Christian fiction

This tag is associated with 8 posts

Interview with Christian Science Fiction Author Kathy Tyers

daystar-tyersI am extremely pleased to be able to present my readers with an interview with New York Times-Bestselling author Kathy Tyers. Kathy Tyers has been instrumental in growing the genre of Christian science fiction and has published multiple books, including her award-winning “Firebird” series in this genre. She received the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference’s Pacesetter award for her work in developing science fiction. She has also published two Star Wars novels and appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list. She currently resides in Montana, where she continues to mentor other authors and work on her own future novels.

I have written several posts on Tyers’ “Firebird” saga (click here and scroll down or see links at the end of this post), and have immensely enjoyed her works.

What were some of the biggest science fiction influences on your writing?

The first SF novel I devoured was The Star Conquerors, an early space opera by Ben Bova. I was also a big fan of Zenna Henderson’s “People” novels. The original Star Wars movies swept me away, of course. I discovered Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series when the first novel came out, and I kept up as she released titles in the series. Whenever I’m called to teach the craft in a classroom, I draw on Orson Scott Card’s excellent book on writing SF and Fantasy.

How has your faith inspired you to write?

My faith inspires my writing as it inspires everything I do; it’s the air I breathe, the ground I walk on, the light by which I can see and the gravity that keeps me grounded. If ever I shut my eyes, quit walking and stop breathing, it surely shows in my writing.

What do you think of the categorization of “Christian” fiction? Is it helpful to have a distinct category of “Christian” fiction?

Some people want to know, before opening a novel, whether it’s going to challenge them to think more deeply about God. Should all fiction come with a worldview alert about the author? That’s probably impractical. But if I open a novel that I know was written by a fellow Christian, or by someone of another faith, of course I approach it with different expectations.

What value do you think Christian speculative fiction has for evangelism, defense of the faith, and theology?

Whether or not we see ourselves as evangelists, we’re ambassadors for a Kingdom that is not of this world. That applies to every Christian in every profession. An author who’s known to be a Christian will have his or her books analyzed accordingly by some of the reviewers. If the book survives scrutiny as a good witness to the craft and the Kingdom, AND if it’s a good story well told, the author has accomplished what good fiction is supposed to accomplish—even if it gets the occasional one-star review.

How awesome was it to write Star Wars books?

Absolutely.

What is one piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Writing will take more time than you could possibly imagine. Don’t use that as an excuse to stop reading, because you’ll unconsciously (or consciously) emulate the books you’ve been reading. So read the good stuff.

What’s next on your plate? Any new books to look forward to?

I’ve written a contemporary supernatural novel set in Montana that I’m looking into indie publishing. Just looking, so far. Haven’t decided.

Conclusion

I would like to once more extend my thanks to Kathy Tyers for being willing to get interviewed for my site and for her excellent work in the field of science fiction.

Links

Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird” Trilogy- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– The “Firebird” trilogy is one of my fondest memories of a read from when I was much younger. I recently re-read the series and was once more blown away. Here, I reflect on several issues of humanity and faith that Tyers raises in the novels.

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- Kathy Tyers’ “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar”– I look into several worldview themes that Tyers raises in these sequels to her Firebird trilogy. What would a Messiah in the future look like?

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Microview: “The Annotated Firebird Trilogy” by Kathy Tyers– I review the trilogy with a brief look at the plot and some positives and negatives in the book.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah – “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers

daystar-tyersKathy Tyers’ Firebird series is renowned by many for its explorations of worldview questions in a stirring science fiction setting. I have written on the Firebird Trilogy before. Here, we’ll take a look at the two concluding books in the series- Daystar and Wind and Shadow. Specifically, I’ll be analyzing them from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS for the whole series below.

Human Nature

Both books have much to say about human nature. In particular, questions about the extent and nature of our free will abound as we as readers are confronted with different concepts of determinism and free choice. Although this theme is never, perhaps, fully developed in philosophical terms, the very activity of the characters makes a kind of argument towards the notion that we have free choice that is genuine, though the question of whether this might be compatibilist–set alongside determinism–or not is left open.

