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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

That IS a Dangerous Book! (So says this book)

        Last Tuesday I posed the question "Is this book dangerous?" in regard to the bestseller The Shack by William P. Young.   This book has generated quite a bit of controversy with many decrying that it is indeed dangerous.  Opinions are sharply divided as some claim that the book has resulted in spiritual revelation while others fear that it may lead many to eternal damnation.  Burning Down the Shack by James B. De Young is a book that expounds the latter belief.                                                                                                                                                                                                    James B. De Young's (I will henceforth refer to him as JB)  book is the kind that some may say gives Christians a bad name.   Detractors of JB's book may argue that it is exemplary of the divisive nature of Christianity and that it is wrongly judgmental of other members of the faith.   The book will primarily be appreciated by a very specific audience.   Those who loved The Shack and are not interested in Biblical evidence that disclaims the book as a spiritual guide will most likely thumb their noses at JB's proof.   Anyone who has not read The Shack would be unlikely to have any interest in reading this book.   Burning Down the Shack is essentially a study guide for those who are looking for Biblical refutation of William P. Young's (henceforth referred to as Paul) best selling work of fiction.

            JB's approach is methodical and lucid.  The book is written in a style that is easy to read.  It is laden with Bible verses and citations to verses which may be a drawback to many readers.  However this is the purpose of JB's book--to disavow any relationship between The Shack and traditional Christian doctrine.

            The author claims to have been a past associate and friend of Paul and provides his personal insight of what he understands about Paul's Universalist Christian beliefs and personal agenda.  The evidence JB provides does seem to indicate that his observations about Paul may be correct.   JB feels that the agenda of The Shack and it's author are dangerous to the spiritual well-being of those who are taken in by the doctrine behind the story.

            Burning Down the Shack is longer than the book that is being analyzed.  In all honesty I did not finish reading the entire book, but read only halfway and skimmed to the end.   There is a repetitiveness to the book that becomes tedious for a casual reader.  The book is well researched and might be fine for one who wants an in depth study.   But fun reading this is not.  

            One thing I do like about the book is that it takes each chapter of The Shack and carefully breaks it down.  JB is to be commended in that he begins with what is good about each chapter.  He then provides logical evidence to show what is wrong.  For the most part I didn't really need this book to know this, but it is interesting to see the many Biblical citations to which he refers.

             This book is essential for any real serious apologist who wants to arm themself for debate against a "Shack" fanatic, but what is the likelihood of this happening?  It might also be of interest to a serious student of the Bible.  However, there are many other Bible study books that are superior to this one.

             The question that came to my mind is how does Paul feel about JB's book?   Even though it is highly critical of The Shack it seems that Paul would welcome JB's book.  To read one book you would need to read the other--more book sales for Paul.   If I were cynical I would say they were in collusion with one another.  After all, more sales for one book could mean more sales for the other.  Maybe I'm being too much of a conspiracist.           


  1. As I don't read too many books( I'm ashamed to say) I can't really comment. Must get into the habit of reading more.


  2. I wikied The Shack and read the plot. It is a fiction and the encounters seem to happen as a dream when Mack had the accident. And so the book tells a personal fictional story and should be free of obligations.

  3. Imagine the amount of bitterness and evilness a person has to posses in order to write a book trashing another book???

  4. @Ocean Girl ~ when a work of fiction speaks on fact, it has an obligation to speak truthfully about the facts - in this case the nature of God. The Shack fails in this category miserably.

    @Dezmond ~ seriously?!? If I was to write a book about your father that slandered his name would you be "bitter" and "evil" for trying to defend him in print?

    Love in the Truth

  5. May I change my comment to:

    I wikied The Shack and read the plot. It is a fiction and the encounters seem to happen as a dream when Mack had the accident. And so the book tells a personal fictional story that is filled with imaginaries.

  6. " collusion with one another." What an interesting point to ponder. I've read The Shack, given to me to read by a Christian co-worker when God was working in my life again, drawing me out of my 'new age' ways back to Him. I do believe it is important to seek the different, (so Young's book has its place) to understand contrasting views from our own but, for myself, The Shack did not create convictions in me that strong requiring further exploration for or against. It was just a story for me, and a best-seller that reminds me the world is seeking faith in something--a hopeful element, I'd say. And maybe Young's book will be part of people's faith journey too.

  7. Yvonne -- I'm guilty of the same thing. I love reading but find it difficult to find the time to do so. Nashville look out! Here comes Yvonne!

    Ocean Girl -- True it is only a fiction, but it may have an accompanying agenda to encourage the doctrinal beliefs that underlie the story. From what I've read about William P. Young I think this could be the case. Fictions have often been used to sway minds and promote real ideologies.

