I know that by writing about the bestselling Christian novel The Shack I may possibly get more people reading it than would otherwise have done, but before you dash out and buy it as a Christmas present, I want to sound a warning.
As a writer I found the literary devices used by the author deeply dissatisfying and sometimes disturbing. The underlying idea of the kidnap and brutal murder of a Christian's little girl is distasteful. But it is in the image of God that the book presents that I have the most difficulty.
Despite the rave reviews by people like Eugene Petersen and Michael W Smith, there are those who share my deep unease with this work of fiction. A friend of mine, Pete Greasley, Senior Pastor of Christchurch, Newport, found this item on a radio broadcast from the renowned American theologian Dr. Albert Mohler, who dedicated a radio program to presenting his review of the book. He closed the radio program with these words:"...Whenever you have an issue in which you are dealing in a narrative-fictional context with theology, you need to be really, really careful. It's dangerous enough to write theology. But when you try to put it in the form of 'theological fiction,' or 'Christian fiction,' it gets all the more dangerous because you are inventing dialogue and inventing characters. And this is one of the grave, grave problems I have with this book [The Shack]. If you put God in some kind of character format-in this case as an African-American woman-you're going to be creative and create a fictional character. Now, is it responsible to do that with the God of the Bible? I have grave concerns about that, but the concerns grow more grave when you look at the dialogue imbedded within the book and the fact that this simply, by any measure, falls far short of biblical Christianity. There is very little in this book about salvation, but there is absolutely nothing in this book that would help you to understand how one comes to be made right with God through the atonement achieved by Jesus Christ, the Son. My main issue is not with the particulars of the story-in some sense a story is a story. My problem is with what is imbedded in the story and this is a danger regardless of whether the story is presented as Christian fiction or something else. Remember, everyone has a purpose in writing a story. In this case, regardless of intention (I cannot read the man's heart), I can tell you the effect of this book is deeply subversive of the Christian faith and I think inherently seductive as well."
In my view the book is not only built upon a literary device that is nothing short of trickery, but is in breech of the second commandment about creating false images of God. So - I won't be sending out free copies with my Christmas cards!