Daystar also raises major questions about the nature of humanity itself–are we purely material beings; or perhaps purely spiritual and trapped within a material body; or are we a unified center of body and soul? The organization known as the Collegium puts forward a kind of mystic view that we are eternal souls which, when we die, go back to the infinite, impersonal divine. There are strong elements of both Gnosticism and Platonism to be found in this teaching, and it is one which resonates with New Age type beliefs and other worldviews today. We need to think on this for ourselves: when it comes to the very concept of what it is to be a human, are we essentially matter, or is there something more? Christians need to think on such issues deeply and consider our own standing in the universe.

The Powers

There is a fantastic meld of science fiction technology and the reality of the spiritual realm found throughout the Firebird series. Wind and Shadow, in particular, moves the concept of spiritual warfare front-and-center. A Shadow being possessed Kiel, a kind of priest, and attempted to convince him that he ought to proclaim himself as the coming Messiah. In this way, the spiritual being sought to gain control over the course of events. The interplay of the spiritual and physical was something that was interwoven throughout the Firebird series, and it is important to reflect as Christians on how that might play out in our own lives.

Not long ago I read an excellent book on spiritual warfare which presented several views on the topic. I think we need to be prepared to dive into such challenging topics and see what the Bible has to say about them.

Messiah

Daystar reads much like a lengthy biblical Gospel. The story therein is that of the coming Messiah. But it is far more complex than that. It is also a story of the attempt to exterminate an entire people group; the story of religious conflict; of materialism; and more. However, the core of the book, and much of the series, is the hope for the coming Boh-Dabar, the Messiah. That Boh-Dabar ends up being Tavkel, a herdsman from a secluded place.

Tyers brings forth themes about the Messiah in surprisingly insightful ways. First, she integrates several parables into the text as Tavkel instructs people in the faith. (See a recent Sunday Quote! post for one of the parables from the book.)Some of these parables find parallels in those Jesus taught; others are clearly inventions of Tyers’ mind to try to put forth spiritual truths. All of them are unique and engaging. Second, Tavkel is very explicit about his own nature as divine. I think this was a good move on Tyers’ part because sometimes it can be easy to miss how clear Jesus’ own claims of divinity were. When Christ claimed the authority to arbitrate and expand the Mosaic Law, that would have been astonishing. In Daystar, Tavkel points to himself as a divine figure.

One conversation with Meris, a character who is a foreigner and who holds to rival beliefs, depicts Tavkel explaining the notion of being fully divine and fully human. Tavkel explains it by pointing out that “My father created the human form. He has mastery over it…” Meris objects by arguing that it doesn’t make sense that Tavkel can be “one hundred percent” human and one hundred percent God. She asks “Which [are you]?” Tavkel responds, “Both.” When Meris says “That’s not possible,” Tavkel responds: “Is light a wave or a particle Meris?” (426). Though the analogy is not perfect, it does help us to envision how we might assume to much in our own ability to comprehend reality.

Third, there is also much discussion over how the Boh-Dabar may fulfill some prophecies in unexpected ways and that even some preconceptions of what the Messiah figure should be or what verses are even about him might be mistaken. This finds its parallel in some ways in Jesus, who, being the Messiah, yet did not come as a military leader as many expected. To see the people in Daystar figuring out the implications their Messiah has for their understanding is a unique insight into how the Christian story itself might have played out during its earliest days. Confronted by the reality of a risen Lord, notions of what the Messiah should be had to fit this risen Savior.

Daystar is filled to the brim with interesting conversations and speculations like this, and the best part is that they point beyond themselves to the truth of God’s word.

Conclusion

Daystar and Wind and Shadow are excellent works in a fantastic science fiction series. I highly commend the whole series to you, dear readers, not just as a great way to think about worldview, but also simply as excellent science fiction by a bestselling author of the genre.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird Trilogy”- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– I look at a number of worldview issues in the Trilogy in this post.

