Reflections on The Shack. Useful or heresy?

I have always maintained that The Shack is heretical. I know a lot of people would disagree with me and say it is not, or that you should not take it as a book that will influence your own understanding of who the LORD really is. They will also tell you that they know of people who got saved after reading The Shack.

I agree that it could be useful, but the theology is a lie. And the Bible is direct about that. No liers will enter into the Kingdom of God. I have included some of my summary on The Shack, but also included a link to another blog where someone actually met with the writer to clarify some of the difficulties he faced with the theology, and after three meetings decided to write his blog as it will never change. It will continue to be used to spread lies.

My own problems are as follows:

I know I’m kind of becoming a book critic, but because this book is sweeping the Christians of this nation just like the Twilight series and is just as deadly, I thought I should post Michael Youssef’s Thirteen Heresies in The Shack.  He read the book and was completely taken in by the emotions it stirred in him, but he soon figured out how wrong the book was.  He preached a sermon on it and wrote this.

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.

This Spring, the New York Times bestselling book The Shack by William P. Young will come to the big screen. The emotionally charged story seems to offer a resolution to the problem of pain—those who are struggling with the question, “Where is God when the world is full of brokenness?” Though many readers have labeled Young’s story a compelling work of Christian fiction, discerning believers must ask themselves: Are The Shack’s underlying teachings Biblically sound, or a far reach from the teachings of God’s Word?

Though you might be swayed into thinking the god of The Shack is the same as the God of the Bible, there are several problems that arise if we take a close look at The ShackHere are six concerns that develop as Mack converses with Young’s caricatures of the Trinity.

Beware of the “broad road” theology of The Shack.

LOVE VS. JUSTICE

Problem #1: According to Young, justice and love are at odds and cannot be reconciled. He reasons that God will never judge people for their sins because He is limited by His love. Neither will He enact eternal judgment upon those who reject Him or send anyone to torment in hell.

But why would Jesus Christ die a criminal’s death on the cross if not to save us from something? What a wasteful and pointless act it would be if Christ did not take on our just punishment, the wrath of God, for our sin.

We cannot remove the wrath of God from Scripture. It is as surely a part of His character as His love and mercy are. But God’s wrath is not a human anger that flares up because of wounded pride or envy. His wrath is not self-indulgent, but rather, as theologian J.I. Packer says in his book Knowing God, “a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry where anger is called for. . . . all God’s indignation is righteous.”

The Bible is very clear about why Jesus came to earth, humbly taking on the very nature of a servant (see John 3:16-18, Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus Himself warned about the coming judgment and hell, commissioning His followers to proclaim the Gospel that the lost might be saved—that they might choose life (see Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 21:6-8). Ultimately, that is what every person must do: Either choose salvation through the atoning blood of Jesus or choose the wrath of the righteous God.

Would Mack really want a God who would not punish evil? Would he be okay with a God who would not exert justice for the evil done to his daughter? Would God be good and loving if He said to Mack, “We’ll just let this slide”? Of course not. He shows us His love by both punishing sin and providing us with an escape: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He is “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:6-7).

UNIVERSALISM: A PERILOUS PARDON

Problem #2: Another theme in The Shack that doesn’t square with the Word of God is the idea that God forgives all of humanity, regardless of whether or not they repent and believe in the redeeming work of Jesus. It is an idea rooted in universalism—the belief that all roads lead to God and that Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God, whether they call Him Jesus or Buddha or Allah. In fact, Young asserts that there is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because all people will make it to heaven.

The Bible is very clear that only those who call on the name of Jesus will be saved: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12. See also 1 Timothy 2:5, Romans 10:9). Universalism is a dangerous and malicious lie. It leads people to think that it doesn’t matter what you believe, sin is not really a problem, and there is really no need for a Savior. Universalism single-handedly destroyed Christianity in much of Europe, and universalism is working hard to destroy the faith of remnant believers in the American church today.

Jesus is not the same as Buddha or Krishna; He does not hide behind such false and impotent gods. He became flesh and dwelt among us that we might know Him. He wants us to know the one true God. He wants the glory that He deserves, for He alone is God: “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

Are you willing to risk your eternal future on feel-good fluff? Sin is real. It is rebellion against God, and it requires justice. God’s justice and wrath were poured out on Jesus Christ to reconcile us to the holy God (see 1 Peter 2:24-25). But we must have faith in Jesus, confessing His lordship and believing in His resurrection.

Jesus calls out to us, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Beware of the “broad road” theology of The Shack.

WHO IS THE POTTER?

Problem #3: In The Shack, the god character tells Mack that “submission is not about authority or obedience” and that the Trinity is even submitted to Mack (145). Young is suggesting that God submits to human wishes and choices.

The Bible in its entirety points us to the need to submit to God. Submitting is by definition yielding to the authority of another. God created man, and man cannot dictate terms to God. As Isaiah 29:16 says, “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’?”

