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The Shack: The Good, the Bad, and the Controversial

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Featured in this discussion are pastors Jeff Miller and Brian Gross, and professor Michael Burer.

WARNING #1: You need not have read the book to benefit from this panel discussion.

WARNING #2: This panel discussion will ruin “the end of the story” for you if you haven’t yet read the book!

The Shack by William Paul Young was published by Windblown Media in April, 2007. At least 4 million copies are currently in print. It is a #1 New York Times bestseller, and enjoys well over 2,000 reviews on Amazon.com. The book has been endorsed by Eugene Peterson, Michael W. Smith, Wynonna Judd, David Gregory, and many others.

The main story line centers around the tragic abduction of Mack’s daughter while camping. A remote, abandoned shack is eventually identified as the murder scene, but the abductor is not immediately apprehended. The following few years of hopelessness, dead-ends, and questions form a wedge in Mack’s relationship with God. One day Mack receives an invitation to join God at the shack. Not knowing if this is a cruel joke from friends, a sinister invitation from the abductor himself, or truly a message from God, Mack secretly drives to the shack for answers. There he finds the Triune God—in the form of three people. During the course of a couple of days, he divides his time with each of them enjoying several short teaching moments. They answer his questions, absorb his rage and anger and unforgiveness, comfort his pain, and heal him. The book is emotionally gripping and looks honestly at the deep suffering of loss. It raises many of the right questions that are asked during one’s time in the valley, and seeks to connect true comfort with the character and nature of God.

The panelists discussing this book include Dr. Michael Burer, assistant professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Pastor Brian Gross of Trinity Bible Church in Richardson, Texas, and Pastor Jeff Miller also of Trinity Bible Church. The panelists discuss the book in conversational style for about sixty minutes in front of an audience at Trinity Bible Church. Following this discussion, the panelists entertain questions for another thirty minutes.

It was not the wild popularity of this book that generated this audio/video response. Instead, the one-sided feedback from those who had read the book convinced us that the vast majority of people were embracing it as if it lacked anything bad or controversial. When we would merely mention to a reader that parts of the book were controversial, they would defend it as if it were the Bible itself, or claim that it was “only fiction” and therefore should not be subject to scrutiny or discernment. In fact, it contains good, bad, and controversial elements that should each be recognized for what they are. Some questions we strive to answer in this panel include:

1. Who is the author and why did he write this book?

2. What did you like about the book?

3. What is the literary merit of the book?

4. Why are we talking about a fiction book?

5. Are people changing their view of God because of this book? If so, how is the author responding to this?

6. How do you respond to the thousands who claim the book has brought them tremendous comfort?

7. Would you recommend the book to someone?

Our panelists respond to these questions and many, many others. We hope you’ll enjoy this balanced discussion of the runaway bestselling book, The Shack!

Both audio and video files are available for free download. Due to some minor technical difficulties with the video equipment, a small portion of the Q&A that can be heard on the audio file is missing from the video. Many thanks to the professional work of Joel Cameron for mastering and providing the audio file, and to Rajiv Richard for furnishing and running the professional video equipment.

Related Topics: Cultural Issues, Book Review