Guest / Limited Access /

For book endorsements, you couldn't top what Eugene Peterson said about The Shack by William P. Young. "When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of The Shack," wrote Peterson, professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Regent College. "This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress did for his. It's that good!"

Bunyan's masterpiece didn't just invigorate his generation. Pilgrim's Progress is an all-time best-seller, an English-language classic. So Peterson's praise for The Shack is impressive indeed. Both books employ allegory to convey core convictions. Whereas Bunyan allegorized the journey of faith, Young tackles the question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?"

Allegory is a notoriously tricky literary device. Many attempt it. Few succeed. Bunyan's central character, Christian, experiences the doubts and temptations that believers endure.Young is more ambitious. Each person of the Trinity becomes a character in The Shack. The Father is Papa, a deliberately peculiar name for an African American woman. Jesus, true to reality, is a man from the Middle East. And the Holy Spirit is Sarayu, an Asian woman.

When authors experiment with allegory, they risk only failure and ridicule. Christian history, on the other hand, is littered with theologians who experimented with new conceptions of the Trinity. All they got for their efforts was the lousy title of heretic. To be fair, the Bible does not provide a finished formulation of the doctrine. It took a succession of ecumenical councils over the course of centuries to finally articulate the biblical view of the Trinity.

Christians today generally ...

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

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

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current Issue‘Grace Alone’: Luther Nails It
Subscriber Access Only
‘Grace Alone’: Luther Nails It
A Protestant responds to Catholic critiques of ‘Grace Alone.’
RecommendedThe Love Shack
Subscriber Access Only The Love Shack
William Paul Young explains the theology behind his best-selling novels and why he's no longer at war with himself.
TrendingRussia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Russia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Group gives Protestants competition for souls, but also an ally on religious freedom.
Editor's PickJust Who Are These ‘People of Faith’ Anyway?
Just Who Are These ‘People of Faith’ Anyway?
Articulating moral consensus in a pluralistic country.
Christianity Today
The Trinity: So What?
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

May 2008

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