Microview: “The Annotated Firebird Trilogy” by Kathy Tyers– I review the trilogy with a brief look at the plot and some positives and negatives in the book.

Popular Books– Check out my looks into other popular books (scroll down for more).

Sunday Quote!- A Science Fiction Parable– What might a parable look like in the future? Well, not too much different from one now. Check out this post on Tyers’ speculative parable in Daystar.

Sources

Kathy Tyers, Wind and Shadow (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2011).

Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2012).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Sunday Quote!- A Science Fiction Parable

daystar-tyers

Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Science Fiction Parable

Before I dive in here, I want to note that there are SPOILERS for the last book of the fantastic Firebird series by Kathy Tyers in what follows.

Kathy Tyers’ Firebird Trilogy was an amazing piece of science fiction which integrated issues of faith and worldview into a stirring narrative. In Daystar, book five of the Firebird series, the prophesied Messiah, the Boh-Dabar, has come. The book is in many ways a science fictional retelling of the biblical Gospels. The Boh-Dabar, Tavkel, is a clear parallel of Jesus in many ways, including the telling of parables. One of these parables was particularly striking, and I’ve amended it to quote it here[mostly took out other dialogue and place names]:

 “Once there was a little girl… She had a little pet that she loved… It was a kind of creature she’d never seen…. It had four stubby legs, a big head, ans sharp little teeth… She opened the bag of pet food the dealer sold them, she put the food into [the pet’s] bowl, and she stroked it while it ate with those sharp little teeth… After a few days, the girl noticed something. Her pet wasn’t getting any bigger. In fact, it looked thin… She found out that [its] species was strictly herbivorous–but the pet dealer had sold them dried meat pellets by mistake…

“It looked like a carnivore. So she asked her parents to buy the right food… And it sniffed the good food, but it wouldn’t eat. It walked away from the bowl and looked up at her with desparately hungry eyes. It had learned to like the wrong food. It refused to eat what would nourish it, because that food seemed strange and mysterious. One day it lay down at her feet, looking up at her with those hungry eyes, and it died.” (430-431, cited below)

The story is powerful and emotionally charged. Like the parables of Jesus, it also hints at much beyond the mere words spoken. For the rest of the book, Meris–the non-believing character Tavkel is telling the parable too–reflects on it and tries to draw out its meaning. The meaning, however, does not become clear until the Boh-Dabar fulfills the same kind of prophecies which Christ fulfilled.

Looking at this specific parable, there are many layers of possible meaning. How might we be eating food that doesn’t nourish us? Could it be a sinful habit, a practice, a temptation we give in to? Have we made ourselves used to bad food so that we don’t recognize that which is good? Do we need to ask God to help bring healing to our own habits of life? But the text could go in other directions as well. Have we seen others in ways that are mistaken? Perhaps we see something about someone else and think we do not want to associate with them. We see “sharp teeth” and think “predator.” We flee from that which is different.

Daystar is a wonderful piece of fiction which points beyond itself to something even better. Tyers has done a great service to readers by uniting themes of faith with stirring science fiction action and intrigue. This parable, I’m sure, will stick with me for some time, and that is exactly what good fiction should do–point you towards truth.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- Kathy Tyers’ “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar”– I look into several worldview themes that Tyers raises in these sequels to her Firebird trilogy. What would a Messiah in the future look like?

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird Trilogy”- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– I look at a number of worldview issues brought up in the “Firebird Trilogy.” Be sure also to check out my review of the trilogy on my other site.

Source

Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colarado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave Press], 2012).

SDG.

“Never to Live” by Just B. Jordan – Madness, Self-Loathing, and Hope?

ntl-jordanNever to Live is a fantasy novel about redemption, even in the face of madness and self-loathing. Here, we’ll discuss some worldview-level issues in the book. For a straightforward review, check out my other site. There will be some SPOILERS in what follows.

Madness and Self-Loathing

The main character, Elwyn, is at least apparently insane. Through the first part of the book she is tortured by her own memories into self-loathing madness and must be brought forward out of that same madness in order to be used by God.

