put it on my mental "when I get around to it" list. A friend who never reads told me that she read the book and I needed to read it. I am not certain exactly what prompted me to move it to my, "need/want to do now" list, but it just seemed to happen and I am glad it did.
I would like to start off by saying, I tend to take most books that people tell me that I "must" read with a grain of salt (I only got half-way through 90 Minutes in Heaven - maybe the best stuff was at the end...hmmm) which is why I mentally put them on a "to-do later list" that I never intend to get around to. As a pastor, I have more people who want me to do critiques or book reviews of this book or that book or movie or whatever the latest Christian novelty happens to be. I tend to feel I have better things to do than read books that I do not feel will be particularly helpful to me or my ministry. I realize that this sounds quite snotty and arrogant, but there is so much to do, I must set boundaries and limits somewhere.
In any event, I ordered the book. I thought I would save it for this summer as I am going to be on an airplane for a seriously long time! But, I was intrigued by the first few pages and I couldn't quit reading. I thought Mr. Young did a fabulous job of addressing, in a respectful way, the age-old quandary: If God is a good god why do bad things happen, and if God cannot stop the bad things from happening, then God is impotent. It really isn't as simple as this, but it feels that way when you are facing tragedy in blacks and whites, generally first hand. I know a father of a sixteen year old who was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago. He has the same anger issues and questions as Mack (the main character of the book). I hope he can read this book; it may help, it may not, but it may free him up to question anyway.
I read a review on a blog by 'Brother Maynard' (a pseudonym) called Subversive Influence. It is "Spoiler-Free" so if you have not read the book it is safe to read. I think Brother Maynard did a good job of giving the details and his insight is helpful.
I think some of the theology in the book is pretty deep for the average reader. Not that it is incomprehensible, I think Mr. Young did a pretty decent job of dealing with deep theological issues in a way that most people can at least understand the words, which is the first step. I think there are ideas in there that, while I do not disagree with them, think that they could possibly be misconstrued or misused. I don't know if this book would be especially helpful for a non-Christian, although it might, but I definitely think that every Christian should read it if for no other reason than it would do them good to wrestle with the ideas, theological concepts, and spiritual pain that most of us tend to ignore or otherwise downplay.
I will probably go back and re-read this book, now that I know the end, so I can savor some of the deeper parts that I tend to plow through because I want to know more about the end. A failing of mine. I have read most of the books I like at least twice for this very reason. When I was a kid, I read the last two chapters first. I know, I know... Anyway, this book is worth the second read and I will probably take the time to underline and highlight a few passages that may help me explain some of these concepts should they arise in my ministry. And for this Sunday's sermon, I have a whole new understanding of the transfiguration moment.
It does touch on some seriously disturbing events (the abduction and murder of a child) that many, me included, may wish to avoid. Let me say, from one who hates gore to another, there is no gore. I think the minimal details to maintain the storyline were given. You feel the tragedy of the circumstances, but are not horrified. Do not let this stop you from reading the book. The main storyline is not solely about that, although that tragedy gives you insight to the main character who is the child's father.
I hope you read it. I hope it makes you stop and think. I hope you enjoy wrestling with the ideas and questions it poses as much as I do.