A shack to make me shudder
Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity
By William P. Young
Hodder & Stoughton. 254 pages. £7.99
When Isaiah was called to take a divine message to Israel, he saw ‘the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted’ (Isaiah 6.1). His reaction was one of immense awe and fear, as he appreciated with great force his own sinful state before an almighty and holy God. His response was entirely in harmony with the Lord’s response to Moses, where Moses was told: ‘You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live’ (Exodus 33.20).
As I remembered these passages from the Bible, I shuddered with horror as I reached one third of the way through William Young’s book, The Shack. Up to that point it was easy to get caught up with the very moving and well-written story about a family passing through extreme tragedy and pain, as their youngest child is kidnapped and brutally murdered.
It would be easy to say, as one of the testimonials on the fly-cover does, that the book is merely a man’s journey to a closer relationship with God. Unfortunately the author goes a huge step beyond what is acceptable. He personifies the three persons of the Trinity into modern, even rather trendy, human forms, going into great detail about their clothes, hairstyles and expressions.
In other words, he does exactly what God commanded Moses that we cannot do, seeing God’s face, giving him a body, reducing Almighty God to man’s puny level. No matter how this is dressed up, by giving such personification supposedly spiritual motives, it cannot be right and would be abhorrent to most Christians.
There is a great deal in this book that is true, thought-provoking and could be very helpful, but this is constantly interspersed with subtle ideas which detract from the holiness of God, diminish the value of Christ’s church on earth and undermine the authority of Scripture and those who are called to preach it. It is this subtlety which is the book’s most dangerous aspect. Most mature Christians could pick out the obvious errors very quickly, but it could easily be a disturbing and damaging influence on those who are young in the faith.