The notion of going into and coming out of madness was a unique way to convey the notion of human sinfulness and our incapacity to bring ourselves out of it. Only when Elwyn is confronted by the notion that she could not herself right her wrongs was she able to move beyond them and out of madness.

Moreover, the concepts of madness and self-loathing themselves are things that I think we as Christians need to be more cognizant of as we consider how these can impact a life of faith and our own witness. As with Elwyn, we need to be messengers bringing hope to those who have no hope, and the realization that Jesus is the only way to get beyond our own sinful desires and the self-loathing that comes with the consequences of our sinful activities.

Open Theism and the nature of God?

It is unclear as to whether the character “Weaver” is a God stand-in in this book, but there are many hints that this is the case. If so, the concept of deity put forward in Never to Live is interesting, as Weaver is portrayed as not knowing the entirety of the future. This would be akin to the concept of open theism (which I have discussed at length in various posts). To see this concept translated into fiction was interesting because it meant that the God stand-in had to work with people in a closer way and hope that they accomplished what was needed.

Weaver, if indeed the God stand-in, was also female, which was an interesting choice by the author. The notion that God can be conveyed through female imagery is something with a basis in the Bible as God is portrayed as nursing, as a mother hen, etc.

Conclusion

Never to Live has some very interesting themes that are not often explored in fantasy works. Although I don’t think the book delivers on its promise (see my review), it can’t be denied that behind the seemingly random nature of the work, there are some thoughtful themes.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Enclave publishing. I was not influenced or required by the publisher to write any kind of review.

Source

Just B. Jordan, Never to Live (Colorado, CO: Enclave, 2009).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Eternity Falls” by Kevin Outerbridge – Faith, Extremism, and Cyberpunk

efalls-outerbridgeEternity Falls is a cyberpunk thriller with much reflection on the concepts of faith and redemption. It centers around a mystery: the Miracle Treatment, which is supposed to prevent natural death for all eternity, seems to have failed. It’s up to Rick Macey and Sheila Dunn to find out why. I have reviewed the book on my “other interests” site. Here, we’ll look at some worldview questions it brings up. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Faith and Redemption

One of the primary themes running throughout Eternity Falls is that of redemption. Rick Macey was once a Christian, but like many people in the future (and present), he starts off the book thinking that religion has been proven to be irrational–an ancient belief with little to recommend it in the present. However, he also realizes his own imperfections and regrets. When he is confronted by Virgil, a man with whom he had strong disagreements in the past, he is also brought face-to-face with faith that is still genuine.

However, it is not left at this. Virgil’s beliefs have become a bit unhinged (see below), and in a beautiful twist of storytelling, it is Macey who is brought back to faith and confronts Virgil’s own self-righteousness.

Outerbridge’s tale here demonstrates something that we should all take to heart–God can and will use anyone to wake us up to our own failures and call us home.

Religious Extremism- What Rationale?

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of Eternity Falls are the conversations between Macey and Virgil about religious extremism. They both have backgrounds in combating terrorism, but their past experience led them in opposite directions and Virgil has come to conclude that facing death is the only way for humans to possibly turn to God. Virgil seeks to destroy the “Miracle Treatment” and thus make it so that everyone will once again die natural deaths, confronted with that moment when “eternity falls.” Macey, however, points out that God has used the extended lives of many of these people to bring them to the faith through their own realization of the pointlessness of an endless life of leisure.

Their conversations play out in this way through the book, and Macey ultimately makes a compelling case that God may, in sovereignty, use even things which may be apparently sinful to bring about great good. The melding of the concepts of human free will and God’s omnipotent control over events is powerful, and in what is truly a reflection of Outerbridge’s talent, it meshes very well into the plot of the book.

