The Beauty And Wondrous Deception of The Shack

Several months ago, I promised a fellow believer that I would finally read the novel, The Shack, in its entirety. As I result, here is my review of the book.

ALERT: The author of The Shack will be speaking at Northwest Nazarene University.  Matt Slick of CARM Ministries will be there to pass out literature to people outside, this Thursday.  If you are in the Nampa, Idaho area, Matt is welcoming any assistance in distributing the literature.  Here is the press release:   Mr Young will speak at 7:00 pm on Thursday in the NNU Brandt Center, 707 Fern Street, Nampa.
Matt’s website about The Shack:

The first four chapters of the book are basically a prelude to the other following chapters.  These opening chapters detail how the main character, Mack, recounts the story of his young daughter, Missy, and how they eventually went on a camping trip where she  is kidnapped by a serial killer and murdered.  The emotions generated from these first four chapters (and subsequently the rest of the story) are powerful, and made me think more than once about how would I feel if something like this every happened to one of my three children.  It is well written, and I can see how powerful it is in affecting responses from people who read it.  No problem so far up to this point, except that perhaps what I believe has caused many to be deceived by this book is the sheer, heart-wrenching theme of this novel.

A few years after the murder, Mack is invited to visit the shack where his daughter was murdered, through a mysterious letter that was signed “Papa.”  This was a term that his wife often used to refer to God.


So things start to change once Mack meets the three “occupants” of the shack where his daughter was murdered. Here is where I see my first problem with the novel.  It is fiction, but does a fictional story give any Christian the license to change the disclosures found in Scripture of God’s character and personality; of who God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is?   Mack first meets a large, African-American woman who is God; then he subsequently meets a small, Asian woman who is supposed to be the Holy Spirit; and finally, he meets Jesus, represented by a tall, Middle Eastern man.  I already have serious problems with the depiction of God from the aspect of the feminine, something that has become popular in liberal Christian circles as well as other movements.  In the Bible, God is always referenced with the use of the masculine, not the feminine.  He is called Father, not Mother.  Therefore this is the first mistake in this book, to try to depict God in feminine terms, when He has clearly chosen to reveal Himself in the masculine, and as Father.  Please also remember that God is spirit, yet is depicted in the book in human form.  Is this a form of idolatry, of making an image of God?

There are quite a few other problems which I encountered in the book.  Let’s look at just a few more.


Early on after chapter four, “Papa” shows Mack “her” wrists and the marks similar to the nail marks of Jesus, and then tells Mack that Papa also was crucified on the Cross.  Really?


We go to chapter five, and in it we find this being said by Papa to Mack:

“When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human” and “we now became flesh and blood.”  This is unscriptural, because only the Son became human in flesh, not all three persons of the Trinity!  The Father and the Spirit did not become incarnate, only Jesus the Son.  This is very serious error (heretical , and is like the modalistic* view of God which false teachers like T.D.Jakes teach.  If this view is taught by any pastor or teacher in a church, I would recommend fleeing as quickly as possible from that church.  Why then should Mr. Young have license to depict the Trinity in such a way?


Later, Mack here recalls his seminary years and how he was taught to “listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners’ access to God was mediated by and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?” (65, 66)

God gave us His word in scripture, yet there seems to be an attempt here to demean the word as “only ink on paper”, as I heard a young lady say in a Sunday school class once.  When I read this passage, it immediately brought to mind the many emergents I have clashed with who have the same similar disdain for Holy Scripture.  You may have heard it too: “Jesus is the real Word of God, not the writings in a book.”   Or, “I choose to worship the real Word, Jesus, not a bunch of ink on paper.”  (I’m not making this up).

I will just give a few more references I encountered, because there are so many well written reviews of The Shack that have dissected this novel in so many ways, that I don not want to sound repetitive to those who have read them.  There are additional links at the end for further study.


Papa says to Mack: “We [the Trinity] have limited ourselves out of respect for you.”

The God of The Shack apparently is not capable of doing everything He wants to do, because he seems to be the god of the Open Theists.  No wonder they like this book.


Jesus says: “God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things . . .”
Does God dwell in all things, according to scripture?


Sarayu (the Holy Spirit): “Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence.


Papa: “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It is not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

I’ll finish with this, stated by the “Jesus” in the novel: “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.”

This clearly smacks of universalism.  Jesus is NOT the best way; He is the only way.

