book review

The Theological Shanty, Or Taking a Book Out Back to the Woodshed

the shackThis Christmas season, I was given The Shack to read over the holidays by a enthusiastic parent. First off, this book is better than most that passes for popular Christian literature today, that is, of what little I have read recently. Still, I found it far less compelling than many others have, but not as bad as I’ve heard, aside from the story/plot/characters as a thin veneer that covers a popular work in theodicy (and perhaps heterdox in its Trinitarian formulation, although I’m unsure on that count right now — and no, I am not referencing the notion of God as female, that I welcome). In the theodicy category, I felt it ultimately failed, but as a popular work in negative theology, it may have more staying power. I am sure it has had some helpful theological turns for many, nevertheless, it was often self defeating. I was astounded at how often the message subverted itself and let the reader off the hook — which negative theology is not supposed to do.

For good, introductory negative theology, check out God Is Not…: Religious, Nice, “One of Us,” An American, A Capitalist and God Does Not…: Entertain, Play Matchmaker, Hurry, Demand Blood, Cure Every Illness.

Still, I’ve got more things to do than to systematically challenge The Shack. However, let it not be said that even stumbling theology is worthless. Jon, a British friend of mine, over at Theologica has an interesting post on The Shack. He works on the themes of love and justice in The Shack and how they ought to rightly be construed. A helpful critique and one I welcome, because now I can just send people over there. And perhaps this is the ultimate success, that we may digest theology together.


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