A False god to Bring You Comfort in “The Shack” (“The Shack” Review, part 2)

Stephen J. Drain's picture

“True worship must worship God as He exists, not as we wish Him to be. The essence of idolatry is the making of images of God. An image is a shadow, a false representation. We may not bow before a statue or a figure, but if we make an image of god in our mind that is not in accord with God’s revelation of himself, then we are not worshipping in truth….” writes James R. White. “If we love Him and worship Him as He deserves, we will not dare to ‘edit’ Him to fit our desires.”[1]

Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15).

In my last column I established that the best-selling book The Shack is being touted as more than just a novel. Within the pages of the book itself, we read, “[This book] offers one of the most poignant views of God and how he relates to humanity that has been written in our time….  [It is] a magnificent glimpse into the nature of God that is not often presented in our culture.”[2] (Perhaps this is because our culture has become biblically illiterate.) Through his numerous interviews, author William Paul Young has shown that The Shack is his personal theological and philosophical response countering the “evangelical, fundamental Protestant”[3] culture in which he grew up. His former beliefs were skewed, not orthodox. It is good he abandoned them but, unfortunately, as we are seeing, his new views are also skewed and not orthodox.

The Shack is Young’s attempt to deal with the problem of evil, the nature of God (His goodness and love), and mankind’s redemption. In my last column I argued that Young’s anthropomorphic portrayal of God strays into the realm of blasphemy. Other reviewers have said that Young’s portrayal of God the Father as an African American woman and the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman reminds us of those who exchange “the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings” (Romans 1:23). As Alexander Pope wrote, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.[4]

In this column I will demonstrate that Young puts words into the mouth of “God” which directly contradict God’s words in the Bible.

Let us now look at the most problematic ideas put forth in The Shack:

Trinity Confusion

To be fair, I believe a great deal of Christians, including myself, struggle with grasping the concept of a triune God. “To whom can you compare God? To what image can you liken him?” we read in Isaiah 40:18. All analogies fall short. “If something is truly unique, it cannot be compared to anything else, at least without introducing some element of error,” writes James R. White in his book The Forgotten Trinity.[5] What we can know is that God is One (Deuteronomy 6:4). And yet, from the very beginning we see hints that God is also a unity (Genesis 1:26). The Father is God; we see clearly that the Son is God (John 1:1, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1, etc.); and we see that the Spirit is God (Matthew 28:19, Acts 5:3-4, 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, etc.). Yet all three are distinctly different…

Now even though we see that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are each God and not three separate gods, we also see that they are distinctly separate persons. We see the distinctness in such places as Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16-17). We see this distinction in basic ideas such as the Father sending the Son (John 3:16); the Father did not send Himself. William Paul Young errs when he confuses and conflates the persons and roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. According to the Scripture only Jesus Christ, the Son, died on the cross. He is the one who bears the wounds of the cross (John 20:19-29). But in The Shack we see Young’s god-the-father character, Elouisa (!), has scars on her wrists.[6] She tells Mack, “We were there together[7] apparently on the cross, which certainly is problematic since the Father has no physical body and the Father was not crucified on Calvary. “Have you seen the wounds on Papa too,” Mack is asked. “He [Papa] chose the way of the cross…”[8] This is a clear departure from Scripture. If the Father was also crucified on Calvary then it makes no sense that Jesus cried out to His Father, saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus did not say, “Take this cup from us”, He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me” (Luke 22:42, emphasis added).

The same error is repeated when this female-father-god says, “When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God…. We now became flesh and blood”.[9] Elsewhere this false god says, “in Him [Jesus] we are fully human.”[10] This is found nowhere in Scripture. The Shack thus presents an unbiblical picture of our triune God. And a false picture of God is, well, FALSE; it is untrue. Yet Jesus told us we are to worship God in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Therefore if the author is stating something about God that is not true, will it aid or detract from our knowing God. If something is untrue, should we not call it a lie?