    Dezmond --I didn't sense any bitterness or hate in De Young's book and actually I thought it was written very lovingly and showed concern. It's a matter of defending one's beliefs and the ideology of a segment of society. De Young sees a danger in relation to the book and wants to analyze it and warn people about it since The Shack has been such a major influence. It's not the first book to provide an indepth study of another book, whether it be positive or negative.

    Trevor -- Thank you for expressing your views to help clarify the debate.

    Lynn -- The reaction to The Shack depends on a reader's preconstructed belief system or their own susceptibility to fall under the influence of the book's doctrinal stance. The majority of readers probably have merely taken The Shack as a fictional story and been influenced little by it. But one might argue: Is this little influence perhaps subconciously dangerous?

  8. I read the Shack and thought it was a great book. It is a lot like Passages by Justin what'shisname. Anyways, why everyone has to pick apart a solid read is beyond me.

  9. Thanks for putting it out there; I think I will pass. I have "The Shack" on my reading list, so this and the fact you didn't finish it...well,
    this speaks volumes!

  10. Fredamans-- I don't think The Shack is being picked apart so much for it's literary achievement as it is for the perception that it is promoting a theology that many disagree with.

    Ella -- Just to clariy, I did finish The Shack. I did not finish Burning Down the Shack. The main reason I did not finish was that main points are gotten across early in the book and the latter half is basically more of the same, but with some different Bible verses.

    LeX -- Have you read The Shack yet?

  11. I haven't heard of either book. Must check them out!

  12. Maybe it was written to spur sales of the first? If not, then that was a dumb move.

  13. One of the reasons that I enjoyed "The Shack" was the way in which the author used the Trinity. Which, being a long time Christian, has always been confusing for me. Silly I know! But in "The Shack" in sort of put a perspective on it that made it easier for me to envision, even knowing that it was a work of fiction. I enjoyed the story but I don't think that I would care to analyze it.
    I give you credit Arlee for at least trying to make it through "Burning Down 'The Shack'". I don't think I would have had the patience! Oh and I think you did a great review even though I haven't read it! Love Di ♥

  14. I read "The Shack" as a piece of fiction, so I found nothing to get upset about. I thought, as fiction, it was a pretty cool story idea.

  15. Talli -- You might enjoy The Shack. The other one is only if you want an in depth Biblical study of the novel.

    Alex -- I kind of doubt it was written to spur sales of the novel, but I think that might have been a result. I wouldn't necessarily call it a dumb move either way-- only if someone lost money on the deal.

    Diana -- I don't think most people would want to analyze The Shack to this great of depth.

    Patricia -- I was a cool story idea although I felt like the author kind of screwed up the impact of the story with a lame ending.

  16. All contraversial or highly popular books seem to attract off-shoots. I think there was a book against Harry Potter when it first came out debunking the use of magic -- but it only served to sell more Harry Potter.

  17. Sadly, I think the words religion and agenda have become synonymous. Same with politics. I've no doubt the author of the Shack had some method behind his story, but then again don't we all?

    Interesting stuff, Arlee.

  18. That sounds like a strategically set marketing plan: bring out a book that would suit the haters of a book, but that will only make them read the book in the first place. (Probably isn't what happened, but who knows. Just being paranoid as usual.)
    Nahno ∗ McLein

  19. Good or bad, pleasurable or not, the book did its purpose in the end, which is what the author set out to do to begin with.

  20. I haven't read The Shack, but a friend of mine did. She loved parts of it and said other parts were just 'out there.' Should I read this book to understand the controversy?

  21. I don't read many strickly "religeous" books, though I do enjoy novels that explore religious concepts. Maybe I'll put The Shack on my TBR list.

    I like controversy . .


  22. Lynda -- I guess if there is money to be made someone will make it.

    EJ -- There's always some kind of agenda, but sometimes it's disguised as something else.

    Nahno -- I like to think in terms of conspiracies as well.

    Jeffrey -- And to which purpose do you refer? Selling millions of copies? That's what I'd want.

    Words Crafter -- I'd say it's worth the read if you're curious or interested. It's an enjoyable read.

    Donna -- You may find The Shack to be controversial, then you may not.

  23. I love the depth with which you critique the book and the intelligent way you comment. I've not read it, though I am intrigued :O)

  24. Oh good heavens - give it a rest. To undertake the arduous effort of writing an entire book to refute The Shack, complete with fastidiously selected Biblical references, chapter by chapter, breaking it down and "proving" its evil, satanic misleading and damning effects on those who would dare read it...

    It's a novel. A fiction. Lighten up, dude ... (not you, Lee, this Young fellow) ...

