You’ve probably heard of (or possibly have read) The Shack, a best-selling novel which came out in 2007, written by Canadian author William P. Young. The book was published amidst a cloud of controversy, and the arguments continue because the movie (see the trailer) will be released early next year (March 3, 2017).
Many “main-stream Christian” groups are promoting The Shack as a wonderful and fresh portrayal of God’s nature and character.
Does The Shack accurately portray God? Is it helpful in understanding His character, purpose, and plan for us?
Belinda Elliott defends the book on the Christian Broadcasting Network:
“I just couldn’t find much in the book that I would consider heretical…
“The author portrays the Trinity in a unique way. I understand that some readers will be uncomfortable with this portrayal, especially with God The Father as an African American woman and the Holy Spirit as a mysterious Asian woman named Sarayu. This depiction is one of the things that many critics have deemed heretical. Some have gone as far as to cite these two characters as the promotion of ‘goddess worship’ or a feminist God. But I found these to be not only interesting artistic choices, but actually enlightening in a spiritual sense as well.”
James B. De Young, ThD, wrote a challenge to The Shack entitled Burning Down “The Shack.” He claims The Shack is greatly deceptive and exposes William P. Young’s worldview as a universalist:
“I have known the author of The Shack, Paul Young, for more than a dozen years. In 2004, Paul Young wrote a lengthy document in which he rejected his evangelical faith and embraced universalism. I expose these in my book. He said then:
- that evangelical faith and its teaching about judgment makes God “grossly unjust”;
- that “Jesus is a million times more vicious and vindictive than Pharaoh, Nero, or Hitler put together”;
- that Jesus Christ is “not the Savior from sins”;
- that Jesus died “a failure and in vain and never saved anyone”;
- thus Jesus “is not even a good man but a liar, a rogue, and a deceiving rascal”;
- that “Calvary is a farce, a travesty, and a sham.”
“Young began work on a novel proclaiming universalism for his children. Then three years later Young rewrote the fiction and published it as The Shack, in part his autobiography. Since its publication I have sought to expose the aberrant theology on a web site, in various articles, and most recently, in my book Burning Down “The Shack” by WND Books. In my introduction I cite the many statements that Young wrote in 2004 and compare them with the claims made in his novel, The Shack. The parallels with 2004 are several:
- “God puts himself on our human level and limits himself”;
- “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human”;
- “Although Jesus is fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything”;
- “God cannot act apart from love”;
- “I don’t need to punish people for sin”;
- The Father and Jesus were crucified together;
- “God cannot send any of his children to an eternity of hell just because they sin against him”;
- “mercy triumphs over justice because of love”;
- Jesus is “a path of reconciliation”;
“These are just some of the distortions of Christian truth that Young puts into the mouth of his characters speaking as the Trinity.”
I cringe and shudder whenever a human being (man or woman) attempts to play God in any way. The only human who has a right to show us God in the flesh is Jesus Christ, and He has already done it! ONLY GOD has a right to tell us who He is and what He is like, and He has told us in many passages.
Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34.5-7)
In the same context, God both extends mercy to His people and judges those who persist in sin. He does not universally save everyone despite what we do, as The Shack teaches. On the contrary, He judges, and Jesus assured unbelievers of an eternal punishment (Matt. 24.45-51; 25.30, 46). John wrote in his Apocalypse about the final judgment, a lake of fire (Rev. 20.11-15). The Bible gives no room for universalism but instead commands all men everywhere to repent because of the coming judgment (Acts 17.30-31).
The Bible depicts God as masculine. God is a Father, a Husband, a Shepherd, a King. Our post-modern, feminist world cannot accept a God depicted as a male, but neither can it accept the Bible’s clearly-defined roles between the sexes. They would have an androgynous god, but the God of the Bible does not speak of Himself that way. We do not pray to our mother, but to our Father. The church is not Jesus’ husband, but His bride. Any confusion on this aspect of God’s character IS blatant and terrible heresy, and woe to those who cannot see it and teach otherwise!
Be careful! Don’t accept man’s images of God, which are only idols; only settle for what God says about Himself. Once we start attempting to find “fresh” ways of communicating who God is, we have stepped outside of our rights. He created us; we have no right to create Him or attempt to modify / explain His character outside of what He has already given!
If you love the divine image from The Shack, my friend, you love a man-made and impotent god. She is most certainly not the real deal.