Thirteen Heresies in “The Shack”

The Shack is such a highly popular book with the emergent church, that we thought it deserved to be noted here.  It is one of the most popular books sold in Christian bookstores, yet is is a very dangerous book filled with heresies and blasphemy. We as Concerned Nazarenes are also very concerned that this book comes highly recommended by many Nazarene pastors, and even District Superintendents have recommended it, one calling it a great missional book.
It is far from that, and it is sad to see so many Nazarenes with so little discernment, especially those in leadership positions, praising such a book.  We have not written any extensive reviews, but since there are so many excellent biblically supported critiques of the book, there seems to be no need for more.  Dr. Michael Youssef’s summary below is dead on target in pointing out the major problems in the book, and there are even more.  It is not a good devotional book; it is not a book to especially give to young Christians who have not matured as Christians and therefore lack discernment; it is a book that distorts who God is, who the Trinity is, and many more false conceptions of God.  Let’s stick to the Bible.


Thirteen Heresies in The Shack

Dr. Michael Youssef, Leading the Way Ministries

1. God the Father was crucified with Jesus.

Because God’s eyes are pure and cannot look upon sin, the Bible says that God would not look upon His own beloved Son as He hung on the Cross, carrying our sins (Habakkuk 1:13; Matthew 27:45).

2. God is limited by His love and cannot practice justice.

The Bible declares that God’s love and His justice are two sides of the same coin — equally a part of the personality and the character of God (Isaiah 61:8; Hosea 2:19).

3. On the Cross, God forgave all of humanity, whether they repent or not. Some choose a relationship with Him, but He forgives them all regardless.

Jesus explained that only those who come to Him will be saved (John 14:6).

4. Hierarchical structures, whether they are in the Church or in the government, are evil.

Our God is a God of order (Job 25:2).

5. God will never judge people for their sins.

The Word of God repeatedly invites people to escape from the judgment of God by believing in Jesus Christ, His Son (Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-3).

6. There is not a hierarchical structure in the Godhead, just a circle of unity.

The Bible says that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father. This doesn’t mean that one Person is higher or better than the other; just unique. Jesus said, “I came to do the will of Him who sent me. I am here to obey my Father.” Jesus also said, “I will send you the Holy Spirit” (John 4:34, 6:44, 14:26, 15:26).

7. God submits to human wishes and choices.

Far from God submitting to us, Jesus said, “Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.” We are to submit to Him in all things, for His glory and because of what He has accomplished for us (Matthew 7:13-15).

8. Justice will never take place because of love.

The Bible teaches that when God’s love is rejected, and when the offer of salvation and forgiveness is rejected, justice must take place or God has sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for nothing (Matthew 12:20; Romans 3:25-26).

9. There is no such a thing as eternal judgment or torment in hell.

Jesus’ own description of hell is vivid … it cannot be denied (Luke 12:5, 16:23).

10. Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God, and it doesn’t matter which way you get to Him.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one will come to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

11. Jesus is constantly being transformed along with us.

Jesus, who dwells in the splendor of heaven, sits at the right hand of God, reigning and ruling the universe. The Bible says, “In Him there is no change, for He is yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 11:12, 13:8; James 1:17).

12. There is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because everyone will make it to heaven.

Jesus said, “Only those who believe in me will have eternal life” (John 3:15, 3:36, 5:24, 6:40).

13. The Bible is not true because it reduces God to paper.

The Bible is God-breathed. Sure, there were many men through 1,800 years who put pen to paper (so to speak), each from different professions and different backgrounds, but the Holy Spirit infused their work with God’s words. These men were writing the same message from Genesis to Revelation. If you want to read more about the place of Christ in the Scripture, read “We Preach Christ” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Dr. Youssef’s excellent sermon on this book can be seen online at his website, Leading the Way.

34 responses to “Thirteen Heresies in “The Shack”

  1. I’d like to comment on the first statement and corresponding scripture references.
    First you make these statement about what the book says without showing where it makes these claims. You really should mention exactly where “The Shack” makes each of these heretical claims (i.e. page number and paragraph).
    1. I don’t understand how either of these references prove your theory that God could not look at Jesus on the cross. You seem to be pulling out individual verses without regard to the context of the surrounding verses. Is God not able to look at the world because of all the sin that abounds on it? Did Jesus not see the sin of the woman at the well and all the others (including the pharisees) that He came into contact with? Could God not look at Adam and Eve? I thought He was searching and calling for them and then had a Q&A time when He found them. I’m also unsure how the Matthew reference has anything to do with your statement. This verse simply mentions the darkness from noon until three o’clock. If you meant to use the following verse referring to Jesus’ cry from the cross, are you suggesting that when we make the same cry, that God has forsaken us? Obviously, He has not. Just because we or Jesus feel/felt that way does not make it so. Where exactly does the Bible say that God would not look upon His own beloved Son as He hung on the Cross, carrying our sins? I can’t find that anywhere.Certainly, not in the verses you cited. If the Father and Jesus are one and the Jesus was wholly divine and wholly human when He was on the cross, then God died on the cross. In some Trinitarian way, the Father went through that pain and experience as well. Or are you separating them as not One in Three and Three in One?

