Denis Haack recently received this question on his facebook page and wrote a response to it on his blog A Glass Darkly. If you have not heard of The Shack you are in a diminishing number of people, I think. Haack offers some good thoughts on discernment in general. We wrote a review of The Shack itself, check it out for more discernment resources.
An excerpt from Haack’s response:
Question: “The people from my church who love the book, when asked about its flaws, say they are rampant and if you read it analytically then you will probably throw it away, but that one shouldn’t analyze it; one should simply read it for the great story it is.”
Answer: “The process of discernment allows us to engage a book more fully. The purpose is not to throw out books that are flawed, but to more deeply appreciate what is true and beautiful while more deeply understanding how what is less true or untrue can be made so attractive and plausible… One of the ways we have found to teach discernment skills to Christians is to lead discussions on something (a book or short story or film) in which they will be certain to find things with which to disagree. But then mention in your invitation and begin the discussion by saying the goal is not just to address the book or film, but to also deepen our skill in being discerning (rather than being reactionary). So, we will answer the discernment questions in order—no exceptions. Begin with “What is said?” (emphasizing that objectivity is required, so much so that no opinion of ours is even hinted at, and if the author was present they would say our answer to this question is correct and fair). Then ask, “With what do we agree?” and after that, “What is made attractive?” Only when those things are fully explored, can anyone address, “What might we challenge?” (and then do so in the form of creative questions we might address to a friend, Christian or non-Christian, in order to keep a winsome conversation going).”