“The Shack” by William Young has proven to be one of the most controversial books to hit Christian bookstores in the last several years and even more mind-boggling is that it’s fiction.  Our purchase was accompanied by a warning letter issued by Lifeway urging caution while reading and countless colleagues have dismissed it as theological garbage.  I cannot say that I agree with every part of the book as I felt that Young sides too often with human free will as it relates to God’s sovereignty such that it flirts too close to open theism for me.   However, I must admit that given all the theological furor that accompanied “The Shack,” I was hyper-sensitive to its theology and most people would probably not notice some of the things that startled me.  The most glaring theological trouble spot for many is Young’s depiction of the Trinity, with the Father being personified as an African-American woman and the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman.  I personally do not have trouble with the depiction primarily because it is fiction.  I would have a great deal of difficulty if some new theology text made such assertions as I would find them antithetical to Christian Scripture and tradition.  Yet, because it is a work of fiction we must understand that Young is simply trying to make a point about the fact that in our deepest need God is there meeting it in whatever form necessary.  The main character, Mack Phillips, needed the form of God he encountered to overcome the brutal death of his child.  If we were honest with ourselves sometimes we too would say that sometimes we need to feel God’s paternal discipline and sometimes we need God’s maternal love.  Jesus alluded to this just before His crucifixion when he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”  I personally thought the depiction of the Holy Spirit was dead on and particularly helpful in allowing the average Christian to grasp such an important concept given so many misconceptions about the person and work of the Spirit.   The turmoil the depiction has stirred exposes a serious problem in Evangelical Christendom regarding the arts.  So many parts of our society have become so fact driven that we fail to see the arts as a means to enhancing our understanding of our faith and our world.  Our artistic ignorance has caused us to lose a valuable witnessing tool as the world we seek to evangelize is actively engaged in the arts but will not read our Scriptures.  We must learn to use every tool at our disposal for the sake of the Gospel.  Joseph told his brothers that they meant their actions toward him for evil, but God meant it for good that many might be saved.  Have we become so legalistic that we have made God incapable of doing the same with the arts?  “The Shack” has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 92 weeks.  Can you imagine the number of lost people who have read it and had numerous questions about God fill their soul?  Can you imagine the impact on our world if there were Christians who used someone reading “The Shack” as a means of embarking on a conversation that brought another soul into the Kingdom?  I would recommend reading “The Shack” from that perspective alone and hope that it would stir within you a desire to use the arts as part of your witness.

Peace be with you.