Hierarchy and God’s order

Mack asks this god if there is a hierarchy within the Godhead: “Isn’t one of you more the boss than the other two?”[11] The answer is given, “[We] have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command…”[12] It is good to understand the persons within the Godhead as being co-equal, but we still see Scripture telling us that God the Father sent the Son into the World (John 3:16), that Christ obeyed the Father in all things (Philippians 2:6-8, John 12:49-50, John 14:31), that the Father and the Son sent the Spirit (John 14:26, John 15:26), etc. Yet in The Shack we hear Jesus say, “Papa is as much submitted to me as I to him…”[13] That is not something I find anywhere in the Bible. Can you find it? But it gets worse when this false Jesus says, “…we are submitted to you in the same way.”[14] What?!?! God is submitted to us? We do not find this in the Bible. Mack reflects on this idea when he finds his clothes washed and folded: Laughing to himself, he says, “God, the servant…. [or] more truly God, my servant.”[15]

The god of The Shack tells us that hierarchies exist because of sin and the Fall, that hierarchy was never God’s plan. This appears to fly in the face of things we see in the Bible.[16] For instance, even before the Fall, wasn’t mankind given rule and “dominion” over the creatures of the earth (Genesis 1:28)? This implies hierarchy. The very fact that God gave one rule (Genesis 2:17) to Adam and Eve shows that God had dominion and authority over them and that they owed Him obedience. Though certainly God loved them, He was not submitted to them, nor is He submitted to us!

A limited God?

Along the lines of God’s submission to us, the false Holy Spirit character in the book tells Mack, “We have limited ourselves out of respect to you.”[17] This is not found in the Bible. The god-woman tells Mack, “That’s okay, we’ll do things on your terms and time.”[18] This is also not something we see in the Bible. “We carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems even while we seek to free you from them…”[19] First off, every miracle in the Bible shows that God will override the system when it fits His purposes. But the god of The Shack will not “violate choice or will” we are told.[20] Unfortunately this is something that many Christians today agree with and by it they mean that God has given human autonomy final authority when it comes to becoming saved or not.[21] However, I believe it was Jonathan Edwards who said that choice and will come from the heart. Jesus told us that decisions spring from the condition of our heart (Matthew 15:19, Matthew 7:17-18)). And Scripture tells us that God most certainly does what He wants with the human heart. (See Exodus 7:3, Deuteronomy 30:6, Proverbs 21:1, Ezekiel 11:19-20, Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 12:40, Romans 9:18, Philippians 2:13, etc.)

Psalm 115:3 tells us, “Our God is in heaven! He does whatever he pleases!” Psalm 135:6 tells us, “He does whatever he pleases in heaven and on earth…” Of course, I cut off the end of those verses where it said, “Except violate human choice or will.” No, I didn’t because those words and that concept are not found in Scripture. In Daniel we read that “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth” (4:35, NIV). Yet Young persists by saying his god will achieve everything “without the violation of one human will”.[22] Note the word “violation”. The word “violate” means, essentially to transgress, desecrate, profane, etc. To say that God cannot violate something is to say there is a rule that God must obey. To say that He will not violate something is to say there is something He sees as being untouchable, holy, or sacrosanct. Does God truly see man’s will as being the most holy and set apart thing in the universe? After all, God violated His own Son, so to speak, as we read, “the LORD desired to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). The Father “did not spare his own Son” (Romans 8:32) in order to save sinners and yet we are supposed to believe that He considers human autonomy untouchable? Is human autonomy truly more precious to God that His own Son?

But Young persists: “To force my will on you… is exactly what love does not do.”[23] When Mack asks the god-character if God uses pain to force people back to Him, he is told that he needed forgiveness for even thinking such a thing. The female god tells him, “True love never forces.”[24] What about Lot being pulled out of Sodom (Genesis 19:16)? That’s just something that comes to mind off the top of my head. We know, even on the human level, true love will sometimes force (the suicidal or the aged for example) into a place where they could be prevented from hurting themselves or others, etc.

