Controversy sells books. That is certainly the case for William P. Young’s The Shack Novels are by definition fiction are stories invented in the mind of the author sometimes for entertainment, sometimes to teach something the author believes is interesting or important, occasionally for both. Tim Challies in his lengthy review calls The Shack by William P. Young “theological fiction.” That is certainly an apt description and coming from the position of someone concerned about sound doctrine and theological accuracy he writes:
Because of the sheer volume of error and because of the importance of the doctrines reinvented by the author, I would encourage Christians, and especially young Christians, to decline this invitation to meet with God in The Shack. It is not worth reading for the story and certainly not worth reading for the theology.
On the other side, Emerging blogger Michael Spencer started his review on his Internetmonk website with:
Tim Challies and I couldn’t disagree more on this review. He really disliked the book, and I – and my family so far- have been deeply moved and helped by it. That’s the way it goes.
These two reviews can both be the “poster child” for their respective ideologies a point not missed by Spencer:
The Shack is a book that can generate much conversation among anyone with thoughts of God and sure controversy among the rigidly certain.
The “rigidly certain” of course are those who sift teachings and claims through the grid of the already revealed Word of God rather than how something makes us feel. Challies warns against reading the book due to the “sheer volume of error and because of the importance of the doctrines reinvented by the author,” and Spencer admits this is the case for those who are concerned about such things:
Those inclined to look for emerging church error or general heresy won’t be disappointed, and I am sure Young enjoys some of this theological and traditional mischief.
But rather than warn his readers what the errors, general heresy and theological mischief might be Spencer advises:
I’d recommend putting up the doctrine gun for the duration of this book, and letting the story entertain and explore. This isn’t a confession or a catechism, but it is something a lot of people will read and absorb.
I am certainly not opposed to controversy, in fact, a friend once pointed out that in apologetics and discernment controversy is not a job hazard but a job description. With that in mind my next questions will be controversial. Would the Internet Monk be consistent with the attitude he conveys in his recommendation if he took a youth group or his children on a camping trip? “Sure there are dangerous things in these woods but the trip is just for enjoyment so we wouldn’t really want to cause anyone to worry so we won’t tell them what the dangers are but just let them go out and discover on their own.” After little Johnny or Suzie are discovered lying in the woods dead or dying after having “absorbed” a poisonous berry while being entertained and exploring would the response be “oops”?
At the urging of a good friend I ordered a copy of The Shack. Spencer is right, it is generating interest and discussion. Some love it and buy cases of it to give to friends. Others, such as Tim Challies, have stated that it is not worth reading for the story or theology. He addresses some of the doctrinal issues in his lengthy review. Many are simply not sure what to think.
I was reading it while I was at a speaking engagement and a few asked my opinion of the book and I let them know that I thought the author, William P. Young, seems to be trying to do a good thing in attempting to help readers grapple with deeper theological questions. He does spend time developing the main character and giving the reader points of connection and a reason to care. The pervading question of the book is why does God allow evil? It is relatively easy, if someone has experienced a deep personal loss or can imagine losing someone or something very close to them to identify with the main character grappling with the question of how the all good, all loving, all powerful God allows evil to wreak havoc in the lives of humans that God supposedly loves? That is perhaps the biggest draw of the book and a question most if not all of us have asked or will ask at some point in our lives. We even find this question in Scripture. For example, Psalm 43:
Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation;
O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
David, the man after God’s heart, struggled with this issue just like the rest of us, asked himself why his soul was in despair (v:5) and reminded himself to trust in God (v:5).
Although Young is attempting to answer difficult questions in this work, novels by their very nature take creative liberties in the process of telling a story that can lead to false and dangerous theology. The story keys in on emotions and as Tim Challies points out, because of these emotional connections the reader tends to drop critical thinking skills and discernment practices, something Michael Spencer advocates. Adopting and embracing false teaching is an inherent danger of the book. However, unlike Tim Challies I don’t advocate not reading the book and unlike Spencer I don’t advocate venturing in to dangerous territory blinded to the hazards in order to be more experiential. Instead I recommend reading Tim Challies’ book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and practicing the principles he outlines while reading this book.
Secondly, while discussing it with the questioners, I pointed out some of the issues. For example, there appears to be a bit of pantheism, or the idea that everything is god, in the book. On page 112, God tells the main character, Mack (MacKenzie):
God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around and through all things – ultimately emerging as the real – and any appearances that mask that reality will fall away.
There also appears to be some “Open Theism” or the idea that God chooses to not be all knowing, on page 106:
We have limited ourselves out of respect for you. We are not bringing to mind, as it were, our knowledge of your children. As we listen to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes.”
Although perhaps well intentioned this does damage to our understanding of the nature of God. For example, my grandson Zach just began playing Teeball. In first practice he hit not one but two homeruns. My being excited with him afterwards and enjoying his telling of this monumental event in his life did not require that I banish the knowledge of the event from my mind in order to do so.
