Well, you knew it was bound to happen, but this is the first book about the popular novel that I am aware of, and you can bet it won’t be the last. Finding God in The Shack is by Randal Rauser, associate professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminar, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He writes on theology, apologetics and popular culture. The book is releasing in February through Paternoster Press, a division of the worldwide STL organization.
The publisher marketing for the book (see below) appears to indicate a response to the book that is supportive of the The Shack‘s theological treatment. That could upset people who are looking for ammunition to criticize the book, especially those who have been outspoken critics without actually reading it. No doubt those titles will follow.
I am always skeptical as to whether or not books like this are written to allow further conversation on the themes in other popular Christian literature — I’m aware of at least six critiques of the Left Behind series — or if they are written from an opportunist vantage, trying to capitalize on the popularity of something else. I know that’s unfair; nor are we to judge the motives of someone else; but as a bookseller, it’s easy to all that skepticism to creep in.
That said though, I do actually hope this is the first of many such titles, because there is so much discussion taking place now on theological matters that it would be healthy and beneficial to allow those dialogs to continue, especially among those who have never considered weightier theological matters before. The Shack has brought many new people to the theological roundtable. One other Canadian who would be good to hear from on this would be John Stackhouse of Regent College, whose debrief of the book is the third of three radio interviews available online from the Haven Today radio program*. Plus, I’m sure a number of American, British or Australian writers would be itching to weigh in on this.
Here is the publisher marketing for Finding God in The Shack:
What would it be like to lose your youngest child to a serial killer? And then to have God invite you out for a conversation at the very shack where the terrible deed took place? And then imagine that the door to that shack of horrors opened . . . and before you knew it you had been swept up in the motherly embrace of a large African American woman? This most unlikely of stories, as told in William Young’s The Shack, has become a runaway bestseller and it is easy to see why. The book brings us on a redemptive journey through the shacks of deepest pain and suffering in our lives, guided by the triune God of Christian faith. But even as lives have been transformed through this book, other readers have sternly denounced it as a hodgepodge of serious theological error, even heresy. With one pastor urging his congregation to read it and another forbidding his congregation to, many Christians have simply been left confused.
Aware both of the excitement and uncertainty generated by The Shack, theologian Randal Rauser takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the pages of the story. In successive chapters he explores many of the books complex and controversial issues. Thus he explains why God the Father is revealed as an African American woman, he defends the books theology of the Trinity against charges of heresy and he considers its provocative denial of a Trinitarian hierarchy. But at its heart The Shack is a response to evil and so Rauser spends the final three chapters considering the books explanation for why God allows evil, how the atoning work of Christ offers new hope for a suffering world and ultimately how this hope extends to all of creation. Through these chapters Rauseroffers an honest and illuminating discussion which opens up a new depth to the conversation while providing the reader with new opportunities for Finding God in The Shack.
*For the earlier two programs with the author of the book itself, use the same link and modify the last four digits to program 1661 and 1662. See also our post on this topic a few days ago with the link to an Australian radio show podcast.