Also, ask yourself whether it is true according to Scripture that God would not use pain or suffering to bring us closer to Him? In Hebrews we are told, “Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7). Thus God does bring suffering (discipline) into our lives. For what purpose? “Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). The psalmist wrote, “It was good for me to suffer, so that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). “I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75, NIV). We are even told that Jesus “learned obedience through the things he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

Young is proven wrong once again. Yet his incorrect statements supposedly come from the mouth of God?! As it was said of those delivering false messages in the past, so it can be said of The Shack today:

They are reporting visions of their own imaginations, not something the Lord has given them to say…. I am opposed to those prophets who dream up lies and report them. They are misleading my people with their reckless lies.  I did not send them. I did not commission them. They are not helping these people at all” (Jeremiah 23:16, 32).

Want to go your way apart from God? “Have at it.”

Young’s female-god, speaking of those not interested in a relationship with God, says, “If you want to do your thing, have at it. Time is on our side.”[25] Have at it?!?! People, please realize that the god of The Shack is NOT the God of the Bible. Don’t pretend they are the same. So let’s read that again: “If you want to do your thing, have at it. Time is on our side.”[26] Now, of course time is on God’s side. Unfortunately, time is not on our side: “People are like a vapor, their days like a shadow that disappears” (Psalm 144:4), “like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure” (Job 14:2, NIV). “What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Because our time is limited, Paul cries out, “Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2). So also the writer of Hebrews warns us while it is still called “Today” (Hebrews 3:7-19). Putting these “have at it”, no worries, “time is on our side” words into the mouth of the god-character is nefarious. It is the equivalent of Satan telling Eve, “Surely you will not die” (Genesis 3:4).

No wrath, no judgment, and no hell?

The serpent’s lie continues in the fact that Young does not appear to believe in hell, eternal separation from God or punishment. His Elouisa-god is always talking about how “especially fond” she is of her different children… every single one. When Mack asks, “Are there any who you are not especially fond of?” Elouisa thinks and then says, “Nope, I haven’t been able to find any. Guess that’s jes’ the way I is.”[27] Obviously this is not a representation of the God of the Bible of whom Psalm 5 tells us, “you hate all who do wrong…. Bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors” (5:5-6, NIV) or Psalm 11 which tells us, “the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates” (11:5). These things are written by David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). I think David would have more insight into God’s heart and character than a modern author who puts God in a dress.

When Mack asks about this God’s anger and wrath, Young’s god brushes such talk off as being something foisted upon God: “I am not trying to fit anyone’s bill…. [or] preconceived notions,”[28] Young’s god says, “I am not who you think I am, Mack…. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It is not my purpose to punish; it is my joy to cure it.”[29]

The author is right that sin is its own punishment. We see that in Romans 1 where sinners go from bad to worse and “received in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27). But to say that God does not purpose to punish those who remain in rebellion to Him to their dying day, well, that simply is not biblical. Did Jesus not mean what He said when He said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Jesus also warned that one day all in the grave would rise, some to the resurrection of life and others to a resurrection of damnation (see John 5:29, KJV). How many verses and examples can we give to refute the author? “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Read the whole of Hebrews 10:26-31! Read the book of Jeremiah. Read Revelation 20:15. Read Revelation 21:8: “But to the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.

In an article that calls The Shack the "Greatest Deception to Blindside the Church in Last 200 Years", written by someone who claims to have known the author for twelve years, we read that Young believes the “evangelical faith and its teaching about judgment makes God ‘grossly unjust’”. Unless Jesus’ death actually saved everyone, then “Jesus died ‘a failure and in vain and never saved anyone’” thus “Calvary is a farce, a travesty and a sham.”[30] On Young’s own web we read that the author is “a ‘hopeful universalist’…. because he understands that the Scriptures speak of judgment, but [he] is ‘hopeful’ that even in judgment, the love of God will eventually bring the sinner being judged to love for Jesus Christ… Young is ‘hopeful’ that the fire of God’s love will eventually and effectually persuade every sinner of God’s love in Christ.”[31]

But the Bible warns:

 “For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies. Someone who rejected the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace? For we know the one who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-38).