The story works so hard at emphasizing God’s relationship to His creation that it comes across as universalist and all humans have to do is walk in the way of Jesus within their religious traditions to be embraced by God. It does so by laying out something that is true but has no bearing on the question of salvation. Mack asks Jesus a question on page 182:
”Is that what it means to be a Christian?” Is sounded kind of stupid as Mack said it, but it was how he was trying to sum everything up in his mind.
“Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian”
Since a Christian is one who has accepted His claims of being fully God, fully human and that He would raise Himself from the dead and did and is therefore a disciple or follower of Christ it is true that Christ was not and is not a Christian. Then the Jesus of the Shack goes on to say:
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 followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christians, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”
Young seems to realize where this conversation leaves him and has Jesus saying that all roads don’t lead to Him and leaves the reader scratching their head. The Jesus of the Shack has no desire to make people Christians (followers/disciples) but although all roads don’t lead to Him He has followers in all religions.
Michael Spencer was correct:
Those inclined to look for emerging church error or general heresy won’t be disappointed
The Shack is indeed shaky. However, hiding from it or trying to censor it won’t diminish and in fact may add to its impact. Instead we can use it as a starting point to correct false teaching and answer difficult questions. But then that requires being a prepared workman that doesn’t need to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). Effort will be required and caring enough about others to move out of our comfort zones.
I’m a Christian (UM–Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Hands–or so we say). I always get so confused whenever a fellow (or fellow) Christians start telling people to not read a book because it is ‘dangerous’. In fact, I’ve read many a book after being told just such things (Animal Vegetable Miracle, A New Earth, The Shack…and what was that fiction work about the Holy Grail–read that to). I’m concerned whenever a Christian tells anyone not to read. I don’t believe that faith requires me to be stupid, or ignorant of what others are out there saying about God, about Christianity, and about a whole host of other things. God does not require my ignorant complicity. Faith is not the same as ignorance. While I don’t for an instant mistake The Shack or any other idea book about God as the word of God, I also do not for an instant forget to look for the important messages contained in such books. The Shack contains a message for Christians that frankly, I think it’s time we listen to. In one commentary on this book I read, “The Shack makes it seem like salvation is for everyone and it isn’t.”–Hello…Check your word again…it actually is for all of us.
I don’t think we need to use it as a place to point at false teaching. I think we need to use any book like the shack to take a second look at what is inherently wrong with many Christians. Unforgiveness and judgement are two of our deepest rooted problems. The Bible said that, and this author does as well…in as loud a way as possible.
Someone asked me recently (the pastor’s wife at my church who also wanted to read this book)if I thought it was the word of God, or sacriledge. I said quite simply, “Neither. It is a book about God with some very thought provoking ideas.”
Again, I don’t believe my God requires that I stay fearful and ignorant. I also don’t think I serve a God so small that he requires I never question or step out of my safe ‘circle of Christianity.’ I frankly would find this kind of God (a God who required such things of me) too small to inspire the sort of faith that I have.
“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; it’s my joy to cure it”
(See II Thess 1, II Peter 2:9 just for starters) God, being just, demands a penalty for sin. And he states quite often in scripture that he DOES intend/purpose to punish it. That is why, being love, he sent Christ to take on the penalty for sin at the cross for all those who would believe in the son. (Bringing up a second point the Shack diverges from the gospel on – the only way to the Father is through the son)
I would not say do not read the book – I would say, we need to be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves. This book is filled with doctrinal error. And it is not all right to say ‘well it was moving’ or ‘it provokes discussion’ or ‘it is not meant to be a theological book’.
Scripture is filled with warnings. Rom 16:17-18. II Cor 11:3-4. II Peter 2:1. Gal 1:6-10. (And so on and so forth)
II Timothy 4:3-4
For the season will come when they will not be tolerating sound teaching; but their ears being tickled, they will accumulating for themselves teachers according to their own desires, and indeed from the truth will be turning away their ears and will turn aside to myths.
The gospel message is truly simple, that Jesus is the only way to the Father, and is both redeemer and Lord. Yet the Shack distorts and denies the gospel message, and there is no allowing for that.
It would be better for it to be all lies, than a mixture of good and evil! Did Jesus allow some error, if it had a good intention? Or some sin, if it made people feel good? Does not a ‘little yeast ferment the whole of the kneading’? (Gal 5:9)
I would challenge any Christian who believes in the innerancy of scripture to excercise discernment when reading this book. Considering it has become such a large part of popular culture, it may be wise to read it. Yet overlooking doctrinal error for the sake of an ‘interesting book’ is perhaps why our church has become so devided and full of sects and divisions today: we have departed from the clarity of the gospel and traded it in for more ‘pleasant’ tales.
