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By David Cloud

“The Shack” held first place on the New York Times bestseller list for Paperback Trade Fiction for many months. As of October 2009, it has sold ten million copies. It is being translated into 30 languages, and a motion picture is in the works.

Though its author, William Paul Young, is not a member of a church and is even reticent to call himself a Christian, and though its doctrine of God is grossly heretical, the novel is being touted as a helpful Christian book.

“The Shack” has been endorsed by Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, CCM artist Michael W. Smith, Eugene Peterson (Regent College professor and author of “The Message”), Mark Batterson (senior pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.), Wayne Jacobson, author of?So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore,” Gayle Erwin of Calvary Chapel, James Ryle of the Vineyard churches, and Greg Albrecht, editor of “Plain Truth” magazine. The premier issue of Rick Warren’s magazine, The Purpose Driven Connection, refers to The Shack as a “notable best-selling Christian” book (p. 24).

Young was one of the speakers at the February 2009 National Pastor’s Convention in San Diego, sponsored by Zondervan and InterVarsity Fellowship. The 1,500 attendees were pastors and Christian workers. Other speakers included Bill Hybels, Leighton Ford, Brian McLaren, and Rob Bell. Young had his own break-out session and was interviewed in one of the general sessions by Andy Crouch, a senior editor of “Christianity Today.” It was said that 57% of the attendees had read “The Shack,” and Young was enthusiastically received. Crouch treated Young as a fellow believer and did not even hint that there might be a damnable theological problem with the way that God is depicted in the book. When Young said, “I don’t feel responsible for the fact that it [“The Shack”] is tampering with people’s paradigms” or how people think about God, the crowd responded with clapping, cheers, and laughter. The emerging church loves to tamper with traditional Bible doctrine and there is no fear of God for doing so!

Young was born in Alberta in 1955 but spent most of the first ten years of his life in Papua New Guinea with his missionary parents, who were ministering to a backwards tribal group called the Dani. He graduated from Warner Pacific College, which is affiliated with the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), with a degree in religion.
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In “The Shack,” Young presents traditional Bible-believing Christianity as hypocritical and hurtful. The book’s main character grew up under “rigorous rules,” and his father, who was an elder in the church, was “a closet drinker” and treated his family with cruelty when drunk (p. 7).

Hypocrisy is very injurious to the cause of Christ, but hypocrisy on the part of Christians does not disprove the Bible. Let God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4)! All too often this type of thing is used as an excuse by rebels. I know this by personal experience. In my youth I used the inconsistencies that I saw in Baptist churches to excuse my rejection of the church. The chief problem, though, was not the hypocrisy of others but my own rebellion and love for the world. When I repented of my wickedness at age 23 and turned to Christ and received the Bible as God’s holy Word, I stopped blaming others and took responsibility for myself before Almighty God.

Rules and obligations under God’s grace are not wrong. They are an integral part of Bible Christianity. We are saved by grace without works, but we are saved “unto good works” (Ephesians 2:8-10). The New Testament epistles are filled with rules and obligations that believers are expected to keep and filled with warnings about disobedience. The true grace of God does not let us live as we please. It teaches us, rather, “that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). That is a very strict standard of Christian living.

There is hypocrisy in churches and there are false gospels that are law-based rather than grace-based and most churches today are corrupt, but the solution is not to reject the literal interpretation of Scripture and create a new God! God is amazingly compassionate and loving and He has proven that on the cross, but God is also holy and just and requires obedience and hates and punishes sin, and that side of God cannot be ignored without creating a false God.

The flesh wearies greatly of the holiness of God! I can testify to that. From time to time in my Christian life I have gotten discouraged at God. It is not a simple thing to reconcile God’s love and grace with His awful holiness and justice. On one hand, the New Testament tells us that the believer is forgiven, redeemed, justified, accepted in the beloved, blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ, holy and without blame before God, and seated in the heavenlies (Ephesians 1-3). On the other hand, the same New Testament tells us that the believer must be exceedingly careful about how he lives before God. We are to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1), which is the highest conceivable standard. The believer who does not pursue this is in danger of being judged (e.g., 1 Cor. 3:13-17; 9:26-27; 11:27-32; Hebrews 13:4; 2 John 8-11; Revelation 2:4-5, 16, 22-23; 3:15-16). There is even a sin unto death (1 John 5:16-17; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 11:30). Thus there must be many warnings in the Christian life (Acts 20:31; Colossians 1:28; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15).