What did Jesus accomplish on the cross?

As we read on his web site, “Young…. believes that our loving God sent His Son to die for every single sinner without exception. One day God will effectually reconcile every sinner to Himself.”[32] He doubles down on his unbiblical beliefs in his new non-fiction book entitled, Lies We Believe About God. In a review of the book we read a quote by Young: “God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind…. Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”[33]

Is this false belief spelled out in The Shack? Yes. In the only mention (that I recall) of Christ’s resurrection in the book, Young’s god says that “through [Jesus’] death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.”

“The whole world? You mean those that believe in you, right?”

“The whole world, Mack.”[34]

Mack is later told: “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship”[35] and “When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment…”[36]

There is a difference between Young’s idea that Christ’s death brought forgiveness to all and the biblical teaching that Christ’s death was a payment and a ransom for sinners. Both free-will proponents and those called “Calvinists” would reject the idea that Christ’s death equals automatic forgiveness and non-judgment for every sinner of all time. Isaiah 53 tells us that the Messiah’s death would “acquit many” (Isaiah 53:11) not all. Jesus told us that His death would be “a ransom for many” (Mark 10:48) not all. The Lamb is praised because “you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9) not “you have purchased all tribes, languages, peoples, and nations”. There is a difference.

The biblical teaching is clear:

The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life” (1 John 5:12).

Do all roads lead to heaven?

It is a natural progression from the errors above to this error. After all, if everyone can live life in a “have at it way” and if God’s forgiveness has removed all wrath and judgment from us, then all roads do lead to a wonderful eternity with a loving God eventually. Of course, this is not what the bible has revealed to us about God, but this is what Young has revealed to us in The Shack. (Do you understand why so many have found The Shack a comforting book?) A verse from the Old Testament comes to mind:

If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ he would be just the prophet for this people!” (Micah 2:11, NIV).

Of course people will love to read and embrace that which they want to hear.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3, NASB).

But even I have demonstrated that Young’s theology leads in that direction, some may counter with this seemingly orthodox exchange: In the book, the Jesus character says, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans…. Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want them to transform into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”

“Does that mean… that all roads will lead to you?”

“Not at all,” smiled Jesus…. “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”[37]

At first glance this part seems orthodox enough. After all, the character said that those who love Jesus “were” these other religions and things. He also rejects the idea that all roads lead to Jesus. And yet we cannot allow this passage to stand alone. It has to be sen in light of the “have at it” universalism espoused by Young. According to Young, everyone will be with Jesus eventually, completely forgiven and with God forever. Young is being ambiguous at best, deceptive at worst.

The seemingly orthodox statement above must also be seen in light of this exchange: The Jesus character tells Mack, “I am the best way any human can relate to [God the Father] or [the Holy Spirit].”[38] Note the wording. Did you catch it? Subtle word changes can mean the difference between Christianity and cult. Here the author has told us that Jesus is the “best” way to relate to God. Is there a difference between saying, “This is the best way to get to my house” and “This is the only way to get to my house”? The real Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). That is an only way statement, not a best way statement. The Apostle Paul wrote, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). That is another only way statement, as opposed to a best way statement. I ask my Christian brothers and sisters this: If a person came up to you and said, “I read in The Shack that Jesus is the best way to get to God”, what would be your response? I hope it would be to say, “That is not true. Jesus is the only way to get to the Father.”

Does God have no expectations of us?