Remember that theology and doctrine are man-made, not Christ-made. Christ was all about relationship to the core. There is no where in the entire New Testament where Jesus endorses “theology” and “doctrine”, but only relationship.
Your comment makes me wonder if you are familiar with Scripture. “Doctrine” and “teaching” are synonyms and in Matthew 28:19-20 He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo,I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In Matthew 7:15 and following He told His listeners to “beware of false prophets” which required that their teaching or doctrine be tested. You may be thinking more of the Beatles song “All you need is love” than the words of Jesus.
I don’t understand why this book is so controversial?
I’m a new believer and through this book I’ve come to know Christ.
What is so fundamentally wrong with this book- specifically?
I read The Shack, and I believe it must not only be rejected, but opposed, if we are to obey the command in the book of Jude to “contend earnestly for the faith.” It is an example of man-centered, man-pleasing doctrine which is foreign to Scripture. While mature believers should be familiar with false teaching, such a book is potentially very dangerous for a new believer or unbeliever, in that it could plant seeds of false doctrine which could take root and supplant the Truth.
Do not be deceived. Any mature believer exercising genuine spiritual discernment immediately recognizes The Shack as nothing more (or less) than another attempt to indoctrinate people into the false belief systems of New Ageism and Universalism (“All religions are equal and all paths/dieties lead to God”). The Word itself is in disagreement with anyone (including the author of this piece) who would advocate Christians reading The Shack–whether one is a new or mature believer. However, I do commend those who innocently read it and are now sounding the alarm to prevent others from falling into fatal error. I also understand that some leaders and “watchmen” of our faith are being led to study it in response to its increasing popularity among professors of Christianity, so that they may wisely speak against its deception.
“The simpleton believes every word he hears, but the prudent man looks and considers well where he is going. A wise man suspects danger and cautiously avoids evil, but the fool bears himself insolently and is [presumptuously] confident.” — Proverbs 14:14 (Amplified Bible)
Beyond those exceptions, it defies common sense to suggest that believers first read a book about spiritual discernment to adequately “arm ourselves” and then feel comfortable reading a novel already known to be laden with SERIOUS spiritual error. This is akin to advocating that Christians seek God’s perspective on sex from scripture and then (with those truths firmly in mind) feel free to watch pornography. Christians are strongly admonished in the Word to completely AVOID known evil and to utterly REJECT doctrines of demons–not tolerate them as a “harmless” source of entertainment or as a means of grappling with our emotions. And certainly, we should not try to glean bits of truth from what is patently riddled with error. We must not foolishly drink poison in the hopes of receiving some medicinal benefits. Wisdom also does not walk dangerously close to the edge of a steep cliff believing itself adequately prepared not to fall over. Wisdom defies foolishness by remaining at a safe distance.
“And so, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or approve of Him or consider Him worth the knowing, God gave them over to a base and condemned mind to do things not proper or decent but loathsome” –Romans 1:28 (Amplified Bible)
It is always the TRUTH that sets us free from spiritual and emotional confusion or bondage while God’s grace brings healing. The only Sources of spiritual Truth and Grace are Jesus Himself (through His Holy Spirit) and His Word—not a man’s imagination. Any spiritual truth that does not originate from these divine Sources are either of man’s imagination or of demonic origin…or both. Mr. Young should have humbly sought God for his answers and for the needed grace to process his grief rather than tapping into demonic inspiration. Scripture reveals that God will indeed give us over to a reprobate mind if we pridefully and rebelliously resist genuinely knowing Him or submitting to the Truth of His Word.
“Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching. For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, and will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions.” –2 Timothy 4:2-4 (Amplified Bible)
Being “blameless and harmless” should in no way be confused with being tolerant of sin or with compromising Truth for the sake of maintaining peace or sparing someone’s offended feelings. Eternal salvation and eternal damnation are too important to justify such spiritual laxity. If we promote or accept what is grievous to the Holy Spirit, we are neither blameless nor harmless before God. It is time Christians begin to uncompromisingly fulfill our biblical duty to earnestly contend for the preservation of genuine Christian faith rather than attempting to justify the supposed good intentions of those who would either ignorantly or purposely lead many away from the foundational truths of God’s Word through their demonically inspired imaginations.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? “– Matthew 7:13-16
We must understand that biblical Christianity and God’s Truth are under severe attack by false teachers and false professors of Christian faith who pridefully refuse to submit to the true knowledge God as He has already revealed Himself in His Word. Instead they begin to worship a more acceptable and easily manipulated false god of their own understanding. Rather than submitting to God’s divine revelation of Truth as contained in His Word, they begin creating their own truth. This is the gross sin behind “Universalism” and the Emergent Church doctrines. This is part of the great falling away Jesus predicted would occur before His return.