These things seem to be contradictory to the fallen flesh and to the natural man, but they are two sides of the same compassionate, thrice holy God, and to reject either one is reject the true God for an idol.

In an interview with the 700 Club in February 2009 Young described a “huge personal failure” that occurred in his life at age 38. He says, “My life crashed and burned, and I had to go back and deal with some stuff from being a child on the mission field along with other stuff in my life.” He speaks of “secrets” that he kept from his childhood and guilt that he carried. He doesn’t describe any of this in detail, but it appears that he felt guilty for not obeying God’s Word and perhaps went through psychological therapy. He talks continually of “pain,” “damage,” healing childhood memories, and such.

REDEFINING GOD

“The Shack” is about redefining God. Young has said that the book is for those with “a longing that God is as kind and loving as we wish he was” (interview with Sherman Hu, Dec. 4, 2007). What he is referring to is the desire on the part of the natural man for a God who loves “unconditionally” and does not require obedience, does not require repentance, does not judge sin, and does not make men feel guilty for what they do.

In that same interview, Young said that a woman wrote to him and said that her 22-year-old daughter came to her after reading the book and asked, “IS IT ALRIGHT IF I DIVORCE THE OLD GOD AND MARRY THE NEW ONE?”

Young therefore admits that the God of “The Shack” is different from the traditional God of Bible-believing Christianity. He says that the God who “watches from a distance and judges sin” is “a Christianized version of Zeus.” This reminds me of the modernist G. Bromley Oxnam, who called the God of the Old Testament “a dirty bully” in his 1944 book “Preaching in a Revolutionary Age.”

“The Shack” explores the issue of why God allows pain and evil. It is a fictional account of a man who is bitter against God for allowing his youngest daughter to be murdered and who returns to the scene of the murder, an old shack in the woods, to have a life-changing encounter with God. The “God” that he encounters, though, is not the God of the Bible.

Young depicts the triune God as a young Asian woman named “Sarayu” * (supposedly the Holy Spirit), an oriental carpenter who loves to have a good time (supposedly Jesus), and an older black woman named “Elousia” (supposedly God the Father). God the Father is also depicted as a guy with a ponytail and a goatee. (* The name “Sarayu” is from the Hindu scriptures and represents a mythical river in India on the shores of which the Hindu god Rama was born.)

Young’s god is the god of the emerging church. He is cool, loves rock & roll, is non-judgmental, does not exercise wrath toward sin, does not send unbelievers to an eternal fiery hell, does not require repentance and the new birth, puts no obligations on people, doesn’t like traditional Bible churches, does not accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God, and does not mind if the early chapters of the Bible are interpreted as “myth.”   

Note the following quotes from the god of “The Shack”:

“Don’t go because you feel obligated. That won’t get you any points around here. Go because it’s what you want to do” (p. 89).

Contrast 1 Corinthians 4:2.

“I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it…” (p. 120).

Contrast Isaiah 13:11; Ephesians 5:5-6.

“There are lots of people who think it [Eden] was only a myth. Well, their mistake isn’t fatal. Rumors of glory are often hidden inside of what many consider myths and tales” (p. 134).

Contrast 2 Peter 1:16.

“[Your heart] is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process” (p. 138).

Contrast Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21-23.

“To force my will on you is exactly what love does not do. … True love never forces” (pp. 145, 190).

Contrast John 8:31-32; 14:15; Titus 2:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 2:14-16, 20-23; 3:3, 16-19.

“Our final destiny is not the picture of Heaven that you have stuck in your head–you know, the image of pearly gates and streets of gold” (p. 177).

Contrast Revelation 21-22.

“My church is all about people and life is all about relationships. … You can’t build it. … I don’t create institutions–never have, never will” (pp. 178, 179).

Contrast Acts 2:41-42, 13-14.

“Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. … I have no desire to make them Christian” (p. 182).

Contrast Acts 4:12; 26:28.

“Through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world … The whole world. … In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me … When Jesus forgave those who nailed him to the cross they were no longer in his debt, nor mine” (pp. 192, 225).

Contrast John 3:36; Acts 17:30-31; 1 John 5:12, 19; Revelation 20:11-15.