God does not answer to us; we answer to God. In this way we remain in His love: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11). Submission is about obedience, and that’s because obedience is ultimately about love. Jesus Himself said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). To minimize obedience is to minimize love for God.

THE LIVING WORD

Problem #4: Young alleges that the Bible limits God, implying that it was man who reduced God’s voice to paper: “Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book” (66). Thus the Bible is portrayed as inadequate to know God.

If the Bible were simply a book written by man, then it would be about as useful as The Shack. However, the Bible was written over the course of about 1,800 years with many different authors all inspired by the Holy Spirit. They all through various time periods and life experiences tell the same story, pointing us to the Messiah—Jesus, who is the very Word of God made flesh.

It is through Scripture that God chose to reveal Himself to us. The Bible is a divine product. Jesus Himself trusted the Scriptures and used them to teach about Himself (see Luke 24:44-47). If the risen Lord values, trusts, and feeds on the Bible (see Matthew 4:1-11), should we not also look to it as the saving Gospel it is? Let us therefore heed Paul’s words:

Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

ENCOUNTERING THE SOVEREIGN, HOLY GOD

Problem #5: The God portrayed in The Shack seems casual and unconcerned with holiness, which is inconsistent with what we see in the Bible. Mack’s troubling disrespect and disregard for the Trinity would be impossible if he had encountered the sovereign, holy God.

By presenting a god wholly different from the true God revealed in the Bible, Young mocks the importance and uniqueness of the Word of God. He makes the Bible equal to or less than whatever personal imagination anyone might have of God. Mack did not encounter the Holy God of heaven and earth in the shack, but a created god who is controlled and manipulated by man—like an idol that is put away in a closet and brought out when needed. The Shack exchanges “the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being” (Romans 1:23).

While it’s a righteous desire to want to know God, Mack’s fictional experience of encountering God is demonstrably inconsistent with what we see in Scripture. It’s also a poor sequel to the true story we already have of God’s interactions on earth through Jesus Christ. When Moses asks God to show him His glory, God warns, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20)—such is the dangerous magnificence of the Father’s glory. We must be careful of assigning any image to Him that diminishes His holiness.

In Scripture, when people face the Lord, they fall down in repentance and worship. Isaiah’s response was: “Woe to me! . . . I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). When John is swept up to heaven in a revelation from God and sees the glorified Jesus, he falls at His feet “as though dead” (Revelation 1:17)! When Job was confronted by the Lord as He laid out His majesty, Job replies, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). God is awesome, and we simply cannot stand in His presence. Neither can we live without Him.

THE ULTIMATE QUESTION

Problem #6: In The Shack, Young tries to answer the important personal question of suffering—and he thinks the answer is to change who God is. But God has already answered this question perfectly according to His true and unchanging character. He answered it with the Gospel. He answered it on the cross. He answered it through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As we carefully consider the ideas presented in The Shack, the greater question we must ask ourselves is: Am I willing to accept God’s gift of eternal life as it is revealed in Scripture? Am I willing to accept God’s salvation the way He provided it—even if I want something else that accommodates my wishes, desires, and emotions? Am I willing to accept Truth over what makes me comfortable, realizing that Truth is what I need—for it alone leads to eternal life?

We must not allow ourselves to be swayed by emotionalism. We must instead be like the Bereans, who “examined the Scriptures” rather than readily accepting what they heard as Truth (Acts 17:11). Because no story, no matter how compelling, can ever improve upon God’s story of redemption in the Bible.

Beloved, the best place to meet God is not at the shack, but at the cross. For the Gospel is the greatest story ever told, and better still, it is true.

Moses 1 verse 5: What is love?

The Bible is extremely clear that the relationship between the LORD and His people are always portrayed as a love relationship between a man and his wife. Jesus himself referred to it on numerous occasions while on earth. The book Song of Solomon can be read with this in mind, and a whole new world would open up to us.

We are taught by almost everyone that we must love the LORD and our neighbour, but we still find intolerance between Christians from different groups and congregations. This same intolerance is even evident between a man and his wife, where sometimes not even a trace of love is to be seen in this relationship, and we find that they only live together because they do not know how to separate, or do not see their way clear to go their separate ways.

How does one demonstrate love?

This subject had me troubled for a number of years. John gives us the answer in 1 John 4 verse 20: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” This passage declares that we show our love to God by loving our neighbour. But how do I show my love to my neighbour? Is it by just saying to him: “I love you?” John also gave us the answer to this question in verse 10. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This scripture informs us that God proved His love to us by giving Jesus to die in our place, so that we can live. In other words, He served us with an undeserved gift. And it was the best gift he, the Father, could give. He did not skimp, but He gave His only, His everything. That is love. To do or give something to someone without being asked, or without that person deserving it.

If we look at the love of the LORD, we find that the sun rises every morning, the rains fall, and the seed brings forth its food, and so the whole of creation is maintained. The LORD does everything without us deserving it or even asking for it. He serves us with His gifts. This is what love is: To serve someone with gifts without that person asking for or deserving it.

