May 12, 2009


I fully expected this book to be hokey, heretical, New Agey, or all of the above.

After a horrific personal tragedy, a man gets to meet the Trinity in a shack. Yes, the Trinity. The Father is a maternal African-American woman figure, the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman, and Jesus is a Jewish carpenter. This is not divine gender-bending, and that's made clear. The Father only appears as a woman because the main character couldn't handle him as "Father" at the moment. But "she" is still called "he," and "Papa." (It's not as confusing as it sounds.) Make no mistake, this is a profoundly Christian reflection, written by a Canadian Christian who was looking for answers himself. (His mysterious personal tragedy is only hinted at on the back cover.)

"The Shack" is a kind of Job fable/parable--Job questioning God. And it totally works. I'm sure there are theological inaccuracies and impossibilities when one takes on the Trinity, but they escaped my attention. There ARE glaring omissions: Um, where's Jesus' Mum, pray tell? But one could conceivably INJECT these huge M.I.A.'s, and wind up with a Catholic "Shack."

I believe that "The Shack" has entered the library of Christian books on "theodicy and the problem of evil and suffering." Some of my other favorites: C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain," "The Humility and Suffering of God," JP2G's "The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering."

We have NEEDED a book like this for a long time. To realize that we CAN talk to God like this. That He DOES talk to us like this. To delve into Trinitarian theology--how DO the persons of the Trinity relate to Each Other, and to Us? What could be more important than this?


  1. OK, trying again... thanks for posting this. What is your take on the reasons given for human suffering in this book? Is it one that Catholic theologians can accept?

  2. Thanks for this post, Sister Helen. My Facebook friends and I just discussed this book last week. I thought is was very creative in portraying the Trinity even if it was weak in other areas. I also missed any allusions to Mary, but I think that shows one difference between a Catholic spirituality and a Protestant one. Yes, I do agree that God can and does speak to us in this way, and that's what prayer is all about.

  3. Dear Joyce, I agree with the "reasons" given for human suffering (and God's suffering!)--such as we are able to understand them "on this side." I haven't seen any Catholic theologians' takes on it--although I talked to Fr. Robert Barron today who promises me he will FINISH reading it and let me know! I think Julian of Norwich said it best: "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well."

  4. I've read a few reviews who found the theology to be so problematic they would not recommend it to anyone. Granted, they said it was very creative, but for those seriously seeking answers, they would recommend something else, anything else other than this.

  5. Dear Adoro, We don't carry "The Shack" in our Pauline Book & Media Centers because we're pretty stringent about orthodoxy in whatever we purvey. But if someone is grounded in their Catholic Faith already, this book could be very helpful.