“The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. … Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. … That is why you won’t find the word responsibility in the Scriptures. … because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me” (pp. 197, 203, 206).

Contrast 1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 5:18. In Ephesians 4-6 alone there are at more than 80 specific obligations that believers are exhorted to keep.

“I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation” (p. 223).

Contrast Isaiah 2:11; 5:15; John 3:19; Romans 3:19; 1 Corinthians 11:27; James 3:1; 5:9; Jude 4; Revelation 11:18; 20:11-15.

THE SHACK’S GOD IS EMERGENT AND NEW AGE

Not only is “The Shack’s” god suspiciously similar to the one described in the books of the more liberal branch of the emerging church (e.g., Rob Bell, Donald Miller, Brian McLaren), it also has a strong kinship to the New Age god promoted by John Lennon and Oprah Winfrey.

Lennon’s extremely popular song “IMAGINE” (1971) proclaims:

“Imagine there’s no heaven … No hell below us, above us only sky … no religion too/ You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one/ I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”

William Young imagines the same thing in “The Shack.” If there is a God, he is non-judgmental. There is no hell. God just wants people to do their own thing and be happy.

Oprah preaches the same gospel to millions. Man is not a sinner; God is not a judge; all is well with the universe; and I just need to surrender to the flow. Her message is the celebration of self. She grew up in a traditional Baptist church, but she has reinterpreted the Bible and moved beyond its restrictions. She says, “As I study the New Age movement, it all seems to say exactly what the Bible has said for years, but many of us were brought up with a restricted, limited understanding of what the Bible said” (“The Gospel according to Oprah,” Vantage Point, July 1998).

DENYING THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE BIBLE

Another foundational problem with “The Shack” is its denial of the Bible as the absolute and sole authority. Note the following quote:

“In seminary he [the book’s main figure, Mack] 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. … 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?” (pp. 65, 66).

To believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and the sole authority for faith and practice is not to “put God in a box.” It is to honor God by receiving the Scripture for what it claims to be and what it has proven itself to be. If a father goes on a journey and leaves behind a written statement of his will for the family during his absence, the family that truly honors the father submits to that written record. To reject the Bible as the infallible Word of God is to launch out upon the stormy waters of subjective mysticism. It allows man to be his own authority and to live as he pleases, which is an objective of both the New Age movement and the emerging church.

CHANGED LIVES

The author of “The Shack” points to changed lives as evidence of the truth of the book and the grace of God in using it. At the National Pastor’s Conference, William Young told Andy Crouch that the book was setting people free from “addictive bondages and doctrinal bondages.” He said, “Even people who have been vocally against the book, people in their own family have been healed.”

Healed of what and healed in what way?

What is happening is that people who don’t like Bible Christianity, don’t want to obey the Bible, don’t want to feel guilty for their sin, and have rejected the “angry” God of Scripture, are responding enthusiastically to the man-made idol presented in “The Shack.” The following is typical of the postings at Young’s MySpace site by readers of the book:

“Your book, The Shack, is amazing! It has changed so many people’s idea of what God is really like! It has set some of my friends free!”

Miracles do not prove that something is of God. There is one that the Bible calls “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and he can do miracles and answer prayers. I saw miracles and experienced answers to prayers when I was the member of a Hindu meditation society before I came to Christ. Miracles are not the proof of the truth; the Bible alone is the proof. The prophet Isaiah said, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

CONCLUSION

“The Shack” is another building stone of the end-times Tower of Babel.

God’s people must be exceedingly careful in these days of awful apostasy. The Bible warns:

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:25-26).

The willful sin described in this verse points back to the sin referred to in verse 29. It is the sin of counting the blood of salvation an unholy thing. It is the rejection of personal salvation through the blood of Christ, which many in the emerging church are doing. You can’t be saved if you reject the substitutionary atonement.

In these days we need to stay in the Bible every day and be in sweet communion with Christ, confessing our sins and walking in the light.

And we need to capture the heart of the next generation and educate them so they will not be taken captive by the wiles of the devil and the guile of false teachers.

The Seductive and Subversive “Shack”

By Jan Markell 
 
 Many have asked me to comment on William P. Young’s ragingly popular book The Shack.  Is this work of fiction really Christian?  It is called by some as one of Christianity’s most influential books.  One prominent endorser says it will “leave you craving for God.” 
 