    I would like to comment on some of the other statements when I know where in the book you find them, so I can try to speak directly to what the text says.

  2. Hi Terry,
    The list is from Dr. Michael Youssef and not me- just to be clear on that, I can’t take credit. It comes from his excellent sermon on this, and you may want to go to the link and listen to it. He is an outstanding biblical preacher, and his sermon and scripture references support his claim (I agree with him) that this is a heretical book. I admit I have not read the entire book- I could not finish it really- but I read enough to know heresy when I see it.
    Just to depict the Trinity in those three ways is heresy enough- but there’s a lot more!

    Honestly, I’m too busy to go and try to find those specific references of the pages- but certainly someone like Dr. Youssef is not going to make up something and ruin his fine reputation as a preacher- none of what he describes is in doubt as facts. You just apparently don’t see it as heresy- I do. And so do many other discerning Christians.

  3. I think maybe the people that wrote this are missing the point. This book is not intended to be a substitute for the Bible. This book speaks to many different people in different situations, but it is especially for those that have a rift between themselves and God brought on by tragedy. It is good advice that any person unsure of their faith should not turn to a book about faith before they turn to the bible. I wouldn’t read a book about the Koran If I wanted to be a Muslim, I would just read the Koran. The author of The Shack did not intend the book to be canon, but rather a story describing the love of God reaching a man facing unbearable grief, pain, guilt, and anger.

  4. Dericka,
    It seems you have missed the point of what is in the book- it is heretical and blasphemous. A lie is a lie, whether expressed in a fictional book, or non-fiction.

  5. If you believe that the Bible is the inerrent word of God, then I can understand why you think The Shack is heretical and blasphemous. We are often quick to condemn what we do not understand. If you believe in the Bible, then you must believe that God is present everywhere in everything. By saying that God could not use the message of love spoken in this book, then you are limiting the power of God.

  6. Also, it’s good to see that you’ve claimed it as heresy, when you, yourself, admitted to not even finishing the book. Isn’t that like reading the Bible and stopping after the old testament, only to reach the conclusion that God is real mean?

  7. I do believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

    However, God is NOT in everything- that would be panentheism.
    That is not what is taught in the Bible. That is what was taught by Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen and other heretics, who seem to be so popular amongst many pastors and leaders now.

    No message that distorts the gospel and blasphemes God is a message of love. It is from satan and his deception.

  8. If one cannot see the obvious heresies in this book without having to read it from cover to cover, then one has been deceived indeed,

  9. Well then, I pray that God would reveal God’s love to you in a way that only God can. I don’t really wish to argue. Our views simply differ. Thank your for challenging me and allowing me the chance to speak.

  10. Thank you Dericka. If my bluntness seems to be too harsh, or rude, it is not intended to be that. We do obviously see things differently on this.
    God bless you,

  11. From the website of ‘The Shack’s’ publisher regarding point 6:

    One of the concerns expressed about The Shack is that it presents the Trinity outside of a hierarchy. In fact many religious traditions think they find their basis for hierarchical organizations in what they’ve assumed about the Trinity. To look at the Trinity as a relationship without the need for command and control is one of the intriguing parts of this story. If they walk in complete unity, why would a hierarchy be needed? They live in love and honor each other. While in the flesh Jesus did walk in obedience to the Father as our example, elsewhere Scripture speaks of their complete unity, love and glory in relating to each other. Different functions need not imply a different status.

    This extends in other ways to look at how healed people can relate to each other inside their relationship with God that defines authority and submission in ways most are not used to, but that are far more consistent with what we see in the early believers and in the teaching of Scripture. It is also true of many believers around the world who are learning to experience the life of Father’s family without all the hierarchical maintenance and drama that has plagued followers of Christ since the third century.

    People may see this differently and find this challenging, if only because it represents some thought they have not been exposed to before. Here we might be better off having a discussion instead of dragging out the ‘heretic’ label when it is unwarranted.