Moreover, the book portrays the impetus behind religious extremism in many philosophically interesting ways. It is not at all promoting extremism, but the fact that motivations beyond the tired “religious = violent” rhetoric that too often plays out in commentary on terrorism are brought up adds even more solid worldview-level bites to chew on. The key issue is that quote-unquote “religious extremists” certainly themselves believe they are acting rationally, and to have the story play this out in a way in which multiple extremists are spoken to on a logical level rather than simply discounted was fantastic.

Conclusion

Eternity Falls is an excellent cyberpunk tale with surprisingly strong philosophical and theological themes. I highly recommend you read it. It presents humanity as a complex of different influences, and God’s plan as a theme throughout the world.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Microview: “Eternity Falls” by Kirk Outerbridge– I reviewed the book, including giving some “good” and “bad” points along with a letter grade. Check out the review!

Popular Books– Check out my looks into other popular books (scroll down for more).

Source

Kirk Outerbridge, Eternity Falls (Colorado Springs, CO: Enclave, 2009).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Diamonds in the Dust” by Shirley Mowat Tucker

Recently widowed–her husband murdered–and living in fear, Ida Morgan feels utterly alone. Suddenly, a young girl, whom she calls Moses, floats into her life and sets off a series of events that awakens Ida to even more of the horrors of South Africa–horrors often hidden behind the scenes.

Ida’s interactions with Moses (and Moses’ siblings) lead her to a fork in the road: she can either confront her fear and help these children, or she can return to her safe, easier life.

But Ida is not the only character Shirley Mowat Tucker follows in Diamonds in the Dust, there are her neighbors, whose silver-lined lives may just be a facade; a man with a dark past, trapped by his circumstances; and others. Each character feels real. They each have their flaws, but the reader cannot help but be sucked in by their stories.

One tremendous strength of the book is how the reader is shown two worlds. On the one side is the world of Ida and her neighbors, on the other is the world of the children and others. One world needs no hope–it is “normal”; the other world must create hope from the horrible circumstances in which its people seem trapped.

Perhaps most interesting is the way it deals with God. It’s not the kind of Christian Fiction which throws God in the reader’s face every page. God, rather, works behind the scenes. He works through people. It’s a very realistic take on how God works in even the worst circumstances. “He has ears.”

Diamonds in the Dust comes out on December 1, 2011. You can check out the author’s web site: http://diamondsinthedust.net/

Christians looking for a quick, engaging read should pick up Diamonds in the Dust. It will open eyes to the issues of disparity that still exist in South Africa (and elsewhere), and it’s just a plain good read.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of Diamonds in the Dust by the publisher. My thanks to Athanatos Publishing Group for the copy of this book.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 9/4

“An Open Letter to Young Christian Apologists” over at “Thomistic Bent.” It is pretty self-explanatory: the post says many things to us youngsters!

http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/an-open-letter-to-young-christian-apologists/

Geocreationism–a site about old earth creationism, theistic evolution, and refutations of young earth creationism. This site recently had a major, major makeover and you must check it out.

http://www.geocreationism.com/index.html

“You Skim, You Lose!” at InChristus by Paul D. Adams–this post briefly discusses our society’s tendency to blow through things without really reading them and then draws  the discussion to the book of Proverbs.

http://inchristus.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/you-skim-you-lose/

From Jewish Worldview- A Plea to Atheists: Pedophilia is next on the Slippery Slope; Let us turn back before it’s too late–a post which talks about atheism as bereft of ontology for values.

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0811/atheists_pedophilia.php3

Isn’t it arrogant and immoral for Christians to evangelize? Isn’t it? Find out:

http://thegospeloferik.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/is-it-arrogant-and-immoral-for-christians-to-evangelize/

“Diamonds in the Dust” –an upcoming novel about a woman’s life torn apart in South Africa. It looks quite promising. I’ve been promised a review copy and I’m looking forward to reading it!

http://diamondsinthedust.net/

Was Jesus Real? -Arthur over at Cold and Lonely Truth writes about this common objection to the existence of Jesus with lucidity and, more importantly, sources. Check it out:

http://www.cltruth.com/blog/2011/was-jesus-real/

“The Shack” Reviewed by a Conservative (With Poll)

The Shack

The Shack by William Paul Young is one of the most popular Christian works of our era. It is hard to ignore the impact this book is having throughout America. It is discussed in Church book clubs, discussed on Christian forums, and generally well-known. I was in Kansas this past week and my fiancée’s mom (feels awesome saying that) urged me to read it, for no other reason than to be able to engage in dialogue about it. I’m going to try to keep my review as spoiler-lite as possible, though there are spoilers scattered throughout this review. This is the only warning.