 “Are you saying you have no expectations of me?” Mack asks the female god character. He receives this response: “Honey, I have never placed expectations on you or anyone else. The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior or get the desired result…. Why would I have an expectation other than what I already know? ….And beyond that, because I have no expectations, you will never disappoint me.”[39]

So according to the false god of The Shack, God has no expectations of anyone. It is important to realize that every command, even the command of Jesus that we love one another (John 13:34) is an expectation. Think about it: If God has no expectations, then there would be no more sin. The very word “transgression” means the crossing of a line. “Sin” means missing the mark. The Bible tells us that we are in trouble if we think we have not sinned and that God is not angry about sin (Jeremiah 2:35, 1 John 1:8). The Bible is replete with expectations in both the Old and New Testaments. Even since Christ’s death and resurrection we are given lists of things that “should not be done” (read Romans 1:28-32, Ephesians 4:26-32, Colossians 3:5-9, James 1:26-27, etc.) as well as things that should be done (Romans 12:9-16, Colossians 3:12-17, Titus 2:1-10, James 1:27 etc.). All of these are expectations and guidelines.

But it is because of Young’s constant departure from orthodoxy, that he confuses these things as well. Young starts out well enough as he understands that Jesus was the only One who was ever able to perfectly obey the law and commandments.[40] Young also seems to understand that the commandments were not given to declare us righteous but to make us conscious of sin (Romans 3: 20, etc.), but the author takes this in incorrect directions: “It was a mirror to reveal just how filthy your face gets when you live independently.”[41] First he says that it “was” (past tense) a mirror; though Paul writes that “through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). Paul did not make the law’s usefulness past tense only. I would also say there is a difference between the law demonstrating that we have a “filthy face” and it demonstrating that we have “desperately wicked” hearts (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV), mindsets and outlooks hostile to God (Romans 8:6-7). We don’t need our face washed; we need new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26, etc.).

According the Scripture, it is only those trusting in Christ who are free from the law (1 Corinthians 9:21, Galatians 3:13). Of course, we are not freed to disobedience, transgression, and sin (Romans 6:1-7); we are free to walk in obedience. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15). But the law still stands in opposition to the rebellious (1 Timothy 1:9) and curses those who think they can be justified by it (Galatians 3:10). So Young is wrong in his understanding when he thinks that God has forgiven everyone in Christ, that the law is no longer applicable to anyone, and that God has no expectations. Otherwise, Paul’s statement “Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5) would make no sense since there would be no expectations by which we could test ourselves. Neither would the real Jesus’ statement, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43) make sense unless there was an expectation as to what good and bad fruit were.

So Young says that God has no expectations and yet his god tells us that, “Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible.”[42] Wait a minute. I thought there were no rules and no expectations! If someone is to speak the truth about what they have done… we must assume they have done something wrong. If the law no longer applies and there are no commands or expectations, then there is nothing to speak the truth about and no change of mind needed. There is an expectation built in here, something they MUST do to have relationship. The author has contradicted one of his key pillars. And, of course, whenever someone strays from biblical truth, contradictions will follow.[43]

If someone spreads false teachings and does not agree with sound words (that is, those of our Lord Jesus Christ) and with the teaching that accords with godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

Should we follow Jesus?

Young’s Jesus character tells Mack, “Remember, the people who know me are the ones who are free to live and love without any agenda.”

“Is that what it means to be a Christian?” Mack asks.

“Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian.”[44]

Now of course it would be ridiculous to call Jesus Christ a “Christian”. “Christian” means “Christ-follower”.[45] But since I no longer trust one sentence by this author, I distrust this statement as well.

Add to this what he elsewhere writes in The Shack when the Jesus character tells Mack, “my life was not meant to be an example to copy.”[46] In one sense we can say that is true, as Jesus was the Unique, One and Only Son (John 1:18), “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We cannot follow Him in that sense. But, in opposition to what Young’s Jesus says, the New Testament tells us otherwise: The real Jesus, after washing His disciples’ feet, told them, “For I have given you an example – you should do just as I have done for you” (John 13:15). The Apostles Paul, Peter, and John all hold up Jesus as an example (1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 2:5, 1 Peter 2:21, 1 John 2:6).[47] I think we should also listen to what the Bible has to say about these things, not the false gods of The Shack.

