The Shack Revisted (Book Review)

In my review of Paul Young’s best-selling book “The Shack,” I encouraged folks not to read that book as a work of theology, but as religious fiction.  That said, I did admit that there was a theological perspective behind the book that should be properly discerned.  Unfortunately, many reviewers discerned theological understanding from the book that were never intended by the author.  Paul Young has been accused of such things as Universalism, Pantheism, and Open Theism, all of which are inaccurate representations of his theology.

So, what is the theology behind “The Shack?”

In his newest book “The Shack Revisited” theologian C. Baxter Kruger offers us a clear and beautifully written Trinitarian understanding of the theology behind “The Shack.”  Offering his stamp of approval in the forward to Baxter’s book, Paul Young reveals the picture of God he intended to be conveyed.  In my opinion, if you are going to read any review that seeks to declare what any particular author meant in a work of religious fiction, always select the one that actually comes with the original author’s endorsement.

Here is what Young writes in the forward to Kruger’s book:

 “To all those who took the time to read and study “The Shack,” to those who bought several copies or a case or more and gave them away and emailed me your wonderful stories, I want to say, “Thank you, and please read The Shack Revisited.” If you want to understand better the perspectives and theology that frame “The Shack,” this book is for you. Baxter has taken on the incredible task of exploring the nature and character of the God who met me in my own shack. A Mississippi theologian who cut his intellectual teeth in Aberdeen, Scotland with the Torrance brothers, Baxter is a unique cross of intellectual brilliance and creative genius… He is a master of making difficult things understandable for the rest of us. If you found hope and encouragement through “The Shack,” this book will help you take more steps in knowing the love of Papa, Sarayu, and Jesus.” —Wm. Paul Young, Foreword, The Shack Revisited

When you read Kruger’s book, you will not find an affirmation of the rationalistic, post-enlightenment theology of contemporary evangelicals.  Nor will you find an endorsement of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s “Speeches on Religion to it’s Cultured Despisers.”  Instead, Baxter’s theology (and that behind Paul Young’s book) harkens back to the early church patristic fathers, with special emphasis on Irenaeus, Basil the Great, Gregory or Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (commonly known among church historians as The Cappadocian Fathers).   The Cappadocian Fathers advanced the development of early Christian theology, with special emphasis on the doctrine of the Trinity.

A student of T.F. Torrance and James Torrance, Baxter Kruger’s passion is to help the church recover what he calls “The Trinitarian Vision.”

Often books about theology can come across and dry and boring.  Baxter Kruger is gifted, however, at presenting theological ideas is passionate and simple ways that are easy for anyone to understand.  I found myself moved to both tears of joy and intense theological reflection, often on the same page.

 This is a scholarly work that will inspire the lay-reader and arm chair theologian.  Illustrations, biblical exposition, and church history are woven together with reflections from Young’s book “The Shack” in such a way that the beauty of the Holy Trinity as the relational God is more clearly seen.  For the Western Church, which has often  succumb to rationalistic ideas that turned God into a philosophical “omni-being,” this is refreshing.  Kruger is attempting, in the words of his teacher T.F. Torrance, to “evangelize the foundations of western thought.”

Baxter points through the Scriptures to the picture of God that gave shape to the gospel proclamation of Jesus’ early disciples.  It is a picture of the love relationship between Jesus and the One he called Papa – a love that called the world into being at creation.  And it is a vision of how Jesus came to fulfill the plan of God to include all humanity in that divine-relationship.

For those who read “The Shack” and wondered if Paul Young’s picture of God could really be that warm and wonderful, Baxter Kruger delves into theology, church history, and scripture to reveal that God is not only as wonderful as Paul Young declares – but even better than that book imagines.

The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream
by: C. Baxter Kruger
publisher: FaithWords, published: 2012-10-02
ASIN: 1455516805
EAN: 9781455516803
sales rank: 1620
price: $8.44 (new), $8.63 (used)

Millions have found their spiritual hunger satisfied by William P. Young’s #1 New York Times bestseller, The Shack–the story of a man lifted from the depths of despair through his life-altering encounter with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Now C. Baxter Kruger’s THE SHACK REVISITED guides readers into a deeper understanding of these three persons to help readers have a more profound connection with the core message of The Shack–that God is love.

An early fan of The Shack and a close friend to its author, Kruger shows why the novel has been enthusiastically embraced by so many Christians worldwide. In the words of William P. Young from the foreword to THE SHACK REVISITED, “Baxter Kruger will stun readers with his unique cross of intellectual brilliance and creative genius as he takes them deeper into the wonder, worship, and possibility that is the world of The Shack.”

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