Yet people I respect highly, including Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary, calls it “undiluted heresy.” He maintains there is no way it can seriously address the issues of Christian faith.

Here is the scenario in brief. Remember, this fiction plot is going to transform lives!  A man by the name of “Mack” has a daughter murdered and he slips into a depression. He gets a message that he is supposed to meet God in the shack. Entering the shack, he is in the company of the Trinity, but now it gets weird and hard to believe anyone could be deceived by this piece of work.

 

In the shack he learns that God is “Papa” but is really an African-American female. Thankfully, Jesus is a Jewish man, but the Holy Spirit is another female figure of Asian descent. So much for Trinitarian theology!  So Christianity has been misconstrued and has been revised.  Talk about minimizing the Divine!

 

On page 110 Jesus says that He is perhaps not the way, truth, and life, but the BEST way to relate to the Father and Holy Spirit. Papa God, the African-American female, says she has many followers of many religions in different lands. This is not Orthodox Christianity, yet millions of Christian readers claim it is!  Discernment has taken a summer vacation or perhaps a permanent vacation.

 

Mack asks “Papa” God, the female, about God’s wrath. The answer is that she doesn’t punish people for sin; rather she wants to cure sin.  No mention of repentance, the shed blood, and all the things the new “seeker” environment wants to leave out in the church parking lot.

 

Former “New Ager” Warren Smith says, “The Shack is being described as a Christian novel and is currently ranked number one on the New York Times best-seller list for paperback fiction. Many believers are buying multiple copies and giving them to friends and family. The Shack reads as a true story but is obviously allegorical fiction. The book conveys postmodern spiritual ideas and teachings that challenge biblical Christianity – all in the name of ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ and the ‘Holy Spirit.’ Author William P. Young’s alternative presentation of traditional Christianity has both inspired and outraged his many readers. All the while his book continues to fly off the shelves of local bookstores.”

 

Smith, who has been on my radio program many times denouncing Oprah Winfrey’s deception, goes on to say, I was drawn into the ‘New Age Movement’ years ago by books and lectures containing parabolic stories that were not unlike The Shack. They felt spiritually uplifting as they tackled tough issues and talked about God’s love and forgiveness. They seemed to provide me with what I spiritually needed as they gave me much-needed hope and promise. Building on the credibility they achieved through their inspirational and emotive writings, my ‘New Age’ authors and teachers would then go on to tell me that God was in everyone and everything.

 

I discovered that author William P. Young does exactly the same thing in The Shack. He moves through his very engaging and emotional story to eventually present this same ‘New Age’ teaching that God is ‘in’ everything.”

As writer and researcher Berit Kjos concludes, “Yet countless pastors and church leaders are delighting in its message. By ignoring (or redefining) sin and guilt, they embrace an inclusive but counterfeit ‘Christianity’ that draws crowds but distorts the Bible. Discounting Satan as well, they weaken God’s warnings about deception. No wonder His armor for today’s spiritual war became an early victim of this spreading assault on truth.”

So The Shack opens in the context of tragedy. Four years have passed since the cruel murder of Missy, Mack’s precious six-year-old daughter. Enveloped in grief, he receives a strange invitation. “I’ve missed you,” it says. “I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together. Papa.” What could it mean?

Doubtful, but drawn to the meeting, Mack heads for the Oregon wilderness and finds the dilapidated old shack. “God” miraculously transforms it into a cozy cottage, and Mack meets his supposed maker.

No, it doesn’t get any stranger but sadly, it doesn’t get more popular with Christians who miss the point that The Shack is intended to bring about a new definition of the Christian faith. As Albert Mohler says, “This is totally seductive and subversive, but readers, even believers, don’t seem to mind.” You can listen to all of his comments at this link.

If you know of someone taken in by this, please pass this commentary on to them. You’ll be doing them an enormous favor. 

To learn more, visit Lighthouse Trails Research and the article The Shack: Father-goddess Rising.

I thank God for all of those who are speaking out today over outrageous issues like this one. I am reminded about the many false things promoted today written in 2 Timothy 3:16: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” This is a last days’ reference and if you don’t think we’re in them (the last days), I’ll sell you a beach vacation to Minnesota in January.

