T H E S H A C K
Review by Dale Brown
When I was given a copy of The Shack, by William P. Young, I must admit I was a bit skeptical for a number of reasons. I have never been much a reader of fiction. Someone once said if you get your theology from a novel, you will likely end up with novel theology. So often the people that give me religious/Christian fiction are those who are short on critical thinking and most often come from Christians circles where they have never been exposed to any form of biblical apologetics. At times they are looking to create a god in their own image. The cover jacket has glowing statements by many popular names, and leading the pack is Eugene Peterson (responsible for the paraphrased Message Bible). He claims the book to possibly be the greatest thing written since Pilgrim’s Progress. Wow! Over the years of dealing with cultists I have come to put some degree of trust in this inner alarm that goes off in my spirit when something appears out of whack, much like when I pick up a Book of Mormon and begin reading it. It usually means, buyer beware. My alarm was going off.
The book tells the story of a guy named Mackenzie Philips, or "Mack", whose daughter Missy is abducted and murdered. When the evidence is found of the grisly ordeal in a wilderness cabin "shack" in Oregon, Mack is understandably devastated. What happens next opens the door for the rest of The Shack story to unfold. A few years later Mack receives a mysterious note from what appears to be God (or the killer) which leads him to go back to the shack to investigate. Here is where it gets weird. At the cabin he meets a black woman who comes to be know both as Elousia and Papa "God", then an Asian woman named Sarayu "the Holy Spirit", and a Middle Eastern guy, you guessed it, whose name is "Jesus". So, here we have the Trinity appearing in the form of three earthlings. Anyone who has read the Biblical accounts of the manifestations of Deity immediately recall God speaking to Moses out of a burning bush, and out of a cloud, and John the apostle falling as a dead man before the glorified Christ in the book of Revelation. So this bit of fiction starts out with a different Deity from the beginning. The names are suggestive of hidden meanings. Elousia, is Greek for tenderness as used in regards to Mary and her Son. Sarayum comes from the Sanskrit, which means wind, and is a mythological river in Hindu mysticism.
Next, we see the words that the author puts in the mouth of this Deity enough to get anyone under early Jewish standards stoned to death for false prophecy. This female Papa God fits well with those who have degendered God in some of the modern Bible translations. We see a hint of the modalism heresy with Papa having nail scared wrists (pg. 107). It is even more clear on page 99 where "we [the three persons of the Godhead] become fully human". In the Biblical Trinity however the Father never became human. Jesus became human yet continued to pray to His Father who remained Spirit. The author’s understanding of the Trinity hierarchy and the relationship of each member is misrepresented in numerous places. "We have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command. . ."(pg. 122). The Bible however clearly teaches authority in heaven and on earth. The Father never submits to the Son. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing" (Jn. 5:19). It is the Holy Spirit’s job to glorify Christ, not the other way around (Jn.16:14). Apostle Paul taught to obey rulers and all who are in authority. "Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God" (Rom. 13:2). The Bible even says the saints will judge angels. In heaven, authority is also seen by warring Archangels. They clearly exercise authority. The very word for church speaks of authority and structure with rulers who are to govern the flock. Paul wrote pastoral epistles in order to give guidelines to Timothy, a young pastor, who was to teach, reprove, rebuke, exhort, etc., "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" (2 Tim. 4:2&3).
The Shack Jesus claims that "I don’t create institutions — never have and never will" pg. 178. So apparently Paul was misguided by giving us so much instruction about how to set up a church government.
Mack’s understanding of righteous music is understood to include even that of the Mormon cult’s tabernacle choir (pg. 90).
God’s role as judge and the nature of sin is misrepresented by claiming, (pg. 120) "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." The Bible clearly teaches that God created hell for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) and God will send upon those who continue in sin a deluding influence that they might believe a lie and thus be judge (2 Thess. 2:211&12), in that place where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30). Though this is a book about a murder, there is no reference to Satan who the biblical Jesus says was a murderer from the beginning. On page 145 God supposedly claims "Submission is not about authority and it is not about obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way." Isn’t that something? We have created a God in our likeness and He even bows down to us. The Bible however clearly teaches that Jesus "humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross"(Jn. 10:1).
On page 182 is the most glaring error. "Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims. . . I have no desire to make them Christian, 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." The Bible however clearly tells us that no one can go to the Father unless they are followers of Christ, for He is the way and the door. All others are thieves and liars (Jn. 10:1).
Page 202 continues with the rebellion theme. The Shack Jesus claims we "are not under any law… All things are lawful" Laws and rules only give us control, the author claims. "It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them." Paul wrote an epistle to the Corinthians addressing this very issue. The Corinthians had sin in the camp and they were not addressing it. He was furious. He even turned one man over to the devil for the destruction of his flesh (1 Cor. 5:5). In his second letter he wrote, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete (2 Cor. 10:5&6).
The author continues with New Age aura and Hindu chakra type illustrations in the chapter "A Festival of Friends" where beams of colorful spears of light shine out of a variety of living beings.
In summary: The Shack, publish by Windblown Media, is full of theological problems and a danger to all of those sheep who have no shepherd and blown here and there by every wind of doctrine because their theology is a shallow as a wading pool. Yes, I understand this is supposed to be fiction. The Book of Mormon, Dianetics, Science and Health, and a host of other fictional books with heretical teachings have become major religious cluts. Thus the danger of using God as a form of entertainment. The devil can take this kind of material and cause all kinds of division and confusion.