I went in with some strong biases against the book. I’d heard from others that it is pretty terrible theology and borderline (or actual) heresy. Needless to say I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, but, like any good work will do, The Shack proved my biases wrong.

The plot is fairly simple. A man, Mackenzie, has a horrific tragedy happen to his daughter; this tragedy affects his whole family in negative ways; then he receives a letter from God (?) asking him to come to the place the tragedy happened to talk about things. The rest of the narrative revolves around this discussion. One note I should make as a reviewer is that Young’s prose is fantastic. His descriptions of everyday events and locations inject a reality into the story that is necessary to get readers hooked, and he writes about the uncommon and the supernatural with stunning beauty.

The plot serves as just the background for what the book seems (to me) to be; The Shack is a stirring work of philosophical and theological investigation of the nature of God, the problem of evil, and our hope in Christ.

Readers who have read the work or read anything about it probably already know that God is portrayed in the work as three “persons” in a very literal way. The Father, “Papa”, is a motherly black woman, Jesus is a plain-looking middle-eastern workman, and the Holy Spirit changes her (?) form throughout the work. I feel it is necessary to address this, because this is perhaps the most controversial part of the book. It seems to me, at least, that the idea of God coming to people where they are should not be such a hot issue. Christ Himself describes God’s action in terms of a hen gathering chicks beneath her wings (Luke 13:34). God appeared in various forms throughout the Old and New Testaments (burning bush, still voice in the wind, incarnate Christ, etc.). I find it dubious at best to claim that God does not/can not appear otherwise to individuals–perhaps as a mother to those in need (and this would line up well with the Christian background of religious experiences, cf. Perceiving God by William Alston).

These three persons serve to drive the narrative of The Shack while also making claims about the various works of the persons of God. There are many points throughout the book where I found myself nodding as Young wrote a wonderful insight about the work of God. Young’s answers to some of the most poignant questions of humanity resound throughout the work. One of the most stirring moments is a chapter in which Mackenzie is asked to decide which of his children goes to hell. This is meant to reflect the way Mackenzie (and some Christians) seem to put God in the judgment seat, arbitrarily determining who goes to heaven and who is damned to hell. Mackenzie begs to be condemned instead of his children, and in a powerful turnabout, he is told that this is exactly how God feels. He became incarnate to die for our sins, to give the opportunity for all to be saved, loving all God’s children perfectly (p. 165). Moments like this occur throughout The Shack.

Another thing I must share is The Shack‘s answer to religious diversity. Jesus says that those who love Him come from every background, including other religions. This leads Mackenzie to ask, “Does that mean… that all roads will lead to you?” Jesus answered, “Not at all… Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you” (184). Should Christians agree with this answer? I leave it open to the reader to answer this question. Suffice to say that The Shack will challenge readers from all walks of Christian life.

I finished the book in the span of a day. I set it down late at night, realizing I couldn’t be the same Christian I was before. The Shack grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The questions Young asks through Mackenzie are questions all Christians must face, and the answers he provides focus on one thing: the Love of God. There are definitely things that made me uncomfortable while reading The Shack, but there are other things I realized were suddenly made clear. Treating The Shack like a theological treatise is unfair. It’s not a doctrine book, it’s a work of Christian fiction, and it excels in its niche, asking questions, giving answers, and leaving it to the reader to decide whether he/she agrees or disagrees. This is a fantastic work and I highly recommend it to my readers. You don’t have to agree with what Young says in The Shack to make the book worth reading, but you should read it.

The Shack on Amazon

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