Later in the book, one final answer is given that rang true to me. The Father (this time portrayed as a man) says, “I didn’t intervene (to stop the crime) for reasons you couldn’t possibly understand.” There is much talk earlier in the book about human freedom, but that “free will” approach only takes you so far. It’s not a fully satisfactory answer to say, “The world is messed up because we messed it up.” That’s true, but it does not cover all that the Bible says on the subject. The real question is not, “Why didn’t God intervene in this particular circumstance?” but “Why did God allow sin in the first place?” And to that we simply say what the Bible says—that God determined to show forth the magnitude of his grace through the gift of his Son.” God is greatly glorified in the display of mercy to sinners through the death of Jesus Christ.
Will that truth explain why a particular tragedy happened at a particular time and place? No, but I suspect there is no answer this side of heaven that could satisfy. Perhaps it more accurate to say that there is no answer that God could give that we could understand. You can find a further discussion of these issues (not of the novel itself) in Why is there so much suffering in the world?
Other reviewers have noted a variety of theological problems with the
novel, but problems or not, it continues to sell like gangbusters. Just
today I saw an ad from a major ministry offering the book to donors. I
have no doubt that Christians are a large part of the audience for “The
Shack.” I wonder what’s going on here. Have we decided that if the book
strengthens our faith, we can overlook those other issues because it’s
a novel? Is this a case of horseshoes and hand grenades—close enough is
good enough? I think it’s a combination of both plus some other factors
that I want to explore tomorrow.