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“Cross Roads” by William Paul Young (Book Review)

William Paul Young is a Canadian author, raised by his missionary parents, who lived in what was once know as New Guinea.  He endured tremendous loss as a child, which inspired his rediscovery of the Triune God of grace, kindness, and relational love.  Some of those discoveries were presented in his popular first book of religious fiction:  “The Shack” (read my review at this link).  Paul now enjoys what he calls the “wastefulness of grace.”

Cross Roads is not a continuation of the story presented in “The Shack.”  It is, rather, Young’s ongoing attempt to present (through the art of religious fiction) his personal theological discoveries.  “The Shack” was denounced by many evangelical-fundamentalist as heresy.  Some of these accusations were, in my opinion, the result of the books genre and not it’s theology.  If somebody reads “The Shack” or “Cross Roads” looking for a work of systematic theology, they will be disappointed.  The religious fiction genre does not lend itself to that sort of thing and can lead to misundertstandings.

Still, there is theology in “The Shack” and “Cross Roads” and I fully expect that there will be many who will attack “Cross Roads” as antithetical to the gospel.  It’s not, but the accusations will come.  Part of the reason might just be that the rationalistic-evangelical-fundamentalist theology of Young’s detractors might themselves be heretical.  It might just been that their theology has lost touch with the passion and love  of the Triune God of grace.

Though he may not say this is his aim, I believe Paul Young’s theology can have impact at evangelizing the foundations of the contemporary evangelical church, drawing it back to its Trinitarian roots.   If this is accomplished to some degree by Young’s book, it will not take place via a systematized theological debate, but rather through works of artistic literature that connect people’s hearts to a message about God’s grace, love, and acceptance.

The reason for Young’s success with “The Shack” was because he touched people’s hearts.  A long-time best-seller, “The Shack” got people thinking about God as loving and relational, inclusive and gracious.

The central character in this story is Anthony “Tony” Spencer.  He is a self-centered man, extremely proud of his business success, despite the cost it has had on his personal life.  Then one day, without warning, Tony experiences a brain hemorrhage that leaves him in a coma.

In his comatose state, Tony experiences a spiritual awakening that takes in a strange world where he is able to experience life through the eyes of others.  As he lives through these experiences, Tony is able to  examine his life and personal agendas in such a way that he sees his own brokenness, as well as the pain his life has caused others.

On his journey, Jesus appears to Tony and tells him he can heal one person.  Tony has a choice.  Will he act to heal another and undo an injustice he caused before falling into his coma?  Or will Tony bring healing to his own body?

As this is a redemption story, it goes without saying how Tony will respond.  Still, the power of the story is what matters – and Young creates a wonderful story.

If you must have a theological hitch-pen on which to hang this book, it has something to do with the living of a godly life.  For much of contemporary religion (Young writes specifically from a Christian perspective), a godly, Christian life is something we do FOR God, out of our strength in order to be pleasing and acceptable to God.  Young has his protagonist Tony discover that a faithful life is not something we live FOR God, but from God.  As a friend (Mark Maulding) once said, “Jesus gave his life for us, to put his life in us, to live his life through us!”  That’s true freedom!

Disclaimer: This book review was written after receiving a complimentary copy of the book from the “Speakeasy” blogging network.  I was not required to write a positive review, but only to express my own honest opinions. This information is being disclosed in accordance with regulations from the Federal Trade Commission.

Cross Roads
by: Wm. Paul Young
publisher: FaithWords, published: 2012-11-13
ASIN: 145551604X
EAN: 9781455516049
sales rank: 83
price: $12.99 (new), $13.49 (used)

Anthony Spencer is egotistical, proud of being a self-made business success at the peak of his game, even though the cost of winning was painfully high. A cerebral hemorrhage leaves Tony comatose in a hospital ICU. He ‘awakens’ to find himself in a surreal world, a ‘living’ landscape that mirrors dimensions of his earthly life, from the beautiful to the corrupt. It is here that he has vivid interactions with others he assumes are projections of his own subconscious, but whose directions he follows nonetheless with the possibility that they might lead to authenticity and perhaps, redemption. The adventure draws Tony into deep relational entanglements where he is able to ‘see’ through the literal eyes and experiences of others, but is “blind” to the consequences of hiding his personal agenda and loss that emerge to war against the processes of healing and trust. Will this unexpected coalescing of events cause Tony to examine his life and realize he built a house of cards on the poisoned grounds of a broken heart? Will he also have the courage to make a critical choice that can undo a major injustice he set in motion before falling into a coma?

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