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The Shack

29th July 2022: Ken Harris
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Ken Harris summarises last Saturday's discussion at the Good Fatih Book Club about The Shack by William Paul Young

The overall opinion of this book was a positive one, although nearly everyone had reservations about some aspects of it. We recognised that it was a fiction and was written by someone whose early Christian experience had been drawn from a narrow American fundamentalism, but even so, it had something to say to us in Britain.

Most of us approached this book with our own prejudices, such as a general lack of enthusiasm for religious fiction or a suspicion of anything written from a fundamentalist evangelical perspective. However, once into the book, these prejudices were put to one side, and we all agreed that it was a well-written novel with a storyline that held our attention. 'Weird but marvellous' was one opinion.

Some found it overly sentimental or had reservations about some aspects such as the literary device of finding that much of it was a dream or its portrayal of Adam and Eve as real people. But despite this, it tackled some serious issues about the nature of God, the Holy Trinity, coping with grief and tragedy, life's purpose, predestination, free will, forgiveness, the afterlife and God's presence and means of influence in our daily lives. One of our members saw many characteristics of Plato in the discussions between its characters.

At its heart, the book tackles the place of suffering and evil in a world which Christianity claims was created by an all-seeing, all powerful yet loving God. Why, if this is the case, does God allow so many bad things to happen? We did not necessarily agree with everything that is suggested in answer to these questions but recognised that the book challenges many common pictures of God and opens up ways of thinking through these problems that many people will find helpful. The book is not dogmatic in the ideas that it puts forward but leaves the reader with the freedom to make up their own minds on what they think about the story.

So, we would recommend the book to those who want to explore these questions about life and religion, and I would also recommend looking at some on-line videos of interviews with W. P. Young in which he talks about why and how he wrote the book, drawing on aspects of his own religious experiences.

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