“I write this to you with reference to those who would deceive you [seduce and lead you astray]. But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you received from Him abides [permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you [to do]. And now, little children, abide (live, remain permanently) in Him, so that when He is made visible, we may have and enjoy perfect confidence (boldness, assurance) and not be ashamed and shrink from Him at His coming.” –1 John 2:26-28 (Amplified Bible)
The very reason why this book is so dangerous is best revealed in Stephanie’s assertion (comment #5) that as a new “believer” she has “come to know Christ” through The Shack and “could see nothing fundamentally wrong” after reading the book in its entirety. An immature believer (or an unguarded mature believer) may sometimes be led astray by the deceptive cunning and trickery of men, but EVERY believer has the anointing from the Holy Spirit which alerts us to error that completely refutes the FOUNDATIONAL TRUTHS that we must first understand and believe as part of a genuine conversion experience. We should need no man to tell us that we are receiving such gross error. If we have not understood certain foundational truths from the beginning, then what was our initial “faith” based on?
“Beloved, my whole concern was to write to you in regard to our common salvation. [But] I found it necessary and was impelled to write you and urgently appeal to and exhort [you] to contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints [the faith which is that sum of Christian belief which was delivered verbally to the holy people of God]. For certain men have crept in stealthily [gaining entrance secretly by a side door]. Their doom was predicted long ago, ungodly (impious, profane) persons who pervert the grace (the spiritual blessing and favor) of our God into lawlessness and wantonness and immorality, and disown and deny our sole Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Now I want to remind you, though you were fully informed once for all, that though the Lord [at one time] delivered a people out of the land of Egypt, He subsequently destroyed those [of them] who did not believe [who refused to adhere to, trust in, and rely upon Him].” — Jude 1:3-5 (Amplified Bible)
If we see “nothing fundamentally wrong” with the assertion by the “god” of The Shack that there is NO SIN nor right or wrong, then why did we need a Savior to lay down His life for our sins? We need not confess or repent of sins and yield our lives to Christ if no sin exists. Why are we warned that those who truly love God will follow His commandments and only those who do God’s will shall enter His Kingdom? If we see “nothing fundamentally wrong” with the The Shack’s god who says he has submitted himself to mankind, then why does Jesus say we must deny ourselves and wholly submit ourselves to His Lordship or we are not worthy of Him? We do not belong to a fun loving, giggling, overly permissive god who negates the reality of sin. We belong to a just and HOLY God Who requires obedience, Who DESPISES sin and Who will not allow unrepentant sinners to enter into relationship with Him.
“[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.” — Philippians 3:10-12 (Amplified Bible)
We will never “come to know” the real and living Lord Jesus Christ except by the truthful revelations of Himself found in God’s Word, through our developing maturity OVER TIME as He intimately reveals Himself to us through various life experiences, and through others we encounter who demonstrate His genuine character, by grace. It is a pointless and dangerous practice to attempt to know Him through any other methods—such as fictional novels. Simply because someone has published a book does not mean that they have spiritual insight into Who God is or how He thinks! Those insights are made readily available to us in the Bible.
“Let them alone and disregard them; they are blind guides and teachers. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a ditch.” –Matthew 15:10-15 (Amplified Bible)
It is a foolhardy assumption for anyone—particularly an admittedly new believer– to think they can come to know Jesus through the New Age or post modern musings of those currently enslaved to their own imaginations. Stephanie, I implore you to re-examine your belief system to determine if you are truly “in the faith”. Do so through prayer with daily personal study of the Bible (start with the gospels) and by being exposed to sound BIBLICAL teaching under genuine Christian pastors and mature Bible teachers. Are you aware that we will even be accountable for how we spent our time when we stand before Jesus? The time you wasted reading The Shack could have best been spent edifying yourself spiritually by reading God’s Word. The most dangerous position for new believers to find themselves in is apart from the covering of a local BIBLE TEACHING Church and not regularly studying God’s Word. Such are most susceptible to falling into gross deception.
“I am surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ (the Messiah) [and that you are transferring your allegiance] to a different [even an opposition] gospel. Not that there is [or could be] any other [genuine Gospel], but there are [obviously] some who are troubling and disturbing and bewildering you [with a different kind of teaching which they offer as a gospel] and want to pervert and distort the Gospel of Christ (the Messiah) [into something which it absolutely is not]. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to and different from that which we preached to you, let him be accursed (anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment)! As we said before, so I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel different from or contrary to that which you received [from us], let him be accursed (anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment)! Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ (the Messiah).” — Galatians 1:6-10 (Amplified Bible)
We must all take serious heed of the biblical revelation that only those who “abide in Christ” and “CONTINUE in the faith” will be saved from God’s impending wrath once Jesus returns to gather His true believers and to judge the world. We cannot make up a Jesus of our own understanding, agree with our false imaginations and then misplace our faith onto this imaginary christ—no matter how “loving”, tolerant and inclusive he seems! I don’t need an easily relatable Savior and Lord; I need a REAL one! The “Universal Christ” in The Shack is not the Lord Jesus Christ of Holy Scripture–the ONLY Christ Who justifies us before the ONLY Jehovah God and Who faithfully shepherds us along the ONLY path to eternal salvation.