 

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Here is another article by Berit Kjos

Deceived by a counterfeit “Jesus” – The twisted “truths”…..

http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/shack.htm

Also by Mike Oppenheimer  – Shocked by the Shack

 

http://www.letusreason.org/bookR21.htm

I have often wondered how one gets to a mindset that entertains God as a female. Anyone who knows scripture and reads the Bible on a consistant basis knows that God is called the “Father”. No other possibility exists.

So where do the heresies come from?

The explosion of mysticism in our society is key and it is not confined to the general public. It is rampant in the church.

Take for instance Neal Donald Walsch. He claims to converse with God. The truth…he is deceived and deceiving others. His “god”, speaks of a new age gospel which is truly distorted from God’s word. There is no truth in him and his enlightened revelations. His experiences trump the truths found in the Bible, so he says.

As Walsch meditates, here is a product of what he has “received” taken from “Conversations with God.”

“If you think God looks only one way or sounds only one way or is only one way, you’re going to look right past Me night and day. You’ll spend your whole life looking for God and not finding Her.”

The problem with the statement is vast. To know God you have to study His word. He is the only way.

No one can find reconciliation with God and salvation from sin except through union with Jesus Christ.

Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

There is no place in scripture that refers to God in the female sense. Heresies are often traced back through man’s secret revelations obtained by occult mystical spirit guides that are quickly emerging.

So on to the article for today from David Cloud.

THE EMERGING CHURCH’S FEMALE GOD (Friday Church News Notes, June 12, 2009, http://www.wayoflife.org

– Phyllis Tickle, an Episcopalian lay “Eucharistic minister and lector” and a Senior Fellow at Cathedral College at the liberal Washington National Cathedral, is an influential voice in the emerging church and the contemplative prayer movement. Tickle promotes non-verbal contemplative praying. She says, “The whole business of entering prayer WITHOUT THE VEHICLE OF WORDS is very important, for it allows the spirit to flow freely with the spirit of God, and does not have to articulate what is happening until one comes out from prayer” (“Praying in Color: A Conversation with friends and authors Sybil MacBeth and Phyllis Tickle,”

 Wordless meditation is not biblical prayer; it is a pagan practice that is a recipe for demonic deception. Those who practice it are invariably led into heresies. It should not be surprising, then, that Tickle believes in a female God and calls the Holy Spirit “he or she or it.” She teaches that by partaking of the Lord’s Supper the believer is feeding God and reinvigorating the Holy Spirit, whatever that means.

Speaking at Rob Bell’s Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she said: “God is both male and female. God is both father and mother. … There is more than one thing under the name of God, and it is both male and female. … As we are about to do that [take the Lord’s supper], let us remember what we are doing. We not only celebrate that death and that promise of return, but we are feeding by eating God–which is what we are doing here–by eating the body and blood of our God, we are feeding the God within us. For as we take those elements the Spirit also feeds within us and is reinvigorated as he or she or it is by our faith” (Tickle, “A Treasure We Don’t Understand,” May 3, 2009).

Phyllis Tickle, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and that crowd are worshipping idols. The Shack, a popular book in emerging circles, also depicts God as a woman.

“It is a satanic trap denying essential beliefs taught by Jesus, the Apostles and Bible believers throughout the Church Age. It is also exactly what Young believed in 2004. It is what he believed when he wrote The Shack and whether he believes it today or not you can be fairly certain that with millions of dollars at risk he is not about to re-edit The Shack to try and make theological corrections – at least without an act of God anyway. “

From Eric Barger

TAKE A STAND! MINISTRIES

THE DEATH OF DISCERNMENT

Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? – I Kings 3:9

I like Paul Young. Having heard him speak about his life and book three times recently in Portland, Oregon I found him to be passionate, witty and funny. While at Young’s alma mater (Warner Pacific College), I was able to spend a few moments with him privately during which time I asked him to personally respond to several criticisms and concerns that I and other Christians are raising about the theological contents of his book. I wish I could report that he allayed my apprehensions but instead, I went away convinced that The Shack is more than just a little offbeat but is, as Dr. Albert Mohler pegged it on his radio program, “blatant heresy.”

