As this moving book grows and grows in popularity, I find that I cannot keep silent about it's dangerous contents. Yes, dangerous.
Deeply moved by the story, and the emotional tug the author adeptly uses to paint a fresh picture of God for his readers, my primary reaction while reading this book a year ago was alarm. Intermingled with many lovely new ways of explaining our God and our faith, was a good deal of 'not quite right' theology. Understanding and relating to God according to His truth, is the only safeguard for assurance that the gospel we preach is the gospel that saves. And truly saving mankind is God's heart and mission. A half truth is as bad as an out and out lie, and often more effective at deceiving.
For months previous, I had been researching and reading resources on the topics of Post Modernism, the Emergent Church, Contemplative Spirituality and other philosophies and fads that are impacting the Church, (often harming, diluting, and distracting her from her true mission, in my opinion) when I picked up the book to 'divert' myself from such somber material to enjoy something lighter. Ha ha.
It was not necessarily the non-traditional, non-western, out of the ordinary characters that the author chose to represent the godhead that set off these alarms, but the content meaning and implications of the words put into the mouth of God the Father, or more precisely 'Papa' as (s)he gently re-enlightened Mack's thinking, that made my skin prickle. Beautiful, yet subtly poisonous, was my reaction.
Recently I discovered a response to the author and his book, that finally connected the dots for me. It has helped to bring into clarity the reason why the book set off such strong discernment alarms, while at the same time being able to find much to admire in it's pages. This helpful information comes from the Professor of New Testament Languages and Literature at Western Seminary in Oregon. Prof. James DeYoung has known The Shack's author personally for some years, and is aware of the authors faith journey which readers of The Shack are not privy to.
Rather than trying to restate DeYoung's case here, I humbly point my friends and family to seriously consider the facts behind the writing of The Shack and to reconsider their enthusiasm for it's powerful tale. In short William P Young embraces an unbiblical doctrine of Reconciliation ism. A belief that is on par with Universalism. Editor Wayne Jacobsen attempted to remove the false doctrine from the book, but its footprints remain.
You can avail yourself of Professor DeYoung's thoughtful and well researched work here;
There are a few pdf files, one being a shorter review of 9 pages, and one going into more detail at 39 pages. I urge you to at least read the shorter review if you have been favorably impacted by The Shack. Or if you have plans to read it, or pass it on to others. Or if you have had questions of theological concern raised by this book.
The mixture of truth and error when presenting an explanation of God is very common and very human. God is ultimately beyond our human words and understanding to be perfectly, or should I say completely, explained. Yet, we are admonished by Him to very carefully hold to the Faith once for all delivered to the saints. Why? Because it is His great heart's desire that all should come to a knowledge of the truth and enter into His Kingdom. God has provided the pathway to know and experience His presence and person, to knowing and living in the truth, and how to pass that on to others. Jesus described the gate as narrow and the way difficult. There is a reason why Christ described it so, He was speaking truth, and only spoke that which He heard the Father tell Him to speak.
The Shack falls short of this, and in fact, I fear it is pointing many who hunger for reconciliation with God onto a path that will ultimately lead away from Him, and quite possibly to destruction...all the while proclaiming and imagining that they are His children. (Matt. 13:7-26)
May the Church realize it's her calling to make the way to the Father clear, so that the lost should not be deceived, and may enter in. God's self-revelation is the one we must point the lost to, and fellow believers back to for comfort, instruction and discipleship. When we can re-state the truths of God's word without adding false, skewed or our own preferred ideals, and without taking away essential truths (such as the atonement, and the ultimate destiny for unbelievers), reforming biblical truths in artistic and creative ways can be wonderful and very effective.
Jesus paid an unthinkable price to deliver mankind, may we honor His sacrifice and speak His truth with love, boldly, and without mixture. 'Mixture' is repeatedly exposed as unholy and defiling (resulting in separation) in the Old Testament, we are wise not to forget those lessons. The Shack is a dangerous mixture of partial truth and serious error.
I applaud Mr Young's attempt to correct the distorted picture of God as simply a distant angry judge ....but God is not merely close gentle and conciliatory either. The Shack corrects one misconception, but replaces it with another, possibly more fatal for it's allure to our desires to make God in our own image. God is love, but God's love is HOLY, meaning altogether something different than human emotional love...though I've no doubt God, as the creator of emotions, is quite full of them; one being a jealous love that is much richer, sacrificial and deeper still than what is taught through the fictional Papa's words in The Shack.
Please prayerfully consider these things.
Other helpful reviews of The Shack can be found here
Justin Peters review