If anyone seeks further clarification on how the representations of God and “spiritual insights” from The Shack are in gross contradiction to biblical Christianity as revealed in the Holy Word of God, copy and paste the link to this enlightening article: http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/shack.htm
I grow weary of the scribes and pharisees of today. We know the jot and tittle yet fail to discover the author. We strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. In our very soul sinners long for a God who cares. Yea, for a God who loves us. In reading the Shack I found an author who described a God who could actually love me. And years of theology never brought me near that picture of grace. This God, as portrayed in the Shack, is a God that I could fall in love with. Our humanity cries out for a hope of love beyond our failed human attempts. A God that journeys with me, walks alongside, experiences my experiences, laughs when I laugh, and cries when I cry, is a God that I can turn to without being right. This is the God I long to serve.
Too often we flee from a God of Grace to a God of our own creation who demands perfection, a God who only likes us a little better than the other person on the life raft called life that will be pushed overboard when the day of judgment arrives.
The term discernment is too often used as a term for judgment. We no longer see God’s creation, only our own shallow view of another’s failure. What happened to Jesus a friend of sinners. Much of the modern American church has only accomplished to exorcise heresy outside it’s doors along with Jesus. Maybe a closer look at the Sermon on the Mount, and 1st Corinthians 13, and Romans 8 can still give us hope for the American Church. Ask a Pharisee…. you can be theologically right and totally wrong! Read the Shack and challenge your view of your God.
You mean a Christ who DIED for you is not enough to fall in love with?
So, I read the book twice in the last 24 hours. After I began it the second time, I came to this site and read some of the comments from naysayers. It was good that I did that because I knew what to look for. I will not argue the Bible but will say that I walked away with a different take on the story than some here at this site did. Why would Jesus consider himself a Christian when He is the Christ, the Original? All that FOLLOW HIM are Christians. Also, when Jesus was asked if all roads lead to Him, He said no, so I did not see that He was in any way, shape or form, advocating a Universal Church. I have been a Christian for 25 years and NEVER in all of my readings have I seen such an incredibly kind God that WANTS a relationship with me portrayed. THIS is the God I want to know and NOT because He is a mamby-pamby, let us by with anything kind of God but because He is one that simply exists to love and be loved. I have heard all of my life about the God that punishes and is so far away that I had better hold my mouth just right if I expect my prayers to be heard and frankly, I want the God portrayed in The Shack!
I can see where some people are divided on this book. I came to the book looking at a fictional story, with a message. I have always thought that God laughs at my little jokes, I can see God’s sense of humor all around me at times. I was taught that God does not punish us with pain, and suffering. That these things are the results of Original Sin in our world. Life has been broken from what it once was in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve ate of the fruit. Afterwards everything that we now see is a result of that first sin.
God speaks to people through the Holy Spirit in many ways. When Jesus was alive God spoke through Jesus’ words and actions, and He said He wouldn’t leave us alone but would send His Spirit to help us in the years following. In all the ways that mankind will listen to the small whisper that is the Holy Spirit let us as fellow Christians help our fellow Christians, not hinder them.
I read the book, I penciled in my own questions, and comments, and places where I disagreed, places where I laughed, cried, or wanted the author to rewrite something. If someone were to get my copy and read it, they would want to ask me questions about it. I’d want to talk to them afterwards just to be on the safe side.
Whoever it was further up there talking about taking people out for a hike in the woods, first needs to show people how dangerous the streets of the city can be, as well as the woods. No one in their right mind forgets that the world is a dangerous place. One of the first things you teach your child after they learn to walk is how to cross a street, you’d teach them what to eat and what not to eat as well while in the woods, or who to ask.
When young Christians( age is not the case here) are around you, you have to be mindful of them and explain where to find help in tough times of worry and doubt. If someone has found Jesus through reading this or any book including the Bible, they will be needing further instruction. That is where going to others for help in a prayerful way is needed.
In all you do Pray for the Spirit to guide you.
“Do not be deceived. Any mature believer exercising genuine spiritual discernment immediately recognizes The Shack as nothing more (or less) than another attempt to indoctrinate people into the false belief systems of New Ageism and Universalism.”
It appears you have a few more times around the block to run, Wendie, before you feel truly secure walking, really walking with your God. I have been where you are, being a graduate of a solidly conservative theological seminary.