Yes, The Shack is indeed a novel. And many will wonder what could be wrong since it is identified as a Christian book and authored by a man who claims to be a Christian? After all, The Shack is heralded by many seasoned Christian leaders. Pastors are preaching from it. Sunday School classes and small groups are reading and discussing it. Many Christians are buying it by the case to give as gifts. Some Christian Schools are even sanctioning and encouraging the reading of the book. But this is not just a benign story of man overcoming life’s challenges. Make no mistake, the book presents doctrine throughout its clever and gripping story – something the author clearly intended to do. Therein lays the problem.

Trading the Kingdom for a Shack

For those unaware of the book’s storyline, here is the description of The Shack from Amazon.com.

“Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.

Four years later in the midst of what he refers to as ‘The Great Sadness,’ Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant ‘The Shack’ wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”

The Shack is a publishing phenomenon but you may ask “is it really any big deal?” This self-published book has sold 4+ million copies since its May 2007 release. It debuted at #1 on The New York Times Bestseller List and has remained there for the past 25 weeks as of this writing. It has also held the #1 position on many other bestseller lists including Amazon.com, USA Today’s Top 150 Books, Barnes and Noble, Borders Books and is the #1 book of 2008 at ChristianBook.com. According to the author, the book is currently selling 87,000 copies a week in the secular book stores alone. All of this has allowed Young and his two publishing partners the luxury of holding out for just the right major motion picture deal as well. But there is a reason why several dozen publishers turned this book down. Here are a few of my observations – and objections.

The Shack’s Trinity

Several chapters into the book, a most unorthodox version of the Holy Trinity is revealed. Young’s tale diminishes Almighty God from His rightful position as a supernatural being. Instead of speaking by His Word and His Spirit, He is morphed into a feminine figure reduced to passing notes to those whom she wants to communicate with.

God is portrayed in The Shack as a large African-American woman named “Papa” also called “Elousia.” (Talk about gender confusion!) Jesus is a Jewish carpenter complete with a tool belt and the Holy Spirit is depicted as an Asian woman named after “Sarayu,” a mystical river in ancient India related to the Hindu deity Kali. Clearly, there is a trinity in The Shack but it is absolutely not the Trinity.

From my first glance at The Shack, it struck me that the idea of God in human form – even in the pages of a novel is more than just theologically questionable. It is forbidden by several passages from both the Old and New Testaments not the least of which is the Second Commandment (Exodus 20: 4-5). The Apostle Paul proclaims, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man…” (Romans 1:21-23a)

Of The Shack, Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint contributing editor Travis McSherley wrote, “This is the root of the book’s problems. In the course of the biblical narrative, God the Father never reveals Himself in the form of a human. In fact, Christ rebukes His disciples for even suggesting it. (See John 14:5-10)

The Shack would not dispute these limits of understanding – it dedicates many pages to chastising believers who cling too tightly to traditional views of God’s nature. Yet, instead of expanding our thinking and our appreciation for divine mysteries, the book shrinks them quite dramatically by creating a deity so clearly influenced by human expectations of what God should be.”

Sin, Hell, Judgment, Salvation, the Incarnation,
Hierarchy and Authority in the Godhead, a Polynesian
Goddess and other assorted problems

Here are just a few of the many issues raised by The Shack:

– Young’s Papa character insists that sin is its own punishment. This distorts the reality of Hell and discounts eternal retribution for sin.

– Readers of The Shack are told that Jesus is only the best way to know God – not the only way.

The Shack teaches that when Jesus went to the cross, God Almighty died there too. This is a heresy known as patripassianism. (In our private conversation I challenged Young about this but to no avail.)

The Shack states that there is no structure or hierarchy within the Trinity and that the three personages of God are all equally subject to one another and to humans as well. I challenge fans of The Shack to open a Bible and try to make that square with the Scriptures!

– Young’s “Papa” character is suspiciously akin to a Polynesian/Hawaiian goddess who also happens to be known as “Papa.” When I quizzed Young on this he denied any knowledge of such a deity. However, the similarities with The Shack’s God character are stunning.

Now lets move on to perhaps the biggest concern.

Is Paul Young still a “Reconciling Universalist?”

