Some would argue that "The Shack" is just a story and as such does not aim to be a theological presentation. It should therefore not be judged on the accuracy of its theology. Gilley acknowledges that "good Christian fiction has the ability to get across a message in an indirect, non-threatening yet powerful, way." Yet he also believes that "what determines the value of fiction is how closely it adheres to Scripture" and sets out to measure "The Shack" by these criteria.
In a sense, every individual has a working "theology". Even if one's theology is not a theistic (or even conscious) theology, human beings are always trying to understand the meaning of their existence. One's "theology" then, describes the beliefs one develops and holds in order to explain and give meaning to reality.
The Shack, like many books today, decries theology on the one hand while offering its own brand on the other. A story has the advantage of putting forth doctrine in a livelier manner than a systematic work can do—which is why we find most of Scripture in narrative form. The question is, does Young’s theology agree with God’s as revealed in Scripture? The short answer is “sometimes” but often Young totally misses the mark.
Gilley is quite kind in the tone of his critique, acknowledging that Young portrays some biblical truths accurately. But in my mind this is precisely what makes Young's book all the more deceptive-- it lures one in by getting a few things right, but its overall message is New Age pantheism (and or panentheism) and not Christianity at all.
Friends, if theology describes what one believes about God and the way the world works, let us not make the mistake of saying that all such views and beliefs are equally valid and helpful. The Bible certainly does not present theology that way, but depicts God in a definite way and says: this is God, and this is how you must have a relationship with Him. One can either accept or reject the Bible's presentation, but we must at least acknowledge that the Bible's message is specific. It says Jesus Christ "is the way, the truth and the life" and no one comes to the Father except through Him, rather than "all paths lead to God in the end" (so it doesn't matter what one believes). The Bible contradicts such universalism, as well as the God-is-in-everything message presented in novels such as "The Shack". As for me, I believe the Bible's eternal revelation is true and will stand long after books like "The Shack" are utterly forgotten.
You can read Gilley's full review here:
The Shack by William P. Young