I've done it -- I have read "The Shack." The Christian work of fiction has grown exponentially in popularity since it was published just two years ago. I hadn't heard of it until last winter when a friend from my Bible study mentioned it. Once I started reading it, I was amazed at how many people I would talk to in passing who'd also picked it up. Its popularity hasn't come without its share of controversy, for reasons I won't go into here for fear of giving away too much.
What you should remember going in, and keep in mind as you read, is that this is a work of fiction; it is essentially the author's imagining of what a conversation with God might look/sound/feel like. As long as you read it with that frame of mind you'll avoid the two extremes of either embracing it like the Gospel itself or rejecting it as presumptuous heresy.
I throughly liked "The Shack." The questions it asks are important and the answers are provocative. There are so many noteworthy themes — I can't even scratch the surface on this blog. But something that really resonated with me is the idea that legalism and ritual-based religion often amounts to a declaration of independence from God. How's that? Well, the more you take upon yourself to do in efforts to please God, the less you depend on Him; apart from Him we can do nothing, remember? As the book puts it, "independence is lunacy" when it comes to the way God created our relationship with Him to be like.
And there's no point saying "God is my top priority," because how much Bible study/prayer/etc. is ever "enough"? The more we know God and give up our independence to rest in Him, the more He's in
all of our priorities.
There is certainly nothing wrong with church, a church building and church leadership. But rules and rituals have never healed any of humanity's wounds or brought us closer to God. Religion didn't die on the cross, Jesus did. As a perfect cherry-on-top to finishing the book, my husband and I visited a church Sunday while on vacation. It's as if the sermon was the bridge in a song I'd been learning while I read the book.
Channeling your energy into whether you're keeping the Sabbath correctly or drinking alcohol too frequently just misses the point. There is no power in religious legalism but the power to bind ourselves. The heart of Christianity is a constant conversation with God — no folded hands or closed eyes necessary — and a surrender to grace. It is then and only then that our lights so shine before men that they see our good works and glorify the Father (not us).
So consider that my book report for the year.
"16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."