I have noticed that in nearly every electronic or print media interview Paul Young volunteers that he is “not a universalist” and does so without ever being asked about it. But is he merely parsing words? Young is obviously nervous about the Christian world becoming convinced of any such thing. That said, it strikes me as odd that on a web page intended to answer critics of the book one of his editors, Wayne Jacobson, acknowledges that Young had previously embraced a form of universalism known as “universal reconciliation” and that this belief indeed appeared throughout the original manuscript. (Jacobson refers to it as “ultimate reconciliation” to avoid using the dreaded “U” word, universalism.)

Jacobson’s website states:

Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?

 

 

“It does not. While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn’t embrace UR as sound teaching and didn’t want to be involved in a project that promoted it. In my view UR is an extrapolation of Scripture to humanistic conclusions about our Father’s love that has to be forced on the biblical text.

Since I don’t believe in UR and wholeheartedly embrace the finished product, I think those who see UR here, either positively or negatively are reading into the text. To me that was the beauty of the collaboration.”  (See: http://www.windblownmedia.com/shackresponse.html)

It is obvious that Young, Jacobson, and partner Brad Cummings all have a great deal to lose by not doing their best to debunk the book’s critics. They are very aware of where Young was theologically when he wrote the book. And that is the point isn’t it? It is the contents of the book (and presumably that of the forthcoming motion picture) that is being criticized here.

In the very beginning, I began to smell universalism in The Shack by simply reading it. These thoughts were more than confirmed through a very scholarly paper critiquing The Shack written by Dr. James De Young. Other leaders who have been critical of the book including Dr. Michael Youssef, Janet Parshall, Jan Markell and Dr. Larry DeBruyn have quoted Dr. De Young’s research – and for good reason.

Dr. De Young is a conservative professor at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is fluent in Greek and Hebrew and also teaches an elective on the early Church Fathers. He is well equipped to expose universalism from both biblical and historical perspectives. Perhaps equally important to our discussion here, is the fact that for several years both Dr. De Young and Paul Young were members of a theological discussion group or “think tank” known as the M3 Forum. In response to the bountiful amount of universalistic ideas found in The Shack, Dr. De Young has published a well-documented 39 page paper which can be accessed at: http://theshackreview.com. Once on the website you will also find several shorter documents and a discussion forum with remarks from readers, many of which defend The Shack. These comments serve to illustrate the tremendous confusion and lack of biblically thinking we see abounding inside the Christian community today.

 

 

After having Young tell me face to face that he was not a universalist, I asked him about Dr. De Young’s paper. He bristled at me and made several accusations about De Young which I now understand to be unfounded. Since the meeting with Paul Young, I had the opportunity to meet personally with Dr. De Young for several hours. In our meeting he shared another yet-to-be-released paper with me which he has written exposing Paul Young’s very bold defense of universal reconciliation. I can best describe the information in it as shocking. In fact, in the Spring of 2004, Paul gave one of the most complete defenses of universal reconciliation imaginable and reiterated this position on at least two occasions – the latest being in May-June 2007 – after writing The Shack.

 

 

Having had no previous indication that a staunch believer was in their midst, Paul Young’s revelations heralding universal reconciliation came as a complete blind-side to the M3 Forum members. After the group contested Young’s ideas, Dr. De Young gave a lengthy rebuttal to all of Paul’s points, branding Young’s position as heretical, citing a church council decision from the 6th century. After this event in 2004, Paul Young ceased participating in the M3 Forum.

 

 

