Exploring the Theological Understanding with The Shack Book

The Shack is often called the best selling Christian-inspired novel written by William P. Young, a Canadian author. Since its publishing in 2007 until 2009, The Shack book was sold in more than 10 million copies. The success that William P. Young achieved with this book was awarded with the “Diamond Award” by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. The book also remained on The New York Times Best Sellers list for nearly two years.


In a radio interview, William P. Young explained that the The Shack book is a metaphor for “the house people build out of their biggest fears”. The Shack is in fact a metaphorical representation of the places where the central place is occupied by the pain and shame. These are the places that keep us in a “bondage”, which hurt and damage us. The Shack book is a didactic story with one message – God never abandons his children; he is always with you, even in the moments when you feel hurt and devastated.

The book tells the story of a father of five kids, Mackenzie Allen Philips, best-known as Mack. Everything begins on a family camping trip to Wallowa Lake, Joseph, Oregon. The canoe in which the two of his children are playing, flips over. Mack runs towards the water and saves his son from drowning, but while he prevents one tragedy from happening, another one takes place. He saves one child and loses another; his daughter Missy disappears at the same moment he saves his son.

The police discovers that Missy has been killed in an abandoned shack, deep in the wood by a serial killer known under the pseudonym “Little Lady Killer”. Everything the police found were Missy’s bloodied clothes but not her body. Four years later, Mack receives an unusual note in the mailbox. The note signed as from “Papa”, says that Papa wants to meet Mack in the abandoned shack. Although he has never heard the name before, he accepts the invitation and goes alone in the shack..

At first, he does not find anything that would catch his attention. Disappointed from the fact that he didn’t discovered anything in the shack, he decides to leave. But, as he leaves, something magical in The Shack book happens. The shack and the environment around it, are transformed into a magnificent and inviting scene, something there is no reasonable explanation for.

To Mack’s big surprise, manifestations of three persons of the Holy Trinity appear in front of him. The three persons are, God, the Father, represented as an Afro-American woman, who introduces herself as Elousia and Papa. The second of the three persons is Jesus, who in The Shack book appears as a Middle-Eastern carpenter. Also, there is an Asian woman who calls herself Sarayu. This woman is a physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

The culmination in The Sack book takes place after the events that follow Mack’s encounter with Papa, Jesus and Sarayu. After the walk across a lake and conversations with them, he comes to a unbelievable revelation about Missy’s death; Papa shows Mack the place where his daughter’s body was left.

In the end of the The Shack book, Mack realizes that he didn’t spend a week in the shack. In fact, he had suffered in an automobile accident in which he was nearly killed. Prompted by this unusual “journey”, he decides to lead the police to the place, which Papa pointed to him as a location where the body of his daughter is. Unbelievably, Missy’s body was lying there. This helped the police discover and arrest the serial killer.