Bottom line: My friends, I could go on an on, but I’ll stop here.  You will find many other dubious and heretical things in more extensive reviews.  The only thing I learned from actually reading the novel, is that it is even more dangerous and deceptive than I knew it to be.

The Shack is NOT a great missional book to be promoted to pastors at a church convention.  Books that contain heretical teachings should never, ever be part of recommended readings, except as examples of what is serious error.
The Shack is not a book to be recommended, especially for new Christians, or unbelievers who could then form a heretical understanding of God, the Trinity, and the nature of God.  The Shack is a well-written book that in a few ways is instructive: it illustrates the powerful emotions and love a parent has for a child and makes you think of how precious a child is; and it even does a fairly accurate job of defining the Trinity.  But my friends, even the Satanic bible can have some good things in it!  Thus, this is what makes this book so dangerous and deceptive.
It will cause many Christians to stumble, and bring unbelievers into accepting another Jesus, another spirit.  Why would you risk that for anyone?  Always remember that Satan’s strategy is to make things look almost like the real thing.  “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”  2 Cor. 11:14.

May the Lord give us the perfect wisdom and insight that can only come from one source: His word given to us in the Bible.  It is not “just ink on paper.”  It is God’s actual word:  “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4:12

That is where you will find the all sufficient words of Jesus Christ our Lord, which will give you the guidance and direction you need in life.  The Shack cannot do that for you, and you will not be lacking in anything just because you did not read it.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – –

Postscript: I was very disappointed when I looked on the back of the book, and read this from Michael W. Smith, a popular Christian artist:

“My wife and I laughed, cried and repented of our own lack of faith along the way. The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God.”

*Modalism- the view that God is an individual Person, but when He chooses, manifests Himself in three different ways, or modes.  This is clearly a hereticl view of the Trinity as is taught in scripture.


Other reviews:

Pastor Gary Gilley:

Tim Challies:

Albert Mohler: (by Wayne Elliot)

2 responses to “The Beauty And Wondrous Deception of The Shack

  1. Manny,

    Your analysis is spot on. Unfortunately, too many people have justified The Shack by saying “Well, it’s only fiction.” The problem is, when you set forth a work of literature, music, or art, and you state that this piece is intended to be Christian, you are as a Christian bound to keep your work within orthodox bounds of theology. That which is ultimately and doctrinally true must be stated as such, and “artistic license” must give way to theological boundaries, otherwise it ceases to be a Christian work.

    As an author myself, I’ve considered writing an essay on this, because too many people like Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) and the author of The Shack (his name escapes me at the moment) try to have it both ways by slamming false doctrine down our throats, and then backpedaling with “it’s just fiction!” whenever objections are raised.

    Not to get off topic, but that’s one of my problems with Frank Peretti’s Darkness series: he throws in too much stuff that at best is unfounded speculation, and at worst is unscriptural ideas, and people gobble it up without exercising careful discernment. That he throws out a little disclaimer at the beginning of his books stating that he isn’t intending to teach doctrine is lost on many, and churches have actually used ideas from his FICTION books for teaching spiritual warfare classes.

    This is one of the dangers that occurs when the church starts running to entertainment as a medium for the message, be it in Sunday morning worship or reading a “Christian” book on Monday night. Whether we like to admit it or not, the medium affects the message, and oftentimes it’s not for the better.

  2. Manny,
    Good article exposing the false teaching used to amuse it’s readers with little regard for the truth as the Bible teachers. I did a little research on the “Shack” and according to Wikipedia Young’s “wife repeadly urged him to write something for their six children in order to put down in one place his perspective on God and on the inner healing Young had experienced as an adult.” As I understand it the book was written for his family for that purpose, but later was encouraged to publish. Laying all that aside, what makes the book so dangerous in an interview with Deena Peterson she asked; “What is your response to the criticism concerning some of the doctrinal statements being discussed in your novel?”

    Here is a brief summary quoting the high points. He said; “I don’t feel very responsible for stirring it all up. I wrote a story for my kids. It’s fictional. It’s not systematic theology.” Later in his response he goes on to say that he believes “the book is quite orthodox theologically. Just because it tampers with peoples paradigms doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing. Because it pushes us to re-think how we view God, how we view our relationship with God.” He ends with this statement, “I believe God wants us to be healed of those things even that we consider sacred but are really binding.”

    I’m not sure what to make of that last statement unless he is saying that Christians are not open to new paradigms and we need to be healed of our limitations. This would of course open the doors for greater hersey.

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