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: http://www.nnu.edu/offices/marketing-media/nnu-news/news-article/article/nnu-welcomes-new-york-times-bestseller-william-paul-young/. 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: www.theshackheresy.com
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.
QUESTION: IS IT OKAY FOR A FICTION WRITER TO TRY TO DEPICT GOD IN ANY WAY THAT HE/SHE WANTS TO?
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.
DID GOD GET CRUCIFIED ON THE CROSS WITH JESUS?
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?
DID GOD AND THE HOLY SPIRIT ALSO BECOME FULLY HUMAN LIKE JESUS?
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?
IS THERE A DISRESPECT FOR THE HOLY SCRIPTURES IN MR. YOUNG’S NARRATIVE?
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?
EVIL DOES NOT EXIST? REALLY?
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.
GOD DOES NOT PUNISH SIN? REALLY?
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.”
JESUS IS THE BEST WAY?
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.
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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.
http://hereiblog.com/the-shack-review/ (by Wayne Elliot)