My tongue-in-cheek (but still totally serious) review of The Shack notwithstanding, I should follow up with one important positive payoff of the book.
Despite that the story teaches terrible theology, The Shack implicitly teaches that theology really matters.
One commenter on my previous post was apparently frustrated by my analysis of the book because it's "just a story." It's not a theological book, she said, so why submit it to the standards of theological non-fiction?
Because, in fact, it is a theological book. Make no mistake: Young's best-seller is meant to teach theology.
If you haven't read it, the book revolves around a man dealing with the horrific abduction and murder of his youngest daughter. The semi-religious, seminary-trained main character (Mac) spends a weekend with God in the middle-of-nowhere shack where much of that tragedy took place. Naturally, the always-present, fundamental question is, "Where were you in the rape and murder of my daughter?"
That is to say, The Shack centers on the problem of evil, or perhaps more accurately, the problem of pain. Where is God when something so unquestionably evil happens? How can He possibly be really good and really omnipotent when such heinous acts are committed against my own daughter?
So the main character talks with God about exactly that question. These theological discussions make up the heart of the book. We are not nit-picking when we critique the book's theological conclusions, because so much of the book is so obviously about theology.
Of course, it's not really God. It's Young's idea of God, which is mostly wrong. Still, it's a discussion about who God is and why He allows things like that. Because when personal tragedy abounds for people who believe in God, so do questions about the nature of God. Just because it is practical does not mean it isn't theological.
And yet, so many Christians I know don't seem too interested in thinking seriously about God (that's a strange thing to say, isn't it?). It is hard to convince them that theology really matters. They haven't thought seriously enough to realize that while The Shack's answers may seem reasonable, they sure aren't biblical.
In any case, if you feel any concern for Mac, you will want to know what God has to say about all of the tragedy. And hopefully you will realize that the question of what God is like is by no means reserved for academics and their libraries. Mac's most pertinent, practical questions are directly theological. Theology will change his life.
Even if you don't face that kind of tragedy, theological convictions are the most important ones that you have. I reminded my church the last time I preached to them that it is not a question of whether or not we will be theologians, but a question of whether or not we will be good theologians. Tozer was right: "The most important thing about a man is what comes to his mind when he thinks about God."
Now if only Young's best-seller wasn't such bad theology...