I finished The Shack weeks ago, but I haven't had the chance to post anything, due to Cory always hogging our one computer. So, here it goes. I liked it. I don't agree with everything that was written, but I do agree with the overall theme (like the rest of you have mentioned) that God loves us and never leaves us. Never.
I'd like to discuss this with some detail, so if you haven't read the book, now would be a good time to stop reading this post.
And yes, I'll be coming from my LDS viewpoint... and I should preface this by saying that my current calling at church is to teach the 'Gospel Essentials/Principles' class. I'm teaching new members, investigators, and people who wander in off the streets (literally). It's a challenging and awesome calling, since I have to be on my toes at all times -- and class is never boring.
This book has been on and off various best-seller lists. I know it made an appearance on USA Today's Top 10 list, but I don't know how long it was there. And then there's the fact that we were all on waiting lists to receive this book from our local libraries. Obviously, this book is gaining in popularity, and many people want to read it. What I find most interesting about this is the conclusion I draw from the book's popularity. People want religion. People want to read about and learn about God. People want to know that God loves us, His children. Obviously (even though we're living in a time of great growth of the LDS church) people are starved for religion.
I was a bit surprised by how much of the book I agreed with. The author had many truths in the book ... and then he had some things that I don't agree with. I want to talk about some of these parts and get others' opinions.
On page 63, Mack talks about how he had been taught in seminary that God had "stopped any overt communication with moderns." I think this is one of the saddest commentaries of modern life -- that people cannot accept that God still talks to His children. Somehow, the belief has taken hold that the only way God speaks is through the Bible. I see this time and time again, as people in my Sunday school class tell me they believe God no longer directs His children -- and in turn, many believe this means God no longer cares for His children. How fortunate for me to know differently! God does speak to us through a living prophet. And he cares immensely about what happens to His children. At least the book was good about making the point that God does care. Deeply. More than we really can understand.
I also thought it was interesting when they talked about us taking care of this earth we live on. On page 145 Jesus says "humans, who have been given the task to lovingly steer the world, instead plunder her with no consideration, other than for their own immediate needs." Ha, how true this is. Humans are the crowning glory of God's creation, and we were given domain over this earth. I'm not one that is getting caught up in the whole 'global warming crisis' but I do believe we could all do a better job with our stewardship over this earth. I believe we will be held accountable.
I also liked how the book tried to teach that Jesus chose the "way of the cross" so "mercy triumphs over justice because of love." (page 165) Though this doesn't nearly cover the whole scope of the Atonement as we understand it... still, it scratches the surface. The Atonement is, in part, a way for us to overcome our sins. I wouldn't say that mercy "triumphs" over justice - rather that Christ fulfilled justice's demands, allowing us to be shown mercy. It all centers around Christ as our Savior. The book tried to show that, but as the author doesn't have a full understanding of the Atonement, he didn't quite get it all.
This one I found interesting - on page 178 Mack and Jesus were talking about what heaven would look like - and Jesus says heaven is a "cleansing of this universe." We've been taught that the Celestial kingdom will actually be here on earth, after the earth is cleansed. I've always found this to be such an interesting concept, and I was frankly surprised to find it in this book. I agree, but I thought this was an LDS belief. I wasn't aware other people thought similarly.
And one more - on page 188 God says "just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrated the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes." Amen. I think one of the biggest misunderstandings people (in general) have about God is that He causes suffering. Bad things happen in peoples' lives (like children being kidnapped, a relative dying, health problems, etc) and people tend to blame God for their suffering. What people don't understand (and what I believe) is that God does not cause suffering (well, he can punish us, but that's a different subject). I believe God grieves when we grieve. Consequences (both good and bad) are the nature of living on this earth; the nature of agency. Sometimes we make poor choices and bring things upon ourselves - and sometimes we are affected by someone else's agency (like Mack, having his daughter kidnapped). But God doesn't orchestrate these things to make us suffer - they are all consequences to choices that we (humans) make here on this earth.
There were some things that I didn't agree with - namely, the way the Godhead was portrayed. But overall, I found there was a lot of truth in this book. It had some parts I disagree with, and it was lacking in some parts, but it did have some good things to say. It did make me appreciate (all the more) my membership in the true church. It made me appreciate that I have the answers to all the questions Mack was asking. I know I have a long way to go, but I know where to go when I lack answers, and that makes me very, very grateful.
Oh, and did anyone else just want to wrap up a send-along card and a Book of Mormon for the author?