There is one thing, as a “Biblical” Christian, that is very, very perilous to forget: Every time, and I mean EVERY LAST TIME that you go to the Scripture to use as a weapon against your brother in Christ, you bring yourself, your insecurities, and also everything God has done in you so far, to the table with you. You do not read Scripture in a vacuum.
The Scribes and Pharisees were impeccable students of Scripture – almost nobody was better in their time. Yet they used that very Scripture “knowledge” to conclude that Jesus could not be the Messiah.
There is plenty to openly discuss about The Shack…but you who are claiming to reject it based on your knowledge of Scripture appear to me to be also unknowingly bringing in all of your theological biases, and laying classic theology over the top of Scripture.
This is a fatal error, at least it was in the case of one set of people who met Jesus.
Nobody is the self-appointed person who stands in front of the forbidden place, and says, “God does not live here”. Our Father comes and goes as He pleases. Paul Young’s writing is a bit of an overreaction to his upbringing that made God very cold and distant; but your theological writing here tells me that the spirit that scarred Paul Young so is alive and well.
Take my dare: Go to http://www.theshackbook.com, and continue the conversation that Paul Young has started (and that you have used as evidence for his public execution). I think you will find that the Body of Christ was made for interaction, not for cold, dead theological judgment.
And maybe, when the Spirit of God is then guiding you through relationship, you and I will run into each other again!
I guess I can see how this could be taken the wrong way by new believers. Those who know the Word and do practice discernment can sift through such a book. I do disagree with the whole Christian point. I am not a Christian! I am a follower of the Way! Christianity is religion! Consider testimonies of former Islams. Jesus came to them in a vision and they turned from Islam and became followers of Jesus. Can we follow Jesus and not read the WORD? Of coarse not! GOD can meet us anywhere. He meet me in a dark deep dispair inside my soul. He meet Saul on the road to Damascus. If Jesus can find someone deep in Islam then how is He meeting someone in any other relgion and/or occcult any different? Do we have to go to church every Sunday? No, the Word says to not forsake fellowship one to another. We are the church! We come together to worship, read the WORD, and fellowship! Tithing is a given and does not have to be the focus! Yes it is good to teach new believers and remind older ones, but again not the main topic.
What is the “Way”? and where did you get that?
My name is Aram and I just finished reading The Shack. I then went online and happened across a bunch of people arguing about it, for what looks like a few years now. People are calling this a heresy, a dangerous book, and warning people not to read it.
I normally never comment on these things, but being an unbeliever – yes that’s right, I am not a Christian – I thought it might be useful for some of these theology spouting authorities to take a moment and look at what I, not a churchgoer in any way, have gleaned from this little book. And then ask yourself – because I really don’t know much about the Bible – is anything I learned leading me in the wrong direction? Perhaps all the way to this burning lake of fire so many Christians love trying to scare non-Christians with? If this is the case, then I guess you’re right, and based on what you believe people shouldn’t read this book.
For me, I don’t believe fear and rules to be the answer, I never have. This has been the main reason for my avoidance of the church. However, when you preach love and forgiveness, through whatever means conveys it the best, whether fiction or otherwise, well now, my heart begins to open a tad. It makes me actually want to pick up a Bible perhaps and maybe read a little further.
Teach love my Christian friends, because people like me, we don’t respond well to fear tactics. And we definitely don’t get turned on by arrogant church leaders who think they have it all figured out.
Below are 57 new ideas I took away from this little book. Many are direct quotes from the book itself.
1. The different appearances of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were used to help Mack break his religious conditioning.
2. You don’t get brownie points for doing something through obligation; only if you want to.
3. Life takes a lot of time and a lot of relationship.
4. How free are we really? – family genetics, social influences, personal habits, advertising, propaganda & paradigms etc. Freedom is an incremental process that happens inside a relationship with Jesus Christ.
5. When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of God.
6. Pain has a way of clipping our wings, so we can’t fly. After awhile we forget we were ever created to fly.
7. When Jesus became a man he gave up his own ability to heal people and do miracles. His miracles were accomplished by Jesus’ (a man, a dependent limited human being) trust in the Father God. We are all designed to live like that, out of God’s life and power.
8. God exists in three persons so we, his creation, can also live in love and relationship, just like God does. If God didn’t, we couldn’t. “God cannot act apart from love.”
9. Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid wanting power is to limit oneself – to serve.
10. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not God’s purpose to punish it; it’s God’s joy to cure it.
11. When people choose independence over relationship, we become a danger to each other.
12. If people learned to regard each other’s concerns as significant as their own, there would be no need for hierarchy. God does not relate inside a hierarchy; God wants us to trust him because he will never use or hurt us.
13. When Christians don’t trust God it’s because they don’t know they are loved by him. They think God is not good.
14. Mack says: “I just can’t imagine any final outcome that would justify all this (pain, suffering etc).” Papa replies: “We’re not justifying it. We are redeeming it.”