If we decide to apply this principle between my neighbour and me I cannot turn a blind eye when I see him without food or clothes, or any other shortfall. I have to serve that person with my gift without being asked. This confirms the scripture in Matthew 25, where Jesus says that He will tell those on His right to enter into heaven because they showed their love to others, and therefor to Him, whereas those on His left is sent to receive the eternal damnation, for not showing their love.

How do I manage to show this kind of love? It happens as soon as I enter into a covenant relationship with the LORD, and not have to fear eternal damnation. John describes it as follows in verses 17 and 18: “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” I must realise that I can only call myself a child of God because I received His love, only because He bestowed His gift of everlasting life through the new covenant on me, without me deserving it.

There are so many people and congregations that teach their members that they only have to make a decision to serve the LORD, and then they are declared children of the most high God. In the more traditional churches a person only has to decide to follow their teaching and be confirmed as a member to become a child of God. In the more charismatic churches the person only has to pray this prayer with the pastor or the person who made the altar call, and then you are a child of God. Both of these methods leave the love of the LORD out in their approach, and hence make it impossible to live a life of love.

What do I actually mean? I can only experience the love of God when I know that I need a redeemer due to my sinful nature. I must know that only through what Jesus did can I stand in a righteous relationship with the Father. Then I will know that I do not have to fear the judgement day, and will it motivate me to show His love to my neighbour. The passage where Jesus told the disciples that we must love our neighbour will then make sense to me as I will know that I am no better than anybody else, as we all deserve death. But only through the love of Jesus can we live.

But who is my neighbour? I believe the closest neighbour we have, and one that we tend to forget about, is our spouse. That is the first person I must show my love to. You may ask if it is the same love we have to show to our spouse as the love that we have to show our neighbour. My answer is yes. The same principle still applies. I have to serve my spouse with my gifts without them having to ask for or deserve it. If I as husband want to fulfil the role as priest of the household, then I have to know that the role is not to boss everyone around, but to serve everyone. The priest in the Old Testament had to prepare the sacrifice, cook and serve it to the person who brought the sacrifice. I always have to put my spouse’s interest above my own. I have to respect my spouse and expect to serve them with my gifts.

I have seen it many times that men decide to accept the role as priest in the house, and then the trouble starts. He now has to approve everything in the household, and mommy does not move without him approving it, and as he is being held responsible, the trouble starts. Then the husband decides he is the boss, and everyone has to spark as soon as he snaps his fingers. Or even worse, he now definitely does not have to listen to his wife, as he is the boss. Even if she asks for something, she is ignored, as he has never listened to her before, so why should he do it now. Or he dominates to such an extent that she either doesn’t make any suggestions anymore, or he would do just the opposite of what she suggests. But as we have seen from the scriptures above that we must show our love by showering our gifts on them. That is true love. The same applies to the wife. How many relationships are there where the wife shouts like a real army corporal and everyone in the household has to spark. That is not love. Love means that I must bestow my gifts on my spouse at all times, even to the point of trying to outdo my spouse without keeping score. I must put the requirements of my spouse ahead of my own.

Paul states in the first letter to the Corinthians that the man is not in charge of his own body, and neither is the wife in charge of hers. That is love. When your spouse seeks affection that you will give yourself to him or her. We have to remember that there are limits. Maybe I will treat her to such an extent that she would want me to seek affection. But it requires real love. Then I will realise that I can only show my love to the LORD, by loving those that He loves.

Jesus takes this love one step further, by saying we should love our enemy. That is even more difficult than loving your family and those that love the LORD. I have to ensure that my enemy can see that I love the LORD, by showering my gifts on them.

How do I show my love to the LORD? By serving my neighbour, and my enemy with love.

Why don’t we see it today? I believe we are not told what true love is, as well as the fact that the church does not teach true love. Charles Finney wrote the following in Revival Fire: “I have already intimated that pains enough had not been taken to search the heart and thoroughly detect and expose the sinner’s depravity, so as to make him see the need of the gospel remedy. If I am not mistaken, there has been, in many cases, an error committed in urging sinners to submission before they are prepared to understand what true submission is. They have been urged to repent, before they have really understood the nature and dessert of sin; to believe, before they have understood their need of Christ; to resolve to serve God, before they have at all understood what the service of God is. They have been pressed to make up their minds to enter immediately upon the service of God, and have been taught that they needed only to make a resolution to obey the Lord. Hence their religion, after all, has been only a religion of resolutions, instead of a religion of faith, and love, and of a broken heart. In short, it appears to me that, in many instances, the true idea of what constitutes pure religion has not been developed in the mind, and that consequently spurious conversions have been distressingly numerous. I have been more and more surprised from year to year, to find how very numerous those professors of religion are who manifestly have not the true ideal of pure religion before their minds. It seems that, in many instances, the idea that love is the essence and the whole of religion, is left almost, if not entirely, out of view.”