    So what The Shack is not a theologically 'correct' (to fundamentalists) 'Christian' book? It's a damn good (notice the careful choice of words? - lol) story with ethical, moral, and spiritual messages that are more help than hinder in this world we live in.

    I won't spend a nickle on 'Burning Down ...' - this is the kind of religious divisiveness that keeps humanity at war with each other over - of all things - God and our differing interpretations of just what that means.

    I am reminded of a famous Zen parable in which there is a painting of a Master pointing a finger toward the moon. The students are arguing heatedly amongst themselves about the angle, size, color, and many other minute details about the finger. Nobody is lookling at the moon, which is the whole point. The scriptures are a finger pointing at the moon. See the moon, and stop arguing over the finger.

    But i digress. The Shack is not a scripture. It's a book, a fiction, and harmless to anyone grounded in their faith.

    Marvin D Wilson

  25. Great critiques of these books, Lee. I have not read BURNING DOWN THE SHACK, but I believe it will help people find THE SHACK which is just a fictional read. And parts of THE SHACK are very good. It can help a young person to understand a part of God's personality. And come to terms with the three persons of God. And the other book? I won't read that one. He's some kinda nut! :)

  26. Madeleine -- Thank you. If you have a strong interest in Christian themed books, both books worth a look--but if you're on a tight budget I wouldn't spend too much for them.

    Marvin -- Your point is a good one.

    Robyn - What I did like about De Young's analysis of The Shack is that he did point out the good parts of the novel. By no means would I say that De Young is some kind of nut, but I think he is merely making a highly analytical examination of a book and a theology which he finds detrimental to the faith as he believes it. His dissection of the novel is meticulous and well organized. As a scholarly approach I think he has done everything right and argues his case very well. I can't dispute any of his proof.

  27. Sorry PC problems, I'm late. I don't think either would be on my reading list but in saying that...

    I think for any real analytical conclusion one has to hear both pro and con. The real danger is for those whose faith has yet to be tested.

    Now I'm handing out blog love today, so you I definitely want to have some. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  28. I read The Shack and thought it was a mediocre work. I wasn't offended by it and don't really think it is dangerous. Fascinating that some Christians get so worked up about a book centered around God but seem to let other works just slide by.
    I'm more of a "everyone read what they want" kind of gal.

  29. I can’t put in my two cents worth because I haven’t read either book. There are simply too many other books I’d rather spend my time reading.

  30. These sound like great books, thanks for sharing:)

  31. I'm not familiar with either of these books.

  32. Jules -- I think you're correct.

    Debbie - I guess it depends on how seriously you believe what you believe to think a differing ideology is a dangerous threat to your own.

    Jane -- There are certainly plenty of other books to read and if people I know hadn't read The Shack and persuaded me to read it too, I probably would never have read either of these books.

    Toyin O --- thanks for stopping by.

    Carol-- The Shack was on the bestseller lists for months and that's how I originally heard of it.

  33. Lee, I discussed both these books with a friend of mine who had read The Shack. At first he was very pro The Shack but when he went on line and read about it I think it reminded him about all the things that had irked him. He didn't consider it dangerous but in the end agreed that it was not a Christian book. Your blog has had far reaching influence, even amongst non-bloggers. How about that. Good subject. Well done. Geoff.

  34. I really liked the beginning of The Shack...didn't like the anything else, LOL!

    I think it's interesting that someone published a book refuting it. Seems the even though The Shack is fiction, some will inevitably "believe" in it and perhaps be led astray.

  35. I saw this book at the large store we were just discussing. I almost picked it up. I'm thinking it's worth a look. Thanks!

  36. Honestly since I don't care about ever reading The Shack, I won't bother with this one either.

  37. I've never had a conversation with anyone who has had a strong opinion on The Shack. But if I do, I'll direct them to this book. I know there are all sorts of flaws in the doctrine, which was one really bugged me while reading.

    I still don't think it's "dangerous" though.

  38. Geoff -- I'm glad to have an influence and hope it is a positive one.

    Ibd -- Some people can be easily influenced and drawn into things without logically studying them. I think that's what Jame De Young was trying to offer.

    Pat -- If you are interested in this sort of thing it's worth a read. Can you only buy 1 copy or do you have to buy a case?

    Carol -- If it's not in your range of interest then it would be a waste of your time.

    Karen -- The De Young book is good for the person who wants to hear both sides. For the Shack fanatic it would probably irritate them.

  39. Thanks for the review. The Shack was, without a doubt, the worst book I've ever read. After I read it, and since I'm a Christian who actually believes the Bible is true, I went page by page and refuted the theological implications and posted it on FB...and lost some friends!oh well. I recently heard about this book but enjoyed hearing more about it through your post! Thanks!


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