15. The choice of God to hide so many wonders from man is an act of love that is a gift inside the process of life.
16. For any created being, autonomy is lunacy.
17. When something happens to us, how do we determine whether it is good or bad? By whether we like it or if it causes us pain. This is self-serving and self-centred.
18. We become the judge of good and evil; so when each person’s good and evil clashes with someone else’s, fights, even wars, break out.
19. Eating of the tree tore the universe apart, divorcing the spiritual from the physical. All of us died, expelling the very breath of God.
20. We play God in our independence. The only remedy is to give up the right to decide good and evil and choose to live in God and trust and rest in his goodness.
21. God is light and God is good. Removing ourselves from God will plunge us into darkness. Declaring independence will result in evil because apart from God, you can only draw on yourself. That is death, because you have separated yourself from God, from Life.
22. This concept is difficult for us because the good may be the presence of cancer or the loss of income, or even a life. Sarayu answers: “Don’t you think we care about these people who suffer too? Each of them is the centre of another story that is untold.”
23. About having ‘rights’: “‘Rights’ are where survivors go so they won’t have to work out relationships.”
24. Jesus gave up his rights so his dependent life would open a door that would allow us to live free enough to give up our rights.
25. Each of us is wild, beautiful, and perfectly in process when God is working with a purpose in our hearts. We are an emerging, growing, and alive pattern – a living fractal.
26. We tend to live either in the past or the future; dwelling on the pain and the regret of the past, instead of a quick visit to learn something from it. Or fearing the future, letting our imagination run wild with worry, and forgetting to see the future with Jesus. This happens when: a. we don’t really know we’re loved and b. we don’t believe that God is good.
27. Apart from Jesus’ life, we cannot submit one to another. Jesus’ life is not an example to be copied. Jesus came to live his life in us; so we will see with God’s eyes, hear with his ears, love with his heart, and touch with his hands.
28. Some say love grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is the skin of knowing.
29. We human beings are constantly judging others because we are self-centred.
30. We say: “Predators deserve judgment, their parents, too, for twisting them, and their parents, and on and on, until finally we go right back to Adam, and then, why not judge God? He started it all…isn’t God to blame for our losses? He could have not created, or he could have stopped the killer, but he didn’t.” If we can judge God so easily then, of course, we can judge the world. We must then (e.g.) choose two of our five children to go to heaven and three to go to hell, because that’s what we believe God does. Mack could not choose any one of his children because he loved them no matter what they did. So instead, he begged that he could go to hell for his children. This response is exactly what Jesus did. Mack judged well. He judged his children worthy of love, even if it cost him everything. This is how Jesus loves. ‘And now we know Papa’s heart.”
31. God’s love is so much larger than our sin could ever be.
32. Evil was never a plan of God’s. We must return from our independence, give up being his judge, and know God for who he is.
33. When we receive God’s love and stop judging him we let go of the guilt and despair that had sucked the colours of life out of everything.
34. God never abandons his children. We are never alone. God could no more abandon us than he could abandon himself.
35. “Live loved.”
36. When we leave the light of God and retreat to the darkness all alone, the darkness makes our fears, lies, and regrets bigger in the dark. Sometimes, as a kid, doing this is part of survival, but now we must come to the light.
37. Jesus will travel any road to find his children. But only one road leads back to heaven.
38. Stories about a person willing to exchange their life for another reveal our need and God’s heart.
39. Even though God can work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies, it does not mean God caused it. Where there is suffering, you will find grace in many facets and colours.
40. ‘Love’ bothers to keep trying to touch people and never gives up.
41. Sometimes we hide inside lies that justify who we are and what we do.
42. Ask for forgiveness and let the forgiveness heal you. Take the risk of honesty. Faith does not grow in the house of uncertainty.
43. Our transformation is a miracle greater than raising the dead.
44. All evil flows from independence.
45. God’s purposes are always and only an expression of love. God works life out of death, freedom out of brokenness, and light out of darkness.
46. Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are the colours of the soul. They are spectacular and incredible.
47. The more you live in the truth, the more our emotions will help you see clearly.
48. Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control. Keeping the law grants us the power to judge others and feel superior.
49. Responsibility and expectation are dead nouns, full of judgment, guilt, and shame. Our identity becomes wrapped up in performance. The opposite is when God gives us an ability to respond that is free to love and serve in every situation, with God in us; and expectancy is alive and dynamic with no concrete expectation – only the gift of being together.
50. To the degree we live with expectations and responsibilities is the degree we fear and the degree we don’t trust or know God.