In reflecting on my personal conversation with Young at Warner Pacific in October 2008, I wish I had asked specifically “Are you now or have you ever been an advocate of universal reconciliation?” (Note that classical universalists believe that all religions lead to the same place where as those who hold to universal reconciliation believe that all men <read that “ALL”> are already saved because of Jesus’ work on the cross.) This position purports that there is no penalty for sin, no literal hell and no need to accept Christ and repent of one’s sins. It dramatically undermines the work of the Church, evangelism and the core teachings of the New Testament. It is a satanic trap denying essential beliefs taught by Jesus, the Apostles and Bible believers throughout the Church Age. It is also exactly what Young believed in 2004. It is what he believed when he wrote The Shack and whether he believes it today or not you can be fairly certain that with millions of dollars at risk he is not about to re-edit The Shack to try and make theological corrections – at least without an act of God anyway. Again, it is not how skillfully Young may craft his words in denial of being a universalist or even what he may actually believe today that is the real question. It is the theological contents of The Shack that orthodox Christian critics are concerned with. Besides, universalism is but one of the many glaring unbiblical aspects of the book.In reflecting on my personal conversation with Young at Warner Pacific in October 2008, I wish I had asked specifically “Are you now or have you ever been an advocate of universal reconciliation?” (Note that classical universalists believe that all religions lead to the same place where as those who hold to universal reconciliation believe that all men <read that “ALL”> are already saved because of Jesus’ work on the cross.) This position purports that there is no penalty for sin, no literal hell and no need to accept Christ and repent of one’s sins. It dramatically undermines the work of the Church, evangelism and the core teachings of the New Testament. It is a satanic trap denying essential beliefs taught by Jesus, the Apostles and Bible believers throughout the Church Age. It is also exactly what Young believed in 2004. It is what he believed when he wrote The Shack and whether he believes it today or not you can be fairly certain that with millions of dollars at risk he is not about to re-edit The Shack to try and make theological corrections – at least without an act of God anyway. Again, it is not how skillfully Young may craft his words in denial of being a universalist or even what he may actually believe today that is the real question. It is the theological contents of The Shack that orthodox Christian critics are concerned with. Besides, universalism is but one of the many glaring unbiblical aspects of the book.

 

 

The REAL Problem

The bottom line concerning books, movies, television shows and other input like The Shack is that if our emotions rule and we fail to use scriptural discernment we can be taken captive by “evil imaginations”

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit… – Colossians 2:8

Knowing that the author actually portrayed himself as both Shack characters Missy (the violated-then-murdered six year-old) and her father, Mack (the one searching for God in a painful world) one’s heart surely breaks for what Paul Young has evidently endured in his lifetime. However, if readers fail to think biblically and allow only The Shack’s emotional storyline to grip them, they chance becoming prey to the very thing that I believe has duped many Christians into accepting and even endorsing the book. Empathy towards the author or his characters or becoming enamored by what many testify to as the positive real-world outcome of reading the book cannot trump one’s biblical analysis of the work. Young plays upon emotions constantly in the book and also as he lectures publically equating that because hearts are allegedly being touched that God must be giving approval to The Shack. When speaking to me personally, he emphasized the concept that results are all that matters. I responded that just because people testify that the book is somehow helping them, this does not necessarily mean that it is actually ordained by God. After all, God can use many means to reach people. God regularly uses disasters, accidents and tragedy of all sorts – even unorthodox or cultic books for His glory. This however doesn’t mean that God somehow deems heresy or terrible events as somehow good or positive in and of themselves.

The Nicest Heretic

Paul Young is perhaps the nicest heretic I have ever dealt with personally. That may sound flip but it’s true. He is a very nice guy who is presenting and defending some very dangerous even seductive heresies. As one who wears his emotions on his sleeve and who found himself being swayed by the heartbreaking storyline of The Shack, I must again caution. To allow a gripping story to cloud our ability to detect even the subtle theological errors strewn throughout its pages is exactly what Dr. Michael Youssef meant when he described The Shack as “a deep ditch that’s covered by beautiful landscape.”

The disturbing truth is that books like The Shack would never become a bestseller in the Christian world if Christians were on guard, thinking biblically and were willing to follow the Scriptures! In these dangerous days it is paramount that we actively develop “eyes of understanding” which constantly check everything by the Word of God – especially the stuff that claims to be of God. The Scripture implores us to prove or test all things (I Thessalonians 5:21-22) and this test can only be accomplished one way – by knowing the Bible and then utilizing what we know from it. Every Believer needs to be alert to the reality that in these last days deception is going to come at a rate never fathomed before. Mark my words, as time passes Satan is preparing to use unheralded and brazen trickery that will look and sound very spiritual, even Christian. The only hope we have to successfully avoid the traps is by prayerful, dedicated and aggressive study of God’s unchangeable Word. Otherwise, sooner or later we’ll find ourselves amongst a growing number from previously trustworthy evangelical circles that are heading straight for apostasy.

Jesus warned us in Matthew 24 that if the end days were not shortened by His return even the very elect would be deceived. Can we not assume that many who currently hang around the Church – and even some who preach or write books now popularly accepted in Christian circles – may in reality never endure to the end and are thus actually wolves in sheep’s clothing?

 

Source:

http://www.ericbarger.com/emailers/2008/update11-22-2008.htm

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