The Shack—Eat the Meat, Throw Away the Bones

July 17, 2008

I never paid any attention to The Shack until a friend mentioned it to me not long ago. The book came up in the context of a prison ministry that he and his wife lead each Sunday. He said that the prisoners love the “The Shack” because almost all of them can relate to the concept of a “Great Sadness” on the inside, and many of them come from broken homes. Certainly they all struggle with issues of guilt and forgiveness. My friend said that when they read “The Shack,” they find hope for reconciliation and healing of relationships that today seem irretrievably broken.

I mention that simply to remark that I am not surprised that so many people have read the book and found hope in it. I tend to think that since it is a novel, they don’t give it any great theological weight. That is, they take from it a general message regarding a God who is “especially fond of them” and the possibility of forgiveness through Christ. The rest of it is, so to speak, just part of the “crazy dream” and doesn’t seem to matter very much. It’s like they say about eating fish. Eat the meat, throw away the bones.

That only works up to a point. It’s the bones that give structure to the fish. Without the bones in the first place, there would be no fish at all. It’s possible to say, “This is a novel. It’s not about theology,” but every a cursory reading of the book shows that that isn’t true. Almost every word “Papa” says is a theological statement of some kind of other—except for random comments such as the warning about not eating too many greens or you will end up with the trots.

Today I ate lunch with a pastor whose theological acumen I hold in high regard. I was a bit surprised when he told me that he had no particular problems with the way the Trinity is portrayed in the book. I think he sees it as part of a dream and therefore not to be taken seriously. He said that while he would not endorse the book, he understands why so many people (including many Christians) are reading it and have found it helpful. I suppose that’s about where I come out on “The Shack." 

In any case, the reading public has spoken—loudly. This book speaks in a heart language that millions of people can understand. Do I wish it had better theology? Yes, but at the same time I am happy for those who read it and are genuinely drawn closer to God. If you read “The Shack” as a story and nothing more, you can enjoy it on its own terms, and you may even find yourself profoundly moved.

So where are we at the end of all this? Don’t believe every word that “Papa” says in “The Shack.” I would not be honest if I didn’t give that warning. Some of it—maybe even a lot of it—is good. Some is speculative. Some of it is plainly wrong. If you read the book and enjoy it, you needn’t feel guilty. It’s a novel, after all. Eat the meat, throw away the bones. Read “The Shack” with discernment. The following advice applies to every book we read, every sermon we hear, everything we find on the Internet, and every TV show or movie we watch. “Don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 The Message). If you want to know how to separate the meat from the bones, reading the Bible would be a good place to start.

Comments

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post? If you have a Facebook account, you may comment below:

PREVIOUS POST
«
Ray Pritchard
Subscribe to Pastor Ray’s blog by email »

Latest blog posts

Good Words for Today: September 2
Tuesday, September 2

Continue

Anchor
The Anchor Project
Explaining the Gospel in “Walmart English”

Anchor is a “gospel book” that explains the Good News in a simple and persuasive manner. Read the latest on “The Anchor Project” and how you can be support our work.

Read More
China
Keep Believing China
Partnering with Chinese pastors and churches

We want to join together with pastors and Christian workers to equip the church in China, broadcasting translated sermons, providing ministry resources for Christians and pastors in China.

Read More

Email
Weekly sermon email
Subscribe for free

Subscribe to the weekly sermon from Keep Believing Ministries. Sign up for our emails and use it to grow in your faith as well as to encourage others.

Continue

audio
KBM Podcasts
Weekly audio sermons

Welcome to Keep Believing Ministries’ audio/podcast library. Listen to or download a digital audio version of one of these messages or receive them via our podcast and feed.

Read More

Ebook: ABC’s of Wisdom

In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon left us a treasure trove of practical principles for daily living. The ardent pursuit of wisdom is every Christian’s calling! Wisdom “is a tree of life to those who embrace her. Those who lay hold of her will be blessed.” (Proverbs 3:18)

“Equipping and encouraging people to keep believing in Jesus”

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”