51. If God is the centre of everything, then together we can live through everything that happens to us.
52. Forgiveness is big.
53. When bad things happen, what God had to offer us in response is his love, goodness, and relationship with us.
54. God doesn’t do humiliation, guilt, or condemnation. They don’t produce one speck of wholeness or righteousness.
55. Forgiving isn’t about forgetting; it’s about letting go of another person’s throat.
56. Forgiveness does not create a relationship; it simply removes them from your judgment.
57. Because you are important to God, everything you do is important.
I gotta tell you, this book made me want to explore the idea of God a little more, and I just can’t see how that is a bad thing.
I appreciate the posts and comments on this and wanted to let folks know that we have a more in-depth article titled Discernment and The Shack in our Journal Winter/Spring 2009 Journal. Pastor Gino Geracci wrote the review and it begins on page 10.
5. When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of God.
6. Pain has a way of clipping our wings, so we can’t fly. After awhile we forget we were ever created to fly.
Unless we enlist the help of the community of believers, those who continue to point us to the love and care of the one true God of the Bible, we can do what happens in #5&6. However, my sisters and brothers in Christ keep me on track to knowing and seeing the Love of God even in my pain.
I don’t get the “fear” thing you talk about. In Jesus we are free, free to choose against sin not out of fear, but out of love.
“Pastor” Geracci could not have illustrated my point better – he commits the very common, but nevertheless blind error of super-gluing the fundamentalism called “Biblical theology” to the Bible, and then whacking the Shack around with that as if he’s being Biblical.
Again, exactly the mistake the Pharisees and Scribes made when concluding that Jesus could not be the Messiah.
What’s more, he exhibits a barely-veiled lack of charity toward his brother Paul Young – many items in his “list” of reasons you would like the book are fundamental misunderstandings of the book itself. If I had time, I would point each one out – but I suspect the “Pastor” know where he bent over backward to keep people away.
I appreciate the “Pastor” would like to set himself up as the gatekeeper and tell God “You cannot speak through this book!” God apparently has other plans.
Masters in Theological Studies
Grand Rapids Baptist (now Theological) Seminary
Just to clarify – my placing “Pastor” in quotes is not to deny that Father may very well be using Gino Geracci to shepherd one local body of Christ. It is only to question whether Geracci believes that this capacity of serving his local body grants him enough special insight to be able to deny the Holy Spirit can use THE SHACK or any other writing of man.
I don’t see that in the New Testament qualifications for “Pastor” – which are admittedly very thin.
Kudos to “aram” above – his list is a far better understanding of The Shack than Geracci exhibits.
I have to admit, I was a little surprised when I realized that I first wrote this nearly two years ago. Time does fly.
A few things I think need a response. First, there is nothing in Pastor Geracci’s article which states explicitly or implicitly whether God can or cannot use a book like The Shack. In Scripture we find that God often used the unexpected. He used a donkey to speak, he used unbelieving kings to preserve and provide for His people. At times God uses false prophets to reveal His true prophets such as Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. That God may use something that is riddled with heresy is not the same as saying that the heresy is now acceptable.
Second, Pastor Geracci is using the Bible as the standard for faith and practice. He uses it in its normal historical/ grammatical context and draws on the rich history and historical understanding of the Christian faith including the Early Church Fathers, counsels, etc. I am not certain why this sort of “biblical theology” would be suspect, particularly by someone claiming a Masters in Theology. I know Brian McLaren and other emergents reject the historical faith in favor of post modern eclecticism with an affinity for the social gospel of the late 19th century as well as the updated version represented by the Jesus Seminar. Clearly, those in that camp would have a problem with Pastor Geracci using the Bible to evaluate books purporting to be Christian.
Third, it may well be that you do not regard patriopassionism or subordinationism (both discussed on page 13 of Discernment and The Shack) but both have been rejected as such for centuries based on the biblical text of “biblical theology.”
Lastly, Pastor Geracci is indeed a gatekeeper, as all pastors should be, but not against the Holy Spirit. Rather he is following the biblical mandate in Acts 20:28-30 to guard against false teachers outside the church who would invade and harm the flock as well as false teachers who rise up within the church and damage the flock. That The Shack touches people emotionally is not a test for whether it is true or not. The Shack misrepresents the very nature of God, as is pointed out in the article. As far as your assertion that “he exhibits a barely-veiled lack of charity” I find at least a double standard here. No where does Pastor Geracci make personal attacks or propose motives and yet as you write you state “but I suspect the “Pastor” know where he bent over backward to keep people away” and “appreciate the “Pastor” would like to set himself up as the gatekeeper and tell God “You cannot speak through this book!”” as but 2 examples of as assignment of motives which are not apparent or stated in the article and at least one of which you merely suspect. In what way is this charitable or is that something which only goes on way, from Pastor Geracci to whose teachings he is reviewing and commenting on?
The false teachers were the ones who were diminishing the love and grace of God. Paul makes this point over and over in Romans and Galatians. Paul never referred to someone as a false teacher who put a spotlight on the unconditional, unfailing and inescapable love of God.