John the Apostle wrote, “We [the Apostles and writers of the New Testament] are from God; the person who knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit” (1 John 4:6)

Is Scripture important?

It is possible that Young deviates from Scripture because he has a low view of it. We see this in one passage where he seems to disparage the Bible: When looking at Mack’s ideas (and in my first column I believe I demonstrated that Mack represents the author), we read, “In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course, God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners’ access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?”[48]

The paragraph above is loaded. He seems to argue in this section that it is wrong to think that God no longer overtly communicates with individuals. Of course, even if God did such things, how would we know whether what they were saying was true unless it was compared with what God has already told us in Scripture? Again I point out that when Satan twisted Scripture to tempt Jesus, He answered with Scripture (Matthew 4:6-7). I point out that the Bereans checked Paul’s teachings to see if it was in line with the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). When I read Young’s words above I wonder if he would agree or disagree that Scripture should be properly interpreted. And why does he consider God’s people from long ago, “uncivilized”? Are we today somehow better than they? Is he wiser or closer to God than they? Does Young object to the idea that Jesus Christ is the final and pinnacle revelation of God? In Hebrews we read “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (1:1-3).

Be warned that William Paul Young seems to think that his own theological ideas come from God or, at the very least; he attempts to put them in the mouth of God through his book The Shack. As GotQuestions.org says in their review of the book:

“If one is to teach error, it is important to do away with Scripture, either by adding to it (Mormonism), mistranslating it (Jehovah's Witnesses) or simply mocking it (The Shack and some others in the “emergent church”). But if you are going to claim to teach about God, you must stick to what He has declared to be His revelation about Himself and His will to us. In other words, correct doctrine, a point stressed numerous times in Scripture (1 Timothy 4:16, 2 Timothy 4:3, Titus 1:9, Titus 2:1). Yes, we are not just to be hearers (and readers) of the Word; we are to live it. But we can't live it unless we know it, believe it, and trust it. Otherwise, the God you present is merely a creation of your own imagination and not the God that everyone must stand before on that final day, either as friend or condemned sinner.”[49]

As Scripture warns: “Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Conclusion

I could go on an on about the mixed messages and muddled beliefs of The Shack. Besides the blasphemies, besides the falsehoods and teachings running directly counter to Scripture, I also saw bits of New Age, eastern religion, Yin and Yang, Word of Faith, and pantheism mixed in. Also, in this book which, somewhat, attempts to explain the Problem of Evil in the world, Young glaringly never mentions Satan.

Our first parents fell to the deception of Satan (Genesis 3). But Jesus, our example, responded to Satan’s Scripture twisting temptation by properly using Scripture (Luke 4:1-13). I have demonstrated according to Scripture that The Shack makes numerous untrue statements; The Shack also twists Scripture. I ask my Christian brothers and sisters if this is acceptable? It is understandable that unbelievers may get duped into believing these falsehoods, but how many times must The Shack diverge from Scripture for believers to turn away from it? Should not we as Christians be warning against this book? Do we want unbelievers to be comforted by a false god?

Some people reacted to my first column by saying, “I was blessed by the book” or “I know people who were truly moved by the book and drawn closer to God through its message.” I have also read other columns and reviews where people have said the same things. But there are problems with such thinking: First, most of the pro-Shack arguments have been strictly emotional or feelings based, free attachment to Scripture, while the anti-Shack articles give reasoned biblically-based arguments. You see, a person can feel that something is bringing them closer to God, although it might not be. Scripture warns us over and over again not to be deceived or misled: Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death.” The real Jesus told us, “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it” (Matthew 7:13).

These are some things on which we cannot “agree to disagree”. I believe these would include teachings about the nature of God, God’s love and God’s judgment, the nature of salvation, the meaning of Christ’s death, the use of God’s law, etc. Tell me what on this list is not important? Tell me on which is it okay to believe whatever we want? Do you know that false belief leads us towards a world of trouble and very possibly an eternity separated from God? At what point should we defend Christianity against falsehood and attack? At what point do we say, “God has not said that”?