  12. I’m curious as to why you think this depiction of the Trinity (besides their lack of hierarchy) is heretical.

  13. Is there something about the points that Dr. Youssef makes that you don’t understand clearly, Ty?

  14. Just so you know the pages in “The Shack” Michael Youssef identified as being anti Biblical are posted on his web page along with the scriptural proof. You can find all of the answers to the reason that “The Shack” is nothing more or nothing less than New Age propaganda if you choose to do a little research. Scripture speaks of those who will listen to what their itching ears want to hear. The Shack will teach you that you do not need Jesus because He already did all that has to be done for you. On judgement day every knee will bow and every tounge will confess that Jesus is Lord but not all will ecape hell. If Jesus is not Lord of ALL of your life he is not Lord at all in your life. Salvation is a free gift that comes by grace through faith. But you do have a part in this… repentance… dieing out to self through the power of the Holy Spirit.

  15. You are one of a kind. I’m so glad to see other reformed people come out of the Nazarene world. I was always Presbyterian but I did attend Trevecca. Dan Boone became president my junior year and they embraced emergent theology my senior year. This past October I visited friends from there and could not bring myself to visit the campus itself. God bless you. You can visit my blog if you like!


  16. It’s been several years since I read the book and if my memory serves correctly, I found it to be heretical and blasphemous. Just the same, it gave me a deeper appreciation for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit through the creative manner of showing God’s love.
    That said, I consider myself to be a mature believer and viewed it as it is; a fictional story that took artistic license to illustrate the Trinity. It is a book that should not be read by an immature believer as it is new age propaganda.
    The Holy Spirit used it to deepen my faith and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ via the story. The heretical and blasphemous tone distracted from the story and made me uncomfortable, but I appreciated the “blending” of the Trinity as it was presented in a way that allowed my human mind to develop a deeper, Biblical foundation of the Trinity.

  17. For those who would like page numbers on these claims (I don’t blame you one bit), this article gives exact quotes from The Shack:

  18. I appreciate this exposing of the book, The Shack. I am troubled however that he uses C.S. Lewis to bolster his treatise. C.S. Lewis promoted heresies after he was so called born again. He didn’t believe the whole bible either. He Gave Taoism as much credence as the Word of God. People need to get C.S. Lewis out of their pulpits.

  19. I watched this film and I saw the message was to keep focus on Jesus through your storm because you can’t make it without without Him.

  20. That’s interesting. Do you believe when “Papa” tells Mack that God also was crucified on the Cross with Jesus, is that the truth according to Scripture? Will everyone eventually be saved, even if they don’t know Christ?

  21. Thanks again, Manny

    You came up to the plate again in standing up against yet another heretical book and movie. Wake up,Christians and do your homework.

  22. Please people open your eyes to see and open your ears to hear!!! Soften your hearts . read GOD’S WORD THE HOLY BIBLE. HAVE FAITH!!!! 📖🙏🙏🙏👆🙌🙌⚓

  23. Obviously you didn’t read or watch the movie or misinterpreted what was said just like the pharisees in the Bible. John MacArthur, if you would spend more time praising God and less time being critical you would probably see the kingdom advance further in your life. Furthermore you are descipling people to be critical and this my friend is far worse in how you depicted the movie and how you take the word love out of the situation. I am but a mere man who loves God and I want Him more than anything or anyone. One day maybe before I go to heaven I would love to debate you on your doctrines and through the debate I would stay silent and that silence would win over you.
    You can look me up anytime a scholar as yourself to talk with me and I live in British Columbia Canada in Abbotsford BC.
    Peter Berlenbach

  24. Many itching ears will want to believe this herasy. People read your Bible and have nothing to do with Satan and his deceit.

  25. Thank you for this honest appraisal of the Shack. I know when I ittive years ago, I felt it was way off base. Friends didn’t agree, and I wondered how they could not miss it. Now the movie….and people, (our grown kids) still don’t discern the error. I don’t want to argue, but it’s so deceptive. So I appreciate this review .

  26. I am very disturbed that Christians can believe that God the Father was crucified. I got that from the trailer. I need not see any more.

  27. The movie is somewhat different from the book, and I noticed several things have been changed to create less controversy among Christians. Or maybe because a movie cannot cover as much material. I am rereading the book to find even more of the differences.

  28. We are tought by God’s Word not to make any image of God and this film presents such a distorted image from what is biblically founded. I took the following from Google gotQuestions?org: The second commandment, recorded in Exodus 20:4–5, reads, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them.” Likely, this refers back to the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” and specifically forbids the creation of idols. But it is equally dangerous to create an image of God Himself. God has given us reminders enough of His power and glory (Romans 1:20) without man attempting to use created things to represent the Creator

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