Guest / Limited Access /

Exclusive for CT Online readers: Download chapter one of The Shack by William P. Young, free from Oasis Audio and powered by Audible.com.

Over the past year, word-of-mouth sales of William P. Young's The Shack have made it a feel-good story of the publishing world. As of this writing, the book with an initial $300 marketing budget sits atop The New York Times list of paperback trade fiction titles. The story behind its publication and success is, by everyone's account, remarkable.

But the story between its covers has elicited strong reaction, ranging from effusive praise to trenchant critiques labeling it theologically "dangerous" and "subversive." The bulk of The Shack consists of conversations between a beat-down, middle-aged adult male named Mack(enzie) and three figures who represent the Trinity: a large African American woman named Papa, a Jewish laborer named Jesus, and an ethereal Asian woman named Sarayu (Sanskrit for "wind"). The conversations take place in a remote shack in eastern Oregon, the exact spot of the greatest tragedy in Mack's life. The "great sadness" brought on by this event still blankets Mack's existence when he receives a mysterious invitation to return there.

The Shack's most prominent critics see troubling theological claims inherent in the story. Some argue, for example, that its Trinity is modalistic, others that the book is anti-church.

If charitably conducted, this type of conversation can be helpful. Theologians' sensibilities are fine-tuned by close listening, especially to works that don't always strike the right note. Christian orthodoxy was born of attention to small but crucial differences, yea, even jots and tittles.

Yet in order to give a work a fair hearing, we have an obligation to engage ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only The Excitement of Hope
Olympians have something to teach us about this cardinal virtue.
Current Issue‘Why Christianity Today’ Revisited
Subscriber Access Only
‘Why Christianity Today’ Revisited
The first editorial for this magazine—reprinted here—still reflects our ‘deepfelt desire.’
RecommendedStop Snacking on ‘Scripture McNuggets’
Stop Snacking on ‘Scripture McNuggets’
A Bible expert diagnoses the bad habits that keep us from feasting on God’s Word.
TrendingResearch Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
Research Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
A study of 250 congregations suggests that youth and young adults want substance rather than style.
Editor's PickOld Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
Old Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
What a culture of death tells us about a culture of life.
Christianity Today
Reading in Good Faith
hide thisAugust August

In the Magazine

August 2008

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.