Stand up, Christians. Stand for truth. Respond rightly to the attack.[50]

Beware of “deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions” (Colossian 2:13-15).

 “But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.” (2 Peter 2:1).

Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4, NIV).

_______________________

To see a list of my bible.org columns visit http://blogs.bible.org/blog/26077




[1]
The Forgotten Trinity” copyright 1998 by James R. White, published by Bethany House Publishers, page 18 & 20.

[2] Found in the final pages of the book under “The Missy Project”.

[4] Possibly inspired by 2 Peter 2:10-11.

[5] “The Forgotten Trinity” copyright 1998 by James R. White, published by Bethany House Publishers, page 25.

[6] “The Shack” by William P. Young, copyright 2007, published by Windblown Media, page 95.

[7] “The Shack”, page 96.

[8] “The Shack”, page 164.

[9] “The Shack”, page 99.

[10] “The Shack”, page192.

[11] “The Shack”, page 121.

[12] “The Shack”, page 122.

[13] “The Shack”, page 145.

[14] Ibid.

[15] “The Shack”, pages 236-237.

[16] We also see a hierarchy amongst the angelic beings. When we read of the “archangel” (Jude 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:16), we must ask ourselves why is such a rank mentioned if there is no hierarchy? (Are we to think that God dwells in a circle of relationship with the angels or do the angels do God’s bidding at his command?) Remember the Centurion who compared himself to Christ when asking for the healing of his servant? “For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me.  I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (See Luke 7:1-10.) The man recognized the hierarchy and was commended by Jesus. The Bible also seems to very seriously hint of a hierarchy even after Christ’s return (Matthew 19:28, Luke 19:17, etc.)

[17] “The Shack”, page 106.

[18] “The Shack”, page 83.

[19] “The Shack”, page 123.

[20] “The Shack”, page 125.

[21] I expect here I might be accused of oversimplification.

[22] “The Shack”, page 125.

[23] “The Shack”, page 145.

[24] “The Shack”, page 190.

[25] “The Shack”, page 149.

[26] Ibid.

[27] “The Shack”, pages 118-119.

[28] “The Shack”, page 119.

[29] “The Shack”, pages 119-120.

[32] Ibid.

[34] “The Shack”, page 192.

[35] “The Shack”, page 225.

[36] “The Shack”, page 225.

[37] “The Shack”, page 182.

[38] “The Shack”, page 110.

[39] “The Shack”, page 206.

[40] See page 202 of “The Shack”.

[41] “The Shack”, page 202.

[42] “The Shack”, page 225.

[43] Other contradictions: 1. We have Young’s god tell us that it was wrong to think that God uses pain or suffering to bring people to him (pages 189-190).  And yet, according to what we are told on Young’s own web site, “Paul [Young] is ‘hopeful’ that even in judgment, the love of God will eventually bring the sinner being judged to love for Jesus Christ” (http://wmpaulyoung.com/universal-reconciliation/) So God’s either God’s judgment will not be painful and difficult (i.e. “suffering”) or Young does believe that God will use suffering to bring people to Him. 2. Young’s god appears to Mack as a woman, since he knows that Mack has father figure issues (page 91). Yet this god also says that he has only portrayed himself in history as a man because “after Creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering… an emphasis on fathering would be necessary because of the enormity of its absence” (page 94). So Mack has had horrible fathering because of the Fall, and this god has always portrayed himself as a father because the Fall really messed up fathering; therefore this god appears to Mack as… a woman? That’s inconsistent if not contradictory.

[44] “The Shack”, page 182.

[46] “The Shack”, page 149.

[47] “The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked” (1 John 2:6). Is that not a statement of Christ following? I’m not saying we can do this by ourselves. It is the Spirit of God within us that works this (2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 2:10, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 2:13, etc.).

[48] “The Shack”, pages 65-66.

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