‘The Shack’, A Book and a Prayer: Chapter 4

'The Shack' by William P. Young
'The Shack' by William P. Young

This chapter describes The Great Sadness which weighs down much of the book. To properly critique this book we have to keep in mind the overwhelming shock and sadness of the main character’s daughter being kidnapped and murdered. During these times our minds our saturated with sin. Our sinful nature tries to dominate and Satan has an easier time tempting than usual (this is why I recommended practicing trust in God’s sovereignty a few chapters ago).

There are two major parts of this chapter that will take our attention. The first is prayer. The second is the Bible. Young intersperses the tragedy of Missy’s death (Mack’s daughter) with the prayers that Mack and others pray. One prayer of Mack emphasizes our own need to pray in times of desperation and stress. It is another great area to practice, praying always so we always default to praying in every circumstance, not just tragedy but also in times of joy – praising God for His good providence in all situations. Another time Mack shows his dependence on God by praying. This is always a commendable aspect of our prayers, telling God we are very familiar with the fact that He is good and sovereign and in control and we are not any of those things.

Second, Young offers some degrading remarks on the Bible. One reads, “Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book [the Bible]“. First, The Shack is a book. So Young is elevating his book over the Bible. What Young is trying to argue for is direct communication with God. Seeing that he confronts the Bible, he’s trying to argue for revelation from God (not to Him in prayer) that is equal to the Bible. There are so many problems with this. First of these problems is that the Bible says it is sufficient for us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So the Bible is profitable for all these things, with a purpose “so that” we are quipped for “every” good work. In other words we don’t need direct communication from God in order to make sure we know what good works to do and how to do them. We need the Bible. Second, the Bible does not tell us of any other tool we have that can equip us for every good work. Third, the Bible itself speaks of God beyond His activities in the Bible. Passages like Psalm 115:3 tell us that God does whatever He wants. There’s no greater un-boxing or un-booking God than that. Fourth, there are very, very few people who have ever received direct revelation from God – like roughly 40 who wrote the Bible and a few who were prophets or prophetesses that received revelation through dreams or visions or the equivalent. Of billions of people that have been born through history hardly any have been given direct revelation outside the Bible. Most of those that claim it will contradict the Bible. The Bible calls those people false prophets.

So did God send Mack this note that Mack received? The Bible doesn’t eliminate God’s ability to use the mail. But there are two things. One, this god will prove not to be the God of the Bible. Second, didn’t this god violate US federal law by tampering with the mail?