Finding God in the Shack, written by Roger E. Olson, is a readers’ guide to the recent hit novel The Shack by William P. Young. Though the writing is succinct, the materials and subject matter are heavy and aimed toward readers of greater spiritual maturity. Reader alert: Within the first chapter Olson reveals and begins explaining the story in its entirety, including the ending, so those who have not read The Shack may want to set this book aside until after reading the original.
Olson, also author of Questions to All Your Answers and Who Needs Theology?, tackles not only the positive spiritual impact of The Shack, but also the conflicting theologies that may confuse Christians. For example, in Chapter 4, titled, “Is God in Charge but Not in Control?,” Olson says Young “is over the top” in a passage describing God’s submission, but later in the same paragraph he writes, “There is some truth in it, but surely it could be expressed in a better way.” His style allows for both negative and positive aspects of the book to come to light, providing a neutral, yet informational, look at the spiritual elements of The Shack.
The most valued aspect of Olson’s guide remains his unwavering honesty and bravery in trying to tackle meaty and mysterious Christian questions, including why bad things happen to good people, why there is evil in the world, whether Jesus is more Jew than Christian, and how God can be comprised of a Trinity. Olson does not back away from making a valiant attempt to provide explanations for these difficult topics and rarely falls back on the stereotypical answer of “God works in mysterious ways.” He also makes a point to analyze the praise and problems that The Shack presents to theology and its sometimes vague representations of God. Olson takes into account that The Shack is a work of fiction and, therefore, he allows for a certain range of creative license, while simultaneously making an imaginative work applicable to furthering walks of faith.
Finding God in the Shack contains complex and heavy themes, yet explains them in a simple manner that readers will appreciate. It is the perfect reading companion to The Shack and is highly recommended to the Christian community. – Nan Johnson, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
The Shack has touched millions of readers with its portrayal of a compassionate God in the face of great evil. Many have identified with the main character's Great Sadness, the terrible burden of grief that often accompanies and follows a deep loss, for the Great Sadness is part of the human condition. And it compels us to ask, Where is God? Who is God?
Roger Olson, who has faced his own Great Sadness, finds a good deal of comfort in this much beloved, story as have so many others. Some may ask, however, Is God really like that? Is that really how God responds to evil? Can God be trusted?
Olson also views The Shack with a theologian's eye and finds much sound truth. He delves into many of the significant issues raised by the book such as forgiving those who have done us great evil, how God acts in the world, how God is three persons in one and what difference this makes to us. While he offers his own criticisms of the book, he largely finds the truth about God in The Shack.