If you have been in christian circles for a while you will probably have heard of, or read, a book called The Shack by WM Paul Young. It was quite big a few years back – THE book to read. I remember hearing about it whilst at the church I had only just started attending after getting married and someone summarising it as this:
“its a book about a guy who goes to a rundown shack and then gets confronted with the Holy Spirit and can’t leave”
This is a very very bad summary of the book! So I wanted to give my brief take on The Shack and why every Christian should read it, along with a review of the author’s new book – Crossroads.
So in case you didn’t know, The Shack is a work of fiction. I know a lot of people question whether fiction books are useful for Christians – shouldn’t we just be reading the bible and commentaries on the bible – but I think that if we are made in the image of a creative God, then we should be able to be creative in expressing things and in interpreting the world we live in. This is where works of fiction have a place. In the bible, writers used poetry and parables to explain things, so why shouldn’t we use fiction books to expand and open up the mysteries of God now?
WM Paul Young is very good at challenging our perceptions and concrete ideas that years of religion have told us about God. I am not saying that what he writes is necessarily the truth about God, but it just makes you think outside the box a little bit.
In The Shack, he deals with the issue of God as the Trinity – a mystery that continues to baffle humans despite all the good analogies you might see (water, ice, water vapour or eggs with their shell, white and yolk). And he does this in a very surprising way! I will not reveal how, but I guess if you want to have your mind opened to new possibilities about this perfect relationship then it is worth a read.
He also looks at pain and how we see it compared to how God sees it. I think he does this in a beautiful way that shows how God can use the horrible things in this world to bring about something meaningful.
Moving on to his second book, Crossroads, he uses very similar methods to surprise his readers and push their thinking (although perhaps it is not as big a surprise as in the Shack, as you have already been pushed by reading that book first!). In Crossroads he turns his attention to the sticky question of the after life (or the life-after as he prefers to call it). But instead of trying to define Heaven and Hell he looks at the foggy area of a man in a coma, fighting for his life and trying to figure out what it is all about.
He also focus’ on the special relationship between body, mind, soul and spirit and how they can not be easily divided. Crossroads has a cleverer, more moral theme and conclusion to it than the Shack but I think it loses some of the shock and surprise that was seen in the first book. Both are excellent reads and well worth the time pondering some of life questions that only God can answer.