Works of fiction don’t normally create controversy but The Shack was no ordinary novel.
William P. Young originally wrote the book as a Christmas gift for his six children. Initially, the book had no interest from either secular or Christian publishers.
Even 12 months after Young self published the title, few had read it. But in the summer of 2008, it took off as word of mouth got around and the book reached number one on the New York Times paperback fiction list.
Within the Christian community, the book attracted heated debate. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message translation of the Bible praised it, even compared the book to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress while Albert Mohler called it “deeply troubling”.
Here in the UK, the book could be found in both Christian bookshops and secular retailers such as Waterstones. A substantial advertising campaign even saw the book’s cover appear throughout the London Underground as both churchgoers and atheists devoured The Shack.
What caused the book to sell millions of copies and spread across the world? Why did so many Christians love it so much? Here we talk to three ordinary Jesus followers to find out what The Shack did for their faith...
Dave Ward from Nottingham “absolutely loved” The Shack.
“I know that some people have struggled with it, but for me it's an inspired book not only in the context of suffering but also because it gives us a new image of the Trinitarian God,” he comments.
“Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted and murdered, "Mack" struggles to come to terms with this and meets with God in the Shack. The questions he asks and the answers given are wonderful and bring new depth to a God who really does care.
“I love how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to each other in real community, the sense of humour and obvious love between them shines through and makes you want to be a part of that.”
Dave says he’s given the book to a number of non Christian friends, especially those who have experienced suffering first hand. “It makes a refreshing change to have this subject dealt with as a novel.” He says.
Pam Rowley from Gillingham admits it took her a while to get her head around the book. But now that she has read it four times, she’s a big fan!
After the Shack repeatedly came up in conversations with her Christian friends, Pam felt like she was missing out and decided to read the novel for herself.
To begin with, Pam struggled to understand how God could be portrayed as a big black woman but in the end she decided “I guess he can be whoever you want him to be”.
Sandra Delemare from Hythe found the book to be a “refreshing, thought-provoking take on the Trinity."
Not bothered by accusations of “dodgy theology”, Sandra believes God’s love shines through the pages.
“Love covers a multitude of dodgy theologies”, she quips.
Four years on from the summer that propelled The Shack to dizzying heights, the book continues to sell well.
But this year, the man himself is returning with Cross Roads. Will the author's second novel receive as much praise and criticism as The Shack did? Only time will tell...
November 4th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes