I thought I would begin today by mentioning one thing I appreciated and enjoyed about reading The Shack, and two additional reasons I think it has been popular.
The Shack serves as a metaphor for the place of our deepest pain. It is at the place of our deepest pain that many people feel completely abandoned by all hope in God and can be plunged into despair. The Shack asks the question, What if God is more present in "The Shack" than we ever imagined? Through the character of Mack, Young wrestles with what it is that can help us experience the depths of God's loving presence through our own shack, and be willing to walk through the door to revisit it and be transformed from bitterness to hope. The questions he deals with are honest and raw, and the character of Mack expresses many questions and emotions that any believer in God may experience in the face of sorrow and evil. For this reason I enjoyed reading the book and experiencing the journey along with the character. I will consider what I thought of the content of the conversations and explanations in a future post.
I would suggest that there are two other reasons that the book has been popular. Those who have read the book are welcome to agree or disagree. First, it is intensely critical of the church, a popular target of criticism in our culture. Of course some of the criticism is deserved, and others is a thin caricature of reality. I have no intent in the post to go into a theology and defense of the church as a whole, but I do recognize that there is an appeal to many in hearing Jesus say in the book that he never intended for anything remotely like what we have today, and simply wanted a connection of loving relationships among people. Second, I think the book has been popular because the view of God presented in the book is highly relational and pictures the Trinity in loving, unimposing relationship to one another. For someone who has never thought of God as fundamentally relational (and very good at it to boot) this is surprising and refreshing. Further, the approach of God in relationship in the book seems quite suitable to modern notions. Nevertheless I think these two features add to the appeal of the book in the wider culture. There is another reason I think the book is appealing, but I will save that for another day.