When the book and the movie The DaVinci Code came out several years ago, many evangelicals were alarmed. A myriad of books, pamphlets, videos, and websites were published addressing the errors and correcting the falsehoods in Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel. Willow Creek broadcast a video seminar that churches across the country received via satellite, including one megachurch in our area.
I tried to avoid The DaVinci Code. I have been successful at not watching the film – critics across the country panned it, and the buzz quieted quickly. But too many people from within the church had read the book and had questions about it. As a pastor, I felt an obligation to shepherd the sheep. So I blocked out an afternoon in June 2006 and read the book. Dan Brown’s religious agenda and the fictions in which he peddles are well-documented and obvious. The craft of the book itself is mediocre at best and shoddy at worst. I closed the book and wanted those four hours of my life back. But having read it, I was in a better position to pastor my congregation.
In regard to William Young’s book The Shack, I find myself in a similar circumstance. Only the stakes are higher. This is an enormously popular book among evangelicals. Eugene Peterson’s praise for the book comparing it to Pilgrim’s Progress has been widely cited on the Internet and is printed on the cover of the copy I read. I have been asked for my thoughts on the book by friends, family, and parishioners. I have tried to avoid this book, but as I pastor I do not think I can.
The biblical and theological problems with the book are well-documented. While I have some additional qualms with the book, I do not intend to rehash what others have done. There are some genuine strengths of the book that I want to discuss. But what I most desire to do is to offer a few thoughts about The Shack as a novel, to look at the elements that make a novel such as character, plot, setting, and conflict. At that point, I can offer my reflections on The Shack as a book and my concerns for The Shack as a phenomenon.